Hypernova by deathman
Summary: A dead-end underground base in Mongolia equals the land where dreams come true.
Rating: All Ages
Categories: Tenth Doctor
Characters: Jackie Tyler, Other Character(s), Rose Tyler, The Doctor (10th)
Series: Deathman - Chronology
Chapter 1: Hypernova Part 1 - Steel and Fire
Chapter 2: Hypernova Part 2 - Battle in the Mountain
Chapter 3: Hypernova Part 3 - Hypernova
Chapter 1: Hypernova Part 1 - Steel and Fire
Author's Notes: My chance to let off stress as I throw tonnes of monsters at the Doctor and Rose. Inspired greatly by the Nightmare of Black Island. You may not be able to see why from the first chapter, but...
I cannot continue with Turn of the Earth until I finish this (because of... you'll see) and so I'll try and finish this quickly, postin it one part per two days instead of per three days.
But... enough chat. On with the story!
STEEL AND FIRE
A DOCTOR WHO STORY
‘The craft has violated our earth-space,’ reported Investigations officer Brian Powell grimly, watching a computer screen, on which a tiny red dot was travelling through an atmosphere simulation at a great velocity. ‘It’s travelling at an impossible speed — three hundred thousand miles per hour.’
Slouching in a computer chair at the end of the parallel rows of computer desks sat Joshua Rockleson, the head of the organisation. He was a bulky man in a tight, stretching dark green suit, with cropped black hair and a lazy face. ‘If it’s going at that speed, then it must still be far away from Earth, because otherwise it would have passed us. Do some research, Powell, will you?’
‘But it shows it on the simulator, sir,’ persisted Powell. He pointed at the screen. The red blip was now below the clouds and was racing towards the stunningly realistic replica of the settlement of East Kambia, somewhere in Asia.
‘Click on it, Powell,’ drawled Rockleson, totally confident. ‘Find the coordinates.’
Dreading Rockleson’s infamous temper, Powell dragged the mouse over the mat. The arrow on screen moved, onto the hurtling red blip. He waited for a few seconds. Then a small yellow window popped up, informing him that the craft was only just past Jupiter. Rockleson, as usual, was correct. ‘It’s just reached the Asteroid Belt, sir,’ he informed.
He expected Rockleson to shout, but he did not. Instead he rubbed his hands togther and hissed, ‘Good. We can have it shot.’
The whole room went silent.
‘Prepare the missiles, Powell,’ Rockleson said. Powell couldn’t help but notice that there was a hint of worry in his usually lazy and overconfident voice.
In space, the alien craft rocketed across the vacuum. It was a strangely shaped red mass of what looked like bloodied steel. It was a rough oval, but had some odd points and turrets. It was glorious, the sight of the awe-inspiring spacecraft hurtling through the void, magnificent.
But not for long. A huge mile-long nuclear warhead erupted from the surface of Planet Earth, leaving a trail of thick white smoke behind it. It smashed into the ship with devastating force. But the craft did not explode. It took the impact gracefully, sending the ugly, spouting projectile arcing into blackness. For a moment, it looked like it might carry on moving. Then it flipped gently and began to float down towards Earth...
‘I’d better call home,’ said Rose to the Doctor busy at the console of the TARDIS. ‘Jackie’ll be worried.’
The Doctor turned to look at her.
‘Also I want to tell her what’s been going on.’ Rose shifted slightly. ‘I mean, she’s probably done washing, watched telly, eaten chips and gone to bed seven times over. We’ve watched a gladiator fight, seen the end of the universe, saved Earth from the Cybermen, ridden dragons, befriended demons, learnt to use plasma guns, helped build the Empire State and flown a time machine.’
‘Your wish is my command — but be careful what you wish for,’ answered the Doctor cryptically, flicking a switch with a lazy swipe of the hand.
‘You’ve said that before,’ Rose recalled. ‘When I went to save my dad. You were worried then. What are you worried about now?’
‘Just uneasy, I suppose,’ the Doctor admitted. He grinned nervously. ‘I guess it’s what comes of being nearly killed in a volcanic eruption yesterday.’
‘You nearly get killed every day,’ noted Rose as the TARDIS lurched and shook in the turbulence of time.
The TARDIS materialsed on a barren plain, next to a looming mountain. Rose leaned towards the TARDIS scanner.
‘Not home,’ she said, rolling her eyes. The screen read “East Kambia, Mongolia”.
‘Oh, sorry,’ came the Doctor’s voice.
The TARDIS faded away.
A few seconds later, it appeared again, in the exact same spot.
‘Weird,’ the Doctor said, tapping the console absently. ‘Something’s drawing us in. A beacon, scanning for alien technology and making it come.’
‘Shall we go and investigate?’ Rose asked rhetorically. And the Doctor stode towards the door.
They exited together.
Blinding light. Searing heat. She couldn’t see, the air was red. A mighty booming sound shattered her ears. She screamed, but the noise was torn away by the great wind. Her open mouth filled with fire.
And, somehow, in the middle of the confusion, the Doctor grabbed her hand and pulled her quickly back inside the TARDIS.
Back in the control room Rose felt the Doctor shaking her. ‘Rose?’ he asked loudly, waving a hand about in front of her half-closed eyes.
‘Yes?’ she mumbled.
The Doctor leaned back. ‘You all right?’ he said.
‘No,’ she said. ‘What was that?’
‘No idea,’ the Doctor replied, smiling slightly. ‘Same as ever. Really though. Are you OK?’
‘Yeah. A little hot, but that’s all. I was just being a pessimist.’
‘Same as ever,’ she added with a sceret smile.
That night, Rose dreamed.
She dreamed she was flying through space. Up ahead of her was a magnificent sight.
A gigantic cloud of gas, millions of miles wide. So huge. Yet Rose could see it clearly. She figured she must be far away from it.
And it was beautiful. The most beautiful sight Rose had ever seen. It was pink and green and black and purple all mixed together to form an eerie yet majestic illuminescence. Spread out in a phenomenal expanse of splashed-out colour and streaks of darkest night.
But in the middle of it was a strange sight. The looming head of a cosmic horse made of gas, stark and primitive in the middle of the delicate swirl. It too was beautiful, but of a threatening beauty.
Then Rose’s vision started to zoom towards the head of the beast, sickeningly fast. She screamed, but the dream would not stop. And then came the voice.
It was the most ghastly, twisted, evil voice that Rose had ever heard. A menacing, purring hiss that set her hairs and teeth on edge. It was made even more terrifying by the fact that it was bodiless. There was no visible body, or even mouth, just the looming horse head, frightening, glittering in the darkness of space.
‘Out here came the old, and out here shall come the new,’ it hissed.
Her vision twisted. Her heartbeat rang in her throat, a strange, alien music. Her eyes were filled with the head of the beast. It suddenly ocurred to her that it was evil. It had to be. It generated terror in her heart.
‘We wait for you in the darkness...’
‘No!’ she shouted, thrashing. She was spinning, falling towards the giant horse head. ‘No! Help!’
She suddenly had a split-second vision of two great red eyes. She screamed the only word that had ever brought her real help.
‘You are alone in the void...’
The head of the beast was coming closer...
Rose woke up, thrashing and screaming. The Doctor was by her side, a comforting hand on her hot dripping forehead.
‘You OK?’ he asked, annoyingly. Of course she wasn’t all right.
She didn’t reply, only sank back in relief, back onto her pillow. But she didn’t dare close her eyes. She didn’t want to return to that world of terror.
‘You’ve been screaming for half an hour,’ informed the Doctor. ‘It must have been a bad one.’
Rose nodded, exhaustedly.
‘What was it?’
Rose could hardly answer. She mumbled, ‘I was in space and there was a head of a beast and I was falling and I heard this voice and it said I was alone and I screamed for help...’
She just couldn’t say any more and collapsed further into the mound of pillows. The Doctor let go of her gently and turned to leave. But she leapt out and cried, ‘No! Don’t go!’ She was terrified of him going, her only protection.
He sighed. ‘Are you really that scared?’
She didn’t reply, her teeth chattering.
‘We’ll discuss the dream in the morning,’ he said, and felt her forehead. It felt hot. And not just fever-hot. Burning hot. It hurt to place a hand on her flesh for more than a second. That wasn’t just ordinary hot. Somehow, something had attacked his companion from the mind.
The Doctor bent inquisitively towards Rose, studying her with interest and concern. But over his shoulder, Rose thought she could see two gleaming red eyes. Glaring at her. Mocking her.
‘Go to sleep. Forget,’ the Doctor ordered. He produced the sonic screwdriver and whirred it over Rose’s head. She groaned gently and slumped forwards, her head resting on the pillows.
He knew he shouldn’t have done that. Now he would never find out more about this weird dream of hers. He would never discover what had scared her so much.
But he had a strange feeling he knew already.
The morning began, and the Doctor and Rose decided to explore the mysterious terrain once more.
‘Right, if I say “pie” it means that the fire’s come back, in which case you should stay inside. If I say “my” then it means it’s not there and you can come out,’ said the Doctor.
‘Right,’ said Rose.
‘Good luck,’ she added as he headed for the doors. He cast her back a quick grin, before springing forward and lashing open the doors. He vanished out.
‘My,’ called the Doctor.
For a horrible moment Rose thought that he had said “Pie” and was beginning to envisage her best friend burning in terrible agony when she heard the Doctor calling again — ‘My...’
Rose rolled her eyes, feeling a bit annoyed that the Doctor had made the two words so similar. Then she skipped out to join him.
Outside it was a rocky sticky swamp of boulders and dried lava, stark, barren and desolate. In the distance she thought she could see a few mud-shacks, scattered lonely over the forbidding plain.
But it was something else that really drew her attention. A mountain, gigantic and imposing, reared its towering peak into the clouds. But around its summit, the clouds had been torn back, and the sky was dark with wisps of fire.
‘It’s a volcano,’ said the Doctor. ‘That was what happened. It erupted. We got out of the TARDIS in the middle of a major natural disaster.’
Rose, staring at the volcano, had a sudden sense of deja vu. Then she realised it was because she was standing in front of a volcano, and she had done the same a few days ago, when she had seen Mount Keledon on the planet Tegrak, where she had helped the Doctor to defeat the Eon Eater, an inanimate intergalactic snake.
The Doctor was busy examining the cracked and slug-like stream of hardened basalt that must once have oozed from the mountain but now lay cracked and spread among the rocks, an ungainly dormant titan.
‘This wasn’t an eruption,’ the Doctor told Rose as the sonic screwdriver cast a lancing light over the rock. ‘The residual energy pattern isn’t the same. I don’t know what it was. But it definitely came from the volcano. We-ird.’
‘Well, let’s go and see,’ Rose said. ‘Maybe we can destroy the beacon and I can go home.’
‘Hmm...’ murmured the Doctor.
Rose suddenly realised what this was about. ‘It’ll take days. We can’t do that,’ she spoke.
‘No, not that,’ the Doctor disagreed. ‘The TARDIS can still fly within the beacon’s range. It’s just that I’ve got a feeling it’s not going to be as simple as that.’
The Doctor just shook his head. She had forgotten the dream. He had made her forget.
‘Rose, tell me, what was the head of the beast that you were talking about last night?’
