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An Adventure in Time and Space
LONDON. 2003 AD.
Abigail Hart was late for work.
She ran all the way from the tube station, forcing her way through the heaving
mass of people that swarmed over the pavements. At the next street corner, she
pulled herself up short, just in time to avoid running out in front of a black cab. Not
that there was any danger – the traffic was moving even more slowly than the
pedestrians. This was rush hour in South Kensington after all.
At that moment, the lights changed. The taxi was jutting out halfway over the
crossing, but that didn’t stop the crowd from streaming across the road,
circumnavigating the stationary vehicle. Abigail was carried along with them.
Once across the main road, she dodged and weaved her way through the human
tide, and slipped down a narrow side street. Abigail continued to run, trying to avoid
splashing through the large rain puddles that lay across her path. They never seemed
to dry out – very little sunlight could find its way between the high Georgian facades
on either side.
After another couple of streets, Abigail had left the bustle of traffic and
pedestrians behind. She had entered a more residential area, and the only people she
saw were walking dogs or taking children to school. She stopped before a large pair
of wrought iron gates. A small brass plate fixed to the gate post bore the words:
Pausing for a moment to catch her breath, Abigail glanced at her watch. Nearly
twenty minutes late – it was the third time this month. She was going to lose her job
for sure. She’d only had it for five weeks.
Quickly, she pushed open the gates. Beyond was a large Georgian town house,
standing back from the street in its own grounds. Abigail ran to front door, her feet
scrunching across the gravel. At the door, she fumbled in her handbag for her keys.
She let herself in, hoping desperately that there would be no one around in the lobby.
Maybe she could sneak herself up to her office, and pretend she’d been here all along.
As she went inside, Abigail felt a wrenching at her shoulder. The strap of her
handbag had caught on the doorknob. She made a grab for it.
Too late! The bag fell to the floor, disgorging its contents all over the doormat.
Abigail sighed wearily. This was definitely not going to be her day. She crouched
down, and started to scoop her scattered possessions back into her bag.
Suddenly, she sensed a presence beside her. Abigail glanced to her right, and
found herself staring at a pair of shiny black patent leather shoes. She looked up, over
a precisely pressed grey suit, starched shirt collar and tie, and into the face of her
employer. He stared down at her through his thick-lensed spectacles.
Quickly shutting her bag, Abigail got to her feet. "Professor Blakeney..." she
began. She realized there was no way she could bluff her way out of this, and
prepared herself for his rebuke.
Professor Blakeney was a short man in his late forties. His neatly cut dark hair
contained just a few streaks of grey. He was dressed as immaculately as ever, right
down to the white handkerchief folded neatly in his top pocket.
"Miss Hart," he said quietly. He was still staring, but not at her – rather he
seemed to be looking through her. "I need you to compile my notes for this evening’s
presentation. And then you’ll have to check the position and layout of the various
Abigail found herself mutely nodding. Blakeney didn’t even seem to have noticed
her lateness. He continued, "And there have been some late applications to be added
to the guest list. I’ll need you to process those as soon as possible."
He turned and walked away across the lobby, his footsteps echoing on the marble
floor. He passed between the large display boards, on which were exhibited various
charts and photographs showing the Kralin Society’s work. Everything was ready for
this evening’s reception. Blakeney started to ascend the grand staircase, heading
towards his office on the mezzanine floor.
Abigail drew a deep breath. She couldn’t quite believe her luck. Professor
Blakeney was a strange man – he often became preoccupied with his work, staying in
his office or the laboratory for hours without food or sleep. Sometimes, Abigail
would go home, and return the next day to find he had been working all night. She
didn’t really understand the work that Blakeney and his assistant were doing here, but
it was clear that he dedicated himself to it.
Abigail made her way to the great marble staircase. Two large tables had been
placed at its foot, ready to be laid out with the finger buffet that the caterers would
deliver later. She made a mental note to phone them and check there would be no
problems. It was her job to see that everything ran smoothly tonight. Indeed, she was
employed to oversee all the day-to-day administration of the Kralin Society, allowing
Blakeney to get on with his research.
As she hurried up to her own office, Abigail once more took in her glorious
surroundings: the marble floors and columns, the exquisite plasterwork, the
magnificent painted ceiling depicting the twelve signs of the zodiac arrayed around
the huge crystal chandelier. Paintings hung on the walls, many the work of old
masters. As she reached the mezzanine, she was stunned once more by the canvas
hung at the top of the stairs – the vivid image of a startled swan, seeming to leap back
in fear of the viewer.
Not for the first time, she reflected how lucky she was to be working in this fine
old house. She could so easily have been employed in a faceless office block. For the
first time since she’d signed up with them, the temp agency had come up trumps with
She walked into her office, pausing briefly to savour the view of the ornamental
gardens at the rear of the house. Then she hung up her coat, and sat down at her desk.
There were a stack of faxes waiting for her – as Blakeney had said, a number of
requests for admission to tonight’s presentation. Most were from journalists. Placing
the first message in front of her, Abigail picked up the telephone and started to dial.
Dressed in her best posh frock, Abigail stood unobtrusively at the edge of the lobby.
A disparate group of visitors milled around the area. Some were specially invited
guests, mostly from the scientific community. Others were from the press. There was
no formal dress code, so although a few people were in evening wear, there were just
as many in casual clothes. Abigail began to feel overdressed.
She nursed a glass of wine, and looked around the lobby. After her shaky start
this morning, she was glad that everything had gone smoothly. The caterers had
turned up on schedule – the buffet was excellent – and now a couple of waiters
circulated with trays of drinks and nibbles. Their enthusiasm suitably fuelled, the
guests had made the circuit of the various display boards, taking a keen interest in the
work of the Kralin Society whilst waiting for the star turn.
Now, Professor Blakeney was standing on the staircase, coming to the end of his
presentation. "I certainly hope you have found tonight useful, and you’ve learnt a
little about the work of the Kralin Society. In these days of tight economies and
government cutbacks, it is clear there will be increasingly less public spending on
scientific research. Private funding is the only way ahead."
He took a couple of steps down to the floor of the lobby, to be nearer his audience.
"In Mr. Kralin, we have found a benefactor totally devoted to the growth and
propagation of scientific knowledge. Not only do we owe him this house, and all the
work that the Society has so far achieved – but it is entirely his own generosity that
has equipped the laboratories in the new research wing that we are opening tonight."
Blakeney came to a halt beside his assistant, Dr. Miranda Ashton. She was a tall,
auburn-haired woman in her mid thirties. She was wearing a plain black dress instead
of her usual lab coat – that and the slightest hint of make-up were her only
concessions to the party spirit.
"If there are no questions," Blakeney said, "Dr. Ashton and I will be glad to show
you around the new wing."
One of the reporters called out: "Is there any chance of Mr. Kralin putting in an
Blakeney responded with a weak smile. "As you know, Mr. Kralin is a man who
values his privacy. But I know that he is with us in spirit." With that, he turned and
started to lead the way towards the new laboratories. The guests began to follow in a
vague, meandering line.
Abigail drank the last of her wine. With the crowd thinning out, the two waiters
were left standing redundantly beside the remains of the buffet. She walked across to
one, and placed her empty glass on his tray. There was little for her to do now. She
didn’t know whether Professor Blakeney would need her any more this evening, and
wondered whether she could just slip away home.
She glanced around the lobby. There were only a few guests left looking at the
display boards. Most had now drifted off in the direction of the new research wing.
A movement at the edge of her vision caught Abigail’s attention. She turned round to
glimpse a figure disappearing through a side door on the far side of the lobby – a door
that was supposed to be locked.
She quickly made her way across the lobby. The side door was shut again when
she reached it. Abigail took hold of the handle and twisted it. Sure enough, the
door was unlocked. An oversight obviously, but that didn’t excuse anyone snooping
around inside. This was a private area, not open to visitors. It was probably a
reporter, trying to dig up some dirt on the reclusive Mr. Kralin.
