Chapter 7

The Gestalt

A figure stepped forward from among the Mentiads and stood by the leader. Kimus gasped as the zombie pulled back his shroud to reveal a pallid face with the distinctive red, shrunken eyes.

‘Pralix! Pralix - what have they done to you?’

His questions were interrupted as an energy bolt just missed him, fired by the approaching guards. ‘Kill them! Kill them all!’ ordered the lead guard as they advanced.

The Mentiads raised their arms in unison and an invisible force wall formed just in front of the guards, blocking their attack.

‘We must hurry - the force wall will not last long,’ Pralix told the fugitives.

He turned and the Mentiads began filing away.

‘They're on our side!’ said Romana.

‘I thought as much,’ said the Doctor nonchalantly, and set off after the Mentiads.

‘But I don't understand,’ mumbled Kimus.

‘The Mentiads are treated as devils, but when they attacked me a few hours ago...’ the Doctor began to explain.

‘They attacked you?’ Romana asked. ‘I thought you said...’

‘They thought I was trying to harm Pralix. But they didn't kill me. I could tell by the vibrations they hit me with they weren't evil. Frightened, confused, yes. But not evil. They weren't kidnapping Pralix - they were rescuing him.’

‘Hurry!’ Pralix urged.

‘But why are they?’ Romana wanted to know.

‘I don't know,’ the Doctor confessed. ‘Exciting, isn't it?’

Romana and Kimus ran to catch up with him. ‘I'll explain as we go,’ he added.

‘Go where?’

‘To see Mula, of course!’

Mula was about to drop in her tracks. She and K9 seemed to have been travelling for forever. They had traversed many hills and finally reached the eastern end of the mountain range. The pair then followed a bewildering series of tunnels into the mountainside, heading northwards, Mula thought. She would have long ago been lost, were it not for K9's unerring tracking of the Mentiads' psycho-spore.

The mobile computer stopped abruptly and Mula realised they had reached the end of a corridor and before them stood a small doorway.

‘This is where the Mentiads' psycho-spore ends,’ stated K9.

‘You mean they live here? The Mentiads?’ asked Mula.

‘Affirmative.’

Mula stepped forward and pushed the door - it opened freely. Inside was stark and empty, except for a few stone benches. Summoning all her courage, the young woman entered the chamber, followed by K9. A quick search proved the room's emptiness, so she sat down by her robot guide.

‘Master,’ said K9 suddenly.

‘What is it?’

‘The Mentiads have located the Doctor-master. They are approaching.’

‘How can you tell?’ Mula wanted to know. ‘I didn't hear anything.’

‘The Doctor-master has very distinctive heartbeats,’ K9 explained. ‘Estimated time of arrival 21.9 seconds.’

‘I still can't get over the Mentiads. All my life I've been taught to hate and loathe them. Now it seems they're the only honest men on this stinking planet'

‘Arrival in sixteen seconds now.’ K9 was almost petulant. ‘The Doctor would not have instructed me to conduct you to them if he had not thought it safe. Twelve seconds.’

‘But how could he possibly know?’

‘My subsequent analysis of their brain-wave patterns indicated no malice when they attacked him.’

‘You mean they slammed him to the wall with good vibrations?’

‘Affirmative. Arrival imminent.’

Maybe it was time for some unlearning, Mula thought to herself.

In a strange procession making its way slowly through the heart of the mountains towards the Mentiads' dwelling chamber, Kimus too was struggling to grasp the same concept.

‘So when you got thrown against the wall at Balaton's, the Mentiads did not mean to harm you?’

‘Exactly. They used benign force so they could rescue your friend Pralix before more of the Captain's guards turned up to execute him.’

‘But I thought the Mentiads were evil zombies with -’

‘Terrible powers, yes, yes, I know,’ replied the Time Lord. ‘Not everything is always as it seems. That's very important.’

Oh, thought Kimus - he could see there was much that he still had to understand of his world. ‘But what's happened to Pralix?’ he asked, looking ahead at his best friend, who was leading the procession of Mentiads and fugitives.

‘He has become one of the Mentiads,’ explained Romana, who had been studying them during the long trek. ‘They're telepathic, you see.’

‘Telewhatic?’

‘Telepathic - they talk to each other through their minds and some can move objects just by thinking about it.’

‘That's amazing - but has Pralix become evil like the others?’

‘Just because someone is different from you, doesn't mean they're evil or dangerous,’ scolded the Doctor. ‘You've been taught to believe a lie about the Mentiads because it suited the Captain's regime. The Mentiads, they're a force for good and perhaps the only thing that can save your planet from those who rule it. You're going to have to open your mind, your way of thinking Kimus, if you're going to be any help to them in that struggle.’

‘I'm trying to, Doctor, I really am,’ replied the young man. ‘But it's all a bit overwhelming finding out just about everything you've ever been taught or told was a lie, suddenly.’

Romana felt sympathy for Kimus. Even she had trouble keeping up with the Doctor sometimes, though she would never admit that aloud. ‘Don't worry - there's probably much more of the same to come,’ she said with a friendly smile.

