It was a great day; people came from all
over to see the launch of the three vast Sundowner colony ships and the small command pod. It was on all the news channels,
it was the only news that day.
"Sundowner command, this is launch control we have green lights across the board."
Conrad, mission commander for this historic mission, replied to launch control's message. "Roger launch control message received
over, we're waiting on your signal."
"We're at L minus two minutes JC over."
"This is going to be some trip huh?" Herb
Garcola asked. He was the youngest member of the command crew and more than a little excited.
"Sure Herb, after this mission
they'll be heaping so many medals on us we'll stick to magnets."
"Speak for yourself Captain, some of us serve for honour."
Elle Thirsk, a seventh generation career military officer, murmured. "There are better things to waste eleven thousand billion
dollars on if you ask me."
"Bombs and bullets right?" Conrad asked. "Weapons to fight the Daleks I expect?"
Blow those mothers right into nuclear oblivion. I'd love to engage them in battle and watch them explode."
right for Planetbuster's Daughter. Tell me Commander, doesn't it make you suspicious that the old man hasn't gotten you promoted
all the way to major by now?"
"I made him promise not to interfere or I would marry the son of General Douglas. So far
he hasn't tempted fate."
"You and Dippy Douglas? I can't see that one working."
"I know Dippy." Herb interrupted. "Nice
guy, not someone you want working with you though. He drops everything he's handed."
"That's what upsets daddy so much.
Sometimes I swear I can hear the blood vessels pop in his forehead. Still Dieppe's great in bed, just everything else is beyond him."
"So you and Dippy
are getting it on? Only you and just about every other woman he meets."
"He's a bike and I'm riding that boy for all he's
worth." Elle laughed, which was rare for her at the best of times.
"L minus thirty seconds Sundowner Command." The voice
crackled over the tannoy.
"Launch confirmed ready." Herb said, checking all the controls. "Wait engine two has a red."
it fixed!" Conrad shouted.
Quickly Herb traced the fault on the computer and tapped in all the necessary command codes
to release the stuck valve. After several seconds the red light turned green. "It's a go Captain." He said with fifteen seconds
on the clock.
"L Minus 10." Control said.
The main thrust came online
The fuel cells were put in place.
Conrad touched his forehead.
Conrad touched his groin."
Conrad touched his left-hand side pectoral.
touched the right-hand side one.
The engines started to inject coolant.
Plumes of smoke poured out of
the exhaust vents."
The temperature beneath the craft became hotter than the surface of the sun.
craft started to lift upwards.
"The Sundowner Mission is a go. On behalf of all the people of Terra Delta god speed to
Captain Conrad and Commanders Thirsk and Garcola.
The small command pod soared ahead of the three larger craft.
It was to stay ahead of the three vessels anyway during the flight to provide advanced warning of unexpected asteroids and
Inside of Sundowner Command the three astronauts relaxed once the ship's Autonav system was switched on.
This could theoretically run the mission but no one trusted technology so completely after the Transmat incident back on Old
Blue when a group of Neo Martians tried to remove all Oxygen from the atmosphere. The people of Earth had almost starved when
the automated food shipments suddenly stopped. Of course they got it working again thanks to a bit of original thinking and
a good old rocket. The outer colonies lacked the materials to T-mat over such distances hence the Sundowner mission to take
three thousand volunteers to a new world and start over yet again.
Herb 'levitated' himself thanks to the zero gravity
onboard; he tried to convince the other two he was a world famous wizard, Ze Mighty Zoltan. "Und now I vill make myself turn
about." Using his hands he managed to turn himself about.
"Very good." The others agreed.
"Now to break out the non-standard
drinks courtesy of Old Planetbuster." Elle produced three silver packets. "Just sip them, it's neat whiskey."
"To Old Planetbuster."
Captain Conrad toasted the General's health."
"To the General." Herb cheered.
They sipped the strong spirit as they
gazed out into the emptiness of space. "Kind of makes you feel small, seeing how big it all is I mean." Herb said. "It took
God seven days to make this."
"Six days, he had a lie in on Sunday." Conrad corrected his junior officer.
"I know what
you mean Herb, to see all of this kind of makes you appreciate what we have. Home I mean, a fragile ball of mud and water.
