Chapter 1

Tranquil Repose

The ancient Egyptians considered the pyramid to be the symbol of rebirth and resurrection. Appropriately enough, Tranquil Repose was based on this concept. Its twin pyramids were a familiar landscape to those who lived on Necros, the seventh planet in the Pherra system.

Sufferers of incurable diseases came from far and wide to use Tranquil Repose's unique services. The process was simple: one's body was placed in a sealed casket and frozen. Revival would be guaranteed once the cure to the ailment was found. But this luxury did not come cheap. Only those of great wealth and influence could afford the treatment. Despite this, Tranquil Repose still managed to draw in customers.

The Pherran colonies - established centuries ago in the early Thirtieth century - had obtained independence from Earth control. The Earth had been too busy fighting in the Dalek Wars and the people of Pherra did not want to get involved - the Daleks had not been seen in this sector of the galaxy for some time; they were at the outer frontiers concentrating their forces against the Movellans who had developed a virus that was killing Daleks in their thousands.

But the colonies were having problems of their own. Famine was of major concern to the planetary governments. Vast factories were working on overload trying to process enough food to feed the starving people but there was still never enough. Things began to take a turn for the worse. But then he came.

A supply freighter to Necros had dropped off a capsule that had been found adrift in space. Inside was a man. He was being kept alive, but only just, by a complex life-support system. In exchange for medical assistance and laboratory facilities, he promised the people of Tranquil Repose the use of his skills and knowledge to find a solution to the food shortage. His greatest discovery was the base ingredient for a protein extract, the formula for which he refused to reveal.

His achievements in this field, and in finding cures for many of the diseases, earned him the prestigious title of the Great Healer. The people of Necros were happy. The Great Healer had boosted the reputation of Tranquil Repose ten-fold. Its services were now in much greater demand. Bookings for the current season alone were greater than they had ever been! But the people of Tranquil Repose were hardly prepared for the day the Daleks came.

They emerged from the Great Healer's laboratories in force. He announced that he was taking over the running of the complex. The Necrosians were powerless to resist his demands. But these Daleks were not the great threat they were expecting. Confined to the lower levels, they rarely ventured beyond the disused chambers beneath the complex. The Great Healer had instructed them to remain close to him.

Despite the presence of Daleks, it was business as usual at Tranquil Repose...

It was day-break on Necros. The burning yellow sun rose behind the twin peaks of Tranquil Repose. Elongated shadows formed by the points of the towers crept across the snow-covered ground like a giant sundial.

Inside the complex there was a hive of activity. Attendants, identically clad in blue tunics, hurried about concerned only with their duties. Today was an important day for them.

The busiest section of Tranquil Repose was the main ceremonial Hall. It was here that arrangements were being made for a very important occasion. The Hall was located on Level One of the complex. Branching out from here, like the spokes of a large bicycle wheel, were the many service corridors leading to the freezing chambers, of which there were seven levels deep underground. The Hall was decorated with a number of narrow pedestal urns bearing purple flowers.

Towards the rear was a raised dais, upon which was a marble altar. On this lay the body of a woman. The body was dressed in a decorative golden robe, the face hidden beneath a golden mask. Around it was an arrangement of the purple flower. Two men were attending to the corpse; one was checking the flowers, the other dusting the death-mask.

Jobel made the finishing touches to the mask with a final stroke of his brush. ‘Lovely, lovely, lovely,’ he said with approval. ‘Absolutely lovely.’

Jobel was the Chief Embalmer. Although he only held the second highest position at Tranquil Repose, Jobel liked to think he was in charge. A short dumpy man, his wide face was accentuated by a large walrus moustache. He was a vain man; his bald head was hidden by an ill-fitting toupee. He loved the ladies and also himself.

‘You've excelled yourself, Mr Takis,’ he added. ‘You really have.’

Adjusting the pince-nez spectacles on his nose, Jobel smiled at his companion. Like Jobel, Takis was bald, but did not hide the fact. To make up for the lack of hair on his head, he had a full beard. Affixed to his lapel was one of the purple blooms. Takis was in charge of flowers at Tranquil Repose. Like many of the workers at Tranquil Repose, Takis also had a second duty; he was also one of the security officers.

‘Thank you, Mr Jobel,’ Takis replied. Takis took his work very seriously; his flair with flowers was widely acclaimed.

