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The Planet at the End of the Universe

By Llywela All Rights Reserved ©

Action / Scifi

Chapter 1

"I think I must be mad," Harry Sullivan decided.

Leaning casually against a wall deep within the impossible labyrinth that was the Doctor's TARDIS, waiting for Sarah Jane Smith to re-emerge from the cavernous chamber the Doctor liked to call his wardrobe, it occurred to him that he'd thought that once before, back when the Doctor first invited him to step inside the rickety old police box he kept in the corner of his laboratory at UNIT HQ. He'd entered never suspecting for a moment what he might find, the door had closed behind him…and re-opened to reveal that the police box and its inhabitants were no longer at UNIT – no longer on Earth at all, for that matter, but on a space station thousands of years in the future. Madness had seemed a reasonable explanation, at the time, before the incredible reality of the situation had sunk in.

It was a different kind of madness entirely to have set foot inside the TARDIS again, this time knowing full well where it might lead.

"Who's mad?" Sarah's voice drifted out through the wardrobe door.

"I am."

The door opened just a crack to reveal her grinning face.

"Yes, probably," she teased, disappearing again. "Any particular reason why?"

"I'm here, aren't I?" he retorted, and felt a faint but distinct pang of regret. "Well, I mean, it was over, wasn't it? Both feet squarely planted on the green, green grass of home, after everything that's happened to us, all those adventures through time and space. And now here I am again. I must be mad."

It was absolutely not what he'd intended. Having never expected to leave Earth in the first place, when they finally found their way back he'd been only too glad to put all those adventures behind him and resume his post as UNIT's medical officer, deeply relieved to find that the position was still there, waiting for him. He'd had absolutely no intention of being lured back into the TARDIS again. No. Because he had a duty and a calling, responsibilities that he couldn't just walk away from on a whim.

Yet here he was again, and he still wasn't entirely sure how it had happened.

"You can always blame the Brig," Sarah's voice called from within the wardrobe. "If it makes you feel better."

"Well, he did tell me to see the Doctor safely back to London," Harry conceded. "And orders is orders."

"Well, there you are, then. Hey, what do you think?" Sarah emerged, dabbing briskly at her long dark hair with a brush, wearing a pair of pale blue jeans with a matching waistcoat over a kind of frilly blouse affair she'd unearthed from somewhere in the depths of the wardrobe.

Harry was no judge of female fashion, but the snug fit of the outfit was certainly something he could appreciate. He had an idea, though, that Sarah might not be terribly happy if he mentioned that, so he said, "Yes, very nice," instead, only for her to roll her eyes at him just as if he'd somehow still managed to say something dreadful.

"Anyway, it wasn't an order order, was it?" she said, tossing the brush back through the wardrobe door before pulling it shut. "Not as such – you could have said no if you didn't want to come."

She fixed appraising eyes on him, eyes that seemed to wonder how anyone could say no to an invitation from the Doctor – and therein lay the rub, Harry realised, because he hadn't wanted to say no. As relieved as he'd been, after all those incredible adventures, to return to the normality and predictability of everyday life, to the duties and responsibilities he'd so unexpectedly left behind…when it had come right down to it, the moment of truth, he'd found that he wasn't quite ready for it to be over, to have to say goodbye.

And then the Brigadier had taken the decision out of his hands by telling him to go.

"My point stands," he said. "I must be mad."

Sarah grinned. "Gets into your blood, doesn't it? I'd have thought you'd be immune to it, though, sensible chap like you."

"At least I'm sailing under orders this time." And he wondered again which way he'd have jumped, if the choice had been left entirely to him.

"You keep telling yourself that, Harry!"

Sarah was chuckling, teasing; she was a journalist, a free spirit, answerable to no one but herself – how could she understand the difference it made, the importance of having official sanction to go off on a jaunt like this when there was no guarantee of ending up at the expected destination?

"I suppose we should get back and see what the Doctor's up to," she added. "Are you going to change first? You're bound to find something to suit. It's like an explosion in a costume factory in there."

