By Michael Mayo

The inky void, filled with million of pinprick stars, was suddenly smeared with a blue streak as an insignificant time machine spun insanely and wildly out of control.

“Hold on,” screamed the Doctor as he grasped the console as the TARDIS rocked and tumbled. Ace was thrown against the wall and on to the floor.

“Grab my hand,” the Doctor yelled, reaching out as the ship tossed and turned. Ace took and the Doctor pulled her to her feet. She supported herself against the console and prepared for the worst.

“What's happening?” she yelled over a growing roar, like the sound a river makes over rapids magnified a thousand times.

“A little turbulence,” replied the Doctor, feverishly trying to push buttons and punch in commands. “Should pass soon. I hope.”

Suddenly there was a flash and a brilliant bolt of blue energy soared from the wall into the Time Rotor.

“Oh no,” said the Doctor,” Get down!!” He pulled Ace down the floor of the TARDIS. More bolts if lightning flashed above them into the console, forming a glittering, constantly flickering blue web.

The Doctor and Ace were thrown into one corner of the console room as the TARDIS began shaking even more violently. Arcs of fire burst above their heads and the console itself began to spark and smoke.

“What is it?” screamed Ace.

“A Time Cloud,” yelled the Doctor, but his voice was lost in the din... and it was over. The blue fire vanished and the TARDIS stopped shaking. The only reminder that something had ever happened were the few wisps of smoke seeping out of the console.

The Doctor stood and went to examine the dials and screens. “That's lucky,” he said,” it's not too damaged. He fanned away the last of the smoke with his hat.

“We've landed. Look,” said Ace, and she pointed at the Time Rotor. It was motionless, meaning they had left the time/space vortex. She operated the scanner and the screen on the wall lit up. It showed a barren, dead landscape of dry rocks and sand. The sky was pitch black lit only by the faint pinpricks of stars, which looked blurred and indistinct.

“Yuck,” said Ace. “It's a rock. Let's leave.”

“Don't be so hasty. According to the TARDIS it has a warm oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere.”

“If it does, why doesn't it have any life then?” asked Ace, impatient as ever.

“Perhaps it does,” said the Doctor. “Let's take a look, shall we?” He operated a lever and the TARDIS doors hummed open. He slipped on his hat and left.

“We'd better not take long. Remember, we have to get to Perivale,” called Ace.

“Time is flexible,” came the reply from outside.

Ace followed the voice. She found the Doctor kneeling down, examining the sand. She crouched down and took a handful. It was dry and dusty.

“I wonder why this a dead planet,” said the Doctor, “considering it has such a life-supporting atmosphere.” He walked over to a rock and broke a chunk off. It crumbled in his hands.

Ace came over to him. “Doctor, is it possible that the turbulence we came through had anything to do with this?”

“No. Time Clouds are natural distortions to the time continuum. They don't even exist in space. As we found out, they can be particularly nasty to time travellers.

Then the Doctor paused. “But they've always been an unexplained phenomenon, even to the Time Lords.”

“You mean they could exist in space as well?” asked Ace.

“I'm not sure,” said the Doctor. “Possibly.”

Ace wandered over to the small rise to get a better look at the mountain that stood on the horizon. She enjoyed stepping on the stones that littered the dusty landscape and feeling them crumble beneath her feet.

When she reached the top a look of excitement crossed her face. “Doctor,” she cried,” Come, look.”

The Doctor arrived and they both gazed over a flat plain that stretched off into the distance. Nearby, some twenty or 50 metres from the TARDIS, was a great orb. It looked about five metres in diameter and sat about a metre from the ground on a stone plinth. They approached it, it appeared to be made of some sort of glassy stone, like polished marble.

“Hey cool,” said Ace and ran up to it.

“Stop,” cried the Doctor, but it was too late. She ran her hands over the surface of the orb. Nothing happened. “ Never do that again,” said the Doctor tetchily, “unless you want to end up dead. Curiosity killed the Dalek.”

