Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Doctor Who (Game B) Session Write-up - Land of Ghosts, Part One

N.B. What follows is a prose narration of the events that took place in a roleplaying game session. It can be regarded as a kind of Doctor Who fan-fiction, except that all the events are driven by occurrences in-game and is presented in first-draft quality. It is not intended to fully recreate any events or characters from any previous Doctor Who episode, book, radio series or comic, with the exception of some iconic villains. Even The Doctor is a reinvention, starting out as a first-regeneration Timelord with little history; Perhaps how the Doctor may appear in a different reality. It cannot, therefore, be wrong on any canonical continuity. It exists within itself and is presented purely for reading pleasure and to inform role-playing experiences. Thank you :)


    Firstly a huge apology to those who have been reading these adventures. What with a number of outside commitments, some of the previous adventures never received a lovingly-crafted write-up, but since I prefer to allow my players the chance to recap the previous game session, I have skipped over a missed adventure. In Game B's continuity, all that is missing is the Christmas Special, “Gods of War”.
    I hope that this adventure can still be enjoyed in a standalone fashion and I will catch up with missed adventures as soon as is practical.

    Chapter 1 – Back on the Trail

    “So,” said The Doctor, thumping his hands on the Tardis console, “where should we head to?”
    It was a leading question, both Georgie and Conrad knew, but they humoured him. After what they had seen in 1936 there could be no question that they would be heading further back to track the events and individuals that had caused that nightmarish version of events to pan out.
    “I think we need to go further back,” Georgie suggested, “do we not? To find the source of those terrible war robots?”
    The Doctor nodded, satisfied that his companions understood the gravity of the situation. At least they could face the challenge with a fresh determination, he thought. He had feared it would be too much for the humans to bear, emotionally, after what they had already seen so far.
    It was true that, as terrifying as their most recent adventure had been – separated from each other in time and space, pitted against the terrible machinations of the Daleks, threatened with death in this universe and all the parallel universes in existence – it had at least given them a little distance from the terrible events they had experience in that German castle: Forced slave labour, advanced weaponry and medical experimentation. The most heart-wrenching moment had been the discovery of the missing children; modified and mutilated to fit inside robotic battle suits and brainwashed to follow the orders of their captors.
    “Yes,” The Doctor agreed, “that there was no way that technology originated on Earth. It was too advanced and the German scientists had not seemed to fully understand it, themselves. Someone else has been influencing Earth's history.”
    It was a very strange concept for both Georgie and Conrad, in different ways. Conrad had never known a different version of history. For him, the complete destruction – and subsequent evacuation – of Great Britain and North-West Europe in 1916 by fire and bombs which seemed to fall from the sky was a matter of historical record. It had led to the isolationism of his own United States and the sudden growth of an extreme right-wing regime across all of Europe. That was why President Howard Hughes had invented the Rocket Pack and why Conrad himself had signed up for the U.S. Rocket Corps.
    But, he had ultimately lived through dark times and in a strange way, Conrad took comfort in The Doctor's assertion that history had been meant to play out differently.
    Georgie also took comfort. She had, at first, been amazed that her unexpected journey with The Doctor had taken her 20 years into the future. That amazement had turned to horror when she had seen the terrors of the Nazi war machine (literally embodied in the black-metal robots which seemed almost unbeatable) and she, too, was relieved that that was not how things were “meant” to turn out.
    “Commandant Jurgens – while he was being possessed by the glowing alien energy – had said that he had not seen me for 20 years...” The Doctor said, trailing off.
    “But you've never met him before?” Captain Seager asked.
    “No,” replied The Doctor, thoughtfully, “which suggests that I will meet him – or it – somewhere in my own future.” He tapped the console, his brain spinning through the possibilities. “Well!” he announced, suddenly, “there's no time like the present!”
    Conrad and Georgie watched in fascination once more as the alien's hands skittered over the controls on the altar-like bank of switches, lights and baubles. There was a groaning, wheezing noise as the brightly-illuminated column in the centre of the console rose and fell rhythmically. Georgie braced herself; the last journey she had taken had injured her quite badly.
    “But, Doctor,” Georgie asked, “if we're travelling back to 20 years before the castle... well that's about when you picked me up!”
    The Doctor nodded. “That hasn't escaped me,” he said, “I'm very aware of those strange ghosts you said had been chasing you through the streets. It can't be a coincidence.”
    “So we're heading to England?” Georgie exclaimed, hopefully.
    “London,” The Doctor assured her with a smile. “Or at least,” he gave the Tardis controls a gentle pat, “as near as I can get us.”
    There was a beeping sound coming from the controls. The Doctor frowned as he studied a small screen.
    “What it is, Doctor?” Conrad asked.
    “I might not need to be accurate,” the Doctor muttered, his frown deepening, “there's what looks like a Vortex Beacon sitting right near the date and coordinates I wanted to take us to.”
    “A Vortex Beacon?” Georgie repeated, confused, “what's that?”
    “Well,” the Doctor scratched at his forehead, trying to puzzle out the possibilities, “societies with time-travel use them all the time to mark important destinations. If you want to ensure visitors get to the right time and space coordinates every time, a Vortex Beacon acts as a sort of homing transmission. Even Time Lords use them from time to time. I can just point at it and hit 'go' and we'll land on top of it without even trying.”
    Georgie could see the worry on The Doctor's face, “so what do we do?”
    The Doctor shook his head, “that beacon shouldn't be there, in terms of Earth's history. Either it's meant for me, in which case I don't particularly want to be expected, or it's meant for someone else, in which case I don't want to bump into them until I've had a chance to look around. I think I will put the Tardis nearby, but a little distance away...”
    His hands moved over the controls once more and Georgie braced herself. The Tardis lurched, although only slightly, and settled. Georgie let out the breath she had not realised she was holding.
    The metallic wheeze of the time motors ceased and The Doctor declared they had landed. He read some obscure symbols on the display. “Not as many life signs as I would expect for this period and this date,” he mused, grimly, “and there's a weird background energy.”
    “Radiation?” Conrad asked.
    “Mmm,” nodded The Doctor, “but not from any of the kinds of energy you use here on Earth. That rules out nuclear weapons. It's definitely an alien energy.”
    “Can we see what's outside?” Conrad asked, cautiously.
    “Yes,” the Doctor told him, “let's look at the external screen.”
    Georgie followed their eyes to the strange looking-glass on the wall of the Tardis. It glowed into life, showing some kind of picture. “What is that?” she asked, confused.
    The Doctor tilted his head this way and that. “I'm not sure,” he announced, eventually, “wooden slats of some sort. There seems to be light flashing behind them. Maybe we should just look out of the door?”
    Conrad picked up his weapon belt and strapped it around his waist. He checked the glowing charge indicator on the back of the Radium Pistol. It was fully armed and ready.
    The Doctor tapped him on the shoulder and handed him a familiar-looking box. “Try not to break it again,” he said, with a wink.
    “You fixed it!” Conrad exclaimed, eagerly slipping his arms through the Rocket Pack's shoulder straps. “That was quick!”
    “Well,” The Doctor replied, modestly, “I'd have managed it quicker, but I had a terrible time picking all the bits of Dalek wreckage out of the motor.”
    Conrad smiled as he clipped the harness tightly across his chest.
    “You might look a bit less conspicuous if you hang this over the top,” The Doctor suggested, handing Conrad a canvas cover. It slipped over the rocket-pack perfectly, transforming the bulky metallic shell into an ordinary-looking backpack.
    “Do I look less weird?” Conrad asked, his voice grating through the metallic grille of the bug-eyed flight helmet.
    “Well,” Georgie interjected, giving a polite cough, “I might carry the helmet under your arm, if I were you.”
    Conrad chuckled and agreed, “oh, right!"

   The Tardis door opened onto a gloomy and narrow corridor. Light flickered in through gaps between the wooden panels on each side. As soon as Georgie stepped out of the Tardis' own influence she could feel the rocking of the floor under her feet. They were on a train!
    “Ahh,” announced The Doctor, noting the carefully stacked wooden crates spread neatly out before them to the other end of the carriage, “a train. And we're in freight compartment, if I'm not mistaken.”
    “What's in the crates?” Conrad asked, peering at the boxes in the dim light.
    The Doctor looked them over, exploring the surroundings. “Looks like... food rations, blankets, emergency bedding... There are some weapons, but it looks mostly like emergency supplies,” The Doctor gave a sad sigh, “relief for the most desperate.”
    The Tardis was blocking the rear door leading out of one end of the train, but the group could see that all that was outside was rails extending away, behind. Whatever train they were on, they were in the rear carriage.
    “We should move up the cars,” Conrad suggested, firmly, “we need to establish what kind of train this is.”
    The Doctor and Georgie agreed. They picked their way through the boxes up to the door between this carriage and the next. Conrad pulled it open and stepped carefully between the carriages, noting how fast the tracks were flashing past underfoot. He held out a hand and helped Georgie and The Doctor pass carefully through.
    The next carriage was as full of people as the previous one had been of boxes, although it was by no means crowded. Groups were huddled together, holding each other for comfort and warmth. Some of them had tied parcels. The Doctor presumed that these were as few possessions as these dishevelled-looking people had been able to bring with them. Whoever they were, they had left in a hurry.
    It looked like a refugee train, rather than evidence of conscription or forced labour.
    One man caught the Doctor's eye. He was travelling on his own, sitting on a simple roll-bag of kit. Unlike many of the others, he seemed to be wearing a thin smile.
    “You seem in good spirits?” The Doctor suggested, approaching the man.
    “Oh, no offence meant,” the man replied, “forgive me. I'm just really happy to be on this train. Thank God we got away.”
    “Do you mind if I ask exactly where we've come from and going to?” The Doctor asked. Seeing the man's quizzical expression, he added, “it was a bit hectic coming aboard, if you know what I mean?”
    The man nodded sympathetically, “understood. We're clearing out of the Midlands, heading for the sea. I think this train is taking us to London, first.”
    While The Doctor chatted away, Georgie headed over to a woman who was clutching a small child. The woman looked fearful, but Georgie reassured her. “It's okay,” Georgie said, her mind racing for a suitable story, “I'm... a journalist. My paper wants to record the experiences of the people involved in this... event.”
    “A paper?” the woman replied, surprised, “are there any papers still running? I assumed everything had shut down.”
    “Oh... well,” replied Georgie, caught off-guard, “my paper is still going.”
    “Where are people going to get them?” the woman continued, intrigued.
    “We are.. umm.. distributing a limited amount to people in the city who want to know what has been happening further afield.”
    “Well, please, ask your questions if it will help,” the woman told her.
    “Where were you when – it – happened?” Georgie asked.
    “At home,” came the quiet, slightly choked, reply.
    “You were at home?” Georgie confirmed and the woman nodded. “What time was it that you realised something was amiss?”
    The woman looked at Georgie like she was being stupid and said, “I don't understand what you mean?”
    Georgie placed a sympathetic hand on her arm. “Please,” she pressed, “it will be important for our readers to hear it in your own words.”
    “Well,” the woman replied, “it was a terrible morning. I'd just got breakfast ready and on the table. All of a sudden there was a huge flash and the sound of thunder from outside. I looked out of the window and saw...” The woman broke off, her lip trembling as she remembered. “It was like the sky was on fire,” she said, “I gathered up my things and my little girl and we ran up the hill, towards the church.”
    “Did you see anything peculiar?” Georgie asked.
    “Stranger than the sky being on fire?” the woman asked, incredulously.
    “These are strange days,” Georgie encouraged her, “and our readers will want to know every detail. They deserve the truth.”
    “Oh, things sound like they must be very different in London,” she said, suddenly hopeful, “do they not have the walking dead in London?”
    “Yes,” Georgie guessed, taking this new information in, “they do.”
    “It was very strange,” the woman said, drifting away, “the sky burnt out and then... the people who died, they just... got up and started moving around.”
    “What did you do?”
    “We just huddled together in the church hall,” the woman explained, “we thought it would be a good place to hide. We could make sure that everyone was catered for, that they had enough food and clothing. But when the dead started walking, we realised that we had to get out. That's why we were so relieved when we heard about this train.”
    “The people who were dead,” Georgie asked, “what were they doing?”
    “They just walked towards where people are,” the woman told her, “and people ran away from them. They shouldn't be walking and talking, it's not natural!”
    “They were talking?”
    “Old Mary said she heard one of them talking, but I've never been that close,” she explained.
    “What did old Mary tell you that that they said?” Georgie pressed, eager to get the detail.
    “They were saying something like 'give me life',” the old woman replied, bemused.
    “'Give me life'?” Georgie repeated under her breath, searching for what it could mean.
    The Doctor leaned in. He had since finished his conversation and been listening to Georgie's interview with great interest. “How fast do the dead move? Have they caught anyone? What did they do?”
    The woman looked at him. He could see that she was straining to remember details. “They don't walk,” the woman said, “so much as drift. They seem to float along, somehow. I'm not even sure I've heard of anybody being hurt by them.”
    “This sounds unnervingly close to the phantasm that chased you into the Tardis?” The Doctor said to Georgie. Georgie nodded in agreement.
    “How did you hear about the train?” Conrad interjected, quizzing the old woman further.
    “A man rode through the village on a bicycle, looking for survivors,” she said, “He told us that there was a train evacuating folk to London.”
    “How many survivors are there?” Conrad asked her.
    “Not very many,” the woman sighed, “between the burning sky and pestilence, there are so few of us left.”
    “The pestilence?” The Doctor inquired.
    “Yes,” the woman replied, “the pestilence, the sleeping sickness. You know, the comas?”
    “What happens?”
    The woman shrugged, helplessly, “I don't know. They just stop. If they're walking along, they fall down where they are.”
    “Has anyone recovered?” The Doctor leaned in, determinedly.
    “Not that I've heard of,” the woman said, shaking her head.
    The Doctor realised he was unlikely to get any more out of this bewildered woman, so he changed tack. “What agency is responsible for this train?” he asked, “who is in charge?”
    “There's one or two soldiers around,” the woman explained, “oh and there's that posh toff wandering about, telling people what to do. He seems to be in charge. Butkin, I think his name is.”
    Georgie stood up straight and addressed The Doctor. “Shall we go and find this Butkin?” she said, decisively.
    The Doctor nodded, “I think that could be very worthwhile, yes.”
    The woman pointed up the carriage, saying, “he'll be further up the train, near the front, I should imagine.”
    Georgie took the woman's hand and shook it, warmly. “Thank you for taking the time to talk to us,” Georgie said, “you've been very helpful.”
    The woman waved them away, as cheerfully as she could muster.
    They moved up the carriage towards the door to the next car. The Doctor stopped Georgie and Conrad, saying, “do you think we need some sort of cover story before we approach this gentleman? He seems to be quite a humanitarian sort of chap, but how are we going to introduce ourselves without startling him?”
    “Maybe we should send Georgie?” Conrad suggested, “if you're right about this being where she is from, she should fit in.”
    “That's a good idea,” Georgie agreed, “I could introduce myself as a nurse and see if they need help, in any way?”
    The Doctor concurred and gestured for Georgie to lead the way into the next car.
    Inside, they found a much greater proportion of soldiers, milling amid the stricken civilians. The soldiers also seemed worn and tense, although they didn't appear to have signs of battle. This was a deeper fatigue, set in through the effort of protecting their civilian cargo in a world stripped of its civilisation.
    Georgie strode up to one of the soldiers. She asked, “would you please point me in the direction of Mr Butkin?”
    The soldier looked up, wearily. “His Lordship?” he sneered out of the corner of his mouth, “you'll find him in the next carriage, I expect.”
    Georgie nodded a curt thank-you to the soldier and strode confidently on, heading for the next carriage.
    Butkin was certainly in charge. That was clear from anybody who saw his manner, heard his tone of voice or witnessed the pedantic efficiency with which he checked particulars against his crammed clipboard.
    “Hello,” said Georgie, cheerily. “I'm Georgie. I work as a journalist... but prior to that I was a nurse,” she stumbled, suddenly losing track of the lies amid the truths of her story.
    Butkin cut her off, “Georgie? Georgie... Georgie...” his finger tracked down the rows of names on his clipboard, “I don't appear to have a 'Georgie' on my list. Where did you board the train?”
    “You might have me under my married name,” Georgie lied, quickly. She tried to peer down the list, searching for a suitable pseudonym, but could not see one. “Smith,” she decided.
    “Are you travelling alone?” Butkin questioned, his eyes narrowing. Clearly he was not totally convinced by Georgie's story.
    “I'm travelling with a Doctor friend of mine and an American,” Georgie offered.
    “An American?” Butkin repeated, surprised. “Unusual, he's not with the Americans making the rescue effort?”
    “No,” Georgie replied, quickly, “he was here before it occurred.”
    “Very strange,” Butkin said, studying his list, “very strange indeed. Can you introduce me to your friends? I want to make sure everybody is on this list. Your name is Georgie... Smith?”
    Georgie nodded, biting her lip, as Butkin made a quick scrawl on his clipboard.
    “Wait there, just a moment,” Butkin instructed her, firmly. She did not dare move.
    Butkin gave her a suspicious glance, before turning and surreptitiously examining the contents of a wooden crate. He seemed to be fiddling with something.
    He turned back to Georgie. “Right then,” he said, “lead the way to your friends.”

