3: Time Corridor

Another jolt shook the TARDIS, sending the Doctor's companions staggering away from the console. Turlough crashed into a wall and slid to the floor. Only the Doctor managed to retain his position at the console.

Tegan scrambled across the floor to assist the stunned Turlough. ‘You all right?’ she asked him. He nodded groggily.

‘I can't free the TARDIS from the time corridor,’ the Doctor announced as he continued to operate various controls in mounting desperation.

‘Isn't there anything you can do?’ demanded Tegan, as she helped Turlough to stand.

‘There's too much turbulence,’ the Doctor explained. ‘Hang on. Things must stabilise soon.’

As if determined to prove him wrong, the TARDIS lurched again, and the Doctor was flung across the room. He recovered his balance and staggered back to check the flight readings. ‘We're now travelling within the corridor,’ he updated his companions. The turbulence had noticeably subsided.

Turlough examined one of the console computer screens. ‘Doctor, we're weaving in time.’

The Doctor ducked down beneath the console, and lifted away one of the pedestal panels. ‘Yes, I know,’ he replied tersely, withdrawing his toolbox from its storage compartment.

Tegan was uncomfortably reminded of a time when she'd been stuck on a small boat in the middle of Sydney Harbour during a storm. The constant buffeting motion of the TARDIS was making her feel almost as ill as she had been then. ‘Can't we materialise?’ she suggested hopefully.

The Doctor was too immersed in his work on the console to reply, so Turlough answered for him. ‘Not until we're free of the time corridor. We risk break-up.’

Tegan had always been a strong believer in seeking a second opinion if she didn't like the sound of the first one. ‘Is that true?’ she demanded of the Doctor.

The Time Lord flashed her a reassuring smile. ‘Not if I have anything to do with it.’ Completing his modifications, he tested the control he had been working on. A high-pitched whining noise filled the room, and the TARDIS lurched wildly once more. The toolbox toppled over and slid across the floor, spilling delicate instruments in its wake.

The floor eventually returned to the horizontal position. As soon as this latest bout of turbulence had subsided, a doleful deep tolling sound filled the room. This was the TARDIS cloister bell, the warning mechanism that signalled only the direst emergencies. Tegan looked up at the ceiling.

‘Oh no!’

The Doctor stood at the console tapping his lips with his index finger, his eyes constantly darting across the various readings displayed before him. Tegan and Turlough watched him expectantly. Their safe extrication from the time corridor depended very much on the Time Lord's ability to control his ship.

Tegan still felt unwell. ‘What are we waiting for?’ she inquired impatiently.

‘The right moment,’ the Doctor replied, his eyes remaining fixed on the console. After a pause, he glanced up and noticed Tegan's pained expression. ‘The time stress on the TARDIS varies greatly,’ he explained. ‘I'm waiting for the right moment to break out of the time corridor.’

This was little comfort for the Australian. ‘Can I get to my room?’ she asked. ‘I feel sick.’

‘Too late, Tegan!’ announced the Doctor without malice. The readings had at that moment converged at the optimum point. ‘Hold on!’ He hit a button, and the room suddenly tilted alarmingly, accompanied by a loud protesting noise from the TARDIS engines.

The Doctor and Turlough gripped the console, but Tegan staggered back across the room. Just before she reached the wall, the chamber titled back the other way, at an even steeper angle, and she found herself sliding and falling towards the console.

Turlough reached out an arm and caught her around the waist.

The whole fabric of the room rippled like the surface of a pond. The Doctor spoke, his voice high and distorted. ‘Hold on!’

The noise from the TARDIS engines steadily grew to a deafening roar.

Tegan tried to shout over the top of this maelstrom, but her voice came out thin and reedy. ‘Doctor - I can't stand much more!’

As if in response to her protest, the Doctor suddenly reached out one hand across the console and slammed down a single button. The TARDIS gave a huge lurch sideways, and the Time Lord's two companions were once more thrown to the floor like rag dolls. The room stabilised and all was steady and quiet, apart from a peaceful, contented hum from the console.

