“At least you can stay out here. I don't fancy getting caught in a mud blast.”
“Tough,” said Paragrim. “We need the Fifth Doctor and apparently this is one of the most weakest points of his life.”
“I don't know. I just follow the tracer,” spat Paragrim. He pointed towards a small rock side. “I believe there is an entrance to the mines over there.”
Bitz hung his head. “I was hoping you wouldn't find an entrance.”
“Get going you waste of a circuit board,” ordered Paragrim.
Bitz sighed heavily and then headed for the mines. He reached a pretty small sized hole leading underground and then looked about him. This was his chance. He felt sure that he'd be able to outrun Paragrim, being smaller than him. He looked back at the bounty hunter. He was just beyond the ridge and watching him carefully. He could easily find a transport ship off this world and make his way back to Centrix.
Stealing his nerve Bitz broke into a quick run and headed in the opposite direction to Paragrim.
Back towards his ship Paragrim saw Bitz disappear in a yellow and red blur. He growled and snapped his hand off, replacing it with an axe.
“You fool, Bitz!” he growled, and set off after the little robot.
Bitz streaked across the desert, aware that Paragrim was in hot pursuit, and leapt down a mountainside. His foot hit a rock and he tripped, somersaulting head-over-heels and crashing down the mountain. He came to a stop with his back slamming against the ground. There was a low rumbling sound and the ground began to give away beneath the robot. Just as Bitz felt himself dropping into the darkness a hand clamped around his leg and he felt himself being pulled back up.
“Where do you think you're going?”
Bitz looked up. He was being held upside down by a very angry looking Paragrim. He was brandishing his axe and swishing it dangerously near to his head.
“A robots gotta try, hasn't he?”
“Yes.…” said Paragrim slowly. “I trust you're not going to try that again.”
Bitz gave a nervous laugh. “Well I can't promise anything -” Paragrim's axe slashed next to Bitz's head. “- but I think you've persuaded me!”
“Good,” growled Paragrim, releasing Bitz and letting him fall to the ground with a clatter. He removed his axe and replaced his regular hand and turned to his companion. “Shall we go back to the mine entrance?”
“Yeah,” laughed Bitz nervously again, “anything you want, boss.”
He lay on the mud, his legs and arms unable to crawl him through this murky tunnel anymore. He felt sick and tired and his head was pounding as though twenty elephants had stampeded across it. All he could see was Sharaz-Jek cradling Peri’s body. That image fuelled his desire to get moving, but his legs didn’t feel the same way.
He was aware of a movement behind him. Surely not a mud blast. If it was then he was certain to die. He had to keep moving. With every ounce of strength he could find he began to move again slowly down the tunnel. Now the mud was getting wetter and slippery and he was finding it hard to get a grip or a foothold. The tunnel was, after all, sloping gently downwards and he had no desire to fly headfirst into the queen bats nest.
The sound behind him came again. It was definitely not a mud burst. This sounded like someone coming after him.
“Who’s there?” he croaked into the darkness.
The sound stopped.
“I asked you a question. It’s not nice to creep up on someone,” panted the Doctor.
The Doctor lurched backwards as a large hand came out of the darkness. It clamped around his cricket jumper and pulled at him. He gasped and choked as he felt himself being pulled back the way he came. After a few minutes of being bumped against the stone and mud he felt himself giving up. Whoever it was wanted him out of the mines and he wasn’t in any fit state to fight anything as powerful as this.
He had failed Peri.
Bitz dragged the Doctor out into the open where Paragrim was waiting.
“Any problems?” asked Paragrim as he looked down at the Doctor’s weak form.
“None at all,” smiled Bitz.
The Doctor squinted in the dull light and looked up at the large creature standing above him. “Who - ?”
“Name’s Paragrim and this is Bitz.”
The Doctor sat himself up and hung his head. “I’m trying to save my friend. What on Earth do you want with me?”
“Just a bit of business,” said Paragrim as he removed one of the sleeping device.