    Chapter Two – The Admirable Butkin

    The Doctor and Conrad were making conversation with a group of soldiers when Georgie returned, leading an officious-looking, smartly-dressed gentleman bearing a clipboard.
    “This is Mr Butkin,” Georgie introduced him to The Doctor, first.
    “Hello,” said Butkin, wearily, “and where did you get on board the train?”
    “I'm not totally sure,” pleaded The Doctor, “I can't remember. I think I bumped my head.”
    “Ahh, yes,” Butkin replied, “it's been a terribly dangerous business. What name?”
    “The Doctor,” he said.
    “Doctor who?” Butkin insisted.
    “Oh, my,” Georgie interjected, “you must have hit your head terribly, mustn't you? Doctor Smith?”
    Butkin and The Doctor looked questioningly at her. She explained, “he's a … another relative?”
    “Your uncle?” Butkin offered, the knowing tone re-entering his voice. Georgie nodded. Butkin commented, “well, he doesn't look like the child-rearing type.”
    He turned to Conrad, asking Georgie, “and this is?”
    “Conrad,” Georgie answered quickly, “he's from the – uh – German side of the family.”
    “Name?” Butkin insisted.
    Conrad looked between The Doctor and Georgie. “Smith?” he offered.
    “So,” Butkin replied, licking the end of his pencil, “a whole family of... Smiths?”
    The Doctor, Georgie and Conrad nodded enthusiastically.
    Butkin could raise his eyebrows no further, but explained, “as you can see we're not struggling too badly for room. Sadly we have not found as many survivors to take to London as we had hoped. Do you have your own blankets and rations?”
    “Not as such,” The Doctor replied, carefully.
    “It was such a rush getting to the train,” Georgie interjected.
    “I'm sure,” Butkin sighed, “can you manage until we get to London?”
    The Doctor nodded. “I expect so,” he said, “what exactly is happening in London?”
    “Evacuation, I should hope,” Butkin explained, “but first we need to check everybody for contagion; we need to organise who is going where. But ultimately there will be further transport to the coast and with good luck a ship to the United States. London is something of a checkpoint, all our organisation is there. That is where my business concludes.”
    “I see. “ The Doctor took all this in.
    Conrad leaned over, “is London the same?”
    Butkin frowned, “the same as what?”
    “Is it full of the dead?” Conrad asked, loudly, drawing glances from the soldiers around the carriage.
    “Hmm, yes, the dead,” Butkin mused, “it does seem to be something of a problem. We'll do everything we can to protect people.”
    “What is Parliament doing?” asked Georgie, a strong believer that it was the business of the government to protect its people.
    “Parliament is gone!” Butkin scoffed, “and probably for the best. We'd have likely got nothing achieved if that lot were in charge!”
    “So who is organising you?” Conrad inquired, “who do you work for?”
    “Oh,” replied Butkin, a little taken aback, “my Mistress is co-ordinating efforts.”
    “You have a mistress!?” Georgie replied, the shock clear in her voice.
    “No,” sighed Butkin, irritably, “not my mistress. My Mistress. Mistress Cali. I am her Butler. Her family home has survived much of the worst damage seen in London. It has become a rallying point for the refugees, as well as a health centre and a place to check for contagion. Mistress Cali is organising the rescue efforts. She sent me north, on the train, to look for survivors personally.”
    “Is there any way we can meet Mistress Cali?” Georgie inquired, “as I said, I'm trained as a nurse and The Doctor knows his business.”
    “Oh, I'm sure you three will meet her,” Butkin replied, a touch coldly for Georgie's liking.
    “Thank you,” Georgie replied, unsteadily.
    “There are rules on the train,” Butkin explained, a touch of weary finality creeping into his voice, “don't touch anybody else's stuff; don't eat anybody else's food; don't open any of the crates.”
    “Don't touch the crates?” Georgie asked, “why not?”
    “Because there's nothing in there for you!” Butkin snapped.
    “What do you mean?”
    Butkin was beginning to get a little impatient. “Just leave the crates alone!” he insisted, sucking air between his teeth, “all of them.”
    Georgie was about to ask more, but Butkin shut her down, saying, “as for the rations, people were expected to bring their own food and clothing with them. We can't distribute any emergency supplies until we get to London and we don't want people stealing each other's food. Theft will be dealt with most severely.”
    “Can we eat our own rations?” Georgie inquired, hopefully.
    Butkin fixed her with a wary look. He asked, “Do you have your own rations?”
    “No,” Georgie had to admit.
    The weary Butler looked like he was about to say something. He opened his mouth, then thought better of it and simply sighed and turned away. “Make yourselves comfortable,” he waved with a dismissive hand and made to walk off, up the carriage.
    “Wait,” The Doctor called to him, stopping him in his tracks, “what can you tell us about the flashes in the sky and the fire that fell to Earth?”
    “Information is very sparse,” Butkin admitted, “eyewitness accounts are not terribly helpful. Some 'things' seem to have fallen from the sky with extreme force and caused huge explosions and in some instances broken through the crust and caused lava to pour across the surface. The atmosphere was so hot, in places, that the air in the sky literally burned. It's not just England, of course. Northern France and some of Spain have also been badly hit. The authorities currently have no understanding of the pestilence which has spread following the impacts. Some gentlemen from the Royal Academy have suggested that there is some sort of natural pathogen within the Earth's crust which has been released into the atmosphere. I personally think that is rather fanciful. It seems much more likely that this contagion has come from space.”
    “Is there any remnant of the Royal Society still present and investigating in London?” The Doctor asked.
    “There are one or two that have not yet departed,” Butkin told him, “they are working at my Mistress' house prior to their own evacuation.”
    The Doctor nodded a polite “thank-you” and Butkin clicked his heels and walked away.
    “Doctor, did you hear what he said about the crates?” Georgie asked.
    “Yes,” The Doctor mused, “he did seem unusually touchy on the subject.”
    “Conrad,” Georgie began, turning to the American, “do you think you and I should have a little look, see if anything is amiss?”
    “Is that a good idea?” Conrad responded, uncertainly.
    “I suppose we should weigh-up the ramifications,” The Doctor suggested, “I'm not sure we should risk getting ejected from the train.”
    “Very well, Doctor,” Georgie acquiesced, “we shall wait for London.”
    “What about the Tardis?” Conrad asked, concerned, “will that leave with the train?”
    The Doctor considered. “I think it's safe to assume that this train will not return the way it has come,” he offered, “and with a little luck the soldiers will unload the Tardis with the rest of the crates. She can be surprisingly light, when she wants to be.”
     The train lurched suddenly and The Doctor, Georgie, Conrad and all the other standing occupants were thrown off their feet. Brakes squealed from under the carriage as the train was brought to an abrupt, almost violent, stop.
    “Don't panic!” came the call of Butkin running down the side of the train, followed by a group of soldiers carrying heavy-looking equipment, “everything is under control! The driver believes that the track ahead may be damaged. We'll get an engineering detail to look over it at once!”
    The Doctor and Conrad helped Georgie to her feet. All at once a ripple of fear spread through the passengers as there was a new screeching noise.
    It was not coming from the brakes, but from high up in the sky. Georgie and Conrad watched as The Doctor's eyes widened with a look of worried recognition.
    “No, no!” The Doctor yelped and bounded over to a window, searching the dark skies about the train.
    “What is it, Doctor?” Georgie asked, desperately.
    The Doctor's eyes were scanning the heavens. Eventually he saw a familiar-looking shape, wheeling high about the train. Then he spotted two more, before seeing a fourth.
    He pointed a finger up and Conrad followed his gaze. There were four flying creatures. Broad, leathery wings stretched out to clawed hands, while four more arms dangled down from the creature's torso. As the gliding creatures descended lower, Conrad could make out a triangular skull and a row of glittering teeth.
    “What are they?” Conrad asked in hushed tones.
    There was a another piercing cry which caused more panic to radiate throughout the train.
    The Doctor replied, fearfully, with only one word. “Reapers.”
    “Reapers?” Georgie repeated, questioningly.
    “Time-sensitive predators,” The Doctor explained, “also known as Vortisaurs. They feed on temporal energy.” He could see her and Conrad looking confused, so he explained, quickly, “As a result of time-travel, there are potential futures which never play out: Redundant time-lines. On top of that there are paradoxes – glitches in time which prevent causality from continuing normally. Reapers feed on anything which is causing a paradox or is the result of a paradox.”
    “Are they dangerous?”
    The Doctor raised an eyebrow, “given the extent of the damage we've seen to history, I'd say they would be capable of eating pretty much everything and everyone here. But I wonder what has drawn them, specifically.”
    The soldiers began taking up positions by the windows, firing up into the sky at the Reapers.
    The Doctor fished his Sonic Screwdriver out of his pocket and began scanning around the carriage. “There's a huge amount of temporal energy coming from further up the train,” The Doctor explained. He stopped as the Sonic device squealed loudly as he moved the tip past Georgie. “Ah,” he murmured.
    “What is it?” Georgie exclaimed, seeing The Doctor's sudden, obvious worry.
    “I think the Reapers can sense that you don't belong in this time-line,” The Doctor told her.
    “What should I do?” she asked, desperately.
    “Head back to the Tardis,” The Doctor said, handing her a small, metal key, “get inside. You should be safe there. The Reapers shouldn't be able to get in.”
    “What about me, Doctor?” Conrad asked, “I'm out of my time, aren't I?”
    The Doctor drew in a breath, trying to explain quickly, “no, no, Vortisaurs aren't bothered by time-travellers. If they were, Time Lords wouldn't keep them as pets. I might get one myself but they make a terrible mess and tend to nibble on the Time Rotor. It is people that are outside of proper continuity that they are drawn to. So, Conrad, even though you are out of your era, the events that are taking place right now will ultimately lead to your version of reality, not Georgie's. Signing up, going to Germany, fighting the robots, all of those events are still due to happen.”
    “But, Doctor...” Georgie protested.
    “There's no time!” The Doctor exclaimed as a Reaper swooped low over the carriage, seemingly undeterred by the barrage from the soldier's rifles, “get to the Tardis!”
    With that, The Doctor turned and raced away, up the carriage in the direction of the source of the temporal energy.
    Conrad turned to Georgie. He gave a helpless shrug as he planted the metal dome of his flight helmet over his head. “I'd better assist The Doctor,” he rasped through the face grille as he pulled the Radium Pistol free from its holster, “will you be okay?”
    Georgie nodded and watched as Conrad raced away through the panicking passengers and soldiers.
    A moment of clarity came over Georgie as she watched the stricken people screaming and staring out of the window. A Reaper swept past, almost scratching its claws along the side of the train. Someone needed to keep these people safe. “Everybody down!” she shouted, “get near the floor in case the creature comes through the glass.”
    Many of the people in the carriage did as she said, huddling down beneath the windows and out of sight of the Reapers.
    Georgie spied a crate marked 'Rifles'. She called out in the carriage, “does anyone here know how to fire a rifle?”
    An uncertain hand went up from a nearby gentleman. Georgie stuck her walking-cane into a gap near the crate's lid and cracked the top off the box. She reached in and snatched up a rifle and threw it over to the man, who cocked it expertly and began searching the crate for ammunition.
    “There's grenade in here, too,” Georgie exclaimed grabbing one herself and stuffing it into the folds of her clothing.
    Right, thought Georgie to herself, gripping the Tardis key in one hand and keeping her other hand reassuringly around the top over her walking-cane, I need to get to the Tardis.

