By Stuart Brown

His vision swam and his eyes stared, attempting to focus on whoever called his name. ‘Steven, Steven. Wake up my boy. Here smell these,’ as something was shoved viciously under his nose. He focused on the elderly looking man. The word ‘Doctor?’ came from his dry salty lips.

‘Drink this, Steven, it'll get rid of your headache.’ Steven gulped the liquid down and proceeded to stand. Pain stabbed across his forehead. ‘Arggh, my head, it feels like it's going to explode.’

‘Hmmph, don't be such a baby, drink your medicine you're a big boy now.’

‘Stop patronizing me, you don't know what it feels like.’

‘Hmm? Oh sit down and stop complaining.’ Steven sat back in the chair and finished drinking the liquid. ‘So where are we now?’

‘Well it appears we are inside the ship,’ the Doctor replied and gestured around the console room. The disgusted look Steven gave the Doctor summed up his thoughts entirely. ‘I mean seriously Doctor.’

‘Earth,’ came the abrupt reply. ‘I'm not sure where or when we are but it's definitely Earth.’

‘Oh great, that could be anywhere!’ moaned Steven.

‘Yes, you're very observant today - I suggest we go for a walk.’ He pointed to the scanner. ‘It appears we are in a forest of some kind, go fetch my cane and cloaks for both of us - it's cold out there as they seem to have had a frost, just last night.’ Steven went into the inner sanctum of the time machine and returned with the Doctor's cloak and cane.

‘Let's leave immediately,’ he said while fastening the cloak around his neck. Outside the Doctor fished the TARDIS key out of his voluminous pockets and locked the door. ‘You were right, it is chilly,’ said Steven.

The forest smelt crisp and fresh, the smell of cedar and pine intermingling with the mossy-earthen smell of so many forests. The Doctor inhaled deeply. ‘Beautiful, you won't get that on one of your spaceships.’

‘Yeah but at least you get fed.’

The Doctor looked around and noticed that there seemed to be a faint trail leading in a vague direction away from the TARDIS. ‘Before thinking about eating anything I think we should follow this path.’

‘It won't lead anywhere, it's barely a path at all. It's much more a trail of broken branches.’

‘It obviously has been made by something,’ said the Doctor as he examined one of the broken branches. ‘At a guess I would say it was made by a human male, wearing late nineteenth or early twentieth century attire and carrying a double barrelled shotgun.’

‘You expect me to believe you can tell all this from the broken branches of some trees?’ laughed Steven.

‘No,’ replied the Doctor quietly and then Steven followed the Doctor's gaze and noticed the man with a shotgun aimed straight at the Doctor's chest.

(Richard Scholes)

The man wore a traditional English deerstalker, a deep brown cloak and carried what looked like a very powerful shotgun. ‘I want to know what you are doing on my land,’ were the only words spoken and in such a way that made Steven want to explain everything to the stranger as quickly as possible.

‘Well, it's like this, me and th-’

‘Let the old man talk.’

‘Old man indeed,’ snorted the Doctor. ‘Let me tell you something, I can not be pressured to speak when I don't want to!’

‘Shut up and tell me why you're on my land,’ repeated the man, this time motioning with his gun in the Doctor's direction.

‘On the other hand what's a chat between friends? As I was saying my companion, Steven and I are only travellers seeking directions to the nearest house, as we became lost in the darkness and decided to rest here until the following day.’ Steven rolled his eyes.

‘Travellers eh?’ The man seemed to consider something and then said, ‘Can you pay for a meal, which is what I assume you're after?’

Hurriedly the Doctor replied. ‘Yes,’ and then as an afterthought, ‘Could you point your gun somewhere else please?’

‘Sorry, we don't get visitors here often. My name is Daniel, Daniel Richards and you are?’

‘I'm the Doctor and this is my companion, Steven Taylor.’

‘A Doctor, eh? My wife she's sick with the yellow fever - can you do anything for her?’

‘Yellow fever? Yes of course we'll take a look at her, won't we Steven?’

‘Of course Doctor.’ Steven wondered why the Doctor had to be so helpful but then remembered how the Doctor had helped him in the past.

Daniel Richards led the way through the trees and after a ten-minute walk they emerged from the forest. A stately looking manor stood in the distance imposing itself on the surrounding countryside. The Doctor saw someone running towards them. A voice yelled, ‘Dan she's worse, she's burning up, it's nearly too late.’

‘Oh my god,’ said Daniel and broke into a run. The Doctor and Steven quickly followed. It took them about two minutes to reach the steps of the house and they took up the steps three at a time. Daniel threw open the portal, turning down a narrow corridor from which echoed a cry of pain. Daniel pushed open the door to his left and rushed to the bed of his wife.

