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PART TWO

don’t know quite where to begin but I guess it should be from the moment I left you. I stepped from the TARDIS into a huge laboratory, like the ones back on Earth where they developed weapons technology to fight the Daleks. I tried to get some sort of reaction from the scientists, waving my hands before their faces but it was clear to me that they couldn’t see me. Events were repeating, I realised that quickly, it was like somebody winding a watch back 30 seconds and playing the same events over and over. I wondered briefly if I was the only person who realised this and if I would be living out these 30 seconds for the rest of my life.

When I did break free of the loop I was greeted by a strikingly beautiful woman; rich red hair that cascaded down her shoulders and piercing green eyes, she shook my hand warmly and had a sweet, woody aroma about her. She introduced herself as Eleanor Novik, head of the Time Travel Research Division of the planet Manalex Alpha. I had been trapped within one of their experiments. They were testing their time travel technology, observing the effects of localised temporal repetition. No doubt you would find this much more fascinating than me, Doctor. To me it just sounded like another pointless war but this time with a far more dangerous battlefield than the one I was used to. Fighting with time technology would surely have disastrous consequences for both sides and it was probably all over some obscure detail that has grown out of proportion. When I realised the TARDIS had gone, my heart felt as though it had been crushed. Was I to remain trapped on this planet, as far away in time as I was in space during my imprisonment in the Mechanoid City?

For a month or so I moped about the City, uncommunicative and sullen, a petulant child lost in a strange world. I refused to acknowledge the beauty of this world. I wish you could have seen Manalex Alpha from the viewing port on the top of the Dome at Selafan; A lush, verdant world of exotic flora and beautiful colours, a stretch of forest, disappearing into the distance. Eleanor took me to the viewing port every night as the twin suns set, and the light would spill across the surface like a brilliant burst of orange before it plunged into darkness. For some reason she thought of me as her own little project and despite my resistance she wouldn’t give up on this moody outsider. I wouldn’t admit it at the time but her efforts were working and I was enjoying our time together. She used to tease me at my stubbornness and poked me in the ribs to make me laugh. I found her company charming.

~~~

kept thinking you would return for me but after a few months that dream started to fade. After all we have only been travelling together for a month or so and you never asked me to join you in the first place, I just sort of thrust myself upon you. I started to make friends. Eleanor introduced me to her neighbours, Nebrox and Pellan, a married couple who had met during their work together at the TTR laboratories. They were funny guys, squabbling like old women. Nebrox’s laugh sounded hilariously like an elephants trumpeting and Pellan was a fantastic cook. It was during a meal with the three of them that I realised how much I was enjoying my time in the Dome and that I had now been on this planet longer than I had been travelling in the TARDIS. Eleanor proposed that night that I should join the research programme. She had spotted my expertise from the first time we met.

I had a very minor role within the programme, as much as Eleanor trusted to ask me to move into her quarters she clearly didn’t trust me to view the capsule. In the back of my mind I was wondering if I had manipulated her. She had told me about the capsule on our first meeting and I couldn’t shake that nagging feeling that I could use it to reach you once more Doctor or even return home. I knew I could lay on the charm when I wanted and no woman can resist the Taylor Technique, as it had been known during my training back home. Keep them at arm’s length, make them laugh and reel them in. That’s how I got involved with Christina, the psychological evaluator back at the Academy. She gave me her stuffed panda bear before I left on the mission that eventually left me stranded on Mechanus.

~~~

had been on Malanex Alpha for around eight months when I managed to get more information about the capsule from Pellan. Nebrox was working late and I pushed my friend for more information about the war over dinner. It was far more civilised than the brutality of the Earth Empire’s conflict with the Daleks, two colonies on the same planet and both with their fingers poised to attack the other. The Selafan’s had sent an Emissary into the future who had returned with the most terrifying injuries, his arm withered away like old fruit and with a tale of a missing year that the two sides were fighting over. I asked how they had managed to develop time travel technology; I had seen nothing here to suggest that sort of technical knowledge. Pellan looked nervous and looked over his shoulder before telling me, like a rabbit trapped in headlights. He never was a particularly good liar and he wasn’t going to try it on with me now. The Research facility was a con; they had never developed the technology. A time craft visited Manalex Alpha and it had been appropriated and a prisoner taken. The government were sure this was Voltrani technology from the future, a device to head back in time and weaken their defences and leave them open to invasion. That made my mind up. I had to see this ship. I had terrible images of you and Vicki languishing in some prison cell whilst the TARDIS was experimented on.

The next day I had to make sure that everything seemed normal. I shared breakfast with Eleanor and we showered together. Guilt was gnawing at my mind, I was very fond of Eleanor now but Pellan’s tale had brought back a rush of feelings about a possible escape and a reunion with you and Vicki. We took the hover bus to the facility and I manned my console in my usual monotonous routine. Reading energy displays was hardly the most thrilling job I had ever had but at least it had been a foot in the door. Checking that nobody was looking, I pressed Eleanor against the console I was working on and embraced her warmly. She slapped me away, smiling and failed to notice my hand unclipping her identification. My heart was racing, an ache building in my head, if I was caught now it was all over and I would have lost my opportunity. I excused myself, having to get this done now.

Nebrox was manning the entrance to the secure area. Damn. What had I come to, lying to my friends and loved ones? I put on my best poker face and told Nebrox that Eleanor had asked me to check on the capsule. He was a surly, ruddy man and the confusion that crossed his face told me that I had been rumbled. Suddenly he collapsed into that mad hooting laughter of his and he said it wasn’t what you knew but who and clearly I was going up in the world. I felt awful, he would probably get into terrible trouble for this but despite that I swiped Eleanor’s ID and entered the chamber. I was determined to see this through.

 
         

artwork by ANDY LAMBERT
used with permission
 
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