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DOCTOR WHO
An Adventure in Time and Space

PLANET LORINA. 7435 AD.

 

The wind swept forlornly through the village, stirring the dust that covered the ground, rattling the wooden doors and beaded curtains of the huts. Angose shivered, and drew her shawl closely around her. It was barely adequate to keep out the biting wind. She had never got used to it, even though she had felt it every day of her life. That, she supposed, was part of the punishment, the retribution of the gods which had left their world a barren and desolate place.

She stopped in the gathering place, an open space in the centre of the village, covered like everywhere else by the wind-blown dust. Beneath the dust, the soil was hard and dry, with just a few scrappy weeds showing here and there. Along with the small, stringy vegetables the people somehow managed to cultivate, they were the only plant life that could survive here.

And yet, she knew their world had once been a green and verdant paradise. Angose was the lore-keeper of the Tribe of Seklan, and guarded the oral tradition of the people, handed down from mother to daughter for generations. She could speak of Lorina as it had once been, with the same certainty as her distant ancestor who had seen it with her own eyes. The ancient stories had been in her mind a great deal of late since the stranger had arrived.

Angose walked up to the chieftain's hut, the largest building in the village. The door was open, with two warriors standing either side of it, long-bladed knives clutched in their hands. They did not challenge Angose as she made to go inside. After the chief, she was the most important person in the tribe who would dare oppose her when it might be they who next needed her healing skills?

Angose entered the hut, and drew aside a bead curtain to reveal the chieftain seated on his ceremonial bench. Taril was a powerful, broad-shouldered man in his middle forties, his greying hair braided into a long pony-tail. He looked up at Angose, then stood up, drawing his animal-hide cloak over his shoulders. "What do you want?" he asked aggressively.

Angose fixed him with a withering stare. She was well aware of the power she held over him, and all the men of the village. "Where is the stranger?" she demanded.

Taril's eyes flicked towards the curtain that covered the doorway to an inner room. "He is resting," he replied quietly.

"And how long do you intend to keep him here?"

"Until he is ready. He needs to gather his strength after his long journey. He has a great task ahead of him."

"If he is the messenger of the gods..." Angose muttered dismissively.

"Of course he is," Taril said. "Did he not appear from nowhere right before my eyes? Before half of the tribe, right in the centre of the village?"

"Some sort of trick perhaps..."

"I'd like to see you do it," Taril murmured, and then instantly regretted it when he was rewarded with an angry glare. For all he knew, Angose could make herself appear and disappear at will. She was the keeper of ancient wisdoms, of strange powers no man would ever understand. Some said she could turn herself into an animal or hide herself inside a cloud. She certainly seemed to know everything that went on in the village, even the most closely guarded secrets. And she could certainly make something nasty happen to him if he angered her.

"Whoever or whatever the stranger may be," Angose said slowly, "is a matter which should be determined by the elders. It's not for you to keep him hidden here. We need to question, to test him. The true messenger of the gods would know the deepest secrets of the ancient lore. By his responses, he would reveal his true nature."

Taril shook his huge head. "I tell you, Kralin is the messenger. And he has bidden me to guard him here, until the time is right. Then he will emerge to fulfill the prophecy. He will reunite us with the Tribe of Malfin. And the anger of the gods will be assuaged."

"We shall see," Angose snapped. "But I warn you, the elders are growing impatient with you, Taril. They will not tolerate you hiding the messenger away indefinitely. Some doubt that this Kralin is the true messenger. They think that you are using him to further your own ends. That's why he must submit to the testing. Think of your own position now, Taril. It will not be tenable if the elders turn against you."

With that, she turned and strode imperiously from the hut. Taril heaved a sigh of relief, and slumped back down on his bench. From behind him came the rustling of a bead curtain. He turned his head to see Kralin enter from the next room, clad in the same long black cloak he had worn on his arrival.

"Did you hear?" Taril asked.

"Yes," replied Kralin. He moved to the curtain covering the entrance, and seemed to stare through it, as if he was watching Angose's progress through the village. "Why do you let her talk to you like that?"

"She is the keeper of the lore," said Taril simply.

"A mere child." Kralin shook his head in disbelief. The girl who had just left was no older than fifteen.

"She is the daughter of the last keeper. The wisdom and traditions of our tribe have been passed down to her intact through generations. She has knowledge and powers beyond our understanding."

"You fear her," Kralin accused.

Taril felt his fingers clutching aggressively at the arms of his bench. "She is powerful," he admitted. "The elders will listen to her. She can undermine my position here, and discredit you completely. That is why you need to give them some sign to prove who you are."

Kralin turned to face the chief. "Soon," he said. "Soon, you will all see a demonstration of the truth."

----

From his hiding place, Rint watched the metal monsters herding his people through the tunnels. They moved swiftly and surely, gliding over the rough ground. Rint had hoped the stones and rubble might prove an impediment to them but despite their unwieldy shape, the monsters kept going.

It was the tribespeople who stumbled and staggered through the uneven passages. Old people, women and children found it especially difficult to keep up the pace. The monsters prodded them with their strange appendages, forcing them to keep moving and for those who could not proceed, there was the threat of the deadly lightning bolts that the monsters could unleash back along the tunnel lay the incinerated corpses of several who had fallen behind. Even the young men, warriors of the Malfin had been cowed into submission by this danger what could they do to fight against it?

Yet for all their powers, the monsters were not infallible. Rint had been tracking them for several hours, and they remained unaware of his presence. If they were fallible, then somehow they could be defeated. Rint took heart from that as with all battles, it would be a case of finding the enemy's weakness and exploiting it.

He had been away from the village when the monsters struck. It was common practice for young Malfin males to journey into the wild by themselves, to pit themselves against the elements and the wild beasts. They would be judged by the results of such expeditions. Sometimes, they never returned.

Rint had been out for several days. He had slain several beasts and knew that when he returned to the village with their skins, he would be able to prove his worth and manhood. It was especially important to do so at this time. The Malfin were without a leader since his father had died. There was no guarantee that Rint would succeed to rule the tribe first he had to gain the blessing and support of the elders. There were other young warriors waiting for him to fail, hoping to seize the chieftain's bench for themselves. He was determined not to give them the chance.

But now suddenly everything had changed. He had found the village deserted, the huts burning, and charred corpses littering the ground. At first, he had suspected an attack by the Tribe of Seklan. But he had quickly dismissed such a thought. Though the Malfin lived in a state of perpetual war with the Seklan, it manifested itself in a few skirmishes and the occasional foolhardy raid into each other's villages bandit expeditions which were easily beaten off. There was no way the Seklan could have wrought this destruction.

Quickly, Rint picked up the trail. His tracking skills were exceptional, finely honed through a lifetime of training as a warrior and a hunter. Within hours, he had found the Tribe of Malfin, moving in a long, ragged procession across the dust-swept terrain, forced onwards by the metal monsters.

Moving silently, Rint followed their every move, seeking cover wherever it presented itself. The monsters did not detect him, though sometimes he was within spitting distance. They forced the villagers on into the forbidden territory around the place of the gods.

Reaching the rocky outcrop at the edge of the sacred valley, the monsters spewed forth their lightning bolts, cracking the rock open like a nut to expose the entrance to one of the ancient tunnels. Then they shepherded the people inside.

Rint followed. Once inside the tunnels, he was even more in his element. As the son of a chief, the place of the gods had not been forbidden to him. He had been here with his father many times, had learnt every inch of the passages, every niche and narrow defile. He could hide here indefinitely, keeping the monsters under surveillance until he found out what they were up to.

Eventually, the tunnels widened out into a vast cavern, in the centre of which stood a huge domed building. This was the most sacred place on Lorina, the magical shrine in which men had once challenged the supremacy of the gods themselves. The metal monsters set the tribespeople to work here, clearing the rocks away from the base of the dome.

From his vantage point, Rint observed their behaviour. One of the creatures made a regular circuit of the cavern's perimeter, no doubt patrolling to watch for any villagers who tried to escape. It passed quite close beneath the little cave entrance where Rint was ensconced. The thought crossed his mind of dropping a boulder onto the monster but that would only destroy one of them. Nevertheless, he had to find a way to defeat these creatures and save his people. It was what was expected of the chief. Rint thought of the animal pelts he had left behind in the smoking ruins of the village. What were they worth now? No, he would present the elders with the metal skins of their tormentors then they would surely approve his ascension to the chieftain's bench.

----

As a chill wind swept through the rocky passage, Abigail drew her woollen overcoat tight around her. She looked glumly at their surroundings a roughly-hewn tunnel, its walls running with damp, its floor strewn with stones and rubble and was glad she had once again changed into some practical clothes. She turned and looked back at the Doctor, who was just locking the Tardis door. He was wearing yet another near-identical check overcoat reaching into a pocket, he produced one of his handheld scanning instruments. For a few seconds, he gazed at the pattern of lights flickering across the display screen, then put the device away with a puzzled frown.