The guard was terrified as he entered the Bridge to give the Captain the bad news. ‘Captain, Captain, sir. We were attacked in the mines.’ He paused and swallowed heavily. ‘The Doctor has escaped with the Mentiads.’

The Captain roared. ‘With the Mentiads!’ He raised his arm, and Avitron swooped on its latest prey. The guard died with a scream and the Captain walked away from the charred corpse. ‘Incompetent fools,’ he uttered dismissively. Then reality ripped away.

...The angel blazed white, aflame with fury. ‘Die, you fool, die!’ she...

The Captain nearly bent double, the pain of the vision far worse this time. Was he going mad, he wondered, before his computer persona pushed aside such foolish notions as premonitions and began calculating its next move. The Captain beckoned his deputy and addressed Fibuli in a quiet, almost conversational tone. ‘By the blood of the Sky Demon, we have been queasy fools. We should have obliterated the Mentiads years ago and rid ourselves of their sickly power.’

‘But Captain, we have tried many times in the past.’

‘And failed, Mr Fibuli. And failed.’

‘Captain, sir, you said yourself it was a question of priorities...’

The Captain disliked anything remotely approaching criticism. ‘I said! You dare to lay the rotting fruits of your own incompetence at my door?’

Fibuli simpered ingratiatingly. ‘Captain, in your wisdom, you observed that whilst the Mentiads lay dormant - with no leader and no purpose - we were well enough protected and they performed a useful function as a focus for the fear and aggression for the people, and that very hatred, which you have so ingeniously channeled has contained them. The stalemate was in our favour...’

Fibuli was right and the Captain knew it. The zombies were a product of his own murderous activities. But he truly feared their power now the off-worlder had combined his might with their abilities. The Doctor might be able to galvanise the band of misfits and outcasts into a formidable threat - the Captain did not intend to allow the Doctor that chance. ‘And now they will not be leaderless. Now they will have a clear purpose.’

‘But sir, the means to destroy them is at last within our grasp. The planet Calufrax is rich in Voolium and Madranite 1-5. That's what we came here for,’ said the deputy.

‘Voolium and Madranite 1-5, that is true, that is true,’ mused the Captain.

‘The vibrations of the refined crystals can be harnessed to produce interference patterns which will neutralise their mental powers...’

‘And leave them defenceless - as weak as ordinary men - obliterable!’ The Captain paused to calm himself. ‘Excellent, Mr Fibuli, excellent - your death shall be delayed.’

The deputy's head sagged at the last statement, after being unaware his life was so immediately at stake. The Captain was becoming more unstable by the moment, thought Fibuli. But he said, ‘Oh, thank you. Again and again, sir, your goodness confounds me.’

The Captain waved aside these mouthings. ‘But by the ninety-three names of the demigod of night, how soon, Mr Fibuli, how soon can you be prepared?’

‘Ah, that's difficult sir...’

‘Difficult! The gnarled finger of the Sky Demon beckons you Mr Fibuli...!’

‘Ahh, err, well, if we put all the automated mining and processing equipment on the planet on to full power, sir, we could reduce the entire planet of Calufrax within, er, hours. Of course, the machinery would be dangerously overloaded and the...’

‘That matters not a quark, Mr Fibuli,’ cut in the Captain. ‘Speed is of the essence. The Mentiads will be moving even now. Do it this instant or this time there will be no escape.’

‘But - ‘

Hurry, I say!’ The deranged giant smiled to himself as Fibuli scurried away - soon both threats to himself on Zanak would be eliminated...

Mula knew her brother would never harm her, but she still had mixed feelings when he arrived with the three fugitives and the other Mentiads.

The Doctor rushed over and crouched down beside his robot dog. ‘Hello, K9. Surprised to see us?’

‘Amazed, Master,’ K9 replied.

‘There you are,’ the Doctor said, grinning up at Romana. ‘Didn't I say he'd be amazed?’

To make the situation easier for all, the telepaths agreed to speak verbally as they had done back in the mine shaft. The Mentiad leader, Kintha, talked first about how he had become the first of his kind just after the Captain announced the first golden age of prosperity, long before. The powers manifested while Kintha had been in terrible pain and he had lashed out telepathically, killing one of the Captain's guards. After that he became an outcast as the lies were spread that he was evil. When other Mentiads began appearing, they banded together, living away from the main settlements.

‘Very clever,’ said the Doctor. ‘The Captain isolated the only people with any real power against him and then turned the other citizens against them too.’

‘You say that like you almost admire him, Doctor,’ said a concerned Mula.

‘Not really - I admire his tactical skills, but abhor his methods and actions.’ Kintha brought the debate back to its true focus. ‘Doctor - do you bring us the understanding we seek? For generation upon generation, our planet has been assailed by a nameless evil. We would know its name.’

‘Its name's the Captain. You know that. Why haven't you ever got off your bottoms and kicked him out?’ the Doctor asked.

