Chapter 6

Dead Man

The Doctor's companions were trapped. The cube of light had transported them to a totally featureless square chamber devoid of even a door. The walls were of the same design as the corridor. After a thorough examination of the walls, Chris turned away in disgust. ‘Not even a door,’ he muttered darkly, and then added thoughtfully, ‘we must have got in here by some sort of matter transference.’

‘Very clever,’ replied Romana sardonically.

‘Oh, I suppose you do this sort of thing the whole time.’

Worry had bred irritability. ‘Yes actually,’ Romana snapped, and knelt down beside their fellow prisoner. ‘K9, can't you pick up any trace of the Doctor?’

‘Negative, Mistress. Every signal is shielded.’

Romana reached out and clicked open one of the robot's side panels. She began adjusting some of K9's internal circuitry.

‘I was meant to be delivering a paper to the Astronomical Society tonight,’ said Chris suddenly, trying to make light conversation.

‘Oh yes,’ replied Romana, not really listening. ‘Can you pick up anything now, K9?’

‘Negative, Mistress.’

Romana frowned, and continued fiddling with the automaton's wiring.

‘Yes,’ continued Chris, oblivious to Romana's disinterest. ‘Trying to disprove the possibility of life on other planets.

‘Oh yes.’

‘Well, I can deliver it next month...’

‘Now try,’ Romana instructed K9.

‘... Will have to be a complete rewrite though.’

‘Triple negative, Mistress.’

‘Curious substance, this wall,’ remarked Chris, brushing his hand over the gleaming white reflective surface.

Romana clicked K9's inspection panel shut. ‘Oh blast it,’ she cursed.

Obediently, K9 extended his blaster and fired at the wall. The laser beam bounced off the angled, reflective surfaces of the cell walls. Romana and Chris throw themselves to the floor to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

Moments later, the beam dissipated, and the pair dusted themselves down.

‘Apologies Mistress,’ said K9.

‘Not at all,’ replied Romana graciously.

‘The wall is blast-proof,’ the robot continued.

‘It was a good try, K9,’ Romana assured him.

‘Mistress!’ K9 reported suddenly. ‘I am picking up faint signals.’

‘What is it? Can you let us hear it?’

‘Affirmative Mistress.’ The babble of voices began playing through K9's speakers.

‘Sounds different this time,’ Chris observed.

‘Affirmative,’ replied K9. ‘A new voice has been added.’

‘A new voice?’ queried Romana.

‘Affirmative. It is the Doctor,’ K9 reported.

Romana stared at Chris in horror.

The Doctor lay slumped across one of the couches on the bridge, completely immobile and without any signs of life. Skagra, the sphere and the book had gone.

The babble of voices had ceased.

‘Are you positive, K9?’ asked Romana, as she paced the tiny cell in a state of considerable agitation. ‘Absolutely negative? Nothing at all?’

‘Affirmative. No signals on any frequency, Mistress.’

‘Oh, I wish we could get out of here!’ she exclaimed angrily. Suddenly, the spinning cube of light reappeared, engulfing Romana. Before Chris and K9 could react, the cube vanished once more, taking Romana with it.

‘That's it!’ shouted Chris joyously.

‘Please explain,’ requested K9.

‘Well that's what you have to say; “I wish we could get out of here”...’ Chris waited expectantly, but nothing happened.

‘Oh, I wish we could get out of here!’ he repeated angrily, and banged his fist on the wall.

K9 extended his blaster once more, and Chris spun round hastily. ‘No, no, K9. No, good dog.’ He slumped down despondently until he was sitting against one wall of the cramped prison cell. ‘How did she get out and not me?’

‘Insufficient data,’ replied K9.

‘Insufficient data! Insufficient data!’ mocked Chris. ‘Oh why did I ever let myself get involved in this?’

‘Insufficient data,’ came the unhelpful reply from his robotic cell mate.

Romana materialised in the cube of bright light, and stumbled as it dissipated, leaving her standing back in the central passageway of the spacecraft. She looked up to see Skagra standing a short distance away, holding the sphere.

‘What have you done to the Doctor?’ she demanded angrily.

‘Nothing you would like to hear about,’ Skagra assured her.

‘Let me see him!’