‘No idea what you’re talking about.’
The Doctor cursed himself. He’d let his sympathy get in the way of his practical needs.
‘Really try hard, Rose. Think back. Last night. You had a dream.’
She scrunched up her forehead in concentration. ‘Hang on...’
A few seconds later —
‘I definitely had a dream, but I don’t remember what it was.’
The Doctor had to stop himself from swearing in frustration. ‘All right,’ he said kindly. ‘We’ll have to go into the volcano. To see what’s happening. To deactivate the beacon.’
He led Rose inside the TARDIS and closed the doors.
On the lip of the volcanic crater, the TARDIS materialised once more.
On the scanner, the Doctor watched with mild interest as the middle of the crater was blasted open and dozens of aliens poured through, and slithered towards the TARDIS.
‘Cuts to the change,’ the Doctor said sarcastically.
The aliens were mottled blue, with the top half of their bodies looking vaguely like humans, although their necks were bent down over their chests like upright prawns. Instead of arms they had long serrated pincers, like a scorpion’s, all bristling with hairs and spines. For a lower half they had a slimy wet tail like the body of a slug, which undulated along the ground, trailing behind them, leaving a greasy path of blue slime.
In their pincers they carried recognisable plasma guns, identical to the ones used on Tegrak Beta.
Rose observed the scanner with anxiety. ‘Doctor,’ she said gently. ‘What are you gonna do?’
‘Go out of course,’ he confirmed. Then he saw the fear on her face. ‘You can stay if you like,’ he told her.
For a moment she looked as if she might accept. Then her face cleared. ‘No,’ she grinned.
‘That’s the spirit,’ the Doctor said, smiling.
They walked out.
Immediately the aliens realised they were there. They slithered forward on their slug-like rear parts, slime encasing the crusty rock of the crater.
Soon they were surrounded.
The Doctor raised his hands in the air. Rose glanced at him then followed suit.
The aliens just stood there. They made no move to attack. But they didn’t put down their guns either.
‘Why aren’t they attacking?’ Rose hissed out of the corner of her mouth.
The Doctor paid no attention, but adressed the aliens, simply but formally. ‘I’m the Doctor and this is Rose. May we ask who you are?’
As if this was the sign of peace, the aliens relaxed. Then one of them stepped forward, as if it was the leader. Its small vicious mouth moved up and down as it spoke in a gravelly, harsh voice —
‘We are the Hycrons.’
The Doctor smiled faintly. ‘And you are?’
‘Nefrin,’ spoke the Hycron leader. ‘Who are you?’
‘I just said,’ replied the Doctor, a bit irritated. ‘I’m the Doctor, and this is-‘
‘Insufficient data,’ cut in Nefrin.
The Doctor cursed under his breath. ‘We’re travellers-‘
‘We’re from... around and about-‘
Rose was getting panicked. ‘What do you want to know?’ she burst out.
‘Who you are.’
‘I told you, I’m the Doctor and this is Rose.’
‘Insufficient data. Titles are irrelevant. You will say who you are or be incarcerated.’
‘All right,’ said the Doctor, taking a new approach. ‘Who are you?’
‘Nefrin,’ Nefrin grated.
‘Exactly. You’re saying exactly the same as I am. You don’t want to reveal your identity. All you can tell me is your name. Now, if I help you then you help me. Name for name, help for help.’
Rose heard Nefrin talking amongst its companions. Then it stepped forward once more. ‘A valid point. And accepted. How can we help?’
Rose breathed out a sigh of relief. The Doctor counted on his fingers. ‘Right,’ he said eventually. ‘Three questions.’
Nefrin nodded. Rose had now worked out he was a male, something about the way he carried himself was strongly masculine. ‘Ask,’ he ordered.
‘Number One. Why are you here on Earth?’
Nefrin grinned widely. ‘You will see in due course. We will show you the Hypernova Project sometime soon.’
The Doctor looked dissatisfied, but, reluctant to anger the Hycrons, he continued. ‘Number Two. Did you have anything to do with the eruption yesterday.’
‘This is correct.’
‘Great.’ Rose entered the conversation. ‘How?’
Nefrin turned to her. ‘You will see.’
The Doctor was getting frustrated. ‘Why can’t you answer her?’
‘You will see,’ Nefrin repeated mysteriously.
‘Oh yunhow,’ moaned the Doctor.
‘You have forgotten the third,’ Nefrin reminded him. Rose couldn’t decide whether this was said provocatively or gently.
‘Oh yes, nearly forgot,’ said the Doctor, raising his head from his hands. Suddenly his voice turned cold and hard, like shards of ice rattling at the bottom of a bucket. ‘Were you involved in Rose’s nightmare?’
Rose looked confused. ‘Which nightmare?’ she asked, frowning. Then she looked around. At the Doctor’s hard expression. At Nefrin’s concentration. And knew it must be true.
‘Before I put her to sleep, she mentioned the head of the beast,’ the Doctor helped Nefrin. ‘I’ve no idea what it is — well... I have some ideas.’
‘The head of the beast...’ Nefrin looked troubled. ‘Say more.’
The Doctor’s forehead scrunched up in concentration. Then he remembered. ‘Rose said she was in space.’
Nefrin’s face lit up.
‘And she said that a voice told her she was alone...’
Nefrin shushed him. ‘Now if you are talking about the head of a pig, or bird, or cat, then I cannot help you. But if, by any chance, you are referring to the head of a horse...’
The answer suddenly clicked in the Doctor’s head.
‘The Horsehead Nebula.’
Rose’s jaw dropped in memory. She suddenly raised a finger. ‘I remember that, from Science. The teacher used to show us pictures and say that it’s the most beautiful sight ever...’
Nefrin beckoned, smiling. ‘Come,’ he said.
The Hycrons led them into the heart of the mountain, via hidden passageways and elevators, through halls and lifts and gaping pits. Finally, they arrived at what they had come to see.
‘The Experiment Shaft,’ Nefrin declared proudly. ‘Look over the edge...’
They had come to a chasm, a rift in the world, and were standing precariously on the brink. Blasts of hot air constantly singed their faces as they looked down into the deep.
It was an endless black shaft, spiralling darkly down into nothingness. But its sides were tinged with fiery red, and that lit up the way, a flickering yet continuous flame.
The Doctor got out his hyperscope that Rose remembered him using before, on the planet Exx Xis Six, in the battle with the Reapers.
He fitted it over his eyes and gazed down. The shaft really did seem limitless, and even the hyperscope had difficulty seeing to its ultimate end. But it did, and what lay there was a shock.
There it was. The strange ovoid spacecraft that Rockleson and his associates had shot down many years ago.
Only the Doctor could identify it.
And identify it he did.
‘This is a Szaborg ship,’ the Doctor spoke. An unspoken menace filled the air.
‘Yes,’ Nefrin confirmed. ‘And now, I think, I can answer your other two questions.’
‘Who are the Szaborgs?’ Rose asked, and shivered. The very word seemed to chill her blood and dry her bones.
‘This is the story I am going to tell.’ Nefrin drew himself up.
‘A long time, eons ago, the Hycrons and the Szaborgs were at war. A vicious, neverending conflict, stretching out over galaxies and thousands of years.
‘In the end, a treaty was made, by Qucar the Great, an inspirational Hycron leader. Neither side was to attack the other, under pain of death.
‘In time Qucar died, but for a time his law held. For centuries and milennia there was peace.
‘Then, in very recent times, a Szaborg ship travelling from a base to the Hycron system with an army of Szaborgs, luckily, passed Earth and was shot down by a team of alien investigators, led by a man named Joshua Rockleson.
‘The Hycrons learned of this, and knew that the old flame of war had been rekindled. We arrived on Earth at the ship’s crash site — here — and set about experimenting on the craft. We realised that we could adapt it into the most powerful weapon ever created — the Hypernova Missile, capable of destroying solar systems.’
The Doctor suddenly exclaimed — ‘You can’t use it. Look, I’m telling you, Nefrin, it’s wrong. You can’t just destroy a system. It’s wrong.’
Nefrin grinned. ‘Let me finish.’
Grudgingly, the Doctor complied.
‘However, we realised the experiments had a downside. When our drills and other devices attempted to sculpt and tear at the craft its auto-defence mechanism activated and sent out a gigantic spout of fire, destroying much of the base and killing many Hycrons.
‘So we made this.’ Nefrin leaned to the left and touched a thick, metre-wide steel tube that extended both down into the chasm and up towards the crater. ‘This channels the great energy up through the crater, so it can rise up harmlessly as a kind of volcanic eruption.’
‘Harmlessly?’ Rose questioned indignantly. ‘Harmlessly? That energy nearly roasted me!’
‘Harmlessly to us,’ Nefrin pointed out.
‘Which is what counts,’ he added smugly.
‘So carry on with the story, then,’ the Doctor urged.
‘That’s it really,’ Nefrin shrugged. Both the Doctor and Rose were suddenly aware of many Hycrons surrounding them. ‘And, Doctor, as a matter of interest... How do you think you can help us?’
‘I don’t know what you mean,’ replied the Doctor warily, his eyes flicking from side to side, registering at least a dozen burly Hycrons standing perfectly still around the chasm.
‘If you recall, you said if we helped you then you would help us,’ Nefrin reminded him.
‘Oh yes,’ said the Doctor. Rose looked at him, worried. ‘Well... um, yeah... I suppose we... no...’
‘He is of no further use to us. Seize him!’ commanded Nefrin. Instantly several Hycrons barged forward and grabbed the Doctor by the arms, head and hips.
‘You can’t do that!’ cried the Doctor.
‘Incarcerate him,’ said Nefrin calmly. ‘And his little human girl. Put them next to each other. I want to see them longing.’
The Hycrons seized Rose. She cried out. The scorpion-men were already dragging her away.
‘Leave her!’ yelled the Doctor, but the Hycrons paid no attention. ‘Do you hear me? Put her down! NOW!’
The Hycrons lifted the writhing Rose up an dangled her upside down. ‘Doctor?!’ she screamed, and then she was gone, along with her captors.
‘NO!’ the Doctor roared at Nefrin, standing coolly at the edge of the pit.
Nefrin leaned closer to him, bent-over head lolling. His hot breath scorched the Doctor’s face. ‘You say how you can help us or you die.’
‘You say how you can help us or she dies.’
Instant, ferocious thrashing.
‘Ahh,’ breathed Nefrin. ‘Her life is more important than your own.’ He turned to one of his juniors. ‘Thrashuak, I think we’ve struck a chord.’
‘I will stop you,’ breathed the Doctor raggedly. ‘I don’t know how, I don’t know where, I don’t know when, but I will. No matter what the cost.’
‘And how will you do that from beyond the grave?’ Nefrin laughed, as the Hycrons drew their plasma guns, removed the safety catches, cocked them, and pointed them — straight at the Doctor’s face.
Buried under the ground in the Hycron prison, miles underneath a volcano, Rose dreamed.
She dreamed that she was back in space, falling towards the head of the beast, which still lay threateningly before her.