"Yes, I've seen!" Harry remembered the parade of outrageous fancy dress the Doctor had put on for him when they first met only too well, and Sarah laughed again.

"There are normal clothes too, you know." She gestured at her own outfit by way of illustration.

"Oh, I know, I know." He glanced down at his uniform, almost tempted, before shaking his head. "Strictly speaking, I am still on duty, you know – and we are meant to be heading straight back to London."

It wasn't going to be as simple as that and he knew it – knew the Doctor more than well enough by now to know that he rarely ended up where he was supposed to be going and positively relished every detour, whether planned or unplanned – and Sarah's answering peal of laughter confirmed that suspicion.

"Yes, I'm sure that's what the Doctor intends," she said, leading the way back through the maze of corridors. "But I'm not so sure he's in any hurry to get there!"

They entered the console room to find the Doctor busily pottering away at the central controls, just where they'd left him. Sarah glanced at her watch, gave Harry a meaningful look and pointedly asked, "So how long have we been travelling now, would you say?"

The Doctor distractedly glanced up, eyes wide and shaggy curls standing on end, sticking out every which way. "Hmm? What's that, Sarah?"

She folded her arms across her chest in a strict schoolmistress pose as she accusingly, teasingly reminded him, "You promised we'd be back in London five minutes before leaving Loch Ness."

"Did I really say that?" It was quite remarkable that a centuries old alien could contrive to look so very innocent.

Sarah sighed and shook her head in mock dismay, bright brown eyes dancing with amusement. "You see, Harry, he's trying to wriggle out of it already."

"Like a worm on a hook," Harry agreed, taking his hat off and hanging it on the coat stand nearby, since it was clear they weren't going to be returning to duty at UNIT just yet.

He should probably be rather more concerned about that than he was, given how long they'd been AWOL last time, but it could hardly be considered a surprise. The Doctor's piloting skills were erratic at best and wilfully unpredictable at worst, and he'd known that, had walked back through those doors anyway and called it duty because the Brigadier had given the all-clear to go.

"Wriggle out of what?" The Doctor tossed the end of his outrageously long scarf back over his shoulder with an indignant flounce.

"Your promise," said Sarah.

He scowled, flicking at a switch. "Listen, we're on the edge of a space-time vortex here, and you're talking in minutes."

"Wriggle, wriggle, wriggle," she teased. "So what's gone wrong this time?"

"Nothing, nothing at all – what makes you think something's gone wrong?"

"Oh, because you always get rude when you're trying to cover up a mistake!"

"At least he can't blame me this time," Harry ruefully chipped in, remembering the torrent of abuse he'd received when his first trip in the TARDIS failed to land them where the Doctor had intended – and he'd barely even touched that helmic whatchamacallit.

"It's nothing of consequence," the Doctor airily dismissed. "Slight overshoot, that's all: easily rectified."

Sarah rolled her eyes at Harry and he could only shrug his agreement with that sentiment.

"So where are we, then?" he asked, deciding that it was high time they got down to the point of all this.

"We've come out of the time vortex at the wrong point, that's all," the Doctor defended, strolling around to the other side of the console to fiddle with the controls there. "A few years too late."

"How many years too late?" Sarah suspiciously asked, and Harry couldn't help thinking of the future Earth they'd visited, and their two trips to Nerva Space Station at two separate points in its history, thousands of years in the future. The Doctor's definition of 'a few years' tended not to bear a great deal of resemblance to his own.

The Doctor looked sheepish, and Harry knew he was right about that very broad definition of 'a few', even before the man admitted it was actually, "Thirty thousand," just as a shrill beeping sound began to ring out from somewhere on the central console.

"Saved by the bell, eh," Harry remarked, wondering what it meant, while Sarah simultaneously exclaimed, "That's a distress call!" and the Doctor was suddenly all business as he leant over his instruments.

"Someone's in trouble," he confirmed, his face lit up with excitement and anticipation – he was clearly only too glad of a good reason not to return to Earth just yet, and Harry wondered if he'd ever intended to do anything of the sort, valid excuse or no valid excuse.