“Sorry, Doctor, I couldn't resist. It looked so neat.”

“Yes, well, watch out in the future. It could be a trap.”

As soon as he said those words, the orb seemed to pulse with inner light. Ace and the Doctor backed away.

“I think I'm beginning to understand,” said the Doctor. “This is no planet, it's a Time Core.”

“Time Core?”

“Yes, a planet already absorbed into time. It loses its existence to space and exists only in the fourth dimension. They're usually found in the center of a Time Cloud. A planet is absorbed by a Cloud, and the Cloud feeds off the planet's energy by draining its life-force.”

“I don't understand,” said Ace. “We're standing on ground, right? Therefore this planet must exist in space.”

“In a sense,” the Doctor said. “Look, we'd better get back to the TARDIS. I thought the Cloud had spat us out, so to say, but it seems to want us to stay. Let's try and avoid that, huh?” They turned and ran back across the sand towards the blue box they valued so much.

Meanwhile the orb began to glow. From it came a blurred ball of pale white light. It floated across the sand, following the two beings and accelerating after them.

The Doctor arrived at the TARDIS first. As he took his key out, a strange sensation came over him. Suddenly everything went black, and he collapsed, crumpling on the ground.

“Doctor,” cried Ace, bending over and shaking his shoulder.

The Doctor stirred after a few seconds. “What? Huh?” he said, as if in a daydream. “I'm sorry, I must have fainted.” He stood, brushing himself down, then unlocked the door. The two entered the TARDIS. In a few moments it dematerialized, leaving the planet dead and lifeless again.

At the exact moment the machine left, the marvelous orb crumpled to a pile of dust. Its task had been performed.

“There we are,” said the Doctor. “Out of the Time Cloud without so much as a jolt.” He flicked a few switches on the console.

“So, on to Earth,” Ace said.

“No, not quite yet.” The Doctor tapped a few buttons. “I'm re-setting the co-ordinates.”

“Why?” Ace asked, “I thought -”

“I don't care what you think,” roared the Doctor angrily. “Don't forget that you're a passenger on this ship. I could dump you anywhere I like.”

Ace reeled back in horror. Was this the Doctor she had known? Surely not. “Doctor, are you sure you're all right?”

“Of course I am,” snapped the Time Lord. He lay down beneath the console and removed one of the panels. It revealed piles of jumbled intricate circuitry,

“What are you doing?” Ace asked.

“Removing a Radon Torch,” replied the Doctor as he clipped wires with an electronic knife and undid things. There were a few sparks but he seemed undeterred by them.

“Radon Torch?”

The Doctor groaned. Why had he chosen this miserable human being to travel with? “Never mind. Why don't you go and play a game or something ridiculous like that? Oh, and hand me the Neutron Pliers.”

Infuriating little worm, though Ace. The Neutron Pliers were at her feet where the Doctor had dropped them, so she kicked them across the floor at him. The Doctor caught them.

“Well you could as least say thank you,” she said angrily.

The Doctor brought his head out from under the console. “Go away and stop annoying me,” he ordered harshly.

“That's it,” said Ace, “I'm leaving at Perivale. I'm going to pack my things.” She stomped over to the interior doors. No reply. “Did you hear me?” she snapped.

“Yes,” said the Doctor from beneath the console. “Enjoy yourself.”

Ace stomped out into the corridor in a rage. She decided not to go to her room for two reasons. Firstly, she didn't have any things to pack and secondly, she wanted to see what the Doctor would do next. She was convinced that somehow he'd been affected by the fainting spell he'd had, so she peeked through the slightly open interior door.

A few moments passed, and then the Doctor came up from under the console holding a metal canister. It was about a foot long and a quarter that wide. He cradled it in his arms like a baby and stepped over the jumble of equipment that he'd pulled from the console and left scattered over the floor. “Excellent,” he muttered as he examined the canister. “Excellent.”

“What is it?” asked Ace entering.