Tegan stared up at the ceiling for a few moments, hardly daring to hope that the ordeal had come to an end. The Doctor loomed into her field of view.

‘We're free,’ he announced, with evident relief.

Turlough sat up gingerly. ‘Is it over?’ he inquired.

‘For the moment,’ replied the Doctor omniously, and looked once more at Tegan, who as yet had not moved from her recumbent position. ‘Are you all right?’ he inquired gently.

‘I think so,’ Tegan confirmed, and got to her feet, straightening her dishevelled clothes.

‘Good!’ the Doctor beamed, and dived back under the console.

Turlough examined the console readings, whilst Tegan busied herself collecting the Doctor's scattered tools and packing them back in their case.

‘Doctor,’ said Turlough suddenly.

Such was the note of concern in Turlough's voice that the Time Lord went instantly to his companion's side.

‘Look at our course,’ Turlough advised, jabbing a finger at the computer screen. ‘We're travelling parallel to the time corridor.’

The Doctor nodded. It was as he'd expected.

Tegan stopped clearing up and joined them. ‘Where are we going?’ she wanted to know.

Turlough consulted the computer. ‘Twentieth Century Earth, it seems.’

Tegan felt a sudden involuntary shiver. Home again.

The central column shuddered to a halt and a single chime issued from the console, indicating that the TARDIS had materialised.

‘Have you calculated where we are?’ Tegan wanted to know.

‘The instruments are still affected by turbulence, but I think it's 1984, London,’ the Doctor informed her. ‘Found it!’ he announced suddenly. He operated the door control decisively and pulled his furled panama hat from his pocket as he headed towards the opening doors.

‘Where are you going?’ asked Turlough.

The Doctor hesitated in the doorway and frowned. ‘The time corridor,’ he replied, as if his destination was never in any doubt. ‘I want to find out what all this is about.’

The Time Lord marched out of the console room, leaving Tegan and Turlough to exchange meaningful expressions. They knew from considerable experience of the Doctor's habitual tendency to become ‘involved'.

The Doctor looked around to get his bearings. The TARDIS had landed on a wharf on the south bank of the River Thames, and the Time Lord knew exactly where he was as soon as he looked up and saw the famous Tower Bridge just upriver.

Even for an intergalactic traveller like the Doctor, the Thames held many associations with his past. He recalled his failed attempt to drown the TARDIS; his quest in a small rowboat with Professor Litefoot for the confluence of the Thames and the Fleet; the Skarasen rising from the waters in the final stage of the Zygon gambit; and an early memory of encountering his deadly nemesis rising from the murky depths of the river in the Twenty-Second Century...

The Doctor's skin prickled as if he'd been stung by nettles. It was a peculiar nervous reaction he hadn't felt in quite some time.

He walked across the wharf to get a better look at his surroundings, and saw that it was situated at the end of a street that ran between two large imposing brick warehouses which appeared to have fallen into disuse.

Tegan stepped from the TARDIS and took a moment to acclimatise herself as the Doctor had done. After coming to terms with the destruction of Earth in the far distant future, she was comforted to be back in her own time and place.

‘Such neglect,’ observed the Doctor as Tegan joined him, and indicated the brick edifices with his unfurled hat. ‘A hundred years ago this place would have been bustling with activity.’ Such was the conviction in his voice that it was evident that he'd actually witnessed the London docklands of the late nineteenth century.

‘They might be again when we find out who's operating the time corridor,’ quipped Tegan with her usual pragmatism.

The Doctor frowned. ‘The trouble with you is that you have no imagination,’ he told her. ‘Come on.’ He stuck his hat on his head and walked away.

Turlough emerged, locked the TARDIS door and trailed after his two companions.

‘Just because I can't get worked up about a load of crumbling brickwork,’ Tegan protested.

