THE GATHERING DOME © 2000 Margaret Price
Author's Note: This story was written to take care of a few plot holes I discovered in some previous stories. Since I wrote them out of order, as it were, I had to retcon my own work in the revisions, but this did not take care of all of the inconsistencies. Hence this story, which also contains information necessary for future works.
This is the fifth in an arc with companion Jason Krystovan, who was introduced in the story "The Alliance of Death." The other stories that are mentioned are referenced for clarification. As I said, I'm plugging plot holes here. For the sake of this story, all you need to know is he is an Alterran (a shape-shifter) who has been with the Doctor for a year of so and it is not too long since Leela departed. He has the ability to scan anything he touches, picking up information like a medical scanner. Anything else is more or less explained as it happens. If not, let me know.
"Storage Officer Jennings, what's the hold up? Isn't that cargo stowed yet?" a deep male voice called impatiently over the intercom.
A dark haired woman in brown coveralls leaned over a circular computer console to reply. "Yes, Captain, just finishing final inspection. All secure."
"About time," snapped the Captain tersely, switching off the intercom and turning to his bridge crew. "Make ready to leave orbit. I'd like to be out of this sector and at the transfer point before I reach retirement age."
The large freighter rumbled as the engines powered up. A short time later it had turned from orbit, heading into the vast expanses of space.
Once the ship had settled on course, the Captain called to his Navigation officer. "What's our ETA to the rendezvous?"
"At present speed; eight days, sixteen hours," the officer replied, adding, "Barring any unexpected encounters, that is."
The Captain grunted his approval, looking over the instruments to his left. "I want sensors on maximum," he ordered. "And switch in that booster. Let's see if it's worth the money we paid."
The moment the booster was activated several ships appeared on the long-range sensors. They were moving in formation, and appeared to be lining against the smaller, seemingly less maneuverable freighter. Within seconds the bridge was in chaos. "Who are they?" the Captain called over the chorus of voices.
"They haven't identified themselves, sir," the Communications officer called back. "They probably think they're outside our scanner range, the fools."
"I have an I.D., sir," the Weapons officer said. "Three Sentry ships, three Trackers and—" He broke off, leaning closer to his scanner in disbelief. "A Battle Cruiser!" he gasped, looking up in horror.
"Navigator, evasive maneuvers Beta 4," the Captain commanded. "Let's see what they make of that," he added with a chuckle.
On the bridge of the Battle Cruiser, the Commanding officer stood watching as the freighter approached, a smug expression on his face. "Yes, come on. Come on," he whispered, en couraging his quarry onward. Suddenly the small ship veered from its original flight path, pitch ing to one side and then downward, dropping completely off of the scanners.
"Dammit!" the Commander thundered. "Connors, you fool, they saw us! Now we're going to have to chase them."
The officer in question looked up in alarm. "Impossible! There's no way they could've picked us up at this distance. No smuggler has equipment that good."
"You incompetent fool!" the Commander snarled angrily. "Your jumping to conclusions is going to lose me that ship!"
Having used the element of surprise to his advantage, the freighter Captain pressed his advan tage further, praying his luck would hold. He called for a second evasive maneuver and then instructed the flight crew to land on the first habitable planet they could find. It was here that his luck ran out. The heavy freighter was not designed for landings and takeoffs and as soon as it hit the planet's atmosphere it lost all sensors. Flying blind, the crew could do little more than frantically try to slow the vessel down before it crashed into the planet's surface. Which it did—and did not.
The freighter crashed into a body of water that assisted in slowing it down before it finally came to rest, slamming into the sea floor and burying a major portion of the craft in rock and silt.
Somewhere in the swirling vortex where time and space collide, the incongruous shape of a po lice telephone box appeared, moving undamaged through the chaos. The TARDIS had been in flight for some time before the Doctor finally voiced his concerns to his companion.
"Jason, you are all right with this destination, aren't you?" he asked quietly.
Jason gave him a puzzled look. "Why do you ask? You don't, usually."
"Well, you've been trying to sound enthusiastic, but I've a feeling you're not really all that thrilled with the prospect of seeing Earth first hand."
Startled by this astute observation, Jason's striking blue eyes met the Doctor's steadily. "It's just that…well, humans are so…so…"
"Unpredictable?" the Time Lord said helpfully.
"Violent," came the blunt reply.
The Doctor nodded sagely. "That's quite true."
"I don't understand what you see in them, Doctor."
"Well…" the Doctor grinned. "They're rather a fascinating species. Creative, imaginative…"
The Doctor blinked. "Trigger happy?"
"Yes. Do you deny that every time we've encountered humans, somebody has taken a shot at us?" Jason pointed out sharply.
"Oh, come now. Not every time, surely?"