“I told you,” said the Doctor, “The TARDIS's Radon Torch.” He strode around the console, holding it out in front of him as if it were some sort of magical object. “Yes,” he said quietly, “this contains enough power for the task.”

Suddenly the Torch dropped from his hands and clattered to the floor. He screamed and fell to his knees. “Ace...” he groaned in agony.

“What happened to you?” asked Ace, approaching cautiously.

Sweat was breaking out on the Doctor's brow and he was shaking uncontrollably. “Something's got a grip on my.. ........ can't break free... can't fight it for long, either...” He fell flat on his face.

“What can I do?” she asked mystified.

“Mustn't... mustn't go to... to Kaldastra.” They were his last words. He just lay there, silent, motionless and unconscious...

Ace stood up. She understood now. An alien had taken over the Doctor. Obviously it was something from that Time Cloud. But Kaldastra? She'd never heard of such a planet, even assuming it was a planet. Then she decided to check the console. If it was a world then its coordinates would be programmed in. The Doctor had already changed the course from Perivale.

She wasn't quite sure how to do it. She'd only been with the Doctor for a short time and so couldn't remember how he would set a course, but it came to her vaguely. After fiddling a bit a screen on the console displayed the words: 'ICEWORLD - EARTH SETTING ABORTED.' Beneath these words were the complex numbers representing the co-ordinates of the two planets. She tapped another button and the printing in the screen displayed: 'CURRENT SETTING: ICEWORLD - KALDASTRA'. So, thought Ace, Kaldastra. She wondered what it was about the place that an alien so desperately wanted to get there. She located a menu and brought it to the screen, choosing 'ABORT DESTINATION'. The computer asked for confirmation. She reached out to push the affirmative button when an iron hand gripped her wrist.

“I wouldn't do that if I were you,” snarled the Doctor. Then he pushed Ace against the wall, she smashing into it with her shoulder. The Doctor turned to her, grinning sinisterly. Ace edged away.

“The real Doctor would never hurt me,” she said rubbing her shoulder.

“Maybe not,” said the Time Lord, “but then I'm not the Doctor.” He gave an evil chuckle. Ace pushed past him and ran away into the interior of the TARDIS.

“Run as much as you like,” screamed the Doctor. “I don't care at all.” He laughed madly for a few seconds, then reached down and picked up the Radon Torch, cradling it in his hands as if it were a massive bomb.

Frak Mordine sat behind his chair and rested his legs on his desk. He took a swig from his bottle of Mukon wine, then threw it across his office, watching it smash into the plasti-steel door, sending runny blue liquid everywhere.

“Filthy rubbish!” he screamed at the top of his voice. Then he let his head rest against the back of the chair and prepared himself for some much-needed rest.

Frak's office was about ten metres square. It was very modern with several computer terminals and lots of equipment, but was furnished in the style of Old Kaldastra, before the Arrival. Frak was eccentric. No one could understand why he bothered to collect endless amounts of furnishings, toys and even tools from the time before the Arrival.

Two hundred years ago the Federation found Kaldastra. An insignificant Earth-type planet on the edge of the galaxy, inhabited by a race of blue-skinned primitives. And as usual the Federation took advantage of the natives' ignorance, buying the entire planet off them. Since then most of the Kaldastrians has been shipped off to a world especially reserved for 'savages. Those natives that remained on Kaldastra were brought to the technological level of the humans, and since the massive colonization had been known to them as 'The Arrival'.

Real cute, thought Mordine. And that's why he was so obsessed with the ancient culture of the planet. It had all but vanished, the last remains of it stagnating in some small artificial environment hundreds of light years away on a small insignificant museum planet.

The Kaldastra of today was an overcrowded, violent place. Massive skyscrapers soared into the sky. Anti-gray vehicles sped about everywhere. Spaceships blasted of into the clouds every twenty minutes. People were mugged, beaten, murdered and tortured daily. Frak yawned. All this because of him. He was the ruler, President Supreme. And he was the most corrupt President in the Federation.

