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By Paul Scoones

Part Two

‘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.

With infinite care, the Doctor collapsed his umbrella, oblivious to the rain. Keeping his eyes all the time on the guard, he watched as the Gallifreyan's steps became more and more unsteady, and he waved the barrel of the gun carelessly. The Doctor guessed that he was severely fatigued and malnourished by his appearance, and hoped that the guard's reaction time would be consequently rather diminished. Realising that if he delayed any longer then the guard would be firing at almost point blank range, the Doctor suddenly leapt forward and struck the staser rifle from the guard's hand with a sharp blow from his umbrella.

The action was partially successful; the weapon fell and clattered on the path, but the momentum caused the guard to lose balance, and he toppled off the path even as the Doctor attempted to grab him.

Tegan and Turlough were up and hurrying towards him instantly, but their smiles of triumph turned to disbelief as the Doctor willingly jumped down off the path after the guard.

Tegan was there first, and saw that the mud was only ankle deep - at least at this point. The Doctor was kneeling beside the guard's body. ‘He's alive,’ he called, and struggled to pick up his body.

With the Doctor lifting from below, Tegan and Turlough managed to haul the guard back up onto the path, and then they gave the Doctor himself a hand up.

‘One of the crew of that TARDIS?’ asked Tegan, as the Doctor conducted a brief examination of the Gallifreyan's unconscious form.

‘I'm afraid so.’

‘But look at the condition he's in!’ Tegan continued in a distressed voice. The man was indeed in a very bad way. He was extremely thin, and his breathing was laboured. His red uniform was torn and dirty, and stained with chemicals as well as blood.

‘I would say he's been in some sort of trance,’ replied the Doctor, 'commanded to work until he burnt himself out.’ The guard's eyes snapped open suddenly, and his lips moved. The Doctor leaned close, ignoring the strong odours of his body.

‘Must obey ... eliminate intruders ...’ he whispered.

The Doctor bent over him, so that the man could easily see his face. 'Listen to me,’ the Doctor said softly but commandingly, ‘I am your President. I countermand those orders. You are no longer controlled by another. Do you understand me? I am the Lord President of Gallifrey.’

The man suddenly sat bolt upright, almost knocking the Doctor over. 'My lord, the other two ... the ship ... life-support ... time experiments ... reporting for duty, sir,’ he concluded in a weak but normal voice. Then he slumped forward in the Doctor's arms, and he gently laid him back on the wet rock.

Tegan covered her face with her hands in grief. ‘Is he...?’

The Doctor shook his head ‘No. Watch.’

Nothing happened for a few moments, and then a glow appeared around the body, and the thin facial features became indistinct, melting like wax.

‘Regeneration,’ whispered Tegan in awe. Turlough watched in amazement. He hadn't been there when the Doctor himself had undergone the amazing process.

Within a minute, a new man lay there in the rain. His face was fleshed out, and his body had none of the emaciation evident mere moments before. Instead of black hair matted with mud, he had sandy-blond hair a bit like the Doctor's own. He was smaller, shorter than before as well, and the Doctor was able to scoop him up easily.

Turlough picked up the rifle and umbrella. ‘Where to?’ he asked. ‘The TARDIS or the dome?’

‘Doctor, look!’ Tegan was pointing to the entrance - the hatch was beginning its slow descent.

The Doctor knew he'd have to get in before the hatch closed. He reached a snap decision, and handed Turlough the body of the guard. Turlough passed the rifle and umbrella to Tegan, and then took the unconscious man in his arms. ‘Get him back to the TARDIS and put him in the sickbay,’ the Doctor ordered.

‘What about you?’ asked Turlough, turning to go.

‘I've got to get inside that dome,’ he replied, and started off towards the narrowing entrance.

‘I'm coming with you,’ declared Tegan firmly, and hurried after the Time Lord.

There was no time to watch them go. The man was sick, and Turlough knew he had to get him out of this persistent rain. Treading carefully, he retraced their steps, keeping a close eye on the heavy form in front of him.

As the Doctor and Tegan ducked in through the narrowing gap, they realised that the interior wasn't so much as dark, but gloomy. Only a few dim lights were on, as if power was being diverted elsewhere. They stood still, eyes adjusting to the light, ears listening to the magnified beating of rain on the surface of the dome.

‘Where do we go from here?’ asked Tegan in a hushed voice.

The Doctor fumbled in the pockets of his rain-sodden coat, and produced a pen-torch. They seemed to be in a perimeter corridor, with no immediate entrance to the inner chambers evident.