The Doctor put a counselling hand on her shoulder as they walked, and pointed up at the building they were approaching, explaining to her in his gently lecturing tone that once, all of London's sea-borne imports had been unloaded at wharves such as this one.

Turlough hung back, experience having taught him that the Doctor's encounters were invariably hostile in nature, and he had no reason to believe that the time corridor operator would be the one to break the pattern.

He stared into the gloomy shadows as they walked between the two warehouses. They were constructed so that the second floor connected above the road, creating a short dark tunnel, and although Turlough would not have admitted it to his companions, he was profoundly relieved when they emerged into the daylight without incident.

The Doctor paused at the intersection of two roads to get his bearings, mentally imposing the time corridor coordinate pattern provided by the TARDIS computers on the landscape. After a moment's hesitation, he started off down another street. He came to a sudden halt again a mere seconds later, causing Tegan, who had been following hard at his heels, to collide with him.

The Doctor steadied her, then indicated a pair of large wooden doors - unbeknown to them the same doors through which the fugitives from another time had made their escape attempt a day earlier.

‘There,’ the Time Lord said decisively.

‘The time corridor's in there?’ Tegan retorted sceptically.

The Doctor was not at all put out by her evident lack of faith in his judgement. ‘According to the TARDIS, the point of termination is somewhere in the region of this building. Are you coming?’ he inquired, and without waiting for a reply, stepped up to the doors and took hold of one of them by its rusty handle. As he did so, he felt the prickling sensation on his skin again. For a moment he hesitated, unsure whether this was connected to his investigation, and then shrugged it off and pulled the door open a short way.

Tegan stifled a gasp as a grimy hand shot out through the gap and clenched the Doctor's arm in a vice-like grip.

Reacting instantly, the Time Lord reached into the gap, took hold of the arm with his free hand and pulled its owner out through the doorway with a sudden jerk.

The figure that emerged was a short stocky man, clothed in a dirty and torn uniform of a style not recognised by the Doctor or his companions. He staggered slightly, clutching at the Doctor for support.

‘Don't come in here,’ he cautioned the Time Lord in a conspiratorial manner. ‘Soldiers.’

‘What?’ replied the Doctor sharply, but the man was already sliding to the ground.

The Doctor knelt beside the stranger and swiftly checked the man's vital signs. ‘He'll be all right.’

Tegan crouched down and studied the recumbent figure. ‘Look at the way he's dressed,’ she observed.

The Doctor nodded. ‘Must have come down the time corridor,’ he surmised, and watched intently as the man started to come around.

The man groaned and rose weakly on one elbow. ‘You've got to help me,’ he implored the Doctor, his haunted and frightened eyes searching the Doctor's concerned expression.

The Doctor removed his hat and leaned closer. ‘What happened?’

‘We escaped from the ship...’

‘Using the time corridor?’ ventured the Doctor, and gave Tegan a small triumphant smile at the man's nod of affirmation.

‘Who are you?’ asked Tegan.

‘Quartermaster Stien,’ came the reply. ‘My friend Galloway was killed... I'm the last one...’ Stien's voice faltered. ‘I must rest,’ he muttered. ‘I'm hungry. I haven't eaten since yesterday.’

‘Who's controlling the time corridor?’ the Doctor persisted.

Stien stared at him, feeling a growing stabbing pain in his mind. ‘I... I don't know,’ he stammered, and turned away from the Doctor's probing stare. He focused instead on Tegan. She looked sympathetic. ‘Have you anything to eat?’ he asked hopefully.

Tegan shook her head. ‘Where are you from?’

‘Earth,’ he replied. ‘Not all of us were from the same period, though.’ The pain in his head returned. ‘Are you sure you haven't got anything to eat?’

‘Relax,’ the Doctor advised him, getting to his feet. He stood back, and motioned Tegan and Turlough to join him. ‘I'm going into the warehouse,’ he announced.

At this, Stien scrambled weakly to his feet. ‘No,’ he objected. ‘I told you, there are soldiers.’

