Home : Archive : TSV 11-20 : TSV 11 : Fiction


By Paul Scoones

Part One

It was a bright, sunny, warm afternoon. If it weren't for the greenness of the setting, Tegan would have believed they were back in her home country, Australia, in the summertime. The Eye of Orion had been nice, but this was exquisite. She floated on her back in the middle of a pool of sparklingly crystal-clear water, and gazed up at the deep blue cloudless sky. After what seemed like ages without moving, she turned over in the refreshingly cool water, and struck out for the bank.

‘You're dripping on me,’ observed the Doctor without opening his eyes. He lay in his favourite deckchair in shirtsleeves, having shunned his pullover and frockcoat for the pleasure of a relaxing afternoon lying in the sun.

‘Sorry,’ apologised a wet Tegan. She spread her towel out on the grass a short distance from his chair, and lay on her front to dry off.

The TARDIS had landed them on the edge of a forest clearing, covered with a blanket of short soft green grass beside a deep pool of fresh water fed by a trickling spring. The detectors had registered no dangers of any kind, and this was assurance enough for the Doctor and Tegan. Turlough, however, suspicious by nature, had gone off scouting on foot to make sure.

‘He doesn't know how to relax and enjoy himself, that Turlough,’ observed Tegan.

The Doctor grunted. ‘The TARDIS won't actually tell us where we are, you know.’ He opened his eyes for a moment, squinting up at the sun overhead. ‘I wonder what that star is, for instance.’

Tegan rolled over to get a better look. ‘It's not quite like Earth's, is it? A bit too large, and there's that orange tint about it.’

There was a pause for a few minutes while they just lay there and soaked up the long relaxing afternoon. Then Tegan stretched, and sat up on her towel. ‘Where were you planning to go?’

‘Mmm?’ queried a slumbering Gallifreyan.

‘What destination had you programmed?’

The Doctor thought for a moment. ‘I don't think I'd put in any destination co-ordinates. I left the TARDIS to fly herself while I made those routine repairs.’

Just as he'd finished speaking, a shout came from the other side of the clearing. ‘Doctor!’

The Time Lord's eyes snapped open instantly. Levering himself upright in the chair, he saw Turlough hurrying back towards them urgently. ‘What is it?’ he asked, when his companion had got within a short distance.

‘There's someone else here,’ he said breathlessly.

‘Can't be,’ retorted Tegan. ‘The Doctor checked on the scanners.’

Turlough shook his head with the confidence of one who had seen the evidence of his own eyes - and ears. ‘He asked for the Lord President of Gallifrey,’ he said quickly.

The Doctor was on his feet in a flash, startling Tegan. ‘Where?’ he demanded.

Tegan groaned inwardly in spite of her own curiosity at this development. She suspected that their period of rest was about to come to an abrupt end.

Turlough pointed, and the Doctor's keen eyes followed Turlough's finger. At first he saw nothing, and then he blinked against the brightness of the sun, and saw a tall figure standing by a cluster of trees. ‘Stay here,’ he commanded, and set off across the wide clearing at an even pace, leaving his two companions to stare after him in wonderment.

‘Who ...?’ began Tegan.

Turlough shrugged. ‘My guess is that it's one of the Doctor's people.’

‘What would a Time Lord be doing here?’

‘Who knows where we are,’ replied Turlough simply, and walked over to the TARDIS.

Tegan got to her feet, and shivered slightly, as if she was chilled. Even in her brief bathing costume, she was quite warm, but the visitation of the mysterious stranger had unnerved her slightly. Arms folded across her chest, she stood and watched as the figure - dressed in a dark robe - started out towards the Doctor, and then stopped when they were less than three metres from each other. She could hear a very faint murmur of voices, but that was all. A sudden sound, quite close, startled her, and she tore her gaze away from the two figures to see Turlough folding up the Doctor's deckchair.

‘What are you doing?’ she asked.

