Sunday, 29 May 2011

Forged in Fire

So, here it is, the VERY long awaited Forged in Fire by Mr Russell Williams. This story effectively serves as the introduction into Russell's own series 'Reversed Polarities' which will launch later this year. This story features the 10th Doctor and Donna, though in a reduced role. Needless to say they'll be front and centre of Russell's series, and I hope you'll be good enough to support it once it does launch. For now, please enjoy his penultimate story for Consequences...

Forged In Fire
By Russell Williams

God that's an annoying noise! That was the first thought that passed through the Doctor's mind as he regained consciousness, registering the ever present noise of the Cloister Bell. Slowly opening his eyes, he gazed around at the devastated, fiery console room looking for Donna. Almost every part of the room, including the magnificent console itself, was ablaze.

Eventually, he found Donna sprawled across the seating with a gash across her forehead. Quickly getting to his feet he dashed over to his companion, checking her pulse and that she was still breathing. All was OK, thankfully. He shook her shoulders. "Donna! Donna can you hear me?"

Donna slowly opened her eyes and gazed in the direction of the voice calling her name. "Nice driving, spaceman," she said with a slight smile, before getting up. "I take it we got away then?"

The Doctor moved over to what was left of the main console and began bagging away at the controls. "From what I'm able to tell, but the poor girls just about had it." The Doctor looked sadly at his companion. "The TARDIS has an escape pod of sorts. She'll be a bit cosy for the two of us, but it's better than choking or burning to death."

Donna stroked the Doctor's arm and they shared a sad smile. "How do we get into this escape pod of yours?"

Without speaking, the Doctor activated a control and a piece of metal grating on the floor separated and revealed a slide leading to the escape pod.

"You've got to be kidding me!" Donna gasped.

"After you!" The Doctor indicated the chute.

"I'm gonna start claiming hazard pay soon, y'know," Donna joked as she summoned up her courage and descended into the darkness. The Doctor took one last look around the console room and, with a tear running down his cheek, he too jumped into the blackness beyond.


"This is Captain Emily Taub of the UES Pioneer. To any vessels in range, please respond. We have passed through a spatial anomaly, our navigational systems are fried and we have many dead and wounded. Anyone, please come in."

A cry from the dark permeated the radio and subspace channels as the UES Pioneer, a top-of-the-line Constitution-class starship drifted, dead, in the depths of space. This once proud vessel and her gleaming ivory coloured hull was now charred black and a pot-marked hull. Her engine nacelles, once glowing with energy, had dulled.

On the bridge of the stricken Pioneer, Captain Taub and her crew were struggling to hold the dying starship together. All of the maintenance hatches were open and all available hands were trying to hotwire the systems or spraying fire damaged consoles to put out the blaze. Sat at the centre of the chaos was Taub herself, hammering and banging the communications console in the hopes of getting a message out. From her expression it could be gleaned that she held out little hope of success.

"Mitchell! Report!" Taub shouted at her first officer, Connor Mitchell.

"Massive damage, Captain, and I mean massive. We've got hull breaches all over, warp drive, sub-light engines and thrusters are all offline, as well as the weapons and life support below deck 7. Security and medical teams are working to evacuate everyone to the saucer section, but it'll take time."

"Time is a luxury we don't have, Commander. We can't afford to use the emergency power to keep those decks going. Inform the crew that if everyone isn't evacuated in the next fifteen minutes then we'll have to cut the power."

Mitchell gulped and looked at Taub, before nodding his ascent, and attending to the damaged comm system to pass on the captain's message. Assured that her orders would be carried out, Taub manipulated the comm panel on the arm of her command chair and opened an internal channel to Main Engineering.


"MacPherson here, Captain." The Scottish chief engineer, Jack MacPherson, answered over the comm panel.

"Give me some good news, Jack."

"Cannae do, I'm afraid. The warp core is offline for the moment, but I cannae guarantee that the containment fields will hold. It's my professional opinion that we run like a bat out of hell before the whole bleedin' lot goes up."

Despite the severity of the report, Taub couldn't help but smile to herself. "Do what you can, Jack, and then get your ass up top. Good luck."

"To us all, Cap'n." MacPherson signed off.

Over the next ten minutes or so, Taub found herself just staring at the swiftness and professionalism of her crew as they struggled to hold the ship together, all in absolute silence. Unfortunately, that silence was soon shattered when klaxons started to wail and alarms rung out from the half functioning engineering console. Racing over to the console, Taub manipulated the controls and discovered the cause of the problem. Dipping her head in sadness, Taub looked to her crew who all stopped what they were doing and gathered around her.

"Warp core integrity is down to 9%. Prepare to separate the saucer section immediately," Taub ordered sadly.

"Captain!" several of the crew shouted at once.

Before Taub could say anything, Mitchell took his place at her side. "Yes, ma'am! You have your orders people, carry them out."

After the crew exchanged a few worried glances, they both set to their duties. Taub looked to her first officer, barely holding her emotions in check. "And may God have mercy on their souls", she said to the crew that remained aboard the doomed drive section.

Minutes later, the explosive bolts were fired and the once great United Earth Starship Pioneer separated into two distinct sections. As the saucer section powered up its depleted sub-light engines, the drive section tumbled away into the darkness, as she faced her destruction.


Planet E-4721 "Farpoint"

Tecker township

One Hundred Years Later

Farpoint. Never a more clear example of humanity (and various alien affiliates) triumphing over adversity. When the stricken saucer section of the great Earth ship Pioneer smashed into the planet's surface a century earlier, the survivors vowed that they would survive against the harsh, ice age conditions present on the planet which they now called home. Using the wreckage of the Pioneer, the brave officers and crew constructed themselves humble little abodes, from which they went forth and multiplied.

A century later, Farpoint was home to over thirty thousand, many descendants of the original "settlers", but many more had been welcomed into the society as they too had been ensnared in the same trap as the Pioneer. As the population grew, so too did the settlement, branching off into various settlements, including the Tecker township.

The Tecker township pretty much resembled a frontier town from the time of America's Wild West period, albeit with metal buildings and snow and ice, instead of wood and sand and mud. The township had all the facilities that anyone could ever need: a surgery and attached chemist, a small general store, a post office, a train station and most importantly: a saloon. To the younger inhabitants of Tecker township, it didn't offer much, but even they could enjoy the alcoholic beverages and the bawdy shenanigans of Bullwark's Saloon Bar.

Bullwark's resembled its Old West counterparts more so than anything else, a long bar, a piano in the corner and even swing doors, although it lost something when you had to pass through the outer set of doors before passing the interior swing doors. At this time of the evening, Bullwark's was full of the usual patrons: people looking for "companionship" and those who wanted to get away from "the wife". However, the third type of patron that frequented Bullwark's were the disenchanted teenagers with nothing else to do. Two of which were entering the saloon now.

Adric and Kelin were both in their late teens and had been the best of friends ever since they were eight years old. Despite the years of friendship between, there was the usual ups and downs, and of course the almost sibling rivalry. Their entry into the saloon drew the odd look from various patrons sat at the tables, but basically their entrance went unheralded until the two young men arrived at the bar and were met with the stern face of Bullwark himself. How the Trevanian landlord had been in business for so long remained a mystery to many on Farpoint, but to those in the know, the large blue skinned man was praised for his legendary lock-ins.

"What'll it be?" Bullwark droned in a monotone.

Taken aback by the booming voice, Kelin stepped back, leaving Adric to face the full effect of the Trevanian.

"Two of your finest ales, please, my man," Adric said with a grin.

"Are you tryin' to be funny? I.D." Bullwark's face betrayed no emotion.

"Aw, c'mon, don't we look old enough to you?" Adric asked hopefully.

Bullwark took a long glance at the two teenagers, looking them over, and then looked Adric straight in the eye. "No."

Unfazed, Adric reached into the top inner pocket of his jacket and produced his identification card, before nudging Kelin and making him produce his. Bullwark looked both of the passes over, especially scrutinizing Adric's. "Alright. Two ales coming up."

Bullwark went away for a couple of minutes before finally returning with two large mugs of ale, placing them on the bar in front of the two teenagers. By this time, Kelin had worked up the courage and asked Bullwark for a packet of Clavrin tongues, which the bartender grudgingly served up.

"Is that all?" Still there was no emotion or inflection in the voice.

"Yes, thank you." Adric replied.

"Good. That'll be, erm..." Bullwark reached underneath the bar and pulled out a price list. Adric was amazed that Bullwark couldn't work out a simple equation like that, especially when he'd been in the business so long.