    The Doctor leaped through the carriage, nimbly ducking between the stricken bystanders. He looked suddenly as a screech pealed out from just outside. The Vortisaurs were circling closer, now. One fly so closely past the window that he could see the hunger in its beady, red eyes.
    The hum of the Sonic Screwdriver was increasing steadily as he made his way towards the front carriage, where Georgie had first encountered Butkin. The Doctor burst through the door and saw that the Sonic Screwdriver was being drawn toward a large wooden shipping crate sitting in the centre of the floor, in a clear space.
    He aimed the Sonic Screwdriver and fired a beam of oscillating energy at the crate. It peeled open like the petals of a flower and the wooden sides dropped away to reveal a conical metal device, with ornate and fluted metal-working around the sides and an intricate control panel with gilded lettering.
    “What is it?” Conrad asked, coming up behind The Doctor and seeing the machine.
    “As I suspected, this is a Vortex Beacon. This is what the Tardis picked up en route. It's just like the one the Timelords use.” The Doctor leaned down and inspected the letters on the device, frowning. “But this isn't like a Timelord beacon. This is a Timelord beacon. The writing on the readout is old Gallifreyan.”
    “What does that mean?” Conrad asked, keeping half an eye on the circling Reapers outside the window.
    “It means my people were trying to make sure I got here. Or someone else got here.”
    “Can you turn it off?” Conrad asked, concern in his voice.
    The Doctor mused, tapping the end of the Sonic Screwdriver unconsciously. “Currently, the Reapers are being drawn to Georgie and the Vortex Beacon,” he explained, “if I switch it off, all the Reapers may make a beeline for Georgie.”
    “Can you find out from it who set it up?” Conrad asked.
    “Hmm,” The Doctor considered, “I could probably take a look.” The Doctor aimed his Sonic Screwdriver at the device and flipped the switch.
    All of a sudden, The Vortex Beacon started glowing. It was piercingly bright and The Doctor instinctively knew something bad was about to happen. He tried to turn to Conrad to warn him to get clear. Before he could speak, there was a flash from the Beacon.
    The Doctor and Conrad both vanished.

    Chapter Three – Another London

    There was a ear-piercing cry from high above the train. Georgie stopped running towards the Tardis and looked out out of the window.
    Something had spooked the Reapers. They were wheeling away up into the sky, crying out terribly. But, thought Georgie, at least they were heading away from the train; away from her.
    Relieved, she bade goodbye to her gentleman volunteer and headed up to the front of the train to look for The Doctor. She could not find him anywhere. Amid the chaos on the train, she took to calling out for him and Captain Seager. No response came.
    She saw Butkin running back along the side of the train, slapping the sides and instructing everybody to get ready for the train to start moving. “Just a bit of fire damage to the rails,” he explained at the top of his voice, “we've patched it up and can move on.”
    “Mr Butkin,” Georgie said, breathlessly, approaching the man as he climbed up into her carriage, “have you seen The Doctor?”
    “Your travelling companion?” Butkin queried, confused, “Where were they?”
    “They went further up to the front of the carriage to see if they could help,” Georgie explained.
    A worried look suddenly flashed across Butkin's face. He sounded very suspicious as he said, “Why? Why did they go to the front?”
    Georgie shrugged, feeling that she was heading into unknown trouble. “I don't know!” she protested, “They're men, aren't they? Probably something to do with engines.”
    “So they were near the front of the train and now you can't find them?” he said, a knowing smile bursting in to his expression. “How very interesting.”
    The Doctor and Conrad stared about themselves, amazed.
    “Wow,” Conrad almost shouted out, “it's London... but, like, London in the pictures. I never saw it before it was destroyed.”
    “Indeed,” considered The Doctor, “there is certainly no evidence of a flaming apocalypse here.”
    It was the very stone and marble beauty of Georgian London. The streets were full of people going about their daily business, stepping carefully across the street as horse-drawn hansom carriages sailed up and down the road.
    The Doctor looked all about him, taking in the scene. “Where-ever we are,” The Doctor announced, “the Vortex Beacon hasn't come with us.”
    Conrad sighed. “Can you pick up anything with that wand of yours, Doc?” he asked.
    The Doctor agreed, flashing the Sonic Screwdriver around. “Oh,” he exclaimed, suddenly, listening to the sound the device was making.
    “What is 'oh'?” Conrad asked, concerned.
    “I'm picking up Artron Radiation,” The Doctor said. Seeing Conrad's confusion, he explained, “it's the power source that drives Timelord technology... and someone has it, here... that way!” He pointed down the street and ran off in the direction indicated by the Sonic Screwdriver.
    They walked briskly through London's streets for a few minutes. The Doctor was fixated on the Sonic's readings, but Conrad suddenly saw something in the road which made him grab the Doctor's arm for attention.
    There was a ghostly grey figure, walking across the road; seemingly it was unaware of their presence as it stumbled along. It was almost entirely transparent, with just enough shape to indicate that it was the outline of a human being.
    The Doctor looked carefully at the apparition.
    “Isn't that what Georgie told us she had seen?” Conrad asked. The Doctor nodded in response.
    They watched the spirit shamble along, heading towards a figure currently attempting to flag a hansom. The person did not see the spirit. Before either The Doctor or Conrad could call out, the grey ghost had wrapped its arms around the unseeing pedestrian; in a moment, both the bystander and the ghost had vanished.
    “I think,” The Doctor pronounced, “we should give those spirits a wide berth until we know a little more about them.”
    Conrad agreed. “London is very, very strange,” he declared, “I think I'd rather be in Germany, facing bombs and guns.”
    They walked carefully through the London street, watching out for roaming phantasms. They saw quite a few, but the people around did not seem to be aware of them. They came upon one or two more spontaneous disappearances as a ghost embraced a passer-by. Equally, however, they saw a good number of ghosts completely ignore the people around while some seemed to be determinedly following a particular individual.
    The Doctor and Conrad were lead by the signal to a huge town-house along one of the big carriageways. It had big stone columns and a high black metal fence along the front, by the street.
    Striding up the path to the front door, The Doctor knocked loudly and said to Conrad, confidently, “what do you think? I feel we should ask for Mistress Cali, don't you?”
    Conrad's mouth made an 'O' and he was about to speak when the front door was opened. Standing in the doorway was none other than the train-organiser, Butkin.
    No recognition came over the Butler's face as he intoned, dourly, “yes? Can I help you, sir?”
    Back on the train, Georgie followed Butkin up the train as he pushed urgently through the throng.
    “Mr Butkin!” Georgie called after him, “it's really very important that I meet your Mistress, I think!”
    “I'm sure you'll meet her soon enough,” Butkin turned and said, giving her an ominous look. He clicked his tongue irritably and demanded, “What exactly were your friends doing in the forward compartment?”
    “They were going to seek help,” Georgie repeated, irritably. She was starting to feel very worried at the Doctor's disappearance. What would she do if he and Conrad did not come back? What could she do on her own in this situation? How would she ever get home?
    Butkin looked liked he was expecting more of an explanation, so Georgie continued, “it appeared that we were under attack and they wanted to see if there was anything around here they could do to help you and the soldiers.”
    “Right,” Butkin said, seemingly making up his mind, “come with me.” He noticed the rifle slung over Georgie's shoulder and commented, “I can't imagine you're going to need that.”
    Georgie placed a comforting hand on the rifle stock and told him, “I'd rather keep it, for now.”
    He raised an eyebrow, but didn't argue any further. “They'll probably take it off you when we pull into the station,” he told her.
    They moved into the front compartment. In the middle of the floor they could both see the Vortex Beacon, with the pieces of the packing crate littered on the floor around it, but there was no sign of The Doctor or Conrad. Georgie could not identify the Vortex Beacon, but she new enough to guess that it was otherworldly and probably something to do with their disappearance.
    “Did you friends touch this?” Butkin demanded, indicating the metal device.
    “All I know is that they left me here to protect the passengers while they went off to help!” Georgie protested.
    Butkin leaned down and fiddled with a plaque on the front – or at least what looked like a plaque to Georgie; it was not dissimilar to the many looking-glasses which decorated the 'console' in the Tardis.
    Butkin sighed deeply, “this is just creating work for me, now. Not what I need!” He looked at Georgie's bewildered face and could see that she seemed as confused as she was claiming to be. “Leave it with me,” he said, giving her a sympathetic pat on the shoulder, “I'll sort it.”
    He knelt down beside the device and continued fiddling with the controls.

