Chapter 2

Arrival on Zanak

The Captain looked about the Bridge and bellowed.

‘Imbeciles! Fools! Thrice worse than incompetent idiots!’

The air was acrid with the stench of burning circuitry as smoke billowed from the towering consoles and readout units that were the Bridge's outer walls. Technicians ran about desperately trying to damp down the worst damage until the automatic repair systems took over. The Captain stood in the centre of the chamber watching their efforts. Pathetic, he thought to himself.

...The angel...

The Captain shook himself to vanquish the vision before it could engulf his consciousness again and shouted, ‘What pernicious injury have you inflicted on my precious engines? Mr Fibuli?’

The first lieutenant flinched at his name and then stepped to his leader's side. ‘Captain?’

‘Are you trying to scuttle this planet?’ demanded the Captain.

‘No, sir! I've run a quick inspection, sir, and the actual damage isn't as bad as we feared.’

‘And what did you fear?’

‘I assure you sir the problem is very slight indeed. Just a few minor circuits shorted out, a few components need to be replaced, there's nothing we can't soon...’

The Captain hated his deputy for adopting this fawning pose. An abrupt, direct question usually put a dent in the drivel. ‘Do not trifle with me, Mr Fibuli - what happened?’

‘Well, as far as we can tell, sir, some freak local disturbance, probably electromagnetic.’

From fawning to falsehoods, thought the Captain. ‘What?’

‘It passed very quickly,’ said Fibuli with a weak smile.

‘Idle prattlings, Mr Fibuli! A caveman with his first rock could tell you that was no mere electromagnetic disturbance. I will know the truth.’ The Captain strode to the com and sat facing his private console. He punched up a series of readouts on the monitors by interfacing his left, android arm with the central computer. ‘Warp oscilloscope readings - there, Mr Fibuli, there's your local electromagnetic disturbance,’ he said disdainfully. ‘What do you make of those readings?’

‘That's extraordinary.’

‘See, for ten seconds, the entire fabric of the space-time continuum was ripped apart.’ The half-man, half-robot displayed some more data on the screens by a surge of will through his synapses. ‘Panaccenteration readings, critical overload, every system jammed solid.’ More information flashed across the console. ‘Gravity dilation readings... There, Mr Fibuli, can you explain those figures?’

His deputy swallowed heavily. Not off the top of my head, sir.’

‘No? And why not?! Because for ten seconds, the whole infrastructure of quantum physics was in retreat! I tell you Mr Fibuli, in all the years I have navigated the uncharted currents of the ether I have never encountered the like of this. Find out what happened, Mr Fibuli - and find out fast. Or by all the fires of night, I'll have that skull off you!’

As the deputy scurried away, the Captain eased himself back in the com and continued analysing incoming data about the latest planet fall.

Not for the first time in the TARDIS, Romana and the Doctor were arguing.

‘Not so! I'm perfectly capable of admitting when I'm wrong,’ protested the older Time Lord.

‘Oh?’ uttered Romana, arching one of her perfectly formed eyebrows.

‘Yes! Only this time I wasn't,’ continued the Doctor. ‘There's definitely something out there jamming our materialisation field.’

‘Oh that's what it was,’ came the mocking reply.

‘Yes! Yes, that's what it was, yes. Whatever it was, it wasn't a multi-loop whatsit or anything else to do with that manual,’ said the Time Lord, waving a dismissive finger at the offending volume.

‘No, of course not,’ said Romana, as if humoring a petulant child. ‘May I try?’

‘What - by the book?’

Romana nodded.

‘Yes, all right,’ the Doctor conceded. ‘You do it your way.’

Romana stepped forward to the controls, eager for the chance to prove herself.

‘But there's still something out there jamming our materialisation field,’ chipped in the Doctor unhelpfully.

Grin and ignore it, Romana told herself, ‘Right - synchronic feedback.’

‘Won't make a scrap of difference.’

‘We'll see - multi-loop stabiliser.’

In anticipation of the alleged catastrophe to come, the Doctor threw himself on the floor beside his robot companion. ‘Look out, K9 - hold on!’

‘Now!’ announced Romana, activating the remat circuits. The TARDIS made a smooth, textbook landing. Romana turned to the crouching Doctor. ‘Well?’

He removed his hands from his ears and stood up, looking absolutely amazed to still be enjoying his fourth incarnation. ‘Good!’

‘Thank you, Doctor.’

‘No, no, that was very, very good. Wasn't it good, K9?’