‘What does it look like I'm doing?’ he retorted in his infuriating way. ‘I'll bet we're leaving when the Doctor gets back. He's probably needed for some all-important presidential duties.’ The deckchair was folded flat, and carried into the TARDIS.

Tegan pulled a face at her companion's retreating back, and then plucked her towel from the grass and reluctantly followed.

‘Cardinal Zorac.’

‘Lord President.’

‘Doctor, if you please. At least I chose that title,’ he said a little sourly. He wasn't especially fond of intrusions on his life by his people at the best of time, but the Doctor had been enjoying what he considered a well-earned rest, and that made it worse.

Zorac smiled thinly. He was thin-faced and dark-haired, and seemed to wear a permanently aggrieved expression. ‘I trust you've enjoyed your little holiday, Doctor,’ he said smugly.

The Doctor was on his guard instantly. ‘That sounds a bit final to me...’ his voice trailed off, and a look of growing suspicion appeared on his youthful, open face. ‘You - the Time Lords directed my TARDIS to this place! Where are we?’

Zorac smiled again. ‘It is of no consequence, Doctor, but you are right in your perceptions. It was felt that you should be allowed to rest awhile before the task we have for you.’

The Doctor's hackles rose. He had never taken kindly to being bossed around, but for once, he didn't have to stand for it. ‘I'm not your intergalactic troubleshooter, you know. As President, I can order you to return to Gallifrey and leave my companions and me alone.’

Zorac raised his hands in a placating gesture. ‘Please Doctor, be reasonable - at least listen to what I came here to tell you before you pass judgement.’

The Doctor fumed for a moment, and then nodded. ‘Go on - convince me.’

Zorac looked relieved. ‘A short time ago, we picked up some strange traces on our timescan systems. It seemed as if someone - or something - was exhibiting a time control on a localised area of space. From what we could tell, time went into reverse for a few seconds on a small planet in the Garris region. It happened a couple of times, so we sent a group of Time Lords to investigate. Soon after they landed, the signal from their TARDIS cut out, and we haven't heard from them since.’

‘And you want me to go and rescue them, is that it?’

‘If they're still alive, Doctor. Those three were hand-picked, but few have much experience, I'm afraid.’

‘Unlike me?’

‘Unlike you, as you say, Doctor.’

‘Very well. Give me the coordinates.’

Zorac produced a thin black wafer of plastic from beneath his robe and passed it to the Doctor.

The Doctor pocketed it and turned to depart.

‘Before you go, there is something you should know, Doctor,’ said Zorac gravely. ‘Before their TARDIS ‘died’, it did send back a piece of information...’ he hesitated, choosing his words carefully.

‘Yes? Go on.’

‘Their TARDIS conducted a scan of the equipment causing the time disturbances and identified the key components as originating from here, on Gallifrey.’

‘Gallifrey? This is Gallifrey?’ said the Doctor in a shocked voice.

‘A place far distant from the cities, but yes,’ explained Zorac.

The Doctor turned round, seeing the place in a new light. ‘It seems I've been away from home for a long time - I was born outside of the cities, but I didn't recognise Gallifrey's sun,’ he murmured quietly.

Zorac shook his head in pity and disbelief. ‘It is a sorry time indeed when our President doesn't even recognise the place he rules over.’

The Doctor rounded on Zorac - ‘I never wanted to be President - perhaps it's time you held an election?’ he suggested firmly.

The two Time Lords glared at each other for a few moments, and then the Doctor turned to go. ‘I'll see what I can do for you,’ he said reasonably, patting his pocket. ‘Give my regards to Flavia.’

‘Very well, Doctor. I'll see that the transduction barrier is raised for your departure.’ Zorac inclined his head slightly, and then hurried off back into the cover of the trees. The Doctor watched his retreating back for a moment, and then started out towards the familiar sight of his battered old blue police box. That was the only thing familiar about this place, he reflected, and realised that home was a long way off - in his past. There was no feeling of ‘home’ here.