Jobel moved away from the body, and descended the steps into the main Hall. ‘This will be the finest Perpetual Instatement that I have ever made,’ he continued. ‘Provided of course that the witch doesn't crumble to dust before we get her underground.’

‘Not with you in charge, Mr Jobel,’ said a squeaky voice behind him. He turned to see Tasambeker standing on the dais. She was a short, plump woman, not at all attractive. In fact, Jobel despised her. She was always following him around, always at his heels like an obedient dog.

‘That was supposed to be a joke,’ he explained.

‘I'm sorry, Mr Jobel,’ she mumbled.

Jobel turned to Takis. ‘This one thinks with her knuckles,’ he laughed.

He made his way across the Hall with Takis following behind. ‘Today will go down in funerary history, Takis. Everyone will want our services now.’

Takis could detect the pride in his boss's voice. He cast his eyes back to the body behind him. This was Ronya, the late wife of President Vargos. Vargos was the President of Earth. Although Necros was no longer under Earth control, the President had wanted his wife to be interred here at Tranquil Repose. It was a great honour for them.

‘Let's get today over with first, Mr Jobel,’ advised Takis.

‘Always the cautious one, Takis. But you're absolutely right, of course.’

A man approached them from an adjoining corridor, and whispered something in Takis's ear. This was Lilt, Takis's assistant. Like Takis, Lilt had a beard, but he had a full head of blond hair. Takis asked to be excused.

Jobel nodded and turned to enter his preparation room and office, which was situated in a little annex off the Hall. His way, however, was blocked by Tasambeker, standing where she always did, at his heels.

‘What do you want?’ he bellowed. ‘You're always under my feet.’

‘I'm sorry, Mr Jobel. I was told to inform you that surveillance has picked up the President's space craft.’

‘Oh good. Let's hope they're on time. She's starting to froth. And we know what that leads to. Thank goodness the casket is lead-lined.’

Jobel stepped into the centre of Hall and clapped his hands loudly. The Attendants who were milling about stopped to listen to his announcement.

‘I want to see you all in fresh tunics and full funerary makeup before the President arrives. We don't want the poor thing uncertain who the corpse is, do we?’ He paused, waiting for the laughter he expected at his little joke. Disappointed at the response, he dismissed the workers and retreated into his office.

Tasambeker sighed heavily as the door closed behind him. She turned to see Takis, arms folded, looking at her.

‘What are you staring at?’ she demanded.

‘You're wasting your time there. He's not interested in you.’ Her infatuation with Jobel was widely known within the walls of Tranquil Repose. It was the subject of gossip in the staff rooms.

‘Get on with your work!’ she shouted, and ran into a corridor.

Takis laughed at her plodding figure, and left the Hall.

Apart from the body on the altar, the Hall was now empty. The double doors from the reception room slowly opened. A man dressed in an Attendant's uniform entered, and looked cautiously about him. He could have easily passed as an Attendant, but the machine gun hanging from his shoulder was not part of the standard uniform. He also carried a small metal case. On a thin cord around his neck hung a silver flask. He was followed by an attractive brown-haired woman, also dressed as an Attendant, who carried a small laser pistol. She had a determined look on her face.

Having ascertained that the way was clear, Grigory beckoned Natasha on. They crossed the Hall to another set of doors at the opposite end. Cautiously he opened them. There was no one in the corridor. They continued on their way. Having got this far, there was no turning back now...

In a chamber beneath Tranquil Repose, a complex array of scanners and monitoring devices hummed with activity. A screen lit up showing the Pherran star-system. A green blip appeared, moving towards the centre of the screen. A squat white form watched, its eye-stalk taking in the information flashing up in the screen. The creature raised its sucker-like arm and activated a control. On another scanner, the view of a wooded hillside appeared. Something was slowly taking shape. The Dalek continued its observation of the hill as a blue box took form...

A white mist drifted slowly across the snow covered hill. The early morning silence was suddenly broken by a shrill grating sound that burst from nowhere. On top of the hill which overlooked a small lake, a tall blue box appeared. As suddenly as the sound had started, it ended as the box stabilised and settled on the knoll. A door opened, releasing a billowing cloud of steam as a small figure emerged.