Then, even faster than in her previous nightmare, her legs went limp, as if someone had cut them away even as she stood. She succumbed to the force of gravity and whirled, three hundred and sixty degrees. Then again and again, as if caught up in a crazy spacial rollercoaster. She screamed and then fell, still spinning, her vision tilting as the strange, eerie drum of her heartbeat leapt into her mouth and she could hear it everywhere, in her feet, hands, chest and head.
Then she realised it wasn’t just her heartbeat. A disembodied, strangely desolate-sounding melody was echoing. She looked around to find the source, but she could see nothing save the head of the beast, the stark, evil, primitive gas-shape enclosing her. She was spinning, falling. Then the voice came again. The spine-tingling, panic-inducing hiss that seemed to emanate from everywhere and nowhere simultaneously.
‘There is no life...’
Rose screamed once more, now she was on the edge of the head of the beast. Yet somehow she could still see it in its entirety, its lonely, terrifying image imprinted on her eyelids.
She stopped briefly on the very brink of the head.
‘In the void...’ purred the voice, and then she was off. She was ripped bodily from the dark space, and into the cold, looming bulk of the head of the beast.
Rose screamed, ‘DOCTOR!’ But it didn’t work this time. The Doctor was far away from her. Separated.
For a split second, she saw the same two red eyes she had seen earlier in her previous dream. But this time more of the face could be discerned. The whole countenance glowed with a strange light, and most of the face was obscured in its shadow. All Rose could make out was something like worms. Trailing across the face. But never clouding the unfailing malice of those red pitiless eyes.
Rose was inside the hot maw of the gas-beast.
Then the voice said, in a terrible, even scarier tone that made Rose throw up —
‘We are the Szaborgs.’
TO BE CONTINUED...
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Chapter 2: Hypernova Part 2 - Battle in the Mountain
Author's Notes: Building up to the huge action in Chapter 3 - but never mind Chapter 3! Here's Chapter Two.
BATTLE IN THE MOUNTAIN
A DOCTOR WHO STORY
The Doctor was thrashing about in the grip of five burly Hycrons. Nefrin was standing before him. His plasma gun pointing at the Time Lord’s head.
‘Wait,’ cried the Doctor, a thought dawning on him. ‘Do you know about the beacon?’
‘What beacon?’ frowned Nefrin suddenly. I take that as a no, thought the Doctor.
‘The beacon that trapped me here. D’you think I’d come to this dead-end dump of an underground base of my own free will?’
‘Silence!’ thundered Nefrin. He slithered over to a lever, standing upright on the edge of the Experiment Shaft. With one of his huge, overgrown, bristling pincers, Nefrin seized the lever and yanked it to one side.
Immediately, a deafening humming buzz hissed into reality. It came from above. The Doctor looked up. Built into the ceiling of the rough-hewn rock hall was a stange, disc-shaped machine with a nozzle in the centre, pointing down.
And a bright beam sizzled from the nozzle. A long lancing lash of laser light, smashing through the air. The Doctor closed his eyes.
But instead of the expected explosion, a cool female PA voice recited, ‘Scanning. Scanning. Scanning.’
The Doctor flicked up his eyelids, and peered into the Experiment Shaft. He tried to get out his hyperscope but his captors forced his hands down. He groaned and squinted. Without the hyperscope, he could just make out the ovoid spaceship and a red churning field of data surrounding it.
‘Once the scan is complete,’ Nefrin said, ‘we will see whether this ‘beacon’ is invented or not.’
The Doctor gazed down.
‘If it is,’ added Nefrin, ‘you will be destroyed.’
‘Scanning. Scanning. Scanning.’
Rose returned from the darkness of her dream, shaking and crying out. The top half of her body snapped up. She panted and looked around. She could see nothing except blackness and small motes of dust floating through the dark air.
She told herself to calm down, but she couldn’t. So she sat there, feeling terrified, for a while.
At last she could move again. She ran a hand across her forehead. And then cried out. It was so hot that it hurt. She looked at her hand. It took a few seconds to adjust to the dark, but when finally she could make out the bare essentials of her palm, it was a shock.
It was burnt. There were angry red marks all over it. Rose exclaimed.
At just that noise, several previously invisible Hycrons slithered out from the darkness. Their semi-human faces wore grins of contempt.
But only for a split-second. For then they noticed. The bars of her cell were gone. They had vanished.
‘How did you do that?’ asked one of the Hycrons.
‘What?’ inquired Rose with genuine interest.
‘The bars of your cell are gone,’ said the Hycron. Rose could detect more than a little fear in its voice.
‘What’s your name?’ Rose questioned.
‘Sabtino,’ said the Hycron, then cursed. Something about the innocence of the human girl had produced her name.
‘Well, Sabtino,’ replied Rose, ‘One — nice name, and two — I have no idea what you’re talking about. The bars of my cell aren’t-‘
She froze. They were. She looked up at the Hycron. Sabtino looked back at Rose. The same thing crossed their minds, at precisely the same time. Rose was going to make a break for freedom and Sabtino was going to try to stop her.
And this was what happened.
Rose dived at the opening, using the element of surprise. Sabtino dodged to and fro in the exit, like a goalkeeper guarding the goal. Sabtino was right in the way of Rose, but realised too late it was only a feint. Rose sailed past her. The Hycron’s pincers clutched and snapped at empty air.
She had done it, she was out and away!
But then several pairs of sharp pincers dug into her. She cried out. And cursed. Stupid! She had forgotten the other Hycrons!
She lunged at one of them, but she connected with a solid wall of mottled blue. She fell onto her knees.
Back on the edge of the Experiment Shaft, Nefrin was monitoring a screen set into the rock wall, with a frown on his heavy, mottled blue face. Obviously the scan readings were not to his liking.
‘Well?’ called out the Doctor after a time.
‘Be silent!’ boomed Nefrin, his head swinging to face the Doctor momentarily. The Doctor saw his small yellow eyes, his wide, unclosable mouth agape with tiny teeth. He saw despair and frustration and long-held anger, a ferocious anger that threatened to consume all who met him in a cloud of raging flame.
The Hycron Leader returned to his work.
Suddenly, without warning, the ground shook. The Hycrons were ripped violently from the Doctor, to slide down the rock face, as the ground tilted and churned.
‘Beacon activated. Beacon activated. Beacon activated,’ rang the PA.
Nefrin whirled round and round, panicking, not knowing what to do. Then he cried, ‘What’s happening?’
‘Scan complete. Beacon existent and activated. Beacon activated. Beacon activated.’
‘Ha!’ cried the Doctor, as the ground shifted and shuddered. One Hycrons caught the tilt the wrong way and slid at a breakneck pelt across the smooth floor, to spin into the Experiment Shaft and disappear from sight.
Nefrin roared, ‘What does the beacon do, Doctor?’
‘It draws spaceships in,’ replied the Doctor. Then froze.
It draws spaceships in.
It. Draws. Spaceships. In.
The Doctor worked it out in a second. ‘It’s another auto-defence mechanism, only more subtle. Coming from the ship. It thinks that all craft will be of its own kind and able to help. And it brings them to it.’
‘And what does this mean?’ Nefrin thundered.
‘Well, first of all, it means that we might have to deal with a hefty spacecraft crashing into us.’
Nefrin somehow managed to stagger over the convulsing rock to the shaking screen. ‘It’s a spacecraft. No... wait... it can’t be... not that...’ Nefrin’s flesh turned a pale, sickly cake icing blue.
‘It has exactly the same bio-data as the ship down there.’ Nefrin indicated the Experiment Shaft. ‘And it’s not just one. It’s two... three... four...’ He turned even paler. ‘There are a dozen!’
‘So it’s a Szaborg fleet. And it’s heading this way,’ said the Doctor.
One moment, Rose was firmly in the grip of six burly Hycrons. The next thing she knew, she was hurtling away from them at the speed of sound.
‘Whheeeee!’ she whooped. ‘This is fun!’
She crashed into a wall, somewhat damaging her face. OK, not so fun.
She looked back at the Hycrons, including Sabtino. She saw that the ground was rippling, shivering, as if in agony. Then with a titanic ripping, grinding noise, the ground tore in two. A gigantic rent appeared in the floor, a black rift.
She saw Sabtino readying herself for a jump. ‘No,’ she cried. ‘Don’t do it! You’ll die!’
But the Hycron was disobedient. Sabtino coiled herself, then leapt. Her blue body twisted and slithered, and, for a second, Rose thought she would make it. But her mouth was rent in a hideous scream of pure unadulterated terror. She fell into darkness. Rose turned away, horrified. But, at the last second, a strong, bristling pincer shot from the chasm and grasped the edge with amazing resilience.
‘Come on!’ cried Rose. ‘Reach!’
Sabtino reached with her other pincer, grabbed the edge and pulled with incredible force. Her head appeared over the brink. But then her willpower faded. Sabtino slumped, and wouldn’t move.
Rose gritted her teeth, marched forward, crouched down, held Sabtino’s pincers, and pulled with all her might. For a few, agonising seconds, Rose struggled with gravity and the bulk of the alien. Then both surrendered and Rose dragged Sabtino from the void. Sabtino lay there gasping. Then Rose cupped her hands round her mouth and shouted, ‘Come on then!’
Another Hycron leapt. And made a much better job of it than Sabtino. The alien whirled through the air, then crashed heavily upon the edge. With a little help from Rose, the Hycron was standing upright, staring at its companions, daring them to jump.
Yet another made an attempt. Yet, to Rose’s horror, even as it jumped, the ground on the other side of the rift caved in. Tonnes of rock cascaded into nothingness as the ground violently writhed. Dozens of Hycrons plummeted to their deaths, screaming in their gravelly voices.
Rose turned away, putting her hands over her eyes.
The Hycron that had just jumped was about to make it when...
Another chunk of rock slid away. The piece that the Hycron had been about to land on.
The alien’s eyes widened. Before it had a chance to scream it toppled into darkness and was gone.
As suddenly as it had started, the tremendous turbulence ceased. And there was silence. The Doctor looked over at Nefrin. The Hycron Leader breathed out gently, believing it too good to be true. Even that small breath stirred dust.
‘It’s landed,’ the Doctor said.
‘What do you advise us to do?’ Nefrin asked.
‘A few moments ago, you were trying to kill me,’ the Doctor reminded him.
‘That was a few moments ago. If you’ll forgive me. We’ll need all the help we can get, in the battle against the Szaborgs.’
‘Er, excuse me,’ interrupted the Doctor. ‘What makes you think there’s gonna be a battle?’
Nefrin looked shocked. ‘Well, what else would there be?’
‘A renewal of Qucar’s pact?’ the Doctor guessed.
Nefrin shook his head, smiling thinly. ‘Qucar the Great is dead and buried, and there is no amazing leader to restore his law of peace.’
‘Maybe you should have a go,’ hinted the Doctor.
Nefrin ignored him, only summoned another Hycron. ‘Jarkline.’
The Hycron named Jarkline slid up to her master. ‘Yes, master?’
‘Release the prisoners!’
Rose, Sabtino and the other, male, Hycron whose name was Gafdint were walking and slithering respectively along the rock when it happened.
‘Where is this?’ Rose asked Sabtino.
‘This? This is the Prisoner’s Complex. It is where Nefrin keeps his human captives, for interrogation and security.’
‘Human captives?’ Rose suddenly exclaimed. ‘This is wrong!’