"Where?" asked Sarah, who looked every bit as eager for a new adventure as the Doctor.

"Who knows?" The Doctor seemed delighted by the mystery. "Stand by for emergency materialisation."


A thrill ran down Sarah's spine every time the TARDIS door opened to reveal a whole new world, even now, after she'd experienced so many adventures and so many strange new worlds.

She could smell this world long before she caught a glimpse of it, the rich, heady scents of moist, humid air and decaying vegetation wafting through the doors the moment they opened.

They'd landed in some kind of forest, she realised as she followed the Doctor out of the TARDIS, Harry at her heels. It was boggy underfoot and densely wooded, with fungi and vines hanging all around, their vivid red and purple hues offering immediate confirmation that, wherever this was, it wasn't anywhere on Earth.

It was murky, the tree cover too dense to allow much in the way of light to filter down to ground level, and a thick mist swirled around her ankles as she watched the Doctor pacing about a small clearing, his eyes glued to a device in his hand, some kind of radio-receiver that would home in on the precise location of the distress call that had brought them here. So the Doctor had claimed, anyway, but it seemed to be struggling already.

Sarah waited, then caught Harry's eye and shrugged; this was just typical of the Doctor.

Harry broke first. "Er…are we picking anything up there, Doctor?"

"Hmm?" was the Doctor's distracted reply, and they'd be here all day, at this rate, so Sarah quickly pressed the question home in the most pointed tone she could muster.

"Which way?"

The Doctor span on his heel in a 360 degree loop, smacking the side of the tracking device, peered at it again, and then pointed around and behind his own shoulder, spinning once more until he was facing in the direction his finger was pointing. "This way," he declared, setting off with long, confident strides.

Sarah caught Harry's eye again and he gave a rueful little grin. "Here we go again, eh."

She grinned back and tucked an arm through his to tug him along. "Come on, sailor."

It was tough going, picking their way through sticky mud underfoot and scrambling over fallen logs and under low-hanging branches and vines that seemed to glow faintly luminescent in the half-light of the jungle – and harder going still the way the Doctor kept stopping and starting and changing direction willy-nilly.

"You don't know where we are, do you?" Sarah teased after a while. If he did, he'd have told them by now – any excuse to show off.

He didn't take his eye off the device in his hand, his tone cheerful and airy. "Oh, with any luck, we're near enough to reach wherever it is –"

"That isn't what I meant," she interrupted, pushing a heavy branch aside to press past – and then realising too late that she'd let it swing back right into Harry's face. "Oops, sorry!"

"…before they're overwhelmed by whatever it was that made them trigger the alarm," the Doctor continued as if she hadn't spoken, over the top of Harry's reproachful 'ow, steady on, old thing'. "That is, if we're not too late already."

Once upon a time, Sarah might have pointed out that they'd landed within moments of receiving the distress call, so whatever was wrong here would have to be pretty bad to be too late already, but she'd long since learned that time travel didn't really work like that – a few moments for them in the TARDIS might have been hours, days or even weeks here on the planet – so she stuck to her point instead. "I mean, what planet is this?"

And now her boot was stuck in the mud, and true to form both men just wandered on ahead and left her to it.

"The signal's weak – fading fast," the Doctor's voice drifted back on the breeze, still following his own train of thought instead of answering her question. "But if we allow for the interference from the time warp…could you move any faster?"

Indignant, Sarah wrenched her boot free of the mud. "I'm doing the best I can!" she shouted after him, and as she spoke there was a sudden crackling sound somewhere nearby.

It was all the warning she had before she suddenly couldn't move any more – as if she'd been frozen to the spot, like an icicle. She could almost feel the blood solidifying in her veins, the breath freezing in her lungs, and there was something out there, she knew it, she could feel it, but she couldn't do anything to defend herself, not even cry out for help, could feel reality receding all around her, as if she was no longer inhabiting her own body but watching herself from afar, drifting further and further away by the second…

"Sarah?"

