The icy desert. Cold and desolate. Silent. Nothing stirred bar the icy winds that tore across its surface rendering the landmass virtually uninhabitable. Only those with exploration and adventure ever travelled this far south.
Unexpectedly something odd happened. A blue police box materialised in the snow accompanied by a fanfare of strange wheezing, grating noises. No one heard or saw its arrival. The only witness was the snow itself embracing this latest visitor to its barren home.
“Here we are,” announced the Doctor flinging his arms out wide, “Antarctica.”
“When I said I wanted an ice-cream I didn’t expect to come to the South Pole for one,” replied Rose, folding her arms.
“Come on,” he said, disappearing for a moment through one of the doors into the depths of the TARDIS interior and coming back laden with coats, gloves, scarf’s and hats. “We’re here now so we might as well go and have a look round.”
“What’s there to see?”
“Snow…we cold have a snowball fight, build some snowmen,” suggested the Doctor with a grin, dumping the clothes on the floor and going over to the console where he flicked a few switches. Looking at the screen he quipped, “It’s colder than a winter on Ribos out there.”
“Exactly. I-,” a warm, padded coat landed over Rose’s head muffling the rest of her reply.
“Put that on. There’s some boots underneath that pile and a hat, they’ll keep you warm,” said the Doctor.
She picked a warm looking coat, a woolly hat some gloves and a pair of walking boots, then disappeared into the TARDIS wardrobe in search of some more warm clothes. When she reappeared she was dressed for an expedition, she even had an old rucksack she’d found stuffed in the corner of her new room slung over one shoulder full of provisions. She thought ahead about these things even if the Doctor didn’t. He had, thrown on a heavy woollen overcoat on top of his usual battered leather jacket and a wrapped short scarf round his neck. He put a blue bobble hat on his head, and pulled it down so that it covered his ears.
Rose giggled, “You look ridiculous.”
“Fantastic,” replied the Doctor with a grin.
Rose shrugged her shoulders, “Ok then. You first.”
He stepped through the doors into the cold.
“We’ll stop when we get over that ridge…promise,” said the Doctor, strolling off ahead.
Rose tried to keep up with his long strides but couldn’t quite match his pace over the deep snow. She also had the added encumbrance of a heavy backpack.
“I think we should go back. What if there’s a snowstorm?” she asked looking warily at the darkening sky.
“Oh, well be alright for a while yet, plenty of time left,” he replied glancing at his watch, “the storm shouldn’t come for at least and hour.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“I checked the weather forecast before we left.”
“But the weather men could have got it wrong, like that guy who said there wasn’t going to be a hurricane-,”
“Look!” exclaimed the Doctor, interrupting her sentence. He pointed at a small circle of light in the distance back down it the valley where they had left the TARDIS.
“What is it?”
The object whatever it was seemed to begetting closer and larger.
“A burning sphere of fire by the looks of things and its heading straight for us.”
The fireball swept across the icy surface, hovering just above the ground melting everything it touched.
“It’s going to burn the TARDIS!” she exclaimed.
“The ship can take it-,” he paused as the fireball melted the snow and ice the TARDIS had been sitting on. The ship sunk into the now liquid surface, disappearing from sight.
“No!” he cried.
Rose placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. He patted her hand gently and then stood there in silence for a moment, before he eventually realised how close the fiery menace was from their position.
“Doctor, do you think we aught to get out of its way?” asked Rose, agitation in her voice.
“Yes,” he replied starting down the other side of the ridge.
“Where are you going?”
“Well we can’t go back that way.”
In a valley near to where the Doctor and his companion Rose had landed. Inside a cave, on a wall appeared a circle. At first it was just an outline but with a crashing sound a swirling gyre evanescenced into existence. Through that maelstrom of colours stepped two figures. One was a young man shorter in stature than the average human. He wore a long woollen coat and a grey fedora over his long brown locks. A pair of tinted circular glasses sat perched on the end of his nose. Next to him his companion and warder stood statuesquely. She looked like a human except for the fact she rarely blinked and her movements could sometimes be a little jerky. The vortex disappeared and Meridian removed the small circular device from the wall of the cave, his fingers pressing a combination of the gems set into the gold disk before re-attaching it to the chain round his neck.
