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DOCTOR WHO
An Adventure in Time and Space

PLANET SKARO. 1823 AD.

 

It was a city built for Daleks, half buried beneath the barren rocks of Skaro. Arched doorways opened onto narrow, claustrophobic corridors. The walls and floors were fashioned entirely from highly polished metal. The sounds of strange machinery and electronic instruments reverberated throughout the corridors, echoing from the smooth, curved surfaces. A faint tang of ozone hung in the air.

Like the rest of the city, the reception area was a large circular chamber, low- ceilinged and dimly lit. Daleks streamed in from every corridor, and took up positions around the edges of the chamber, facing towards the centre where a spotlight came on, illuminating a circular area of the floor. Kralin stood beside one of the doorways, watching the Daleks prepare for their visitors. They were taking no chances.

He glanced back along the corridor to see the Emperor Dalek approaching. Its casing was constructed of pure gold. It had the same tapered base as the other Daleks but its upper section was a huge perfect sphere that contained the massive computer which made all the Daleks' tactical decisions. The Emperor was flanked by its two deputies, denoted by the colour of their casings one black and one red, in contrast to the plain dark grey of the rank and file Daleks.

The Emperor swept into the reception chamber, and came to a halt beside Kralin. It turned its head to face a Dalek technician, which was monitoring a control panel beside the door. "Report!" the Emperor ordered.

The Dalek studied its instruments. "The Doctor's vessel is held in temporal energy surge."

"Materialize it!"

Extending its manipulator arm, the Dalek activated some controls. A harsh, mechanical groaning sound filled the air, and the shape of a police telephone box solidified beneath the spotlight. Every Dalek turned its gun barrel to cover the Tardis.

----

The ship was still, the control console dead. The Doctor and Abby looked up at the scanner screen, which showed literally hundreds of Daleks waiting for them outside the ship.

"Well, quite a reception committee," said the Doctor.

"What are we going to do?" asked Abby.

"I think they want us to go outside."

As they watched, a Dalek moved forward from the assembled ranks. Some sort of cutting tool had been fitted in place of its manipulator arm. It directed a concentrated beam of energy at the lock on the Tardis door.

Abby watched with growing concern. "Can they get inside?" she whispered.

"No." The Doctor shook his head. "The Tardis is impregnable."

"So we'll be safe if we stay here?"

On the scanner, the Dalek suddenly shut off its cutting beam. There was a flash of light, and it was engulfed in a stream of energy that seemed to flood back from the Tardis lock. The Dalek was flung back from the door, and back into the ranks of its fellows, crashing against those in the front row. Wisps of smoke rose from the joints in its casing. The Doctor chuckled quietly to himself.

There was further movement on the screen, and Kralin walked out from the midst of the Daleks. "Come out, Doctor!" he called. "We've an offer to put to you."

The Doctor reached for the door control. "Oh well, if he puts it like that."

"What are you doing?" Abby demanded. "We can't go out there."

"How are we going to defeat them if we sit in here sulking all day?" replied the Doctor.

"But they'll kill us."

"Well, it's a possibility."

Abby held out her hands in exasperation. "Then let's stay here. You said we'd be safe inside."

"But we can't take off," said the Doctor patiently. "They've got us held fast. So we can just wait in here until we die."

Abby stepped back from the console, and sighed heavily. The Doctor was right, she realized. There was no way they could win the Daleks were in total control of the situation.

Smiling reassuringly, the Doctor gestured towards the talisman, still wired into the console. "Don't worry," he said. "This is what they want. And as long as they don't have it, they can't kill us."

After a moment, Abby nodded. The Doctor activated the door control, and they stepped up to the threshold, where they paused for a few seconds. Abby wondered if the Doctor was trying to find the courage to proceed she knew that she was but when she glanced across at him, she saw that he was merely patting his pockets looking for the Tardis key. Finding it, he led the way out through the doors.

They emerged from the police box to find hundreds of Dalek guns trained carefully on them. Abby froze, lest any sudden movement might prompt them to start shooting. The Doctor had no such qualms however she saw him slam the door shut with a quick and fluid movement, and before she realized what he had done, he had the door locked and was returning the key to his pocket.

Kralin stood facing them with three colourful Daleks. The Doctor put on his biggest smile and said, "Good morning."