With a jolt, suddenly she was back, as if nothing had happened, she could breathe again, and Harry's face was about two inches from her own, worried blue eyes peering anxiously into hers, his hands loosely gripping her arms.

The Doctor was just behind him, looking curious. "All right there, Sarah? What's the matter?"

"I don't know," she croaked, mouth as dry as the Sahara all of a sudden. Moistening her lips with her tongue, she pushed Harry away and looked around, wondering what had just happened, and had to cough before she could speak again. "I thought…there was something here. Felt so odd, suddenly."

Harry scrubbed a hand through his neatly cropped curls as he looked around, his forehead creasing in a puzzled frown. "I didn't see anything."

"No, I didn't see it, I felt it," and she knew how that sounded, but it was the only way she could describe that sensation. "I couldn't move – as if my mind was being sucked right out of my body." The memory of it sent a shiver down her spine.

"But you're all right now?" The Doctor peered impassively down his long, beaky nose at her in that way he had that on the surface seemed so uncaring and detached but in fact simply meant that he was thinking very hard, trying to assemble whatever clues were available into some kind of pattern.

"Yes." And she laughed, both because she was so relieved that whatever it was had passed and because she was no longer certain she hadn't imagined it in the first place.

"Are you sure? You look a bit pale," said Harry, still hovering close by, solicitous and concerned, and that was all the incentive Sarah needed to pull herself together again, because she wasn't made of glass, whatever Harry might think.

"I'm fine. What's that you've found?" she asked to change the subject, and the Doctor glanced down at the object he was holding.

"Some kind of hand tool."

"We found it over there," Harry added, pointing, as Sarah took it from the Doctor's hand to get a better look: some kind of pick-axe, although very oddly shaped – slightly rusted, its handle worn smooth with use.

"So the people who sent that signal must be humanoid, then," she theorised, following as the Doctor set off again. "Well, they've got hands, at least – couldn't hold this with tentacles…"

She was still idly speculating as she pushed through a clump of hanging vines to step out into a large glade, in which a pre-fabricated dome-like structure with heavy steel doors seemed strangely incongruous. The Doctor had stopped short just ahead of her, staring, and Sarah followed the line of his eyes to see a horribly shrunken and dried up corpse that lay huddled in a defensive position nearby.

It had been too easy to forget, in the thrill of exploration, that they were here because someone had called for help. She felt a pang of regret, murmured, "Looks like we're too late."

"Several months too late, by the looks of him," the Doctor agreed, turning away as Harry pushed past and hurried over to examine the corpse.

Dead bodies held no appeal for Sarah, but learning more about where they were and what had happened here did, so she followed the Doctor over to a patch of cleared earth nearby that showed signs of recent disturbance. A number of hand-written signs were sticking out of the ground here and there to mark a series of impromptu graves, and she leaned in close to read one.

"Egard Lumb: died here 7y2 in the year 37,166."

She remembered the Doctor saying they'd come out of the time vortex thirty thousand years too late. The number hadn't seemed real somehow, until she saw it written down like this: a stark, sad memorial to a life lost tens of thousands of years after her own time – a life separated from her own by such an unimaginably vast span of time, and yet here she was.

"So is this a human settlement, do you think?" she asked, looking at the other grave markers, wondering what had happened to these people that they'd been too late to save them from.

The Doctor shrugged. "Human something, certainly."

"Well, I don't think that can be right," Harry's voice rang out. Sarah turned to see him sitting back on his heels alongside the corpse, wearing a thoughtful frown.

"What can't be right? He is human, isn't he?" The Doctor strode over to join him, looking slightly put out at the suggestion that he may be wrong, and Sarah followed, wrinkling her nose at the close-up view of the body, which was practically mummified.

"Oh yes, certainly," Harry agreed. "But…several months too late, you said. And it does look that way, at first glance, but this chap hasn't been dead all that long, in fact."

"Are you sure?" the Doctor demanded.