    The Doctor and Conrad stared into the impassive face of the Butler, standing the doorway.
    “Butkin!” Conrad declared, in greeting.
    The Butler turned and gave him a blank look, “have we met, sir?”
    “Yes?” ventured Conrad, “on a train?”
    “I don't recall travelling on any trains recently, sir,” he replied, politely, “Can I help you gentlemen?”
    The Doctor ventured, “can with speak with Mistress Cali?”
    “Is she expecting you?” Butkin asked, in a slow and habitual drawl.
    The Doctor considered the possibilities for a moment before replying, “No – or possibly yes.”
    “Very well,” Butkin responded, grudgingly, “I will ask her to come and see you.”
    The Butler lead them into the reception hall of the big house, before giving a little bow and disappearing up the main stairs.
    The hall itself was a grand example of the era. Hunting trophies of creatures from nations all around the British Empire decorated almost every surface, as well and curios and ornaments from almost every nation on Earth. Beside the stairs, a Grandfather clock ticked quietly, sounding away the inevitable passage of time. The Doctor began to think of Georgie and what might be happening to her.
    The Sonic Screwdriver was still buzzing insistently in his pocket. He fished it out and scanned around the hall. The Artron Radiation seemed to be coming from a cupboard beside the grand staircase. The Doctor gave a nod to Conrad and walked quietly over to the cupboard door. He reached out to open it.
    Before his hand could close around the handle, there was a voice from the stairs, “it is not customary for visitors to be so nosey.”
    The Doctor looked up and caught the gaze of an extremely elegant lady, gliding down the stairs in an elaborate gown, her neck and wrists festooned with jewellery and even her curled and fulsome locks of hair adorned with a fragile tiara.
    She saw his face and a smile crept across her mouth. “Ahh,” she exclaimed in delight, “Doctor!”
    The Doctor was not sure whether he was pleased or whether this added to his growing irritation that people he met kept expecting him. He was going to reply when he felt a strange tugging sensation in his ribcage.
    He tried to ignore it, but it became uncomfortable. It grew out from his chest until it felt like his whole body was being dragged. He saw Mistress Cali's eyes grow wide with alarm as there was a flash of blinding light.
    The floor raced away from The Doctor's feet, seemingly dropping away into a vast chasm. Suddenly The Doctor was aware of a new floor, walls and ceiling almost infinitely far away, but rushing towards him. He was going to be crushed!
    The strange surrounding coalesced into reality and The Doctor found himself standing beside Conrad, face to face with a slightly grubby Butkin and a delighted Georgie. Between them sat the Vortex Beacon.
    “Doctor, you're back!” Georgie declared, relieved, “where have you been?”
    The Doctor watched Butkin for a reaction and said, “the house of Mistress Cali.”
    “What?” replied a shocked Butkin, “that can't be right! You shouldn't have interfered with this equipment. It makes things terribly complicated. You set off all the safety protocols!”
    The Doctor tried to look confident. “Well,” he said, “that was entirely deliberate.”
    Butkin looked him up and down and scrutinised his face. “I rather suspected it might be you when we met,” Butkin said, “so, Doctor, what do you think is happening here?”
    “I was hoping you might be able to answer that question,” The Doctor retorted, “or perhaps Mistress Cali. I was about to have a conversation with her when I got dragged back here!” The Doctor felt the need to turn the tables back on these strangers who seemed perfectly aware of who he was; he ventured, “is she another Timelord perhaps, like you?”
    “Yes, yes,” sighed Butkin, impatiently, “we're both Timelords.” He gave The Doctor an exasperated look, “we can't give you any information. We set the Beacon up to bring you here in the hope you could explain the situation to us. Why couldn't you just land next to the Beacon? It would have made things so much easier.”
    The Doctor gave him his best unimpressed stare. “I've learned to take a cautious approach,” he said.
    “Well, unfortunately you set off some of the Beacon's security systems,” Butkin explained, “it's released a wave of temporal instability. You've gained an affinity with an alternative course of events. You'll probably find yourself a little unstable in this time-line. If you leave it unchecked you'll be popping back and forth between here and the other London willy-nilly. Is your Tardis here?”
    “It might be, “The Doctor replied, cagily.
    “Do you know how to construct a Timeline Probability Stabiliser?” Butkin asked, rhetorically, as if it was a matter of course that The Doctor would know how.
    “I haven't done one in the past,” The Doctor admitted, embarrassed, “but I could have a go.”
    Butkin harrumphed with irritation. “Fine!” he exclaimed, passive-aggression brimming to the surface, “we'll see if we have something at the house. We can't have you disappearing every five minutes. At some point we're bound to be in the middle of a sensible conversation.”
    The train braked and began to slow. Butkin peered out of the grimy windows and declared, “ah! We've arrived.”
    The carriages pulled into a gloomy terminus. There were many platforms, but they all stood empty. At the far end part of the roof had collapsed down, rendering one of the lines unusable. The debris itself was burned black. What must once have been a busy station was now devoid of life, save for the soldiers who made themselves busy off-loading crates onto the adjacent platform.
    Butkin turned to the Doctor and said, pointedly, “if your Tardis is in the freight car, I've instructed the soldiers to bring it with everything else. I'm sure that's where you've left it, isn't it.”
    The Doctor gave a bashful nod.
    “Come with me, then,” Butkin instructed.
    They walked out of the station through a breach in the wall, which opened out onto the street running alongside the railway.
    “Be careful!” Butkin said, suddenly grabbing The Doctor's elbow and pulling him to one said. He hissed a warning under his breath, “the dead!”
    The Doctor, Georgie and Conrad stared at the creature. The description had been accurate: it half shambled, half drifted along the ground – almost as though it was not connected to the floor. It didn't seem to see or notice them and floated by.
    Looking up and past the apparition, they could see that the streets were filled with the ambling dead. Some drifted hither and thither, seemingly unconcerned with their direction or purpose. Others seemed to be moving with more intent, heading towards a specific point. They did emit a low, mumbling speech, but the group were too far away for the words to be made out.
    Georgie gripped the rifle – which she had managed to hold on to – for comfort and readied herself to either fight or run.
    “What has happened to them?” The Doctor asked Butkin.
    “We're not sure,” Butkin replied, honestly, “it seems to be related to the sleeping sickness somehow. Most of the identified walking dead had previously suffered from it.”
    They watched the mass of unliving creatures and shuddered.
    Conrad asked, turning to The Doctor, “Are they definitely dead? Shall I try hitting one?”
    The Doctor hummed, saying, “I'm not totally au fait with the ethical implications of shooting the already-deceased. Are we wanting to kill them, if there is a chance for a cure?”
    “All I meant,” Conrad explained, “was that I could try throwing a stone at them and see what happens.”
    “Oh,” The Doctor replied, “that would be fine, then.”
    Conrad picked up a large, angled piece of broken masonry and hefted it towards the nearest unliving creature. It bounced off.
    “Solid, at least,” The Doctor observed, “although it doesn't seem to be bothered about the hit.”
    The creature seemed to stop and lifted its arms, saying something they could not hear. There was a flash and, where the unliving creature once was, there stood a normal human being; they were dressed in the filthy rags of the dead creature and they were staring all around them in horror, vocally wondering where they were.
    Butkin called for the nearby soldiers, who rushed over to the stricken individual and led them into the comparative safety of the station.
    “Did we do that?” Conrad asked, amazed.
    “I don't know,” The Doctor said, “but it was interesting. Try to hit another one.”
    Conrad picked up another small brick and hefted it in the direction of another walking corpse. It hit them full in the face and dropped to the floor.
    Nothing happened.
    “Oh,” expressed The Doctor, disappointed, “a coincidence, then.”
    “Maybe it will happen after a delay?” Conrad suggested.
    The Doctor turned to Butkin, “have you seen the dead recover like this before?”
    “Once or twice,” Butkin nodded, “but we can't determine any causal reason as to how or why they recover.”
    “Well,” announced The Doctor and turned to Conrad and Georgie and said, “the lesson learned there is not to shoot them. We may be able to find a cure.”
    Butkin turned and began to walk over to a bulky, black car. “Shall we go?” he said, opening the side door and indicating for the group to get in. The Doctor admired the classic vehicle's curved wheel guards and running boards. The canvas roof was dusty with ash.
    They climbed into the car, which started smoothly and, with Butkin driving, wound its way along the road, skirting between the debris of fallen buildings and clustered militaristic piles of sandbags. They rode in silence, each staring at the ruined city and considering the implications for themselves.
    The car drew up in front of a large town-house. The Doctor and Conrad shared a look; it was the same house from the 'other' London.
    Unlike the clean classic frontage of that house, however, this one was scorched with fire damage and evidence of looting, although the front was now barricaded with sandbags. Two soldiers sat behind the sandbags, keenly watching the street along the iron sights of their rifles.
    The group exited the car, led by Butkin who opened the front door with a big iron key and welcomed them across the threshold.
    Standing on the grand staircase – almost where The Doctor and Conrad had left her – was the elegant and attractive form of Mistress Cali. Unlike the damage which the house had suffered in this time-line, Cali was still the picture of aristocracy: bejewelled, gowned and her hair flawless.
    “Doctor!” she proclaimed, her voice full of practised warmth, “I'm so glad you came.”

    Chapter Four – The Cupboard's Secret

    Mistress Cali floated down the stairs and took up The Doctor's hand in a ladylike, but firm, shake.
    “Well,” The Doctor began, momentarily lost for words, “your beacon was somewhat … unmissable.”
    Cali smiled and said, “we were hoping you'd spot that. The Council had picked up a Type 40 travelling in this part of space and we had a bit of a root through our records and decided it must be you.”
    The Doctor frowned. He asked, “How long have you and Butkin been living here? Undertaking these humanitarian efforts?”
    Cali swept away from The Doctor in a dramatic fashion and turned back to speak, as if addressing an attentive crowd. She said, “well, obviously we are very happy to be helping humans to escape from this dreadful situation.” She sounded like a politician at a rally. She continued, “But of course the rescue efforts are a by-product of our more important and secret work – that of medically screening all the refugees before they are allowed to escape the infection zone. So that they do not pass on alien contagion into the wider Earth population. There is an alien presence here, Doctor and we are here to ensure that the presence is contained within a very specific area and a very specific range of actions.”
    The Doctor swallowed. “And you need me to help, how?” he asked, cautiously.
    “We need somebody to work out where this thing has come from and intervene,” she began to explain and then stopped, becoming hesitant. It was as if she needed to say something important, but couldn't clearly spit it out. “You must understand my position, Doctor,” she continued, eventually, “I am very well regarded by the High Council of Gallifrey...”
    Butkin leaned over to The Doctor and interrupted, saying, “she'll be President, one day, Doctor. It's always been on the cards.”
    Mistress Cali managed to force a show of modesty and said, “well, be that as it may... it wouldn't seem very good if I were to be seen to be involving myself directly in this problem. It would rather fly in the face of our policy of non-intervention. We're looking for somebody who is more... what is the word, Butkin?”
    Butkin stirred. “Deniable, my lady?”
    She smiled sweetly, “the very word. My hand cannot be seen to be directly involved in this.”
    The Doctor sighed. This was a typical Timelord approach – they were so concerned with not taking sides and being seen to be peaceful and serene. He asked, “so, this alien presence: Do they have a base of operations or a place where they first landed?”
    Cali showed her palms in a disinterested gesture, “that's for you to establish, Doctor.”
    “Do we know what they look like?” The Doctor pressed, a little exasperated.
    “All we're getting,” Cali told him, “is very strange energy readings.”
    “Are these readings remotely detectable?”
    “Oh yes, certainly,” she explained, brightly, “You should be able to pick up the alien energy patterns with the equipment in your Tardis.” She added, diffidently, “Oh and I'm so glad you are getting on well with Butkin; He's going to be an enormous help to you, I'm sure. Hold on there just a moment and let me fetch something for you.”
    The Doctor opened his mouth to speak, but Mistress Cali had stepped into a cupboard door beside the stairs. He realised that it was the same cupboard that had been giving the power readings in the other version of London.
    His hearts sank. With a familiar wheezing, groaning noise, the cupboard de-materialised in front of the surprised onlookers, leaving behind an empty corner of the hall. Mistress Cali's Tardis had been there all along, its chameleon circuit giving it the appearance of an innocuous cupboard. The Mistress herself had abandoned them and, presumably, stranded Butkin.
    Butkin tutted under his breath. “That,” he muttered, “is typical. She always does this. I can't believe she's left me here, with you.” He was pacing, now, irritably around the hall, gesticulating with his arm, “I mean, you're quite capable of dealing with this without me.” He stopped himself and sighed, giving the Doctor a wan smile. “Never mind,” he said, “Let's get on.”
    “Well,” said The Doctor, ignoring Butkin's obvious displeasure at being left with them, “we should pop into the Tardis and look for this alien energy. What did you say would be done with it?”
    Butkin looked to the grandfather clock and considered. “It's probably outside by now,” he decided, “I told them to bring it to the house.”
    They went outside and, sure enough, the Tardis was in the street in front of the house, perched atop a cart being drawn by a tired-looking horse.
    Butkin looked at it with a worried expression. “Well,” he began, “hopefully we can use the scanners on this...” He stopped, searching for an appropriate but inoffensive word – it was not acceptable behaviour among Timelords to criticise another's Tardis. Eventually he decided on “classic,” although The Doctor decided that the way he sucked the word through his teeth rather undervalued the sentiment.
    “-- without tearing a hole in the fabric of space and time,” Butkin finished.
    The Doctor climbed up into the cart and stepped into the Tardis, followed by Georgie, Conrad and a very wary Butkin. At once The Doctor began hitting switches and studying displays, before he let out a little “Eureka!”
    An image appeared on the large wall-screen, showing a rough outline of Britain. A number of glowing red lights were dispersed throughout the map. It zoomed in on the closest to their current location.
    “Ahh,” exclaimed Butkin, pleasantly surprised, “these are the epicentres of the explosions. We'd already estimated that this is where a lot of the damage was done.” He peered closer at the display, “the alien energy appears to be emanating from the core of the explosion.”
    The Doctor turned to him, asking, “has anybody tried returning to the ground zero of any of these sites?”
    “Most of the authorities and civilians have been in utter panic, Doctor,” Butkin explained, a hint of disapproval creeping into his voice. He continued, “it's been an absolute shambles. What this place needs is strong leadership; someone to take charge and make sure everybody is doing that they are supposed to be doing.” Butkin sighed, disappointed, “but that is none of my business, I suppose. We're just here to sort out this time-distortion mess.”
    He turned to face The Doctor, for the first time a mischievous smile on his face. “Doctor,” he said, conspiratorially, “you didn't half give me a surprise when you turned up in the other time-stream. Obviously the Mistress and I went there first to see how history was supposed to play out and found ourselves this nice little building in London. Then you turned up, before we'd even realised we needed to call you! I know I'm a Timelord, but even I get a headache when I think about it.” He frowned and said, “are you always like this?”
    The Doctor shrugged, “it does often seem to go that way.”
    Butkin rolled his eyes and muttered, “well, I'll look forward to that, then.”
    He studied the screen again, before announcing, “there's one about 10 miles from here.”
    Georgie chipped in, “shall we investigate, then?” The Doctor simply nodded in agreement.
    “How do you propose we travel there?” Butkin asked, glancing suspiciously at the Tardis' ramshackle controls.
    The Doctor gave an embarrassed cough. “I would have to admit,” he explained, sheepishly, “that accurate travel in the Tardis – even short distances – is not guaranteed. I suggest we take another form of transport.”
    Butkin seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. “Thank goodness for that!” he exclaimed, “I thought we were going to have to fly in this thing. I'll get one of the soldiers to bring the car around.” Butkin stepped out of the door. He reappeared a moment later, saying, “oh and Doctor, sort everybody out with a Timeline Probability Stabiliser each, would you?” before leaving once again.
    Georgie stepped up to The Doctor, looking to ensure that Butkin was out of earshot. “Doctor,” she said, “did you hear what he said about this country needing strong leadership? That – and his Mistress wanting to be President. Is that not suspicious?”
    The Doctor did not respond, initially. Eventually he explained, “my people can be a little authoritarian at times... to a fault. They generally have a view that they could fix the universes problems, if they wanted to. Therefore anything that goes amiss, they feel it is because they have chosen that it be so. It can be very frustrating.”
    He stopped talking as Butkin's head re-appeared through the Tardis door. “Are we ready?” he called, to no-one in particular.

