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By Paul Scoones

Part Three

A few seconds later, the Doctor's 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. He spun round, and began struggling with the locking wheel on a hatch located low down on the far end wall.

‘Shouldn't we go down and warn them?’

The Doctor shook his head. ‘Nothing they can do from their end, and besides, remember how the guard welcomed us? I've got to turn off the nutrient feed from this end.’ He pulled on the stiff wheel, and Tegan added her modest weight. Heaving together, they got it moving.

The hatch groaned open, and the Doctor stuck his head inside the small hole. ‘Damn. The pump's flooded.’ He pulled his head out, and Tegan took a look. It was another room, filled with a pale brown fluid, part of the nutrient composite being fed into the tank. It reached not quite to the level of the hatch, but then the hatch was near the roof of the flooded chamber. ‘The pump valves are on the bottom,’ said the Doctor, pulling off his coat.

‘I'll go,’ said Tegan. ‘You work out some way of controlling it from up here,’ she ordered him.

The Doctor hesitated, but Tegan was already climbing out of her things. ‘Alright. It's not actually harmful,’ he said quickly, ‘but don't stay in there any linger than you have to. You can leave the green-coded valve open, but shut off the red one as quickly as you can. That'll stop the minerals feeding into the tank.’

‘It's lucky I left my swimming things on,’ smiled Tegan, scrambling out of her clothes. ‘How much time left?’ she asked, moving towards the hatch.

The Doctor looked. It was less, much less than he would have liked. ‘Just over nine minutes,’ he told her.

Tegan climbed through the hatch. ‘It's freezing,’ she told him, as she lowered herself in.

‘Quickly, Tegan,’ he reminded her, and she gave him the thumbs-up signal before disappearing from view.

The Doctor wanted to watch her progress from the mouth of the hatch, but he needed to calculate how much time the mineral in the tank already needed to disperse. It would be more time than they had, but at least the impending explosion would be delayed, and less intense.

Struck by an idea, he crossed to a gooseneck microphone, and patched himself through to the chamber in which the time reversal would soon take place. ‘Warning: you are in grave danger. The time field will render the chemical combination in the environment tank highly unstable. Leave the area as soon as possible.’ He watched the screen, but the scientists gave his warning little more than a passing glance. Using the record-playback facility, he repeated his warning, and then set it to repeat over and over, hoping that they might understand; something was affecting the Time Lords in the chamber.

‘Done it!’ said a triumphant Tegan, a moment later, clambering from the hatch.

‘Well done!’ smiled the Doctor grimly, ‘but unfortunately it will only delay the reaction.’

‘Oh, I'm sorry,’ she said, suddenly crestfallen.

‘Inevitable, I'm afraid; nothing any of us could've done. No time to explain,’ he said rapidly, working at the keyboard again. Tegan shut the hatch, and quickly dressed, trying to ignore the brownish oily film all over her body. She looked at the screen - there were only five minutes left.

‘No!’ shouted the Doctor, and began stabbing frantically at various controls. Tegan looked at the screen - a reddish glow was surrounding the sphere. ‘It's started!’

‘But the time?’ she demanded. ‘There's over four minutes ...’

‘To the end of the process!’ he yelled. ‘We've got to get out of here!’ It wasn't until he reached the door that he realised a mistake he'd made much earlier - the device he'd used to open it was on the other side. He snatched up his coat, left lying over a chair, and searched through the pockets, discarding piece after piece of TARDIS circuitry.

‘Doctor - try this!’ insisted Tegan, and passed him the guard's staser rifle, forgotten ever since she'd dumped it when they'd first entered.

‘Great!’ he took it, and setting the firing to maximum, blasted out the locking device. Discarding the weapon, he used his coat to push the hot door open, and they ran out into the corridor.

A deep throbbing hum was causing the whole dome to shudder as they tore along the gloomy passage. The Doctor tried desperately to recall the location of the entrance door. Eyes scanning the wall of the dome, he failed to perceive a potential threat.

Tegan didn't. Just as the Doctor found the exit, he heard Tegan's warning. He looked around to see the robot approaching. He knew, with a sinking heart, that there was no way they'd reach the door before the robot got them ...

Turlough advanced cautiously towards the dome along the slippery path. He had left the Gallifreyan recovering in the sick bay, and as there was nothing more he could do for the guard, he reckoned his best bet was to try and find the Doctor and Tegan. He didn't really have a plan of sorts, but it was better than waiting in the TARDIS; besides which, the ever present rain had eased up a bit.

Even as it occurred to him that there might be more guards inside the dome, the entrance hatch began to slide upwards. His eyes widened in surprise as a large, peculiar-looking robot appeared in the entrance, and began to advance menacingly towards him.

‘Perhaps this wasn't such a good idea after all,’ he muttered, and began to back off. For a moment, his imagination dwelled uncomfortably on what fate might have befallen the Doctor and Tegan, and then his fears were laid to rest as a couple of grimy disheveled figures raced out from the entrance, skirting around the robot and continuing on at speed. The Doctor was shouting something, but it was lost in a sudden gust of rain.