She lay there her face covered with thin yellow lines which followed the veins in her head. ‘Come on Beth - you'll be all right, I've got a Doctor for you. He'll fix you up.’ The Doctor approached Beth and examined the thin pulsating lines covering her face. He pulled a pen-sized flashlight from one of his pockets. ‘Hold her eyes open,’ he commanded. He shone the light in her eyes.

‘What is it Doctor?’ asked Steven. A grunt was the only reply. The Doctor returned the torch to his pockets and withdrew a pen and piece of paper, he said, ‘Steven, I want you to go to the TARDIS and get me these medicines.’ He proceeded to write down the names of some funny sounding drugs and handed it to Steven. ‘Here, take the key - hurry, go now!’ Steven bolted from the room, with the other man in tow.

The Doctor turned to Daniel, ‘Get me hot water, mint leaves and a bowl to mix the medicine and water with.’ Daniel turned and left. The Doctor mused to himself, ‘Hmm, space plague, however it got here is a mystery as they won't develop space travel for another sixty-seventy years. I can cure it of course - with the right drugs but I only hope Steven gets back before it's too late.’

Steven hurtled down the steps closely followed by the other man. As they ran he said, ‘My name's Steven. What's yours?’

‘I'm Blake, Blake Williamson. Where are these medicines your friend spoke of?’

‘In a blue box in the forest. About ten minutes from the forest edge.’ They reached the edge of the copse and entered. After pushing through many spiny stiff branches they arrived at the point of the TARDIS's materialization, but found nothing. Steven stopped in disbelief. ‘It's gone, the ship is gone!’

‘Could you be mistaken? It might be over there,’ said Blake indicating a patch of brambles.

‘No, it was definitely here.’ He crouched down and examined the ground. ‘Look, it appears that it's been moved - there are drag marks along the ground. Go and tell the Doctor and your master that the blue box is missing and that I've gone to look for it.’

‘Yes sir,’ said Blake who then hurried off. Steven shivered, he had the feeling he was being watched. His gaze spread around the densely packed bushes and trees. His eyes fell on a large stick, which he then picked up. He slowly followed the rough drag marks made by the TARDIS while wondering what could be strong enough to be able to move something that heavy through a forest like this.

Daniel returned to the room with a bowl, mint leaves and some hot water. ‘Here you are Doctor - the items as you requested.’

‘Good, now all we can do is wait for Steven to return with the medicine. Would you mind telling me how Beth caught this fever?’

‘It's a long story, Doctor... It all started about a week ago. My wife and I were having a small luncheon in the forest - there's a wonderful picnic spot that's quiet and secluded from the hustle of everyday life. We had finished our lunch and sat and listened to the song of the birds when I heard a strange roaring sound - it got louder and louder and the whole ground began to shake beneath our feet. I ran to investigate from where this noise came from and found a large yellow ball sitting in the forest. It glowed and pulsated, as if with a life of it's own. I reached out to touch it but it was too hot to get within a yard of. My wife, who followed me, rushed forward and screamed, ‘Gold from the Heavens!’ She ignored the heat and touched the globe, collapsing with a sigh as she did so.’ Daniel paused and buried his head in his hands.

‘I then carried her back here to the house and put her to bed. Slowly these lines developed on her head, everyday becoming more pronounced. I sent two of my staff down to get this thing - whatever it is, and they haven't returned...’ he tailed off, preoccupied with the past events.

‘Oh, what have I done Doctor?’ he sobbed.

‘There, there my boy, you and your wife will be fine just as long as Steven gets the drugs from the TARDIS,’ he said, patting Daniel on the shoulder.

‘Would you mind drawing me a picture of that golden ball you saw,’ said the Doctor. Daniel slowly drew a rough sketch of the sphere he had seen; it had a thin lattice of cobwebs running around it, creating the illusion of it being non-substantial.

The Doctor gazed at the illustration thoughtfully. It was possible that it was not a plague as he had earlier thought, perhaps a parasite that ‘drained’ the life out of living beings. Whatever it was the Doctor knew that it was not welcome in this time and place.

‘Come on Daniel, we have to find Steven immediately - I want to look at this globe up close. Get your maid to give Beth the hot water and mint leaves mixed together - it will ease her suffering.’

The Doctor and Daniel left the house to find Steven and see this globe. The Doctor was curious - curious to find out more about this creature, his mind flew over the many possibilities - creating and discarding theories at a rate of knots. Halfway across the common they encountered Blake. ‘Doctor, Doctor. Steven said to tell you the TARDIS was missing,’ was Blake's breathless response.

