The Trophy Room
The Doctor gaped. He stood in the centre of a slightly curved corridor. Set into the two walls at regular intervals were cylindrical glass display cases and suspended inside these were globes of varying size and texture. The Time Lord could see at least a dozen such globes from where he stood, each labelled with the name of a planet. The last two cases were empty and the penultimate one was labelled ‘Calufrax'
‘Doctor, you say I am a warrior, and so I am, a pirate warrior. But I would not want you to die, as die you shall, I promise you...’ the Captain began.
‘Thank you,’ the Doctor replied.
‘... Without first allowing you to comprehend the extent of my genius.’
‘Ah, it's “I'm not just a pretty face” time, is it?’
‘Silence or the Sky Demon plucks you where you stand! My trophies, Doctor' said the Captain proudly. ‘Feast your eyes on them for they represent an achievement unparalleled in the universe.’
The renegade Gallifreyan went up to the nearest display case that had the label ‘Bandraginus V’ affixed to it. Inside was a globe of a dull gold lustre. The Doctor wandered despondently on to another display case. ‘What are they - tombstones, mm? Memorials to all the worlds you've destroyed?’
‘Not memorials - these are the entire remains of the worlds themselves.’ The Captain stood very still and recited the names of the planets silently to himself like a death list - Bandraginus V, Granados, Lowiteliom, Aterica, Temesis, Tridento III, Bibicorpus - there had been so many. And soon Calufrax would join them here...
The Doctor hadn't paid attention to the Captain's last comment and continued to rant indignantly. ‘You come in here to gloat on the trail of wanton destruction you're wreaked across the universe.’
‘I come in here to dream of freedom,’ was the wistful reply.
The Time Lord stopped abruptly as the Captain's earlier words sunk in at last. ‘Did you just say these are the entire remains of the worlds themselves?’ he asked, his voice awash with disbelief.
‘Yes, Doctor.’ The Captain pointed at the individual globes to illustrate his words. ‘Each of these small spheres is the crushed remains of a planet, millions upon millions of tonnes of compressed rock held suspended here by forces beyond the limits of the imagination, forces that I have generated and harnessed.’
The Doctor took a few stumbling steps, his body and mind reeling. ‘That's impossible! That amount of matter in so small a space would undergo instant gravitational collapse and form a black hole!’
‘What? But Zanak would be dragged into a gravitational whirlpool!’
‘And why hasn't it? Because the whole system is so perfectly aligned by the most exquisite exercise in gravitational geometry that every system is balanced out within itself. Which is why we can stand next to billions of tonnes of super-compressed matter and not even be aware of it. With each new planet I acquire, the forces are realigned but the system remains stable.’
The Doctor was aghast with admiration and horror in equal amounts. ‘Then, it's the most brilliant piece of astrogravitational engineering I've ever seen. The concept is simply staggering - pointless, but staggering.’
‘I'm gratified that you appreciate it.’
‘Appreciate it... appreciate it! You commit mass destruction and murder on a scale that's almost inconceivable and you ask me to appreciate it? Just because you happen to have made a brilliantly-conceived toy out of the mummified remains of planets?’
The two were standing nose to nose, virtually screaming at each other. ‘Devil storms Doctor... It is not a toy!’
‘Then what's it for? Huh? What are you doing? What could possibly be worth all this?’
‘By the raging fury of the Sky Demon, you ask too many questions! You have seen, you have heard, be satisfied and ask no more!’ The Captain pulled back his robotic arm, ready to strike down this upstart off-worlder himself. Just before he could deliver the killing blow, Fibuli's voice crackled over the communications system.
‘Captain, sir, come quickly please! The Mentiads - they're on their way.
The Captain lowered his arm and marched coolly past the Doctor. ‘Excellent, excellent,’ he said, and returned to the Bridge. ‘Guards!’ he yelled back.
The Doctor remained where he was, staring around at the Captain's trophy room, until two large guards arrived in response to the Captain's summons. Standing one each side of the Time Lord, they lifted the Doctor by his arms so that his feet were dangling clear of the floor and carried him away.
It was in this undignified fashion that the Doctor arrived back on the Bridge. ‘Would you like to put me down?’ the Doctor suggested mildly.
