Light refracted through the cut-crystal panes, sending shards of broken rainbow leaping about the small, enclosed space of the prayer chamber. Kalton knelt, closing his eyes to the beauty of the scattered beams, centring his thoughts instead on the reasons for his presence here. He had come to pray; to commune with the distant power the architect of this room had believed was in control of his existence; to ask for help in the difficult pregnancy of his wife, Taylinn. She had been carrying the baby for so long now that birth was very likely imminent, and yet for so much of that time she had been in excruciating pain. She screamed in agony whenever she was conscious, crying his name in a voice that made his blood run cold. Her beautiful, wide green eyes had been screwed tightly shut for so long that he had almost forgotten how they had once looked at him; filled with love, and hope for their recent marriage.

"Take care of the baby. Deliver him to us safe and well..." Kalton knew that the baby was to be a boy. He had seen the test results early in the pregnancy, before the troubles had started and before his wife had begun to experience the pains. She didn't know. She hadn't wanted the surprise to be spoilt, and he had kept it from her faithfully. He had even found a book of girls' names, to go with the book of boys' names he had bought, so that she could choose for either eventuality. It had been so much fun to watch her read through them, to play with the sound of each name on her tongue. Now the only words that she spoke were distorted through pain, and she no longer cared anything about the baby's name. All that she wanted was for him to be born, so that she could try to get back to normal.

"Take care of Taylinn. See that she grows stronger." Kalton screwed his eyes up more tightly, trying to focus on all the old meditation techniques once taught to him by his spiritual leader in school. It was so long since he had needed them; so long since he had prayed. Now he was trying to say all those long, twenty years worth of prayers in just a few minutes. The words tumbled out of his desperate heart, but would not burst free from his mouth. It was so hard to ask a power most people no longer believed in for a miracle he was sure could never be granted.

"Are you alright?" The soft voice of the resident advisor made him jump violently. He spun around, almost losing his balance on the highly polished floor.

"What do you want?" he asked. It was hardly the proper way to greet a spiritual advisor, but he felt embarrassed to have been found on his knees before a shrine, praying in a way usually reserved for the handful of old people and traditionalists who still believed in the old ways.

"I asked if you were alright?" The soft voice of the advisor was relaxing. It had a strange effect on Kalton's mind, and he felt himself wishing to open up to the stranger. He closed his heart to such thoughts and clenched his fists.

"If I was alright, would I have come here to pray? Do you think I would resort to such outdated, foolish superstitions if everything was alright?" He stood up, staring down at the advisor, a small man in a rainbow coloured robe. "Stand aside, old man. I have to get back to my wife."

"You shouldn't knock the faith that may yet be your only salvation." The advisor did not move aside, and Kalton loomed over him threateningly. Why did the old fool have to come and talk to him now? It would attract the attention of others, and the last thing that Kalton wanted was for other people to know that he was here. He was above all of this religion and superstition. He had left it behind with his boyhood games. He had still believed in the monsters under the bed the last time that he had prayed.

"I told you to get out of my way." He pushed the old man against the wall, walking quickly past him. The old man fell awkwardly, his head striking the stone flagged floor outside the prayer chamber. Kalton glanced back at the sound, and saw a small trail of blood leaking from the older man's skull. He flinched.

"You are wrong." The old man was struggling weakly, trying to get up but unable to make it even to his knees. His eyes seemed strangely glazed. "You are heading down the wrong path, Kalton."

"I am heading down the right path. Your time is over old man. Religion is over. It belongs in the past, and I was wrong to come here." He turned away. The old man's voice echoed down the corridor behind him, mingling strangely with the flickering shadows of other believers as they came out of their chambers to see what was going on. The effect was a bizarre one, of flashing lights and fluttering echoed speech.

"You are heading for disaster, Kalton. All of you. You do not know what you are doing." Hands reached out to grab the young man, to drag him back to answer for his assault on the old advisor, but he pulled himself free.

"Leave me alone!" His voice sounded panicked, and it bothered him that he was so afraid. What was he scared of? The advisor was just an old man, lying injured on the floor and shouting garbled words which should mean nothing to a man like him.

"I can't leave you alone, Kalton. You're falling. All of you, you're falling! The end is coming, Kalton!" The old man was on his feet now, leaning against his supporters and blinking out from behind a curtain of his own blood. "You're heading straight into your own destruction."

"Fool." Kalton spat the word in anger, stepping out of the place of worship and hurrying away from it into the brightly lit and bustling street. It was full of people, all running about and living their lives. They were all healthy, all strong. The planet was a hive of life and laughter; what could the old advisor possibly have meant? It was all so stupid. What disaster could they be heading for? Why was the end coming? He laughed to himself. It was all stupid; the seeings of some half-mad priest looking to renew his own fading importance. He was a fool himself for listening to it all.

"Fool," he muttered again, and headed off towards the hospital. He had to see how his wife was, and whether or not their child had survived yet another morning of its mystery illness. That was all that he cared about, and all that he wanted to care about. Nothing else could possibly be of any importance. Right across the city all the other expectant fathers were thinking the same thing.


"Now this is interesting." The peculiar little man who had claimed to be everything from a Tibetan monk to a Kalroydian carvet tamer, stepped back from his instruments and examined the central console. It was a tall, flower-shaped monstrosity that erupted from the floor of the TARDIS like an expansive stalagmite looking for its destiny. It appeared to have been carved from dark, hard wood, but its touch was like that of glass; cold and smooth and most definitely un-woodlike. It caught the light in odd ways, when K'anpo lit his circle of candles to meditate, and threw the seven flickering candle flames back across the room in a mad sparkle of flashing refractions. Mike still found it amazing to stare at, and to wonder about. The room was so different to the vast, white space of the Doctor's TARDIS control room. That had been a place of science and of fantasy, where the Jules Verne-like presence of the Doctor had seemed as much at home as he had done in the rambling country seclusion of a place like Devil's End. This TARDIS was as different to his as K'anpo was to the Doctor. Aside from the strange sculpture that was the central console, the room itself was much like some fantastical work of art. The walls seemed to be made from wooden panelling, somehow suggesting both at opulence and at frank simplicity, the floor stone flagging that clearly was not stone and yet looked so much like it. Mike had walked across it once in bare feet after being awakened in the middle of the night by the TARDIS alarm, and had found that it felt more like linoleum than stone; and yet it was rock solid and produced bright, hot sparks when struck at force by metal. Rugs covered much of it, hand woven in the foothills of India and gathered over the centuries by K'anpo himself; at least, that was what he claimed. One in particular looked very like the one that Jo Grant had spread over the floor of her room back at UNIT HQ; and that had come from a Harrods sale just after the Christmas of 1972. Mike knew. He had had to carry it home.

"What's interesting?" He tried to sound as though he didn't much care, although in all honesty there was little that K'anpo had shown him so far that did not delight something inside of him. Their travels together were the sort of excitement that the young human had been searching for for most of his life. He turned from his contemplation of one of the many bizarre and impossible paintings with which the walls of the console room were festooned - in this case a disturbingly feasible and yet clearly unworkable street plan by Escher - and wandered over to join his friend by the central instrumentation.

"My readings." K'anpo tipped his head on one side and frowned at the nearest screen. "According to these we're on Earth, and yet according to these--" he indicated a second screen, "we're nowhere near it."

"So we're lost again." Mike was grinning. They were always lost. It had been with great delight that he had traced part of the fault to a misalignment within one of the directional circuits; only to discover, once it was fixed, that it had thrown the rest of the Ship into even greater disarray. They had, therefore, misaligned the old circuit once again - only to find themselves with even less effective systems than before. K'anpo couldn't see the problem. His philosophy left him happy to drift, trusting in the certainty that if there was somewhere he was supposed to be, then sooner or later destiny would obligingly take him there. For Mike, whose training had been at the hands of the ultra-efficient Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, not to know where you were - and especially where you were going - was not only an example of bad planning but was downright unsoldierly. It was also damned silly. He had become rather good at ceasing to care, but occasionally his military training came to the forefront. Now was one of those times.

"We are not lost, Mike. In order to be lost, one must be trying to get somewhere, and must also be unable to find the way. We are not trying to get anywhere; and therefore we are not lost." The Time Lord smiled, his bright and beady little eyes shining with their usual merry delight. "We do, however, seem to be unable to ascertain exactly where we are."

"Meaning that we're lost."

"Meaning that we have momentarily misplaced ourselves." K'anpo scuttled off to the other side of the console, in order to poke hopefully at one or two other instruments. "The good news is that we've landed, that the air is breathable, the gravity adequate and the humidity level really rather pleasant."

"What do you mean, 'adequate'?"

K'anpo sighed. "Always figures, Mike. Always facts and figures." He shook his head, pointing one finger at his pupil. "You must trust in the powers that guide us."

"If I believed that there was something actually guiding us through all of this, I'd lose my faith in a jiffy." Mike leaned across to look at the screen. It showed the gravity levels outside to be equal to those of the Earth. "Fancy a walk?"

"I think so." The old Time Lord opened the doors, hurrying across with genuine enthusiasm to peer out of the TARDIS. The view was one of open, empty meadows, with a city just visible in the distance. A blue sky was overhead, clear and cloudless, and the air smelt sweet and clean. K'anpo sniffed suspiciously.


"Hmm?" Mike joined him, stepping out of the Ship into the soft green grass. "What's 'hmm?' about it? Of all the places you've dropped me into, this is actually one of the most pleasant." He stepped away from the TARDIS, turning back to see what shape it had assumed this time. It had had a fascination for trees recently, but this time he was glad to see that it had transformed itself into a rock; a large, sprawling geological masterpiece that reached high into the sky.

"Hmm," was all that K'anpo would say on the subject. "I don't think much of the local pollution levels."

"Pollution? The air here is the cleanest I've smelt in ages. There's no smog above the city, the trees show no sign of acid rain damage..." Mike went over to the nearest one to give it a closer inspection. "It's like Earth must have been, before the industrial revolution."

"No." The little man shook his head earnestly. "It's like Earth will one day become, if it carries on the way it has been in your time. It's like you must hope Earth never becomes." He pulled the TARDIS doors shut. "Pollution does not have to be visible, Mike, nor does it does have to be odoriferous. Once a civilisation has achieved great heights of technology they find many new ways to poison their surroundings; many that even your industrious race has not yet discovered."

"You make me so proud." The human shrugged. "Come on, let's take a look around. There might be something that you can do to help out."

"Such as solving the problems of a whole race of advanced beings?" K'anpo laughed lightly. "These things are not for men such as I to control, Mike. Now the Doctor, perhaps, would go running off to the city and immerse himself in its comings and goings, its problems and its solutions. I, meanwhile, would much rather pay a visit to the local library."

"Never a quiet moment, hey K'anpo?"

"One day you might be the one sitting in the library, and marvelling over the exuberance of your youthful acquaintances." K'anpo gave a bright smile which suggested that despite his words he was anything but old, and set off towards the city at a brisk pace. Mike had to hurry to catch up with him.

"We must be very close to Earth," he mused as they went. K'anpo frowned.

"Why do you say that?"

"Daises." Mike crouched on the grass for a second, running his hand across its surface. A light coating of dew clung to the tips of the green blades, wetting his skin with its cool touch. The familiarity of it all was astounding. Many of the places he had visited since leaving UNIT had seemed strange; even the air felt alien. This place was as familiar as his aunt Rachel's kitchen on Christmas morning.

"Daises?" K'anpo crouched beside him, peering at the grass as though his sight had suddenly become bad. "Ah yes. So they are. Or something very like them." He stood up again and Mike followed suit. "Buttercups too; and dandelion clocks."

"And that tree over there is an oak." Mike frowned. "At least I think it is. Benton's the expert on trees. I never got much past the 'It's not pointy so it must be deciduous' stage."

"It most certainly is an oak." Choosing to ignore the younger man's self-confessed ignorance, K'anpo frowned. "I suppose it's possible that the breeds are the same. Races similar to humanity exist all over the galaxies, so there's no reason for the trees to be different, especially given the similarity of the air and the gravity."

"You're the expert." Mike strode on ahead. He heard birdsong, and found himself recognising it. Blackbird, and quite unmistakable.

"No wonder the TARDIS was confused. It is very like Earth." K'anpo was wandering along behind, making no effort to catch up. Mike had to stop and look back to be sure of catching his words.

"Are you sure it isn't Earth?"

"Oh I'm quite sure, Mike. According to the time scale we're in a period when your race was not nearly developed enough to have built the city we're approaching."

Mike grinned. The last time they had stopped off planet-side, the TARDIS had told them that they were on Earth, 1910. They had turned out to be on Peladon, and given the presence of an Earth ambassador, it clearly had been considerably later than the twentieth century. K'anpo noticed the tone of the other man's smile, and frowned in response.

"You doubt, Michael. Doubting is for immortals, who have time to worry over minor details and discrepancies. The rest of us must merely accept what is, and trust in it. Life is too short to ask questions of things that we would be better merely to accede to."

"By all means." Mike was rather of the opinion that their location and period in Time were rather more than mere minor details, but he saw no sense in arguing. "Then perhaps we'd best hurry on to the city, and ask somebody there. They're sure to know where we are. Or at least I hope they do."

"One can usually rely on the natives in such matters." K'anpo quickened his step, finally catching up with Mike. "Come along, my boy. Don't dawdle."

"Perish the thought." They hurried along together, moving at a pace that was almost indecent in its haste, particularly when compared to K'anpo's more usual meanderings. Soon they were within the confines of the city, where men and women of definite humanoid appearance gave them not so much as a second glance. Mike looked about, staring up at towering buildings of steel and glass, and cars that seemed to owe more to the principle of the hovercraft than to the four wheeled machines he had been used to on Earth, in the 1970s.

"You see what I mean, Mike? More advanced than Earth, at least as you know it." K'anpo was rubbing his hands together in evident glee. "I really don't think that I've the slightest clue which world this is. I couldn't even make an educated guess. It's quite marvellous don't you think?"

"If you say so." They walked on together down the wide, clean street, exchanging occasional greetings with those amongst the passers-by who seemed inclined to acknowledge their presence. "Do you suppose we should ask somebody?"

"Ask somebody what?" K'anpo peered into a shop window, waved briefly to the assistant inside, then pointed at some object displayed in the depths of the building. Mike couldn't see what the object he was supposed to be admiring was, so he smiled in what he hoped was a suitably impressed manner and nodded in authoritative surety.

"Ask somebody where we are. And when." He forced a smile at a passer-by who had strayed close enough to hear his words. "That was why we came here?"

"No no no. We came here so that I could have a look at the library." K'anpo smoothed out the lapels of his loose white shirt and straightened his little mock-satin scarf. "Besides, one doesn't just walk up to strangers and ask them what year it is. It draws unnecessary attention, which is something I like to avoid."

"It is?" This was news to Mike, but the human did not bother to argue. "You don't want to know where we are?"

"I feel certain that it cannot possibly matter." K'anpo sighed. "Still, if it makes you feel better." He stepped up onto the low-running wall surrounding a nearby sculpture of some ilk, and hooked his thumbs into his lapels. "Excuse me! Ladies and gentlemen, please!" Everybody in the street came to an immediate halt and he smiled in delighted appreciation. "Thankyou! Thankyou very much!"

"Get on with it." Beginning to feel somewhat uneasy at the centre of all this attention, Mike felt his hand fall unbidden to the laser pistol in his belt. He didn't like to think why his instincts had caused such a movement, and he also didn't like to think about how rarely those same instincts were wrong.

"Ladies and gentlemen, my friend and I are new in these parts; travellers from a far and distant place. I was wondering if you could tell us what planet this is, that we now find ourselves upon? We would be most grateful, as we appear to be somewhat lost."

"To put it mildly," muttered Mike under his breath. K'anpo flashed him a mock glare.

"You are strangers here?" One of the townsfolk had stepped closer, and something about his stance made Mike step in front of K'anpo. His hand tightened on the butt of his pistol.

"Do you have a problem with that?" he asked. The townsman before him smiled a grim, distinctly unpleasant smile.

"Offworlders are not welcome here," he said darkly, his eyes showing a particularly unfriendly glitter. He waved his hand towards the pair, glancing back at his fellow locals. "Take them!" Four of the other townsfolk grabbed Mike and K'anpo. "You are accused of trespassing in the city, and of being aliens without license to move about amongst the people of this planet."

"Oh." K'anpo looked positively crestfallen. "I can assure you that we meant no harm. Please take me to somebody who is in charge, and I would be happy to explain my presence here and my--"

"Silence! You will not speak!" The man who had ordered their capture stepped closer to the prisoners, taking Mike's gun. "We find you guilty as charged. The sentence is execution, and is to be carried out immediately."

"It is?" K'anpo shook his head mournfully. "Oh dear."


Rachda was bored. It was a sensation that he was quite familiar with, having spent much of the last seven months feeling that way. Nothing was happening, and he was beginning to feel sure that nothing ever would. He had joined the group because he felt sure that what they were doing was right; and because he had been hoping for a little excitement. It was an illegal organisation, after all. Instead he found himself sitting behind a desk from six until two every day, staring out of the window as the citizens walked past. He fingered the gold Necklace of Merit that he wore, and wondered if he would ever get the chance to win another. He had always planned as a child to win at least five; maybe to beat the record of winning eight before he turned thirty. He was twenty-five now, and he had only one. He wasn't going to win any more if he spent the rest of his life working for an illegal organisation supposedly working against the leaders of his people.

"Do you ever wonder why we're here?" The words startled him, and he glanced over to the room's other occupant as though only just remembering that his companion was there; which he had. Lonis was twenty-one, built like a beanpole, and possessed a shock of flaming red curls that knocked at least five years off his appearance. He favoured the fashions of the society they had abandoned; an excess of material at the moment, leading to swathes of extra cotton in his shirt that billowed about his body at his every movement.

