All was silent amongst the stars as the two, different shaped ships aimed themselves at each other. One was bulky, silver and obviously built by amateurs. The other was round, saucer-like and gold, built by experts in the field of spaceship engineering.
The first ship rattled along, metal plates already blackened by the first attack, whereas the saucer was undamaged and looked to be in no sign of being between.
This was the SS Tempest’s last run. They had exhausted all but their nuclear weapon supply. There were 15 of them in total, and it was the last line of defence against the saucer.
A fire broke out towards the rear of the ship and parts of it began to detach away.
Laser bolts and small, deadly missiles emerged from open ports on the saucer and a barrage of them hit the Tempest one after the other.
This was supposed to be a mission of discovery and exploration, but instead the crew of 145 were going to die out in the cold, blackness of space with their ship being obliterated above a small, desolate ice world. They had detected some kind of life, somewhere deep inside the many mountains, but their information would remain incomplete. They sent what they could to High Command.
The captain on board gave the order to launch the nukes.
With grating, old machinery, the hatches opened and the nuclear missiles began their quick trip across the small expanse of space towards the saucer.
Some of them missed their target and fell to the planet below. Some of them hit their target - and did absolutely no damage whatsoever.
Finally, after a shower of explosions, the Tempest remained, hanging still and silent and waiting for the killing blow from the saucer.
Quickly and quietly another weapon descended from the bottom of the saucer. It was some kind of huge canon. It aimed itself at the Tempest and then, after a few seconds, shot a huge blast of blue light at the Tempest.
The Tempest was engulfed in a blue glow and then exploded from within, disintegrating into a million tiny metallic pieces.
For a moment the saucer remained, surveying the damage, and then it quietly flew away.
The Daleks had won. Again.
On the surface of Issentti, Rotox emerged from the mountain and surveyed the plumes of smoke and fire in the distance.
And then he saw it. A great, long shape lying next to the mountain. It looked cold and dead.
This one hadn’t exploded…
Atherton stood at the view screen and watched as the great, dome-like device known to the colony as the Beast descended from orbit and landed with a great thud on the surface a few miles away from the ships.
“The Beast has landed,” said Amaya, a hint of nervousness in her voice.
It was understandable for them to be nervous, thought Atherton. Terraforming had been performed before, but this was the first time out on a world so far away from Earth. And they were sat right in the middle of it.
Luckily, the terraforming wouldn’t cause any damage to the ships and those within it thanks to specialist shielding, but Atherton had seen the video footage from the experiments. Whole landscapes were changed in a matter of minutes, and it was frightening. It was moments like this when Atherton thought to himself that surely the Human race had become Gods of their own destiny.
And he didn’t like that thought. Not one bit.
“Is the device secure?” said Atherton, rubbing his chin and refusing to use it’s pet name.
“Landing struts are buried and secure in the surface,” said Amaya. She turned to her commander. “Do we activate?”
Atherton sighed. He knew the Doctor, Reed and Alice were out there, and he knew the aliens were out there. But he had his orders. “Activate it,” he said.
Outside, on top of the device - sitting there spider-like - a small glass dome began to glow green. There was a low, humming power coming from the Beast, and the air began to shimmer around it. Then, with a huge blast, a massive green bolt of energy shot into the sky and into the clouds.
The Beast had begun its job.
The Doctor and Reed were almost at the mountain and looked back at the beam of light shooting into the sky.
“It’s alright,” said the Doctor, walking a little faster. “We have a good 25 minutes before the planet begins changing.”
“I do know,” said Reed. “It’s just collecting data. Working out how to change the planet.”
“Of course,” smiled the Doctor.
“What are we gonna do when we get to your friend? She seemed pretty determined to be out of your way.”
“We have to try and transport as many of the Issenttians off the planet as possible.”
“To where?” said Reed, almost laughing at the impossibility of it all.
“I believe there are some nearby moons. Similar atmosphere and terrain. The ones we can save will be happy there.”
“Apparently you have a time machine,” said Reed, not really believing it himself.
“I do. And if you’re about to ask why I can’t just keep popping back in the same minute and collecting every alien from this planet, it’s because I can’t cross my own time stream. I can only be in one place twice. After that thing’s start to fall apart.”
“Fair enough,” said Reed. “You answered that one.”
The Doctor suddenly stopped when he saw somebody emerging from the small tunnel at the base of the mountain, arms flailing.
“It’s your friend,” said Reed.
Alice was running as fast as she could towards the Doctor.
“What is it?” shouted the Doctor.
