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DOCTOR WHO
An Adventure in Time and Space

PLANET KELADIN. 2937 AD.

 

The roses were dying again. Rollo Cartier watched sadly as the petals broke away under the lightest touch of his fingers, and fell softly to the dull grey soil in his window box. He sighed heavily. No amount of pruning was going to save these roses it was just the same as all his previous attempts.

Laying aside his secateurs, Cartier looked out through the window of his apartment. Pale sunlight was trying to grope its way through murky clouds, barely illuminating the muddy plains of Keladin and the straggle of white buildings that formed the Earth colony. It was hardly a place to call home he knew that very few of his fellow colonists thought of it like that but he could see it no other way. Keladin colony was his project, his only achievement as an officer of the Imperial government, and he was not prepared to let it fail.

He heard the sound of his doorbell, and snapped his attention back to the present. What hope did he have of preserving the colony when he couldn't even master a simple experiment in horticulture? Or when the majority of the colonists were eagerly awaiting the day they would be recalled to Earth?

Picking up his secateurs, Cartier bade his visitor enter. The door opened to reveal Nuala Lockwood, his chief deputy. She was a thin-faced woman in her early forties, with dark shoulder-length hair. She waved a hand-held computer pad at him. "Governor," she said, "I've got several reports that need your signature..."

She broke off when she caught sight of the secateurs in his hand. "Having trouble with your roses again?" she asked sympathetically.

"Just the same as before," Cartier replied.

Nuala moved forward, and looked critically at his window box. "Well, perhaps if you didn't insist on using the native soil," she suggested. "You know it won't sustain anything. You should use the synthesized Earth-soil like they do in hydroponics."

Cartier shook his head. "We've only got limited supplies," he said. "We don't have enough to spare for frivolities like this. Besides, this is my challenge. If I can get a rose to grow here naturally, then I won't feel as if everything has been wasted. And maybe there'll be some small hope that we might actually get crops to grow here."

Nuala hesitated for just too long a moment. She couldn't meet his gaze. "Well, we'll see, won't we?" she muttered.

Cartier sighed in exasperation. "Oh, come on, Nuala, don't be so pessimistic. We've got to believe in the colony."

"We did," replied Nuala pointedly. "All of us did originally. But that was three years ago, Rollo."

She could remember clearly when the colony was first established. Everyone had been full of enthusiasm then. Keladin was a real frontier colony, right on the outermost edge of the Earth Empire's expansion. It was the greatest challenge, and every colonist volunteer wanted to be a part of it. The pioneer spirit had soon faded when they couldn't get anything to grow here. Now there was talk of the colony being abandoned, and Nuala knew it couldn't be too soon for most of her colleagues.

But for Cartier it was different. He had put body and soul into Keladin colony, and he was taking the threat of failure very personally. Nuala could see he'd been stung by her words. She softened her tone. "Look, it might still work out. The Assessor will be arriving soon, and the reports of the seeding project sound hopeful."

Cartier rewarded her with a glimmer of a smile. "Thanks, Nuala. That's the spirit."

She smiled back. Sometimes it was easier just to agree with him. So, an agricultural Assessor was on his way from Earth Nuala found it hard to raise any enthusiasm. He was merely the latest in a long line of experts who had come to solve Keladin's problems except that there was no solution. Nothing would grow in Keladin's soil. There was no explanation for it. Every scientific test suggested the soil would yield perfectly healthy crops but nothing they had ever planted had survived.

This new Assessor was promising a new experimental seeding process, tested and proved under laboratory conditions. On paper, it was the answer Keladin was searching for. But they'd heard that so many times before. On past experience, there was little hope it would work in practice. This was their last chance, the make-or- break project. If it failed, the colony was sure to be abandoned. They were too far out to be constantly re-supplied. The costs involved were simply too great. Unless Keladin colony could be produce its own food, and be made self-sufficient within the next year, the Imperial government would cut their losses.

"So," said Cartier brightly, "are all the preparations made for the Assessor's visit?"

Nuala was brought back to the present. "Yes," she replied, "we've cleared space in the landing bay for his equipment."

----

From the relative comfort of her armchair, Abigail watched the Doctor as he pottered about his control panel, pressing switches and pulling levers with bewildering dexterity. In the centre of the hexagonal console, a glass cylinder rose and fell with rhythmic oscillations. The air was filled with a strange, mechanical sound, like the straining of a severely overworked engine. Beneath her chair, the floor seemed ever so slightly unsteady, as if the room was somehow in motion.

She got shakily to her feet, and walked cautiously to the centre of the room. The Doctor turned round to face her, and smiled reassuringly. "All right?" he asked.

Abby nodded. "What is this place?" she asked.

The Doctor glanced round the cavernous white-walled chamber. "This is my home," he said softly. "The Tardis."

Abby shook her head in confusion. "What do you mean, your home?"

"I mean... this is where I live."

Well, he had some unusual ideas about interior design, Abby thought, glancing round at the gleaming walls and Victorian furniture. Her gaze was eventually drawn back to the central console. "So what are all these levers and things for?" she asked.

The Doctor indicated the nearest panel. "Oh well, these are the navigational controls, flight systems and so on..."

Flight systems? What did he mean? Then Abby noticed the slight motion of the floor again, and realized what it meant. "We're moving!" she exclaimed.

"That's right," replied the Doctor. He swept his eyes over some of the instruments. "Everything seems to be going quite smoothly for once. Of course, we're just in a simple parking orbit around Earth at the moment, until I can get my bearings and work out what to do... After that, we've got all of time and space before us."

"What are you talking about?" asked Abigail with a nervous laugh.

The Doctor regarded her with a slightly pained expression. "The Tardis is a spaceship and a time machine. I might expect you to be a little more impressed."

"Oh, right..." Abby affected to look suitably contrite. This was rapidly turning into the most surreal conversation of her entire life. "So, what do you do in this spaceship?" she asked.

"I travel through time and space," the Doctor replied.

"Why?"

He lapsed into thought for a long moment. "Do you know, I don't think anyone's ever asked me that before... Because I enjoy it. I like exploring. And one day, I hope to find..." He tailed off, gazing momentarily into space. "Well, never mind about that," he muttered.

His words seemed so sincere and serious that it was difficult to doubt what he was saying. But it was all so obviously nonsense wasn't it? Abby asked, "Am I going mad?"

"I sincerely hope not," said the Doctor.

"Then we're really inside a phone box?" A crazy notion, obviously. But after what she'd been through today, she was surely allowed a few mild delusions. She'd read about this sort of thing. It was her mind retreating from the shock of nearly becoming a human sacrifice. She'd built up a little fantasy, of a magical escape inside a telephone box that was really a time machine...

"Yes," the Doctor was saying, "we are inside a telephone box in a manner of speaking. In actual fact, the exterior can disguise itself, to fit in with its surroundings. I don't suppose you're familiar with the concept of trans-dimensional co-ordinate mapping...?"

"Not really, no..." Abby frowned. Tempting as it was to call all this an illusion, she knew instinctively that it was real. After everything that had happened to her in the underground temple, it wasn't so hard to accept a spaceship in the form of a ludicrously large room that fitted inside a police box.

She shuddered at the memory, and realized just how much she owed the Doctor. "You saved my life," she said simply. "Didn't you?"

"Yes, actually I did," replied the Doctor, with a lack of modesty that bordered on arrogance. "There's no doubt that Blakeney and Kralin were going to kill you. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that's the reason they hired you in the first place."

"But why?"

"I'm not sure," murmured the Doctor. He reached into his jacket pocket, and pulled out Kralin's strange arrowhead medallion. He held it up on the end of its chain, like a stage hypnotist dangling a watch before his subject. Light seemed to flicker along the crystal lines etched in its surface. "But I rather suspect it has something to do with this."

----

Governor Cartier tapped his desk lamp impatiently as it flickered on and off. How he was supposed to work under these conditions was beyond him. He really needed to finish this report before the Assessor arrived. The lamp responded to his entreaties by going out completely. And now his monitor screen had black bands strobing across it as well.

Jumping up from his desk, Cartier marched across his office to the door. That wasn't working either, so he had to wrench it open by hand. He stalked out into the corridor of the administration block, and made his way to the systems control room.

Inside, under dim emergency lighting, assembled technicians and officials were hunched over control panels and shouting into communicators. Cartier caught sight of the tall figure of Mackenzie Drew, the chief biosphere engineer, standing in the midst of the chaos, his straggly black hair falling untidily into his eyes. He seemed to be fiddling with two control consoles at once and giving orders to several technicians, whilst simultaneously speaking to at least three different people over the communicator.

Cartier marched over to him. "What's going on?" he demanded.

Drew looked up at him with an expression of weary anger. "The power's gone down again," he snapped, and turned his attention back to his work.

"You know the Assessor will be here soon," said Cartier. "What sort of impression is this to give him?"

Drew sighed. This wasn't the first lecture he'd received from the Governor they'd been having trouble with the power systems since the colony had first been built: surges, fluctuations, complete outages. No amount of diagnostic engineering work could solve the problem because there was nothing wrong with the systems. He was sure of that. The problem was with their environment, the planet Keladin itself and no revolutionary crop seeding process was going to sort that out. Even if they could get things to grow, they'd barely have scratched the surface of their woes.

But there was little point telling that to Cartier. It was easier to keep his own counsel and get on with his job. At least his own ideas had met a receptive audience in the form of the exological expert who'd visited last month he'd taken Drew's report back to Earth, and was recommending that they gave his proposal a try. Drew was convinced the colony's best chance of survival lay there, not in some agricultural experiment. He only hoped he'd have the chance to put his theories to the test before the Imperial government ordered Keladin colony shut down.

The main lights came on again for a second flickered off and on again and then remained constant. Drew stepped back from the console, and breathed a sigh of relief. He was dimly aware of Cartier grudgingly offering congratulations, but he ignored the gesture. He was only too well aware that he'd done nothing to restore the power. It had come back all by itself, with nothing to indicate what had caused the outage.

Excusing himself, Mackenzie Drew set off for the power complex. He needed to organize a series of checks, to ensure that no crucial systems had been damaged by the power fluctuations.

Cartier watched him depart, and glanced at his watch. He realized that the Assessor's arrival was imminent in fact, if he was on schedule, his ship was probably entering a parking orbit now, preparatory to receiving landing clearance. It wouldn't do if such an important Imperial official was kept waiting. Cartier rushed along the corridor to the orbital traffic control suite, to personally ensure that everything went smoothly.

He found the duty flight controller in the process of giving landing instructions to an incoming craft. Nuala Lockwood was standing behind him, glancing over his shoulder at the monitor screen.

"Is that the Assessor's ship?" asked Cartier urgently.

Nuala nodded. "Relax, Rollo," she soothed. "We're directing them to the central landing bay. You'd better get ready to lead the reception committee..." She trailed off, her gaze caught by something on the traffic control screen.

"What is it?" Cartier demanded.

"Not sure," said Nuala, pointing something out to the flight controller, though it was obvious from his reaction that he'd seen it already. "What is that?" she asked.

"What?" insisted Cartier.

The flight controller tapped the side of his console impatiently, and fiddled with a few of the controls under the screen. Then he sat back in his seat, with a relaxed shrug of the shoulders.

Nuala looked up to see Cartier virtually hopping up and down with worry. She smiled. "It's nothing. For a moment, it looked like there was a second ship sitting on the Assessor's tail."

"Probably just a sensor echo," added the flight controller, "or a ghost signal. This equipment must have slipped out of calibration. There's nothing there now."

Cartier grunted in exasperation. "Does nothing work properly in this place?" he muttered, before turning on his heel and stalking from the room.

"No," said Nuala to his back. "That's just the problem."