The intercom buzzed. Annoyed at being disturbed, Frak slammed his hand down on one of the buttons on the arm of his chair.

A smooth, emotionless computer voice spoke. “Organic life-form to see you, Mr President,” it chimed.

“Yeah, yeah, who?”

“Identity not recorded, sir.”

“Then how did it get past security,” Frak demanded.

“No data available, sir.”

“What do you mean, you lump of rusted metal?”

“I think I can explain,” said an unfamiliar voice from the doorway. It was the Doctor. He walked in and took a seat, carrying the Radon Torch with him.

“Hey, who the hell are you?” demanded Mordine.

“A friend,” said the Doctor. He sniffed the air. “Ah, Mukon wine, I believe. This Time Lord has exceptional knowledge of alien delicacies.”

“I'm calling security,” said Frak, reaching for the button on his desk, but the Doctor grabbed his wrist and stopped him.

“I've come to show you something, Mr President.”

“Oh yeah,” said Frak, suddenly weary of the stranger. His hand was released. It throbbed with pain, having almost been crushed. “What do you want to show me?”

“This,” said the Doctor as he placed the Radon Torch still in its metal canister on Mordine's desk. The Doctor seemed almost hypnotised by it.

Frak was beginning to panic. This guy was some sort of lunatic, he was sure of that. “Well, what is it?”

“Power... massive power...” whispered the Doctor, mesmerised. “Watch,” he muttered mysteriously as he began to open it.

The glow that came from the slight crack as the Doctor opened the canister lit the room like a blazing sun. Instinctively, Frak covered his eyes, but the heat was intense. He fell to the ground, writhing in agony as millions of deadly rays surged through his puny body.

Finally, the Doctor completely opened the canister. The glare and heat was unbearable, and then the canister was closed, the Doctor dropping it with a clatter as he fell to the ground.

A few seconds later Frak stirred. He stood, a little dizzy, but unharmed. He glanced at the Doctor's motionless body briefly, then smiled. The transference had worked. He took the sealed Radon Torch and left the office. There was much work to do.

Ace entered the console room. The console's insides were still scattered everywhere across the floor and the outer door was open. The Doctor was gone. Obviously they were in Kaldastra.

Cautiously, Ace left. The TARDIS had materialised in a large, regal corridor. At one end were some stairs and at the other two large steel double doors. They hung open, so Ace entered. It was a large office of some sort and there was someone lying on the floor. It was the Doctor!

Ace knelt and checked to see if he was still alive. She wasn't very confident. Only one of his hearts was beating, and he didn't seem to be breathing. If he were dead she wouldn't know what to do.

Suddenly two eyes blinked open. “Hello, Ace,” said the Doctor.

“Doctor,” she cried, overjoyed. Then she stood and moved back, unsure whether it really was the Doctor.

“Don't worry. The alien conscience had left me. It moved on to another person.”

“How do I know?” asked Ace suspiciously.

The Doctor stood up. “You don't. Trust me. I'm me is me is me is me.” He turned and headed through the double doors and into the TARDIS.

“Oh no,” said the Doctor as he surveyed the mess in the console room. “Did I really do all this?”

“Yes,” said Ace.

“And what did I remove?”

“The Radon Torch.”

“Radon Torch?!” said the Doctor suddenly serious. He lay down and checked the interior of the console. “Ace, this is terrible. A Radon Torch, if used incorrectly, could devastate half a planet.”

“Like a nuclear bomb?” Ace asked. She began tidying all the circuitry that had been scattered into a pile.

“Nothing so crude. It's an energy source for the TARDIS. Luckily I have back-ups, but we've got to get that Torch back or this planet could be in for a nasty shock.” He began returning the bits and pieces to their rightful places in the console.

“What was it like?” asked Ace, “to be possessed?”

“A bit foggy, actually,” replied the Doctor as he worked. “I wasn't aware of much. All I seem to remember was trying to break free and talking to you.” Then the Doctor stopped his work and concentrated. “The alien used a fraction of the Radon Torch's power to jump from me to someone else. Who was it though?”

