Sunday, 8 December 2019
Doctor Who: Homeostasis
He had been hunting the giant Ushcra for almost a day now –not that Gaiafrax had either day or night, being bathed in a permanent cerulean glow all the time. This made the flora –basically just varying degrees of grass-like tendrils growing wildly about- glow a vivid magenta. Had he been possessed of a poetic nature he might have bathed in the luminescence; but then he would have been dead for the grass was covered in a sticky type of pollen grain which could eat into most materials, except for what he was wearing –the clothes were laced with a metallic polymer that could withstand almost any acid burn. His gloves were thicker but he felt no loss of response as all were cybernetically linked via the polymer which also acted as an advanced neurological conductor. All his body was covered in this suit which was thick where it needed to be –most of his torso and feet especially- and skin tight over his face and head, allowing the pollutants to leave his body. He could sweat and the liquid was drawn into the special fabric and cooled where it flowed into his water reserves that he could then use once it was recycled –alongside his waste water.
There was no water on this planet, it was 100 times more toxic than an T-type planet (or Tirron-type) but being one of the best hunters on Graduflax, where he hailed from, he was used to harsh environments -in fact, the more hostile the better.
That’s why he was on Gaiafrax; it was known as the safari planet and, had he known any different, he would have thought it had been genetically modified to create that environment. But it was completely natural and despite spending hundreds of hours studying the records, processing the reports of those hunters that had come before him, nothing had prepared him for this. It was the closest thing to ecstasy he had ever known; just five known species all of which were potentially hostile to him but managed to live in almost perfect homeostasis. Of the five species there were only two viable targets for his hunting, or so he’d been told –the gLoax, which was a globular creature, gelatinous, that had complete control over its size and shape, and the oOlum which was the closest thing to a food animal he had seen on this planet. It was docile and moved either by contracting and extending its massive body along the floor or, in dire occasions, growing pairs of sturdy legs. It was harmless enough and just ate the grasses. It’s only main predators were the sKythyrn, which was basically a large flying wing with an eye on either end of the wing, and the uSchcra, which was a mass of hairs, tentacles and feelers coming from a central pustule; each of these hair like appendages could grow longer or thicken depending on what it was needed for; all were formed of the same substance and all versions of it were deadly. The uShcra was not on the list of viable game but as it was rated as one of the most dangerous creatures in E-Space he was not about to let a little bureaucracy get in the way of a good hunt.
He had been tracking this particular uShcra too long to give up now; he could see the circling sKythyrn hovering over a recent kill and he could hear the jabbering kItterings, the only insectoid species on the planet, and he tensed up. The uShcra were very sensitive to atmospheric changes which is why the hunt had taken so long; he had to move very carefully but it would soon be over. There was one in front of him, 400 shrims away and it was magnificent. It was feasting on the carcass of an unlucky gLoax and the hunter knew that as long as he hit the central body he could guarantee a kill –the collector chip on the gun would register and record the kill for posterity. The body of the uShcra was made purely up of a noxious liquid-like substance; once it ruptured the acidic liquid would explode, killing the beast and anything unfortunate to be anywhere close to it. He raised his standard hunting rifle….
He never heard the bang, or even pulled the trigger; instead he felt the plasti-membrane of his mask shatter as something exploded on it. He couldn’t see anything; the area around his eyes was scorched and the wounds cauterised already. He could, however, hear the sKythryn’s high pitched wail’s as they saw him now for the first time. He also heard the growl of the uShcra and it was just a matter of which one would kill him first.
Despite travelling for many hundreds of years and visiting thousands of planets there were only a few places that the Doctor never wanted to visit again –Skaro was an obvious one, as was Telos… and therefore Mondas… Kembel for cetain… Alfava Metraxas and, at the top of the list, E-Space. The first time he had travelled here by accident and barely managed to make it back out… this time he travelled purposely to rescue Missy from the clutches of the Rani, only for that to end badly. The Rani somehow managed to hide in E-Space during the Time War and had actually, misguidedly, restored the Master’s form and start him on a new series of regenerations -at the cost of her own life. The Doctor was now trapped in E-Space out of his broken sense of duty to Missy –after all, she had made an attempt to rehabilitate herself and the Doctor wasn’t about to let that go to waste.
He had travelled to Gallifrey to get K-9’s help on navigating through the C.V.E. but had never thought about the journey home! To make matters worse, the TARDIS had sustained some damage trying to escape the Rani’s TARDIS due to the gravity bubble she used to trap the Master. He was now piloting his TARDIS blind trying to find a planet he could use as a temporary base whilst he sorted things out.