----

Abigail gazed at the unusual pendant as it dangled from the Doctor's hand. In some way, it fascinated her, yet she also felt troubled by its presence not least since she would forever associate it with an attempt to murder her. "What is it?" she asked slowly.

"Ah well," said the Doctor brightly, "if I'm right..." He paused, frowning. "If I'm right... this is probably one of the most dangerous artefacts in the universe."

"Dangerous how?"

"Well, it almost got you killed, didn't it?" He laid the medallion down carefully on top of the oscillating glass cylinder at the centre of the control console, and stuffed his hands deep into his trouser pockets.

Abby reached out her hand towards the medallion it seemed so innocuous, but she couldn't quite bring herself to touch it. "It doesn't look very dangerous," she said nervously.

"Appearances can be deceptive," replied the Doctor solemnly. "That artefact can bend space, distort time and change the pattern of matter in the hands of someone who understands it, who can utilize its power, it could be the most terrible weapon. And it's just one of them."

"You mean there are others?"

"Yes. According to the legends, there are five although really, they're just temporal reflections of the original. When the five constituent parts are re-combined, the pentalisman will be re-created."

Abby shook her head in confusion. "You've lost me."

"It's a long story." The Doctor sighed. "It starts thousands of years ago, long before civilization began on your planet."

It came out so naturally that Abigail almost missed the significance of that last remark.

The Doctor went on: "There was a race of beings known as luminants. Well, that's not really what they were called they didn't have a name as you or I would understand it. They manifested themselves as patterns of light, hence luminants. They were immortal, non-corporeal beings existing outside of the space-time continuum. They had near-omnipotent powers they weren't bound by the strictures of time or the laws of physics. They influenced the shape of the universe, caused stars to ignite, planets to form."

"Why?" asked Abby.

The Doctor shrugged. "Something to do, I suppose. Omnipotence can get boring if you don't keep yourself occupied."

"So what happened to them?"

"Apparently, they decided their time was over so the legend goes. They saw mortal races building their own civilizations, and knew there wasn't a place for them any more. So they removed themselves from our existence. To everything there is a season, and so on."

Abby gestured towards the pendant. "So what's all that got to do with this?"

"The pentalisman was the symbol of their power. It acted as a kind of focus, a link between them and the corporeal world. When they left us, it was broken into five lesser talismans, which were lost scattered throughout all time and space. And that should have been an end to it."

He turned his attention back to the control panel, and studied the instruments closely. "If the pentalisman were to be re-assembled, whoever possessed it would control the universe. They would command all the powers of the luminants. And that's what Kralin's trying to do."

"So that's what was happening back there," said Abigail.

The Doctor nodded. "One of the missing talismans must have been buried somewhere beneath that house," he said. "That must have been the cause of the time distortion which brought me there in the first place." He reached out, and picked up the talisman from the top of the glass cylinder. "Kralin already had this one he must have used it to track the second. And once found, they needed your life energy to release it."

"So they tried to sacrifice me?"

"That's right."

Abby shuddered at the memory. She drew a deep breath to calm herself, and thought over everything the Doctor had told her. "How did Kralin get that talisman in the first place?" she asked.

"Good question," replied the Doctor. "I don't know. But this is obviously something he's been planning for a long time."

"How do you mean?"

"Well, remember the original Kralin Society in Nazi Germany he must have founded that with the very intention of finding the talisman."

"But that was sixty years ago," Abby protested.

"The talisman can alter time," said the Doctor. "Holding back years of ageing wouldn't be a problem, believe me. That's if he's not actually a time traveller himself. In fact, that seems more likely."

He weighed the talisman in his hand, and regarded it thoughtfully. Then he placed it carefully on a blank section of the console. Almost instantly, a number of silver wires shot out from concealed openings in the control panel, and attached themselves to the talisman, somehow fusing themselves into the surface. The pattern of crystal lines began to glow more vigorously. The Doctor watched it for a few moments, then flicked a couple of switches. A flap opened, and a small display screen popped out a sequence of numbers flashed rapidly over its surface.

"So what happens now?" asked Abigail.

The Doctor frowned. "There are still three more talismans out there somewhere," he muttered grimly. "And I have to find them before Kralin does."

"What are you doing?"

"Using the resonant frequency of the talisman to get a bearing on the others. They could be anywhere in time or space." Something on the monitor screen caught his eye. "Got it!" he exclaimed, and started to punch controls in a complex sequence. "That's the time trace of the next talisman."

He grabbed hold of a large lever and pushed it home. Abby staggered backwards as the floor lurched violently under them.

"Sorry about that," said the Doctor with a shrug. "Broke out of orbit a bit too sharply. Time is of the essence."

He glanced down at his dishevelled appearance, and began to brush ineffectually at the dust that coated his jacket. Then with a sigh, he turned and strode away towards the far side of the room, where Abby noticed another door.

She called after him: "Where are you going?"

He halted and span on his heel to face her. "A wash and brush-up seems to be in order, don't you think?"

"Well..." Abby didn't know what to say. There was only so much she could take in at once. "I just thought you might use your spaceship time machine, whatever it is to take me home."

The Doctor smiled sheepishly. "D'you know, I didn't even think? Sorry." And he turned round, and resumed walking towards the far door.

Abby stared at his back in utter astonishment. "Is that it?" she demanded. "Sorry?"

Pausing in the doorway, the Doctor fixed her with an intense, serious stare. "I can't... I won't abort our flight now. I don't know what kind of time travel capability Kralin has. There's no way of telling when or where he'll turn up or whether he'll arrive before us or after us. But any delay in our journey will only stack the odds in his favour. I can't take that risk."

Suddenly, the shield of his eccentricity had slid aside, and Abby was struck by the sheer force of his personality. There was no arguing with him. "So what do you expect me to do in the meantime?" she asked meekly.

"Oh look, don't worry," the Doctor said. "I'll drop you home when I get a moment. Until then, just look on the bright side."

"There's a bright side?"

"Oh yes. I mean, you're going on a journey through time and space how many people can say they've done that? It's the adventure of a lifetime."

Abby groaned wearily she didn't feel especially adventurous at that moment. She looked down at herself, and saw for the first time the dust and grime that covered her, her ripped and tattered clothing. God, she was having one hell of a bad day! The Doctor seemed almost to be reading her mind, for he interjected: "I expect you could do with cleaning up as well and maybe a change of clothes. I'm sure I'll have something in the wardrobe that'll fit you."

----

Seen from the observation gallery, the sleek shape of the Assessor's ship was little more than a speck on the floor of the landing bay a far cry from the massive bulk cargo freighters that were more usually to be found there. Cartier looked around at his reception committee a couple of secretaries, a minor administrative official and two technical supervisors not really an appropriate welcome for the man who could make or break Keladin colony. Where the hell was Nuala? Or Mackenzie Drew for that matter?

He sighed heavily. There was no point delaying the inevitable. He nodded to his companions, and they proceeded to enter the lift. They descended to ground level, and walked out onto the surface of the landing bay. Already, cranes and trucks were moving forward to unload the ship.

Cartier halted before the nearest crew hatch, and quickly ushered his little group into line. A boarding ladder folded out from the side of the ship, and the hatch slid open. A figure appeared at the top of the ladder, and started to descend.

The Assessor was a tall, imposing man, dressed in the jet black uniform of a high Imperial official. He had close-cropped dark hair, and a penetrating gaze. As the Assessor stepped forward to introduce himself, Cartier felt those eyes boring right into him. It was not the reaction he'd been expecting, and it offered him little hope. Did this mean that the Assessor had already made his decision?

Cartier found himself floundering he started to mumble something stupid about giving the Assessor a tour of the colony, and found himself caught once more in that transfixing stare.

"I don't think we'll have time for that," the Assessor said. "We have a lot to get through. I'd like to see your reports on the situation before we get started."

"Yes," blustered Cartier, "of course. Everything's ready for you in the conference room."

"Good. Then let's start there."

They paused as one of the trucks moved across their path. Loaded on its back were several upright metal cylinders, each about two metres in height. The dock cranes were lifting more of these objects from the cargo compartments of the Assessor's ship. "Seeding pods," the Assessor explained. "Part of the experimental project I may be implementing here. Perhaps the answer to your problems."

"Well, let's hope so," muttered Cartier.

"Shall we go?"

"Yes, Assessor. It's this way." He started to guide their guest towards the lift. As the Assessor moved off ahead, Cartier turned quickly to one of the secretaries. "Find Miss Lockwood, and Engineer Drew. And tell them to get along to the conference room immediately."

----

The mine control station was a plain, functional building a short distance outside the main settlement. Nuala had a pretty good idea she'd find Mackenzie Drew here, overseeing his pet project. As she entered the control suite therefore, it was no surprise to see him hunched over a control panel, hair cascading over his eyes, his attention fixed upon a series of read-outs.

Evidently pleased with what he saw, he reached for a microphone mounted on a flexible arm. "All right, Frank, that's enough. Move onto shaft x-15 now, please."

He was evidently directing a geological survey being conducted somewhere inside the mine workings. He'd spent plenty of time in here, doing just that, over the last year or so despite the frequent objections of Cartier. The Governor lent no credence to Drew's theory, and refused to sanction his investigations officially. The engineer had been forced to work in his spare time, with the aid of a few assistants who bought into his ideas. Of course, they were using the colony's power and equipment, but Drew's position gave him just enough authority to get away with that and Nuala had covered for him slightly. She wasn't sure if she accepted his theory, but she was prepared to give him the chance to prove it.

Finding such proof would have required extensive excavations something Drew could never have achieved with a private, spare time project so it was fortunate that the mine workings already existed. They were the first human-built structures on Keladin, established long before the colony settlement. The first exploratory missions had detected rich mineral deposits on Keladin perhaps that was why a colony had been sanctioned so far out from the hub of the Empire. But any intention of Keladin becoming a mining colony had been scuppered by two factors. Firstly, it was too far from the main trading routes to keep up an effective supply; and more importantly, the mineral seams had been quickly exhausted, confounding the initially promising exological surveys.

So the mine had been quickly abandoned. All that was left was a labyrinth of shafts and galleries extending far into the planet's crust.

Drew was still intensely focused on his work, and hadn't yet noticed her. Nuala perched herself on the edge of the desk beside him. "Still at it, then?" she asked.

The engineer looked round with a start. "Oh, it's you," he said, breathing a sigh of relief. "What are you doing here?"

"Looking for you," Nuala replied.

"Shouldn't you be part of the welcoming committee for the Assessor?"

Nuala grimaced. "It'll just be Rollo toadying to him," she said. "That's an area where he doesn't need my help. And anyway, you were supposed to be there as well."

"Yes well, I needed to put some time in here," Drew said. He gestured towards the instrument panel. "I think I've found it, Nuala. I'm really close this time. I'm confident we've got enough information to try an exploratory bore."

"You'll never get Rollo to agree to it."

"I may not have to."

"What do you mean?" asked Nuala.

Drew looked away shiftily. "Well," he said slowly, "you remember that exologist who was here last month from the Imperial Survey Office."

"What about him?"

"He was quite interested in my theory, so I gave him a report on the project. I think he was going to recommend we give it a try."

Nuala's eyes widened in surprise. "You went over the Governor's head?" She'd never have thought Drew would have the guts. It was a serious breach of protocol at best. At worst, it could cost the engineer his career not just on Keladin, but any future chance of getting a post in the Imperial administration.

"It wasn't quite like that," Drew said quickly. Perhaps he was beginning to regret his precipitous action. "I was just overwhelmed to have an official taking me seriously. I think I got a little carried away."

"I'll say..."

A communicator bleeped on the desk. Drew picked up the handset, and listened to the voice at the other end. "Yes, she is," he replied. He passed the handset to Nuala.