"That's just what I was wondering." Rachda sighed. "It's so boring here. When I joined up I thought we were going to do something decisive, and instead I've spent more than half the year sitting up here watching day-old security reports and getting spots in front of my eyes. Even if something does happen, by the time we get to hear of it it'll be too late to actually do something." Lonis frowned at this outburst.

"I didn't mean why are we here. I meant why are we here here? If our race is really dying, as the advisors tell us, surely there must be some reason for it? Something that we did wrong? And if there is a reason for our extinction, then surely there must also be a reason for our original creation?" He seemed happy with this question, and nodded to himself. Rachda sighed. Great. Of all the people to be sealed into a room with for the next eight hours, he had to be here with a philosopher. He forced a smile.

"We're here because the biological conditions on the planet were conducive to our evolution and development. We're dying out because our people think that they can cheat nature. They're destroying the planet and they're destroying themselves." He shrugged. "There's no Grand Plan there, Lonis. It's just life."

"It's a waste." The younger man stared at his monitor screen. "We were a great civilisation, Rachda. I've been reading the books--"

"Oh great..." Rachda whispered the words to himself, but all the same he was sure that his associate had heard. Just what he needed; a philosopher and a reader. It was understandable in a way, he supposed. Lonis was young and idealistic, and he had joined the society to try to change things; to slow the rot, or maybe even to stop it. He still believed that the great civilisation spoken of in the histories had been a golden period of prosperity, and that it could be achieved again. Rachda knew better. He had seen the other books, the ones that the public and the society he had joined both disapproved of. They spoke of the truth; the famines and the poverty, the diseases which had been rife. They spoke of the grand, rich rulers with their mountains of gold and their weeks of feasting and festival; and of their cowed and starving subjects without money or food enough to live by. There had been pictures of the people starving by the roadside, and of the rebels lying dead in their hundreds after massacres led by the security council.

"You don't believe in anything, do you Rachda." Lonis sounded disapproving, and his older companion smiled to himself. Did he believe in anything? Really? It was hard to say.

"I don't believe in the pathways that our fellow citizens are following, Lonis," he said at length. "But I don't believe in the pathways that some of our fellow society members are trying to lead us down either. Out in the streets you see a dying race, where less children are born each year and those that do are weak and feeble; but I won't save them by taking them back through the pages of history, and building a new civilisation to mimic the old. Your golden period was golden only on the surface, Lonis. Underneath it was built on blood and death."

"Then what are you here for? Where do you want to lead our people?"

"Nowhere." Rachda turned to stare out of the window again. "If the time has come for this race to die out, no amount of philosophy and old-fashioned teaching is going to save it. We can try to persuade the rest of the people that they're heading towards their own destruction, but we can't make them believe it. We can't make them do anything. I joined this society because it might just give me the chance to come through this; to be sure that if any of us are to survive, I'll be amongst them. The end is closer than any of us think."

"There will be no end." Lonis turned away, staring once more at his screen, watching the pictures roll by in all of their silent tedium. "We will find the way."

"I hope so Lonis. For your sake." Getting to his feet, Rachda moved closer to the window. He could see the citizens below going about their business. His eyes seemed drawn to two of them, marching purposefully along the street with all the certainty of true natives, and yet clearly without a clue as to where they were heading. He frowned. The pair appeared to be conferring about something, standing as they were beside a large shop window, whispering and gesturing at the people about them. Finally one of the pair leapt up onto the wall beside the sculpture of the long-dead King Hedos - a vaguely surreal work by one of the last generation's most famed artists, although to Rachda's mind it was a desperately ugly piece best consigned to the bottom of the nearest lake - and began to address the passers-by. Rachda did not catch many of the words, but he heard enough to know that the pair were from another world. He groaned. Just as he was beginning to get used to being bored... He turned about, heading for the weapons store in the corner of the room, remembering his companion only at the last minute.

"Come on Lonis." He checked the charge on the closest gun, hefting the weapon in his hand as though familiar with its weight. "We have to go."

"Go? Go where?"

"To the street. There are offworlders down there."

"Offworlders?" Lonis hurried to the window. "Real offworlders?" He sounded excited, and Rachda almost rolled his eyes in exasperation. "We should call in, make sure that HQ wants us to intervene. I mean, if we go out there we'll be revealing our hand - this whole base will be useless and everybody will know which side we're on. We'll be useless as operatives on a local level, and--"

"Dammit Lonis!" Rachda threw the nearest laser rifle at him and raced towards the door. "We lost the last three offworlders through talk like that. Get moving!"

"Of course." Humbled, the younger man followed him along the corridor. They reached the street just as the pair of strangers were dragged to their knees. One of them, the older of the pair, had closed his eyes and was looking relaxed and calm. The younger man was struggling violently. A belligerent citizen - Gallden, Rachda thought his name was - was pointing what looked suspiciously like the strangers' own gun right at the pair. The crowd was beginning to chant in anticipation of the kill.

"Hold it!" Rachda raced forward, his rifle levelled. Gallden glanced up.

"Rachda?" Questions flew across his face, to be replaced by sudden realisation. "You're an objector. You've joined the rebels."

"Shut up. Just hand those two over. Now."

"You're making a big mistake."

"One of us certainly is." Stepping forward, Rachda took the gun from Gallden's hand, then gestured for the pair on the ground to stand. They did so quickly.

"I'm much obliged to you, sir." The smaller of the pair gave a funny little bow, his bright and merry eyes fixed intently on Rachda's face. He found the scrutiny off-putting, and glared.

"Just move it. Come on Lonis, lead the way out of here. Hurry!"

"You'll never get away, Rachda! The security forces will take you before you can get out of the sector!" Gallden's voice faded behind them as they ran, drifting into inaudibility as they rounded a corner, coming at last to a hover-car parked in a square. Rachda gestured inside.

"Listen old chap. We appreciate the assistance, but--" Rachda cut the younger stranger off with a jerk of his laser rifle.

"We don't have time," he said pointedly. "Please. The security forces will be here in minutes."

"But--" The offworlder seemed inclined to argue, but his older companion shook his head.

"This man is right, Mike. We must trust him to know the situation here. Come along."

"I hope you're right, K'anpo." Mike climbed into the hover-car, stepping back into its interior to allow the others to board. Lonis gestured to the seats at the back of the vehicle then hurried to the cockpit, where Rachda was already starting up the engines.

"Where are we going?" K'anpo asked as they began to rise into the air.

"Home," Lonis told him, twisting around in his seat to look back at them both. "I'm sorry about what happened back there, but our people are experiencing difficulties of late, and it's made them suspicious."

"Difficulties?" Rachda had set the car on auto-pilot, and he turned around now to face the two strangers. "This planet is dying, gentlemen. Our people have pushed it to its furthest limits, and there are no resources left for it to fall back on. You chose a very bad time to come here."

"How bad?" Mike asked, with the horrible suspicion that he already knew the answer. Rachda favoured him with a grim smile.

"Bad enough for me to suggest that you start praying. If you're very lucky, there might just be enough time for you to leave here before this whole planet blasts itself out of orbit and destroys all the life on its surface." He turned slightly to stare out of the window. "We're living on a bomb, and the clock is about to run out."


They flew for an hour, heading out of the city and over the very meadows that K'anpo and Mike had so recently walked through. From the air the countryside seemed even more familiar in its form. The gently rolling hillsides and moss covered stone; the easily recognisable strata in the rocks and the growth patterns in the trees and bushes; all were as Terran as any scene on Earth. Mike felt as though he were flying over the English countryside on a warm morning, watching a flock of familiar birds spread out on the grass, searching for food to feed their young. He could see sparrows and starlings, the occasional thrush - even a robin, standing on a tree stump and singing its little heart out. He watched it as the hover-car came in to land, standing its ground even as the other birds flew away. It chirruped defiantly at the people who dared disturb its song.

"Earth..." he said softly. K'anpo nodded.

"Quite. Quite so, yes."

"I beg your pardon?" Rachda, who had finally got around to some belated introductions just before landing, clambered out of the craft and came to stand beside them. "You know this place?"

"I could almost believe so." Mike smiled at him, knowing that the other man could not possibly understand. "It's so like my world that it's uncanny. I can't understand how it can be so similar, and yet - and yet be a completely different planet - an entirely separate civilisation."

"Your planet is called Earth?" Rachda tried the word out. "Where is it?"

"I don't know." Mike smiled at him, offering a faint shrug. "We're a little lost. Our instruments don't tend to be terribly effective as a rule."

"Hmph." K'anpo turned away, looking almost affronted by this imagined insult to his beloved machine. "Rather than discuss the shortcomings of my ship, can I ask where we are now? This doesn't look like a particularly sheltered place if we're to have planetary security following us."

"Don't worry about them." Lonis strode ahead, heading for a large outcrop of rock rising up between two trees. He hammered on the sheer face of the outcrop with his rifle butt, then stood aside with the gun resting on his shoulder. "No one will find you. You'll be safe in here."

"Where exactly is here?" Mike went over to join him, watching in clear uncertainty as the face of the rock slid aside. A long, well-lit passageway was revealed, leading in a gentle slope downward.

"Our headquarters." Rachda stepped into the tunnel. "It's perfectly safe. Listen, if I wanted you dead I'd have left you to Gallden and his collectivists. Here." He pulled Mike's gun from his belt and handed it over. "Does this make you feel any better?"

"It goes some way, yes." Mike stuck the pistol back into its holster, then glanced back at K'anpo. "What do you say?"

"Advance, Michael. Advance!" As enthusiastic as always, K'anpo practically bounced into the tunnel. "Come along, come along."

"Is he always like this?" Whispering the words at what he hoped was a discreet volume, Lonis hooked a thumb at the Time Lord. Mike raised his eyebrows, opening his mouth to speak.

"Yes, he is." Somehow having arrived back beside them, K'anpo leaned in close to whisper his answer in the same discreet tone used to ask the question; then he scuttled away down the passage once more, vanishing from sight around the first corner. Mike smiled.

"Actually he's usually a lot worse."

"You have my sympathy."

"Hurry up." Ushering them into the torch-lit passageway, Rachda turned about to pull the door back into place behind them. "We'd better get after him before he runs into the guards at the other end."

"Good point." Lonis hurried off, rounding the last bend in the tunnel just as K'anpo, a few yards ahead of him, reached the exit. The two guards there spun to face him, guns drawn.

"Good morning!" He looked positively delighted to see them, rubbing his hands together as though they were cold. "You must be the bouncers. I'm very pleased to meet you, my name is K'anpo, and--" He broke off, looking past them to the cavern beyond. "What a lovely place you have here. The instrumentation looks most familiar, although..."

"Put your hands above your head and turn to face the wall." The nearest guard shoved his gun into the Time Lord's chest. K'anpo frowned up at him.

"I'm a pacifist you know. You're not supposed to point your guns at me."

"It's alright. He's with me." Hurrying towards the small gathering, Lonis pushed aside the guns pointed at his newest acquaintance. "K'anpo is an offworlder. Rachda and I have brought him to speak with Vaser." The guards moved away, allowing them to walk past, and Lonis leaned closer to K'anpo.

"Be careful," he hissed, keeping his voice barely above a whisper. "These people are jumpy. There's a lot at stake, and it's made them all very on-edge; very suspicious of outsiders."

"Is that why offworlders are being executed on sight?" K'anpo asked him. Lonis shook his head.

"Not exactly. The general population believes that the problems our civilisation has been experiencing recently are something to do with outside interference. I suppose it's easier to put the blame on strangers than it is to shoulder it ourselves." He shrugged. "The people on this planet have always been very nationalistic; very individual. They've always kept to themselves and believed in their own strengths - convinced themselves that they're better than any other race in the universe. It's just the way that they are."

"I see." K'anpo frowned at him. "A dangerous state of mind, but I'm glad to see that you don't adhere to it."

"I've seen the truth." Lonis gave him a smile that was infinitely sad. "After centuries of supremacy in this sector of space, of self-sufficiency and the accumulation of wealth, we have to face facts now. We've driven this planet into the dust, and it can no longer sustain us."

"And whereas your people choose to hide from that, and to blame others for it, this community here is seeking to find another way?" The little Time Lord nodded in satisfaction. "Commendable. Highly commendable, especially when it clearly brings you into conflict with your families and friends."

"We're outcasts, yes; criminals even. But that doesn't matter - how can it when soon there won't be any of us left?" They glanced back as Rachda and Mike joined them, and Lonis gave another sad little smile. "As you saw, though, the people out there are stubborn, and they're not prepared to listen to our side of the argument. I can only believe that we're seriously running out of time and options."

"We're already out of time." Rachda gestured for them to follow him down a secondary tunnel that they were now approaching. "My last estimates give us days before the planet loses the last of its grip and sends us all spinning into space . It's not even time to get the ships prepared."

"You're sure it's that imminent?" Mike shared a glance with his travelling companion. "We have room enough in our ship for... for probably several thousand of you at least. Wouldn't you say K'anpo?"

"Of course, of course." The monk nodded slowly. "Although the more ideal solution would be to persuade the others that their time is drawing near. Perhaps there is some answer that we can discover, if we all work together, that will prevent this planet from leaving its orbit."

"There's nothing that we can do. When we don't even know why it's happening to begin with, there's very little that we can do to prevent it." They had reached the end of the secondary tunnel, and as Rachda muttered this last finality they emerged into a vast space underground. It seemed to have been formed from the hollowed interior of an entire mountain; a spectacular cave of almost cathedral-like splendour, the walls veined with minerals and the ceiling a barely visible peak of cragged rocks and gothic magnificence. The walls stretched away before them, hidden behind serried ranks of military-style dwellings that appeared to have been made from kits of corrugated aluminium pieces. People milled about, some armed most not, many looking as though they had nothing to do. A few children played about in the empty spaces, and from somewhere came the bleat of a goat. It was a large, fully formed community hidden within a mountain, and K'anpo felt his heart warming towards the people within it. Their desperation to save their people had made them outcasts; chased away to this underground retreat by the very people they were trying to save.

"Rachda?" It was a woman's voice, and they all turned as one to face in the direction from which it came. A young woman was coming towards them, dressed in simple grey clothing, her hair cut in a functional, utilitarian style. She was small and blonde, probably about forty, and something about her suggested that she was a scientist. She was accompanied by another woman, this time in clothes that bore more than a hint of military styling, with a clear suggestion of insignia on the shoulders. She was tall; about the same height as Mike and with a similar build, and she wore her long, dark hair in a simple ponytail. Her appraising, green gaze had covered the entire group before Rachda had had a chance to respond to her somewhat perfunctory greeting.

"Karys." He stepped forward, shaking her by the hand, then nodded at her older, blonde companion. "And Sara. How have you been?"

"Fine." She didn't look fine, thought Mike; her skin had a hue that was worryingly similar to the pale grey of her clothes. She was pregnant, he realised, and he felt a jolt of sympathy. What must it feel like to bring a child into the world when that very world was on the verge of ending? "We've found a drug that counters the pain to some extent, but the scientists say that there's no way of stopping it all. The pain won't end until the baby has been born."

"I had hoped..." Rachda let the words trail away. "Never mind. It's good to see you looking so well." She gave him the sort of answering smile which told everybody that she knew he was lying about her appearance. "Still, I was forgetting myself and the news is important." He gestured to Mike and K'anpo. "These men are offworlders. Lonis and I saved them from a bunch of townspeople, and I didn't know where else to bring them. They have transportation, and they seem to think that they can help us."

"I have every intention of helping you," K'anpo announced, leaving Mike thinking back with amusement to his friend's earlier declaration that such tasks were not his intention at all. "Perhaps you will allow me to introduce myself. I am K'anpo, teacher and..." He smiled. "Teacher and philosopher, I hope."

"Sara." The pregnant woman shook his proffered hand, clearly warming to his bright smile. "I'm in charge of food in our community. This is Major Karys, our head of security."

"Major." K'anpo frowned up at her. "You're not going to point a gun at me are you? Only I don't seem to have much luck with the military, on the whole."

"I have no intention of pointing a gun at you." She frowned. "Unless you think there's some reason why I should?" She was clearly suspicious of them, which was only to be accepted Mike supposed, given her position of such responsibility. He couldn't help thinking that he wouldn't have trusted them, had he been her. In his loose cotton clothing and woven sandals, K'anpo did not really look as though he was much use to anybody, and Mike himself was not exactly the image of military efficiency these days. He caught her passing a glance over his burgundy cords and pale blue, wide collared shirt and found himself wishing that he had not become quite so lax about uniform. Only his old UNIT jacket suggested that he was anything other than a wandering civilian who had taken a wrong pathway; that and the laser pistol in its holster at his belt. The belt and holster were both UNIT-issue; the gun was not. He had taken it from a weapons store on Altairus VII, when he had been helping to storm the stronghold of an evil military dictator.

"Captain Mike Yates, United Nations Intelligence Taskforce," he said briskly, stepping forward and snapping to attention. It had been a while, but he had found before that such things were driven too deep for him ever to forget. She answered his salute and nodded.

"I've never heard of your organisation, but that's not surprising. We don't mix much with other races."

"That's okay." He flashed her a very unmilitary grin. "I don't even know what your race is."

"Touché, I suppose." She shrugged. "This way. We have to talk."

"Jolly good." K'anpo suddenly looked excited again. "I want to talk to somebody about the situation on this planet. What's causing the gradual destruction of its stability, and what is all this about problem pregnancies? I get the impression, my dear," this to Sara, "that your own experiences are not unique. And I wondered also if there might be an anthropologist somewhere amongst your number? The similarities between this planet and that of my young friend Mike here are quite amazing. Perhaps I could read a history of your people? It wouldn't take long."