Abigail pushed open the door, and turned on the light. The room had once been a
study or drawing room. Now, it was full of filing cabinets – they had been pushed up
against the wood-panelled walls and empty bookcases. The only items of furniture
were a simple wooden desk and a swivel chair.
The intruder was standing before the desk now, reading some papers that had been
left on it. He was wrapped in a voluminous check overcoat that reached almost to the
floor. His long, unkempt dark hair obscured his features as he bent over the desk.
Abigail cleared her throat. "Can I help you?" she asked. "You’re not supposed to
be in here, you know."
The man straightened up, brushing his hair back from his face. As he turned into
the light, Abigail saw that he was around fifty years old. The creases and wrinkles
around his eyes and mouth marked him out as a man who smiled a lot. He rewarded
Abigail with a beaming smile now, only half apologetically. His blue eyes twinkled
with good humour and burned with fierce intelligence. And yet, there was also
something distant about him, the hint of a faraway and poetic soul.
"This room isn’t open to guests," Abigail said.
"I’m sorry," replied the stranger. "I was hoping to find out more about the
absorption and transmission of energy." He was softly spoken, with the merest trace
of an accent, Irish perhaps – she couldn’t place it. "I read Professor Blakeney’s paper
on it," he continued effusively, "but there didn’t seem to be very much on the displays
Abigail frowned. "Well, the Professor arranged his presentation to illustrate the
work of the Kralin Society. If he hasn’t covered that topic, it must be because he
doesn’t want to make it public yet."
"Yes, I suppose you’re right," the man said absently. Abigail might have
suspected that he was an industrial spy, out to steal Blakeney’s research – but he
seemed to exude honesty and trustworthiness, as if he didn’t have a guilty bone in his
body. She couldn’t explain it, but it was almost impossible to think ill of him.
"I’m sorry to have bothered you," he added, and started to walk towards the
doorway where she stood.
As she stepped aside to let him pass, Abigail said, "Look, Mr...?"
The stranger halted, and turned to face her. "Doctor," he corrected.
"Doctor... If you have any queries, perhaps you should ask the Professor
personally. I’m sure he’d be pleased to discuss his work."
"Yes, you’re right," the Doctor replied. "That’s what I should do. Thanks for
your time." With that, he strolled casually back out into the lobby.
Abigail drew a deep breath and let it out in a sigh, not sure what to make of the
incident. She shrugged to herself, and turned to leave the room. Closing the door
behind her, she looked across the lobby. There was no sign of the mysterious Doctor.
No doubt, he had made his way to the new research wing to speak with Professor
Blakeney. She didn’t see him again that evening.
The reception had been a great success. The quality papers had given it good write-ups,
and even some of the tabloids had covered it – obviously there wasn’t enough
scandal to fill their pages that day. Professor Blakeney seemed pleased with the
result, and had retreated into his laboratory – to continue with his research and
thereby justify the coverage.
This meant the house had been quiet for the last few days. Abigail didn’t really
have much to do, so she tried to stretch out the hours as much as possible. She had
taken down all the presentation displays, and carefully filed them away. The empty
display boards still stood in the lobby, the only reminder of the reception – the hire
company were coming to collect them at the end of the week.
Once that was over, Abigail merely had phone calls to answer and a little bit of
typing to do. And since she was making a special effort to get to work on time each
day, she ended up with interminable stretches of inactivity. Her mind wandered on
these occasions. Several times, she found herself staring out of the window at the
ornamental gardens. She wished she could go for a walk out there, to enjoy the
flowers at close quarters – but she didn’t think Professor Blakeney would approve of
that. Indeed, if he realized how little work there was for her, he might cancel the
contract with the temp agency.
Not for the first time, Abigail started thinking about the mystery man she had
caught snooping round the filing room. The day after the reception, she had gone
carefully through the guest list, trying to work out who exactly he was – it had helped
pass the time. Several attendees bore the title of Doctor, eminent scientists for the
most part. But she could put a face to each of them. Nowhere on the list had she
found a likely candidate for the intruder. She wondered if he had gatecrashed the
event. It was possible, although that took her back to the idea that he might have been
up to no good – and she simply couldn’t countenance that...
She was roused from her thoughts by a noise in the lobby. She went out onto the
mezzanine, and looked down over the rail. The front door was wide open. Standing
on the mat was a tall man, with close-cropped black hair receding at the temples to
form a widow’s peak. He was clad entirely in black from neck to toe.
Abigail started to make her way down the staircase. She wasn’t sure what to
make of this mysterious visitor, who was not only unannounced, but had apparently
come in through a locked door. "Hello?" she demanded, a little too aggressively.
"Can I help you?"
The man turned to face her. It was impossible to estimate his age – his long, thin
face displayed no tell-tale lines or wrinkles. He could have been anywhere between
twenty and fifty. There was something dark and glowering in his eyes, that stopped
Abigail in her tracks. She felt herself shudder involuntarily. Then she realized where
she had seen him before.
"I am Kralin," he said. The famous recluse in the flesh, not just some indistinct
blur in a press photo. Abigail didn’t know what to say to the fifth richest man in the
After a moment, she found her voice, remembering the instructions she had been
given for just this eventuality. "It’s very good to see you, Mr. Kralin," she
stammered. "Is the Professor expecting you?"
Stupid question, she realized. Blakeney would surely have told her if he’d known
Kralin was coming. They’d have rolled out the red carpet and everything. Still, she’d
been given instructions to fetch the Professor at once, if ever Kralin turned up. She
moved forward to shut the front door, expecting to see an expensive car parked
outside, perhaps with an attendant chauffeur. But there was no vehicle, not even tyre
tracks on the gravel – nothing to indicate how he had got here. Surely billionaire
philanthropists didn’t walk to their engagements?
She turned round to find Kralin staring at her expectantly. "I’ll just go and fetch
the Professor," she said. And with that, she was hurrying off towards the new
It took just a few moments to locate Professor Blakeney. Abigail followed the
loud throbbing sound that reverberated along the corridor. It led her straight to one of
the laboratories. She pushed open the door, and cautiously went inside.
The blinds were closed. The only light inside the room came from a couple of
small lamps on one of the work benches. They cast shallow pools of light onto open
notebooks and research papers, but barely illuminated the area around. As her eyes
grew accustomed to the darkness, Abigail could vaguely discern the shapes of
Blakeney and Miranda Ashton. They were hovering around a large cylindrical
machine, the source of the vibrations.
"All right," Blakeney said slowly. "We’ll try it again. Stand clear."
As they stepped back from the machine, Blakeney raised a small black box in his
hand, something like a television remote control. He pressed some buttons, and the
throbbing grew louder. One end of the cylinder started to pulse with a dull glow.
Then suddenly, a narrow beam of light shot out towards the far end of the room,
where it struck a metal plate that had been erected against the wall.
Blakeney touched some more controls, and the throbbing died away. He walked
to a bank of instruments on another work bench, which were connected by cables to
the metal plate. He studied the readings for a few moments, and grunted. "There you
see," he said angrily. "We’re still getting an unacceptable power loss between transmission and reception."
"Perhaps if we adjust the focus of the projector," replied Miranda quietly.
"Yes, maybe," muttered Blakeney. He looked up, and noticed Abigail standing in
the doorway. "What are you doing there?" he snapped. "Come on, girl, what do you
It was the first time he’d spoken harshly to her. Abigail was momentarily startled.
It took a moment to remember why she had come – then she blurted out, "It’s Mr.
Kralin, he’s waiting down in the lobby."
At once, all the rage went out of Blakeney, and he almost seemed to shrink into
his lab coat. "Well, why didn’t you tell me at once?" he asked weakly. He turned to
Miranda. "You’d better have a look at the focusing. I don’t know when I’ll be back."
He walked over to Abigail, pulling off his lab coat and bundling it into her arms.
Then without another word, he was hurrying off in the direction of the lobby. Abigail
turned to Miranda, but she was already deeply engrossed in her work on the machine.
Sighing, Abigail hung the Professor’s lab coat on the hatstand beside the door, and
She took the back stairs and a short connecting passage to return to the mezzanine.