Emily was just sitting in the corner watching him with a concerned expression. Her whole world kept going from crazy to ridiculous and the Doctor had no idea how she –or indeed any of the other companions he had travelled with over the years- coped. He was finding this particular trip difficult and he was supposedly used to it!
For her part Emily was more concerned with the Doctor. Having the chat with Leela had been exactly what she needed; with Leela coming from such a primitive background how much more frightening things must have seemed to her! At least Emily was civilised and could count herself as an enlightened individual –at least as far as Victorian England allowed a woman to be… she certainly outstripped her ‘peers’ in terms of self-awareness, thanks in part to her empathy (something the Doctor picked up on the first time they met).
“How are you holding up, Emily?” The Doctor asked, trying to figure out how he could find the nearest planet when his short and long range scanners were malfunctioning.
“I’m ok, Doctor. Just another big adventure!” She sounded more confident than she felt but the Doctor needed to concentrate.
“Something like that.” He replied scratching the goatee he had just recently grown.
“You know… that really doesn’t suit you…” Emily chided. “Leela was right!”
“Really?” The Doctor sounded disappointed and looked up with a hurt expression, like a child. “What’s wrong with it?”
“I never had much colour coordination. You think this is bad, you want to see some of the other costumes I’ve worn in the past!”
“I’d rather not…. What are you trying to do?” Emily asked.
“Find a place to land… not the easiest thing to do when you can’t see where you’re going.”
“It’s a shame you can’t send a probe of some kind…” She muttered.
“What? Well.. that’s brilliant, Emily! A psychic ping! You’re a genius!” He went over and gave Emily a peck on the forehead.
“Well… that’s a layman’s description of it. I’m going to send a psychic summons out via the TARDIS,” The Doctor explained, “and if it reaches anything with a highly developed central nervous system I should receive a ‘PING’ back!”
“And that means that there’s a planet we can land on! Brilliant!” Emily enthused. The Doctor grinned at her and moved round the console to a circular instrument that looked like a loud speaker.
“This is the psychic amplifier; I can use this to transmit my thoughts (or receive the thoughts of others). I’ll send out a psychic ‘PING’ and will be able to tell from the time it comes back roughly how far away it is. I can then use the TARDIS to hone in on the ‘PING’ and use it as a homing beacon!”
And that is exactly what the Doctor did; to Emily it just seemed as if he had his head bowed to the speaker; she heard the sound as a ‘PING’, exactly as the Doctor described and just marvelled at what was happening. The next thing she knew the materialisation circuits kicked in and the refreshing wheezing, groaning sound of the time rotor was heard before the TARDIS landed with a muffled thump. They were down… but were they safe?
Emily was about to open the TARDIS doors when the Doctor stopped her.
“Don’t be too eager, we don’t know what’s out there. We’re in E-Space; we can’t take anything for granted.” He moved round the console, checking various dials and tapping various monitors. When he had done a complete circuit he looked at Emily and said, “Well, that told me absolutely nothing –all the circuits are fried. I really need to spend some time before we go anywhere just on maintenance.”
“What do you want me to do?” Emily asked.
“Well, don’t think that I’m going to let you go outside until I know what’s out there, my dear. I’m not that irresponsible.” Emily looked at him askance. “I’m not! You’re not going out there yet, and that’s all I’m going to say on the matter. Why don’t you go for a swim whilst I sort this out –I won’t be too long!”
A swim was not on the top most of Emily’s priorities; but equally she understood a little bit of what the Doctor was saying –he didn’t want her to dash out of the TARDIS just in case the planet was inhospitable to them both, which did make sense. She just hated waiting though; the expectations of Victorian women were very little: one had to learn one of the subtle arts such as needlework or embroidery; best to be seen as little as possible and heard even less –which never worked for her. She believed in making herself heard and going against the grain. Old habits were hard to shuck off, but the Doctor was different. He did treat her as an equal and if he asked to be alone it was simply so he could concentrate –in this instance Emily could add nothing of consequence in the fixing of the TARDIS.
She didn’t feel like a swim though, but did enjoy sitting on the loungers that lined the pools edge with a good book –and his library was extensive! As she walked into the pool room she saw something totally at odds with the rest of the ambience: floating two feet above the water was a large stone ornate statue; so lopsided and clumsy looking it just had to be male but it had two eyes that glowed a malicious red as it turned its head to look right at her. Emily didn’t need to look twice she just turned and ran back to the console room. As she ran she could have sworn that she heard a sinister, throaty chuckle.
