DISCLAIMER: All Doctor Who characters and concepts belong to the BBC. The ones you don't recognise are mine. Especially Verani. No profit, just borrowing, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Doctor Who: Janovay

Part 4. Making History

Chapter 13

Her senses were assaulted by a darkness that carried within it an infinity of alien impressions. The ebb and flow of the time currents swirled around and through her and she could see them, feel them, taste them in a way that utilised none of her physical senses - surely the only way her human brain could process these alien sensations, as she had no body to sense with here.

She was dead...

No. But she remembered dying, and that had been real. The memory of the energy blast hitting her chest, feeling initially like a blow from a solid object; it's impact knocking the breath from her. She had looked down at torn flesh and scorched blood and broken white points of ribs. She'd felt only shock. She barely had time to feel pain before the darkness.

She remembered in photographic detail the last image imprinted on her gaze before death, the Karalian youth staring down at her with horror twisting his face.

But she wasn't dead.

She was inside the machine.

She remembered... details from before, crisp and clear as though she experienced them anew. Nyssa's voice rang again through her thoughts, explaining the temporal device. She'd said the device anchored the body of its operator... which meant what it transported through time... might be nothing more than a copy.

A projected image of her had died.

Tegan quailed as a bright wave of temporal unrest washed through her dissolute consciousness. Was this the fabric of time and space through which the TARDIS travelled? Was that what the device tapped into?

She wondered how she was going to get out. If she even was. Either something had happened to Nyssa or she hadn't been able to figure out the device, and Nyssa had said it wouldn't be possible to control the machine from inside. Tegan was only human, after all, and the device had been designed for those with time senses, like the Doctor.

The Doctor. She'd failed him, failed to complete Nyssa's plan. The problems she'd encountered using the device had confused her, driving the formula from her head. Ironically enough, she could remember it perfectly now. No delusional Mara plagued her, and her thoughts had a clarity she'd seldom experienced.

Yet now she could do nothing but exist, hanging alone in this strange nowhere, watching the fluctuations of bright strands of time.

No, not alone. She was startled to recognise another presence. It wasn't human, nor even alive. She could not perceive it in any way she would be able to explain, but it was there. Close by. No, more than close; connected to her.

The machine itself. The temporal device.

She tried to dampen her incredulity. The concept of machine consciousness should not be so strange to her. After all, the Doctor always claimed the TARDIS was 'alive'.

"Hello?" She projected a slightly wobbly greeting into the darkness, surprised to 'hear' the words she had no ears to hear nor lips to form. "Can you help me?"

It made no attempt to reply directly - she didn't know if it could - but it did reply. It felt as though a door onto a different state of perception had been opened up. Tegan was abruptly aware of the workings of the temporal device, of the vortex around her, of how all this flow of time against the darkness affected the world she was accustomed to perceiving.

Previously invisible pathways melted into view and, struggling to take it all in, she realised she'd been granted the control over the device's functions that Nyssa had deemed impossible.

"Thank you!" she called to the essence around her, hoping it understood her gratitude if not her words.

She arrowed a piece of her consciousness up towards the light.

The Vardito's corridors looked different to Luthen, walking through them now with the Doctor. They seemed smaller than they had been, claustrophobic spaces with stale air and an unpleasant antiseptic smell. It was hard to credit he'd spent much of the last few days wanting to be back here. This world, which had been his own before he came to Janovay, seemed different to him now.

In this world, he was supposed to be a soldier. His actions and failures on Janovay had proven he was no such thing, proven furthermore that nor did he want to be.

He carried his laser trained upon the Doctor, whose own genial suggestion such a bluff had been. Anyone they might run into would see a Karalian soldier escorting a prisoner. Luthen was suspicious of such trust. Did the Doctor presume to know his mind better than he knew it himself? He was uneasily trying to decide whether or not to turn the bluff into reality.

He questioned, once again, his own motives in accompanying the alien. Was it to betray him, to provide what damage-control he could, to help him? The problem was, he trusted the Doctor, doubting neither his sincerity nor that he knew what he was doing.

The TARDIS had materialised in one of the little-used cargo holds away from the main areas of the ship, and they'd walked from there through deserted corridors. Luthen was trying to steer towards the main lab where alien captives would be kept, but it was never an easy matter to find your way on a ship the size of a small city and the unfamiliar starting point had baffled his recollection of the ship's layout.

"How does it feel to be home?" the Doctor asked in a low murmur, his sympathetic tone suggesting he'd already guessed the answer. "You... don't have to stay, you know."

"They're my people. I can't just run away. Even if they only want me to kill for them." He laughed bitterly. "Besides, I've only got a few more years to live. Probably less, away from the Union. Only Karalians know how to arrest the Syndrome. And once the disease becomes active again, I'll be infectious. Unclean."

The Doctor flinched and looked away, nodding. The silence served them well as they turned the next corner onto a long section of corridor where two men slouched by a door open onto someone's untidy crew quarters. Engaged in an energetic discussion, the Karalians didn't immediately notice the newcomers.

Luthen recognised one of them, a senior soldier he knew distantly from watch duties, who'd made jokes about his relatively untried status. Luthen recalled his name as Karzl. He was somewhere in his late twenties, and there wasn't much of him left that wasn't synthetic.

He and his companion were positively aglow with excitement. When they saw Luthen and the Doctor, they hurried to meet them. Luthen's chest tightened.

"Ryn Luthen!" Karzl exclaimed. "There's a face I never expected to see again. We thought you were dead. Disintegrated. They included you in the memorial service. Very moving it was too, you should've seen it."

"No thanks," Luthen replied, feeling his face break into a weak grin despite all. Karzl was not a bad sort, his jokes aside. "I ended up on Janovay. Don't ask me how. What's... what happened here?"

Karzl clapped him on the back with painful enthusiasm, took the gun from his hands and set it aside. "Everything. Everything's happened, Ryn. You don't need that anymore. The cure's been found. One of the aliens we picked up on Janovay did it. Nyssa of Traken." He spoke the name with awed reverence.

"Oh, no," the Doctor groaned. "We're late. Something must have gone wrong. There shouldn't have been time, not yet, for her to develop a cure. I thought I registered some unusual temporal fluctuations in the TARDIS - they must have boosted us ahead a few hours, maybe even more." He patted at his coat pockets, realised they weren't there, and looked plaintively at Karzl and the other Karalian. "I don't suppose either of you chaps has a chronometric flux reader? No?"

Luthen felt a pressure lift from his mind with the knowledge that the choice had been taken from him. He couldn't be sorry that they were too late, even if there was a possibility this would spell disaster. The Karalians, mystified, were looking to him for answers. He said, "This is Nyssa's friend, the Doctor. He brought me up from Janovay on his spacecraft."

The Doctor clasped the hands of each in polite greeting and said seriously, "I need to speak to your Captain and to Nyssa. Several hours ago, in fact. But as soon as possible will have to do."

Karzl's confused gaze flickered between them. His doubts seemed to relent at Luthen's grim nod.

"Nyssa of Traken is resting. I'll take you to Captain Alzen."

"Hello! Captain Alzen, I presume?" remarked the dishevelled, bloodstained figure who'd burst into Alzen's office, interrupting his discussion with Bannot about relations between their races. Alzen was caught sufficiently off-guard that the stranger had already captured his hand in a rather bloody grip and shaken it before he had chance to object. "I'm the Doctor," the stranger continued breathlessly, apparently too distracted to notice Alzen wiping his hand off onto his uniform. "This is Luthen," he added as a Karalian soldier sidled into the room behind him. "But then you probably already know that. I believe he's from this ship."

Alzen cast a disapproving glance at the young Karalian, whose appalling slouch and permanently puzzled expression were indeed familiar, though not the awkwardness with which he held his cybernetic arm, nor the patch of blood on his uniform shoulder. The uniform was in even scruffier a state than usual. He frowned, remembering. "Aren't you the one who-"

The soldier flinched and, shifting with embarrassment, mumbled "Yeah," before Alzen could finish.

"Ryn Luthen!" Sergeant Dunae uncharacteristically yelped the greeting. "But you were dead... I saw it happen."

"It's a long story," Luthen said. "Glad you came through all right, Sarge."

The youth looked different, Alzen observed. Same slouch, same distant eyes, but different nonetheless. Ryn Luthen had been a slobbish soldier who'd never seen a battle before the skirmish in which he 'died'. This young man looked battle-weary and determined.

Alzen was snapped out of his thoughts by the Doctor exclaiming with an odd distress, "Councillor Bannot! Oh, no."

The Janovian smiled lopsidedly and spread out his arms in a helpless half-shrug. "Regeneration, Doctor. I'm not who I was."

The Doctor shot forward to grab one of Bannot's outstretched hands, which he studied intently. Alzen began to doubt the stranger's sanity, or at least his health. The man certainly looked rather feverish; a sheen of moisture glistened on his forehead and his skin was pale. He slowly raised his eyes to meet Bannot's. "These scars," he said, words clipped. "Amnos' Syndrome?"

Bannot nodded.

"High vulnerability?"

"Yes, Doctor," Alzen said. "The Janovian race -"

"That explains it." The Doctor's face twisted into haggard lines. "This isn't good at all. I need to talk to you, Captain Alzen, about something very important. And I need to see Nyssa."

"Wake up, Nyssa." Somebody was shaking her shoulder, a little less than gently. The voice which intruded her dreamless sleep was taut with urgency. She blinked her way to wakefulness and stared up into a face she knew well, although it did not usually have such deep lines of worry and illness cut into it.

"Doctor," she said, sitting up, her thoughts still muzzy and unfocused. "What are you doing here?" She looked around carefully to ascertain that she was indeed in the small quarters Captain Alzen had shown her to. She'd fallen asleep fully-clothed on top of the bunk the instant he left. The Doctor was the last person she'd expected to see upon waking. "No. You shouldn't be here. The-" The Syndrome, she thought. But then she remembered she'd cured Bannot. He was in no immediate danger.

He smiled, but the gesture was strained. "Nyssa," he said heavily, and she was taken aback to hear him address her with such despair.

The Doctor sighed. His anger drained away. "So you've slain your dragon. 'Saviour of the Karalian Union.'"

The words, spoken gently, still managed to cut. She said, "If you're referring to Amnos' Syndrome, yes, I did it. I had no choice. These people-"

"I know that, Nyssa. And there's nothing to be done now. You can't take it back. The future's already set to unfold without the Syndrome, maybe without the invasion of Janovay."

"Janovay?" she stammered. Realisation hit her. Bannot's vulnerability to the disease, the Janovians' vulnerability. The Janovians had been wiped out. "Doctor! Captain Alzen said he was going to distribute the cure on Janovay. There might be time to stop him-" She faltered. She didn't want to stop him.

"I don't want to either," the Doctor said. "But we may have to, to repair what damage we can."

"There must be another way." Nyssa stood up, restlessly. She'd had little more than an hour's sleep, but she no longer felt tired. She noticed a Karalian soldier standing awkwardly outside the doorway and, behind him, Alzen and Bannot. "Surely it's only a little thing, historically speaking. Maybe it won't be so bad. Nothing's happened yet, after all."

"You've seen what the Janovians are," the Doctor leaned in close and lowered his voice. "You saw Bannot regenerate. This is all tied up in my people's future, somehow. I shouldn't be meddling. You've inadvertently caused a very difficult situation, Nyssa."

Alzen pushed through the doorway, drawing the Doctor's attention. "What are you saying that you can't share with us?"

The ragged-looking Karalian soldier dared to place a restraining hand on his arm, which he shook off angrily. Alzen's earlier good cheer had vanished. As well it might, Nyssa thought, when he was faced with an alien who brought with him the message that their miracle cure was a dangerous error. Time Lords, even the Doctor, could be high-handed with individuals who didn't understand their way of looking at the wider issues.

The Doctor waved his empty hands in a pacifying gesture. "Nothing, I assure you, that has anything to do with your situation."

Alzen glowered at him for a moment longer, then nodded slowly. "So you're saying we shouldn't distribute the cure on Janovay?"

"No!" Nyssa moaned miserably.

"We have to," the ragged Karalian said. "We can't leave them all to die. You don't know the Syndrome, Doctor. You don't know what it's like."