“You have to let me save my friend. She’s very ill,” pleaded the Doctor.
“Better to think about saving yourself,” laughed Paragrim.
The Doctor tried to get away but Bitz kicked him backwards and he fell over.
“You’re not going anywhere.”
The last thing the Doctor saw before he blacked out was Peri’s unconscious face, all life drained from her body.
Across the depths of space, the metallic world known as Centrix hung in the sky against a glittering blanket of stars and beautiful, rainbow coloured nebulae. The inhabitants of Centrix, however, had no need for such beauty. They were simply robots. They had feelings, but all they were bothered about was running the biggest cargo company the universe had seen.
Standing on top of one of the metal bridges that swept over the many metallic ravines of Centrix was a blond, curly-haired man in a multicoloured coat, and an older lady with grey hair and a green cardigan.
“Welcome to Centrix, Evelyn!”
“It’s beautiful,” said Evelyn Smythe as she looked out over the mountains and into the valleys. “It’s breathtaking.”
“I take it you like it then,” smiled the Doctor.
“I do. Doctor this is amazing. It’s just what we need after all the problems of late.”
“That’s what I thought,” said the Doctor.
“But why Centrix. Why this planet?”
“Oh, well…,” the Doctor fumbled with his cat badge, “well, no reason really.”
“Doctor, what year is this?” asked Evelyn suspiciously. She’d been reading about Centrix in the TARDIS databanks before they had arrived and a worrying thought had struck her.
“Well…it’s the 46th century.”
“Doctor!” said Evelyn aghast. “I was reading about this place, and the 46th century was one of the most dangerous periods in this planet’s history!”
“It was also one of the most exciting times and places to be,” said the Doctor with a smile.
“Something about a war, if I recall?”
“The story of the Centrix robots has always intrigued me. I don’t know why I stayed away from their war for so long.”
“Because it was a war, Doctor. And maybe you had more sense in your previous incarnations. This is dangerous,” said Evelyn with raised eyebrows.
“But don’t you find it fascinating? Two warring factions of service robots, fighting all because they want to be the biggest and best cargo haulage company around.”
“As I said, I find it downright dangerous. It’s ludicrous.”
The Doctor put an arm around Evelyn and guided her towards the edge of the bridge. He pointed into the distance. “See over there, that’s the command tower from which the leader of the Centrix-A robots runs his operations. And over there,” he pointed towards the eastern hemisphere, “is where the Centrix-B robots are from. Oh, I don’t agree with the war, but most wars are fought over religion and land and opinions. This is fought simply over cargo haulage!”
Evelyn shook her head in disbelief. She knew the Doctor wasn’t cruel or callous, but sometimes he did infuriate her.
“Come on!” said the Doctor excitedly as he began to cross the bridge towards the Centrix-A sector.
Evelyn sighed. “Here we go again.”
Paragrim’s ship touched down beside the Centrix-A tower and he turned to face Bitz.
“Do not leave the ship”
“But it’s home!”
“Yes, but you come from a little before this time. Before the wars.”
“No buts Bitz. This is the worse place we could have located the Doctor.”
“But why here anyway? Isn’t this supposed to be one of the Doctor’s weakest moments? Why here and now?”
“I don’t know. Guess I’ll find out soon, hey?”
The Doctor and Evelyn’s progress to the tower had been a pretty quick one until the Doctor spotted some gleaming black metal halfway down the dirt track. He squinted to make out the shape and as it came closer it appeared to be a large, metal robot with missiles mounted on it’s side and caterpillar tracks underneath it. It hadn’t noticed the Doctor and Evelyn and had it’s back turned to them, seemingly watching something far off.
“Doctor,” said Evelyn worriedly, “I don’t think we should go near that thing.”
“Amazing,” whispered the Doctor. “That must be one of the Advance Weapon Drones. An AWD.”
“Well you don’t really want to go near it, do you?” said Evelyn as the Doctor beckoned for her to stay back and he moved in a little closer.
“Nonsense. He’s too pre-occupied with whatever he’s watching. This is an excellent opportunity to observe him at what he does best.”