After a brief conversation with one of Cartier's secretaries, she replaced the handset and smiled at Drew. "Well, we've been summoned," she said. "Rollo's in conference with the Assessor, and expects us both to be there."

"What now?" replied Drew. "What about the tour of the colony, and dinner at the Governor's residence?"

"Postponed, it seems. It looks like this Assessor wants to get right down to business. Come on." She got up from the desk, and started towards the door.

Drew hesitated, turning his attention back to his control panel. He grabbed the microphone again, and spoke to his assistant down below in the mine shaft. "Frank, I've got to go to a meeting. Can you continue with the survey pattern we agreed, and get the results tabulated for when I get back?"

----

Even having accepted that she was inside a time machine, crammed impossibly into a police telephone box, Abby still found her grip on reality failing her. The Doctor had led her from the control room, through the internal door, and into a labyrinth of corridors. There seemed to be no end to the interior of the Tardis. Each corridor was lined with hundreds of doors, that opened into more ridiculously large rooms.

The chamber they were standing in now was so big, she couldn't actually see the other side it just seemed to disappear into darkness. The room was filled with hundreds of clothes racks, on which hung every conceivable type of garment.

"Just a few outfits I picked up on my travels," the Doctor explained. "I'm sure you'll find something here that suits you." And with that, he wandered off into the shadowy depths of the room.

Left alone, Abby found her eyes drawn to the vast array of clothing before her. Despite all she had been through today, some part of her recalled the childhood fun of dressing-up games for a moment, it was like being a little girl again, and being given the opportunity to indulge her wildest fantasies. Rummaging through the clothes rails, she came across all manner of dresses, hats and coats. Here was a Coldstream Guards uniform, complete with bearskin; there a roughly-hewn monk's habit.

Finally, her eyes alighted on the most fantastic creation it was a dress of the finest satin, the sort of thing a fairytale princess would have worn. Abby removed it from the rack, and held it up against herself. It looked as if it would be a perfect fit. Sitting on a small dressing table nearby was the sort of tall, conical hat worn by mediaeval ladies, draped with fine silk and gauze. The temptation to try the outfit on was almost overwhelming.

But with an effort, she forced herself to hang the dress back on the rail. She needed to find herself something sensible to wear something practical and durable. If her experiences today were anything to judge by, travelling with the Doctor was likely to be messy and fraught with dangers.

She settled for a comfortable sweatshirt and a pair of jeans. As she picked up the garments, the Doctor reappeared at her elbow. She hadn't heard him approach. He appeared spick and span, having cleaned off the dust and grime of their adventure he even appeared to have combed his hair at least, it seemed slightly less unkempt than Abby remembered. Presumably he had changed his clothes too, since they were clean and untorn although he seemed to be wearing an exact replica of his previous outfit.

"All set, then?" he asked breezily. "Come on, I'd better show you the bathroom we'll be arriving soon, no time to waste."

He bustled out, with Abigail following gingerly.

----

Cartier drew a deep breath, and looked along the length of the conference table. Mackenzie Drew was staring down at his hands, studiously avoiding his gaze. He made eye contact with Nuala Lockwood, but she maintained a neutral expression, obviously waiting to hear his response. Finally, he looked up at the Assessor, seated opposite him at the far end of the table. "I thought you were here to oversee this new seeding project," Cartier said slowly.

"I may well be," replied the Assessor, returning his gaze steadily. "But my full remit is much wider. I'm here to investigate the problems of this colony, and what can be done to put them right. That might indeed involve the seeding project. But there are many factors that must be looked at first."

"You've seen my report," said Cartier. "I think I gave a full and open account of our situation here."

"Indeed, but yours is just one of the reports I have to consider."

Cartier turned his head to regard Mackenzie Drew but the engineer couldn't meet his gaze. So he felt bad about the way he had acted so he should! Who did he think he was, going over his Governor's head?

"I've considered every possibility, theory and suggestion," Cartier said, "and after carefully weighing them, I've made the recommendations in my report."

"But no mention at all of Mr Drew's theories," said the Assessor. "If I hadn't received his report through the Imperial Survey Office, I would have known nothing about his project."

"Well, as I said, if I'd considered Mr Drew's work important, I'd have made appropriate recommendations in my report."

The Assessor frowned, as if considering his words. That ought to be an end of the matter, Cartier thought. Then to his astonishment, the Assessor turned directly to Drew, and asked him to outline his findings.

It was an incredible breach of protocol for the Assessor to go over Cartier's head like this. He might have expected Drew to be embarrassed about the situation but he was clearly thrilled his ideas were being taken seriously, and spoke confidently. "It's my belief that the problem we face here is the planetary environment itself. For some time, I've suspected that there might be an unknown component to Keladin's eco-system, something we've never come across before and consequently don't know how to detect. My first thought was of a biological agent something which is effectively poisoning the soil. However, my recent investigations at the mine workings suggest we are looking for something exological in origin. In fact, this would also explain the power failures and equipment malfunctions. I suspect that our problem is a previously undiscovered mineral which is acting as an electromagnetic lodestone."

The Assessor nodded. "And you're now convinced you have proof of these suspicions?"

"I believe so," said Drew. "I've been running a series of tests at the mine, and I've detected what seems to be the most powerful source of electromagnetic disturbance."

The Assessor sat back in his chair, apparently deep in thought. Could he really be considering this idea seriously, Cartier wondered? This man he'd thought would be the salvation of the colony, considering the most crackpot of theories rather than getting down to the important business of his seeding project?

The Governor cleared his throat loudly. "I think we're forgetting something important here," he said. "The mine workings were the first part of the colony to be established. They were surveyed thoroughly at the time, and many times since, and no one has ever detected this EM interference of yours."

"Well," Drew stammered, "we've got more sophisticated equipment now than we had back then."

Cartier snorted contemptuously. "I think this is a waste of time."

"On the contrary," interjected the Assessor, "it is of the utmost importance."

"The only thing that's important is getting crops to grow on Keladin. That's why we need your seeding project."

"And if the seeding project fails?" The Assessor raised a questioning eyebrow. "Mr Drew has identified an area of major concern. What would be the point of seeding this planet if nothing can grow here? The seeding pods are experimental and very expensive. It would be irresponsible of me to deploy them until this avenue of investigation had been thoroughly explored."

"So what's the plan?" asked Cartier grimly.

"I..." Drew coughed, and avoided his gaze. "I want to set up a drilling apparatus at the point of the greatest disturbance. To basically drill into the crust and see what we can turn up. If the source of the interference is localized a lodestone of some kind, as I suggested then perhaps we will be able to extract it and make the soil fertile again."

"There are a lot of ifs and maybes in your plan," said Cartier. "Supposing I refuse to sanction it?"

"Then I would overrule you," replied the Assessor. "I do have the executive authority in this matter," he added, before the fuming Cartier could protest further. "Now I suggest that we allow Mr Drew to return to the mine, and make the necessary preparations."

----

The bathroom had turned out to be Roman style baths, complete with stone columns and statues. Nothing about the Tardis could surprise her any more. After a good long soak, Abby had changed into her new clothes, and set out to look for the Doctor.

Somehow, she had found her way through the maze of corridors back to the control room. She had followed the brightest-lit and most inviting passages. She sensed that the Tardis was guiding her, marking out the way but that was a ridiculous notion, wasn't it?

The Doctor was standing at the control console, studying the instruments carefully. The glass cylinder was now slowly rotating. He stared into its depths for a long time, seemingly oblivious of her presence. Mysterious lights flickered and strobed within it, their patterns reflected on his face. Then he seemed to lose interest, and looked up at her with a bright smile. "We've arrived," he said.

"Arrived where?" asked Abby.

"Well, apparently the planet Keladin right at the edge of the Empire."

"Empire?"

"Earth Empire," replied the Doctor. "It's about the middle of the thirtieth century. Your people have been expanding across the galaxy for eight hundred years. There are thousands of colonies and dominions. Earth has become a major galactic superpower."

Abby thought about what he was saying. It was suddenly too much to take in: the Earth Empire, the thirtieth century...

"It may seem fantastic to you," said the Doctor, as if reading her thoughts, "but to me, it's just a matter of historical record." He flicked a switch on the control panel, and gestured at the wall behind her. "It's your future. See for yourself."

Abby turned to see that a section of the wall had opened up to reveal a large television screen. It displayed a stack of metal crates, almost filling the entire field of vision. "Very interesting," Abby said sarcastically.

"Yes," the Doctor replied. "Obviously some kind of freighter servicing dock."

"How can you tell that?"

He pointed to the screen. "Up in the corner there, over the top of the crate. You can see the corner of a crane and the edge of a fuel tank."

Abby squinted at the screen, but could barely make out more than a dark blur. "If you say so," she muttered.

The Doctor nodded absent-mindedly, and returned his attention to the control panel.

"So is the talisman thing here?" asked Abigail.

"Well... There are some interesting temporal energy fluctuations in the area. It's worth a look." He straightened up, and started towards the door. But then he paused, and looked round at Abigail. "So you're going to wait here, are you? It's probably for the best. I shouldn't be too long."

Abby looked down at her new attire. Almost without realizing it, she'd dressed for an adventure ready to follow the Doctor into whatever dangers might lie in wait for him on his quest. She hadn't done that simply to wait inside the Tardis. Besides, she was curious about the future of the human race, and wanted to see the Earth Empire for herself. "No, I think I'll tag along," she said. "After all, you're my only means of getting back home. I'd better make sure nothing happens to you."

"Right," murmured the Doctor. "Good." He operated a control on the console, and the large double doors swung open. They stepped through, and Abby once more found herself stepping across a strange black void, before emerging into a dark and dusty alcove. They were behind the stack of metal crates, exactly as displayed on the scanner screen inside the Tardis. The floor was thick was grime, and the smell of oil hung heavily in the air.

She glanced back to see the Doctor locking the Tardis door. It took her a few seconds to realize that the Tardis was still in the shape of a police box. "I thought you said your time machine could disguise itself to blend in wherever we go."

The Doctor nodded. "That's right."

"So why hasn't it?" She nodded towards the police box. "It might just about have fitted into Professor Blakeney's junk room, but it sticks out like a sore thumb here."

With a frustrated scowl, the Doctor looked down at the ground. "Yes," he muttered, "well, it must have got stuck." He patted the side of the Tardis affectionately. "Anyway, it looks like we're tucked away in a forgotten corner here. No one's going to notice the ship."

"Let's hope they don't start moving those crates," said Abby.

The Doctor chose to ignore her comment. He reached into his jacket pocket, and pulled out a slim black box, on which various displays and read-outs flashed. It was similar to the device Blakeney had smashed earlier. "Just a faint signal at the moment," he said. "Definitely a localized temporal distortion, but nothing to really get a bearing on. Come on, let's take a look around."

He found a small gap between two of the stacks of crates, and slipped nimbly between them. Abby followed, and they emerged into a large open space, surfaced with concrete. It was something like an airstrip. There were various buildings around the periphery, and a number of vehicles darting to and fro. Overhead was the crane that the Doctor had pointed out earlier.

However, Abby's attention was drawn completely to the shape in the centre of the apron. It was rather like an aeroplane, although its fuselage was squarer in shape, and its wings triangular and severely swept back. It was also about ten times larger than a jumbo jet. Several hatches were open in its sides, and men and women in overalls were busy unloading cargo from within. Abby suddenly realized what she was looking at. "It's a spaceship," she exclaimed.

"Well yes," replied the Doctor. "A fairly small scout ship, nothing special." He sauntered over towards the vessel, moving calmly amidst the dockers and technicians as if he owned the place. It was a technique that worked, since no one paid him any attention.

Abby hurried to catch him up, and found him looking closely at a tall metal cylinder, one of several which were stacked up to one side of the spaceship. It was just over six feet tall with a slightly domed top. The silvery surface was smooth and featureless. The Doctor prodded at it, but could get no purchase upon it. "What is it?" Abby asked.

