CHAPTER TEN - LORD TIME CHAPTER TWELVE
CHAPTER ELEVEN. THE TIME FACTORY.
"Get off the Communicom, Gideus. I was ordered to talk only to Lord Cardinax."
"Marcher is er... indisposed right now, Holt. You'll have to talk to me.'
'What do you mean, indisposed? Why is this such a bad frequency? I've been trying to call you for hours. What's going on there? Answer me, damn you!"
"I can't explain right now. Just tell us if the new Bye Of Harmony is operational... I repeat, is it operational?"
"Negative. The Time Ring came onto the Omega Hand, but not the Doctor. The Omega Hand is inoperative. It's just sitting here in space, over the Black Hole. We've failed."
"That's impossible. I saw the Doctor vanish. He can't possibly have put one-hundred miles between himself and the tine ring."
"I'm telling you, he isn't here."
"all right' I believe you. "
'Shall I coma back there?"
A woman's voice answered him, aggressively. "Stay where you are, scum. Await further instructions."
"Who the hell is that, Gideus? Tell me what is happening."
"Never mind," Gideus snapped. "We're experiencing a few technical problems. Do as the girl says, and await further instructions."
The line went dead. Holt shouted for further information several times, as a million questions went through his head. He looked out the spacecraft window at the stationary coffin ship which ought by that time to have vanished. The Black Hole itself was invisible. Only the explosive pin pricks of light from space debris and meteorites being pulled into the chasm reminded him of the nearby dangers. Holt decided that while there was still hope of possible success, he would wait for a while. A TARDIS conversion on his ship would have taken him back to Thryxx in minutes if the Bye Of Harmony had been activated; but flying a conventional one man space-cruiser would take him two months. That was how long it had taken him to fly out from Thryxx. He wondered where Marcher was, and what Ichabod night be doing. So many questions. Space suddenly felt very lonely to him.
In his terror, Marcher failed to notice how high the stairway had taken him in such a short time. It felt as though he was moving slowly, but when he looked back there was no sign of Thryxx, let alone his worshippers. There was only an infinite stretch of gold, surrounded by a shimmering ephemeral blue tunnel. The same vision stretched out above him. He wept, and bit his trembling lip in an effort to regain self-control and dignity.
The warmth faded quickly to a biting coldness. Time Lords are remarkably insensitive to temperature changes, but Marcher was freezing. His tears seemed to turn to frost on his face. He rubbed his ungloved hands together to warm them. It barely helped him.
The stairway didn't end; it ,just melted away into a new scene, Marcher found himself standing precariously on a wide and slippery, smooth plateau dish of crystal white ice. Around its borders, impossibly gigantic teeth of ice loomed up. Some collapsed in on themselves as he watched. Others rose up to replace them, in a continuos regeneration programme. Snow was falling, but each flake seemed to melt away before it touched either Marcher or the ground.
At his feet, where it clearly hadn't been before, a large brown woollen coat appeared. Marcher hurriedly put it on. He found some gloves in the pockets and put then on too. He felt a little warmer, but not much.
He looked up, and saw a white sky above him, from which vast stalactites of dagger-sharp icicles hung down, each one seemed in danger of plunging towards him at any moment. At first, he thought he was in a frozen cave, but then he noticed that there was nothing connecting the sky and the ground. There were no walls, of ice, rock or anything else. The sky itself had been frozen above his.
'Is it you, Ichabod?" he shouted. His voice echoed around the chamber, and seemed to cause a vibration that set even mare of the ice mountains falling down. A large crevice appeared beneath his feet in the ice itself. He stepped quickly clear of it, but it vanished as he did so, and the ice healed itself up perfectly. Marcher noticed that he left no footprints on the ice.
"You know it's me," a gentle whispering voice said. It seemed to cone from below him, and when he looked, Marcher saw the face of Ichabod smiling up at him through the ice. It seemed to take up the whole of the plateau. He was standing directly over its mouth. He stepped back with a shriek, and slipped. "Whoops, steady there," the voice said. A cold white hand grew out of the ice, grabbed Marcher violently and tightly by the collar, lifted him upright, and vanished as quickly as it cane. "You know where you are, don't you?"
"The Doctor..? Did he fall? What happened to him?"
'Strange behaviour. I have you entirely at my mercy, and yet you ask only about the Doctor. How very curious. Ho, you're trying to take my mind off what I might do to you. That's why you ask this now.."
"You must want ms alive, or you would have killed me by now."
"You still have the potential to amuse me, but you must explain to me why you tried to kill the Doctor. You know I want him alive."
"I wasn't killing him. I was sending him to ..."
"Certain doom. You're insane scheme failed, Marcher. Your Hand of Omega is a piece of junk. The Doctor told you that. You should have listened to him."
"You can't know that for sure." "I can know. I do know."
"So, the Doctor is dead then?"
"No! He lives."
"He can't. It's impossible. Unless... You brought him here, didn't you?"
"Not yet, no. He will come here though, and soon. Thanks to you."
"How could he possibly survive without your help?"
"I need not tell you that. Our concern right now is the question of your own survival. Tell me why you should be allowed to live?"
The large crevice reappeared in the ice, threatening to drop Marcher into the mouth below, but it vanished again, as before.
"You drove me mad so that you could capture me. You wanted me to take part in your schemes as an alternative to being executed."
"Something like that, yes. If you had been captured the Time Lords would have sentenced you to death by vaporisation."
"But you would have secretly given me the Time Ring, to transport me to Tarsarus."
Marcher thought quickly, and realised that lying would be dangerous and pointless. "Yes; The Time Lords would have thought you had died, but it would have been a Matrix reproduction of you dying in the vaporisation chambers. They wouldn't have known what had really happened until their own Eye Of Harmony was deactivated."
"You couldn't have done it... It wouldn't have worked. You used me, Marcher. The only question for me now is what possible use you can be for me . "
Marcher got his answer in quickly. "I can catch the Doctor for you. I can bring him here."
"I can catch him myself, just as easily as I caught you."
"I can help you rule."
"You? Rule what? Don't make me laugh!"
"You can't be everywhere at once. I can get information for you."
"I can be everywhere at once, and there will be no information you can find for me that I cannot easily secure for myself."
"Then you tell me why I'm alive, if you have all the answers."
"You're quite a coward, aren't you, for someone with the audacity to think of himself as a new Rassilon. To think you dared to pull my strings. If only it was someone with the courage of his convictions."
"I helped to create you. You need me. Without my help, you would have been dead by now."
Ichabod spoke out the rest of it for him, in Marcher's own voice. "You're metamorphic Symbiosis Regenerator was failing you. Without me you would have perished in your last regeneration. I gave you the gift of immortality."
Marcher cried out. "all right. Enough. It's right though, isn't it? Where would you be now, without me?"
"My immortality came at a price, Marcher. You've turned me into a murderer, and a monster."
The increasingly shrill tone of despair and grief sounded quite genuine. Marcher was profoundly shocked by it.
"I can't stop myself from doing what I'm doing.... "
"Then why stop? Continue on with it, and let me help you, instead of that human girl..."
An icicle plunged down from the ceiling, crashing to the ice only a few feet from Marcher, and splintered into millions of pieces.
"Leave my daughter alone."
"Your daughter? She's not... Ah, I'm sorry. I didn't realise. I had no desire to cause offence. It's just that I feel I have sufficient technical knowledge to be able to help you. The girl is not a Time Lord. She is no scientist, is she?"
"Can you turn yourself into a glacier, Marcher? Or a planet? "
"No, not without doing what you have done.. "
"Then you are a lousy scientist, but me; I am a God. " "And I am but your humble servant. "
"You are a low repulsive man, Marcher. You could walk under a sleeping worm without waking it up. How dare you grovel before me for your worthless life."
"Then kill me quickly, I beg of you." Marcher was weeping bitterly.