Peri took a bite from the sweet roll she was holding as she stepped out from the warm interior of the TARDIS into the cold. She wore a thick blue jacket and black trousers, with a matching blue beret on her head. It offered little protection against the sudden chill that hit her. She shivered and looked around her, blinking at the glare of the whiteness. ‘I don't believe it,’ she mumbled. ‘What a dump.’

She noticed the lake and, trying hard to keep her balance in the slippery snow, she made her way down to its edge. She gazed into the black uninviting water. Lumps of ice floated on the surface.

‘With my luck I'll probably fall in.’ The last thing she wanted was to get wet. She took another bite of the roll and screwed her face up in distaste. Tossing the remains into the water she watched as it bobbed on the surface.

The door of the TARDIS opened again, and the Doctor stepped out. The colourful clothes he wore during this incarnation were hidden by a heavy blue cloak that came down to his feet. He inhaled deeply at the chilly air, and exhaled with satisfaction. Spotting his companion down by the water, he spread his cloak out like a pair of giant wings.

‘How do I look?’ he asked.

She turned to him - and her eyes nearly popped out of her head at the sight of the giant ‘peacock’ standing by the TARDIS.

‘More comfortable than I feel,’ she complained. ‘This thing I'm wearing is too tight.’ She pulled at the constricting collar of her jacket.

‘You eat too much,’ declared the Doctor, making his way down the icy slope with little difficulty.

‘Hardly,’ she replied. ‘I've just given my lunch to the fish.’ She indicated the floating blob in the water.

The Doctor gazed around them. There was no sign of life in any direction.

‘Can't I change into something more comfortable?’ she whined.

‘Certainly not!’ he snapped. ‘Blue is the official colour of mourning on Necros; and women's legs are to be covered at all times.’

‘Sounds positively feudal.’

‘It's polite - and not to say safer - to honour local customs. You should know that by now.’

‘But I don't even know this guy we've come to see.’

The Doctor shot her a glance. ‘Guy?! Guy?!’ he bellowed. ‘You are talking about Professor Arthur Stengos. One of the finest agronomists in this galaxy.’

Peri looked at the ground. ‘I'm sorry,’ she whispered. ‘I'm even more sorry that he's dead, but that doesn't change the fact that I'm uncomfortable.’

Unnoticed by them, a yellow claw-like hand rose from the water and hovered over the floating remains of Peri's food. The fingers closed around it, and the hand shot back beneath the surface, sending up a small splash.

Peri turned at the sound. ‘What was that?’

‘Do you want me to find out?’ the Doctor asked.

‘N-n-no,’ she stammered. She shivered again, this time from fear and not the cold - which was turning her face bluer than her coat.

Suddenly the lake exploded - a great fountain of water splashing over the Doctor and Peri, soaking them both. They watched as the water continued to boil with great fury and eventually subside.

‘Poor old thing,’ the Doctor said. He turned to Peri accusingly. ‘I've warned you before about feeding animals.’

‘That was my lunch!’ she cried. If some aquatic life-form had died from consuming her snack, what could it have done to me, she wondered. ‘That's the last time I eat one of your nut roast rolls!’

The Doctor glared at her. Didn't she realise how long it had taken him to prepare that meal? With the food machine on the blink again, he had had to risk using the TARDIS kitchens for the first time in hundreds of years. Disuse for that period of time was bound to make any device unsafe, as his near-accident with the gas stove had demonstrated.

Peri was however only concerned with her own safety. The wildlife of Necros had so far proven to be hostile. She had encountered many creatures in her travels with the Doctor, some of which had tried to make her their lunch. Just recently, she nearly ended up being fed to a savage creature called a Morlox on the planet Karfel.

‘What else is there?’ she asked nervously.

‘Oh, the odd Voltrox, the occasional Speelsnape,’ he replied. The names meant nothing to her, but whatever they were, she certainly didn't want to meet them!

‘Do they bite?’

‘Only each other,’ he consoled her.

She closed her eyes and sighed in relief.

‘Come on,’ he announced, and strode back up the hill with great ease. He stopped at the summit. Peri was having difficulty gaining a foot hold, but with considerable effort she finally made it to the top. The Doctor didn't wait for her and moved on.

‘You didn't warn me about all this snow,’ she moaned - and promptly fell over. She called out for help, but the Doctor, oblivious to her predicament, was strolling with great gusto across the snowy ground, towards the woods that bordered the hill. Peri pulled herself to her feet and brushed the snow from her clothes. As the Doctor disappeared into the trees, she hastened her speed in order to catch up with him, trying her best not to fall over again.