Ignoring the greeting, Kralin moved forward angrily. He grabbed the Doctor by the arm, and snatched the key out of his jacket pocket. "You shouldn't have let him lock it," he snarled. Turning his attention to the Tardis door, he tried to put the key in the lock. A crackle of electrical energy surrounded his hand, and he cried out in pain, dropping the key on the ground.

The Doctor shrugged. "Sorry," he murmured. Kralin glared at him, and moved back to join the Daleks.

The Red Dalek rolled forward, and extended its manipulator arm to the ground. It lifted up the Tardis key, and held it out before the Doctor. "You will open the time vessel," it ordered.

"No, I don't think so," said the Doctor reasonably. "Not just yet. Let's talk about that offer you mentioned first."

"Oh yes," snapped Kralin. "It's perfectly straightforward. I want the talisman. And you want to stay alive. It seems a fair and amicable exchange."

The Doctor nodded slowly. "You'll have to let me think about it," he replied.

"Don't try my patience, Doctor. You're in no position to bargain."

The Doctor said nothing, merely raising an eyebrow. An awkward silence descended over the chamber, broken only by the clicking of the targeting systems in the Dalek guns, and the echoing sounds of the city.

The impasse was broken by the golden Emperor Dalek. It turned to two of its subordinates and ordered, "Take the prisoners into custody."

"We obey!" The two Daleks moved forward, and prodding the Doctor and Abby with their manipulator arms, pushed them towards one of the archways.

As they were taken along the corridor, the assembled Daleks started to disperse from the reception chamber. Kralin turned to the Emperor. "We have to force him to open his vessel," he said. "Perhaps if we threaten the life of the woman..."

The Emperor regarded him coldly with its eye-stick, then turned to the Red Dalek. "Escort Kralin to his quarters."

"I obey!"

"What?" Kralin stepped forward to confront the Emperor, but found his path blocked by two Dalek guards, obviously summoned by some unheard signal. "We must get the Doctor to hand over the talisman," he shouted.

"We will take care of the Doctor," said the Emperor. "You will be informed when we have succeeded. Return to your quarters."

Kralin felt the Red Dalek advancing on his back. His relationship with the Daleks had been strained at the best of times they didn't like having to rely on allies of any kind and he knew when it was best not to antagonize the Emperor, especially not on their own planet. He would have to bide his time. He allowed the Red Dalek to lead him away, with the two guards acting as an escort.

----

The room to which they had been taken was bare and featureless just plain metal walls. Even as a cell, it was inadequate. There was no furniture, and they were forced to sit on the shiny, polished floor. Abby supposed that the Daleks, having no need of chairs, would not think to provide them for anyone else. The Doctor sat cross-legged on the floor, his fingertips pressed together as if he was meditating.

"What are they going to do to us?" Abby asked.

"Don't know," the Doctor muttered. "Threaten us, I expect."

"Oh, great."

The door slid open, to reveal the gold Emperor Dalek. The Black Dalek was standing behind it, with several ordinary Daleks visible out in the corridor. The Doctor got to his feet, and smiled disarmingly. It was lost on the Daleks of course. "I take it you're the Emperor," he said. "How do you do?"

"Silence," the Black Dalek screeched.

The Emperor advanced into the room, swivelling its vast head until its lens glared right into the Doctor's eye. "So what can I do for you?" the Doctor asked. "I seem to recall talk of some sort of deal."

"The Daleks make no deals," snapped the Emperor.

"No, I don't suppose you do." Returning the Emperor's electronic gaze steadily, the Doctor said, "What do you want?"

"You will give us the secrets of time travel."

"I don't think so," the Doctor replied. Then he frowned, and raised a quizzical eyebrow. "I'm intrigued though. I thought Kralin had already given you the power of time travel."

"Kralin gives us only what suits him," the Emperor stated.

"Ah, do I detect a breakdown in your relationship?" The Doctor stepped back and folded his arms, an annoyingly smug expression on his face. "How did you get involved with Kralin anyway?"

The Emperor moved in a circle around the cell. "Some five years ago," it began, "the Daleks performed an excavation near the edge of our city. We were seeking the source of a power loss that was affecting some of our machinery in that area."