Harry nodded. "The desiccation gives it the appearance of age, of course, but all other indications are that the body is actually quite fresh," he said, sounding very certain and very professional. "Not more than 24 hours, I'd say – probably less."

"I'm not going to ask how you can tell. I don't think I want to know," Sarah said with a fastidious shudder. She didn't doubt that he could tell, though, and neither did the Doctor; however much he enjoyed mocking and teasing Harry for his old-fashioned manners and bumbling ways, the Doctor trusted his medical expertise implicitly – even if it was primitive, by Time Lord standards.

Harry flashed an amused grin at her as the Doctor turned away again, nodding thoughtfully. "So we have quite the mystery on our hands, it seems. Let's take a look inside."


It was rather dark inside the curious structure they'd happened upon, so the first thing Harry did was stumble over something that had been left lying in the doorway.

"Mind your step," the Doctor promptly and belatedly cautioned, grinning that maddeningly impish grin of his as he stepped past, strode into the centre of the room and cheerfully boomed, "Anyone about?"

There was no reply.

The Doctor shrugged. "No one about."

While Sarah wondered if they couldn't have any lights and the Doctor went looking for the light switch, Harry bent to see what he'd tripped over, squinting at it in the dusky half-light: some piece of equipment or other, dropped there waiting for someone to come along and pick it up again. He wondered if there was anyone left who could – and what anyone might have been doing out here in the middle of nowhere to begin with.

Then he looked around, setting the object he'd tripped over down on a nearby workbench, and saw all the other equipment set up around and about the place.

"I say, what is this? Some kind of laboratory?" He poked at one or two of the pieces – cautiously, he'd learned that lesson the hard way – trying to guess at their function and wondering why anyone would set up a laboratory in the middle of nowhere like this. Some kind of exploration team, perhaps – it was far from his area of expertise.

"Or something," said the Doctor, fiddling with a control panel nearby, to no discernible effect. He frowned. "That's odd. Power's run down."

"Well, that would account for the weak signal," Sarah suggested, and the Doctor agreed.

"Ah," he cheerfully added. "Look here, an automatic distress button. May have been running for months, of course – but that chap out there died only recently, you say, Harry."

"Maybe as recently as last night," Harry confirmed. There was precious little he could ever be certain of, on these jaunts in the TARDIS, travelling through space and time to worlds he could never even have dreamed of, but he knew where he was with a human corpse and despite superficial appearances that one was definitely fresh.

The Doctor continued to explore, tracing power cables back from the computer console.

"Renewable energy source," he announced. "It's powered by a high capacity solar cell, highly efficient – strange that it should have run down, then. Not enough sunlight, perhaps – or it may be damaged." He seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the mystery of it all, well and truly in his element.

"We're still in the solar system, then," Sarah suggested.

"A planetary system, certainly – but which star?" said the Doctor. "Wherever we are, we're a long way out."

Where they were was a valid question, of course, but as Harry peered out of the window at the dead man outside, who'd fallen so close to the graves of his comrades, a rather more pressing concern was on his mind.

"I wonder what happened here."

The Doctor made a thoughtful moue.

"Well, this is clearly the base for some kind of scientific expedition, wouldn't you say?" he said, and Harry nodded, feeling stupidly pleased to have reached the same conclusion himself. "A geological survey, if I'm any judge – and I am, you know. Something must have gone wrong, and they sent out a distress signal."

"And died before help arrived," Sarah added.

"Something like that – a lost expedition."

"Yes, but what was it that went wrong?" was what Harry wanted to know. "I mean, what could do that to a man?" He nodded toward the corpse outside.

"Good point – I think we'd better find out. There was no obvious cause of death, was there?"

"Not that I could see, but I hardly had time for a detailed examination. I can take another look."

"Good," the Doctor briskly agreed. "While you're doing that, I'll just pop back to the TARDIS and fetch my spectromixer, to fix our position by that star. Then I'll repair this power cell and try to make contact."

