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By Patrick O'Seanessay

On a small planet on the edge of the lopsided bubble of human colonisation there is a statue of an Earthwoman. Intricately carved out of obsidian and alabaster it stands thirty meters high, calmly surveying the fragile planet and its gentile inhabitants, as it has done so for many generations. Its face shows a bizarre mix of emotion, its angle and tight lips showing a gruff exterior and no nonsense personality which is completely belied by the strength and compassion in its eyes. It could be regarded as one of the most beautiful works of art in the galaxy.

People ignore it.

Bernice shivered, the torchlight wobbling wildly in front of her in sympathy. The faint light from the half open TARDIS door was still vaguely visible behind her but that was hardly reassuring. She never really ‘got into’ derelicts. Of course, she had surveyed a few during her brief stint with the New Kenyan Universities Archaeological Retrieval Group, but they never really felt right. She could never really explain it as there was really very little difference between cold dark dank corridors running under hundreds of feet of earth and cold, dark, dank corridors floating in mid-space.

Once she thought it might have something to do with her father, but there was more to it than that. Everything was so clinical, most of the available information was stored in the ship's logs, meaning conjecture was saved until after the data retrieval process had gone ahead, meaning most of the of excavation process was reduced to packing and cataloguing artefacts. A trained team of monkeys could do it. Everything was too clean, the ship's systems filtering the dust and bacteria from the air. While it meant that the artefacts were in almost perfect condition, she never felt it gave the same amount of satisfaction as spending a week in the dirt and dust meticulously digging and scraping away. She allowed herself a smile in the dark remembering Professor Ngugi's despairing comments, his deep voice protesting ‘Young Summerfield can only be happy when up to her rear in grime, and with solid grit under her fingernails.’


She froze. The hoarse voice had cut through the air somewhere ahead of her, the silence giving it starling clarity. She remembered the other reason she hated derelicts. They gave her the willies.

‘Doctor, is that you?’ she called hopefully, doubting any positive response as he had headed off in the opposite direction about twenty minutes ago trying to find the engine room. When they had scanned the ship from the TARDIS he had found no life signs, but there was a faint power source near the ship's reactors. He had also claimed that the instruments were working right this time. Benny made a mental note to remind him of that when... if she ever saw him again.

‘Vershenien... dal Sivya.’

The voice came again, slightly louder, more insistent this time. She flicked the torchlight from wall to wall, as she slowly backed towards the TARDIS.

‘I warn you, whoever you are, I've got a REALLY big stick and I'm not afraid to use it.’

The voice came again, followed by a cacophony of howls and cries that seemed to rush towards her. Something flashed into the light, something pink and half formed. Bernice caught a view of three stubby fingers, scabs, and a thin layer of slime before she dropped the torch and ran.


Her feet pounded against the loose grilles that lined the floor as she flew down the corridor towards the Ship. She risked turning her head to see the torchlight bobbing behind her. Suddenly it was obscured as one of the things in pursuit blocked the light.

A hand reached up from below the floor and grabbed her leg.

‘Oh shi....’

She crashed to the ground, bruising her arms and cutting her lip on the hard surface. Dazed, she swore and kicked out at her attacker. There was a sticky crunch and she saw the fingers that held her in an icy grip slowly separate from the hand. Then she screamed.

The creatures stopped a few feet away from her, keeping their distance as she lashed out in their general direction. Even the hand, now less a few digits, had sunk from view back down the open grille. Slowly a small crowd formed. The torchlight bobbed up the corridor silhouetting various twisted silhouettes of all shapes and sizes. They muttered and burbled at each other, the same term recurring throughout their various conversations.

‘Dal Sivya.’

The creature with the torch lumbered into view, a large hunchback, scuttling forward on the knuckles of one hand. Shocked, she realised it would have stood almost seven feet tall if it were not for its perennial stoop. The other creatures parted as it approached, either afraid of the light of the torch or submissive to the giant figure. The light caught their bodies as it passed, all fleshy and pink. They seemed without skin, twisted muscles and sinews exposed to the light. It stopped in front of her, eyeing her cautiously before lowering itself even closer to the floor. She froze, expecting it to leap at her throat.

The creature reached forward, gently placing the torch at her feet.

‘Dal Silvya,’ the deep voice intoned, and it lowered itself again.

She reached forward to pick up the torch and noted carefully how they all moved back as she did so. All but the giant, who still sat there, gnarled head lowered in front of her. She almost laughed when she realised he was bowing at her.


The Doctor's voice echoed down the corridor startling the creatures. As Bernice pulled herself to her feet they hissed and screamed, ducking to avoid the light of the Time Lord's torch as he raced towards her. The giant leapt forward, snarling and hissing. He spread his arms wide, almost touching both walls, effectively blocking the passage between them. Encouraged by this the others formed a tight circle around Bernice protecting her from the new intruder. The Doctor stopped a safe distance from the pink seething mass.

‘Are you all right back there? ... I heard you scream.’

‘OK,’ she called, ‘although they tend to be a bit over-protective.’

‘Hardly surprising really...’ he muttered in the half-light. ‘Look, can you get back to the Ship?’