The Doctor nodded. It was the same story as on Keladin. "So you turned up one of the talismans?"

"We were unable to analyse the artefact," said the Emperor, "save for measuring its unusual energy emissions. Shortly after the discovery, Kralin appeared on Skaro. He told us he was a time traveller seeking a series of artefacts that were once in his possession."

Obviously, thought the Doctor, Kralin had used his own talisman to follow the time trace to Skaro nothing unexpected there, it was exactly what he was doing in the Tardis. What was surprising was the statement that Kralin had once possessed all the talismans. The Doctor recalled his first impression of Kralin, a notion he'd dismissed as being too outlandish. But after seeing him call up a time storm, it was beginning to seem more likely and this latest revelation only confirmed the suspicion.

"We formed an alliance," the Emperor stated. "It was agreed that we would aid Kralin in his quest. In return, he would give us the necessary technology to achieve time travel."

"It's not like the Daleks to make a pact with anyone," the Doctor remarked. "I thought you regarded all other lifeforms as inferior."

"That is correct. It was never our intention to honour any agreement with Kralin. Once we had obtained the power of time travel, he was to be exterminated."

The Doctor smiled to himself. "And I suppose he's been rather slow to make good on his promise?"

"He has only used his powers to move Dalek units back and forth through time as it suited his purpose."

The Doctor tutted and shook his head. "Well, I suppose you could sue him for breach of contract. Do you have a solicitor?"

Ignoring the remark, the Emperor extended its manipulator arm and pinned the Doctor against the wall of the cell. "Now we have you in our power, we no longer need to rely on Kralin."

Glaring defiantly, the Doctor said, "There's just one thing you've overlooked. I will never divulge the secret of time travel. Certainly not to the Daleks."

"You will have no choice," the Emperor replied. "You will be conditioned to serve the Daleks." It released the Doctor, who gratefully started to breathe again. The Emperor backed out of the cell. The Black Dalek remained, covering them with its gun. Then it too withdrew, and the door slid shut.

Abby sank back to the floor in relief. "What did they mean?" she asked. "Condition you?"

"Some sort of brainwashing," the Doctor replied.

"But does it mean they'll get what they want?"

The Doctor sighed heavily. "This is much worse than I thought."

"How?"

"Well, it's not simply a case of the Daleks breaking their deadlock with the Earth Empire. You see, this is an earlier time period, some time around the nineteenth century. The Daleks haven't yet embarked on the path of galactic conquest. If they achieve time travel now, the whole future of the galaxy will be irrevocably altered. It won't be a case of them defeating the Earth Empire in some future war they'll be able to prevent that war from taking place, destroy Earth before it ever becomes a threat to them. It's not just a case of conquering the galaxy. They could control the entire universe."

----

Kralin paced his quarters angrily. The rooms were bare and functional, like all of the Dalek city, fashioned from smooth and shining metal but at least the Daleks had manufactured some rudimentary furniture for him. While he was in this corporeal form, he needed to rest occasionally.

This was not such an occasion. He was far too agitated, wondering what the Daleks could be doing with the Doctor. Supposing they had harmed him in some way? Even killed him? Then there would be no way to get into the Doctor's time machine and retrieve the talisman the lock was clearly some sort of isomorphic response system, which only the Doctor could operate. For that, Kralin needed him alive.

The Daleks really didn't appreciate how important the talismans were, but then he had never shared that with them. He didn't want them getting any clever ideas about seizing them for themselves. Let them be satisfied with the prospect of time travel capability, which he dangled like a carrot before them.

Kralin went to the door, and opened it. Two Daleks were waiting in the corridor, facing him. If they were supposed to be guarding him, wouldn't they be better facing outwards? Then again, what were they supposed to be guarding him against? Increasingly, the Daleks were treating him as a prisoner.

"I want to see the Emperor," Kralin said.

There was a brief pause, and then one of the Daleks glided forward. "The Emperor is unavailable," it declared.

"Then it can make itself available," Kralin snapped. "There are important matters to be dealt with, and I'm achieving nothing stuck in here."

He made to stride from the room, but the Dalek slammed its manipulator arm into him, and forced him back through the doorway. "You will wait here until you are summoned. The Emperor has decreed it."