It would be so easy to destroy it. One look at this and you realise you have to protect it at all costs."
of the Sundowner mission floated on through the empty vastness of space. Their new home a distant beep on the sensors. Only
the regular visits to the recreation facilities on Sundowner Two stopped them getting cabin fever.
Elle Thirsk preferred
to practice contact sports and martial arts to keep herself in proper condition. She even taught the weekly Karate class,
as she was the only Black belt in that particular discipline on Sundowner Two. Tate Jones on Sundowner One was her main rival
and they would spar anytime they could get the chance to practice.
Herb Garcola took things easier, preferring to jog occasionally
and trying out all the sports simulation machines. He could fly fish of Caprica, dive in the seas of Kerion, skydive through
the atmosphere of Neptune and a hundred other things it would be impossible to do conventionally. When
he wasn't relaxing he was really relaxing, usually spending time on the dance floors or in the hologramatic bubbles where
he could recreate anywhere he wanted to relax on a deckchair and just think about nothing at all.
Jason Conrad didn't like
to spend too much time away from his ship but when he did leave he could be found propping up the bar of the Comet, just the
right kind of seedy bar he liked to frequent back on Terra Delta. However the more he tried to make things different to his
old life the more they reminded him of what he missed and so the more he drank. If he recognised the pattern he didn't let
on but the bar staff of the Comet always smiled politely when he started to shout at anyone he saw. Mostly they had someone
sober him up and send him back to his ship once he passed out.
Mostly it was Elsie Pannier who cleaned him up; she liked
the roguish Captain. There was something in the way his eyes glinted when he smiled at her. She didn't even mind it when he
threw up all over her, the uniform was easily cleaned and she felt it was her responsibility to take care of the mission leader.
In her own way she was doing her part for the mission. She just wished he wouldn't drink so much and maybe he would be able
to take better care of himself.
The first thing to go wrong was when the wiring on Sundowner Three failed and it
took thirty-six hours to get it fixed. After that it was a catalogue of minor faults, nothing dramatic in themselves but cause
for worry non-the-less.
Fifty people in Sundowner One reported seeing a large mutant star goat eating the other ships.
The showers in Sundowner Two got jammed on freezing cold for five hours. The coffee on Sundowner Three tasted like chicken
soup. On and on the list went until finally all three ships were put on twenty-four hour alert. Then the strange things stopped
as suddenly as they started. This made Conrad suspect a saboteur, but anyone with the necessary talent to pull off even half
the things mentioned in the report had long been watched by security and none were suspected.
Tensions ran high in the
command pod when Conrad took to drinking constantly in front of the others.
"Captain why don't you go to Sundowner Two
for a little R and R?" Herb suggested.
Conrad burped loudly. "Theresh noshing wrong, the computer can take care of any
schituations if we need it to."
"Great, now he can't form a coherent sentence," Elle muttered to Herb. We're going to have
to remove him from command or he's going to get us all killed."
"That's a little extreme don't you think?" Herb asked.
in the regs Commander. He's violated all five stipulations of command. Two's enough back home."
"Yeah but he's the Captain,
we can't just y'know replace him."
"Nor should we, sober he's the best damn pilot in the whole fleet. However like this
he's no use to anyone. It's for his own good."
"Hey what'cha doing?" Conrad asked when Herb Garcola bundled him
in the shuttlecraft and headed over to Sundowner Two. "I order you to return me at once do you hear me? Right that's it, you're
gonna be on charges of mutiny mister. You'll never work again."
"Sure thing Captain. We'll just take you to the detox clinic
on Sundowner Two and get you cleaned up."
Elle Thirsk and Herb Garcola managed to run the command ship between
them. They missed the Captains skill when it came to avoiding the odd asteroid but they managed to do a good job.
Pannier brushed the hair out of the Captain's face. "You know you look so damned handsome in that uniform." She pulled the
zip up for him. "I'll miss you now that you got that stuff out of your system."
"No reason I can't drop by for the odd
fruit beverage. Maybe have a few words with my favourite person?" Conrad smiled at the waitress. "Maybe after planet fall
me and you can get together? I'm thinking of settling down you know."
"Maybe. Lets see what the future brings?"
stood to attention by the airlock when the Captain's shuttle docked. They saluted him when he stepped through the airlock.
you were," he ordered. "I ought to lock you two up in the brig but instead I got you these." Conrad pulled a fruit basket
out of his travel bag for his two officers. "Don't eat them all at once huh?"