    Georgie fiddled with the Timeline Probability Stabiliser on her breast. It was a little like a brooch, with ornate castings around the edge and a gem of purest green in the centre. If she looked closely into the gemstone, she could see tiny moving lines which Butkin had haughtily informed her were something called Quantum Micro-circuitry.
    The device was, she thought, much like the Tardis. It held incredible power, from her point of view, but also seemed to be a work of art, a living this and a presence, all at the same time. She wondered if all Timelord technology was this way.
    Butkin and Mistress Cali seemed, to her, like strange Timelords. The Doctor – and The Doctor's apparent counterpart from a parallel dimension – had obviously been the only Timelord she had previously met and she had somehow assumed that they would share his measured manner, care for the weak and respect for life.
    But, this odd Butler seemed to have a fire within him for order and discipline which roused an anger where he met inefficiency. On top of that, his strange Mistress seemed to manifest more of the boorish indolence which she found so frustrating in the politicians of her own age. To think she had been so excited, at first, to meet a woman who would be President. The idea that she might be no better than the men of her era was a depressing one. Perhaps the Timelords were not so far removed from human-kind, with all its failings. She thought of the many Women's Suffrage meetings she had attended and all of their passion and hard work. Would it simply come to this?
    As they travelled out to the source of the signal, the landscape became progressively bleaker and bleaker. It would have been hard to imagine a more death-filled landscape than the streets of London they had seen, but these were an order of magnitude worse. Buildings were burned-out husks; Tree-trunks stood bare, like pillars of charcoal; everywhere they caught sight of the aimless and meandering dead, searching for... What? Georgie thought, a purpose?
    They left the road and began to drive up an uneven slope. It was hot here. Underneath them seemed to be streak of what looked like cooled lava. Whatever explosion had taken place here had obviously had volcanic repercussions.
    The Doctor felt troubled, although he tried not to show it to his companions, least of all the judgemental Butkin. But the sight of this crater and the evidence of pooling lava could not help but drag his mind back into history; back to the worst day of his life.
    He wanted to shake the memory away, but certain images forced their way to the front. He remembered again the heat and the screams; he pictured the uncontrollably swelling lava and his own attempts to direct his ailing Magma Board...
    ...Magma Boarding was considered a well-controlled and comparatively safe sport, so what could have gone wrong?...     He remembered – her – screams, as her own Magma Board failed and began to sink into the liquid rock, boiling with a furious intensity. He remembered chasing across the hot surface, desperate to get to her...
    ...and it was always her – he had lost other companions that day – but he had chosen to try to save her, his love, over them...
    The memory ended the same way it always did: she seemed almost close enough to save, before a guttering, spitting wall of fire and lava reared up in front of his, burning his suit as he reached out for her; and, when the plume had subsided...
    “Doctor! Is that it?”
    The Doctor was brought back from his mental wanderings by Conrad, grabbing his arm and pointing at the centre of the crater.
    There was an odd, reddish glow coming from bottom of the pit. The Doctor strained his eyes to see through the darkness. Something was obscuring his vision.
    He realised with a start what it was at the same time as Georgie and Conrad cried out in alarm. A row of dead figures were in the pit, ambling towards them.
    One of the dead figures looked different from the others. It was outlined in a dancing light, as thought alive with blue fire. The figure looked directly at them. Its eyelids snapped open and they could see that its eyes were glowing with a fierce, blue intensity.
    It's just like Commandant Jurgens, in Germany, The Doctor thought, something alien is inside that corpse, controlling it.
    The creature's mouth yawned open in an expression of pain and a choking, guttural voice emanated from deep within the dry throat.
    “Ahh, Doctor,” it rasped, “you have come back to us.”

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Doctor Who (Game B) Session Write-up - Das Metallreich Part 3

N.B. What follows is a prose narration of the events that took place in a roleplaying game session. It can be regarded as a kind of Doctor Who fan-fiction, except that all the events are driven by occurrences in-game and is presented in first-draft quality. It is not intended to fully recreate any events or characters from any previous Doctor Who episode, book, radio series or comic, with the exception of some iconic villains. Even The Doctor is a reinvention, starting out as a first-regeneration Timelord with little history; Perhaps how the Doctor may appear in a different reality. It cannot, therefore, be wrong on any canonical continuity. It exists within itself and is presented purely for reading pleasure and to inform role-playing experiences. Thank you :)

You can read Part One of Doctor Who - Das Metallreich here. Part Two is here.

Chapter Eight – An Old But Unknown Adversary

    Georgie steadily plodded through the work she had been assigned. Knowing that she was assisting in the creation of more deadly metal robots, she didn't want to make too much effort or do too expert a job, even though she found the work fairly intuitive.
    The lady she had been speaking to caught her eye and gave a subtle nod. Georgie allowed her eyes to flicker with recognition but made no response more obvious.
    After a moment, the lady pixed up a box of parts and tools from the work counter and made to move around the side of the workbench. She seemed to swoon, dropping the box and sending bits and pieces of highly technical equipment scattering across the floor.
    The soldiers rushed over. One of them made a cursory effort to help the lady to her feet, while the other soldiers were clearly more interested in insuring that none of the equipment was damaged. Once all four soldiers were involved in the distraction, Georgie picked up her tray of tools and strode confidently over to the work-group on the opposite sound of the workshop.
    The lady had told Georgie that she would find a man called Klaus, who was known among the slaves for talking about getting away and defeating the robots, but somehow he hadn't been dragged away by the guards yet. He must be a fairly discrete character, Georgie thought.
    The woman had also told her that the trick to switching groups was to avoid be being seen moving. “Once you've made it over,” she had said, “it will take them a while to realise you're in the wrong place. They don't bother to look us in the faces when we're working. I think it's guilt.”
    Once she had arrived at the new group, the slaves already assembled there noiselessly made room for her, not causing any trouble. Many of the people around this table were actually quite fixated on their work, concentrating hard on construction elements that looked very complex.
    While the hubbub over at her previous station died down, she cautiously made some enquiries about which of them was Klaus. After some suspicious looks, the man beside her pointed out Klaus. He was a lot younger than the average worker, although he was by far not the youngest.
    Georgie sidled over to him. “Is it safe to talk, here?” she asked him, quietly.
    Klaus gave a bitter and quiet laugh, saying, “It is not safe to talk anywhere. What do you want?”
    “I was brought here by two guards,” she told him, “but they are, in fact, my friends.”
    A shimmer of withheld excitement crossed Klaus' face. “You mean that there are spies in the castle?” he asked, agitatedly.
    Georgie nodded.
    “That is excellent,” Klaus was struggling to contain his excitement, “Do you have a plan for getting us out of here?”
    “My friends are going to give a signal when they are ready to take over,” Georgie informed him, confidently.
    “Take over?” Klaus said, looking worried and confused, “what do you mean?”
    Georgie gave an I-don't-know-the-details shrug and said, “Kill the guards and free you all?”
    Klaus looked unconvinced. “How many of you are there?” he asked.
    “At present, there are four of us in the castle,” Georgie explained.
    Klaus tried to stifle a laugh, “four of you? I'm sorry but it can't be done with four. We'll all be killed!”
    “There is an American soldier with us and an Englishman who managed to escape London. He is called the Doctor. He is a very powerful man,” Georgie protested.
    “If there is only four of you we will need a doctor!” Klaus hissed, “The problem is no longer the soldiers. The problem is those!” He pointed to the gantry, on which stood the three deadly, black sentinels. “Even if we all banded together and manage to take down enough guards to arm ourselves and make a break for it,” Klaus explained, “those things will just mow us down and there are becoming more and more of them every day. What we need to do is to find a way to stop the robots; to slow them down.”
    Georgie considered for a moment and then looked at the complex machine parts in her hands. “Does anybody check the quality of the parts we make?” she asked, inspiration growing in her mind.
    “Yes,” Klaus replied with a warning tone in his voice, “and vigorously at that. A few people once tried sabotaging the parts. They discovered the sabotage and took the work-groups into the yard. They couldn't know who had done it, so they led a man up into front of the group and shot them in front of everybody. They did this two more times, with a woman and another man. They made their point. Many of us will risk ourselves to fight back, but when your actions cause the death of those around you, it is a different matter.”
    “But it shows they have a weakness – something they are afraid of,” Georgie reasoned with him, “does that not give people hope? If they need workers, they can't kill everybody!”
    “There is little hope here. Few will be convinced to follow your plan,” he told her, “In any case, sabotaging parts would take days to show an effect, even if you are successful.”
    Georgie stuck her chin out, proudly and stubbornly. “I refuse to believe there is no way!” she said, “even if we have to lay down our own lives for the cause.”
    Klaus could see her determination and smiled. “There is something,” he told her. “When we first started working here, they used to allow us a wireless to listen to music while we worked. On the day the Metallensturmtruppen first appeared, all of our radios were taken away. Do you think this is significant?”
    Georgie thought. This level of technology was beyond her. “Perhaps the radio frequencies affect them?” she suggested.
    Klaus nodded, “Many of the parts we have worked on appear, to me, to be radio-based controls. I would assume that they are susceptible to radio interference.”
    “Perhaps we can steal enough parts to make some sort of transmitter?”
    “Possibly,” Klaus nodded, carefully, “it is dangerous, through. They may need us to build their machines, but I'm sure they could still manage without a large number of us.”
    Georgie was determined. “It would be better than giving up,” she said.
    Klaus agreed.  “I will speak to some others and we will see what can be achieved.”

    “Yes. You look like you must be The Doctor.”
    Commandant Jurgens was prowling up and down in front of the Timelord, leering.
    “I was told to expect you. I wasn't totally sure what to look for, but I'm sure it must be you. You have nothing to say?”
    The Doctor considered an appropriate response, for a moment. “You have a good, deductive mind,” he replied, eventually.
    Jurgens sneered, victorious, before turning his attention to the American. He looked between the two captives for a moment, before speaking to Conrad quickly in a flurry of fast and complex German.
    Conrad's basic language training had not prepared him for this. Jurgens stared at him, waiting impatiently for a response. Conrad looked at The Doctor, helplessly.
    The Doctor repeated the words to Conrad, who finally understood it as, “you are here with the American Flying Troops, are you not?” The Tardis' translation matrix making the speech perfectly clear to him.
    Conrad remained silent, but Jurgens could see that he had understood the question. “Curious,” the Commandant began, “I speak to him and I can see that he does not understand. Yet, you repeat exactly the same words I have spoken and he can understand you perfectly. Can you explain this to me? Is it one of your magic tricks?”
    “Who told you to expect me?” The Doctor asked, neatly avoiding the question.
    “Our glorious leader knows all about you, Doctor,” Jurgens told him. “He has encountered you many times in the past. We were told to expect an appearance from you at some point and to be watchful for your plots and your sabotaging ways.”
    The Doctor racked his brains for a past encounter which could give him a clue. He could think of nothing. The Doctor had, comparatively, barely begun his travels around the wider universe outside of the influence of Gallifrey – his home planet. He'd had a few disagreements along the way, but never made an enemy of this scale.
    He tried to coax a bit more information. “Your leader is?”
    Jurgens stiffened with pride, “Our leader is the glorious Fuhrer!”
    “Adolf Hitler?” The Doctor ventured, racking his brains for his knowledge of Earth history.
    “Who the hell is Adolf Hitler?” Jurgens replied.
    “Ahh,” said The Doctor. His suspicions were confirmed that history was seriously off-kilter.
    Looking again, he could see that the Nazi's office was not quite right. There was fascist iconography every, but other accurate historical details seemed missing. It was like a film set, dressed by someone with only a surface knowledge of the era.
    “Our leader indicated that you were normally so irritatingly talkative, Doctor,” said Jurgens, a little disappointed, “but I seem to be struggling to get a word out of you. It is no matter. Whatever you intended to achieve by coming here, we now have you in our custody and we will extract information out of you over the coming days.”
    “Would it be possible to meet your leader?” The Doctor asked, ignoring the threat.
    Jurgens laughed, “I'm quite certain that once we report your presence here, the Fuhrer will wish to come and speak to you themselves.”
    “Splendid,” The Doctor replied.
    “Guards!” Jurgens shouted, a little irritated by The Doctor's bravado. “Take them away. And tend to this one,” he indicated Conrad, who was beginning to sway slightly through blood loss, “he is bleeding on my carpet.”