‘I know it’s wrong,’ Sabtino said, ‘but we don’t have a say in the matter.’
‘What was happening back there?’ asked Rose. ‘You know, with the floor shaking and all that?’
Gafdint shrugged. ‘No idea. Something bad.’
‘Best find out. You two, go on ahead, see what you can find.’ The pair hurried off.
Rose got out her mobile phone and began to text the Doctor.
She smiled as she typed. She had to use full words, not text message speak, as the Doctor claimed he couldn’t understand it at all.
I’m in a bit of a situation. I’m travelling up the Prisoner’s Complex — God knows what that is — with two Hycrons. Could you please tell me what the hell’s going on? You’re bound to know.
See you soon,
‘Prisoners?’ The Doctor asked Nefrin. ‘Why release them? I mean, you should release them in the first place, but you’re not really the type to do that, so I wondered why...’
‘We will need them in the battle against the Szaborgs,’ Nefrin stated calmly.
Something in one of the Doctor’s many pockets beeped loudly. Nefrin looked on with interest. He foraged for a while in the particular pocket before producing a sleek, broad, irregular-shaped device with a square screen.
‘That’ll be Rose,’ he explained.
‘So it’s a communicator thing,’ Nefrin guessed.
The Doctor nodded vaguely, most of his concentration bent upon Rose’s message, which had recently popped up on the gleaming glass screen.
The Doctor sent her a quick reply.
"You’re right, Rose. God knows where you are. I might have some trouble finding you, but I’m sure it’ll be all hunky-dory in the end.
The beacon activated. D’you remember the beacon? It was the thing that drew the TARDIS to here. Well, it’s another auto-defence mechanism from the crashed spaceship. It just drew in a Szaborg fleet, twelve ships. Of course it takes massive power to drag a whole fleet to Earth, so there was some slight turbulence. Hope you weren’t hurt.
Anyway, the Szaborgs have landed, and Nefrin’s all like — ‘There’ll be a BIG battle,’ and, ‘We must prepare,’ and, ‘We’ll need all the help we can get.’ That’s why he’s releasing the prisoners, so they can help him against the Szaborgs.
By the way, how did you get out? He hasn’t even released them yet.
Love, the Doctor"
He soon received a reply.
"Szaborgs? My God. You see, when I was in prison, I had another nightmare. And I saw this face, this face covered in worms. And then a voice said, ‘We are the Szaborgs.’ Could this be connected with the Szaborgs that are arriving now?
I don’t know how I escaped prison, by the way. I woke up from my nightmare and all the bars had disappeared.
How can I help?"
The Doctor frowned deeply.
"Hello again. Nefrin will probably send some Hycrons down to get the prisoners up, after he’s released them. I want you to take them out. You see, he won’t send very many, probably only three or four. So your party can eliminate them. YOU DON’T HAVE TO KILL THEM. You can just knock them out for a while, then take the released prisoners up here, as soon as you can.
‘Release the prisoners!’ Nefrin boomed, triumphantly, not realising he had repeated himself.
Jarkline slammed up a lever.
Down in the Prisoner’s Complex, Rose put away her mobile phone and raced after Sabtino and Gafdint.
She soon caught up with them. ‘Well, how’s it going?’ she said brightly.
‘Fine, thanks,’ Gafdint replied.
But not for long. Sparks shattered the air a few feet ahead. Gafdint suddenly grabbed Rose and Sabtino and pulled them swiftly to the ground.
‘What is it?’ hissed Sabtino.
‘It’s the prisoners,’ Rose said. ‘Being released.’
‘How many?’ Gafdint asked, scared.
‘I don’t know,’ Rose responded. ‘The Doctor never made that clear. But I would guess... hmm... about sixty, from the number of cells.’
Sabtino whimpered. And others whimpered back. A chorus of tentative whining, as men, women, boys, girls and even babies walked or crawled from their cells. ‘Freedom,’ Rose heard a man say quietly. Then she realised that nearly everyone was whispering something along these lines. They were so glad to be out.
But they weren’t free for long.
Into the passage barged not three, not four but five muscular Hycrons, arranged in a V-shape, so that their leader was at the front, with two on either side.
‘You will come,’ said the leader, its voice cold as metal. It wasn’t a question.
‘Now’s the time,’ Rose hissed to her alien companions. ‘To choose a side. Mine or theirs. The human who saved your lives, or the overlords who have ruled your lives.’
Sabtino and Gafdint looked scared, and gulped, but neither questioned Rose.
‘Good,’ Rose said, grinning. ‘So let’s do it.’
Out of the crater stepped the brave party — the Doctor, Nefrin, Jarkline, and three other Hycrons (Fenrof, Huka and Lixa, male, female and female), to confront the Szaborgs.
Sure enough there in front of them loomed twelve imposing ovoid spacecraft, identical to the one inside the Experiment Shaft.
‘The prisoners will come at my command,’ Nefrin said, leaning over to whisper in the Doctor’s ear.
The Doctor nodded and gave a secret smile. Not if Rose had anything to do with it.
The six stopped walking and faced the Szaborg ships.
‘Let the Szaborgs come forth,’ cried Nefrin, ‘and let justice be done upon them!’
His shout echoed among the rocks, bouncing and hissing to and fro, until it lost itself in the wind.
‘Show yourself!’ added Fenrof.
And then, without any command, or even any other action or noise to order it, the panel on the front of the closest ship swung silently open. This single motion was quite sinister.
‘D’you know what that implies, for me?’ the Doctor asked Nefrin.
‘No,’ replied the Hycron Leader absently.
‘It implies that something’s gonna come out...’
And then, the first sign of life from the ships, something did come out. The most hideous twisted creature that the Doctor had ever seen.
It was like a man, dressed in a posh buisiness suit, with shiny shoes and a tie and sleeves. But its hands and head were the least like a man anyone could imagine. Its head was covered in worms. Long red worms, crawling and slithering all around the creature’s head. And its hands. Its head and hands were simply clumps of writhing worms.
Then the Doctor realised they weren’t worms, they were tentacles. Big slimy curling wet soft tentacles. Dripping with red stuff that definitely wasn’t ketchup. Then the tentacles peeled horrifically back, to reveal two gleaming red eyes, and a huge, snapping mouth that took up most of its face. Then the tentacles on its hands peeled back, uncovering two smaller mouths, embedded in its palms, hungry and drooling and glistening with blood.
An awful, twisted, evil voice resounded from the creature’s mouth. A terrifying, chilling, growling tone that set the Doctor’s teeth on edge.
It said in this ghastly voice:
‘We are the Szaborgs.’
Rose, Sabtino and Gafdint made for the five Hycrons. Their eyes widened in not fear, but surprise.
Rose made a small, simple speech.
‘If you want the freedom you were talking about, help us. Knock out the opposition.’
The Hycrons snarled. ‘Obey her,’ their leader hissed forcefully, ‘and you will suffer a slow, agonising death after long torture.’
The ex-prisoners looked around, not knowing who to believe. The Hycrons smiled confidently. Then a huge blue pincer swung out of nowhere and smashed the leader over the head. The alien authority grunted briefly, then slumped, unconscious.
It was Gafdint. Using the Hycrons’ over-confidence to his advantage, the alien had crept up and knocked out their leader.
‘Gafdint!’ cheered Sabtino.
And, suddenly, the Hycron spell was broken. The prisoners cried, ‘FREEDOM!’ in unison, and surged forward, pummelling their captors with fists and feet.
Rose and Sabtino joined the throng, crying with primitive, vicious joy, hitting the Hycrons with pincers and hands.
An iron tree trunk swept through the crowd. Rose reeled back, stunned. She, luckily, was unharmed, but many humans had been badly injured, and one had even been killed.
One Hycron had swept its pincers right in the middle of the mob. Rose exclaimed. It had been incredibly hard.
Shouting in rage, the mob descended upon the Hycrons. The aliens were completely smothered in a writhing, yelling sea of bodies. One of them went down. A plasma gun sped across the floor. Gafdint grabbed it and fired, three successive shots. The remainder of the Hycrons toppled over. The mob of ex-convicts cheered and danced about.
Rose, however, was horrified. ‘Why did you kill them? Why?’ she cried. ‘The Doctor will go mad at me!’
‘Knock-out mode,’ Gafdint explained, not moved by her anger. ‘They’re out cold.’
Rose breathed a sigh of relief. ‘I didn’t know it had modes,’ she answered, then produced her mobile phone and texted the Doctor.
"Hi there Doctor,
We’ve taken out the Hycrons, and not killed any.
Her thumb hit ‘Send’.
‘Well, my friend,’ boomed Nefrin cheerfully, ‘I regret to announce you’re doomed. Bring on the prisoners!’
The Doctor smiled as he secretly read Rose’s text. Ha! Peace or destruction, was the choice he was about to offer Nefrin. Without his extra soldiers, he would be easily beaten by the Szaborgs. Either this or he would strive for peace. This was his ultimate goal.
‘P-R-I-S-O-N-E-R-S!...’ called Nefrin.
Then the Szaborg laughed. A cruel, hissing, grinding laugh. ‘The Szaborgs will obliterate you, Nefrin,’ it growled, ‘and no power on this Earth can stop us.’
Nefrin’s mouth opened, then closed, then opened again. His plan had fallen apart.
The Szaborg screeched, in an unearthly, too-high shriek.
The Szaborg army arrived.
The front panels on each spacecraft fell open. Then a column of Szaborgs emerged from each. Marching silently, menacing, a terrifying legion of emotionless squid-faced warriors, bent on destruction.
Nefrin and his companions backed off. The army was simply too big to fight.
Then their chant started. The terrible, endless chorus of, ‘Eradicate. Eradicate. Eradicate...’
Then the original Szaborg ceased its march. ‘Let the head of the beast come forth!’
And, finally, the Doctor saw what Rose had seen in her nightmare, that long dark day aboard the TARDIS.
Glittering in the night sky, a terrible, bleak monument, a desolate statue, an omniscient god, standing tall, proud and potrayed in a cloud of swirling purple framed by the darkness, looming in all its twisted glory, was the Horsehead Nebula.
Its cold face fixed upon Earth.
Nefrin turned to his group. ‘We will fight to the death,’ he said.
For a moment, the Doctor thought he had misheard. ‘What?’ he asked, horrified.
‘We will fight to the death,’ Nefrin repeated.
And the Doctor cried out despairingly. ‘NOOOOOOOOOOO!’ he screamed. ‘You can’t do this! After all that!’
But Nefrin wasn’t listening. ‘Plasma cannons!’ he ordered.
From the side of the mountain erupted several streams of crackling purple energy. One of them missed, but the other four hit home. Purple explosions racked the Szaborg army. For a moment the squids paused.
Then they were marching calmly towards the Hycrons, chanting their alien catchprase. ‘Eradicate. Eradicate. Eradicate. Eradicate...’
‘Again!’ yelled Nefrin, and the jets spouted once more from the rock face. Szaborgs were flung everywhere, yet still they continued. And they were invulnerable. Once the crackling of plasma ceased, the Szaborgs simply resumed their march. When they were flung away, they merely got back up again.