She could hear the voices of Blakeney and Kralin coming up the grand staircase, so
she stayed out of sight until they had gone into the Professor’s office. She heard the
sound of the door shutting, and quickly made her way along the balcony to her own
As she passed Blakeney’s door, Abigail was aware of the low murmur of voices
from within. Suddenly, just a few words coalesced into coherence in her mind, and
she could make out Kralin’s voice: "...to bring the talisman forth from its resting
Abigail found herself pausing in her step. The words meant nothing to her, and
she couldn’t even be sure she’d heard them right – but there was something arresting
in Kralin’s tone. Then she heard Blakeney’s meek reply: "All is prepared, Lord."
The sound of a chair being pushed back shocked Abigail into activity. She didn’t
want to be caught eavesdropping, so she hurried back to her own office and got inside
without being seen.
Sitting down at her desk, she allowed her mind to wander over the puzzles she had
encountered recently: people who turned up out of nowhere and had no difficulty
passing through locked doors; and now this strange overheard conversation.
She took a deep breath, and told herself that there had to be a rational explanation
for it all. Maybe Kralin hadn’t wanted to draw attention to himself, so had come by
taxi and been dropped off outside the gates. That would fit in with his reclusive
image, she supposed. And of course, since he owned this house, he was bound to
have a front door key. See? A simple enough answer. If she put her mind to the
other problems, she could no doubt work them out as well.
But it just didn’t seem worth it. She ought to be getting on with some work.
Indeed, with Kralin in the building, she realized she ought to look busy to justify the
wages they were paying her. There was nothing pressing on her desk of course, so
she picked up a clipboard from on top of the filing cabinet. Perhaps it was time to
start cataloguing the jumble of old research materials in the basement.
Abigail coughed as another cloud of dust engulfed her. Professor Blakeney’s
collection couldn’t have been touched for years, judging by the sedimentary layers of
dust and cobwebs that had built up on it. There were at least fifty crates of books, and
still more containing old papers and files. Some of the materials were so dated, she
doubted that much could be done with it – there were boxes full of reel-to-reel audio
tapes for example.
Nestled amongst the books and papers were items of old furniture – several
scarred and battered tables, desks and chairs. A number of old artefacts were
scattered about – an old-fashioned telephone, a carved wooden rocking horse. There
were also antiques of rather more aesthetic value – a number of framed paintings for
example, all neatly wrapped up in dust sheets and stacked in a wooden frame.
She spent several minutes entranced, peeling back the sheets to reveal each new
treasure beneath. She couldn’t believe her eyes. Here were a Renoir, a Goya, a Picasso –
all originals, she would swear it – mixed randomly with the works of less
notable artists. But regardless of the fame of their creators, each painting was a
superb piece of artwork – this really was an exceptional collection, which made it all
the more surprising that it was relegated to a musty basement. Surely these paintings
should be displayed proudly up in the house?
Behind the cache of paintings were what looked like six genuine Ming vases – and
beside them, several more crates of books. Abigail was starting to realize what an
enormous task it would be to catalogue all this. Professor Blakeney had asked her to
attend to the task, as and when she had a spare moment – but she had found numerous
excuses to put it off. Only the presence of Kralin in the building, and the resultant
desire to be seen doing something, had galvanized her into action. If she could stand
the dust, and the damp, musty atmosphere of the basement, then this was a job that
could easily occupy her for weeks to come. She would never have to sit twiddling her
But first she would have to see about getting some better lighting. The single bare
light bulb didn’t reach all the corners of the room, and cast a pale yellow hue over
everything. She would hurt her eyes trying to see in this gloom. She was sure there
would be a torch somewhere in the house, which would serve at least for the time being.
As she turned to go back upstairs, her eyes fell upon some kind of glass case
against one wall. Abigail approached it, straining to see what it was. Dimly, she
made out some shapes and struggled to put them into context. With sudden
realization, she resolved a dull grey metal shape before her into a soldier’s helmet.
That helped her to make sense of the heavy-looking pistol beside it.
She guessed that this must be a collection of war memorabilia. With that thought,
she could easily see the rifle with fixed bayonet at the front of the glass cabinet. The
small metal cylinder on a wooden stick confused her for a moment, until she thought
back over old war films televised on Saturday afternoons. That would be some kind
of grenade, as used by the Germans in World War II.
Gradually, she began to realize that all the memorabilia was German in origin. At
the back of the case, various medals, emblems and papers were displayed: an Iron
Cross, for instance. More and more, her eyes started to pick out the shape of the
swastika emblazoned on the various documents. It looked like the collection
consisted entirely of Nazi relics. But then, considering the eclecticism of the
Professor’s collection, there was probably a signed photo of Winston Churchill hiding
in the next dark corner.
As she turned away from the display cabinet, Abigail suddenly made out a tall,
dark blue shape against the opposite wall. She approached it cautiously, and realized
that it was a police telephone box, a real antique rarity. She’d only ever seen them in
photographs before, or in old films. Apparently they’d stood on street corners, with a
telephone inside to link the local policeman to his station. All that was before two-way
radios were introduced. The police boxes had been demolished, long before shewas born.
So it was odd to find one here. It must weigh a ton – the sides and doors of the
box were wooden, but the supporting pillars were made of concrete. She couldn’t
imagine how Professor Blakeney had got it down here in the first place. When it
came to collecting, eccentric just wasn’t the word to describe him.
Next to the police box was a door. She hadn’t seen it before. She reached out and
tried the handle, but the door was locked. Abigail had no idea what lay behind it, and
wondered if it concealed yet more boxes of old research papers. She really ought to
take a look, if she was going to make a serious attempt at the task of cataloguing.
She turned and left the cellar, making her way up to the mezzanine. She went
along to Blakeney’s office, where she found the door slightly ajar. She peered inside,
but there was no sign of Blakeney or Kralin. Going in, she walked over to the far
wall, behind the Professor’s desk. There was a board fixed there, with keys hanging
from hooks. But all of the keys were clearly labelled. None was for the locked door
in the basement.
Abigail made her way to the new research wing. On the way, she stopped at a
store cupboard, and was pleased to find a chunky black torch inside.
When she got to the laboratory, it was considerably brighter than on her last visit.
The blinds had been opened to let the late afternoon sun stream in. Miranda Ashton
was sitting at one of the work benches, carefully writing up some notes. The great
cylindrical machine was silent now.
Abigail said, "Miranda, I’m looking for the Professor."
Miranda looked up from her work. "I haven’t seen him since you called him
away. He must still be with Mr. Kralin."
"They’re not in his office."
"Well, he must be showing Kralin around somewhere. I don’t think you ought to
Abigail nodded. "There’s a locked door in the basement," she said. "I was
hoping he would have the key. I don’t suppose you know where it is."
"Sorry." Miranda shrugged. "Can’t help you there."
"Oh well, it can wait."
Bidding farewell to Miranda, she went back down to the basement. At least,
armed with the torch, she could take a proper look at those items she could get to.
As she descended the worn stone steps, she switched on the beam and cast it
around. The light ran over the police box and the door beside it, before continuing
round the walls. On the other side of the doorway stood an Egyptian sarcophagus,
decorated in blue and gold with a depiction of the person whose mummified remains
must once have been inside. Abigail suppressed a shudder at the thought that they
might be inside still – she hoped that was just a silly thought born of watching too
many late night horror films.
She turned away from the sarcophagus, suddenly besieged by a nagging doubt.
She couldn’t put her finger on it, but something she had glimpsed momentarily wasn’t
quite right... Then it dawned on her. She snapped the torch back onto the doorway,
and that confirmed it. The door which had been so firmly locked was now standing
She walked quickly over, and made her way inside. She felt for the light switch,
but nothing happened. She was glad she’d brought the torch. She shone the beam
around the walls of the room. As she had suspected, it was full of crates and
cardboard boxes – more things for her to catalogue.