Make contact with whom, exactly? Before Harry could ask, Sarah had piped up, "Well, you can get on with that now. I'll fetch the spectromixer. I know where you keep it."

"Oh, I'm not sure you want to go wandering around out there all on your own, Sarah." The protest came automatically, instinctively, and Harry knew even as he said it that Sarah would be annoyed, but still. They didn't know what might have happened here and she'd been so certain earlier that there was something out there.

Sure enough, Sarah promptly retorted, "If I didn't want to go, Harry, I wouldn't have offered."

"Well, yes, but we don't know what might be out there," he reminded her. "Something killed all these people."

"Oh, it seems quiet enough for now," was the Doctor's verdict, and that seemed to settle that, for better or for worse, and it wasn't all that far to go, after all. So, while Sarah assured the Doctor that she knew the way back to the TARDIS, Harry headed on out for another look at that corpse.

Sarah passed him a few moments later, the TARDIS key dangling from her hand. "See you in a bit, Harry," she called over her shoulder as she headed off through the jungle, fearless as always. Plenty of other girls, he imagined, might have thought twice before volunteering to wander around a strange, unknown world like this all alone, even without the mystery of what might have happened to this lost expedition, but not Sarah.

Rather wishing for better light to see by, Harry knelt to examine the corpse, noting again the strange synthetic material of the man's one-piece uniform and the complex design of the wrist-piece he was wearing, surely something far more high-tech than a mere watch. Despite the aged appearance of the corpse, both the outfit and the wrist-piece were pristine, the first of a number of clues to indicate that the body couldn't have been lying out here exposed to the elements for more than a few hours…but that was about as far as his examination got before he heard the Doctor calling him and hurried back inside.

The Doctor had gone through to the rear compartment of the base, he saw, some kind of bunkroom – and lying just inside the door was a second corpse, female, as pitiful and desiccated as the first.

"Another one!" Harry hurried over and dropped to his knees alongside the body.

"Yes." The Doctor was looking troubled now. "And Sarah's out there."

Harry didn't like to say 'I told you so', but the Doctor's concern wasn't exactly reassuring. He made a rapid examination, worried now. "Just like the chap outside. No obvious wounds, no sign of trauma – exsanguination, dehydration, nothing to indicate what might have caused it. Shouldn't we –?"

He broke off as a beam of light suddenly swept the room before coming to rest on him, kneeling there alongside the corpse. He looked up in surprise, hand rising to shade his eyes, and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the Doctor turn to see who was there.

There were three people stood in the doorway, dressed in uniforms of blue, flashlights in hand…and they were also carrying guns, aimed squarely at the Doctor and himself.

Captured at gunpoint was getting to be a familiar feeling. Harry sat back on his heels and raised his hands, reflecting that Sarah might have been well off after all, clearing off back to the TARDIS before this.


Sarah couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched as she approached the TARDIS. It was an uncomfortable feeling, coming at the end of a journey that had been a lot creepier alone than in company, the eerie whistle of the wind through the trees bringing her experience earlier back to the forefront of her mind. At the time she'd all but convinced herself she'd imagined it, but alone in the rapidly darkening woods, lit only by the strange phosphorescence of the fungi and vines, she could no longer be so sure, and now was certain she could feel eyes fixed upon her back.

A branch snapped, somewhere behind her, and she whirled around, expecting to see she had no idea what – but there was nothing there.

You're imagining things, stop it, she told herself as she put the key in the lock…and then something rustled, somewhere off in the bushes close by, and she froze, listening intently, because she definitely hadn't imagined that.

An animal, perhaps – but there hadn't been any trace of any such thing the whole time they'd been here, and that was strange in itself. You'd expect a forest like this to be teeming with wildlife, surely. What kind of world was this?

And if it wasn't an animal moving around in that bush…what was it?

"Hello? Is someone there?" she called out, tucking the key back into a pocket as she peered cautiously into the undergrowth, straining to make out shapes in the gloom. Was something there? Or had she imagined it after all?

Another rustle – and something large came lurching out of the bushes.