‘Very, very, very good, master,’ chipped in the mobile computer.

‘Oh, terribly good,’ agreed the Doctor. ‘Listen, I think she's going to be all right. Very all right.’

‘Very, very all right,’ K9 concurred.

The Doctor turned his attention to the TARDIS console, gently patting its surface. ‘See, it wasn't that bad was it?’ he reassured the ship. ‘Silly old thing, making all that ridiculous fuss.’ He cuffed the edge of the console. ‘Of course, it was pretty easy really, now that that jamming field has been turned off, don't you think? Of course it would be churlish to say so though, wouldn't it? Yes, spoil her fun; not good.’ The Doctor turned to Romana. ‘Just a little pat on the back from time to time,’ he advised, tactfully gesturing at the console.

The smile on Romana's face had gone decidedly sour. She activated the scanner. ‘Shall we have a look at Calufrax now?’

The Doctor ignored the screen, and squatted down beside the robot dog. ‘K9?’

‘Master?’

‘You don't think I'm getting middle-aged do you?’ the Doctor asked anxiously.

K9 suddenly seemed to get upset. His head and tail rose and he gave a low mechanical growl. After a moment he subsided once more.

The Doctor looked taken aback. ‘Well, there's no need to be like that about it.’

Romana's attention was completely fixed on the scanner screen. ‘Doctor?’

‘Yes?’ asked the Doctor.

‘Come and have a look at Calufrax.’

He stood up and went to a hat and coat stand in a corner of the control room and began donning an incredibly long, multi-coloured woollen scarf. ‘Oh, all right then, let's get it over with. Horrible place, Calufrax, cold wet, icy - no life of any sort - boring. Ignorant students; think they know it all,’ he muttered pointedly.

Romana was puzzled to find a view on the scanner very different to the Doctor's description. She could see what appeared to be part of an urban settlement with a courtyard in the foreground. The white stone walls were dotted with archways and many pathways ran off the meeting area. Several humanoids in affluent, relaxed garb were strolling across the courtyard. ‘What's the matter? I got you to Calufrax didn't I? It looks very pleasant to me,’ commented Romana.

Slapping on a battered felt hat, the Doctor took his first glance at the scanner image. ‘What? Calufrax?’ he exclaimed after a moment. ‘Don't make me laugh, this isn't anything like Calufrax. You've made an enormous mistake. You've probably missed it by a couple of million light years! Two out of ten for effort.’

Without warning, K9 started spinning in a tight circle, very fast. The Doctor stared. ‘I wonder what's biting him?’ As abruptly as he had started, K9 stopped spinning.

Romana looked from the Doctor to the scanner and back again, not sure which to believe. The Time Lord was examining spatial readouts on the central console. ‘But what mistake can I possibly have made, Doctor?’

‘That's what I'm trying to find out. Now, our present co-ordinates are...’ The Doctor pressed a series of buttons on the console and compared two sets of readings. He frowned. ‘That's strange - can't be right. It is right - but it can't be, can it?’ the Doctor wondered out loud.

‘Have you decided where we are, Doctor?’

‘Well according to these space time coordinates, we have arrived at precisely the right point in space at precisely the right time -'

Romana beamed triumphant. ‘Yes, I know.’

‘- But on the wrong planet,’ concluded the Doctor.

‘What?’ exclaimed his companion, the smugness draining from her face.

‘This isn't Calufrax,’ the Doctor observed.

‘Then where are we?’

‘I haven't got the faintest idea,’ the Doctor confessed. ‘All I do know is that this planet wasn't here when I tried to land...’ His perplexed expression gave way to one of adventurous enthusiasm. ‘Shall we see what it's doing here?’ he suggested.

Kimus strode purposefully through the settlement. He had heard the Captain's pronouncement and immediately set out for the home of his best friend, Pralix. Kimus used to welcome each new golden age of prosperity like the other citizens but now, as he matured, questions filled the young man's mind. Where did all this wealth come from? Was there not some terrible price to pay for all this good fortune?

Lately he had been becoming increasingly critical about the Captain's regime, a dangerous stance on Zanak. Others who had spoken out disappeared but Kimus was determined to get some answers. He knew the planet's legends, and he knew things had not always been as they were now. Sure, there had been poverty and hardship, but there was also freedom to think, to act and to dream.

His resolve was hardened by the tragic death of his father when Kimus was just a boy. The family had links to Zanak's old royal dynasty, but that had all been wiped away by the Captain. Still the leadership qualities were apparent in Kimus, and he always felt he was destined for greatness.