“What exactly is it I’m supposed to do here?” asked Meridian, sceptically.
“Stop what you started,” replied Eternity, her voice haughty. “Your weapon has been discovered here.”
“Here? Earth? But I’m sure I destroyed all the blueprints. I’m the only one who knows how to make the Icarus-spheres work. How did my invention get from Rhidian to Earth?”
“That is for you to find out,” replied Eternity.
“I suppose your going to be awkward again. Could you at least use your sensors to tell me if there are any life forms about nearby?” asked Meridian, stomping around and rubbing his arms trying to warm himself up. The temperatures he was used to was regulated, the air recycled and the light electrical. And he still felt a little uneasy with this light gravity. This was not his idea of fun.
The Doctor and Rose started their descent down the ice ridge. At first they took it with a steady pace, but then they saw the fire-sphere behind them. It seemed to gain speed as it travelled along, incinerating and melting anything it touched. They broke into a run. Rose found it difficult to keep up her feet kept sinking into the soft snow slowing her down. The Doctor grabbed hold of her hand and dragged her along. She stumbled on wishing her feet to move faster. They were nearing the bottom of the ridge as semi melted snow came tumbling down around them.
“This way,” yelled the Doctor, urgently.
They tried zigzagging their path, but it appeared to be impossible to shake the blazing menace that stalked them. Rose felt as though if they ran any faster her lungs would explode, only the thought of being barbequed or drowned by whatever was chasing them kept her going. Suddenly the Doctor veered off to the right and for a moment they were shielded from the flaming sphere by a small rise of snow. That’s when she spotted it. Unless you were looking carefully you wouldn’t have noticed the dark slit in a high ridge of snow.
“In here!” she cried, diving through the gap, the Doctor following close behind.
She leant her back against the cave wall, trying to catch her breath.
“That was handy,” commented the Doctor, who seemed to be no more exhausted than if he’d gone for a short jog round the block.
“What was that?”
“Something that shouldn’t exist.”
“Well it does and it chased us halfway across Antarctica.”
“Icarus-Spheres are banned. Whoever is making them is in big trouble,” explained the Doctor.
“You just said ‘them’ as in there’s more of those…. things out there?”
“Most definitely!” called out a voice.
The Doctor and Rose turned towards the back of the cave. Two people emerged from the gloomy depths. One was a young man who walked with an air of confidence, the other a woman with a blank expression.
“Who are you?” asked Rose, a puzzled expression on her face.
“Viscount Meridian. I thought you were serving your sentence still,” said the Doctor.
“I am,” replied Meridian with a sigh, “This is…community service.”
Rose noticed that if she concentrated closely she found the strangers voice had a melodic quality to it.
“Your little invention just tried to kill us. I recall you told the judge you destroyed all the plans and existing models of the Icarus-spheres?”
“I did,” he answered scratching the back of his neck nervously.
“You must have missed one ’cause that thing out there just tried to kill us,” exclaimed Rose.
“They’re not programmed to kill,” protested Meridian.
“That one did.”
“One? Did you say one?”
“Yeah,” she replied.
“They have a kind of collective consciousness. Programmed to work as a group to complete the terra-forming process. They can’t work as individuals,” exclaimed Meridian.
“We’re not safe yet,” finished the Doctor, gravely.
“I’m starting to hate collective consciousnesses,” mumbled Rose under her breath.
“It will run out of fuel eventually,” said Eternity, making them all start, till now she had remained silent.
“I’d forgotten about that…. limited fuel supply. It, they will have to return to base to refuel at some point,” continued Meridian.
“So we just follow it, them back to base and stop whoever or whatever is doing this?” said Rose.