"Anthropology isn't really one of our priorities." Karys gestured once again for them to follow her. "Hurry along please. We have a great deal to discuss, and I imagine very little time in which to discuss it. There seems to be little enough of anything here, but Time is one thing that is in particularly short supply."

"Of course. Of course, of course, of course." K'anpo nodded very hard, and his round little face broke into a wide, beautific smile. "I put myself completely in your care, Major. I bow to your undeniable authority." She eyed him with one raised eyebrow and Mike had to fight not to smile.

"Ignore him," he advised her. K'anpo glared at him. Karys gave her head a slight shake then started away across the vast, communal cavern.

"You can speak first to our head scientist," she said over her shoulder as they went. "I'm sure that he can answer your questions. After that your time is your own, and you can go where you like. Except back to the surface."

"Our ship is on the surface," Mike told her. She held his gaze for a long moment before giving him a short, careless shrug.

"I'm sorry. There will be people up there looking for you four right now. I won't let you put our base at risk by going back up just yet."

"We may not have the time for such luxuries as security, Karys." Rachda sounded serious and she frowned, then shrugged again.

"We may not have the time for anything soon, but that doesn't alter my orders. You won't leave here. None of you."

"Are you crazy?" Mike stepped forward, but her gun was in her hand before he had even got close. "This world could be about to end, and the only way to safety is above ground. You have to let us go there!"

"I can't do that. Our surveys show that there is enough time to get our ships finished, and our people on board them before this planet leaves orbit. Having you go back to the surface puts all of that in danger, and I won't let you risk their lives."

"The surveys were wrong, Karys. We don't have time to finish the ships, let alone load them. K'anpo says that he has room for us all in his vessel, and maybe the chance of making retreat unnecessary." Lonis sounded very young as he made his own contribution to the argument, but nonetheless Karys gave him the same audience that she had given the others. She was silent for several seconds.

"I don't believe you," she said finally. "The surveys can't possibly be wrong, and there is no way to prevent the destruction of our civilisation. You will stay here. All of you."

"You could be condemning us all to death!" Rachda started towards her, but she turned her gun to face him.

"Don't try it."

"You're mad!"

"Maybe." She gestured with her gun. "Get moving, all of you. You'll have plenty of time to get comfortable down here over the next few weeks. When it's time to leave, we'll leave together."

"We'll die together," Rachda told her, but she didn't seem even to hear. Instead she herded them all towards the largest of the aluminium shacks. Mike leaned close to Lonis.

"Is it true that we only have a few days before the end?"

"If Rachda says it, it's true." The young man looked wide-eyed and afraid. "But Karys will never let us leave."

"We'll find a way." Mike's eyes were burning holes in the back of the young major's head as he tried to think of some way of persuading her to change her mind. He had to find a way. Otherwise they were going to die; and so was every other person on the planet.


The time seemed to pass very slowly. K'anpo, his earlier concerns either forgotten or put well aside, was sitting with a group of the local scientists, nodding sagely at varying intervals. Mike watched them for a time, imagining that he should probably be joining in with their annoyingly longwinded conversation. In his crusade to teach the young human all that he could, K'anpo had taken him to a point where he could have joined in; could probably even have contributed something to the discussion; but he found it hard to summon up the enthusiasm. He loved science, but at heart he was simply not a scientist.

"Your friend looks happy," Lonis commented, wandering over from the food machine in the corner to sit beside Mike. Mike glanced up at him.

"He has an audience. Of course he's happy."

"He's a very wise man. I overheard a little of the conversation earlier, and he has many good points to make. I wish that we could get the people above ground to listen to him."

"I've heard him talk madmen into reason before. I think he could persuade your people to listen to him." Mike shrugged, gave a sorry smile. "If there were time. It's crazy. Everything here seems alright. The sun is shining up above the ground, the birds are singing; there don't appear to be any undue problems with the weather. I can't believe that the planet is about to go floating off into space."

"I know. It's like watching a man who appears to be healthy, even though you know that really he's dying." Lonis sighed. "I shall miss this place, you know."

"Of course you will. But wherever you settle, you'll get used to it. Home isn't a rock in space, it's..." Mike frowned, trying to form the sentiment into a comprehensive sentence. "Home is wherever you are, and wherever the people that you care about are. It doesn't have to be this planet."

Lonis smiled. "Wise words."

"Most of them are K'anpo's."

"Ah." They shared a grin. Finally Lonis leaned back in his chair, contemplating the drink that he had taken from the food machine, and which he no longer seemed to want. "Are you home, Mike?" he asked eventually. "You're travellers - wanderers, isn't that what K'anpo said? Is your ship home? Is that where all of the people that you care about are?"

There was a silence as Mike considered this question, before finally he shook his head. "No," he said at length. "All of the people that I care about - except K'anpo of course - are a long, long way away. Further than you could possibly imagine. All the same, I'm more at home in the TARDIS than I have been in a long while."

"In that case you have a home to go back to, if you want it. I shan't have that when I have to leave here." Lonis took a sip of his fast-cooling drink, then a longer, more contemplative mouthful. "You know, it's my brother's birthday today."

"Where is he?"

"Above ground. He violently opposes everything that I'm trying to do. He believes very strongly in the strength and resilience of our people, and he believes that our leaders will come through for us. His wife gave birth to their first child last week. It was the first baby to be born in our sector of the city in more than three months. Once we had a population problem. Now we have the reverse. Soon we won't even have a population."

"You can save your brother." Mike tried to sound as though he believed it, but Lonis did not seem to be fooled.

"No I can't," he said softly, sadly. "Kalton might as well be dead already, and his baby too. Even the embellishments have failed to stop the problem; and when the Embellished fail all of us are doomed."

Mike frowned. "The Embellished?

"Those among us who underwent surgery to try to increase their potential in both physical and mental ways." The young man stared into the remaining contents of his mug, swirling the liquid around with a circular motion. It seemed to help him to focus his thoughts. "They began small, with minor additions to their bodies and their brains. I used to find it really spooky when I was a kid; all these people with bits of machinery and electrical components surgically attached to them. It's a trend that's been going for some years, and each generation seems to be trying to go further than the last with their additions. They outnumber the Normals in the army now."

"I can't say that the idea inspires me any." Mike winced at the thought. Adding bits to the body was one thing, but to the mind as well? It scarcely bore thinking about. He had once been a part of a computerised brain, and it definitely hadn't been fun.

"Me neither." Lonis laughed. "Although admittedly I'd like some of the benefits on occasions. Their strength is increased tenfold, and that would be useful. Currently I have all the muscle power of a stick insect."

"Weakness is a small price to pay for your individuality as a human." All the same, Mike thought, he would like the chance to meet one of these Embellished. They sounded interesting, and he would like to see just how far they had gone.

"Weakness is hardly going to save us. Our women can no longer take their pregnancies full-term without experiencing crippling pains and cramps. Four out of five babies were stillborn last month, and a lot of mothers died before they could even make it to the end of their pregnancy. Something is going very, very wrong."

"If that's the case, K'anpo will find the answer." Mike stood up. "Come on, let's leave the talk for later. Show me around this place. I'm bored, and I don't want to have to spend the rest of the day sitting here waiting for K'anpo to finish chatting."

"Is there anything that you particularly want to see?" Apparently relieved by the abrupt change of subject, Lonis climbed to his feet. "I haven't spent much time here, so I'm no expert on the workings of the place."

"It's not the workings that I'm interested in." Mike offered him a bright and breezy grin. "It's the security, and any... unobtrusive exits that there might happen to be. If you get the drift."

"I think I understand you." Lonis frowned at him. "It won't be easy you know. You can't just walk out of this place."

"I realise that, but there's still no reason to sit around waiting for the end." Mike clapped his companion on the shoulder. "That's just not the UNIT way."

"What is the UNIT way?"

Mike grinned at that. "I never quite worked that one out," he confessed, as they began to walk away from the meeting hut and across the vast complex outside. "Sitting in the lab making cocoa seemed to be the accepted mode of conduct most of the time. It was our scientific advisor who handled all the real problems. Ancient Earth dwellers that came from out of the sea... manic bearded Time Lords with inexplicable grudges against every living thing... psychotic plastic daffodils... We handled them all; or at least the Doctor did."

"The Doctor?"

"Yes. He's sort of... sort of the answer to every question you can think of, and the question behind every answer you haven't got a hope of guessing. All wrapped up in a little blue telephone box with half a galaxy hidden inside it." He shrugged. "Still, most of the things he knows he learnt from K'anpo. If he were here he'd probably be doing just what K'anpo is doing right now."

"I'm not quite sure what that is."

"No." Mike grinned, feeling infinitely reassured without entirely knowing why. "Infuriating, isn't it."


Kalton held his baby in his arms, staring down at the tiny body before him. It was so small, so vulnerable. He knew that it would not last for long if he didn't do something. Ever since its birth it had been growing steadily weaker, and now that its mother - his own, beloved wife - had failed in her bid to cling to life, the baby was just going to continue going downhill. It needed her, and he didn't know how to help it. The hospital was rushed off its feet looking after all of the other weakening babies and their dying mothers; this one, small child was no more of a priority than any of its fellows. From all over the planet they were coming; from the icy polar regions and from the hot and steamy tropics; from the equator and from every line of latitude above and below it. All of the babies which had made it full-term were being brought to the world's largest hospital, in a last ditch attempt to save them. The last generation. Kalton stared down at the tiny creature in his arms, watching its little legs kick weakly as it struggled to find the strength to cry. It was a week old now, and it was not even as large as many of the premature infants that he had seen in the old days, before the current crisis had begun.

"Have you made your decision yet?" He turned, startled by the voice. It was so loud, so forceful. All traces of humanity had gone from it, and that was as much of a surprise now as it had been when he had first heard it; when he had first come here. He lowered his eyes once more to the tiny bundle of pink and grey.

"You're sure that there's no other way?" he asked, already knowing the answer but needing to ask it all the same.

"You know that there isn't. If we do not do this, your son will die. Soon everybody will die. Only the Embellished will survive, and your son will be one of them. He will thank you for it."

"And... and me?" Even though he spoke normally, Kalton's voice sounded strangely weak coming so soon after the voice of the Embellished. There was a pause.

"We welcome you. Do you welcome us?"

"I - I--" Slowly he looked up, facing the other man for the first time since he had arrived at this place. His appearance was still a shock, even though Kalton was now prepared for it. He saw the huge metal adornments on the limbs, the great metal chest-plate; he looked up into the eye-holes, set in a white, fabric headpiece that hid all that had once been human. He shivered.

"You're afraid of me, Kalton." The great head turned on one side, and Kalton imagined that the real face beneath the mask, if indeed there was any real face left, was frowning at him. "We were close once."

"You were still a man then. Still a Normal." Kalton sighed. "I just don't know, Gregor. I just... don't know."

"Join us, and then all will become clear."

"You think?"

"I know." Slowly the great metal hands of a man who had once been called Gregor reached out and took the baby from the arms of his former friend. "Follow your son, Kalton. He knows the way."

"And then we'll survive?"

"And then all of the Embellished will survive. The Normals will die, because that is the way. It is the way of evolution, and it is the way that will make our race great. You see that, don't you Kalton."

"I--" Kalton frowned, staring once more up at that blank and featureless face. The silver head attachments caught the light, flashing with a dull glow. There was a strange kind of beauty to the head; an almost poetic sadness that seemed to flow around it. He wondered if Gregor even knew how he looked now; and whether, if he did know, he would even begin to care. Suddenly that seemed a wonderful way to be.

"I see it," he said softly, although he wasn't altogether sure that he agreed. "I want to join you."

"Of course you do." There was no pleasure in the voice; no sense that his old friend was glad to be saving his life. There was merely cold certainty. "Follow me, Kalton."

"Sure." He took a few steps after the other man, listening to loud, heavy footsteps echoing before him. Soon those footsteps would be his own; heavy and loud, ringing with the sound of metal on rock. Metal and plastic would replace his own weak skin. He wondered if he was doing the right thing, but somehow he felt sure that it was too late to turn back now. He wondered what his wife would say, and the mere thought of her brought her face to his mind. He saw her smiling at him, as she had been before the pregnancy; saw her laughing and reaching out for him. Her red hair was blown by the wind in his memories, and her laugh was loud and musical. He thought that he heard her voice, until he realised that it was just one of the Embellished, telling him to lie down on a long, plastic counter. He complied, trying not to think as they pulled monitors and equipment over towards him; trying not to see what they were already starting to do to him. He heard the low sounds of his son crying, and tried not to think about what they were going to do to the boy. He tried to bring back that last image of Taylinn; but she was gone, and with her went everything else.


"The Embellished interest me the most." Sipping thoughtfully at a glass of goat's milk, K'anpo settled into his favourite cross-legged position on the floor. "You say that they hold high office now?"

"They virtually run the army, and through that the government." Lead Scientist Vaser folded his hands in his lap, trying not to think about how much this strange little man reminded him of the hermit priests who lived out in the mountains. "Many of them have not been seen in years, and there are rumours that they have gone much further with their embellishments than was ever thought to be wise. People say that some of them are now gone far beyond mere humanity, and that they may have rebuilt their entire bodies. Earlier generations of Embellished are said to have found ways to reproduce, and to create new life from the old. I read one account which suggested that there are now whole communities of Embellished, many of whom have never known real life beyond their alterations. There was once talk of an invasionary force; as though these people might be intending to take over the planet, and to force the Normals to bow to their authority." He shrugged dismissively. "But there's always talk of such things, when something new comes along. On this planet, as you yourself have discovered, those who are not part of the general population are not welcomed. It took a long time for the Embellished to gain their foothold in society."

"Then the first of them must have begun their alterations a long time ago."

"A very long time ago. I can't say for certain when, but it was a good deal of time before I was born." Vaser frowned at the floor. "Two hundred years maybe. Possibly longer."

"Why did they do it? What reason did they give for wanting to make such alterations?" K'anpo took another sip of goat's milk, his round face crinkling with a smile of childlike pleasure just at the taste of it. Vaser found himself smiling too, although he didn't quite know why.

"I have no idea," he confessed, shrugging his thin shoulders in confusion. "I can't imagine why anybody would want to do what they've done. All I can imagine is that they wanted to be stronger; to be more powerful. It's been a concern of my people since the beginning of Time. They must be strong; they must be strongest. I find it distasteful, but it's the way that they are. The Embellished have taken the general feelings of my people, and have warped them into something so much more powerful. There is no doubt that some among them would like to take control of the planet."

"Perhaps by wiping out the Normals?" K'anpo stared into his milk, watching the endless ripples as they spread out and broke on the sides of the glass. "What better way to gain control of the planet?"

"I have considered that." Vaser felt a heavy frown settle across his forehead. He had become used to it, since taking up residence in the underground community that was now his home. "The problems that we are experiencing; difficult and impossible pregnancies, the successive weakening of each generation. The latter went unnoticed at first - perhaps only the scientists amongst us did notice it - but it seems to have led to the current population crisis. Many people are simply no longer strong enough to bear children, and the children are not strong enough to cling to life, once they have been born. Last year the problems began on such a small scale, and now... now it's become an epidemic. As though..."

"As though the situation were being manipulated somehow." K'anpo continued to nod sagely. "Those above ground are so strong in their convictions that they will not believe anything is wrong. Those below ground may see the problem, but they are in no position to do anything about it. It is certainly an ideal circumstance for the evil to exploit."

"I don't want to believe that."

"Neither do I." K'anpo put his glass down, abandoning the drink in his new intensity. "I have travelled the universe for many years, Vaser, and before that I studied and I learned for many, many years more. For century after century I convinced myself of the good of all beings, and I trained my mind to see that good, where others saw only evil or depravity. I still believe in those things. I still believe that each being in the universe has the potential to act for the good of all. I still believe that each sunrise is filled with hope and beauty." He leaned closer to the other man, reaching out to take his hand. "But I have seen things, Vaser. I have seen people torn apart by laser fire in wars that should never have begun. I have seen children tortured and dying at the hands of races capable of an evil so powerful you could never comprehend it. I have seen whole races obliterated from existence by weapons too terrible to name. When you have seen such things, Vaser, and when you have learnt such lessons as I have learnt, you might understand things the way that I do. You might know what I know now."

Vaser closed his eyes. "You believe that there is no chance illness, or blight," he said softly. "My people are dying because the Embellished are killing them."

"I know it to be the truth." The hand holding his own squeezed it gently, making him open his eyes again, making him look at the little man sitting cross-legged before him. "I want to see another truth, but there is none."

"And the planet?"

"Ah." K'anpo shook his head from side to side, making sad little tutting noises as he did so. "Planets are no more immortal than Time Lords. We like to believe that we will see every dawn, but we can never know which will be our last."


"Meaning that your planet has seen its last full moon; at least in this solar system." K'anpo turned away, for the first time not meeting the other man's gaze. "I can't believe that the Embellished don't know about it, so I can only assume that they don't care. I imagine that they plan to leave; but when this planet leaves its orbit they are hoping that not a single one of the Normals will be leaving with them. They must fear you, as being so reminiscent of what they once were themselves. Logic would dictate that their next step forward must come through the complete and utter destruction of the race that spawned them. They're taking no chances."

"A disease, to be sure that none of us would survive, even if we did manage to escape the destruction of our world." Vaser closed his eyes again, and this time K'anpo did not try to make him open them. "Something in the air, perhaps, or in the food that we eat."

"Undoubtedly. Presumably the Embellished - or some of them at least - are themselves no longer human enough to be bothered by it."