    A bell rang for the eventual end of the tortuously long shift. Georgie followed the other slaves out of the workshop and into a low, dim common room, which was set about with bunks and bedding. The ceiling was low and the ground underfoot was mostly earth. It reminded her of the places used to grow mushrooms and it reeked of inadequate toilet facilities.
    Despite Georgie's hopes that it would be a haven for free discussion, there were two guards posted in the room to keep an eye out for trouble. While the workers made themselves comfortable, Georgie kept a keen eye on the soldiers who, to her relief, eventually tired in their vigilance and began beginning chatting between themselves.
    Klaus came over to where she was sitting. “I've had a word with the others,” he said, “They're not sure how much faith to put in you and these friends of yours, but they do agree that if they can pull some components together, we can build something. If we can find somewhere to keep the parts, that is.”
    “Is there a midden, we could hide the pieces there?” Georgie asked.
    Klaus pulled a face, then chuckled quietly, “It's certainly somewhere the Germans won't look.”
    Building a transmitter seemed like a bit of a desperate hope to Georgie. It would take time and they really needed a quicker plan. “What about the guards?” Georgie asked, “Are any of them local that may have friends or family among the prisoners?”
    He shook his head, “None of the guards are from the village. They didn't even bother drafting us. They just wanted us for slave labour.”
    “Any that could be turned?”
    “A risky strategy,” Klaus told her, “Most of them see it as just a job and can't really be bothered with us. They never speak to us.”
    Georgie sighed, she was desperate to find an advantage in her situation. “Is there any way I can volunteer for special duties?”
    Klaus flashed her a horrified look. He explained, “Well, it disgusts me, but some of the prisoners have given their bodies to the soldiers in return for extra rations and a proper wash but it's not really...”
    “That is not what I meant,” retorted Georgie, affronted, “I am trained as a nurse. They must need someone to take care of the prisoners?”
    “They may well need you,” he nodded, “There have been medical volunteers before. But it isn't any lighter a workload than what we're already doing. Some prefer it to the workshop, though.”
    “Good,” Georgie responded, her mind made up.
    She walked carefully up to the guards, who noticed her and turned immediately, their faces full of suspicion.
    “I have medical training,” she told them, “I wish to volunteer for other duties.”
    “You are a trained nurse?” the guard asked her.
    “Very well. Return to your bunk. We will report this and somebody may come to fetch you in the morning.”
    The guards waved her away with their guns, indicating that the conversation was at an end.
    Georgie wandered aimlessly through the bunk-room, taking in the human tragedy she saw around her. There were a group of people sitting and chatting, making the best of a bad situation. She sat down to join them.
    They were surprised to see Georgie. They believed the raids on the village had ended, taking everybody of value, so to see a new face was refreshing, although they were sad she had been snatched.
    They talked about their memories of life in the village. Some talked with low voices about being separated from children or young siblings that they have not seen since they were brought here.
    Georgie was thinking. She desperately needed to communicate all she had learned to The Doctor, but wasn't sure how. Either way she knew she should commit the information to paper, in case something happened to her, or she was only ably to slip a note.
    After some coaxing, she managed to get a scrap of paper and pencil from one of the prisoners, who had a stash secreted in her bunk. Trying not to draw the attention of the guards, Georgie scribbled down a note about the robots and their weakness to radio frequencies.
    She turned her attention to the mystery of the other prisoners that had been taken away. How had these slaves been separated from children and loved ones and not seen them since? The castle didn't look that big.
    “Is there anywhere else that prisoners are kept?” Georgie asked the group.
    “We don't know,” said one, “but there was a lady that used to be in service at the castle. In the old days...”
    Georgie asked where she could find this woman and was directed to her. She approached her carefully and engaged in a little social chat, before asking about her memories of life in service at the castle. The woman was pleased to talk about the old days before the war.
    “When it started, they laid us all off at the house and took it over. They came down to the village looking for slaves. I was the only one of the old staff that was still young enough to be considered for work. The place is very different, now... The soldiers here, I think they have to not care, in order to cope with the situation.”
    “Are there any secret passages in the castle?” Georgie directed her, eventually, hoping that her question would come across as idle curiosity.
    “Oh, you're straining my memory, child,” the woman told her, “Remember that I haven't worked here since I was a girl! But, I do remember that there was an underground passage leading from the kitchen to the wine cellar. It was a shortcut, more than a secret passage. I think they stopped using it and built the new cupboards in front of it, a few years before the soldiers came.”
    “Do the Nazis know about it?” Georgie asked.
    “I shouldn't think they'd bother with it,” the woman shook her head, “The wine cellar doesn't lead anywhere out of the castle.”
    Georgie smiled. The wine cellar was where The Doctor's Tardis was located. She could begin to see a way out of this place.
    “I don't suppose you don't know about an armoury then?” Georgie asked, a little jokingly.
    “Lawks, no!” the woman replied, “The only weapons I remember were the decorative ones on the walls. The master used to keep hunting rifles in his study next to the kitchen, but that's the Doctor's surgery now.” Her tone turned serious, “I hope you aren't thinking of being silly. The soldiers are just working boys like everybody else. Doctor Kruger's a good soul. He's the only man I've seen stand up to the Commandant. A shouting row, they had, about the work going on here. You'll be okay with him if you've volunteered for nursing.”
    The woman bid her goodnight and Georgie decided it was time to sleep.

    In the castle, The Doctor and Conrad were taken to separate, but adjacent rooms. There was a single guard posted between the two doorways.
    The castle doctor went into Conrad's room with him and tended to his injuries himself. He worked expertly, removing the bullet fragments and stitching the wounds closed. By the time he had finished, Conrad felt much of his former strength returned. He hit the bed and fell in to a deep sleep.
    In contrast, as soon as the Doctor was left alone he began prowling the room. For a Timelord, sleep was an optional undertaking, used to explore the mental possibility of subconscious thought, rather than a biological need to rest and organise thoughts.
    These days, The Doctor had avoided even voluntary sleep. The dreams that came to him were full of visions of the day he had gone magma boarding. Once more he remembered the heat of the lava and the screams of his dying companions...
    He shook away these thoughts, searching the room for options. It had clearly once been a bedroom, converted to a cell for militaristic purposes. Makeshift bars had been bolted over the windows, inside and out. He stared at the lock of the only door into the room. He tried, unsuccessfully, to form a mental image of the mechanism within the lock, hoping to be able to use his telekinesis to open the door.
    Frustrated with his failure, he slumped on the edge of the bed, just staring at the door. Without his Sonic Screwdriver there was no way out of this room, unless it was opened from the other side.
    But, the Doctor thought to himself with a sudden smile, that might just do.

Chapter Nine – Back into the War

    The night passed uneventfully.
    As Georgie finished partaking of the meagre rations handed out to the slaves, two burly soldiers came to fetch her and take her to the castle doctor's surgery. She was being commissioned for nursing duties.
    They went into the main house to a room down a short corridor from the main hall. “Doctor Kruger,” the soldiers announced as they walked into the room without knocking, “we have a replacement nurse for you.”
    Doctor Kruger waved them away without even looking around. Once they had gone he turned to face Georgie, wiping his hands on a towel and looking her up and down, sizing her up.
    “You have done nursing?” he asked, curtly, “What experience do you have?”
    Georgie raced to think of an explanation that would make sense in this strange world. “I trained in London, several years ago,” she said, “before the … umm … disaster.”
    “You hardly look old enough!” Doctor Kruger exclaimed, “Never mind. You can make yourself useful. Most of the patients here are due to have their dressings changed. You can wash your hands in this sink. There are aprons in this cupboard.”
    Georgie wanted to ask more, but Doctor Kruger turned away from her and went back to his work, silently.
    Georgie set to work in the surgery, changing the dressings of various patients in the small number of beds they had. While she got to grips with her duties, she was studying any equipment that could be used. She noted that Doctor Kruger had a wireless set, silently sitting on the side. Much of the other equipment Georgie didn't recognise. She didn't know if it had been invented after her time, or whether it seemed alien, like the metalworking equipment in the workshop.
    “Why don't we put some music on to cheer the patients?” she suggested, brightly.
    “If you must,” Doctor Kruger replied, curtly, “I don't object to music.”
    “Thank you, Doctor,” she said with a smile, “Obviously, I am a slave and they do not allow us music in the workshop, even though it may raise our spirits.”
    “Hmmph,” muttered Kruger, “I think they are more worried about giving those metal creations headaches.”
    “Really?” Georgie replied, sensing a raw nerve, “Do you know much about them?”
    “Do not speak to me about those machines. It is inhuman.”
    Georgie changed tack, not wanting to cause Doctor Kruger to close down on her. “Are you from around here, Doctor?” she asked.
    “No. I am originally from Lichtenstein.”
    “You have family?”
    He paused for a moment. “I had a family, once.”
    “I know what you mean,” Georgie said, thinking back with sadness, “I used to have a family.”
    Doctor Kruger turned to look at her, for the first time since she had first arrived, “Where are you from, frauline?”
    “I was from Nottingham, originally,” Georgie said, truthfully, “before we moved to the Transvaal, before having to come back because of the war.” She realised she needed to invent a little more and said, “But when England was attacked, our family escaped to France.”
    “You were lucky,” Doctor Kruger told her.
    “My working experiences as a nurse began on that ship, really,” she lied, translating her real experience over from the Boer conflict, “I learned the hard way to deal with the dying and the injured.”
    “I'm sure you've seen terrible things,” Doctor Kruger said, sympathetically, “I just hope you don't have cause to see the terrible things I have witnessed in this place.”
    “I doubt there is much here that can shock me.”
    Kruger tutted, “I should think that you can't even imagine the horrors that are committed here.”
    “You want a bet?” Georgie replied, defiantly, “I have held the hand of a dying man, while he tried, uselessly, to push his own intestines back into his body.”
    “It is one thing to deal with the injured, or the casualties of normal warfare,” Doctor Kruger told her, firmly, “It is quite another to be forced into inflicting things upon people quite deliberately.”
    “You mean experimentation? Surgery?” she asked, leading him on.
    “All manner of horrors,” Kruger face seemed to glaze over as he remembered. “I tried to stop it, but what is one voice against the might of the war machine?”
    “There must be many other scientists who feel the same way as you, Doctor Kruger?”
    He sneered, “Most of them are too excited by the opportunities that this war is giving them to progress science. They do not stop to think about the moral consequences of their choices. I know it is a terrible thing for a Doctor to say, but I am glad that Doctor Von Klein's creations turned on him and killed him in his lab. It is just reward for the things he has done. I may not be able to stop what they are doing, but I will have no further part in it, even if they threaten to kill me.”
    “Is inaction not the same as supporting them with your silence?” Georgie ventured, outraged.
    “How dare you speak to me like this?” Kruger said, suddenly turning on her, “Do not forget that you are a slave. Get back to work!”
    “I am a person, Doctor Kruger!” she challenged.
    “There are no people, anymore,” Kruger said, sadly. “There is only meat for the grinder and material for the machines.”
    Georgie got up to walk away, but turned and said, “There is always hope, Doctor.”
    “Hmph,” Kruger snorted, “If you can show me some, I would grab it with both hands.”
    “Look at these patients,” Georgie appealed to him, “I could consider them my enemy, could I not? In spite of what has happened in my own country I am still here, hoping for the best. Is that not something? Why go on, otherwise?”
    “I vowed to protect life, I am bound by my vow,” Kruger replied “Anything else is for stronger men than myself. I lost the moral high ground in this castle a long time ago.”
    He fell silent.
    After a while, Georgie asked him, “Doctor... have you treated any strange patients lately?”
    Kruger shrugged, “Only that spy that was brought in with gunshot wounds last night.”
    “A spy?” Georgie asked, suddenly hopeful, “What was he like?”
    “American, blond, strong-looking.”
    Georgie's heart raced. He was talking about Conrad, surely! She decided that she must know if he was okay. “Does he need any medical attention?”
    “His dressing is probably due for a change,” Kruger told her, “You can save me a job by doing it for me, if you're curious. The room is on the first floor, to the end and right along by the windows. You'll see the guard outside who will let you in.”
    Georgie strode quickly up the stairs and along the corridor to the cells where The Doctor and Conrad were being kept.
    To her surprise, the corridor was empty. There was no sign of any guard.
    As she approached, she could see two doors hanging open. Inside one was a guard, totally unconscious on the floor.
    The Doctor and Conrad had gone!