“Oh for goodness sake. You talk about it as if it’s a nature show.”
“He won’t harm me. He won’t even know we’re here.”
The Doctor was wrong. The AWD suddenly snapped around, it’s red visor glowing brightly and it‘s guns whirring into life.
“Ah,” said the Doctor, realising he was in big trouble. For a moment the two of them, both alien to each other, simply eyed each other up. The AWD seemed to be scanning the area and trying to work out the Doctor’s physiognomy.
Then it attacked. It was sudden and vicious. The guns whirred to point at the multicoloured form of the Doctor and blasted a few, lethal pulses at him. The Doctor was knocked backwards. Evelyn yelled as the Doctor landed with a thud next to the edge of the bridge.
From out of nowhere there came two blasts of an energy weapon and the Doctor got the impression that the AWD had been blasted back along the bridge. He didn’t dare open his eyes. He couldn’t open his eyes. The pain was too much. He felt himself slipping into nothingness.
The blast had been life saving for the Doctor. The AWD was now rolling off into the distance whilst a huge white and red robot stood before Evelyn and the unconscious Doctor. Evelyn’s first thoughts were to panic and run, but then she realised that this robot had just saved the Doctor’s life.
“Who-who are you?” asked Evelyn nervously.
“The name’s Sparx,” said the robot in a thundering voice. “What are you doing here?” he asked as he bent down over the Doctor, his huge hand moving the Doctor’s head from side to side.
“The Doctor wanted to visit your world.”
“This is a war zone,” said Sparx calmly. “Sneaking up on an AWD wasn’t the best thing your friend could have done today.”
“I tried to warn him,” said Evelyn shakily.
“Well that can’t be helped now. I was working on some sensor arrays in the valley. Looks like the AWD had been spying on me. When I heard the commotion I came looking. The Centrix-B robots are violent, but when the AWD’s are taken by surprise they’re not so clever.’
“Where do you think it is now?” asked Evelyn, nervously looking around her.
“Oh, it’s probably gone rolling back to it’s hemisphere. Pathetic.” Sparx looked back down at the Doctor. “He’s been very severely damaged. The injuries are extensive. We’ll have to take him back to our Chief Medical Officer.”
“Will he live?” asked Evelyn. She knew the Doctor had regenerative capabilities, but at the moment she was more concerned about keeping him alive in this body.
“We’ll have to ask the CMO about that one. He’s a medic for Centrix robots, not Humans.”
Sparx was about to pick up the Doctor when there was a slash and an axe slammed down into his shoulder. He screamed in agony and fell to the floor. There was another flash of an axe and this time it slammed into Sparx’s head. Evelyn screamed as Sparx fell to the fall with a thud and went silent and still. Standing over Sparx’s prone form was Paragrim brandishing his axe-hand.
“I’ll be taking the Doctor,” he grinned.
Paragrim and Bitz finished loading the unconscious Sixth Doctor into one of the tubes and then closed it up. “That’s number six taken care of.”
“What happened?” asked Bitz eagerly.
“He was attacked and injured very badly by an AWD. He’s close to regeneration by the looks of it, but this tube will hold him together for a while.”
‘Some fool, Sparx, shot the AWD so I axed him in the head. Left his companion there crying to herself.”
“Did anyone see you?”
“Course not,” said Paragrim gruffly. “Come on. Time to go.”
A sound suddenly filled the air. In the corner of the cargo bay a blue shape began to materialise. It soon solidified. It was the TARDIS. Paragrim looked on as the door opened and a small man in a white, linen suit walked out.
“You!” growled Paragrim at the sight of the Seventh incarnation of the Doctor. “We were about to come for you!”
“Yes. Good evening Paragrim.” He raised his question marked umbrella and pointed it at the bounty hunter. “Looks like I’ve made it to you first.” The man grinned.
Next: The Seventh Doctor gives Paragrim the slip, and the Eighth has a trip on a roller-coaster Coming Tuesday 17th September.