"I might kill you slowly and painfully yet. I haven't decided. I knew from the beginning that something was going on, Marcher. I hadn't met you face to face, so I didn't know it was you. I just knew that someone somewhere was messing around with my mind."
"I had a place for you in history. Your reward was to be eternal life. that's what you always wanted, wasn't it?"
'As a new Omega, trapped in a black hole's Negative Universe... I don't think so, Marcher. My way seems much more interesting."
"I tried to help you, didn't I? So it night have failed; we tried, didn't we?"
"I had to get to you, somehow, but once I'd fled from Galifrey, I couldn't do the necessary detective work to track you down. I knew the Doctor would find you. That's why I first brought him into this."
"Well, now you know, so you have to get rid of him, or he'll find some way to destroy you."
"I know. I want him to find me. He alone will know how to end this. I may not be able to stop myself in time."
"In time for what?"
"In time to stop me from transforming myself again."
"What have you got in mind? What are you turning into?"
"I'm going to become the whole Universe."
Marcher hadn't quite fully taken the statement in. "What?"
"I will become all of time, and all of space. I won't be a single planet; I will be entire galaxies, star systems, black holes, all known parallel dimensions. I will be the Cosmos. I will be Everything. There will be a rebirth of all things. "
"Is it? I don't think so. I was attacked today, by a TARDIS. Your old friends Maxil and Elan were on board. When I sent the Time Lord TARDIS back to Event One I tracked it. I actually witnessed the Big Bang. I have assimilated my knowledge of it into my Matrix files. I believe I can replicate Event One. I will become a Universe as soon as my data is fully analysed. Isn't that so much better than your petty Omega scheme?"
"You'll just blow up the existing universe and take yourself with it. There will be nothing left. Nothing..."
"Perhaps, and perhaps that too is what I want. I don't really know yet."
"Do it my way instead; let me create a new Eye Of Harmony."
"You have less chance of succeeding than I do. Your plan was a waste of time and effort."
"You couldn't achieve your goal, Ichabod... All TARDISíes depend on the Eye Of Harmony for energy. If you blow up the Universe around us, you'll destroy Galifrey as well. If your new Big Bang destroys the Eye Of Harmony at Galifrey, you'll automatically destroy your own powers too. You would just stop having any control over time and space, and vanish along with the rest of the Universe."
"In the beginning, God said let there be Sweet Oblivion, and there was Sweet Oblivion, and finally, the God found rest and comfort from his troubled mind. That sounds good. Perhaps such an act of nihilism is what I an truly seeking. To be honest, I don't really know what I want." Ichabod seemed to struggle with his words, and changed tack, yet again. He spoke assertively, authoritatively. "So, the second creation of Time and space would be an act of my will. I will make a new Eye Of Harmony, and at the same time, I will remake the Universe in my own divine image..."
"It can't possibly work...."
"It will work, unless the Doctor can stop ~."
"Let me stop you, if that is what you want. I can offer you plans for a new Eye of Harmony instead. You won't need the Doctor."
"I need him. He must try to stop me."
"That's potential suicide for you."
"No, because he can' t stop me. I daren't let him stop me. I darenít. I darenít. I daren't.... "
"This is crazy -talk, Ichabod, can't you see that?. One minute you want to be stopped, the next minute you don't. Canít you make your mind up, or something?"
Marcher was shaking, half expecting Ichabod to attack him for such a remark Instead, the voice of Ichabod replied with a long self-pitying whine. "No. . . . I don't know. . . , . You see; I want: to be stopped but I can' t make myself do it. . . . So, Iíve arranged for The Doctor to get here and stop me, but now that heíll be on his way, I think I'll end up killing him to save myself. I don' t think I can go through with it." He sobbed and screamed out in a reverberating echoing roar that brought down most of the ice mountains around him. " I DON' T WANT TO DIE! "
Marcher smiled. "That's why I' am still alive: isn't it? You want me to stop him for you; in case you can't destroy him yourself. You want me here to kill The Doctor for you..."
"No. ... Yes ...yes. Yes, that's probably why I brought you here:.... and the girl, Dorothy. I need you to protect me from The Doctor."
Marcher breathed a sigh of relief. " I promise you, I' ll do just that. Iíll keep The Doctor away from you."
Ichabod sounded quite deranged as he started to laugh, "You're devious, Marcher. You promise to serve me, but you are looking out for some way to destroy me and save your own skin. If you ever think of a way to betray me for your own advantage, you youíll attempt to do so without hesitation. Be careful! I might just let the Doctor or Dorothy destroy you too."
Marcher took a deep breath and stuttered, "I. , . I'll just ... keep it in mind."
"Yes.... I think it will work. I'll let you tackle The Doctor If he lives, I will put my plan into operation and become the new Universe, rising like a phoenix from the embers of the last one. If you survive, and 'The Doctor is cast into the Black Hole, and. if he does become: the new Eye Of' Harmony, . . . I will play your game. At least for a while."
"Thank you, Ichabod. Thank you." Marcher was grovelling and nearly in tears. "I won't let you down, but I need. a Time Ring. "
A stalactite fell from the ceiling, dangerously close to Marcherís feet. As it shattered and melted. into the smooth floor it left behind a small metallic wrist bracelet.
"That one should do the trick," Ichabod Said. " I have pre-set the time co-ordinates for Tarsarus. You have only to get it onto The Doctorís wrist but you' re scheme will fail. Iíve already told you that.
"You don't sound so sure about that any more, Ichabod. Besides, if this fails, at least I will have killed The Doctor for us. Er, for you I mean," he quickly corrected himself. And youíll have absolutely nothing to lose. If I donít get my new Eye Of Harmony, then you can still attempt to transform yourself into a new Universe. Is it a deal? Do we have a gentlemanís agreement?"
.Marcher held out his hand, as though to shake hands on a verbal, but legally binding contractual business arrangement. Ichabod ignored him, and stayed silent.
The Doctor felt a sudden impact in his side as though some rhinoceros like creature had collided with him. For a fleeting instant he saw the cliff edge, and its seemed to fall away from him. A bubble of darkness encased him completely, and then there was nothing other than a sharp sensation of accelerating speed. The Doctor felt as though his stomach had been left behind somewhere. He had no idea if he was moving forwards, sideways or straight down towards the rocks and water below.
When light began to filter into his eyes again. The Doctor found himself lying on his back staring at fallen trees raised mounds of Earth thrown up by the earthquakes. He looked around for the cliff area, the Sea, or the town. They were nowhere in. sight, The Doctor tried to stand up but be felt dizzy and quickly realised that he needed to stay lying down until he caught his breath.
As though suddenly superimposed on the landscape from a holographic slide projector, a tall blue robot t appeared, in a stationary position. "Are. You. Well. Doctor?" It asked.
"Yes, quite well, thank you," The Doctor said. "You took your time didnít you, Savatar?" The Doctor knew now just what had happened. had protected in the rescue attempt by an anti.-friction stasis field projected by the Raston Warrior Robot for the duration of the journey at light Speed. Without such shielding The Doctor would have been killed by the acceleration and speed of the transportation to where he lay now. The sheer friction and heat would have torn him to atoms. He still felt very dizzy from it.
"I. Am Confused. By. your. Statement. Doctor. I. Cannot. Move. Any Slower. Surely. You. Know. That."
"That was a joke, " The Doctor said., finally managing to sit up. Donít worry about it. Are you well?"
"Do. You. Refer. To. Me. Personally. Doctor. Or To. My. Kind. In. General?
"Both," The Doctor said, and then he noticed the Time Ring was still strapped round his wrist, flashing in red, instead. of green, signifying that it was due to trigger and activate in a matter of seconds. "Get. rid of this!" The Doctor shouted, with some urgency. "It has to be at least a hundred miles away from me, right now."
Without a word, Savatar vanished. The Doctor felt the ring snatch away from his hand. In the blink of a eye, the robot had returned.. "I. Took. It. Three. Thousand. Four. Hundred. And. Four. Miles. Away. Inland. It. Activated. Quite. Harmlessly. In. My. Left. Hand. And. Vanished."