"Nothing definite," he murmured. "There's some localized temporal distortion, but nothing I'd identify as the time traces of Kralin or the Daleks."

"What about the talisman?" asked Abby.

The Doctor shook his head. "I can't pinpoint it. There's a very unusual time field across this whole area it's making precise readings impossible. Well, we'll just have to ask the natives, won't we?"

"Natives?" Abby peered into the darkness of the tunnel. "Do you mean people live down here?"

"Well, maybe not here," said the Doctor. "More likely on the surface though this tunnel is certainly man-made. According to my galactic atlas, Lorina in this time period supports a primitive tribal culture." He turned about to survey their options in both directions, the tunnel disappeared into darkness.

"This way, I think." Picking a direction at random, he strode off into the shadows. As she stumbled along in his wake, Abby was glad of the sensible walking boots she had decided to wear. The tunnels meandered in every direction, sometimes seeming to curve right round on themselves, sometimes rising or descending quite steeply. Numerous branches and junctions presented themselves, but the Doctor seemed always to know which direction to take a quick glance at his time scanner was the only confirmation he needed.

As she trudged miserably along, Abby began to despair of ever finding any natives. They seemed to have been wandering the passages for hours, although a glance at her watch told her it was only twenty minutes. Nevertheless, she had lost any trace of energy or enthusiasm long ago. The Doctor seemed completely unaffected however, striding over the rough stone floors with an infuriating spring in his step.

Then unexpectedly, he came to an abrupt halt, and Abby nearly cannoned into him. She clutched his arm to steady herself, and looked up into his face in concern. "What is it?" she whispered.

The Doctor indicated the way ahead with a slight nod of his head. They had come to the end of the tunnel, a small cave opening set half way up a high cliff. They looked out into a large circular depression, a stone cavern about a mile across. It reminded Abby somewhat of an ancient amphitheatre. In the centre rose a tall, dome- like building, which at this distance seemed to be completely smooth, almost as if it had been carved from a single massive chunk of rock. From its uppermost point extended a tall, slender spire fashioned from a coppery metal, which disappeared through the stone of the cavern's roof.

"Well," said the Doctor quietly, "that's evidence of native life existing here, wouldn't you say?"

It wasn't the extraordinary structure he was referring to, but the shambling group of people working in front of it. There were perhaps a hundred of them, all ages and both sexes, dressed in a mixture of leather and animal skins. They laboured to clear rocks and earth away from the foot of the dome watched over by some ten Daleks.

"Slave labour," the Doctor murmured. "That's usually how the Daleks operate."

"But what are they doing?" Abby asked.

"I imagine they're trying to clear an entrance into that building. And before you ask, I don't know why. I've no idea what it is."

Abby shook her head in wonder. The natives labouring below appeared to be primitive tribespeople, just as the Doctor had described them. "Those people couldn't have built something like that, could they?"

The Doctor shrugged. "Civilizations fall," he said simply. "This is obviously left over from an earlier, more advanced culture. Like the Egyptian pyramids."

Cautiously, he peered over the edge of the cave mouth. There was a narrow ledge below, the summit of a path that wound its way down the cliff face, disappearing eventually behind some jagged rocks. The path was steep in places, but passable. "Come on," he whispered, and started to clamber over the edge.

"We're not going down there?" said Abby.

"We've got to find out what they're up to," the Doctor replied. "I can't think of any other way."

Steeling herself, Abby followed him out onto the ledge. She had no desire to walk into a cavern full of Daleks, but even that was preferable to being separated from the Doctor again. They crept carefully down the treacherous path, keeping low to avoid being seen. At one point Abby slipped, sending a trickle of shingle pattering down the cliffside. She froze in horror, even as the Doctor grabbed her arm to steady her terrified that the Daleks must have heard the noise. But there was no reaction from the centre of the cavern. The Doctor pulled her into a low crouch, and they continued to scurry down the path.

It was an immense relief when they reached ground level and took cover behind the rocks at the foot of the cliff. "What do we do now?" Abby whispered.

"Try to get closer," replied the Doctor.

"Oh great!"

"I must know what they're doing here."

"Looking for the talisman?" Abby suggested.

"Well yes, presumably. And that means Kralin must be around here somewhere." He started to move forward, keeping low to use the rocks as cover, darting from one outcrop to the next. As she followed, Abby found she was holding her breath. The distance between the rocks was only a few metres at a time, but might have been a vast desert she was crossing. For that split second as she scurried across the open ground, she felt so exposed, knowing that a Dalek had only to turn its head a fraction and she would be seen.

But somehow they remained undetected until finally, they reached a point about two hundred metres from the domed building. It was the closest they could get and still remain hidden. They peered over the jagged rocks, trying to make sense of the activity in front of the dome. The natives had cleared the rocks and rubble from a large area at the foot of the building, and were now proceeding to dig away the soil at its base.

"What do you think then?" Abby whispered.

"The entrance to the building must be buried," murmured the Doctor. "It could be a sort of tomb or burial chamber."

"Well then, the talisman might be inside. Part of a funeral treasure perhaps."

"Yes, very possibly." The Doctor raised his head again, taking in the scene before the dome. The Daleks were positioned equidistantly around the excavated area, their very presence keeping the natives focused on their work.

Suddenly, the nearest Dalek swung its head round towards them. Abby and the Doctor quickly ducked back behind the rock. "Do you think it saw us?" Abby whispered.

"Well, let's hope not," said the Doctor airily.

Abby let out the breath she found she'd been holding. "We're not going to get anywhere near that building, are we?"

"No, I don't think we are." The Doctor frowned. "What we need now is some sort of diversion."

As he spoke, a shadow fell over them and the air filled with a high-pitched buzzing sound. The Doctor glanced upwards, then pushed Abby roughly to one side. He dived in the opposite direction, just as a bolt of searing energy fell from above. "Run!" he shouted.

Sprawling on the ground, Abby looked up in horror at the metal shape that hovered over them. It consisted of a raised circular base, the underside of which glowed with a strange, pulsing energy. Standing on the base, surrounded by a complex array of controls and instruments, was the machine's pilot a Dalek.

Abby scrambled to her feet as more energy bolts started to rain down. She ran towards the next outcrop of rock, trying to seek cover. But the other Daleks had spotted her now, and converged rapidly upon her. She soon found herself pinned against the rocks, hemmed in by Daleks who pushed and prodded her with their manipulator arms.

----

The Doctor dived for cover as another energy bolt slammed into the ground behind him. The flying Dalek had ignored Abby, and concentrated on pursuing him. Yet as he ducked and weaved between the rocks, the Doctor realized that the Dalek wasn't trying to kill him merely to cut off his escape and drive him back towards the centre of the cavern. Every blast from its gun was just slightly wide of the mark. Obviously, they wanted to take him alive, and that fact gave him an advantage.

He ran back towards the edge of the cavern, dodging the explosions that ripped huge chunks out of the rocks. If he could reach the cavern wall, then he might find a cave or tunnel mouth, some means of escape. Momentarily he thought of Abby had she escaped, or was she even now a prisoner of the Daleks? Had she been killed? Until he had evaded his pursuers, there was nothing he could do for her. If he remained free, then he would have the chance to rescue her and to defeat the Daleks.

Another energy bolt tore into the ground just behind him. The Doctor was picked up by the shockwave and hurled bodily through the air, crashing to the ground amidst a hail of rubble. Dazed and bruised, he lay sprawled uncomfortably on the rocky ground. The buzzing of the Dalek's flying machine filled his ears, growing louder and more insistent by the second and forced his mind to stay focused. There would be time for healing later. He dragged himself upright, and staggered on towards the cavern wall.

The explosion had carried him further than he'd thought. Just a few more metres and he would reach the cliff face but already he could see that on this side of the cavern, it was smooth and featureless. No hint of a hiding place presented itself.

The buzzing sound grew louder still, and then the Dalek was looming right over him. There was nowhere to run. The Doctor looked up forlornly, and prepared to surrender himself to the Dalek.

Suddenly, he sensed a blur of movement from above, and flung himself to one side just in time. A huge, jagged chunk of rock had fallen from a cave entrance high in the cavern wall, slamming into the Dalek and its flying platform and hurling both to the ground in a wreckage of mangled machinery.

The Doctor clambered to his feet once more, looking around desperately. The other Daleks were advancing through the rocks the destruction of the flying machine had bought just a few seconds' respite. He glanced upwards to the cave entrance, and saw a young man emerge, dressed in the same native style as the slave workers. With lithe, agile movements, he climbed down the near vertical cliff face, landing lightly on his feet in front of the Doctor.