The Doctor sighed, looking around for allies and evidently finding none. Nyssa couldn't guess at what he was thinking. "We-" he began. He didn't get any further.

That was when Nyssa noticed the ghostly figure beginning to coalesce in the room amongst them, and let out a muted cry of horror.

The Doctor had been gone for many hours, and Verani grew more concerned by each, gazing out of her window into Janovay's sky, though the Karalian ships were imperceptible in the daylight.

She'd taken another dose of the Zayol some time ago, after first trying to ignore the pain as long as she could, aware the Doctor must also be feeling the deprivation. But it had grown too intense and so she gave in to it, finding small comfort in knowing it took a long time to die from Zayol poisoning.

She'd come here to her chamber after several hours spent helping Crivthen with the preparations for Janovay's last days. It was a small, plain room without much furnishing, but she found its sparseness as restful as she did the view from its high window overlooking the hills and uncultivated grasslands.

Her solace was broken, uniquely, by a figure walking through the door who didn't stop to open it first.

Verani studied the intruder with mild surprise. She was aware that many things were possible in the universe. She did, after all, see the future, and was not overly astonished by a person walking through an apparently solid object. What was rather more curious to her was the fact she recognised that person as the Doctor's former assistant, Luthen's Jovanka, reportedly dead.

The human stood, glaring, arms folded, stance aggressive. "I'm looking for the Doctor." A quiver in her voice ruined the implicit threat. "What have you done with him?"

"I have done nothing with him. He left of his own free will. Do not concern yourself, he will return." Verani approached the young woman, narrowing her eyes. There was something not quite right about her. As the light was shifted by cloud moving over the suns, Verani grasped what it was. There was a transparency about Jovanka's figure. If she looked hard enough, she could see the wall through her.

"What are you gawping at?"

"I heard you were dead," Verani said. "Kweril swore he had killed you. I was appalled with him, of course."

"Of course," the human mimicked with a distinct lack of conviction. "I'm not dead. I'm still stuck inside the temporal device in your vaults. But if I see that lizard-man again I sure intend to give him a piece of my mind. You can't just go around shooting people! And while we're on the subject, what did your mutant crocodile do with that Karalian kid I was with - is he all right?"

"Luthen is with the Doctor. When I saw them last, both were well, although I think the Doctor is in need of more Zayol now."

"Where've they gone?" Jovanka paced agitatedly and seemed not to notice that her shoulder swung through a wall as she spun around. "I have to find them."

Verani shrugged. "They are no longer on the planet. They left in the TARDIS for the Karalian ship."

"Karalian ship?"

"A lot has occurred since you... did not die. The fleet arrived. They're in orbit above Janovay now - do not trouble yourself to look out of the window, you cannot see them from here. A scout ship took Nyssa and Bannot as specimens. The Doctor went after them."

"He would," Jovanka muttered. "When did they leave?"

"Hours ago."

"Right." For an instant her face was strangely without animation, still and blank, then she snapped back to normal. "Right," she said again, forcefully. "You can show me where this Kweril's got to. I've a bone to pick with him."

"Then you are not going after the Doctor and Luthen?" Verani asked, bewildered.

Jovanka grinned broadly. "I am. It's done. Well, in progress. This time machine's really nothing but a big old photocopier. It works by Xeroxing you to a point in time, not by transporting you there. This is only a projection of me. The real me is inside the machine. But - I can make as many copies as I want to. Or as I can keep track of."

Verani made a noncommittal noise, other questions uppermost in her mind. "Can you take any Zayol to the Doctor?"

"It can't transport me over space. Here and now, I have no more means to get to that ship than you do, and I can hardly carry things reliably in this state." She shrugged helplessly. One of her hands went through the wall again, and Verani saw her point. "I have some control right now, but these projections are getting more unstable by the minute. I thought I was dying, at first." Her bark of laughter was strained. "Silly, I suppose. I don't understand the scientific stuff, I bet Nyssa would've known what was happening. I was much more solid then, but I was still fading in and out... I suppose I would've just been back in the temporal device if the projection faded out completely." She shook her head. "The Doctor should be all right yet for a while, though - I mean, the stuff takes time to work?"

"Yes," Verani agreed.

"Now - Kweril," Jovanka said, backtracking sharply.

"Kweril has absconded. Nobody knows where he is."

"Well, then we'll find him," the human said intractably. "He could've killed me. Come on, you owe it to us. You got us into this. You brought him into this."

After a moment's hesitation, Verani nodded.

He'd waited hours before the tower-room was cleared of observers. Hidden in one of the small chambers off the base of the stairs, he watched for who went up and who came back down until he was sure it was empty. The Janovians were all too occupied listening to Crivthen drawling on, or else they sat meekly in their homes, meditating, waiting for death to arrive.

The weapon was a bulky, unwieldy object but he had carried it alone from where the Doctor had left it disconnected and lifeless under a tarpaulin, down the steps of the watch-tower and all the long distance across the Janovian city to the paved square where he'd landed his ship. The Janovians had been no help. Verani or the Doctor had said something to them, and they ignored him now, after all he'd done and tried to do for these people.

He'd spent hours, after that heavy labour, trying to accomplish what the Doctor would not. He didn't understand the workings of the weapon. It was dangerous to meddle, considering how little he knew, but he meddled nonetheless. What did it matter, when the damned Karalians were going to destroy this world and himself along with it soon enough? They might as well go down fighting. Blown to atoms before the contamination had a chance to get its jaws into them. At least this way there was a chance they might not have to die at all.

Kweril had worked with many alien technologies, and although this weapon was unlike any he had seen before, he was accustomed to extrapolation in his trade and the Doctor had already finished much of the work. All the weapon needed, he concluded, was a power source. And that he had in the drive core of his small space vessel.

It took time to hook it up to the engine. All the while, his nerves were on edge with the awareness of the Karalian ships, stationery and unsuspecting, somewhere above. They might not remain so for much longer. They'd had hours and hours now to study Janovay and its people. Soon the attack would begin.

He finally stood back from the tangle of wires and cables strewn across the floor of the drive room. Using the weapon might burn it out first time, he wasn't sure how much power was needed. It might not work at all, just sit there as lifeless as the Doctor had left it, no use to anyone. Or it might, if he had connected something disastrously wrongly, let out its destructive power in a local explosion which only obliterated his ship and a small segment of the city around it.

Kill or cure, he thought grimly, fiddling with the targeting device on the weapon. He'd taken co-ordinates of the fleet from the top of the watch-tower, and he fed a set into the weapon now, powering it up. Watched the energy readout begin to rise to real destructive force, hardly daring to breathe.

It was working... power was getting through. He tapped at the keys in a likely-seeming sequence to activate the weapon, and prayed silently to the spirits of the billion Mirosan dead. Die, Karalians, die...

The Doctor stared at the ethereal shape of a person forming next to Nyssa. It was growing more solid by the second, and was beginning to look very familiar. He set a steadying hand on Nyssa's shoulder, not that his hand was too steady itself. "No need to worry. I have a feeling this apparition is benign."

The others looked on with confusion gradually replaced by other emotions as the figure materialised in full. Alzen's brow furrowed into deep chasms of annoyance, Bannot stared with frank curiosity, and Luthen's face spread into a grin of delighted recognition.

"Tegan!" Nyssa exclaimed, incalculable relief in her voice.

"Boo," Tegan said, grinning.

"Tegan. You're all right." One worry evaporated from the Doctor's mind even as another crystallised. "However did you do that?"

"I think I'm getting the hang of this temporal device thing now. I've been here all the time, just a little out of phase with the world. I even hitched a lift."

The Doctor blinked. "So you were on board in the TARDIS," he said. Stopped. Breathed slowly. "The temporal distortion..." He reflected that he must be in a worse state than he'd thought, to have failed to sense her. Verani's Zayol poisoning had been beginning to make a nuisance of itself again in the last hour or so.

"Well," she said, a little shamefully. "I had to get to this ship, but the device couldn't just, you know, zap me here like that." She clicked her insubstantial fingers; the sound they made was quite as substantial as ever.

"Yes. Quite. So you went back in time? And stayed a step outside the timestream so we wouldn't see you."

"I didn't know it would effect the TARDIS, Doctor. I'm sorry. But I was only keeping your warnings in mind and trying not to alter anything that had already happened!"

"You were still there, Tegan! The fact we didn't see you is irrelevant!"

"Well, I had no choice!" she snapped. "The temporal device only projects in time, not in space. I had to come here in the TARDIS or not at all, and I thought you might need my help!"

"You shouldn't have come here at all," the Doctor said crossly. "You have no idea what you're tampering with. The dangers-"

Nyssa said mournfully, "Oh, Doctor. Tegan's all right! Please let's not argue about things that can't be changed now anyway." She turned to Tegan. "I'm so glad you're safe!" she exclaimed, reaching to hug her friend only to stumble and blink in amazement as she clutched at a form as substantial as mist. Off-balance, she withdrew her hands. "Tegan?"

"Whoops. Sorry. This projection's a bit unstable." Tegan's expression hardened with concentration, and she caught Nyssa's arms to help her balance; turned the gesture into a return hug. "I'm glad you're safe, too. I was afraid for you when I heard the Karalians had you. Although I met one of them and he wasn't so bad."

"Jovanka." A little hesitantly, Luthen pushed his way into the room.

She grinned. "It's the Cyborg Kid himself. Are you all right? You don't look so good."

"You know him?" asked Nyssa, with confusion. "How do you know him?"

"Long story." Tegan rolled her eyes.

"Yes, and one we have little time for now," the Doctor said. "I'm sorry to interrupt all the friendly reunions for the comparatively petty issue of the imminent cataclysmic danger to the fabric of time and space, but-"

"But nothing," Alzen snapped, finally finding his voice. He looked rather to be on the verge of smoke coming out of his ears. "Who is she and how did she get here? I've had enough of strangers finding their way past my security systems. How did you come to be on my ship?" He reached to grab Tegan's shoulder and she glared at him as his arm went straight through her.

"Calm down, Captain," the Doctor said hurriedly as Tegan opened her mouth preparatory to giving Alzen a piece of her mind. Probably a loud piece, from past example. "She's currently trapped in a machine inside the very Vaults you came to Janovay to plunder. There's nothing to concern yourself with, I assure you. I sincerely doubt there are many temporal devices around to threaten your security. Now, we really must address the issue of Janovay-"

"I've just remembered, Doctor!" Tegan exclaimed. "I have to tell you-"

"Janovay, Tegan. I-"

His voice was drowned out by a blaring alarm that filled the room with noise. The Karalians stiffened to attention, their expressions freezing to robotic grimaces.

Tegan threw her insubstantial hands over her ears. "What on Earth-?"

"We're under attack!" Alzen snapped. "I have to get to the command deck." He looked around at the group, his suspicious gaze lingering on the Doctor. "Dunae, bring them along. I want them where I can see them." He turned and hared off down the corridor.

"You heard," Dunae uneasily addressed the group, fingering the gun holstered at her hip but not drawing it. A signal passed to Luthen evidently informed him to keep guard at the rear of the group, and he fell to the back with some amusement.

The Karalian sergeant could set quite a pace for someone with prosthetic legs. The Doctor hastened to keep up with her, eager to know what was going on. The alarm was still assaulting his ears. "I say!" he yelled, "Your attack alarm is certainly alarming, Sergeant!"

He was aware of animated conversation taking place between Nyssa, Tegan and Luthen, behind them. He was a little surprised by the warmth that seemed to exist between his companion and the failed soldier. He heard Luthen apologise profusely for getting her killed and she replied, "Forget it. I'm still here."

The Doctor, though immensely relieved to see Tegan relatively safe if rather transparent, remained concerned there might still be unforeseen problems with the temporal device. Who knew what kind of damage might have been done to her? She should never have meddled with dangerous time technology, not for his sake. He didn't want the blood of any more friends on his hands. Adric's death had been a hard enough blow.

They arrived at the command deck to find Captain Alzen in the midst of an array of subordinates, shouting orders and listening to verbal reports, sometimes simultaneously.