The Doctor shrugged, and picked up a small computerized note-pad from the top of a nearby crate. "Well, this is the cargo manifest it says these are seeding pods. Some kind of large-scale crop fertilization programme, I suppose." He reached out curiously to touch the surface of the pod again. "It's not a process I recognize but there's something odd about it..."

"Yes," said a clear female voice. "It's odd that anyone thinks it's going to work."

The Doctor and Abby looked up to find a woman standing on the other side of the seeding pods, regarding them through the gap between two of them. She was tall and thin-faced, with dark hair falling to her shoulders, dressed in a plain brown outfit. "Hello," she said, "I'm Nuala Lockwood, the Deputy Governor. I don't think we've been introduced."

She came round from the behind the pods, carefully sizing the two of them up. The man was tall, in his late forties, with flowing locks of dark hair. His dress sense might have seemed a little eccentric, but Nuala had been away from Earth for some time, and had little idea what the current styles were. The young woman was more sensibly dressed. She was in her mid twenties, with shoulder length blonde hair framing a pretty, round face.

"How do you do?" the man murmured. "This is Abigail, and I'm Doctor..."

At that moment, a truck came rolling up to the side of the ship, ready to pick up more of the unloaded cargo, and they were forced to move out of its way to the relative safety of a hanger entrance. The rumble of the truck's engine drowned out whatever else the Doctor was saying.

Once they could be heard again, Nuala looked at the Doctor brightly. She didn't quite like to admit that she hadn't caught his name, so she settled for asking: "What kind of doctor? Exologist? Botanist?"

"Oh, a little bit of everything," replied the Doctor airily, and moved forward to resume his examination of the seeding pods.

"Well," said Nuala, "you're obviously not with the Assessor's party. I suppose you came in on one of the freighters."

"Yes, something like that." The Doctor looked round at her, and smiled disarmingly. "I'm sorry, I suppose I ought to have presented my credentials or something."

"Oh, that's not really necessary unless you wanted to make a presentation to the Governor. Keladin is a free port." She laughed. "Anyway, we're quite used to scientific experts dropping by without warning. Everyone wants to take a look at Keladin."

"Yes," the Doctor bluffed, "I imagine it must get quite tedious."

Nuala gave a shrug of resignation. "That's what happens when your planet is a mystery," she said. "Keladin, the world where nothing grows."

The Doctor nodded sagely, putting together the snippets of information he had gleaned to form a complete picture. "So I take it the Assessor is going to supervise a new seeding programme?"

"Well maybe," Nuala replied. "That was the original idea, but now it seems there's some question over what the nature of the problem is. Our biosphere engineer thinks there may be a deposit of some unknown element concentrated beneath the colony, which is affecting the viability of the soil here."

"That's interesting," said the Doctor. "I've taken some readings which might tend to support that theory."

"Really?" Nuala looked at him curiously aside from the Assessor, she had never heard anyone lend much credence to Drew's ideas. Independent scientific opinion supporting his theory would certainly help his case with Cartier. "They're attempting to drill into the crust, to see whether they can locate the source of this element. Perhaps you'd like to observe the process?"

"Thank you," said the Doctor, "I'd be delighted."

"Right. Well, I'm just on my way there follow me." She indicated the way across the landing bay. They set off together, avoiding trucks and load-lifters that rumbled back and forth across their path.

----

The location chosen was a large cavern within the mine workings. With the Assessor's approval, Drew had put his project on an official level. He had drafted in more assistants to take EM readings, and had pinned down the location of the strongest interference patterns. This cavern was not dead at the centre but it was close enough, and offered the best place to set up the drilling equipment.

A huge derrick had been erected to support the massive laser drill, a metal cylinder that tapered to the point of its beam emitter. Technicians swarmed around it, running cables from the huge bank of generators that lined one side of the cavern. Four cross-shafts led into the cavern, through which further thousands of metres of cable snaked, connecting banks of control consoles and monitoring instruments to the main computer in the minehead office.

Drew stood back from the frenzied activity, letting the technicians get on with it. He had given them precise instructions, and they didn't need him getting in the way. He preferred simply to watch and yes, to savour the moment. His theories taken seriously, his great experiment going ahead with official sanction. Finally, he was doing something more than just repairing the environmental controls. Most of the colony's scientific officers were now inside the cavern. Some had been seconded to the project, and were manning the consoles but most were simply here to watch.

Drew caught sight of Cartier standing to one side, watching the proceedings with a glowering expression. More than once he felt the Governor's vengeful eyes boring into him. God, he'd better be right about this if he didn't produce some spectacular results, his career was going to be over. Feeling in need of moral support, Drew looked about for Nuala Lockwood, but she was nowhere to be seen.

At last, his chief assistant came over from the drilling apparatus. Frank Wong nodded his head, and murmured, "I guess it's ready."

Drew smiled uncertainly for a few moments, and then turned to walk over to the main operating console. He could still see Cartier from the corner of his eye, glaring daggers at him. He tried to ignore him, and focus all his attention on getting the experiment under way.

As he reached the control console, Drew found the Assessor standing beside him, eyes fixed raptly on the laser drill as if hypnotized by it. "All very impressive, Mr Drew," he whispered theatrically. "I wish you luck in your endeavours."

Drew felt a strange shudder run through him. He might owe his great chance to the Assessor, but there was something decidedly creepy about him at this moment an almost fanatical gleam in his eye.

Turning all his attention to the controls, Drew powered up the systems, and stabbed the button to activate the drill. A concentrated beam of light was fired from the emitter, striking the ground beneath the derrick.

----

Nuala Lockwood had led them from the landing bay through the drab, pre-fabricated town; and into a squat, grey building that was apparently the entrance to the mine workings. It didn't look like any pithead Abigail had ever seen before. She supposed she was expecting to see the huge wheels of a lift winding mechanism of course, by the thirtieth century they'd have less obtrusive means of getting underground.

They moved through a control room, where various technicians sat manning control consoles, far too focused on their work to pay any attention to the visitors. Nuala walked straight through the control room to a short corridor beyond, and stopped before a pair of metal doors presumably the entrance to the lift.

Abby hung back slightly, and turned to see that the Doctor was taking a keen interest in the control room. He paused behind several of the technicians, glancing over their shoulders at the instrument readings on their consoles. When he finally moved to join her, she whispered: "What are we doing here? I thought we were supposed to be looking for the talisman?"

The Doctor nodded grimly. "And this is probably where we're going to find it," he replied. "This place is almost the dead centre of the temporal distortion. I suspect that the EM radiation they've detected is an energy feedback through their instruments."

"So you think the talisman is what's causing their problems?"

"Probably. It may well be emanating power on frequencies they can't even understand. If it's affecting the very nature of this region of the planet..."

Just ahead, the lift doors slid open. "Are you two coming?" Nuala called.

The Doctor smiled gratefully, and shepherded Abby towards the lift. As they entered, Abby felt a vibration through the floor. She reached out to the steady herself against the side of the lift, and found that was affected too.

"The drilling must have already started," remarked the Doctor casually.

"I expect so," replied Nuala, pressing at the lift controls. "Once he got the official sanction, Mackenzie wouldn't have hung around."

The doors slid shut, and the lift started to descend. The journey was over in seconds, and the doors opened to reveal a passage hewn from bare rock. Abby sighed wearily. She'd had enough underground tunnels to last her a lifetime. Electrical cables ran along the ceiling, providing power to lamps which were suspended at regular intervals. The throbbing vibration was much more apparent now, seeming to reverberate along the tunnel and through the very fabric of the rock itself. Nuala started to lead them towards its source.

"We're not really very deep, are we?" enquired the Doctor.

"No," said Nuala. "This is the first level gallery. There are much deeper excavations in other parts of the mine they're all worked out now but this gallery was the first to be abandoned. In fact, it extends under a sizeable area of the colony itself."

"Why was it abandoned?" Abby asked.

Nuala shrugged. "No workable deposits were found here. And I understand they had problems with the mining equipment. If they hadn't opened up the other seams, the mine might have been shut down there and then. And then I suppose the colony would never have been established in the first place. There's an irony..."

"Yes," murmured the Doctor. "I imagine that was a manifestation of the same phenomenon that's causing your problems now."

The vibration increased as they reached the end of the passage, and a shrill whining sound began to fill the air. The tunnel opened into a huge cavern. It was roughly circular in shape, and about one hundred feet tall. Several hundred people were standing around its edges, some operating control consoles but most merely transfixed by the activity in the centre. There, a tower constructed from a framework of metal girders reached nearly to the ceiling. Like some futuristic oil derrick, it supported a powerful drill, which fired a laser beam directly into the ground. This was the source of the noise and the vibration.

Already, the drilling was well advanced. A deep shaft had been bored into the ground beneath the derrick, solid rock disintegrated by the relentless power of the laser. The press of bodies in the cavern made it difficult to get too clear a look at what was going on however.

Nuala Lockwood pushed her way through the crowd to the front, her rank as Deputy Governor helping to move people out of her way. The Doctor and Abby slipped along in her wake. As they reached the front of the crowd, Nuala scanned the cavern, looking for Cartier and Mackenzie Drew. It was hard to make out too many faces, since the glare of light from the laser beam washed out a lot of detail.

But then she focused on a commotion occurring on the far side of the cavern. People were quickly shuffling out of the way, as someone made a very public display of leaving. She realized that it was Governor Cartier, flanked by a couple of his secretaries. He knew how to make a point having stayed to watch the project commence, he now demonstrated to everyone how disinterested he was in the outcome.

Nuala caught sight of Drew, working at the main control console, and too busy to care whether Cartier stayed or not. She supposed she ought to join him, to show her support especially as she was now the senior official present. She turned back to the Doctor and Abby. "I have to go and have a word with someone," she shouted, the only way to make herself heard over the whining of the drill. "No doubt I'll see you later."

The Doctor nodded, raising his hand in farewell, and Nuala turned to make her way through the crowd. Once she was gone, the Doctor slipped his monitoring device from his pocket, and studied the readings carefully.

----

Despite the excitement at the mine, life went on as usual for the rest of the colony. In the landing bay, the technical crews continued servicing the ships on the ground. The seeding pods unloaded from the Assessor's vessel stood in a tidy cluster on one side of the bay. No real provision had been made for storing them, but then no one had expected them to be waiting around for so long. With the seeding project on hold for the moment, no one was quite sure what to do with them.

The dockers, already busy with their next job, didn't even give them a second thought. No one noticed that the pods had started to hum with electrical energy, or that they had become decidedly warm to the touch.

----

After a few seconds, his eyes became accustomed to the shining light of the laser. The Doctor stared thoughtfully at the display on his scanner, and nodded grimly.

Standing at his shoulder, Abby noted his expression. She had to stand on tiptoe, and shout in his ear to make herself heard over the din. "Is the talisman here?"

"Yes," replied the Doctor. "Right underneath the drill."

Abby turned to look at the drill. The scene was very familiar, she realized. Here they were in an underground cavern, with a powerful machine striving to free the talisman from beneath the ground. The nature of the technology was different, but otherwise it was the same as the sacrificial ritual Blakeney had tried to enact. For a moment, Abby saw the image of herself chained to an altar beneath the blast of the laser beam. She realized her terrible experiences were going to haunt her for some time to come.

She tore her eyes away from the drilling, trying to banish that nightmare image from her mind. Squinting against the glow from the laser, she looked across face after unfamiliar face, until she finally caught sight of Nuala Lockwood on the far side of the cavern. She was standing by one of the control panels, talking to a tall man with untidy black hair. Standing a little distance behind them was another figure, even taller and dressed from head to toe in some sort of black uniform.