"I feel so stupid." Vaser sounded so small, so lost, that K'anpo reached out to him, putting his hands on the other man's shoulders.

"Stupidity comes not through mistakes, or through the failure to guess at deception. True stupidity is merely the unwillingness to learn from our mistakes, or to put right what has gone wrong."

"Really?" The comforting presence of the hands on his shoulders had gone, and Vaser missed it. He felt a sadness welling up within him, followed by a brighter, greater sense of resolution that made him snap his eyes open and turn suddenly to K'anpo. He stared around in astonishment. The room was empty. K'anpo had gone.


Kalton remembered green. He remembered that it had been the colour of his wife's eyes, and the colour of the dress she had worn to their wedding. He remembered that it was the colour of the grass in their garden, and of the hills behind their house. He remembered it as the colour of the silk scarf that he had once bought her, and remembered how she had berated him for buying it in the first place. That had been before he had known how she hated silk, in the same way that she hated fur. He remembered holding her, and apologising, and how she had smiled at him, and apologised too... He remembered her eyes again, laughing at him, but he could no longer remember what colour they had been.

"Taylinn..." He thought that he had called her, but soon he became aware that he had not spoken aloud. The word remained in his head, echoing around, bringing fresh memories to the forefront of his brain before chasing them away again. He remembered...

He remembered a cold frosty morning when he was six, and he had helped his father to grit the path outside his house. It was to make sure that his mother didn't slip when she carried his new brother into the house. Lonis, they had called him. He had been so small... Kalton remembered trying to lift him, and being so afraid that he would break the tiny pink body. He remembered feeling the cold air on his face, and the wind in his throat, and remembered his father lifting him up to show him Lonis, asleep in the cot that had once been his own...

He remembered listening to the birds sing outside his bedroom window, when he had awakened before dawn to creep downstairs with Lonis in the summer and go swimming. He remembered whispering in the early light, trying to get downstairs without waking up their parents...

He remembered school, with Gregor, and the long nights of studying in the quiet library, where every single tiny sound seemed magnified to a ridiculous degree. They had planned their futures there, together, the rest of the world shut out by the curtain of silence...

"Kalton..." He heard Gregor's voice, and frowned. He hadn't heard the voice in a long time. Gregor was gone now. He was one of the Embellished.

"Gregor?" He tried to open his eyes, but his eyes didn't seem to be there anymore. Instead there was a pain in his head, and a soothing sensation. It was taking his memories, and he didn't want them to go. He tried to resist.

"Kalton?" He could still hear the voice, but he could no longer remember whose it was. He struggled to frown, tried again to open his eyes. There was nothing but darkness, and no means by which to find the light.

"Kalton?" This time he heard the word, but could not remember its meaning. Was it a name? And if so, whose? He wished that whoever Kalton was, he would answer. Then the voice would go away and stop disturbing him. He had a headache. His memories were hurting him, but a gentle, stroking sensation was taking them away, and with them went the pain. He was glad to see his memories go. What did he want them for, if all that they did was hurt his head? He felt metal surrounding him, felt its presence inside him, and he welcomed it. It was more than just a part of him - it was him. He had found his eyes now, and when he opened them the last of his memories fell away. It was a blessed relief.

"Welcome to the unit," a loud voice said within him. He turned his head, heavy now from the alterations that he knew were rather more than mere embellishments.

"Thankyou." The word meant nothing to him. He did not feel grateful. He did not even feel pleased to have made this step. Something was bothering his memory, though, and that was one thing that he did care about. It affected his efficiency, and that was cause for concern.

"Your son is also one of us," the same loud voice which had welcomed him now said. The being which had once been Kalton looked towards its source. That was it. The lingering memory had been one of concern for his son. He nodded.

"That is good. The unit must be strengthened." Almost immediately the last constraints of that final memory slipped away. The baby was nothing. It was unimportant, and he no longer required its wellbeing to make him whole. All of his old needs had gone. For a moment he wondered why that was, and what other needs might have replaced them; then he switched his mind to other things. Such thoughts were unimportant. All thoughts were unimportant, save those that were of value to the unit. He took the heavy laser blaster that another of the Embellished was handing him, and clipped it to the special attachment at the side of his chest unit. Around him the others were moving away to return to their duties. They had changed him, but they felt no triumph for it. Triumph was not relevant; they had merely done what was necessary, and they did not think about it again. Neither did Kalton. Never again did he remember his name, and for as long as he lived he never spared another thought for Taylinn or for their child. The only thought to disturb his peace was one that his new self could never understand, even though he was never entirely to be free of it; for whenever he was alone, and the world was dark, he remembered green.


"How is the escape committee going?" Rachda had an amused expression on his face as he came towards Mike and Lonis. They shared a glance and he smiled.

"Don't worry. Karys may be my friend, but you'll notice that she pointed her gun at me too. I'm as anxious to be out of here as you are."

"Do you have any ideas?" Mike wasn't sure why he was so suspicious of the young man who had saved his life. He had no grounds for it at all, and he knew that it was a suspicion not shared by K'anpo. All the same, there was something about this whole underground city that bothered him. His own character balked at the idea of taking refuge in some hidden place when others were in trouble above ground, and he supposed that that was it. These people were so like him; so very human in so very many ways. And yet in others they were so different. It was disorientating.

"Ideas? There is only one idea. We have to get past Karys and get out of this tomb." Rachda sat down on an outcrop of rock jutting from the main wall and stared intently up at Mike. "You say that you can fit many of us in your craft; but how many exactly? How many people can be safely transported away from here?"

"I don't know. The TARDIS is big; very big." Mike gave a rather vague shrug. He knew large sections of the Ship by heart, but even so there were many areas of it that he was entirely unfamiliar with. He really had no idea quite how big it was, save for a rough idea that it was smaller than the Doctor's vessel. There was always the question of how many people it could support; how much food it could produce, for instance, until it was possible to find the refugees a new home. "At a guess I'd say that we could easily take your group away from here; all of the supporters of your cause and possibly more besides. We have to get them all to it, of course, and we have to persuade them to trust us. They'd have no reason to believe the word of a pair of aliens they've barely met."

"Leave them to me." Rachda leaned back, apparently finding the rough and rocky wall behind him a comfortable cushion on which to rest his weight. "They'll listen to me." He gestured at the golden necklace at his throat. "This is a very respected badge amongst my people. Very few of us have them, and anyone who has won the right to wear one is treated with respect. Of course Karys has two, but she's military and people expect more from them."

"Perhaps I should talk to Major Karys." Mike leant against the wall, frowning at a particularly large vein of gold which ran past his hand. "I might be able to talk her around; one soldier to another and all that."

"You could try." Rachda didn't sound at all convinced. "I've been speaking to a couple of the scientists, and it seems that at least half of them are starting to see the same patterns in the surveys that I've been warning them about."

"Meaning?" Lonis asked, although his nervous expression suggested that he knew exactly what his companion was getting at. Rachda raised one dark eyebrow and stared up at the younger man for a few moments. Although he was only a young man himself, the dark outcast, with his unkempt appearance, looked very old for that short interlude of silence. Mike could see lines around the other man's eyes that he had not noticed before.

"Meaning that it's now no longer just me seeing serious problems ahead. At least half of our scientists agree that it's no longer a matter of months before we all go careening off into space. It's days. Maybe just a few of them."

"Then there's no problem. Karys will have to see sense now. She's sure to let us go to the TARDIS, and then we can begin the evacuation. Maybe K'anpo can bring it here, and that'll make it easier to get everybody onboard." Mike was already beginning to mull over these possibilities. There was a large area in the centre of the TARDIS where the illusion of being outside, in a great, open meadow, was very distinct. It should be possible to use that area to make the refugees very comfortable during what was likely to be the long period of their transport, without any of them feeling too cooped up.

"You don't know the way that it works here." Rachda flashed him a sorry smile. "Mike, I see great differences in the way your mind works to the way in which so many of my people think. Perhaps this civilisation is older than yours. Perhaps when your people are as old as us, they'll be as apathetic and as slow to action as the inhabitants of this planet are. If the scientists notice the discrepancies in their own data, and they report it to the military and the leaders, it'll take at least a week for them to decide what to do next. It probably won't even occur to them that by the time they finish their discussions there's likely to be nobody left alive. Take this place; since we moved here the death rate amongst us has gone through the roof, and nobody has thought to find out why. So you see, Karys is the least of our concerns; she may even join us when she sees these new surveys. Our problem is to persuade the people to leave - or do you plan to drug them all, and carry them to your ship?"

"He's right." Lonis lowered his eyes. "We started this organisation to try to slow the rot; to prevent the planet dying and to prevent the gradual decay of our own race. We've achieved nothing in the last hundred years or so. Saving you and K'anpo today was the most decisive piece of action this group has managed for as long as I've been a member; and I joined when I was fourteen. All that they ever do is sit around down here and worry. Then they talk about their worries, and then finally they worry about them all over again. As an action group we're about as effective as a penguin at a flying contest."

"Plotting earnestly?" The bright voice of K'anpo made them all jump, reacting much like startled schoolchildren being interrupted by a teacher whilst planning illicit deeds. "Jolly good, talk it over, make fine plans." His hand caught Mike's wrist. "We have to talk."

"Is there something up?" The urgency in his friend's eyes startled the human, but K'anpo shook his head.

"Not here. Walls have ears." He gestured meaningfully at the rocky walls of the cavern looming above them, was momentarily distracted by the rich vein of gold within it, then glanced back up at Mike. "Come along, come along. There's great things afoot in paradise, Susannah."

Mike didn't argue.

"Do you have an idea, K'anpo?" Tension making his voice unnaturally loud, Lonis hurried to keep up with the others as they strode away. The little monk did not speak until they had reached the approximate centre of the cavern, where their efforts to be alone were constantly thwarted by children and animals alike, to say nothing of the assortment of adults trying and failing to keep both of the former in some kind of order. Oblivious to the frustrations of his companions, K'anpo folded his hands calmly and waited for the scene to become more still.

"I have learnt things," he said finally, his words taking in all three of the others, even though his eyes looked only at Mike. "Important things."

"Such as?" the human prompted, beginning to wonder if they were ever going to get anywhere. K'anpo smiled.

"Patience." A frown replaced his smile, as his eyes dimmed with memories that were quick to surface. "You know, I myself learnt patience from a hermit on Rygus IV when I was a very young man. In those days it wasn't as frowned upon for Time Lords to explore as it later became, particularly during the Doctor's youth. I spent a very pleasant month with this rather strange chap on a beach. Of course a month on Rygus was a lot longer than a month on Gallifrey, but it was worth the time that I spent there. I only wish that I could remember the man's name."

"K'anpo..." Seeing the confusion in the eyes of the uninitiated, Mike struggled to bring his friend back to the original subject. "We were talking about this place."

"We were?" The bright eyes glinted teasingly. "Head Scientist Vaser had some fascinating things to tell me. We've reached a theory, he and I, which I hope we shan't have to put to the test. It seems that there are certain factions on this planet known as the Embellished."

"That's right." Lonis was nodding. "Freaks mostly. People who believe in the harmony of man and machine. They seek a balance between the two."

"Actually I believe it may be rather more than that." K'anpo was staring off into space, an expression on his face that was well-known to Mike Yates. It meant that K'anpo not only had an idea, but he had a plan as well. Perhaps now there would be a chance to do something useful, rather than waiting around in this giant cave for something to happen. "The Embellished may be behind the problems that this race has been experiencing recently. I've heard tales of next-to impossible pregnancies, babies not strong enough to live more than a few days after birth, and new mothers who are even weaker still. The Embellished want supremacy, and they mean to get it by eradicating what remains of the race of which they were once a part. Vaser thinks that the Embellished are no longer about just minor additions to the body and mind; small increases in strength and mind power. It may be that there's an entire army out there, made up of people who are more machine than man."

"That's insane. I've known members of the Embellished. They were a little weird perhaps, like anybody who's taken a hobby or a belief to greater extremes than you or I might consider the norm." Rachda was shaking his head, looking greatly disturbed. "But what you're talking about is mass murder. It doesn't make sense. Why would they want to wipe us out? Particularly when the planet is about to accomplish that itself."

"Because you have ships, and you are planning to leave the planet. You might well be escaping before you could be destroyed. The Embellished don't wish for that to happen. They want to be all that remains of this race, so that every trace of their former weaknesses are eradicated forever, allowing them to take up their new position in the universe." He looked sad, reaching out to touch Rachda on the shoulder. "I'm sorry, if you have friends amongst the Embellished. Perhaps many of them are merely harmless individuals looking for something more out of life. I can't explain what I know, or how I come to know it. I merely know that when I know something with this sort of certainty, I am always right. Always."

"If a few of the Embellished control the embellishing of all the others, it's quite possible that they would have the power to go further than the volunteers intended; that they could turn people into whatever they wanted, and prevent them from ever being in a position to object, or to return to what they once were." Mike, who had more than a little experience of people being presented with a wish, or an ideal, and then being dragged far beyond it into something that was out of their control, met Rachda's eyes now, compelling the other man finally to turn away. "I see what K'anpo is getting at. Machines and computers are essentially removed from the workings of living brains; they work on an entirely different level and they are utterly devoid of emotion unless built to be otherwise. If members of the Embellished have gone beyond the original boundaries, and have turned themselves into living machines, they are no longer human. You can't credit them with normal feelings or aspirations. They would act in an entirely cold and calculating way. Mass murder would be perfectly acceptable to them then, whatever they once thought or believed in."

"You really have seen strange things, haven't you." Lonis was looking away, staring past them to the gatherings of children in the distance. "To be able to come up with such theories... to be able to believe so many terrible things..."

"Precisely. And which is worse? To suggest these things or to listen to them?" The voice of Major Karys was sharp and clear as she stepped out from behind the nearest building. There were three armed guards behind her, none of which looked the kind to be easily swayed, and all with their weapons drawn. Mike reached instinctively for his own gun, but K'anpo's hand on his stilled him. All the same, all three raised weapons turned to point at him. Karys came forward.

"We trusted you," she said to the young captain, staring at him in a way that almost made him feel guilty. "We allowed you to come here, to be protected from the others by our defences. You have been offered hospitality, and you repay us by trying to spread lies about our own." She drew back her right sleeve, showing a small metal box strapped to her bicep. "You see this? I'm one of the Embellished. Me. I have been for years, and do I go out there, trying to kill my own people? Am I a monster without a mind of my own? Am I?" She reached out, seizing Mike by the wrist. He felt her grip, cold and hard, and realised that he could never break it. "All that my embellishments do is increase my strength. They make me more effective in my job. I'm not a robot, and I can assure you that I'm still very much in touch with my emotions." Her voice dropped slightly, losing none of its force in the process, as her grip on Mike's wrist tightened abruptly. "Particularly anger."

"Ah, but my dear, you must see that your embellishments are not that great. I'm not speaking of people like you, I'm speaking of those who have gone to far greater extremes." K'anpo sounded as calm and as gentle as always, which was understandable, thought Mike. After all, K'anpo wasn't the one whose wrist was being squeezed to death. He saw lights sparkle and flash through Karys' eyes, and he frowned. Great, this was all that they needed. Not just a rebel army officer, but a rebel army officer with secondary loyalties to a faction of the enemy. So much for trying to win her around.

"You." She released Mike suddenly, turning away from him to point at K'anpo. "You come here from somewhere else, somewhere we know nothing about, and you try to make us go with you in your spaceship to some distant location. You tell us that our troubles and our diseases are caused by our own brothers and cousins, and you tell us that our world has only days left to go before it becomes a wandering iceberg in space. I see no more reason to believe you than I see reasons to believe my own ability to walk on water. You will be confined to one of the shacks, and if you try to leave you will be shot." She gestured towards her accompanying guards. "Take him."

"Wait!" Mike stepped forward quickly, reaching out with one reckless hand to grab her arm. Immediately the guns were all pointing at him again, but strangely Karys did not try to break free. He saw cold anger in her eyes, but did not let it dissuade him. She was giving him the opportunity to talk, and so talk he would. "Let me prove to you that K'anpo is right. Let me show you."

"How?" Her voice was haughty and filled with disdain. He held her gaze, determined to convince her.

"We should leave here. I know that you're worried about the possibility of discovery, but a small group should make it alright, especially with your help. We can seek out the Embellished, and see for ourselves what they're like. If they're innocent, K'anpo and I will leave this planet and we shan't get in your way again. If it looks as though we're right, then you have to let us begin evacuation of this place immediately. Once we're away from this place, I'm sure that K'anpo can find a way to cure you of whatever it is that's causing the population crisis."

"Absolutely." The little monk was nodding his head in excitement. "We should leave now. Right away."

There was a silence, as Karys looked from one to the other of them. Finally she nodded, and Mike felt a wash of relief well up inside him. The last thing that he wanted was to be locked up in a little aluminium shack, waiting for the earth to move beneath his feet.

"Very well. We shall go; the five of us." She drew her own weapon, pointing it directly at Mike. He felt its hard, round muzzle press against his chest. "But if we are seen leaving this place, and if the people outside discover this base as a result, you will die. Immediately."

"Fair enough." He spoke lightly, although he felt far from flippant. "May I humbly suggest that we hurry up? If this world has only days to go, we'd really better speed things up."

"We can travel as fast as you feel yourself capable of going." She tapped on his chest with her gun. "If you are really in such a hurry to prove your own mistakes, and to show your own stupidity, I can have you within hailing distance of a colony of Embellished before the clock next strikes."

"I think that we may have to travel rather further afield to find what we're looking for." K'anpo gave another of his unconcerned little shrugs, as though not at all bothered by the fact that Karys had a gun pointed so closely at his friend. "Perhaps if we may make use of the hover-car that we came here in? That is, always provided it hasn't been found and confiscated by now."

