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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
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
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
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
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
"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.
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
"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
"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."
"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
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
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
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
"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."
"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
"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
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
"So they tried to sacrifice me?"
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.
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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."
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
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
"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
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
"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
The Assessor nodded. "And you're now convinced you have proof of these
"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
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
"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
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."
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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,
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
Nuala nodded, and moved forward to the controls. "Thank you, Doctor," she
"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
"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
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
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
"There's hundreds of them," Abby whispered. "We'll never get anywhere near
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"It's an Imperial warship," said the Doctor. "It must be answering the distress
"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
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
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."
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
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."
"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