She supposed Professor Blakeney had been down here and unlocked the door –
and presumably gone away again when he discovered the lights weren’t working. She
certainly couldn’t imagine him and Kralin fumbling their way around in the dark.
Just as she thought that, a scraping sound came from the far side of the room, like
somebody had knocked against one of the crates. Abigail shone her torch in that
direction. "Hello?" she asked. "Is anyone there?"
The torch illuminated a figure hunched over something in the far corner. It was
someone wrapped in a large, check-patterned overcoat. Caught in the beam, the
figure sheepishly turned around to face her. She recognized the unkempt hair, the
humorous eyes, the lived-in face. It was the mysterious Doctor from the other night.
"You again," Abigail exclaimed. "What are you doing down here?"
The Doctor frowned, and looked at something in his hand. It was a slim metal
box, on which various lights flashed. Then he looked up at Abigail, fixing her with an
intensely serious expression. "Do you realize you have a massive temporal distortion
in your basement?" he asked.
"What?" Abigail blinked in surprise. It was hardly the answer she had been
expecting. "How did you get in here?" she demanded.
"Through the door, the usual way." The Doctor took a step towards her and
reached out his hand. Before she had time to react, he had taken the torch from her,
and started to swing it around the room.
"What are you doing?" Abigail cried.
The Doctor shone the torch onto a small area in the centre of the floor. "There
you are," he said brightly. "I knew there’d be something."
Following the beam, Abigail saw a wooden trapdoor in the floor, with a ring set in
it. She watched as the Doctor took hold of the ring, and heaved the trapdoor open.
Shining the torch inside, he revealed a set of stone steps descending into darkness.
"Well, this is interesting," he said. He quickly hopped through the trapdoor, and
started down the steps.
"Stop!" shouted Abigail. "You can’t go down there."
The Doctor paused on the steps. "Why not? What’s down here?"
She shrugged. "I don’t know."
"Well then, there’s only one way to find out." He continued his descent, and was
soon out of sight, leaving Abigail standing alone in the darkness.
Without giving it too much thought, she ran forward to the trapdoor. A faint
glimmer from the torch down below picked out its edge, just in time to prevent her
falling into it. Abigail moved carefully down the steps, and found herself standing on
a rough, uneven stone floor.
Up ahead, she could see the Doctor’s silhouette. He turned back to face her,
shining the torch in her direction. For a moment, she was caught in the beam, like a
rabbit startled by a car’s headlights. She put up her hand to cover her eyes.
In that moment, the Doctor moved back to her side, covering the distance in two
long, effortless strides. As her eyes adjusted to the glare of the torch, Abigail realized
they were standing in some sort of corridor. The walls were crudely constructed from
worn bricks, the mortar between them eroded by damp. Muddy puddles had collected
on the floor. A chill breeze was coming from somewhere.
She looked at the Doctor, and suddenly wondered what on earth she was doing.
What had possessed her to follow this strange man into an underground passage?
Some sense of responsibility to her employer, perhaps? After all, the Doctor was
trespassing, and she had no idea what he was up to – she couldn’t really allow him to
run amok. Oddly, she didn’t feel threatened by him. As eccentric as he was, there
seemed to be nothing dangerous about him – an intuition she prayed would not be
"Well, this is interesting," he said brightly. "Do you know where this leads?"
Abigail shook her head. "I didn’t even know it was here."
The Doctor examined the walls in the torch light. "I don’t think it’s an original
feature. It seems too modern. The house is early nineteenth century. Judging from
the style of the brickwork and the level of decay, this must have been constructed
about fifty years ago."
Curiosity got the better of Abigail. "Why would someone dig a tunnel here?" she asked.
"I don’t know," admitted the Doctor. "I suppose we’ll have a better idea when we
find out where it leads. Come on." He began to stride off along the passage once more.
Not wishing to be left behind in the dark, Abigail hurried to keep up with him.
The Doctor was still waxing lyrical about the construction of the tunnel. "It would
have been quite a difficult task to get rid of the excavated soil. I don’t imagine they
brought it up to the cellar and out through the house. Probably, there was another
building project in the vicinity being used as cover. If you checked back through
local records, you could probably pinpoint it."
As Abigail tried to think of a suitable reply, a strange bellowing sound filled the
tunnel, like the cavernous roar of some mighty beast. It reached a peak of intensity,
and then died away as quickly as it had come. Abigail realized that she was clutching
at the Doctor’s arm, and snatched her hand away in embarrassment. "What was that?" she whispered.
"A tube train," said the Doctor calmly. "The Circle Line runs just past here."
Abigail drew a deep breath, trying to calm herself down. She didn’t want the
Doctor to know how spooked she was. After all, she was supposed to be the one in
control, the one who had a right to be here. She kept pace as the Doctor resumed
striding along the passage, and stopped at a metal grille. He shone the torch through,
and Abigail found herself looking down into a tunnel with cables running along its
curved walls. Far below, metal tracks glinted in the torchlight. The air that wafted
through the grille was dry, hot and stuffy – the distinctive smell of the Underground
familiar from her journey to work.
The Doctor moved a little further along the passage, examining the walls with
great interest. Following his gaze, Abigail noticed that the style of the brickwork had
changed. There were also cables and pipes fixed to the walls, although they were
obviously old and damaged. Abigail became aware that her footsteps had acquired a
metallic tapping sound. She glanced down and saw that the stone floor had given way
to a fine metal grille. A few more paces, and she realized that this was in fact the
topmost step of a spiral staircase, which descended into the darkness below, perhaps
down to the floor of the tube tunnel.
She turned back to the Doctor. "I suppose we’re going down here, are we?" she
The Doctor held up his hand for silence. Straining her ears, Abigail thought she
could make out a faint shuffling sound coming from back along the passage. Before
she could give it much thought, the Doctor had clapped his hand firmly over her
mouth. The torch had vanished into his pocket, and with his free hand, he grabbed
her firmly by the arm. He dragged her backwards into a dark alcove, little more than
a niche in the wall. The shadows just about concealed them.
Abigail started struggling, but the Doctor’s grip was quite firm. She couldn’t
break free. The shuffling sound grew louder, and within moments, a black-robed
figure walked past the alcove. It looked something like a monk, the cowl of his habit
pulled up over his head. Abigail soon stopped her struggles, and watched in
amazement as several more figures followed the first. After they had passed, she
heard the metallic tapping as their footsteps descended the spiral staircase.
The Doctor carefully removed his hand from her mouth. "I’m sorry about that,"
he whispered. "But I didn’t think it was wise to advertise our presence just at the
"Who were they?" breathed Abigail.
"I don’t know. Haven’t you got any ideas?"
Abigail shook her head slowly in bewilderment. Nothing today had made much
sense. She stepped back out into the corridor, glancing about carefully as her eyes
slowly adjusted to the darkness. There was no sign of the mysterious monks.
She turned back the way they had come, and almost jumped out of her skin. A
figure was blocking the passageway. Abigail took an involuntary step back, and
bumped into the Doctor, who had emerged from the alcove behind her. He switched
on the torch once more, and illuminated Professor Blakeney. A glint of metal caught
Abigail’s eye, and she realized that the Professor was holding a large revolver in his
hand, levelled straight at them.
It took her a moment to find her voice. "Professor," she stammered, "I found this
man snooping around in the basement. I couldn’t stop him from coming down here,
so I thought I should follow him."
"Yes, I see," replied Blakeney quietly. He gestured towards the spiral staircase
with his gun. "Move down the steps. Both of you."
"But Professor," protested Abigail, "you surely don’t think I’m anything to do
with this man? I told you what happened."
In the light of the torch, Blakeney’s face was impassive. "Be quiet," he hissed,
and gestured even more forcefully. "And move."
The cell was small, dark and bare. At least she presumed it was a cell – there was
only one door and it was firmly locked.
Professor Blakeney had marched them at gunpoint down the spiral staircase.
