The Last Confrontation

By Timothy Blackburn

The blackness of space stretched out like a shadow. It hardly noticed a blue rectangular shape, the resemblance of an Earth Public Telephone Box, to be exact.

‘I just don't understand,’ complained Ace.

‘Mmm?’ questioned a half-bored Doctor.

‘It's this TARDIS of yours. It seems to have a mind of its own.’

‘Well, Ace - you're quite right, it does have a mind of its own.’

‘That's impossible!’ cried Ace. ‘Machines can't think!’

As if in response, the time machine lurched to one side, knocking Ace over and administering her a nasty blow on the head. The Doctor, who had expected such a surprise, bent over to examine Ace.

‘Are you all right?’ he asked gently.

‘Yeah,’ said a stunned Ace.

As the time machine continued its journey, a screen was being watched by some shadowy figures.

‘That is the Doctor's machine?’ whispered one.

‘Yesss,’ replied the second. ‘The Doctor is to be brought here immediately.’

‘At once, Rastem.’ Turning, Metash left, slipping silently into the shadows.

‘Well Doctor?’

‘What?’

‘Do you know where we're headed?’

The Time Lord paused and then said, ‘Well... um... that is to say... er... no.’

‘It's all because of this pathet-’ but she was cut off in mid-sentence. Suddenly the TARDIS console exploded. Sparks flew and almost immediately the lights went out. Ace felt like screaming and doing something very nasty to the scanner (if she could find it). From somewhere in the room a dazed Doctor stood up and turned on a pocket torch.

‘I don't believe it,’ he said.

‘What?’ stammered Ace.

‘This is incredible.’

‘What is?’ cried a bewildered Ace.

‘We've landed,’ said the Doctor calmly, nonchalantly chewing on a piece of gum. ‘I'm going to use the old console room and see where we are. Do you want to come?’

‘OK,’ sighed Ace. They closed the door and left. Somewhere in the darkness of the console room a small spark appeared, getting bigger and bigger, finally taking the form of a man.

Meanwhile in the old console room, Ace was trying to come to terms with the Doctor's nostalgic memory. ‘Was this yours?’ inquired the Doctor's companion, picking up a recorder.

‘Yes,’ chuckled the Doctor, ‘I used it in my second regeneration.’

The lights of the main console room flashed on. The figure in the console room chuckled out loud, then released a booming laugh.

‘At last, Doctor, I have you!’ cried the Master. With him were four Sensorites.

The scanner screen revealed what seemed to be a dim corridor, but further inspection showed that it was part of a labyrinth of some kind. Ace just glanced at it for a moment and then ignored it. But the Doctor was fascinated.

‘That is interesting,’ commented the Doctor.

‘What isn't?’ laughed Ace, toying with a glowing rock.

‘According to this we are 4,000 metres underground.’

‘Can we go outside?’ asked Ace. The Doctor nodded his approval, and followed Ace through to the main console room. Suddenly a large metal object crashed down on the Doctor's head, knocking him unconscious. Ace immediately took out her shanghai and fired a ball bearing. This hit one of the intruders in the forehead. But much to Ace's horror it had no effect. Finally Ace was outnumbered; a metal object crashed down on her and knocked her out. The Sensorites grabbed hold of the Doctor's limbs and dragged him to their Master.

The Doctor's eyes snapped open. He felt a severe pain in his ankles and wrists. Ace was beside him in pretty much the same state - chained to a black wall. The Doctor tried to wake her, but he couldn't move. Looking around him the Gallifreyan noticed a Sensorite guard - a rare sight for the Doctor. Straining, the Doctor said, ‘Hello there,’ in a friendly tone. Not surprisingly, the alien ignored him.

Ace was beginning to come around. Wincing in pain she shook her head and tried to face the Doctor. ‘Professor?’ she moaned.

‘Yes?’

‘Where are we?’

‘I don't know,’ sighed the Doctor. ‘But I would like to know why you thought that the TARDIS was just a machine. I thought we had been through that before.’

‘Oh, I'm sorry Doctor,’ whined Ace. ‘I guess I was just tired.’ The small apology was interrupted by the entrance of a black tunic-wearing figure.

‘You!’ exclaimed the Doctor.

‘Well, well, well, Doctor,’ hissed the Master. ‘I suppose you wondered how I have come here?’ He pressed a button on a small disc. Almost immediately two Sensorites appeared and began releasing Ace and the Doctor.

The Doctor was slightly relieved and massaged his wrists before checking to see that Ace was alright. Satisfied, he allowed himself and Ace to be led into a glowing room covered in what seemed to be silver balls of varying sizes.

The Master paused here and faced the Doctor. ‘In case your inferior little mind didn't realize it, Doctor, this room is filled with a fungus called Amnortine Mould.’

‘Is it dangerous?’ inquired Ace.

‘Dangerous?’ laughed the evil Time Lord. ‘Dangerous? Of course it's dangerous, you barbaric fool, these fungoid shapes contain corrosive acid.’

‘I resent being called a barbaric fool,’ cried Ace, thumping the Master in the stomach. To her surprise, the Master didn't respond. Instead he just stood there motionless, unblinking, hands behind his back, staring straight ahead. One by one, the Sensorite guards fell into the same position, releasing the armed intruders as they did so.

‘I think we should run like crazy.’ suggested the Doctor.

Ace nodded, and followed him, knowing that they were lost. As they passed door after door, the Doctor kept noticing a temperature gauge on each one registering 20°C - strange to have Earth temperature on an alien instrument, he thought.