“Doctor! You’ve got to come and see this. Something strange has just happened!” Emily said as she rushed into the console room.
“It’s not so strange, Emily – I didn’t say that the repairs would take that long, did I?” He replied with that smug grin he sometimes wore to prove a point. It didn’t suit him and she’d made a habit of telling him.
“You’ve… what? The console’s fixed itself?” She asked.
“What do you mean fixed itself? It took great care and concentration to fix her!”
“That’s not what she said…”
“I keep forgetting that you’re a low level telepath.” He replied sulkily.
“But it’s fixed nonetheless and you can tell me what kind of planet we’re on?” She ignored his petulant attitude and had totally forgotten about the floating statue in the pool room.
“Yes… and we’re going to have to be careful if we’re going to explore it.”
“Why should we explore it?”
“Are you really going to pass up such an opportunity? I thought you were made of pluckier stuff, young Emily.” She looked at him severely. “Ok… the TARDIS is going to take a bit more time to right itself after all it’s been through. After a few more hours it might be able to tell us where we are in relation to the next C.V.E. I don’t fancy being cooped up in the TARDIS when I can do a bit of exploring. What about you?”
Never in her wildest dreams had Emily thought alien worlds could be like this. She was one of the few women who indulged in science fiction but the works of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and even the odd translation of E. Gaspar’s The Time Ship had nothing on what she was experiencing now.
Everything was of an azure luminescence, except for the luscious pink grasses that swayed by some unknowing rhythm. It was enchanting! But the Doctor had urged caution; although everything looked pretty the atmosphere was hazardous to them both and the grasses could very well be deadly. This was an alien world, after all, in a different universe, no less –nothing could be taken for granted; hence the reason why they were both dressed in these ridiculous, bulky suits –more akin to suits of armour than tailored clothes but the Doctor maintained that all the time their air supply ran smoothly they’d be in no danger. The suits they wore had thick linings, made of some kind of metal that Emily had never heard of. The helmets were small enough; a transparent bubble that barely covered their head; it allowed them both to have an uninterrupted view of all around them and also meant they could talk to each other.
The ground was spongey and was quite delightful to walk along but Emily made sure she didn’t stray too far from the Doctor. She was excited to be in the strange environment but also very afraid –so much could happen to her if she got lost. She was a long, long way from home.
“Look at this, Emily.” The Doctor shouted to her. There was a mound lying haphazardly on the ground in front of him; it seemed incongruous as the rest of the ground was flat. The mound was covered in newly growing grasses and upon walking around it she found something very disturbing –there was a hand poking out of the mound. The Doctor saw it at the same time and made her look away as he investigated it further.
He didn’t want to get too close and rifled through the pockets of his protective suit to find something suitable to prod it with. Sure enough there was an extendible metal pointer which he used to move the grasses away from the corpse. There were the remains of a body but it had been chewed up by some kind of creature; or several creatures of different kinds. The body was of a humanoid nature; two arms and two legs and a head… but with no discernible face. It looked charred around the edges as if something had burnt it.
“Best not look in this direction, Emily –it’s not a pretty sight. Someone’s fallen to foul play of some kind; I’m not sure how long he’s been dead.”
Emily was so distracted by the Doctor’s words she wasn’t aware of the large jelly-like creature that was rapidly oozing up to her. This was a gLoax, one of the more deadly entities on the planet; able to change its physical constituency at will –moving from a gelatinous slime to something far more solid and everything in-between. It killed its prey by enveloping them and letting its molecular acid do the rest. This particular gLoax was large, even by Gaiafrax standards and all it saw was prey. This was a new species it had never encountered before and, had it thought it might have had second chances before attacking; but the gLoax had no rudimentary thought it was governed by hunger only and it was very hungry now. It contracted its body into one compact mass before launching itself at her in one fluid motion; Emily never stood a chance.
“Watch out, Miss!” The shout alerted her just as the blast shattered the gLoax in mid-air. Emily turned and fell at the same time and was only partially covered by the creature’s blood.
“Doctor!” She shouted, fear taking over now for the first time in her life. The blood was starting to eat into the suit she wore; slowly to be sure but it wouldn’t be long before she would be exposed to the elements.