They descended past another grille in the wall through which the Underground tunnel
could be seen. Another train thundered past, the people aboard doubtless unaware of
the passages and staircases right beside them. Light from the carriage windows
strobed across the stairs, filling Abigail’s vision with a sequence of flickering
snapshots – Blakeney holding the gun firmly, his face set in a mask of calm
determination; the Doctor descending the stairs in silent nonchalance, apparently
unconcerned by their situation.
The staircase took them below the level of the train tunnel, and stopped before a
locked metal gate. Blakeney produced a key, and opened it. The creaking of rusty,
unoiled hinges reverberated back up the stairs. Beyond the gate was another stone
passage, its walls running with damp. Blakeney gestured with his gun and they
proceeded, stepping carefully through the puddles and broken stone that littered the floor.
The tunnel led eventually to a brick-lined corridor, with a door set into the side
wall. A group of the monk-like figures was waiting beside it. At a signal from
Blakeney, they grabbed hold of the Doctor, and pulled off his huge overcoat.
Underneath he wore a black three-quarter length jacket and grey trousers, a brightly
patterned waistcoat and a blue silk tie. One of the monks started to rummage
through the overcoat’s pockets, whilst another frisked the Doctor. They produced a
strange assortment of junk – pencils, bits of string, a half-eaten apple – all of which
they discarded on the floor. The only thing that seemed to interest them was the
electronic device the Doctor had been using earlier – a bit like a tv remote control
with flashing lights. The monk handed it to Blakeney, who dropped it on the floor
and stamped on it very precisely.
Then one of the monks opened the door. Abigail and the Doctor were thrust
through, and the door shut behind them.
That had been several hours ago, as far as Abigail could tell. There wasn’t
enough light in the cell to see her watch properly, just the faint glimmer from a low
intensity bulb set high up in the ceiling.
There were no seats or benches in the cell. The Doctor was sitting cross-legged
on the floor in serene contemplation. Abigail paced the tiny space, circling round
him. "I don’t believe this," she said, for about the tenth time. "You realize I’m going
to lose my job, don’t you?"
The Doctor took a deep breath. "Don’t you think there’s something strange about
all this?" he asked calmly.
Abigail stopped and looked at him, but she couldn’t discern his expression in the
dim light. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"These tunnels, our mysterious cowled friends out there... How do you explain all that?"
Abigail threw up her hands in exasperation. "Look, Doctor Whoever-you-are...
It’s not my business what the Professor gets up to – I’m just paid to do the typing and filing."
"Really?" The Doctor seemed to consider this for a moment. "Perhaps they hired
you because of a lack of curiosity."
Abigail frowned, uncertain whether she’d just been insulted. Well, she’d show
him – she could be curious if she put her mind to it. "All right then... What is this
place? What’s it all for?"
The Doctor smiled to himself. "What’s your name?"
"Why?" asked Abigail bemusedly.
"Well, if we’re going to be stuck in here together, it’d be nice to have something to call you."
It was a reasonable request, she decided. "Abigail Hart. My friends call me Abby."
"May I?" asked the Doctor.
He seemed to accept this with good grace. Abigail realized that she was no longer
blaming him for getting her into this mess. She found it impossible to stay angry with
him for too long. "So what about this place, then?" she prompted.
The Doctor put the tips of his fingers together. "Well, I think this is a deep air-raid
shelter," he said. "Several were built in the later years of the war, but by then the
Blitz was over, so they didn’t get used very often. That’s why very few people know
"Well, what would the Professor be doing down here?" asked Abigail.
"That’s the question, isn’t it?" The Doctor got to his feet, and walked over to the
door. He pressed his ear against it, and then tried to feel around its edges with his
fingertips. "Just checking," he murmured. Then he turned to face Abigail, and
gestured expansively. "The passageways under the house must have been excavated
after the war, to connect up with this place. That suggests the house was deliberately
chosen for its location. Which means this place must be important to them."
Abigail found herself becoming ever more enthralled, her troubles temporarily
forgotten. "Important to who?" she asked.
"The Kralin Society perhaps?" suggested the Doctor. "That’s a bit of a giveaway really."
"The Kralin Society was the name of an occult group in Nazi Germany. It was
founded around 1941 by a Professor Manstein. It was fairly obscure, and no one’s
really sure what its beliefs were – probably a mixture of paganism, Norse mythology
and occult ceremony."
Abigail thought back to the collection of Nazi memorabilia in the basement, and
wondered whether there could be a connection. "What’s all that got to do with the
Professor?" she asked.
"I don’t know," replied the Doctor. "Maybe he’s a devotee, carrying on the work –
though I fail to see what he’s doing down here. South Kensington doesn’t have any
occult geomantic significance that I know of." He lapsed deep into thought for a few
seconds. "But then there’s that temporal distortion – that can’t be a coincidence."
"I don’t know what you’re talking about," said Abigail.
"Yes, I have that problem too," muttered the Doctor. He furrowed his brow, as if
trying to find the right words to explain. "You see, the space-time continuum is like
the ocean. It has tides and currents of temporal energy, which are broadly predictable.
That’s why time elapses at a steady rate, and history unfolds the way it does. But this
place is different. A whole host of unconnected energy flows seem to be converging
here, as if time is being sucked in – like a whirlpool in the ocean. That’s what
brought me here in the first place."
Abigail blinked, none the wiser. "How do you know all that?" she asked sceptically.
"Well, you might say that time is my business."
Before Abigail could think of a reply, they heard the sound of the door being
unlocked. The Doctor moved quickly back into the centre of the room, and turned to
face the entrance.
Abigail looked up fearfully, expecting to see Blakeney with a gun. It took her a
few moments to realize the figure in the doorway was Miranda Ashton. For an
instant, the hope blossomed that somehow they were being rescued. But then she saw
the pistol in Miranda’s hand, and more of the monk-like figures standing behind her
in the corridor.
"Come with us," said Miranda, her voice flat and emotionless.
"What’s going on?" demanded Abigail.
But Miranda didn’t answer. Her expression was completely blank.
"Come with us," Miranda repeated, in exactly the same tone as before.
"It’s no good," murmured the Doctor. "She can’t hear us." He indicated that
Abigail should move out into the corridor, and followed close behind her. Miranda
kept them covered with the gun, and gestured along the passage in the direction she
wanted them to go. They set off, Miranda and the monks behind them.
"What’s the matter with her?" Abigail whispered.
"I’m not sure," the Doctor replied. "She’s under some kind of mind control."
"You mean she’s been hypnotized?"
"Or something worse."
The corridor ended at another flight of rough stone steps, leading further
downwards. They descended a fair distance, until finally the staircase opened out into
a large stone-walled chamber. Its domed roof was supported by a ring of pillars, and
within this perimeter, more of the monks were standing in a circle. They parted
slightly to let Abigail and the Doctor pass through.
At the centre of the chamber was a table-sized slab of stone, looking for all the
world like the sacrificial altar in some pagan temple. What had the Doctor said about
the beliefs of the Kralin Society?
Standing before the slab were Blakeney and Kralin. The Professor turned
deferentially to his patron, who took a step forward and regarded Abigail coldly. "At
last," he declared. "We can begin."
He turned his glowering eyes on the Doctor. "And this is the intruder?"
"Yes, Lord," said Blakeney. "We still don’t know who he is or what he’s doing here."
"It’s of no consequence," Kralin replied with a shrug. He started to turn away, but
suddenly caught himself, and peered more closely at the Doctor. In return, the Doctor
stared back defiantly, drawing himself up to his full height. To Abigail, it seemed as
if a strange battle of wills was taking place between them. Kralin lapsed into deep
concentration, as if trying to peer inside the Doctor’s very mind.
"What is it, Lord?" asked Blakeney urgently.
"I’m not sure," said Kralin slowly.
He stared more intently at the Doctor. There was a strange pause before Blakeney
stepped forward, and whispered anxiously. "My Lord Kralin, the talisman..."
Kralin nodded. "Yes," he said firmly. "There will be time to interrogate him
later. We must continue with our task. Have him secured."
Blakeney signalled to two of the monks, who grabbed the Doctor’s arms from
behind. They dragged him over to one of the stone pillars. He didn’t struggle as they
pulled his arms behind the pillar and bound his wrists tightly.