"Welcome back sir," Herb said.
the log of our activities." Elle handed the small computer pad to the Captain. "Nothing much happened sir."
on course? Good. Only two months to planet fall now. Still the odd mysterious occurrence though. Sundowner Three's communications
were down for almost a week but they're restored now."
"Yeah, though the reception is still off. It's all messed up, lot
of interference and it sounds as flat as hell." Herb summarised the incident.
"As long as we got contact back, that's the
main thing. The last thing we want is a ship we cannot guide."
A month away from their destination and Sundowner
Two's airlock failed. This meant that the crew had to use the recreation facilities on Sundowner One. They were ok but not
as state of the art as the ones on Sundowner Two. Sundowner One was the main agricultural ship. All the seed that they could
need for five years was sealed away in its vast cargo bays. There were very few colonists on Sundowner One, a mere four hundred
technicians and farmers.
"Captain, we have a situation here. Sundowners Two and Three systems have gone off line." Elle
could not believe her eyes. "There were no faults, they just went off."
"Herb, get a trace on their systems. Find out what
the hell went wrong."
Herb tried to use the trace program but it wouldn't respond. "We're locked out Captain. It's as if
they don't want us taking a look inside."
"Great, fantastic. How the hell do we land two ships without the computer?"
can do it Captain," Elle remarked. "You're the best there is. You out fly the computer."
"Sundowner Two if you can hear
me, I want you to flash you port signal light three times. It's on a separate circuit. Over." Herb hoped they could still
receive instructions. They watched the view screen as the port signal light came on and off three times.
at least." Conrad sighed with relief. "They can hear us."
They were now only a day away from their new home when
Conrad started the landing procedures. "This is Sundowner Command to Sundowner One, we have confirmed sighting of colony world.
Atmospheric probes launched, awaiting results anytime now.
Deep inside Sundowner one a slightly battered blue police telephone
box materialised. Its three inhabitants emerged to investigate. One of the three women, the one with the dyed black hair,
wore a long purple dress with lots of ribbons tied around the waist, the second, with the mousy brown hair, wore figure hugging
denim jeans and a baggy black leather jacket on top of a plain yellow halter top. The third figure wore a crumpled green velvet
trouser suit, pale pink blouse, plain black high heeled shoes that clinked on the steel floor and in the button hole of her
jacket there were stuffed an assortment of flowers.
"Oh great, another spaceship cargo bay," Claire Mason, an orphaned
London teenager, complained. "This is almost as bad as corridors."
we Doctor?" Hannah Sinclair, a former resident of Miami, asked the Doctor.
One. At least that's what the writing on the wall over there claims." The Doctor, a semi-renegade Time Lady from the planet
Gallifrey, pointed to the large white lettering on the dull steel wall. "Let's have a quick look around and see if we can
help anyone shall we? They may have some tea if we're really lucky."
"Sundowner One intruder alert signal is being
received Captain." Elle Thirsk reported. "They want to know what action to take."
"Ignore it, it's another malfunction."
"Better be safe than sorry Herb. We don't want to lose another ship's signal."
"You think it's our saboteur?"
"Could be, could well be." Conrad smiled.
They had explored the cargo bay but all they could find
were row after row of containers full of seeds.
"This is boring." Claire muttered as she kicked one of the containers.
can think of something that will cheer you up." Hannah slid her arm down Claire's back. "Better now?"
"Much." Claire smiled.
think our problems are about to become moot," The Doctor said suddenly. "There's one or two people here with rather large
guns. Do you have tea on you as well?" She asked the nearest guard. "Only my young friends and I would dearly love a cup."
you, I'm asking the questions," the guard snapped. "Name."
"Doctor Jane Doe. Just call me the Doctor though."
and Hannah gave their names to the guard.
"You're not listed on the passenger manifest for this ship. Which ship are you
"Sundowner Two," the Doctor lied quickly. "Our shuttle is back there somewhere. I'm afraid we're rather lost you
"We've got a few technical problems with your ship, maybe you can answer one or two questions? Come along with me
"Don't call me ma'am," the Doctor snarled. "I'm the Doctor."
"Whatever," the Guard said as he took a hold of
the Doctor's arm.
"Unhand me at once," the Doctor complained. "I can walk perfectly fine by myself."
"As you say ma'am."
