Event One

By Craig Young

The CyberController sat impassively in front of the console, as it evaluated the options before it. The monitors registered the entirety of Cyberspecies, the design and functional refinements that had been made over the millennia. The assembled ranks in quiescence phase were the remnant of the vast nomadic armies that had swept across accessible space, which had once been compared to the Vikings.

Unlike them, there had been a homeland to return to. In their first encounter with the Time Lord known as the Doctor, their planet had been incapable of absorbing the energies of its twin, and its long-inert frame had split asunder.

Earth had become an obsession then, insofar as beings that had supposedly transcended emotion could define this capacity. It was the subject of repeated direct and oblique invasion attempts. Then they ceased, as expansionism down a corridor of vulnerability enhanced the Cybermen's resources - and the Cyberwars began.

There came a time when the last of their fleets had been defeated, when their colonies lay in radioactive ruin and a pall of golden residue lay over the inert remains of their kind.

At the end was this solitary craft which housed the last Cybermen. For almost a decade, the solitary CyberController had scanned and evaluated the strategies and defeats of the past. Finally it concluded that the fault had been in the suppression of polyvalent logic. But what could be done?

Altering the past was no way out - the attempt to preserve Mondas had been made and had also failed, in any case, the Time Lords would now be aware of this covert interference.

Yet it turned once more to the enigmatic data of the Disjuncture - that incident when the continuum had been destabilized by the Master's attempts to alter its parameters.

Ahh - there it was; the consequence of the temporary interface with the Doctor's TARDIS. The scope and breadth of the equations required careful consideration.

After another decade of observation, the silver nemesis of the Time Lords turned from its scrutiny. It located the relevant anomaly on the star charts and recalibrated the course of its vessel.


Her name was Tree, and she was a Sword of Cerridwen, member of a pagan revolutionary army that had waged war in Northern Wales against Britain's totalitarian fundamentalist rulers in the Twenty-First Century.

The Doctor had rescued her from the ambush that had eradicated her community and for a while, she had been one of his companions. The other was Doctor Robert Rhodes, later unmasked as another pawn of the Black Guardian. His death had shaken the Doctor and had produced a fatalism and indecision within him.

Ultimately, she had left the TARDIS in order to help Castrovalva to sustain itself on this world where it had been ejected from the Voluntan datastream.

Her recollection was prompted by a klaxon from the Town Square. She released the animal hides and venison that she had hunted, and ran to investigate.


The civic leader hesitated as her friend of this past year appeared before her.

‘It is well that you are here, Tree. Come, the Astrolabor has some disquieting news.’

Tree followed, concerned at Pontifa's demeanour. Castrovalva had had its share of misfortune over the last year since it attained material existence - plagues, jurisdictional wars, famine. But the city had survived these, thanks to the agile intellect of the woman who administered it, also its foremost hunter and warrior.

The Astrolabor bowed as the two women entered. ‘My lady Tree, do you have any concept of... quantum physics?’ he asked.

She nodded. Back home, the fundamentalists had suppressed that form of scientific research, frightened of the implications of instability within the constituent subatomic particles that surrounded them. That had given its opponents enough incentive to preserve it. ‘Astrolabor, what...?’ she replied.

‘Then tell me, what do you perceive this as...?’

He motioned her toward a telescope and she saw the source of his unease at once.

‘Back on Earth, we knew it as a Mandelbrot Set. It's a physical manifestation of what we labelled ‘chaos’ - a principle that destabilizes any attempts at absolute mastery of any aspect of existence.’

‘That manifestation used to be the Sthenno Nebula. It is expanding apace.’

‘There's no need to tell me, Astrolabor. That will consume us, unless I take action.’


The eighth incarnation of the Doctor travelled across the Continuum Bridge between his native universe and an alternate. In that ‘intersecting’ alternate world, he had assumed the person of the legendary Merlin. Psionic capabilities and an adjacent singularity had given the Arthurian romantic parallels the power of Time Lords in his own universe.

The responsibility and respect had bolstered his former crisis of spirit and he almost seemed at peace with himself. Abruptly, the craft rocked.