For a moment, Abby assumed she was witnessing another mirage, a figure conjured from her darkest dreams. But there could be no doubt that the man was really standing there and hadn't the Doctor warned he would be turning up?

Without realizing it, she had dug her fingers into the Doctor's arm. He winced at her involuntary action, and turned to her in concern. "What is it?" he asked.

Abby could only keep staring across the cavern. Following her gaze, the Doctor fixed his eyes on the tall figure who had so caught her attention. He recognized the uniform of an Imperial Assessor so this was the visiting official who had instigated the drilling project... More importantly, he recognized the short, receding hair; the glowering eyes fixed on the shaft bored under the drill; and the look of overwhelming determination.

The Assessor was Kralin.

Gently prising Abby's fingers from around his arm, the Doctor started to push his way through the crowd. Being a stranger here, he had considerably less success than Nuala Lockwood, most people resenting the interloper and resolutely determined to keep their grandstand view of the drilling.

"Where are we going?" asked Abigail, keeping close behind him.

"He's using the drilling to get at the talisman," the Doctor shouted. "Obvious, really I should have realized before. We've got to prevent him getting hold of it."

----

In the landing bay, the seeding pods had taken on a life of their own. They were shaking now, the metal of their casings rattling so violently that they were actually starting to shuffle across the ground. They no longer went unnoticed. Dock workers and technicians were now crowded around them, trying to work out what was happening.

The most likely guess was that the seeding process had been prematurely activated. If it was set off here in the landing bay, what would happen? The seeds could hardly take root in the hard concrete and the whole, expensive seeding project would be ruined. They had to shut it down, but no one knew how.

While messengers were sent to find the Assessor, or any of his party, one of the technicians started to examine the pods, in the hope of finding a fail-safe mechanism. He held onto a shaking cylinder, trying to keep it steady on the ground. Then to his amazement, the front of the pod burst open right in front of him, torn apart by some tremendous force from within.

A long metal arm shot through the opening, catching the technician hard in the stomach and winding him. He staggered back, tripped, and ended up sprawled across the concrete. No one moved to help him. His colleagues stood transfixed with horror as the owner of the metal appendage emerged from the shattered seeding pod. It was a squat metal shape moving on a wide, flat base. Its tapered lower section gave way to a cylindrical midriff, and that to a domed head. A stalk protruding from the head carried the electronic camera lens that served as an eye. From its mid-section extended the manipulator arm, and beside it a stubby, evil-looking gun barrel.

Without hesitation, the gun swivelled to cover the fallen technician. It spat a deadly bolt of pure energy, which instantly microwaved the victim's body. The mesmerizing spell was broken. The dockers and technicians turned and fled for their lives. Behind them, the rest of the seed pods ripped open, and a metal monster emerged from each one. They all opened fire at once, shooting their deadly bolts into the fleeing crowd. Many people were felled instantly. Those few who managed to get out of the landing bay ran through the colony, trying desperately to raise the alarm. The greatest fear of every Earth colony had finally been visited upon Keladin the Daleks were attacking.

----

Governor Cartier was halfway back to the administration block when all hell broke loose. Slumped amid resentful thoughts in the back seat of his official car, he was initially unaware of the problem he jerked out of his reverie when his driver slammed on the brakes, slewing the car across the road.

"What the hell?" Leaning forward in his seat, Cartier strained to see what had panicked the driver. The sight of at least fifty colonists, adults and children, running along the street in blind terror was enough to tell him that something was drastically wrong. At that same moment, an explosion erupted inside a building on the left, blowing out the windows and doors.

His first thought was that the drilling project had gone horribly wrong. Somehow, Drew had set fire to the mine tunnels, or opened a volcanic vent and the colony would suffer the catastrophic results.

He changed his mind when energy bolts were fired into the fleeing mob from around the next corner. Those people hit crashed instantly to the ground, dying in horrible agony. Cartier found himself involuntarily clutching the back of the driver's seat in horror. He knew deep inside what was going on something every colonial governor dreaded. "Get me out of here," he hissed urgently.

The driver didn't need telling twice. The panicking mob was nearly upon them, and if they were caught in its midst there would be no chance of escape. He quickly threw the car into reverse gear there was no time for the niceties of turning round and they shot off backwards the way they had come.

Cartier's eyes were fixed on the end of the street, even as it receded. When the first Dalek appeared around the corner, it was not a surprise, merely a confirmation of his fear. The uneasy peace had been shattered, and Earth's greatest enemies were once more on the offensive.

Through the windscreen, he watched more people fall victim to the Daleks' weapons. It tore at his heart, but there was nothing he could do to save them. His best chance lay in getting away, organizing some kind of resistance to the invaders, and calling for military aid from the Imperial forces.

An energy blast struck the car, shattering the windscreen the driver screamed as his body burned, and slumped dead across the steering wheel. The engine was still running however, and the car careered backwards out of control. Turning alarmingly to the right, it reversed straight into the side of a house. The car came abruptly to a halt, the impact crumpling up its rear section. Cartier was thrown violently back in his seat, the breath knocked out of him. The stabbing pain in his chest warned him that he might have broken some ribs.

The sight of the Daleks remorselessly approaching galvanized him into action. He ignored the pain, and reached for the door. At first it wouldn't open, the structural damage to the car having warped it out of shape. He threw all his weight against it. All he succeeded in doing was exacerbating the pain in his torso, but he couldn't give up. The Daleks would show him no mercy, he knew that for certain.

On the third attempt, the door came open, and Cartier tumbled out onto the road surface. He staggered to his feet, and looked around for an escape route. In that moment the crowd was upon him, those who were still alive and the Daleks right behind them. Cartier was carried along with the flow.

Energy bolts were flying all around him now. He saw people falling dead all around him. Suddenly, the man running right next to him was hit his smoking body crashing to the ground. Cartier felt as if he was on fire. He felt his skin blistering, and realized he had been caught by the edge of the energy bolt just a sideswipe, but enough to fill him with unbearable pain. His legs buckled underneath him and he fell, skidding to a halt beside the body of the colonist.

Then something thudded into him, and fell across him. He smelt the burning of flesh, and felt more weights falling on top of him he was being buried under the bodies of the dead. For all he knew, he might be dead himself. He could no longer see, could no longer breathe, and felt his consciousness slipping away...

----

The Doctor's progress through the crowd was slow. He was not much nearer to Kralin when the breakthrough occurred. Then all his attention was focused on the centre of the cavern.

The drill had stopped operating. Something strange was happening to the shaft that had been bored beneath it. The ground was rumbling with some primal energy. The floor of the cavern seemed to be collapsing, even as the borehole itself was turned inside out. Huge mounds of rubble were flung up all round the cavern. The rock floor shifted beneath the derrick, and the girderwork started to bend and buckle. With a terrible screech of rending metal, the structure started to come apart. The derrick came crashing to the ground, sections of it falling into the terrified crowd.

A mad scramble for the exits began. The Doctor grabbed Abby's arm tightly, to prevent her being dragged along by the tide of the exodus. He bundled her unceremoniously behind one of the generators, now inactive, pushing her down on the ground. "Stay there!" he shouted. Then he was gone, hauling himself over the nearest heap of rubble.

The Doctor clambered over a twisted piece of girderwork, and staggered over the uneven ground towards the depression at the centre of the cavern. He came skidding to a halt as the ground opened up before him, and the triangular shape of a talisman rose up into the air. It simply floated there, waiting for someone to claim it.

Some instinct made the Doctor look up, and he saw Kralin standing on the other side of the talisman with a defiant look in his eyes. But there was something else, some forewarning of danger nagging at the edge of the Doctor's consciousness.

Suddenly from all around came screams of abject terror. The crowd had come crashing to a halt in their flight, running into each other, being knocked down and trampled underfoot. Glancing round, the Doctor saw what had stopped the stampede so abruptly. In the entrance to each of the mine tunnels stood the sinister metal form of a Dalek. Without warning, they opened fire with their deadly weapons, bolts of searing energy shooting indiscriminately into the crowd. There was nowhere to run. The Doctor tried his best to block out the screams of the dying, but he could not. It was no comfort to tell himself that there was really nothing he could do to save them. He could only hope that Abby was keeping her head down.

He turned back to see Kralin reach forward and pluck the talisman from the air. He held it up triumphantly. "Mine, I think," he declared with a malicious laugh.

----

The first indication that something was wrong was the screaming. For a moment, Abby thought that maybe the stampede had got out of hand, someone had been crushed or trampled but as the screams continued, she knew it was far worse then that. They were cries of absolute terror and the most horrendous pain, the sounds of people's precious life being torn from them.

She didn't dare lift her head to see what was happening. She curled up into a tiny ball behind the lifeless generator, trying to make herself invisible and willing the Doctor to somehow appear and save her. Then the air around her became electrified with balls of burning energy they came from all directions, and tore across the cavern with unstoppable force. Each was a bolt of death. Abby smelt the burning of human flesh, heard the screams of those who had been hit. She heard explosions echoing around the chamber, deep rumbling sounds as the walls started to collapse. Dust filled the air, clogging her throat; showers of stones and rubble fell upon her, cutting into her clothes and stinging her skin.

Then something smacked into her. Abby felt something hot and sticky against her. She screamed and pushed it off instinctively. Through the smoke and dust, she realized that it was a human body, shrivelled and burnt to a crisp. It must have fallen when it was struck by the energy weapon, the remains skidding across the ground towards her. She couldn't even tell if it was a man or a woman.

Her entire attention was focused on the metal shape that she glimpsed across the cavern it looked like some sort of machine, but she instantly knew that it was alive. It seemed to exude an aura of pure evil that chilled her to the bone. Perhaps it was the way that it glided so smoothly across the cavern floor, the rubble and rough stone proving no obstacles to it. The machine was joined by three others. Abby realized these were the perpetrators of the carnage. They each had a gun barrel mounted at their midriff, which swivelled round and spat more deadly bolts of fire across the cavern. Their domed heads swung from side to side, their eye stalks seeking out fresh victims.

One of the machines opened fire, seemingly right at her but the bolt struck a rock outcropping a short distance ahead of her. Abby shielded her face against the hail of stone fragments that burst forth. She saw another burning body fall from behind the rock.

Then suddenly, a human figure darted out from a recess in the rock, and hurled itself towards her, landing with an uncomfortable thump beside her. It took a few moments for Abby to see through the dirt and streaked blood, and recognize the newcomer as Nuala Lockwood.

There was no time for greetings or questions. Nuala staggered to her feet, keeping low in a sort of crouching run. More energy bolts shot around her, blasting chunks out of the rock but somehow she managed to avoid being hit, and disappeared into another small recess in the rock face.

Abby looked up to see the metal monsters starting to bear down upon her. What choice did she have? She jumped up, and started to scuttle along in the direction Nuala had taken. For the first time, she took in the scene in the cavern the charred, smoking bodies that lay strewn everywhere. She felt herself starting to retch but there was no time. She had to force herself to keep moving. Fortunately, there was so much smoke and dust in the air, she was spared the sight of too much carnage. It also meant she couldn't see the Doctor anywhere.

Suddenly, Abby felt a burst of intense heat at her back, and thought she had been shot. Then she realized that the generator, behind which she had been sheltering a moment ago, had been hit and exploded in a ball of flame. The force of the blast picked her up and flung her through the air. She landed in a heap beside the recess in the rock. A pair of hands grabbed her by the shoulders, and pulled her back into the niche.

Her vision was a blur. She realized that she was being bundled into a small, narrow tunnel. But then more energy blots exploded behind her, and she felt herself falling as rock came crashing down around her.

----

The talisman dangled enticingly from Kralin's hand. For a split second, the Doctor considered making a grab for it, grappling physically with Kralin if he had to. But he was continually aware of the situation around him. In that instant, he reviewed the scene in the cavern and considered his chances.