‘Plasma guns!’ yodelled the Hycron leader, and two dozen Hycrons all crawled up from the crater. They fired immediately. These smaller, more precise weapons seemed to work better on the Szaborgs, but it still took around ten shots to fell one. And they were coming closer...
One of Nefrin’s group, Lixa, lost her nerve and charged forward, plasma gun in pincer, firing wildly. One, two, three Szaborgs down.
But then Lixa made the mistake of running on.
Lixa took it down.
And then the Hycron smashed into the line of squids. KRACCCK! She barrelled over one Szaborg, two, three, four, and then the fifth raised its hand-tentacles to her face.
And started to suck.
The tentacles wrapped greedily round the small blue face, obscuring it in seconds. Then the mouth sucked, an unstoppable force that stretched the flesh of the Hycron to breaking point...
‘NO!’ cried Nefrin.
Then the whole of his companion’s body was wrenched from the ground and into the Szaborg’s hand-mouth, contracting impossibly, squeezing and screaming.
Nefrin, the Doctor, Fenrof, Huka and Jarkline backed off, horrified.
The head of the beast hanging threateningly in the sky tilted, and sang its eerie chorus that Rose heard in her dreams. ‘Death to the living,’ its evil voice hissed. Two red Szaborg eyes flashed in the dark. It started to rain.
‘The might of the Horsehead Nebula will consume the galaxy, planets falling like dominoes, the Szaborg legion will swarm across the stars...’
As the Szaborgs advanced in their silent march, and the rain cascaded down, he put his head in his hands. He was getting very old.
He had to face up to the fact that this time he had nothing. This time there was no aid anywhere. Rose, the human who brought light to his heart, was lost and far away. A mighty invasion force was ready to march across Earth. The human race would be torn down and would never rise again.
He had to face up to it.
He had lost.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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Chapter 3: Hypernova Part 3 - Hypernova
Author's Notes: And so this is it. Th climax of the Hypernova Trilogy, and the Trilogy of Trilogies. The one where I fling countless monsters at the Doctor and Rose. The one in which there are nine battle scenes. The one in which I create my own (better?) version of the Niightmare of Black Island.
The story which I have enjoyed writing the most of all my stories, Doctor Who or not.
I hope you like it as much as I do.
A DOCTOR WHO STORY
Rose spoke out to the prisoners. ‘All of you. It isn’t over yet. We’ve got to stop the Hycrons and the Szaborgs, and somehow end this war.’
The prisoners cheered, half-ignoring her. They would not abandon this small victory.
Rose turned to Sabtino and Gafdint. ‘We have to go on,’ she stated. They nodded darkly.
Rose once again adressed the crowd. ‘Last chance. Anyone want to come with us?’
Only three of the prisoners came. ‘What are your names?’ asked Sabtino of the prisoners.
‘George,’ said a small man with glasses and slicked-back hair. ‘Keira and Kitty,’ answered two pretty twins in unison. They were nervous of Sabtino, and, indeed of all Hycrons, but they could see that these aliens meant well.
‘OK,’ Rose breathed deeply struggling to contain her irritation at these annoying humans. ‘You stay here. Sabtino — let’s go. There’s no point in trying to get their help. They won’t budge. They’re too attached to their little victory.’
Rose and the Hycrons moved onwards, down the passageway towards the promise of escape. After a moment’s hesitation, George, Keira and Kitty followed, hoping that what they were doing was good and that they would soon be home.
The Doctor stood in the centre of a raging nightmare. The Hycrons were firing madly, felling Szaborgs at a stunning rate considering the squids’ invulnerability to bullets or rays. The Szaborgs themselves simply marched on, seemingly oblivious to the destruction, chanting, ‘Eradicate. Eradicate. Eradicate,’ their hand-tentacles raised in preparation to suck Hycron faces into their waiting, grinding mouths.
Then, a brainwave hit the Doctor. ‘SILENCE!’ he bellowed. Both the Szaborgs and the Hycrons ceased their riotous fighting, gazing at him quizically.
‘ENOUGH!’ he added, and there was complete silence, as ordered.
He then spoke in a clear loud voice, adressing the Szaborgs. ‘What do you want?’
The Szaborg Leader stepped forward. ‘I am the Borg. I will answer your questions.’
The Doctor nodded.
‘We must have our spaceship back. Unknown Hycron modifications will cease. This is the BorgShip and we need it.’
‘Right, you want your spaceship back. Hycrons, what do you want?’ he turned to Nefrin.
‘I thought you knew what we wanted,’ growled Huka.
‘Yeah, well, the Szaborgs don’t, do they?’ asked the Doctor, rhetorically.
Nefrin cleared his throat. ‘I speak to the Borg,’ he called clearly, ‘and demand that you call off your forces until Hycron modifications have been completed. Then you may return home.’
Secretly he turned round and whispered to his companions. ‘We will complete the Hypernova Missile and set it onto timer. When they are nearly home and dry, it will explode and kill them, then destroy their homeworlds.’ Fenrof giggled. Jarkline covered a grin with a pincer.
‘Unacceptable,’ growled the Borg. ‘Modifications will not continue. The BorgShip will return to the Szaborg Homeworlds. You will not intervene.’
‘Oh really?’ cooed Nefrin cruelly. ‘Why’s that then?’
The Borg’s small red eyes flashed. ‘There is a Szaborg war fleet, waiting outside the beacon’s range. One wrong move and it will jettison millions of Szaborg pods.’ The monster’s gigantic mouth leered evilly. ‘Ten of us in each.’
The Hycrons were silent.
The Borg cackled. ‘You thought this was a fleet? You’ve seen nothing.’
‘Right,’ the Doctor told Nefrin. ‘Best thing is to give the ship to them.’
‘No way,’ Nefrin sneered. ‘The Hypernova Missile isn’t finished. It’s our only chance of ridding ourselves of these pests once and for all.’
‘OK then.’ The Doctor breathed a heavy sigh, then ran over to the Borg and said loudly, loud enough for the Hycrons to hear, ‘Kill them. There’ll be no opposition once they’re safely inside your stomachs.’
‘Excellent idea,’ rumbled the Borg, and then roared, ‘Szaborgs! Destroy all opposition! We will fight our way to the Experiment Shaft and take the BorgShip by force.’
Nefrin’s eyes widened. He was about to cry out when he saw the Doctor. The Time Lord was winking. And Nefrin smiled.
The Szaborgs charged forward, their tentacles whipping in hunger, greedy for life. The Doctor rushed towards the Hycrons too. Nefrin, who had an idea that the Doctor might want to speak with him, feinted a crushing blow. The Doctor played along, dropping to the ground with a faked scream. Nefrin crouched beside him and hissed hurriedly — ‘What are you playing at?’
The Doctor smiled vaguely. ‘Peace-mongering,’ he chuckled.
‘You call telling our enemies to kill us peace-making?’ Nefrin argued. ‘A bit one sided peace-making, don’t you think?’
‘It’s all part of the plan. I’ve got everything under control,’ explained the Doctor, not very helpfully.
‘How?’ persisted the Hycron Leader.
‘Never mind,’ the Doctor said, slightly irritated now. ‘I’d advise you to retreat to the Shaft.’
Nefrin cursed, undecidedly. Then he cursed again. Finally he said, ‘I don’t know your plan and I don’t particularly trust you. But you’re our only hope.’
He then lunged up. ‘HYCRONS!’ he thundered. ‘RETREAT TO THE EXPERIMENT SHAFT!’
The Doctor smiled. If he was very very lucky, he might just be able to save the day. He and the Hycrons fled in a rout back towards the entrance to the underground passageways, pursued by a wave of bloodthirsty, relentless alien squids, ready to kill.
Rose, Sabtino and Gafdint rushed up the passage. The three humans nervously followed. ‘We head for the Experiment Shaft,’ Rose declared, turning briefly to meet the gaze of two aliens and a trio of her kind.
‘Why?’ Keira dared to ask. ‘And what is the Experiment Shaft?’
‘Because my friend is there and he’s in trouble. I can feel it. As for what the Shaft is, you can see for yourself.’
At that precise moment, Rose and her companions rounded a corner, to reveal a wide, low arch from which a strange red shimmer emanated.
‘This is it,’ breathed Sabtino. ‘The Shaft.’
Rose wanted to rush inside and run towards the Doctor. But then something stopped her. Because rows upon rows of men with squid-heads marched across the rock. Dozens of them. Rose breathed out. She felt an opressive malice, an oozing horror, that shoved and pressed against her heart, beating to a second rythm, an eerie, chilling melody, singing stark notes of primitive simplicity yet strange intimididation, a bodiless chorus soaking into her skin, her vision tilting, her heart and head racing. She remembered her nightmares, and recalled the same chill, the same primal, instinctive dread.
‘The Szaborgs,’ she said, matter-of-factly, yet feeling terrified.
All she could picture in her head was the half-revealed, shadowed face, crawling with worm-like tentacles, and the awful, horrible Horsehead Nebula, the image of evil, seared and branded onto her eyelids. She knew Sabtino was talking, but she couldn’t hear, the Hycron’s soothing voice was ringing, now growling, and hissing like the evil voice from her dream. Rose screamed and lashed out. Her arm connected, hard, with Sabtino’s side. Instinctively, Sabtino’s pincer jutted straight, smashing into Rose’s face. There was blood in her mouth. The face from her nightmares was mocking her. She didn’t want to, she so didn’t want to, but she felt herself plunging headfirst into the dreamscape of the Horsehead Nebula-
She thrashed around, wailing, attempting to stop her steady summons into the head of the beast-
Lashing, coiling tentacled faces loomed around Nefrin and his companions as the Szaborgs surrounded them in a final overwhelming attack. The Doctor and the Hycrons backed up against the Experiment Shaft.
‘Well, well, well, three holes in the ground,’ purred the Borg, shoving through its ranks of foul squid-men to face the doomed party triumphantly.
‘Very funny,’ snarled Nefrin, pulling up his plasma gun. The Hycron Leader cocked it and pointed it at the Borg’s swirling mass of worm-like protrudances.
‘Peace,’ chided the Borg, faking sympathy, but desperately failing. ‘Poor little Hycrons, doomed to die, in a few minutes they’ll be Hycron pie.’
‘Such games belittle you!’ barked the Doctor.
The Borg’s malicious eyes fell upon the Doctor. ‘You have betrayed us.’
‘Who said I ever joined you? I’m on neither side. All I want is for you squid-heads to take this stupid war to the skies, and never come back.’
‘Ah, a pacifist,’ hissed the Borg. ‘I hate them. Possibly even more than I hate enemies. What will you do when my unstoppable legions swarm across the world, destroying all both in the mind and out? You will die.’
‘Hate is all you have,’ replied the Doctor, quite calmly.
‘Stronger than love,’ growled the Borg. ‘All love gets you is a few kisses from some soppy member of the opposite sex. But hate... It is the art of destruction. The pleasure of pain. The beauty of death.’
‘No,’ the Doctor said, with force in his voice. He stared at the Borg, into those unfeeling red slits, and it was the squid that was first to blink. Furious, the Borg yelled, ‘I will not be outdone by a puny human brain!’ From its curling finger-tentacles a red shimmering beam leapt. It slammed into the Hycrons on either side of the Doctor. Screaming, they collapsed. ‘This is the might of rage!’