The young man gestured past the Doctor. "This way," he hissed, and moved swiftly to a shallow niche in the cavern wall. There was barely room for himself, let alone the Doctor. He reached into the defile, and somehow a section of the rockface slid open. The native quickly ushered the Doctor through the opening. Then he activated the hidden mechanism, and the cliff sealed up perfectly behind them.

----

Driving Abby before them, the Daleks returned to the excavated area before the dome. They glided over the uneven, rocky ground as if it were smooth as glass. They pushed Abby right to the edge of the excavation, barely giving her time to stagger to a halt. Her feet sent a trickle of pebbles down into the pit, which was now at least ten feet deep. At the bottom, the natives still toiled, digging the earth away from the foundations of the dome. They did not appear to have uncovered anything remotely like a door.

Abby looked round at the Daleks standing guard. Her gaze fell upon a dark shape almost directly opposite her, and she realized that it was the Black Dalek, the Emperor's deputy from Skaro. Its eye lens seemed to regard her closely for a few moments, the white iris in its centre contracting. Then it turned its head to receive the report of a subordinate.

"The Doctor has escaped us."

"We must apprehend the Doctor," the Black Dalek snapped. "We will use the female as a hostage to force his surrender. Has Kralin been located yet?"

"Yes, we have detected his time trace. He is in a native settlement seventeen kilometres from here."

"Despatch a patrol to retrieve Kralin and any artefacts in his possession. The indigenous population can be taken prisoner we may require more slave labour."

"I obey." The Dalek wheeled round, and moved off to carry out its orders.

The Black Dalek turned to another of its subordinates. "The female can be put to work with the other slaves." Then it turned away, as if it was dismissing her completely from its thoughts.

Abby felt one of the Daleks nudge her in the back with its manipulator arm, pushing her over the edge of the excavation pit. Her legs slipped out from under her, and she felt herself falling. Fortunately, the sides were not excessively steep she was able to put out her arms to steady herself as she skidded down on her backside to the bottom of the pit.

Slowly she sat up, trying to ignore the stinging pain from her grazed palms. Standing around her were several of the native slave workers, mainly children and a few women. They regarded her with a mixture of curiosity and fear mostly the latter. Abby tried to smile reassuringly at the nearest child, but he shied away from her and clutched one of the women tightly.

The crowd parted to let a young man approach. The look of hostility twisting his features told Abby she was unlikely to get through to him either. She realized that these people had never encountered aliens before and their experiences at the hands of the Daleks could have done little to reassure them. How natural that they would regard all strangers with suspicion and fear.

The young man gazed down at her with such hatred and anger in his eyes that Abby seriously thought he was going to attack her. Then a blast of searing energy exploded at his feet, the shockwave flinging him onto his back. Abby glanced up to the edge of the pit, where the Daleks still stood threateningly. The one which had fired turned its eye lens on the natives. "Excavation work will continue," it screeched. "Those who cease work will be exterminated."

Swiftly, the slaves went back to work, mothers dragging their children with them. The young man picked himself up, glaring at Abby before he too resumed working. Abby got slowly to her feet. Conscious of the Daleks' eyes upon her, she moved forward to the side of the dome. She left some little distance between herself and the nearest natives she didn't think they'd appreciate her working right alongside them. Sinking to her knees in the soil, she started to pull rocks clear of the foundations.

She wished that the Doctor were with her. He would have known what to say to these people he would have won them over and joined with them in fighting the Daleks. But at least he was still free which meant that even now he was looking for a way to free her.

----

The Doctor examined the rock wall behind him. There was no indication at all that it could be opened. "A remarkable piece of engineering," he commented. He turned back to face the young native who had saved him, and smiled. "It's a good thing you knew it was here. Hello, I'm the Doctor."

"I am Rint." He was tall and muscular, his face weather-beaten so that it was hard to judge his age precisely but the Doctor guessed he was around twenty. His clothing was similar to the other natives, but with more leather than skins giving the impression of a crude sort of armour. The knife and slingshot hanging from his belt confirmed the Doctor's guess that Rint was a warrior as he might expect any young man to be in a tribal culture like this one.

"My father showed me the tunnels and secret ways," Rint explained. "The passages that you will have seen, and many other hidden paths known only to the chieftain."

"Your father's the chieftain?" asked the Doctor.

"He is dead now," said Rint.

"And you've succeeded him?"

"Not yet. If the elders should judge me worthy..."

"I see." The Doctor looked around at the small chamber they were in like the other tunnels, it was illuminated by the ghostly glow of a natural phosphorescence in the stone walls. A small niche on the far side of the cave promised the entrance to another tunnel. He wondered how extensive the network might be. "Tell me, what is this place? And that building out there?"

Rint looked at him curiously. "Why, this is the place of the gods."

"Some sort of temple?"

"Not exactly. It is where our ancestors challenged the gods, and stole their power. Long before the great war." He fixed the Doctor with an incisive stare. "You are not of the Seklan."

"No, I don't think so," replied the Doctor. "I'm a traveller."

"From where?"

"Very far from here. And I'm interested in local history."

Rint grunted incredulously. "I will gladly tell you later," he said, "but I have more important tasks first. I have to save my people. These metal monsters..."

"The Daleks."

"Daleks..." Rint carefully repeated the unfamiliar word. "I have to defeat them."

"Yes," replied the Doctor slowly. "That's what I'm here to do as well."

"They have captured your friend."

"I know. But there's nothing I can do about that until I know what it is they're doing here. And why they're so interested in that dome out there."

As he spoke, a massive vibration tore through the cave. Rint moved past the Doctor, and pressed his hands against the hidden doorway through which they had entered. He felt another tremor, as if something were battering heavily on the other side.

"They're trying to break through," said the Doctor quietly.

"Do you think they'll succeed?"

"Well, they can be very determined."

Rint turned round, and crossed the cave to the tunnel entrance in the far wall. "Come, we must leave. We'll be able to stay ahead of them in the tunnels."

The Doctor nodded, and moved to follow him.

----

Clasping the hilt of his sword, Taril sat darkly brooding. He could feel his power slipping away from him. If the elders should turn against him, he would be finished. Any young warrior would feel emboldened to challenge his position. He had fought off such challenges in the past, but that had been years ago. Though he was still strong and fit, Taril knew that he was no longer a young man. A younger, more agile warrior might have a chance of besting him. So, he had to ensure that the thought of opposing him never entered their heads. He would have to appease the elders which meant it was time for Kralin to come out of hiding and prove himself.

Having reached his decision, Taril felt easier in himself. He turned his head towards the entrance to the inner room, and thought of Kralin still resting inside and then his new-found confidence started to desert him. How could he command the messenger of the gods? He felt his hand tightening on his sword. The threat of physical violence had always worked for him in the past but against a being from the stars? Wouldn't that just bring the retribution of the gods down upon them once more?

The bead curtain was drawn aside, and Kralin entered the room, regarding him curiously. Quickly, Taril loosened his grip on the sword, laying it to rest against the side of his bench.

"What's the matter with you?" Kralin asked bluntly.

Taril sighed. "It is the elders and probably the rest of the Tribe. They're becoming restless. They want you to fulfil the prophecies."

"Well, tell them to be patient."

"It's too late for that. They're already beginning to doubt you."

"I didn't realize you had so little control over your people," Kralin snarled. "Are you the chief or aren't you?"

Taril clutched the arm of his bench angrily. It was an effort to stop himself rising to strike Kralin. Through gritted teeth, he said, "The elders can turn the people against me and that little witch Angose has been putting in the poison. You must realize I won't be able to help you if my position here is undermined."

Kralin glared at him for a moment, then turned his head away. He seemed to be considering his next course of action. "What is it you want me to do?" he said presently.

"Give us some sort of sign," Taril implored. "Something to prove you are the messenger of the gods. Or some indication that the prophecies are starting to come true."

Kralin cocked his head on one side, and stared into space as if he was seeking inspiration from the air or perhaps he was in divine communion with the gods. Then he smiled slowly, and turned back to face Taril. "A sign?" he murmured.

"Yes."

"Very well. Then let me tell you, you will soon be receiving visitors."

Frowning, Taril considered his words. Then he reached once more for his sword. "Do you mean the Malfin are going to attack?"

Kralin laughed. "No. These are visitors from much farther away."

As he spoke, a loud rumbling sound echoed through the village. Seizing up his sword, Taril went to the window and looked out across the gathering place. Some of the huts on the other side were on fire. People were running from the flames, screaming. There were more terrifying cracking and roaring sounds, and with each another building spontaneously burst into flame.

"What's happening?" Taril stammered. "What is it?"

"You've never seen an explosion before?" replied Kralin calmly. "No, perhaps you haven't. That's high energy weapons for you."