"3 crezits, 45 scrips." Adric offered.

Bullwark looked up in annoyance, his feelings now very evident. "Yeah, whatever."

Adric handed over the money, and the two teenagers went over to a table and sat down. After they had sat for a few minutes, sipping their drinks and soaking up the ambiance, much as it was, Adric turned to his friend.

"Y'know we've got to find somewhere else to go."

"Oh, I don't know. Its fun, coming here, winding Bullwark up," Kelin smiled.

Adric took another sip of his ale, grimacing slightly at the bitterness. "I suppose. But don't you just want to get out of here, away from boringsville and back to civilization?"

Kelin looked up at his friend. "What, move into Polis city, y'mean?"

"Maybe. Or even get off of this planet altogether." Adric gesticulated, narrowly missing knocking over his drink. "There's a whole universe to explore out there y'know."

Kelin sighed. "Yeah, and run straight into the Brotherhood or some other bandit out for profit."

"You can't think like that, Kel. At least the Professor is actually trying to do something to improve the conditions on Farpoint. What is everyone else doing? Nothing. They get up, go to work, come home and go to bed."

"He still having trouble with the lawgivers?" Kelin asked politely.

Adric shook his head. "Not anymore. The mayor overturned the charges and agreed to allow the Professor to continue his research. Ever since, he's been like a man possessed. We used to have a few laughs, y'know, but lately he's been all work, work, work."

"Be fair, Adric, he's getting on a bit now. Probably just wants to finish his work before it's too late." Kelin drained the last of his ale, then thrust his glass down on the table in a triumphant gesture.

Adric followed suit, and both boys stood up, heading back to the bar. "I know that, it's just he's been so distant lately, not letting me in on any of the research. I'm worried."



"Professor! Professor Ethers!"

A loud voice penetrated the beautiful silence, followed by a rather loud rapping noise. Shaken out of his trance, Ethers slowly opened his eyes and checked his surroundings: He was back in his modest abode on Farpoint. How disappointing. Sighing, the elderly gentlemen stiffly rose out of his chair and moved over to the door to see what the commotion was all about. Taking a quick peak through the little view finder, the Professor sighed and opened the door to find his old friend, Padraig and his son, Kelin, carrying the prone form of a teenager who was clearly the worse for ware.

"Adric." The Professor complained wearily. "Padraig, I'm sorry that you've had to do this again. And you, Kelin. Oh dear. Please just bring him in and put him on the chair."

The two men stuggled in with Adric and did as the Professor asked. As the teenager was deposited in the chair, he slumped down, a small snore escaping from him. The Professor looked on, ashamed. "How much trouble did he get into this time?"

"Oh, Tam, there isn't anything to worry about. He was quite well-behaved, just had a bit too much ale as you can clearly see," Padraig replied.

The Professor looked down at the snoring young man. "Well, I shall be having a few words with him in the morning, that's for sure."

"I wouldn't be so hard on him, Tam. The problem around here is that there is nothing for these youngsters to do. Unless you like skiing. I had trouble enough with this one here." Padraig indicated Kelin, who just glared back incredulously.

"I wasn't that bad." Kelin finally answered.

"Oh no. What about that incident with ole' Trendleworth, the sealant and a box of Crellis fireflies?"

Kelin blushed slightly and chuckled. "Aye. But she did light up a treat, didn't she?"

Padraig chuckled and shook his head, before looking back to the Professor. "Well, Tam, we'd best be off."

"Yes of course. Thank you very much, both. I'm only sorry that this had to spoil your evening."

Seeing Padraig and Kelin out of the front door, the Professor returned to the main room and found Adric had curled up and was now dosing quite peacefully in front of the fire. Tutting, Ethers made his way into the study. At least I can get some work done.


Departing the Professor's house, Padraig and Kelin made there way down across the village square. This time of the year, like most of the year really, the ground was covered in the purest white snow, with just a few footprints and wheel marks left by coaches. As the pair travelled along, they shared a laugh and a joke as only a father and son can. However, the laughter soon died down as Kelin noticed a brilliant flash light up the night sky. For once, the skies above Tecker township were actually clear and the stars could be seen, a rarity on this frozen iceball. Kelin noticed the flash first and slapped his father on the back as he pointed up.

"Did you notice that, dad?"

Padraig began staring up at the sky in the direction that his son was pointing. "Ah, don't be daft, lad. I can't see anything."

"It was there, in the sky! There was a flash, honest." Kelin was determined that he'd convince him of the what he'd seen.

"Ah, probably just a shooting star. Quite a regular occurence, y'know. Either that, or some poor souls have fallen into the same trap our ancestors did. God bless their souls." Padraig looked wistfully up at the sky.

"I don't know." Kelin sighed uncertainly, still gazing upwards.

"Well, whatever it was, it doesn't change the fact that your mother will kill me when we get back." Padraig paused before tapping his son on the arm. "Come on, lad."


"Morning, Professor." Adric said warily as he entered the smallish kitchen.

The Professor, who was preparing a modest breakfast of bacon and eggs, turned and watched his protégé enter.

"Aha, you're awake then. Hurry up and eat your breakfast and then we can go out to the Pointed Peaks and take some readings."

"Look, I'm sorry about last night." Adric apologized sheepishly as he sat down at the table.

"Yes, well. I'll chalk it up to youthful exuberance, but it is getting to be quite an occurrence of late, young Adric." The Professor attempted to make eye contact, but Adric shied away.

"Come on, even you were young once, Professor," said Adric, still avoiding the older man's gaze as he sat down to eat .Then he dared to look up at his mentor. "Don't tell me you never indulged?"

The Professor looked thoughtful for a minute. "Yes, I suppose I did once upon a time. In fact, my old best friend and I often used to sneak out of..." The Professor's expression suddenly darkened for a second, before he shuddered and went on preparing breakfast.


After eating a hearty breakfast, Adric and the Professor got all of their apparatus together: back packs full of scanning equipment, rations and some additional warm clothing in case conditions on the Pointed Peaks were even worse than they usually were. The journey up was strangely quiet, Adric still nursing a sore head and the Professor far too busy taking some readings from the portable scanners that they had previously planted up the mountain path.

After they had been travelling and checking for a couple of hours, the Professor noticed some smoke billowing out from around a rocky outcropping. Naturally intrigued, he indicated the smoke to Adric and then set off in that direction, surprisingly sprightly for a man of his advancing years. As the pair grew nearer and nearer, Adric could make out some kind of jade-coloured box at the centre of the smoke.

"What is that, Professor? Some kind of caravan or something?" Adric asked.

"I wouldn't have thought so, my boy. No one in their right minds would go on a camping trip up here." The Professor asked, absolutely fascinated at the sight of a jade box with an elaborate Oriental roof pattern on the top. "It seems somewhat familiar, but I can't place it."

"Maybe there's someone in there, Professor. We've got to have a look." Adric ran forward, and the Professor tried to grab him and pull him back. Adric however was too quick for the old man.

Approaching the jade box, the smoke got a little thicker, but Adric pressed on, holding his left arm up to his face. Suddenly, the door at the side of the box opened and out stepped a woman. She was unlike any woman that Adric had met before: flame-haired, and from the look on her face, she had a fiery temper to match it.

Not noticing Adric, the woman looked back into the box and shouted. "Nice landing, spaceman! We've no idea where we are and it's bloody FREEZING!"

A male voice then came from inside the craft. "I can take you back to the TARDIS if you like. Toasty warm up there."

As Adric stared on in amazement, his presence was noted by the woman, who seemed surprised that someone was watching her. Her expression softening, she made her way over to Adric.

"Oh, hello. My name's Donna. What's your name sweetheart?"

Adric was aghast. "Er... erm. Adric."

"Don't be scared, Adric. I won't hurt you. Me and my friend are travellers, we just got a little lost that's all."

Before Adric could answer, the Professor had finally made his way up to the area and was just as surprised to encounter Donna as Adric was. After introductions were made, Donna made her way back into the jade box and seconds later, emerged with her friend. He didn't appear to be that much older than Adric, maybe in his third decade, but sported a dull brown pin-stripe suit underneath a lighter-coloured brown coat. Immediately upon noting Adric and the Professor, he bounded over and shook hands with them both, grinning inanely as he did so.

"Hello, I'm the Doctor. Sorry to surprise you like this, had to leave my ship in a bit of a rush. Haven't used the Jade Pagoda in years, I guess the coordinates were off a bit. And you are?" The Doctor indicated Adric.