The guard pushed the Doctor to the floor. "Never mind, ma'am, I'm sure you know best, ma'am."
The Doctor glared at the
oaf's back while Claire and Hannah helped her to her feet. "Thanks you two. I think that jackbooted idiot's in for a shock
once I report him for imitating a sentient being."
"They call this an interrogation room?" the Doctor complained.
"I've seen worse places in my time."
"Be quiet Doctor," Claire hissed.
"What are they going to do to us?" Hannah asked
concerned that they were going to torture her.
"Nothing much, psychotropic drugs I expect," the Doctor explained casually.
"Fortunately I'm immune to them."
"Yeah, but we're not," Hannah panicked. "They're going to inject me with some stuff except
they'll mess mine up and I'll get an overdose or something."
Claire did the only thing she could think of to calm her hysterical
lover down. She grabbed her head and planted her tongue into her mouth. She pulled Hannah towards her and held her tightly.
could have just slapped her," the Doctor muttered to herself. "That usually works."
"Not as much fun though Claire managed
to say between breaths."
"Captain, we have three suspects in custody.
They say they're from Sundowner Two and got lost looking for their shuttle craft."
"Good, good. I'll take the shuttle over
and have a word with them myself. I want to find out exactly what's going on over there."
"Quit it you two, there's
somebody here," the Doctor half whispered to her companions. She smiled her sweetest smile as the uniformed man entered the
"I hear you three were found inside one of the cargo bays earlier today. I'm Captain Jason Conrad, the commander
of the Sundowner mission. I'm taking charge of this interrogation myself due to the nature of the incidents over the last
"Oh good, does that mean we can go now?" the Doctor asked. "We only arrived here earlier today."
hear me out…" Conrad looked at the datasheet "Doctor. There are a lot of unanswered questions and I need answers before
I can let you go. Now you say you arrived here from Sundowner Two?"
"Err no. I lied. My ship is inside the cargo bay. It's
called the TARDIS."
"More like explorers. My friends and I we travel through time and space and,
well, the old girl's getting on a bit and she likes to investigate too. So here we are."
"You know how insane you sound?"
The rational mind cannot accept what it cannot understand. I am a Time traveller whether you believe it or not."
a pity. We don't have communication with Sundowners Two and Three. We were hoping you could explain what was going on over
there. However seeing as you're obviously mad I cannot take your word for anything at all."
"I'm not mad, well not much.
You have to be a little crazy to do what I do I guess but I'm totally in charge of my faculties. I can show you my ship if
you like? That's all the proof you will need."
Conrad thought for a second. "Ok, why the hell not? They say madwomen should
be humoured. Show me this ship of yours."
"I don't believe it!" Conrad said as he stood inside the console room
of the TARDIS. "I just don't bloody believe it."
"That's what I said, after the gibbering," Hannah confided. "It's like
wearing a bra for the first time - It does take a little bit of getting used to but once you get used to it, it's like it's
always been there. I guess that's something you haven't experienced though."
"It's true, it's all true. Either that or
I'm going mad. That's it, this is a dream isn't it?"
"No, it's not a dream and you're not going mad." The Doctor laughed.
"This is my home, my ship, my TARDIS."
"So what can we do about Sundowner Two?"
"You say there was a lot of electrical
problems? Things going haywire? Then suddenly you lost contact? Blow the ships up, destroy them now, before it's too late."
Conrad exclaimed. "Why the hell should I do that?"
"They're dead, or worse than dead. Oh they're sneaky all right but I
know their ways. Captain, the Cybermen have taken control of those two ships. All your colonists have either been turned into
more of them or taken apart for spares. There is no one left alive over there that thinks, acts or behaves as you do."
was on Sundowner Two," Conrad explained. "We were going to start a life together once we landed.
"I'm sorry." Claire put
her hand on the Captain's shoulder. "I really am."
"No, I won't take your word for it. I can't just blow up twenty six
hundred people on your say so. Not with out absolute proof."
"Then you shall have your proof." The Doctor operated the
door controls, closing them. Then she tapped out some commands into the databank and they were on their way.
"So how are
we going to get there?" Conrad asked. "There's no airlock on this level."
"We're already there." The Doctor turned the
huge display screen on.
Outside there were only two things, corridors and Cybermen. One of them turned to look at the blue
box before continuing on its way.
