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Times Past

By Patrick O'Seanesy

[4th place in the Short Story Competition]

The ship screamed as the engines pulled it through a sharp evasive, narrowly avoiding the blaster fire from the malevolent battle cruiser following close behind. The crew were screaming with it; at least those who were still alive were. Struggling against the mass of confused bodies the Captain staggered down the main deck, hands clamped tightly over his ears trying to block the howling wail from the communications ports set into the wall. Versh'en appeared at a door ahead of him, his long albino arms flailing as if to beckon him. The Captain cannoned past, collapsing into the corner as the tall science officer sealed the door behind him and casually gestured towards the clinically dismembered com-port pieces by the wall.

‘They are jamming the system,’ the Alzian muttered.

‘Not so you'd notice,’ the Captain tried whispering, his ears ringing from the cacophony outside.

The alien winced, still unaccustomed to the pitch of human voices. ‘No,’ he muttered quietly again, ‘You do not follow. To affect our systems in such a manner the Daleks must have our internal frequencies.’ The bald, blue, oblong head turned towards the Captain. ‘They have someone working on the inside.’

They ran to the turbolift, the ports in the wall now burbling with changes of pitch, the Captain again with his hands over his ears, but Versh'en apparently untroubled by the noise; the tones not too dissimilar from the sounds of his home world.

Once inside, the human pulled out his pistol and brought the handle crashing down on the wall communicator, reducing it to a sparking heap of fused circuitry. His alien companion punched in the complex security code which would send them to the mainframe access room. They ascended silently, in stark contrast to the noise outside. The door opened to the reveal the muscular form of Clent, the chief engineer, ripping the diodes out of a communicator on a nearby wall.

‘Captain, I think I've isolated the frequencies they've been using to jam the com-networks. If I can access the main dump files I might just be able to re-network the system long enough for us to lose them.’

Versh'en turned to the Captain, and curled his mouth as if to suggest something.

‘Don't even say it. I've known Clent for years and I know he's not your traitor.’ The engineer looked shocked, while Versh'en explained his theory to him.

‘Anyway,’ continued the Captain, ‘we'll need all three clearances to get into the access room.’ He looked briefly at his two companions. ‘Ready?’

The securicom took retinal and vocal scans, along with thumbprint cross-referencing for the two humans, before letting them into the dimly lit computer room. It was most unimpressive; the main memory and security banks were located at discrete points in the ship's infrastructure and the room only provided an interface between select officers and the ship's operating networks. The Captain paused by the medical bank near the door as the other two continued in, and was about to get the others to begin the counter-programming when Clent suddenly let out a muffled curse. The Captain turned and saw the burly man slump to the ground, his neck broken by a quick twist from the tall Alzian's hands.

Except he wasn't an Alzian.

In his brief struggle, Clent had managed to loosen the plastex mask covering the dull metal sheen of the android's face, leaving it flapping open in the half light, with the biomech systems clearly visible inside, dimly illuminated by the flashing count-down system just behind where the eyes had been.

‘We want the ship.’

Destroy this room and the ship is crippled, life support fails, and all systems stop, the Captain thought, horrified as realisation slowly set in. There would be only minimal damage to the ship's structure and hidden memory, and as soon as control was restored it would be almost as good as new.

‘Yes, you have been a fool,’ the creature that had once been Versh'en muttered, as if reading his mind. ‘Now goodbye Commander Summerfield.’

The Captain remembered his pistol, now lodged in the panel in the lift and turned to get it as the blast from the explosion lifted him off his feet and out of the room into...

The angled screen went black as the Doctor pushed it back down into a folded position.

‘No,’ he said simply, looking down into Bernice's imploring eyes. ‘No, not yet.’

He picked up his new Visualiser and slowly turned towards the console room, followed closely by his new companion. He paused at the door and turned to her, offering a sad half-smile as Bernice noticed that the device she had stolen from his room half an hour earlier had apparently vanished into thin air.

The main doors opened onto a twilight-lit park, the early morning birdsong displaced by the thin wail of a bugle emanating from a small gathering of people huddled around a monument as part of an old yet unforgettable ritual.

The Time Lord produced a small wreath from somewhere inside his coat and gently passed it to her. ‘Sometimes the past is best left there,’ he muttered quietly, almost to himself, as they set off down the hill. He unfurled his umbrella as a light drizzle set in.

And not far away, a busload of Japanese tourists started taking photographs.

This item appeared in TSV 34 (July 1993).

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