Unseen by them, the waters of the lake heaved once more, and something leaped out onto the bank, the tattered remains of clothing clinging to the wet body. The thing scrambled up the hill and observed the receding figures. With a lumbering gait, the creature slowly moved off in the same direction.

In the scanner room beneath Tranquil Repose, the Dalek switched off the screen. Identification had been established. The female had called the male ‘Doctor’ and the blue box conformed to the description of the Doctor's time craft. The Dalek moved away to make its report...

They had been walking for some time now and there was still no sign of civilisation. Peri was sure the Doctor had got them lost - and told him so.

‘Nonsense! I know perfectly well where we are,’ he declared.

But Peri was not convinced. The woods seemed to go on forever. She caught sight of a small bush growing amongst the trees, and rushed over to study its large purple flowers. As a student of botany, Peri was interested in all floral species. Her travels with the Doctor had introduced her to many new, weird and wonderful blooms.

‘This seems to be the only plant that grows in this wilderness,’ she observed. The strange flower had a unique octagonal petal structure. She broke off a flower and smelled its fragrance. It was sweet like a rare perfume.

Herba baculum vitae,’ said the Doctor.

‘The Staff of Life,’ translated Peri.

The Doctor raised his eyebrows in astonishment at her perfect grasp of the Latin for the plant. ‘Its common name is the weed plant.’

‘It looks familiar.’

‘It's similar in food value to the soya bean plant on Earth. I can't understand why it hasn't been cultivated.’

Peri broke off another flower and carefully placed it in her trouser pocket.

‘For your collection?’ he asked.

Peri nodded. She had filled her sleeping quarters on the TARDIS with the numerous plants and flowers that she had obtained during their travels. The Doctor wanted her to keep them in the TARDIS conservatory or the Cloister room, but she insisted on using her own rooms where she could keep a closer eye on them. Once, during one of his tantrums, the Doctor had threatened to throw them all out.

‘Yes. If I ever get back to Earth. I've got to impress them at college with something. My grades certainly won't.’

She thrust the first bloom under his nose. The Time Lord backed away in alarm. ‘It is safe to touch?’ she asked, scared by the Doctor's reaction.

‘Usually,’ he replied. He turned away so she couldn't see his mischievous smile.

Some time later, as they continued their way through the woods, there was a loud snap of a twig breaking somewhere behind them. The Doctor stopped.

‘A small rodent?’ he suggested.

Peri shivered. ‘With sharp teeth and rabid saliva...’

‘Not on Necros,’ the Doctor said. He saw the fear on her face. ‘Well, at least not rabies.’

Their path was now blocked by a large clump of twisted trees; the branches were bent and tangled like in a cat's cradle. The Doctor pushed his way through the only gap he could find, protecting his face with his arm.

Suddenly there was a loud moan behind them. They turned to see a humanoid figure shambling towards them. Its face was covered in scales hanging off in patches as if it had melted. Its clothes were in shreds.

Peri screamed as it lunged forward. The Doctor pulled off his heavy cloak, and assumed a Venusian Aikido stance. The creature halted its advance and stood staring at the Time Lord, its eyes unblinking. An idea came to the Doctor, something he remembered from the planet Peladon. He pulled out his antique pocket watch and dangled it by its green chain in front of the creature's eyes.

‘Peace to the world,’ the Doctor said in a quiet soothing voice. He swung the timepiece like a pendulum. The creature's eyes followed the watch, its moans becoming softer.

‘Concentrate... concentrate... there we are,’ the Doctor said. ‘Now. What seems to be the problem?’

The creature growled and lunged with great speed for the Doctor's throat. Unprepared for the sudden attack, the Doctor lost his balance, enabling the monster to hurl him against a tree.

The Time Lord was stunned by the fierce blow, and gasped to regain his breath. The creature grabbed him by the hair and pulled hard. The Doctor cried out in pain, but despite the agony, he managed to twist around, and deliver a short, sharp blow to the creature's stomach with his elbow. It released its hold and staggered back.

Only temporarily winded, the thing lunged again, but this time the Doctor was ready for it. The creature rammed its head into the Doctor's chest. The Doctor fell back, absorbing the blow, and the momentum carried them both crashing to the cold snowy ground. They rolled down a step incline, coming to a rest at the bottom.