“Its not that simple,” replied the Doctor, glancing at his watch then looking out of the gap that they had entered the cave from. “The snow storm.”
“This place is a maze of ice caves. There are plenty of places to shelter,” said Meridian, leading.
“Plenty of places to hide as well. If that is you wanted to hide in the Antarctic which the owners of the Icarus-spheres seem to want to do,” replied the Doctor, following the group as they trudged down the frozen corridors.
For a while they walked in silence. Then Rose decided to ‘break the ice’ a little with a few questions.
“So Meridian, are you an alien? Where do you come from?”
She saw the Doctor roll his eyes as if to say ‘here we go again’.
“I come from Garadi Complex, South of the planet Rhidian,” replied Meridian, cheerfully, happy to distract himself from the situation with friendly banter.
“Well you know on earth you have the North Star?”
“Well if you turn left at the north star then carry straight on for several billion light-years you will come to the system Rhidian is in…. oh, and you will also have to travel two thousand years into the future.”
“Oh,” replied Rose. Glancing at the Doctor. “I thought we were the only ones with a time machine?”
“With the monopoly on time lifted a lot more species are venturing into that line of travel,” said Meridian cryptically.
Suddenly he stood stock-still.
“What do you mean-,” started Rose, but she stopped when she saw what it was they had come to. “Woah! Cool.”
They were stood on an icy gallery, which ran the circumference of the cavernous room. Below milling about were lots of strange creatures, maintaining computers and adjusting lab equipment. In the centre of this scene was what looked like a human man. He appeared to be in charge.
“Cerdirane,” exclaimed Meridian, as a look of wrath flashed across his face.
“A friend of yours?” asked the Doctor, his voice a whisper.
“Not anymore,” he replied clenching his fists in anger.
“I suggest we retreat for a moment before someone looks up and sees us.”
The Doctor led them back into the corridor that led off of the gallery. They were only just a short way back down the corridor before they heard a whooshing noise like the pressure changing. Then four silvery-white spheres about the size of footballs came flying down the corridor, hovering a meter off the ground. The objects travelled past the group without seeming to notice they were there.
“What are those?” asked Rose.
“Dormant Icarus-spheres,” replied the Doctor.
“I can’t believe it,” said Meridian, suddenly. “My best friend sold me out…taking my invention and turning it into a weapon. He let me take the blame.”
“Shush…keep your voice down,” admonished the Doctor, “They’ll hear us.”
“I don’t care,” replied Meridian storming off back towards the gallery, Eternity following him at a respectful distance.
“What will they do if they catch him?” exclaimed Rose.
“I don’t know, but this may be a good time to find another way into that room,” replied the Doctor.
“But you can’t just leave him to, to-, he might be killed?”
“That’s a risk he’s clearly prepared to take. I am more interested in why a Rhidian scientist is using those Spheres on Earth.”
“Cerdirane! Cerdirane! You traitor!” Yelled Meridian as he ran down the staircase to the room below.
All the workers stopped and stared at him, wondering who this intruder was.
Cerdirane looked up at Meridian, a sneer on his face.
“Guards. Stop that man!”
Two of the reptilian looking creatures covered in cruel looking armour stepped forward, aiming their guns at Meridian. Suddenly coming to his senses Meridian stopped and slowly raised his hands.
“Don’t shoot… Please?”
In all the commotion the Doctor had taken the opportunity to sneak into the lab area. Rose kept watch by the entrance as the Doctor darted across the room to where a manila folder marked ‘top secret’ lay on one of the benches. Crouched down low he cautiously reached up. His fingertips just brushed the surface when one of the lab workers walked over to the bench. The Doctor quickly withdrew his hand and crawled into the small space under the bench. Just in time the woman picked up the folder and walked back over to where everyone else was stood.
‘Fantastic’ the Doctor said sarcastically, under his breath. He glanced quickly back over to the exit where Rose was waiting. Should he stay and risk being caught or should he take his chance to get back? His decision was made for him when he heard what was being said…
Meridian looked behind him. Eternity had disappeared. She was always doing that, but just because he couldn’t see her didn’t mean she wasn’t nearby.