"It was brought below ground within minutes of your landing. We are not fools, little man." Karys could have lit up a cathedral full of candles with the fire in her glare, thought Mike with a smile. She turned the glare onto him when she saw his amusement, and the gun once again tapped against his chest. There was more force behind it this time. "Get moving."

"Where are we going?" he asked her, obediently moving as indicated. He wasn't too bothered by her show of force; she hadn't yet taken away his own gun, after all.

"To the surface." She holstered her weapon, making it look like an act of great benevolence and magnanimity. "We'll take the hover-car, and I'll show you a little of my world. Maybe then you won't be so anxious to sound its death knell."

"If only it were that simple, my dear." K'anpo's gentle eyes were filled with such sorrow that Karys, for the first time, felt a prick of uncertainty within her strong façade. She watched him as he turned his eyes to cast one last, lingering look back at the community of outcasts, seeming to take in each section of aluminium sheeting in the buildings, and each stitch in the clothing of the people. She got the impression that he was trying to commit it all to memory, just in case he never saw any of it again; as though he were desperate to remember something that might soon be gone forever. Then he turned back to her, and she saw his eyes glitter with something that looked horribly like tears. "If only it were that simple."


They flew for nearly two hours, above towns filled with flickering lights, above fields and above houses. They were low enough to see people on the streets, walking along in small groups or alone, waving to each other at street corners and shouting muted greetings as they went by. They flew above isolated farm buildings, with whitewashed walls and stone tiled roofs, many with gently smoking chimneys. They flew above sculpted gardens and kidney-shaped swimming pools and great, carved statues that rose many feet into the air. Everywhere were signs of a living community; a bustle of life that went beyond the drastic cuts in population. Everywhere were signs of life continuing as normal, of people making the best of hard times. There was nothing that suggested that it would all soon be gone. Mike wanted to believe, as they flew over one small village, that it was all nothing more than a mistake. That this planet would carry on here as always, and that the people would still be living this way in a hundred years. He caught Karys' eyes upon him, and turned to look at her.

"It's beautiful, isn't it." Her expression was accusing, as though it were him threatening her people with destruction. He took one final glance out of the window, at what looked very like a cricket pitch at the edge of the village, before they had flown past and left it all behind them.

"It reminds me of home." He wondered how he would feel, if it were Earth facing such a fate; if K'anpo had come to him, unknown and bizarre, with his predictions and his accusations.

"Where is home?"

He was surprised by her interest, but all that he could do was to shrug. "I haven't a clue. We call it Earth, and it's in a solar system with eight other planets. It's the third one out from our star. Small place, although it doesn't look like it from the ground. All blues and greens and swirling white cloud. Just like here."

"No wonder we seem so alike at first glance." Her eyes travelled to K'anpo, who appeared to be dozing. "But not him. He's not from your Earth."

"No, he's not." Mike did not venture the details that he thought she might be angling for. K'anpo himself was very free with the information that he offered, but the spasmodic secrecy of the Doctor had encouraged Mike himself to leave the ways and identities of Time Lords hidden from casual observers. "His race is far older than yours or mine."

"Then perhaps--" She broke off at a hail from the cabin, and got to her feet. "Excuse me. I think that we may be about to land."

"Of course." He watched her as she made her way to the front of the vehicle, and found himself enjoying the view in a lazy way that annoyed him faintly. Here they were, on the brink of destruction, facing who knew what and when, and he was admiring the figure of a woman who still seemed likely to blast him if he gave her sufficient excuse. He smiled to himself. It was at times like this that he found himself missing Sergeant Benton. At least then there was somebody of like mind to compare notes with. He felt the ship going in to land, and snapped his mind to more immediate tasks. It was like a military operation, and whatever K'anpo might have taught him, and helped him to become, he was still a soldier. He probably always would be.

They landed in a secluded valley, where the ruins of old buildings peered up through thick creepers and heavy coatings of bramble. Many of the stones making up the ruins bore engraved symbols, and K'anpo crouched down to get a closer look. The enthusiasm shone in his eyes, and Mike smiled to see his friend's joy at this latest discovery. Major Karys looked less impressed.

"They're just ruins," she said, clearly without any archaeological fervour. "Old stones, dead buildings."

"They are part of history, my dear." K'anpo frowned up at her as though she were some dreadful philistine criticising the latest work of a famous artist. "And history is never dead."

"What are these buildings?" Trying to change the subject, Mike pulled away a thick section of bramble to reveal a long slab of stone intricately carved with what appeared to be runes. Many of them looked familiar, as though they might have been similar to the runes used by ancient civilisations on his own planet. "They seem to be important. These don't look like builders' marks."

"They're not." K'anpo was peering at this new treasure as though it were a newly rediscovered breed of animal, previously thought to have been extinct. "I would say that these buildings were part of an ancient fortress, but I can't make out what it was intended to guard."

"The Cities of Gold." Rachda ran his hands over the runes, pointing out isolated examples. "This symbol here represents treasure, and that one power. This one here..." he hesitated over a particular design, "represents new birth and redirection. Not creation so much as a form of exorcism." He shrugged. "It probably refers to the Great Plague. The people of this planet took refuge in the Cities of Gold at the time of the plague; nearly a thousand years ago now. When they left the Cities to return to their old life it was seen as a time of complete rebirth; the old was purged completely to make way for a reborn civilisation. These forts were abandoned then. Many tales among the people of this planet talk of these places as taboo; places filled with ghosts of the past. Nobody comes here."

"Fascinating. Absolutely fascinating." K'anpo was nodding. "I had noticed, of course, that gold seems to be a particularly abundant element here. Your own headquarters had several very rich veins that nobody seemed to bother with."

"Gold was once as easily available as water." Rachda fingered his necklace. "Other civilisations considered it to be a rarity, and they bought great amounts of it from us, back when we still traded with other planets. That was hundreds of years ago. It's rarer now, but we've never thought of it as a precious metal. It's used in medals, and these necklaces of merit, as a nod to the old world. Gold was the great symbol of our planet in the days before the plague."

"All very fascinating, I'm sure." Karys glared at him, daring him to speak further. "But we came here for a reason, remember? It had nothing to do with history lessons."

"There's always time to learn something new." K'anpo shielded his eyes, staring into the rising sun to look into the distance. "I wonder where these Cities of Gold are?"

"They still exist, but nobody save the Embellished comes out this far now. I've never seen the Cities." Lonis looked as though he were trying to remember something; some long-forgotten lesson from his school days most likely. "They were huge, and the buildings were made almost entirely of gold; except for the supporting beams and the rafters of course. Great bricks of gold were laid for the foundations. The streets were paved both with gold and with white stone, and many of the houses were roofed with a form of thatch, made from spun threads of golden wire. At least, that's what the stories say. Like Rachda says, hardly anybody has come out this way since our people abandoned the cities close to a thousand years ago. I always wanted to come here, but the Embellished like to be left alone."

"You still see them as ogres, don't you." Karys looked angry and hurt, but Lonis showed no signs of remorse.

"Maybe the ones that you mix with aren't, but you know as well as I do that the ones who live out here have gone a whole lot further than little additions to their arms, to increase their strength. The people we're likely to meet out here are nothing like you."

"That doesn't make them criminals, or murderers." She shouldered the heavy laser rifle that she had brought along. "Come on, we've waited here for long enough. I want to get to the colony as quickly as possible."

"Which way?" K'anpo was looking hopeful, as though anxious that their journey should take them near to the Cities of Gold. Mike sympathised in a way. In just a few days the Cities would be unreachable on a gravity-less rock devoid of pressure or oxygen, and it seemed a terrible shame that a sight which had once clearly been magnificent should be so lost. He wondered if K'anpo had a camera handy.

"Follow me. The scanners in the hover-car picked up signs of life over this way." Rachda set off without waiting to see if they were following him, and the little group hurried to catch him up. Karys had lapsed back into silence, and although Mike walked alongside her, trying to spur her to speech, she did not venture a single comment for some time. It was not until they rounded the crest of a hill and looked down upon a small, rocky valley that she broke her long silence, shielding her eyes as she stared down into the sloping space before them. A fleet of spaceships stood there, gleaming silver in the rising sun, clearly ready and waiting to take off. She frowned.

"They have ships."

"Lots of ships." Mike let his eyes drift over the expanse of metal. "Enough for thousands of people."

"And they haven't said anything." She looked hurt. "They could have helped us with our own projects. They must know that our ships aren't anywhere near ready."

"Perhaps they don't care." He spoke the words softly, holding her eyes with his own. She glared at him.

"Perhaps they couldn't make the others listen. Nobody outside our action group seems prepared to accept what's going on. The Embellished can't be blamed for looking after their own first, given that nobody else seems likely to do anything."

"I hope that you can go on believing that." Mike turned to the others. "We should tread carefully from now on. It looks as though we may have been right to have landed so far away."

"Perhaps we should split up, and take different routes down," Rachda suggested. He drew a gun, checking its load. Karys shook her head.

"Five of us is too many. Captain Yates and I will go down, and you others will stay here. I know many of the Embellished, and they're more likely to talk to me than they are to you. Yates and I can be down and back out of there quicker than the rest of you; that is, if he's the military man he claims to be."

"I am." He glanced over to K'anpo. "Is this alright with you?"

"Fine my boy. Perfectly fine." The little Time Lord seemed happy enough with the arrangement, as though glad of the opportunity that it would give him to discuss more of the local history with Rachda and Lonis. "Be careful and be quiet, and don't take any unnecessary risks. Remember that you don't have to make contact with the Embellished. We just want to know what they're doing."

"Of course." Mike turned to Karys. "Lead on Major."

"This way."

They climbed quickly down the steep path, giving the rows of gleaming spaceships a wide berth. Soon the loose rock and dusty stone gave way to wiry grass, and then to thicker, better vegetative growth. There were marks in the ground, in the deep, damp soil which now formed their pathway; footprints by all appearances and yet huge and squared-off, as though made by sets of particularly large and heavy boots. Mike crouched down beside them.

"I'd hate to see the size of the chap that left these," he commented lightly. Karys looked unimpressed.

"Artificially large boots, used to discourage outside interference," she said a little snootily, as though it were an every day occurrence to see such a thing. "It's a trick we sometimes use in the military, when we're out on manoeuvres. People will believe anything, if the circumstances are right."

"And what if these aren't a trick?" Mike didn't wait for an answer, but merely straightened up and took the lead, moving cautiously past the cover of the adjacent trees. Up ahead he could see a cave; a large opening in the rock that looked manmade. The edges of the entrance were smooth, almost entirely round and marked at the edges as though with the remnants of a blast charge. Karys nodded.

"Headquarters," she said with confidence. "Come on."

"Hold it." He grabbed her wrist and she glared at him, reminding him with a flicker of one eyebrow that she could throw him aside without breaking a sweat. "We can't just march in there."

"These people are my friends. I'm one of them."

"Not one of them." He shook his head, trying to think of the best way to convince her. How could he tell her, a complete stranger, of the way things were? Of how K'anpo's theories, no matter how half-baked or unpleasant they might sound, had a way of always proving themselves true? Mike had learnt to trust the Time Lord in a way that he had never trusted anybody before, with the possible exception of the Doctor. Even the Brigadier, the most important figure in Mike's life until just recently - maybe even still - did not have the kind of power of personality displayed by the little Time Lord; and he certainly was not proved right nearly so often. K'anpo's judgement, to say nothing of his unerring instincts, could not be ignored. "I've seen things, Karys. All kinds of things. Men turned into slaves by computers; men corrupted by dreams of all manner of things, things that turned them against their own kind... If these people are the enemy; if they are responsible for the illness suffered by your people, you can't just go marching in there. It's worth a thought, isn't it? A little consideration?" A thought occurred to him. "What about Sara? You've seen the pain that she's in. Haven't you? The way that it hurts her to bear that child. What if there was some way that you could help her? Some way that you could find to cure her? Isn't it worth a little stealth?"

"Perhaps." She glared at him, then twisted her wrist sharply. She had barely moved, and yet he felt his grip on her break. The ground came up to meet him, hard and unyielding, and he found himself looking up into her gun. "But I'm in charge here, Captain, and I won't have you trying anything like that again. Understand?"

"Right with you, Major. Absolutely." He climbed to his feet, brushing himself off. "Any ideas then?"

"This is your shout, Captain. If it were up to me we'd walk straight in there and introduce ourselves properly." She straightened her tunic, as though desperate to ensure that the seams remained dead-straight at all times, then frowned at the opening of the cave. "It's not big. I don't see how we can get inside without somebody seeing us. Perhaps there's a secondary entrance."

"There is." The voice was soft, and it came from so near to her that at first she believed it was Mike who had spoken - until she saw him staring past her, his face fixed in an expression somewhere between anxiety and woeful resignation. Slowly she turned. Before her stood a figure; a great, metal man who still bore some of the obvious signs of an organic form beneath his... She could not think of them as embellishments, even though it was obvious that that was how they had once started out to be. Quite suddenly she felt the attachments on her arms tingle, as though reminding her of their presence. Her eyes travelled up the massive body, wondering what she should say. Hi, I'm one of you, take me to your leader. Nothing seemed appropriate. She found herself looking into an empty face; a mask of white gauze framed in metal, a curious lamp-like attachment fixed to the top of the head in completion of the image of robotic likeness. Eyes that seemed still to be real stared solidly at her through holes in the lifeless face.

"Hello," she offered, somewhat lamely. "I'm looking for the Embellished."

"You have found them." The voice had lost its earlier softness, and now was loud and booming. There was nothing about it that suggested anger or rage, or even pleasure at their arrival. There was no welcome in the tone, and no sign that they were unwelcome, either. There was nothing at all.

"Great." Mike was grinning, stepping forward to take Karys' arm. "Well that's one more thing to strike off the list; something to tell the chaps about back at the club when we get home. We'll just be running along." He turned. Behind him, unheard in its arrival, stood another of the robotic Embellished. It was staring at him, lifeless, unmoving.

"Hi," he said quietly, wondering what he should do next. He thought about his gun, but common-sense told him not to go for it. A large arm reached out, the heavy metal hand at the end of it closing around his elbow. He winced involuntarily at the sudden pain, letting go of Karys. He sensed rather than saw her reaching for her weapon.

"No!" He tried to turn, tried to get to her, saw the weapon in her hand. She was turning to point it at the man behind her, but even as she was raising it the man was drawing his own. They fired at the same time, her laser bolt bouncing harmlessly off his chest in the same moment that his shot was obliterating the weapon in her hand. She gasped, staring at the smoking lump of molten metal now lying on the ground; and at her own, smoke-blackened fingers.

"Resistance is useless," the metal man told her, reaching out to grab her arm. "You will come with us."

"Yeah," she muttered disconsolately. "I think we probably will."


The cave was merely the beginning of a vast underground network. Mike was not surprised; he had hardly been expecting to find an entire colony of Embellished living in one small cave so close to the open air. Together he and Karys were led down a long tunnel, sloping gently into the earth, beneath a smooth and rounded ceiling made of solid rock. The sides of the tunnel were dry, and there was no sign of dampness on the floor. All was as well kept as a hobbit's hole, which was a comparison that Mike could not get rid of. If only he could be sure that there was something as welcoming and friendly as a small man with hairy feet when he finally reached the end of the passage.

"You will enter here." They had reached a dead end, where there did not appear to be any means to enter anywhere, but almost immediately one of the Embellished stepped forward to press a hidden switch. A grating sound came from somewhere within the wall and a door slid up, revealing a long metal passageway beyond. There was no more of the functional but strangely aesthetically pleasing rock; in its place was the bleak, empty nothingness of metal. Mike had lost count of how many enemy headquarters he had been in - both willingly and otherwise - and the constant reappearance of metallic surfaces empty of character never ceased to amaze him. It was almost as though half of the universe's invaders and madmen all used the same firm of interior designers.

"Inside." The same man spoke; he was a man, Mike was sure - or at least he had been once. There was nothing about him now to indicate who he might have been, but his frame was that of a man and so was his voice. Mike considered trying to strike up a conversation; K'anpo always managed that at moments like this; but he could think of nothing to say, nor any real reason for saying it. Instead he did as he was told and entered the corridor.

They did not walk for long before they were ushered into a room. It was almost a perfect cube in shape, two of the walls lined with beeping, flashing instruments and controls of all sorts. A large square table stood in the centre of the room, with one of the Embellished standing beside it. He appeared to be glancing through a report, and did not at first look up. Karys, clearly not in the mood to be kept waiting, cleared her throat loudly.

"Excuse me?" She stepped forward, and none of the guards attempted to prevent her. "I said excuse me!"

"Be silent." The loud, semi-mechanical voice of the Embellished behind the desk boomed about the small room. The outraged major folded her arms.

"I demand to know why we're being treated like this. We were brought in here as prisoners, when all that we wanted was a chance to talk."

"We have no desire to talk with those of inferior race." The man did not even bother looking at her as he spoke, and she took another step forward.

"Last time I looked we were of the same race. We were all born on this planet, and we're all going to die here if we don't start working together. You have ships, the rest of the population needs them."

"Our ships are for our own people." At last the man turned to look at her, his empty eye-holes incapable of showing any emotion that he might have been feeling - which was not likely to be very much. "Your people will die in little more than twenty-four hours, when this planet leaves its orbit."

"And any others that do manage to escape will die soon enough, thanks to whatever it is that you've infected us all with." She was shaking her head. "I believed in you. I became one of you!" The metal man made a strange wheezing sound, which seemed to indicate that he might be laughing.

"You think that your minor adjustments make you the same as us?" He took a few steps towards her, his metal feet resounding loudly on the bare metal floor. "Look at us. Are we the same? You are flesh and blood, we are metal and electrical components. We are not the same."