Things were rapidly worsening thought the Doctor. It all fitted into place - the globe had somehow taken the TARDIS and was probably conducting experiments in an attempt to open it. If it got inside all time and space could be affected. The Doctor would have no-one to blame but himself.

Steven was certain the temperature was rising and his cloak was starting to weigh him down. He took it off and shoved it under a bush. Steven nervously looked around expecting to be attacked by... Well he wasn't quite sure what, but he was sure that it would be nasty. The trees started to thin out to form a small clearing in front of him. He saw a strange yellow blob, about three metres wide, sitting in the middle of the clearing, the TARDIS was next to it and two men also in a blobby/globule form were examining it. Steven quickly took to the brambles and immediately wished he hadn't. He wrapped his scratched hand up in a small handkerchief. He noticed that the blob had a hole in it, which was rapidly enlarging, as it did the strange beings with their ragged remnants of clothing turned to face it. The hole was now big enough to accommodate the two semi-people; they both entered the hole, which then closed up.

Steven heard a branch snap and he whirled around ready to knock whoever it was senseless. The Doctor glared back at Steven. ‘Do you have to be so violent?’

‘Is that all you can say, I could have killed you and that's all you can say!’

‘Shut up and sit down. Daniel, there is the box which holds the key to curing Beth of her ailment. I'll need a diversion so I can gain access to get some important equipment. Steven the key please.’

Steven handed the key back to the Doctor and said, ‘I don't see why we need a diversion, there's no-one there.’

‘I wish you would use your brain for once, Steven. How far do you think we would get before we are blasted down by that thing, hmm?’

‘Doctor... it's much bigger then before...’ were the words uttered by Daniel which made the Doctor stop cold.

‘It's definitely worse then I thought - a parasite which can absorb and grow when it receives energy, as well as being able to absorb living beings and use them as automatons. It must be powerful to be able to do that.’

‘What are going to do, Doctor?’ questioned Blake.

‘I'm not sure, I need time to think.’

‘We don't have time, Doctor. Makes me think that we should just give ourselves up,’ was Steven's half-hearted response.

‘You're brilliant Steven! I want you, Blake and Daniel to walk into the middle of the clearing, stay there until something happens and then get out of there. And whatever you do don't touch that thing!’

Steven got up proceeding slowly into the clearing followed by Daniel and Blake. The Doctor edged his way around the side of the clearing making his way closer and closer to the TARDIS. He pulled out his key and slotted it into the lock. Steven and his little group were standing staring transfixed at the globe as a doorway slowly appeared. ‘Run!’ screamed the Doctor as he turned the key, threw open the doors and rushed inside. He collapsed with a sigh, in a chair and shut the doors, hitting the scanner switch as he did so.

The outside scene showed Steven, Daniel and Blake being pursued by the two globule creatures. He gazed down at the console and decided what he least needed...

After ten minutes work he regarded his handiwork. A large tangle of wires hooked into a small maelstrom of energy, capable of making one time/space jump.

He had been forced to use up his only spare supply of Zyton 7 as well as some rarer elements. Oh well, he would be able to pick some up in the future. He gazed around the console finally taking in the appearance of the cannibalised console and hoped he had enough spares in the storeroom.

With only one way of testing the device, he opened the doors and strode purposely out. Turning to the creature he activated the device, mentally crossed his fingers, and threw the device straight at the globe.

Steven's lungs ached, whatever the Doctor was doing he better hurry up. He heard the thing behind gaining, as it blundered after him. He turned and saw a golden hand lash out to connect with his face... when the humanoid figure faded.

The large globule shuddered and then slowly faded from view. From the trees came Daniel followed by Blake and then Steven emerged and they all gathered round. ‘You did it Doctor - you did it!’ said Steven in delight.

‘Yes my boy, I did, didn't I, and don't sound so surprised. Daniel I think you'll find your wife will be perfectly fine, just let her have plenty of rest. Now Steven and I must be going, I have plenty of work to do, don't worry we'll visit again some time soon - maybe even yesterday,’ said the Doctor with a chuckle.

The Doctor bundled Steven into the TARDIS and called back, ‘If I'm ever in this neck of the woods, I won't fail to look you up.’ Steven groaned inwardly to himself at the poor excuse for a pun.

‘What have you done to the console?’ shrieked Steven.

‘Oh, just some minor alterations,’ said the Doctor as the door slammed shut.

To Daniel and Blake's disbelief the strange blue box vanished with a strangled thick chugging groan. Daniel shook his head and turned to Blake who looked as puzzled as he was. They both gave the clearing one final look and then slowly walked back to the house.

This item appeared in Timestreams 5 (August 1995).

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