It pushed him back into the room, and the door slid shut. Kralin reached for the door control again, but this time it did not respond. They had locked him in. Kralin slammed his fist into the sold metal wall. This time, the Daleks had gone too far.

----

They were collected from their cell by the Black Dalek, with four Daleks as an escort, and marched along more of the interminable metal corridors. They came to another low arched doorway, which slid open. The Daleks shepherded them through, into some sort of laboratory.

Two Dalek technicians were working at a control panel. In the centre of the room, humming with power, was a rectangular metal frame, about the size of a man to Abby it looked alarmingly like an upright coffin. The Emperor and the Red Dalek were waiting beside it. "Bring the Doctor forward," the Emperor ordered.

While the guards restrained Abby inside the doorway, the Black Dalek nudged the Doctor with its manipulator arm, and pushed him towards the machine. He offered no resistance, and stepped calmly inside the metal frame. Clamps extended from the sides of the frame, wrapping themselves around the Doctor's wrists and ankles and securing him in position.

"Commence conditioning," said the Emperor. The technicians busied themselves about their console, and Abby watched in horror as a gleaming silver dome descended from the top of the frame to cover the Doctor's head. The machine started to emit a low whining sound, and the entire laboratory throbbed with naked energy.

The Doctor opened his mouth as if to scream, but he made no sound. Abby saw his eyes begin to glaze over, all the sense of life and vitality vanishing from them all the good humour and eccentricity seemed to drain from his face.

Finally, one of the Daleks reported, "Conditioning is completed." The noise of the machine slowly faded away. Then the dome lifted from the top of the Doctor's head. His face was blank, completely expressionless.

"Release the subject," ordered the Emperor. The clamps were retracted, but the Doctor remained standing in exactly the same position. Then the Emperor turned to him, and said, "Move forward."

The Doctor stepped out of the conditioning machine, his movements stiff and jerky, almost mechanical. "We will now proceed to the temporal experimentation centre," said the Emperor. "There, you will construct the necessary systems to facilitate time travel."

"I obey," replied the Doctor. His voice was a flat, emotionless monotone. Abby felt hot tears starting to prick at her eyes, as she realized the Doctor she knew had been destroyed. The man who stood before her now was an automaton, nothing more than a Dalek himself.

The Emperor turned to regard her. "Return the female to the detention cells," it ordered, "until we have ascertained that the conditioning is total."

"We obey!" Two of the Dalek guards guided Abby back out into the corridor. She felt strangely numb, as if part of her had died. Even her fear of the Daleks seemed to have been pushed to the back of her mind. All she could think about now was that she had lost the Doctor and that meant the Daleks had won.

----

The temporal experimentation centre was another low-ceilinged chamber. On the Emperor's orders, the Doctor's Tardis had been deposited here, and stood against one wall. In the centre of the room stood various control panels and work benches covered with all the tools and equipment it was thought the Doctor would need to complete his work. Placed next to the benches were two large cylindrical objects so large in fact that they would not have fitted in the room if part of the ceiling had not been slid aside. They were the very latest model of space warp engine, such as were in the process of being tested aboard the Daleks' first generation of interplanetary spaceships. Dalek scientists had reasoned that the best plan was to attempt to incorporate time travel capability into these engines, so that their spacecraft would be completely versatile a conclusion the Doctor had concurred with. He was now engrossed in making the necessary modifications.

The Emperor watched from inside the doorway, the Black Dalek beside it. The Doctor worked quickly and methodically, speaking only to give instructions to the two Dalek technicians employed to fetch and carry for him. A third Dalek monitored an instrument display, which scanned the Doctor's brain patterns. The Emperor wanted to make sure the mental conditioning was intact. The key to the Doctor's time machine rested on the far end of the work bench, under the watchful eye of one of the technicians. The Doctor would need it to collect any specialized components from inside the vessel so far he had not requested it, and the brain scan did not indicate that he harboured any thoughts of attempting escape.

The Doctor stopped what he was doing, emerging from an inspection hatch in the side of a warp engine. He walked over to a control panel, and studied some readings. Then he looked up at the Emperor, and said: "The modifications are ineffective."

"Explain," demanded the Emperor.

The Doctor's blank expression did not change. "The local time field has been severely distorted. This effect has rendered the chronal transfer systems inoperable."

