AS THE dusky twilight loomed over the rural landscape, the Doctor tied Marilyn’s reins carefully to the white picket fence, taking a few moments to calm the skittish mare. He took off his Panama and placed it crookedly on her head. Somehow, this seemed to mollify the horse; she nodded gently as if to register her appreciation. The Doctor smiled sweetly at her, but then his face turned grave as he turned to look upon the ramshackle, abandoned colonial house before them. All the while, Riddell was rifling through his knapsack a few steps away.
“So, then, here we are,” proclaimed the Doctor with a dramatic flourish. “‘The Shunned House.’”
Riddell drew alongside the Doctor, his face grim, and regarded the building before them with deep unease. “Here we are, indeed. Let’s get on with this.” In one hand he now held a silver crucifix, in the other a roughly fashioned wooden stake.
AS SHE felt rivets and bolts and sharp metal edges pass down the length of her body in the suffocating darkness, Selene couldn’t remember when she had ever been more uncomfortable. As an engineer, she was accustomed to wriggling into tight industrial spaces from time to time, when the job demanded it. Negotiating the twisting, mazelike interior of the subterranean base’s ventilation shafts, however, was another chore entirely. She couldn’t see, she couldn’t breathe, and their efforts to keep moving were growing clumsier with each slip of the arm and elbow to the face.
It wasn’t as if the Doctor was enjoying himself either. His lack of enthusiasm for their irksome errand was abundantly clear. As he pushed himself around a bend in the ductwork, he muttered angrily to himself, something about “human beings,” their “preposterous pretensions,” and the “gossamer fragility of time!” Clearly, he was no more impressed with Dr. Klemperer’s hairbrained plans than those in the Galactic Federation were. The sooner they put an end to the mad scientist’s shenanigans, the better.
“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?”
BENEATH THE sign for Baker Street, the street vendor was busy ladling out her modest fare from a battered tin pot perched over a crackling fire. A bevy of weary men, women, and children crowded around her, haggling. Some were handing over coins for portions food, others simply wanted to edge their way nearer the fire. In spite of the lively crowd, Ori never once lost sight of the Doctor.
More than a head taller than everyone else and crisply defined against the flickering light from the fire, the alien traveller had never looked more at home. He was buttoned up in his usual ensemble: heavy greatcoat, quilted cape, and a jaunty ribbon tie. On this occasion he had also donned a most formidable top hat. His face was as ashen as the snow falling all around him and his grey-streaked mane was as dark as the cloud-streaked night sky above. Shivering and pulling her cloak tight, Ori watched him joke and laugh with the people. She was miserably cold, but she couldn’t help but smile at the scene.
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.
ORI BREATHED in deeply. On the gentle breeze, she recognized the delicate fragrance of three distinct varieties of grapes. She let out a small sigh, knowing that in this part of the vineyard, she should be able to detect the kasis fruit as well. She closed her eyes and inhaled again, shutting out the bright afternoon. And then it was there—on the edge of her senses—slightly sour and wholly delicious.
Relief washing over her, she opened her eyes again and smiled. Sometimes she worried that this artificial environment would start dulling her senses, but the sunshine and the wind that felt so real to the tourists aboard the Dionysus could never trick her acute perception. Reaching out to the closest vine, she bent down and rubbed the leaves between her fingers and inspected the fruit closely. She glanced down the row of vines to her left and to her right, then buried her face in the bunch of grapes and inhaled.