Union of the Snake

By Wendy Toynton


For eons regarded as the symbol of pure evil and blind arrogance. When coupled with a silver snake eating its own tail, the meaning became even worse. This was the symbol of the Mara. Creatures of ultimate evil that, without host minds to feed upon, are, ironically, totally powerless. Twice they had tried to correct this problem by crossing planes back into the physical world, and twice they were returned to their banishment by a being usually referred to as the Doctor.

The first failure had resulted in the death of a lowly agent, while the second had caused the death of more than three quarters of the Mara.

The Doctor was a problem they hoped to correct.

“Distinctly Earth-like. Looks like a very nice place.”

Turlough nearly grimaced at the mention of Earth. Unlike the Doctor he possessed no fondness for the planet. On the whole, Turlough had decided Earth was too primitive for his tastes.

“Hopefully appearances can be deceptive, I'm sick of Earth.”

“In this case they are. The bird life's too advanced for it to be Earth,” said the Doctor.

“Rest of the life probably is as well. If you have no objections Doctor, I shall scrounge up some food.”

“Earth-type food?” the Doctor enquired. The Doctor wished that Turlough would tell him something more about himself. All the Doctor's previous companions had confided in him, so why not Turlough? The Doctor shrugged. Like it or not, he thought, the boy was determined to remain an enigma, so he may as well accept it.

Behind them, hidden in the dense shrubbery, a pair of eyes watched as the younger of the two separated from the Doctor. The boy was of no consequence, only the Doctor was important, only the prime target demanded his full attention. It would be no problem to eliminate the Doctor from the game, after all he, unlike the other surviving members of his race, could not be separated from his physical body. In addition to this he could span the astral abysses at will, making a most dangerous opponent.

Dozing away peacefully, the Doctor suddenly became aware of someone watching him. Abruptly he sat up, to be greeted by the sight of an ominous looking figure. Remembering's Turlough's previous words, the Doctor hoped that appearances could be deceiving.

Dressed entirely in tight, white leather, with long white hair and vibrant red eyes, the Doctor found something vaguely familiar about the stranger.

“You are the Doctor, correct?” It was more of a statement than a question. The man in white knew exactly who he was. Without waiting for a reply, he continued.

“I am Lord Karma of the Union of the Snake.” He paused to gain maximum effect before continuing. “Your presence has been requested by the High Breed of the Mara. You are to be my opponent in the mind games. I sincerely hope you prove yourself to be a worthy opponent before I kill you.”

The Doctor smiled. What a charming sentiment. Although amused, the Doctor was also puzzled: the Mara were not supposed to be able to wander around without aid from a human mind, as this one so obviously was.

“Well I'm afraid I'm terribly busy at the moment, so if you don't mind I'll just grab my companion and pop off, so perhaps you can kill me another time?”

“Like it or not, Doctor, you are coming to the astral plane.” Before the Doctor could react, the world was gone, replaced by a seemingly endless void.

Inside the Doctor's mind Logic and emotion had a head-on collision. The Mara had never had powers like this on Deva Loka or Manussa, so what else was this creature capable of?

“I am not possessed with the Mara's life-force, I am what I am and what I am is what all members of the Gallifreyan race shall one day evolve into. In fact, you might say I'm a futuristic renegade. We have met before Doctor, but not yet. It was your tenth regeneration, I believe?” The question was rhetorical, Karma did not expect him to answer. “And before you ask, I am capable of reading minds on the astral plane. In fact while I'm here, I'm capable of virtually anything, as long as I have the Mara's powers to back me up. It is here that we are to compete in the mind games. If I win you suffer an astral death, ie. you will have no conscience and will become as corrupt as the villains you constantly annoy, and if you win, the Mara shall be destroyed and I shall let you go in peace.” Again he paused before continuing. “Of course, Doctor, you shall not win.”

The Doctor smiled. Boasters never won anything.

“How do I start?” the Doctor asked.

“Just think of something, whatever it is it will happen.”

Knowing the Mara's vulnerability, the Doctor thought of mirrors. hoping to drive the Mara's added strength from Karma's mind. Instantly hundreds of mirrors appeared around Karma, cutting him off from the Doctor's view. A moment later the mirrors vanished, to be replaced by shrieking Daleks.

The Doctor's attempt had failed, Karma was as just as strong as ever. Concentrating willed the Daleks to disappear. It had no effect. The Daleks came closer. Suddenly the Doctor had an idea. If the Mara fed on the darker side of people's personalities, then what would happen if you poured all of your goodness into their mind?