The Doctor looked around him. As the nerve centre of such a vast ship, the command deck was less than impressive. It was relatively small, though bigger than the TARDIS console room. A view screen that seemed to fill the entirety of one wall displayed an enhanced image of Janovay and the array of Karalian ships in orbit around it. One of the ships was breaking up in a series of small, bright explosions, their pattern consistent with the after-effects of a bolt from an energy weapon targeting a crucial part of the vessel. Sparks of light shooting away from it had to be the escape capsules launched as the Karalians abandoned the damaged vessel.

"They're heading towards Janovay," Nyssa breathed, her hands rising to her face in shock. Her fingernails dug tiny indentations in her cheeks. "If any of them carries the active Syndrome the Janovians will be wiped out!"

The Doctor nodded slowly but said only, "What's happening?"

"Shots fired from the planet," a nearby Karalian technician supplied, monotone.

"From the planet?" Luthen repeated. "The Janovians wouldn't-"

"Someone would," the Doctor said grimly.

Tegan flinched from whatever his expression let slip. "No," she said, grabbing his arm. "She didn't. It's not Verani. It isn't the Janovians doing this."

"How do you-?" the Doctor asked at the same time Alzen turned on them and snapped, "Who the Hell is it, then? The fleet are powering up weapons to raze that city to the ground!"

"They mustn't!" Nyssa exclaimed. "Tell them, Captain. Tell them!"

The Doctor opened his mouth to belay that.

"Another shot launched from the planet," the technician announced, squinting at a readout screen. "Tracking..."

Alzen's frown softened as he looked at Nyssa. "All right." he said, gruff but acquiescing. Nyssa's hold over the Karalians made them putty in her hands. His hand slapped the control to open a communication channel. "Attention all ships. Request that no fire is to be returned upon the planet. We have information indicating the Janovian populace are not responsible for this attack."


A clamour of protests from the comm. Casting a wild look around the others, Nyssa stepped forward and spoke. "The Captain is right. You mustn't open fire."

The Doctor moved to pull her back, and she struggled to wrench her arm from his grasp.

"Who is this?" a single hard voice silenced the clamour.

Alzen paled slightly. "Admiral Kanos, I-"

"Nyssa of Traken!" Nyssa shouted. "My name is Nyssa of Traken! You recognise that, don't you? The Janovian people are peaceful, you mustn't harm them!"

"Tracking..." The Karalian read out a series of co-ordinates in an increasingly strained voice.

"Prepare for impact," Alzen said into a speaker, and his expression was bleak as his voice resounded throughout the ship.

Chapter 14

"We're running around in circles," Jovanka grumbled. "And I'll bet he's doing the same trying to avoid us."

Verani felt inclined to agree. They'd been hours scouring the city for Kweril. Some of her people said he'd been near the watch-tower earlier, but he wasn't there now. "Perhaps the Karalians took him too?" she suggested. It would be an ironic kind of justice.

"They didn't."

Verani shrugged and didn't ask how she knew. Jovanka had been tight-mouthed and her concentration was erratic, her gaze constantly unfocused. Events elsewhere seemed to be taking up a lot of her attention. "We should search again the places that were searched earlier, in case he doubled back."

Jovanka nodded and they began the walk back through the quiet streets towards the centre of the city.

Above the rooftops, a fierce arrow of light shot up into the sky, disappearing beyond sight. The two women exchanged confused glances. "What was that?" Jovanka demanded.

"Energy weapon. From its angle of trajectory, it came from the city... not far away from here..." Verani's senses blurred back into normal focus and she shook her head to clear it.

"That energy gun thing the Doctor was working on!" Jovanka yelped. She started running and her voice floated back to Verani, "Kweril must have found some way to make it work!"

The First Councillor absorbed the information with mixed emotions, and sprinted after her.

They were nearing the small square where Kweril's ship stood when a second blaze of light followed the course of the first. This time, its source was unmistakeably Kweril's ship itself. Verani caught up with Jovanka as they ran out across the paved square.

The hatch-like door of the ship was closed, and when she pulled at the handle it was to find it securely locked. "Let me," whispered Jovanka. Closing her eyes in concentration, she pushed through the solid door, hands stretched out before her. There was trepidation on her face in the instant before it passed through the metal and she disappeared from sight. After a pause, the door slid open. Verani slipped inside.

The cramped interior was obviously lived-in. The little spaceship was a home, not a transport, strewn with garments and other oddments of occupation, and possessing a fusty smell. Mechanical noises emanated from the engine workings at the back. Somebody was undoubtedly there. Verani joined Jovanka at the interior doorway.

Surrounded by a forest of machinery with its wire-and-circuit guts spilling out over the sparse floor-space, Kweril hunched over the base of the weapon the Doctor had retrieved from the Vaults, feeding information into the keypad. The shaft of the weapon was aimed up in the air, and a panel in the top of the ship was wrenched open to reveal blue sky and pale wisps of cloud, Karalian battleships invisible beyond.

As they watched, Kweril gave a satisfied grunt and reached for a control on the weapon's side.

Luthen watched helplessly as the bright point of light on the screen grew too close to the larger mass of the ship for the sensors to distinguish it. There was a long moment in which the command deck was gripped in silent immobility, everyone ceasing even to breathe as they waited for the impact.

Then, the Vardito shuddered and lurched. The occupants of the command deck were thrown into disarray by the jolt. Luthen fell to one knee, landing heavily with a clang of metal upon metal that reverberated through to his teeth. He'd almost caught his balance when the ill-treated ship protested with another violent shake, throwing him sprawling to the floor.

Dazed, he could do nothing but spread-eagle his limbs for maximum purchase and try to hold on while the ship was rocked and bucked with smaller tremors. The lights flickered off as the power abruptly cut out and they were pitched into total darkness. There was a whine as auxiliary power built up to cut in, and a brief, blinding flicker before the muffled sound of another explosion left them again in darkness. After a space of seconds that seemed much longer, the ship quieted to emitting only soft groans of stressed metal, and Luthen cautiously raised his head from the floor to find himself faced by a thick curtain of dark in which nothing could be distinguished.

"Is everyone all right?" asked the Doctor from somewhere behind him, pain underlining his voice.

"I'm okay," Luthen said, and listened as the Doctor's question drew further murmurs of assent from Nyssa, Alzen, Jovanka - Tegan, he reminded himself - and Bannot, and from a few of the techs.

Alzen said, "There are flashlights in the emergency locker." Noises of clumsy movement and of the Captain's strained cursing gave texture to the dark. Luthen tried to sit up and affirmed that it wasn't merely dizziness that disoriented him. The floor was tilted at an extreme angle.

A moment later, a small beam of light sprang into existence over to the left. Alzen stood, somehow upright on the wildly canted floor, playing the beam of the flashlight in his hand around the command deck. When the beam landed on Luthen, he nodded curtly and tossed over a spare flashlight.

Dazzled by the beam and still dazed from the attack, Luthen fielded the catch clumsily. Pinning it between his uncooperative cybernetic hand and his chest, he fumbled at the flashlight's switches and managed to coax a beam from it. He switched hands and awkwardly rolled over onto hands and knees, swinging the beam where he thought the Doctor's voice had come from.

The Doctor had one arm hooked around Nyssa's waist to keep her from falling down the slope of the floor. His other arm was wedged in the twisted metal of a panel join bent out of shape by the impact. A sharp edge had opened up a slash across his wrist which made it look like he'd been trying to kill himself again. He must have grabbed on for balance, then been caught, unable to relinquish his hold. Nyssa had twisted around in his grasp and stretched across him, wrapping her hand over the injury to reduce the flow of blood. Her knuckles were white with the force she applied, her face taut with tension, but the cut was longer than her hand it blood leaked around the edges.

Luthen crawled clumsily across to them, distantly aware that Alzen was crouched swearing over the defunct comms system. He bolstered Nyssa's legs to help her balance, allowing the Doctor to relax his grip. Nyssa retained hers. They managed with some difficulty to sit down on the angled floor without loosing the gaping wound, which Nyssa held closed now with both hands. The Doctor's face, even in the dim light, was grey.

"I need bandages, cloth, something. Quickly," Nyssa said. The Doctor awkwardly reached into a pocket to pull out a large handkerchief with question marks on it, which she accepted dubiously.

Alzen, already rummaging again in the emergency locker, said, "There's a med box in here somewhere."

"Tegan?" Nyssa looked around for her friend. "Can you help me with this?"

"I'm on it." She emerged into Luthen's light beam, her feet skidding as she climbed up the floor. Alzen barked a warning as he tossed a med box to her and she flailed her arms to catch it. They passed straight through on the first attempt, and she barely managed to avoid letting it fall. She opened it and pulled out a roll of bandaging which, leaning forward, she applied to the Doctor's wrist.

"Nyssa?" Bannot's voice called over from the block of the room still in darkness.

"Councillor Bannot! Are you all right?"

"I'm all right, but Jisa's unconscious. I could use some help and some light."

"You go to them, Luthen," the Doctor said tightly, snatching Alzen's thrown flashlight out of the air with his free hand, eliciting a squeak of protest from Nyssa as he jostled her bandaging. He switched it on and pointed it down at his own injured wrist. The beam shook with the same tremors as his hand.

Luthen, aiming his flashlight towards the Janovian's voice, crawled over to where Dunae and Bannot had been thrown into a messy heap in the crook between wall and floor. Bannot, relatively intact, bent over the still form of the sergeant. The lower half of his face was bloody, his nose now crooked at an odd angle that was going to make his features more irregular than before, if he lived long enough for it to heal. The Janovian seemed oblivious to the blood as he examined Dunae in the beam of torchlight. Luthen reached him as he turned her over.

The sergeant's eyes were shut, but she was breathing and had no visible injuries on her save a slight lump on the side of her head that trickled a thin thread of blood through her hair.

"She's all right," Bannot said with relief. She was coming around even as he spoke, and when her eyes flickered open they settled on the Janovian with a hint of emotion that would never have touched the features of the tough sergeant Luthen had always known.

Alzen barked an exclamation of triumph, and Luthen turned to see him leaning over the emergency speaker system with tools scattered around him. The small light of the control bank's internal power-source was flickering into life.

Alzen's hands flew over the controls and they lit up obligingly. "Attention," he said, and his voice was picked up and bounced around the ship. Its echoes could be heard reverberating back to them along the dark and damaged corridors outside. "This is Captain Alzen speaking. We have taken heavy damage. All personnel are ordered to abandon ship immediately. This is an order. Abandon ship. Proceed to escape capsules with speed and caution." He repeated it a few times before wearily switching the machine off.

"You've done what you can," the Doctor said, in an awkward attempt at comfort, too much pain in his voice to really be effective.

"I know." As Alzen replied another shudder jolted the ship back onto something resembling its normal angle. The footing became much easier, but nobody was relieved.

"That was an explosion!" Nyssa exclaimed.

"Yes," said Alzen. "I think the main drive was hit. Almost all systems are hooked up to it. Emergency life-support and gravity are on separate circuits, not that that's going to matter in the slightest. If the main drive's suffered damage, it's unstable. We're probably already losing atmosphere faster than the systems can compensate. This ship is going to break up piece by piece. Just be glad we're nowhere near the drive systems. Anyone there is already dead."

Luthen stood clumsily and helped Bannot to his feet. Between them, they lifted sergeant Dunae. She leaned heavily on Bannot as they joined the Doctor and the others. Two of the techs were with their group, Alzen was checking the pulse of another who lay motionless in his chair. "He's alive. You two, get him to an escape capsule between you, then do the same for yourselves." The techs manoeuvred their unconscious colleague off the command deck.

"Will you be all right?" Alzen asked, leaning over the Doctor. Nyssa and Tegan were still at work on the emergency aid, although Nyssa seemed distracted, constantly looking up and around, worry straining her face. They'd stemmed most of the flow, but a large amount of the Doctor's blood already coated the floor. "We have to get to escape capsules ourselves as soon as you're ready to move, Doctor."

"My TARDIS-" the Doctor began.

Nyssa cut him off. "Captain Alzen, are you saying this ship is going to blow up?"

"That would seem to sum up the situation," the Karalian responded snappishly.

Nyssa looked blank for a moment, then exploded into motion. "Bannot, take over!" she shouted to the bemused Janovian, her voice almost a wail, as she abandoned her attentions to the Doctor's injury. She snatched Luthen's flashlight from his hands as she pushed past. "I have to get the cure!" With a scared glance back to the Doctor, she disappeared out of the door.

