‘The End Dilemma’ (Z), Chapter 1

1. Frontier Killer

Sontar – a planet bathed in a grey ugly mist. It was home to the war-like race called the Sontarans. They had been breeding on this planet for millions of years. Batches of cadets were ready to wage war against their relentless enemies – the shape-shifting Rutans.

But all of that was about to change. From far out in the deepest reaches of space, an energy beam shot out from nowhere. It hit the planet Sontar. It blasted its ray, spreading across the terrains and their inhabitants. Very soon, Sontar was swallowed up by a bright yellow glow. It was absorbed in the beam of light. The energy beam soon disappeared. Once there had been a planet, now there was just an empty space of stars.

“Lab report – Day #202 continued. The end of the universe. A space station set between dimensions. My assistant Sara Hines was working at her control terminal. She was checking all of her computer banks that were receiving information. I don’t know what it is, but Sara seems such an unhappy soul. She’s always glaring at me. She’s been like that ever since I hired her to work for me on this space station. Almost as if she’s trying to trip me up. I, on the other hand, always calm and controlled whilst she gets so agitated and flustered. She can’t seem to comprehend me at all.

Sara gave me the report I needed instantly once we completed the first initiation.

“Infiltration experiment 31 has been completed,” she said moodily. “Sontar and all its inhabitants have been absorbed. They’re being directed here.”

I was pleased to hear this. “Good; good,” I said. “Probe the Mutter’s Spiral. See that we do not leave any trace or suspicion that we were responsible.”

Sara checked her monitor screens and began entering a few computations at her terminal. This took a while so we had to wait.

“Where’s Dan Limb?” I asked. “I thought he was meant to assist us in the lab today.”

“He’s a slacker that twerp,” Sara said bitterly. “Always asleep on the job. He can’t be relied upon. He’s so careless and self-obsessed in his own dreams.”

“Has our target been achieved yet, Sara my dear?” I enquired. “Have we been able to reinvigorate the galaxy?”

Sara seemed frustrated as I watched her. Almost as if she was going to erupt into flames. She banged her hand at the computer and swore something which I wouldn’t dare to repeat in this report.

“It’s not working,” she eventually said. “All that hangs in that sector of space is a black patch. I don’t understand! The stars should have reformed or attracted to our light-speed compensators. This is not how we rehearsed it.”

“We must be patient, Sara,” I said calmly. “The experiment’s outcome will be achieved altogether. So long as we have the Sontarans, that’s all that counts.”

“And the Zorbius crystal?” Sara enquired. “Will it maintain its power levels the way we keep channelling our laser beam on other worlds?”

“We’ve tried it many times before with various species,” I answered. “With Daleks, Cybermen, Zygons and Ice Warriors. The crystal energy has achieved what we came out here for. And more than we realised.”

“And the dreamings and mind attacks,” Sara went on. “Aren’t they side-effects of the use of the Zorbius crystal?”

“You worry too much, Sara,” I told her. “We have achieved so much. It is only fair we are allowed a few inconsistencies and annoyances to get in the way.”

“You think you know so much, don’t you?” Sara retorted rather challengingly. “Like you’re the big brains of this operation, aren’t you?”

“Of course I am,” I replied. “But I set out to do what I intend to achieve. And I don’t expect any backchat or scolding from you either, young lady.”

At that moment, the door burst open and a Sontaran entered, interrupting our experiments. I’d never the likes of this ruffian before. His name, who I would soon find out later, was Marshall Stoor. He approached me, glaring with vengeful and accusing eyes.

“You are the one responsible for the destruction of our planet,” Stoor declared. “You mock our honour by sucking the planet and all who lived on it.”

“I do not care about your planet or whatever your cloning factories are all about, Sontaran,” I answered defiantly.

“I am Marshall Stoor,” he introduced himself, “of the Sixth Sontaran Strike Force! You will answer to the charges! Fight me and I shall have satisfaction!”

“Sara, how did this buffoon get into my lab?” I demanded.

“Oops!” she said, rather obnoxiously I might add. “Sorry. I must have forgotten to put a lock on the door.”

“Fight me, you coward,” Stoor roared. “Fight! Show your true potential in opposing a Sontaran warrior!”

“Robots, take this idiot away!” I commanded.

My armed robot guards entered and advanced upon Marshall Stoor. They grabbed him quickly, obeying my instructions as they escorted him to the prison brig. Stoor was far from happy.

“Coward!” he shouted. “You dare to refuse the challenge of a Sontaran warrior?! You have not heard the last of this, hu-man! I shall hunt you down! Remember that! You have not heard the last of Stoor!” He then began his war chant. “Sontar, Sontar, we fight for Sontar, the glory of…”

Stoor’s words were swallowed up as he was escorted out of the room by my robots with the door closing swiftly upon them. Once they’d gone, I turned to Sara. She had the nerve to put a smirk on her face.

“Well, that wasn’t very nice, was it?” she remarked.

“Prepare for our next target,” I commanded. “Aim for the Parntroltan world.”

“Oh must we now?” Sara moaned. “I’m getting bored! I want a break! Can we at least do this sometime tomorrow morning?”

“Your complaints have been the same ever since you came to this station,” I retorted. “You have resisted my commands every time we come across a new form of stupendous engineering.”

“Maybe it’s because I have family problems and don’t seem to care about your commands,” she spat back. “Did that ever occur to you, Dr. Harper?”

“It is imperative we carry out the procedure as intended,” I continued. “The Parntroltans will be our next target. We must absorb every life form in this universe for the sake and the power of Zorbius. Every life-form; every molecule.”

I looked out of the lab window, staring into space. I saw the vast emptiness that lay before us. The triumph and achievement that awaited us – that awaited me! I couldn’t help but hear an annoyed sigh from my assistant.”