Pulling himself together, Taril ran to the door of the hut. People were still fleeing from the gathering place, seeking shelter in or behind the remaining huts. Taril found his two bodyguards cowering amongst women and children. He set his face determinedly he had to show an example to them. Whatever was happening was beyond his understanding, but as chieftain it was his duty to defend the people of the Tribe. "Draw your weapons," he commanded.

But he took no step towards the conflagration. He began to discern shapes moving through the flames, shapes which emerged into the open apparently unscathed. It was not the Malfin attacking it was not any kind of people at all. Taril found himself involuntarily backing into his hut as the squat metal creatures advanced across the gathering place.

There was a blur of movement, and two young warriors ran out from between two huts. Their spears held above their heads, they charged at the monsters. Their courage shamed Taril back into action. He hefted his sword, and started to run forward.

With a battlecry, the two warriors flung their spears, only to watch as they bounced harmlessly off the metal skin of the intruders. Turning on their attackers, the monsters spat some sort of lightning bolt, and the young men burst into flame, screaming in agony as their bodies were consumed.

Taril found his nerve failing him again. He turned back into the hut, and found Kralin waiting in the doorway. "What are they?" he asked.

Kralin said nothing.

There was a movement at the side of the hut. And another figure stepped out of the crowd, advancing towards the metal monsters. It was Angose, dressed in the long ceremonial robe of the lore-keeper, adorned with feathers, bones and teeth that rattled together in the wind. It was the first time that Taril had ever been glad to see her.

In her hand, she held the short staff that symbolized her power. It was imbued with all manner of magics, which would surely see off these strange creatures. She pointed it at them. Raising her other arm, she cried, "Halt, foul spirits! You have no place here. Return from whence you came, or I shall destroy you."

There was a long pause, the eyes of the whole Tribe fixed upon Angose as she did battle with the powers of evil. Then one of the monsters shot out a lightning bolt, and she was engulfed in flame. She didn't even have time to scream.

Horrorstruck, Taril turned back to Kralin. "These are the evil spirits foretold by the prophecy," he shouted. "Even Angose could not oppose them. Only you can stop them. You must do something."

Kralin shrugged. "Like this?"

He stepped from the hut, pushing past Taril and walking straight towards the metal monsters. They did not turn their lightning bolts upon him, but waited for him to come close.

Stopping before them, Kralin spread his arms wide as if in welcome. "I'm glad you could make it," he said.

The nearest Dalek turned to look at him. "You will come with us, Kralin."

"Of course. I'm looking forward to renewing our working relationship."

Ignoring him, the Dalek turned to its fellows. "Take the surviving natives prisoner, and bring them to the excavation."

"We obey." The Daleks moved towards the terrified villagers. It was obvious they wouldn't have any trouble subduing them.

----

Rint led the Doctor through a bewildering series of tunnels and passages, some high- vaulted caverns as large as a cathedral, others little more than cracks in the rock through which they could only crawl. At least that would make it difficult for the Daleks to follow them.

They emerged into another chamber, deep and wide, but with such a low ceiling that they had to step around stalactites. There was barely a glimmer of light here, the walls of the chamber almost devoid of phosphorescence. The Doctor fished in his coat pocket, and produced a torch. The beam illuminated a series of alcoves set in one wall. Moving closer, the Doctor saw that each space contained some piece of technology here was a cracked circuit board, there a rust-covered hydraulic gear system or a twisted radio aerial. He realized that everything was broken, and exhibited the decay of millennia yet had been placed here with what seemed like loving reverence.

Rint was already at the far end of the chamber. "Come on, quickly," he urged.

"No wait," the Doctor said. "What's all this?"

Urgently, Rint moved to join him. "Relics," he said.

"Religious artefacts?"

"No, not really. They are the remnants of our ancestors."

"I see." The Doctor examined the alcoves in greater detail. There were certainly some sophisticated pieces of equipment here a complex lens array from a laser refraction device; or part of a solar energy converter. "There was a technological civilization here, of course, but that was thousands of years ago I wouldn't have expected so much to survive."

"These machines..." replied Rint slowly. "They were the source of my people's prosperity and power. But it was all lost in the war."

"Tell me about the war."

"The vengeance of the gods." Rint looked around worriedly. "I'll tell you," he said, "but we must keep moving." He started towards the far side of the chamber again.

With one last glance at the relics, the Doctor followed. They found another narrow niche in the rock wall, and slid awkwardly through it.

"My father told me the story," said Rint, "as he heard it from his father. It's been passed down from chieftain to chieftain for generations."

They emerged into another narrow, winding passage. Rint continued to speak as he led the way. "The people lived in peace and prosperity, and with great power provided by their machines. But they became complacent and they became arrogant. They sought to challenge the gods themselves."

"Oh? How?"

Rint shook his head imperceptibly, and went on with his narrative. "The gods were angry. They made us turn against one another. The people split into two sides, and fought a long and bloody war. Everything that we were, everything we had, was destroyed, and our world was laid waste. Now there are just the two tribes left."

"The descendants of the two factions who fought the war?" suggested the Doctor.

"Yes." Rint paused, gazing wistfully into space. "We are still at war. The differences between our tribes cannot easily be resolved."

"Such as what?"

"The Malfin, my people, have kept and tended the remnants of our ancestors. We keep the machines as you have seen, to remind us of the glories of our past and to inspire us, to give us hope that one day we might invent such wonders again, and rebuild our world as it once was."

"That's a noble aim," said the Doctor.

"But the Tribe of Seklan do not agree," said Rint. "They despise the machines they hate the past. They have replaced memory and hope with superstition and fear."

The Doctor nodded wisely. To him, Rint's tale of angry gods sounded fairly superstitious and fearful, but he thought it best not to say so.

Rint stopped, and placed his hands against the wall of the tunnel. He located another hidden mechanism, and caused part of the wall to swing away, revealing a worn stone staircase leading upwards into shadow. "Through here," he said. "There's something that will interest you."

----

The Black Dalek was waiting at the edge of the pit. Kralin walked determinedly towards it, ignoring the cries of the Seklan prisoners as they were herded into the cavern behind him. The voice of Taril rose prominently amongst them, beseeching the emissary of the gods to oppose the demons.

Kralin took note of the excavation pit the Daleks lined up around its perimeter with weapons trained on the terrified, exhausted Malfin tribe working below. They had cleared most of the foundations of the dome, and exposed a low doorway set in the stonework. One thing could be said for the Daleks they were brutal, but they were efficient and got things done.

He noted Abby working in the pit with the slaves, yet somehow keeping herself apart from them. No doubt she had received a hostile reception. Kralin wondered what might occur when the Seklan were pushed into the pit as well. But for the moment, that little social experiment would be postponed the Daleks were merely forcing the Seklan to sit on the floor up in the cavern.

Turning to face the Black Dalek, Kralin said, "I hope we can have a more productive relationship this time. One in which both parties are equal."

"The Daleks have no equal. We are superior beings."

Kralin laughed. "Yes indeed. Superior beings who allowed the Doctor to outwit them." He stared defiantly into the Dalek's eye lens. "If you had listened to me, if you had kept our agreement, we would have four of the talismans in our possession by now."

"We are not interested in your talismans," replied the Black Dalek. "We want the power of time travel."

"And you shall have it," said Kralin. "I did not forget our bargain but these things take time. When we have all five talismans in our grasp, then we shall have unlimited power over all time and space."

The Black Dalek regarded him for a few seconds. Finally it announced, "Very well. We shall enter into a new agreement. But if you attempt again to betray us, you will be exterminated."

"It was you who betrayed me," Kralin pointed out. "Now let's stop bickering and get on with it, shall we?"

He turned away, and walked to the edge of the excavation pit. Concentrating his attention on the newly-revealed doorway, he reached out with his thoughts, seeking familiar energy patterns and the disturbances they would cause in the local time field. The door itself was a solid block of stone, but even that could not mask the tell-tale signs.

"Our instrument readings suggest the talisman is contained within this building," the Black Dalek intoned.

"I'd say you were right," Kralin replied.

"We are preparing to enter the building."

"Good. But we also need the other two talismans. We must locate the Doctor."

"The Doctor has fled into the surrounding tunnels," said the Black Dalek. "A patrol has been despatched to find him, but the terrain makes pursuit difficult."

Kralin looked down into the pit once more, and fixed his stare on the dejected figure of Abby. "I think there might be another way," he murmured. "Bring the Doctor's companion up from the pit."

The Black Dalek turned to give orders to a subordinate.

"The Doctor is not foolish," Kralin mused. "I doubt he will have both talismans in his possession it's more likely he would have left them aboard his ship. It must be somewhere in the vicinity." He thought for a moment. "It should be easy for your instruments to detect it. Send a patrol to locate it. Take some slave workers to bring the craft back here."