She started moving towards him, the protective circle moving with her. They were slightly more subdued now. The conversation seemed to reassure them that the Doctor meant her no harm.

‘Is there a problem?’

‘Let's just say it wouldn't pay to make any long term plans.’

‘Another one of your cryptic responses.’

The circle parted to let him meet her, the half focused eyes scanning his every move, the giant by her side ready to leap to her defence.

‘All the power systems are down, including life support. The air will probably run out in a day or two.’ His eyebrows knotted as he frowned. ‘I tried to divert a small amount of power from the cryo-units to reboot the mainframe, but the system has been taken apart by experts.’

‘Any idea who?’ she asked.

‘Probably raiders, pirates or slavers,’ he shrugged, ‘whoever they were they appear to have cleared out the crew as well.’ He turned, heading back to the TARDIS. ‘We'd better get a move on.’

‘Hang on,’ Bernice called, rushing forward and grabbing his arm, ‘I thought this was the crew.’ Her sudden movement sent a ripple of alarm through the creatures.

The Doctor turned, looking sadly at the creatures that crowded around her.

‘No, this is the cargo.’

‘Did I ever tell you about Necros?’

She looked up at him from the chaise lounge they had recently relocated in the console room. The creatures clustered by the outer door, not wanting to venture inside. Even the big one seemed content to look in once, snort incredulously and wait.

‘Zombie Daleks and your marvellous flower factories, dunno - you may have mentioned them once.’

Her sarcasm seemed lost on him, and his voice sounded strangely distant as he remembered events of the past.

‘There was a transition period between the destruction of the body banks and the establishment of the new protein synthesis plants.’ He paused, letting her catch up with his train of thought. ‘An alternative source of food was required to prevent the Empire from starving...’

She stared out at the half-formed creatures huddled at the entrance, feeling a cold chill run down her spine. ‘No...’

‘They are proto-clones made up from mixed genetic material of various colony worlds, initially developed for organ replacement, spare-parts people if you like. The fact they could be cryogenically shipped in bulk DNA pools and vat grown was soon utilised by the foodmongers on various worlds. Unfortunately I must have triggered the retrieval system when I tried to get the system on-line.’

Benny leapt up from the couch. ‘That's sick.’

The Doctor shrugged. ‘People have done worse to survive. Although they tend to develop rapidly they were all culled before any sentient personality developed.’ He gently took her hand. ‘It was all usually done quite humanely.’

She pulled her arm back. ‘But they are people...’

‘No...’ his eyes hardened. ‘They are mindless clones, walking proteins, like sheep...’

She turned to face the giant at the door, looking deep into the unfocussed eyes, hoping to see the faintest spark of intelligence or recognition.

‘Doctor, this sheep is called Vershenien.’

It didn't take very long to find an uninhabited M-class world nearby. The Doctor tried to organise the creatures into salvaging what they could from the ship but found none of them would go anywhere without Bernice. A hologramatic Benny was soon rigged up and they were able to split into foraging groups to liberate the few medical, power and food supplies left by the raiders. There wasn't much. In the end the Time Lord wired the freighter's last replicator directly into the TARDIS' main power grid and artificially created a hold full of stores which, using a rather elegant bit of trans-four dimensional engineering, he deposited in the valley where Bernice and the clones gathered.

The creatures clustered closely around her, stating at their new surroundings. They didn't worry her any more, the pink fleshy look was slowly giving way to skin and hair. They're developing fast she thought, glancing over to Vershenien. He - she felt her face redden - yes, he was definitely a he. She would have to check if there were any clothes in the supply boxes.

The crowd parted as the Doctor greeted her.

‘How are they?’ he asked.

‘Fine, I just wish they would stop all this close stuff. It's beginning to bug me.’

‘Ah, I've been meaning to talk to you about that...’

She gave him a questioning look.

‘Standard psychological response,’ he explained, ‘Developing intelligence meets superior life form, there may even be some rebuilt reinforcement to make them easier to pick up if they ever were generated early...’

It took a few minutes for it all to sink in.

The Doctor watched as Bernice farewelled the settlers. Against his better judgement he had agreed to let her wait a few days so she could try and sort things out. The explosion from the derelict had been quite spectacular, lighting up a large portion of the night sky. He told her that it had been a shipping hazard, and anyway, they both liked fireworks. He called as she walked towards the TARDIS.

‘How did it go?’

She smiled. ‘Let's just say I told them to go forth and multiply.’

‘In your own indomitable way no doubt. And the other problem?’

She shrugged as they walked into the ship. ‘I told Vershenien they would worship me by not worshipping me. I think he got the hint.’

The Doctor nodded before adjusting the ship's controls. ‘We can come back later and see how they tum out.’

She watched as the view of the fire-lit camp faded from the scanner. ‘Maybe... later.’

On a small planet on the edge of the lopsided bubble of human colonisation there is a statue of an Earthwoman carved out of alabaster and obsidian, and it could be regarded as one of the most beautiful sights in the galaxy.

People ignore it. Religiously.

They know she wanted it that way.

This item appeared in TSV 57 (July 1999).

Index nodes: Fiction