The Doctor ran to her and looked to where the TARDIS was –it was still some way away; he was unsure whether the suits integrity would hold long enough. He had to take the chance though, what other alternatives were there?
Suddenly he saw a woman run towards Emily, motioning for her to calm down and lie still. She wore a similar suit to the man that had been killed and had a backpack on which she unslung and rooted inside. She pulled out a large packet which she tore open and poured the contents on to the armour –it was a white powder which seemed to react with the creature’s blood and actually stopped it from eating into the suit any more. The Doctor was amazed at the ingenuity of her. When Emily had calmed down the Doctor turned to the woman and noticed an insignia on the right shoulder before thanking her.
“That was very quick thinking, I thank you for saving my friend! I didn’t even see what was happening until it was too late!”
“You are welcome. That was a gLoax, and a particularly nasty one at that. They don’t normally attack people… You must be lost.”
“You could say something like that.” Emily replied, ashamed at the way she had reacted. She considered herself a strong woman but had screamed like a child.
“Are you part of the latest tour?” The woman asked.
“Yes! Our craft’s stabiliser went a bit haywire and we were forced to land haphazardly.” He replied; the years of travelling in the TARDIS had made lying so much easier now. There was always a reason to be found somewhere you weren’t supposed to be –you just had to be creative!
“I’ll say – haphazard is right.” Emily replied. “But who are you? How did you manage to find us?” She asked before realising she’d forgotten something vitally important. “Please excuse me. I haven’t thanked you for saving my life. Thank you; I could never have reacted in time.”
“You are most welcome. My name is Tier… I’m a.. straggler as well. I got lost on my way to the tour-zone. It’s just as well that I did otherwise I might not have been able to save you.”
“Thank you, Tier.” The Doctor replied, already suspicious as he’d noted that in the back-pack was also a Specular Gun which could easily have produced the wounds he’d seen on the other persons face; but why had this woman saved them?
“Yes, thank you, Tier. Thank you for saving my life.” Emily was enraptured by this person; though there were no specific gender-defining characteristics to Tier it was obvious that she was the female of the species. She was tall and, though she was wearing a full body suit as everyone else wore, her pastel-blue skin was shiny and hairless; rather it was covered in very small pock marks which opened and closed in waves. Emily then noticed Tier wasn’t breathing in the same way that she and the Doctor were –her chest wasn’t rising and falling, so it must have been her skin that was breathing. Incredible. The suit she wore must be of a different material –maybe she needed a different chemical composition to breathe… It was Tier’s eyes and mouth that seemed.. .sensuous to her… She suddenly realised that she had been staring at Tier for a bit, much to her embarrassment (and the Doctor’s bewilderment) so she quickly asked: “Will my suit be ok? Won’t the blood have damaged it?”
“No – the powder I coated it with not only neutralises the acid but calcifies it as well; causing a chain-reaction in the molecular cohesion thereby sealing it up again. Good as new…” Tier replied. Normally she couldn’t stand the terran-types; there was something unknowable about them, but this one intrigued her; the way she stared and held herself. Tier’s day was getting better by the minute!
“Ahem – where do we go for the guided tour then?” The Doctor interjected. He sensed the mutual attraction between the two and found it a little exasperating. Here they were, possibly stranded in E-Space with no real way of getting home, on an alien planet with a dead body within feet of them (and the possible killer standing over them) and here was Emily unable to take her eyes off Tier, despite knowing nothing about her! Lord, how strange these mortal’s were!
“You want me to show you to the tour zone? Of course, it’s just over there.” Tier motioned to the left of her and they started walking. “Don’t worry, although there are a few strange creatures here they won’t attack.” She explained to Emily. “They’re more frightened of you than you are of them.”
“What about the creature that tried to attack Emily?” The Doctor countered, but Tier just put her arm around Emily and walked faster.
On the trek towards the safari zone the Doctor noticed Emily looking behind her as if there was someone following them, but every time he checked he saw no one.
“What have you seen, Emily?” He asked.
“I’m not sure, Doctor. I get the feeling that something is behind us; almost as though it’s just out of sight but when I look back there’s no one there. It’s strange.”
“You might be picking up on their psychic emanations – they might be trying to ‘read’ you, to see if your hostile or not. I’m getting that feeling as well. Do you get any visual clues to what it might be?” Emily thought for a bit before replying.
“I think it’s taller than us, over seven foot tall, completely covered in long flowing grey robes; but it’s actually serene. I can feel it now; it’s sensed me and I just get this feeling of warmth. It’s… beautiful, Doctor. I’ve not experienced anything like it.”