Blakeney said, "Bring forth the sacrifice."
Abigail felt someone seize her by the wrists. She tried to pull free, but the grip
was too strong. A shove in the small of the back sent her stumbling towards the altar.
She tripped, and fell awkwardly to her knees. The monk twisted her wrists painfully,
and tried to haul her to her feet. Abigail struggled furiously, but he kept a firm hold.
Another monk moved forward, taking hold of her legs and lifting her from the
ground. Abigail kicked out at him, catching him hard in the stomach. He jerked back
as if winded, but soon regained his hold on her. The cowl slipped back from his head,
and she found herself looking into his eyes. They were filled with a zealous, fanatical
gleam, looking through her rather than at her. She kicked out again, and felt the toe of
her shoe connect violently with his shoulder blade. He recoiled from the impact, but
there was not a trace of pain or discomfort visible in his face.
Her struggles were to no avail. These people were driven by some religious
mania, and no amount of biting, kicking and scratching would deter them. They
manhandled her over to the sacrificial slab, and slammed her heavily down upon it.
The breath was knocked out of her body, and all her resistance seemed to desert her at
the same time. She felt them dragging her arms and legs towards the corners of the
altar, and dimly realized that they were chaining her in place.
She managed to lift her head slightly and look round the chamber, trying to make
eye contact with one of those present. Maybe someone would wake up and realize
just what they were doing, and stop it. But there was no one. The strange monks
were hidden by their cowls, their faces unseen. Blakeney was staring straight at her,
his eyes alight with the same religious fervour she had seen in the monk. Kralin’s
gaze remained piercing and imperious. Miranda’s expression was blank and glassy-eyed.
And then Abigail saw the Doctor, standing half in shadow at the edge of the
chamber. He was her only hope. He had got her into this, he had to get her out. Yet
what could he do, bound to a pillar?
Grim-faced, the Doctor watched events unfold in the subterranean temple. He saw
the fear and desperation in Abigail’s eyes, as her head sank back onto the altar.
Professor Blakeney moved forward, and stood at the head of the stone slab. He began
to chant a strange litany in a language the Doctor didn’t understand. That was
unusual in itself – he wondered if it were a real language at all, or just some
impressive-sounding gobbledygook of Blakeney’s invention.
Was this an accurate re-creation of the rituals of the original Kralin Society? And
who was the mysterious figure the Professor deferred to? Blakeney had called him
Kralin – could there really be such a person? Or was he an imposter, simply using the
name to gain control of this bizarre cult? Whoever he was, he stood back from the
altar and played no direct role in the ceremony. Apart from a look of almost smug
satisfaction, he seemed quite disinterested in what was occurring.
There was a movement in the ceiling of the stone chamber, directly above the
altar. From a dark recess, a large metal cylinder started to descend. The Doctor
recognized it at once from Professor Blakeney’s published papers. It was a more
advanced version of Blakeney’s energy projector. Surely his research couldn’t have
reached this stage already?
The device extended downwards on a flexible metal arm. Blakeney reached out to
adjust its position, like a radiographer setting up an X-ray machine. The end of the
cylinder opened up, and sprouted strange antennae. A thin metal probe telescoped
downwards, its point coming to rest a few inches above Abigail’s head. Blakeney
reached up, and adjusted some controls on the side of the machine. The tip of the
probe began to throb with energy, and glowing sparks ran back along it into the main
body of the cylinder.
Kralin moved forward to stand beside the Professor, and held out his hand. He
was grasping a length of thin chain, from which hung a metallic object. Sparks of
light from the projector glinted off its highly reflective surface. From this vague
illumination, the Doctor could just discern the shape – it was some sort of medallion
or pendant, triangular like an arrowhead, its metal surface covered with a fine tracery
of crystal lines. The sight of it triggered a vague memory, dredged up from the
dimmest recesses of his cultural inheritance. And suddenly he knew what it was! He
understood who Kralin must be, and the reason for the localized temporal distortion.
Despite the technological means employed, this was nothing but an occult
ceremony of human sacrifice. Maybe this was the reason they had employed Abigail
in the first place. In its present configuration, the energy projector had only one use.
It would suck out Abigail’s life force, and redeploy that energy to achieve Kralin’s
purpose. The Doctor knew he had to prevent that at all costs – if Kralin were
successful, the consequences would be terrible, unimaginable.
The monk-like figures slowly advanced, forming a ring around the altar and
joining in with Blakeney’s incomprehensible chant. Focused on their ceremony, they
no longer paid the Doctor any attention. This was his chance. He relaxed the muscles
of his wrists, which he had tensed specially before allowing the monks to bind him.
The ropes loosened easily, and he was able to slide his hands out of the coils.
Looking up, Abigail found herself mesmerized by the glowing light that coursed
across the surface of the energy projector. It had a calming effect on her, and she
resigned herself to her fate. She felt herself growing weaker and less aware, and it
didn’t seem such a bad way to go.
Dimly, she was aware of Blakeney standing over her. She saw him take the metal
artefact from Kralin, and place it into a socket in the side of the energy projector. The
pattern of moving sparks increased in intensity. Her surroundings grew dark and
distant. She felt the stone slab beneath her start to vibrate, as if the very ground was
shaking, and the vague thought struck her that she was caught in the middle of an earthquake.
Suddenly, a blur of movement filled her vision. It took her a few moments to
make any sense of it. Then she realized it was the Doctor. He had come from
nowhere, pushing through the ring of monks to leap up onto the altar. He lunged for
the energy projector, knocking it away from her. It swung out in a wide arc on the
end of its mounting arm. As it reached its furthest extent, a beam of searing light shot
out from the end of the probe and struck one of the pillars supporting the roof. The
column began to crumble, and in seconds it collapsed, bringing a section of the roof
down with it.
Slowly it occurred to Abigail’s befuddled mind that, but for the Doctor’s
intervention, that bolt of light would have drilled straight into her head. The shock
stimulated a huge adrenalin rush, and she fought to regain her full awareness.
She realized that her wrists had been freed of the chains. Somehow, moving like
lightning, the Doctor had unlocked the manacles, and was already at the foot of the
altar releasing her ankles. None of the monks seemed to have reacted. Abigail raised
her head, and saw that several of them had been half buried by the collapse of the
ceiling. Clouds of heavy dust swirled through the temple, and through it she could
make out the other monks struggling to pull their colleagues free of the rubble.
Then her ankles were free, and the Doctor was lifting her from the altar. Her feet
touched the ground, but when she attempted to stand, her legs gave way beneath her.
The temple started to spin around her. She felt the Doctor’s hand on her arm, helping
to keep her upright.
Her vision swam into focus, and she saw the figure of Kralin looming through the
billowing clouds of dust. Pure hatred burned in his eyes, and he screamed, "Seize
them!" His word of command galvanized the monks into action. They left their
stricken comrades, and turned angrily towards the altar.
The Doctor took hold of the energy projector, and violently swung it out on its
mounting. It described a graceful arc, before smashing into the monks immediately in
front of them and knocking them to the ground. Grabbing Abigail’s hand, the Doctor
starting to run through the path he had cleared.
Abigail found herself stumbling over the rubble and the sprawling bodies of the
monks. She was only slowly regaining control of her legs, and was relying on the
Doctor to half-drag her to safety. She really had no idea of where they were heading,
but she was so keen to get away that she continued to stagger blindly on. Only when
she felt her arm jerk sharply did she realize that the Doctor had stopped moving.
What was he playing at?
She turned round, and saw that he had paused beside the energy projector. He
opened the compartment in its side, where Blakeney had placed Kralin’s medallion.
Sure enough, the strange artefact fell out into the Doctor’s hand. He scooped it away
into his waistcoat pocket, and turned to run. The whole manoeuvre had taken only
seconds, but it was enough for one of the supine monks to recover. He made a lunge
for the Doctor, trying to catch him in an improvised rugby tackle. But somehow the
Doctor avoided him, and the monk fell flat on his face.