‘Well perhaps they can tell us what's going on, hmm?’ suggested the Time Lord pointedly. He pulled the door open further and entered the gloomy interior.

Tegan followed, accompanied by the reluctant Stien. Turlough hung back, warily watching the deserted street for any signs of life before following the trio inside. If he had lingered a moment longer, his vigil would have been rewarded, as two figures in the uniforms of British policemen stepped out of a side street. They watched impassively as the warehouse door closed.

Tegan's eyes gradually adjusted to the gloomy interior. Discarded wooden packing cases were stacked against the walls, and papers and lengths of wood littered the floor. Here and there, puddles of muddy water had formed where the rain had seeped through the brickwork.

Tegan thought for a moment that she could hear faint muffled voices from somewhere within the building, but dismissed them as the product of her overactive imagination when the Doctor and Turlough showed no signs of having heard anything.

Stien was showing the Doctor to a flight of steps just ahead of them. ‘The time corridor is on the next level,’ he informed them in hushed tones. ‘Be careful.’

The Doctor peered up the stairs, furling his hat in his hands. Without a word, he climbed quickly to the landing, then beckoned the others to join him.

‘I'm Tegan, by the way,’ said the Australian, suddenly realising that there had been no reciprocation of introductions. ‘That's the Doctor and this is Turlough.’

Stien opened his mouth to reply, but Tegan had already disappeared up the stairs after the Doctor. Turlough gave him a sympathetic smile before following her. Stien sighed, and clutched his stomach as he started to climb.

At the top, the Doctor had opened the door and emerged on to the upper level.

‘Dark, isn't it?’ quipped Turlough nervously.

The Doctor stowed his furled hat in the breast pocket of his coat. ‘Look around,’ he instructed, and began walking across the large floor, carefully examining the room for signs of anything unusual.

Tegan's shoe struck something small and hard as she moved off in a different direction. It clinked, a sound of metal striking metal, as it rolled away. She squatted down to examine her find.

‘I can't see Galloway's body,’ muttered Stien. ‘This was the last place I saw him alive.’

The Doctor was about to question Stien further when Tegan called out to him.

‘Look, Doctor!’

The Time Lord joined his companion on the floor, and noticed that she was holding up a couple of shiny metal objects in her hand. ‘Bullets.’

Turlough was exploring the far side of the room, beyond the brick partition. At the sound of Tegan's discovery, he began to make his way back to join them. Gradually, to his horror, he began to feel as if he were wading through treacle. A red glow formed around his body. He wanted to call out, to alert his companions to his predicament, but he couldn't speak or move a muscle, and all three were facing away from him. The darkened warehouse interior faded from view, to be replaced by a brilliant whiteness.

The Doctor and Tegan, watched from a short distance by Stien, were completely oblivious to Turlough's fate. The Time Lord sniffed one of the spent cartridges. ‘Recently fired,’ he observed, detecting the lingering odour of freshly burnt gunpowder.

‘Hardly alien,’ observed Tegan with a note of relief in her voice.

The Doctor agreed, but didn't share Tegan's conviction. ‘But then, why advertise who you are?’ he suggested rhetorically.

Tegan stood up and looked around. ‘Where's Turlough?’ she said suddenly.

The Doctor scanned the room. ‘Turlough?’ he called.

Tegan walked over to the brick partition and peered through the archway into the adjoining room. ‘Where's he gone?’ she demanded.

‘He didn't go through here,’ Stien added helpfully, indicating the door. He had been lingering not far from the doorway the whole time they had been in the room, ready to be the first to escape should the need arise.

‘Turlough!’ shouted the Doctor, a note of concern entering his voice.

Tegan had been wrong about her imagination deceiving her; she had heard voices. They had come from a disused foreman's office, a small room on the far side of the street level of the warehouse, where the small group of soldiers whose arrival Stien had witnessed earlier had set up camp.