"What? We've got the cure," Alzen began, calling after her, "it's been broadcast-"

"Nyssa!" Tegan moved to let Bannot take over with the Doctor's wrist, then bounded after her. "I'll fetch her, Doctor!" she yelled back.

The Doctor broke from Bannot's benevolent grip, as though by reflex moving to follow, but the motion drew another violent splash of blood from his veins and he stilled with a gasp. As Bannot and Dunae tried frantically to stem the flow, Alzen snapped, "You. Luthen. Go after them. Get them into escape capsules, with force if necessary. This ship doesn't have long left."

"Yes, sir!" Luthen had, anyway, been about to do so. He didn't think the women knew where the escape capsules were, nor how to use them.

If they were separated from the Karalian crewmembers, they'd die with the Vardito.

When Kweril looked up to find her standing in the doorway, he couldn't believe what he was seeing. His hands fell away from the weapon, revenge forgotten, and he cried out hoarsely, "I saw you die! I killed you! You can't be here."

"I came back to get you, didn't I!" she yelled. There was a petulant note to her aggressive voice and stance which he hadn't expected from a vengeful spirit. Still, he could see the wall and mechanisms of his ship through her insubstantial form, there was no doubt she was a demon of some kind. He recalled how she disappeared after he'd killed her.

Mirosan culture had been deeply steeped in superstition and ritual and Kweril, despite his outlaw status, was not unique from his people in this respect. On his hands and knees, he scrabbled fearfully for his sidearm amongst the machine parts strewn over the floor as the demon walked towards him, feet passing through the debris of tools and parts.

A surprised-looking First Councillor Verani standing beyond the demon moved as though to stop him, but too late. His hands touched the handle of the gun and he snatched it up and levelled it in quavering hands. Eyes flinching shut, he fired the weapon at almost point-blank range.

There was the sound of exploding machinery and of the dead woman's laughter.

He opened his eyes. She was still standing there, her arms spread out mockingly. There wasn't a mark on her, but behind her the ship's air-recycling system was smouldering and ruined. Her laughter held a desperate edge of... relief? Her outstretched hands shook almost as much as his own, gripping the gun. He wondered why a demon should fear.

Verani hung back as though she wasn't sure whether to intervene or not. Or perhaps for whom.

"You missed me!" the dead woman yelled, hopping across a large cable, landing crouched-down in front of the energy weapon. "Missed!" she taunted, voice quavering. "How about another try? Maybe you'll get lucky and kill me again!"

Tegan cursed as she tripped over another fallen object in the dark corridor. A sharp edge skinned her ankles. Why couldn't she have had the foresight to bring one of those fancy space age flashlights, instead of just running off like that? But then, amid the increasing feedback from the other projection playing behind her eyes like a bad case of double-vision, her concentration was not at its best.

A bobbing light, steadily growing further away through the darkness in front, marked Nyssa's location. She was running, and the crashes floating back to Tegan, echoing strangely in the dead hulk of the ship, indicated her lack of care. Tegan hoped her friend wouldn't fall and injure herself. What could have got Nyssa so panicked?

The light blinked out as Nyssa turned some invisible corner up ahead, leaving Tegan in darkness with no marker to guide her.

"Rabbits!" Knowing it was nobody's fault but her own made her all the more angry. She stumbled a few steps and bumped into another obstruction, flung out both arms to save her balance and encountered the unseen wall to her left. "Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits!" she snapped, smacking her fist against the wall. She could go diffuse to run after Nyssa, but knowing her luck she'd end up running right through the ship's hull and be left floating helplessly in space. Whether that would kill her current body was anyone's guess. Would vacuum hurt, if her form didn't have much mass to start with? Did she need to breathe air?


Jolted out of her frustrated pondering, she squinted back down the corridor. A faint light, hardly more than a glow, materialised gradually into a bulky figure limping with awkward speed towards her. Ryn Luthen, flashlight in hand, looked every bit a clunky cybernetic angel to her at that moment.

"Thank goodness," she said, gripping his arm with relief as the featureless corridor was mapped out in torchlight before her eyes. "You're a lifesaver. Come on, we've got to catch up with Nyssa. Do you have any idea where she might be heading?"

"I think she's going to the scientific facilities. This way." He led along the corridor, negotiating loose wall panels and the other debris littering the floor.

Passing through the corridors approaching the labs, they heard Nyssa before they saw her, and the noises of equipment being rooted through and thrown aside led to a door open onto a small laboratory.

Luthen flicked the flashlight around the interior to reveal a twisted mess of shattered equipment. Scientific phials and tubes, medical machinery and tools, storage units and shattered pieces from the ship's superstructure all combined into a jagged, treacherous sea across the floor.

"Nyssa!" Tegan exclaimed. Her friend looked up in harassed surprise, then sighted something that turned her head sharply away. Something she lunged towards and swept up with a cry of triumph.

As she snatched it, the ship shifted again. Caught overextended and off-balance, Nyssa crashed forward with a small cry, curling protectively around the object she held as she hit the debris in a splintering clatter of metal and glass.

Tegan and Luthen were thrown against the door frame and each other by the turbulence. She clutched at himfor balance, and he clutched at the wall, until the shudders stopped. Gasping from receiving a metal elbow sharply under her ribs, Tegan disengaged from Luthen and picked her way across the lab, receiving an ominous lack of response from Nyssa's curled up form as she yelled her friend's name.

Nyssa's flashlight lay in a pile of broken glass and noxious yellow liquid. Tegan retrieved it gingerly and knelt down. Luthen joined her an instant later and together they cleared a Nyssa-sized space in the broken glass on the floor and carefully rolled the Trakenite over into it.

"Oh, no." There was a long cut across Nyssa's forehead, extending up into her hairline. Beyond that, any attempts at examination stopped because the flashlights weren't bright enough to reveal what damage lay beneath her hair. What was visible looked nasty enough. She wouldn't be waking up any time soon - though Tegan tried anyway, shaking her and calling her name.

The object she'd been so desperate to save was clutched in her hands. Tegan pried apart her fingers' vice-like grip with difficulty and hefted, puzzled, a container of some kind. Tubular, metal, about a foot long. No seam anywhere on it, and no way to open it so far as she could see.

"What do you think this is?"

"She said she was coming back for the cure," Luthen said. "But it's already been broadcast. We don't need a sample to make more."

Tegan considered the container and Nyssa's still form. "Whatever it is, we have to get her out of here." She looked to the Karalian for ideas.

"We'll get her to an escape capsule." He tried to gather up the limp body and cursed his lack of success. "You'll have to help me lift her."

They managed to get Nyssa's small form balanced reasonably securely in Luthen's arms. "What's up with your hand, anyway?" Tegan asked.


Tegan scowled and added another score to settle with lizard-man. She picked up the flashlights and Nyssa's container, and turned her concentration to keeping her hands solid enough to carry them.

She shone both flashlights before them to light their way through the dying ship. They stumbled at the tremors it gave in its death throes and flinched at the groaning, tearing sounds of stressed metal that seemed to emanate from all around them. For all the damage, she saw no living debris, no corpses. Blood, here and there, on the floor.

"Here," Luthen said finally. He set Nyssa down and turned his attention to a circular hatch in the wall. Tegan had seen a number of these hatches lining the walls of the last few corridors, and they stretched along the left side of this one as far as she could see in the dim light. This hatch's controls were lit up while all the others she could see were dark and inactive, with only space visible beyond their portals.

"Escape capsule?" Tegan hazarded, peering through into the cramped little pod.

"Almost everyone on this level must have got out," Luthen said. "Which is good, but not for us - or the Captain and the others."

"They'll be all right. The Doctor will take them in the TARDIS. Put Nyssa in this one. We'll have to return to the others and hope they've not left already." Not that she was in any danger. She felt illogically guiltily that Nyssa's and Luthen's lives were at risk here while she was safe - well, relatively - in the temporal device.

Luthen fiddled with the controls and the hatch he was working on opened onto another door. He pushed another control. Nothing happened. Cursing, he punched the control pad, which remained stubbornly unresponsive, then reached in to manually force open the capsule's lid. Inside was a padded space large enough for a person, maybe two at a squeeze. At the far end there was small bank of controls.

Luthen manoeuvred Nyssa into the escape capsule and wrapped her limp arm around the metal container. Despite her unconscious state, she seemed to curl up tighter around it. "Now you," he said, turning to Tegan.

"What?" She stared into the cramped capsule, then back at the Karalian. "I'm coming with you. I can't die like this, remember, not for real. I can help you."

"She needs your help more. The door's jamming. It'll need to be manually operated, or she could suffocate after landing if the internal air supply runs out before she wakes up."

"So that's why this one's left- No. No. You go. I'm not leaving you to die here."

"Do I look like I'll fit in there with her? There isn't any other option. You'll have to do it."

"But I don't know how this thing works!" she yelled.

"It's all right," he assured her quickly. "The capsule will automatically home in on Janovay as the nearest suitable planet and land there. You may only need to open the hatch upon landing."

"I'd be having words with your supplier," Tegan grumbled. "All right, what do I do if anything else goes wrong?"

He explained the controls and, she shakily climbed into the escape capsule next to - well, practically on top of - Nyssa. Feeling claustrophobic already, she craned her head to look back at Luthen, all too aware of how slim his own chances of escape were. He'd given Nyssa the only operational capsule they'd come across. He'd have to find another or make it back to the TARDIS before it left.

"Good luck," she said, inadequately.

"And you." He closed the lid from the outside and his incongruously youthful face disappeared from view. The interior hatch clicked shut.

"Goodbye," she murmured. She might have imagined the sound of his footsteps receding away down the corridor.

She turned her concentration to the capsule as the release operated, taking them away from the dying Vardito. Nyssa's life was in her hands, and Luthen might have sacrificed his, and she couldn't, couldn't allow herself to fail.

Kweril started to level his gun, then hesitated. He shook his head, and hissed through his teeth. "I don't know what you are... but you won't trick me. If you don't have any substance, spirit, you don't have any power to stop me either."

From the relief mixed with Jovanka's despair, Verani realised she hadn't been so confident of her ability to control her form's solidity. The energy beam could still have damaged her, as it had before.

"First Councillor Verani. My friend," Kweril said mockingly, dragging his eyes across to hers. "What are you doing here with this creature? Surely you do not come to prevent me destroying the Karalians? Is it not, after all, what we both desired?"

"It was," she told him regretfully. "Until I learned what you tried to keep from me. The Syndrome. The reality of our enemy. Each of those ships, I am told, contains over a thousand lives. People. Children; their years measured in fractions of my own. Kweril, this is wrong."

"And unnecessary," Jovanka said. "You're only ruining everything, Kweril! The Karalians were going to leave Janovay alone. They've found their cure and they don't have to fight any more. Or they didn't until you started throwing your weight around. Nobody needed to die. We could have had a clean solution!"

"If what she says is true," Verani said, "You may have destroyed Janovay by your actions. A Karalian reprisal-"

"Maybe that's how it always happened," Jovanka murmured.

"Then we must destroy them all quickly before they have chance to respond!" Kweril cried. "You risk all our lives by delaying me!" He lunged towards the energy weapon, but Jovanka was still standing in front of it and the idea of pushing through her ghostly figure stopped him short. She folded her arms and determinedly stayed between him and the weapon.

"No, Kweril! There's still a chance yet. Captain Alzen and Nyssa may have persuaded the fleet not to return fire. If you stop now they might not retaliate. But if you start firing that thing again, nothing can save us!"

"You don't understand," Kweril hissed. "I will tolerate no peace, no treaties, no negotiations with the monsters that destroyed my race. The only possible option is to destroy them! They've taken you in, but you must open your eyes and see them for what they are. Killers! Children, yes, but trained from infancy to kill. To spread the infection in their selfish quest. To battle those who would resist their contamination..."

He dived towards the weapon, to barge through Jovanka's transparent form despite his fear. But he rammed instead into a solid body and they fell in a tangle of flailing limbs. Her fists pounded inexpertly at his head and neck. Though his strength would normally have made a mockery of hers, these were not normal circumstances. Raking claws and damaging punches kept failing to connect, passing through Jovanka's form to ram against machinery or floor or walls.