"You still have organic matter inside you." Mike took a step forward, staring into the eye-holes which showed their evidence of living tissue within. "You're not robots, even if that's what you'd have us believe. You're not as superior as you think."

"You will be silent." The metal man barely bothered to look in his direction, but Mike persevered nonetheless.

"You couldn't break free entirely, could you. You need your perishable core, in just the same way as us. You may be metal on the outside, but inside you're just as human as the rest of us. That can be your undoing."

"You know nothing." The big creature stared down at them, its empty face allowing them to see nothing of the thoughts going on inside its brain. "You are alone?"

"Yes." Karys hung her head, in imitation of sorrow at a supposedly bitter mistake. "Yes, we are. But there are others who will come from the towns, if we don't return."

The metal man made a grunting noise that sounded very much like a dismissal. "Let them come. By the time they arrive we will be gone. They will have time only to realise that before they and the rest of your pitiful people perish along with the atmosphere." He leaned closer to her, and she recoiled slightly from the sweet, oily vapour coming from the metal unit on his chest.

"Why?" She tried to step back from him, but she could feel his metal fingers pressing into her arms. She struggled, but even her embellished strength could not help her to break free. "Why are you doing this?"

"We will be supreme." The empty eye-holes stared at her, cold and unmoving. "We will spread across the galaxy and we will conquer. We intend to pilot this planet, once we have stabilised it, and we will use it to help us destroy those who are weak. Those who are like you. The weak must perish."

"I'm not that weak." She stared into the eye-holes, trying to look into the creature's organic core as though that way she could somehow appeal to it; to make it see sense. She was thinking of it more as an it, she realised with a jolt. It was no longer a he in her eyes; no longer a man, or even one of the Embellished. It was a creature. She wanted very much to pull away, to get as far from this cave as she could, and never to look back. She wondered if things might have been different, if she had believed Mike and K'anpo earlier.

"You are insignificant," the creature told her, his heavy, booming voice breaking the long word up into staccato syllables. "You will die."

"Well thankyou." She turned her head back to look at Mike, now standing several paces away. He was staring at the electrical equipment on the walls as though wondering if there might be something that he could do with it. "Do we get a last request?"

"Be silent. You will accompany the guards to the place of execution." Heavy hands seized her shoulders and she was shoved towards the door. Mike stumbled next to her, and they came close to tripping over each other's feet as they were thrown into the corridor.

"Any plans?" she hissed at him, her voice a little too hopeful to inspire great confidence. Mike shrugged.

"I have a favourite in these situations."

"Which is?"

"A distraction, followed by a last, desperate bid for freedom. Running in blind panic is very underestimated on the whole." Despite herself she smiled at his words.

"Do you escape from the lairs of evil robots on a regular basis?"

"Only on weekdays. It used to be weekends, but I have better things to do with my Saturday evenings now."

"Anything special?"

"No, not really." He came to a halt, ignoring the pushes from their guards. "What are you doing this weekend?"

"I'll let you into a secret." She was grinning now. "I have no idea what you're talking about. If you're talking days and dates, our days have numbers, not names."

"How unromantic."

"I know. But if you want to introduce me to a Saturday evening, I'd be happy to share it with you."

"It's a date."

"Proceed!" A heavy blow came from behind, catching Mike between the shoulder blades. He stumbled and almost fell, the strength of Karys all that kept him on his feet.

"Take it easy my dear fellow. There's no need to push." He rubbed his arm, striding suddenly ahead to put some distance between himself and the enemy. "Get ready to run."

"We need a distraction." It was hard to whisper and to hurry and to avoid stumbling and to watch out for the guards, all at the same time. Karys wondered how long they had left to go before they arrived at their place of execution. It was a thought she would rather not have considered.

"I'll make a scene." Staring ahead, clearly already thinking, Mike kept his voice so low that she could barely hear him. "Just be ready to run."

"No." She grabbed his arm, jerking him to a halt that further enraged the guards. "I'll make the distraction."

"You might not be able to get out." His voice was firm.

"This is all my fault. We wouldn't even be here if I'd listened to you."

"That's not true."

"The prisoners will be silent. Advance down the corridor." The extra volume of the nearest guard's voice echoed along the smooth metal walls. Karys tightened her grip on Mike's shoulder. "I outrank you, Captain. When I say the word, get out of here. And don't look back."

"But I--"

"Please Mike." Her eyes were bright and earnest. "Just do it."

"Failure to obey will result in your destruction!" The closest guard was reaching out for Karys' hand, ready to tear it away from Mike's shoulder. She turned to face the metal monstrosity, her eyes staring deep into its synthetic skull.

"You're going to kill us anyway. Why should we co-operate?"

"You will obey me." A heavy laser pistol, of a design that she had never before seen, waved close to her face. "You will proceed down the corridor."

"You know what?" She planted a hand on the broad metal chest facing her. "You are really starting to annoy me." The laser pistol whirred menacingly, and she felt a strong desire to gulp. "If you're going to shoot me, go ahead and get it over with."

"The prisoners will--"

"No the prisoners won't!" She interrupted it, raising her voice in a loud, powerful yell that took her as much by surprise as it did the creature. "I've had it with you. You're just a bunch of nuts in metal suits. I probably knew all you jerks when you were kids. We probably went to the same school, hung out in the same places. I might even have dated some of you! Don't try the heavy act on me now. You're not impressing anyone."

"The prisoners will advance down the corridor." The second guard loomed over her, clearly unimpressed by her outburst. "You will--" It broke off, staring about as though perplexed. "Where is the male prisoner?"

"He has escaped." The first guard showed the first signs of real emotion that Karys had heard from any of her new enemies so far. Anger was clear in its voice. "He must be found."

"He's gone." Karys folded her arms. She was afraid, but she also felt very, very satisfied. "You'll never catch him."

"You will never know." The second guard pressed its laser pistol against her chest, pushing her hard against the smooth metal of the walls. "You are an enemy of the Embellished. You must be destroyed."

"Yeah." Her voice was sad, for she had hoped to get the chance to make her own escape and now it looked as though that was not going to happen. She raised her eyes, wondering who the man behind the mask was; what had been the name of the creature that was now going to kill her. She wasn't entirely sure if there was a true face behind the white gauze mask, but she could see the remnants of the organic, and now largely obsolete, eyes staring out at her through the holes. Behind the mask Kalton did not even think about what he was doing. The parts of his brain that remained organic might have been aware that he had once danced with Karys, fifteen years previously, at a cadet function. There might have been an echo, somewhere inside his head, of the day that he had dragged her from a lake, when she had fallen through the ice trying to rescue a school friend. He might even have remembered how they had held hands during the funeral, and led a eulogy together the day afterwards, as part of a special school assembly. If he did remember, he no longer cared. The only thought he had which went beyond his new loyalties was a reaction to the flash of green light caused by scattered chunks of his laser fire ricocheting off the metal walls of the tunnel. Green. His semi-human mind processed it, confused. It reminded him of something; but the something could not have been important. He left the body of the female prisoner lying still and silent in the corridor, and tramped off in search of the male.


Mike ran, trying not to listen to the sounds in the corridor behind him. He did not want to hear the almost inevitable gunshot when it finally came. He ran as fast as he could, coming close to losing his footing more than once as he struggled on down the smooth metal tunnel. It reminded him of the Dalek cities on Skaro, with their long stretches of metal on the floors of all the corridors. Here the metal was not needed for static electricity. He had seen no evidence that these creatures needed it for mobility. It was almost as if they were using it as a shield; as though there were something - some element within the mountain around them - that they were trying to keep out.

"Halt!" He heard a shout, but did not see its source. He ducked instinctively, thanking Heaven for the lifesaving corner in the tunnel. Heavy metal footsteps clattered behind him, but he shut them out of his mind, concentrating instead on the way ahead. He reached the rock walls beyond the sea of metal; the last stretch before the cave. A jumble of noises echoed about behind him, but he ignored them all. He could see the cave now; the opening to the tunnel, where metal walls and smooth, carved rock gave way to the outside world. He redoubled his speed. He was so close now; so very, very close.

He erupted into the cave as though the hounds of hell were at his heels, which they very likely were. One lone member of the Embellished stood guard in the cave; a single man and yet as effective a blockage as an entire army. He was raising his gun before Mike had even had the chance to dodge aside. He thought of his own gun, taken by the enemy; then dismissed the thought. It would have had no effect on this metal man.

"Halt!" The voice of this new figure was no different to that of the others further down the tunnel. Mike skidded to a stop. He glanced back at the passageway, unable to keep his thoughts away from Karys. He wished he could believe that she was alive.

"I'm surrendering." He held up his hands in demonstration, his eyes fixed on the gun. The metal man took a few paces towards him, until he could feel the oily vapour of its breath on his face. The urge to recoil was powerful.

"Surrender is not an option." The gun pressed against his head. "You will be destroyed."

"Of course." His voice was calm, but his pulse was racing. It was all so easy; so natural for it to end here. The final curtain on a career of battling some of the most unpleasant races in all of the universe. "Mind if I have a last cigarette?" He held up his cigarette lighter, borrowed what felt like a century ago from a corporal in UNIT. It had been during that last operation together, when the dinosaurs had invaded London - a whole lifetime away. He clicked on the flame.

"Drop the weapon!" The metal creature swung its gun around, ready to shoot the lighter from his hands, and in that instant Mike reacted. He side-stepped, hurling the lighter at his enemy. It threw up one hand to protect itself from the sudden flash of fire, and Mike made a grab for the gun in its other hand. It swung its free hand at him, but he ducked just in time, trying for a Venusian Aikido move that might give him some advantage. He heard an angry growl from within the chest unit, and saw his lighter, jammed in the top of the unit, its little flame still spluttering gamely. Even as he stared at it it moved, falling inside the unit. The creature gave a howl, either of pain or just of rage Mike could not tell. He swung about with all of his body weight, throwing everything that he had into one, final twist. The gun came free in his hand and he crashed to the floor.

"Give me the weapon. Surrender!" The monster crashed towards him, and he staggered desperately to his feet. He could see a wisp of smoke coming from the chest unit, although the damage, he was sure, could not be too great.

"I thought surrender wasn't an option?" Mike levelled his new weapon at the creature and smiled grimly. It gave him no pleasure, but he knew that he had no alternative. He fired, watching as the metal man convulsed and collapsed, his wrecked chest unit bursting into flame. A low growling sound bubbled from the once human throat, and Mike turned away. He had seen and heard enough; there was no point in standing around to watch it in its death throes. He broke into a run, heading back up the slope towards the place where he had left his friends. He had to get them to safety. It was only as he stumbled up to the halfway point of the loose, stony slope that he thought about the cigarette lighter, and managed a smile that made him feel a good deal better. He had actually hoped to get around to returning it one day. He couldn't even remember why he had borrowed it in the first place; he had never smoked. A breathless grin managed to find its way onto his face, and with it came the strength to increase his pace. He could hear the sounds of pursuit behind him, and he still had a long way to go.


"What's going on?" Rachda met him, grabbing his arms to pull him up the last few feet. Laser fire exploded in the air around them. "Where's Karys?"

"I don't know. Dead I think." Mike tried to catch a breath, but his lungs hurt and the mere act of breathing was painful. "We have to get out of here."

"You don't say." Rachda hurried him through the trees towards K'anpo and Lonis, waiting together just out of sight. "What happened down there?"

"We were caught." Mike leaned on a tree trunk, staring at his friend and teacher. The Time Lord looked as calm and as collected as always. "You were right K'anpo." The little man inclined his head in a nod that bore no trace of triumph.

"To be right is always pleasant, but as I get older I find myself wishing far more often to be wrong." He rose to his feet. "We had best return to our transport."

"Looks to me like that way is blocked." Lonis was staring through the trees. A row of Embellished was heading towards them, cutting them off from the immediate route back to their hover-car. "We'll have to take a detour."

"We'd better find a place to hide. There's no way we're getting anywhere with that lot after us." Rachda herded them all along the top of the slope, where beneath them they could see more of the Embellished climbing to meet them. Gunfire crackled and burst about them.

"This way!" Lonis had spotted an unguarded route, and they turned immediately to follow him. K'anpo moved more slowly than the others, and as Mike turned to leave he glanced back at the little Time Lord. His companion was looking gamely ahead, determined to keep up with his stronger, younger friends.

"K'anpo!" Mike scrambled back to him, ignoring the hand waving him away. "Let me help you."

"I can keep up Mike." K'anpo took a deep breath. "Don't underestimate me. I had hoped that you would have learned that by now."

"I'm not underestimating anybody - just pick your feet up!" Rachda was gesturing frantically for them to follow him, and they moved forward with new haste, running over the uneven ground. Mountains, hills and valleys lay below them in a mighty panoramic view of almost impassable countryside.

"Oh great." Lonis leaned on the nearest rock. "Where do we go from here?"

"What's that?" Mike, hurrying K'anpo along as best he could, pointed to where a giant streak of white marked the landscape. It looked as though it might have been a dome - a massive shape that stood apart from the rocks and browning grass of the other scenery.

"I'm not sure." Rachda shielded his eyes from the sun with a large, dirty hand.

"I am." Lonis was already starting down this latest incline. It bore more resemblance to a cliff than to a mountainside; an almost perpendicular slide of shingle providing minuscule support to a myriad of potential avalanches. "It's the Cities."

"The Cities of Gold?" Mike frowned. "They don't look very golden to me."

"That's the outside wall. It's built of stone because gold is too soft. It would never have lasted this long exposed to the elements." The young man cast a nervous glance back at the others. "Come on! We don't exactly have much of a head start."

"He's right. This way!" Rachda was falling over his own feet, slipping and sliding on the loose stone of the steep slope. "We can hide in the Cities!"

"That's if they're still standing." Lonis was still in the lead, unable in his haste to check back on the progress of the others. Mike held K'anpo's arm, running with him, keeping him going. The little Time Lord seemed exhausted, and the human was sure that it was only his superior physiology as a citizen of Gallifrey which let the older man keep up. Even so, his pace flagged. Clearly he would not be able to keep the pace up for much longer, but Mike was sure that he would regain his strength, at least to some degree, when he saw the place that was to be their refuge.

They stumbled on, barely keeping upright on the rough ground. Occasional shouts echoed behind them but all seemed safe enough; until they rounded a corner between two long lines of trees and came finally upon the wall; a vast, impassable barricade that bore no hint of welcome. It was made from massive blocks of white stone, towering far above their heads, reaching up into a point high, high in the sky. It was beautiful sure enough, for veins of gold had been worked into its construction, swirling in patterns of true beauty and great size; but no patterning could make it any the less of a monstrosity in the eyes of the four refugees. They stared up at it, stricken, unable to decide what to do next.

"It goes on forever." Rachda took a step back, staring up at the wall, looking from left to right. He could see no break in it, no end to it.

"Nonsense. It is finite, or it would cover the whole planet." K'anpo drew himself up to his full height, stepping out of Mike's steadying hold in order to look about. He ran his hands over the smooth stones. "Well we can't climb it, that much is obvious. It would take equipment that we simply do not have." He frowned. "And I would not recommend going around it. Somehow I doubt that we would find an entrance whichever way we turn."

"There has to be an entrance. Countless thousands of people; millions of people. They all hid in these Cities when the plague swept across the planet. They can't all have climbed over the walls!" Lonis stared back, looking into the distance. He could not see the hordes of the Embellished yet, but he knew that they would soon be coming.

"There is an entrance, but it would be something that would have meant something to your ancestors. They were hiding, remember. They built the Cities as a refuge, somewhere that other people could not easily enter. Think man. Both of you. What did they have then? What might they have used?"

"Gold." Rachda spoke it as a certainty. "If there's a key, it would be made of gold." He pulled the necklace from around his throat, and with sudden, clear intent, he held it out towards the wall. Nothing happened. He moved it, passing it across the veins of yellow metal running within the wall. From somewhere, faint at first, came the grinding of mechanical gears.

"You've done it!" Lonis ran forward, banging on the wall with his fists. Even as he did so a section of it was moving, beginning to lift up before their very eyes. The door was set flush with the wall, and there was no way of seeing it before it began to move; but move it did. It was huge; a great, vast opening that stretched out to either side of them, sliding up far overhead.

"Now what?" Rachda had paused, his strength and certainty abandoning him now. He stared into the white corridor revealed to them, clearly unwilling now to enter into the Cities beyond. K'anpo made the decision for him, striding ahead.

"This way," he said simply. "Hurry along, we may not have much time."

"We have to close the doors." Mike followed him in, looking about for some sign of a mechanism to shut the gaping hole once again. There was none; but as soon as Rachda and Lonis had also stepped over the threshold, the door slid back into place to cover their retreat. Once again the wall was smooth and featureless. The door might just as well never have existed. K'anpo smiled, looking like the cat which had got the cream.

"I would love to have met the architect," he said merrily, running his hands over the walls. Mike smirked.

"Maybe when we get out of here you can."

"Ah, maybe Mike. Maybe." They hurried on together down the corridor, unimaginably big in its width and height; a great, sloping vastness of a passageway that led to who knew where. The size was a necessity of course, for the larger the door and the corridor beyond, the easier it was for those who gained entrance to be sure that they would find one of the doors, in all of that empty featureless wall outside. The effect of the tunnel's size was magnificent; a long, tapering cathedral stretching into the middle distance.

"It looks as though we may be getting somewhere." Somehow, in spite of his previous exhaustion, K'anpo was now in the lead. He had come to a halt, pointing to where a light showed at the end of the tunnel. It appeared as a huge, round disk, letting bright white light through into the tunnel, tinged at the edges with the patterns of rainbows. As one now the four men walked forward, heading towards the light. It seemed to grow in welcome, rising about around them as the tunnel's exit grew with narrowed distance. The light greeted them and they stepped out of the tunnel; and straight into wonderland.