The young man nodded his noble face at a passing citizen as he walked, but the other man turned away. Kimus' stance made him a dangerous person to be seen with, and the older citizens especially branded him as an outcast. But amongst the younger people he was popular for his daring and visionary views.

Despite all this, Kimus felt an impotent rage growing within him, like a paralysed force waiting to be unleashed. At times he could almost feel the energy at the ends of his fingertips, waiting for release. Soon, he thought, soon I shall find what I seek. But for now he pushed these thoughts aside and concentrated on getting to where Pralix lived. He had to see if the terrible pains that seemed to come worse with every new golden age again afflicted his young friend.

Kimus quickened his steps.

The shrouded figures stumbled about in a circle, their faces masks of pain, bodies bowed and beaten. Voices cried out in unison, filling the stone chamber.

‘Life force dying. Life force dying! Life force dying!’

The pain was echoed in another room, another place, on the face of the youth who had earlier stumbled away from the courtyard. Now his face was pallid and constricted, his dark hair falling lank with sweat onto the pillow beneath his head. His consciousness swirled back and forth as he cried out in agony. The slim wiry youth began thrashing about on his bed, until the arms of his sibling, Mula, restrained him.

Her warm face was filled with concern as she looked down at her brother. Honey-brown hair framed her friendly features, and its colour matched the autumnal shades of her garb. She pressed a damp cloth to the youth's face, her movements graceful and precise.

‘Calm yourself, Pralix, you must calm yourself,’ said a distraught voice. Balaton bobbed about behind Mula like the fussy old man he was. The young woman turned to him helplessly.

‘He's much worse than last time, Grandfather.’ She looked back at her brother. ‘Pralix - can't you hear us? Tell us what's wrong.’

Balaton already knew the answer to that, and it gripped his heart like a fist of ice. He fervently hoped against hope that he was wrong, but the cold grasp of certainty felt chillier every moment. Instincts born of a long life prompted his next words.

‘It's a mistake to ask too many questions.’

The young woman turned on him accusingly. ‘That's your answer to everything, isn't it?’ She walked out of the rest chamber disgustedly, striding angrily into the main room of the dwelling.

‘I have no need for answers - all I ask is for a quiet life,’ Balaton called after her. Before the acrimonious words could erupt into another bitter argument, he was pulled back to the bedside by his grandson's cries. ‘Pralix, you must calm yourself,’ the old man pleaded with the feverish youth. He went out into the main room to voice his fears to Mula. ‘People will hear. I'm sure people will hear.’

Balaton could remember this scene well, could remember the lad's father stricken in exactly the same way, so many times before. He had hoped this curse had passed from the family, but now it had returned...Mula snapped him back to the present with the harsh tone of her voice.

‘Grandfather! Pralix is very ill, and all you can think about is what will happen if the neighbours hear!’

‘You know very well what will happen.’

‘Why?’ asked the young woman despairingly. ‘Why, why, why, why?’

‘Oh Mula, don't spoil everything by asking so many questions. I think I'm going to lose one grandchild already; please don't let it be both of you,’ replied the grey-haired man, his face full of fear. ‘Just settle down and enjoy what life gives you so freely.’

At this moment, Pralix cried out again, and both his relatives turned towards the rest chamber. Suddenly the sound of boots marching toward the dwelling was audible and the pair looked at each other. Could this be the moment they both feared so much?

‘Listen,’ said Mula urgently. ‘Someone's coming!’

‘Quickly - the curtains,’ hissed Balaton. Mula dived for the rest chamber, pulling the translucent curtain across its arched doorway. Her grandfather lowered himself onto a black padded bench in the main room, trying in vain to look relaxed and casual. He was facing away from the dwelling's entranceway and held his breath as its bead curtain was flung noisily aside. Balaton closed his eyes, fearing the worst...

‘Balaton?’ asked a puzzled voice.

The old man let out an involuntary sigh of relief and turned to face the visitor. Mula emerged from the rest chamber and raced across the main room towards the hesitant new arrival, embracing him warmly.

‘Kimus - thank goodness it's only you!’ she said gratefully.

‘Only me?’ he replied with mock indignation. ‘Have you heard the news? Hello, old man,’ he greeted Balaton.

‘Respect, Kimus. Show some respect for age,’ Balaton chastised the young man.