"They know we're here and they know who we are. They'll try and seize the other two ships
now. We must destroy this ship while we have the element of surprise."
"I still cannot believe this isn't an illusion."
Doctor opened the inner doors. "Then take a look for yourself, see what's out there for yourself."
"Hey Elle, there's
a ship coming out of Sundowner Three. It's heading towards us."
"At last they've got the airlock repaired. Maybe they're
coming over here to report in person?"
"Lets find out?" Herb said as he moved to open the airlock door. "They're dressed
in some sort of fancy dress outfits."
"That's not fancy dress," Elle shouted, they're Cybermen. "Blow the outer door and
suck them out into space.
Herb punched the controls but the tall silver figure remained standing still inside the bay.
"It's no good, it's not moving."
"Must have magnetic feet," Elle guessed.
"It's got a gun," Herb shouted. "It's going
"No!" Elle screamed as the small inner window exploded inwards then suddenly the glass held in position before
being blown backwards. "Plug the leak." She ordered, seizing command of the situation.
Herb looked around the small craft.
"What with? There isn't anything large enough."
"The deck plate! Give me a hand to lift it up." They hauled at the slab
of heavy metal and finally they lifted it up against the hole. Breathless they sat down next to each other and laughed. "That
should do it" Elle managed to speak at last.
There was a pounding sound as the Cyberman used its fists to dislodge the
Herb looked up as the piece of metal was finally dislodged it fell nearby with a ringing sound. "Come on
Elle, help me lift it back up." He turned to see that the slab had caved the head of his fellow officer in. Her blood covered
both himself and the floor. He panicked as the Cyberman's hand caught the open control and the airlock door swung open. However
the Cyberman caught him before he could be sucked out into space. The last thing he saw was it using a foam substance to seal
the small door before he passed out.
"I can't make contact with my ship Doctor." Conrad shook his hand-held communicator
about as he entered the TARDIS once again. "There's no response."
"It's worse than I feared then." The Doctor shook her
head slowly. "We must get to Sundowner One and stop them getting on board there as well."
"Can you get us back there in
"I can get us there in the blink of an eye." The Doctor beamed.
"What was it like?" Claire asked.
There were just pieces of people floating in tanks of liquid goo. All those people destroyed because I was too busy crawling
into the next bottle all the way."
"You said it yourself it started almost as soon as you left. I think that they smuggled
one or two Cybermen onto each ship and waited a few weeks before the slowly took over key systems and picking off people one
by one. Like I said, I know their ways. I also know how to fight them and how to kill them."
"Doctor, we're less than a
day away from planet fall. If we let those metallic nightmares on that planet they'll grow like a cancer."
"They will at
that. We must destroy the ships they're already on. Send them into the heart of the sun if we have to."
"Can't we tie them
up and leave them out in the rain to rust Doctor?" Claire asked. "They don't deserve mercy at all."
The Doctor turned to
look at her young companion. "Cybermen don't rust Claire and it's our capacity for mercy and humanity that sets us apart from
"You're not human though Doctor," Claire reminded the Doctor of her otherworldly origins.
"True, but when you
have time travelling cults meddling with your Biodata and changing your past history then anything's possible. Technically
I'm half human although I shouldn't be. That's the nature of paradoxes I'm afraid."
The TARDIS rematerialised in
exactly the same position it had occupied on Sundowner One when it had first arrived. The four occupants emerged and hurried
to the small control booth. Conrad severed all command controls from Sundowner Command and then he sealed off every airlock.
should stop any ships docking but if they try to burn through there's little we can do but evacuate and seal off those areas."
me Captain does this ship have a supply of gold dust? I have some inside the TARDIS but not nearly enough to stop a full scale
"We don't have much of anything on Sundowner One. It's the agro ship; all you'll find here are seeds and dirt.
Why, what good is gold dust?"
"It clogs up their chest panels and stops them from functioning. In a few minutes it can
stop a Cybermen in its tracks."
"I'll see that you get what we do have Doctor," Conrad said.
"Claire you help the good
Captain while Hannah and I return to the TARDIS to get my supply."
"Okay Doctor, hurry back though." Claire blew a kiss
The journey back to the TARDIS was slow going, as they had to take an alternative route to avoid the
airlocks they had walked through before. They tried playing I spy but the Doctor was obviously cheating because she could
see far more things with her better eyesight.