At first, he attributed it to the TARDIS design limitations. As he picked himself up from the floor, he noticed the instrumentation. He frowned as he saw the enigma before him - it was registering temporal instability in 1981, at the point at which he had regenerated into his fifth incarnation.

But why would the TARDIS do this? Surely its data retrieval system wasn't faulty, and correlation with the navigation systems should prevent this event. He activated systemscan. The programme revealed no error in the vessel's relevant sections.

He requested further data. Then his eyes caught an irregularity in the epistemic interface registers. There was an anomaly there - at some point in his fifth incarnation, there had been a corridor for intruder access into the TARDIS data retrieval systems.

In another instant, the answer came: CYBERMEN.

Again, the TARDIS convulsed. But it had been over a decade since the Pharos Project incident. Then he shivered - for some reason, the consequences of the Master's original interference had been enhanced.

As if by serendipity, he realized what was happening. He was sure that the Cybermen must be the source of this intervention.

He ordered the vessel's time/space visualiser and surveillance programmes to triangulate the source of the current enhancement of the Master's terrorism.

It revealed a period beyond the range of most of his encounters.

Then he realized something. The Cybermen's time displacement technology was chaos-based. But the generation of the effect on that scale had to imply a substantial transit was underway.

In fact, the evidence could only suggest...


Nyssa of Traken raised herself from the floor, and felt blood trickle from a gash in her forehead. She had been here when the gamma pulse had hit, and Central Control had been removed. That was a euphemism - she had substituted that for destruction. She ordered defensive measures, but they only operated in her section.

By the Source, who was responsible for this attack? Didn't they realize what it meant to attack Terminus? Any interference with the discharge of primordial matter/energy and the origins of this universe would be disrupted or aborted altogether.

Then she saw the Cybermen on the screen and a chill engulfed her soul. Suddenly she knew why they were here.


The intensified acceleration of entropy was disrupting the secondary universes that had been designed as reservoirs - including one that contained a former companion of the Doctor.

Romana's TARDIS propelled itself toward the maelstrom of the Warrior's Gate interface, now occupied by a chaos vortex as the gravitic, electromagnetic, nuclear and temporal lines of force fragmented under the strain.

Romana watched in horror as the churning maw engulfed another set of planetary systems and the species that she had sworn herself to protect died before her eyes.

She did not see K9 glide in. ‘Mistress.’

‘K9, I instructed you to enter the TARDIS lifepods.’

‘I cannot comply with that order, Mistress. It would place you in danger.’

‘Both of us will die. I'm taking the TARDIS into that vortex in order to trigger its self-destruct sequence. That will be the only way to preserve the existence of this universe. ‘I order you again. Get into the lifepod.’

‘Mistress, I have calculated that it will not be sufficient to escape the collapse of this universe.’

‘There's a margin of error, damn it. K9, please. Go now.’

‘Goodbye. Mistress.’

‘Farewell, old friend.’

Romana was unprepared as the automaton stunned her. K9 extended a data flow relay and made a series of alterations to the vessel's trajectory.

Then he glided into the lifepod - where he had stored anti-matter bombs for the necessary purpose.

The sphere drifted from the TARDIS as it abruptly altered its course and accelerated into the bridge between it and normal space.

K9 did not know with certainty whether the craft would survive the turbulence of the transit. But he knew what was necessary here. Since he had deduced the plans of his Mistress, and had calculated the rate of collapse within E-space, he had resolved to save her.

Romana's TARDIS disappeared as K9 activated the device. In an instant, the secondary universe had erupted into whitefire before total death.

Damaged, Romana's TARDIS accelerated down the vortex of normal time/space. The bodily strains had one logical outcome - her form shifted and blurred and a woman of different age and physical appearance blinked.

With effort, she rose to her feet. It was as well that regeneration was easier on female Time Lords as an evolutionary characteristic developed for species survival.

Her TARDIS was in dimensional atrophy. It took her a second before she could focus clearly to delay the process and reconfigure the surviving sections of her vessel. She was grateful that navigation and external sensors were still intact.

Was timedrive, though? If not, she was accelerating towards Event One.


The TARDIS rematerialized in Castrovalva's square, and Tree stepped toward the Doctor.