“What are you looking at Meridian? Don’t tell me you’re on the run,” said Cirdiane, he laughed, loudly.
“Don’t mock me.”
“I can do what I like. I’m in charge here not you.”
“So you were the one who sold my terra-forming technology to those mercenaries.”
“Of course. Only a blind fool like you couldn’t see the potential in your inventions. The money I earned from that little deal was more than I could earn in a lifetime on my salary.”
“But why? Why did you do it? Was it the money?” asked Meridian, trying to understand what had motivated his friend to become a turncoat.
“Not just the money. It was the thought of getting one up on the son of ‘The Great Count Radi’,” replied Cerdirane his voice full of sarcasm. “You! You took the position that should have been mine. I worked hard for my promotion and you just click your fingers and it’s yours. Pah!”
“Jealousy? Is that why you let all those people die, and let me take the blame?” asked Meridian in disbelief.
Cerdirane did not reply.
“What are you doing here then? This isn’t to settle a score with me,” said Meridian coolly.
It seemed to remind Cerdirane that there was work to be done. He turned to the assembled lab workers.
“Get back to work!” he bellowed, “We have a schedule to keep!”
There were several muttered replies as everyone returned to their posts.
“This,” Cerdirane gestured at the surroundings, “This is a pet project of mine. I was charged by a certain species, who will remain nameless, to make earth habitable for them to colonise.”
“Who? This class of planet would be quite all right to colonise for most species anyway, if there wasn’t already an indigenous population.”
“Humans are so careless with the resources of this planet though. That is why they must be brushed aside to make way for new tenants.”
“But you can’t. This is a protected planet,” protested Meridian, wringing his hands in agitation.
“Yes, I can, and get away with it. It will look like a natural disaster… a human induced natural disaster.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You never did,” replied Cerdirane. “I am going to use the Icarus-spheres to melt the polar ice caps.”
The Doctor heard every chilling word from his cramped hiding place. He had to stop this maniac, but at the moment there was no chance of him getting out of his hiding place without being spotted.
Rose peered round the corner. With the lab technicians back at work the Doctor was pinned down under the bench. She had to give him a chance to make a move. Making her way back up the corridor she found herself at the gallery entrance. She took off the backpack and searched inside hoping to find something she could use. At the bottom of the bag she found two canisters. Rose wondered what they were. She thought they looked a little like cans of deodorant or ‘futuristic’ thermos flasks. She shrugged her shoulders. No one would miss them. Rose took one of the flasks and threw it down into the room. It fell through the air with a whistle.
The Doctor saw the canister just before it impacted on the floor. The sound of the explosion that sent dangerously sharp looking shards of ice flying echoed around the cavernous room leaving everyone’s ears ringing. He seized the moment and pelted out of the room before anyone had time to recover their senses.
Rose grabbed onto the slippery wall in surprise. She hadn’t expected the explosion. From her high perch she could see all that was happening. The Doctor hurtling across the room. Meridian taking one of the silvery footballs from its stand and using the distraction to escape.
As soon as Cerdirane realised what had happened he began barking orders.
The Doctor and Meridian almost ran into each other on their way out, skidding to a halt just in time to avoid a collision.
“This way!” they both said in unison, pointing in opposite directions.
“We’ve got to find somewhere to hide,” said Meridian.
“No we’ve got to get to Rose first,” said the Doctor, “Then stop Cerdirane from melting the icecaps.”
For a moment Meridian hesitated, torn between his own safety and saving the life of not just one person but billions.
“All right. We’ll do it your way,” he replied, following the Doctor.
Rose backed away from the entrance further into the corridor as the guards approached. Unfortunately she slipped over and landed with a thump on the compacted snow floor. Before she had time to get up on her feet the guards came round the corner, guns ready. One of them prepared to fire. Rose froze in panic, glancing down each branch of the corridor.