    Earlier that morning The Doctor had waited in his cell, vigilantly, all night, listening to the sounds in the corridor. His patience had eventually been rewarded by the sound of the guard returning to their rooms carrying trays of breakfast.
    With ease, The Doctor used his telekinesis to lift himself over the doorway. It was little effort for The Doctor, whose mental strength allowed him to lift weights far greater than he could ever manage with his meagre muscles.
    He hovered above the door, waiting. Duly, the keys rattled in the lock and the door swung open.
    As the guard stepped into the room, The Doctor dropped from the ceiling and crashed down upon the guard, knocking him unconscious.
    He listened. There was no sound from the corridor. The guard must have been alone. Good.
    The Doctor searched the guard's inert form. There was no Sonic Screwdriver, to The Doctor's disappointment.
    He recovered the keys from the door and let himself into Conrad's cell. Conrad awoke with a start, but quickly felt a wave of relief that The Doctor had secured their freedom.
    As they stepped out of the rooms, Conrad saw the body of the guard. He bent down and took the side-arm, a Luger, from his belt.
    The Doctor put his finger to his lips and Conrad nodded, understanding. They slipped down the corridor and headed downwards to the main hall. If no-one recognised their faces, they still looked inconspicuous in their German uniforms. Even Conrad's bandages simply made him look like any other wounded soldier.
    They found their way back into the kitchen. There was a workman beavering away at fixing the broken door to the back of the main house. Conrad decided not to speak, feeling that his weak German skills may give them away. The Doctor saw Conrad's hesitation and asked the man to let them pass.
    Outside, they could see the Jeep in which they had arrived, still parked not far from the workshop where they had left it. The fuel tanker was also there, wedged against the stone wall.
    Two soldiers were staring at the tanker, scratching their heads. They seemed to be trying to work out how to move it.
    The Doctor and Conrad shared a conspiratorial look and approached the soldiers.
    “Can we help?” The Doctor asked them, innocently.
    The first soldier pointed, explaining, “that's wedged good and proper against the stone work, that it. We need to get it mobile somehow, so we can wheel it back into the yard.”
    “If I might make a suggestion,” The Doctor offered, “I believe there is a chain in the back of that jeep. We could haul it away from the wall.”
    The soldiers looked at each other, incredulously.
    “Why didn't you think of that?” the slightly older soldier said to the other, slapping his chest with an oily rag, “Bloody idiot.”
    “While we do that,” The Doctor said, giving Conrad a sly wink, “don't forget to get your wallet from the truck.”
    “Yes. I'll just do that,” Conrad replied, remembering that his Radium Pistol was stowed under the seat.
    “You get on with that,” The Doctor continued, “while I find us some crowbars to help these fine gentlemen lever the cab away from the wall.”
    Conrad felt a wave of relief as his hand grasped the familiar shape of the Radium Pistol under the seat. He tucked it into his belt, hidden under his stolen uniform jacket.
    He put the Tanker's gearbox into neutral as The Doctor helped the soldiers attach the chain and tow the cab free from the wall. The soldiers were grateful as The Doctor and Conrad helped them to wheel the Tanker back, carefully, into a safe spot. The soldiers quickly and expertly replaced the tyre that had been shot out.
    Once the soldiers had walked off, waving their thanks, Conrad moved to start the engine, enthusiastically. The Doctor placed a warning hand on his arm.
    “What exactly are we doing?” The Doctor asked him, for clarity.
    “Same plan as before?” Conrad suggested, “Drive the truck into the workshop and blow it up!”
    “But I don't have my Sonic anymore,” The Doctor warned, “Plus, Georgie could be in there, as well as all the other slaves. Without the Sonic I can't overtake the speaker system to warn everybody.”
    “You can't get a new one?” Conrad asked.
    “If I was in my Tardis,” The Doctor suggested, “I could cobble a new one together from parts.”
    “There may be tools here? Can you do anything with those?”
    The Doctor considered, “I may be able to put something together...”
    “Let's go, then!” Conrad said.
    They found a group of soldiers on a break, smoking and playing cards and asked them for directions to a tool-shed so that they could do some minor repairs on the jeep. The young and credulous soldiers directed them to a small hut, full of spare parts and tools.
    The Doctor scanned the shelves, racking his brains for the basic attributes which made up the Sonic Screwdriver's basic operations.
    “It's not going to be pretty,” The Doctor told Conrad, “but it will be something!”

    Georgie was looking up and down the corridor in the main house, frantically, for signs of The Doctor or Conrad. She listened at some other doors along the corridor, but couldn't hear any other prisoners. As she moved along, past the windows, she spied something out in the courtyard. She glimpsed Conrad and The Doctor slipping furtively into some kind of shed.
    Calming herself, Georgie headed down the main stairs. She managed to orient herself to the direction the shed must be in and found herself heading out through the kitchen. Along the way she made a mental note of the shelves all around the kitchen walls. The passage to the wine cellar must be behind one of them!
    She headed outside and strolled over to the shed. As she walked in, The Doctor was triumphantly holding a gnarled metal gadget in the air.
    “Doctor!” Georgie exclaimed, happily, “Where have you been?”
    The Doctor smiled broadly to see her again. “We had a bit of trouble,” her told her, underplaying the events, “We got captured.”
    “What are you doing?” she asked him.
    “I'm just having to construct a new Sonic screwdriver, because my old one was taken from me. It's a big bigger than the old one,” The Doctor exclaimed, testing it with a cheerful buzz, “but it should do for now.”
    “I have important information, Doctor,” Georgie told him, eagerly getting out the information she had while she had the chance, “I found out from the other prisoners that the wireless radio sets were taken away as soon as the Robots appeared! Doctor Kruger suggested that the radio waves interfere with them, somehow, causing them to break down. There is a radio in the surgery. As well as lots of equipment I can't identify.”
    “That's very helpful,” The Doctor replied, encouraged.
    “I have prisoners willing to help with the effort if we can only signal them,” Georgie continued.
    “Well, we were planning to drive the tanker into the workshop and destroy it,” The Doctor said, “Your information gives us an excellent alternative plan. It might be best to look and see what equipment the good doctor has that could be of use.”
    As they walked back into the house, towards Doctor Kruger's surgery, Georgie pointed out the shelves behind which may be a hidden passage to the wine cellar. The Doctor nodded, considering the possibilities.
    As they walked into the surgery, Doctor Kruger looked up with a start, recognising the prisoners from the previous night.
    The Doctor accosted him, “I was wondering if I could take a look at your equipment, Doctor?”
    “Ah,” replied Kruger, “you're the spies. You've escaped, then?” He looked pointedly at Georgie.
    “Do we need to knock you out, Doctor Kruger?” The Doctor asked him. His words were kind, in spite of the implied threat. They had no wish to get Doctor Kruger into trouble.
    “There is no need,” Kruger told them, “Take what you wish. If you fail in your mission, I will simply say that you had me at gunpoint.”
    The Doctor, Georgie and Conrad began searching the surgery for useful equipment. Doctor Kruger suddenly spoke up.
    “Do you think you can get everybody out?” he asked, hopefully, “The soldiers, the slaves and the … medical experiments?”
    “Medical experiments?” The Doctor asked, intrigued.
    Kruger swallowed, guilt rising like bile into his throat. “Go through the door at the back of the workshop and you will see what I mean. If you can rescue those who are still able to be saved, you will have addressed a great evil that I helped. Please.”
    The Doctor nodded, gravely, “Very well.”
    From the surgery, The Doctor found a surprisingly advanced hand-held x-ray device. “I can't imagine those robots will like having this fired at them, after a bit of a boost from the Sonic,” he ventured. “Don't forget the wireless,” he told Georgie. He also spotted a very advanced Vibro-scalpel, another anachronism is this time period. The Doctor pocketed this, carefully.
    “So,” Conrad summarised as they strode out of the surgery with their stolen equipment, “we control the robots, sound the alarm to evacuate people, dash into the experimental lab and try to release anybody there and, meanwhile, drive the truck into the workshop, ready to be detonated?”
    The Doctor turned to Conrad, “when you saw those blueprints, you don't happen to remember the frequency that the robots' radio components work on?”
    Conrad considered, studying the photographic image in his mind of the creased blueprint, covered in technical data. “Yes,” he replied eventually, telling The Doctor the frequency, who fed it into his lashed-up Sonic Screwdriver.
    “Can't we bring the Tardis up here?” Georgie asked, thinking that it would be a powerful asset.
    The Doctor considered, carefully. “There's something very funny going on here with Time,” The Doctor said, remembering the very shaky journey that had caused them to land here, “I'd really rather not add any complexity to a dangerous situation. The way the Tardis is behaving I'd struggle to land it with any accuracy. We could end up anywhere. Or any when.”
    “But,” Georgie suggested, “you could broadcast the evacuation signal from the Tardis?”
    “Now that is a good idea,” The Doctor replied, “this new Sonic Screwdriver is a bit of an unknown.”
    “You two go,” Conrad told them, “I'm going to head back to the jeep.”
    “What for?” The Doctor asked.
    “I feel all wrong in this outfit,” Conrad said, indicating the Nazi uniform. “I need to suit up!”
    The Doctor smiled.
    “Besides,” Conrad explained, “I'll prep the truck and made sure we're ready to go.”
    The Doctor quickly identified a loose set of shelves and pulled them away in a fluid motion, revealing a set of stone steps heading down into the ground.
    Conrad turned to Georgie and unholstered the Luger he had taken from the guard. “Here,” he said, handing it to her, “take this.”
    Georgie took it, gingerly and nodded a thank-you, before following The Doctor down into the hidden passage.

Chapter Ten – Two Hearts Break

    The stone passageway was damp and full of stale air. The Doctor and Georgie must have been the first people to walk down it in years.
    It was completely dark, save for the pale light of the ramshackle Sonic Screwdriver's flickering 1930's era bulb.
    Eventually, the passage came to an end behind one of the massive wooden barrels full of wine. They eased around the edge of it and found themselves in the brightly lit cellar beneath the castle.
    There stood the Tardis, as blue and as beautiful to the Doctor's eye as any summer's day on Earth.
    They slipped inside and Georgie was surprised at how immediately at ease she felt inside its comforting, but confusing, walls.
    The Doctor's hands skittered over the controls on the central dais. He scanned the castle and found a frequency that would piggy-back the electronic speaker system.
    “Perfect!” he announced, “as well as sounding an evacuation signal, I can put out an inaudible sound which should paralyse those robots! Plus, with a little psychic boost from the Tardis, nobody will be able to resist the evacuation order!”
    “What about this device, Doctor?” Georgie asked, holding up the handheld X-Ray scanner.
    The Doctor took it and pointed his cumbersome Sonic Screwdriver at it. There was a bit of a wobble and a flash and then he hefted the scanner back over to Georgie.
    “A little bit of tinkering needed,” he explained, “but at close range that should fry one of those robots.”
    “Ready?” he asked Georgie, his fingers poised over a button on the Tardis console.
    Georgie nodded, biting her lip.
    The Doctor hit the button and all over the castle, to soldier and civilian alike, came the irresistible command to evacuate.

    Panic rippled through the slaves' workshop. The soldiers, too, seemed conflicted between their duty to guard the prisoners and their instinctive desire to run.
    The prisoners were also struggling. Some of them began to flee into the courtyard while others were immobilised by fear, convinced that either the soldiers or the robots would begin shooting them, if they moved.
    It was Klaus who recognised Georgie's hand in events. He had enough initiative to tip the balance and get the prisoners moving. Once he'd convinced his own group to run, it began an avalanche of escape, in which all but the most terror-stricken prisoners fled from the workshop and kept running. They sprinted all the way out into the courtyard and past the panicking guards at the gate.
    The soldiers were also running, by now. There was an urgency in the evacuation order which seemed to compel their feet, forcing them to run as far from the castle as they could manage.
    Conrad heard the alarm and saw the bodies streaming out of the workshop. He revved the motor of the tanker and pushed the truck forward. The panic-stricken soldiers were too disorganised to challenge him. The tanker crashed into the workshop, smashing into workstations and tipping over tools and materials. The few remaining slaves who had been immobilised so far, too scared or too institutionalised to run away, now seemed to be woken up by this titanic terror, and ran from the workshop to escape the careering fuel tanker.
    The black robots, the Metallensturmtruppen, were not responding to the escaping prisoners. They seemed to be swaying back and forth, clutching at their heads and evidently in agony from the electronic interference as well as their audio-based sight being blinded by the emergency klaxon which filled the room with sound.

    The Doctor and Georgie ran back through the passage as quickly as they could and bounded out into the kitchen. They also crashed into a soldier, who seemed suddenly very familiar.
    It was the Apothecary. He recognised them at once and blurted out, in a mix of relief and desperation, “Doctor! All the workers have escaped, but I still can't find my daughter!”
    “There's one place still to look,” Georgie said, catching the Doctor's quickly darkening face. “The experimental lab.”
    The Apothecary's face filled with hope, “you must take me there!”
    As they ran across the courtyard, Georgie pointed and shouted, “Doctor! The Jeep!”
    The Doctor nodded, “we may need it to get away quicker!”
    The three of them jumped into the jeep and they drove it into the workshop alongside the Tanker, ready for a quick getaway.
    “Doctor,” Conrad said, greeting them, “I've found the door to the lab, but it's sealed with some kind of electric lock.”
    The Doctor didn't say a word. He just strode purposefully toward the door and pointed the Sonic Screwdriver at it. It burst open in a shower of sparks and The Doctor kicked the door open.
    “My god,” was all he could say.
    Even though he was expecting the worst, the inside of the experimental lab still came close to breaking both of The Doctor's hearts. Despite his love for humanity, the horrors he saw there shook his faith in humanity's worth as a species. He knew that, in the years to come, he would struggle to let go of what he had seen here.
    The low, dark room was full of surgical tables. On each of these was a human body, or what was left of them. Pipes fed into them and computer consoles beeped and monitored the effects of drugs, surgery and other invasive techniques.
    At the back of the room, hanging on a maintenance scaffold was one one of the black robots, the Metallensturmtruppen; the Metal Stormtroopers. The main breast plate was not fitted, exposing the hollow cavity inside.
    Placed inside the shell was the body of a child. Her own arms and legs had been surgically removed in order to fit the body inside the metal shell.
    “Doctor Kruger was right, wasn't he?” Georgie asked, the words almost sticking in her throat.
    “Does this mean that all the robots we've been fighting have children inside?” Conrad asked the Doctor, quietly.
    He nodded silently.
    “The missing villagers...” Georgie stammered.
    “They must have failed to master the radio controlled artificial intelligence,” The Doctor explained, slowly, “and turned instead to human controllers. It's monstrous. This technology is way beyond them. Beyond even the tools we've seen in the workshop and surgery. The skill required to interface flesh with machinery is decades away.”
    “Why would anybody create that technology?” Georgie asked, aghast.
    “On my world, technology such as this was once regularly used to replace missing limbs, or to provide mobility to those with birth defects,” The Doctor told her, “It was eventually swept away by genetic manipulation, but it lasted for years. There is no good or bad technology. Only how people use it. And your people always seem to use it for the most unforgivable evil.” He trailed off.
    “Can they be saved?” Georgie asked.
    The Doctor examined the limbless child in the robotic suit. “The child is still alive,” he said, “I don't have the means to restore the limbs that were taken, but the child could survive, with help.”
    “What can we do?”
    The Doctor considered, “Doctor Von Klein believed he was creating a means to provide mobility to the sick. With a bit of tinkering, this suit could still serve that purpose and eventually the child's brain will assume control if its functions.”
    The Apothecary's face was ashen, taking in the implications of this revelation alongside his daughter's disappearance. He was searching from table to table, but could not find her among the victims.
    The room fell suddenly silent. The Doctor's evacuation siren had been cut off.
    “We should get out of here,” Conrad said, the change suddenly spurring him into action, “I vote we get out of here and blow the entire place away.”
    Georgie could see Conrad's logic but was torn. “Doctor...?” she asked, searching for guidance.
    The Doctor swallowed and said, quietly, “One. We have to save at least one.”
    Georgie searched around the papers scattered on the tabletop near the exposed robot. “There are papers here describing the medical procedure,” she said, “Can you use these to get her out?”
    The Doctor looked at them and said, simply, “yes.”
    Using the Sonic Screwdriver, The Doctor released restraining clamps in the robot body and gently lifted the child's fragile and limbless torso down.
    He strode out of the laboratory in silence. Eventually the others followed him.