“Yes.. I feel the same. It certainly means us no harm, Emily. We’ll leave it to contact us if and when it desires.”
“That sounds like one of the Gard’ners that you’ve contacted.” Tier explained. “It’s an overseer species that is rarely seen. I don’t know what function it has, it seems to live independently of the other animals here.”
Strange that Tier knows so much about them, the Doctor thought. There’s definitely more to her than she lets on. He was about to ask her a question when she motioned to the Safari Zone that was now just a few feet in front. There was a small landing zone with a Hopper-craft waiting; a few people huddled together inside.
“There’s always a few stragglers.” Came a jovial voice from inside the Hopper. “Luckily we’ve room for three more. Hop inside the Hopper!” The man was obviously the safari guide; somehow it didn’t matter which planet or universe you belonged to the same traits applied. This man was gaudily dressed; even his safety suit was a mismatched blend of odd colours.
The Doctor, Emily and Tier stepped on board the Hopper and barely managed to sit down before it shot off into the outback.
“The name’s M’Braxifacon and I’ll be your guide for the safari. Please keep all appendages within the craft unless you wish to shoot at the designated species –and only then at the allotted times. For the benefit of our late comers let’s go round the hopper and introduce ourselves.”
“My name’s Aminda, ‘his is my Wife Z’Ruul and child Nikcha. We’re no’ here to hun’ jus’ sigh’ see.” They were all slightly smaller than the Doctor and were a particularly vivid pink colour. Their suits were grey in colour and slightly bulkier than the others.
“I be Menta and this Scarsa” Menta explained. Neither Menta or Scasa wore suits, instead their skin were covered in metallic hairs, thick and constantly contracting and dilating.
“This is Brundle.” Brundle said, who looked very similar to Tier but was obviously male. The Doctor introduced themselves and all nodded.
“Well.. that was simple.” M’Braxifacon said, eager to continue his show. “We’re about 30 clicks away from the first hunting area. Until then please take the time to get acquainted with each other.”
Tier moved over to Brundle and they started talking, but it wasn’t a language that the Doctor had come across before. He was a little concerned by the synchronicities that had happened in such a brief time. Tier had saved them both, but was there another reason behind it all; did she have a connection with Brundle?
“Doctor?” Emily interrupted the Doctors reverie. “How come we can understand most everyone here?”
“’ha’s down ‘o ‘he universal ‘ransla’or field imbedded in ‘he hopper –and in sui’’ everyone is wearing.” Nikcha replied. Aminda and Z’ruul beamed at her.
“She’s wonderful –‘he las’ in a long line of sires. We’re very proud of her.” Z’Ruul said, placing a hand on Nikcha’s arm. Nickcha glowed back at her.
“Don’t forget, the TARDIS is also translating for us. I’ve never understood exactly how it managed to do it, but it’s never failed yet.” The Doctor whispered.
“Doctor; how can you not know how your own craft works?” Emily asked, exasperated.
“It’s something I’ve been meaning to do but never got round to it.” Emily just sighed but the Doctor turned to M’Braxifacon as there was one question in particular he wanted an answer to. “You mention this is a safari tour? Do you mean that you actually hunt what’s on this planet?” Everyone else seemed to find this funny, except for Brundle and Tier.
“How you on the tour if you don’t know why you here?” Scarsa asked, giggling. Emily could see the hairs jiggle in time with the laughter.
“Maybe I didn’t see the small print.” The Doctor replied. “You know the reasons behind everything you do?” Scarsa nodded emphatically. “Lucky you.” The Doctor said, pretending to sulk.
“Yes; this is an organised hunt, Doctor.” Tier explained. “Not everyone agrees with it but the sport is very popular. So popular that the hunt has been restricted to only those people who can afford it.”
“Nothing changes.” Emily said, dismayed at this. “It’s always the rich who place themselves on a plain above others –killing other animals for sport.” Brundle and Tier looked at each other again and the Doctor felt a telepathic charge travel between them.
The family groups kept to themselves for the most part but the ones that kept most quiet were Tier and Brundle; they just didn’t seem to fit in at all.
“What kind of emanations do you get off those two?” The Doctor whispered to Emily, trying to remain inconspicuous as he looked out at the rapidly changing landscape.
“Are you asking me to read their minds?”
“No… well.. you can’t do that any way…” The Doctor looked at her now, eyebrow raised. “Can you?”