The Doctor thought: of the constant nature of the speed of light being three hundred and Sixty thousand miles per second and realised how close he had come to death this time. "Thank you for that," He said.
Savatar started talking, and it took The Doctor a moment to realise that he was referring back to their earlier conversation when he had casually enquired about the welfare of the robots. I. Am. Very. Well. Personally. Thank. You. Sadly. However. Many. Of. My. Fellow. Units. Perished. They. Were. Destroyed. In. The. Battle. Against. The. Entity. Known. As. Ichabod. The. War. Did. Not. Go. Well. For. Us. At. All. "
"1' m sorry to hear that," The Doctor said., sombrely, and sincerely. His attention wandered He didn't hear the; robot thanking him for his compassion. "My hat! My Umbrella! I think Iíve left them behind at the cliff-edge."
"Wait. Here." Savatar said, vanishing and returning in the same instant to the same spot. The Doctor found his hat back on his head, back to front, and his closed umbrella on his lap. He quickly inspected them, found them undamaged, and put the hat back on his head the correct way round.
"What. Do. You. Plan. To. Do. Now. Doctor?"
"I need to get inside Marcherís house. I think itís a TARDIS factory of some kind. Are we far away from the town, now, Savatar?"
"With. My. Navigational. Skills. And. Speed. It Wouldnít. Matter. If. We Were. A. Full. Continent. Away. But. In. Fact. We. Are. Just. Two. Of. Your. Walking. Miles. Away. It. Is. Directly. North. From. Here."
"Lets go there then," The Doctor said.
"As. You. Wish. Doctor."
The Doctor stood up unsteadily, and felt embarrassed when Savatar offered to assist him in the exercise. The Doctor politely turned down the invitation. "Do. You. Wish. Me. To. Carry. You. To. The. House. You. Wish. To. Search. Sir?"
"No thanks," The Doctor said. "I think I need the walk to get myself steady on my feet again, after the last ride I took with you. "
"As. You. Wish. Sir. The. Nausea. will. Wear. Off. In. A short. Period. Of. Time. I. Promise. You. That. "
"I hope so."
The Doctor started walking, groggily, and drunkenly at first, but gradually he became more sure footed, and within a few minutes he was a stable on his feet as he had ever been. Savatar didnít walk after him, but stood stationary, and occasionally transported himself forward in light speed leaps to the Doctorís side.
"Sir. May. I. Ask. A. Question?"
"Of course you can."
"When. This. Mission. Is. Over. Will. I. Be. Forced. To. Stand. Still. Again?"
" I don' t honestly know. I hope not. Have you had to stand still for very long?"
"I. was. Tested. Fifty. Galifreyan. Years. Ago. After. I. Was. First. Assembled. Since. Then. I. Have. had. To. Remain. Stationary. . It. Is. Very. Painful. For. Me.."
"I'll see if we can do something to change that," The Doctor promised.
"Thank. You. Sir. Iíd Be. Most. Grateful. About. That. Ah. Sir! It. Seems. As. Though. My. Friends. Are. Arriving.. Here."
"Where?" The Doctor asked, and then he saw them arriving. Fifteen other fully armed white Raston Warrior Robots flickering into visible existence around him. One of them carried an unconscious Maxil in his arms. There was a red glow around the Time Lord which gradually faded. Maxil slumped down to the floor from the Robotís arms, but soon woke up and found his feet remarkably quickly. "You took some finding," he said to one of the four Doctors he saw dancing before his eyes.
"Rest a moment," The Doctor advised him.
As Maxil found his bearings, the Time Lords filled one another in on their respective adventures. Maxil was shocked by the news of Aceís metamorphosis. "Why did he do that to her?"
"Heís playing with an image out of Aceís own subconscious. Sheís seen an old Earth film poster with such an image on it. I think she has it hanging on the wall in her room on my TARDIS. Ichabodís showing us how closely he can read her mind. I just hope we can get her to snap out of it."
"How did he make that giant stairway?"
"Heís using a Dalek time corridor devise."
"Is that why he attacked the Dalek saucer? To steal their technology?"
"Yes, obviously," The Doctor said. "It also explains why he attacked the Cybermen in the guise of an entity of pure gold. It was all an experiment in preparation for what he is doing now."
Maxil looked up at the giant eye floating in orbit above them. "Do you think heís actually watching us?"
"Without a doubt," The Doctor said, and he waved to the eye, as though waving to an old friend he had just spotted walking down the opposite side of a city centre street.
The ground trembled under his feet with a slight angry aftershock that made them stumble and almost fall. "Does that answer your question?" The Doctor asked, smiling.
"Coincidence?" Maxil said, nodding, only half convinced himself by the possibility.
"Weíll soon find out for sure," The Doctor said.
The Time Lords Started to walk towards the broken city. The robots followed by vanishing and reappearing ahead of. the men at regular intervals. Savatar reported various obstacles and signs of life that he spotted in their intended path.
They got to the near-deserted city where very few walls were still standing intact, let alone buildings. One area was several feet deep in water from a busted artesian well, or a stream that had been dammed and diverted by the earthquakes. The Doctor, Maxil and their strange companions managed to skirt around it. A large mud hill had arisen in one street, straight out of the bowels of the planet. It was fairly dry, but still quite slippery, though stable and unlikely to collapse. They had no means of going round it, so they all had to climb over. The robots simply vanished and reappeared on the other side of the obstacle. Savatar offered to carry the Time Lords, but after their previous rides by such a means, both Galifreyans turned down the offer.
They came to the main house area The ashram where The Doctor had been held captive was now a heap of rubble which Maxil identified immediately as ideal cover for watching and spying on Marcherís totally undamaged house. Here, the cultists could occasionally be seen, pottering about on various duties. They entered and left the house through what looked like its only doorway. There were no windows.
The Doctor produced a small, but powerful pair of binoculars from his pocket, which he and Maxil shared use of in inspecting the terrain. On Maxilís precise instructions, Savatar, and ten of the robots went off for a closer look
"Theyíll keep moving at all times. It will make them totally invisible," Maxil said, by way of an explanation. "They are ultra-sensitive to any and all kinds of movement. Thatís how we found you so easily. Theyíll discover a lot more than you or I ever could."
After a few minutes, the robots returned safely. Savatar spoke as always, for all of them. The others seemed only ever to communicate with him, through some kind of telepathic circuitry. "There. Are. Forty. Three. Cultists. There. The Girl. You. Refer. To. As. Ace. Is. Ordering. Them. To. Move. Things. Around. She. Broke. One. Mansí Arm. When. He. Did.. Not. Co-operate. With. Her. Quickly. Enough."
"What are they moving about in there?" Maxil asked, impatiently. That's what we sent you in there to find out."
"They. Are. Moving. Component. Parts. For. A. "
TARDIS." The; Doctor said triumphantly. "It is a TARDIS factory." Savatar was asking how the Doctor Knew that already, when he hadnít finished telling them the momentous news, but The Time Lords were too busy talking to each other to pay him any attention.
"I felt it as soon as I got here," Maxil said.
Look down there," The Doctor said, pointing towards the factory. "Thatís the man they call Brother Burson." He passed the binoculars to Maxil. "Look what heís carrying. Is that really what I think it is?"
"He' got a box full of bloody roundel covers," Maxil growled.
"Yes. Those are among the last things to ever be built into a TARDIS. They must be very close to completing one. "
"But where is he bringing them from? If they are making the Time Capsules in there why has Marcher had the parts stored outside the factory?"
"I donít know," The Doctor said, thinking intensely over various possible reasons. "But Iím going to find out."
"Sir. I. Can. Explain. That,."
"Go ahead, Savvy..." Maxil said.
"Savvy. . . Sir? Who. Is?"
