Chapter 12

Battle of the Minds

Working at a feverish pace, the Doctor had almost finished assembling an object resembling a helmet, stuck together with bits of electronic equipment all wired into each other.

He picked up the last component, the one that had fallen apart in his hand. ‘If I can't get this bit to work I may as well say good bye to the whole idea,’ he said and adjusted it with his sonic screwdriver. ‘Now. Once more,’ he continued, and switched on the device. It didn't do anything at all.

‘Goodbye idea,’ said the Doctor glumly, and despondently tossed the thing onto the table where he was working.

Instantly, it started to bleep. The Doctor looked surprised. ‘Ah! Hello again!’ He snatched up the device, and the bleeping stopped. ‘Oh,’ he said, and examined it in disappointment. ‘You're just trying to irritate me, aren't you?’ he asked the circuit. He adjusted it slightly, but with no success. ‘Now why won't the wretched thing work?’ he pondered. ‘I'll just have to see if there's anything else that will do...’

The Doctor tossed the component back on the table, and was about to move away to search when it resumed bleeping. He picked it up. ‘You do that once more and -’ he began, and stopped when he noticed that it was once again dead. Puzzled, the Time Lord placed it down deliberately on the table, and frowned as the bleeping began again. He examined the painted metal table carefully, and experimentally removed and replaced the device on the table a few times. It only bleeped when in contact with the table surface.

‘Of course,’ said the Doctor at last. ‘Zinc and lead oxide.’ Searching a shelf, he located a laser pistol, and started to cut away a corner of the table with its beam.

K9 pulled away from the console circuitry. ‘Repairs complete, Mistress.’

‘Let me see,’ said Romana, and knelt down to inspect his work. ‘Good boy, K9!’ she exclaimed delightedly, and stood up at the console. Clare joined her.

‘Now we can go,’ Romana declared, and then hesitated uncertainly. ‘Oh, I dread to think what we're walking in to if the Doctor hasn't...’ She swallowed hard, and looked at Clare. ‘Let's just do it,’ she concluded, and together they began to work the controls.

The Doctor finished cutting through the corner of the table, and attached the chunk of table on to the malfunctioning device. To the Doctor's relief, the component started functioning immediately. He then fitted the device into the complicated array of circuitry on the helmet, and regarded the finished effect with a frown. With a piece of table stuck to the side of it, the helmet looked perfectly ridiculous.

‘With that stuck on my head, it won't matter whether it works or not,’ mused the Doctor. ‘They'll all be paralysed laughing at me.’ Putting the helmet under his arm, he warily opened the door of the room, and moved out into the corridor.

All twelve of Skagra's mind-controlled prisoners were lined up on the command deck, as if at a military inspection. Skagra was addressing them when the Krarg Commander approached. The Commander was the only Krarg present on the command deck. The rest had been sent to prepare for the next stage of Skagra's plan.

‘Are the ships ready?’ Skagra inquired. ‘They are, my Lord,’ replied the Commander.

‘Then from this moment mark the beginning of the new life, the new Universe...’

Skagra's glorious speech was rudely interrupted by the arrival of a wooden door in one wall of the command deck. Skagra looked very irritated. ‘Doctor!’ he spat. ‘This man is like an itching flea on my skin. We will eliminate him once and for all! Come!’ he instructed the prisoners. ‘We will meet him.’ Skagra arranged, through mental control, the prisoners in a semi circle surrounding the wooden door.

‘Out you come, Doctor!’ he called. ‘Out you come!’

The Doctor walked into the console room of his TARDIS. ‘Hello old girl!’ he exclaimed delightedly, ‘How've you been keeping?’ He went over to the controls. ‘Sorry I had to barge in through the back door like that. Have you any idea what it's like to travel through the Space-Time Vortex? Of course you do, you do it all the time. But at least you're built for it. Now,’ he continued, moving to the scanner controls. ‘Let's see what's happening outside shall we?’ On the scanner screen, the Doctor saw the line of prisoners surrounding the wooden door, their backs to his TARDIS.

The Doctor laughed. ‘Look out behind you!’ he sang, and put on the helmet. ‘Now, let's go and say hello.’ He operated the door control.

The wooden door opened and K9 emerged. He rolled forward towards Skagra and then stopped. ‘Hostile force, my Master commands that you cease your activities immediately and surrender to him,’ said the small automaton.

‘He sends his dog out to me!’ laughed Skagra dismissively. ‘Stop hiding in there, Doctor,’ he called towards the door. ‘Come out and meet your fate.’

‘Did someone call?’