There were at least ten Daleks here now, just mopping up the last few survivors. The Doctor had blotted out the full horror of the massacre. There was nothing he could do to save those people he would mourn them later, as he had so many victims of evil in the past. The Daleks were already turning towards the cavern's centre he could sense a couple converging upon him and Kralin...

He had no more time. He jumped back, just as a Dalek opened fire. An explosion ripped up the ground where he had been standing moments before. The Doctor was flung backwards by the shockwave, and landed behind a heap of rubble at the edge of the depression, which shielded him from the Daleks for a moment.

He glanced up towards the cavern wall behind him. He could just see the edge of one of the mine tunnels, and a rack of equipment standing next to the rock face. No Daleks in his immediate field of vision... An idea formed in his mind it was the only chance he had.

He leapt up, and scrambled over the broken rock to the cavern wall. He could sense the Daleks swinging round to cover him, weapons opening fire. He weaved this way and that, avoiding the energy blasts which ripped chunks out of the rock at his feet. He reached the equipment rack, noting with satisfaction that he'd guessed right it did contain several packs of blasting explosive. He paused there, just long enough, sensing rather than seeing all the Daleks acquiring him as a target. Then he dived sideways, towards the tunnel entrance just as the energy bolts all converged on the equipment rack where he'd been standing.

The blasting packs went up like a massive bomb. The Doctor rolled with the blast, letting it carry him into the side tunnel. The cavern wall collapsed behind him, sealing the entrance to the tunnel and cutting him off from the Daleks. Slowly, the Doctor picked himself up, and brushed some of the dust from his jacket.

He had no idea what had happened to Abigail for all he knew, she was one of the dead bodies back in the cavern. It wasn't something he wanted to think about. All he could do was maintain the hope that she had somehow managed to escape.

----

Abby recovered inside a narrow tunnel. She was covered in dust and rubble, and realized that the end of the tunnel had completely collapsed behind her. A few more inches, and she might have been buried. As it was she was scratched, and bruised all over. It was pitch black, but she sensed the presence of someone else ahead of her. She realized it was Nuala Lockwood, who had dragged her inside the tunnel at the last moment.

"Are you all right?" Nuala asked.

"I think so," Abby replied. "It's a good job you knew this tunnel was here."

"It's a cross-shaft for ventilation. When the attack started, Mackenzie remembered it was here. It's just a pity he didn't make it." She sighed heavily. "That was Mackenzie who got shot down next to you."

Abby shuddered, remembering the smouldering body that had almost fallen on top of her. "I'm sorry," she muttered.

Nuala became brisk, perhaps wanting to change the subject. "How are you feeling?" she asked. "Up to some crawling?"

"I suppose so. Is there a way out?"

"This isn't a deep gallery. We're underneath the outer edges of the colony now. This tunnel ought to connect with a ventilation shaft. Assuming they haven't sealed up the ends or posted guards. We'll just have to take the risk."

"What were those things?" asked Abby.

The question seemed to puzzle Nuala. "What?"

"Those machines, robots, whatever they were."

There was a long pause before Nuala answered and then, her tone was incredulous. "They were Daleks. How can you not know?"

Abby didn't know what to say, but Nuala didn't press the matter. It was more important that they got out of there. She started to crawl along the tunnel. Ignoring the pain in her battered limbs, Abby followed her.

----

Kralin stood at the centre of the cavern, clutching the talisman firmly in his hands, as the Daleks converged on him from all sides. It had not been a surprise to encounter the Doctor once again after all, he knew the Doctor was a time traveller. But still, that he should turn up now, and attempt to steal another talisman, was surely more than a coincidence. It meant the Doctor was deliberately pursuing him.

The Daleks were around him now. Kralin glared into the eye lens of the nearest, and said, "Call in your mothership. We don't have much time."

The Dalek turned its head away, and communed silently with its vessel. The mothership had come through Keladin's sensor net by riding alongside the Assessor's scout ship, since when it had been parked in a blind spot. Now, with Daleks swarming all over the colony, there was no further need for concealment.

----

Nuala inched open the vent cover and peered along the alley. There were still two Daleks positioned there, effectively blocking off their escape route. She slumped back against the wall in despair.

Below her, Abby was still clinging to the ladder, a vertical drop below her. They were inside one of the main ventilation inlets for the mine, essentially nothing more than a long straight vertical tube. A large fan at its base sucked air inwards, but fortunately it was no longer turning the power had probably failed otherwise, they would never have been able to get past it. After that, there was nothing they could do but climb the narrow inspection ladder bolted to the side of the shaft. Several times, Nuala had wondered whether they were going to make it one slip, and they would have plunged to their deaths far below. But some combination of grim determination and a relentless survival instinct had got them to the top of the terrifying climb.

And now, they found themselves trapped. The top of the ventilation shaft was a low concrete blockhouse standing unobtrusively in a narrow alley between two blocks of houses. Metal grilles in its roof allowed air to be drawn in, whilst keeping out any rubbish that might have jammed the intake fan. Smaller vents in the side of the building were covered with metal shutters these could be opened to allow an increased flow of air, or for maintenance access.

Nuala reached down, and helped Abby up the final few rungs to the small ledge at the lip of the shaft. Here at least they could sit down and rest. Abby took the opportunity gratefully, like Nuala bracing her back against the wall of the blockhouse. "What now?" she asked.

Nuala shook her head resignedly. "There are two Daleks out there they're right in our path. We couldn't get past them."

Before Abby could reply, a metallic scraping sound resounded around the blockhouse. The two women glanced at each other in fright, and then looked around for the source of the sound. On the opposite side of the ventilation shaft the ledge was slightly wider, and some sort of inspection hatch was set into it. As they watched, this slowly slid aside, and a head of wildly unkempt hair, plastered with dust and earth, poked up.

When he saw them, the Doctor smiled warmly. "Ah, there you are."

Aside from his dishevelled appearance, he didn't seem the least bit put out by the day's events he didn't even appear out of breath. When she found her voice, Nuala asked, "Where did you come from?"

The Doctor started to haul himself up through the hatch. "Well, I started climbing up a ventilation shaft. Then I realized that it would connect with the service ducts that run under the colony carrying the power lines and the water supply and so on. It was just a case of finding the right hatch. The Daleks haven't bothered with the service ducts, so it was relatively easy to move around. Since then, I've been looking for you." He nodded down at the hatch through which he had emerged. "There's a service lift just down there," he added.

"Oh, that's great," breathed Abigail, as she relived the terror of climbing hundreds of feet up the ventilation shaft.

The Doctor padded lightly around the lip of the shaft to join them, and eased open one of the metal vent covers. He quickly took in the sight of the two Daleks guarding the end of the alley.

"Do you think they know we're in here?" asked Nuala.

"No, I shouldn't think so," replied the Doctor. "They'd have just come in and exterminated us."

"So what do we do now?" muttered Abby.

"We'll go down in the lift," said the Doctor. "We can use the service ducts to get around, and hopefully avoid further encounters with the Daleks."

Turning to face him, Nuala shook her head determinedly. "I can't just run away from them. My duty is to the colony."

"Exactly," replied the Doctor. "And you can best serve it by not letting yourself get caught. Listen, if there are any survivors, they're going to be people who found hiding places like this one, or got down into the service ducts."

"There's a deep storm shelter beneath the hospital block," said Nuala. "I suppose they might have gone there."

"Well, there you are. Your job must be to find them, band them together and lead them to safety."

After a moment, Nuala nodded. There was no arguing with the logic of his statement.

The Doctor went on: "As for the Daleks... Well, you obviously need reinforcements. If you sent a distress signal, could you get Earth forces here?"

"I think so," replied Nuala. "There's an Imperial flotilla does a circuit of this sector. If we could get word to them..."

"Right then, that's what we'll have to do. Let's get into the lift."

As they started to edge their way around the ledge to the hatchway on the far side of the shaft, Nuala asked, "So where are we going? The Daleks will have the administration block under guard, surely?"

"I can probably jury-rig a transmitter," replied the Doctor. "All we need do is hook it up to a good power source. The power station would be our best bet, don't you think?"

----

A great weight was pressing down on him. The fact he was aware of it was a good sign, surely it meant he wasn't dead. The terrible stench of burnt meat filled his throat and nostrils, and he gradually realized that he was lying beneath a pile of dead bodies.

Cartier felt a shudder run through him, and struggled to claw his way out from underneath the corpses. He crawled gasping into the air, but there was no respite from the horror the breeze was warm and carried the unmistakeable smell of death. Cartier risked opening his eyes. The sight of the smouldering bodies all around him was almost too much to bear. He looked away, trying to focus on something less painful. But everywhere was destruction and devastation. Buildings were burning, laying clouds of thick smoke across the colony.

Cartier dragged himself painfully to his feet. Fortunately, there were no Daleks in sight he knew they'd have shot him down where he stood. Realizing they might return at any moment, he looked around for somewhere to hide. There were only the burning buildings he wouldn't find sanctuary there for long, but at least he would be under cover while he thought of a better plan.

He started running. That was when he noticed he was limping badly in fact, he seemed to have very little feeling at all in his right side. Reaching the nearest building, he threw himself down in the doorway and tried to assess the damage. The skin of his right hand was black and shrivelled the result of a sideswipe from a Dalek's weapon. He didn't need to examine himself further. From the lack of sensation, he knew the whole of his right side was the same.

Suddenly, a shadow passed across the street. Cartier looked upwards to see a massive dark saucer shape moving across the rooftops of the shattered colony. It was a Dalek spaceship. He watched as it descended towards the landing bay. More of the monsters arriving to lay waste to Keladin.

Suddenly, he knew what he had to do. If he was to fulfil his obligations as Governor, he had to do everything in his power to save the colony. His career might be ending in ignominious disaster, but he still had this one last chance to defeat the enemy. He had to move quickly.

----

Cautiously, the Doctor lifted the trap door a fraction. He could see the base of a Dalek receding along the corridor. It turned a corner, and disappeared from sight. Lowering the trap, he turned back to Abby and Nuala, who were waiting down on the lift platform. "It's gone," he said. "We've got about ten minutes before it makes its next circuit."

"Let's go then," replied Nuala. She waited for the Doctor to climb up through the trap door, and hauled herself up behind. She scrambled out onto the metal floor of the power station, and looked around for a place to start. Her administrative duties had never brought her here very often she had no understanding of the set-up. Surrounded by a framework of metal girders, a row of huge silver spheres stretched far into the distance. Throughout the structure were suspended maintenance gantries and control areas.

She turned back to the Doctor, who was helping Abby up through the trap. "What do we do?" she asked.

Taking a quick look around, the Doctor pointed to a metal staircase leading up to one of the gantries. "Up there." He led the way at a dash. They bounded up to the first level gantry, where a bank of control panels stood. The Doctor rushed over, and tried to switch it on. One of the monitor screens flickered into life.

"There's still some power left," he said, punching up a status report. "In fact, the damage isn't too bad in here."

"They must have concentrated on exterminating people," said Nuala bitterly.

"That's the Dalek way," the Doctor murmured.

Nuala watched as he punched up a schematic of the colony's power distribution system, flicking through several pages of data in a mad blur. There was no way he could be taking it all in. But after just a few seconds, he stepped back from the console and said, "Yes, that all seems quite straightforward. There's a transceiver relay on top of the food storage building."

He looked up at the scaffolding, tracing the cables that ran from the massive spherical generators. Then he suddenly leapt up to grab hold of the lowest girder. With surprising agility, he hauled himself up the framework to where a large cluster of cables sprouted from a junction box. He yanked some of the cables free from their sockets, turning his face away to avoid the sparks that erupted from the severed connections.

