A Piece of Cake
The Doctor regained consciousness first, moments before Romana. Both were lying askew on the TARDIS floor where they were thrown when the final explosion hit.
‘You can never relax for a moment in this job!’ the Time Lord quipped.
‘We've done it, Doctor,’ said a relieved Romana.
‘Yes. The question is will we ever be able to do anything else again? Shall we try and materialise?’ He stood, and guided the TARDIS into a landing in the throne room, homing in on the immense and now very unstable power of the time dams. The pair emerged into the chamber, and Romana got her first look at the real Queen Xanxia.
‘Is that her?’ asked the curious Romana.
‘Yes, that's her - the old harpy.’
‘It's a pity we can't just switch her off.’
‘Yes, but any interference with the time dams field though would trigger off an explosion that would blast us off this planet,’ said the Doctor.
‘Well, what do we do then?’
‘I think we adapt the Captain's plan.’ He began to stride towards the trophy room. This was something he had not explained to Romana yet.
She hurried after him. ‘The Captain's plan?’
The Captain opened his human eye and winced. His massive exoskeleton had protected him from most of the explosions, but he was still human enough to sustain injuries. The burly figure rose to his knees, and then he caught sight of his deputy lying askew nearby. The Captain crawled over to Fibuli, but the trickle of blood from the first lieutenant's mouth and his lifeless eyes spoke eloquently of his state. The Captain reached down, almost tenderly, and lifted the glasses from Fibuli's face. ‘Mr Fibuli - dead. He was a good man.’
Then his tormentor, his angel of death, was back, taunting him, mocking his last human emotion - grief. Could nothing kill this spawn of evil, he wondered.
‘Pull yourself together, Captain,’ said Xanxia scathingly. ‘We can still defeat that rabble out there.’ She marched off to assess the damage levels.
The Captain looked at -
...The angel blazed white, aflame with fury. ‘Die, you fool, die!’ she screamed and brought her hands together with a sound like thunder...
- her and realised death would come - the vision told him so. He turned back to his departed deputy. ‘Somehow, Mr Fibuli, my friend - you will be avenged!’ The Captain without an army rose, and went to his private console.
‘What are you doing?’ demanded Xanxia.
He extracted a circuit board from the damaged unit. ‘If I can divert power left in the auxiliary areas of the Bridge, we can use it to keep the rebels out until we're ready,’ he replied. It was a lie.
Xanxia watched him work on the equipment impatiently. ‘Hurry, Captain, hurry!’
The engine room door that had frustrated the Mentiads and K9 for so long proved to be their salvation when the explosions began, protecting them from harm. Once the results of their handiwork had blown out, the yellow-garbed group picked themselves up slowly.
‘The interference - it's completely gone!’ said Pralix delightedly. ‘The explosions must have knocked out the transmitter on the Bridge. We must go there to confront the evil that has blighted our world for so long.’
The Mentiads and K9 began to make their way slowly upwards through the levels because the upwards elevation chamber was no longer functioning.
Above them, outside the Bridge, Kimus was comforting Mula. Both had escaped the crippling of the Captain's engines remarkably unscathed, but the young woman was still coping with the news of her grandfather's death.
‘We can't let Balaton's death - and the deaths of all those killed by the Captain and his guards - be for nothing!’ pleaded Kimus.
Mula realised he was right. She rose from the floor and embraced him warmly, tears streaming down her face. ‘Thank you,’ she said, and they kissed passionately.
The pair had just returned to trying to open the locking wheel on the Bridge's main entranceway when K9, Pralix and the other Mentiads arrived.
‘It's no use. We can't get it open,’ said Kimus.
‘Then we Mentiads must try to open it,’ said Pralix, looking to the others.
‘Brothers, our strength is increasing,’ Kintha observed. ‘It may be possible now. We must try!’
The Mentiads began concentrating on the locking wheel, urging it; willing it to turn...
‘The Captain's trophy room - well, what do you think of it?’
The sight that had earlier rendered the Doctor almost speechless stunned Romana. ‘Incredible,’ she finally stammered. ‘A masterpiece of gravitic geometry.’
‘Yes, obviously all the forces cancel each other perfectly or else - boom!’
Romana was musing out loud. ‘So all that shouting and blustering was just an act to lull Xanxia into a false sense of security while he built this.’
‘Yes, let that be a lesson to you, my girl. Never take anything at its face value,’ said the Doctor, wagging a remonstrating finger at her playfully. ‘Now - the Captain's plan, we must be able to use it...’
‘But he'll have the controls on the Bridge.’
‘Wait a minute,’ said Romana, in the grip of a brain wave. ‘The only way the Captain could destroy Xanxia without blowing himself and this whole mountain to atoms would be to get inside the perimeter of the time dams without disturbing it, right?’
‘Which would require astronomic energy resources.’
‘Here they are,’ said the Doctor, gesturing expansively at the array of trophies. ‘All perfectly balanced out.’