‘You would not enjoy it. I have taken his mind.’ Skagra walked up to her, and with a iron grip, took hold of her arm with his free hand. ‘Come!’ he ordered, and began moving her down the corridor towards the ship's exit.

‘Let go of me!’ Romana protested, struggling wildly. ‘Who are you? What do you want?’

‘I want many things,’ Skagra replied. ‘At the moment I want you to stop struggling. Come!’ He pushed her through the hatchway and down the invisible ramp.

Romana continued to struggle. ‘Where are you taking me?’ she demanded angrily.

Skagra remained impassive.

‘Where are you taking me?’ she repeated.

‘Quiet!’ he instructed. ‘Or I shall use the sphere on you too!’ As if to back up his threat, a thin babble of voices came from the sphere.

‘Where are you taking me?’ Romana persisted, determined not to allow herself to be threatened by her captor. By now they had reached the bottom of the ramp.

‘Your traveling capsule,’ Skagra told her. He escorted her across the field towards the TARDIS.

‘If you think I'm going to open the door and let you into it you're going to be disappointed,’ she said defiantly as they arrived beside the police box.

Skagra let go of Romana's arm. ‘Then it is just as well I have the Doctor's key,’ he replied mockingly, producing the TARDIS key on its chain from his tunic pocket. He unlocked the police box door and shoved her roughly inside.

‘Ow!’ she protested, as he pushed her across the console room.

‘No doubt you also refuse to operate the capsule for me,’ he speculated with a slight smile.

Romana rubbed her bruised arm. ‘Of course,’ she snapped at him. ‘And no one can operate it other than the Doctor or myself - so bad luck!’

‘If the Doctor can operate it, then so can I,’ Skagra declared confidently. He placed the sphere on the console, and with one hand resting on the ball's surface, began skillfully operating the controls with the other.

As Skagra finished programming the dematerialisation sequence, Romana rushed forward and tried to pull him away from the controls, but he pushed her roughly aside, and threw the take-off switch.

The TARDIS dematerialised.

Clare was once more searching the Professor's rooms, looking for anything that might shed light on either the mysterious book or the equally mysterious absences of the Professor, Chris and the Doctor. Not to mention the spectacle of a certain disappearing blue police box.

She rummaged through the drawers of an old writing desk, but without success. Abandoning the desk, she turned to the cluttered mantlepiece, and found a large, old-fashioned rusty key. Retaining the key, she continued to search the mantlepiece, and then crouched down to examine an old small wooden cabinet. The doors were locked, but the keyhole looked as if it would accommodate the key she'd just found.

Clare put the lock to the test. With a satisfyingly loud click, the key turned in the lock, and she pulled open the doors to reveal a panel of dusty circuitry, half-obscured by junk piled up in front of it. Pulling out a tennis racket, cricket pads and other bits and pieces, she leaned in for a better look at the strange controls. As she did so, she placed her hands on the wall above the cabinet, to steady herself.

The wall rotated inwards at the pressure of her touch, and she jumped back with a cry of alarm. The movement of the wall panel had revealed a panel of levers, dials and switches. Clare got to her feet and gingerly touched one of the controls. The whole panel instantly came to life with an array of blinking lights, quivering dials, and a low hum. At the same time, heavy wooden shutters banged shut across the windows of their own accord.

This made Clare jump once more, and then, recovering her wits, tried another button. To her alarm, the room started to shake violently, as if disturbed by some tremendous force. The needles on all of the dials jumped to maximum, and as Clare leaned closer, desperately searching for a control to reverse these effects, a section of the equipment exploded, and she collapsed to the shuddering floor, stunned into unconsciousness.

Wilkin arrived outside the door to the Professor's rooms. He had to his annoyance, been completely unable to track down the Professor's whereabouts, and had come to inform the girl who was searching for Professor Chronotis of his lack of success.

He knocked and waited. There was no reply. ‘Hello?’ he called, and knocked again. ‘Hello? Miss? Are you in there, Miss?’ Receiving no reply, he shrugged, and opened the door.

Wilkin had witnessed many unusual things in his years as a porter at St Cedd's College, but nothing could have prepared him for what he saw next. Of the Professor s rooms, there was no sign. All that lay beyond the door was a shimmering blue void that seemed to stretch away into infinity.