“No….No! I can’t. My telepathy doesn’t work that way, I just pick up on feelings unless something is beamed directly towards me.”
“I thought as much… so what do you pick up from those two?”
“Nothing much. From everyone else I get excitement; the thrill of the hunt.. but from Tier and.. Brundle? I get nothing.”
“I thought as much.” The Doctor replied. “They’ve either been trained to stop psychic leakage or they’re genuinely unimpressed with their surroundings! If it’s the latter why go on such a safari? Unless you don’t want to be there but have to be. Hmmmm.”
“Do you want me to go over and talk to Tier?” Emily asked with a hopeful glint.
“No… I wouldn’t recommend it. Whatever’s going to happen will kick off soon… probably when we land.”
“What do you think’s going to happen?”
“I don’t know.. but whatever it is, it’s not going to be pretty. Stay by me, Emily – things could go badly very quickly.”
Upon landing M’Braxifacon ensured that Hopper was level and camouflaged. He flicked a switch and all the hazard suits that the passengers were wearing changed to a neutral colour –all except the Doctor’s and Emily’s which stayed the same off-blue.
“I’m afraid you’re going to have to keep your head down, you two… Can’t have you frightening the animals!” M’Braxifacon quipped.
“That wouldn’t be good sport at all, would it?” Emily replied.
“Emily…. This is a completely different world to ours; we can’t judge it the same.” The Doctor replied, though he felt exactly the same. All species had this need to prove superiority over others by killing them…even the Time Lord history was drenched with its own share of corpses. “We’ll just keep our heads down as you say.”
“I’m afraid that you’re all going to have to keep your heads down… and your hands up.” Brundle said, suddenly standing up with something large and metallic in his hand. To Emily’s dismay Tier was also standing with a rifle pointing at the Doctor. “I have in my hands an explosive device. For too long there’s been mindless bloodshed on this planet all in the name of ‘sport’ and entertainment. With your deaths a message will be sent that this can no longer continue. This safari can only end up in bloodshed… yours.”
“It’s the first time you’ve ever done anything like this before, isn’t it?” The Doctor asked Brundle, much to Emily’s dismay.
“Doctor.” She hissed. “Now is not the time!”
“What makes you so sure, Doctor?” Brundle replied, his hand slightly shaking now.
“That’s a bomb, yes? Detonated when you let go of it, right?” Brundle nodded. The Doctor just watched the reactions of the others in the Hopper. “Anyone else see the one fundamental flaw in this argument?”
“Do you honestly think I won’t carry out this threat?”
“No… But unless you want a long walk home I don’t know how you’re going to explode that.. thing with us in the Hopper! In fact, I’m not so sure you want to kill us at all.”
“What makes you say that, Doctor?” Teir asked, trying to sound intense.
“The small fact that you could have done so a lot earlier.” The Doctor replied. Emil agreed and said,
“That’s right – you actually saved me from that creature! Why would you do that if you were only going to kill us later? I don’t think you want to kill anyone.”
“There’s nothing stopping us from leaving you stranded though, is there? That way we still succeed in shaming the safari company and highlighting our cause without actually physically killing anyone!” Brundle stated, pleased with his deductive logic.
“Happy now, Doctor?” Emily asked, unsure exactly how they were going to get out of this situation.
“Well… I’ll admit, that didn’t go exactly as planned.” Emily shot the Doctor a filthy look as they all exited the Hopper. Everyone was so busy they never noticed the sKythyrn circling closer and closer. Brundle was about to put the Hopper’s controls on to manual when two of the sKythyrn dived for him, taking both he and Tier unawares. One covered his face, the other round his midsection, bringing him down with chilling screams. The hand which was holding the explosive device suddenly went into spasm, throwing the device into the Hopper.
“Down!” The Doctor shouted, but it was too later, the device exploded as soon as it hit the Hopper floor, throwing Teir from the craft. Luckily the other passengers had dived for cover as soon as the sKythyrn had attacked and they were all unharmed. Brundle was dead and the Hopper was only so much charred wreckage.
“Grea’.” Zruuh snapped. “How we going home now?”
“With difficulty, I should imagine.” M’Braxifacon replied. “What I want to know is why the sKythyrn attacked at all. They never have before!”
“Really? Are you sure?” The Doctor asked, puzzled by this new information.
“Surely; do you really think we’d be here so unguarded without the proper protection if that wasn’t the case?” M’Braxifacon stated. “Good salesperson I may be but I’m a better coward!”