‘Because his evil is beyond our comprehension, strange images haunt our brains,’ explained Kintha. ‘Hideous death agonies wrack our bodies, weird powers of the mind descend upon us and yet we know nothing. And yet - when a new Mentiad presence appears amongst the people, we know we must find them and protect them. Beyond that all is dark and confusion, images and pain.’

‘They found me just in time,’ added Pralix, with a reassuring smile to his sister and best friend. ‘But for the other Mentiads, I would have been killed. They were too late for my father before me. He was shot down in the street like a dog.’

‘With each new Mentiad we've grown stronger, but still the understanding evades us. We are constricted by the peoples' hatred,’ said Kintha.

‘A gestalt! A telepathic gestalt!’ cried out the Doctor, like a certain ancient Greek announcing his bath was too hot.

‘A geswhat?’ Kimus asked.

‘A telepathic gestalt,’ the Doctor replied. ‘A community of the mind.’

‘Many minds combined together telepathically to form a single entity, more powerful than the sum of the parts,’ added K9 helpfully. ‘The concept of a gestalt was first developed by a group of German philosophers on the planet Terra in the star system Sol during its early twentieth century and -'

The Doctor cut K9 short. ‘Yes, yes, yes, that's enough of the history lesson.’

‘And Pralix is part of that?’ asked Mula.

‘I am of Us,’ said Pralix. ‘All that We know, I know.’

‘Yes,’ agreed the Doctor.

Romana was a little more helpful. ‘The power of a gestalt is enormous.’

Pralix stepped forward. ‘Can you help us, Doctor? We are powerless unless we understand. Can you tell us what is happening to Zanak?’

‘Yes. Zanak's just a shell of a planet. Completely hollow.’

‘Hollow?’ Kintha repeated.

‘Yes, but very, very empty,’ the Doctor explained. ‘Now listen, there are vast transmat engines hidden under the Captain's mountain.’

‘Yes, they make the entire planet suddenly drop out of the space dimension,’ Romana added. ‘Vanish.’

‘Vanish? Is that possible?’ Mula found this very difficult to comprehend.

‘Yes, but you don't notice that, you see, because you're part of it,’ the Doctor told her. ‘Now listen, at almost the same moment it vanishes it rematerialises in another part of the galaxy around another, slightly smaller planet.’

‘In this case a planet called Calufrax,’ said Romana.

‘Yes. So your planet -’

‘Zanak,’ supplied Romana.

The Doctor gave her a look. ‘Am I telling this story or are you?’

‘Just helping you along, Doctor,’ she said sweetly.

‘Romana, would you like to mentally revise your seven hundred and ninety eight times table?’ the Doctor suggested.

‘All right.’

‘So your planet ...’ the Doctor began again.

‘Finished,’ said Romana.

‘Good, now be quiet. So your planet -’

‘Zanak,’ Romana repeated.

‘Yes, having materialised around the other planet, smothers it, crushes it and mines all the mineral wealth out of it.’

‘Just like an enormous leech,’ observed Mula.

‘Yes,’ the Doctor agreed.

‘And that's when the lights change,’ explained Kimus.

‘The Omens,’ gasped Mula, finally understanding.

‘Yes, said the Doctor darkly. ‘The Omens mean the death of another planet.’

Kintha pulled aside a curtain, revealing a design on the wall, a circle inside another larger circle. ‘This is the explanation of the image that haunts us,’ he explained. ‘The image of the concentric circles ...’

‘The image of the Pirate Planet,’ the Doctor observed.

‘Then the truth is known.’ Kintha replied.

‘Yes,’ agreed the Doctor. ‘So what are we going to do about it?’

‘The Time of Knowing is come upon us,’ Kintha declared. ‘The Evil is named unto us. There shall be no more waiting. We go to destroy the Captain. Come, Doctor, come, brothers.’

‘Wait,’ said the Doctor. ‘There's no point being in too much of a rush, there's something more I want to know about the Captain first.’

‘Speak,’ said Kintha.

‘Who exactly is he?’ the Doctor asked. ‘Where did he come from? Not from Zanak I'll be bound. Do you happen to know?’

‘Does that matter, Doctor?’ Romana queried.

‘Of course it matters!’ the Doctor replied. ‘If you're deliberately setting out to destroy somebody it's only decent to know a bit about them. Anyway, he may provide the answer to where the second segment is. Had you forgotten what we came for?’

Enak stood by Balaton's body, recounting what he saw to Zanak's council of elders. ‘I saw him shot down by the Captain's guards while he was begging for mercy.’

The leader, Radune, the oldest and most respected among them, spoke. ‘I find this hard to believe, but I also do not think you would create such a story, Enak. Perhaps you simply misinterpreted events. We must gather to consider what this could mean and then will approach the leader of the Captain's guard for an explanation.’ The other elders agreed - haste was not their habit.

Enak was unimpressed. ‘One of your number has been murdered and all you can do is talk about it!’ He stormed from the dwelling, disgusted.

The first rumblings of revolution had started on Zanak.

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