"I'm Adric," Adric said, uncertainly.

The Doctor looked confused for a minute, deep in thought, before he finally shrugged whatever it was off, flashing him another smile before turning to the Professor.

"Now you look like a man who can help me. Professor?" He grinned in anticipation.

"Ethers. Tam Ethers. Of course, anything I can do to help you. But, tell me, Doctor, Donna. How did you get to be here on Farpoint?"

"Well, it's a long story and very cold. Is there somewhere we can go to warm up a bit? The Pagoda's not as roomy as the TARDIS." The Doctor make a show of stretching his limbs as if to indicate the confined space they'd been occupying.

The Professor stammered at the Doctor's directness. "Of course. Our home is just down there. It's humble, but we can offer you a nice cup of tea and a warm meal."

"Sounds good to me," Donna said, visibly getting more cheerful at the mention of food.

That decided the foursome headed on down the mountain.

The Doctor remained at the back of the party, wary of his surroundings and of his host. Something wasn't quite right, but he wasn't sure exactly what. He shrugged it off, and continued on his way, having no idea of just what lay ahead.

Unknown to him and beyond his control, everything was about to change...




Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A Murder of Crows

Story 6, and it's the return of Kevin Rhodes, with a rather splendid take on the Ninth Doctor and Rose. Hope you enjoy it, and make sure you're back next week for Russell Williams' long in the planning Forged in Fire, which is actually going to be the springboard to his very own series...though more on that later.

For now, please be upstanding for:

A Murder of Crows

Jack Redditch clambered out of his Land Rover and surveyed the fields in front of him: a vast expanse of corn which stretched far into the distance, before culminating in a range of small hills. Dotted periodically throughout the fields, an array of menacing scarecrows stood statically, their malevolent features staring unnervingly into the middle distance.

Noticing that one of the scarecrows had fallen from its fixtures, Jack pulled his heavy-duty green raincoat tight around his torso, before marching over to the dismounted figure.

As he approached, Jack immediately saw what the problem had been – the bindings which held the scarecrow in place had been severed.

"Completely useless," he mumbled to himself, shaking his head. He knew exactly what had happened; the bindings had been pecked away by the very crows that were supposed to be scared off by the effigy.

Hoisting the scarecrow up, Jack quickly re-attached it to its moorings. Taking a moment to survey his work, he nodded in satisfaction before turning to head back to the Land Rover.

Jack stopped in his tracks as he heard a flapping noise from behind. Turning back to face the scarecrow, he saw that three crows had landed atop it; one on each shoulder and one right on top of its head.

"Oh, for God's sake!" exclaimed Jack, as he marched back the way he had just come. "Shoo!" he cried, waving his hands in an attempt to disperse the unwelcome intruders.

But they wouldn't move.

Jack continued his approach, so that he was now standing directly in front of the scarecrow. He persisted in his attempts to usher the crows away but they did not react. They just stood, staring back at him.

Beat, beat, beat...

"What's that noise?" Jack thought to himself.

Beat, beat, beat...

Jack looked upwards and his eyes widened in terror.

"No... Dear God, no!"

For the next few minutes, Jack screamed in horror. And then everything went quiet.


Rose Tyler stood in the middle of the cornfield, the wind mercilessly grabbing at her long, blonde hair. "A field," Rose said, shaking her head as she feigned disgust. "You are so rubbish!"

The Doctor tapped his leather jacket, indicating the sonic screwdriver he was carrying in his inside pocket. "Something's not right here, Rose," he declared. "The sonic picked up some weird readings as we were driving past..."

"Nothing's ever simple with you, is it?" Rose teased.

"How'd ya mean?" the Doctor asked, his brow furrowed with genuine confusion.

"It was supposed to be a quick trip to Stangmoor Prison, to see what was going on," Rose said, reminding him of their previous destination. "And look how that turned out!"

"Not my fault!" the Doctor protested, holding his hands aloft in a gesture of innocence.

"And now, heading back for London, you want to stop in the middle of a field, 'cause your Spidey-Sense in tingling." Rose rolled her eyes mockingly.

"Yeah," the Doctor breathed, leaning in closer to Rose. "But you love it, don't ya'?"

Rose smirked. "It's not too bad."

Rose had first met the Doctor four months ago, when her world had been turned upside down forever. She had been visiting her father who, at the time, had been working at the experimental nuclear power station in Wenley Moor. And that was when things had started to go wrong. Very wrong.

It hadn't been long before the Doctor turned up and, before she had known what was happening, she had become immersed in his hectic lifestyle of Silurians, dinosaurs and invaders from Mars.

Beat, beat, beat...

"What's that noise?" Rose asked, the interruption hurriedly bringing her thoughts back to the here-and-now.

It seemed to be coming from some way in the distance. It sounded like the rhythmic beat of a flag, fluttering in the breeze. Beat, beat, beat...

The Doctor shrugged his shoulders. "Just something blowing in the wind."

"Doctor, look." Rose's voice suddenly took on a tone of urgency, as she extended her arm outwards.

The Doctor turned his head, following Rose's gesticulation. About twenty yards away, a pair of legs was horizontally jutting out from amongst a clump of corn.

"Stay here," the Doctor commanded, as he headed for the body.

"No chance," Rose mumbled, immediately following the Doctor.

Beat, beat, beat...

As they approached, the full corpse became visible. The man, clad in a heavy-duty green
raincoat, was laying face-down. Crouching beside him, the Doctor quickly scanned him with
the sonic screwdriver.

"He's dead," the Doctor said quietly, shaking his head. Gently reaching for the man's face, he slid his eyelids closed and into their final resting position.

Beat, beat, beat... The noise was getting louder now.

"What happened?" asked Rose.

"Judging by these injuries, it looks like..." The Doctor frowned.

Beat, beat, beat...

"Like what?" Rose pressed.

Beat, beat, beat...

"Some sort of an avian attack."

Beat, beat, beat...

"Avian?" Rose repeated, incredulously. "As in... bird?"

Beat, beat, beat...

"Yeah," the Doctor replied.

"Doctor..." Rose took a long gulp. "Why's it gone so dark...?"

Beat, beat, beat...

The Doctor and Rose stared at each other, looks of horrified realisation spreading across their faces. Slowly, they cranked their heads skywards...

The sky was covered with a thick, black sea of feathers, blotting out the sunlight. Hundreds of crows, their wings spread wide and flapping with the hypnotic beat, beat, beat. And they were heading straight for the Doctor and Rose.

Grabbing Rose by the hand, an all-too-familiar glint appeared in the Doctor's eye. "Run!" he hissed.

And with that, the Doctor and Rose were sprinting, away from the thick, black menace.

Crashing through the tall corn crops, they kept their eyes focused firmly in front of them, not daring to even chance a glance backwards.

Beat, beat, beat.

They were running as fast as they could but the noise kept getting louder and louder...

Reaching the end of the cornfield, the Doctor and Rose halted briefly, finding themselves in a clearing. The Doctor pointed to a structure in the distance. "We'll head for that building."

Quickly glancing up and over her shoulder, Rose could see the swarm of crows, now perilously close to them. "We'll never make it!"

By now, a few of the crows had broken formation and were swooping low, heading straight for the Doctor and Rose. Reaching into his pocket, the Doctor pulled out his sonic screwdriver, before brandishing it and activating a high-pitched hum. The crows momentarily retreated.

"That should buy us a bit of time," explained the Doctor. "But it won't last long." With that, he and Rose resumed their sprint, now heading for the sanctuary of the distant building.

Once again, several of the crows started to break formation and dive at the fleeing travellers. The Doctor and Rose brought their arms up around their heads, trying to protect themselves from the sharp, deadly beaks now pecking at them, whilst also continuing their dash towards what they hoped would be a safe haven.

"It's no good!" conceded Rose, as she came to a complete standstill, desperately trying to fend off her attackers.

At the same time, the Doctor also came to a stop, the crows forcing him to his knees. Again flaunting the sonic screwdriver, he used it to emit the same high-pitched hum as before. This time, it was completely ineffective.

"They've adapted to the sonic frequency," he explained, as he frantically prodded and poked at the sonic screwdriver.

"Adapted!?!" Rose spluttered. "But they're birds!"

"I don't think it's as simple as that, Rose..." the Doctor said, desperately searching for another method of escape. But there was none.

He was defeated.

The Doctor closed his eyes, feeling the pricks of pain as the crows sunk their beaks and their claws into the back of his neck. It was over...