“Tier; we need your help now.” The Doctor said, turning to Tier who had only sustained a couple of minor wounds –now sealed up thanks to the powder that had saved Emily. Tier still carried the rifle but seemed unsure of what to do with it.
“That body.. the one that Emily and I stumbled on to, before you saved us… was that your doing?” The rest of the passengers looked shocked by this; they had no idea of a body before then. The Doctor knew that they were in a precarious position.
“Yes… I shot at his visor; he was going to kill one of the uShcra –one of the species that it’s actually forbidden to kill.”
“So you killed him instead?” Emily chided. Tier looked shocked at this.
“No! I never wanted to kill him. I only meant to wound him, or frighten him…. But… it’s the first time I ever shot one of those rifles outside of a firing range. But my shot didn’t actually kill him, it was the combined attack of the uShcra and the sKythyrn. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, we had been told that this was a planet peaceful to any outsiders, but this was frightening… It was then that I heard your ship land.”
“You seriously believe this, Doc’or?” Aminda replied, holding his wife and child close. The Doctor didn’t reply and just rubbed his chin.
“Would you say that you’ve witnessed the creatures here become… more violent disposed towards each other in recent times, M’Braxifacon? Even becoming aggressive towards the passengers?”
“How did you know that?” The tour guide replied, shocked that the Doctor had guessed what had been happening.
“I have a nasty feeling that things are escalating and we’ve now got to be really careful if we’re going to survive and get back to the landing hangar.” The Doctor looked at Tier. “And you’re going to have to help us. Can you do that?”
“You’re kidding!” Z’ruul snapped. “She’s part of the reason why we’re in this situation in the first place.”
“But what if she’s not? What if what she’s saying is true?” Emily calmly replied, she suddenly understood what the Doctor was getting at. “Why wasn’t she attacked at the same time that Brundle was? She was holding the rifle after all.” The rest of the passengers were stumped and Emily could tell that they hadn’t thought things through. Everything had happened so fast. There was movement in the corner of her eye and what she saw chilled her to the marrow; there was a carpet of sKittering’s –small insectoid creatures- swarming towards them.
“Everyone keep very still.” The Doctor calmly said, motioning with his hands. “I don’t think they’ll attack us.”
“Are you daft?” M’Braxifacon hissed. “They’ve never done this kind of thing before –they’re not swarming insects!”
“Well they are now.” Emily whispered back. She felt the calm from the Doctors mind and it helped her to be the same.
“It’s her fault.” M’Braxifacon hissed back. “She’s the one they’re after!” Without warning he suddenly snatched the rifle away from Tier and stood away from the rest of the group, aiming it at her. “If I kill her we’ll all be ok. You’ll see!”
“Don’t!” The Doctor went to intercept him but Emily stopped him.
“You can’t do anything, Doctor –look.” She said and looked on in horror as the sKittering’s changed the direction of their swarm and went for M’Braxifacon. Some crawled for him, others took to the wing but none of them deviated from their target, leaving Tier shaken to the core, even though she was less than a few feet away. The Doctor took her gently by the arm and led her to the main group, he then motioned them to walk calmly away, knowing that there was nothing to be done for the Safari guide.
When he was sure they were far enough away he stopped and made sure everyone could hear him.
“That settles it –I know what’s going on now.” He said.
“I thought you might… has it got to do with the feelings that we’re generating?” Emily asked.
“Yes. I had a feeling you’d pick up on it too.” The Doctor replied, proud of how Emily was adapting.
“For untold millennia this planet has lived without outside interference and it has lived in harmony, a balanced existence; a self-sustaining one. Then the safari’s started happening, allowing the rich and deluded to shoot creatures in the name of sport, thereby upsetting the natural equilibrium. The emotions triggered by these overgrown children has had time to seep into the matrix of the planet and the creatures have been feeding on that, changing the way they interact with each other –to the extent that they are now hostile to the very people that are trying to hunt them.”
“But only to those people who show bad emotions.” Emily concluded, the Doctor nodded.
“So how the hell are we going to get back to the landing bay then? How do we know that they’re not going to attack us again?” Menta snapped.
“We don’t… not for sure. “ The Doctor conceded. “So far the creatures have acted in accordance with my theory, but there’s no reason why they should carry on.. but as there are no other alternatives.”
“We could run.” Scarsa said.
“No. The moment you tried the creatures would sense your emotional state and cut you down before you got too far.”