“It’s Rotox.” She arrived at the two of them, out of breath and panting.
“What about him?”
“He’s got…some kind of…nuclear weapon.”
“Oh my god,” said Reed. “Doctor, we’ve got to leave them.”
“No,” said Alice. “When he saw that light go up he panicked. They’ve started wheeling it through a larger tunnel. They’re going to aim it at the ships.”
“You need to make your mind up, woman,” muttered Reed.
“I beg your bloody pardon!” said Alice, squaring up to the officer.
“First you want to help them, and then you want to help us.”
Alice pointed at him. “I don’t want to see anyone die.”
“Look,” said the Doctor, pinching the top of his nose in frustration, “I have around 22 minutes now to save as many of them as I can. Atherton can’t delay anymore.”
“And how are we going to convince this Rotox?” said Reed. “It sounds like he’s in no mood to stand down.”
“They’re just scared,” said Alice. “I’m sure they’ll listen to the Doctor.”
“I can only talk to them,” said the Doctor. “I can’t force them to run away.”
“What? Why not?”
“They have their belief’s,” said the Doctor. “If they choose to stay then I can’t stop them.”
On board the ship, Atherton was sat at a communication station. Soon the picture of a blonde woman with short hair and green eyes flicked onto the screen. She smiled when she saw Atherton.
“James,” she said warmly.
“How’s it going Amanda?” said Atherton.
“I miss you,” she said.
“I miss you too,” he said, touching the screen with his finger tips, “but maybe when we’re ready you can fly out here.”
“And be with my brother again on some dead ice world?”
“It won’t be so icy when you arrive,” he laughed. “Did you find out any information?”
Amanda breathed heavily. “Yes. I did. Unfortunately.”
“What do you mean?”
She shook her head. “Graham found me what he could, but it isn’t good. Turns out the Empire knew about the life forms on your planet.”
“What!” spluttered Atherton. “Then why did we-”
“Remember a few years back, when we lost the Tempest?”
“Yes,” said Atherton, thinking back to the news reports. “What about it?”
“That was over Issentti,” said Amanda. “Turns out this place is close to the Dalek front line.”
“Bloody hell,” said Atherton, head in his hands.
“It’s not too much to worry about, but the Empire worried that if the Daleks got the planet, it’d give them a greater foothold in this area of the galaxy. The Empire wanted to get here first.”
“But we aren’t at war with the Daleks. Just a few battles here and there.”
“Not yet,” said Amanda. She sighed. “Still want to build a civilisation out there?”
“So the Empire covered up the findings of the Issenttians just so they could get this planet before the Daleks did. Unbelievable. In this day and age…”
“People are no different now than what they were all those years ago. There’s always an ulterior motive for everything. You know that. Look at Dad.”
Atherton nodded, remembering how his father had pressured him to join the cadets, making him believe he was doing it for himself, when in actual fact his father was able to claim “danger” money from his young son being enrolled.
They had fallen out soon after that.
Atherton said his goodbyes to his sister and then sat there for a long time, staring at the now-blank monitor screen.
He was stuck in a situation here. If he refused and went up against the Empire, he’d be court-martial. And then there was his colony fleet. They hadn’t enough supplies or fuel to make it any further. They had to stay here. They had to start the terraforming.
And then he thought of the Daleks. Did he really want them knocking on his front door in the middle of the night. There were 2,500 people in the colony fleet. One Dalek could destroy all of them. Every man, woman and child.
He continued to think for a long time.
And then he made his decision and headed for the bridge.
The Doctor, Alice and Reed stood, observing as the huge, nuclear warhead slowly emerged from a previously concealed, larger tunnel around the side of the mountain.
Rotox was standing beside it whilst other Issenttians directed a large group to move it out of the tunnel and onto the icy surface.
“Rotox,” said the Doctor. “We have 15 minutes before terraforming is complete. You need to gather your people and come with me.”
“We will not leave,” said Rotox, with an angry snarl. “This device will destroy the invaders and save our world.”
“If you fire at that terraforming device, it’ll cause untold damage to your world.”
“Doctor,” said Alice quietly, “there world’s already about to be destroyed.”
The Doctor glared at her angrily. “Stay out of this, Alice! I told you not to get involved.”
“Then you shouldn’t have brought me here, then!” snapped Alice back at him.
The Doctor was about to say something back to her and then thought better of it. He turned back to Rotox. “There are innocent beings out there. They don’t do this thing on purpose,” he said, kneeling down beside Rotox. “They do it because they have been told to.”
“That doesn’t make it right,” growled Rotox as the warhead came to a stop, aimed at the collection of ships in the distance.