The Doctor's eyes snapped open, in time to see the crows retreating back into the sky, driven away by the sudden noise.

Moments later, a green Land Rover came screeching to a halt, just a few feet from the Doctor and Rose. The driver's door swung open, allowing a middle-aged man to hop out. Looking at him, Rose immediately got an impression of an authoritative figure; his thin, dark moustache and piercing, commanding eyes combining to demand instant respect. He was wearing a simple navy-blue suit and in his right hand, he was carrying a revolver – presumably the source of the noise that had repelled the crows, fired through the Land Rover's open window.

"Get in!" he instructed, using his gun to indicate the back door of the vehicle.

With no hesitation, Rose opened the door and scrambled inside, closely followed by the Doctor. As they were doing this, their rescuer retook his position in the driver's seat, before setting the Land Rover in motion and heading straight for the building.


The Doctor and Rose followed their saviour into the building, where he proceeded to slam the thick, metal door closed and bolted it into position. Turning to Rose, he extended his hand in greeting.

"My name's Alistair," he said, firmly shaking Rose's hand. "I'm a teacher here, over at Brendon School. This..." He indicated the smallish room in which they now stood, " the groundkeeper's storeroom. We should be safe in here for a while."

"I'm Rose Tyler. And this is the Doctor."

"What's going on here?" the Doctor asked, stepping forward.

"That's a good question, Doctor," Alistair sighed. "It all started about a month ago. The school was just coming to the end of term and the boys were being sent home for the summer. Which is when the first person was found..." He trailed off, clearly affected by the memory.

"One of the boys?" Rose asked, her soft voice soothing the atmosphere.

Alistair nodded. "A freak animal attack. That was the official diagnosis. But then it just kept happening. Local people from the village, farm-hands..."

"And now that man we found out in the field," added the Doctor.

"Is it alien?" Rose asked, directly addressing the Doctor.

He nodded solemnly. "Definitely alien. The readings picked up by the sonic screwdriver confirmed it. That's the only way they could have adapted to it like they did."

"Alien?" Alistair repeated evenly.

"That's right, Brigadier." The Doctor turned to face Alistair, before a puzzled look took over his face. "I'm sorry... have we met before?"

Alistair frowned, his eyes intently locked on the Doctor's. "I... I don't..."

The two men seemed to be absorbed in the other, each meticulously inspecting his counterpart's face.

A sudden banging noise filled the room, causing the Doctor and Alistair to break away from their stare-down.

"They're trying to get in," Alistair hissed.

"They're crows!" exclaimed Rose. "They can't peck through a metal door."

"They're not just crows," reasoned the Doctor, once again holding his sonic screwdriver up as he cautiously approached the door. "I wouldn't rule anything out just yet." After several seconds, the Doctor angrily stuffed the screwdriver back into his pocket. "It's no good," he barked. "I need more information."

"Like?" Rose asked.

The Doctor paused for an instant, before shifting his gaze between Rose and Alistair. "I need one of the creatures," he replied.

"You can't go out there!" Rose protested. "It's suicide!"

"What other option do we have?" the Doctor retorted. "Stay in here indefinitely and live on..." The Doctor picked up a canister from a shelf, to highlight his point. "...pesticide?"

"Actually," Alistair interjected. "Maybe there is another option."

The Doctor and Rose turned to face Alistair, intrigued.

"Would a dead creature be of any use to you, Doctor?"

A grin appeared on the Doctor's face. "Oh, Alistair... You don't?"

Alistair nodded. "I do."


Manoeuvring himself over to a shelf at the back of the room, Alistair moved aside several tools and containers, before dragging a tarpaulin-wrapped bundle to the front. Lifting it up, Alistair marched over to the Doctor and deposited it on the floor in front of him.

"I hit it with one of my shots earlier today," explained Alistair, as he carefully unwrapped the tarpaulin.

"Yeah, about that..." Rose wondered aloud. "I don't know how it works in the country but revolvers aren't exactly standard issue for school teachers back in London..."

Alistair allowed a small smirk to dance across his face. "Indeed, Miss Tyler." He halted for several seconds, weighing up his options. "I've not been entirely honest with you," he eventually conceded.

The Doctor rolled his eyes. "Alistair. We're under attack from a bunch of crows, possessed by aliens. It would help if we weren't keeping secrets from each other, don't you think?"

Alistair nodded, before pulling what looked like a small radio from his pocket, which he then held close to his mouth. "This is Greyhound to Bad Wolf, do you copy? I repeat: this is Greyhound to Bad Wolf. Do you copy? Over." His attempted transmission was met only with static, leaving him to re-pocket the radio and again address the Doctor. "Doctor, how do you know me?"

"I'm not sure if I do."

"Earlier on... you called me Brigadier."

"Did I?"

"Yes." Alistair's eyes were narrow now, as he carefully assessed every inch of the Doctor's face. "Why did you do that?"

The Doctor looked uncomfortable. Something was tugging at his memories but he couldn't quite place what it was... "Are you a Brigadier?"


The Doctor grinned and dismissively shrugged his shoulders. "No problem, then!"

Alistair drew himself up to his full height. "I am on an undercover operation at this school, here to look into these bizarre deaths. I am Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, commanding officer of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. But I think you already know that, Doctor, don't you?"

The Doctor stared back at the Brigadier, as memories danced on the very edge of his consciousness, desperately trying to break through.

Yeti in the Underground.

Silver giants, storming their way through London.

Shop window dummies coming to life.

And then, as quickly as they had fleetingly appeared, the flashes were gone. "United Nations Intelligence Taskforce?" repeated the Doctor.

"That's right," the Brigadier confirmed. "UNIT."

"Never heard of 'em." And with that, the Doctor crouched to inspect the dead crow in front of him.

As the Doctor undertook his examination, Rose nodded towards the Brigadier's pocket. "That radio," she queried. "Who were you trying to reach?"

"My men," replied the Brigadier. "But there seems to be some sort of radio interference affecting this whole area."

"Yeah, your radio's going to be completely useless," declared the Doctor, as he stood up once more, his examination now complete.

"Do you know what it is?" Rose questioned, indicating the crow.

The Doctor responded with a slow nod. "Yes. But it's impossible..."

The Brigadier stroked his chin in contemplation. "Well, what is it?"

"Nothing either of you will ever have heard of," the Doctor retorted, somewhat condescendingly.

"Oh, you'd be surprised, Doctor," the Brigadier asserted. "I've got a bit of experience in this field: Autons, Cybermen, Axons... And, of course, those Yeti in the Underground."

"What did you say?" the Doctor snapped, a tone of urgency gripping his vocal chords at the mention of his fleeting memory from before. "Yeti in the Underground?"

"Sounds like a bad reality TV show," mumbled Rose.

The Brigadier shook his head, in an attempt to regain some clarity. "I really don't know why I said those things... Doctor, I have just committed a severe breach of the Official Secrets Act and I have absolutely no idea why. You're not another one of those hypnotist fellows, are you?"

"No, Brigadier. Something much bigger is going on here. For some reason, you instinctively feel like you can trust me, don't you?" The Brigadier gave a concise nod, as the Doctor continued. "I feel it too. As soon as we met, something..." He trailed off, lost for words.

"Is it something to do with whatever's possessed the crows?" Rose theorised.

"No, I think it's something much bigger..." the Doctor said absently, his mind clearly a million miles away. Suddenly his expression changed, as his thoughts snapped back to their current predicament. "But we can worry about that later. Right now, I need to go out there." He pointed to the door.

"Didn't we already talk about this?" exclaimed Rose. "Those things'll tear you apart!"

"No they won't. Because I'm going armed with this." The Doctor produced his psychic paper and proudly held it in front of him.

"The psychic paper?" Rose deadpanned. "Seriously?"

"I know what's controlling those crows, Rose. And I know how to communicate with them. Psychically. But... crows aren't exactly renowned for their latent psychic abilities, so I need an outlet for them, to make it a two-way conversation."

"So let me get this straight," Rose surmised. "You're going to march out there, thinking pleasant thoughts, and hope that not only are these aliens nice enough to actually listen to you but that they actually talk back to you."

"Yup." The Doctor turned on his heels and headed straight for the door, before pausing and turning back towards his two friends. "You two, wait here."

"But..." Rose started to protest, only to be immediately cut short by the Doctor.

"I mean it, Rose. I don't know what's going to happen out there. Stay put."

"Alright," Rose reluctantly conceded, as the Doctor started to unbolt the door.

"The world is in my hands," he muttered, stepping through the door.