Apparently not hearing him, his companion went on. "I can handle the odd energy weapon now and then, but projectile weapons are—"
The Doctor seized the opportunity to change the subject. "Which brings up a point I've been meaning to ask. How is it you weren't killed outright by Toby's hopped up laser pistol,(1) but the hunters' weapons(2) were able to stun you?"
Jason blinked, thrown by this sudden non sequitur. He cleared his throat before explaining that it had to do with his having reached a new stage in his development. After reaching their first century, an Alterran's physiology changed. Many of their higher powers began to manifest, while those they possess already developed more fully.
"Really?" The Doctor was becoming more fascinated by the second.
"It's a bit like…like…" Jason paused trying to think of a more suitable comparison than the one that immediately came to mind, this being…
"Puberty?" the Doctor said helpfully.
"Vaguely," his companion said untruthfully. It was exactly like puberty, he thought misera bly, which was what made it so irritating.
"When I'm in any form other than my true one," Jason said at last, "it's a bit of a crap shoot. What worked great yester day, doesn't work at all today. I need to revert to my true self from time to time to resta bilize."
"So that's why you've been shutting yourself away these last few weeks," the Doctor mut tered thoughtfully.
His companion flushed, lowering his eyes guiltily. "I didn't think you'd noticed. On an Alter ran world, I'd be able to go to the Sanctum."
"That's hard to explain, too. Put simply, it's forbidden for outsiders to enter, and Alterrans may only enter in their true form. It's a quiet place to rest."
By this time the Doctor was so enthralled he could not contain himself. He was charging around the console room asking question after question, and not waiting for an answer. He was also watched in silence by his companion, who shifted uncomfortably on his feet as the interrogation, as he felt the conversation had become, went on.
"How do you know the difference between these higher powers and what you posses al ready? Does everyone develop the same powers, or is that a crap shoot, too?" Pausing, the Doctor added thoughtfully, "Of course, I suppose the first question should be, just how extensive are your current powers?"
Finally pausing for an answer, the Doctor turned to look at Jason, noticing his ill ease at last. He stopped dead in his tracks. "Oh dear, I've embarrassed you, haven't I?"
"A little," came the truthful response. "It's still hard for me, you being—if you'll forgive the expression—an outsider. One of my own people would already know all about this and—"
"And wouldn't be barraging you with all sorts of embarrassing questions," the Time Lord said quickly, receiving a hesitant nod in reply. "Jason, you must forgive my vulgar curiosity. In case you hadn't noticed, it has a tendency to get the better of me."
A small smile passed over his companion's face. A sudden thought struck him and he looked over at K9. "Constance gave you the information for K9's monitoring program, didn't she?(3) Well, ask him, then." He made to leave, only to stop when the Doctor called him back. Stiff en ing visibly, he turned to face him.
The Doctor held up his hands in apparent surrender. "No more questions," he grinned. "Merely a suggestion."
Jason scowled. "Suggestion?"
"Yes. Since I don't have a Sanctum, why don't you use the Zero Room instead?"
"You have a Zero Room?" the Alterran said in surprise.
"Yes. I'll show it to you, if you like?"
After a long pause, his companion shrugged. "Why not?"
(1) – Whom The Gods Destroy – chapter 6 (2) – Terror on Delta Vega – chapter 7 (3) – Whom The Gods Destroy – chapter 10
Bryce Miller stood in the center of an enormous dome shaped room, an architectural drawing in his hands. He looked down at his vision of the future and smiled, looking up to see it becoming a reality around him. The construction crews were literally swarming the area. Within a matter of days, walls had appeared where there had been only empty space, and hundreds of rooms were being sectioned off on each level. It was all coming together nicely.
"Bryce, have you seen these?" a voice called out suddenly.
Bryce turned. "What is it now, George?" he sighed wearily.
George Hargrove hurried over to him, several papers crumpled in his fist. "These press re leases and announcements. They've put the wrong dates on."
Bryce looked at the papers and then handed them back. "No, they haven't. Those are the dates I gave them."
"What! You can't be serious? You can't possibly think everything will be ready by then."
Bryce smiled. "Not one hundred percent, but enough to carry on effectively."
"Carry on! You'll need at least eighty percent of the interior finished before you can even dream of opening. And you have to staff it, too, for pity sake. The training alone will take—"
"All is in hand on that front, George," Bryce Miller replied cryptically. He held out a hand to take in the room. "The construction is going well, too, don't you think?"
George looked around himself for the first time, his mouth dropping open in amazement. "Good Lord!" he gasped. "How did they—?" He turned back to his employer, a puzzled look on his face. "This room was just a shell yesterday."
"We've got crews running around the clock," came the calm reply. "And now that the first docking bay is operational, we don't have to worry about the limited abilities of the service lift system." Seeing the other man was less than convinced, Bryce smiled broadly. "Don't worry, George. We'll be ready in plenty of time before the opening date." So saying he turned and walked toward one of the unfinished corridors.