Suddenly realisation dawned on the Doctor. He sat upright. “Of course! We're in the Presidential Palace. The alien possessed the President.”

“Of Kaldastra?”

“Yes,” said the Doctor, “yes.”

“Well where is he now?”

The Doctor stood and ran his fingers through his hair. “I'm not sure. Why would an alien, with no physical existence at all, want to go out of its way to possess people. Surely it has enough troubles of its own.”

“Perhaps it's trying to survive,” suggested Ace.

“Yes... maybe.” The Doctor went back to the console. “As soon as I've repaired this we'll be on our way. I want that Radon Torch back.” He lay down on his back and got on with the task of repairing the console.

A few hours later Ace was pacing around the TARDIS lab. The Doctor, in a state of level three hypnosis as he called it, was lying unconscious on the operating table.

He had told Ace that the only way of finding out where the alien was and why it had chosen to take over the President was to open up his own subconscious memories. He said that he could be out for anything from a minute to months. They didn't have months, though. Possible only hours, but it was their only chance.

Ace moved into the control room and activated the scanner. It showed a relatively uncrowded Kaldastrian street. There were only a few passers-by, mostly humans, but a few worn-out looking blue-skinned Kaldastrains as well. Before the security personnel had found them the Doctor had repaired the console and materialised the TARDIS on a side street near the main scientific and communications establishments of the planet.

Suddenly there came a call from the other side of the room. Ace ran back into the lab. The Doctor was sitting up, rubbing his head.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

“Yes, yes,” said the Doctor, getting up and putting on his jacket. “I had the most extraordinary experience.”

“Did you find out about the alien?”

“Everything. I even felt the disturbance it made on the telepathic plane. He hurried through into the console room, Ace following behind. “How long was I out?”

“About an hour.”

“Good. The alien's gone to the Communications Center. It plans to impersonate the President, Frak Mordine, and tune all the satellite dishes and major receivers on the planet to the Core of the Time Cloud.”

“And what will that do?”

“Make this planet like a magnet of course,” said the Doctor, preparing the TARDIS for a short spatial jump. “The alien, or whatever it is, plans to suck the Time Cloud around the world so that it can drain its energy.”

“And reduce Kaldastra to sand? Like the other planet?”

“Yes,” said the Doctor. He tapped a button and the control column began its steady rising and falling. “And the reason it wants my Radon Torch is because it takes an immense amount of power to suck the whole planet out of space and into the fourth dimension.”

The TARDIS materialised on the edge of a group of bustling reporters, trying to jam through the doors into the Kaldastrian Communications Center. There were a few policemen waving electro-batons around, clubbing the odd reporter that became too aggressive or persistent.

The Doctor and Ace left the blue box and pushed and shoved through the crowd. “Let me through, let me through,” yelled the Doctor above the babble as he made his way to the entrance. There was a red tape across the doorway, with the police on the inside and the news-mad reporters on the outside.

“Whatdya want?” asked a particularly large and primitive looking policeman, wielding his electrifying weapon with obvious pride.

“What happened here?” demanded the Doctor. No reply. “Listen to me. I am the President Supreme's personal physician. Let me through.”

Another smaller and more intelligent looking policeman stepped up. “Hey, man,” he said in some distant colony world's whacked-out accent, “you certainly get here fast, Doc.”

“I do,” asked the Doctor, temporarily taken aback.

“Yeah, I only phoned a couple of minutes ago. I thought it took half an hour to get here from the hospital.”

“Er... Yes,” said the Doctor, stepping over the red tape. “Never mind.” He turned to face Ace and signalled her to stay. “Now what's happened?”

He was led into the lobby. The policeman told him that the President himself, Frak Mordine, had barged in here with his personal guards and then ordered them to kill everyone in the building. When the guards had refused, Frak had gone mad and locked himself in the communications control center.

“They all eventually flip,” said the policeman. “No president lasts very long.”

“They don't,” asked the Doctor, suddenly very interested, “why not?”