Those that did connect drew shrieks and blood. Jovanka clawed at Kweril's eyes with her fingers, closing her own in revulsion.

Verani stood rooted to the floor by horror and indecision, her gaze shifting between the weapon and the combatants.

It was clear from Alzen's concern that the group in the control room had been seriously delayed by the necessity of dealing with the Doctor's injury. The instant Bannot finished tying the bandage, the Karalian Captain was on his feet, hurrying them. "We have to go. I don't know that there'll be any escape capsules left on this level by now."

The Doctor stood up briskly, fighting off dizziness and the irritance of his throbbing wrist. "There's no need to waste time looking for escape capsules. I know precisely where my TARDIS is on level two. It can carry us all back to Janovay much more safely."

Alzen, a consummate leader, nodded in swift decision, casting his earlier scepticism aside. He handed more flashlights around. "We'll head for the main elevator shaft. There are emergency and maintenance ladders we should be able to use." He shot a raised eyebrow at the Doctor. "From what I've heard, this TARDIS of yours should be interesting to see." His face set as he cast his gaze assessingly around the rest of the group. "Come along sharply now, people."

He ducked out of the door. Dunae swung the medical kit over her shoulder by its carrying strap and followed.

"Onward, then," the Doctor said to Councillor Bannot, expansively waving the arm which didn't feel like it was being amputated below the elbow. Bannot's returning grin was quite un-Janovian.

The Doctor hesitated in the Councillor's wake, looking around the dead heart of the ruined ship. He was reluctant to leave without knowing Nyssa, Tegan and Luthen were safe. What if, finding no capsules spare for their escape, they returned to an empty command deck? He sighed and followed Bannot. He had to accept there was nothing he could do. Luthen would see them all right. Chances were, they'd already got out as Alzen had instructed. He could not afford to worry, now there were other lives on his hands.

Weak from blood loss and with the Zayol poisoning increasingly difficult to ignore, his senses spinning under the dual assault upon his concentration, it would be a demanding enough task to get Alzen and the others to the TARDIS and transport them all to safety.

He caught up with Bannot. Regeneration could have a significant effect on an individual's personality traits, as he well knew, but all the same it was hard to believe this was Verani's impassive lieutenant, who had formerly betrayed about as much emotion and compassion as a robot. Every line of the Janovian's new body exuded interest and quirky enthusiasm. Bannot had been the most Janovian of his people, and now he didn't even seem like one of them. The grey Karalian uniform made of him a curious mixture of the two worlds.

The corridors echoed with tortured metallic groans as the ship was torn apart by the stresses of explosions deep within the drive section. They were getting closer to that section, now. The debris-strewn floors were rocked by the motion of the dying ship and, in some places, walls were crushed and folded inward like paper.

Alzen was becoming more frantic, urging them on faster, but the Doctor was too engaged in fighting his own pain to spare Alzen's concerns additional attention. He had his work cut out retaining his grip on consciousness and keeping moving, and was already exerting all the effort he was capable of.

The Captain stopped suddenly, holding up a hand to signal silence, a frown of concentration on his face. In the stillness, human sounds became audible somewhere in front of them. "Somebody's had the same idea as us. The main lift shaft is up ahead."

"We'd better catch up to them," the Doctor said, a little breathlessly.

They turned a corner and found themselves in a large circular bay - the Vardito's main elevator complex.

A shadowy figure was trying to force one of the shaft doors. The Doctor swung his torch up and the figure turned around, raising a metal arm to shield his eyes.

"Who's that?" asked a shaking, youthful voice.

Ryn Luthen.

"You've some luck, boy," Alzen said.

"Captain Alzen," the Karalian youth said, his voice weighted with recognition and relief. "Doctor. Am I glad you're here. I was beginning to think I wasn't going to get out of this ship alive."

Looking at the heavy double doors, it was immediately clear to the Doctor that it was going to take at least one functioning pair of hands to force them open. Luthen must have been close to despair, struggling alone in the dark. The youth grinned sheepishly, shaky with the aftermath of fear as he stepped back to let Dunae and Alzen take over his efforts.

The Doctor's guilt at being the cause of their delay evaporated. Luthen might very likely owe his life to that delay.

"I ran here," the Karalian said. "I was afraid you'd already gone. I thought I was alone." While Dunae and the Captain forced open the doors, he related what had happened to Tegan and Nyssa, and the Doctor's immediate worries for their safety abated.

"It was very noble of you to see Nyssa safe," he told the young man, who had come within a hair's breadth of sacrificing himself.

Dunae's raw cry of effort drew their attention back to the lift, where she stretched her stocky form to hold the double doors apart while Alzen wedged debris to keep them that way.

The Doctor peered down the shaft curiously, swinging the torch beam around the interior. The distance below swallowed up the light. Within the few metres of its range, he could make out the maintenance ladder, in a niche clear of the path travelled by the elevators. A brusque hand snatched the back of his cricketing jersey to pull him away from the edge and Alzen pushed by, clipping a flashlight to the back of his belt, to swing out into the dark void. He disappeared from sight, only the wildly veering beam of light marking his location.

"-to follow." His voice floated back up indistinctly. "-quick about it, now."

The Doctor nudged Luthen after him, helping the Karalian awkwardly transfer his body across to the ladder, crooking his flashlight under his chin to illuminate the topmost rungs as he aided the youth. Once he had hold of the ladder, Luthen climbed down without much difficulty, hooking his metal elbow around every other rung in place of his broken hand. The Doctor backed out and politely waved for Bannot and Dunae to proceed before him. Then he too swung out into the darkness.

Pain flared in his wrist as he wrapped both hands around a rung and scrabbled for a foothold. He climbed grimly after the others, shutting the pain away in a corner of his mind as new blood soaked through the dressing on his wrist. His right hand would take little weight and the blood loss made his balance unsteady. The ever more turbulent motions of the ship didn't help.

They'd come up four levels from where he'd left the TARDIS. Not so very far to climb. And there, he was already passing a door, leading onto another level of the Vardito. Must be a quarter of the way down already-

Alzen, some distance below, must have reached the door onto level two; he could be heard grunting with effort as he bashed at something which rang dully. The Doctor kept climbing, so focused that he narrowly missed stepping on Bannot's hands. The group had stopped, waiting for Alzen to open the doors. Bannot caught his foot and guided it to the rung.

Alzen succeeded in forcing the doors apart, at least by several inches, at which point they jammed. The small-built Captain slid through the gap and helped the others follow with much less ease. The Doctor was immensely grateful when his feet touched ground again.

The atmosphere they emerged into was smoky, its oxygen content thin. The Doctor could also detect traces of some rather toxic gases amongst the fumes.

Alzen spat curses and racking coughs "Oxygen lost to... space and fire. I hope it isn't far to your TARDIS."

The Doctor was rather afraid that it would prove further than the three Karalians with their human-like respiratory systems could reach. But he said, "It's this way," and took the lead, trying to overcome his own increasing weakness. He indicated to Bannot to proceed at the rear of the group, to make sure they didn't lose anyone. Bannot, like himself, could survive longer than the others in the noxious atmosphere, but only he could operate the TARDIS to get them all clear.

Ryn Luthen, already badly weakened by the wear of the last few days, succumbed before they'd gone more than a few hundred metres. The Doctor turned at the metallic clamour of the Karalian's fall, but Bannot was already hauling him up with the same deceptive strength Verani had displayed, lifting the cyborg without difficulty. The Doctor didn't hesitate more than a second. Speed was crucial now.

Dunae, with her head injury, followed some minutes later. Alzen caught her under the arms and, despite his own painful, gasping breaths, started to drag her along.

The Doctor was having difficulty breathing himself when they reached the TARDIS, but felt energy return to him at the sight of the police box. He dug the key from his pocket. Fumbled at the lock. A decisive click beneath his unsteady fingers and the door creaked open. He waved Bannot, struggling now with Luthen's unconscious weight, over the threshold into the clear air of the TARDIS interior, and lurched back out.

After his tremendous effort, Alzen had finally collapsed over Dunae a few metres away from the TARDIS. The Doctor reeled across to him, feeling the ship's tremors increasing in force through the reverberations of the floor. The Vardito's break-up couldn't be long coming now. He dragged Alzen into the console room, and Bannot staggered past him to retrieve the sergeant.

With everyone safely inside, the Doctor fell across the control console. He swiped a wildly shuddering hand at the door lever and punched controls almost randomly in his exhausted desperation. He could taste blood in his mouth. Blood from his slashed wrist, forgotten in the desperate struggle to the TARDIS, painted a track across the console. He slammed a fist down on the last of the controls.

The rotor began to rise and fall as the sounds of dematerialisation filled the TARDIS.

Chapter 15

Acceleration crushed her against the padded sides of the escape capsule, Janovay's gravity drawing them into the atmosphere, initiating a blind plunge towards the planet's surface. Unable to see where they were headed, unable to control their course, Tegan felt helpless and futile, and resented it.

Nyssa, still unconscious, moaned softly at her side, and gritting her teeth as atmospheric turbulence gave the capsule an enthusiastic shaking, she thought that Nyssa was the lucky one, to be sleeping through their descent.

She felt horrible about leaving Luthen and the Doctor and the others behind on the ship. She prided herself on staying by her friends whatever the danger, though the Doctor in that patronising way of his often tried to leave her in safety.

She'd never had the chance to tell the Doctor-

Something exploded inside the capsule's small control bank, snapping her from her thoughts. A cascade of sparks sprayed out from the computer. The capsule bucked and shuddered violently with the turbulence.

Nyssa's face was inches from the splay of electrical fire. She flinched in her sleep and cried out as a spark painted a red line across her cheek. Tegan had little time to think. There was no room to move Nyssa out of the way, and a fire inside the capsule would kill her for sure. Tegan lunged clumsily across the coffin-like space to place herself between her friend and the spluttering, fizzing controls, willing herself as solid as possible as she smothered the fire by pressing her back and shoulders against the burning electrics.

She screamed as the pain hit her. As she'd discovered when Kweril shot her, the copies created by the temporal device could be hurt and killed, in a solid state behaving much like her own flesh. She didn't want to think about what was happening to her back; couldn't think about anything else.



She could let go of the projection...

Nyssa would die.

She wasn't going to let go.

Tegan braced her arms against the capsule's sides and clung desperately to consciousness and solidity, fighting to retain her position as a buffer between Nyssa and the burning controls.

There was a jolt so severe it could only mean they'd hit ground, then the space they were in somersaulted over, flinging its two occupants this way and that, shaking loose Tegan's hold. And again, over. Again. All was reduced to confusion and dizziness. She lost track of which way was up.

They stilled, but it felt like they were still turning over. She couldn't feel a surface underneath her. Gravity seemed to be pulling heavy on all sides. The capsule was filling up with smoke and sparks and she was losing her grip, fading out-

-in the background, Nyssa, choking on smoke, unconsciously dying-


With a desperate pain-filled effort, Tegan wrenched back to herself, and lunged for the lever to manually force the hatch.

Verani had stood statue-like throughout the brutal struggle. For all that she had recently done and attempted to do, she remained Janovian, violence abhorrent to her. The sight of it froze her limbs and stopped her breath.

One of the combatants had been her friend, the other tried to prevent a massacre. She felt for both; her revulsion would allow her to help neither.

Jovanka's not-quite-material state prolonged the fight. Every time either she or Kweril was prevailing, the human's form would fluctuate, accidentally or by purpose, and whatever advantage gained would be lost.

It seemed Jovanka had the advantage when she flinched suddenly, her form rippling dizzily between states of solidity. A scream like nothing Verani had heard before, drawn out by unspeakable agony, ripped the fabric of the air.

Some sort of feedback, supplied the part of Verani's mind which knew such things. Something's happened to the other projection.

The human had rolled up into a foetal curl, arms hugged around her knees, whimpering incoherently. Whatever had happened, she was not in any state to finish dealing with Kweril.

The Mirosan had initially backed away in fear. Now, he edged forward and swiped at her hunched figure. His claws passed through her and his mouth twisted into something between a grin and a grimace. He turned his back on Jovanka, cast a dismissive glance at Verani, and returned his attention to the weapon.