At the sound of the Doctor's voice, Skagra and his prisoners spun round to see the Doctor emerging from the police box. ‘Doctor!’ exclaimed Skagra. ‘How did you get in there?’

‘What do you mean how did I get in there?’ retorted the Doctor indignantly. ‘It's mine, I belong in there.’

‘As of now Doctor, you don't belong anywhere at all. There is no place for you in my new Universe. You shall die now,’ declared Skagra contemptuously. He looked sharply round at the Time Lord, and all of the prisoners looked round at him in unison.

‘Well Skagra,’ said the Doctor calmly. ‘That's a very interesting theory. Let's try putting it to the test shall we?’ He reached up and pressed a small button nestled in amongst the array of circuitry on his helmet. Then he looked round sharply at Skagra, and all the prisoners looked round at Skagra in unison with the Doctor. He grinned, and the prisoners grinned with him.

‘Doctor!’ shouted Skagra. ‘What have you done?’ With an intense mental effort, he turned the prisoners back towards the Doctor.

‘No,’ the Doctor corrected him. ‘What have you done? You used your deranged billiard ball once too often. You forgot - I have a brain in there too. Don't I?’ He concentrated, and the line of prisoners turned back to face Skagra. ‘Think about it,’ the Doctor advised.

The strain showed on Skagra's face as he backed away to one end of the line of prisoners, and managed to turn those at his end of the line towards the Doctor. The ones in the middle were left in a state of confusion, equally drawn to both wills.

‘But not too hard old chap,’ the Doctor continued. ‘You might strain yourself. So, what was that you've been talking about, a new Universe, a new single mind. I think your little bunch are in two minds about that already, aren't they?’

The Krarg Commander had been standing back, observing this mental duel. Now Skagra clicked his fingers, and the Krarg lumbered into action, making for the Doctor.

The Doctor reacted with alarm. His concentration lapsed for no more than a second, but that was all Skagra needed to turn the prisoners against the Doctor. They started to move in on him. The Doctor concentrated again, but he had lost the advantage, and the prisoners remained under Skagra's control.

The Doctor observed the approaching Krarg warily, and then called out, ‘K9!’

‘Master?’ responded K9, starting towards the Doctor.

‘Fire!’

K9 hesitated. ‘But Master, your instructions were -’

‘Fire!’

K9 blasted the Krarg Commander and, as before, the Krarg was halted by the beam, but began to grow in heat and strength.

‘Now lay on Skagra!’ said the Doctor, recalling a line he'd once suggested to Shakespeare. ‘Let's see the quality of your mind.’ The Doctor concentrated hard, and regained control of six of the prisoners. They paired off against Skagra's remaining six prisoners and closed in, wrestling with each other in a slow-motion, zombie-like fashion.

The Doctor nervously eyed the Krarg Commander, and saw that it was becoming very hot and was also starting to regain mobility. The Doctor concentrated on getting the prisoners under his control to drive back the other six. Skagra was forced to back away as well, as the line of prisoners moved towards him. Skagra found himself being driven closer to the overheating Krarg.

‘A little warm for the time of year wouldn't you say, Skagra?’ the Doctor quipped, and then added a short command. ‘Off, K9!’

K9's beam switched off instantly, and the Krarg was free to move once more.

‘Back!’ Skagra ordered the Krarg Commander. ‘Back I say!’

The overheated Krarg backed away into the doorway of the Krarg generation annexe, but this wasn't far away enough for Skagra. ‘Back!’ he repeated, and the Krarg retreated further.

At that moment, several more Krargs arrived on the command deck, ready to attack.

‘K9!’ called the Doctor, and this time the robot needed no further prompting. He opened fire instantly, and the group of Krargs was held at bay.

The Krarg Commander fell back in to one of the Krarg generation vats, and dissolved in a dazzling display of sparks from its overheated body.

Although the four Krargs had still been tightly grouped when K9 opened fire on them, his beam was not strong enough to hold all four at bay for very long, and already they were beginning to regain mobility.

K9's predicament was the first thing Romana noticed as she poked her head out of the wooden door of the Professor's TARDIS. She was relieved to see that the Doctor was alive, but at the same time saw that unless the Krargs could be dealt with, he stood little chance of defeating Skagra. She began to make her way unnoticed towards the Krarg generation annexe, and reached it in time to see the final stages of the Krarg Commander's dissolution. This gave her an idea.

As soon as the Krarg had completely dissolved, she heaved at the edge of the vat, tipping it over on its side so that the heavy green gas spilled out across the floor in great rolling clouds. Moving on, she repeated the same action with the other vats in the annexe, and then discovered a main feedpipe connected to the vats. Romana ripped the pipe out, and let the gas stream from the nozzle.