Rose stared into space, as memories that were not her own fought their way to the surface.

"Mickey the idiot, the world is in your hands. Fire!"

Rose shook her head and the memories were gone.


The metal door creaked open, allowing the Doctor to step through. Calmly surveying his surroundings, he hurriedly closed the door behind him, before slowly marching forward, holding both hands aloft in a gesture of amity.

He approached the murder of crows directly in front of him, who were now sat passively at the edge of the field. "I seek audience with your people under peaceful contract, according to Convention Fifteen of the Shadow Proclamation." The Doctor braced himself, desperately hoping that he sounded more convincing than he felt.

The crows retained their inert demeanour, each of them training their small, beady eyes on their adversary.

Encouraged by their lack of a hostile reaction, the Doctor made an exaggerated effort to reach into his inside pocket. Moments later he withdrew his hand, now clutching the psychic paper.

"I know who you are," the Doctor continued, trying to get a response from them. "Something's gone wrong with time. I don't know what or how but you shouldn't be here. You can't be here, it's impossible." Still no response. "I can help you. I can get you home."

Following this statement from the Doctor, a message started to take form on the psychic paper:


"I can contact the Time Lords," the Doctor insisted. "They can take you back to the Time Vortex."

No answer.

"You can't be here," the Doctor stressed. "It shouldn't even be possible for you to exist here! You're not just inhabitants of the Time Vortex, like the Chronvores or the Vortisaurs... You are a part of the Time Vortex. How did you even get here?"


"I can help," the Doctor reiterated.


"The energy of the Time Vortex is what keeps you alive; you can't survive without it!"


"But you can't! You need to feed on temporal energy. These humans don't have any."

The hairs on the back of the Doctor's neck stood to attention, as the entire murder of crows emitted a shrill, cackling laughter.


The Doctor's eyes widened in terror, as beams of blue energy came shooting from the crows, each fixating on him. With a scream of agony, the Doctor dropped to his knees.

The creatures were feasting on the soul of a Time Lord.


Rose and the Brigadier exchanged troubled looks, as the muffled yells of the Doctor reached them.

"That's it!" bellowed the Brigadier. "He needs help, now." The Brigadier drew his revolver and headed for the door. "Stay here, Miss Tyler."

"No chance!" countered Rose, hot on his heels.

Bursting through the now-open door, the Brigadier emptied the chambers of his firearm in the direction of the crows. Several of the creatures dropped lifelessly to the ground but the others remained undisturbed, as their relentless consumption of the Doctor's life-force persisted.

"It's no good!" the Brigadier admitted, throwing his ineffective weapon to the ground.

"They're killing him!" Rose observed, helplessly. "We need to help!" With that, Rose started a steady run, desperate to come to the aide of her friend.

"Please accept my apologies, Miss Tyler," the Brigadier lamented, as he grabbed her by the shoulders and firmly dragged her back. With Rose suitably delayed, the Brigadier now broke into his own sprint.

Reaching the Doctor, the Brigadier clutched him and hauled him free from the converging beams of energy.

Gratefully taking a deep breath, the Doctor staggered back to his feet and turned to thank his rescuer. But as he turned he saw, to his horror, that the streams of Vortex power were now congregating on the Brigadier instead.

"Brigadier!" The Doctor stepped forward, ready to help him. But then he stopped.

The Brigadier wasn't showing any signs of pain. Not even mild discomfort.

"But that's impossible..."

"Doctor!" Rose skidded to a halt at the Doctor's side, throwing her arms around him in delight. "We need to help Alistair..."

"Don't you see, Rose? The energy's not having any effect on him. It's..."

In unison, a blood-curdling screech erupted from each of the crows.

"'s killing them!" the Doctor finished, astonished.

The beams of energy vanished and all of the crows came clattering to the ground, dead.

Rose rushed to the Brigadier, grabbing him in anticipation. "Are you OK?"

The Brigadier nodded. "I'm fine. Completely fine." He looked at the Doctor, completely baffled. "Doctor... What the devil just happened?"

"You know, I'd like to know the exact same thing..." The Doctor gave the Brigadier a quick scan with the sonic screwdriver. "This might be a stupid question but... you've never crossed your own timestream, have you?"

"If I had the faintest idea what you were talking about, I just might be able to answer that question."

"Hmm..." the Doctor pondered.

"Doctor?" Rose pressed.

"Those creatures were feeding on temporal energy," the Doctor started to explain.

"Which makes you an all-you-can-eat buffet?" reasoned Rose.

"Exactly. And then Alistair here came along and disrupted everything..."

Confused, Rose ran a hand through her hair. "But why were you asking him about crossing his own timestream?"

"The Blinovitch Limitation Effect," the Doctor stated. "Basically, in part, the discharge of energy that occurs when someone or something comes into contact with the exact same being, from a different time period."

"Are you talking about time travel?" exclaimed the Brigadier. "Don't be preposterous, man!"

"That's exactly what I'm talking about, Brigadier. I scanned you with the sonic and the readings are definitely there – residual temporal energy, left over by a really big Blinovitch Limitation Effect."

"And that's what killed the creatures?" Rose realised.

"Exactly. They feed off pure temporal energy... they couldn't handle such a huge paradox as the Brig here."

"A huge paradox? You sound just like Doris," the Brigadier said, his lips twisting into a wry smile.

"But something's not right..." acknowledged the Doctor. "Although there's no doubt this energy is all around you, Brigadier, it's... wrong."

Rose drew closer to the Doctor, now sharing in his obvious unease. "Wrong how?"

"Almost as if it was in flux. As if it has happened and yet... it hasn't happened at the same time... Something that was meant to happen but never did."

"Like...?" the Brigadier asked.

All three of them drifted into silence, the Doctor's words still lingering in the air. Several long moments passed, before the Brigadier's radio crackled into life.

"This is Bad Wolf to Greyhound, do you copy? Over?"

The Brigadier grabbed his radio and promptly replied. "Bad Wolf, this is Greyhound. The situation here has been neutralised. Over."

"Understood, Sir," came the voice on the other end of the radio. "Are you ready for collection? Over."

"Confirmed, Bad Wolf. ETA, over?"

"ETA five minutes, Sir. Over."

"That'll be all, Benton. Over and out."

The Brigadier re-pocketed the radio.

"Brigadier," the Doctor stated. "Thank you."

"I was just doing my duty, Doctor."

"No." The Doctor's eyes were sharp and sincere, fixated on the Brigadier. "You are so much more than that. It's because of people like you and Rose that I love this stupid little planet of yours. Brigadier, you were... you are fantastic."

The Brigadier shifted, slightly uncomfortable at the glowing compliments. "You're a splendid sort of chap yourself, Doctor."

The Brigadier was in an ornate tomb, two men standing in front of him: a tall man with a shock of white hair and a somewhat superfluous dress sense; and a much younger, fair-haired man in a cricket outfit. "Splendid fellows," the Brigadier declared. "All of you."

And then, the brief fragment of memory all but forgotten, the Brigadier continued to address the Doctor and Rose. "I don't suppose the two of you would like to come and work for me at UNIT?" he asked.

The Doctor laughed. "Me? Working for the army? I think I'll pass on that."

"Yeah, no thanks," Rose corroborated. "I'll stick with the Doctor."

"Can I at least provide you with some transport?"

"No need," the Doctor asserted. "We've got Bessie." And with that, the Doctor and Rose started to walk away.

"Can I at least get in touch with you if I need to?" the Brigadier bellowed after them.

"Oh, Brigadier," smiled the Doctor. "In your line of work, I really don't think it'll be too long before we meet again."

The Brigadier returned the smile, as he watched the Doctor and Rose disappear into the distance.


"So what's going on, Doctor? Really?" Rose looked at the Doctor expectantly, as he settled himself into the driver's seat of Bessie.

He sighed. "Something's wrong with time, Rose. Something's very, very wrong."

"Like what?"

"That's the worst part, Rose. I haven't got a clue."

The Doctor fired up Bessie and started the long drive back to London.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

After the Storm

A small bit of linking material here which connects – though not completely – The Vault of Neverwhile and A Murder of Crows. There's also a little hint of things to come at the end, but you'll have to wait a little while before it's all revealed. Just thought I'd put a little tease out there for now. Enjoy!
After the Storm
    The storm had been active all through the night, wind howling through the trees in the garden, rain lashing constantly against the windows. The Doctor had dozed off in spite of it all, and it was the eventual subsidence of the extreme weather that caused him to stir. He blinked, then ran a hand through his short cropped hair.