‘What?’ shouted Turlough, totally confused. The robot had obviously received counter-instructions, as it had turned around, and was now heading back into the dome.

The counter reached 00.00, and the sphere hinged in half almost immediately, spilling some of the nutrient across the floor of the chamber. The figure inside was now full-fleshed and healthy. He stretched his limbs, and climbed out of the sphere.

Behaving like burnt-out automatons, the two Time Lord scientists lay slumped over consoles, drained of energy. The figure paid them no heed, but donned a robe, and stopped for a moment to listen to the irritatingly loud voice from the address system: ‘... grave danger. The time field will render the chemical combination in the environment tank highly unstable. Leave the area...’

He needed no second warning. In panic, he scrambled across the chamber, and wrenched open the door on a smooth white pillar. The door slammed shut behind him, and he raced over to his console, where he disconnected a number of power leads necessary for the time reversal, and powered up his TARDIS.

The Master chuckled. Even if the chamber exploded in the next second, he would now be safe. It had been risky, perhaps the biggest personal risk he had ever taken, but he had cheated death by the Doctor on Sarn. Oh yes, the Doctor would pay dearly if he ever found him. Smiling in triumph, the Master threw the takeoff lever, and the white column left the chamber just as the fluid spilling from the tank went critical.

The blast knocked Turlough off the path, and facedown into the mud, which was fortunate, as that way he had a soft landing. The Doctor and Tegan jumped just as the blast went off, and they felt an incredible heat on their backs for a moment, followed by a series of lesser explosions. Debris crashed all around them, hot and steaming in the cold mud.

After a couple of minutes, the Doctor gave the all-clear, and he and Tegan got to their feet. The dome was a smoking black skeleton of framework, threatening to collapse at any minute. They stared at each other for a moment, and then burst out laughing in sheer relief. They were covered in mud and grime, damp and exhausted, but they were alive.

‘Turlough!’ exclaimed Tegan, and they ran through the mud to where their companion was climbing out of the oozing mud.

He stared with disbelief at the remains of the dome. ‘Did you do that?’ he asked in a faintly accusing tone.

‘Of course not!’ replied Tegan indignantly.

‘I wonder if we'll ever know who it was,’ said the Doctor quietly, and they started out through the mud back towards the stone circle.

After a long hot bath and a complete change of clothes, Tegan entered the TARDIS console room. ‘Do you always wear those clothes?’ she demanded of Turlough, who had changed into an almost identical school uniform to the one he had had on before.

‘I hated them when I was at Brendon, but now they give me a sort of identity,’ Turlough shrugged. ‘The Doctor's over in the other TARDIS,’ he continued, anticipating her next question.

Striped trouser legs stuck out from under the TARDIS console as Tegan entered.

‘Guard Captain Lawren,’ said the Gallifreyan, coming forward.

‘Tegan Jovanka,’ she smiled, and they shook hands.

The Doctor shot out from under the console. ‘Right, that's it!’ he said with a grin.

‘What? Have you fixed it?’ he asked incredulously.

He shook his head. ‘No, no. I've set up a temporary communication channel and a distress beacon aimed at Gallifrey. They'll be here to sort out the damage shortly...’ He paused to brush dust off his costume, like Turlough's, a near-replica of the one he wore before. ‘Which is why we must be off,’ he concluded.

‘But, Lord President, what about your report?’ asked Lawren.

‘Three things,’ replied the Doctor. ‘One: I prefer ‘Doctor’ to ‘Lord President’ - so much more modest and unassuming a title, don't you think? Two: you'll find my thoughts on this whole affair encoded onto this,’ he explained, passing Lawren a compact data wafer.

The Gallifreyan gratefully received this.

‘Right then, we'll be off,’ the Doctor said cheerily.

‘Doctor, the third item,’ Tegan gently reminded him.

‘Oh yes, Three: tell Cardinal Zorac I'm not coming back, at least not for a long, long while yet. If something really serious like this comes up, then he may contact me, but if a president is what he wants, then I stand by my suggestion to him on that matter.’

‘Very well, Lord ... Doctor,’ acknowledged Lawren.

After brief farewells, they strolled out of the TARDIS, leaving Lawren to tidy up before the Time Lords arrived.

‘I don't believe it - it's actually stopped raining!’ exclaimed a disbelieving Tegan.

‘Yes, it's quite refreshing,’ admitted the Doctor.

‘What was it you told me once? Something about the high bombardment of positive ions after a thunderstorm?’

‘That's right. The Eye of Orion. Fancy going back there for a holiday?’

Tegan shook her head. ‘Let's try somewhere else. That place we were at before we came here was nice.’

The Doctor shuddered visibly. ‘I think not,’ he said firmly. ‘How about Earth? Surely there's someone you'd like to visit?’

Tegan thought for a moment, and then her eyes lit up. ‘I know, my grandfather, Andrew Verney. He lives in England.’

‘England it is then,’ said the Doctor, reminding Tegan of a train guardsman as he opened the door of the TARDIS. ‘All aboard!’

Moments later, the TARDIS dematerialised from the stone circle.


This item appeared in TSV 13 (May 1989).

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