Perpugilliam Brown – Peri to her friends – was extremely happy. She lay on a blanket on the sand, soaking in the sunshine. She wore nothing but a bikini. She twiddled her toes as she lay there. She reached out to take a glass of lemon juice from a table next to her. She took a sip, before breathing in the sunny air.

“This…is…paradise,” she sighed.

Peri placed her glass back on the table. She adjusted her sunglasses before laying back to feel the warmth of the sun. She never thought the planet Vektris was as luxurious as this.

At that moment, a dashing young man approached the spot where Peri was. He was in his twenties; had a mop of brown hair and wore orange trunks. The man made his way over to Peri, trying not to disturb her sunbathe.

“Hey there!” he said cheerfully. “Hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

Peri turned to the man who had spoken to her. She was pleased someone came to say ‘hello’ to her. She then saw how dashing he looked. Peri took a liking to him. She smiled at him radiantly.

“Hi!” Peri greeted. “No, you’re not interrupting. I’m just enjoying the luxuries of an alien planet. Are you?”

“Yes, same here.” the man replied. “My name’s Dan. Dan Limb.”

“I’m Peri,” she replied.

“Hello, Peri,” Dan said delighted.


“You wouldn’t happen to know where the ice cream stall is?” he asked.

“As a matter of fact, I do,” Peri replied. “It’s up there by that hill. Up the stairs. You can’t miss it, see?”

“Err, yes,” Dan said. “Yes, of course. I knew it was somewhere this way.”

“Are you going to get me an ice cream?” Peri asked.

“I could, if I wanted to,” Dan answered. “May I join you?” he then asked.

“Sure,” Peri replied as she invited, “Sit by me here.”

Dan smiled as he sat by her on the blanket. They both smiled at each other as they sat together on the beach.

“You’re not local, are you?” Dan observed.

“No, I’m not,” Peri answered. “But it’s nice to be away from the Doctor, you know. He always gets on my nerves. Even when he’s not himself, he’s always getting to me.”

“You look so radiant,” Dan said hapilly, “I really like you, you know.”

“Aww thank you,” Peri replied, “you’re so very sweet.”

At that moment, Peri and Dan kissed and embraced each other whilst sitting on the blanket. It was a tender romantic moment for Peri as it was for Dan. They stopped kissing for a moment as Peri looked into Dan’s eyes.

“You know something, fella?” she said soothingly.

“What?” Dan asked.

“You ain’t half a bad kisser, aren’t you?”

Dan smiled. “I’m glad I’ve impressed you.”

Peri smiled back as they kissed and embraced each other again. After a while, they stopped and sat on the beach for a bit.

“This Doctor you mentioned,” Dan then said. “Is he family of yours?”

Peri then became tearful as she said, “No. My family’s far away. Most of them are dead. Most are forgotten…lost…”

She then burst into tears. Dan became concerned and placed an arm around her shoulders.

“My dear Peri, what is it?” he asked. “Have I done something wrong?”

Peri soon dried her eyes as she said, “No, it’s okay. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…you haven’t done anything wrong, Dan. So don’t worry.”

“Well is there something I can do to help?” he offered. “Why are you crying all of a sudden?”

“I don’t know,” Peri gradually replied. “I don’t know why I’m crying. Maybe it’s because I…I’ve lost something…someone.”

“Someone?” Dan became puzzled. “Who?”

“Never mind,” Peri gradually said. “It’s not important.” She paused for a moment before she smiled, “Now, where were we?”

With that, Peri and Dan continued their romantic embrace.

The Doctor was caught in the rain – literally. He walked about on the promenade. Something was worrying him. More than usual. The rain didn’t help to maintain his senses.

“No! No, no, no, no, NO!!!!” he cried. “I will not let this happen! Not to me; not to Peri; not to anyone else! This must be cease! This must end today! On this very day!”

The Doctor then walked about as he tried to maintain his balance. He couldn’t understand why this was happening. Suddenly he felt a sensation. He groaned and cried out, putting his hands to his head. He wasn’t having this. Not ever.

“Time and space…unfolding,” the Doctor cried. “The end of the universe…is very clear! Very open!”

Then, as if banged on the head, the Doctor realised what was happening.

“Of course!” he exclaimed. “Zorbius! The deepening rain! It makes you sleep without the will to do so! I should’ve realised! The crystal comes back to haunt me! Well, I won’t stand for it! Not at the end of everything! I will stop that meddling Zorbius once and for all! Once I find him…or her….or it!”

The Doctor then looked down and saw his friend Peri lying on the promenade floor. She was sleeping in the rain, wearing nothing but her sunny bikini for the sunny beach. He grew anxious.

“I won’t let you die out here, Peri,” he told her. “Not even in sleep! Come on!”

The Doctor picked Peri up and began to carry her. They journeyed through the rain before the Doctor saw a sight that filled him with…

“Oh joy!” he exclaimed.

Making his way forward, the Doctor carried Peri towards the TARDIS. At that moment, the Doctor heard growling sounds behind him. He turned and saw two creatures he immediately recognised. They were hooded, but revealed their skull-like faces. They gnashed their teeth, grinding them together.

“Hunters!” the Doctor cried. “Or as I used to know them…the Skeletrons! I should’ve known you’d turn up!”

The two Skeletron Hunters drew their swords as they advanced towards the Doctor who carried Peri. They were vengefully angry.

“Those who defy the deepening rain do not escape with their lives,” the first Hunter growled. “We shall slaughter you if you try to evade us!”

“Expect no mercy from the Hunters,” the second Hunter warned. “Our leader will see to it that you’ll go down in hell!”

“Another time perhaps, dear gentlemen,” the Doctor said cheerily. “But as you can see, I’ve got a rather sleepy girl who’ll die of pneumonia.”

“Stop we say!” the first Hunter commanded. “Stop or we kill you!”

“Kill you for Zorbius!” the second Hunter added.