The Emperor turned to the Dalek monitoring the Doctor's brain pattern. It scanned its read-out, and reported: "Detectors indicate truthful response."

Returning its attention to the Doctor, the Emperor asked, "What is the cause of this effect?"

"The artefacts known as talismans have generated powerful emissions of temporal energy," said the Doctor. "The new systems will not work unless I can isolate and counteract this effect."

"What action is necessary?"

"The three must be brought here. I will then be able to analyse their effect, and construct a suitable counter-measure."

A trace of suspicion crossed the Emperor's mind it had been programmed with a sense of caution absent from lesser Daleks, to aid in its tactical decision-making. Considering the battle that had been raging between Kralin and the Doctor for control of these talismans, the Doctor's request seemed almost like a bluff to gain possession of the artefacts. But surely his conditioning would preclude such independent thinking? For confirmation, the Emperor turned once more to the Dalek scanning his brain. "Detectors indicate truthful response," it said.

Satisfied, the Emperor swivelled to face the Black Dalek. "Have the talismans brought here."

A silent signal was sent forth, and within minutes, two Daleks entered the laboratory each bearing a talisman in its manipulator. The Doctor took them over to the work bench, and started to erect some equipment round them. Then he looked up at the Emperor. "The combined energy of three talismans has caused the localized disruption. I need all three here before I can proceed."

"Kralin has retained the third artefact," the Black Dalek stated.

"Then we must take it from him," replied the Emperor.

----

The door to his quarters slid open. So the Daleks were acknowledging him at last. Kralin turned angrily to find the Red Dalek waiting in the doorway.

"At last," Kralin snarled. "I demand to be taken to the Emperor."

"Silence!" shrieked the Red Dalek. It advanced into the room, forcing Kralin back with a savage blow from its manipulator arm. Three more Daleks entered behind it, and started to search the room. There were few hiding places amid the sparse furniture, and they soon found the talisman on top of a bare metal table. As the Red Dalek held Kralin pinioned against the wall, one of the Daleks snatched up the medallion.

"Take it to the laboratory," ordered the Red Dalek.

"I obey!"

Once the Dalek had left, the Red Dalek moved back and released Kralin from its grip. "You will move ahead of us," it ordered. "Do not attempt to resist."

"And if I do?" asked Kralin aggressively.

"You will be exterminated."

Kralin stared defiantly into the Red Dalek's lens for a moment but he realized that the odds were stacked against him. He shrugged, and moved out into the corridor, where another two Daleks were waiting. They turned, and began to lead the way along the corridor. Kralin followed them.

Within minutes, he had worked out that they were taking him to the detention cells. So, their alliance was at an end. Kralin was not unduly surprised. He had always known this would happen just not quite so soon. Without turning round, he sensed the three Daleks behind him, the Red Dalek close enough to prod him with its manipulator if he dawdled. His chances of escape were not good in the human body he wore, he was vulnerable to the Daleks' weapons. In his true form of course, nothing could affect him but he could not maintain it and exist within the corporeal realm.

Nevertheless, he reached out his consciousness and drew on primal powers, gathering the energy he would need to regain his true nature. He could manifest himself for perhaps just a few seconds, but it would be enough it would have to be.

----

Abby sat despondently on the bare floor of her cell, her head in her hands. Tears welled up behind her tightly closed eyelids. Somewhere inside, she was worried about her fate, sure the Daleks would kill her as soon as they had got what they wanted from the Doctor. But she found it hard to contemplate the future all she could see was the image of the Doctor emerging from the brainwashing machine, his mind taken over by the Daleks. It was as if all her hopes had died in that moment.

She heard the door start to slide open. Slowly, she lifted her head, fearing the worst. She caught a glimpse of a Dalek outside in the corridor, but instantly her vision was washed out by a glare of harsh light the strongest, brightest, most searing light she had ever seen. She screwed her eyes tightly shut, and instinctively curled into a ball as if some deep-rooted primal fear had taken hold, she knew she had to protect herself from the intensity of the light.

Within moments, the glare seemed to have faded. Abby cautiously looked round, and saw that the cell door was standing open. Outside, the metal walls of the corridor seemed to have shattered and melted, and thin wisps of acrid smoke drifted through the air. Abby crawled slowly forward to the doorway, careful to avoid rivulets of molten metal that dripped from the frame.