Kimus ignore the rebuke. ‘It seems we're all going to be rich - again. A new Golden Age of Prosperity - again. Omens in the sky, the works. Everyone's out celebrating, trying to look as though it's the greatest thing that ever happened - and we haven't even cleared up from the last one, yet!’ he exclaimed.

‘Kimus! Quietly, please. The neighbours...’ cautioned Balaton nervously.

‘It's not news to us, Kimus,’ replied Mula sadly.

‘You saw the omens?’

‘We don't need omens.’

Kimus was very conscious of the young woman's tension. ‘Pralix?’ he asked.

‘He's gone stark mad,’ Mula informed him. ‘Again.’

‘What's wrong with him?’

‘We thought that...’ said Mula, her voice trailing off as she glanced back at the rest chamber.

‘What?’ insisted Kimus.

‘Never mind.’

Pralix cried out again, and his best friend rushed into the rest chamber, followed by Mula and Balaton.

‘Life force dying, life force dying, life force dying!’ shouted Pralix hoarsely.

The Doctor emerged from the TARDIS ready for the worst weather Calufrax could throw at him, his scarf wrapped tightly across his face and hat brim pulled down. But the icy gusts were not present - instead the weather was quite pleasant, if a touch cool.

Romana followed him out and smiled smugly. ‘Uninhabited? Ice-coated planet?’ She pulled the Tracer from her belt and activated it. The transparent device began crackling happily. ‘Well, we've certainly come to the right place - the signal's coming from everywhere.’

The Doctor unwrapped himself enough to look around. He grabbed the Tracer and waved it about, getting a constant signal, even when he held it up to his left ear. ‘Never trust gimmicky gadgets,’ he muttered dismissively, handing it back to Romana.

K9 trundled out through the TARDIS double doors and immediately registered an unknown presence. ‘Sentient life-form approaching.’

‘What?’ said Romana, startled by K9's sudden announcement.

The Doctor put a friendly arm around her shoulders, which she quickly shook off. ‘It's all right,’ he said, ‘it just means somebody's coming.’

‘I know what it means!’ protested Romana. She saw two people approaching and went over to accost them. ‘Excuse me -’

‘No, no, excuse me, I'll do it,’ he replied, elbowing her in the ribs. ‘Excuse me, would you take me to your leader? What we would like to know, you see, is what planet... what... Ah...’ He stammered to a stop as the pair walked by, completely ignoring him. A similar thing happened when he tried to accost another person walking in the opposite direction a moment later. ‘Halt! What we...’ The despondent Doctor went over to his robot companion. ‘We're not doing very well, K9, no...’

‘Suggestion, master. Suggest you allow mistress to make contact.’

‘Nonsense! Making contact with an alien race is an immensely skilled and delicate operation. It calls for tact and experience. What would she know about it?’

‘She is prettier than you, master.’

‘Is she?’ The thought had never occurred to him and was a curious value judgment to come from K9. Obviously the computer's programming needed a really good overhaul. ‘What's that got to do with it?’ The Time Lord turned and saw it had quite a lot to do with it.

Enak had been making his way through the settlement to the main courtyard for the Feast of Omens when he was approached by a rather good looking woman in striking pink and white garb. The inconspicuous citizen soon found himself warming to her questions.

‘It's a new golden age, you see, a golden age of prosperity,’ he explained. ‘I must say I still get very excited about it all. I know we have them rather often now - but that's because of the Captain's great goodness, you see.’

‘Excuse me...’ the Doctor interrupted.

‘Just a minute,’ interjected Romana. ‘The Captain?’

The Doctor shook his head and wandered back over to K9, ignored by both Romana and Enak.

‘Oh yes, it's the Captain who does it all for us,’ Enak enthused. ‘And it really was spectacular this time. The Omens! The skies shook with lightning! We are going to be very rich. Very, very rich.’

‘What - just like that? Because of lights in the sky?’

‘Oh yes! That's the way it always happens.’ The slightly plump citizen dug into a pouch on his belt and pulled out some coloured stones. ‘Here - have some diamonds - and yes, I've got a ruby - suit a pretty girl like you.’

‘Oh, thank you very much,’ said Romana, taking the gems.

To Romana's frustration, the Doctor chose this moment to try and enter the conversation again. ‘Excuse me...’ he began.

Romana quickly cut him off by pulling a white paper bag from her pocket and holding it under Enak's nose. ‘Would you like some jelly babies?’