Nodding with satisfaction, she then turned her attention to the generation control unit, and pulled out a couple of long, trailing cables from it. Pulling these behind her, Romana left the annexe and retraced her steps to the wooden door.

Out on the command deck, the tables had been turned on the Doctor, and Skagra was forcing him and his line of prisoners back towards the group of now burning Krargs.

‘Clare!’ called Romana urgently. ‘Clare!’

Clare emerged cautiously from the doorway, and Romana handed her one of the cables. Romana began giving Clare instructions.

The Doctor, meanwhile, was being forced closer and closer to the Krargs. It was becoming hard to concentrate in the stifling heat emanating from the creatures. Eventually he was forced to call K9 off. ‘K9!’ he yelled. ‘Stop firing.’

K9 stopped, and the Krargs lumbered into life, moving even closer to the Doctor. They were almost upon him.

Unnoticed, Romana and Clare had separated, and had moved around the room so that they were on opposite sides of the command deck. ‘Now!’ shouted Romana. She and Clare plunged the ends of the cables into the dense green fog, which now blanketed the floor of the entire command deck.

Almost immediately, the Krargs began to spark and melt like snowmen on a midsummer's day.

Skagra looked appalled, and in that moment, lost all concentration.

The prisoners ceased wrestling with each other as they all fell under the Doctor's mental control, and reformed into a solid phalanx against Skagra. He tried to resist, but his mind was fatigued. He backed away, trying to regain control, but to no avail.

‘Want to call half time, Skagra?’ inquired the Doctor. ‘We can have a short break if you like, few slices of lemon - perk you up no end.’

Without speaking, Skagra turned and fled through the doorway leading to the corridors of the carrier ship. He didn't stop running until he reached a hatchway marked “Airlock”, and opened it.

Once through the airlock, he entered his own, smaller spaceship. As he raced up the corridor towards the bridge, he called out, ‘Ship! Take off instantly! Instantly do you hear?’

The spinning cube of light appeared, engulfing him. Skagra was astonished to find himself deposited in the prison cell of his ship. He started yelling and beating at the walls. ‘Ship! Let me out of here! I am your Lord Skagra! Let me out! Take off!’

‘I am afraid I can no longer accept your orders,’ said the ship. ‘You are an enemy of my Lord, the Doctor.’

‘I am your Lord,’ replied Skagra. ‘I built you! Release me I command you!’

‘Do you know the Doctor well?’ inquired the ship calmly. ‘He is a wonderful man. He has done the most wonderful things to my circuitry.’

‘Release me!’ howled Skagra.

‘Truly wonderful,’ continued the ship. ‘If you like, I will tell you all about him...’

‘Let me out!’

Once the Doctor had relinquished control over the minds of the prisoners, the spheres dropped to the floor and the prisoners all lapsed into unconsciousness.

Clare was examining Chris. ‘He'll be all right,’ she said with relief. ‘How are the others?’

Romana looked up from her examination of the prisoners. ‘They're all in shock, but no serious damage. Though I hate to think what would have happened to them if the tug of war had carried on much longer.’

The Doctor sat cross-legged on the floor, seeming none the worse for his ordeal. He had a couple of the spheres dissected and laid out in front of him. ‘They wouldn't have been the only ones in trouble,’ he added. ‘This is in a fearful mess.’

‘Can you unscramble them all?’ inquired Romana.

‘Yes. It'll take a few hours but they'll all get their own minds back.’

‘What'll you do with them then?’

‘Take them back to Shada, of course,’ replied the Doctor, as if there was never any doubt.

‘What - put them back in a forgotten prison?’

‘Let the Time Lords sort it out,’ the Doctor advised. ‘I'm not going to play judge and jury. It was only forgotten about because Salyavin made us forget. He didn't want his escape to be discovered. That must be why he stole the book and left Gallifrey.’

‘And he called you to take it back because he thought he was near the end of his life,’ surmised Romana. ‘Do you suppose he is still alive?’

‘We'll find out,’ the Doctor assured her. ‘In Shada. Come on, I need your help with this...’

There was a lot to be done, thought the Doctor, as Romana settled down to assist him with the spheres. Once that job was done, the minds would have to be restored to their correct and rightful owners - those that were still alive, that is - and the prisoners put back in their cells on Shada. The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey was best left on Shada as well, with a message for the Time Lords. Shada was also probably the most appropriate place to deposit Skagra - where the Time Lords could deal with him - and there was also the small matter of persuading Skagra's ship to ‘unlearn’ a few things about temporal engineering...

There was certainly a lot to be done.

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Author's Notes for this chapter