‘I'm glad you're here - there's a chaos effect, it's going to destroy this place.’

‘I need your help. You were closest. Tree, if my behaviour before alienated you, then I'm sorry.’

Tree looked around her. ‘I was self-righteous then. I just want to stop this happening somehow. After everything that's happened, Castrovalva mustn't die like this.’

‘I can't promise anything, Tree.’

‘It's that bad?’

‘You may not be able to return.’

Tree pushed past him into the TARDIS - and then it slowly dematerialized from the Renaissance cityscape.


How long had she been climbing the gantry she had no idea. From somewhere below, the sound of dying Lazars and the metallic echo of Cybermen's feet clashed.

It seemed like an eternity before Nyssa reached the bioresearch module. The surveillance screens showed the carnage below her and she felt panic welling up.

She switched off the visual display and decided to register schematic instead. The Cybermen's proximity to core control worried her, and her hand trembled as she activated the defensive systems. A red indicator diode activated; the Cybermen had located her position. With the defences activated, it would take three days to finally reach her position.

Before then, she needed to find a way to stop them. The Cybermen were vulnerable to gold; as with most Trakens, she was a skilled biotech.

She sat at a console and her fingers began to play across it as data on genetic engineering and xenobiology coursed onto the screen.

The Doctor's TARDIS materialized in one of the upper decks, as the Time Lord in question frowned.

‘That's odd, the buffer system has activated.’

‘So the Cybermen have beaten us to it?’

‘If they'd made it to the core, we'd know about it. Or rather, we wouldn't.’

Tree looked up from her Tarot cards, which she'd spread before her while they were in transit. ‘Do we use weapons this time?’

‘I usually only do that in times of particular emergency.’

‘This qualifies?’

‘As a matter of interest, what do your cards read?’

‘It's not important. You said you had a friend here?’

‘Nyssa, yes.’

As they suited up, Tree glanced back toward the two cards. They read DEATH and JUDGEMENT.


As they drifted forward, the Doctor noticed a form encased in an amniotic sphere. Tree pointed. ‘Look.’

‘I see. Do you know, that's probably one of the earliest Cybermen? Rather rudimentary in design.’

Her warrior's mind immediately responded. ‘And more vulnerable as a consequence?’

‘It you view it that way, yes. There's only one reason why such an early Cyberspecies is being deployed here...’

Tree noted the carnage around her and her stomach heaved. Part of her intoned the Chant of Protection as she noticed other characteristics. ‘Doctor, these bodies and the surroundings - they aren't all utilizing a uniform technique....’

‘Yes, we seem to be facing a collective army of divergent Cybermen.’


‘The reason that they've invaded Terminus is in order to make a last stand,’ replied the Doctor.

‘Not necessarily. Are you familiar with the Phoenix myth?’ Tree said uneasily.

He made no reply as she followed him through the portal, and she wondered at the reticence.

Was his fatalism returning?

Whose death? Whose judgement?


As the advance continued, the troop dwindled. The Terminus defences were taking a heavy toll of the early Cyberspecies.

High above, the globe of the bioresearch module remained, an affront to the efforts made to finally secure Terminus.

The CyberController evaluated the remaining personnel in Terminus, and the remainder of its own forces. Ultimately, there was a problem evident. The data indicated that the Traken biotechnician Nyssa was unaccounted for.


She swallowed another enhancer capsule and wearily returned to the recombinant template. She forced her hand to splice the molecules together and blinked at the spectrograph.

The schematic indicated a closing detachment of Cybermen. They were still some miles distant. She would have smiled as the graphic indicated there was one less silver nemesis. Any temptation that she might have had was dashed as the spectrograph failed to register the distinctive lines of gold.

She willed her muscles to move across the touchplate and gritted her teeth as the latest calculations were made. Several minutes later, she almost wept in relief as the sequence finally registered positive. She activated the incubation matrix, then wondered whether there would be time to operate it.

She stood, awaiting the inevitable. Suicide wasn't the Traken way.

Abruptly, the silence was shattered as Romana's TARDIS materialized. The Time Lady stepped out, and stared wistfully at the craft that had carried her so far.

‘I'm Nyssa of Traken.’

‘My name is Romana.’