Hanging onto the scaffolding with one arm hooked over a girder, he rummaged in his jacket pocket and produced a scalpel. He quickly sliced into the dead cables, and began to strip away the insulation. Then he began to twist the exposed wires together. Another search of his pockets produced a pen-shaped laser welder, which he used to seal the new connections, before plugging a new combination of cables back into the junction box. He retained several trailing ends in his hand.

Glancing down through the girderwork, he caught sight of the Dalek returning on its patrol route. It only had to incline its eye-stick upwards, and it would spot him. Swiftly, the Doctor dropped down to the gantry, padding soundlessly on the girders with the skill of an athlete. He signalled to the two women to hide, as the Dalek passed beneath them.

It made hardly a sound, just the gentle humming of its motive system, so it was difficult to judge when the Dalek had moved out of sight. For a moment, the Doctor thought he could detect the sound of a second Dalek. Both seemed to have come to a halt right beneath them. Then his fears were confirmed as the Daleks spoke, their voices grating, metallic monotones that echoed through the vastness of the power station.

"All Daleks are ordered to report to the mothership," declared the first.

"I obey," replied the second, and the sound of their motors died away.

Nuala got unsteadily to her feet. "They must have landed a ship," she said.

"Yes," agreed the Doctor. "Perhaps they're planning an evacuation."

"Why attack us if they don't want to capture the colony?"

"Perhaps they've found what they came for." The Doctor picked up the ends of the cables he'd unplugged, and opened the inspection panel at the back of the control console. He connected the cables inside, and tapped up a new display on the monitor screen. "Right," he said, "it's a bit crude, but it should enable you to get a message out. Even if the Daleks are leaving, your people still need to be airlifted off this planet."

Nuala nodded, and moved forward to the controls. "Thank you, Doctor," she whispered.

"We'll leave you to it," the Doctor replied quietly. Nuala was so engrossed, she didn't seem to notice. Taking Abby gently by the arm, the Doctor led her back down the staircase and over to the trap door. He lifted it up, and quickly ushered her inside.

They began to descend on the lift platform. "Where are we going now?" Abby asked.

"Back to the freighter dock," replied the Doctor. "It's the only place round here where the Daleks could have landed a ship."

"Why do we want to go to the Dalek ship?" The thought of going anywhere near those monsters again filled her with dread.

"If they're planning on leaving," said the Doctor, "it means they must have got what they came for."

"You mean the talisman?"

"I can't think of anything else." The lift came to a halt, and they stepped out into one of the service ducts. The Doctor took Abby by the hand, and started to run like a madman. Abby had difficulty matching his strides.

"Do you mean the Daleks are in league with Kralin?" she gasped between breaths.

"It looks that way," replied the Doctor, who hardly seemed flustered at all by the exertion of running. "We've got to try and stop them getting away with the talisman."

----

"The landing bay has been secured," declared one of the Daleks in its harsh, flat voice.

Kralin nodded, scarcely pausing in his stride as they moved along the mine gallery. It had taken them a while to get out of the drilling cavern, after the Daleks had collapsed several of the tunnels in their failed attempts to stop the Doctor and other survivors escaping. Sometimes, Kralin despaired of their sledgehammer tactics and narrow-minded thinking, and regretted having to work with them.

Their way out to the lift shaft was still blocked but the Daleks had scanned the colony from orbit, and identified a possible route that would take them into service ducts, through which they could reach the landing bay. Kralin hoped they were right. He wanted no further delays. He felt the shape of the talisman nestling comfortably in his uniform pocket, sensed the temporal energy flowing from it. All that mattered was getting the talisman to safety, and reuniting it with its fellows.

----

The message was sent. There was no way to know if it had been received. The Doctor's hastily wired set-up didn't include any receiving facility. The best way to make sure was to keep repeating the distress signal for as long as she was able.

As she hit the re-send control, Nuala heard a shuffling sound behind her. She spun round in alarm, expecting to see a Dalek. But the figure that confronted her was definitely human albeit a pathetic, tattered figure. A shock ran through her as she recognized the blackened, shrivelled face. "Rollo, what happened?"

Cartier took a couple of steps towards her, and then collapsed onto his face. Nuala rushed to him, and turned him over. He was still conscious, though he seemed to have trouble focusing upon her. "Nuala, is that you?" he croaked.

"Was it the Daleks?"

The mention of the enemy sent a wave of panic coursing through the Governor. He clutched at her desperately. "They killed everyone," he shouted. "Destroyed it all..."

Nuala laid comforting hands upon him. "It's going to be all right. I've sent for help. They'll be coming soon to rescue us." She only hoped that it was true. "Rollo, listen to me. We have to find the others, and lead them to safety. They need us now. They're relying on us."

She seemed to be getting through. Cartier nodded slowly, and relaxed. "Have to do our duty," he murmured.

"That's right." Nuala nodded encouragingly. She turned away from him, and looked at the control console. The distress signal had finished repeating. She wondered whether it was worth transmitting it again. It surely couldn't do any harm. She reached for the re-send control. There was a sudden blur of movement behind her she turned to see that Cartier had scrambled to his feet. Before she could react, he launched himself towards her, smashing her head against the side of the console.

Nuala slipped unconscious to the floor. Cartier stood looking down at her. He hadn't meant to hurt her, but she was getting in his way. His duty was clear, and he could not be sidetracked from it.

He moved forward to the silver surface of the nearest generator, and found the edges of an inspection hatch, which he slid open. Looking inside, he found himself gazing upon the gunmetal grey cylinder of the generator's central power core. He reached for the controls to the core's release mechanism. Freeing it from its mounting, he started to slide the core out into his hands.

It was about twelve inches long, and much heavier than it looked. Carrying it would be difficult, but he would find the strength. It was his duty to the colony. Nothing was going to stop him. He realized that such close contact with the core was riddling his body with deadly radiation. But that didn't matter. He only needed to live long enough to complete his duty.

----

The narrow channel into which they had crawled was damp and muddy one of a series of drains to remove rain water from the surface of the landing bay. Abby crouched beside the Doctor, looking out through the metal grille that emerged at ground level. She could see the bases of several Daleks moving around on the apron, some small distance from them.

Behind the hull of the Assessor's scout ship was what Abby could only describe as a flying saucer. It had to be at least five hundred feet across with a raised centre section, and was supported on three huge landing legs. A ramp extended from an open hatch in the underside to the ground. More Daleks were on guard around the saucer.

"There's hundreds of them," Abby whispered. "We'll never get anywhere near it."

The Doctor shook his head. "They wouldn't be waiting around if Kralin had got back. He must still be on his way."

"Well, what are we going to do?"

The Doctor looked out again at the Daleks swarming round the landing bay. "There's nothing we can do here," he said. He pulled his monitoring device from his pocket, and studied the readings carefully. "I think I've got a fix on the talisman. That means we can track Kralin perhaps waylay him before he gets here."

"But he'll have Daleks with him, won't he?" asked Abby nervously.

"Oh yes, certainly. But rather fewer than we'd have to face here."

The prospect of facing even a handful of Daleks didn't exactly appeal. Abby looked to the side of the landing bay, where a stack of crates still stood. She hoped that an old police telephone box was still waiting undisturbed behind it. "Can't we just sneak into the Tardis and get away from here?" she asked.

"No," said the Doctor firmly. "We have to try and stop Kralin. If he gains possession of two talismans, it will more than double his ability to manipulate time and space. I might not be able to stop him. And if he's in league with the Daleks, then it's even worse. We don't have an alternative."

"Why? I mean, what are the Daleks?"

"They're the most evil creatures in the universe," said the Doctor bluntly.

His voice was filled with absolute conviction, and Abby knew he wasn't exaggerating the threat. "Terrific," she muttered.

"They're also morbidly paranoid xenophobes. They don't make alliances easily. So if they've done a deal with Kralin, you can be sure it's because they hope to gain something significant from it. Something that would alter the balance of power."

Abby nodded. "Nuala told me they were mankind's greatest enemy."

"That's right," replied the Doctor. "In this time period, the Daleks are the rulers of a massive galactic empire. They're a superpower, just like Earth. The two races have been fighting wars on and off for hundreds of years but most of the time, it's a stand-off, a sort of cold war situation. The power of the Earth Empire is the only thing keeping the Daleks in check and vice versa."

"Then Kralin must have offered to break the deadlock," Abby realized. "If he gives them the power of the talisman..."

The Doctor nodded grimly. "There'd be nothing to stop the Daleks conquering the entire galaxy."

Examining the display on his monitor, he started to scuttle back along the drainage channel. Abby drew a deep breath, trying to steel herself to face whatever horrors lay ahead.

----

Large scale industrial machinery was operating inside her head. Nuala regained consciousness slowly and painfully. She couldn't quite recall what had happened. Cartier had been here, she remembered that and now he was nowhere to be seen. Nuala grabbed the edge of the control console to steady herself. She touched something sticky, and realized it was a patch of congealing blood. A flash of inspiration made her put her hand to her forehead, where she discovered the corresponding gash.

She hauled herself up the side of the console, and then chanced standing unaided. She was incredibly unsteady, and her vision kept swimming in and out, but she told herself she couldn't waste time languishing in a semi-conscious state. There was still too much to be done.

She realized then that the control console was dead no chance of sending any further distress signals. She could only hope that the original transmission had been picked up. She looked at the open inspection hatch on the side of the generator module, and after a few moments of confusion, noted the absence of the power core. "Oh, Rollo," she whispered, "what have you done?"

There was no time to think about it. She had to find the other survivors and get them to safety. She remembered the shelter beneath the hospital block her best bet, she decided. She had to get there. At least with the Daleks withdrawing, the streets ought to be safe now. Nuala turned, and staggered uncertainly towards the stairs.

----

Cartier lifted up the manhole cover, and let it fall back onto the pavement. It made a loud clanging sound, which reverberated around the buildings at the edge of the landing bay. It would probably attract the attention of every Dalek in the area, but that hardly mattered. After all, he wanted them to find him.

He pulled himself up through the manhole, ignoring the pain that shot through his shattered body. He could endure the hardship for just a few moments longer. By then he would have fulfilled his obligations to Keladin, and he would be dead. The great weight of the power core was supported in the crook of his arm, wrapped in the tattered folds of his coat. It was the cause of the strange tingling sensations running throughout his upper body these would seem fairly innocuous if he wasn't aware that they were caused by massive cellular collapse.

Standing on the surface of the landing bay, Cartier lurched in the direction of the Dalek saucer. He never expected to make it to the boarding ramp. Sure enough, a Dalek glided from behind a fuel tank. "Halt!" it barked. "Do not move!"

More Daleks appeared, converging on him. Cartier continued walking, seemingly oblivious to the gun barrels that turned to cover him. Nothing they could do would intimidate him any more.

"Do not move," reiterated the Dalek, "or you will be exterminated!"

Cartier ignored it. "I have a message for your leader," he shouted.

"Halt!" screamed the Dalek. "Give me the message."

There was nothing more to say. Cartier fixed his gaze firmly on the Dalek ship, and concentrated solely on putting one foot in front of the other. He could almost sense the energy discharges building up inside the Daleks' weapons.

"Exterminate!" the first Dalek ordered. They all opened fire at once. The bolts of energy engulfed Cartier, consumed him but they also ignited the power core, triggering a massive chain reaction. The explosion was tremendous. The landing bay disappeared in a fireball that consumed buildings whole, vaporized the Daleks instantly, and reduced their saucer to molten fragments.

----

Nuala had just reached the entrance to the hospital block when an ear-shattering explosion reached her ears. She turned to see a ball of flame hundreds of feet high burning in the vicinity of the landing bay. Massive plumes of smoke started to fill the air.

----

A deep rumbling vibration was the first indication of something wrong. Abby and the Doctor had made their way back into the service ducts, and according to the Doctor's monitoring device, they were rapidly closing on Kralin and the Daleks who were in a parallel shaft a couple of levels further down.

