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Within the TARDIS, Turlough crept nearer to the exterior spacecraft. He made his way from the blue doors out into an arid control chamber.

The former vessel looked long dormant. Dust and water had worn away at the grey walls. Wires lay slinging from the ceiling.

Turlough noticed a man in a chair, ‘Hello,’ said Turlough, and he reached out for him, ‘Are you all right?’

The man revolved before his eyes. Turlough cried out in horror. It was the body of human being who had long since died.
 
~~

The planet surface had become more open, so Tegan treaded softly, ‘This isn’t my idea of a nice vacation spot.’

The Doctor sighed aloud and led her onto a much graver plateau. The hive arrived before their vision, although with the sight of an unruly object. They came to a swift halt.

They each felt cautious, ‘Doctor, what is it?’ and both of them stood deathly still.

‘It appears to be… dead.’            

In a haze of grey, murky wind, red tassels of feelers held around an immense thorax, the creature’s abdomen had caved in, and all of its fluids dried out.

‘It’s a Wirrn,’ said the Doctor, and he knelt, ‘a grim deep space life form, not the kind of creature we should be trifling around.’

‘Best keep your eyes open,’ he said, and upright, ‘you can never be too sure with these things.’ and they moved away from it while walking towards the towering hive.

~~

Turlough crept from a dark hole in the spacecraft. A large circular chamber lay outside. Puddles of green slime drew downwards through slivers in the ground.

He left the grey moulded chamber behind and trudged upwards around a circular ledge. Moisture oozes from the walls and the roof shines only a trifle of sunlight.

Soon he came to an aggregate stairway. He stood from the bottom looking upwards; the spiralling staircase ascended almost eleven stories high.

He heard Tegan’s voice call, ‘Turlough.’ from high above within the tower.

~~~

he Doctor came through an arid haze of fog. At the sight of an open gouge within the hive crust, He led Tegan through the windy funnel of acrid dust.

An eerie quiet hiss came from the fabric of the walls. The floors lay in ragged peels of chrysalis sheaths, while lowly; a mist of dry CO2 blew in around their ankles.

While they each took their steps with caution, the light from the gouge drew further away behind them, ‘You must be careful about touching the chrysalis, Tegan.’ the Doctor whispered, ‘especially, the liquefied gestation membrane.’ His foot struck a minor pile of pebbles, and he knelt for a moment, ‘It’s dangerous, I’ve seen it before, total physical digestion and metamorphosis.’

‘Taken over by one of those things out there?’

‘It gets worse; one Wirrn shares a common link, a hive mind, with all the beings its colony has digested, one single Wirrn can share a whole colony’s worth of knowledge.’ He stood up and looked around them, ‘And from the evidence of the fallen spacecraft, it’s safer to assume that this hive might now have some knowledge of interstellar engineering.’ said the Doctor, and he led her around a long cocoon-laden corridor.
 
~~

‘Turlough, this way, come on, Turlough.’

The sound of Tegan’s voice in his head seemed to echo aloud. He rose up the torn scrappy stairway. Fibrils of dried membrane crumbled under his feet.

With the many spirals around the soundless staircase, Turlough had become used to the smell of the foul rotten awfulness; his breaths became quick. All of a sudden he sought over an orange bubbly wall, there the Black Guardian sat at an ornery wooden table, smiling.

‘It is good to see you boy, still fighting the good fight.’

The voice was like ground gravel shards in his ears. He stood before the Black Guardian, weary of his thoughts in a seizure of paranoia.

‘I’m so tired of your games. Why must you torment me?’

‘Because the Doctor is here, and now’s the time to end him. Prove yourself once and for all as my servant. End the Doctor’s lives, for all time.’ and a laugh brewed within the Black Guardian, forcefully, while the whole tower began to shake to pieces.

‘Release me!’ said Turlough, and he fell back from the force whilst losing his balance upon the stairway. The Guardian laughed while Turlough agonized down the spiral column.

‘It is your place boy! End the Doctor once and for all!’

~~

The walls were craggy with a long drawn out decay, a former birthing chamber ensued all around them, as the Doctor and Tegan made their way along another corridor. Here they noticed some fresher specimens. A failed Wirrn body laid bound into an ugly dead chrysalis and the Doctor could only marvel at its dryness.

‘Are these things still dangerous dead?’

‘Relatively, their minds contain a cosmic link that can last for generations, sometimes aeons. Although from the look of this one, it had barely any chance to thrive at all.’

The hive shook in a low groan of frenzy. They each held onto one another. Steadying their standings, Tegan became curious about the poor souls lost in the fallen spacecraft.

‘Do you think that the spaceship crash-landing here was an accident?’

‘In my experience accidents never happen unless absolutely necessary.’

They made their way along an uneven stretch of filthy terrain. Light shone around them while thinly veiled in a potent stream of noxious gases. An unruly pool of green matter lay ahead, cocooned in an immersion of living fauna.

‘Stop, now’s the time we should be cautious.’

In the slight step of their shoe soles, they could see a full grown Wirrn gestating in a wall-bound chamber, and further away other cocoons bubbled before them in their dozens.

‘Oh my good heavens.’ said Tegan.

They came to a three way section of passages, two corridors to either side beside them, and one passage leading down into a rotting birthing complex.

From behind, the Black Guardian appeared in the guise of an upper body broadcast, ‘Hello, my enemy, this is your one true deceiver.’

Tegan and the Doctor lean away, ‘What do you want with us?’

‘I would have thought that was obvious. You have eluded my capture in the past, but now, I trust that you will never escape my diabolical Wirrn hive.’

The Doctor replied, ‘This is not the product of a sound mind. These creatures cannot be bargained with, and that spacecraft… what have you done with it?’

‘Mere moments, Doctor. I have spent lifetimes building this place. It began with the corruption of a young helmsman on a space freighter, in nightmares worse than you can imagine, I plunged his ship towards this planet and sank it into a bath of living Wirrn plasma.

The first colony lived and died out many decades ago, but now, a new breed are growing stronger, and I trust that you will not be strong enough to stop them!’

A tendril burst through some nearby membrane. More feelers made their way through falling dollops of sludge, ‘Oh dear…’

‘…Run!’ said the Doctor.

 
         

artwork by ANDY LAMBERT
used with permission
 
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