“No, but they have no choice. If they leave now all of them will likely die.”
“But they will kill my people,” said Rotox.
“Not if you come with me in my ship,” said the Doctor. “It’s just over there. A little blue box.”
“Too little for all of us.”
“No,” said Alice, kneeling beside him and pleading with him. “It’s bigger on the inside.”
Rotox. “Stupid invader friends.”
Reed sighed. “He’s not listening, Doctor. We need to stop them.”
“How?” said the Doctor. “How do we stop them, because I’m at a loss?”
Atherton stood on the bridge, a cup of coffee in his hand. He nodded down towards Amaya.
“Are you sure about this, sir?”
“Absolutely sure,” said Atherton.
Amaya sighed and switched on the communication console. “Comms open.”
“This is Atherton,” he said sternly. “Reed, are you there?”
Reed answered his communicator device that he had strapped to his belt. “This is Reed.”
“Tell the Issenttians we surrender,” said Atherton.
“What!?” spat Reed.
“Tell them we surrender.”
“But the Empire…the colony…”
“We’ll find a way,” came Atherton’s voice.
The Doctor snatched the communicator away from Reed. “Now listen, Mr Atherton, you cannot stop the terraforming of this world.”
“And why not?” said Atherton.
“Because of your Colony.”
“You have a ship,” said Atherton. “You can help us.”
“It’s not about that,” said the Doctor, exasperated. “You need to be here. It’s the tipping point in Human civilisation.”
“I am not willing to commit genocide,” said Atherton.
“Please, Mr Atherton.”
There was a pause.
The Doctor looked down at the communicator and frowned.
“You know, don’t you?”
“What? Know what?” The Doctor looked a little awkward.
“You know about the Daleks.”
“Of course I know about them,” said the Doctor, irascibly. “Everybody know’s about them.”
“No,” said Atherton. “You knew about this planet being a good strategic point against the Daleks.”
“But we’re not at war,” said Reed, confused.
“Not yet we’re not,” came Atherton’s grim voice.
Alice’s eyes flicked to the Doctor. She wanted to turn around and walk out on him, but he looked lost, hopeless and worried. He was losing his grip on the situation and didn’t know what to say.
“Right!” said Alice.
Reed and the Doctor looked at her.
“Rotox,” said Alice, “you need to stop this. In a few minutes everything you are will cease to exist. You have to come with me and the Doctor.”
“No,” said Rotox again.
The Doctor watched as the Issenttian group examined the nuclear missile.
“You have no idea what you’re doing,” said Reed. “You’ll end up destroyed yourselves.”
“Alice, come on,” said the Doctor, grabbing her hand.
She snatched it away. “Where to? We can’t leave them.”
“We need to get to the TARDIS. You too, Mr. Reed.”
“But the nuke-”
“Now, Mr. Reed.”
Reluctantly Reed and Alice followed the Doctor as they made their way back across the ice, all the time looking back at the nuke in the distance.
“We can’t just abandon them,” said Alice.
“We’re not, but pretty soon they’re going to detonate that warhead. We need to get it away from here.”
“How?” said Reed. “In your blue box?” he said, noticing it now they had gotten closer.
“Exactly,” said the Doctor, grimly.
A few moments later the blue box dematerialised, leaving a patch of clear ground where the ice had melted under the warmth of the time machine.
Back towards Rotox’s group, they were still tinkering as Rotox eyed up the Beast in the distance. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he knew it was going to destroy them all.
Suddenly the air was ripped open by the sound of a thousand demons screeching and wailing into the wind.
It was coming from the weapon. The Issenttian’s ran for cover as, strangely, the warhead seemed to disappear from view to be replaced by a large, blue box.
Rotox edged cautiously towards the box and touched it. It felt warm and tingly. It felt alive.
And the warhead was gone.
The door was flung open and the Doctor stepped out with Alice and Reed behind him. Reed looked a little confused and baffled, but still had a hold of the situation.
“Where is the weapon?” said Rotox, angrily glaring at the Doctor.
“Safely in a holding area at the centre of my TARDIS. I materialised my box around it.”
“Give it back.”
“No,” said the Doctor, darkly. “You need to come with us now.”
“No,” growled Rotox, stepping back.
“Please,” said Alice. “If you stay here you’ll all be wiped out.”
There was a huge explosion from the Beast and the jet of light turned dark red, clouds coloured blood-red swirling overhead.
“Captain,” said Reed into the communicator, “what’s going on?”
Atherton came over the com. “I ran out of time. I can’t stop it now,” he sighed.