Was he counting on their past agreements to protect him from action on her part, or could he simply not imagine her capable of acting to stop him?

"Kweril," she said, softly, as his hand wavered over the control.

One single button, pressed, would eradicate Karalian lives. He looked up at her; her friend Kweril of Miros II, his eyes no longer sane but twisted by vengeance.

Prepared to sacrifice her world in the name of that vengeance.

"Would you try to stop me now, Verani? You can't bluff me. I know you, and your people. You've done indirect violence, poison and plotting. But you're still Janovian. I know there's no action your conscience will allow you to take to stop me."

Verani looked over to Jovanka's huddled figure. Her eyes were blank and her form still, as though the projection had been abandoned and yet remained, no life or consciousness in it. There would be no help forthcoming from the human. She was alone.

There was nothing she could do, alone.

"You see," Kweril hissed triumphantly.

"No. It is you who fails to see. This is what we have planned for, my ally." She stretched her face into a smile. "We shall destroy the invaders together, Kweril.

"I only want to press the button."

Kweril laughed with relief and pleasure.

It was as though a door had opened inside Verani's mind. The knowledge poured in, all the information which had been stored in her bloodline's biodata to be referenced by her subconscious becoming bright and clear to her. This was not the purpose for which her bloodline had been intended, but perhaps the purpose for which it had always been fated.

About to die, she felt more alive and aware than ever before. Her brain, accepting finality, dismantled its barriers and became, transiently, complete in everything her programming made it possible for her to be.

Kweril stepped back from the machine and indicated with an expansive gesture the control that would destroy lives and ships. "All you have to do is press that," he said, unaware that she no longer required such explanations. Her people had been/would be one of the universe's most advanced races, and they'd planted all their knowledge within her, the guardian and gaoler of their descendents.

In the corner, Jovanka had lifted her head up and her eyes were no longer empty, although they bore only the barest spark of comprehension amid the pain. Not enough to make a difference, and Verani's mind was already irrevocably set.

She stepped up to the weapon. Looked down at the controls, understanding blazing a path through her brain as she recognised their purpose and their workings down to the individual components. Reached out a hand to touch, as much in awe as necessity.

She knew what she had to do.

Her fingers trailed across the controls, programming destruction. Kweril lunged forward with a cry, already too late.

"I'm sorry," said Verani, in the instant before the weapon's overload reduced the ship and its content to ashes.

"Are you all right, Doctor?" A rasping voice drew him back to the world of the living. He raised his head from the TARDIS console.

"Ah, Captain Alzen," he said, straightening up and taking in the scene in the console room, pleased to see the Karalian on his feet and blinking around the TARDIS' spacious interior with an expression suggesting he was determined not to ask. "You must have a remarkable constitution."

Bannot knelt beside Luthen and Dunae, who looked pale and young in their unconscious state. Alzen was a little unsteady but powered by determined self-discipline. He'd be more reliable for assistance than Bannot, who knew nothing about technology.

"You don't look so good," Alzen persisted. "You should rest-"

"That won't help. Ironically enough, time is precisely what I don't have." The Doctor flicked at dials and controls on the console. "According to the readings, the other damaged ship came down some miles away. I want to know what the Vardito is doing. Press that blue button over there, will you? - Yes, that's the one."

The TARDIS' exterior viewer flickered into life, bringing up a display of the hulk of the Vardito drifting in space, trails of debris fragments spiralling out from it toward Janovay. The ship, bereft of power and guidance, was slowly but surely being dragged in towards the planet. The Doctor forced his distracted brain through some quick calculations, his shaking fingers jabbing the controls in time with his thoughts. A pixellated model of the ship's likely trajectory through the atmosphere appeared on the console's small display screen.

The Doctor stepped back, waving for Alzen to take a look.

"My God," the Captain breathed. "It's going to flatten the city. Can't we do anything? What armaments do you have on this craft of yours? A strong blast of energy fire might be enough to alter its course-"

"No, no... the TARDIS has no weapons, Captain. There isn't anything we can do to prevent it. Far from it, in fact - we mustn't prevent it. The Janovians were fated to die. It seems nothing that's happened here has changed that, after all." Breathing was difficult. He wasn't sure if it was the poison or the bloodloss. Maybe the Karalians' Syndrome. Maybe something else.

"But Doctor, the entire population of this planet is concentrated in that city." Alzen hesitated, his eyes finding the single exception.

Bannot smiled wistfully and shrugged and turned away. The news of his people's imminent destruction was no new or unexpected shock.

The Doctor thought about Nyssa, last survivor of her world, and wondered if Bannot wished himself back among that doomed population. Nyssa had suggested more than once that perhaps she should have died with Traken.

"We must be able to do something," Alzen said. "Can't we evacuate the city? How many people could fit in this 'TARDIS', Doctor?"

But the Doctor shook his head. "No time. Look."

The ship on the screen was descending in an enveloping cowl of flame. The Doctor reconfigured the display to follow the ship's path, and they watched breathlessly for the impact.

Bannot straightened and looked on in silence, calmer than Alzen, whose metal and flesh hands were clenched into fists at his sides.

On the small display screen, the crude representation of the ship hit a line diagram of the city and both disappeared in an explosion of white pixels.

Ashes. She'd burned to ashes with Verani and Kweril, neither of whom would be waking up again.

She might have wished she wasn't, if not for the nagging tickling at the back of her mind, telling her there was something she needed to do. Life hurt too much right now. It proved little use to remind herself this body was only a projection, unreal. There wasn't any difference between fake pain and real pain. Everything felt real, and wasn't that what mattered when you were face down in the dirt, breathing burnt flesh on the air and recognising it as your own.

Tegan clung to the projection. So tempting to relax her grip, let it slip away, return to the device. But there was something - something she had to do-

Before she could catch the thought, a sound distracted her. Muted at first, but gathering volume. Getting closer. It sounded like an aeroplane - but not quite. Fear wrenched her head up from Janovay's blue-green not-grass.

She registered that Nyssa lay nearby, and that chance or some homing-in function of the capsule's systems had brought them down close to the city, but the growing speck in the sky was what monopolised her attention.

A ship. No, the carcass of one. She could see its halo of flame as it drew nearer. The Vardito had become a blackened wreck in the midst of a fireball.

In the time it took for her to realise that it was heading straight for her, and to think of how ironic it would be to have escaped one fiery death only to suffer another, it was already upon her, passing so close overhead that she reflexively ducked, pressing her body flat against the ground.

She felt the rush of air displaced by its passing. The breath was seized from her throat and she gasped. A second later, she gulped breaths that were hot and stale. The heat upon her burned back almost made her pass out.

Eyes watering, she blinked and raised her head, the tears drying fresh on her cheeks before they could fall, just in time to see the impact.

The ship on the exterior viewer, buffeted by atmospheric turbulence, scraped the top of the watch-tower on its shallow angle of descent and hurtled onwards to crash into the hills behind the city in a ball of fiery destruction.

"I don't believe it," said the Doctor. They should have been watching history unfold, but it seemed the world had changed.

Alzen laughed with relief. "It looks like you got your sums wrong, Doctor."

Offended, he shook his head and tapped at controls, recalculating swiftly. "My sums were right, Captain. I can't tell you why they're not dead. It was an incredibly lucky escape. Shouldn't have happened - random turbulence in the atmosphere - pure chance-"

He punched the console decisively and they re-materialised on Janovay, returning to the co-ordinates where the TARDIS had stood the last few days. The image on the screen changed to the vista outside; a different-angled view of the untouched city and blackened crater in the mountains.

The others seemed to be recovering. While Bannot helped Dunae to her feet, Luthen joined the Doctor in gaping at the screen. "The Vardito?" he asked hoarsely.

"That's right."

"Can you put me through to Admiral Kanos with your technology here?" Alzen asked, tearing his eyes away, voice suddenly crisp and urgent. "There's no guarantee they won't get tired of doing nothing and retaliate. I have to make sure that doesn't happen. As it is, I'm going to have some explaining to do for that order not to fire on the city."

The Doctor knew he should refuse the request. Another danger to Janovay would be assuaged, another possibility to change history opened up. But he was too drained to weather another battle between his judgement and his conscience. He did as the Captain asked.

She braced her arms against the ground and levered up onto her elbows, her heart still beating fast and erratic from the near-miss. Movement hurt, the pain assaulting her grasp on the projection, screening her vision with a haze of static.

The Vardito's impact crater made it look like something had taken a bite out of the mountain peak beyond the city.

Not far from the city walls, she could see figures milling next to a bulky shape on the ground. Karalians. At least two ships had been destroyed, with crews running into the thousands. The Karalian capsules would be coming down all over this area of the planet.

Nyssa lay a few yards further down the slope. Tegan remembered hauling them both from the capsule in a last effort before the destruction of the other projection blitzed her senses. Scrabbling painfully onto hands and knees, she crawled to Nyssa's side, trying not to think about her back. Telling herself that when she'd done what was needed, she'd let go of this projection, the Doctor would come haul her out of the temporal device, give her a severe lecturing, then she could be normal again. Maybe she wouldn't even remember what it felt like to have half her body burnt to meat.

Or would they pull her out of the temporal device covered in scars, wounds from bullets and explosions and fire all over her body? Would they pull her out dead?

Don't think about it.

She thought of Verani, sacrificing herself to prevent mass destruction. Guiltily, she thought of how she'd disliked her.

Nyssa was breathing. Apart from that tiny red burn across her cheekbone, she seemed to have suffered no damage but bruises. Tegan had managed to protect her from the worst. She'd be all right now.

The Doctor... She looked around, and saw that the TARDIS had returned to where it had stood before, a blue apparition amidst the grasslands, several hundred yards distant.

She wondered if she'd be able to make it so far. The whole of her back was a searing agony that ate at her resolve.

Don't think about itdon'thinkdon'tthinkdon'tthink-

She had to get to the TARDIS. She had to tell the Doctor... She had to tell him about Verani so that he could tell the Karalians.

Her back hurt.


She gathered her legs under her and began to stumble towards the police box.

Admiral Kanos' features were distorted by the TARDIS screen and by anger, his large face and larger fury dominating the console room. "You endangered Karalian lives for the sake of hostile aliens? If you hadn't been the one to deliver the cure, I might wonder whose side you're fighting on, Alzen."

"We don't have to fight on any side any more!" The Captain's body language was growing increasingly agitated. "We're not at war, and the Janovians are not hostiles. I have it from a reliable source that the weapon which was fired upon the fleet is operated by a single individual, a Mirosan, and that the Janovian people condemn his actions. We can't destroy a city of thousands to kill a single man!"

"Karalians have died!"

"Not because of the Janovians. You can hardly justify a retaliatory strike against one enemy and thousands of innocent bystanders. It's a long time since the last shot was fired - almost thirty minutes ago, now. Perhaps the Janovians have already dealt with the Mirosan."

"And perhaps he's just taking his time to improve his aim. You don't know what's happening down there any more than we do, and we have no way to contact the city. Karalians have died. It is my responsibility to make sure there are no more casualties."

"Sir, I can't believe you're seriously considering this!"

Luthen was no more than a spectator to the debate. A mere soldier, he had no place to speak. He clenched his jaw in helpless anger, watching his people prepare to commit an act he had for a brief time allowed himself to believe them exonerated of, watching Admiral Kanos ready to eradicate Janovay's population in an act of prudence.

The Doctor might have been more convincing than Alzen, had he attempted to reason with the Admiral, but he remained silent, saying no more than a few words of acknowledgement when introduced. Luthen suspected, with bitter disillusionment, that it wasn't all to do with his deteriorating condition. The Doctor was exercising his policy of non-interference. He didn't want the Janovians to die, and he wouldn't help to destroy them, but he wasn't going to act to save them.

But Verani's poison was extracting a harsh toll and, his annoyance aside, Luthen feared for the Doctor, who seemed to remain on his feet by will alone. His skin was pale and every so often he reached up to wipe his mouth and brought his hand away smeared with blood. They had to get back to Verani. Were wasting time while Alzen and Kanos argued.

If the Karalians destroyed the city, they would also destroy Verani's supply of the Zayol. Luthen felt cold. If the Doctor was willing to allow that, to die himself for what he believed necessary, what right had he to find fault?