The Doctor refused to listen. He inserted the key into the TARDIS lock and began to turn it. Peri woke up, drowsy and wet with cold rain.

“Doctor, what’s happening?” Peri asked drowsily. “I…I must have dropped off.”

“No time to explain, Peri,” the Doctor said. “Don’t worry! I’m opening the TARDIS door now.”

And indeed, the TARDIS door opened. The Doctor carried Peri inside before the Skeletron Hunters advanced. The Doctor slammed the door shut, just as the Skeletrons banged on the doors of the TARDIS with furious rage.

“Open up!” the first Hunter shouted. “Open up in the Hunters’ name!”

“The end is near, Doctor,” the second Hunter joined in. “You cannot oppose us now! Open we say!”

The Hunters’ rage grew stronger as the TARDIS dematerialised, whooshing and chuffing away. The TARDIS soon faded, taking off into the time vortex. The Skeletron Hunters threw their swords down to the ground in rage once this occurred.

Inside the TARDIS, Peri came fully awake. She saw the Doctor at the console, pressing buttons; switches and knobs as he piloted the TARDIS in time and space.

“Doctor, what just happened?” she asked. “I thought we were on Vektris – the beach planet you promised me.”

“I had meant to take you there, Peri,” the Doctor replied. “Unfortunately the TARDIS had other ideas, I’m afraid.”

“We were on a space station,” Peri realised.

“Well done, Peri,” the Doctor applauded her. “Yes, a space station set in an iso-dimensional rift.”

“But what happened?” asked Peri, baffled. “I thought I was spending time with a nice boy on a beach. Then I find myself waking up here.”

“You’ve been having a long sleep, Peri,” the Doctor told her. “A very long sleep. It was just as well that I woke you up. I found you lying beside me before the Skeletrons showed up. I knew those rainclouds had something to do with this too.”

“Rainclouds?” remarked Peri, puzzled. “I don’t understand.”

“The rainclouds help the Skeletrons to walk in any environment,” the Doctor explained. “They’re artificial rainclouds. They cause subjects and victims such as yourself and I to sleep.”

“So these Skeletrons are evil, right?” Peri checked. “Where do they come from? Who are they working for?”

“Evil is relative, Peri,” the Doctor answered. “You should know that by now. And yes, the Skeletrons are known to be the greatest and vicious alien hunters in the galaxy.”

“Sorry I asked,” Peri said ruefully.

“They’re definitely in the employ of Zorbius,” the Doctor continued.

“Who?” Peri asked, puzzled.

“Long story,” the Doctor replied. “I’ll explain later.”

Peri sighed, “It’s always ‘later’ with you, Doctor.”

She then noticed how wet she was, being soaked to the skin. She also saw how she was still wearing her bikini and nothing else.

“I’d better take a shower,” she said. “And have a change of clothes. Are you having a shower, Doctor?”

“Hmm? In a minute,” the Doctor replied. “I need to make these calculations for the TARDIS.”

“What calculations?” Peri asked. “Where are we going?”

“To the start of the beginning,” the Doctor told her. “We’re going to a point in time before we arrived on the space station, Peri. Say…a day or so.”

“Can we do that?”

“Not really,” the Doctor said. “It’s important not to cause a temporal paradox with us meeting ourselves from an earlier point in time. Yet this is a tricky situation. And within a rift, time means nothing. Prepare to return to the space station very soon, Peri.”

“Can’t wait,” Peri quipped.

“And put some clothes on, Peri,” the Doctor told her as if noticing her for the first time. “You’re still in your bikini, you know.”

Peri huffed before she went off to take a shower in the TARDIS. She left the Doctor in the console room to carry out his calculations.

In the TARDIS shower room, Peri took a towel and laid it out on the shower rail, ready to be taken once she’d finished. She turned the shower on and it fired water furiously. She stripped off her bikini and made her way into the shower, shutting the shower doors behind her. She soaked her body, feeling the warmth of hot water as she scrubbed all over with a sense of relief.

At that moment, the Doctor burst in whilst Peri was still in the shower.

“Peri, the TARDIS has arrived!” he announced.

Peri became annoyed once he entered. “Hey?! Can’t a girl have a bit of privacy around here? I’m in the shower for Pete’s sake!”

“Don’t worry about me,” the Doctor assured her. “I’m not a peeping Tom. Just thought you’d like to know we’ve arrived, that’s all. We’ve arrived back at the space station at the point of time before we arrived.”

“Well, thank you very much for telling me, Doctor,” she said agitated. “But I would prefer…”

“The thing is,” the Doctor interrupted, “this source of energy detected in the iso-dimensional rift is actually being contained by the Zorbius energy itself. I should have suspected as much since Zorbius is part of me…”

“Doctor!” Peri interrupted him, annoyed.

The Doctor wasn’t listening. “Of course! I never explained to you about Zorbius, did I? It’s a crystal of time which has been haunting me throughout my lives. The Zorbius entity is an aspect of me. An alternative incarnation you might say…”

“Doctor, please!” Peri insisted.

“What is it, what’s the matter?” the Doctor wanted to know.

“I’m trying to take a shower in here,” she protested. “Could you please go away and leave me be. I’ll come out when I’m ready and not before.”

The Doctor sounded hurt. “Alright! I’ll leave you to your shower! Don’t bother hearing my explanations if you don’t want to.”

“Thank you,” Peri intoned. “Shut the door behind you as you leave.”

The Doctor stormed off and slammed the door behind him. Peri felt relieved once he’d gone.

“Thank goodness,” she said. “Honestly! The sheer nerve…”

Just then, the lights went out. Peri was startled and began to shiver. The shower was still spraying water whilst she was inside.

“Doctor,” she cried. “Doctor, put the lights back on! This isn’t funny! I’m naked in the dark!”

At that moment, a ghostly voice echoed to her.

“Peri? Peri, are you there? It’s me. Your sweetheart man.”