‘This way,’ he said, and they moved off cautiously.

The first door they came to was firmly locked, and they were about to move on when an ominous clanking sound reached their ears. With an apparent lack of regard for caution, the Doctor moved back the way they'd come, and then hurried back to join Tegan.

‘Some sort of servicer robot,’ he replied, ‘coming this way.’

‘What do we do?’ demanded Tegan fearfully.

‘Keep back here.’ The door was located in a small alcove, and by pressing themselves against it, they were effectively invisible in the gloomy light.

They watched as the robot came into view, and hoped that its path would not take it through the door they were backed up against. The robot was bulky and humanoid, with several arms fitted with a variety of functional devices. The head was no more than a cube fitted with a single camera eye, and a couple of conical antennae, like horns, protruding from the top.

Thankfully, the robot continued down the main corridor, ignoring them totally. ‘Did you see that?’ asked the Doctor. ‘If I'm not mistaken, those were telepathic receptor antennae!’

‘So?’ asked Tegan, not seeing the relevance of such an observation.

The Doctor ignored her disinterest. ‘It means that the robot is effectively the extension of a living mind. Instead of a programme, it operates based on mental projection. Fascinating!’

‘Great,’ said Tegan dryly. ‘Now what about this door. If you still had that sonic screwdriver of yours...’

‘Next best thing,’ promised the Doctor, and produced a lump of circuitry from his pocket taken from the cannibalised TARDIS. He shook a few drops of rainwater off it, and began wiring it into the door mechanism.

Tegan watched anxiously as he fiddled with the tiny wires, half-expecting the robot to descend on them at any moment. Finally, the door slid open with a loud hiss, and they hurried inside.

The Doctor swung his torch around in the small room, and then closed the door, and inspected a panel beside it. ‘Close your eyes,’ he instructed, 'and then open them slowly.’

Tegan obeyed, and the Doctor activated the lights. Had she not done so the bright glare after the gloom she had become accustomed to would have blinded her. As it was, she had to blink several times before she could properly take in the compact control room. It was narrow, with a long bank of computer boards lining one of the long walls. Above these was a large scanner screen, much like that aboard the TARDIS. Instantly, the Doctor began hunting along the bank of keyboards, switches, levers and lights.

‘Aha!’ he exclaimed triumphantly, and activated a control. Tegan jumped as the screen flickered on, and they saw the corridor outside. The Doctor dropped into a padded chair, and expertly adjusted a few slide controls, bringing the picture into sharp focus. Then he grasped a joystick lever, and under his guidance, the viewer screen flashed up a slow procession of images of gloomy areas of the dome interior.

‘You seem to know what things do, pretty well,’ observed Tegan, referring to his confident manipulation of the controls.

The Doctor nodded without looking up. ‘If I'm not mistaken, this is something I read about at the Academy. It certainly looks like an old Gallifreyan research station outpost.’

‘How old?’

‘As far as I can remember, they were abandoned or dismantled about the time I was born. This one would have had a time stasis lock put on it for it to be in this condition now.’

‘But it's not abandoned any more is it?’

‘It's most certainly not,’ he replied triumphantly. The cause of this was an image he'd been able to call up on the screen. It showed a large circular chamber, brightly lit, and filled with an assortment of complex equipment, some of which the Doctor recognised from the dismantled TARDIS outside the dome. Ministering to the jumble of circuitry were two thin figures in tatty robes. They moved slowly and laboriously about their tasks.

‘Well that accounts for the rest of the TARDIS crew,’ pointed out the Doctor.

‘But what exactly are they doing? What's that in the centre?’ asked Tegan.

The Doctor shrugged, and zoomed the camera in a little closer. ‘It appears to be an environment tank of some kind,’ he explained, studying what appeared to be a large metallic globe.


‘A sort of life support,’ he continued. ‘Filled with a certain liquid depending on the requirements of the occupant, it can keep something alive that wouldn't survive long in our environment.’

‘Such as?’

‘Well, such as an alien life-form. Even you humans keep fish in bowls; same idea. They're more commonly used for people who have been very badly wounded, and the nutrient pumped into the tank is then designed to regenerate the tissue.’

‘And does it work?’

The Doctor shrugged. ‘Not very often. It usually only leads to a prolonged and painful existence without ever being able to leave the tank.’

Tegan pulled a face. ‘How horrible.’