Bannot had been snared into the debate now, stepping up to the screen as Alzen said, "This is the member of the Janovian council I've been negotiating with."

Bannot inclined his head. "He speaks the truth. My people are not hostile. They would not fire upon your fleet. There has recently been one among us, a Mirosan by the name of Kweril, whose desire for revenge upon your people might lead him to do so. If my people were aware of his activities, they would request that he desist."

"Request?" Kanos said, incredulously.

"We do not practise violence," Bannot explained, looking around the others.

Janovians, Luthen thought, didn't practise lying either.

"This is ridiculous." The Admiral's eyes scrutinised Bannot's form, taking in the uniform, the Syndrome scars on the alien's hands.

So did everyone else.

He looked just like any Karalian soldier.

They were never going to get through to the Admiral.

Faint sounds of something scratching on the TARDIS door interrupted them. The Doctor frowned at the closed door, tapped his fingers on the console in a brief jaunty rhythm of indecision, then flicked the door lever.

Jovanka - Tegan - fell through into the TARDIS, landing on hands and knees. The whole room drew in a breath as her back and shoulders were exposed to view.

"Oh, no." The Doctor, his own injuries apparently evaporating in his concern, swiftly knelt beside her, grasping her arms gently. "Tegan. What happened?"

"Capsule malfunction..." she slurred. Luthen's eyes avoided contact with her back. She shouldn't have been moving around with such an injury. Sutely only her unreal status courtesy of the temporal device made it possible.

"Where's Nyssa?" the Doctor asked. "Tegan. Tegan! Snap out of it! You must tell me where she is!"

"Nyssa's alive... unconscious. Verani... Verani's dead, Doctor. All burnt up. Verani and Kweril and the weapon he used against the Karalians. There's no danger any more..."

Alzen had been as taken aback by her appearance as the rest of them, deaf to the Admiral's furious demands that he relate what was going on. Now, the Captain sprang to Tegan's side, breaking the Doctor's grip to haul her to her feet. She swayed drunkenly. "I'm sorry," he said urgently. "But I need you. You must tell the Admiral what you just told us."

Tegan nodded and with his support staggered up to the screen.

"You have something to say?" Kanos asked gruffly.

"She's a friend of Nyssa of Traken," Alzen said. "She has news from the Janovian city."

Shaking off the Captain's hands to stand on her own, her voice rising to something approaching her usual volume and aggression, Tegan said, "The person who shot down your ships is dead! The weapon he used has been destroyed. The Janovian First Councillor sacrificed herself to stop him. You don't need to retaliate - Verani's already done it for you!"

So Verani was dead, Luthen thought. The news cut. The Doctor and Bannot looked similarly grieved. All that power and vision, destroyed by Kweril's lust for revenge. She had treated him with compassion, when she knew his race had come to destroy her world.

"This woman speaks the truth?" the Admiral asked.

Alzen looked at the Doctor and Luthen. Luthen nodded his trust, the Doctor stood frozen. Alzen turned back to the screen. "Yes," he said. "I'll vouch for it."

Kanos nodded slowly, and cast aside his reluctance. "You brought us the cure, Captain. Your word holds weight. I'll instruct the fleet to stand down weapons. Hopefully we can pick up the pieces and return to the celebrations begun before this incident." But he sounded unconvinced; reality had intruded the dream. "Continue organising relations with Janovay's authorities, and distribute the Syndrome cure among its people."

The communication cut off to leave them staring at a blank screen, and Tegan slid gracelessly to the floor. Luthen was at her side in an instant. The Doctor, slowed by his injuries, knelt a moment after.

She was almost completely transparent. He reached for her hand, but found he could not touch her. He tried to dampen his fear and concern; he'd seen her like this before and she'd come back. The Doctor, who knew the theory but hadn't seen it in practise, wrung his bloody hands.

"It's all right," Tegan said. "I've done what I needed to. Can't hold onto this form. Hurts... I'll be all right. I was before. Just come and get me out of this damned machine!"


"I'm not dying!" she snapped. "I'm not. You come and get me out!" Her lips moved silently, her eyes becoming clearer suddenly. "Not dying... You're not dying either, Doctor. Nyssa came up with a substitute for Verani's poison. Once I got the hang of the temporal device, I went back to the original plan and did a swap. Still very toxic... but nothing you and Nyssa can't repair."

Tegan's form faded away, leaving her last word hanging in the air.

"Good grief," whispered the Doctor, his eyes lighting up in excited inspiration. "They changed what happened, without changing anything! They cheated. Not really cricket, but nonetheless. Desperate situations, as they say." A broad grin spread across his face, marred by a smudge of red at the corner of his mouth.

"What are you talking about, Doctor?" Alzen snapped. "We have a problem. Didn't you hear what Kanos said about distributing the cure? Well, we haven't any. I can get the formula, but we'll have to get some mixed fast, else everyone in that city will be dead in hours anyway. With all the Karalian traffic to this planet, the contamination will already be in the air. We haven't had time to cure more than a small percentage of the personnel yet."

There was a choked gasp from Dunae. "But Nyssa had to develop another cure for Bannot. His biochemistry was too different. He almost died."

"Another cure?" Alzen stilled in shock. "Sergeant, only one formula was ever broadcast from the Vardito. The rest of Nyssa's work burned with the ship."

"So the Janovians die as history dictates," the Doctor said softly, without the slightest hint of relief.

Her head ached. Nyssa didn't want to move. But something ate at her mind. A worry. A responsibility...

She forced her eyes open. Janovay's twin suns blinded them and forced them closed. She rolled onto her side, trying to shield her face.

She lay on the coarse grass-like growth that dominated Janovay's landscape. How could that be, when last she remembered she had been in the ruined laboratory on the Karalian ship, searching frantically for-

The cure! She sat up too fast and almost passed out again. Raising a hand to her head, she felt dried blood caking her temple and gumming her hair. She pulled the hand away quickly.

She looked around, blinking in the sunlight. An escape capsule of crude design stood open and burned out further up the hillside. Panic hit her. Had the container been destroyed in the fire?

She scrambled up the hill with little regard for her injury.

There was nothing inside the capsule but ashes.

It must have been Tegan and Luthen who put her inside. They wouldn't have known the value of the container to include it, how could they have?

Nyssa stared around the hillside fearfully, and blinked as the sunlight glinted off an object some distance down the slope.

She reached it at an unsteady run, and plucked it from the grass.

Clutching it to her chest, she continued running toward the city.

Chapter 16

It was two days later when Nyssa and the Doctor visited the small, solemn area of devastation where the explosion had taken out Kweril's ship, Kweril, and First Councillor Verani. The paved square was still blackened by ashes, the rubble still piled high in the centre. There had not yet been time for the Janovians to clear the wreckage and find what was left of the bodies to bury them.

A few offerings lay on the ground, intricate carvings of wood and small wreaths woven with thick blue-green fronds. The Doctor seemed surprised by these, and stared at them for a long time, his expression full of childlike wonder and incomprehension, before finally he removed the celery from his lapel and lay it among them.

Nyssa, who had nothing to give, stood silent, taking in the chaotic destruction of the blast zone, so out of place in the ordered city.

They had spent the previous day recovering from the physical and emotional wear of the invasion which hadn't, finally, occurred. Nyssa, who had suffered the least damage, felt now only a dull headache, but she was concerned about Tegan and the Doctor.

Tegan didn't appear to remember much about her time in the temporal device, which was probably for the best. She had been subjected to stresses the human mind probably shouldn't be able to cope with. The energy transfer from the destruction of the device's first projection, which had enabled her to make the leap to controlling the device herself, had hardly been stable. She might seem all right, but Nyssa was worried about possible hidden repercussions, which might not become clear for some time.

Tegan had not wanted to re-visit the scene of Verani's demise. Understandable, considering she had experienced it intimately. She was in the TARDIS, recovering. Ryn Luthen was keeping her company.

The Doctor had been morbid and brooding since he'd been healed. Nyssa knew he disapproved of the antics she and Tegan had engaged in - helping him, helping the Janovians and Karalians in the face of history's dictates. She was still wondering about the consequences herself, but nothing had happened yet, the timeline seemed stable.

She wasn't sure why.

The Karalian fleet had departed the previous day, leaving only Alzen and a handful of those under his command from the Vardito to oversee relations on Janovay. The Bindosah Empire had declared war on the Karalian Union, taking advantage of the current unrest and the fact they no longer need fear the Syndrome. They wanted the store of technological knowledge gathered by the Karalians in their years of searching, Alzen explained gruffly. It didn't seem fair, that they should end their eternal warring only to begin a different kind of battle, this time not the besiegers but the besieged. Then again, perhaps it was a kind of justice. The Karalians, understandably, were not well liked in galactic circles.

Nyssa sighed, wondering if there had been any point to her actions at all. Saviour of the Karalian Union. Given a choice, the Karalians' was not exactly the Union she would have chosen to save.

"Poor Verani," the Doctor said, bringing her thoughts back to reality. "She died to save her people, after all."

"She almost killed you."

"Yes." He kicked at ashes, drawing patterns on the black-stained paving slabs with the toe of his shoe, not looking at her. "If you had known, beforehand, what was going to happen to Traken, what would you have done to prevent it? What lengths would you have gone to?" He sighed, and added quickly, "I'm sorry. Don't answer that. I know it isn't fair."

"I understand, Doctor," Nyssa said. "I understand Kweril, too."

He stared at her, eyes intense and unnerving, almost like his previous self's for a second. "Yes. I see," he said finally.

They stood in silence for some time, until Nyssa asked, "Do you really think everything will be all right? With the timeline? With history? The Krians and the future. We changed the past, after all. The Karalians are still going to war, but won't they be different wars? And the Janovians aren't dead. What will it all mean?"

The Doctor shook his head. "You shouldn't have meddled. I understand why you did, but although what you changed may appear for the better at the moment, we can't tell what future repercussions there will be. Look at the Karalians - they're still at war. In a sense, curing them made them vulnerable. Their strength was in their infection. The Janovians... the Janovians were supposed to die at this time. It was part of their safety when they escaped here. I don't know what will happen to them now. It's out of my hands, and out of their hands, the hands of the original colonists who set the boundaries. Verani's bloodline is destroyed, and with it their control. It was damaged anyway, but now... now they're set loose, free from the fetters of the past or the future. Who knows what they might become?"

"You know what they are?"

"Y-es." He frowned. "I shouldn't. I'm going to have to try very hard to forget."

"You still haven't explained about the timeline. Why hasn't anything happened yet? You'd sense it, wouldn't you, if anything were wrong?"

He shook his head. "All in good time. It's going to take a lot of hard work to put right what you and Tegan between you have managed to unravel."

"Put right - you wouldn't-" For a moment, she was afraid he intended to go back and change things over again.

"No, Nyssa. I wouldn't. It would probably only make things worse anyway. What I have in mind is quite different. Not an original idea, a variation on a theme. But it may do the job nonetheless. Wait and see."

He fell silent, then, and would say nothing further on the issue.

"Is there any more of this stuff?" Luthen asked, waving an empty can.

"Sure." Tegan reached for the ice bucket on the grass next to her deck chair, plucked up another Fosters and threw it across to him. He caught it in his metal hand, grinning.

They'd found the deck chairs in one of the TARDIS' many cluttered rooms, and the Fosters in a crate left over from Tegan's former travels with the Doctor before he'd left her behind at Heathrow. And since the Doctor, with Nyssa in tow, was still running around like a headless chicken as he had been for the last two days, organising people, they had decided to take advantage of their finds. After all, they were supposed to be convalescing.

The suns blazed down from the intensely blue sky, painting the distant city gold and warming the lush hillside around the TARDIS with its glow. It was another beautiful day.

Tegan snagged a second can for herself and popped it open. She was beginning to feel slightly tipsy, a sensation particularly welcome after the past few days. According to Nyssa, her mind shouldn't have been able to cope with the temporal device. She fully intended to abuse her mind further with copious quantities of alcohol, and try to wipe away the fragmented images and incomplete memories that grated against the edges of her thoughts.

"You said this was a... 'ritual' on your world?" Luthen asked, with a degree of scepticism. The Karalians, she had discovered, did not abuse their systems with recreational drugs, because they felt they already had enough to cope with. Fair enough, she'd grumbled, but the Syndrome was gone now, so lighten up already.