Peri shivered again. This time not by cold, but by anxiety. She switched the shower off and opened the doors to step out. Her bare feet stepped onto the floor as she wrapped herself around in a towel to keep her warm.

“Hello?” she called. “Who’s there? Anyone here?”

There was no response. Peri went over to switch the lights back on. But no light would come on. Peri became more worried.

“Doctor?” she called again. “Are you out there? Please stop mucking about.”

Suddenly, a ghostly image appeared before Peri. She started to scream, but the phantom swiftly made its way towards her, gently laying a hand on her shoulder to reassure her.

“Peri, it’s me!” the ghost said reassuringly. “Don’t be afraid. I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Who are you?” Peri asked, terrified. “Why are you here?”

“Don’t you recognise me, darling?” the ghost asked. “It’s me, Dan.”

Peri was astonished. “Dan? My Dan? The one from my dream?”

“Yes,” Dan replied. “I’m coming back for you. I know where you are. We’ll soon be together again. You’ll see that.”

“Dan, I…I…I don’t understand,” Peri stammered. “How can you…?”

“Just be sure of one thing, darling,” Dan interjected. “I love you. I’ve always loved you. I think you’re the sweetest thing ever to exist in this universe.”

“Dan, I…” Peri began but stumbled. “Dan, I’ve wanted to…”

Just then, the doors burst open as the Doctor entered.

“Peri, are you going to be in that shower for very much longer?” he asked. “We really need to get a move on before…”

Just then, the lights came back on. The ghost of Dan disappeared. Peri was aghast as she swirled, looking around the place.

“Where is he?” she demanded. “Where’s he gone? Did you see him?”

“See who, Peri?” the Doctor enquired, puzzled. “What are you on about?”

“Doctor,” Peri began to reply, “I think…I think I just saw a ghost!”

“A ghost?” the Doctor said bemused. “Peri, there are no such things as ghosts. You shouldn’t believe in the supernatural, you know.”

“Doctor, I tell you I saw a ghost appear before me,” Peri insisted. “It was Dan. He spoke to me, Dan did.”

“Dan? Who’s Dan?” the Doctor asked. “Do I know a Dan?”

“He’s my Dan,” Peri told him. “My boyfriend in a dream I had.”

“A dream?” the Doctor said astonished. “You were with a boyfriend from a dream just now in my TARDIS?”

“You don’t believe me do you, Doctor,” Peri deduced. “I suspected that you wouldn’t. You never listen to anything I say…”

“On the contrary, my dear Peri,” the Doctor answered. “I do believe you.”

“You do?” Peri said, surprised.

“Yes,” the Doctor continued. “I believe you saw something that looked like Dan and he appeared before you in the shower room.”

“Doctor, I wasn’t imagining it,” Peri told him.

“And I’m not saying that you were,” the Doctor reassured her. “On the contrary, I think what you saw as a ghost was in actual fact real. You saw a Dan, but only as a projection from a fair distance away.”

“You mean like a hologram,” Peri suggested. “But who would project such a thing like that?”

“I don’t know,” the Doctor said. “But I intend to find out. And I suggest you dry yourself up and put some clothes on. We’ll be going out onto the space station again. You’ll find it rather chilly in dark space.”

Peri could see the Doctor had a point. She went off, wrapped in a towel, to get herself dried and put some clothes on before going out of the TARDIS.

Back on the space station, at an earlier point in relative time, the Doctor and Peri, now dressed in clothes, stepped out of the TARDIS and began to explore. They were in the dark interior of the promenade of Deck #22 aboard the station. As they explored, they saw horrid corpses of dead aliens piled up on top of another. Peri felt sick. She could see the dead remains of some of the Doctor’s foes Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans and even Androgums. It was a graveyard of the dead. It emitted a foul odour.

“Doctor, this place,” Peri said. “It’s horrible. These dead bodies. They’re all over the place. Dumped to be abandoned forever.”

“Yes,” the Doctor said grimly. “Flesh is decaying and bones are rotting. Some of these creatures have been on this station possibly for a few centuries.”

“I wish you wouldn’t be so morbid, Doctor,” Peri said.

“But that’s the thing you see, Peri” the Doctor remarked. “Everything on this space station is at the end of the universe. Where the culmination of everything falls into place. For everything to end.”

“I thought you told me this station was set outside space and time,” Peri reminded him. “When I asked you about the iso-dimensional rift before we came out here.”

“Yes,” the Doctor agreed, “but the cataclysmic erosion of everything of our universe ends here. As well as the universe expanding to create life. There’s always the erosion and entropy of decay.”

“How long does it take for our universe to end then?” Peri asked.

“A mere millennia,” the Doctor stated.

“Oh,” Peri said relieved. “Well, that’s alright then, isn’t it?”

“Peri, you don’t seem to grasp the concept,” the Doctor told her. “This space station in this rift is where everything ends. Time doesn’t matter here. Things progress at an infinite rate.”

Still baffled as ever, Peri continued to follow the Doctor who whistled under his breath. He patted Peri on the shoulder.

“Come on. Let’s see if we can find anyone alive. Hmm?”

They made their way forward, stepping over the bodies of Sontarans and Androgums. They passed battered and crumbled casings of Daleks. Peri held her breath, not wanting to be sick.

“Why are Sontarans; Daleks and Androgums left to rot?” Peri asked. “Is this space station a graveyard for them?”

“Possibly,” the Doctor replied. “These foes came here at the final moments of their death. They were frozen in time and brought here during their death – by someone. Or something. It’s hard to be sure.”

“Is it like that ‘axis’ we went to?” Peri asked. “You know, the ‘axis’ of the Time Lords?”

“No, no,” the Doctor answered. “Far from it. The Time Lords don’t control this iso-dimensional reality. All these creatures have been brought here after fighting for so long and after so many centuries. These are scavengers.” He paused for a moment. “I’ve been here a few times before.”

