A Nice Place for a Holiday

By Murray Jackson

The trees were swept with a cool breeze that worked its way through the glade before dissipating into nothing-ness. Such cool breezes were welcome; the somewhat humid, summery conditions could make Dranyaxl an uncomfortable planet were it not for the soothing breezes.

A small reptile was sunning itself on a large rock. The only movement it made was the rapid throbbing of its throat membrane - a rudimentary form of panting. A shadow cell across the rock, and the creature darted away for cover. The intruder paused, throwing a menacing shadow over the rock before moving on. It was consumed with its purpose. One thing was clear - there would be no errors!

The intruder moved off, and a few minutes later, a loud wheezing, groaning sound filled the glade, and a blue box materialised beside the large rock. A door opened, and voices could be heard within.

“Certainly not Heathrow, Doctor,” said a female voice.

The Doctor stepped from the box and smiled at the comment; once Tegan had used those words as an accusation. Now it was a bit of a joke between them.

“I thought we could do with a holiday,” he replied, as Tegan followed him out. She looked around carefully.

“It looks like the Eye of Orion again. It's not, is it?” There was a note of accusation in her voice again.

“Ah, no. I thought we'd steer clear of the Eye for a while. This is Dranyaxl,” he explained. “Is Turlough still asleep?”

Tegan nodded, more interested in the promise of an unexplored location than the present state of her fellow companion.

“We'll leave him here and come back later for him once we've had a look round,” decided the Time Lord. Breathing deeply, he moved off across the glade. The thick carpet of grass was dotted with an increasing number of large rocks, eventually giving way to a completely rocky terrain.

Struggling to keep up with the Doctor's long, athletic strides, Tegan had nearly caught up when a flash of light momentarily blinded her. Glaring down at the offending item, she realised it was a highly polished piece of metal reflecting the sun's rays. Tegan picked it up and held it in the palm of her hand. It was thick and non-pliable. She was about to discard it when the Doctor interrupted her thoughts.

“Well, what have you found?” he inquired, returning to her side.

“Just another small annoyance in life. This one tried to blind me.” She waved it under his nose, and he took it from her, studying it with interest. Noting his fascination with it, Tegan added, “What's so interesting about it?”

“It's an alloy, but as far as I know, no-one on this planet could construct this compound.”

“Perhaps someone else has visited this planet?”

“Oh, I'd say almost certainly, and that's what worries me, Tegan. This is a planet under the protection of the United Systems Fellowship, and their Edict 12 states that planets with primitive cultures like this one should be allowed to develop at their own pace - without outside interference.”

“Are you sure you should be here then, Doctor?” joked Tegan, half seriously.

The Doctor ignored this quip, and went on, “Unfortunately many mining companies ignore the Edicts. Come on,” he said, and started off again.

“Now where to?” asked Tegan, following.

“The local village. If miners are at work here, the locals may need help...” The Doctor trailed off, and studied the fragment of metal again. “You know, the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that the components of this metal can't even be found on this planet. Not only that, but I swear I've seen this alloy type somewhere before. I just can't place it.” He pocketed the metal and quickened his pace. He could see the village now, nestled in a depression beyond the large rocky mound. An odd conglomeration of houses made of wood and stone, the local village. It seemed to be deserted.

Jax was not a brave man, and it showed. His fingers trembled, and his face was lined with worry. He kept a look out for the intruder. How he feared and hated the intruder. It was the intruder that had destroyed his way of life in the village. It had come and taken the villagers away by force, stating an all-important purpose for them. Jax hadn't stuck around to find out just what that purpose was. He was the only one to have so far evaded detection by the intruder.

A sound alerted him, and to his amazement, he saw two strangely clad people he did not recognise walking down the street. The tall blond man was smiling and pointing to various buildings in the village. Jax decided they must be from another village. He popped out from behind a large building. “Over here!” he called hoarsely. “Get out of the open.”

The Doctor and Tegan appeared unsure. The Doctor walked slowly over, and Tegan followed warily, eyeing Jax as though he was about to turn into a Drashig or some other hideous creature.

“Don't you know to stay out of the open? Who are you?” demanded Jax when they were back behind the building.

“Ah, well, we've just arrived,” explained the Doctor. “I'm the Doctor and this is Tegan. Who might you be?”

“Jax. I'm the last of the villagers in this area. The rest are missing... or dead.” He wore a haunted look.

The Doctor looked appalled. “Is that why you told us to stay out of the open?”

Jax nodded. “Elsewise the intruder will get you, like it got everyone else.”

“Tell me about this intruder. That does it look like?”

Jax attempted a rough description from the few times he'd got a good look at it. He was disconcerted to see a look of dawning recognition and horror on the Time Lord's face.