The terrible devastating light had gone, but a strange shimmering glow seemed to permeate the corridor like a will o' the wisp. The broken remains of five Daleks lay scattered along the corridor. It was as if their casings had simply collapsed under the pressure of some immense force. Almost in front of Abby was a small heap of twisted metal from its colour, she realized it was all that remained of the Red Dalek. Suddenly, the crumpled metal panels shifted as something moved beneath them. Metal was forced aside, and a hideous creature crawled painfully from the wreckage.

It was the most terrible thing she had ever seen. Her mind screamed with the horror of it, and retreated in shock from the sight. She simply could not comprehend what she was seeing. All her vision focused on one tiny detail a scaly, withered hand or claw that jerked spasmodically with pain. It was clear the creature was dying.

Abby shuddered, and turned away, whimpering pathetically. Dimly, she registered that the glow of light was shrinking and coalescing, slowly solidifying into a human form beside her. The next thing she knew, Kralin was standing there. He reached down and grabbed her by the arm, yanking her roughly to her feet. Then he started to drag her along the corridor. In her shocked state, Abby could not resist.

----

The third talisman was placed into the Doctor's hand. On the work bench, he had constructed a temporal dampening apparatus. The other two talismans were wired into a metal framework, surrounded by equipment he had modified from the ignition systems of the warp engines. Quickly, he connected the third talisman into the system, and started to activate the power.

The Emperor watched carefully. It had no real understanding of what the Doctor was doing, but the brain scan indicated that his conditioning was still intact. The Doctor's face was expressionless as a hum of power started to build up, and the apparatus shook with a steady vibration. The three talismans began to glow with a soft inner light, and luminescent sparks flared briefly on their faces, like bubbles bursting on the surface of a lake.

Then Kralin appeared the doorway, dragging Abby with him. Entering the chamber, he dropped her heavily to the ground, and slammed the control to shut the door. He looked around wildly as the Daleks swung round to cover him. The Emperor and the Black Dalek were nearest, and there were five technicians working on equipment in the centre of the laboratory. They could shoot him down in an instant.

Before the Emperor could give the order, Kralin bellowed, "The Red Dalek is destroyed. And the guards you sent with it. Check their remote transponder signals."

Even as he was speaking, the Emperor had gained confirmation from the city's central control system. He had played back the last moments of the Red Dalek's life, relayed to the memory computer, and seen the power that Kralin had let loose. There was no defence against it. However, computer analysis suggested that Kralin could manifest as an energy being for just a short period he could easily be killed once he reverted to his humanoid shape. The Emperor sent out a signal for Dalek reinforcements to gather outside the laboratory.

But that was simply a precaution. The Emperor's main concern was to prevent Kralin using his power, which he surely would if the order was given to open fire. The Emperor had no care for its own existence if it was destroyed, a new Dalek Emperor would be constructed and programmed. But the technology in this room was vital to ensure the supremacy of the Daleks, and it had to be protected.

The Emperor and Kralin regarded each other warily. "What do you want, Kralin?" the Emperor asked.

"Give me the talismans," Kralin responded.

The Emperor considered. The talismans were of little importance to the Daleks. Once the Doctor had finished his work, and the Daleks had the power of time travel, it could see no reason not to grant Kralin's request. So it was simply a matter of holding Kralin at bay until the Doctor's process was completed.

Overlooked in the stand-off, Abby managed to scramble to her feet. She caught sight of the Doctor across the room, and ran desperately towards him. If she'd been thinking straight, she'd have remembered that the Daleks had brainwashed him but in that moment, he was the only reassuring image she could latch on to. The Black Dalek turned to follow her progress. "Stop her!" it ordered.

The Dalek technicians were slow to respond, since they had blanket instructions broadcast by the Emperor to keep Kralin covered. Only the Black Dalek was on an independent command circuit.

It was the Doctor who stepped forward with stiff, mechanical movements. He grabbed Abby firmly by the arms, and brought her staggering to a halt. She was jolted back into full awareness. Looking up into his blank, empty face, she realized how misplaced her hopes had been. There was nothing left of the Doctor she knew. Then amazingly, he winked at her. Abby felt her heart leap. The Doctor was all right after all had he been faking it all this time? His back was towards the Daleks, so they couldn't see when he put his finger briefly to his lips and then he smiled at her, the most wonderful smile she had ever seen in her entire life.