A massive roaring sound began to fill the service duct. The Doctor glanced back over his shoulder to see a wall of flame inexorably rolling towards them. "Run!" he shouted, and hared off along the service duct.

Abby found herself running too, the sense of urgency in his voice impossible to ignore. Nevertheless, she found herself glancing behind to see what was causing the sound. She soon wished she hadn't. If she was going to be incinerated, it would probably have been better not to know about it beforehand. The solid wall of flame was gaining fast they couldn't possibly outrun it.

Then the Doctor grabbed hold of her, and bundled her through a small hatchway in the wall. Abby tripped, and fell headlong into a small circular shaft. It travelled downwards at an alarming angle. The walls were smooth and featureless there was no way to slow her descent. It was rather like being on the slide at a fairground.

The shaft emerged onto a small rock ledge overlooking a vast cavern. Abby had to scrabble for a handhold, anything to break her momentum otherwise she would simply shoot over the ledge and into the abyss.

The Doctor was sliding down right behind her, and they landed together in a tangled heap, struggling to maintain their grip on the narrow ledge. The Doctor was the first to find his feet, leaping up and hauling her away from the end of the shaft. Abby let him lead her. Moments later, a jet of flame emerged from the shaft and shot across the vast width of the cavern.

Abby slumped back against the rock wall in relief, only to find it was shaking. She watched in alarm as cracks started to form in its surface. "Come on!" called the Doctor, and ran along the ledge towards an opening in the rock.

Abby could see the cave mouth starting to collapse before them. The ledge was crumbling beneath their feet. Whatever shock had caused the explosion, its effects were shaking the colony to its very foundations. They made it inside the opening, with dust and chunks of rock showering down on them.

A short, roughly hewn tunnel brought them to a better constructed mining gallery, that led both left and right. The vibrations seemed to have diminished now hopefully the structure would remain intact. Even so, Abby wondered whether this had been a mistake. They could so easily get cut off in these mine shafts, with no way of getting out. Nuala Lockwood wouldn't come looking for them she had her own people to take care of.

Suddenly, she tensed, detecting movement to her left. She spun round to see Kralin walking at the centre of an escort of four Daleks. In that moment, his eyes met hers, and he smiled viciously. The Daleks all turned their guns upon her.

Then everything happened at once. The Doctor jumped at her, pushing her down to the ground, even as the Daleks opened fire. Another huge vibration coursed through the mine shaft, bringing large chunks of rock crashing down from the ceiling. The impact of the Daleks' guns only exacerbated the collapse. A whole section of the roof came down, completely blocking the tunnel, and cutting off her view of Kralin and the Daleks.

----

Two of the Daleks lay crushed under the rock fall. Kralin staggered to his feet, shaking dust and stones from his clothing. He stared angrily at the remaining two Daleks, and then turned his attention to the talisman. He drew it from his pocket, and examined it closely. He doubted it could be damaged in the conventional sense, but it was still a relief to see that it bore not a scratch.

He reached out with his mind, focusing the power of the talisman, and saw the devastation that had been wrought in the landing bay. Turning to one of the Daleks, he asked, "What do you propose to do now?"

"There is no response from the mothership," the Dalek stated.

"It's been destroyed," replied Kralin. He looked up at the tunnel walls. They were still shifting, as if they could no longer support the weight of rock above them. This was clearly not a safe place to remain. There was only one option left a strategic withdrawal. He summoned the temporal energy of a time storm around himself.

----

The Doctor helped Abby to her feet. She shook the dust and stone fragments from her hair she'd long since given up trying to brush off her clothes. "Are you all right?" the Doctor asked.

Abby nodded. "I thought we'd had it just then."

The Doctor nodded grimly, and took out his monitoring device. "Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to try and waylay Kralin," he said. "Of course I didn't quite plan on meeting him head on like that."

"Well, what were you going to do?"

"Whatever seemed the best idea at the time setting some sort of trap, or putting an obstruction in his path." His attention was fixed on the readings on his display screen. He frowned as if he'd seen something unexpected, and pressed control buttons furiously.

Abby looked at the rock fall that completely blocked the tunnel. A few more inches, and she'd have been buried beneath it. "I guess you could call this an obstruction," she said. "Isn't that enough to stop Kralin?"

"Well, it might be," murmured the Doctor, "if he was still behind there."

"What do you mean?"

"He's gone." He held up the monitor device. "At least, there's no trace of the talisman there any more. Just the residual energy pattern of a time storm."

With an alarming rumble, another vibration like an earth tremor shook the tunnel. More cracks formed in the walls, from which stone fragments trickled. The Doctor slipped the monitor back into his pocket. "We'd better get out of here," he said, and started to move off along the tunnel.

"What's a time storm?" Abby asked as she followed him.

"It's a massive summoning of temporal energy to create a bridge across the normal barriers of the space-time continuum. Theoretically, a time storm can move you anywhere in time and space."

"Like the Tardis?"

"Not quite. A time storm is summoned by primal powers, as old as the universe itself. It ought to be far beyond Kralin's abilities."

"Well, surely he's using the power of the talisman," Abby suggested.

The Doctor grunted non-committally. Not even a talisman could unlock the secrets of time storms. Unless... It was a notion that had occurred to him before, but he'd pushed it to the back of his mind. If he was right, it meant that Kralin was more powerful and infinitely more dangerous than he might have supposed.

Another tremor shook the tunnel, tipping them off balance. They fell against the wall, clutching for a handhold. A section of the roof gave way just ahead, spilling rocks into the passage. The Doctor took Abby by the arm, and pulled her quickly past the cave-in. Then they were running along the tunnel, and into a cross shaft with an upwards incline. "Come on," said the Doctor urgently, "this should take us to the surface!"

----

As she led them along the hospital service corridor, Nuala glanced back at her little party of survivors. Twenty five including old people and children out of an original population of over four hundred colonists. She had found them cowering in the storm shelter and nearby service ducts the lucky few who had escaped the attention of the Daleks.

Now they had to risk the surface again. The tremors shuddering through the earth had threatened to shake the storm shelter apart. The entire infrastructure of tunnels, ducts and mine shafts beneath the colony was collapsing a result of the devastating explosion in the landing bay. Somewhere inside, Nuala knew who had caused the blast. But since he had almost certainly destroyed himself in the process, she really didn't want to think about it. At least he had taken the Daleks with him...

The service corridor ended at a security door. The power was out, so she hoped that the locking system had disengaged. Enlisting the help of a burly colonist called Clive, she managed to heave the door open, and looked out into the street. A thick pall of smoke lay over everything. Most of the buildings opposite were still aflame, and a strong wind howled along the street, fanning the flames. Nuala realized that it was a fire storm effect, air sucked in by the fires' insatiable appetite for oxygen.

Clearly the colony was no place to be. She had already decided to get her party out onto the open plains, where there was no risk from fire or subsidence. There they could wait for the Imperial patrol ships to pick them up.

She led the way outside. In the back of her mind was the fear that not all the Daleks had perished in the explosion there might still be some lurking around the streets, waiting to pick off any survivors. Nuala pushed the fear away. She wouldn't achieve anything by worrying about things she had no control over.

She sent Clive ahead to the corner of the next block. He nodded that the way was clear, and Nuala gestured for the other survivors to follow him. They kept their heads down, running into the hot and stinging wind. Nuala brought up the rear.

The energy bolt that enveloped and incinerated Clive took them completely by surprise. The colonists halted in their progress, uncertain what to do. They couldn't scatter. There was nowhere to run, no cover to be found in the burning buildings. Two Daleks came around the corner, and covered them with their guns. Nuala knew it was the end.

A shimmering wall of plasma energy descended from the skies, blowing the Daleks apart in an instant and sweeping the wreckage away on the wind. A vast shadow passed over the street, and Nuala looked up to see the wonderfully welcome shape of an Imperial frigate manoeuvring above them.

----

The Doctor forced aside a huge sheet of metal that blocked their path. They moved carefully between the fires that raged all around them. Even through the thick choking smoke, Abby could see that nothing at all was left of the landing bay but a gigantic crater gouged out of the ground. The surrounding hangar buildings had been totally flattened.

Nothing that had been standing in the bay itself had survived. There was not a trace of the Assessor's ship nor the Dalek saucer, none of the maintenance vehicles or stacks of cargo. The only incongruous sight was that of the Tardis, lying on its side at the lip of the crater. Massive flames burned all around it, but somehow the Tardis itself was completely untouched. "How could it have survived that explosion?" Abby asked.

"Well, the Tardis is indestructible," replied the Doctor casually. He shielded his face, and plunged quickly through the flames, clambering up onto the police box. He fumbled with his key, and got the door unlocked. It swung open beneath him, and he literally fell inside the Tardis. A moment later, his head popped up and he called Abby to join him.

She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and ran through the fire. The Doctor grabbed her hand, and helped her to scramble up onto the overturned Tardis. A loud whining sound reached their ears, and they looked up through a gap in the smoke cloud. A huge, rectangular black shape was passing overhead, with unwarranted grace something like that ought to just fall out of the sky. "What's that?" Abby asked.

"It's an Imperial warship," said the Doctor. "It must be answering the distress signal."

"So Nuala and the others will get off safely?" She was glad about that.

"Come on," said the Doctor, and disappeared inside the Tardis again.

Abby looked down into the yawning chasm of the Tardis doorway. What was she supposed to do? Just step off the door post and drop inside? It seemed crazy but then nothing around the Doctor made much sense. With a resigned sigh, she closed her eyes and stepped into the blackness.

It was quite a surprise to then find herself walking into the Tardis control room in the normal way. The police box might be lying on its side, but within everything was upright and completely normal. The Doctor was already busy at the control panel. "We'll soon be on our way," he announced.

"Where to?" asked Abby. All she wanted at that moment was another long bath and a change of clothes.

"We have to follow Kralin," said the Doctor, "and try to get those talismans from him." There was such determination in his voice, Abby knew there was no point arguing with him. She resigned herself to the fact that she wouldn't be going home just yet...

The Doctor had closed the doors, and was adjusting the controls. The floor started to move beneath them. At the centre of the console, the glass cylinder began its rhythmic oscillation.

Walking round the console, the Doctor came to the panel where he'd left the first talisman wired into the Tardis. "Let's see if we can't get a new bearing," he murmured. He studied the display screen for a few moments, with an expression of growing concern. "That can't be right."

"What's wrong?"

The Doctor put his hand to his head, as if he'd suddenly developed a headache. "Kralin should have two talismans one from London, one from Keladin." He sighed heavily and tapped the screen. "These readings are off the scale. To generate a temporal distortion wave like this, Kralin must have three talismans in alignment."

"But how could he have three?" said Abby. "We've got his original one here."

"The Daleks!" The Doctor slammed his fist down decisively on the control panel. "Of course, I should have realized. The Daleks must have unearthed one of the talismans perhaps on a planet they invaded. They'd need Kralin's help to make any use of it. That would explain why they teamed up they've both got something the other needs."

The floor lurched wildly, sending them both crashing against the console. Warning lights started to flash on all the control panels. The Doctor ran to the navigational controls, then back to the talisman, taking in the readings from every instrument and display screen at a glance.

"What is it?" asked Abby urgently.

"We're being pulled off course," said the Doctor. "A massive surge of temporal energy plucking us out of the vortex. The power of three talismans in alignment."

"Kralin?"

"Or the Daleks." The Doctor tapped the talisman wired into the console. "I imagine they want this to add to their collection."

The Tardis bucked and pitched, as if trying to fight the inexorable pull of the temporal distortion. Abby clung desperately to the edge of the console for support. "Where are they taking us?"

"Into the lion's den," replied the Doctor grimly. "Skaro the home planet of the Daleks."

 

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