THE STARK walls of the console room seemed to radiate a soft white light, creating a feeling of warmth in otherwise sterile surroundings. A hexagonal console stood in the centre of the room, stretching up to a bright ceiling almost entirely covered by a canopy of intertwining leafy branches. The light filtering through the greenery threw patterns of shadows across the white walls. From the distance, the faint wooden sound of wind chimes wound its way into the tranquil room. In a far corner, a man sat in meditation.
With a sound like ice cracking on the surface of a deep, frozen lake, a metallic whirring broke through the calm. The noise grew closer. The man opened one eye, breathed deeply, and closed it.
The clamour did not cease, and soon a series of beeps accompanied the whirring. There was a loud thunk as something rolled across the threshold into room. This time, the man opened both eyes. His metal canine companion trundled toward him.
“YOU CAN’T be serious.”
Ori stared at the Rani, who stared back with blazing, arrogant eyes. Though the ginger hair that framed her narrow face was a tangle and her lips bore a gamesome smile, there could be no doubt that the renegade Time Lady was, indeed, serious. Her fingers played coyly at the edge of the central console. The genie had been released from her bottle, and it wasn’t going to be easy to put her back in.
“Doctor!” Ori protested, a pained expression coming upon her ornately patterned face. “This is the mad woman whose poisoned Earth’s history. Yes? She poisoned history! The Romano-Egyptian Dominion? She enslaved an entire population just to get her hands on a console like that—” She reached over the brass rail and jabbed a finger at the six-sided structure at the centre of the control room. Its screens and dials were pulsing softly with muted colours, unresponsive to the power struggle that was unfolding around it. “Are you going to stand there and tell me that you’re seriously thinking of giving her the keys to your time machine?”
IT SEEMED as if they had been walking for ages. From the console room they had climbed one of the two broad staircases that corkscrewed up, toward infinite heights. An open door on the first landing had taken them through a frankly magnificent library, which had taken them into a hopelessly cluttered workshop, which had taken them down a damp and humid corridor that tracked round a swimming pool. One dimly lit, twisting corridor had led to another, and another, and another. The Master never once paused, never hesitated, never wavered. He knew where he was going. Trailing her fingertips along the never-ending brass rail, Ori followed in his footsteps, marvelled at the miracle of the TARDIS, and wished that she’d been given the chance to change her shoes.
Under his arm, the Master was carrying a device that he’d retrieved from an old seaman’s chest in the console room. It was thick and round, like the lid of a barrel. It was made of a semi-translucent material and in the face of it she could see the glittering traces of an ornate internal circuitry. Most interestingly, Ori judged that it was just large enough to fit into one of the seemingly infinite roundels that adorned the walls and doors throughout the interior of the TARDIS.
THE DALEK fired.
Ori heard the shot rather than saw it. Her eyes were locked on the open doors of the Doctor’s escape pod, their one hope of survival. As the seething energy shot through the venting atmosphere of the cargo bay, the vintner threw herself through the battered blue doors—and landed face first with a blow that abruptly knocked the wind from her.
For a moment, as Ori gasped for breath, she could hear only the deafening rush of the venting atmosphere. Then she heard the clack of the doors being shut behind her and all was quiet. In that instant, she somehow knew—she felt, deep in her being—that she was safe. The air was different here. The cargo bay of the Dionysus had been cold and stale. The atmosphere in the escape pod was warm and comforting, like a familiar old pub. For a moment, she even thought she’d caught a whiff of tobacco smoke, though she dismissed this as ridiculous.
THE FAMILIAR wheezing and groaning sound of the TARDIS had inspired many a rush of emotions for John Riddell in his travels with the Doctor: the thrill of danger, the hope of rescue, the promise of a new adventure, and much more besides. This time, though, he felt a novel and incongruous combination of relief and regret.
The door creaked opened and the Doctor greeted his friend with a broad smile and a doff of his Panama, before standing to one side and gesturing for him to enter. Riddell eschewed the welcome, trudging inside in silence, eager to leave behind the Helios starliner and all of which it still reminded him.
“What’s wrong, John? Did someone spike your drink?” the Doctor quipped, punctuating the question with a characteristic short, explosive laugh that irritated Riddell in moments such as this.
“WHAT IS it, old man?”
The Doctor had been unusually introspective and subdued ever since they had left Kyrstal on Oomahn. It was a marked shift from his usual mood that Riddell couldn’t help but notice. The Time Lord stood at the TARDIS’ bulbous console, mulling the controls—and, specifically, the glaring red button of the randomiser.
After a pregnant pause, the Doctor finally spoke. “You know, I might have been able to get Kyrstal back home. Back to her own place and time. I might yet be able to do the same for you.” He chuckled. “I might even be able to do the same for me.”
“SO, IN summary, yes—she’s bigger on the inside and travels anywhere in time and space,” beamed the Doctor to his latest impromptu travelling companion, unable to conceal a sense of pride in his brand new and ancient TARDIS control room and excitement at having someone new to whom to show it off.
His voice echoed through the cavernous space, its stone-like form resembling the interior of some otherworldly cathedral, with a high, curved ceiling segmented by six translucent panels patterned with Gallifreyan symbols. Through them fell soft blue light in varying, shifting shades that created a mosaic on the control room floor. Suspended from the centre of the ceiling was the time rotor within a marbled blue cylinder and, beneath that, the console, the smooth curves of its bulbous form suggesting a reflection of the ceiling’s hexagonal design.