----

The stone steps climbed to a great height possibly as high as the roof of the great cavern itself, the Doctor realized. At the top, the staircase opened onto a long curved passage, a gallery that seemed to run all around the cavern's perimeter. It was unnaturally light within phosphorescence streaked the walls as in other parts of the tunnel complex, but here it was more plentiful and evenly spaced, suggesting it had been deliberately placed to provide illumination.

The walls of the gallery were covered with an intricate series of carvings. Some were pictograms similar to Egyptian hieroglyphics, while others were graphical representations of actual scenes. Together they formed what was obviously a complex narrative.

"It is the history of our people," said Rint.

The Doctor nodded. The inscriptions covered events dating back tens of thousands of years. At a more leisurely time, he might enjoy spending some years here, translating and transcribing them but right now, there were more important matters to draw his attention. "The war?" he asked.

Rint led him along the passage, past thousands of years of history, until they came to the relevant section. The Doctor looked at stylized carvings of tall buildings, vehicles and flying machines, and realized he was seeing a representation of the technological society that had once flourished on Lorina, imagined thousands of years after the event by people who had no understanding of the science involved just oral traditions and race memory to guide them.

At the end of this sequence was a large carving that the Doctor recognized as the domed building in the cavern. Contained within it was a triangular shape that radiated lines of energy. "What's this?" the Doctor asked.

"The power of the gods," replied Rint. "Our ancestors sought to control it, to claim it as their own. The dome is the place where they did this."

The Doctor continued to trace the narrative sequence. Further along was another depiction of the dome, beams of light radiating from its tall spire, and stick-like figures of men who were being struck down by this energy. It was interesting to note that the dome was not enclosed by a cavern in this scene, but was standing in the centre of an open plain.

Reaching into his coat pocket, the Doctor pulled out one of the talismans. He held it up for Rint to see. "Do you know what this is?" he asked.

Rint took several steps back, stunned by the sight. "The symbol of power," he breathed. He pointed to another inscription of the opposite wall, a large carving depicting the talisman in accurate detail.

"And this is what's inside the dome in this picture here?" asked the Doctor. "Right?"

Rint nodded slowly. "It was this which brought down the retribution of the gods upon us. The war raged for many generations, until finally all our society was utterly destroyed. The land was laid waste. It remains barren to this day."

The next series of carvings depicted warring armies, and scenes of great carnage and devastation, probably the simplistic representation of a nuclear holocaust. Certainly, this was the land being laid waste but that was thousands of years ago. The soil ought to have regenerated itself centuries ago. There was no longer any radiation to speak of.

But there was the talisman presumably still buried beneath the dome. Of course! Just as on Keladin, its energies were poisoning the land.

The Doctor continued his examination of the inscriptions. In the centre of the war scenes was another illustration of the dome this time, the circular walls of the cavern surrounded it. Energy continued to radiate from the spire, but it was deflected downwards at the surface of the dome itself. Inside the dome, the triangular shape of the talisman appeared to be on fire. "What's happening here?" he wondered.

Rint spoke quietly, as if strangely overawed. "Some of our ancestors realized that the power was evil. It was not for mortal men to wield. So they created this place, to contain the power, to reflect it back on itself so that evil would be destroyed. In this way, they hoped to appease the gods."

"Did they?"

"No. The war continued and the land is still dead."

The Doctor reflected on the story. If what Rint said were true, then the cavern, the surrounding caves and system of tunnels were all part of a massive man-made structure a phenomenal feat of engineering. And as for its purpose... Could he really believe what Rint was telling him? "What about the talisman?" he asked. "Does it still exist?"

"So my father told me," Rint replied. "It is inside the dome, buried under the ground."

Looking closely at the carvings again, the Doctor wondered aloud: "The entire cavern... Some sort of energy reflector... If it means what I think it does..."

"Who are you?" Rint interrupted him.

"I told you, I'm the Doctor. I'm a traveller."

Rint shook his head, and gestured at the talisman still held in the Doctor's hand. "You carry the symbol of power. Are you... one of the gods?"

The Doctor laughed. "Good gracious, no. I'm just someone who picks up the pieces."

He dropped the talisman back into his pocket. Then he smiled, and clapped Rint encouragingly on the arm. "Come on, I think I know what the answer is."

"Where are we going?" asked Rint.

"Back to the cavern. I need to get a closer look at that dome."

He started briskly back along the corridor, but Rint hesitated to follow. "What about the Daleks? They will be waiting."

"Then we'll have to be very quiet." The Doctor paused, and looked back at Rint. "Trust me," he said earnestly, "I know what I'm doing."

And strangely, in an instant, Rint did trust him implicitly. He didn't know who the Doctor was, or where he came from, but there could be absolutely no doubt of his sincerity or that he was here to save them. Rint nodded, and gestured along the gallery in the opposite direction. "There's a quicker route," he said. "This way."

They proceeded along the passage, and Rint opened another hidden panel in the wall. A steep, narrow spiral stairway took them quickly back to ground level. As they neared the bottom, the Doctor suddenly staggered and clutched the wall for support. Rint went to help him. "Are you all right?"

Taking a deep breath, the Doctor nodded. "Just a telepathic contact I wasn't expecting," he explained. He had recognized the mind of Kralin, reaching out to locate him far more effectively than the Daleks could.

They reached the bottom of the stone steps, and continued along a narrow tunnel, eventually arriving at another cave opening in the cavern wall. A series of sloped ledges below them offered a relatively easy path to the ground. The Doctor surveyed the scene in the cavern the excavation pit at the foot of the dome; the large crowd of prisoners, obviously now comprised of both native tribes, sitting on the floor under the guns of the Daleks; and approaching from one side, a party of slaves bearing the solid blue shape of the Tardis on their backs.

In the centre of the cavern stood the Black Dalek and Kralin, the latter holding Abby firmly by the arm. "Doctor," he shouted out. "I know you're there. As you can see, I hold all the cards. Why don't you give yourself up?"

"Who's that?" Rint whispered.

"Well," replied the Doctor, "actually that's one of your ancient gods."

Rint peered carefully at the figure standing below, but all he could see was a man. "I don't understand," he said. "Our gods were made of light and fire."

"That's just how you perceived them," said the Doctor. "They weren't really gods, Rint, just unbelievably advanced alien beings. Their divine powers were nothing more than incredibly sophisticated technology. That's what your ancestors tried to make use of, and in all probability that's what destroyed them. And now Kralin's here to try and reclaim it, for his own evil purposes."

Rint continued staring at the scene below. It was a lot to take in and it shattered a large part of his belief system. And yet he had no doubt that the Doctor was speaking the truth.

Kralin called out again. "Doctor, I'm sure I can persuade you. Watch this carefully."

He nodded to the Black Dalek. At an unspoken command, the Daleks pushed a few of the prisoners to their feet, and herded them to an open space away from the others. Then without warning, one of the Daleks fired its weapon. The victim was a young native warrior, who burst into flame instantly.

"I think we'll kill one every thirty seconds," announced Kralin, "until you come to your senses."

Beside him, Rint tensed; the Doctor could sense the violent anger that boiled within him. At any moment it seemed he might leap out, and attempt to fight the Daleks single-handed. The Doctor grabbed his arm tightly, and hissed, "Don't do anything foolish."

Rint tried to pull himself free, but the Doctor's grip was like an iron vice. "I can't stand by and do nothing!"

"No," agreed the Doctor, "but you'll achieve nothing by throwing your life away. You can't fight weapons like that with your bare hands."

"I destroyed one of them," said Rint defiantly.

"Oh yes. So what are you going to do? Drop large rocks on all of them? You won't get that chance again."

Rint was breathing heavily, but fought to keep himself calm. The Doctor was right, he realized. He could achieve nothing in a direct confrontation. He had to remain at large, to engage the Daleks by more subtle and cunning means. "What do you think we should do?" he asked.

"Surrender," said the Doctor simply.

----

Kralin glanced across at the group of hostages, and watched a Dalek taking aim at the next selected victim, a maternal-looking woman. She cowered on the ground, looking up at the Dalek in terror. With gleeful anticipation, Kralin observed the fear spreading across her face. With a perception of events not bound by the usual passage of time, he could see each tiny change in her nerves and blood vessels; he could hear the minute ticking sound as the Dalek's gun powered up to open fire.

Then a voice called across the cavern. "Stop!"

Kralin whirled round to see the Doctor standing on a ledge in the cavern wall, a few hundred metres away. Beside him was a native warrior not one of Taril's people, Kralin noted dispassionately, so presumably one of the Tribe of Malfin.

"All right, Kralin," the Doctor shouted, "we're coming down."

They started to clamber down a series of sloped ledges. The Black Dalek despatched two of his subordinates to collect them.