"There's a signal coming in from Sundowner Command." Conrad said
suddenly. He switched on the screen to see the face of Herb Garcola. "Hey Herb I thought the Cybermen had got you."
are Cybermen sir?" Herb asked puzzled.
"Never mind son, how are you?"
"Not good sir, Commander Thirsk turned out to
be our saboteur. She was shutting down everything from over here. I confronted her and she attacked me, I was forced to eject
her into space to prevent her from killing me."
"Damn Herb. You sure you're okay?"
"I'm fine sir though Sundowner One
is locked out of the system. I suspect Elle had done it shortly before she attacked me."
"That's ok Herb. I did it to take
precautions. There's a group of civilians over here being selling me this invasion story. I suspect they're 'friends' of Commander
Thirsk's. I have one of them right here. I'll get the truth out of her."
"No, Claire backed away slowly. The Doctor's been
telling you the truth. The Cybermen are real, they murdered my brother, turned him into one of them. Why would the Doctor
lie to you? I mean she acts a little crazy but she's not a liar."
"The evidence would seem to suggest otherwise," Conrad
There was something about the young officer Claire had seen. Something unnatural, something that suggested Cybermen.
He didn't blink! "Did you record that conversation?"
"All inter-ship communication is recorded as standard procedure little
"Play it back, watch his eyes. Tell me if they blink."
Conrad watched the tape twice. "He never blinked once,"
he admitted. "What the hell's going on."
"I think you're friend's dead Captain," Claire said quietly.
Sundowner Command Herb Garcola's head floated up and down slowly in the tank of protein solution. The wires connected directly
into his brain acting as a bungee cord.
"This way, I think," the Doctor said as they took the right most corridor.
do you know Doctor?" Hannah asked. "Is it one of your special powers?"
"I don't have special powers Hannah, unless you
count my ability to brew the prefect pot of tea. No I can sense where the TARDIS is, it's a sort of mental skill my people
develop over centuries."
"Bizarre." Hannah concluded. "I could never even find the car again when we went to the mall."
always been interested in agriculture," Claire chatted idly to Captain Conrad. Dunno why exactly, it just seems like something
I've always wanted to do."
"Working the land is hard work, tilling the soil, sowing seed, little or no thanks. My family
were all farmers but I wanted a life out here, in the stars. I suppose once we land I'll have to muck in and help out. There
won't be any need for a shuttle service now I guess, at least not for a while. We'll be too busy staying alive to care about
flying and anything else."
"Probably but I feel a yearning to be somewhere for more than a day, to put down roots and to
just worry about day to day things like hair and clothes. I'm going to tell the Doctor I want to stay here, make a go of this
"Assuming we'll survive that long." Conrad's words conveyed the dread feeling in his gut. "They're coming." He
pointed to the large screen that displayed several small ships heading their way. There was no choice; he pressed the red
"Doctor, can you hear something?" Hannah said to the blonde Time Lady just as the TARDIS doors closed.
"Sounded like an alarm or something."
The Doctor looked up from the controls. "Hear what?" she asked before returning to
setting the necessary commands. A roundel popped out of the pinky/grey wall and shortly afterward gold dust started to pour
out of a small vent into the bags the Doctor had ready to hold it in. She managed to fill four bags with a little left to
cram into her jacket pockets.
"There must be a million bucks of gold there Doctor," Hannah exclaimed. "Can't we melt some
of it down afterwards, to make jewellery or something?"
"Gold is by and large an unimportant metal, except for its use
against the Cybermen and only then if it's absolutely necessary. If you want to make decorative adornments you should try
Machenite, it's far superior." The Doctor handed two of the gold filled bags to her companion. "Be a good girl and carry these
for me would you?"
Claire took the two heavy bags and held them in her arms. "What good can this stuff do really?" she
asked. "If there's a lot of them I mean?"
"Deter them for a while so we can escape I should expect, although they're not
above shooting people in the back. No emotions and no honour make them frightening killers."
There was a pounding
at the large bulkhead and Claire shrank back behind Conrad. "That's them, isn't it?" she whined. "I just know it is."
there young lady, they have to get through ten inches of Dwarf Star Alloy first." Conrad tried to cheer the Doctor's associate
up a little.
"Is that stronger than Stainless Steel?" she asked, hoping for a yes.