"Yep. This is what we do where I come from after we've scraped through stupidly dangerous and life-threatening events." She attacked the contents of the can with vigour.

She hadn't quite told the Doctor and Nyssa the truth about her recollections of her time in the temporal device. She had snatches of vivid memory - images, sensations, voices, scenes, a jumble without context or coherence. A reptilian alien standing over her with a gun in his hand. A capsule blazing through the atmosphere on a collision course with the ground. A ship vanishing into flames and ashes. The Doctor's face as she fell through the doors into the TARDIS with half the flesh burned off her back.

She remembered what it felt like to die.

Others had explained to her the sequence of events, providing a context for her jigsaw memory. She remembered enough, raw, for a lifetime of bad dreams; too little for some core part of her psyche to ever fully accept she'd done those things for real.

She also remembered Luthen - not in specific detail, but she hadn't needed any introduction, hadn't needed anyone to tell her he was a mate.

They were the odd ones out here, the ones who hadn't a clue what was going on, who neither had nor wanted any part in the grand-scale events around them. Janovay's future was being organised and planned for. The Doctor had asked Luthen, on sick-leave from Alzen's command, to keep her company in the TARDIS, interfering as usual.

The Karalian had found a pair of shorts and a loud Hawaiian shirt in the TARDIS' cluttered stores. It had been difficult to keep a straight face when he emerged wearing them.

Tegan had reverted to her old clothes from Earth, and was enjoying the sunshine.

"What will you do now, anyway?" she asked Luthen. "Now you're cured."

"Whatever Alzen decides. Since the Bindosah declared war, it seems I'm still a soldier after all."

She sighed. It must have been a blow, after all that had happened, to discover he still wasn't free. "You could come with us."

He looked mildly unnerved. "I'm sorry, but, well, I get the feeling, from the way the Doctor talks, that this sort of thing happens to you people quite a lot. I think once was enough for me. Thanks, but it's that kind of strife I wanted to escape from." He stared up into the skies.

"But at least you wouldn't have to fight, to kill."

He nodded slowly. "I'll think about it."

They were both dozing in their deck chairs by mid-afternoon when Nyssa and the Doctor strolled back up the hill, next to a bucketful of cans capsized in melted ice water.

Late in the evening, the Doctor took her quietly aside and they strolled across the grasslands in the moonless Janovian night. Tegan, expecting a lecture about something or other, was not totally unprepared when he said, "You know we're leaving in the morning?"

"Yes. Nyssa said." She thought it was about time, to be honest. Too much had happened on Janovay. She wanted to leave, and to be able to forget.

"You seem to get along well with Luthen." He distractedly engaged in swiping at fireflies with his hat.

"Yes," she said, waiting for him to make his point.

"I wondered if you wouldn't rather stay," he admitted. "It would be all right, if that was what you wanted to do. We've already bent the laws of time so far out of shape that another little twist wouldn't do any harm."

"What?" she squeaked in outrage, rounding on him. She felt like flooring him. "Are you trying to get rid of me? He's just a mate, for crying out loud! And I'm not staying here. Believe it or not, I intend to get back to Earth some day. I do have a life there, you know!"

"All right!" the Doctor said, protecting his ears with his hands. "Calm down! I just wanted to be sure." He cautiously removed his hands as it became clear the decibel level was safe once more, and grinned mischievously. "I'm glad, actually. The TARDIS is far too quiet without you around."

Before she could stop spluttering long enough to respond, he'd mockingly doffed his hat to her and retreated back toward the police box, beige coat billowing out behind him in the light breeze.

The Janovian presence at their departure was restrained to the newly-reappointed First Councillor Crivthen and Ambassador Bannot. There was a more enthusiastic turnout on the part of the Karalians, who came in honour of Nyssa. Most of those left on Janovay had put in an appearance, but on Alzen's stern orders remained well back while those who'd been at the core of the action made their farewells.

"I hope you'll come back to visit, Doctor," Alzen said. "It looks like my present posting may well become a long-term one, so I'll be here for a while." He didn't look too unhappy at being grounded, the Doctor noted. Most of the Karalians seemed to long for the quiet life, at heart. Although life on Janovay in the near future was not going to be so quiet as it had been. Even after everything that had happened and been prophesied, the Janovians had welcomed the battle- and disease-scarred soldiers, too amiable a people to do anything else.

"I sincerely doubt that would be a good idea," he said apologetically. "Still, you never know."

Alzen turned to Nyssa, his eyes misty. The Doctor had observed, these last few days, that Nyssa had become almost a deity to these people. It was both amusing and worrying. "We will always remember you and venerate your name," the Captain said solemnly, with a small, awkward bow.

The Doctor certainly hoped they would do nothing of the sort. Nyssa spoiled Alzen's attempt at ceremony by snaring him in a hug that caused hushed mirth among the Karalian ranks.

Nyssa hugged Bannot next, who looked perplexed. Dunae was standing beside him, as she had been for most of the last five days. Bannot had decided to travel with the next ship to the Karalian Union, to represent Janovian interests at the heart of their vast network of peoples and worlds. It didn't take much imagination to guess who he'd be requesting as his liaison.

Crivthen and the Doctor soberly clasped hands. The old First Councillor had not welcomed the changes to his world with the same enthusiasm as his colleague. "We are a people divided now, as we never were before," he confided. "There are a number of us who would rather remain in solitude than become part of the Karalian Union. I do not know what will happen. But I do know that it is better than my people's total demise. I know you did not try to save us, Doctor. But I thank you for not preventing us from being saved. I know you could have done so, had you chosen."

The Doctor nodded slowly, accepting this mixed tribute as what he probably deserved.

Finally, the Doctor turned to Luthen, who had stood aside throughout this, alike Tegan who also stood aside, but elsewhere, with her arms folded defensively across her chest, looking irritable. "Good luck," he said to the Karalian. "All the best."

Luthen nodded tightly, his eyes flickering to the TARDIS' open doors.

"Come along, then," the Doctor said brightly, waving Nyssa and Tegan inside before him. Tegan ducked under his arm to yell back to Luthen, "See you, tin man!"

The Karalian grinned and waved. And caught the door of the police box before it could swing closed, and slipped inside.

Epilogue (1)

Wind chased the dust across the bleak surface of the world which had been Janovay. It caught up forgotten items of the research team's equipment and bowled them, clattering madly, across the dead ground. It found its way through the pores of Marea Drex's thermal suit and made her shiver involuntarily.

The Doctor had finished his 'explanation'. Her thoughts were slowly returning to the present, and she was feeling the cold again as she hadn't done throughout his tale.

She stared at him in wonder. He had related the strange catalogue of events with such vivid sincerity that not once had it occurred to her to disbelieve.

"So you see," he finished gently. "Whatever you have found or might yet find here, the universe can't afford to hear it." He hesitated. "I can get you any evidence you need to report what has to be the 'official' version of events, so to speak - one of the advantages of time travel. All you'd have to do to ensure the stability of the timestream and guarantee those people survival is to write a paper. The universe need never know that the history of Janovay isn't real. You and I both know that it isn't the people involved in events that make history, but those who interpret and record it. I'm offering you the chance to change the world."

Marea shook her head. "This is unbelievable. It's immoral. To falsify results... are you saying this is the only way?"

"No, I'm not. But it is the only way which doesn't involve more chaos and bloodshed. One lie to save thousands of lives. I think you'll see how they balance, if you think about it."

"They're already dead, those people," Marea said. "They've been dead for millennia."

"Technically, yes... from a certain point of view. But the possibilities are alive. There might still be Janovians around somewhere today. There were Janovian hybrids in the Karalian Union, still, a thousand years after the events I've told you. And I don't know what happened to Crivthen's people; their colony could have relocated anywhere.

"Look," he added with a hint of desperation. "It isn't really a lie. Somewhere, in some theoretical offshoot of our reality, it happened that way for real. And if you write it, it will be the truth as far as anyone who ever reads it is concerned. I know it isn't fair for me to ask you to choose between your professional integrity and peoples' lives-"

"But I did choose, didn't I?" she said staring away from him across the dust. "Otherwise, you'd have felt the repercussions by now. Otherwise, you'd probably never have got here to tell me. The instability - you knew what choice I'd make." She looked finally back at him meeting his eyes. "Because, when all's said and done, I wrote your paper. I always did."

Epilogue (2)

The Doctor stepped out of the TARDIS to discover with satisfaction that it was in exactly the arranged location. Tegan and Nyssa were standing at a refreshment stand a few yards away, buying the Krian equivalent of candy-floss. They waved as they spotted him.

In the bustle of the bazaar, the freak shows and magical acts and the vast array of oddities and curios the traders were offering, the appearance of the TARDIS attracted no more than a few interested glances from people whose gaze was soon drawn to something else.

Tegan and Nyssa, clutching sticks with fuzzy blue sugar creations on the ends, pushed their way through the crowds to meet him.

Their activities since leaving Janovay had proven tedious and wearing. They had been involved in an inordinate amount of tinkering with archaeological and historical data at various stages of discovery, analysis and documenting. This had ranged from arguing with frustrated historians, to hacking into computer records, to breaking into archives to accidentally spill ink over or set fire to important historical documents, to sneaking into archaeological sites to plant false evidence during the night. But much of the work had involved intensive hours of research and analysis to identify sources that might give the game away.

Which was why, for the most significant portion of these activities, the Doctor had agreed to leave Tegan, Nyssa and Luthen on Alucah with a generous supply of the local currency while he struck off alone to complete the process.

Alucah was one of the shoddier planets of the Krian Empire, approximately concurrent with Marea Drex's era, give or take a decade or two. In its favour, however, it was a hive of tourism and a stopover for spacefaring races from everywhere, and his three companions were unlikely to draw any attention or questions for looking out of place. Its capital city, Jiren, with its cheap markets and sideshows, was almost entirely dedicated to the tourist industry.

"Doctor!" Nyssa exclaimed, as the two women reached him. "Is it done?"

"Yes, all finished," he confirmed. He looked around, puzzled. Something was missing. "Where's Luthen?"

"That's something we'd like to know, too," Tegan said darkly. "He ducked out on us, Doctor. Yesterday evening. Just vanished without a word from his room at the hotel. We've been looking for him all day."

The Doctor frowned. The reason for Tegan's exasperation was all around him; they'd never find a single person in such crowds of alien oddities. Not if he didn't want to be found.

"He left a note," Nyssa said, holding out a folded piece of paper.

"It says 'Goodbye, thanks for everything' signed Ryn Luthen," Tegan snapped before the Doctor could open it. "What should we do, Doc?"

"Nothing." He raised his hands in a pacifying gesture to halt their imminent angry protests. "What can we do? He knows we're here today. If he isn't here it's because he doesn't want to be. We can't force him to come with us. He's made his choice."

"But he doesn't belong here!"

"Half Alucah's population doesn't belong here, Tegan. It's a drifter's planet. He knows that. He'll find a life here. A normal life, or as normal a one as he could expect. I think it's what he came with us to do." He looked around one last time, regretfully, half expecting to see Luthen running out of the crowd. But, no. He sighed. "Come along, time to go." He held the door of the TARDIS open and waved Nyssa and Tegan inside.

"I've come across some interesting facts on my recent travels," he said, as he flicked the lever to close the door. "Do you realise, for example, that Krian mythology includes a deity called Niza. Goddess of healing. And has it occurred to you how similar the name 'Karalian' is to 'Krian'. It could almost be a derivative, couldn't it?" He grinned at their stunned faces, and began to program the TARDIS controls. "I seem to recall something about a visit to Earth, quite a long while ago," he said absently.

"The Krians are the Karalians?" Tegan asked.

"We didn't change anything at all," Nyssa said slowly. "We always did this. Things always happened this way, and we simply went through the motions and played out our part. Just like Verani's poison was never really deadly."

"I don't know," the Doctor admitted. "I don't think we can ever be sure. Ah, well. Earth, here we come."

Tegan and Nyssa exchanged a doubtful, knowing glance.

Grinning, the Doctor stepped back from the console as the time rotor kicked into action and the TARDIS left Alucah, and Luthen, and the last of Janovay behind.