‘Put him down,’ the Captain ordered, and the guards obediently dropped him to the floor.
The Captain was already seated in the com. ‘We're preparing to meet your friends, the Mentiads. The poor, misbegotten fools are going to attempt to storm the Bridge,’ he leered with an evil chuckle.
‘That should be fun,’ replied the Doctor. He noticed Kimus coming around at last and approached the bleary young man who was still chained to the column. ‘Kimus, are you all right?’
The Doctor appealed to the Captain. ‘For goodness sake let him down - he hasn't done you any harm, Captain. Please?’
‘You do it,’ said the Captain. He held out the sonic beam key, then dropped it on the floor. When the off-worlder bent to pick it up, he slammed his reinforced jackboot down a hair's width away from the Doctor's outstretched hand.
The Doctor picked up the device and set about releasing Kimus.
The Captain turned to deliver his deputy a verbal blasting. ‘By the bursting suns of Banzar, Mr Fibuli, where are my crystals?’ The first lieutenant scuttled from the Bridge to collect the stones.
Kimus was rubbing his wrists vigorously and looking about himself in wonder. He had been unconscious when brought into the Bridge, and now marvelled at the level of technology on display in the chamber. ‘Doctor - where are we?’
‘We're on the Bridge.’
‘The Bridge?’ The young man caught sight of the strangest creature he had ever seen. It was nearly a giant in height, half-man and half-metal. The face was normal on the right side, but at the nose it melted into metal. The monstrosity was alive with a dominant presence, and seemed to Kimus to be in charge. ‘What's that?’ he asked the Doctor.
‘That's your beloved Captain. Don't make any noise, the Mentiads are on their way here, and he's got no power against their psychic strength.’
Kimus was very relieved. Their plan was almost succeeding. He noticed the Captain gloating over a tall, box-like control unit. ‘What's that machine?’
The Doctor glanced over his shoulder at it. ‘Oh, it just looks like a psychic interference transmitter.’
‘Well, it's a sort of machine for neutralising psychic pow -' The Doctor trailed to a halt as he realised the significance of the machine.
Behind him, the Captain had been monitoring their conversation, and now strode over to the pair. ‘Wag your tongue well, Doctor. It is the only weapon you have left.’
Bravado in full bluster, the Doctor looked at the Captain. ‘Nonsense, Captain, nonsense. To make that machine work, you'd need a collection of the most rare crystals.
‘Oh yes. Voolium...’
‘Voolium,’ agreed his foe happily.
‘Madranite 1-5...’ continued the Doctor uneasily.
‘And as far as I know they occur naturally on only one planet, and that's, aah...’
Whilst the Doctor racked his brain for the answer, Fibuli entered the Bridge carrying a tray of glittering gemstones.
‘Look, Captain, the crystals from -'
At this moment the Doctor and Mr Fibuli chimed in unison, ‘Calufrax!’
The Captain cherished the look on this off-worlder's face as he realised the predicament of his pathetic revolution.
‘My biorhythms must be at an all-time low,’ the Doctor lamented.
‘Excellent, Mr Fibuli, excellent. You see, Doctor, your friends are doomed.’
‘They are,’ the Doctor agreed despondently.
‘And so are you - we need not delay your death any longer. By the curled fangs of the Sky Demon, how I have looked forward to this moment!’
The whole situation was too much for Kimus. He had trouble appreciating all the nuances of these statements, but phrases like ‘your friends are doomed' were plain enough for him to understand very readily. It was time for action. He ran to the nearest wall and wrenched at a pipe until it came away in his hands. He swung round and began advancing on this metallic monstrosity all Zanak bowed down before. ‘You hideous murdering maniac!’ he screamed at the Captain.
The Doctor rushed over to restrain Kimus. ‘No, no, no. Don't do it.’
The Captain looked down at Kimus and said casually, ‘Avitron - kill.’
The mechanical parrot rose from its perch, but before it could dive on its prey, K9 trundled through the Bridge entranceway and fired at Avitron. The pair of robotic pets began a duel of laser beams, dodging and weaving around the Bridge. Finally, K9 lured the parrot out through the door to the trophy room.
‘Come back, K9! Come back!’ the Doctor called. Seizing the opportunity whilst everyone was distracted by the battle, the Doctor grabbed Kimus by the arm. ‘Come on!’ he hissed, and dragged Kimus through the trophy room door, slamming it shut behind them.