The Doctor stirred.

He took a long deep breath, and his eyes flickered open. He raised himself groggily into a sitting position, and stared vacantly around the bridge. He picked up one end of his long, multi-coloured scarf and began fiddling with its tassels in an aimless fashion.

‘Very... stupid,’ he muttered slowly and thickly. He half-closed his eyes, as if trying to grasp hold of a fleeting thought.

‘Very... stupid,’ he said again, and frowned deeply. Suddenly his thoughtful expression was replaced by a broad toothy grin. ‘Ha!’ he declared loudly. ‘Very stupid!’ The Doctor leapt to his feet, and instantly regretted it. He was still dizzy, and his head swam. He shook it to clear his thoughts. ‘Skagra?’ he called, noticing that he was alone.

‘My Lord has departed,’ replied a disembodied voice, in soft, distinctly feminine tones.

The Doctor spun round, looking for the speaker, but the room was, as he had already discovered, deserted. ‘Who's that?’ he demanded.

‘My Lord Skagra.’

The Doctor turned again, trying to pinpoint the voice, but it seemed to be omnipresent. ‘No! Who's speaking?’

‘The servant of Skagra. I am the ship.’

‘The ship?’ said the Doctor. ‘A talking ship?’


‘I've never met a talking ship before,’ admitted the Time Lord. ‘A talking dog, yes, but a talking spaceship, no. Skagra must be hard up for friends...’ This reminded the Doctor of something. ‘Will you tell me where my companions are?’

‘I will not. You are an enemy of Skagra,’ stated the ship, matter-of-factly. ‘Any orders you give me are hostile to my Lord.’

‘Oh, I don't mean any harm,’ the Doctor grinned.

‘I do not understand why you are moving,’ the ship confessed.


‘You are dead.’

The Doctor looked surprised. ‘Am I?’

‘Your entire mind was to be seized into the sphere.’

‘Ah, well it wasn't, was it? The trick on these occasions is not to resist. I just let the thing believe I was very stupid and it then didn't pull nearly hard enough,’ the Doctor explained. ‘It got a copy but left me with the original intact. Understand?’

The ship paused. ‘No, I do not.’

‘No,’ considered the Doctor. ‘Nor do I. Perhaps I really am stupid. No! I know, I am dead!’ he declared.

‘That computes with my Lord's actions,’ the ship concurred.

‘Then will you tell me where my companions are?’

‘I cannot accept your orders,’ the ship informed him. ‘You are an enemy of Skagra.’

‘An enemy, not true,’ the Doctor corrected it. ‘If I am dead, then I am an ex-enemy of Skagra's. Correct?’

‘Correct,’ the ship concurred.

‘A dead man can hardly be a threat to anyone, correct?’


‘Then,’ continued the Doctor, choosing his words very carefully, ‘if I am dead, I cannot give orders that would be any kind of threat to Skagra. Correct?’

‘Correct,’ replied the ship after a pause.

‘Then... will you please arrange the release of my companions?’

‘I have orders not to,’ the ship informed him. ‘Their release would constitute a threat to Skagra.’

‘But I am ordering you to,’ the Doctor reminded the ship. ‘And as we have established the fact that I am dead, that I am incapable of ordering anything that would threaten Skagra, so if I order you to release them, it doesn't threaten him. Will you release them?’

‘They will be released.’

The Doctor breathed heavily. ‘Excellent! Thank you.’ He breathed again, and noticed that he was beginning to find the action difficult. ‘It's getting very stuffy in here,’ he rasped.

‘You are dead?’ inquired the ship.

‘Yes,’ gasped the Doctor. ‘I thought we'd sorted that out.’

‘I am programmed to conserve resources. Since there are no live beings in this area I have shut down the oxygen supply,’ the ship told him.

‘What?’ gasped the Doctor again. He was becoming dizzy with asphyxiation. Everything was becoming red and hazy from his perspective. He sank to the floor, his head pounding. As he slowly slipped into merciful unconsciousness, he heard the ship speak one more line. The words buzzed in his head.

‘Dead men do not require oxygen...’

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Author's Notes for this chapter