They stood at the top of a valley; a great, bowl-shaped dip into the earth, paved all about with white stone. In the centre the ground had been flattened into a massive circle, where the five Cities of Gold were clearly visible. Each was separate, and yet they were clearly joined, arranged as they were at the five points of a pentagram; a design built into the ground in alternating blocks of white stone and gold, a huge-scale concentric pattern that dragged the eye to its centre. The Cities themselves were made almost entirely of gold, with huge domes, vast towers, spreading pagodas - and small, modest cottages built of white stone, their roofs woven from thick golden thatch. They had been built in circles, each City radiating out around a central point; a great, golden statue of a man. Each statue seemed to be different, as though each of the Cities had come from the dream of a separate man; although from their current distance the awe-struck spectators could not be sure. Mike rubbed his eyes, certain for a moment that he had to be dreaming. It was all so beautiful; so impossibly magnificent. He had thought that so much gold would be hard on the eye, but that was not the case. Enclosed as it was in its great dome of white stone, the complex was lit by a series of cut-crystal windows in the ceiling, and the light, therefore, was a mass of rainbows that danced and sprang about across the buildings. One writhed in the floor at his feet, and he felt almost inclined to reach out for it; to try to catch it. He had known all his life that it was an impossible feat, and yet now, standing here, he was almost certain that he would succeed.

"Come along." Sounding much as though they were standing before an ordinary city of concrete and tarmac, K'anpo led the way forward. They followed him as robots, staring about as they descended, watching the buildings and the perfect, patterned roads come closer and closer. The vast, sumptuously decorated walls of the protective dome faded into the background, lost amongst the buildings.

"Now what?" Mike asked, still certain that he was about to wake up and find himself back in the lair of the Embellished, with all those blank, gauze-masked faces, and Karys... He closed his eyes for a moment. Karys. The thought of her stung him. "Do we find a place to hide?"

"Perhaps." K'anpo turned about, before choosing a direction at random and marching into one of the Cities. The others followed him as he found his way unerringly along the simple route to the statue at the centre. They stood together, staring up at it, seeing an impossibly tall man dressed in tunic and sandals. His head was too far away to see great detail, but it appeared that his hair was tightly curled, and he wore a circlet of what appeared to be woven leaves. There were runes along the base of the statue, and Rachda leaned close to begin a faulting translation.

"The statue represents General Radaovan, a soldier from the ancient days. He was thought to be the first man to attempt to unify the disparate groups of the planet; all the different cultures and societies. He succeeded to a far greater degree than many others managed until hundreds of years later." He smiled somewhat sardonically. "It was the plague that unified them in the end, and brought them into this place. No man could have achieved it."

"Someone must have envisioned this place; designed it, built it; brought the people to it." K'anpo gazed up at the statue. "He looks familiar, you know. I shall have to check with the records in the TARDIS."

"He looks like Alexander the Great," Mike observed. K'anpo frowned at him.

"My dear fellow, I do believe you're right. Well I never."

Mike blinked in surprise. "You don't think-?"

"No, no. Of course not. But there's no reason why they shouldn't have been related is there?" The little shoulders shrugged. "Humanity is a race of unique design, Mike. Your ancestry does not merely come from the... what do you call it? The primeval swamp."

"The runes say that this is the second city to be built." Rachda, ignoring their conversation since he knew so little about the subject, had turned his attention back to the base of the statue. "It was inhabited by people from south of the equator, although as time went by all of the races mixed. It was originally designed so that the lights from the windows in the roof would shine on this pavilion at just the right times for certain ceremonies that the cultures of the south were given to performing."

"A magnificent feat of engineering indeed." K'anpo sighed. "But not one that we have much time to marvel at. I would suggest that we find for ourselves some place in which to hide. A building somewhere, perhaps one that we might have some hope of defending, should it become necessary." He frowned at Lonis, who had been very quiet since entering the dome of the Cities. "Are you alright, my boy? You seem somewhat subdued."

"I feel... strange." Lonis was leaning on the statue for support, his face paling. "Very strange. Something is... not right here."

"Well I feel fine." Concern furrowed K'anpo's brow. "Rachda? Mike?"

"I'm fine," Mike told him, and Rachda nodded his own confirmation, frowning at Lonis in clear sympathy.

"What's wrong?" he asked, offering his friend an arm for support. Lonis managed a rather weak smile.

"I... don't know. It started as we came in, but now it's worse. I can't... my breathing... I can't seem to get any oxygen from the air." He closed his eyes for a second, and the smile faded. "I feel... terrible."

"Just take it easy. We'll find you somewhere to sit down." Rachda led him towards the nearest of the buildings, steering him through the door-less opening into the room beyond. Although the outside of the building was made of gold, the inside was lined with blocks of white stone, veined with patterns of the ever-present metal. Lonis took a deep breath.

"Thankyou. I feel a little better in here." He allowed his companion to lead him to a bed in the corner of the room. The blankets were thick with dust, but decay in the controlled environment was almost unknown. Mike took the blanket outside, shaking it violently and sending brown-grey clouds of choking dust into the air. Beneath its coating the blanket seemed to be in fine condition, and he took it back inside, arranging it once more on the sheets. Lonis smiled gratefully at him. He still seemed a little grey in colour, but being inside the building had apparently returned some of his strength to him. He lay down, staring up at the ceiling, one hand trailing along the golden bedstead.

"I feel like a fool," he whispered, his voice sounding hoarse. "I was alright before... I don't know what came over me."

"Just take it easy," Mike told him, exchanging a worried glance with K'anpo. The Time Lord was frowning deeply, and as Lonis seemed to drift into an uneasy sleep, the pair turned away from the bed, heading out into the streets once again.

"What's wrong with him?" Mike asked, as soon as the building was a suitable distance behind. K'anpo shook his head.

"I don't know. I know so little about these people. They seem so similar to you, and yet such a reaction... I can't imagine what could have caused it. Lonis seemed so strong, so vigorous before."

"It's as though being in the City caused it." Mike took a few deep breaths. He could taste nothing in the air, nor could he smell anything suspicious. "Do you think that the air could be poisonous? He's not the biggest of men, or the strongest. It's quite likely that he would be the one to succumb first."

"The air isn't poisonous." Mike had no idea how K'anpo could be so sure, but the certainty in the other man's voice was enough to convince him. "Perhaps he is merely ill."

"K'anpo?" It was Rachda, standing in the doorway of the house they had just left. He was leaning against the wall, and for a moment Mike thought that he too might be ill.

"Yes?" The Time Lord turned back, striding towards the other man as though suddenly gripped by a dreadful certainty. "Is it - Lonis, is he...?"

"You'd better come." Rachda sounded tired, and the words fell lifelessly from his tongue. "I thought he was falling asleep, but then..." He shrugged, looking helpless. "He started to choke, and now... and now he's dead."


"Twenty-four hours. Likely to be less than twenty-four hours now." Mike sat on the pedestal bearing the huge golden look-a-like of Alexander the Great. "That's how much time we have left before this whole planet goes on its grand tour - and look at us."

"Where there's life there's hope, as they say; and at least we're still alive, Mike." K'anpo sat on the ground at his feet, legs crossed, head bowed. "Unlike the others. We were five, and now we are three."

"And it's got us nowhere." The human heaved a long, deep sigh that seemed to come from his very soul. "Karys died so that I could escape and get back to warn you, and look where that got us. We're trapped in a golden city in the middle of nowhere with an army after us, and to top it all the entire population of the planet faces imminent death in no more than a day, unless we manage to do something about it." He rubbed his eyes. "What happened, K'anpo? Lonis was fine. There was nothing wrong with him."

"I don't know." The little man was shaking his head. "It was all so sudden, and the rest of us are fine..."

"Well now you come to mention it..." Standing nearby, arms folded, Rachda was beginning to look rather pale. "I haven't been feeling all that good. It's as though... I don't know. As though my lungs don't want to work. My chest feels heavy."

"Sit down. Breathe slowly and steadily. You must allow your body to relax." K'anpo was beside him in seconds, doctor and counsellor all in one. "Relax Rachda. Relax."

"Easy for you to say." He managed a weak imitation of a smile. "It's okay. I don't feel half as bad as Lonis looked. I just... I feel so weak. Like... like I'd suddenly become an asthmatic. It's since we came here, to this city. I feel... as though something here is poisonous."

"There's nothing here. Nothing but stone and gold. Are you allergic to that?" Mike glanced up at K'anpo. "Is that possible?"

"Highly unlikely. He wears a gold necklace every day of his life." K'anpo reached out to touch the medallion. "Although of course Lonis is dead, and he wore no such necklace."

"I've worn it every day since I was seventeen." Rachda sucked in a breath from between clenched teeth. "It's a very high honour among my people."

"And it may be the reason for your survival." K'anpo was frowning deeply, his face a sudden mass of lines and wrinkles. "Supposing that you were allergic to gold; your constant exposure to a small amount of it through this necklace could well have given you some resistance; a resistance that Lonis did not have."

"That's crazy. I'm not allergic to gold; and even if I were, what are the chances of both Lonis and I suffering the same affliction? We're not even related." Rachda took several steadying breaths. "I need fresh air. I have to leave here."

"I rather think that you do, yes." K'anpo helped him to his feet. "I don't know what's happened to your people, Rachda, and how a race that once spent their entire lives surrounded by gold could suddenly come to be so violently allergic to it; but I would imagine that to be the only explanation for these events here."

"We've always used gold. It was the element on which our entire civilisation was based."

"Not anymore." K'anpo shook his head. "How could I have been so stupid? I may have signed Lonis' death warrant by allowing you all to come here. I should have realised sooner. The clues were all here."

"What clues?" Mike was frustrated, confused by a situation that he barely understood. How could the people of this planet be allergic to gold? There had been veins of it in the wall of the cave they called home. Admittedly it had been a case of small seams in a place filled with a lot of people, but all the same... He remembered what Rachda had said about the high death rate in the cave, and a frown crossed his face.

"The clues, Mike. A world, a people - an entire civilisation similar to Earth in so many ways. Vegetation, animals, birds - all so familiar to us, remember? A race of people determined to leave their organic flesh behind, and to adapt their bodies through the addition of mechanical and electrical components. Semi-organic robot-like creatures who come from a race who are fatally allergic to gold. Do you see it Mike?"

"I see it." He had been standing, but now he sank back onto the pedestal which had been his earlier seat. "This is Mondas. Earth's sister planet."

"It is indeed." The bright little eyes might usually have shone up at him, in congratulation for a fine deduction; but now they were lowered in sorrow. "If I had seen one of the Embellished perhaps I would have recognised them; but you of course have only seen the later versions. These will be their earliest known form; when their bodies were far more reminiscent of the organic creatures that they once were."

"Then there's nothing that we can do. We know what they do with the planet, and we know where they go from here. We can't stop them." Mike was shaking his head. "There should be something - anything. If we could find a way to destroy them now..."

"It wouldn't work. As you said, there's nothing that we can do; and given the far-reaching effects the Cybermen have had on the universe, we shouldn't even be talking about it. History must be allowed to continue the way it was meant to."

"We could save a lot of lives."

"And destroy a lot of others." The Time Lord heaved a long sigh. "I've taught you better than to suggest such things, Mike. Who is to decide which way is right and which way is wrong?"

"I know." The young captain turned his head, staring away into space. "I know all of that. I just don't like it."

"To be given the ability to travel in Time is a great gift, Mike. But it carries rules that are often hard to keep. Perhaps a man killed in one of the Cyber Wars might otherwise have turned into a dreadful dictator, who murdered millions and destroyed worlds. All is possible. These are things that must be considered."

"Yeah." Mike lowered his eyes, then smiled sadly and stood up. "Okay K'anpo, we play it your way; but we're leaving here now, and we're going back to the TARDIS. We have to get as many people off this planet as we can."

"Of course." The Time Lord took his hand. "Help Rachda now. He's weakening fast."

"But what about you?" His voice tired, Rachda managed a blurry stare up at the strange little man now standing before him. "You both feel okay?"

"Don't worry about us. Remember that we're not from this planet." Mike pulled him to his feet, getting a steadying grip on his shoulders to keep him upright. "Just concentrate on putting one foot before the other."

"We're leaving?" Rachda sounded confused, as though his mind was no longer working too well. "Why? I thought we were going to hide here?"

"Not if it means sitting here watching you die." Mike glanced up at K'anpo. "We should take something with us, as a weapon. I have my gun, but gold would be much more effective."

"A good point." The Time Lord bent to the ground at his feet, using a small pocket knife to lever some of the gold stones out of the path surrounding the giant statue. "I think..." He dug around in his pockets. "Ah yes. Here it is." And he held up a small catapult, a piece of rubber tubing stretched between the forks of a hand-carved chunk of wood. "Perfect."

"I'm not even going to ask where you picked that up." Mike smiled at him, already heading back towards the point where they had entered the Cities. "Do we use the same route out as in?"

"There are many doors, as you can see from this side of the wall. I doubt that it makes a great deal of difference which we use."

"You think they're out there waiting for us?"

"Not too close. I imagine that they know about their allergy to gold; their level of efficiency and readiness is too great to allow them to miss something of such importance."

"Then there's every chance that we'll be able to make a break for it." Mike nodded firmly, his old, soldierly instincts already taking over. K'anpo was a man of great intellect, but they both knew that there were times when he had to let his travelling companion take centre stage. Drawing his gun and using his free hand to support Rachda, Mike set his eyes on the exit from the Cities and turned his mind to the task ahead. Try as he might, however, as he headed towards yet another confrontation with yet another alien race, he could not stop himself wishing for the comradeship of his friends. If he died here, he couldn't help wondering who would notice; and whether John Benton and the Brigadier would ever stop to wonder what had become of the man who had once betrayed them both.


Outside the Cities everything was unnaturally quiet. Mike led the way, hampered only slightly by a fast recovering Rachda. The young man was shaking his head at frequent, regular intervals, as though trying to give his consciousness a sharp knock back into place. Soon he was walking on his own, silent and confused, uncertain why they had left their refuge but unwilling to ask. His memory was playing tricks on him.

"Where are we going?" he asked eventually. K'anpo, who had fallen into step beside him, turned to offer him a bright smile that quite inexplicably seemed to lighten the day.

"We're going back to your headquarters. It's time to begin the evacuation of the planet. With luck I can make several trips to some temporary place, and rescue as many of your people as I can." His smiled dimmed and a look of infinite sadness replaced it. "I wish that I could save more, but I doubt my ability to save even as many as a quarter."

"Whatever you do K'anpo, we'll appreciate it. You've already done more in twenty-four hours than half the population of the planet has managed in twenty-four years." He smiled a small, bitter smile. "To think that we've been brought to our knees by a faction of our own people."

"Not your own people. Not anymore." K'anpo was shaking his head slowly from side to side, looking like a small gnome imparting great wisdom. "They are no longer citizens of Mondas in the same way as you. They are a new race."

"You know about them; more about them than you thought you did." Rachda was frowning, remembering sketchy details of the conversation back in the Cities of Gold, just before they had left. "It meant something to you, to learn that gold effects us all that way."

"Yes." K'anpo did not meet his gaze. "I can't tell you, Rachda. The knowledge I have is from the future; your future, maybe - certainly the future of the Embellished. I can't risk anything happening to that."

"Then they flourish." Rachda turned away, staring back towards the receding sight of the great, white wall. "They escape here and they continue to exist."

"Yes, they do. They leave their mark on history, in just the same way as your own people. That is the way of the universe."

"If you know what happens to the Embellished, do you also know what happens to the rest of us? To the ordinary people of Mondas? Where do we go? What kind of life do we live? I don't want my descendants to be homeless refugees for the rest of Time." There was a silence, and he cast a sidelong glance at his travelling companion. "K'anpo?"

"I'm sorry Rachda. I can't tell you these things. It isn't allowed. Think what would happen if you decided to change it? The effects could be catastrophic. You have to wait and see for yourself, and then you'll know. I can't tell you any more."

"Fine." The younger man turned away, looking instead towards Mike who was climbing up a hillside ahead of them. "All I really want to know is how to make it through today."

"None of us know the answer to that one." K'anpo smiled at him and he managed to return the gesture. "Go ahead now. You don't want to stumble along back here with me. Go and see if you can help Mike. I feel sure that this silence is too complete to last."

"That doesn't sound terribly reassuring." They shared another smile - this time one with rather more feeling - then Rachda did as he was told. He agreed with K'anpo. The silence was worse than off-putting; it was deeply disturbing. Up ahead Mike had reached the crest of the hill, and he had come to a halt. Rachda quickened his step in order to catch up with him, glad that the alien soldier had taken the time to wait for his two companions.

"Mike?" He caught up at last, finally admitting to himself that the episode back in the Cities had taken a great deal out of him. "I don't suppose you can see our hover-car from up here?" It was a joke more than anything, but Mike did not smile. He did not look at Rachda either, but merely stared at something in the distance. What little of his face that Rachda could see looked drawn.

"Look." Raising one hand to point, Mike gestured down into the valley over which they now looked. Rachda followed the pointing hand, straining his eyes to see. His vision was a little limited still, blurred around the edges as though badly out of tune. He cupped a hand above his eyes, frowning in concentration, but could see no sign of the Embellished. That was a good thing, surely? - although Mike's expression suggested otherwise. He frowned, than saw something moving; something indistinct against the drab brown and grey of the rocks. People. He could see people.