‘So when he has enough of them, all he has to do is alter the balance slightly and create a standing vortex in the middle of the time field. So time starts up again at the normal speed and the Queen dies!’
‘Right!’ replied the Time Lord. ‘A bit like pouring buckets of water down the plug hole of a bath to drown a spider in the pipes, but there you go...’
‘Brilliant! But I still don't see how it helps us.’
‘And it wouldn't have worked, anyway,’ added the Doctor.
‘Why not? The theory's sound enough.’
‘Yes, but Calufrax isn't.’
The Doctor pointed at the display case labelled Calufrax, which now held a suspended globe like the others. ‘Calufrax is not a normal planet. It's an artificial metricised structure consisting of a substance with a variable atomic weight.’
‘So that means Calufrax - the entire planet -'
‘Is the second segment of the Key to Time.’
‘Of course! No wonder the Tracer kept going mad!’ said Romana, realising at last.
‘Try it now,’ the Doctor suggested.
‘The Tracer. You have still got it?’
A look of growing concern appeared on Romana's face ‘I thought you had it.’
‘What?’ The Doctor fished in his pockets, and eventually produced the device sheepishly. He pointed it at the crushed planet of Calufrax and the Tracer crackled happily.
‘But we can't move it,’ pointed out Romana. ‘We can't move anything here. If we do we'll just upset the whole system and create a gravity whirlpool.’
‘Not if I do something immensely clever,’ said a beaming Doctor, and headed towards the Bridge, followed by his bewildered companion.
‘Have you done it? Are you ready?’ demanded Xanxia.
The Captain leaned back in the com, clutching the glasses he had taken from Fibuli's body. ‘Yes. At last - I am ready.’
The entranceway from the trophy room began to rise slowly, distracting the Queen. ‘Captain, look!’ she cried out, and turned to find him standing, staring at her.
He held out the circuit board and plunged his android arm into it, fusing them together with a blinding flash, in an effort to activate his plan. ‘Xanxia! I commit myself to the Sky Demon, but by his bones I shall take you with me! I shall be free from you, you hag!’
‘You are a fool, Captain! You have failed and you will fail again!’ Xanxia screamed. ‘What are you doing?’
The Doctor ducked under the rising door and ran onto the Bridge. Seeing the situation, he shouted, ‘No Captain, don't do it, it won't work!’
Suddenly the Captain felt the vision come again, but this time it was not a vision, but reality. He knew what would happen next.
...The angel blazed white, aflame with fury. ‘Die, you fool, die!’ she screamed and brought her hands together with a sound like thunder. Thousands of sensors cried out inputs of pain, systems and sinews collapsing...
Romana ran onto the Bridge in time to see the metal casing on the left side of the Captain's head explode, showering sparks and fire. Xanxia just stood, laughing mockingly. The Captain's body jerked about as explosions ripped through his exoskeleton and then his huge, charred frame slumped in the com.
... Suddenly he was afloat, but this was not memory or precognition. It was a warm, soothing darkness, free of pain or worries, like the darkness of space he had come to love so much and yearned for while imprisoned on this world by his own physical form and the whims of the tyrant Queen Xanxia. That was gone now, and the Captain felt like a million atoms, all drifting and floating in space, slowly dissipating across the cosmos. Embrace me now, stars, thought the Captain and, finally, smiled...
Xanxia snatched an energy weapon from one of the guards' corpses and trained it on the interfering off-worlder who had ruined her plans forever. ‘And now, Doctor, it's your turn to die.’
‘No, please, I can explain everything,’ he said, stalling for time. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the main door to the Bridge opening, succumbing at last to the Mentiads' powers.
‘No, Doctor, never again. Goodbye.’ Xanxia's finger tightened on the trigger.
Kimus stepped through the main entranceway and - sizing up the situation in a moment - fired his energy weapon at the woman about to kill the Doctor.
Xanxia blinked from white to black and back, positive to negative, then simply disappeared.
‘No one else must come in, no one else!’ commanded the Doctor, after a breath of relief.
‘Are they all dead?’ asked Mula.
‘Well the Captain certainly is,’ replied the Time Lord, ‘But Xanxia's another matter. You'd all better get out of here, this place is pretty unstable. Get down to the base of the mountain.’
‘What about you?’ queried Kimus.
‘It's all right, I'll follow on later. Off you go.’
The young man ushered Mula and the Mentiads away while Romana approached the Doctor.
‘Ah, look, Romana, this might be a bit tricky. I want you to go and find K9, take him back to the TARDIS and wait for me there.’
‘What about you?’
‘Well, I've got a couple of things to do here first. Please go, go on,’ he urged.
‘All right,’ Romana agreed, and went off in search of K9.
The Doctor approached the Captain's still smoking body gingerly and began to examine the remains of the private console. ‘Now, Captain...’ he murmured to himself.