"A lot stronger my dear, it's the
toughest metal we know of. It's a super compacted material harvested from the iron rich hearts of dead stars. Nothing can
get through there in a hurry, believe me."
It came as little comfort to either of them when the bulkhead was reduced to
a puddle of glowing slag a few seconds later.
"Come on Hannah." The Doctor ran down the corridor as fast as she
could in her heels. Hannah doing her best to keep up the pace.
"I wish I put a sports bra on," Hannah complained to herself.
"I hate running, they bounce around like two basket balls in heat."
"No time for a pit stop now Hannah," the Doctor shouted
as they hurried back to where they had left the captain.
Conrad fired at the advancing silver robots but his laser
pistol was totally ineffective against them. In desperation he threw the weapon at the nearest one but it caught the weapon
and crushed it into scrap metal with its hydraulic hands.
Claire shrank back, she hated the Cybermen, and it was like a
ball of pure rage that pulsed inside her heart and her head. She knew they didn't have anything to defeat them with and a
quick glance around the Spartan room confirmed this. She was wearing some cheap gold earrings but they were hardly enough
to defeat one of the ruthless machine killers never mind all of them. Resigned to escaping she checked out the only way to
"You will become like us," the Cyber Leader intoned. "You belong to us."
"Never." Claire spat her angry defiance
back at them.
"You have no choice. Everyone on this vessel will be converted into more Cybermen. We will survive."
you metal bastard!" Claire shouted. "There is one way to stop you." She ran over to the control panel. "One final solution."
cannot defeat us, only serve us."
Claire smashed the thin glass cover of the self-destruct switch. "See you in hell." She
swore at them and pushed the button. Nothing happened.
"Cyber Technology is far superior to primitive human technology."
seven-eleven-delta-three-four," Captain Conrad shouted quickly. "Two minutes." He looked at Claire and frowned. "It's the
shortest time the computer is programmed for. Too late for us I fear."
"That is correct," the Cyber Leader said. "Bring
them to the escape pod."
"Doctor, what's that noise?" Hannah asked when the klaxons started sounding.
The Doctor sighed. "Self-destruct alert. We don't have much time. Back to the TARDIS."
"What about Claire?"
will be safely tucked away inside an escape capsule, Captain Conrad won't let civilians get harmed if he can help it."
ship will detonate in one minute fifty seconds," the ship's computer announced. "All personnel please evacuate immediately
this is a code seven eleven delta three four."
"Come on," the Doctor said as she grabbed her dawdling companions hand and
pulled her along as she went. "We'll be safe in the TARDIS."
"What about Claire?" Hannah shouted.
"There's no time,"
the Doctor snapped, a tear welling up in her left eye. "We must be positive and hope for the best."
pods blossomed from the stricken ship like pollen from a red-hot poker plant. Many of them were picked up by shuttlecraft
operated by the Cybermen, however some made it safely into the nearby planet's atmosphere where they made fiery trails through
Inside one of them Claire Mason struggled against the steely grip of the Cybermen holding her securely. "Let me
go." She screamed but they did not respond.
With just over ten seconds left the Doctor and Hannah made it back
to the cargo bay. At nine seconds they were outside the doors. At seven seconds the Doctor unlocked the doors and pushed Hannah
inside. At three seconds the TARDIS began to dematerialise. At one second to go the TARDIS had popped out of reality into
the vortex. At zero the cargo bay and the rest of the ship ceased to exist when the ships engines exploded. The vast explosion
of star hot plasma took the other space ships with it, wiping out the thousands of Cybermen onboard them.
materialised on the planet's surface. The Doctor emerged first, followed by a surly Hannah. They found that there were a few
scant traces of survivors. They sifted through the debris looking for their missing friend. A few people milled about shaken
and dazed. The Doctor gave first aid to those who needed her help while Hannah continued her lonely search.
couldn't move; there was something on top of her, crushing down on her ribs. There was a pain in her shoulder but she couldn't
move her neck to see what it was. Her legs were numb and she couldn't even tell if they were still attached to herself or
not. She tried to scream, to give vent to the pain she felt but she couldn't do anything. All she could feel was her heart
beating in her chest. Then it stopped. She looked up once more and she saw the face of an angel, she was so pretty and she
tried to smile at her. She saw tears in the angel's eyes and wondered why she was crying then there was only nothing.
stared down at Claire's broken body. She trembled with sadness when she saw the life drain from her body. Tears streamed down
her cheeks as the feelings within her body started to overwhelm her. She screamed as loud as she could before collapsing to
the ground, her knees giving way.