‘Stop them! Stop them!’ roared the Captain.
Kimus spun the wheel on the trophy room door, locking it tight. Pausing for breath, he looked around. ‘What is this place?’
‘Never mind about that,’ the Doctor replied urgently. ‘Let's find another way out.’
The Doctor and Kimus ran along the curved corridor of the trophy room. They paused briefly as K9 and the Polyphase Avitron approached them, still firing laser bolts at each other.
‘Get back!’ the Doctor warned, and he and Kimus flattened themselves against the wall until the two warring robots had passed by. ‘Careful K9,’ the Doctor called out after his dog. ‘You upset that balance and you'll turn us all into an instant black hole!’
The Doctor and Kimus continued to the end of the corridor, which ended in another door. ‘Locked?’ asked a dubious Kimus.
The Doctor tried the locking wheel. ‘Yes.’
‘Oh - we're trapped.’
‘Never!’ The Time Lord pulled his sonic screwdriver from a pocket and unlocked the door with it. The pair slipped through.
Inside was a large room so dim they could barely see the far wall. In the centre of the chamber was a circular dais of silver and gold and on it an ornate throne. Sitting on the throne was an old, old woman - her face so wrinkled Kimus could not even begin to guess at her age. A few wisps of grey hair hung from her wizened head, which hung under the weight of an extravagant tiara made of precious metals and gemstones, an Oolion stone as its centrepiece. Kimus touched the Oolion stone in his pocket and thought of the millions killed by the Captain.
The old crone was lit by two glowing columns of light and energy streaming down from above and through the floor. They crackled with power, as though holding enormous forces in check. The young man stepped forward to touch the inviting light and warmth of the columns, but the Doctor held him back. ‘No, don't. I rather think these are time dams.’
‘You've lost me Doctor.’
‘Time Dams, a primitive device, but effective. They actually hold back the flow of time in the area between them. Within that field, time decelerates exponentially, meaning that whilst it is still technically advancing, the next moment is never in fact reached.’
‘You mean they stop time?’
‘Not completely. But they can slow it down, given enough energy.’
The Time Lord and Kimus circled the dais, studying it more closely. Looking at the old woman on the throne, the young citizen said, ‘That's repulsive. What is it?’
‘That's your beloved Queen Xanxia.’
‘What?! No, no - Xanxia's dead!’
‘Oh, no, not yet, she isn't. She's suspended in the last few seconds of life.’
‘You mean she can hear me? But I just called...’
‘No, she can't.’
Kimus considered the situation anew, faced with a legendary tyrant, albeit one a little worse for the passing of time. ‘Does she - does she know we're here?’
‘No, not while she's between those two time dams there,’ replied the Doctor. ‘It's really a form of suspended animation, but with two important differences. Do you want to know what they are?’
‘Am I likely to understand?
‘No, but I'll tell you anyway. The first is that neural currents can still be directed round the cerebral cortex artificially...’
‘In other words she can still think. And the other difference...’
‘Is that it uses astronomical quantities of energy.’ The Doctor set about opening a panel in the far wall. He stopped and thought for a moment. ‘You know, to find enough energy to keep feeding those things, you'd need to ransack entire planets.’
Kimus began to realise that keeping the people of Zanak happy with wealth was not the real purpose of the planet's piracy. ‘So whole other worlds have been destroyed with the sole purpose of keeping that alive?’ he asked, pointing at Xanxia. ‘All the wealth and prosperity was just a lucky side-effect for the citizens of Zanak?’
‘Yes. There must be something more to it than that.’
‘Yes. Would you go to these lengths just to stay alive?’ the Doctor asked. He'd finished opening the wall panel, and walked back over to the dais.
‘Not in that revolting condition, no.’
‘No, not in that condition - but in what condition?’ wondered the Doctor. He was about to examine a curious little box by the dais when a shadow fell across the light from the doorway, putting both men on alert. After a moment, K9 glided through the door, the disabled Avitron attached to his snout. The Doctor took the charred remains from his robot companion. ‘K9! Look at that!’ he exclaimed delightedly.
‘You're a good dog, K9. Good dog! You're a hero!’