More of the cowled figures were converging on them as the Doctor raced for the
stone steps, hauling Abigail along behind him. She didn’t think they could possibly
make it. But then, another section of the roof caved in with a resounding crash. The
structure must have been damaged by the discharge from the energy projector.
Chunks of stone fell amidst the rubble, and rolled dangerously across the chamber.
Some monks were knocked flying, and the others pulled up short, scattering wildly to
avoid injury. It gave Abigail and the Doctor time to make the stairs. They bounded
up them, and kept running. The remaining monks took just moments to gather their
wits – then driven on by Kralin’s imperious will, they set off in pursuit.
Dust and rubble continued to trickle from the sundered roof. Cracks were starting
to appear in the walls and supporting pillars. Kralin stood in the midst of destruction,
casting a coldly callous eye over his unconscious and wounded followers. He turned
all his attention to Blakeney, who had sunk despondently to his knees at the foot of
the altar. "We’ve failed," he muttered. "I’m sorry, Lord."
"Get up," said Kralin.
"Forgive me," Blakeney wailed.
Kralin closed his eyes, and let his senses reach beyond his corporeal form. The
ground was still shaking beneath them. He could sense his goal nearer than ever.
They could not stop now. He grabbed Blakeney by the collar, and hauled him to his
feet. "We must continue," he hissed urgently.
His will bore into Blakeney’s consciousness. The Professor could not resist – that
was why he made such a useful servant. "But Lord," he said slowly, "the stranger has
taken the talisman."
Kralin nodded, fierce anger swelling within him. But he kept it under control. He
would not allow himself to be distracted from his purpose. He was Kralin. "The
acolytes will retrieve it when they recapture him," he said calmly. "Anyway, it’s of
no importance. The talisman has already established a resonance with its fellow."
He stepped back, and surveyed the ground before the altar. "It is now within our
reach. We merely need the energy to release it."
"But we require the sacrifice," said Blakeney.
Kralin turned and looked across the wrecked temple. Miranda Ashton was still
standing to one side, mesmerized. She was half slumped against one of the pillars,
and a gash in her forehead showed where she had been struck by some of the falling
rubble. In her current state, she had not even flinched or recoiled from the danger.
Sensing Kralin’s intent, Blakeney stepped over to her. He gave her a quick
examination. The wound was superficial, and though she was slightly stunned, she
was still very much conscious.
"She will do," Kralin said.
Abigail and the Doctor ran through the dilapidated stone tunnel. They splashed
through muddy puddles, staggered over the uneven floor, but kept moving. Abigail
felt as if she had never run so fast before in her life. Her heart was bursting, but she
didn’t dare rest even for an instant. The sounds of the pursuing monks were still far
too apparent behind them. She clutched the Doctor’s hand tightly, and allowed him to
lead the way.
To make matters worse, the ground was shaking beneath them. They stumbled
from side to side and struggled to keep their balance. At least the monks seemed to
have just as much difficulty moving in a straight line.
They passed through the rusty metal gate – fortunately, it had been left open – and
reached the spiral staircase. Abigail let go of the Doctor’s hand, and clutched at the
handrail to pull herself up. It was even harder work to make such a steep climb,
whilst spinning round and round the central axis. She was making herself giddy, and
was surprised to hear herself laughing dizzily. It was like hearing someone else’s
voice, she was so distanced from it.
Then suddenly, the whole earth lurched beneath her, and the staircase seemed to
tip backwards. She found herself slipping. She kept hold of the handrail, so she
didn’t fall down the stairs, but her flight upwards had ceased. She was still laughing,
lost in a whirl of hysterical emotion and nausea. When the staircase righted itself, she
had to take several deep breaths to compose herself.
She was slumped against the metal grille that looked onto the Underground line.
She used her grip on the handrail to pull herself upright once more, and looked for the
Doctor. There was no sign of him – he must have continued upwards without her.
Abigail looked round desperately. Her eyes fell upon a dark shape just a few steps
below her, and she realized that it was the first of the pursuing monks. She turned,
and tried to run up the stairs, but he was already upon her. He grabbed her arm
tightly, and pulled her backwards, seizing her round the neck in a painful grip.
Blakeney positioned the energy projector on the end of its mounting arm. The point
of the probe was aimed directly at Miranda’s forehead as she lay insensible on the
altar. He adjusted the controls, and felt the machine throb into life. The probe
emitted a beam of sickly green light, which seemed to envelop the altar and lent a
deathly pallor to Miranda’s features.
He could see the life being drained from her. Her skin sagged and wrinkled, her
hair turned grey and brittle. As she withered away before him, the shaking of the
ground grew ever more violent. Further streams of dust and rubble were dislodged
from ceiling and walls, the structure of the temple weakened still further by this
Blakeney looked up to see Kralin standing at the foot of the altar, a look of sheer
exultation on his face. He seemed oblivious to the devastation around him, his eyes
fixed on the ground as if he was willing the talisman to break free.
Then suddenly, the altar exploded. The blast engulfed Blakeney, knocking him
flat over onto his back.
The ground shook, far worse than before. A huge wave of energy swept up the
staircase, knocking Abigail and her captor off their feet. They fell awkwardly against
the wall grille, which shifted under their combined weight. Abigail felt a section of
the grille give way beneath her. It tore free of the bolts that held it. She watched in
horrified fascination as it tumbled into the Underground tunnel. Only the monk’s grip
on her prevented her from following it down. The grille hit the live rail below, and a
massive explosion of sparks erupted in the tunnel.
The monk pulled her back from the opening. Abigail struggled to free herself, but
his hold on her neck was threatening to choke her. Then the ground lurched again,
and another energy burst washed violently over them. They were knocked over,
crashing painfully onto the staircase. The monk’s grip was broken. Abigail managed
to pull away from him, scrabbling desperately to get a grip on the metal steps. But it
was no good. She could sense the monk behind her, already staggering to his feet. A
couple of quick steps, and he would be right over her ready to pounce.
Then she became aware of a dark shape looming in front of her. Someone bent
over her, and she felt a firm but surprisingly gentle grip on her arm and shoulder. She
was lifted to her feet, and found herself staring gratefully up at the Doctor. He
quickly pushed her behind him, and took a step downwards to square up to their pursuer.
The monk’s cowl fell back from his head, and Abigail saw his eyes, burning with
the same religious fanaticism she had observed in his colleague earlier. Whatever the
beliefs of these people, it was clear that they were wholly absorbed by them. The
monk’s face formed into an ugly scowl, and he seemed to spit pure hatred and
contempt at the Doctor.
There was movement below them, and suddenly more of the monks appeared
around the curve of the staircase. Abigail’s heart sank. There could be no escape now.
The lead monk launched himself towards the Doctor with a scream of rage. The
Doctor stood his ground, making no move except to fumble in his waistcoat pocket.
At the last moment, he pulled out the artefact he had snatched from the energy
projector, and held it up by its chain. The monk staggered to a halt, transfixed by the
sight of the strange medallion.
Time seemed to stand still for a moment. None of the monks dared move. The
pendant dangled invitingly from the Doctor’s hand.
Then the lead monk lunged forward, and made a grab for it. The Doctor gave a
deft flick of the wrist, and the medallion seemed to vanish into thin air. The monk’s
momentum still carried him forward. The Doctor lightly side-stepped his charge, and
stuck out his foot, causing the monk to trip. As he fell, the Doctor somehow managed
to grab his shoulder, and turn him about. The monk tumbled down the stairs, landing
on top of his colleagues below.
As the monks tried to disentangle themselves, the Doctor turned and started
bounding up the steps again. He grabbed Abigail’s hand as he passed, and pulled her
along with him.
Blakeney managed to struggle up into a sitting position. The wind had been knocked
out of him, but there was no other damage from the explosion. There had been no
flames. It was a massive release of pure psychic energy. He looked towards the altar,
but it was not there. It had been completely disintegrated by the energy blast, and
Miranda’s body along with it.