He reached the door, but paused before going in, taking a last look round. A cool breeze blew across the clearing, and the Doctor wondered if the Time Lords had brought him here as a ploy to try to get him to return permanently. It was idyllic, but her desired to be there only as a temporary respite from his usual mode of existence. What was it he'd once said? Something about paradise being a little too green?

The moment the Doctor entered the control room of the TARDIS, his companions began barraging him with questions, but he waved them to silence, and moved to the console. Fishing in his pocket, he removed the data wafer, and slotted it into a reader. While he waited for the computer to come up with the co-ordinates it contained, he checked that the transduction barrier had been lowered, and then activated the TARDIS engines. Only when they had left Gallifreyan soil did he turn his attention to Tegan and Turlough.

‘Who was it?’ inquired Tegan.

‘A Time Lord,’ replied the Doctor. Turlough gave Tegan an ‘I-told-you-so’ look. ‘There's something I have to do,’ he continued gravely, ‘but there's no reason to involve either of you. If you want to help, I won't try to stop you, but I cannot deny that you'll be a lot safer if you stay in the TARDIS.’

‘What's the nature of this mission, then?’ asked Turlough.

‘I'm afraid I don't know very much myself,’ confessed the Doctor, but proceeded to explain to them what he had been told by Zorac.

When he had finished, his attention turned to a flashing light on the console, telling him that the co-ordinates had been analysed and programmed into the navigation circuits. ‘Ah, TiTasha!’ he announced.

‘Pardon?’ inquired Tegan.

‘TiTasha in the Garris System - it's where we're going.’ The Time Lord checked the computer screen, ‘Gravity a bit denser than Earth's, atmosphere unusually rich in oxygen and hydrogen - otherwise fairly normal, if a bit on the small side,’ he added, and moved towards the hat stand where his coat and pullover were hung. ‘It should remind you a bit of England,’ he smiled with a twinkle in his eye - ‘It tends to rain rather a lot!’

It was indeed raining, and heavily too, as the TARDIS materialised minutes later. The Doctor emerged from the TARDIS under the shelter of a large, multicoloured umbrella, and surveyed the cold, wet surroundings.

‘A rather drastic change of climate,’ commented Turlough at his shoulder, decked out in wet weather gear.

‘Yes,’ agreed the Doctor, peering cautiously out from under his umbrella at their surroundings. The TARDIS had landed them in the middle of a circle of stone monoliths, much like ones found in England. The monoliths marked the perimeter of a huge circular slab of stone, and a narrow pathway hewn from stone linked this with a geodesic dome some two hundred metres away. The rest was a sea of brown mud.

‘I suppose,’ suggested Turlough, ‘That these monoliths once supported a roof.’

‘Very likely,’ agreed the Doctor again. ‘Pity it's no longer there,’ he added ruefully as a torrent of water gushed off the roof of the TARDIS.

He looked around at the stones again. ‘Do you notice a pattern?’ he asked Turlough. ‘See how they're evenly spaced.’

‘Except for that one,’ Turlough pointed. ‘Without that ninth stone, the eight would be evenly spaced, certainly,’ he argued.

‘Precisely,’ the Doctor grinned, splashing his way across to the odd stone. It looked exactly like the others to Turlough, but the Doctor was more the wiser. He was about to follow the Time Lord when Tegan appeared, having changed into wet weather gear similar to Turlough's.

‘Ugh. He was right about the rain.’

‘What's the matter? Afraid of a bit of water?’ taunted Turlough, and sauntered over to join the Doctor as casually as he could in the wet.

Tegan grimaced, and pulled the police box door shut behind her. Gingerly, she followed Turlough, avoiding the worst of the puddles and rivulets of rainwater fed constantly by the dark sky overhead.

‘What are you doing?’ she demanded, when she reached the Doctor and Turlough. The Doctor appeared to be carefully feeling the length of one edge of the monolith.

The Doctor looked up briefly, and handed Turlough the umbrella to hold over his head. ‘Why does my TARDIS look like a police box?’

‘Because the chameleon circuit doesn't work,’ said Tegan. ‘So?’