"Just a figure of speech, or a nickname for you, Savatar," The Doctor said, with marked impatience. "Tell us what you think you saw, quickly."
"They. Have.. Fifty. Completed.. TARDISES. In. There. "
"Fifty! Maxil said, open mouthed. "Thatís practically a full scale battle fleet."
"Yes. Sir. But. None. Of. Them. Work. They. Cannot. Tune. Then. In. The. Eye. Of. Harmony. Yet. That. Is. What. The. Man. Called. Gideus. Is. Trying. To. Explain. To. Ace. But. She. keeps. On. Hitting. Him."
"They were expecting me to be in the Black Hole of Tarsarus by now," the Doctor said. Seems a shame to disappoint them really."
"But what about these other TARDIS components they are bringing in? Where are they coming from?"
"I think Savatar knows that too, Max. Don't you, Savatar?"
"Yes. Sir. There. Is A. Spaceship. Around. The. Back. Of. The. Factory. It. Came. From. The. Planet. Rucq'pusa."
"That was one of the worlds where there was another cult," Maxil said. "The Time Lords trying to run the cult there must have headed here when Thryxx became the centre of Ichabod's attention. I think Rucq'pusa was destroyed anyway."
"So many worlds wiped out like that," The Doctor said, dryly, drifting into melancholic reflection.
"At least we only have to worry about the cult on this world now. Maxil said. "Marcher's men will have abandoned any others that survived."
"Yes, but Marcher must have a few more Time Lords here now too." The Doctor lamented. "I thought we only had Gideus to fight."
"We've still got the problem of Ace to worry about too," Maxil added bluntly.
"Yes," The Doctor said, and sat back in the lotus position, on the rubble resting his chin on the handle of his umbrella. Maxil threw several suggestions into the air, but the Doctor eventually decided their course of action. After a moment, he pointed towards the young man struggling with the box of roundels. "Savatar, would you be so good as to fetch that young chap over here. I'd like a word with him. Don't hurt him though, whatever you do."
Maxil was in the middle of asking if that was really a good idea when Savatar flickered in and out of sight, returning with an unconscious Brother Burson in his arms. The red haze of the protective anti-friction field started to fade.
As they waited for him to come round properly, Maxil noticed several cultists running around in alarm a the area where Burson had been snatched, One of them picked up the fallen box of roundel covers, and ran inside the factory with it. within minutes, alarms and sirens were blazing. Several renegade Time Lords emerged carrying stasers and other weapons. The door to the factory closed, and locked electronically, leaving many cultists on guard outside.
The Doctor imagined their confusion; as they tried to explain to Ace and Gideus how their Brother had just disappeared before their very eyes. Several cultists were now seen running about, setting up barricades, preparing themselves for a siege. Maxil watched, and rubbed his hands with glee, at the growing array of fire power. "About time this got more interesting," he said, and checked his own Staser pistol was fully loaded.
"Quiet, Max..." The Doctor said, as Burson woke up and looked around. He saw Maxil first; hard faced and stern, then the strange blue steel creature that looked human, but had no face, or definable features. Around it stood similar creatures in white. Then he saw the Doctor, and screamed. Maxil put his hand over the young man's mouth to stifle the noise. "Quiet, you bloody fool."
When Burson agreed on pain of death not to shout for help, Maxil allowed him to speak. Burson looked directly at the Doctor. "Stay away from me, Doubting One," he said, still struggling to catch his breath.
"You're confused, aren't you? the Doctor said, smiling. "Aren't you going to ask me how I survived falling off the cliff?"
"I've seen many strange sights today."
"Like boxes bigger on the inside than on the outside?" Maxil snapped.
"Like the girl who has take over from Lord Cardinax?" added the Doctor, quickly, to keep Burson's concentration diverted.
"She told me that you are a demon, Doubting One."
"Maybe she's right," the Doctor said, calmly.
With a sudden and surprising display of strength, Burson kicked out with his feet, catching Maxil in the shins. Maxil yelped with pain and surprise and reached for his staser gun, as Burson leapt up and ran off. The Doctor pushed the gun aside. "No Max. Let our friends handle this."
"It was only set to a stun setting," Maxil moaned, deeply disappointed.
Burson made a predictable dash straight towards the TARDIS factory, but he only got about five yards away from Maxil before one of the white robots appeared directly in his path. He slammed right into it, pulled back, half-winded, and tried to run round it when what he assumed to be another robot materialised right in front of him, blocking his path again. In fact, it was the same robot. After a few minutes of dashing into the robots he realised that escape was impossible. He slumped to his knees in despair. A hand gently touched him on the shoulder, the hand of the man in the question mark pullover. "Go ahead, kill me if you must, Doubting One."
The Doctor helped him up onto his feet. "I'm not going to hurt you. I'm here to help you."
, Burson remained unconvinced. "Then let me go, now," he insisted
"We need answers to some important questions, right now." Maxil said, angrily.
Burson appeared to start hyperventilating and quickly snapped into a near catatonic trance. He launched into a recital of what, to the Doctor and Maxil, was clearly a carefully rehearsed cult doctrinal programming. "To question is to doubt. To doubt is to lose faith. To lose faith is to lose hope. To lose hope is to miss salvation. To miss salvation is to gain damnation in the eyes of the new God. To gain damnation in the eyes of the new God is to ..."
"Enough!" Maxil snapped, slapping the man savagely across the face with back of his hand. The Doctor shoved Maxil backwards with such ferocity that the bigger man almost fell over. "No, Maxil. That won't help us," he snarled.
Maxil stood up aggressively, but then relaxed. "I'm sorry, but we can't afford to have him blathering on with that kind of rubbish. We've got work to do."
Beragon, sensing the tension between the men, started trying to add to it. "I'll never serve you, Traitor." He shouted, spitting at the Doctor. "Go on, let your henchman torture me if you mist. I'll never serve you." His teeth clenched and he looked as though he might try once again to plunge into a trance.
Maxil walked up to Burson, and offered glances towards the Doctor, reassuring the other Time Lord that he was not going to do anything violent. "How can you sit there and call him a traitor, after all he has done for your people?"
"He sold us out to the Dominators. I've seen the evidence of his evil ways. Lord Cardinax brought the truth before our eyes."
The Doctor quickly explained the nature of the Matrix footage Marcher had used, and how he had falsified it.
"That old trick," Maxil said, laughing.
"It was no trick. Beware of the cunning of The Man Of Doubt. If you serve him, he will devour you. He will betray you too, Maxil, whoever you are. Join us. Can you not see our promised God in the sky. How can you have room for any doubt now?"
"Button it. You're beginning to really annoy me now."
"Shh, Max. Leave this to me. Subtlety and diplomacy will be quicker for us here."
Maxil was surprised to hear the Doctor say this loudly enough for Burson to hear him too. The Doctor turned towards Burson, who trembled as he looked at him, but stared back, as defiantly as even.
"Watch," The Doctor instructed him, and reaching slowly towards the side of Burson's head with a visibly empty hand, he pulled an old fashioned playing card out of the cultist's ear. It was the Joker. When Burson started babbling about sorcery, the Doctor performed the trick a second time, but with a big difference. He moved his hand slowly, allowing his captive to see the sleight of hand skills required to perform the deception. Burson saw him neatly palm the card so that it stayed just outside of his field of vision. "forty-two." The Doctor said, softly. "Remember that from when I spoke at Cardinax's temple?"
Maxil was asking about the significance of forty-two. The Doctor promised to explain later and carried on addressing Burson. "Appearances can be deceptive, can't they? Now here; you try it... Take the card from behind my ear." The Doctor slid his hat off, and moved his head round, closer to Burson's position.
"Oh, please," Maxil groaned impatiently.
"Now I've seen it all." Burson's curiosity got the better of him. He performed the trick, and he was surprised at the ease with which it could be accomplished. He smiled at his success, and the Doctor smiled and winked at him. Burson realised that his guard was lowered, and drew a deep breath again.