One of the Dalek technicians arrived at the Doctor's side, and he surrendered Abby to it. It pushed her towards the wall, and held her there with its manipulator arm. When the Doctor turned back to face the Daleks, all traces of his real self had vanished once more. He walked over to the equipment like an automaton, and adjusted some of the controls. The whining sound grew in intensity, and the vibration shook the entire laboratory.

Kralin's attention was drawn away from his confrontation with the Emperor, and for the first time, he took note of what the Doctor was doing. The strange sparks of light that burst from the talismans with increasing regularity could mean only one thing. "No!" he screamed. "Stop him!"

A massive shockwave suddenly erupted from the centre of the room, knocking the Daleks back against the walls. The Doctor ducked beneath the work bench as bolts of energy began to shoot out from his apparatus. Each struck some piece of the Daleks' machinery and caused it to explode. Finally, the two huge warp engines caught fire.

As the Emperor got its motive system back under control, it watched as the Daleks' chance of acquiring time travel technology went up in smoke. Analysing the energy patterns in the room, it quickly ascertained that the Doctor's apparatus was to blame. "All Daleks," it ordered. "Destroy the Doctor's equipment immediately!"

Seven Dalek weapons opened fire simultaneously, their energy bolts converging on the framework that held the talismans. The apparatus exploded. The three talismans were flung out from the centre of the blast, apparently undamaged. One of them clattered to the floor a few feet in front of Kralin. He made a leap for it, brushing past the Black Dalek and sliding along the polished floor, his arm outstretched. As his fingers closed around the talisman, he looked up to see the Black Dalek swinging round to cover him. Kralin closed his eyes, and summoned a time storm around himself. He disappeared in the swell of temporal energy, even as the Black Dalek was opening fire.

Abby found herself ignored by her Dalek guard, which had moved forward to assist its fellows in trying to control the flames. She looked round for the Doctor, but instead caught sight of one of the talismans lying on the floor in front of the burning warp engines. Without even knowing why, Abby scurried forward, diving between the Dalek technicians, and scooped it up into her hand.

The technicians ignored her, their own tasks too pressing. But then Abby saw the Emperor and the Black Dalek looming through the haze of smoke, their weapons turned upon her. Suddenly, she felt someone grab her hand, and she was hauled to her feet, just as the energy blasts from the Dalek guns struck the floor where she had been sitting a moment before. Abby regained her balance, and started to run. She gripped the Doctor's hand tightly, and let him guide her.

The Doctor scooped the Tardis key from the work bench, and they ran towards the police box. More Dalek energy bolts filled the air around them. When they reached the Tardis door, there was a moment's agonizing delay as the Doctor unlocked it. Then they practically tumbled inside, just as the air exploded where they had been standing.

The Emperor watched the door close behind them. The mechanical roar of the Tardis engines filled the laboratory, and the ship faded from view. Turning to survey the chamber, the Emperor listened to reports from around the city. The explosion of the warp engines had caused damage on the levels above, and fire had spread to other parts of the city.

As the Emperor issued orders to the central computer to organize damage limitation procedures, it moved forward into the wreckage around the Doctor's work bench. All the equipment had been destroyed, and with it the chance of the Daleks mastering time travel. But then the Emperor's eye registered something lying amid the wreckage. It extended its manipulator arm, and plucked one of the talismans from the floor.

----

Sitting in an armchair, Abby had just finished relating her experiences in the cell block. Her description of Kralin's transformation was final confirmation of the Doctor's suspicions that Kralin was a luminant, or at least the corporeal manifestation of one. This revelation opened a number of mysteries. For a start, the luminants were supposed to have passed on from this universe millennia ago. And if Kralin was still around, where were the others?

None of this bothered Abby of course she was still reliving her encounter with the Red Dalek's mortal remains. She tried to press herself deeper into the chair, as if it could cocoon her against the horror. "It was the most horrendous thing..." she said haltingly. "I can't even find the words to describe it." She shuddered at the memory, and wondered whether it would haunt her nightmares.