“You have?” Peri enquired.

“Hmm,” the Doctor nodded. “With Nyssa and Billy once. Also with Vicki and Steven. I was even here with Romana – the first one that is. The times we’ve come here, there’s always peril to expect. Always danger.”

“But not now,” Peri stated. “Everything’s calm and quiet, isn’t it?”

“That remains to be seen,” the Doctor mused. “There are still the Skeletrons to consider. As well as the deepening rain.”

“Those skeleton robots, Doctor…” Peri began to enquire.

But before she could go on any further, Peri and the Doctor became distracted. They saw a man – or what looked like a man – grunting excitedly around a table. They saw straight ahead that there was a diner. Tables lined up outside and up on a balcony at the diner. The Doctor saw the name of the diner aloft.

“Bonecracker’s,” he announced.

“Don’t fancy going there,” Peri said.

“It’s a diner,” the Doctor told her. “I fancy feeling a little peckish.”

“After seeing all those dead bodies?” Peri checked.

“There’s a man at the entrance to the diner,” the Doctor said. “Perhaps he could give us some help. Come on! Much to do!”

With that, the Doctor walked on enthusiastically walked with Peri lumbering on behind him.

Bonecracker – of the Hurzdan Grig – found business to be falling. He had very few customers coming to his restaurant. Few ever came back. He wondered what was wrong with his business. Why were people always rejecting his dishes with firm ridicule? He hoped to improve business somehow. He turned to see two fleshy things approaching him. He licked his lips with delight.

“Hello there,” one of them greeted. The man in the multi-coloured coat. “I wonder if you can help us. We’re looking for…”

“Such…magnificent bodies,” Bonecracker interrupted. “Such…delectable skins.”

“Oh thank you,” said the man in the multi-coloured coat. “Most kind. But I really must ask you…”

“If you wish to sell your bodies for a fair price say…30 nargs,” Bonecracker offered, “I shall be happy to purchase you.”

The other fleshy thing – the pretty young girl – Peri became terrified and fearful of him. She tugged at the man in the multi-coloured coat.

“Doctor,” she said. “You do realise that’s an Androgum. They’re cannibals. Remember what happened last time…?”

“Please Peri,” the man called Doctor reassured the girl, “leave this to me.” Turning back to Bonecracker, the Doctor said, “You haven’t by chance seen any skeleton robots, Mr…?”

“Bonecracker,” Bonecracker replied, “of the Hurzdan Grig. And you are…?”

“I am the Doctor,” the Doctor answered. “I’m a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey for your information.”

Realising what the Doctor, Bonecracker became suddenly ashamed. He bowed down apologetically.

“Oh! OH!!!!!! My sincere apologies,” he said. “I did not realise. Skeleton robots you say?”

“Yes,” the Doctor grinned. “Skeletrons. Or as they would prefer to be called…the Hunters.”

“No, I’m afraid not,” Bonecracker told him. “I have not seen any fleshless boned creatures pass by my diner this week. I fear I must disappoint you.”

“Ah well,” the Doctor cheerily said. “No harm in asking. Thanks anyway.” A thought then struck the Doctor. “Oh by the way, you haven’t had any stormy weather lately? Any bad dreams?”

“Stormy weather?” Bonecracker said, confused. “Bad dreams?”

“Yes, I thought not,” the Doctor realised. “Never mind. Sorry for interrupting you.”

“Are you sure you can’t stay for a three course meal at my diner?” Bonecracker offered.

“Another time perhaps,” the Doctor said before he turned to the young girl called Peri. “Come on, Peri. It’s time to go.”

The Doctor placed a hand on Peri’s shoulder as he gently led her away from the diner. Bonecracker soon blocked their path, as he eyed Peri rather hungrily.

“Since you are leaving so soon,” Bonecracker began, “may I ask if I might buy your flesh creature from you?” He indicated Peri. “I find her flesh most nourishing. I’m sure customers would insist on devouring such a delicacy.”

“Doctor!” Peri exclaimed, shocked. “Don’t sell me to that…to him!”

“Sorry,” the Doctor told Bonecracker. “My companion’s not for sale. Ta, ta.”

“I assure you,” Bonecracker persisted, “your fleshy thing for a Jill will be tended to well. The tendrils and the hardness of her muscles will be softened with utmost delicacy.”

“You’re wasting your time, Androgum,” the Doctor admonished him. “I need Peri far more than you do. Now get yourself gone before I report you.”

At that moment, a giant robot appeared. The Doctor and Peri turned towards it as it advanced upon them.

“Doctor, there’s a huge robot coming towards us,” Peri pointed out. “Is it like…a guard dog or something? To protect this station.”

“Possibly,” the Doctor replied. “Get back, Peri. Don’t come into contact with it.”

“It’s a Class 5.41 robot,” Bonecracker stated. “It has a high alert defence mechanism. It won’t harm anyone. Not if I have anything to do with it.”

“Well, I hope so,” Peri remarked.

The robot got very close to the Doctor and Peri. It looked down upon them, scanning them curiously.

“Target acquired,” the robot stated. “Subjects: Doctor and Peri in sight. Dr. Harper wishes to see you.”

“Ah! So we’re expected, are we?” the Doctor declared cheerfully.

“You will come with me at once,” the robot insisted.

“Not until you tell us who you are and what you want us for,” Peri protested.

The robot then grabbed Peri and the Doctor’s arms. The two time travellers cried out in pain once they’d been grabbed.

“Doctor, it’s got a hold of my arm,” Peri cried. “I can’t break free!”

“Don’t struggle, Peri,” the Doctor told her. “It’ll break your arm off without a second thought if you struggle.”

The robot soon began to drag Peri and the Doctor away. They slipped and fell, struggling to maintain their balance, as the robot took them.

“Where’s it taking us, Doctor?” Peri wanted to know. “Where’s it taking us?”