"Ah, ah, No, no no," The Doctor said, insistently, wagging his finger. "If you start babbling at me in tongues, my big friend here might just lose his temper again." Maxil glared balefully at Burson, just to press the point home.
"The film you watched about me," the Doctor said, "was just another conjuring trick. It was a bit more complicated to set up, but the principle was exactly the same."
Burson looked dejected. "Are you denying that you ever met the Dominators?"
"I fought them, many years ago. I was with the resistance that drove them off on the planet Dulkis, just as you did here, Beragon."
"You know my old forbidden name?"
"Yes, I should do. You mentioned it yourself at Cardinax's Temple, after he made you strip naked. Don't you remember?"
"There's no way anyone would treat me like that," Maxil Said, as Beragon shivered at the recollection of the act of physical degradation and mental torture.
"Beragon is dead!"
"No, you are very much alive," Maxil said, sternly ."
"Listen to him," The Doctor added. "Maxil is right for once."
"For once?" Maxil spluttered. "Oh, charming "
Beragon couldn't help but giggle at the sight of Maxil's indignation.
"You were extremely brave to take on Quark Robots." The Doctor said, with grave sincerity .
"I used to have the pride and arrogance of a soldier, but not any more," Beragon lamented.
"You still have it," The Doctor said firmly, placing a hand an the man's shoulder. You wanted to fight me when we first met. You were the only one who tried to save the girl at the cliff top. You fought to escape from us, here, now. Face up to it. The soldier in you is still there, fighting. Why don't you let him out?"
Beragon jammed his hands over his ears and tried. not to listen. "I shouldn't do those things. I was weak, I was wrong."
"Of course you should do those brave things," the Doctor shouted triumphantly, and to Maxil's surprise, not to mention Beragon's, the Doctor slapped the cult recruit full in the face, just as Maxil had done before.
Maxil was speechless. The Doctor tore into Beragon verbally assaulting him, and poked him several times accusingly with the tip of his umbrella. "What is 'shouldn't' supposed to mean? Shouldn't do what? Shouldn't save lives? Shouldn't show love and compassion for our own people? Who taught you that? You were prepared to fight the Dominators, but you are also prepared to say Cardinax and Gideus should have some God given right to shove you over a cliff. That can't be right, can it? Can it? Can it? Can it? Answer me! Can it?"
Beragon broke down sobbing under the relentless onslaught. "I was wrong," he said. "Oh, God, what have I became?" He collapsed in a fit of tears until Maxil produced a small flask of water for him to sip at while he calmed down,.
"If Marcher, I mean, Cardinax, is prepared to kill people like that, he's no better than the Dominators," Maxil said, as the conversation became calmer.
"Don't overplay it," The Doctor whispered. "We could still lose him."
As though to illustrate the paint the Doctor was making, Beragon pointed to the sky and asked how they could explain away the eye looking down at them. "Lord Cardinax promised us a God, and there he is."
The Doctor quickly explained Ichabod's true origins. "He's inside a machine. Ichabod has become mostly a machine himself. He's very like the TARDISES your people are building in that factory of yours. In the wrong hands, those machines could easily turn into more Gods in the sky, or rather, devils in the sky."
Maxil joined in. "Your Lord Cardinax is actually a fugitive from our own home world, Galifrey. Cardinax's real name is Marcher and Marcher made that sky God of yours by driving a good man insane. Marcher is likely to kill millions more people if you can't help us stop all this."
"Are you telling me there is no God at all then?" Beragon asked the Doctor with some fear and trepidation.
The Doctor looked him squarely in the eye. "That's something you need to give a great deal of thought. I'm not going to give you any answers one way or the other."
His bluntness took Beragon aback. "Don't you have any beliefs?" He asked.
"I have my own views and opinions. I won't share them with you though. It would make it harder for you to make up your own mind. You just take time and draw your own conclusions. By that, I don't mean just you personally. I mean everyone here on Thryxx.
What I will say, however, is don't look for easy answers or pick up the first God you encounter. You see, theology is a very complex discipline involving,...."
Maxil saw what was coming and quickly stopped it. "Doctor, this Is no time for the study of metaphysics and the philosophy or religion..... It will be dark soon. We need to get into that TARDIS factory while it is still light."
Disappointment crossed the faces of both the Doctor and Beragon. Further dejection came for Beragon when the Doctor asked him to stay behind with two of the white robots while he, and Maxil went to rescue the other cultists.
"My people and my friends are down there. I'm coming with you."
"We'd rather you didn't, Maxil said. "This could be dangerous." "I want to help you. I must."
The Doctor had seen such determination before, from several of his travelling companions, including Ace. Tell them to stay behind, and they invariably got in the way anyway. "Come on then," he sighed.
Maxil organised a simple battle strategy, The white Raston Warrior Robots would go down first, followed by Savatar, who was to report back to the Time Lords on their progress.
When Savatar assured them of ail going according to plan, Maxil went next, walking calmly down the embankment made by the quake rubble. He was whistling to himself. The Doctor and Beragon moved last of all, again, only upon getting the all clear from Savatar, who vanished instantly back into the fray. Beragon was torn between asking about the nature of the robots, and why he and the Doctor were left unarmed.
"By the time we arrive, Maxil will have done all the necessary shooting that is to be done," The Doctor said. As a staser bolt tore a chunk out of the ground near his feet the Doctor quickly added; "In principle, anyway."
On the whole, the gunfire was limited. Most of it, the Doctor rightly surmised, came from Maxil. Several cultists lay stunned an the ground, unharmed, as Beragon quickly ascertained by checking a few pulses and heart beats, just to reassure himself. One Time Lord lay dead, and the Doctor grimaced while he also quietly marvelled at Maxil's skill and dexterity in being able to switch his staser fire so easily from stun to kill settings and back to stun again, depending an the situational developments at hand.
As he got closer to the factory, the Doctor saw one of the cultists throwing rocks in a vain, futile effort to attack the robots buzzing around her, flickering only for an occasional instant, into her field of vision. The robots were in no danger of being hit by such a defence. When the girl spotted the Doctor she was about to throw a Limestone missile at him, but then she recognised him as the man who had tried to reach her while she was trapped on the cliff edge. She looked at him in hesitant caution, and confusion. "Don't come any closer," she threatened.
The Doctor doffed his hat to her, as a familiar voice shouted, "It's all right. I think we can trust him."
The girl spun round with delight as well as disbelief in her voice. "Burson? You're back' Is it really you?"
"Yes, it's me, Simona."
"Sister Telesh, if you don't mind," she corrected him, sternly. "Not any more. I'm Beragon now, and you are Simona." He held his arms open, inviting her to hug him. Had the Doctor not stopped her, the girl would have immediately thrown her rock at Beragon. The Doctor pinned her struggling arms to her sides, while one of the Robots came over. The Doctor spotted it in one of its direction finding stopping acts, and hailed it towards himself as though calling for a passing Taxi. He spoke to Beragon. "This kind of thing will happen every time one of your friends sees you. I really think it will be best if you go back, right now."
"No; I want to help."
"1 know you do," The Doctor said, holding the fighting hellcat girl firmly with one hand, and clamping the other hand over her mouth to stop her from screaming. "But you will be much more help if you go back to where we were before; on the hillside. The robots will bring your friends to you, and you can start explaining things to them. Use the card trick, like I showed you." The Doctor let go of the girl's mouth and handed Beragon the now crumpled playing card. Simona had barely drawn her breath to let out a loud scream for assistance when her mouth was gagged again. The Doctor ignored her futile efforts to bite his fingers.
'It won't be easy," he said to Beragon, "but your friends will be less guarded by the robot ride making them feel dizzy. Du you think you can manage it?
"Yes, I'll try my best.."
"Good man." The Doctor ordered the white robot to lead the couple off the battlefield. It moved so quickly that the Doctor was unable to assertion whether it took them one at a time, or both at once. He then summoned a second robot to stay with the cultists, to prevent any violence or any escape attempts. The Robot set off to work on it immediately.