‘All right,’ replied the Doctor, sighing tiredly. ‘If you must, take your dumb ship. Then we can end this stupid war.’
The Borg ceased its crazy firing and observed the Doctor. ‘Really?’
‘Yes. There’s nothing to stop you.’
‘Yes there...’ began Nefrin.
‘Shut up,’ growled the Doctor.
There was a pause, a hiatus, in which the Borg looked around. Clearly the Doctor was being honest. The Hycrons were reluctant, but for some reason they seemed to trust the Doctor, even to the point of sacrificing their precious little ‘modifications’. This made the Borg feel slightly uneasy, as it suspected the Doctor had a plan.
‘No drawbacks?’ the Szaborg hissed, doubtfully.
‘No drawbacks,’ confirmed the Doctor.
‘Very well,’ The Borg said. It made for the edge of the Shaft. ‘Szaborgs, keep an eye on them, especially the Doctor. I will return the ship.’
‘Wait.’ The Doctor suddenly spoke up. ‘You don’t have anything to do with Rose’s nightmares, do you?’ An idea had come to him. A theory. If Rose said she had seen a Szaborg in her dream, then the creatures themselves might have caused the nightmares. For what reason, he could only guess. But he knew it was true. Who else could it be? The thought that some other force apart from the Szaborgs could be responsible was too sinister to contemplate.
The Borg was silent. ‘Who is this Rose?’ it growled.
‘She’s a human. A human girl, who travels with me. She’s been having nightmares about you.’
‘If we had anything to do with your stupid friend’s superstitious mind then we would have said earlier.’
‘Or you could just not be telling me,’ said the Doctor. He didn’t want to believ that this was true, that some other entity was behind his comapanion’s dreams.
‘We did nothing. The dreams are not ours. Their origin is unknown.’
‘But who else could it be?’ the Doctor cried.
‘We will descend,’ said the Borg. It turned its swirling emotionless face round, and levitated into the air. It glided forward, over the edge of the chasm, then dropped into the Shaft.
Nefrin turned on him angrily. ‘You gave it to them!’
‘When I said, “No drawbacks,” I had my fingers crossed.’
Nefrin grinned, and turned away. But the Doctor was concentrating. Concentrating extremely hard. His eyes bent on the faces of the Szaborgs. They were somehow wrong. Not just that they were disgusting and creepy and alien, but because they were wrong.
THAT WAS IT! No evolutionary process could have ever come up with that. Not in eons. They were thrown together, jumbled, unreal. ‘Hold on, hold on...’ moaned the Doctor, as his mind raced painfully, tearing back the sheets of lies that surrounded him, unmasking the truth. Then he had it.
‘None of this is real!’ he shouted, pointed an accusing finger at the rows of merciless squid-faced humanoids. His head racing unbearably, shaking, not knowing how it could be but sickeningly sure of it.
‘Doctor,’ growled Nefrin, shaking him. ‘The Borg ordered the Szaborgs to keep an eye on us. One wrong move and they’ll kill us.’
The Doctor swivelled round to face Nefrin. And saw it once more. The same wrongness, the same perversity, the same unreal features as he saw in the Szaborgs.
‘You aren’t real either!’ he cried. Nefrin regarded him as if he was crazy. ‘Of course I am,’ replied the Hycron.
‘No. No. No, no, no. No one is. I’m not even sure...’
The Doctor never got to finish his sentence. Because the tube that led from the spaceship to the crater glowed a ferocious red, the red of fire, of lava. The Borg gave a thwarted scream from the bottom of the Shaft. It was cut off by a huge explosion from the crater as fire erupted all round and the Szaborgs ships and most of the army was disintegrated.
‘You tricked us!’ bellowed the Borg at the Doctor. ‘You said that there were no drawbacks!’
‘It’s not a drawback,’ thundered the Doctor back. ‘It’s your own auto-defence mechanism! Forget about it! Your problem, not mine!’
‘Szaborgs!’ yodelled the Borg. ‘Kill them!’ The squids advanced. Nefrin and his Hycrons opened fire. Szaborgs were bowled over. And more, and more, till the room was clogged with tumbled squids.
‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!’ yelled the Borg, lunging up out of the shaft. It raised a hand, ready to suck Nefrin’s face in.
In one fluid motion, the Doctor pulled Nefrin’s plasma gun from its owner, swung it round, found the trigger, grabbed the Borg, and pointed the gun at the creature’s throat.
The Borg had time to utter one last command before it was silenced by the Doctor.
Unfortunately, this command was spoken into the speaker that dangled round the Borg’s neck.
Even more unfortunately, the speaker connected the Borg with all the pilots of the waiting Szaborg fleet.
Most unfortunately of all, the command was: ‘INVADE!’
Great panels hinged open with rusty creaks and clangs. From one such hatch, a green metal sphere sped, fifteen feet in diameter. Then another, then another, from all the hatches, until there was a rain of Szaborg pods, whistling through space, heading for Planet Earth, ready to unload billions of Szaborgs, enough to take over the entire planet.
‘Holy cow,’ cursed the Doctor, observing a scanner in the Experiment Shaft. It showed the pods streaking through the void, some of them disappearing into Earth’s atmosphere and vanishing, their heat shields going up, extinguishing the Doctor’s brief hope that they might burn up like most meteors do.
‘You asked for it,’ smirked the Borg. Without smirking. It couldn’t smirk, its mouth was held in place. The so-called ‘smirk’ was simply an overpowering instinct to believe that the Borg was smirking.
‘Stop smirking,’ said the Doctor.
‘I have good cause to smirk, even if I could.’
The Doctor was silent.
‘I suggest you leg it,’ said the Borg mildly.
‘OK, Plan B,’ ordered the Doctor.
‘What was Plan A?’ asked Nefrin.
‘What’s Plan B?’
‘Leg it,’ said the Doctor.
England. London. The Powell Estate. Rose’s flat. Jackie Tyler was making coffee.
There was a knock at the door. ‘Mum, it’s me. I’m here!’ called a voice at the door.
‘Oh!’ squeaked Jackie in excitement, and she rushed to the door, saying breathlessly, ‘Oh, love, you never told me you were coming home!’
She swung open the door without a moment’s hesitation. Standing before her was the looming figure of a Szaborg, its tentacles curling and lashing. Another three squid-headed men flanked this first one.
Jackie screamed, and dropped the mug of coffee she was holding. China lashed out, a dozen shards, striking the walls and floor. Dark brown coffee splashed out, staining the carpet.
‘Did you like my impersonation?’ the Szaborg hissed, its tentacled hand raised, its hand-mouth snapping with tiny teeth.
The Doctor (holding the Borg) Nefrin, Jarkline, Huka, Fenrof and five other Hycrons dashed across the hall towards the back exit.
The Doctor cried out as he saw Rose slumped on the rock. He lunged to her and observed her.
Sabtino was nearby. ‘She’s asleep,’ the Hycron said. ‘I think she’s dreaming.’ Gafdint, Keira, Kitty and George hovered uncertainly beside the female Hycron.
The Doctor did not answer, nor show any sign of hearing Sabtino. He leaned closer and whispered in her ear, ‘Rose?’
She did not respond.
A sense of dread welled up inside him. He placed a hand on her forehead, and jerked back instantly. It was absolutely flaming, too hot to touch. He gasped. That was no way any earthly temperature. That was the heat of fierce energy, of immense power.
‘What’s happening to you, Rose?’ he asked the air. ‘What’s got you? And will it ever let you go?’
She dreamed she was back in the vicinity of the Horsehead Nebula. Its terrifying face looming over her, intimidating.
‘Go on, Rose Tyler,’ the evil voice breathed. ‘Give me your imagination. Give me a host of monsters to make the universe shiver and recoil.’
Across her brain flashed pictures of all the aliens she had encountered. An endless list. The Autons, Cassandra, the Adherents, the Gelth, the Slitheen, the Daleks, the Jagrafess, the Reapers, the Gas-mask Zombies, the Anne Droid, the Dalek Emperor, the Cat Nurses, the Werewolf, the Krillitanes, the Clockwork Robots, the Cybermen, the Cyber Controller, the Wire, the Ood, the Beast, Karazt, the Cyberer, the Authority, the Eon Eater...
All these creatures flowed past her till she felt sick. And still she carried on.
‘Good. You have done well, Rose.’
Suddenly there was an immense crashing sound. ‘Szaborg pods have started landing,’ stated the Doctor worriedly. ‘Let’s go.’
‘But we’ve only just met you! Why should we trust you?’ cried Gafdint.
‘Do as he says,’ Nefrin commanded. ‘And sharpish!’
Groaning, the Hycrons jogged off behind the Doctor, who was sprinting towards an exit.
The Szaborgs marched relentlessly down the corridors and tunnels of the volcano-base, fanning out, covering all available exits, in search of their leader and in order to end the terrible intergalactic war that had been raging for millennia.
‘Eradicate. Eradicate. Eradicate. Eradicate...’
The Doctor and his party raced into a room, a sizeable, circular chamber, no different to any others in the base. He lay down Rose, who had been carried in turns, and nursed his badly burnt arms. The Hycrons’s leathery flesh had shown more resistance to the heat, so he was the only one who had sustained bad damage.
‘What can we do?’ he asked Nefrin hurriedly. ‘What the hell can we do now?’ as Szaborgs rounded the nearest corner and came towards their room with bloodthirsty speed.
‘LOCKDOWN!’ called Nefrin, and thick steel bunkers slid down from the exit, cutting the Szaborgs off with a satisfying SHUNK sound.
The Doctor was unconvinced. ‘What about the other door?’ he inquired.
Nefrin said, ‘They haven’t got that far into the network, and now they can’t. There is no way around this room, you’ve got to go through it.’
There was a loud BANG, as one of the Szaborgs whacked against the bunker. There was no visible effect, but the Doctor was sure that it had weakened, as displayed when another Szaborg threw itself against the defence. The bunker tilted slightly, and wobbled on the next impact.
‘How strong are those creatures?’ asked the Doctor, horrified.
‘Very strong,’ replied Fenrof, shaking his head.
The Doctor hesitated for a moment. Then he spoke. ‘We need to come to an understanding. And, as horrific as it sounds, none of you are real. None of you. You’re all some part of a sick, twisted game which I don’t know anything about. But I promise to get you out of it. Somehow.’
George, and several Hycrons, shook their heads doubtfully. Keira and Kitty exchanged nervous glances. Most were silent. The Doctor looked deadly serious. Nefrin scoffed.
‘If we’re not real, then how come,’ he swung a pincer lightly into the Doctor, who lurched back, ‘how come you felt that?’
‘I’m not saying you’re not real now,’ the Doctor answered confidently. ‘I’m saying that your origins are totally unknown. The same goes for the Szaborgs. I did a scan. No evolution could have produced your races in however long the Universe has existed. You are unreal, thrown together, almost as if someone had imagined...’
He stopped dead. ‘Imagined...’ he breathed, suddenly inspired. ‘Imagined...’
There was a pause. ‘OH YES!’ the Doctor exhaled, stingingly, a Eureka moment, painful pleasure coursing through him, the pleasure of comprehension.
Then he spoke up again, saying a dreadful, incredible, heart-stopping revelation that would turn the world upside-down.