“I don’t know, Peri,” the Doctor replied. “But we’ll soon find out. Hopefully we’ll get to see this Dr Harper and he’ll tell us what’s going on.”

Bonecracker watched this happening from a distance. He saw the robot escorting Peri and the Doctor away, growing angry and desperate.

“No,” he hissed. “That tin thing can’t take my new stock away! Not now, not ever!”

He made his way forward before being stopped by another Androgum – Verazine of the Klazarak Grig. He joined Bonecracker at his side.

“Leave it, Bonecracker,” Verazine said. “They’re not worth it. That robot’s taking them to see the boss. You can’t do anything to stop it.”

“No!” Bonecracker raged. “He can’t have my new stock! They’re so delicious and tasty! Those white skins must be acquired by me! That Dr. Harper cannot have them! And I’ve got to eat them!”

With that, Bonecracker ran off after them. Verzaine watched Bonecracker go with intrigued fascination.

“Lab report – Day #209. My guests have arrived. They came as soon as they got out of the turbo-lift. My robot escorted the man called the Doctor and his pretty friend Peri into my lab. Once they saw me, I went over to greet them.

“Hello there!” I said. “Pardon my robot. I hope he hasn’t damaged you too severely.”

“Dr. Harper, I take it,” the Doctor cheerily said.

“I’m so glad the two of you could come,” I proclaimed.

“We had very little choice,” Peri remarked.

“Robot! Leave us!” I commanded.

“As you command, Dr. Harper,” the robot said.

The robot soon went off on his way, stomping out of my lab. Finally, I was alone with my guests. I put on my charming smile.

“Well now,” I began. “Since you’re both here, perhaps we can get down to business.”

“Oh,” the Doctor reacted mildly surprised. “And what exactly would we be doing business over?”

“I’m in charge of this space station,” I explained. “I control all the activity that goes on here.”

“So you’re the one who’s brought the dead Sontarans; Daleks and Androgums here,” Peri realised. “You’re the one who’s got them to rot and be abandoned on your space station.”

“I’m sorry you had to experience such death, my dear,” I said. “But me and my colleagues have been absorbing these creatures via our energy beam to bring them here.”

“Oh. And for what purpose were they brought here, Dr. Harper?” asked the Doctor.

“For the end of everything,” I told him. “The iso-dimensional rift is at the edge of the universe.”

“We don’t see why they had to be brought here,” Peri remarked. “And left to die. You killed them with your energy beam.”

“They killed themselves,” I stated. “The Daleks and the Sontarans fought each other over and over again whilst the Androgums got caught in the crossfire. What can you say for dim-witted chefs?”

“That Androgum we saw just now,” the Doctor began. “He was…”

“He died, yes,” I interrupted. “And was brought back to life again. Very soon, the Daleks and the Sontarans will be brought back to life again.”

“What?” Peri was clearly baffled. “You…resurrect them? Why?”

“This station contains a state of perpetual grace,” I explained. “We’re caught in a warp ellipse. Nothing dies here. Yet everything ends.”

Whilst Peri was confused, the Doctor continued to explain further. “You see Peri; there are miniaturised life-forms aboard this space station that can reanimate the body cells of any bodily tissue once a life-form dies out. In this case, the Sontarans; the Daleks and the Androgums. Once they’re brought back to life, they can’t ever leave this station and return to their universe. Or else they die.”

“Then we don’t want to get ourselves killed, do we?” Peri said.

“Precisely,” the Doctor agreed. “So we must keep alert and be aware of what’s going on here. Avoid getting caught in any crossfire.”

“Everything you see in this lab is under my control, Doctor,” I told him. “I see to it that every life form in the universe is absorbed and brought here to this station.”

“But why?” the Doctor enquired. “You haven’t explained that part. Why bring them here to this station?”

“Why for your sake, Doctor,” I told him. “They are your enemies. The Sontarans; the Daleks; the Cybermen and the Androgums. They’re all enemies of yours.”

“But why?!” the Doctor persisted. “Why do all of this for me?!”

“Zorbius,” I simply stated.

I saw now that the Doctor went rigid. He got it now. He was fuming as he looked directly into me. I could feel the anger swelling up inside of him as he tried to contain it.

“I see,” he eventually said. “Very clever. No wonder my TARDIS got distracted and diverted to this place. It seems to be an often case with Zorbius.”

Just then, my assistant Sara Hines entered. I’d be bold to say that she was about the same as Peri was. They seemed so similar, except Sara was moodier and had blonde hair compared to Peri who had dark hair and was friendlier.

I turned to greet Sara. “Ah! Sara, there you are!” I addressed the Doctor. “Doctor, allow me to introduce you to one of my colleagues. Sara Hines.”

“Delighted to make your acquaintance,” he greeted her. “I’m the Doctor.”

“Yes, so I gathered,” she replied before turning to me. “The old ladies are ready to serve us dinner, Dr. Harper. We should go to the dining table.”

“Of course,” I agreed. I then turned to the Doctor. “Doctor, would you care to join us for dinner? I would so much like to tell you more about my research.”

“How could I refuse such an offer?” the Doctor said before he turned to Peri. “Peri, my dear?” he enquired.

“Oh dinner would be fine,” Peri answered happily. “Provided there’s a vegetarian offer at hand.””

In the dining hall, the Doctor and Peri sat a table with Harper and Sara Hines, eating their meal. Dr. Harper was short man with a bald head and wore round-rimmed spectacles. Sara was a young fair-haired girl. Two old ladies were serving them. Their names were Miss Gibbs and Miss Lewis.

Miss Gibbs came round to Peri. “Would you like some more vegetable lasagne, my dear?”

“Oh no thanks, Miss Gibbs,” Peri replied. “I’m full up. That lasagne was swell.”

Miss Lewis came round to the Doctor. “More wine, Doctor?”