The Doctor carried on walking towards the TARDIS factory. Several cultists spotted him and ran away, shouting warnings about the Doubting One. A few threw stones and any other natural missiles that they could pick up. The Doctor ignored them and seemed to walk through the growing gauntlet quite unpeterbed. Many of the cultists expressed concern on finding that their friends were vanishing around them, Literally before their very eyes.
The Doctor was unconcerned by any threat that the cultists posed now. He was however unable to ignore the point blank firing range of the staser pointed at his chest by the Time Lord known as Gideus. The Doctor raised his arms in a classic surrender pose, but Gideus started to squeeze the trigger anyway. He seemed totally unsurprised to find the Doctor alive, but commented graphically on how that would soon be remedied. The Doctor smiled, as a puzzled expression crossed Gideus's face. Marcher's right hand man on Thryxx dropped his staser rifle, and stared down blankly for a moment at the steaming sharp hole running right through his chest. He moved his hands towards the bleeding wound, but collapsed dead to the floor before he could even begin to comprehend what had happened.
Savatar flashed briefly into visibility as he collected his lightning blue lance from its semi-imbediment in the wail behind Gideus, and disappeared again.
Maxil was making good progress too. He was oblivious of the fact that the robots had snatched a deadly assailant away from hitting him over the head from behind, He stunned. several cultists, and they lay unconscious around the warehouse compound. The robots ignored them and concentrated on the cultists who still posed a threat. The others could be captured and rounded up later, they knew.
Maxil killed several Time Lords, many of whom he recognised as supporters of Marcher's who had also fled from Galifrey. Some had also been sprung from detention centres and prisons on Shada and on other colonial worlds. He regretted not being in a position to try to capture any of them alive. The ferocity of their defence made it impossible.
Maxil reached the door to the factory itself, which the cultists had locked electronically as the emergency had become apparent. He took out his sonic screwdriver and used it to burn through the locking mechanism in a matter of minutes. The Factory door opened inwards. The robots quickly and neatly dealt with the Time Lords and Cultists immediately behind it. The precision of the robot attacks was almost surgical.
On the hillside, Beragon stood trying to see any sign of the battle but without field glasses like those used by the Gallifreyans he had little to see. The cultists lay in an unconscious and undignified heap between two robots. More of his friends appeared there with him by the minute. Soon, a few began to open their eyes and look around themselves in. fear and astonishment. Beragon nervously told them that he had a story, and promptly rushed into telling it while they were too confused to express their doubts. It was to be as intense and harrowing a deprogramming regime as his own, but he saw from the start that he was getting through to them, and it strengthened his own resolve to be able to do it.
Maxil walked into the factory cum warehouse expecting to see TARDISES at every turn. Instead, the warehouse was a jumble of component parts, materials and supplies, scattered willy-nilly. Whatever organisational skills Marcher had brought to the operation had now broken down completely. The materials were indisputably Gallifreyan however.
The factory itself was not actually a TARDIS, though its construction utilised several of the TARDIS characteristics, especially in its inner dimensional size. It was not however, an indestructible structure, merely a sturdy one. The Southern Hemisphere regions of Galifrey had been prone to earthquakes from time to time, so many properties there had such a design as to be earthquake proof. Maxil realised that Marcher had simply followed similar building patterns to those used in his town of birth.
Savatar appeared fleetingly to inform Maxil of the Doctor having also made it safely inside the warehouse. Maxil acknowledged him, and turned through a corridor archway to see before him, finally, the first TARDISES built on a production belt on another world than Galifrey.
They were all black and in their standard unimaginative cabinet design. Time Lords are able to recognise camouflaged TARDISES, even if they were not their own. Maxil could sense nothing of that nature.
A few Time Lord rebels were using the TARDISES as cover and shelter as the battle raged on against the mainly invisible enemy robots, whose lances soon made short work of that problem for Maxil.
The biggest threat was the presence of Ace at the centre of the room. Her transformation was every bit as fearful as the Doctor had described it. Maxil felt slightly sickened by the funereal sight of what she had become. Several times, she swung round spraying the room with indiscriminate repeat action staser fire. A few Time Lords, but mercifully, no cultists, had been killed by her efforts to bring down the robots. Their fleeting movements, visible occasionally as they stopped was Irritating her badly. Like flies, wasps and summer bluebottles they proved impossible to catch.
At some stage in the battle she had however managed to destroy one robot. It lay close to her feet, headless and still. Maxil suspected that it had collided with one of her staser bolts by sheer chance, rather than by some unaccounted power that Ace might possess. He hoped so.
"Obey me in the name of my Father. You cannot possibly win," She shouted in a voice that sounded artificially amplified. Her words echoed and reverberated to maximum chilling effect. Maxil felt as though she was addressing him, rather than the robots.
The Doctor, taking instructions from Savatar, found Maxil and came over to stand by him. As soon as he spotted her, the Doctor called excitedly to Ace. As her responsive staser fire narrowly missed the Time Lord, Maxil mumbled the words, ' Big mistake' .
"Father! Come quickly. They're here' I need your help." The cry was plaintive. Ace sounded like a little girl, lost, injured, alone and very frightened in the cold dark haunted woods. Almost immediately, the large storage room was illuminated with a static warm blue aura.
"We have to get out of here, fast," The Doctor said. "The TARDISES might shelter us."
Maxil shouted to Savatar, who appeared instantly. "Cover us." He said, commandingly.
The Robot understood and started to move round Ace in random movements, occasionally allowing her a chance to just catch a fleeting glimpse of himself. She spun every which way in her efforts to intercept it with her staser fire.
The Doctor had barely stepped forward when the azure light of the growing Time Corridor came into direct contact with the fallen white Raston Warrior Robot, which immediately stood up in a single instant act, and vanished at light speed. It rematerialised briefly beside Maxil, who saw the Doctor appear at virtually the same instant lying slumped on the floor on the other side of the room. Maxil wasn't sure if the Robot had carried him, or thrown him there. The Robot totally ignored Maxil, and snapped back into invisibility to pursue the Doctor. Guessing its intentions only just in time, Maxil shouted to Savatar. "Get it. Protect the Doctor."
Savatar immediately abandoned his catch-as-catch-can game with Ace to ,place himself directly between the Doctor and the robot, as the Doctor finally found enough energy to get back onto his feet. To Maxil he looked uninjured, but a little shaken.
The robots vanished, and reappeared for split seconds at a time, in various parts of the room, locked in battle. In less than a moment it ended with a small, but loud explosion. The White Robot lay in pieces an the floor, like shattered pottery. Savatar resumed his battle with Ace as though nothing had ever interrupted it.
The Doctor pointed to one of the few TARDISES with an open door. While Ace was still distracted by Savatar's actions, Maxil and the Doctor ran quickly to the TARDIS and inside it. When Maxil noticed Savatar was already inside, he shut the doors using the controls on the main console.
The Doctor quickly glanced round in admiration at the machine. It was a very standard, unimaginative workmanlike TARDIS, with a few pieces of apparatus still to be added. With some roundel covers not yet in place, the walls were full of porthole like chambers full of exposed wiring and incredibly complex high-tech circuitry. The Doctor quickly tested some of the controls on the main hexagonal console. "Marcher obviously used the blueprints to a seven-nine-seven. The time travel and dematerialisation circuits are non-functional but everything else looks quite operative."
"What about the telepathic circuits?" Maxil asked.
"Adequate," The Doctor said, simply, as he tuned the frequencies to enable them to be picked up by Gallifreyan communication tracking systems.
From outside the TARDIS there was the sound of Ace banging furiously nn the door demanding their instant surrender.
Maxil didn't speak into the radio. He put an its headset and earphone-like devise and allowed his memories and thoughts on recent events to be immediately transmitted through the Panopticon Matrix Net. From the way Maxil shook and nodded his head, the Doctor could see that he was also receiving information and instructions back.