‘It’s not the Szaborgs that are causing Rose’s nightmares — it’s her nightmares that are causing the Szaborgs.’
Awe-struck, devastating silence.
Outside the room in which the Doctor, the Hycrons and the humans were gathered, a blurred shape pressed itself into reality. Followed by more of exactly the same build, height and shape.
Slowly the surrounding hum of power became louder and louder, and, finally, when the buzzing reached its manic crescendo, the figures cast off their blurry, faded images and became as they were, standing in all their glory in the twilight of the underground base, their arms spread up, wide, triumphant.
Tall, intimidating giants of purest steel, their legs and arms plated, their hands gauntleted, their faces emotionless and rigid, curving industrial lines sweeping over their bodies, metal bars branching from the sides of their heads to the gleaming scalps, the large C logo standing bright on their chests.
They were Cybermen.
‘Rogue elements detected. Delete.’
Then there was a screech. A bat-like humanoid burst into existence, flapping its leathery wings, its huge claws flashing. A Krillitane.
Then, beside it, an Ood appeared. A human dressed in a business suit, startlingly similar to a Szaborg, tentacles red as blood piling from its wet grey face, red eyes glowing with malice, white gleaming electric ball held in hand.
With a whoosh of gas, a blue whirring human shot through an invisible portal, tinged with red and purple, shimmering and billowing, as if made of smoke.
In a grinding of clockwise rotors and cogs, an intricate masked figure shimmered into reality, its hands deadly blades, its real face a glass-encased mass of mechanisms. It was a Clockwork Robot.
Then, dread seeping through all who heard it, a metallic cry echoed through the base. A grinding, grating, forced scream of ‘EXTERMINATE!’ The air glowed, and a five-foot metal pepperpot shoved forward out of nowhere. Its lower half was a ridge of spherical knobs, and above it a ray gun and sucker arm hung. Upon its dome sat two flashing yellow lights, and an eye-stalk sprouted from a point a few inches below.
The Daleks, the Gelth and many other aliens were back, conjured out of the ether by Rose’s overactive imagination, and were all patrolling the tunnels of the Hycrons’ underground base.
For the Doctor and his friends, time was running out...
‘OK,’ said the Doctor, thinking fast. ‘Rose conjured you and the Szaborgs up from her imagination, using bits and pieces from aliens we’ve met. You’ve got the bent-over heads of the Slitheen. The Szaborgs bear a striking resemblance to the Ood. But, even with that revelation, we still don’t know how she did it. No human could do this. And there’s still one mystery to solve. What’s that?’
With sudden speed, he pointed a finger up, to the skylight, which opened right up onto the sky above the crater. Filling the view was the menacing form of the Horsehead Nebula.
‘Rose saw that in her dream too,’ explained the Doctor. ‘And I’m not sure...’
He was cut off by a gigantic roar from the skies. ‘I GAVE HER THE DREAMS!’
The Doctor’s head instantly jerked up. ‘WHO ARE YOU?’ he bellowed. His voice sounded pathetically small compared with the huge growling yell of a few seconds ago.
‘I AM THE HEAD OF THE BEAST!’ came the reply. ‘I AM SEPARATED FROM THE WHOLE, BUT I WILL SOON SEARCH FOR THE REST OF ME!’
The Doctor boggled. ‘HOW WILL ENCHANTING A PUNY HUMAN GIRL HELP IN YOUR COSMIC CAMPAIGN?’ he yelled.
There was a titanic laughing, cackling noise, like unearthly thunder. ‘I NEEDED AN IMAGINATION THAT HAD SEEN MANY HORRORS AND YET WAS UNDEFENDED. THEN I COULD CREATE ARMIES OUT OF ONE SINGLE MIND, AN INTERGALACTIC FORCE SO HUGE THAT IT ALONE COULD COVER THE ENTIRE OF TIME AND SPACE. ONCE THEY HAD FOUND MY BODY, NOTHING IN ETERNITY COULD STOP ME!’
The Doctor’s jaw dropped, then closed, then dropped again.
‘What’s it saying?’ questioned Sabtino, covering her ears.
‘It’s created an army from the brain of my friend. But that’s not what worries me.’ He made his voice louder, adressing the Horsehead Nebula once more. ‘WHAT CREATURES DOES THIS ARMY CONSIST OF?’
The Head of the Beast cackled again. ‘SOME OLD FRIENDS,’ it thundered.
‘What shall we do now?’ Jarkline asked the Doctor.
‘Somehow we’ve got to defeat the Head of the Beast. Once it’s down, its body will die too, and the army it’s created. But I suspect this army might be close by.’
‘It is,’ confirmed Nefrin, unecessarily. ‘The Szaborgs.’
‘No, not just the Szaborgs,’ the Doctor shook his head, terrified. ‘Creatures much, much worse.’
Nefrin suddenly came up with an idea. ‘What about the Hypernova Missile? Could it destroy the Horsehead Nebula?’
The Doctor was so excited that he leapt forward and kissed Nefrin on the forehead. ‘You’re a genius!’ he cried, gleefully. He felt like dancing around.
‘Don’t get too excited,’ said Huka glumly. ‘First we’ve got to fight our way to the Shaft, through about a hundred Szaborgs.’
The Doctor stood there with an ecstatic grin on his face.
‘Ah,’ he said.
‘Here they come!’ warned Gafdint, and round the corner of the open entrance five Cybermen came, marching, their metal boots crunching and grinding on the rock. ‘Hycrons will be deleted. Delete. Delete. Delete.’
Their Cyber Leader suddenly called, ‘Activate ranged deletion,’ and guns sprang up from the Cybermen’s hard glittering wrists. Red rays of energy lanced from them, with a whooshing, hissing sound.
‘DUCK!’ screamed the Doctor, and the group obeyed. Rays whizzed overhead. The group scattered.
Then, from behind the Cybermen, the Ood came, their cascade of tentacles glimmering with a perilous light. One of them let loose an electric ball with a simple uncurling of fingers. The sphere flew across the room and smashed into Huka’s face, the cord tightening and straightening. The Hycron screamed as his face turned to jelly, and his body electrocuted, white strands of energy hissing and crackling.
‘RUN!’ yelled the Doctor, and Nefrin called, ‘Undo lockdown.’ The bunkers slid up. The Szaborgs, who had been pushing with all their might on the other side of the steel panel, lost their balance and poured heavily forward, into the Cybermen and Ood. One of the squid-headed aliens was felled by a Cyberman’s gun, another two by the Ood’s balls. The Cybermen fired wildly at the fleeing group, but were bowled over by the Szaborgs.
The Doctor let go of the captive Borg as he grabbed hold of Rose, cursing as her hot skin burnt him. The Borg made to smite the Doctor over the head, but dripping jaws seized the creature from above. The Doctor looked up, to see the Mighty Jagrafess hanging wetly from the ceiling, obscuring the skylight, tossing Cybermen, Ood and Szaborgs alike away, devouring them.
‘RUN!’ shouted the Doctor again, and this time there were no distractions. The group sprinted forward, those who had plasma guns firing at the Szaborgs who blocked their way, heading for the nearby Shaft.
As they jogged, Nefrin panted a message to the Doctor. ‘The... Missile isn’t... finished... hasn’t got full... range... can’t reach the... Horsehead... Nebula...’
‘Too late to worry about that now,’ the Doctor cut in. ‘Keep running. Just... keep... running...’
They had no such luck. As soon as they were inside the Experiment Shaft hall, creatures attacked from all sides. The Krillitanes swooped from the ceiling where they had been hanging, shrieking their alien cry, divebombing the Hycrons, their claws clutching, their teeth tearing, eyes burning with malice and terrible glee.
Harassed by the bat creatures, the Hycron group made slow progress, crawling towards the Shaft.
Nearby, the Szaborgs were battering down a door, which was being held closed by two Daleks. As the Doctor and his party passed by, the Daleks swivelled, beams of blue-white light soaring from their guns. At this distraction, the Szaborgs smashed the door open, tentacles raining down on the Daleks, sucking and pulling. One of the Daleks was consumed, but the other rained bolts on its opressors, killing them, mowing them down. While its attention was on the squid-men, Nefrin fired with his plasma gun. There was a huge explosion. When the fire and dust cleared, the Dalek was a pile of dust. Now free, the Szaborgs swarmed across the hall, but were met by a vicious aerial assault from the Reapers, who had recently been called into existence.
Then huge green dripping colossi loped into the hall — the Slitheen. From the other side came a whole host of Clockwork Robots. Ticking menacingly, the droids advanced, their clockwise attachments sweeping sharply, their empty eyes focused on the Doctor and his group. The Slitheen ran forwards too, their incredibly long claws clicking together, their big green lips moving, droning small malicious phrases.
Now the Doctor was completely cut off from the rest of the group, who were locked in vicious combat with the Krillitanes and the Slitheen. Already Gafdint and Jarkline had fallen — if he didn’t get a move on the rest would also be doomed.
He moved to the edge of the Shaft. The Clockwork Robots clicked and turned towards him, their blades ready to cut flesh. Quickly, quickly. He held out the sonic screwdriver and buzzed it into the chasm.
CRACK! A small section of the Szaborg ship broke off, the piece that contained the Hypernova Missile. It flew up over the edge into the Doctor’s arms. ‘I’ve got it! Let’s go!’ he called to Nefrin, trying hard to ignore what the Hycron Leader had said, about the range not being full. He would find a way, he thought. He always found a way.
Nefrin shot down the last of his opressors and looked around grimly. Three of his Hycrons were lying dead — Jarkline, Gafdint and Fenrof. The human George had also died. He looked wider around. Everywhere, destruction, death being dealt by alien hands.
He saw the Doctor, fighting with strange clockwork men and women in ball gowns and intricate masks, grabbing their weapons and shining a weird blue tube in their faces, which made them slump in limp, dead piles.
‘Quickly!’ cried Nefrin. ‘Back to our room! Or any room!’
The Doctor nodded, kicked a Clockwork Robot over and dashed towards Nefrin. A Krillitane dived at Nefrin, who was being attacked by a Slitheen. He dodged and the bat collided harshly with the upright lizard. Roaring in confusion, the two creatures rolled over and over, biting and clawing at each other.
The party sprinted over to the nearest exit, the Doctor carrying the Hypernova Missile cradled in his arms. It was mind-boggling that such a comparitively small object had the potential to destroy worlds.
The Doctor, Nefrin, Keira, Kitty, Sabtino (carrying Rose), Huka and several other Hycrons lolloped along. They entered their targeted archway and disappeared round a bend.
As the Doctor ran, an idea ocurred to him. A brilliant idea. A revolutionary idea. Thoughts whizzed about in his mind, banging into each other and the sides of his brain, painfully. He somehow recalled Rose sending him a text saying that she had somehow made the bars of her cell disappear. Maybe, just maybe, that was because she had fallen asleep while holding onto the bars.
Maybe they had followed her into the nightmare. Maybe, right now, they were floating around in space, somewhere near the Horsehead Nebula, which was in all probability about to summon its army, find the rest of itself, and destroy the netire of reality.
Unless he could stop it.