“Err, no thank you,” he replied before changing his mind, “well, perhaps a little jot more. Fine vintage.” He turned to Harper. “My compliments, Dr. Harper.”

“I’m glad you approve of the fine rudiments of the bouquet,” Harper said.

“You have old ladies working for you, Dr. Harper,” Peri observed. “Serving you breakfast and dinner all day.”

“Miss Gibbs and Miss Lewis aren’t old, Miss Brown,” Sara said.

“No?” Peri enquired. “Well, they’re certainly not young.”

“What my friend’s concerned about is…should you be allowing elderly ladies to be working for you in such conditions,” the Doctor said to Harper. “Especially on a space station at the end of everything.”

“Miss Gibbs and Miss Lewis came willingly,” Harper said. “I asked politely and they accepted.”

“And we’re most grateful to you, Dr. Harper,” said Miss Lewis. “Aren’t we, Janie?”

“Oh yes,” Miss Gibbs replied. “Most grateful indeed.”

At that moment, an Androgum entered the room. It was Verazine. Peri shuddered once she saw him.

“Doctor!” she exclaimed. “An Androgum!”

The Androgum approached Dr. Harper, bowing gentleman-like.

“I trust you and your guests are enjoying the meal, Dr. Harper?” he enquired.

“Yes, Verazine,” Harper replied. “A fine cuisine indeed. Isn’t that so, Sara?”

“Yes, fine,” Sara said sulkily.

“You have an Androgum working for you as a chef,” the Doctor observed.

“They are fine chefs, Doctor,” Harper pointed out. “The best in the cosmos. How could I not afford to have one in my employ?” He turned to Verazine. “Thank you, Verazine. We look forward to the dessert.”

“Ooh, that’ll be a surprise,” Verazine said. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll attend to it straight away.”

With that, Verzaine left. Once he’d gone, the Doctor brought his full objection to bear at Harper.

“Do you seriously expect me to believe you can trust your chef?” he asked. “The Androgums are untrustworthy and would bite your legs off!”

“I feel sick already after having eaten that lasagne,” Peri said. “It could’ve had the flesh of a human being in it.”

“That lasagne was vegetarian, Miss Brown,” Sara told her. “I’ve had some of it myself, you know.”

“I would like to see how he cooks his lasagnes,” Peri retorted. “We could very well be eating horses next.”

Harper tried to calm everyone down. “Let’s not argue over this. Let’s talk about other matters. For example…Doctor, you wish to know more about my research.”

“Yes, please tell on,” the Doctor insisted. “What is this research of yours?”

“I’ve been carrying out experiments with time,” Harper explained. “The energies of time from a great star crystal called…”

“Zorbius,” the Doctor finished for him. “Yes, I know very well about that crystal. I’m a part of it. The energies of that crystal surround the space station in this rift, don’t they?”

“They fuel the source of power that I need for my experiments,” Harper went on. “To send an energy beam in space and absorb any form of life it comes into contact with. I hope to achieve this in order to rid the universe of its evils! To rid the universe…of all the monsters!”

“How exactly did you come by the crystal, Harper?” the Doctor asked.

“From a very reliable source,” Harper explained. “My benefactor provided me with the crystal energies I needed. I took them and implemented them for my experiments aboard this station. I worked with a number of colleagues for nearly three years.”

“Three years of your life?” Peri said, surprised. “I’m amazed you’ve been able to keep track of things.”

The Doctor turned to Sara Hines. “You’ve worked with Dr. Harper on these experiments for three years I take it, Miss Hines. Sara! May I call you, Sara?”

Sara didn’t acknowledge the Doctor calling her by her first name. Instead she replied,  quite bitterly, “I’ve worked with Dr. Harper as well as Dan Limb on these experiments, yes. Dan can’t be here today. He seems to be have been misplaced somewhere else.”

“Did you say…Dan Limb?” Peri asked.

“Yes,” Sara replied. “Do you know him?”

“Yes…err, no,” Peri hesitated. “Maybe. I’m not sure. I would like to meet him.”

Sara became suspicious of Peri then. The Doctor meanwhile saw how sad Peri looked. It was as if this Dan Limb person meant something to Peri. Something very special.

“Peri, what’s the matter?” the Doctor asked, concerned. “Is everything alright?”

“I’m not sure,” Peri gradually replied. “I don’t know anymore.”

A moment of silence ensued. Eventually, Sara rose to her feet from the dining table.

“Why don’t I give you a tour around the space station, Peri?” she asked. “I feel the need to walk about.” She turned to Harper. “If you don’t mind, Dr. Harper. I’ll skip the dessert course if you don’t mind.”

“No of course not, Sara,” Harper replied. “I don’t mind. By all means, go ahead. Give Peri a guided tour of the station.” He turned to Peri. “You wouldn’t say ‘no’ to a guided tour, would you?”

“No….I mean, yes,” Peri corrected herself. “Of course, I would love a guided tour around your space station. There’s so much of it to see.”

“Splendid,” Harper said happily. “The Doctor and I have so much to talk about. Haven’t we, Doctor?”

“Hmm?” the Doctor was distracted for a moment. “Oh yes, yes! Absolutely. It seems we have.”

“Doctor, will you be alright?” Peri whispered to him.

The Doctor whispered back, “Don’t worry, Peri. I’ll be alright. Keep an eye out for what’s going on. There’s more to this place than it seems. And keep an eye out for Sara. I’ll do what I can with keeping an eye on Harper.”

“Alright,” Peri replied. “Be careful.”

“You be careful,” the Doctor insisted.

“Come on, Peri,” Sara insisted. “The tour guide awaits you!”

“Yeah. Just coming,” Peri answered before turning back to the Doctor. “See you soon, Doctor.”

“See you soon, Peri,” the Doctor replied. “Hopefully very soon.”

With that, Peri found herself escorted out of the dining hall by Sara as the guided tour began. Once they’d gone, the Doctor found himself alone with Harper. The Doctor eyed Harper curiously and suspiciously.