"They're coming here," Mail said, removing the headset and switching off the telepathe-phone.
"You used a sonic screwdriver out there. I saw it," The Doctor said, with a near childish degree of jealousy.
Maxil Laughed. "There's boxes full of them an Galifrey. You should have just asked for one."
The Doctor scowled, sulkily. "It wouldn't be quite the same as the last one, I had. You get used to things being a certain way."
"Here. They. Are, Sir." Savatar said just before the TARDIS materialised inside the seven-nine-seven occupied by Maxil and the Doctor. Several fully armed soldiers spilled out of it, followed by Commander Elan, who ordered them to stop pointing their staser guns at Savatar and the Doctor immediately.
"What's that?" One of the soldiers asked, as he heard the banging and shouting noises.
"It's Ace," the Doctor said, softly. "Ichabod's controlling her, somehow."
"Get her," Elan said., clicking his fingers as he volunteered two of his troops. "Don't harm her unless you have to."
The two soldiers who volunteered, Nesco and Lafaye were muscular, heavily bearded identical twin men of little humour. That they were as yet unregenerated was obvious to everyone, as Time Lord twins lose their identical appearances to one another when they have both regenerated far the First time.
"That's not a very good idea Sir," Maxil warned, starting to tell Elan about Ichabod's control over the dead robot.
The Doctor also advised them not to go. Ignoring him, the soldiers cautiously filed out of the seven-nine-seven machine, with their stasers at the ready. After a few minutes of fruitless searching, one of the soldiers came back. "She's gone, Sir," he declared. "From the warm glow in the air out there, I think she must have used the Dalek Time Corridor that you mentioned,"
"He's taken her back inside himself," The Doctor sighed.
"She must have gone before now," Maxil added. "The voice we heard, and the banging an the door. It was just a trick, an illusion."
"Sir, out here, quickly," the other soldier called, from outside the TARDIS.
"What is it Nesco?" Elan replied, heading out to See fur himself. The other Time Lords quickly followed.. They saw Beragon and a number of weeping male and female cultists walking nervously towards them.
Several White Raston Warrior Robots were popping in and out of visibility as well.
"Tell your men that they can lower their weapons," the Doctor said assertively. "These people are our friends."
Beragon stepped forward as the soldiers lowered their guns. "I've been talking to them all. Some of them still donít entirely believe me, but I think I've made a decent start."
"Good work," the Doctor said, patting Beragon on the back. Maxil walked around and shook hands with several cultists.
The Doctor turned to Elan. "Commander, do you think we could have an educational advisory team sent in from Galifrey to help these people come to terms with recent happenings? There's an awful. lot to explain, but Maxil and I have a few more pressing matters to attend to."
"I'll see what I can do,' Elan promised. "What's the next move now, Doctor?" He glanced round to see Maxil chatting happily with the cultists, especially the female ones.
"I need to hook one of these TARDISES into Galifrey's Eye Of Harmony, to get it going properly."
"Borrow mine," Elan suggested helpfully and generously.
"No, you'll need that," The Doctor said. I need you to investigate what's been happening near the Black Hole at Tarsarus. I think Marcherís old friend Holt might still be out there, waiting for my arrival . "
Elan grinned. "I've got something better than a TARDIS in mind for him. President Heirom gave me a few nice new toys to play with. You can use my TARDIS, as long as you bring it back."
"That's just it," the Doctor Said. "The TARDIS I will be using probably won't be coming back."
"'Why not? Where are you going?"
"Inside Ichabod of course," The Doctor said, as though he was talking of popping down to the corner shop.
"You'll never make it," Elan said, shaking his head, and remembering his own attempt earlier the sane day.
"I can now," The Doctor replied. "I think so, anyway. I ;just need to run a few scientific tests, first, just to be sure. Do you by any chance have a Chroma Light meter on board your TARDIS?"
"Yes, of course..."
"Chroma Light meters?" Maxil said, overhearing the conversation as he rejoined his own people. "We only use those to measure the properties of Solar flares."
"There is one other possible use, Max," The Doctor said, suddenly aware that the cultists were all gathered around, eagerly listening to every word that was said.
Elanís men quickly set up the five foot high sextant just outside the factory entrance, pointing it up directly towards the eye of Ichabod above. Maxil took charge of its activation. He looked up at the eye, and wondered nervously just what exactly it did see and didn't see.
The Doctor was also busy setting up a Sublimator devise, which he used to transmit the simple basic message, ' HELP IS COMINGí. He then set to work on the seven-nine-seven, to restore it to Galifreyan operational status. Normally, the work would have taken months, on a machine still not entirely complete, but Savatar's assistance made it possible to accomplish the work in a few short hours.
The light from the Chroma transmitter went out, invisible to all on Thryxx, bounced off Ichabod's retina and returned with its invaluable information and data. Maxil took the results to the Doctor right away. The Doctor scrutinised the report for himself, refusing to allow Maxil simply to tell him of the conclusions drawn. Several cultists were also watching him read the report. They had stayed up late specially despite their fatigue and tiredness, caused by the days' often harrowing events.
"The Chroma light definitely irritates him," the Doctor surmised. The iris flinches and makes him blink slightly as it makes contact. He can definitely see. I expect he can see everything, at a distance and in close up. Quite wonderful perception really."
"Does it help us, knowing that he can see?" Maxil asked.
The Doctor shook his head. "In itself, no, but if you look at this small set of readings here..."
The Doctor pointed to a portion of the Chroma Light meter's printed report.
"It's a slightly different pattern, yes, but what does it mean?" Maxil was perplexed.
Elan could see it too, but he admitted he was equally lust to understand its significance."
The Doctor smiled and spoke slowly, to keep them guessing. "It's quite a crude test procedure, not really up the exacting standards of my third self, but I'm pretty sure it means Ichabod's eye has a blind spot, just like any mammal, human or Time Lord has."
Savatar stated proudly that he saw in compound images, rather as an insect sees, but no one was really paying him any attention.
"Blind spot?" Elan asked, puzzled.
Maxil explained it. "Every eye has a tiny corner that can't see anything. It's where the optic nerve attaches the eye to the brain. The rest of the eye compensates far any information it misses. Yes, you have a blind spot too, Beragon. Everybody has."
Beragon began to make futile experiments, moving his fingers in front of his eyes to check whether or nut there was anything he couldn't see.
"You think that's our way in, don't you? Maxil asked.
The Doctor nodded. "Yes. It has to be. No matter what size or shape a TARDIS is, it still has to have an entrance and a keyhole so the Time Lord pilot can get in. and out of it. I think we just found Ichabod's doorway. It's very small, but it's definitely there."
"What are you going to do, Knock?" asked one of Elan's men.
"No", the Doctor replied, as though the question hadn't been remotely sarcastic. "We're going to let ourselves in with a door key." "What key?" asked Maxil.
Marcher's TARDIS," The Doctor replied. "I think I can programme the Seven-nine-Seven chameleon circuitry appropriately. It should be able to mimic Ichabodís molecular key grip combinations."
"What happens when you get inside him?" asked Elan.
"I don't know." The Doctor said, shrugging his shoulders. It won't be tea and biscuits though, especially if Ace and Marcher help him."
Nesco came over to report a possible useful discovery.
"It's a portable Matrix viewer and transmitter," The Doctor said, excitedly, taking it from the man. "It's probably the same one Marcher used to falsify my adventures against the Dominators. Maxil, could you set this devise up to show some footage? I have a few things to finish off inside the TARDIS."