“Well, 'cos the pressure's too much. Everyone knows that. All that responsibility...”

“You mean that the President is the only person who can control communications on the whole planet?”

“Right on,” said the policeman. “Look, I got to go. Good luck talking to the President.” He went back to electrocute some more reporters.

“I've got to get to him,” said the Doctor to himself. He wandered over to the reception desk and began flipping through a computer book, showing the layout of all 204 floors of the building. The communications control room was at the very top.

The Doctor stile across the lobby and into the lift. He tapped '204' and the doors slid shut. The compartment shot up like an arrow.

It took only a few seconds for the anti-gray lift to reach the top floor. The Doctor opened the door to find a small group of people crowded around a thick steel barrier at the end of a considerably wide corridor. The Doctor saw that they were all desperately trying to get in. Some were picking the lock, others trying to furiously drill through the plasti-steel door and others madly and uselessly trying to chip away at it with laser torches. “Who are you?” one of them asked. They were obviously security personnel.

“The President's behind this?” asked the Doctor, ignoring the question.

“Yes. Would you mind showing me your ID card?” asked someone else.

“What? Oh, never mind,” said the Doctor. “Is there any other way to get into that room?”

“Of course not,” boasted another technician proudly, “security reasons.”

“Then we're just going to have to use a localised teleport, aren't we?” said the Doctor.

“A what?” asked another.

“I said - oh, don't worry. Just get me the following equipment: one dimensional transmitter, a matter/energy converter, some sort of power source, a Grigrak circuit board and some wire. You should be able to find everything in this building. Got that?”

“Yes, sir,” said a technician, saluting. He ran off.

“Oh, and the power source needs to be at least fifteen hundred Quatrics,” called the Doctor. The technician acknowledged and entered the lift.

Frak sat hunched in a chair behind a massive desk of switches, keyboards and controls. From here he could control total communications on Kaldastra. The Radon Torch in the metal canister lay at his feet while he worked. Only a few minutes to go before every satellite on the planet would be aligned on the Core.

The control room was huge, like the inside of a cathedral. Equipment was scattered everywhere. A few bodies lay about, unfortunate scientists who had become targets for Frak's energy beams.

Finally he sat back and relaxed. It was done. The absorbing of the Time Cloud could begin.

Outside there was chaos. People were running everywhere in terror. The sky had suddenly turned from its usual pale yellow colour to a blazing red, and great forks of blue lightning were flashing through the clouds, causing thunder like the destruction of a hundred planets.

Ace ran for her life, fearing that she would be trampled by the insane mob or vaporized by the lightning. She saw three people, one Kaldastrian and two humans - they were running around a corner when a finger if blue flame caught them. All three exploded in fire and were reduced to black dust. Hundreds of people ran past her, screaming and shouting in different languages. The crowd had pushed her far from the TARDIS. Now she had to make her way back. The thought of it made her sick.

“Manifestation 75% complete,” chimed a computer voice in the Communications Center control room. Frak chuckled. Only a few more minutes to go. He reached down and picked the Radon Torch up from his feet. It would soon be needed.

“Hello, President Supreme Mordine,” said a voice behind him. Frak spun around in his chair. It was the Doctor!

“How did you get in here?” demanded Frak, rising to his feet.

“Oh, it was quite easy actually. I generated an electromagnetic field, which had the effect of slightly displacing a predetermined three-dimensional zone. Quick and efficient. Unfortunately it had only enough power to let me through. Now, if you have no objection, I'll just let the others in by more conventional means.” He moved towards the door.

“Stop!” screamed Frak. He reached out an arm and a bolt of brilliant white light flew through the air and smashed the Doctor down.

“Very impressive,” groaned the Doctor from the floor as he tried to get his breath back. “You used the power of the Radon Torch.”

“Of course,” said Frak. “I am all powerful.” He turned back to the dials and screens, ignoring the Doctor.

“Manifestation now complete,” chimed the computer.

“At last,” whispered Frak,” the time has come.”