With a surge of disappointment, Kralin glanced back at the native woman he could see her relief at being so narrowly spared. Let her enjoy the moment, he thought. There would be plenty of death and destruction to follow. It was his time now. Finally, his quest was coming to an end.

----

Reaching ground level, Rint and the Doctor stood waiting as the Daleks approached. The young warrior seethed with resentment, unable to comprehend the Doctor's purpose in surrendering. His every instinct was to fight, to the death if necessary to give one's self up was the action of a coward.

He turned uncertainly to the Doctor. "Why are we doing this?" he asked. "What can we achieve if we are taken prisoner?"

"We can save some of your people from being wantonly slaughtered," said the Doctor. "That's reason enough."

"My people are not weak," said Rint. "If it is necessary, they will make such a sacrifice."

"It isn't necessary," replied the Doctor quietly. "What good are we skulking around in the tunnels? If we're to fight the Daleks effectively, we need to be at the centre of things and the quickest way to get there is as prisoners."

"Fight them how?" demanded Rint. "You said yourself that we were powerless against their weapons."

"Only when we fight them on their own terms. There are better ways than brute force." The Doctor smiled. "We're armed with superior weapons our knowledge, and the intelligence to apply it."

Before Rint could ask what he meant, the Daleks were upon them. With threats of instant death if they stepped out of line, they were escorted back to the centre of the cavern. Coming to a halt before Kralin and the Black Dalek, the Doctor chose to ignore them and turned all his attention to the bruised and grimy figure of Abby, still held in Kralin's grip. "Hello," he said gently. "Are you all right?"

"Just wonderful," said Abby wistfully, smiling in spite of everything. As long as the Doctor was here, she knew that things were going to work out fine.

With an angry snarl, Kralin flung Abby away from him. She stumbled against the Doctor, who caught her and steadied her. "A little impatient aren't we, Kralin?" he said.

"Let's just get on with this," replied Kralin. He held out his hand to reveal his talisman. "Time to put all our cards on the table."

The Doctor looked from him to the Black Dalek, which held a second talisman in its manipulator arm. Reaching into his coat pocket, the Doctor produced a third. "Snap," he said.

Kralin reached out his hand, and snatched it from the Doctor's grasp. "Now what about the other?" he demanded.

"Inside my ship."

"I figured as much." Kralin gestured towards the Tardis. "As you can see, I've saved you the walk. Now open it and bring us the talisman."

When the Doctor seemed to hesitate for just a moment, the Black Dalek moved forward. "You will comply," it screeched, "or we will exterminate your companion."

"Oh well, if you put it like that." The Doctor shrugged, and took the Tardis key from his pocket.

As he moved towards the police box, Abby called out: "Doctor, don't do it. Don't give in to them." Even as she spoke, she was aware of two Daleks turning towards her, as if in response to silent orders. She tried to put on a brave face, but knew she was failing miserably.

The Doctor turned back to face her. "I don't have a lot of choice, do I?" he murmured softly. Then he opened the Tardis door, and disappeared inside. The nearest two Daleks moved closer, and stood flanking the door.

A few seconds later, he emerged with the fourth talisman in his hand. "Who wants this, then?" he asked.

"Give it to me," said Kralin.

"No," snapped the Black Dalek. "Give it to us."

With two Dalek guns trained on him, the Doctor didn't feel he had much choice. He placed the talisman into the manipulator of the nearest Dalek. "Seems like your allies still don't trust you, Kralin," he said lightly.

"Don't try and provoke a rift between us, Doctor," warned Kralin. "We have reached our agreement. We each know where the other stands."

The Doctor said nothing. He walked slowly back to stand beside Abby and Rint.

Smiling jubilantly, Kralin said, "Now, who's for an archaeological expedition?"

----

They descended into the excavation pit, stumbling down the broken rock and loose soil of its slopes. Kralin led the way, holding his two talismans out before him with an air of reverence. Abby, aching and tired from her earlier mistreatments, held onto the Doctor's arm for support. The were accompanied by Rint; and Taril, the chieftain of the Seklan tribe, whom Kralin had personally summoned from amongst the crowd of prisoners to attend him. The two natives glared menacingly at each other, and Abby realized that there was no love lost between the two tribes.

Behind them came the Black Dalek and two of its subordinates. They travelled on wide metal discs that hovered above the ground with a harsh buzzing sound, smaller versions of the flying machine that had pursued the Doctor earlier.

Reaching the floor of the pit, the Daleks dismounted their machines and moved forward to the newly-exposed entrance. They trained their weapons on the door, and opened fire, pouring beams of raw energy into the stone. It started to glow red, and then to melt. Finally, it was vaporized, leaving behind no trace but for billowing clouds of smoke.

Even before it had cleared, Kralin was striding through the smoke and into the dome. The Doctor and Abby followed but Rint and Taril both hesitated on the threshold. Weighed down by primal fears and superstitions, or simply too much respect for their ancestors, they were reluctant to trespass in a place of legend. Only the pressure of the Daleks at their backs, literally forcing them to enter, made them eventually proceed inside.

The interior of the dome was a single vast chamber. The walls were smooth and almost featureless on closer inspection, Abby could make out a pattern of crystals inlaid in the stone. From the ceiling a huge rod of coppery metal descended the lower part of the great spire that extended from the building's roof. It came down to a height of about three metres above the floor. Positioned directly beneath it, in the dead centre of the floor, was a stone plinth on which rested the fifth and final talisman.

Striding up to the pedestal, Kralin gazed at the talisman with a look of smug satisfaction. He placed his own two matching artefacts on either side of it, then looked up invitingly at the Black Dalek. "We need all five pieces," he said.

The Dalek glided to the plinth, the remaining talismans gripped in its manipulator arm. It turned its eye lens to regard Kralin carefully. "You will abide by the terms of our agreement," it screeched, "or you will be exterminated."

"Of course," snapped Kralin impatiently.

But still the Black Dalek did not seem convinced, and continued to glare through its cold electronic eye. For his part, Kralin seemed completely unconcerned by the scrutiny; his reaction was simply a growing irritation at the Black Dalek's procrastination. As their impasse continued, Abby glanced around the chamber. The other two Daleks had advanced carefully to the centre, one taking up position just behind the Black Dalek, the other stopping close to Kralin's side. If the implied threat had any effect on him, he didn't show it.

Rint and Taril cowered just inside the entrance, too overawed to move closer to the central plinth. Not even the appearance of another two Daleks in the doorway reinforcements summoned to cut off any chance of escape could stir them into movement.

But the Doctor's behaviour was the most unexpected. He seemed to take no interest in the confrontation between Kralin and the Daleks, and was instead occupied in a close examination of the crystal pattern in the walls. Catching Abby's eye, he smiled apologetically, and moved towards the pedestal.

Kralin and the Black Dalek seemed to have come to an agreement at last. All five talismans were now resting upon the plinth; only minute differences in the crystal tracery of their surfaces could distinguish one from another. "We have done as you wanted," said the Black Dalek cautiously. "You will now give us the secret of time travel."

"I will," Kralin affirmed. "But first, these five components must be reassembled into the whole. This will unlock the power necessary to provide you with unlimited time travel. Not merely following energy distortion patterns through the time vortex. This will enable the development of technology to ensure complete navigational freedom and directional control."

He reached a hand out towards the talismans; but was halted by another shout from the Black Dalek. "Stop! We must ascertain that you are not attempting to betray us."

"Oh really?" snapped Kralin irritably. "And just how do you intend doing that? I know that trust is alien to your nature, but just this once you're going to have to try."

The Black Dalek said, "The Doctor will confirm the veracity of your statements."

It turned its head to face the Doctor, who smiled broadly. "Calling in the expert witness?" he asked.

Kralin gave an exasperated cry. "Are you fools? You can't trust him. He's already tried to sabotage your time travel experiments."

"But the Doctor has nothing to gain by lying," replied the Black Dalek. "If he allows you to deceive us, he will be exterminated along with you."

Kralin shook his head angrily. "You can't apply such simple logic to the Doctor. He's a born martyr. He would rather die than allow you to triumph."

The Black Dalek seemed to consider this statement carefully, turning its head slowly from Kralin to the Doctor. Finally, it said, "Then we will persuade him in other ways. Kill the female!"

In response to the order, one of the Daleks advanced from the doorway, turning its weapon upon Abby. She tried to face it stoically she would be letting the Doctor down if she panicked now but she couldn't help herself backing away and casting a desperate glance at him. All the time, the Dalek came closer and prepared to fire.

"Stop!" called the Doctor. He looked helplessly at the Black Dalek, and nodded his acquiescence. Casting his eyes down forlornly, he said, "He's telling the truth. The talismans must be recombined to unlock the power of time travel."

The Black Dalek seemed satisfied with this pronouncement. It issued silent instructions, and the Dalek covering Abby backed off. Then it turned to Kralin, and snapped, "You will proceed."