Taking advantage of this, the thing forced the Doctor onto his back. It then straddled his chest, pinning the Time Lord down, and once again went for the throat.

Peri slid down the slope after them. She looked around and spied a broken tree branch. She picked it up, and with all her might, swung it in a wide arc, hitting the creature across its back. But it didn't release its strangle hold. The Doctor's face was turning red as his air was slowly forced from his lungs.

Peri lashed out once again. This time the branch connected with the base of the monster's neck. There was a loud snap of bones breaking and the creature froze, releasing its stranglehold. With a soft moan, it collapsed to the ground. Able to breathe once more, the Doctor rolled away, coughing.

In one of the trees, a small camera mounted on a swivel, was transmitting to Tranquil Repose. There were many such surveillance cameras all over the planet.

In a circular room beneath Tranquil Repose, a silent figure watched the Doctor's fight with keen interest. This was the DJ. His job was to watch all the events occurring on the planet, and broadcast them to those asleep in the cryogenic chambers. He wore a large set of ear-phones; a microphone at his lips. He squinted through dark-lensed glasses at the nine screens on the wall before him. He zoomed one of the screens to focus on Peri.

‘Hey there, you guys,’ he said, his voice slight with an American twang. ‘For those of you who are appreciative of the humanoid female form, we have a maiden in distress.’ He gazed at Peri's face with delight. ‘It's not often that we get one of those around here. Usually this place is as quiet as a grave.’ He cackled at his little joke.

‘But seriously though, guys - a word of warning: remember that although I am playing swinging Earth sounds of the 1960s, you are in suspended animation. And we don't want a repeat of last time now, do we?’ He reflected back to three days ago when one of the cryogenic caskets popped open during one of his broadcasts. It took five Attendants to mop up the mess...

But the DJ was mistaken in his belief that all his listeners were asleep in suspended animation. In his laboratory deep within the catacombs sat the Great Healer.

The lab was in part of the unused catacombs beneath Tranquil Repose. This particular room was an old chapel. The chapel was accessible by two entrances, one leading to the service elevators that went to the upper levels, and the other went deeper into the catacombs. A white Dalek stood on guard at each entrance.

Paintings and ornate figurines rested within recesses in the walls. As if someone had deliberately disfigured them, the heads of all the statues had been broken off, and lay shattered at the foot of each statue. It was as if they had been decapitated to reflect the Great Healer's own pitiful situation. In the centre of the room was a complex control panel. The console itself was part of an elaborate life-support system. To one side was a tall cylindrical dome, the top of which was connected to a group of computer consoles by a thick cable. Inside the dome was a head, the face lined with great age. The eye-lids were wired closed. The sightless eyes were assisted by the lens affixed to the forehead. Around the head was a complex array of sensors. Although the console was fixed the dome could freely rotate 360 degrees.

The wall opposite was dominated by a large video screen, the face of the DJ looming large from it. The Great Healer always listened to the DJ's broadcasts, anxious to learn of any strange happenings out on the surface.

The scanner's view changed to the exterior scene of a young woman and an older man, both dressed in blue, crouching in the snow. Strangers! thought the Great Healer. Assassins maybe? Or could this be the Doctor? The man did not look like the Doctor, but perhaps he had regenerated again?

The DJ's droning voice echoed around the chamber.

‘Shut the fool up!’ the Great Healer ordered.

Obeying its master, one of the Daleks moved to a console and lowered the volume. The DJ continued his broadcast in comical silence.

The Dalek from the monitor room glided into the chamber.

‘Report,’ demanded the Great Healer.

The monitor Dalek raised its eyestalk to the scanner. ‘It-is-the-Doctor!’

‘Excellent! My lure has worked.’

‘Shall-I-order-Daleks-to-detain-him?’ enquired the monitor.

‘No. Give me the greater pleasure to watch his own curiosity deliver him into my hands.’ His scheme to bring the Doctor to Necros was so far going as planned. The Doctor would suffer for his past interference. The Great Healer - otherwise known as Davros - was looking forward to the moment when the Doctor was brought before him. He ordered a guard to alert the engineers to commence work on the statue.

Shaking with maniacal laughter, Davros fixed his gaze back upon the face of his enemy. ‘Soon, Doctor, soon...’

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