    Getting out of bed, the Doctor noticed how quiet the house now was. Not simply from the lack of a storm, but he was sure there'd been another occupant when he'd fallen asleep. A girl? He tried to think, his mind cloudy, like someone had been rifling through his memories and jumbled them.   

    He sat on the edge of the bed, thinking back through his past lives, but found that the images weren't clear any more. He wasn't sure what was real, whether all these adventures had happened. Surely they couldn't have done? Some flat out contradicted others, times and places at odd with each other.

    The version of him with white hair and the dandified dress sense was suddenly at the forefront of his mind. Trapped on, that wasn't right. He'd travelled so far in that body, all over the vastness of time and space. Yet he was also stranded, working for...the army? No, it didn't happen that way. Dreams must be overlapping, he thought, and stood up, dressing and making his way downstairs.

    He made coffee and toast and sat looking out of the window. He wasn't sure if he'd sat here before or not, though surely he must have. Gazing out at the sodden garden, he tried to remember when he'd last stepped out there and what he'd been doing at the time. Again, the thoughts couldn't form, there was no cohesion.

    The Doctor pulled on the leather jacket that hung over the back of the chair, and moved to the hall, where a full-length mirror afforded him a glimpse at his outfit. He'd worn it before he was certain. This body, wasn't that new. He'd had plenty of adventures, here on Earth, with...the name and the face alluded him still.

    He looked at the mail that was on the side, addressed to 'Doctor John Smith' and a postcode he recognised as south London. How did he know that? When everything else was hazy, how did he remember since a tiny detail? Wasn't he in the north before? Blackpool rang a bell, as did his own accent, he seemed to recall. Yet, here he was, in the south of this small country on this small planet. Stranded, adrift, confined.

    The Doctor picked on the envelope, and opened it. Inside were hand-written directions and a map indicating a location the Doctor didn't recognise. Wenley Moor. The words seemed to have some kind of significance, though he had no clue what it was. He looked down to the small table near the mirror. His car key. Did he own a car? He opened the door and there, sat incongruously between a hatchback and a people carrier, was a bright yellow roadster. He wasn't sure he'd even sat in it before, but he must have. The key was in his hand, and snatches of images floated through his mind of him driving along country roads. No, not him, the white-haired incarnation. That couldn't have been right.

    He shook his head, willing the thoughts away, took one last look in the mirror then headed out to the car. "Wenley Moor, here I come!" he said, turning the key in the ignition, and smiled as he noticed the sun breaking through the clouds.

    It was going to be an interesting day, he was sure of that.

    On the other side of the mirror, the body of a female was frozen. It stared blankly forwards as it was placed in a small cubicle. A male figure moved to seal the compartment, flicking switches and staring at the prone form that lay within. "Well Miss Miller, another for the collection. I wonder how long the Doctor will take to solve this puzzle." He looked around at the other cubicles, some empty, some occupied.

     With that, the figure stepped through the mirror and into the real world, its outer appearance changing once again to suit its environs. It looked at its reflection and straightened its tie. "I hope it'll be a while. This is becoming rather enjoyable."


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Vault of Neverwhile

A couple of days later than planned it may be, but that’s what comes from writing two stories in a row! Still, you get a bit of break from me after this one! Hope you enjoy the 8th Doctor and Lucie Miller’s adventure, and be sure to come back next week for Kevin Rhodes’ A Murder of Crows...

The Vault of Neverwhile

                “You have GOT to be kidding me! This is a joke, right?” Lucie looked around in disgust, wrinkling her nose at the sterile environment. “You’ve brought me to a flamin’ hospital? What are you trying to say?”

                The Doctor stepped from the TARDIS, ensuring he shut the door firmly behind him. “Lucie, Lucie, Lucie. Take a better look around. Does it really look like a hospital? The architecture’s all wrong for starters!”

                His companion spun around to face him. “Listen you, I know a hospital when I see one. And this is definitely...” she paused, taking in the scenery once more, “...possibly a hospital. Some futurey space hospital, but still a hospital.”

                The Doctor made to mouth the words ‘space hospital?’, thought better of it, and strolled over to her, grasping her by the shoulders. The look she gave him immediately made him regret it, and he backed off slightly, holding up his hands as if to deflect away any protest. “Tell you what, five minutes to explore. If you think it’s still a hospital or we come across any unsavoury happenings, we’ll hot foot it back to the TARDIS and be on our way.”

                Her scowl dissipated slightly. “You’ll really be able to walk away from any ‘unsavoury happenings’?” He nodded, though behind his back kept his fingers crossed. “Five minutes? Not a second more?”

                The Doctor smiled, noticing the faint twinkle in her eye. “Not a second more. Promise.”

                “Fine.” Lucie began to walk down the rather clinical looking corridor, then stopped abruptly almost causing the Doctor to career into the back of her. “Wait a minute. Did you hear that?”

                The Doctor listened intently. “No, nothing.” He paused, trying to ascertain once more what it was that his companion had heard. He cocked his head to one side, Lucie barely suppressing a grin. For thirty seconds he stood, head tilted, then straightened up. “Nothing at all.”

                Lucie rolled her eyes. “That was what I meant! Honestly you Time Lords really are something else! And what was all that? I was surprised you didn’t stick your ear to the ground to hear the buffalo stampede!”

                The Doctor looked at her, indignant. “I’ll have you know my hearing has been invaluable in the past, buffalo stampedes included.”

                Well that explains the outfit, thought Lucie. “Well that’s as maybe, but this is definitely not a hospital.” The Doctor gave her a blank look, almost as if he were going to say ‘I told you so’, but didn’t. Lucie looked around, pointing behind her. “See that looks like a window but...” She dashed over to it. “Oh my God! Now THAT I wasn’t expecting!”

                The Doctor followed her over, taking in the gleaming white walls and brushing his fingers over their completely smooth surface. He looked over Lucie’s shoulder, immediately aware of what had so stunned her. “You’re sure it’s not a ‘space hospital’?” he asked.

                Lucie had to double take at what he’d said. “A what? ‘Space hospital’? You’re definitely ‘avin’ me on now. It’s a spaceship, isn’t it? A great big sparkly new state-of-the-art spaceship.” Eyebrows raised as she awaited a response.

                “Oh Lucie! ‘State-of-the-art’? What does that even mean? No, this is one of the latest in contemporary innovative engineering!”

                Lucie continued to stare out of the ‘window’, gazing at the stars beyond. “Yeah, like I said, state-of-the-art.”

                The Doctor took a deep breath. “It’s very clean, very rich in oxygen too. Do you know, I have a feeling I know where we might be?”

                Lucie gave a short almost-laugh. “Do you know, I did have that feeling. Is there much you don’t know?”

                The Doctor hadn’t heard her, and had turned to investigate a plaque on the far wall.  He studied it carefully, though he found it hard to focus on the exact words in front of him. “Lucie, come and take a look at this.” No answer, so he tried once again. “Lucie?” He turned around suddenly expecting to find his companion sulking, arms crossed.

                But there was no sign of her.


                She felt disorientated at first, the ship seeming to lurch as if on water. She still faced outwards, looking at the stars beyond the confines of the ship. Yet...she shook her head then looked again. The outside appeared to be moving, though more realistically it must have been the ship.

                “Ok Doctor, that was all a bit weird. Since you’re in the know, what exactly is going on?” She turned round to face him, though her surprise was not at his absence, more at the dilapidation that had taken place around the ship. The walls, moments ago smooth and white, were now looking tainted by years of age, rusted and cracked. The whole corridor was insufficiently lit, flickering patches of luminescence the only guide as far as Lucie could see.

                “RIght Lucie, this is more than a little strange, but not more than talking to yourself. Snap out of it girl!” She took a deep breath. “Doctor? DOCTOR! Ok, so he’s definitely not around.” She felt the wall, the abrasive surface a sharp contrast to what had come before. Lifting her hand to her face she smelt the iron-like tang of rust.

                A noise made her turn, the shuffling of feet towards her. The strobing effect of the lights made the figure appear to jump forward in short bursts rather than the slow pace that it was actually moving in. Lucie squinted at it, attempting to see what it was.  The shambling outline was mere feet away when it stopped. Its head turned to Lucie as the lights highlighted its face, the skin cracked and blistered. It opened its mouth to speak, but no sound came, merely a noise like parchment folding.