Kralin nodded. He gave the Doctor a brief curious glance, and then reached out once more towards the five talismans. He held his hands above the artefacts, and closed his eyes, whispering to himself as if repeating some ancient litany.

The crystal patterns on each talisman began to sparkle and shimmer with ethereal light. A strange, high-pitched shrieking sound filled the chamber, and the five medallions lifted into the air. The noise increased in intensity as they converged into a burst of bright light, that momentarily blinded them all.

Then the sound cut off completely. The light faded to reveal a single metal and crystal talisman a spherical shape larger than the sum of its components floating in the air above the pedestal.

Kralin threw back his head, and laughed. "At last," he cried. "After fifty millennia, the pentalisman is restored. All power is mine."

The Black Dalek backed away a few metres, and regarded him closely. "Now you will give us the secret of time travel," it insisted.

Kralin merely continued to laugh. "I will show you such secrets," he said. He looked to the Doctor, who had moved away to stand beside the wall once more. The inlaid crystals were now glowing with a rhythmic, pulsing energy.

"You know," said the Doctor casually, "I think all this still works. Which is quite impressive, really." He turned, and smiled apologetically at the Black Dalek. "I don't suppose Kralin told you about this, did he?"

"What do you mean?" screeched the Dalek. "What is the function of this crystal technology?"

"I'll show you, shall I?" replied Kralin.

He raised his hand, and reached out to touch the pentalisman. At once, the wall crystals flared brilliantly, and a mass of luminescent particles formed around the central spire. The Doctor glanced upwards for a second, and then suddenly sprinted across the room, leaping past the Daleks before they could react. He grabbed hold of Abby, and bore her to the ground, at the same time shouting at Rint and Taril to take cover. The urgency of his words finally overcame their superstitious awe, and galvanized the enemy chieftains into action. They threw themselves to the floor, just as all hell broke loose.

With a mighty roar, the glowing particles fell away from the spire, crashing down into the chamber like an avalanche. They formed themselves into searing beams of energy that swooped around the interior of the dome. One beam passed right through the Black Dalek, causing smoke and flame to erupt from within its casing. It started to spin out of control, skittering across the chamber to crash into the wall, where it exploded. Another Dalek was set on fire, and the third sliced clean in two by the bolts of light. The two Daleks in the doorway were picked up by a wave of energy and hurled back out into the excavation pit.

The Doctor crawled towards Rint. "Now's your chance," he shouted above the din. Rint did not need telling twice. With a nod of thanks, he scrambled to his feet and ran from the dome. The Doctor glanced at Taril, but he was still cowering in abject terror and incomprehension.

As the energy bolts faded from the chamber, the Doctor cautiously stood up, and reached out a hand to help Abby. He turned to face Kralin, who still stood on the other side of the central plinth, the pentalisman hovering in the air before him.

Chuckling in satisfaction, Kralin regarded the Doctor closely, as if seeing him for the first time. "I'm intrigued, Doctor," he said. "I realized you understood what I was going to do but you could have stopped it with a single word of warning."

"Ah well," replied the Doctor, "I've always been good at choosing the right side the winning side."

"I can see I've misjudged you," said Kralin. "Perhaps you can serve me."

"I was thinking the same thing." The Doctor took a step closer, and looked upon the pentalisman in awe. "So now the power of the luminants is restored to you."

Kralin nodded. "I am a god," he said simply. "And I will reshape the universe in my own image."

----

Rint scrambled past the smouldering wreckage of the two Daleks in the pit, and dragged himself up the slope to the floor of the cavern. Awaiting him was a scene of confusion and destruction.

Beams of energy were shooting out from the dome's copper spire, flying around the cavern. Where the beams struck the walls and floor of the cavern, great chunks of rock were ripped out and flung into the air. Above him, the cavern roof had cracked; some sections had fallen in, revealing the sky.

The people of both tribes were running about in panic. There was nowhere to hide, the deadly beams could reach right across the cavern. When one struck nearby, bodies were hurled into the air along with the rock, to fall back to the ground broken and crumpled like dolls.

But the Daleks were coming off the worst. The energy seemed particularly directed at them; their casings, crushed, shattered or burning, lay littered about the cavern. Even those Daleks that had not been destroyed seemed to have been affected. They were moving round sluggishly and disoriented, blundering into rocks and spinning uncontrollably.

A figure ran blindly past Rint, a young Malfin warrior called Vaso. Rint grabbed hold of his arm, and brought him staggering to a halt. Vaso spun round instinctively, ready to lash out at an attacker. Rint deflected the blow, and shook the warrior vigorously. "Vaso, it's me!"

"Rint..." Vaso nodded, finally recognizing him. "We've got to get away quickly, before we all die."

"No, we've got to fight. This is our only chance to destroy the monsters."

"We can't fight them! They're invincible."

"No, they're not," said Rint determinedly. "Follow me. Are you a warrior or a coward?"

For a moment longer, Vaso hesitated. Then he nodded. They set off at a run across the cavern towards the nearest Dalek. It was moving with jerky, unpredictable motions, but somehow managing to menace a group of natives who cowered before it. The Dalek fired random blasts from its gun, shooting over their heads without any directional aim.

Grabbing hold of a large rock, Rint leapt onto the Dalek's back. He started to hammer at its domed head. The Dalek responded by whirling round, trying to throw him off but Rint clung on desperately. Vaso ran forward and grappled with the Dalek, trying to wrestle control of its gun and point it away from any of the others.

As Rint continued to bash away at its head, sparks started to fly from the joints in the Dalek's metal casing. Then flames started to lick round its head. The Dalek swung round wildly, sending Vaso flying to the ground. A flicker of light caught Rint's eye, and he quickly dropped from the Dalek's back, shoving it firmly into the path of the next energy burst from the spire. The Dalek burst into flame, and was flung into the air in an eruption of dust and rock.

The group of natives cheered. Rint turned towards them, and shouted, "Our enemies are mortal. They can be killed just like the beasts of the plain. You men, join me now fight for your freedom, fight for your lives!"

They cheered again. A few held back with the women and children, but most of the men moved forward to join Rint, picking up whatever they could use as a weapon men of both tribes, standing and fighting together to rid Lorina of the metal monsters.

With screams and battle-cries, they ran headlong towards the nearest surviving Daleks.

----

Abby regarded the Doctor fearfully. His sudden conversion to Kralin's loyal follower was unexpected and frightening. Maybe he wasn't the man she'd thought he was, one who would stand up in the face of evil and oppression, even at the risk of his own life. Now it looked as if he just wanted to save his own skin, and would make any allegiance to do that.

She watched him gaze at Kralin with wonder and appreciation. "How will you begin your great work?" he asked, awestruck. "Surely the universe needs some sign of your power?"

Kralin seemed to bask in the admiration. But he shrugged his shoulders. "I have no need of haste," he said. "Nothing in the universe can resist me now. My will is absolute. Besides, you have just seen a demonstration of my power."

The Doctor snorted derisively. "Destroying a few Daleks? That's just like swatting insects." Suddenly, his tone changed again, and he was berating Kralin. "What does that prove to anyone? Show us something magnificent. Alter the very fabric of nature."

Kralin seemed to hesitate, and the Doctor continued to goad him. "Come on, you're a god! Why don't you give us a miracle?"

"What do you suggest?" snapped Kralin angrily.

"What about the planet out there? You could remove the poison, regenerate the soil make everything grow again." The Doctor frowned. "That's if you can..."

"I can," replied Kralin. "I can do anything." He reached out towards the pentalisman. "Very well, I will do it."

The pentalisman glowed brilliantly, and a stream of particles flowed up the outside of the spire and through the roof of the dome. "It is done," Kralin said. "Does that satisfy you?"

"Oh yes," replied the Doctor, "thank you very much."

Abby was suddenly aware of a movement beside her. She turned to see the native chief Taril climb uncertainly to his feet. He walked forward to the central plinth, and stood beside the Doctor, facing Kralin.

"Ah, Taril," Kralin said expansively. "Come to pay me your respects?"

Taril glared at him with pure hatred and loathing. "I come to curse you," he said.

"Careful now. I'm the messenger of the gods."

"You are a false prophet," Taril cried. "You have brought evil and destruction down upon us."

"And after I've restored life to your miserable little planet," Kralin shouted. "Well, where I can create, I can also destroy. You shall see the true extent of my powers now. I will wipe out all life on Lorina."

"No!" snapped the Doctor. He made to jump forward, but Kralin was already stretching out his hand to the pentalisman...