"It's not very pleasant, is it?" muttered the Doctor.

"You've seen it?"

He nodded. "I'm sorry. I suppose I should have warned you about what's inside a Dalek, but I rather hoped you'd never have to come face to face with one."

Abby took a deep breath, but it did little to calm her nerves. "I just thought they were robots or something," she said.

"No," said the Doctor sadly. "They were as human as you once. Their planet was ravaged by a terrible nuclear war and they were the survivors. Those casings allow them to move, and keep them alive. But the minds inside have... festered."

"Is that what made them evil?"

"Maybe." The Doctor walked back to the control console, and started to read the instrument displays. "The Daleks are driven by hatred is that their own self- loathing, externalized and transformed into rabid xenophobia, until they despise all other creatures? They believe they're superior beings, and that it's their right to rule the universe and any races who won't submit, they simply destroy. That's the reality of the Dalek Empire genocide and slave labour. They have no sense of conscience no compassion, no ethics, no pity."

Abby slowly got up from her chair, and went over to join him. "So what do we do now?" she asked.

The Doctor shrugged. "I'm scanning for the time traces of the other talismans. We can't afford to rest now. Kralin's still got one of them and the Daleks have got two."

"No, they haven't." Abby rummaged in her jeans pocket, and pulled out the talisman she'd snatched off the laboratory floor. The Doctor gazed at it uncomprehendingly for a few seconds then he laughed, and took it from her delightedly.

"Abby, you're a genius," he said, and placed the talisman on the console beside the one that was still wired in. "With two talismans in alignment, we've got the advantage over Kralin and the Daleks."

"And that's good, is it?"

"Well, it means I can outmanoeuvre them." The Doctor beamed happily at her. "More importantly, it gives me the opportunity to return you to your own time."

"Oh." For some reason, Abby felt a surge of disappointment. She couldn't understand it. She'd been battered, bruised, shot at, and subjected to the most mind- numbing horror imaginable and yet, she felt she'd lived more in the last couple of days than she had in all the twenty-three years beforehand. She watched in a sort of daze as the Doctor moved his hands over the controls.

Then the Tardis seemed to tip up. Abby and the Doctor fell sprawling on the floor. The ship began to buck and pitch, like it was riding on a storm-tossed sea. The Doctor crawled towards the console, and slowly hauled himself up to the control panel.

"What's happening?" Abby cried, as she was flung from one side of the room to the other.

"Some sort of turbulence," replied the Doctor. "Huge ripples in the fabric of the space/time continuum."

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know." Clinging to the console with one hand, the Doctor tried to adjust some of the controls with the other. "It's as if the structure of time is changing all around us."

Abby found herself rolling across the floor. She hit the wall hard, knocking the wind out of her. "I don't think we can take much more of this," she shouted.

"Hold on," said the Doctor. "I'm going to try and break us out of it." He slammed home some booster switches.

The Tardis gave a sudden lurch, and Abby was flung forward into the base of the console. When she got her breath back, she realized that the ship was still. She looked up to see the Doctor on his feet, wiping some imaginary dust from the controls.

"Are we all right?" she asked.

"Looks like it," said the Doctor. He activated the scanner screen. "We're in orbit of the Earth, circa 2003 AD."

He reached down, and helped Abby to get up. Taking a deep breath, she turned to look at the scanner. Instead of the blue world she expected, the Earth appeared reddish-brown in colour. "You've brought us to the wrong planet."

The Doctor was already studying the instruments. "No, it's Earth all right."

"Then what's happened?" Abby demanded.

"The whole planet's dead," said the Doctor. "Just a radioactive cinder."

"But how?"

"Kralin it must be. He's gone back in time and altered history." He turned desperately back to the console.

Abby could not take her eyes from the screen. "My world..." she whispered.

"It's worse than that.," snapped the Doctor. "If the human race doesn't survive, to move into space and establish the empire, the future balance of power will be disrupted. A thousand years from now, the Daleks will rule the galaxy." He ran round to another panel. "Got it!"

"What?" asked Abby.

"Kralin's time trace. I've tracked him through the resonance of the talismans."

"So what do we do?"

The Doctor began to set the directional controls. "We have no choice. We've got to follow him back, and put things right."

 

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