“Why is ‘his happening ‘hough? Are ‘he flying crea’ures and ‘he slimy ones and ‘he buggy ones working ‘oge’her?” Nikta asked.
“That’s because you’re looking at them all in the wrong way –you’re seeing them all as separate creatures when they’re not. They’re all one entity; just as your hands and feet and nose and ears are of you. We’re lucky that we’ve discovered this now before too many more of the safari parks opened up… who knows how bad things could get?”
“How do we get back?” Tier asked, afraid for her life now.
“By being sensible and calm. I have a feeling….” The Doctor paused before looking around him.
“Can you sense it too, Doctor?” Emily asked.
“Yes… If we remain calm and just walk slowly back to the landing pad we’ll be fine.”
No one argued, no one protested –they had seen what happened when people got angry; and so they walked slowly, hand in hand back to the landing pad. An hour passed, then two -the Doctor looked around him all the time. On the horizon he could see the sKythyrn circling them widely and the uShcra could be heard in the distance – how long before the creature would make itself known?
“Now you are ready for me to be joined with you, Doctor.” One second nothing was there in front of them, the next there stood the grey robed creature that Emily had glimpsed earlier. “Please do not be afraid.” He said to the rest of the people, holding out his arms in the universal sign of peace. “They will not harm you now, you are under my protection.”
“Thank you.” Emily replied, craning her neck to look into the eyes of this new magnificent creature.
“I am… a Gard’ner.” The creature intoned, nodding at Emily. “That is the word that you will probably understand the most. I have not been able to contact you before now as your vibrations were too erratic and noisy. Although the Doctor and Emily were able to notice me occasionally and through them I was able to calm the rest of you. The creatures will no longer attempt to attack you as you aren’t broadcasting the emotions of hate or fear.”
“So ‘he Doc’or was righ’, ‘hen.” Nikta exclaimed and beamed at the Doctor, who smiled back.
“Well.. had to happen sooner or later.” He replied. “It was Emily who noticed you back at the TARDIS; she’s far more empathic than me.. sometimes I feel I’ve seen far too much.”
“That may be true, Doctor… though with time and practice even you would be able to unsee things.” Gard’ner replied.
“Time – well.. you know what they say about that? And who has enough time to chase a broken watch?” Emily looked at him askance, and then back at Gard’ner.
“What will happen now, oh Gard’ner?” She asked.
“You and the Doctor can now leave.” The creature replied, pointing to the TARDIS in the distance. “And I will look after the others.” The Doctor was about to speak but Gard’ner interrupted him. “Do not worry, Doctor. There is no need to be concerned, they will be perfectly safe. I will not harm them in any way –that would be my undoing, after all. You were quiet right. They will leave here and tell other planets not to come back here. They will listen.”
“Gard’ner… will I be able… can I join you?” Tier asked. “I don’t know if I can but I feel that I have to atone for all I have wrought.”
“If you should wish that, then it can happen. It will not be easy for you, but it will be worth it.”
“Thank you.” She replied, humbled by Gard’ner.
“You really are special.” Emily said to her, liking her even more; it was going to be so difficult to leave her and part of her wanted to remain so she wouldn’t be alone. “That is an amazing gesture.”
“It’s no gesture, sweet Emily; but thank you.”
The Doctor took Emily in her arm and turned to the TARDIS after saying good bye to the rest of the passengers.
“Before you go, Doctor; seek out the Tharills.” Gard’ner interrupted. “They will be able to help you get back home.”
“Of course. Thank you, Gard’ner, for all you have done.” They walked into the TARDIS, the doors shutting behind them.
Inside they were both happy to be finally free of the hazard suits, able to breath the sweet air from their own lungs and not through a re-cycling unit.
“Who are the Tharills, Doctor?” Emily asked.
“They’re travellers of the wastelands of E-Space, but I heard that they had left this plane of reality… but if Gard’ner says that they’re the key to get back, who knows? Maybe things won’t be as difficult as I thought for once.”
Deep inside the TARDIS a lopsided statue stood solemnly, a distinct him coming from inside. However this was not just a statue but the Master’s own TARDIS, and he was witness to everything that had happened over the last few days. It had been most entertaining. When the Doctor had made his last statement the Master chuckled to himself, “My dear Doctor, things are going to be far, far worse than you could ever imagine. There’s something out in the darkness of E-Space that is waiting for you and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it from destroying everything you care about.”
With that the Master laughed and his TARDIS dematerialised.