Teaser: “Planet of Ghosts”
THE DOOR closed with a terrible crash as the Doctor stepped into the flooded control room. If the window on the police box’s panelled door had not already been cracked, the force of it would have surely split the glass. As he trudged through the murky brine from the Sea of Lodos that had poured into the impossibly cavernous space of the TARDIS’s interior, the Doctor glanced first to his sodden boots in disappointment, then offered the three figures standing around the console a stare that unleashed all of the ice-cold ire that had long been burning behind his sharp blue eyes. Selene was too frightened to move a muscle.
The Doctor’s quilted cape flashed before his lean, sullen face in a whirl of emerald green and his hand was then before him, a solitary finger stabbing through the air like the tip of an outstretched dagger. He was pointing at the Master. “You’re a part of the TARDIS now, whether I like it or not. The Time Lords have seen to that. Your betrayal was inevitable. There’s nothing I can do with you.”
The seawater stirred as he turned on his heels and the accusatory finger was turned on Selene. “But you!” The ripples in the black brine might well have been visible waves of his rage, radiating away from his shadowy form in an effect that almost made it seem as if he were vibrating with indignation. “You’re done. We’re returning to Earth. Now.”
Selene opened her mouth to speak, to explain herself, but the anger in the Doctor’s sunken eyes silenced her. Only a fleeting, high-pitched squeak escaped her lips. As he trudged toward the console, Selene turned to look on the striking, stoic android standing by her side.
They had so nearly succeeded. The TARDIS had been theirs for the taking. Given another moment’s head start, the Master and Selene would have been able to escape the temporal orbit of Vortis, leaving this pretentious, this maddeningly self-centred, this inconstant trickster of a man behind them. Timing, of course, was everything, and challenging a genuine Time Lord left one at a distinct disadvantage in any sort of race. Fate had bound Selene to the Master. Now, it seemed, their fates were sealed.
“Don’t look at him!” the Doctor snapped. “He can’t help you now.”
The Master looked on Selene rather robotically, without any hint of solidarity in the servos of his face or his gleaming glass eyes, before turning to address the Doctor. “Honestly,” he said flatly, adopting a passable imitation of innocence and astonishment, “I don’t understand where these accusations are coming from.”
The Doctor let out a short, humourless laugh. His attention now on the controls, he began to flip switches and punch buttons. When the TARDIS hesitated, he slammed the console powerfully with a fist, his teeth clenched, eyes bulging. Selene couldn’t help but flinch. As the dials began to hum and the time rotor came alive with a screech, Selene could see that the Doctor was ready to deliver on his threat. The coordinates were set for Earth—Atlantica in the late sixty-fourth century. He was sending her home.
Even during the most dazzling of the adventures she had found herself sharing with the Doctor, she had always felt a yearning to return home. The technological world of the sixty-fourth century was a world that she could not live without, and she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her father there alone. In spite of the myriad potential futures that had been arrayed before her, however, she had never imagined that she would be returning home like this.
Holding her skirt up above the water around her legs, the rich red and gold embroidery now wet and mud-stained, Mohana moved to the Doctor’s side, standing at his elbow as he worked. When she spoke it was in comforting tones and, given their strained relationship, Selene was stunned to hear the words. “Is it fair to blame Selene? Yes, she has betrayed you, but none of us emerged from those caves knowing our own mind. The Divinity have done this. These gandharvas have touched all of us. When I spoke with them I felt so many things, and I’m still not certain what is real and what is the dream. Be true to yourself, especially in your anger. Are you prepared to judge Selene for what they have done to her?”
The Doctor’s busy hands fell still. Slowly he turned to face the beautiful, brown-skinned woman by his side. In the dim light strangely reflected by the Voritisian seawater, his alien aspect—with its jet-black hair, pointed sideburns, and countenance as cold and colourless as polished marble—looked more foreboding than ever. “The Divinity are the most dangerous psychic manipulators that I have ever encountered,” he said, “but even they cannot reap their reward unless the seeds of dissent have already been planted. The Divinity did not cast make-believe into her mind—or into yours. They made the most of motivations that were already there, deep down, waiting, below the surface. We have travelled with Selene, but we never knew her until today.”
He stared unblinking, his proclamation final. Bowing her head, Mohana withdrew. She would not meet Selene’s tear-filled eyes. As the icy water seemed to tighten its grip on her ankles, Selene stood in silence and listened to the once comforting groans of the TARDIS in flight.