Outside, winds were howling. Hundreds of blue bolts of lightning were sparking through the atmosphere, destroying anything they came into contact with.

The Doctor lunged at Frak. With all his strength, the Time Lord smashed the Radon Torch out of his enemy's hands. It clattered to the floor.

“No,” screamed Frak. He smashed his iron fist into the Doctor's chest. The Time Lord was sent crashing to the ground. Frak raised his arm. “Die, pitiful Time Lord.”

The Doctor had lost his breath and felt like his chest had been blown apart. In great pain he grasped the Radon Torch and held it up for Mordine to see.

“Give that to me,” Frak ordered. The Doctor clawed madly at a desk and pulled himself away. Mordine advanced,

“You can't risk losing your host, can you?” screamed the Doctor. “He could be destroyed if exposed too long.” The Doctor began to open the canister.

“Stop that,” screamed Frak, a note of hysteria entering his voice.

“Not until I get some answers,” said the Doctor, pulling himself to his feet against the wall, “Like why you're so desperate to destroy this world?”

“Every being has a right to survive, intelligent or not. That is what I, us, we are doing. Kaldastra is the closest and most suitable planet for our needs.”

“Living?” said the Doctor, disgust entering his voice. “Living? You don't live, you exist. You feed off wholesome, life-shrouded planets until they're sucked dry. You're not alive, you're a vampire.”

“We are an entity,” said Frak, now calm and controlled. “We exist in time. We have no physical reality. Therefore is it not logical that we would require the life-force of other beings to exist?”

“No,” said the Doctor firmly. “No!”

“All that we ask is that one small planet, rich in life, be given to us once a millennia. It is a small need.”

“I can't allow it,” said the Doctor. “You've possessed people, you've brought pain and suffering, and now you want to devastate a whole world.”

“Hurry and give me the canister, Doctor,” screamed Frak, hysterical now. “Look.” He pressed a button and a whole wall lit up, showing the city below and around them. The lightning that had previously ripped up the air was fluctuating like a flashing light bulb. “If this planet is not absorbed into time, soon we will die. Give me the Torch.”

Frak flew at the Doctor. He knocked the Torch from the Time Lord's hands and it clattered to the ground. “You fool,” screamed the Doctor.

The Radon Torch itself, glowing like a sun, had fallen out. The Doctor hadn't had time to reseal the canister.

Before Frak could comprehend what had happened, he had touched the raw Radon. The scream was deafening, and the entire room exploded in a trillion searing stars...

The Doctor came to. He was alive. He looked around him and saw that he was in the same communications room. And miraculously nothing was harmed.

He pulled himself to his feet and noticed a charred and burnt corpse lying next to the blackened remains of the Torch. Poor Frak. He probably hadn't even been aware of what the alien was doing to his body.

The Doctor glanced at the wall-screen, now showing the sky of Kaldastra. Once again it was its normal pale yellow. He staggered over and unlocked the door.

“And the alien sucked in energy equal in strength to a nuclear bomb?” asked Ace skeptically as the Doctor unlocked the doors of the TARDIS.

“Yes,” said the Doctor. “And that, of course, deprived the Time Cloud of the valuable energy it required to absorb Kaldastra.” They walked into the console room.

“I still don't see how the alien could take in so much energy without there being any radiation leakage.”

“Well, strictly speaking, it could absorb more energy than that, but the human host it had chosen couldn't take the strain. So it burned up, and without the Radon Torch, the Time Cloud would have fizzled back to its point of origin to die a slow, lingering death.”

“Unless it hijacks some other time machine,” added Ace. “Well, where to now?”

“Perivale, I think. I wonder how Mel is getting on with Glitz?” The Doctor dematerialised the TARDIS and it vanished from the surface of Kaldastra.

Elsewhere, million of light years away, the dead planet at the center of the Time Cloud faded out of existence forever, like a candle slowly burning down to nothing...


This item appeared in 25 Years of a Time Lord (January 1989).

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