With the preliminary work on the Seven-Nine-Seven completed, the Doctor watched the Matrix footage with. the cultists, who Beragon had gathered together for the screening. Without chairs to occupy, everyone bar the Doctor, Elan, and Maxil, (who stood up), sat on the floor. The film once again showed the seventh Doctor in a second Doctor adventure, selling out to the Dominators. The cultists were shocked. One man was already on the brink of babbling out in tongues. Taking his cue from the Doctor, Maxil quickly corrupted the image. How it was Beragon in the question mark clothes, setting Quark Robots on the Dulkis freedom fighters. Then, as the former cultists gasped, it was one of their other members. Soon half the people in the room, including Savatar, had been seen in the film, as had Marcher and Gideus. The tears and heavy sighs from the cultists soon showed. the Doctor that ha had made his point.
As the Doctor ended the transmission, the footage he really wanted to watch, arrived from Galifrey, via Elan's new TARDIS. He took the microdisc containing the information about the Dominators, out of the projection unit, and inserted in its place, the new material. It was film of Ace inside Ichabod, and her transformational hypnotic brainwashing into believing herself to be the daughter of the sky God.
The Doctor paused the transmission at the point where Ace entered. the Zero Room, to explain the nature of the footage to the confused audience. "This information was protected while Ace remained inside Ichabod. The Matrix banks an Galifrey couldn't pick it up, but once Ace came dawn to Thryxx, the information was picked up on the Panopticon's Matrix APC net. " The Doctor continued, explaining Matrix and APC technology, until Maxil hushed him, and summarised it all again, much more succinctly, and understandably.
The Doctor started the film rolling again, and watched Ace's metamorphosis in dread. He also picked up on her tendency to think of Ichabod Matrix as a computer simulation. It began to give him clear ideas of how to proceed further.
"The poor girl," murmured Beragon, softly.
As the Doctor had seen enough, he stopped the film, much to the protests of those still watching with acute interest. "You can catch the nest later," He promised. "Right now, I need the material from the Matrix on Ichabod's origins."
Maxil was getting impatient with him now. "Doctor, we can't watch old films all night. We have to do something." Elan seconded the opinion. "Ichabod could attack us at any minute," he said.
The Doctor thought otherwise, and said so. "I doubt it. He could have done that by now, but he hasn't. He had a chance when he cane to help Ace by setting one of the Robots on us. Why didn't he follow that up further? He's waiting for us to make the next move."
"What exactly is the next move?" asked Maxil.
"Iíll tell you after me watch the film of Ichabod's early life; his earliest memories in particular."
"Doctor!" Elan shouted, in exasperation, throwing his hands in the air.
"I know what I'm doing," the Doctor said. "Just trust me. We have to get this exactly right, on we're all finished."
The footage roiled on. Maxil was particularly bored, having seen so much of it before. "What exactly are you looking for?" he asked.
"Something with the voice of authority," The Doctor said, and then pointed his finger at the screen. "Found it!" Maxil looked up to see Ichabod being born, and his first regeneration crisis. He wasn't sure why it meant so much to the Doctor.
Nesco came over to announce that Galifrey had sent an educational counsellor to Thryxx and that the man had now arrived.. The cultists were quickly ushered out by the soldiers to meet their education officer over a supper prepared on Galifrey, before they went to their beds for the night. The Doctor had suggested such a feast due to the lean, hungry near emaciated look of several of the undernourished cultists. Several medics, workers from Dr. Meux's team, were also sent to Thryxx, to gauge the health of the former cult members. Several of them were in post traumatic shock from their sudden discovery that their religion had been a sham. Others were suffering from mild scurvy and skin disorders due to vitamin deficiencies. A few of them had scars and bruises from beatings administered by Gideus, Marcher, and possibly even from Ace. The medics felt quite confident about being able to deal with every patient successfully.
Doctor Meux forwarded his apologies, as he was staying on Galifrey working on a near completed viral agent that would be injected into the organic telepathic banks of all TARDISES to prevent any other- Time Lords becoming one with their TARDIS capsules. He expressed his surprise and concern over the way things had turned out, and declared Ichabod to be one of the finest men he knew despite recent events suggesting otherwise. It was a view from which he said he would never be shaken.
Learning of this viral agent, the Doctor requested and quickly received a small supply of it in a dark black liquid state. He promptly took it to the Seven-nine-Seven machine, and conducted a few experiments of his own. After a while he went back, and caught Maxil re-watching the Matrix footage of Ichabod's birth, hazarding guesses as to it's significance .for the Doctor.
The film suddenly went off, as the Doctor cut the power supply. "Hey! " Maxil growled. "What was that for?"
"Come on, hurry up!" The Doctor said, already rushing off. "We've got serious work to do."
Maxil quickly caught him up and they headed towards the TARDIS bay. They passed Elan, who wished them luck, and shook their hands. He was sorry that the Doctor seemed so reluctant to hear his long speech about how much the fate of Galifrey and the Cosmos rested on his shoulders. The Doctor seemed much more pleased when Elan informed him of his plans for dealing with Holt, however.
Finally, Maxil and The Doctor got to the Seven-nine-Seven. Maxil was appalled by what he saw. The cabinet design had gone. In its place was a small two-seater dart, resembling a paper wingless aeroplane fuselage. It had a dagger-sharp pointed nose-cone, ahead of a flimsy perspex and glass cockpit which was in a raised up position.
Maxil swore and blasphemed several times over. "You haven't even made the damn thing bigger on the inside..."
"Stop whinging and get in," the Doctor said, leaping effortlessly up the steps and into the front seat, where he quickly strapped himself in. securely.
"We don't have time to work out creature comforts. We'll only be flying for a few minutes anyway, hopefully."
Maxil clambered in slowly, and swore again as he banged his head ou the descending cockpit canopy. He found himself surrounded by controls and switches and levers that served all the TARDIS functions he knew, but which he found difficulty in recognising because there was no central hexagonal control system. When he located what he correctly guessed to be the TARDIS Chameleon camouflage options menu, he used it to ask what alternatives there were to the TARDIS's current shape.
"Doctor, there one other possible shape for this banana crate to take on. "
"One is all it needs. No! Don't activate ft here. You'll kill us both. "
Maxil flinched and pulled his hand away from the switches he was about to operate. He wondered how the Doctor had seen what he was about to do, without having actually turned around to look at him. "What have you programmed it to do?"
"Youíll see," the Doctor said.
Savatar appeared at the side of the strange machine.
"Sirs. May. I. Accompany. You. On. This. Hazardous. Assignment?"
Maxil shouted back through the window. The Robot seemed to hear him as well as he heard it. "Not this time, Savvy. Sorry. Besides, as you can see, there's no room."
The Doctor joined in. "Help Elan and Beragon look after everyone here. They need a great deal of support. Make sure they give you something to do. Don't let them make you stand still."
"As. You. Wish. Sir. Good. Luck. To. Both. Of. You."
The Doctor activated the dematerialisation circuits, with a shout of "Chucks away, Ginger." which totally baffled Maxil. The Doctor also replaced his usual. straw hat with a battered leather helmet and goggles. He gave no explanation of this to Maxil.
The strange looking little TARDIS vanished from Thryxx. After a fleeting glimpse of the Vortex gases, the little wingless spitfire materialised in direct sight of the vast eyeball in space, which they now saw only in part. Around then, several cabinet shaped TARDISfiS were materialising and dematerialising, in a strange and beautiful ballet, as energy bursts surged from the eye itself to attack them. The Doctor shouted over the loud droning noise the little TARDIS made. "Bandit at twelve O Clock." He seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. Maxil wanted to know what he was talking about.
The Doctor answered him as though he was only asking about the TARDISES. "Decoy targets. Elan's idea, actually. He suggested we should put Marcherís other TARDISES to some sort of use. Theyíre unmanned. Elanís controlling them from Thryxx. Good job too,. Some of them have been destroyed, look."
"Ichabodís not aimed a single shot at us though, has he, Maxil said."
The Doctor didnít reply.
The little TARDIS flew effortlessly through the battle-zone directly at the corner of God's eye.
LINKS FOR LORD TIME CHAPTER TEN - LORD TIME CHAPTER TWELVE -
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