The Doctor sprinted over to her crying companion and when she too saw the body of her
dead companion she too started to cry. "I'm sorry Hannah," the Doctor said, putting her hand on Hannah's shoulder. "I'm so
"Get away from me, bitch," Hannah cried. "We should have gone back for her, you should have saved her. You
should have saved her." She started sobbing once more. "I wasn't there for her."
"There's nothing we could do Hannah."
The Doctor tried comforting her companion. "If we had gone back for her we'd all be dead now. There just was not enough time.
"I never got to say goodbye," Hannah said.
"Then say it now. Say your goodbye to her now." The Doctor lifted
her companion's body up and held her close. "Tell her how much you loved her."
Hannah cried into the Doctor's bosom, she
just wanted to be held. "I'm sorry Claire." She managed to speak at last. I loved you so very much and I should have said
yes when you asked me to marry you. Now I'll never know what it's like to spend the rest of my life with you. I'll never get
to kiss you every morning and every night, I can't say goodbye, not yet because my love for you will outlast the stars and
The Doctor held her grieving companion a while longer. She couldn't change history again, she couldn't. That's
what the first law was for, to stop this kind of misuse. There was a time for people to live and no one should interfere with
that, no matter how noble their intentions were. She still felt lousy inside. How many lives could she have saved? Katarina,
who would see no more visions. Sara Kingdom
who would stop tyranny no more. Adric who would never become the fine man he could have been. Kamelion, executed at her own
hand so long ago. Tanya, she wanted to be an explorer, but a Rutan dissected and then copied her appearance. She had never
suspected until it was almost too late, when it tried to kill her twelfth persona. "I'll see to the arrangements if you want."
She said finally.
"Please," Hannah said. "I can't bear to think about it. Just give me a few minutes alone first?"
course," the Doctor said as she stood up and went off in search of some equipment to free Claire's body.
"You're so pretty,"
Hannah said as she brushed a few stray hairs out of Claire's lifeless eyes. She shut they eyes so that she looked as through
she was just sleeping before kissing her forehead. "I don't know what to do now. Part of me wants to curl up in a ball somewhere
and just cry for all eternity while another part of me wants to destroy each and every Cyberman in the Universe. What I want
most of all is to be in bed with you, cradled in each other's arms and just enjoying being with you. I know the Doctor's hurting
too but she doesn't want to show it." Hannah paused to dry her eyes once more. "I want the Doctor to go back in time and save
you before all this starts but I cannot ask her to do that, I know she's thinking the same but she knows it's impossible.
I know you'd want the same if it was my lying there now instead of you but if she starts fixing history like that when does
it stop? She'll just end up like that Valeyard bloke and I don't want that to happen to her, she's kooky and silly and I like
her that way."
The Doctor returned with several strong looking survivors and some pieces of equipment. "Come on Hannah,
we'll get her freed now and see to her."
They found one of the agricultural officers from Sundowner One and the
Doctor persuaded him to perform the funeral service. It was short but respectful with the Doctor helping Hannah through the
grieving process. The funeral pyre burned brightly in the setting sunlight as they cremated the bodies of Claire and Jason
Conrad and the other crash victims together. The orange flames caught a fragment of an escape pod; the word SUNDOWN…
appeared more poignant than ever as the sun hovered on the horizon.
The Doctor offered to take the survivors back to Terra
Delta but they refused. They wished to make a go of the colony. There were barely 150 survivors but they had food and seed
and equipment. The Doctor respected their wishes and she even helped them to build a central meeting hall, rolling up her
jacket sleeves and mucking in with the construction.
Finally though they had to leave. The Doctor and Hannah slipped away
quietly to the TARDIS, finding it exactly where they had left it. The Doctor offered to help Hannah sort through Claire's
possessions but Hannah wanted, needed to do it by herself. She did however give the Doctor one of Claire's favourite necklaces,
something to cherish.
The tearful Time Lady punched in the dematerialisation codes into the TARDIS' systems and they were
off once more into the colourful void of the vortex. The TARDIS 'flew' through the empty wastelands beyond time and space,
it's course pulled this way and that by the time winds. It's occupants were still coming to terms with all they had lost.