‘Indeed.’ The Doctor went in closer on the zoom lens, and pointed to the screen. ‘There! See those on the side of the tank?’

Tegan looked. The twin protrusions appeared strangely familiar. ‘The robot antennae?’

‘Precisely! Whatever or whoever is in that tank is controlling that robot.’

‘Can you find out? That bit there appears to be transparent,’ noted Tegan, indicating a section of the sphere that had just come into view with the Doctor's guiding of the scanner.

But that detail disappeared from the screen as the Doctor steered it towards the base of the tank.

‘Hey!’ protested Tegan.

‘That's as far as this camera goes,’ explained the Doctor. ‘I'll have to switch to another to get that perspective...’ he fell silent as the camera panned around the base.

Tegan sensed the Doctor had discovered something else. ‘What is it?’

‘Time field stabilisers,’ he replied gravely, ‘and there - temporal transmit projectors.’

‘From that TARDIS?’ inquired Tegan, feeling suddenly a long way out of her depth.

The Doctor moved down the console bank to a computer keyboard, leaving Tegan to stare at the frozen image of technology millennia beyond what her own race were capable of.

His hands flew across the keyboard as he searched through a multitude of files, gathering the information he required. ‘There!’

Tegan hurried over, but could make little sense of the stream of data flowing across the small computer screen.

The Doctor knew all too well what they meant though. ‘Those projectors have been set up so as to reverse time within that tank.’

‘Is that dangerous?’

‘Only if you don't know what you're doing. It's basically an inversion of time flight within the TARDIS. The ship goes back and forwards while time within the ship remains the same. Now if you invert that, then time could move within the TARDIS backwards or forwards independently of time outside.’

‘And that's what's happening here?’

‘Not yet it isn't, although I fancy whatever is in that tank had run a few experiments before the Time Lords got here,’ he added, recalling Zorac's information. He cleared the screen and called up a further deluge of data.

‘This sheds some light. Our friend in the tank may be just that - he's Gallifreyan!’

‘Well at least it's not some bug-eyed monster,’ said Tegan humourlessly, but visibly relieved all the same. As the Doctor searched on in silence, another thought occurred to her. ‘So why was that guard and those scientists in there in such a state?’

‘They could be affected by energy emissions. I'd imagine there's precious little shielding in there ... or the telepathic control on the robot may have extended to them ...’

‘You don't know, do you?’

‘No,’ admitted a thoughtful Doctor. Suddenly, something alerted him on the computer screen, and the problem was forgotten. ‘That's a rich nutrient mix. Some of the minerals are refined directly from the mud outside this dome.’

‘Is that good or bad?’

‘Catastrophic, unless I'm badly mistaken.’ Tegan detected a worried note in his voice. She felt helpless as he produced a stub of pencil and began scrawling chemical formulae and equations on the white console worktop.

‘Is there anything I can do?’

‘Yes, get on that console, and scan the rest of that chamber. The large green button swaps cameras, and the stick controls the...’

Tegan held up a silencing hand. ‘I know, I know. I was watching you do it.’ Glad to be of some positive use, she seated herself, and began switching cameras until she located the one that approached the sphere from the other side. After a few unsuccessful attempts, she worked out which way to move the joystick for certain directions on screen. ‘Doctor, look at this...’ she said a little faintly.

The Time Lord tore himself away from his equations, and screwed up his face at the sight of the figure in the tank, through the transparent viewing window. Floating suspended in a greeny-brown fluid was a hideously burnt humanoid figure, tubes and wires connected to all parts of its body. It was totally unrecognisable as any particular individual; the face, like the rest of the body, was little more than blackened flesh on bones.

‘Horrible ... how could anything like that still live?’ gasped Tegan, feeling sick.

The Doctor laid a comforting hand on her shoulder, and quickly readjusted the perspective on the screen away from the thing in the tank. But in doing so, the scanner came to rest on a large display ticking off numbers. It read 11:59, 11:58, 11:57 ... Instinctively, he gripped Tegan's shoulder tightly, and then dashed over to the computer terminal again. A few seconds later, his worst fear was realised. ‘We've got just over eleven and a half minutes until that time reversal begins!’ he yelled, in panic.

‘I thought you said it wasn't dangerous?’

‘That was before I found out what they're pumping into that tank - they're too busy to realise that not only will that body in the tank go back in time, but so will the nutrient. In a more basic form it becomes highly explosive!’ he shouted, stabbing at the equations.

To be concluded next issue...

This item appeared in TSV 12 (March 1989).