Sarah jumped back with a gasp of alarm, relaxing only slightly as she realised it was neither an animal nor a monster but a man, a human man: wild-eyed and dishevelled and dressed in the same kind of uniform as that corpse back at the base, staring at her as if he'd seen a ghost.

"Who are you?" His voice was the merest whisper, hoarse and disbelieving. A grimy hand rose to clutch at the greasy thatch of mouse-coloured hair that covered his head, eyes wide with disbelief. "Where've you come from? There's no one here – no one left; only me. Can't be here, you can't be here. What are you? Why're you here?"

A survivor, Sarah realised. He was a survivor of whatever had happened to the survey team – and half-mad with shock, by the looks of it.

"It's all right, don't be afraid," she quickly called out in what she hoped was a soothing tone. "My name is Sarah. Sarah Jane Smith. I'm here to help."

"Help?" He eyeballed her warily.

"Yes, we picked up your distress signal, we came to help." She watched him closely, maintaining a safe distance, since he seemed unstable, to say the least…but if he'd seen his entire team die, buried most of them, perhaps that was hardly surprising.

She waited as a myriad of conflicting emotions flitted across the man's face, unnerved by the strange, mad light in his eyes. Did he even understand what she was saying, half-crazed as he was? What must he have been through, to reduce him to this?

"What's your name?" she tried asking.

A branch snapped, somewhere off in the distance, and they both jumped, startled by the sudden sound.

"Something coming," the man muttered to himself in sharp, staccato tones. "Someone coming – where're they from, why're they here – how're they here? Too many people…"

"It's probably my friends, come looking for me," Sarah gently offered, and he whirled around as if he'd forgotten she was there, darted forward and grabbed her wrist, started tugging her toward the bushes. She pulled away in alarm. "Hey, let go, what do you think you're doing?"

"Hide!" The warning was hissed, fierce, and he caught at her arm again, frantic. "I don't know who's there, what they want, are they safe – who to trust, what to do! We must hide! Watch and see."

He was so agitated that she allowed him to pull her into the bushes, ducking down out of sight just in time to avoid being seen by two young men in uniform, one very dark and the other very fair, strolling through the jungle so intent on their conversation they didn't spot the TARDIS until they were almost on top of it. Crouching low, Sarah watched as they regarded it with deep consternation, reporting their find to someone else via tiny handheld radio-communicators.

"Why are we hiding? Aren't they with you?" she whispered to her strange companion, confused because the newcomers were wearing the same kind of uniform as his – a different colour, blue instead of brown, but the design was the same and she might have assumed they were more survivors of the ill-fated survey team if this one hadn't been at such pains to hide from them.

He shook his head, watching the other men intently, wide-eyed and twitching. "No, no," he muttered, pulling fretfully at his stubbled jaw. "Where are they from, why are they here? You shouldn't be here, no one should be here."

He turned on her so suddenly, so fiercely, it was all she could do not to startle away from him and give their hiding place away.

"Shh, it's all right, it's all right," she soothed, torn between the conflicting need to both focus on the madman at her side and keep a sharp eye on those other men, because they were attaching something to the sides of the TARDIS – what were they doing?

They stepped back, spoke into their communicators again, fiddled with a device they were carrying…and the TARDIS disappeared.

Sarah gaped in shock.


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Raymond Keith Moon: Great story arc. Nice command of the balance of overview and detail. Feels a bit like a multi-player computer game, but provides satisfying explanations for all the apparent magic. Please keep writing!

Tiffany Thomson: This story is not something I would normally pick up and read but I'm so glad I did, I wasn't able to put it down and my husband was yelling at me at 3am to put it down and go to bed (just waited for him to doze back off before picking it back up) I really hope Natalie brings out another book eit...

Nate_L: I started to read this, excited about the story line. The writing style only made me more excited, I was stunned by Mikes ability to put this kind of story into words. It's Dashner-style, simple but sophisticated... (Makes sense to me, lol!)The beginning was a tad confusing, as I thought she was ...

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