Where to run?
Suddenly, out of nowhere Eternity appeared. She held out her hand in front of the gun. The laser beam just bounced off, melting a small hole in the wall. One of the guards stepped forward to attack the android, which grabbed him by the lapels and threw him against the wall with little effort, knocking the gnarled reptilian unconscious. His colleague on seeing what had happened to his fellow guard turned and ran away back down the corridor.
“Thank you,” said Rose, relieved at the androids timely appearance.
“You do not need to thank me. I am programmed to ensure justice. My actions were just,” replied Eternity.
“Yeah, right…erm where are the others?”
“This way,” stated Eternity, taking the left-hand corridor.
“You can call me a genius,” said Meridian holding up the dormant Icarus -sphere, “Without all the spheres he can’t operate them.”
“What if he just makes another sphere?” replied the Doctor.
“Can’t. Cerdirane will have to get hold of the special metal which these are made of,” Meridian smiled, “Unfortunately I used the last of the metal up to make this,” he held up the circular medallion, set with stones that hung round his neck.
“There wasn’t much left was there.”
“Don’t be deceived by appearances, Doctor.” Meridian turned the sphere over in his hands, “If only I had some tools I could make sure no one could use them again.”
“Would a sonic screwdriver do?” asked the Doctor, grinning as he held up the device.
“Um, yes. Perfect. Nice upgrade,” replied Meridian taking the tool. “What was it that caused the explosion?”
“I think Rose picked up some leftovers from a former companion.”
“Do your travelling companions always carry explosives?”
“Not u-, Oy,” cried the Doctor snatching the screwdriver back, “Watch what you’re doing with that thing!”
“You can’t use that frequency. You’ll fry the circuits,” explained the Doctor. He grabbed the Icarus-sphere off Meridian. “Let me try.”
There was a high-pitched hum.
“Brilliant,” said the Doctor, beaming, thoroughly pleased with himself. He threw the sphere at Meridian, who just about caught it. “There you go.”
The Doctor dusted off his hands. “Now, let’s go and find Rose.”
Meridian stood there looking at the sphere.
“You do know what will happen? Don’t you,” he said sadly.
“Yes. Now let’s go.”
“They will all drown… after all those people died on Tre’buzon I vowed I wouldn’t let anything like that happen again. I can’t-,” said Meridian handing the Icarus-Sphere back to the Doctor.
“Sometimes you have no choice,” replied the Timelord solemnly.
“Well, at least I can choose not to ‘pull the trigger’.” He lowered his head. “I’ll go and find Rose. You…you can go and do what has to be done.”
Meridian walked off down the corridor. He threw a brief glance behind him, but the Doctor was already gone. He still shouted out after the Timelord, “at least warn them first!”
“Doctor?” asked Rose tentatively.
Meridian came round the corner.
“Oh, it’s you,” she said when he appeared. “Where’s the Doctor?”
“He’s dealing with the situation… I suggest we get out of these cave systems, quickly.”
“They are shortly going to be a dangerous place to be,” explained Meridian. He took hold of Rose’s arm, “Come on.”
Rose pulled away. “What do you mean? Tell me where the Doctor is!”
“He’s. He’s…There!” Meridian pointed at the rapidly approaching figure of the Doctor.
“Run!” yelled the Doctor. “Stop lollygagging and run!”
They could all hear an ominous, rumbling, rushing sound coming from the direction of the main room. It took only a moments hesitation for the source of the noise to make its appearance. A huge wall of water and ice surging down the corridor. They all instantly took to flight in the hope of out running it.
Rose could see the opening just a short way away, it seemed smaller somehow, but there was no time to worry about that now. The tide of icy water was hot on their heels. They reached the cave entrance but half of it had been blocked up. The driving snow must have filled in the gap.
“Doctor! Do something,” complained Rose, “I don’t want to die in a wave of icy slush.”