Then the air started to fill with light. Not the brilliant flare of the pentalisman, not the shimmering of energy particles around the spire this was a different kind of light entirely. At first, it was just like the sun shining into a shaded room, visible only where it illuminated motes of dust floating in the air but there were no windows in the dome. Then as Abby watched in amazement, the light grew brighter, yet still came from nowhere. The dust coalesced within the beams, forming into shapes that were just barely discernable as variations of light and shadow. By now, the light was flooding the chamber, almost blinding them. Abby screwed up her eyes, holding her hand in front of her face, but she could do little to keep out such an intense glare.

She just caught sight of Taril, fallen whimpering to his knees in terror. Beside her, the Doctor stood gazing at the light in wonder. But it was Kralin who was most affected. The light seemed to gather around him the shadows of dust suspended within it now seemed to be the vague outlines of four humanoid shapes, standing in a group around him.

"No!" Kralin screamed. "Why are you here now? Why have you returned?"

And the shapes spoke a deep, resonant voice that was four voices at once. It seemed to come out of the light itself, filling the entire dome. "We are one with the pentalisman. We were summoned by its reconstitution."

Kralin seemed close to panic. "But you... You went away..."

"We passed into the shadow realms between this reality and the next. Our time in the corporeal world was at an end." The light shimmered. Kralin tried to back away, but the shadows were pressing all around him. "You should have come with us, Kralin," boomed the voice. "You should not have stayed behind."

"But we were gods," Kralin said. "Our work was unfinished. Where there was so much chaos, we should have brought order. It was our destiny."

"No, Kralin. The mortal races we had nurtured it was their destiny to inherit the universe. Ours was to stand aside. It was the decision of the five. We had always existed in unity until the day you turned against us."

There was fear in Kralin's voice as he replied. "But why have you come back?"

"We have come for you, Kralin. It is time for you to join us at last."

"No," Kralin cried desperately. He pointed to the pentalisman. "Don't you see? I brought you back. Now we can claim mastery of the universe, as the gods we are. It is our time now."

"Our time has passed," said the voice patiently. "We have watched from the shadows. And we have seen exactly that which we foretold. The mortal races have inherited the universe. They have no need of gods now."

"Well, we can change that," said Kralin. "When they see our power, they will have to worship us."

"No, Kralin. We are nothing but legend now. We no longer belong in the corporeal realm. We will return to shadow."

"I will not," shouted Kralin defiantly. There was madness in his eyes. "You are old and weak. If you will not join me, I will destroy you all." He reached out and took hold of the pentalisman. It started to glow, a bright piercing light that shone out even through the all-suffusing glare. A high-pitched whining sound filled the chamber.

----

The last surviving Dalek was pushed over the edge of the excavation pit. Tumbling down the slope, its head was stove in on an outcrop of rock, and flames burst from within its casing. Rint stood at the edge of the pit, and raised his fist triumphantly over his head. Who would deny his right to be chieftain now?

Through the cheering of the warriors, he discerned a strange and unfamiliar noise. He looked up, seeking its source and realized that it was coming from the very walls of the cavern. It was a deep, rumbling sound, like thunder.

Then suddenly, flashes of lightning started to burst from the walls, streaking across the cavern towards the dome. Rint threw himself to the ground, warning the others to protect themselves. As the tribespeople scrambled for cover, more lightning shot out from the walls, growing in intensity and discharging massive bolts of energy into the surface of the dome.

----

The walls of the dome started to crack. Violent streaks of lightning broke through the gaps, slamming into the surface of the pentalisman. Jolted by the massive surge of energy, Kralin dropped the artefact. It crashed onto the central plinth. The lightning continued remorselessly to slam into it.

The pentalisman shone brilliantly white, then turned the darkest black and crumbled into dust. Kralin staggered back from the pedestal, and sank heavily to his knees. Before Abby's astonished eyes, his physical form faded away, dissolving into a dusty shadow like the other four.

The light around the shapes started to dim. The voice of the shadows was dying away. Abby caught its words on the edge of her hearing. "Our power is gone. We are legend now."

The light faded, and the shadows were gone, leaving nothing but motes of dust floating in the air. Abby walked forward to the central plinth, but there was nothing left to see. She turned to the Doctor in bewilderment. "What happened?"

The Doctor smiled. "Ah well, I studied the legends of this planet, and worked it all out. The ancient Lorinans found the talisman here and learnt how to harness its power. This building, this dome is a giant energy focusing device to turn the power of the talisman into a giant weapon."

"That's how Kralin destroyed the Daleks," Abby realized.

"That's right," the Doctor said. "But you see, ancient Lorina was more advanced than anyone has ever realized. They didn't just appropriate luminant technology, they superseded it. The cavern outside is a huge man-made structure that functions as a negative energy reflector. It focuses the energy of the talisman back on itself. I realized that if Kralin unleashed enough power from the pentalisman, the reflection would destroy it."

"So that's why you pretended to be his follower," said Abby. "To persuade him to keep going until he destroyed the pentalisman."

"That's right. Of course, I wasn't quite expecting the other luminants to put in an appearance."

"Is that what they were?" breathed Abby. "And they took Kralin with them?"

"Into shadow," said the Doctor wistfully. "Into legend. With the pentalisman gone, their link with this corporeal realm was severed. They quite literally faded away."

He kicked idly at the dust that covered the floor, the only physical trace of the luminants' existence. "They're strange beings, immortals. They have a different view of life, so they don't have morals and ethical codes like we do. That's why they felt no compunction about messing around with the evolution of the universe. But they also perceive time as a whole past, present and future combined. It makes them more fatalistic, willing to accept change."

"Apart from Kralin," said Abby. "All this happened because he couldn't accept change."

"Well, no one's perfect," replied the Doctor. "Not even self-proclaimed gods."

A figure appeared through the dust in the doorway. Rint stepped into the chamber, and looked around the dome. "What's happened?" he asked.

"Hello, Rint." The Doctor smiled. "Where are the Daleks?"

"All destroyed."

"Then you've freed your world," the Doctor said. "Now your task is to make it live."

"I don't understand."

"The final gift of your ancient gods," replied the Doctor. "The soil has been reborn. It's there for you to cultivate. You, and your descendants, must now strive to rebuild your civilization."

"We will," said Rint. He turned to look at Taril, who was slowly staggering to his feet. "The two tribes are joined as one. Will you work with me, to make our world live anew?"

"Yes," said Taril. "With the Doctor's guidance, we will succeed. Do you not see? He is the stranger from the stars foretold in the prophecy the true messenger of the gods."

"I think you're mistaking me for someone else," the Doctor said.

But Taril would not be dissuaded. "Has he not appeased the anger of the gods? Has he not reunited our two tribes as one? Just as our holy writings predicted."

Rint sighed in exasperation. "It's your prophecies that got us into this mess," he said. "We must stop looking to the writings of the past to guide our destiny. Our duty is to create our own future. To use science and technology for the good of our people, as our ancestors once did."

It looked as if the argument might rage for some time. Abby felt the Doctor gently take her arm, and guide her out through the doorway. "Science versus superstition," he murmured. "The old battle. Ah well, they'll get over it one day."

"Are we just leaving?" asked Abby.

"It's always best to just slip away. Anyway, I'm likely to get canonized if I stay around here much longer."

They clambered up the side of the excavation pit, and started to walk across the cavern floor. The Lorinan tribespeople milled around them, some dancing triumphantly on the wreckage of the Daleks, others sitting on the floor and praying, some just asleep from exhaustion. But they seemed far too occupied with their own lives to pay much attention to two travellers, however strangely they might be dressed.

Looking at the charred and battered remnants of the Dalek casings, Abby asked, "Is that it, then? Have the Daleks been defeated?"

"No," said the Doctor quietly. "Without the talismans, they've lost the ability to travel in time. But it just means history will revert to its proper course. The Daleks will still found a huge and oppressive space empire. They'll still try to conquer the galaxy. But they'll never succeed they'll be held in check by the strength of the Earth Empire."

They walked over to the Tardis, which stood to one side of the cavern. "So where are we going now?" Abby asked.

"Well," replied the Doctor, "finally I can take you home." He took out the key, and started to unlock the door.

Abby looked down at her boots. Once again, a feeling of deep disappointment washed over her at the prospect of leaving the Doctor. She had seen life from a perspective no one else on Earth could ever understand. How could she ever hope to return to the humdrum routine of existence after all this?

"What's the matter?" asked the Doctor gently.

"Oh, it's nothing," Abby replied. "Just that the prospect of going home doesn't seem so exciting any more."

The Doctor ushered her through the door. "Well, there's no reason to go straight back, is there? As a matter of fact, I was thinking of taking the scenic route."

With a smile, he followed her inside, closing the door behind him. As the Tardis engines laboured into life, a great mechanical roar echoed through the cavern, startling the tribespeople who shrank back in fear.

The time machine faded away, and plunged headlong into the chaos of the space- time continuum carrying Abby and the Doctor onwards, to untold wonder and adventure. But that's another story...

 

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