    Back in the workshop, they could see that the robots seemed to be a bit more able to see now that the siren had ended, but they were still struggling with the hidden radio interference. Seeing their arrival, the cyborgs feebly attempted to lift weapons to aim at The Doctor and his companions.
    The Doctor regarded the ailing cyborgs with sadness in his eyes.
    The cyborgs started firing, their shots going wild and wide.
    “Quick!” The Doctor said, “Any stray shot could detonate the tanker! Get aboard the jeep.”
    He passed the child to Georgie while Conrad jumped behind the wheel of the jeep. Georgie placed the child carefully on the back.
    “I'll buy us some time,” The Doctor said, morosely and led the Apothecary over to stand beneath the gantry. Slowly, he raised the x-ray device up to directly beneath one of the cyborgs that was firing its weapon, blindly. Gritting his teeth he pressed the button.
    There was no flash, or sound, but the cyborg froze, suddenly rigid and crashed to the gantry floor.
    Georgie turned away and snapped her moistening eyes shut.
    “Georgie!” Conrad called, snapping her out of it, “you'll have to take the shot!”
    She nodded and carefully took the Radium Pistol from him.
    The Doctor started to move back toward the jeep.
    “Wait!” said the Apothecary, refusing to move, “we still haven't found my daughter!”
    The Doctor shook his head, sadly, “I'm sorry. Surely if she was here, we would have found her by now?! If she's alive, she may have already been evacuated! You must come with us!”
    All the colour drained from the man's face. “I can't,” he said and before The Doctor could stop he he had burst out through a small door in the side of the workshop and disappeared deeper into the castle.
    The Doctor was about to give chase when a shot from one of the other Metallensturmtruppen landed very close to his feet.
    He ran toward the jeep, waving. “Just do it!” he yelled.
    Conrad hit the accelerator and the jeep lurched forward as the Doctor dived into the passenger seat.
    Despite the swaying, Georgie levelled the Radium Pistol at the tanker and squeezed the trigger. A ball of green energy blasted out of the weapon and sailed towards the tanker's fuel container. The green light seemed to radiate across the metal flank as radioactive energy spread into the fuel within.
    A wave of heat and light washed over the escaping jeep as the tanker erupted into a ball of orange fire and black smoke. They seemed to be driving away from a wall of flame which poured out of the workshop entrance and incinerated every scrap of technology within. Holes punched out through the metal roofing and fire engulfed the main house and the fuel dump behind.
    A second explosion blasted out as the fuel dump ignited, shattering the back of the castle's main house. The building collapsed into a pile of dust and red-hot bricks launched through the air, exploding like grenades where they impacted into the castle walls and courtyard floor.
    The shock-wave overturned the jeep, spilling The Doctor, his companions and the unconscious child into the courtyard. Fire spread quickly around them and The Doctor realised they were in danger of getting cut off.
    “We need to get back to the Tardis!” The Doctor shouted.
    Conrad argued, “what is this Tardis? We need to get out of the castle!”
    “I think the kitchen route will be on fire!” Georgie guessed, looking at the main house which was, by now, a raging inferno.
    “The Tardis is our best way out, I assure you,” The Doctor told Conrad, “Based on the layout of the castle, it must be this way...”
    The Doctor pointed to a door in the bailey wall. He tried it, carefully. It was locked.
    Georgie pulled the Luger out of her belt and emptied the magazine into the door. With a single kick, the door fell open.
    The Doctor, nodded, approvingly and picked up the child from beside the stricken jeep. “Let's go,” he urged and they headed through the door.
    It led into another courtyard. Fire was spreading all around them, but it definitely looked like the courtyard in which they had originally found themselves after leaving the wine cellar.
    They hurried across but realised they were being confronted by a familiar figure.
    Standing in the centre of the courtyard, ringed by fire, was Commandant Jurgens.
    He raised a shaking and smouldering arm at them, holding his pistol. “Doctor!” he yelled in a croaky voice. “You will not defeat us again!”
    The Doctor waited to see what he would do.
    A look of determination came into Commandant Jurgens' eyes. “The Fuhrer will deal with you personally,” he announced.
    The air around Jurgens seemed to glow suddenly. His head flicked back as his body was consumed by a luminescent aura. When he face dropped back to stare at them, his eyes were aflame with a blue gleam.
    “Doctor!” came a strange, otherworldly voice from the possessed Nazi, “Once again you have returned to me and once again you have ruined my plans. I will see you destroyed.”
    The Doctor still had no idea who this alien presence could be.
    “20 years I have waited for you to return,” the alien hissed, “and now I will have my vengeance on you!” Jurgens' eyes flashed.
    The Doctor noticed a little beep from the Sonic Screwdriver. His interference signal had been negated, somehow.
    There was a crash of burning boxes from nearby. A black metal arm raised up out of the flames and grabbed the wall for stability. One of the Metallensturmtruppen hoisted itself to its feet and lurched towards them.
    Conrad quickly aimed his Radium Pistol and fired, once.
    A sickly green glow spread out over Commandant Jurgens' chest. The blue light in his eyes died as he dropped to the floor.
    The black cyborg advanced upon them all with murderous intent. The Doctor, Georgie and Conrad backed away steadily. Conrad raised a shaking arm to fire at the hybrid machine, unsure if his energy weapon would even work against this shielded monster, thinking of the poor child inside.
    He was about to fire when a charred figured lurched through the flames beside him and knocked his aim astray.
    “No, you mustn't!” yelled the figure.
    It was the Apothecary. He ran forward and put himself between the group and the deadly machine.
    The Metallensturmtruppen seemed to stop at the sound of his voice, confused. There came a whining, grating noise from inside the shell, followed by a distant and tinny voice.
    It simply said, “Fa...ther?” seemingly conflicted between smashing the Apothecary with its arms or embracing him.
    The Doctor hoisted the X-Ray device and fired a low-powered shot. The mechanical limbs of the cyborg seemed to freeze and it fell to the floor with a clatter.
    The Doctor passed the Apothecary the Vibro-scalpel he had liberated from the surgery. The old man carefully sliced open the edges of the carapace and gazed in conflicted joy at the face of his tragic daughter. He stroked her cheek, tenderly, overjoyed to have found her, in spite of her injuries.
    Georgie asked, desperately, “Doctor, is there anything you can do for her?”
    “We need to get out,” Conrad shouted, as a section of the bailey tower crashed down, “this whole place is coming down around us!”
    “Get her to my Tardis!” The Doctor ordered.
    Georgie and the Apothecary picked up his daughter, still inside the robotic suit. It was surprisingly light, Georgie thought, the metal must weigh hardly anything. They headed quickly over to the wine cellar steps and raced along the passage to the Tardis.
    Conrad stopped in surprise and shock. “Doc,” he said, “there's no way that box will save us when the castle collapses!”
    Georgie tutted and muttered, “Americans!” under her breath.
    “You'll see,” The Doctor told him with a wink, pushing the door open.
    Conrad stood and stared, incredulously.
    “He's right, you know,” Georgie said and followed The Doctor, carrying the Apothecary's daughter inside.
    Conrad stepped inside to the cavernous Tardis control room, suddenly taking in the expanse of blinking lights and the low hum of machinery. “Wow,” he exclaimed, “This is massive!”
    The Doctor nodded, proudly, “It even has a swimming pool.”
    Georgie placed the metallic husk down carefully and raced over to The Doctor's side by the console. “Do we need to take off?” she asked him.
    He shook his head, “No need. The interior of the Tardis exists within a totally different universe. This castle can collapse around us and we will barely feel it.”
    Georgie considered this, thinking back to the flight here which had been so rough and had injured her. “What was that shaking when we came here, then?” she asked him.
    “That was something else,” The Doctor said, “Something very disturbing.”
    “Doctor,” the Apothecary pleaded, “My daughter... I know she'll never walk again, but is there anything you can do?”
    The Doctor nodded and instructed him to help him through to the Tardis' medical bay with his daughter and the other child victim.
    Meanwhile, Georgie and Conrad stood in silence and listened to the banging and clattering as the castle collapsed around them.

    The Doctor and the Apothecary had been gone for a long time. The sound of destruction from outside had long since ended.
    Eventually, The Doctor reappeared with a surprisingly jubilant expression on his face, wiping his hands on a towel.
    “Well,” he announced, “I'm rather pleased with that. Using the robotic technology, along with a few bits and bobs I have lying around the Tardis, we've done a pretty good job on both of them. Fully dressed, they'll both pass for human. Although I'd suggest she keeps to herself if or when the Bikini gets invented. I doubt humanity will be ready for cyborg sunbathing. Still, in most other respects, she has her life back. They both do. A kind of life, anyway...”
    “The best we can give her?” Georgie suggested. The Doctor nodded, sadly.
    The Apothecary was standing behind him. “That is all any parent asks for,” he said, gratefully.


    Conrad approached The Doctor, who was studying the Tardis' displays.
    “Doctor,” he said, “I need to see that the robot factory is destroyed. That is my mission, after all.”
    The Doctor pulled a few controls on the console. “I daren't try de-materialising the Tardis before we've dropped the Apothecary and his daughter off,” he explained, “Who knows where we could end up! But, I think moving 100ft straight up is safe.”
    He pulled a lever and The Tardis lurched upwards, exploding out of the smouldering rubble which had covered it. He pulled a second lever and the exterior door swung gently open, revealing a sunny afternoon.
    The Doctor strode over to the doorway with Conrad and stood on the edge. The Tardis was hanging in the sky, about 80 feet above the ground.
    Spread out below them was the shattered remains of the castle. A few sections of wall were intact but, for the most part, the castle was a complete ruin.
    “I think you can tick that box, Captain,” The Doctor told Conrad with a smile.
    “Well then,” Conrad said, offering The Doctor a hand, “I should return to my squad. Doctor, it's been a pleasure!”
    The Doctor ignored the hand and walked back over to the Tardis controls. “Of course your mission is only half complete, Captain Seager...”
    Conrad gave him a quizzical look.
    “There's still there question of where that technology came from.?” The Doctor explained, “and I'm sure your army would thank you for uncovering the root of the problem?”
    “But I'm expected back!” Conrad protested, “If I don't return I'm either MIA or AWOL, neither of which I want telegraphing home to my girl, Jenny!”
    “But this is a Time Machine!” Georgie interjected, “just like the one in Mr Wells' novels! We can return you whenever you are needed back! Or even a couple of days before, if you want a day off!”
    “A Time Machine?” Conrad exclaimed, “Where the hell would you have gotten a Time Machine?”
    “That is not the question,” The Doctor replied, enigmatically, “The question is: is the Captain amenable to persuasion? What do you say? Do you want to see this mission all the way through?”
    Conrad considered these words as he watched through the open door. Trees sailed by  as The Doctor guided the Tardis skillfully down the hillside to the village. It had been a remarkable adventure, he thought, and this Tardis would be an amazing asset in the ongoing war...
    In the village, the streets were full of delighted people, hugging each other and shouting with the joy of reunion. In front of amazed faces, The Doctor landed the Tardis carefully and neatly in front of the Apothecary's house.
    The daughter and the other cyborg child were led hypnotically into the house. The Doctor gave the Apothecary a kind smile. “Their minds will return to them,” The Doctor assured him, “they haven't lost those.”
    “I will do what I can to find the child's parents,” the Apothecary promised, solemnly.
    The Doctor gave him a knowing look. “And if you don't,” he suggested, “there is plenty of room at your house?”
    The Apothecary smiled at him as he stepped out of the Tardis and into his home.
    The Doctor flicked a switch and the Tardis door closed quietly behind him.

    Thank you for reading. I hope you have enjoyed this adventure, based on the actions of a roleplaying group playing Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space by Cubicle 7.

    The Doctor, Georgie and Conrad Seager will return in Gods of War (2012 Christmas Special).

    Christopher J Jarvis, 9th February 2013