Three men in uniform sat at a couple of trestle tables, two of them playing cards while the third made adjustments to a portable radio set. Nearby, in a corner of the room where one brick wall had been partially broken down, a bespectacled woman in her late thirties, dressed in a quilted blue parka and dark trousers, dug in a patch of exposed earth with a trowel. A cluster of strangely-shaped silver cylinders projected from the hard earth floor, and she was clearing the soil away from the nearest of these with the meticulous care of a dedicated archaeologist.

The fifth and final member of the group, dressed in the uniform of a colonel, stood in the doorway, listening intently to a faint sound. ‘Sergeant Calder,’ he said quietly, turning to the man at the radio set. ‘Did you hear that?’

The Sergeant, a red-haired slightly portly man, joined the Colonel in the doorway, a puzzled expression on his face. ‘No sir,’ he replied.

‘I thought I heard voices,’ the Colonel frowned.

The Sergeant was about to reply when they both distinctly heard a faint shout from the floor above them. It sounded like someone's name being called.

‘Come with me,’ the Colonel instructed. Calder grabbed a machine gun and followed his commanding officer.

‘Turlough!’ called the Doctor again, unaware that his efforts to locate his missing companion had now been heard by others.

He and Stien were searching the adjacent storeroom, and Tegan was checking behind a stack of packing cases. As she moved behind the cases, a quick flash of movement caught her eye, and was instantly relieved to find that it was only a small tabby kitten. It darted away as she approached. Tegan looked up over the cases, trying to follow the kitten's path, and as she did so, saw the door open and caught a glimpse of the uniformed men beyond. Instinctively, Tegan dropped down behind the wooden crates.

The Doctor and Stien re-entered the room and were confronted by the two soldiers.

‘May I help you, gentlemen?’ the Colonel inquired in a tone which while polite, made it quite clear that he strongly disapproved of their presence.

The Doctor faced his questioner, and instantly adopted his most disarming smile. ‘Ah yes, I'm sorry about this. A friend of mine wandered in here by mistake and we're looking for him.’

The Colonel glanced around the room. ‘I don't see him,’ he replied sceptically. It was clear that he didn't believe the Doctor's explanation.

‘That's because he's missing,’ the Time Lord replied, the merest hint of irritation in his voice. He'd never had much patience with the military mind.

Before the Colonel could offer a reply, the bespectacled woman in civilian clothes entered the room. ‘What's going on, Colonel Archer?’ she demanded.

The Colonel turned. ‘That's precisely what I'm trying to find out,’ he said, and then turned back to the Doctor. ‘What are you doing here?’ he asked.

The Doctor looked him in the eyes and answered in a firm, level tone. ‘You really wouldn't believe me if I told you.’

‘Try me,’ Archer insisted.

The Doctor shrugged. ‘I suspect that this building is the point of termination for a time corridor, probably operated by alien beings. It seems likely that my friend has become trapped in it...’ The Time Lord paused to study Archer's expression, trying to gauge the man's reaction to what he had said.

‘Time corridors... alien beings... really?’ the Colonel scoffed.

Stien had lingered quietly in the background throughout this exchange. Now he stepped forward to offer his support to the Doctor's story. ‘It's true. All we need to prove it is a minute or two more - the entrance to the time corridor is on this level, somewhere.’

The Doctor had not taken his eyes off Archer. ‘Interesting,’ he murmured. ‘You don't disbelieve us, do you?’

Archer was caught off guard, and flinched away from the Time Lord's piercing gaze. ‘Of course I disbelieve you. I've never heard such nonsense,’ he replied hurriedly.

The Doctor was far from convinced. ‘What have you discovered?’ he demanded.

‘Nothing!’ Archer snapped. ‘Take them away!’ he ordered Sergeant Calder.

Before the burly Sergeant could carry out this instruction, the woman stepped forward. ‘Tell them, Colonel,’ she suggested. ‘They've guessed most of it already.’

Archer glared at her, irritated at her intervention. ‘Are you from the press?’ he asked the Doctor.