Sensing the Doctor's thoughts, Karma took a step backwards.

The Doctor smiled, he was on the tight rack. Concentrating fully, he thought of as much positive emotion as he could muster. It had the desired effect. Karma reeled under the onslaught. Love, hope, peace and contentment hit Karma with the force of a bullemic bulldozer. Still the Doctor persisted. If he wanted to possess the faintest chance of winning, then he had to continue until all traces of the Mara's power had been erased from the Karma's mind. If he paused for even one second, the Karma would use his full power and destroy him, instead of toying with him like he had done before.

Turlough was worried. The Doctor was alive, but barely. As far as Turlough could tell, he was in some kind of trance. Even more disturbing was the fact that, just metres away, there was another figure with identical symptoms.

Perhaps I should take the Doctor back to the TARDIS, thought Turlough. Reaching down, he skillfully picked the Doctor's pockets and produced the TARDIS key.

It was then he noticed he was being watched. It was a girl.

Dressed in a green chiffon outfit that looked like a refugee from Earth's fifties era, and a black leather jacket, she looked totally out of odds with the rest of her appearance. Her wild looking black hair and large green eyes gave Turlough the impression that, like the Doctor, she was eternally curious.

“Hello,” she said, “this looks interesting. What happened?” she asked bending down to look at the Doctor.

“I don't know. I just found the Doctor lying here like this. I don't suppose you could give me a hand getting him back to the TARDIS, could you?”

“TARDIS? A Doctor? 'The' Doctor, even?”

“You've heard of him?” asked Turlough, surprised. The girl nodded.

“Yep, but from a very unreliable source,” she stated.



Turlough almost dropped the Doctor out of shock. Did she know Kamelion and the Master?

“How, from the Master?”

“Yep,” she replied, “I sort of fell backwards into a pillar.”

“I guess you didn't get a very good impression of the Doctor then?”

“I guess you guessed right,” the girl smiled. “My name's Azari, what's yours?”


Turlough was puzzled. What was she doing on Xeriphas, and more importantly, what was she doing here? Did she do something to the Doctor to cause his trance? And what about the man in white, he was in a trance as well. Turlough shrugged. There was too much happening that he didn't know about.

The Doctor had succeeded in getting control of the Mara, but Karma was proving himself slightly more difficult. Now that the Mara had left his mind, the Doctor's previous strategy of positive thinking no longer worked. The Doctor had no choice but to change his ploy.

“Well Karma, I've defeated the Mara, are you going to keep your word and let me go in peace?”

“Of course, I am a man of my word,” stated Karma indignantly. “Both you and your companion are free to leave.”

Sensing a trap, but not knowing what it was, the Doctor stared at him for a moment, before flipping back to his physical body. The trip back was nothing more than a blink, and took about the same span of time.

Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor sat up and smiled, not only at Turlough, but also a young girl he had never seen before.


On the astral plane, Karma also smiled. Everything was occurring just as he had planned it. The Mara had been destroyed, and soon the Doctor would be as well...

Inside the TARDIS, the girl Azari was going through the modern equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition. It was obvious the Doctor did not trust her.

“What were you doing on Xeriphas?” asked the Doctor, whilst toying with a stick of celery.

“Hiding. And why are you asking me all these questions? I don't go poking into your business, so why should I let you pry into mine?” Azari seemed genuinely upset.

“Who are you hiding from?”

“Karma. Have you finished with these boring questions yet? I want to do something interesting, like riding a skateboard with an afterburner attached to it.” The Doctor stared at her, lost in thought. Now it was starting to make sense.

“This Karma doesn't wear a lot of white and have red eyes, by any chance?”

“Yep. Are we finished with these questions now?” Impatiently, she extended two if her fingernails to dagger size, and promptly began to sharpen them. The Doctor and Turlough looked on, with shocked expressions on their faces. Noticing this she thought it might be wise to provide an explanation.

“Hey, I'm a mutant okay? That's why Karma's looking for me. I'm classed as a threat to his future plans, believe it or not.”

The Doctor frowned. “This Karma, where exactly does he come from?”

“Same place as me - Gallifrey.”

The Doctor frowned again. This was beginning to sound serious. “You might come from Gallifrey, but you aren't strictly speaking for Gallifreyans, are you?”

Turlough hovered over the Doctor's shoulder, trying to figure out the point of the conversation, which at the moment was entirely escaping him.

Azari smiled. If the Doctor wanted to learn anything from her, all he had to do was ask the right questions. She was glad to see that he was finally starting to grasp her train of thought.