“I knew I recognised that alloy!” he told Tegan. “That piece of metal isn't manmade, it's-”

His revelation was cut short as a blaster bolt blew away part of the building.

“Move out into the open,” ordered a flat mechanical voice, and the trio complied as the smoke cleared to reveal the tall metallic shape of a Cyberman striding across the street towards them.

“Well, Doctor?” demanded Tegan. “What do you suggest we do now?”

“Normally I'd say run, but I'm afraid our Cyberfriend has us covered,” he replied dejectedly. Next to him, Jax was shaking like a leaf. Consumed with blind terror, his nerve broke, and he darted off, weaving his way down the street. Methodically, the Cyberman paused for a clear shot, and then fired.

Tegan tore her gaze from the crumpled body lying in the street. “No!”

“That wasn't necessary,” said the Doctor sadly.

“The humanoid disobeyed my command. Resistance is useless. You would well to remember that,” stated the Cyberman.

“I've heard that one before. Why are you here destroying the peace and harmony of a backwater planet like Dranyaxl?”

“Peace and harmony are foreign words - my presence is strictly military,” rasped the Cyberman.

“Hardly surprising. I've yet to meet a benevolent Cyberman,” ventured Tegan.

“You know of the Cybermen. Then you will have heard of the Cyberwars we have been fighting for many years. Temporary setbacks require more troops.”

Everything was now clear to the Doctor. “You haven't destroyed the villagers, have you!” he shouted.

“How can you be sure?” asked Tegan.

“More troops - don't you see; the Cybermen are here to gather up locals for conversion into Cybermen!” He turned to the Cyberman. “I won't allow it.”

“You have no say in the matter. You shall join my other prisoners in the scout craft. I must prepare to return to Cyber Control,” intoned the Cybermen.

The Doctor and Tegan marched down the village street. Past the village were several high gravel screes, and the Cyberman directed them towards them. The Doctor was thinking furiously of a way out of this predicament without success. His musings were interrupted by a loud shout. Standing on top of a high gravel scree was Jax, shouting and waving his arms. “Hey, tin features! Bet you can't hit me even if I offered you a free shot! You rusty pile of junk - come up here and get me!”

The Doctor swallowed his surprise, and instead concentrated on the Cyberman as it turned to face Jax, and aimed its blaster. Seizing the opportunity, the Doctor charged the Cyberman, throwing it off balance, and causing the shot to go wild. Unfortunately, the force of the impact caused the Doctor to fall. Jolted from the Cyberman's hands, the Cyberblaster rolled a short distance.

The cybernetic creature grabbed hold of the Doctor, and began to throttle him. The Time Lord's neck was putting up little resistance to the strong metallic fingers, and the Doctor's vision blurred as he felt his life slipping away. Suddenly, a brief, sharp sound pierced his fading consciousness, and the grip on his neck relaxed, to be replaced by a heavy weight falling across his body. Gasping for breath, he struggled to extricate himself from beneath the bulk of the dead Cyberman. There was a gaping black ragged hole in its back.

Coughing and spluttering, the Doctor got slowly to his feet, and focused on Tegan, standing a short distance away, still holding the cyberblaster. “Thank you, Tegan,” he said in between a bout of coughing fits.

“That's all right, Doctor. All in a day's work,” she smiled, a look of confidence returning to her features. All the same, she was immensely relieved when the Doctor recovered enough to take the powerful weapon from her shaky hands.

Jax scrambled down, and ran over to join them. “It seems you've done everyone a great service, Jax,” said the Doctor, smiling broadly. “Tell me, how did you manage to rise from the dead?”

“Well, actually,” he began with a sheepish grin, “The Cyberman's shot never hit me. I fell before it fired, but I don't think anyone noticed.”

“Commendable thinking to time that fall the way you did.”

“Well, to tell the truth, Doctor, I tripped up and hit my head. I think that made me a little reckless just now!” They all laughed at this, and then set out to find the scoutship.

An hour later, the Doctor and Tegan reentered the glade where they'd left the TARDIS. Locating the scoutship, Jax had released all the villagers unharmed, and the Doctor had wired the blaster into the control systems, causing it to self-destruct. As the Doctor and Tegan returned to the console room, they met Turlough, sleepily rubbing his eyes. “Where have you two been?” he asked.

“Oh, here and there,” replied Tegan.

“Yes, Tegan and I thought we'd found a nice place for a holiday, but it was too busy for our liking.” He exchanged a glance with Tegan, and they laughed, to Turlough's confusion.

“Will someone tell me what's going on?” he demanded.

“We're off for a holiday, that's what's on,” the Doctor replied. “How about the Eye of Orion?”

An argument erupted inside the Doctor's TARDIS as to where they should go next as the time capsule dematerialised, leaving the glade deserted.

Less than a minute later, the reptile reemerged, and resumed sunning itself on the same large rock.

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

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