                Lucie stepped back, the figure lifting an arm and pointing at her as if trying to reach her. The arm itself was frail, and as the lights flickered again Lucie could see it rapidly degenerating. The fingers turned to dust before her eyes, the arm following. The whole body was still as it gradually completely succumbed to the same fate, the image of horror left on the face being Lucie’s abiding memory. She put a hand to her own mouth in shock as what was once a person was now a pile of miniscule fragments, unrecognisable as anything human.

                She couldn’t quite believe what she’d seen, yet she knew it was real. Not quite sure what was happening caught her off-balance, and she wasn’t certain what the best course of action was in a situation like this.

                Lucie’s decision was made for her, as without warning, the section of corridor she was in peeled open like a tin of sardines, exposing the area to space momentarily before the emergency systems kicked in, creating a protective shield over the hole. She looked across the gap to where the TARDIS was ‘parked’ on the other side, and knew she had to press on.

                She walked a short way before she found the writing.  In huge letters on the wall was scrawled: BEWARE HUMANITY

                “That’s an odd thing to write. Odd, and a little disconcerting.” Lucie shrugged and continued. She hadn’t recognised the handwriting, and thought little of it, merely played out the words over and over in her head. What could they mean?

                The erratic lighting continued as she moved further along, encountering no one else – the factor was one of immense relief – until Lucie came to a vast cathedral-like room, that tapered up to a point way too far above her vision for it to be clearly discernable. Moving to the side of the room, she noticed slightly-larger-than-human-sized ‘pods’, which seemed to be designed with a humanoid occupant in mind.

                Lucie let out a long whistle in awe. “Now THIS is a spaceship! It’s massive!’re talking to yourself again Lucie.”

                As she looked up, taking in the spectacle, she didn’t notice the withered hand reaching out to touch her shoulder.


                “Ok, missing companion. I’ve dealt with that before, not a problem. First of all though it would be good to find out precisely what’s going on,” the Doctor muttered walking down a rather large corridor. He almost felt compelled to shield his eyes with an arm, so glaring was the whiteness of the walls.

                Before he knew it he’d entered a vast room, human beings encased in compartments as far as the eye could see. All appeared frozen, ready to begin the immense journey through the stars. Having seen it all before, the Doctor wasn’t fazed, but a small blinking red light on a control panel did catch his attention.

                “Well that’s not good! No wonder the air was so full of oxygen, it’s being pumped out at an alarming rate!” With a few deft hand movements, he slowed the air-flow to a much safer level, before both of his arms were grabbed from behind.  “Ah, the welcoming commitment! How do you do? I’m the Doctor, and I would extend a hand except you appear to have me at a disadvantage. Any chance I can have my limbs back?” The grip on them tightened considerably. “That’s a ‘no’ then.”

                The Doctor was spun around and came face to face with his captors. One was a haughty looking woman who, the Doctor thought, would be attractive if it weren’t for the severe look on her face. The other was a man of similar size, not overly muscular but with an obvious upper-body strength. It was the latter that had placed a pair of handcuffs over the Doctor’s wrists in order to avoid having to constantly keep him at an uncomfortable angle. The Doctor noticed this and looked down at his bindings. “Well, thank heaven for small mercies I suppose. And you are?”

                “Apprehending you. A saboteur no less.” She looked him over. “Quite the eccentric, aren’t we? One of those radical politicos are we?” She sneered at him, bringing her face close to his own.

                The Doctor shrugged. “Well I dabble you know, bit of this, bit of that. Only this time, I had no agenda at all, just looking to set your systems back to normal.”

                The woman motioned for her companion to direct the Doctor out of the room. “Oh I sincerely doubt that. The systems had been checked and rechecked. Nothing would have been wrong in here without me noticing it.”

                The male indicated for the Doctor to move forward, but the Time Lord raised his arms before doing so. “One question, before I go – where is it I’m going by the way?”

                With no expression whatsoever, the woman said, “The vault.”

                “Ah right, some kind of brig, holding cell, that type of thing I imagine. Ok, that’s as maybe, but how do you know someone didn’t infiltrate your defences, circumvent your security protocols?” He raised his eyebrows and gave a slight smile.

                The woman said nothing, merely followed the pair of them out of the room. They proceeded down the corridor to a lift, all the while none of them speaking.  Eventually they reached the lower levels of the ship, and were face to face with a door locked and protected by numerous secure features. The woman motioned for her partner to begin deactivating the security, and the Doctor watched impressed, mumbling about each and every one that he saw.

                Finally, the door slid open. The room beyond was smaller than the door would have indicated, though it was packed with a sizeable amount of crates, objects and what appeared to be scientific equipment. The man grabbed the Doctor’s shoulder and made to thrust him into the room beyond, yet the Doctor never felt the force of the man’s hand.

                The Doctor turned and looked to see the other man fallen to the floor, the woman standing over him with an electronic device in her hand. She aimed it at the Doctor’s handcuffs which fell away. He looked at her quizzically. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful, but just what is going on here?”      

                She was by now dragging the body of the other man into the vault, and after doing so, resealed the door. “He was no security officer. He’s a terrorist infiltrator. He’d been hiding out in the vault, we saw him on the security scan when he left it. The vault was the only place we thought no one would be. The protection on it is impervious to attack.”

                “Or so you thought. Now I can understand why you went through the whole charade of arresting me, but what do you think I can do? I’m just a traveller, passing through.”

                The woman looked up and saluted him. “The old legends speak of you. When you were needed, you always came, defending the Earth, saving it from invasion. It is an honour Doctor, and I apologise for the circumstances of our first meeting.”

                The Doctor smiled, a little bemused. “Let’s forget about all that. What matters is we’ve caught him and he’s locked back up. That’s right, isn’t it?” He watched her face contort slightly. “That’s not it is it?” Suddenly he remembered something he shouldn’t have forgotten. “Lucie! You haven’t seen my friend have you? So high, hair, all her own teeth, can be a little overbearing on occasion?”

                The woman shook her head. “You may have saved all those in cryo-sleep for now, but there’s something else out there. A virus, let loose from the vault when he escaped.”

                The Doctor nodded. “Yes I knew there was something else. Airborne pathogen is it? No that’d be too obvious.” He held up a finger. “Don’t tell me, give me a moment...not water based...what would need to be kept in a high security vault?” He tapped his foot while he thought, then suddenly, beaming, said, “Aha! Language! In sound, but not every sound, oh no, it’s got a trigger word hasn’t it? Any ideas?”

                The woman – the Doctor realised now was called Valeria after clocking her name badge – looked at him despondently. “That’s the problem. It’s adaptable to its environment. We don’t know what the trigger is. And if we don’t find it, humanity will be at an end.”


                Lucie turned just before the hand landed on her shoulder and gave a short yelp. She stared at the figure before her. It was a female, that was clear enough, but she was older. It was as if, like the other figure she’d seen, that she’d aged rapidly, her very being rushed through physical changes in a short space of time.

                “Hi...there, “ uttered Lucie, staring at the figure. “I don’t know what I’m doing in here really. Well I do, it’s just that...” Without being conscious of the fact, she found herself stepping slowly backwards, away from the woman.

                One thing Lucie noticed was that the woman wasn’t in such a devastated state as the other figure she’d seen, and her prognosis was confirmed when the woman spoke to her. “Lucie? You are Lucie?”

                Lucie was confused, but did her best not to show it. “Yeah, that’s right. I came here with the Doctor. You’ve not seen him have you? Tall bloke, foppish hair, terrible dress sense?”

                The woman nodded and pointed out of the room. “He is here, fighting the disease, trying to save mankind once more.”

                “Yeah, he tends to do that a lot.” She glanced around the room again, noticing that half the ‘pods’ were empty. “Where are the passengers? Stocking up on their duty free?”

                The woman gave her a steely look. “They are dead, or dying. The others will follow if the Doctor cannot save them. This curse,” she held up her own withered hands, “it’s affecting the ship – the whole ship.”

                Lucie thought back to the rust and decay she’d seen, the ship obviously in a state of disrepair. “You’re not kidding!” She looked down at her own hands, realising with some relief that the disease hadn’t spread to her. “Hang on, if everyone’s dying, how come I’m not infected?”

                The woman stumbled, and Lucie without thinking went to her aid. “Thank you.” She stood up, using all her reserves of strength to do so. “The virus is not spread through the air or by touch. It is spread by the speaking of a word.” She paused, anticipating Lucie’s question. “We do not know what it is, but all who are infected have spoken it.”       

                Well that’s new, though Lucie, but I’d better be careful what I say.