Romana found K9 just outside the Bridge waiting for her, and they went back to the TARDIS. As she walked past the dais in the throne room, the young Time Lady did not notice the ancient Queen Xanxia open her eyes on the throne, watching.
After a long period of waiting, Romana was relieved when the Doctor finally strode into the central control room of the TARDIS, even if he was laughing smugly. ‘So what did you do on the Bridge?’
‘You'll never believe it.’
‘All right, I will. I've switched the Captain's circuits around to create a hyper-spatial shield around the shrunken planets. Then I put his dematerialisation controls into remote mode.’
‘So we can operate them from here?’
‘But I don't see how that helps.’
‘No, you wouldn't. You're still thinking by the book, Romana. I first dematerialise the TARDIS, then I make Zanak dematerialise for a moment, then invert a gravity field at the hyper-spatial force field and drop the shrunken planets...’
‘Into the hollow centre of Zanak!’ completed Romana.
‘Well, I would have thought that was obvious. They expand in an instant to fill the hollow space and - hey presto!’ said the Doctor, snapping his fingers.
‘But what about Calufrax? How do we get hold of the segment?’
‘Well, naturally, Calufrax is flung off into the vortex and we pick it up afterwards in the TARDIS.’
‘Well, naturally.’ Romana realised she might have to reassess the Doctor, just as she had had to reassess the Captain. ‘That's quite ingenious.’
‘Quite ingenious? It's fantastic!’
‘All right, it's fantastic.’
‘Fantastic,’ agreed the Doctor. He began flicking switches. ‘Right - here we go then.’ A few moments later, Zanak was a whole world again. ‘There.’
‘Fantastic. But Doctor, haven't you forgotten something?’ asked Romana, not to be outdone.
‘What about the Bridge and the time dams?’
‘Bridge and time dams - K9?’
His robot companion whirred into life, recalling a phrase from his memory banks. ‘Piece of cake, master. Blow them up.’
‘Oh - isn't that a bit crude?’ asked Romana, ever the purist.
‘Well - it's a bit crude, but immensely satisfying,’ replied the Doctor. ‘First we should retrieve Calufrax before something else happens to it.’
Getting out of the Bridge proved far easier than getting into it, despite the devastation caused by Zanak's failed attempt to engulf Earth. Kimus, Mula and the Mentiads found a downwards elevation chamber still functioning, and after that, made good time to the base of the mountain. It was nearly dusk when the group reached a clearing Kimus considered to be a safe distance from the Bridge should it start exploding again.
Mula pointed out the pillar of black smoke rising from the guards' headquarters at the edge of the settlement. ‘Seems we're not alone in our little revolution.’ A wheezing groaning noise startled her, and a strange blue box appeared near them in the clearing.
The doors opened and the two off-worlders emerged, carrying a small box and running a cable from the box's interior. ‘Come on, Romana!’ the Doctor called. The pair crouched in the middle of the clearing and the Doctor began attaching the cable to the small box. Kimus and Mula walked over to the off-worlders, an arm around each other's waist.
‘Doctor, when all this is over - will we really be free?’ asked Kimus.
‘I don't see why not. It's entirely up to you, really. You've got to make this world a better place to live in. You've got plenty of material wealth, but there are other things...’ The Doctor turned to his companion. ‘The other lead, Romana.’ She handed him the wire. ‘...Friendship, cooperation...’ he continued, and looked up at the happy couple. ‘Love.’
‘I'll do it,’ Romana volunteered. She set about attaching the wire to the box.
‘Thank you.’ The Doctor stood and draped an arm over Kimus and Mula's shoulders. ‘Now - I think this is a good place in the universe to settle down. There's a reasonable sun, good neighbours, and some quite convenient stars for when you get around to conventional space travel. I think you're going to be all right here,’ he finished with a smile.
His companion finished the connection and pulled a handle up out of the detonator box. ‘Ready, Doctor.’
‘Good.’ He went to Pralix and the other Mentiads. ‘Next, what I want to know is - am I going to blow up the Bridge or will you?’
‘We will,’ replied the Mentiads in unison.
The Doctor nodded approvingly. ‘I'll get out of the way while you concentrate.’
They all stared intently at the box, and after a moment the handle plunged downwards.
High in the mountain, the three structures that were the Captain's stronghold blew apart in a series of ear-shattering explosions and blinding light. When all the noise and light had diminished to tolerable levels, the Doctor looked to his companion.
‘That was very satisfying. Come on, Romana, we've got a job to do. Bye, bye, everybody!’ With a cheery wave, the Time Lords disappeared into the upright blue box that disappeared after more wheezing and groaning.
Kimus turned to Mula. ‘You know, all this is going to take some explaining. No more golden ages of prosperity.’
‘No more wealth beyond the dreams of avarice,’ she nodded in agreement.
‘But a life, truly free and happy, without fear of execution or exile,’ added Pralix.
The group began the long trek back to the settlement. They had a society, a whole world to rebuild.