“Quiet. I’m trying to think,” he replied pulling various objects from his capacious pockets. “There’s got to be something here.”
“I know,” yelped Meridian, suddenly.
He took the medallion from around his neck, placed it against on of the cave walls then pressed the twelve stones in a confusing combination. He let go. The object stayed in place. There was a loud crackling noise followed by a sound like waves against a seashore, and a large vortex appeared.
“Follow me,” he cried, diving into the swirling pool of colour.
Eternity went next.
“Is it safe?” asked Rose.
The Doctor shrugged his shoulders. “There’s only one way to find out.” He took her hand and they both dived into the vortex.
The aperture closed behind them.
Rose felt herself flying through the air? Well she didn’t know what it was, but she was reassured by the presence of the Doctor. She suddenly felt a sensation like when you get to the top of the roller coaster and know you’re about to fall. She closed her eyes. When she opened them again she seemed to be standing in a circular chamber. Around the sterile looking room on the walls were several round doors. Meridian and Eternity were already standing beside one of them.
“Where am I?” she asked, feeling a little disorientated and nauseous.
“I’m sure our friend can explain,” replied the Doctor, reassuringly.
“This? Oh this is my base from whence I travel to wherever and whenever I please…within reason. It’s an invention of mine.”
“That still doesn’t explain what it is,” said Rose. “Is it a TARDIS?”
Meridian seemed to hesitate for a moment before replying.
“No, not quite. The principle is similar, but the mechanics of it all is rather different,” replied Meridian. “It’s an achromatic system.”
“Ah,” said the Doctor, with a grin, “very clever. I’m surprised you could come up with something like this on your own.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“Where did you scavenge the parts from,” asked the Doctor, taking a step towards the scientist.
“Here and there. Why?”
“I was just wondering who’s been supplying you with TARDIS parts. I need a few spares myself.”
Meridian gave a visible sigh of relief.
“I can give you the name of the agent I bought the pieces through.”
The Doctor took a pen from his pocket. “Now paper, where did I put some paper?”
“Just write it on your hand,” suggested Rose.
“Fantastic,” he replied scribbling down the details Meridian reeled off.
“You’ll want to get back to your…transport,” said Meridian, tapping a complicated code into a panel by one of the doors.
“But, Doctor don’t you remember we can’t get back. The ships buried under the ice,” said Rose despondently.
“Can you…go direct?” asked the Doctor cryptically.
“Of course,” replied Meridian, cheerfully, “I just need your security code-,”
“I’ll do that, thanks,” said the Doctor, stepping up to the panel, “Turn round. I can’t have everyone knowing the codes.”
Eternity and Meridian turned round.
“That means you as well Rose.”
She reluctantly complied.
She heard the familiar crackling sound and the wave crashing on the shore.
“You can look now,” said the Doctor.
“Ok. What now?” asked Rose.
“We step through there, straight into the TARDIS.”
“You mean-, but how come we don’t have to use the doors?”
“I’ll explain some other time,” he took hold of her hand again, she squeezed it, he reciprocated. “Cheerio.”
“Goodbye,” replied Meridian.
“Oh and don’t think you’ll get the codes from the memory, they’ve already been deleted,” called out the Doctor as they jumped into the swirling vortex.
After the vortex had dissolved and the circular ‘door’ was once again visible Meridian let out a sigh.
“Is there any chance of an appeal left,” he asked, despondently.
“I am afraid I did not hear all of Cerdirane’s ‘confession’ and with his demise there is no way to prove your innocence,” replied Eternity in her usual cold manner.
“Where next then?”
“Earth, Ancient Rome.”
“We seem to be visiting that planet quite a lot,” commented Meridian. “Why I wonder?”
Eternity didn’t reply.
“I’ll type in the codes then shall I?”
When Rose opened her eyes she saw they were standing in the familiar TARDIS console room.
“We made it?”
“Did you ever doubt,” replied the Doctor with a smile.
“So where do we go next?” asked Rose.
“I don’t know. What do you think past or future?”