‘Can't we stop?’ complained Ace.

‘All right,’ said the Doctor.

‘Do-for-mat-nos-pa,’ stuttered a rusty voice from within the Master. Struggling wildly about, the Master's forehead began to crack. Segments of skin fell off. But it wasn't skin - they were pieces of plastic. His brain was a mass of complicated machinery.

‘Come on, I think I know where we are,’ said the Doctor half-heartedly.

‘I've heard that one before, Doc,’ moaned Ace, rubbing her legs vigorously. Casually the Doctor glanced around.

‘Did you hear that?’ whispered Ace.

‘What?’ asked the Doctor.

‘I'm sure I heard footsteps.’

‘We'd better hide in this doorway,’ suggested the Doctor, opening a white hatch beside the thermometer in the nearest door. He was expecting the door to side open, but to his horror, he and Ace were suddenly trapped in a net, which appeared from nowhere.

Struggling, Ace managed to get out her pocketknife and cut herself and the Doctor free of the net. As they were about to continue on their run, two tall shadowy figures barred their way, blocking off the rest of the corridor. Ace was prepared to use her fists, but the Doctor hastily put her hands down.

‘They're telepathic,’ he whispered.’

‘What are they saying?’

‘They want us to follow them,’ came the reply. ‘They seem to be peaceful,’ he added.

After five minutes or so of walking, they stopped, and the figures gestured to the time travellers to go through a doorway. Cautiously Ace stopped and carefully opened the door, sensing that it was a trap. But to her surprise it was quite the opposite. The interior of the room was white, and a feeling of peace surrounded her.

‘At last the chance to speak to you, Doctor,’ said the first of the so far peaceful aliens.

‘You can talk?’ asked the Doctor, noticing the robot Master standing in the room.

‘Only in this room.’

‘Why have you brought me here?’ asked the Doctor, a slight menace gracing his voice.

‘The reason is simple. You have been summoned here because we require your knowledge.

‘My knowledge? Why?’

‘We need your intelligence, Doctor, because with it we will have control over the third planet.’

‘I refuse to have my mind erased just so you can be the ruler of an innocent world!’

‘We will use force if necessary.’

‘Be my guest, but before you start, do you have anything to do with the ambush that we were faced with when we landed?’

The second alien, Metash, froze. ‘Ambush?’

‘Yes. We were faced with a major enemy of mine and some creatures who were supposed to be friendly,’ remarked the Doctor, idly opening and closing his umbrella.

Ace, who had been relatively quiet, decided it was her turn to break the ice. ‘Why the Doctor's brain? Couldn't you have used someone else's?’

‘That is irrelevant, human,’ snapped Rastem.

‘Sorry,’ whispered Ace, sarcastically under her breath. She wasn't about to give up that easily, though. ‘One more thing, how did you know that the Master was so much as even related to the Professor?’

‘We had a direct mind-link with the Doctor. We picked up memories and using our minds composed Androids replicated from the Doctor's thoughts.’

‘You obviously miscalculated the time limit, then,’ mentioned the Doctor.

‘Enough idle talk,’ interrupted Rastem, raising two tentacle-like hands.

The Doctor, who was close to the Master android, began to rock the robot. He did it as inconspicuously as possible, and then had to sidestep quickly to avoid being hit by the heavy replica. He gave the robot one almighty heave and the monstrosity crashed down upon the unsuspecting Metash, knocking him to the floor. Rastem was instantly on the alert. Concentrating, the powerful alien formed a force field between himself the Doctor.

The alien however had forgotten Ace, and she stealthily crept up behind the foe and jumped on his back. Roaring in surprise, the tall robed figure spun around wildly and then collapsed on the ground. The effect of two against one had been too much.

‘Come on, Ace,’ the Doctor said, already moving towards the door - but there wasn't one. The Doctor's eyes seemed to be playing tricks on him. The fungus that they had seen earlier was starting to appear on the walls. One ball was directly above Ace who was unaware of the danger she was in. The deadly sphere was about to burst.

Leaping forward, the Doctor pushed Ace aside, and at that moment the ball burst open. Acid drenched the Doctor. Screaming, he writhed on the ground like a dying snake. There was a flash of light, and Ace hid her face from it. When she opened her eyes, it seemed as if time had stopped. The Doctor was still on the ground but frozen in a contorted position.

‘Ace.’ A voice ... the Doctor's companion was too stunned to hear it. ‘Ace.’ This time she heard. Instinctively, she looked ahead of her and saw a floating mass of grey, like a cloud. Through tear-streamed eyes, Ace watched it. A voice came from it.

‘The Doctor is dead Ace, and so I must bring you back to your relative time zone.’

‘Who are you?’

‘I am the Grey Guardian. I decide over good and evil. But hurry, I cannot remain here for long - just walk through me.’ Ace was calmer now, and did as she was told...

Ace slowly awoke from her dream and sat upright. Hang on, where am I? she thought. Slowly she realized that she was in her home on Earth, in her own bed.

‘Here luv, here's a nice hot cuppa'.’ Ace recognized the voice before the person even entered her room - it was her mum, she realized, sitting back on one of her pillows.

‘Where d'ya get this, luv?’ asked Ace's mother, picking up an old umbrella hanging on the wardrobe door. ‘Wasn't here last night.’

‘It's just a friend's,’ replied Ace. ‘Just a friend's.’

This item appeared in Timestreams 1 (August 1990).

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