“Oh, we're Gallifreyan, all right. But to express it aptly, we are a new variation on an old model.”

Azari leaned back and started rocking on her chair. She wasn't bored anymore. She liked to be in control of the conversation.

“What do you mean you're a variation?” asked the Doctor.

“Well after a couple of hundred millennia, you'd expect some sort of mutation to occur surely.”

Turlough looked at the Doctor blankly, expecting an explanation. “Azari and Karma are Time Lords from a futuristic Gallifrey. And if I'm correct in my suspicions, Karma was using the Mara as an excuse to journey back in time to dispose of me at a time before I could disrupt his future plans.”

“Not quite, Doctor. Karma was doing a lot more than using the Mara. In all ways that count, he is the Mara, that's why there's so much physical resemblance between them. He had some crazy experiment that was supposed to boost his psychic abilities to new heights. It failed, and left him more or less the same state of affairs as the hapless citizens of the Su-maran Empire were before you kindly disposed of them. Oh, and by the way, you were wrong about us coming from a futuristic Gallifrey. In the future there is no Gallifrey.”

The Doctor looked appalled. “What happened?” he asked.

“Ah, that would be cheating, Doctor, if I were to tell you.” Eyes twinkling with pure mischief, she waved her finger at the Doctor, pretending to tell him off.

“Of course, I just forgot for a moment. There's still one thing I don't understand though, why did the Master bring you here?”

“Ah, the miracle of female persuasion, also known as bribery. I promised to give him Kamelion if he brought me here.”

“Kamelion was yours?” asked Turlough.

“Yep, and now I gather that he is yours?” she replied.

Turlough glanced at the Doctor, to see what he thought about Azari's incredible tale. It was obvious that the Doctor didn't trust her, and Turlough could see why. Not only did she look like a very shifty character, but there was also something suspicious in her attitude. And if she was hiding from Karma as she claimed, then why didn't she remark about him lying in a trance on the ground?

Outside Karma was staring intently at the TARDIS, willing it to accompany him back to the astral plane. Did the Doctor really believe he was naive enough to allow him to escape? Karma didn't care about honour or any morally related dilemmas. All he wanted to do was bring new found glory to the Union of the Snake. Under his guidance the Union would flourish like it had never done when Azari ruled it.

Inside the TARDIS there was a tremendous jolt. The force of the blow sent the Doctor flying in one direction and Azari and Turlough in the other.

“Karma must have used his teleportation powers to project us onto the astral plane,” Azari shouted.

“Deja vu, I've been here before,” remarked the Doctor.

Seemingly of their own accord the doors opened.

One by one they walked out. The astral plane was not the same as it had been when the Doctor was there. Where there had been dark empty void there was now a sparkling crystal throne room. Seated in the throne room was Karma.

“Welcome to the Union of the Snake, Doctor. I hope you enjoy your stay because it's...” Karma stopped in mid-sentence. He had not expected Azari to be here. Her presence in the Union could cause a great deal of difficulty to his plans.

“Lo Karma, bet you weren't expecting to see me here. I don't suppose that you would mind removing your posterior end from my seat by any chance.”

“Not without a fight first, sister dearest.”

Sister dearest? Turlough looked blankly at the Doctor, once again he seemed to be suffering a miscomprehension of the conversation, which seemed to be happening a lot lately.

In answer to his request a great crack spread along the floor, threatening not only to engulf the Doctor, but the Doctor and Turlough as well. Seeing this, the Doctor though this the opportune moment to evacuate before things became any worse. Signalling to Turlough, he decided to make a run for the TARDIS.

“Doctor, wait, what about Azari?” shouted Turlough.

“Somehow I have a feeling she is perfectly capable of looking after herself.”

All around them the ground was shaking and bolts of electricity sizzled through the air. They had just squeezed through the TARDIS doors when the dimension itself seemed to shimmer.

“No wonder she wasn't worried when she saw Karma. He wasn't chasing her, it was the other way around,” said Turlough scornfully.

“Somehow I have the feeling we'll meet again,” said the Doctor faintly as he set the co-ordinates.

In the astral realm of the Union of the Snake, there was a brief explosion as it faded out of existence.

On a distant planet a small girl dressed in green sat up and yawned. She should have known what would happen when two high energy sources collided in a malleable dimension. Energetically she stood up and walked off to explore her new surroundings.

Not far away another being had also escaped from the Union of the Snake, and he was itching for a rematch with Azari the Maladjusted...

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

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