“So…what happens now?” the Doctor asked.

Gradually, Harper said, “We’ll soon be firing our energy beam at our next target across the cosmos – the Parntroltan home world. We’ll use the energy beam to absorb every Parntroltan in the entire universe!”

“Yes, I know about the Parntroltans,” the Doctor said. “Very nasty creatures, they are.”

“And it’s essential you must be a witness to this when we carry out our next absorption task,” Harper told him. “Because you Doctor…you are vital to our next phase! We require your assistance, Doctor!”

“We?” the Doctor enquired, puzzled.

“More accurately,” Harper elaborated, “I require your assistance. You know about the Zorbius crystal. I need you…to give the crystal energies to me!”

“Give the crystal energies to you?!” the Doctor said, shocked. “Are you insane?!”

“Far from it, Doctor,” Harper replied. “You see, I’m not only a humble scientist aboard a space station set within an iso-dimensional rift. I’m also…the frontier killer!”

Peri walked with Sara on the promenade as she was being given the guided tour. Peri was fascinated by everything she saw.

“You’ve got a cinema here,” she observed. “And a swimming pool! And a mall! You’ve got everything here on this promenade! Fantastic! A shame you have to bear the thought of dead bodies here.”

It was then that Sara turned on Peri aggressively, pushing her up against a wall.

“Hey,” Peri protested, “just because I said there were dead bodies about, doesn’t mean that you have to…”

But Sara wasn’t listening to Peri. She became hostile and demanded, “What do you know about Dan Limb?”

“Hey wait a minute…” Peri continued to protest.

“You said you knew him,” Sara said aggressively. “What are you to Dan anyway?”

“I didn’t say I knew him,” Peri argued. “I said ‘maybe’ I know him…”

“That man happens to be my fiancée,” Sara told her. “So don’t you go playing games with me, you piece of trash! Now tell me! Where did you last see Dan?”

“I…in a dream,” Peri replied.

“Really,” Sara acted unconvinced. “And what exactly was he doing in your dream?”

Peri said nothing. She felt embarrassed to tell Sara anything. But Sara got the message.

“I should’ve guessed,” she said. “I knew he would go for some floozy like you! You had to take him away from me, didn’t you?”

“I didn’t take anybody away,” Peri argued. “You’re jumping to the wrong conclusions! I haven’t even met the guy!”

“But you’d like to meet him, wouldn’t you?” hissed Sara bitterly. “I know all those naughty thoughts women have for my Dan.”

“I’m not a…floozy whatever you called me,” Peri protested.

“You’d like to put that in writing?” challenged Sara.

“Sara, stop it!” a voice interrupted. “You’re accusing Peri for no reason.”

The two women turned to see a dashing and handsome young man before them. Peri couldn’t believe it. He was exactly as he looked from her dream on the beach.

“It’s you!” she exclaimed. “You’re that guy I saw in my dreams! And in the TARDIS shower! You’re Dan!”

“Yes I am,” Dan answered, smiling. “Hello Peri. Nice to meet you in the flesh.”

“But…I don’t understand,” Peri said. “What were you doing in my shower?”

“So, you’ve finally turned up, have you?” Sara challenged him. “Harper and I were wondering where you’d got to. You’ve been missing for days.”

“Sweetheart, I know how upset you are,” Dan said condescendingly, “but I assure you there is a good reason…”

“The way you’ve been flirting with this woman, I find that hardly likely,” Sara said.

“At least Peri’s sweeter and understanding than you’ll ever be,” Dan retorted.

“What’s the point in being sweet when your own man’s cheating on you?” Sara shouted.

“Look, I don’t want to be intrusive or prying,” Peri interrupted, “but I don’t wish you two to fall out with each other. I just want to know what’s going on here.”

At that moment, Peri got a scare. Bonecracker came up from behind her, focusing his gaze upon her. Peri screamed as she backed away from him whilst Bonecracker looked hungrily at her.

“There you are!” Bonecracker declared. “I must have you on my kitchen table! I must have the flesh ripped off from your body, you juicy thing!”

“Bonecracker, what are you doing here?” Sara said agitated. “Get back to your kitchen and leave us alone!”

“You stay out of this, Hines,” Bonecracker said bitterly. “The girl is mine! And I will eat her!”

“Leave her alone, you animal!” Dan shouted as he confronted Bonecracker, defending Peri behind him.

Bonecracker suddenly lashed out onto Dan, smacking him on the back with one hand. Peri gasped. Dan was knocked out unconscious as he collapsed to the floor.

“Hey!” Sara protested. “No one does that to my fiancée! Just who do you think you are…?”

But as Sara advanced upon Bonecracker, he struck his hand on her back too. She was knocked out unconscious too, collapsing to the floor beside Dan. Bonecracker meanwhile turned his gaze upon Peri, licking his lips and lusting for her.

“Pretty, pretty,” he dribbled. “Here my pretty one! Here!”

Peri screamed as she made a run for it, away from Bonecracker. But Bonecracker was too fast for her as he chased Peri down the promenade before instantly grabbing her.

“Stay girl!” he cried. “You cannot escape the talons of Bonecracker of the Hurzdan Grig! Your blood is irresistibly delicious!”

Peri tried to shake off Bonecracker, struggling to break free. But it was no use. He was too strong for her. She couldn’t help have this sickening feeling inside her.

“Why is it that Androgums always go for me?” she complained.

Peri looked to Bonecracker as he held her, seeing the fangs sticking out from his teeth in his open mouth. She screamed as she kept on struggling to break free from him.

“You’re mine now, fleshy thing,” he told her. “Ripe for the knife, I say!”

As Bonecracker held Peri, rainclouds appeared above their heads. Soon, the deepening rain fell upon the hungry Androgum and Peri…

© Tim Bradley, 2020

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