The Doctor shook his head. ‘I'm investigating for UNIT,’ he told them. ‘I'm their scientific adviser,’ he added in a secretive, confiding manner. The first half of the statement was a lie, but he felt sure that his former colleagues would vouch for him if contacted.

‘Is that some sort of joke?’ Archer demanded.

The Doctor was taken aback. ‘Certainly not,’ he protested.

‘Professor Laird is UNIT's scientific adviser,’ the Colonel informed him. ‘She is on loan to this team.’

The Doctor immediately directed his attention to Laird.

‘What have you found?’ he asked her, intensely curious.

‘You still haven't told us who you are,’ the Colonel snapped before Laird could reply.

‘The Doctor,’ he replied. ‘Doctor John Smith.’

‘The Doctor,’ Laird echoed with surprise, clearly aware of what he was talking about. ‘But it's been years...’ She hesitated. ‘You don't look anything like the photographs...’ she added suspiciously.

‘If you know who I am, then you should also know that I've changed - several times,’ the Doctor persisted.

‘Sergeant, get onto HQ and run a check on this man's identity,’ Archer instructed.

Calder hurried from the room, and the Colonel turned back to the Doctor. ‘If you are who you say you are, then you will be briefed once you have clearance.’

‘There may not be time,’ said the Doctor with mounting frustration. ‘Tell me what you've found! Alien objects?’

‘Quiet!’ Archer looked worried.

The Doctor smiled reassuringly at Stien. Inwardly, he was hoping that Lethbridge-Stewart had seen fit to update UNIT on his latest regeneration after his meeting with him in his retirement at Brendon School. Thoughts of that encounter renewed his concern for Turlough's predicament, and it occurred to him that he had not seen Tegan for some minutes. He wondered if both his companions had become trapped in the time corridor.

Sergeant Calder returned with the other two soldiers, who had their rifles slung over their shoulders. ‘There's heavy static,’ he informed the Colonel. ‘I can't get through to HQ.’

‘A side effect of the time corridor,’ postulated the Doctor helpfully.

‘Be quiet!’ snapped Archer, frustrated that he had been thwarted in his attempt to either verify or discredit the stranger's claimed identity.

Behind the wooden crate which served as her hiding place, Tegan had been crouching down, silent and unmoving, listening to the conversation. Her legs had become so stiff with cramp that she was finally forced to attempt to change position as quietly as possible. Overbalancing on her numbed feet, she toppled forward against a crate, sending it crashing into the next one.

At this, the soldiers were instantly alert, readying their weapons and aiming them at the stack of crates. Archer drew his revolver. ‘Who's there?’ he demanded.

Tegan rose sheepishly from behind the crates and the Doctor moved defensively towards her, blocking the soldiers' line of fire.

‘Don't harm her, please,’ he pleaded. ‘She's a friend.’ The Doctor raised his hands to defuse the situation, and continued walking towards Tegan.

‘Hello, Doctor,’ she said with an apologetic smile, well aware that her sudden appearance had probably not helped the Doctor's shaky credibility. Everyone was staring at her, and as her eyes passed over their faces, she saw something else in the shadows behind them.

‘Look!’ she shouted, as a dark shape began to form within a hazy red glow. The group turned as one.

‘What is it?’ Archer asked, realising for the first time that the Doctor might have been telling him the truth from the outset.

The Doctor stared in disbelief as the glow faded to leave the solid, familiar shape in its place. For what seemed like an eternity, he was frozen in time, gripped by a sudden deep dread at the apparition of evil that he'd managed to evade for so long...

The spell broke, perhaps less than a second after Archer's question, and the Doctor was running, pulling Archer to cover with him behind a concrete pillar. ‘A Dalek!’ he shouted. ‘Take cover!’

Professor Laird and Stien joined Tegan behind her crate, and the two soldiers took up positions behind another pillar.

The Dalek moved forward, gunstick quivering as its mono-optic lens scanned left and right, searching out a target.


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