‘You were with the Doctor and Adric, just before me. But you're different. You regenerated?’

‘Yes. I'd invite you inside my TARDIS, but it took a battering getting out of E-space. The timedrive's crashed, the defensive systems are inoperative.’

‘Do you know where this is?’

‘Yes. Event One, the Terminus station.’

‘Romana, it has been invaded by old enemies of the Doctor, the Cybermen.’

‘But... don't they realize what would happen..?’

‘Of course. They want to tailor the history of the universe; they're trying to use the artificial intelligences here to do that. ‘From here, I've been using the best measures we have. Defensive viruses, intruder counter-measures, labyrinth programmes.’

‘Is that what I think it is?’

‘Yes, an aurosynthetic micro-organism. It extracts gold residue from its surroundings and produces the element as part of its processes.’

‘Why haven't you tried to escape?’

‘They were going to reach here and I would have unleashed it on that detachment. Unfortunately, due to biohazard regulations, there are no adjacent ventilation shafts.’ The incubator chimed.

‘You can't just stay here.’

‘Is your TARDIS capable of short-term transit?’

‘Look, it you want me to transfer the virus to the Terminus Core, I'll do it. But I'm coming straight back for you afterwards.’

‘Thank you, Romana. The Doctor spoke of you with respect, and I can see why.

Romana loaded the trays into her TARDIS. It took time to dematerialize, the sound was erratic and the image wavered.

Abruptly, the airlock crashed open. The particle beam defences drilled through the first Cyberman past the airlock.

The second shattered the sensor and firing grid, and five more followed. They surrounded Nyssa, who smiled, defiantly.

She made no sound as silver arm shot out, grasped her throat and effortlessly shattered her bone and windpipe and lifted her. A second fist pushed through her ribcage and heart, snapping her spine. She had died of shock beforehand.

But still her lifeless face smiled, even as the Cybermen finally deduced why. By then, the viruses had begun to percolate through their systems, and toxic gold compounds encrusted within them.

Inhuman sounds of asphyxiation and pain echoed through the bioresearch module as the silver giants joined her in death.


Romana blinked back her tears and kicked the inert console of her dead TARDIS. Nyssa's murder had been witnessed, as had the benefits of her sacrifice.

She walked from the TARDIS as the aurosynthesis gilded the atmosphere within the core. Then a grid fell from an access corridor, and the Doctor and Tree hesitated.

Romana recognized the characteristic flow of his Kirlian field, and he hers.

‘Romana. This is Tree, my latest companion.’

‘Hello, Doctor. I'm afraid I have some bad news. It's about Nyssa of Traken - the Cybermen killed her.’

Tree closed her eyes and then, through tears, noticed the Doctor's expression. She shivered - she'd seen that once before, combat psychosis.

‘Doctor, we don't have to do anything. Aurosynthesis, Nyssa's last gift. The Cybermen will never survive their access to this station.’

‘No,’ replied the Doctor, ‘that's not wholly true. So we wait.’

‘What is it?’ Tree knelt beside him.

‘Since you left, Tree, I encountered the Daleks and the Master for the last time. I felt remorse - I had committed genocide in the destruction of the Daleks. Now, it's the Cybermen.’

‘Nyssa was the last of her species. And they... would destroy untold species to accomplish irrevocable supremacy.

‘Gallifrey? Prevent its formation altogether.’

‘I know that, Romana. An old enemy co-ordinated this offensive, and its internal systems are sufficiently fortified to resist the bacteria. Even if it is the last of the Cybermen, it could still accomplish its ends.’


The Cybermen had arrived.

In seconds, they had begun to succumb, as the CyberController's sphere blazed orange. It stepped past the convulsing bodies of the dying Cybermen and strode through tracer fire from Romana and Tree.

The Doctor blocked the way.

‘We meet for the final time, Time Lord.’

‘Get away from that console.’

‘You are responsible for the extermination of my world and my species.’

‘I wouldn't have had to do that, if it weren't for your desire for power at all costs.’

‘Survival and rationality are connected for us.’

‘You cannot hope to triumph no now.’