Kralin stood in the very midst of the confusion. Dust swirled around him, caught
up in the violent elemental forces that swooped around the temple. At his feet, the
ground churned and tore itself asunder, gravel and earth being flung into the air by a
sudden squall of energy. And then, thrown up to float in the air before him, a
triangular metal pendant covered in a fine tracery of crystal lines. It was the twin of
the artefact stolen by the stranger, the talisman which Kralin needed to assure his supremacy.
It seemed to simply hover there, inviting him to claim it. Slowly, Kralin reached
out to take it.
As he did so, a loud cracking sound echoed around the temple. Blakeney turned
his head, and saw that another of the supporting pillars had given way, splintering into
rough, jagged chunks of stone that collapsed inwards. They were showered with dust
and grit. He realized that the chamber was not going to last much longer. Now that
Kralin had achieved his objective, there was no need for them to remain here.
Blakeney pulled himself to his feet, and turned to his lord for guidance.
Abigail let the Doctor lead her back through the stone passages. She could hear the
monks behind them, howling their rage as they kept up the pursuit.
It was a relief to reach the steps up to the trap door. They raced up into the
basement. The Doctor let go of her hand, and started to cast around in the darkness.
"What are you doing?" Abigail gasped, fighting to regain her breath.
The Doctor had grabbed hold of the edge of a packing case, and was dragging it
towards the trap door. As her eyes adjusted to the poor light, Abigail could see the
crate contained a number of antique ornaments. There were a few porcelain figurines,
but most of the items were brass and pewter statuettes, which accounted for the
weight of the box.
There was a terrible cry from below. She looked down and saw the first monk at
the bottom of the steps. As he started to climb, Abigail searched quickly for
something to use as a weapon. Her hand closed around one of the porcelain figures in
the top of the crate. She snatched it up, and dropped it through the trap door. It struck
the monk square on the crown, and shattered into fragments. The monk stood
wavering for a few moments, then fell flat on his face.
With that, the Doctor hefted up the trap door and slammed it closed. He took hold
of the heavy crate and dragged it over the top of the trap. "Well, that might hold them
for a while," he said.
As if in response, a loud banging started to issue from the trap door. Abigail was
alarmed to see the crate lifting a few inches with each thump. "Not for long," she muttered.
"Come on," said the Doctor. He ran through the door to the outer room.
Abigail followed close behind him, slamming the door behind her. She looked
round, and saw that the Doctor had his shoulder to the Egyptian mummy case. "Stand
back," he shouted. With a tremendous effort, he pushed the sarcophagus over. It
crashed heavily to the floor, blocking the door.
Abigail breathed a sigh of relief, but she knew they were not out of the woods yet.
She started to dash for the stairs, but stopped short when she realized the Doctor was
not right behind her. She turned round, and was surprised to see him standing in front
of the police telephone box, fiddling with the lock on its door. What was he playing at?
Suddenly, she heard pounding from the far side of the cellar door. The monks
obviously weren’t giving up! They only had minutes to get away, and the Doctor was
wasting their chance. Then she noticed that the police box door had swung open. The
Doctor was standing on the threshold. "Quickly, in here!" he urged.
Abigail looked in dismay from him to the cellar door. With each new impact from
the other side, it shifted a little more. Slowly but surely, the sarcophagus was pushed
a little further into the room. The monks would be through in moments. Her instinct
was to turn and run up the stairs, and hope to get away from the house.
The Doctor held out his hand imploringly. "Abby, trust me!"
And in that moment, she knew that she could trust him. She couldn’t say what
had convinced her – something in his tone or his manner – but she suddenly found her
doubts swept aside. The cellar door shifted still further, and she realized that she had
no other choice anyway. She darted forward to the police box, and the Doctor
ushered her into the darkness of the interior.
Within the darkness was a bright light, and without warning, Abby found herself
walking into a brightly lit room. She came to a halt, and looked around in stunned
amazement. The room was massive, with white metal walls and a high domed
ceiling. Here and there were dotted pieces of antique furniture – a large dining table,
leather armchairs – which were totally at odds with the futuristic nature of the
chamber. But the object that most caught her eye was positioned in the dead centre –
a strange hexagonal structure. Each of its six faces was some sort of control panel,
covered with a bewildering array of instruments and switches. How could all this be
inside a telephone box?
The Doctor pushed her gently down into one of the armchairs, and walked across
to the control panel. He pushed a couple of switches, and the doors shut behind them.
In the temple, Kralin stood gazing into the talisman – through the talisman, to seek
out its brother. He projected his mind to follow in its wake – saw through rock and
earth to witness events in the basement of his house. He saw his acolytes break down
the door, and rush through only to be confronted with the sight of a tall blue cabinet, a
light flashing atop it. Through their ears, he heard a mechanical screaming sound, as
the object faded away.
Kralin sensed resonances in the space-time continuum, ripples of temporal
displacement. He forced his mind to follow the trail of the intruder, the thief who had
stolen the other talisman. Psionic echoes floated through the ether, testament to the
great intellect and telepathic ability of the stranger. And a name, or at least a title: the
Doctor. Not a native of this world, but a traveller in time and space.
Looking up, Kralin saw Blakeney watching him plaintively. "My Lord," he
stammered. "What do we do now?"
Kralin glanced once more at the talisman in his hand. "I’m no better off now than
when I started," he said. "I shall have to continue my quest. I will use this talisman
to track down the others – and especially the one stolen by the Doctor."
"Others?" replied Blakeney uncertainly. He glanced over his shoulder as another
pillar started to crack. "I don’t understand, Lord. I thought this was the only lost treasure."
"That’s what I wanted you to believe," said Kralin. "I have kept you alive all
these years for this purpose – and still you have failed me, by allowing the Doctor to
upset my schemes."
He held up the talisman, focusing his powers through it. Blakeney felt a dull
aching pain starting to infest his limbs. His legs could no longer support his weight,
and buckled underneath him. As he fell to the floor, the weariness of many years
settled upon him. He knew then that he was doomed. The extra lifespan he had been
granted was at an end – Kralin was reclaiming his gift, and the missing years were
catching him up. The decay of fifty-five years was visited upon him in an instant, too
much for his body’s cells to cope with.
With an effort, he looked up. His dimming eyesight saw sparks of energy
coalescing around Kralin, forming into a field of shimmering light. Then it faded
from existence, taking Kralin with it. Blakeney slumped onto his side. Wrinkles were
forming over his skin. His hair was falling out. He closed his tired eyes, and waited for the end.
His ears were filled with a whining sound. At least he still had his hearing, he thought.
The sound came from somewhere above him. He tried to put it from his mind – it couldn’t make
any difference to him now. But then a nagging glimmer of recognition crawled painfully through his mind.
Blakeney inched open an eyelid, and looked for the source. His vision was clouded, no more
than shifting grey shapes. He strained to resolve an image out of the fog, and finally
managed to focus on the cylindrical shape hanging above him. The energy projector was
violently vibrating on its mounting arm. Blakeney realized he had left it running.
Without a discharge to dissipate its energy, it would overload.
He had to reach it, to shut it down. But there was nothing he could do. He didn’t
even have the strength to lift a finger. His skin was starting to flake off, his flesh
to shrivel and rot away. The sight of the projector faded as his eyesight receded into blackness.
There was a massive explosion. A fireball expanded to fill the temple, incinerating the bodies
of Blakeney and the monks. Flames raced along the passages, forcing their way into every opening.
They tore into the Underground tunnel, collapsing the walls and severing electrical cables,
shorting out the power halfway round the Circle Line.
The flames swept up steps, destroying everything in their path. The non-descript grey building
that was the surface entrance to the former air-raid shelter erupted like a volcano, belching fire
into the streets. The explosion reached as far as the basement of Blakeney’s house, which was
completely gutted. And still the devastation continued, an outpouring of unstoppable energy.
Expanding upwards, the fireball broke through the ground and consumed the town house, showering
the surrounding area with burning chunks of Georgian masonry. A pall of black smoke rose from the
wreckage, blocking out the sun and plunging South Kensington into darkness.