‘Oh - thank -’ he stammered, and managed to pick one out before the wild-eyed, curly-haired Doctor grabbed a handful. ‘What are they?’

‘Sweets. You eat them,’ replied the Doctor, jamming several in his mouth and chewing hungrily.

‘Oh! Thank you,’ uttered Enak, picking out an assortment of differing colours from the bag. He decided he had tarried too long with this strange pair who asked too many questions and volunteered little themselves. ‘Well - I'll be late for the feasts. Nice to meet you.’ He began striding off, and called back as an afterthought before disappearing from view, ‘Watch out for the Mentiads!’

‘The who?’ Romana called after the retreating figure.

‘Ah, excuse me. What I'd like to know is...’ the Doctor began, following after Enak, but halted and returned to Romana when it was clear that Enak wouldn't stop for him.

The Doctor snatched the jelly babies bag from her and found its contents very much diminished. ‘Where did you get those jelly babies?’ he asked accusingly.

‘Same place you get them.’

‘Where?’

‘Your pocket,’ was the cool reply.

‘Look - good looks are no substitute for a sound character - hmm? Did he say anything about omens?’

‘Yes, omens in the sky,’ nodded Romana, and they both looked skywards.

‘Really?’ The Doctor removed an old brass telescope from his pocket and peered though it up at the sky. The blue vista held a few puffy white clouds but no clues to the cryptic omens. ‘I don't see anything unusual - just ordinary sky. Omens, omens, I wonder...’ he muttered.

‘May I look?’ asked Romana. The Doctor passed her the telescope and she handed him the precious stones she'd been given.

While Romana peered through the telescope the Doctor cast an appreciative eye over the gemstones. ‘I think that these stones are genuine.’ He walked over to K9 and held the items over his snout. ‘What do you think, K9?’

‘Affirmative, master,’ the mobile computer replied after a cursory analysis. 'The clear ones are the diamonds and the red ones are the rubies.’

‘Thank you very much! And what colour are the amethysts?’ chuckled the Doctor, chiding the computer's literalness.

‘Purple, master.’

‘Affirm - a - tive...’ the Doctor's voice trailed off as he spotted a scattering of more gemstones in a dark corner of the courtyard. He went over and crouched to have a closer look at them. ‘Extraordinary! The place is littered with them. Diamonds, Andromedan bloodstones, gravel, more diamonds.’ He paused from sifting through the jewels to look up at Romana. ‘Don't they have street sweepers here?’

‘Well, perhaps these stones aren't valuable here, Doctor.’

‘These? They're valuable anywhere. Diamond, one of the hardest substances in the Universe. Rubies, still needed to make any halfway decent laser beam. Have you seen the ones they're making now with plastic crystals? Horrid shoddy things. I wouldn't shoot my worst enemy with one.’ The Doctor held some of the stones up to the light and examined them appreciatively. ‘Apart from which they're terribly pretty - don't you think so?’

‘Perhaps they occur naturally here, in large numbers,’ Romana suggested.

‘Don't they teach you youngsters any astrogeology these days? The precise combination of minerals, pressures and heat needed to make these stones has to be very rare just on the Law of Averages. You've heard of the Law of Averages?’

‘Yes Doctor.’

‘You can break any law you like and if you're clever you can get away with it, but if you break the Law of Averages then sooner or later someone will smell a rat. For instance...’

Romana spotted another cluster of gems nearby. She picked up a particularly large, rock-encrusted green stone from amongst the others. ‘What's this?’

‘Oolion, mistress,’ stated K9.

‘Oolion?’ she echoed.

‘Oolion!’ said a surprised Doctor.

‘Affirmative,’ K9 confirmed.

‘Oolion. Now that is rare. That's one of the most precious stones in the galaxy. It only occurs naturally in two places I know of - Qualactin and Bandraginus V.’ The Doctor's eyes widened further, if that were possible. 'Bandraginus V! Where have I heard that mentioned recently?’

Romana was still examining the green gem. ‘It's beautiful.’

‘Hold it up to the light,’ the Doctor suggested. ‘See the green flames blazing in its heart?’

She did, and let out a gasp of delight as the gemstone came alive, green light bouncing around inside it.

‘People have murdered for that beauty - ravaged empires for it,’ the Doctor said darkly. He looked at the courtyard surface. ‘And lying in the streets, exactly where I wasn't expecting to find it.’ The Time Lord turned back to his companion. ‘I wonder where Calufrax got to?’

Prologue | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | Epilogue