‘Wrong.’ The CyberController's hands rose inexorably towards the Doctor's throat, as the Time Lord stood there. Then he broke the hold attempt and his fist pounded into the silver giant.

‘Exoskeleton. Polycarbide microfilaments, woven into my gloves and jacket.’

‘As you will. One of us will not leave this place.’

‘It won't be me.’

They fought for an eternity, until the exoskeleton began to fray and collapse under the strain. The CyberController threw the Doctor against the core console.

‘And now, Time Lord, you will witness the apotheosis of the Cybermen.’

The battered, bruised Doctor smiled shakily, as he noticed a significant aspect of the console. The CyberController's sensory globe shone brilliantly - and then it shattered.

The CyberController thrashed and the Doctor was covered in green effluent from its hydraulic fluid before it pitched backward, lifelessly.

The story that would begin on ancient Mondas, continue through plague and technocratic dictatorship and millennia of terror, ended at the beginning of creation itself.

Romana was the first to reach him. She grimaced. ‘Doctor, hold on. I won't let it end this way.’

‘But... he can regenerate...’

‘Not normally, not in this environment. Unless...’

‘If that was a self-defence system..?’

‘Oh, yes - the Time Lords made sure that this console could not be sabotaged under any circumstances. Ah.’

‘What are you doing..?’

‘Locating the source of instability that destroyed E-space.’

‘That's going to destroy the Pentacasta system. Castrovalva, my home, is there.’

‘The continuum needs an entropy reservoir. I can use this to produce a secondary universe, based on steady state principles. Doctor..?’

‘Romana... I'm cut off from Gallifrey's hypertime field. I can't... regenerate this time.’

‘He's dying.’

‘Hang on, Doctor.’

A circle of light opened up, and Castrovalva's walls appeared within it. The Doctor's form blurred, wavered - then began to fission. From the network of energy emerged the form of the Eighth Doctor that Tree had known.


‘Fissioned. Get him through there, Tree. He's confused, but once the englobement's complete, your universe will need him.’

‘Goodbye. Thank you.’

Tree guided the Eighth Doctor through the portal, as Romana then completed the process. Castrovalva, Tree and the Eighth Doctor vanished into a steady-state secondary universe - with no means of access from primary reality.

She stepped from the console and knelt by the Doctor's regenerating form. For a moment, she hadn't been sure that fissile regeneration would work. As it was, the Eighth Doctor was restricted to the steady-state universe and would perish if he ventured out of it - he was incapable of further regeneration, and would ultimately die there when the current body wore out.

The TARDIS epistemic interfaces had registered the events in the core and patched into the navigational systems. They inserted it into the core vicinity.

The scanners identified Romana's imprimatur and symbiotic nuclei, and opened the doors for her as the regeneration vortex finally subsided. The Ninth Doctor's short, mottled blond and brunette hair framed a round, friendly yet pensive face.

He looked down. ‘Once we get out of the Zero Room, we change this. It's too large, anyway. Ah well, at least this incarnation doesn't have acne...’


The Keeper of the Matrix smiled to himself, yes. This time, he could strike at the Doctor when he was at his weakest.

The Valeyard abandoned his facade. As he calculated the TARDIS trajectory, a memory from a past incarnation surfaced. Yes. Perfect.

Using one of the Doctor's access keys to the President's office, the Valeyard escorted a black chaotic mass into a matter-transmitter, and then faded from the world himself.

All was in readiness.


As the TARDIS' new Zero Room healed the Doctor's post-regenerative trauma, he reflected on what had just occurred; and particularly, Nyssa's death.

His last major foe and an old friend both perished. He'd noticed Tree's tarot deck, left near the TARDIS drive column, and the two cards.

Bleakly, he wondered how long he could continue to avoid fate when it was feeling so much that that had given his life its meaning.

Romana pulled off her scorched and ragged outfit. She saw a leather ensemble and smiled. Hey, this looked tough. And it would show she was her own woman.

The TARDIS drive column pulsated reassuringly as Romana programmed the Cybermen's demise and its circumstances into it.

It would henceforth be attributed to Nyssa's Virus.

The latest casualty of a suddenly random, darkening universe.

This item appeared in Timestreams 3 (August 1991).

Index nodes: Fiction