‘Congratulations are unnecessary, master.’
The Time Lord turned to Kimus, showing him Avitron's remains. ‘Isn't that marvellous?’
‘Well, it's certainly a relief. But how are we going to get out of here?’ asked Kimus.
The Doctor picked up the small box he'd spotted on the dais.
‘What does that do, Doctor?’
‘I'll tell you what it does, it gives me a splendid idea, that's what it does.’ The Doctor glanced about quickly. ‘I've got a job for you two. Now, listen. There's a service elevator over there in the far wall' he said, pointing to the panel he'd opened. ‘It must go down to the engine room.’
‘So?’ asked Kimus.
‘So you and K9 are going down to sabotage the engines, all right?’
‘Affirmative, master,’ replied the robot dog, and glided towards the elevator.
‘Good - off you go, then!’
Kimus paused for a final question. ‘Well, what about you?’
‘Me? I'm going to see to the Captain!’
The Doctor weighed the small device in his hands thoughtfully. ‘Ready Captain?’
A guard was tearing at the private door to the trophy room with his fingers but was making no progress. Fibuli pushed him out of the way. ‘Here, I'll do it,’ Fibuli said, and tried the same task with a metal bar.
The Captain watched but -
...The angel blazed white, aflame with fury. ‘Die, you fool, die!’ she screamed and brought her hands together...
- his sight blurred as the scene reoccurred, like a bad dream to a child. However this held all the menace and chill of death.
Beside him, the angel glowed angrily. ‘How much longer must we wait?’
Fibuli turned, and was about to speak to the Nurse when the Doctor appeared through the main entranceway to the Bridge.
‘All right, all right, I give up.’
‘So, Doctor, you have survived,’ said the Captain with smile colder than ice.
‘Yes, I'm afraid I seem unable to break the habit.’
‘And your colleagues?’
‘My colleagues...’ the Doctor said, turning down a despondent thumb.
‘Excellent. And my Polyphase Avitron?’
The Doctor produced the limp remnants of the robotic parrot from behind his back and handed them to a distraught Captain. ‘I'm sorry about that, but it was becoming an infernal nuisance.’
‘Destroyed?!’ The Captain began shaking with rage and grief, a single tear falling from his human eye. ‘By the great parrot of Hades, you shall pay for this with the last drop of your blood! Every corpuscle - do you hear? Mr Fibuli!’
‘Yes sir?’ The deputy ran to his Captain's side, and they began consulting privately.
‘Ah Captain, I think you'd better hear what I have to say first,’ ventured the Doctor - there was no response. ‘Only I think when you hear what I've got to say, you'll change your mind.’
The huddle broke up, and Fibuli stepped aside to allow the Captain to approach the off-worlder.
‘Guilty,’ spat out the Captain.
‘Please, listen...’ protested the Doctor.
‘Guilty! Guilty! Guards!’
Two soldiers stepped forward and grabbed the Doctor by an arm each. He was pushed up a flight of stairs behind the com, followed by Fibuli, the Nurse and the Captain. They all stood in front of a huge panel in the wall, which slid upwards to reveal a sheer drop down the side of the mountain. Wild wind gusts whipped at the group on the platform from which a length of metal protruded out over the drop.
‘A plank?!’ said the Doctor, disbelievingly.
The Captain was savouring the moment. ‘The theory is quite simple. You walk along it. At the end, you fall off. Drop one thousand feet - dead.’
‘You can't be serious - he isn't serious, is he?’ the Doctor asked the deputy. Fibuli nodded solemnly.
‘Captain, you don't realise what you're doing. If you just listen to me,’ began the Doctor.
‘I shall listen to you when I hear you scream!’ replied the Captain. He pushed the off-worlder out on to the plank, and raised his android arm. The barrel of a small energy weapon appeared at the end.
‘But, please -'
The Captain fired at the plank's end, forcing the Doctor into a macabre dance of death, jigging from foot to foot. He began to lose his balance and was soon teetering on one foot, waving his arms furiously to stay upright in the gusting winds.
The Captain fired again and the Doctor fell, his scream soon lost amidst the wailing of the wind. The Captain lowered the panel by touching a control on his android arm and began laughing hysterically. His evil guffaws filled the Bridge, resonating about with the richness of revenge.