“Come with us now!” ordered the Doctor.
“No!” growled Rotox again and turned to run back to the mountain.
“You have 30 seconds,” said Atherton.
“We need to go,” said the Doctor.
“We can’t leave them,” said Alice, her eyes welling up with tears. “We can’t.”
“They won’t come,” said the Doctor as he turned and saw Rotox head for the mountain tunnel. “There’s nothing we can do.”
“20 seconds,” said Atherton.
“But surely there’s a way…” said Alice.
“Not this time,” he said. He turned as he watched Rotox pause at the opening and then turn to face the Doctor, Alice and Reed.
“Go!” said Reed, pushing the Doctor and Alice to the box.
The last thing Alice saw was Rotox, his grey form against the side of the mountain. Rotox: the last of the Issenttians.
The TARDIS dematerialised just as a wave of red light burst from the beast. It was like a phantom sea, rolling across the ice dunes, swirling around the stationary ships full of their occupants housed safely inside.
Rotox’s eyes narrowed as the light flowed nearer and nearer.
And then, in a flash, everything went red. Rotox was gone. And so was his world.
The Doctor and Alice sat in silence in the console room. They had dropped off Reed at his ship and hadn’t even bothered to say goodbye to Atherton. Alice wasn’t sure what to say. Her first trip to another planet hadn’t exactly been the best. She was sure that it wouldn’t always be this painful.
Eventually, after watching the Doctor throw a power-ball against the interior doors for the hundredth time, Alice broke the silence.
“Did you really know?”
“Hmmm?” said the Doctor, turning to her.
“About the Daleks? I mean, you said this planet was a tipping point for my race.
“Yes,” said the Doctor.
“I did know about the Dalek factor.”
“Because I wanted to see it.” He pocketed the power-ball and sat down next to her on the sofa. “You assume that just because it’s at the forefront during the Dalek War that it’s a bad thing. It’s not.” He leaned back and looked into the distance. “Yes, the Dalek’s do invade, but the colony fight back and drive them away. Issentti becomes a key world in developing weapons and ideas to fight the Daleks. James Atherton becomes a celebrated hero. I wanted to see where all of this began.”
“But you really didn’t know about the Issenttians?”
“No,” said the Doctor, hurt, “of course I didn’t.”
“You should have told me,” said Alice, dejected.
“Maybe,” said the Doctor. “But maybe this was a private thing for me. I don’t know how long I’ve got left. Every thing I see could be the last time I see it.”
Alice thought for a moment. “Show me Issentti again. I mean, Issentti how it is now.”
A little while later Alice and the Doctor stood at the base of Mt. England, surrounded by a dense jungle. They made their way through to a clearing where children were playing, and in the distance they could see buildings being constructed and the tops of the old spaceships that brought the colonists here.
And there was Atherton. He looked a few years older, but he was still recognisably the same man. He was throwing a ball and playing catch with a young child and his wife was sat, drinking lemonade, sat on a deckchair nearby.
Alice smiled. Out of darkness came some light, she thought to herself.
The Doctor guided her around, and set into the floor was a large, stone slab.
“There are darker days to come for them,” said Alice.
“Yes,” said the Doctor, nodding, “but at least they never forgot.”
And on the stone slab it read:
REMEMBER THE ISSENTTII”
Time had passed for the Doctor and Alice.
The Doctor had landed the TARDIS again, and had asked Alice to wait inside whilst he made the trip outside. She had no idea where they were. She hadn’t even been bothered.
And then the Doctor emerged in the doorway again, his shoes wet and the bottom half of his trousers covered in mud.
“Where’ve you been?” asked Alice.
The Doctor was carrying something. It was a brown bag…and it was moving. Something triggered Alice’s memories. Memories of when she was young and innocent and scared.
“Oh my god!” she said, leaping to her feet and putting her hands to her mouth.
“Why have a time machine, if you can’t do some good some times.”
He opened up the bag, and two tabby-coloured kittens emerged.
Alice was crying and she ran to them, picking them up as they meowed at her. “How?”
“I surveyed your timeline. I went back, waiting until you were gone, and rescued them from upstream.”
She looked at him and smiled. “Thank you.”
He smiled warmly at her. “Now, let’s go and find these two a home, eh?”
Next Week: The TARDIS arrives in Owensby, a deserted northern village where the mirrors are not what they seem. Reflections starts on Saturday 1st March 2014.
Also, standby for more information on upcoming stories, plus information on a new spin-off from Darkpaths called "The Thornsby Chronicles".