‘If it did work,’ continued the Doctor, bending to his task with both hands now, ‘what form do you think it would have right now? - Eureka!’ he added, as he located his goal, and one face of the monolith swung open like a closet door. Beaming, he disappeared inside.

‘A TARDIS?’ said Tegan.

‘Precisely,’ smirked Turlough, and collapsed the umbrella before disappearing inside.

The control room was similar to the Doctor's TARDIS - it was roughly the same size, and was dominated by a hexagonal console, but it had been almost completely dismantled, and components lay discarded around the floor. The Doctor bent down and examined some of these carefully.

‘Someone's been in here and smashed all this up - that's why the Time Lords stopped getting signals from it,’ theorised Turlough.

The Doctor shook his head. ‘No, this has been carefully dismantled piece by piece, by someone who knew what they were doing. If I'm not mistaken, several key components central to the time drive are missing.’

One of the wall panels with its familiar pattern of inlaid roundels had been loosened, and was lying at an angle against the exposed section of wall. The Doctor walked over to it, being careful not to stand on any of the circuitry littering the floor if he could help it. ‘Give me a hand with this,’ he said, and with Turlough and Tegan's help, he lifted the panel away, revealing the exposed circuitry beneath.

‘There!’ he said gloomily, stabbing a finger into a large cavity in the circuitry.

‘What are we supposed to be looking at?’ asked Turlough.

‘It's not what you're looking at, but rather what you're not looking at,’ he replied cryptically. ‘That space usually houses the auxiliary power cell unit. At full charge, it contains enough power to run a TARDIS, and it's self-regenerating into the bargain.’ The Doctor wandered over to the console, and absently collected up a few items, stowing them in his pockets.

His companions sensed that the Doctor was disturbed by the cannibalisation of this TARDIS, and remained silent as they moved towards the doors, aware that there was nothing more they could do there. What did disturb the Doctor deeply, though, was that Zorac had indicated that Gallifreyan technology was present on TiTasha before this TARDIS arrived. Was there a second cannibalised TARDIS on the planet, and more importantly, who had done this, and where were the missing crew? The Doctor felt it wise not to express his fears to his companions just yet, but he had reached one firm conclusion: the answers lay in the dome.

Tegan and Turlough watched him as he quickly joined them at the entrance. ‘Right, come on,’ he said, and taking the umbrella from Turlough, he plunged out into the rain.

Outside, he strode over to the beginning of the rocky path leading to the metal dome. Constructed from metal panels, the elements of TiTasha had been harsh on its skin, and much of its surface was streaked with rust. ‘Where to now?’ asked Tegan, hurrying to join him. ‘That?’

‘Yes,’ replied the Doctor with firm determination, and set off along the narrow pathway.

Tegan and Turlough followed with some trepidation - not only due to dangers within the dome that they could only guess at - but because the wet rock was somewhat slippery. Tegan eyed the mud and water a meter below the level of the path, and wondered if it was only deceptively shallow. She forced herself not to let her imagination dwell on what could be lurking in the muddy depths if it was indeed deep...

‘Doctor!’ Turlough's warning startled Tegan, and she looked up to see what he had noticed - the hatch at the entrance to the dome was sliding upwards.

The Doctor stopped, having covered more than two-thirds of the distance. All eyes were on the receding hatch, and the darkness within.

Suddenly, a figure lurched into view. As he cleared the entrance, the Doctor recognised by his clothing that he was a Gallifreyan guard. He noticed also the tattered state of his uniform, the staser rifle he was aiming, and his uneven gait.

‘Hello, I'm the Doctor. I've come to res ...’ he got no further in his greeting because at that moment, the guard fired his staser, and the Doctor ducked. ‘Wait, we're friends, here to help you,’ he called.

The guard fired again, his shot going wild. The Doctor waved his companions to duck down. Even though there was some distance between them and the Doctor, they needed no further encouragement. They watched with bated breath as the gap between the guard and the Doctor narrowed considerably.

To be continued...

This item appeared in TSV 11 (January 1989).