                The Doctor and Valeria made their way back to the upper levels, Valeria feeling slightly fatigued. The Doctor noticed her legs beginning to give way beneath her, caught hold of her. “Tired? I imagine you’ve had a few sleepless nights lately.”

                Valeria shook her head. “None at all. In fact I’ve sleep better lately than I have in my whole life.”

                The Doctor’s face turned. Gone was the carefree expression he usually wore, now there was a grim seriousness to his demeanour. “Something’s wrong. This disease, what does it do?”

                Valeria sat in the small seat situated towards the back of the lift. “No one really knows for sure. It got nicknamed ‘Neverwhile’. All I do know is that it affects the flow of time somehow. Why and how I don’t know.” She looked down at her hands. The skin seemed to be thinned slightly. She saw in the polished surface of the lift wall that her hair was starting to be flecked with grey.

                The lift arrived at its destination and the Doctor grabbed Valeria’s hand, pulling her out and into the clinical white corridor. “Listen, I will find a cure to this. I need to find my friend Lucie, make sure she’s not in any immediate danger and then...” He stopped, staring at the plaque he’d been looking at earlier. Around it, the wall was looking weathered, the whiteness fading, the metal eroding. “It’s infecting the SHIP! How is that possible?” He turned, looking out into the blackness of space. “And now we’re light years out from Earth already. Who’s controlling it?”

                Valeria coughed, waving away the Doctor’s offer of more assistance. “It’s all automated. What crew were around when we left will have been put into cryo-sleep now, which is where I should be.”

                The Doctor smiled. “YES! That’s it! It’ll stop the spread of the virus, at least for now.”

                The hurried along the corridor, frantically dashing to the room they had first met in. Sure enough, an empty chamber was labelled with Valeria’s name. She stepped in, the Doctor sealing it behind her and mouthing ‘I’ll solve it’, watching as the compartment did its work.

                Alone in the vast space, the Doctor began to think about what word could be causing the spread of the infection. He was about to head back to investigate the plaque, when the scene around him changed. There were empty pods, and directly in front of him, “Lucie!”

                “Doctor! What’s happening?”

                He tried to grab hold of her, but nothing tangible remained. “It’s the ship Lucie, it’s breaking up. It’s a virus.”

                She nodded. “I know, she told me.” She pointed to the woman beside her, who the Doctor immediately recognised. She hadn’t turned to him, but the Doctor knew that it was Valeria.

                He composed himself, focussing on the situation in hand. “This virus seems to affecting time as well, creating an uncertainty. I’m not really here, but you’ve been sent forward in time. How far I wonder?”

                Lucie shrugged. “Weeks, months – how long could this take to happen?”

                Valeria turned to the Doctor. “Minutes. That’s all it’s been. It seems like years and to look at me that’s what you’d think. The moment I was put into the chamber, the erosion started around me. The virus it seems spreads through anything connected with the word.”

                “Valeria, it’s never been more important than now, and you’ve figured it out haven’t you?”       She nodded, her eyes feeling heavy, her limbs aching until...

                “NO!” The Doctor watched in horror as she crumpled before him, Lucie turning away, not wanting to see the same sight she’d already witnessed. She grabbed the Doctor’s arm.

                “We’ve got to leave here. There’s nothing we can do, is there? Nothing to save...”

                “Humanity!” The Doctor’s realisation came quickly, and the effect on him was instantaneous. He could see his own skin changing, becoming older. It was a slower process than for the humans, but a visible change nonetheless.

                “Oh Doctor, what have you done?” Lucie looked at him in despair, before brightening slightly. “The TARDIS! They’ll be something there to help you. C’mon you great lump, we’ve got to head back there now!”

                The Doctor nodded. “For once I can’t argue with you. But if we make it back....”

                If? Don’t be so daft! Of course we’ll make it back. You’ve got me looking after you.” They smiled at one another, the Doctor now able to take hold of her.

                “Lucie, the timelines have conjoined. We’re back together! The virus doesn’t seem to be constrained even by time, it’s breaking the barriers between events.” He stopped, looking at his companion. “We can’t let it leave this ship. It’s got to be contained.”

                She pulled at him. “Never mind that, we need to get back to the TARDIS before I end up saying, you know, the word by accident.”

                “’Humanity’. If it wasn’t so appalling it’d be impressive. A weapon that locks onto a word, a concept, and destroys it.” The Doctor’s steps were becoming more laboured, heavier and slower than usual.

                Lucie had remembered they’d needed to go a different way to reach the TARDIS after the section of ship had broken away. It seemed to be taking forever, the extra distance in addition to the Doctor’s condition not making it any easier. Finally, the blue box was in sight, and she almost dragged the Doctor towards it, then fumbled in his pockets for the key.

                The pair of them fell into the console room, the Doctor staggering over to the controls. He placed his hands on two pads, closing his eyes and screwing them up in concentration. It took all of his effort to do so, as he fell to the floor in a crumpled heap, seemingly lifeless, as soon as it was over.

                Lucie rushed to his side. “Hey, come on, you can’t let it win now. There must be something in this knackered old ship that’ll sort you out!”

                “Knackered? Old ship?” The Doctor barely able to form the words still managed to mouth them, though in little more than a whisper.

                “See, knew that’d get your attention.” Lucie smiled weakly, and the Doctor responded in kind, seemingly inert once more. Lucie shook him, trying to provoke some reaction, yet nothing came. She could feel a hot stinging in her eyes, though held it in. Lucie Miller didn’t cry, not like this. Not over some prat with bad hair and a dress sense to match. She laughed nervously, holding the Doctor’s hand in her own. She checked for a pulse, but felt nothing, no sign of either of his heartbeats.

                   From behind her came a ‘pop’, and she turned immediately. Standing in the console room was an older man dressed in what looked like the approximation of the attire of a city gent, on his way to the office. He raised his bowler hat in greeting. “Ah, Miss Miller isn’t it? The Doctor said you’d be here.”

                Lucie stood up, wiping her eyes. “Who the ‘ell are you? And how’d you get in here?”

                The man smiled. “The Doctor called us. It seems you’ve both been in rather a spot of bother. All fixed now though. “

                Lucie rounded on him. “All FIXED? The Doctor’s dead! How is that fixed, eh? How is it FIXED?” She had to stop to keep her tears in check, and the grin on the man’s face hardly helped.

                “On the contrary, he’s very much alive – look!” He pointed behind Lucie, and she turned to see the prone figure stir. Suddenly, he staggered to his feet – using what energy Lucie could only guess at – and turned to his companion.

                “Thank you Lucie, for everything.” What seemed to be fire shot out from his hands, and his head tilted back, the bright light engulfing his neck and face too.

                Lucie watched as his features began to change, the hair shrinking away to far less, ears becoming more pronounced. Within seconds, it was over, a new man standing in the Doctor’s place. He looked over at Lucie and the man behind her.

                “Hello Lucie.” He grinned broadly, then looked down at his clothes. “What am I wearing?”

                Lucie stepped forwards gingerly. “Doctor?”

                He spread his arms wide. “The very same.” He felt his head. “I’ve had a haircut. Fantastic!” He grinned once more, then fell to the floor in the same spot he’d occupied earlier.

                Lucie turned to the other man. “So, what exactly just happened?”

                “It’s a little trick we have, when our body needs an overhaul. He’ll be fine after a little rest.” The man headed over to the console, adjusting levers and pressing buttons. “He needs a little...convalescence. We’re going to send him to Earth. Oh, and disable his TARDIS of course. Don’t want him getting up to any mischief now, do we?”

                “And what am I meant to do?” Lucie placed her hands on her hips defiantly.

                “Why,” the man flicked one last switch and the TARDIS began its take-off procedure, “look after him of course.”

                Lucie looked offended. “Be his nursemaid? You have GOT to be joking!”

                The man raised his eyebrows. “Well it’s the least you can do, given the circumstances. We’ve sealed the virus in a time bubble. For now. If we hadn’t intervened – loath as we are to do so – who knows what would have happened?”  

                Lucie was going to protest, started to do so, then gave up on the idea.

                The man jammed the hat back on his head and gave her a wave. “Good luck Lucie Miller, and bon voyage!” Then, with a ‘pop’, he vanished from the ship once more.

                “Hey,” Lucie yelled after him, “where are we going?”

                From the ether, a voice called out, “I’ve set the coordinates for a little place called Blackpool. Nice seaside, plenty of fresh air. It’ll do the Doctor the world of good.”

                Lucie smiled.

                She was going home.