He also remembered Nefrin explaining to him that the Hypernova Missile was incomplete and lacked full range. Well, what if he gave her the Missile, and, using the sonic screwdriver, managed to accompany her into the dream, to tell her to use the Missile, now near the Nebula, so that its plan would never be completed, and all the aliens would vanish...
High up above Earth, away in the darkness of space, the Head of the Beast roared its victory. ‘ARMIES! TO ME!’ it boomed, its immense voice somehow carrying across the void, reaching Earth even through the endless space that separated it from the Nebula.
‘DDDDDOOOOOOCCCCCCTTTTTTTTOOOOOOOOORRRRRRR!’ screamed Nefrin, as, suddenly, an invisible force yanked him off the ground and flung him up. The celing exploded as many Hycrons thundered up through it.
Right across the world, the armies of monsters sped into the air inexorably, nothing stopping them, answering the call of their master. Out of the whole of the Doctor’s company, only he and Rose remained. Keira and Kitty had been imprisoned by an unreal race, so they themselves were not existent.
‘The Head of the Beast summons its legion,’ the Doctor said grimly. ‘It begins.’
Up in the perpetual dark of space, the Head of the Beast stirred, unwittingly uttering exactly the same words as those that had passed the Doctor’s lips but a few seconds ago.
The Doctor fiddled with the sonic screwdriver, setting it to 4567 — Dream Connector.
He sighed in satisfaction. Everything was ready. He brought down a fist on Rose’s head, not gently. He didn’t like doing it, but it was the only way to temporarily get her awake.
Even at this disturbance, her head simply tilted up slightly. ‘Yes, Doctor?’ she inquired, weakly and sleepily.
He didn’t have the time to answer. He pressed the Missile into one hand, his hand into another. Then he shone the sonic screwdriver above her.
Seeing no reason why he should disturb her fatigue, Rose closed her eyes and re-entered the dream.
The Doctor and the Hypernova Missile vanished.
The Doctor and Rose appeared in the dream, facing the Horsehead Nebula.
‘AHHHHHHHH...’ came the evil voice of the severed cosmic head. ‘I UNDERESTIMATED YOU, DOCTOR. STILL, YOU ARE FAR TOO LATE. LOOK BEHIND YOU.’
The Doctor smiled. ‘I’VE FALLEN FOR THAT TRICK FAR TOO MANY TIMES TO BE DECEIVED BY IT AGAIN, MR HORSEHEAD.’
‘YOU’LL REALLY KICK YOURSELF IF YOU DON’T.’
The Doctor grinned. ‘I’m far too gullible,’ he chided himself, and turned round.
His grin immediately faded.
There stood rank upon rank of Cybermen, their metal flesh gleaming with a strange light. Behind them loomed the imposing figures of the Emperor Dalek and the Beast. The latter being a little bit too free for the Doctor’s liking.
‘IF YOUR LITTLE GIRL FIRES THAT THING AT ME, I WILL SET THOSE THINGS UPON YOU TWO BEFORE IT EVEN HITS HOME.’
Rose looked terrified and overwhelmed.
The Doctor was unimpressed by the Horsehead Nebula’s argument. ‘SO, BASICALLY,’ he yelled, ‘YOUR OFFER IS MY LIFE SPARED IF YOU CAN DESTROY THE UNIVERSE. CONSIDERING THE CIRCUMSTANCES, THAT YOU’LL PROBABLY KILL US ANYWAY, AND THAT I DON’T CARE MUCH FOR MY OWN LIFE, I THINK I’LL SAY...’
His hand slammed down on the big red button that was spread on top of the Hypernova Missile.
‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!’ thundered the Horsehead Nebula. ‘ARMIES! DESTROY HIM! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!’
‘Looks like the Grand Finale to me,’ said the Doctor, as the invisible stream of insanely destructive energy trailed painfully slowly across space. The Cybermen advanced in a tidal wave of floating steel giants, crying, ‘Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete.’
‘Yeah,’ Rose managed to say.
‘You do realise this is the end, don’t you?’ asked the Doctor.
‘Yeah,’ repeated Rose, smiling. ‘Sorry I was so dumb. Letting that thing into my mind. Creating armies of aliens to kill you. Being asleep all the time so I couldn’t admire your heroics...’
‘Rose,’ the Doctor said gently, taking her hand, ‘that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard you say. It couldn’t have been more not your fault. I should have realised sooner...’
‘Oh, shut up,’ she grinned, and threw herself at him, burying her face in his neck, arms wrapped round his back.
The Cybermen marched relentlessly onward, impossibly terrifying.
The Beast swung its gigantic claws.
The Emperor Dalek summoned its hordes of Daleks.
Everything slowed down.
‘DOCTOR!’ cried Rose, suddenly panicking.
The Doctor suddenly noticed an ‘Accelerate,’ button on the side of the Missile.
‘Good old Nefrin,’ he grinned, and pressed it.
Light and flame exploded
everywhere. ‘NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! THE HYCRONS WERE MEANT TO BE MY ARMY! THEY ENGINEERED MY DOWNFALL — CURSE THEM AND CURSE THEM! AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!’
There was a second explosion and the Head of the Beast was obscured in blinding light.
The monsters, Hycrons, Szaborgs and all the rest, vanished with a distinct lack of puffs of smoke. Before he went, the Doctor thought he saw Nefrin winking at him. Then everything was silent.
‘Good thing, you made them, Rose, eh?’ the Doctor said.
Rose stirred in his arms. ‘What happened, Doctor?’ she said, puzzled by the silence and the fact that Cyber bullets were not melting her head.
‘Little piece of Hycron technology. Over-confident alien intelligence. Clever brain like mine...’ he tossed the sonic scredriver up, and watched as it began to float away. ‘Sorted.’ He jumped after the screwdriver and caught it.
‘That’s great!’ Rose exclaimed, her face breaking into a huge grin.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. ‘Humans,’ he said. ‘Honestly, sometimes I wonder about you. You’ve got a thing about stating the obvious, like saying, “You’re very tall,” or “I seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot hole.” ‘
‘How are we breathing?’ Rose asked him suddenly, worried. ‘I thought space was a vacuum.’
‘Another automatic thingymafobby from the TARDIS,’ explained the Doctor, but broke off and glanced at a strange device strapped round his wrist. ‘Although... it’s kind of running out. We’ve got about fifteen seconds left.’
‘We’ll we’d better get out of here, sharpish!’ cried Rose.
‘Another classic example of human behaviour,’ noted the Doctor drily, holding up the sonic screwdriver. He turned and cheekily waved at the gaseous remains of the Horsehead Nebula. ‘Bye bye Horsey. We’ll miss you.’ He pressed the button, and the Doctor vanished.
‘Hey? What about...’ began Rose, as she vanished too.
‘Me,’ finished Rose, a little lamely as she registered she was once more lying down in the Hycron base.
‘You don’t think I’d leave you?’ teased the Doctor.
‘Of course not,’ said Rose, shocked at this possibility, then reconsidered. ‘Well, maybe,’ she admitted.
The Doctor laughed and led her up, on the long journey to the crater, and, more importantly, the TARDIS.
As the TARDIS span across the wastes of space, Ligmant and his group of demons looked on happily from their vantage point on a particularly high mound of dried lava on the dark side of the moon.
‘Isn’t that the spaceship of the guy who helped us kill the Cybermen?’ a demon inquired.
‘The Doctor,’ corrected Ligmant.
‘Yes. Isn’t that him?’
‘Yes. And we’re going to give him a little surprise.’
With that, Ligmant took off, its powerful wings propelling it easily through the inky dark, lurching towards the TARDIS.
In an arching, immeasurably high hall that served as a dining room, the Doctor and Rose were eating strange fruit called Nastapukars, looking out through the windows.
‘Won’t Earth notice that the Horsehead Nebula’s been destroyed?’ Rose inquired.
‘No,’ the Doctor replied instantly. ‘It takes two thousand years for light from Betelguese to reach Earth. Right now you’d see it as it was at 6BC. Who knows how long it would take for you to see the Horsehead Nebula.’
‘You must know,’ Rose pressed.
‘The demons seem to be settling in well,’ the Doctor said, pointing out their mini-civilisation they had built in the centre of a certain moon-sea.
A huge horned head pressed itself against the durable exo-glass, calling, ‘SURPRISE!’
‘What were you saying?’ asked Rose innocently.
A few minutes later, Ligmant and three other demons were sitting round the huge table in the dining room, consuming Nastapukars at the speed of sound. The Doctor and Rose sat next to them, the latter eyeing them warily, recalling when this same demon had tried to kill her.
‘Doctor, we need your help,’ Ligmant said. ‘There’s going to be a solar flare soon, and it’ll reach even the dark side of the moon. We don’t know what to do. Can you help us?’
‘Hmmm...’ wondered the Doctor idly, rubbing a multicoloured Nastapukar pip between his thumb and index finger. ‘I don’t know about that. I was thinking about taking Rose to the Final Quasar, at the edge of the universe, rather than the moon,’ he said.
‘You could drop in on the way,’ proposed Ligmant.
‘Still, you could...’
‘I don’t think so.’ The Doctor stirred. ‘You demons have got to become a bit more self-sufficient. Find out a way yourselves. I’m sure some ingenious mind will solve all your problems for you.’
Ligmant was silent for a time. Its fellow demons cast uneasy glances at their leader. Then it spoke up. ‘I will try,’ Ligmant replied. ‘But I cannot guarantee that the humans will not suffer.’
The Doctor stiffened. ‘Then I cannot allow it,’ he answered instantly, producing the sonic screwdriver and frowning over it.
Ligmant looked worried. ‘I’m sure this is the only way.’
The Doctor sighed. ‘So long as you don’t mass-murder, I’ll allow you. But excess killing is evil. If I discover that you have — I’ll be after you.’ He put away the screwdriver, slipping it into his coat pocket.
‘Thank you.’ And without a further word, Ligmant and its demons flitted out of the room, somehow negotiating the passages and halls of the TARDIS that led towards the exit.
The Doctor stood next to the console in the main room of the TARDIS, flicking switches and pulling levers. Rose perched beside him rather uncomfortably, watching his activity with interest and also total incomprehension.
At last Rose broke the silence. ‘I don’t trust Ligmant,’ she said flatly. ‘What if the demons kill loads of people. And it’s all very convenient that they didn’t tell us their plan. For all we know they plan to kill everyone on Earth and migrate to it. I don’t like it one bit.’
The Doctor turned to her, slightly exasperated. ‘We’ve got to trust them. If they kill people then we’ll pay them back. That’s the only thing I can guarantee.’
Rose agreed, albeit uncomfortably. ‘So what’s the Final Quasar, then?’
The Doctor was incredulous. ‘You’ve never heard of the Final Quasar? Oh, you haven’t lived.’
Rose grinned expectantly. ‘Go on then, what is it?’ she asked, biting her lip in excitement.
‘It’s the edge of the universe. The Ultimate End. The Beginning of the Void,’ the Doctor explained. ‘It’ll be further away from Earth than we’ve ever gone before, even further than that Ood-infested rock. You can go further, but no organism has ever mapped the Beyond, as the Time Lords used to call it.’
‘D’you reckon it’ll be dangerous?’ Rose asked.
The Doctor’s eyes were alive with perilous joy.
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