"What is it?" He was leaning so far forward that he was in serious danger of falling over the side of the hill. A long, steep slope awaited him, but he shut his mind to it, concentrating instead on the vague images of people moving below him. There were a lot of them; he could see that now, and it worried him to his very core. He had no idea who they were, or why they were there, but it set his heart pounding fast, and brought a cold sweat to his forehead. Unease took its clammy-fingered hold.

"People." Mike's voice was soft. "Thousands of them." He took a step forward, as heedless of the steep drop as was Rachda. "I didn't see them at first, and then I thought there were only a few of them, but if you keep on looking, they just keep on coming."

"They're my people. They have to be - ordinary Mondasians. But why would they come here?"

"I don't know." Mike shook his head, unable to think of a reason. He wanted to turn back to ask K'anpo, but he didn't seem able to take his eyes from the incredible scene before him. It was clearly an exodus; a mass movement on a grand scale. It seemed as though an entire city of people had left their homes and gathered together for a long walk into the hills. "Maybe they're looking for the Embellished. A last resort; people that they think might be able to help them?"

"I don't think so." The mention of the Embellished had set the hairs on the back of Rachda's neck twitching. He had been trying to forget them, but of course they were still out here. They had been chasing his party, and they undoubtedly still were. He couldn't imagine them being the type to give up easily. Quite suddenly he felt certain that he was being watched; that somewhere in all of this uninhabited gravely landscape there was at least one pair of eyes - or eye-holes - fixed intently on his back. "There are other colonies of Embellished far closer to the inhabited sectors. It wouldn't make sense to come this far, unless..." He groaned. "Unless they were looking for something vastly more important."

"Such as?" Mike asked. Rachda opened his mouth to speak, but it was K'anpo who actually answered, his voice as calm and as gentle as ever as he reached the crest of the hill to stand beside them.

"They're looking for sanctuary," he said, the tone of his voice unreadable. "I imagine that they've finally realised just how little time they have left. Without ships to take them away, and without any means to prevent an imminent catastrophe, they're heading towards the one place that represents an idea of safety to them. The place where their forefathers sheltered from another catastrophe a thousand years ago."

Mike stared at him, his eyes widening. "The Cities of Gold..." It was a whisper so quiet that it was barely audible. "But they'll all die."

"Precisely." For once a smile did not readily come to K'anpo's lips. "We must stop them. Immediately."

"I think they might have something to say about that." Rachda was looking past the two travellers, but he was not looking at the masses below. Instead his eyes were fixed on some other sight, which Mike had already guessed at before he turned around to see it himself. Five of the Embellished - five Cybermen, he corrected himself - were standing in a row about a stone's throw from the three, their heavy laser pistols drawn. One stepped forward, its great height imposing even at the substantial distance still between them.

"You will surrender," it said loudly, showing characteristic lack of imagination. "The Mondasians will be allowed to pass."

"That's crazy!" Rachda took a step closer, but found Mike barring his way. "There are countless thousands of people down there, all heading straight for a place that will kill them."

"Preventing their deaths would serve no purpose. They will die soon anyway, when the planet leaves its orbit." The lead Cyberman stalked up to the little group, surveying them with an empty, unimpressed gaze. "We wish to interrogate you before you are left to perish in the last hours of the planet. Two of you are not like the others." Its gaze moved past Mike to settle on K'anpo. "One of you is very different."

"I should hate to be one of the crowd." K'anpo narrowed his eyes. "But you're wrong about one thing, my friend. We have no intention of allowing those people to go to the Cities of Gold. On the contrary, we plan to stop them." He folded his arms, drawing himself up to his full height, which was not much at the best of times, and appeared considerably less when confronting a Cyberman. "I defy you to stop us." The Cyberman made a wheezing sound very like thick laughter, and the Time Lord glared at him.

"It's not a good idea to laugh at people. One day you might find that they have far greater reason to be laughing at you."

"Enough." The Cyberman gestured with an arm and its fellows stepped forward to stand alongside it. "You will speak in interrogation, and you will say nothing until then."

"Ready Mike?" Ignoring this order, K'anpo stole a glance at his companion. The young Captain nodded determinedly.

"Ready," he said firmly, his own eyes fixed intently on the two Cybermen off to the left of the leader.

"Good." K'anpo spoke the word as lightly as if they had just agreed to go to the beach for tea. Mike was not quite sure when the catapult had found its way into the Time Lord's hand, or quite when he had fitted one of the little nuggets of gold into its sling. He was only aware of the gun in his own hand, and of Rachda letting out a shout of alarm.

The Cyberleader fired in the same moment that Mike flung himself to one side and came up shooting. He heard one Cyberman yell out in machine-like mimicry of pain; heard the second of his two targets fire his own weapon and heard Rachda yell out. Fear lanced its way through Mike's heart; the last thing that he wanted was to lose another friend. He had already lost two today, and was on the verge of losing their entire civilisation into the bargain. A metallic pinging noise distracted him momentarily, and he threw himself into an uncontrolled roll down the first few feet of the slope, dodging a strafe from yet another Cyberman. A hoarse cry echoed in his ears, and he scrambled back up the slope to see the Cyberleader collapsed to the ground, holding the metal body-part that stood in place of its once human throat. Black oil-like liquid poured from its mouth and it collapsed onto its knees, bubbles of the same black blood frothing from the unit on its chest. One large metal hand groped blindly at the air, and for a second Mike was frozen, watching in horrified fascination; before something hit him squarely in the back and he felt himself slammed into the ground.

"It's okay Mike. Take it easy." Rachda was holding him down, and Mike relaxed as his battle-orientated mind recognised the voice. He glanced up, seeing the Cyberman above him, and raised his gun in a hand that did not feel as steady as it might. The creature fell without a sound, blasted by its own superior technology.

"Thanks." Mike offered Rachda a breathless grin, aware that he would undoubtedly now be dead were it not for his friend's quick thinking. "I thought they'd got you."

"So did I." The other man pulled him to his feet. "Where's K'anpo?"

"Keeping the other two busy I hope." They hurried back up the slope, gazing out at the scene of carnage before them. Four of the Cybermen were dead, their bodies lying in slumped poses that were almost human. Two of them still dripped black blood onto the stony ground, a clear sign of the gold-induced manner of their deaths. It was not a pleasant sight.

"K'anpo?" As anxious to spot the fifth Cyberman as he was to find his friend, Mike held his gun up, in clear-minded readiness to fire.

"Surrender!" He spun about, his body freezing in shock almost before his mind had been able to process the sight now before him. The fifth Cyberman lumbered into view from behind its makeshift cover of rocks, K'anpo held limply in one enormous arm. He appeared to be unconscious, his eyes closed and his body unmoving. "Surrender!" The Cyberman shouted again, brandishing the Time Lord as though he were a rag doll left untidily on the floor of a child's playroom. "Or he will be destroyed."

"If you kill him, I'll kill you." Mike had a clear shot at the creature's head, but he was unwilling to try anything whilst K'anpo was still in danger. "Let him go and we'll talk."

"Inferior races have nothing to offer us. We are in control." The Cyberman took a lumbering step forward. "Surrender or he dies." It pressed its gun against K'anpo's skull, charging the weapon with a whirring, humming sound that made the hairs on the back of Mike's neck tingle. Without further ado he lowered his own gun to the ground, then raised his hands.

"Okay, we're surrendering. Now let him go."

The creature made the curious wheezing sound now recognisable as a form of laughter, and threw K'anpo to the ground - then turned its laser pistol to point straight at the Time Lord. "Promises to inferior races are of no importance," it intoned in its empty, mechanical voice. Mike saw its heavy finger tighten on the trigger.

"What-?" With a grunt of confusion the creature dropped its gun, clasping at its chest unit. "What has happened? What is wrong?" Mike looked down at K'anpo, and saw the little Time Lord staring up at his former captor with a look of grim determination on his face. The catapult was once again in his hands. Above him the Cyberman wobbled on uncertain metal legs, then crashed to the ground. Black oily liquid bubbled out of its mouth, some of it splashing onto K'anpo's trousers. He made no effort to move out of the way.

"I hated doing that," he muttered to himself, seeming not to care whether or not Mike and Rachda were able to hear him. Mike helped him to his feet.

"In the past I've had to help wipe out what felt like entire races in order to save the people of Earth," he observed quietly, his eyes seeming to be focussed on sights far more distant than the man who held his gaze. "If we like doing it, I think it undermines the whole reason why we're doing it in the first place." He was surprised to see K'anpo smile in response.

"Sometimes Mike, I think that you should be the teacher." He clapped his younger companion on the shoulder. "And now we have another problem to deal with. We have to stop those people getting to the Cities of Gold."

"Do you indeed." Strangely the voice sounded familiar, and as the threesome turned they saw a tall, heavy-set man coming towards them. He ran a hand across a neat, thick beard. "And why would you want to do that?"

"Gallden!" Rachda took a step towards him, but froze at the sight of a gun in his fellow Mondasian's hand. "What's going on?"

"Don't come any closer." The man - Gallden - who had tried to execute Mike and K'anpo upon their arrival on the planet, looked from one to the other of the three. "I can't believe you'd try to stop us from finding shelter. Why is that? Are you hoping to keep the Cities to yourselves? Is that it? Were you planning to sell them the gold for their own people, Rachda?" He took his eyes off them for the briefest of moments to check back on the approach of his fellows. Three other men were rounding the crest of the hill, although the main body was still a long way distant. "You're not going to stop us from reaching sanctuary."

"You think a few buildings made of gold can protect you from the sort of conditions this planet will be facing in outer space?!" Mike shook his head, exasperated. "Listen to me. We have a ship. It can take you away from here - to anywhere in the universe that you choose. All that you have to do is--"

"Shut up." One of Gallden's cronies stepped up, pulling the catapult from K'anpo's hand and throwing it a short distance away. "We don't believe you. Why should we? You're offworlders, and you're not to be trusted. All that people like you want is to take our gold."

"That's not true, Jakon. Trust me, I've come to know these people. You can believe what they say." Rachda took a second step towards Gallden, only to be held back by the nearest of the other man's associates. He struggled, but it was to no avail. "Listen Gallden, please! You have to understand something. Why did our people stop using gold as a building material? Why? It wasn't because we were running out, the hills up here are full of the stuff. It's because something has happened since the years of the plague. It has a certain irony about it, given that we once lived for nothing but gold - but if you go anywhere near it now you'll die. It'll kill you, just like it killed these Embellished here."

"Shut up Rachda." The man holding him pushed him closer to K'anpo and Mike. The young Mondasian struggled, desperate.

"You have to listen to me. Please!"

"You must hear what we have to say." K'anpo, his hands folded in a sign of his own harmlessness, gazed steadily at Gallden. "Gold is poison to your people now. If you go to the Cities of Gold, you'll die there; and if the gold itself doesn't get you, the fate of your planet will. I know that you believe the Cities to be protection against all, but that just isn't true. I doubt whether they were even protection against the plague all those years ago."

"Blasphemy!" The man named by Rachda as Jakon raised his gun. "We should kill you now and have done with it."

"But we have better things to occupy our time." The man holding Rachda upended his gun and dealt his prisoner a stunning blow across the back of the head. "Better to leave you here to await your own destruction when the time comes." He let the slumped form in his arms collapse to the ground, then gave a short laugh. "Not long now."

"You have to listen." It was Mike's turn to make a plea for sense, but even as he was moving towards Gallden he saw the gun in the other man's hand. "All we want is to help."

"Yeah?" Gallden gave a snort of amusement. "Hard luck." He fired, and the beam consumed Mike, dropping him to the ground. K'anpo gasped, trying to hurry to the assistance of his friend. Jakon moved to stop him, but the Time Lord spun him away with a simple application of Venusian Aikido, himself dropping to his knees at Mike's side. He was relieved to find his companion still breathing; clearly Gallden really did want them to be alive when the end of the world came. He stared up at the Mondasian.

"May whatever god you believe in forgive you for what you're about to do," he said softly. "And may he forgive me for not finding a way to stop you." Gallden laughed.

"You should have been on the stage old man." There was sarcasm in his voice, and general unpleasantness. K'anpo still felt as though his heart might break, even as the beam from the gun was enveloping him and he was collapsing into blissful oblivion.


"They're gone aren't they." Rachda was standing on the highest point of the hillside, staring down to the tiny sliver of white that was all he could see of the wall surrounding the Cities of Gold. Mike, helping K'anpo to his feet, glanced down the slope beside them. He could see footprints scuffed together in the dry and dusty ground, but the great line of refugees had gone. He didn't know where to look, trying to avoid the pain-filled eyes of the Mondasian above him.

"They're gone." K'anpo glanced skyward. "And I have no idea how much longer we have until we risk joining them. There is no sign yet that the planet is losing its orbit, so I think we can assume that we have time enough left to reach the TARDIS. All the same, we have to leave now."

"What about the others? You're not telling me that was the entire population of the planet that just went down there?" Mike's voice was plaintive, and K'anpo offered him a sad smile.

"We have no time, Mike. There is so little of it left."

"We have to save somebody."

"We save ourselves." The bright eyes stared at him unblinkingly. "We don't know where the others are, and we have no way of persuading them to trust in us. You saw what happened with the others."


"He's right Mike. They'd laugh in your face, or maybe shoot you dead before you finished your first sentence." Rachda climbed back down from his vantage point on high. "It's time to leave. Cut your losses and go. I've lost a lot of friends today and I won't lose you as well."

"Wise words my friend. Wise words." K'anpo put his hand on Mike's arm. "Come along my boy. We must be going. We have a long walk to the TARDIS."

Rachda smiled sadly. "I've heard a lot about this TARDIS. I should have liked the chance to see it."

"You will see it." Mike was frowning at him. "We're going there now."

"Not me Mike." His sad smile was gone, and he had turned once again to face in the direction of the Cities of Gold. "I won't be the last flesh and blood citizen of Mondas left alive. I won't leave here when the rest of my people never got the chance. I'm sorry."

"But that's madness!" Mike shook his head. "You'll die if you stay here."

"I know." The answer was simple, and the Mondasian did not elaborate. Instead he turned away, picking up K'anpo's catapult and Mike's laser gun from the ground. He handed them back. "Just leave. Please."

"No." Mike took the gun by reflex, but he did not move an inch in any other way. "Not without you."

"There isn't time for this Mike. Just respect my decision. With a planet about to enter the greatest of all ice ages and a race that just committed mass suicide, there isn't much else for me to live for. I want to end it my way."

"He's right Mike. It is his decision and not ours." K'anpo stepped forward, shaking Rachda's hand. "Good luck my boy. Perhaps one day we'll meet again."

"Not likely in this world old man." Rachda smiled warmly. "But maybe in the next..."

"I'll look for you." The little Time Lord turned away, already beginning the long walk back to his mobile home. He did not look back.

"Goodbye Mike." Rachda held out his hand, but it was several seconds before Mike stepped forward to shake it. "I did hear right, didn't I? This planet is the sister of your own?"

"You heard right." Mike smiled. "It's just like this place in so many ways."

"But perhaps a little more stable." Rachda grinned. "I wish it long life. You'll go back there one day. You have the look of a man who ran from something, but you'll find your answers in the end."

"Philosophy now? Do you read palms as well?" They shared a short, almost humourless laugh, before finally Rachda took the golden chain from around his neck. He handed it to Mike.

"Take this. Please? I want you to remember us here, and - and next time that you run into these... these Cybermen... remember the other people of Mondas too. Remember what we were like?"

"I'll remember." Mike's hand closed around the chain. "Goodbye Rachda."

"Goodbye." They said nothing more, amd Mike merely turned around and began to walk. Rachda watched him for a second, glad that the other man did not turn to look back at him; then he turned around himself and headed for the Cities of Gold. He had lost his key now and he had no way to get in, but he wanted to be nearby when the end came. There was nowhere else for him to go.


"I suppose the Cybermen have left by now." Mike stood despondently beside the console, watching as K'anpo set the controls.

"Undoubtedly." The Time Lord glanced at his dials and readings. "The atmosphere is starting to break up, we must leave before the integrity of the planet crumbles. There will be severe storms in the last few hours, and very likely tidal waves. Do you want to watch?"

"No." Mike smiled at him, his eyes and face showing signs of fatigue. "I'm going to take a walk. I'll see you later."

"Of course." As his companion departed for the inner realms of the TARDIS, K'anpo dematerialised the Ship and set her on her way. He had no wish to see the end either. He didn't want to be standing before the scanner screen, thinking about the terrible way in which so many people were dying. It was an experience that he would much rather live without.

"Sleep well, Rachda," he whispered to the universe at large. Maybe, if sound waves really did travel forever, the name of his friend would remain eternal in that way at least; an ongoing ripple in space that would roll on for the rest of Time. On any other occasion he would have chastised himself for such a romantic notion, but not today. Today he wanted the comfort of a thought like that. He stared at the scanner screen for a moment, thinking about all of the Cybermen in their ships, heading out across space. He could destroy them. He could end their tyranny forever; and yet he knew that he never would. With the certainty of this lying in his heart he turned away, leaving the TARDIS to its own devices, and headed off into its secret innermost rooms for a walk of his own. And far, far away, Gallden stood in a small room in one of the Cities, listening to the carnage going on beyond the dome, listening to the dying cries of the last of his people, feeling his life ebbing slowly away from him. He stared down at the body of Lonis, lying covered by a blanket on a bed with sheets of woven gold. The young man looked peaceful - serene almost - and at last Gallden understood. He fell to the floor beside the bed and reached up to touch the hand of the dead man above him. Such a waste - but he had no time for regret. He thought of the others and he apologised to them silently, and he thought of Mike and K'anpo and he wished them well. Finally he closed his eyes. Death came in an instant, and an instant later the last of his people breathed their final breath. In moments their planet was adrift on a journey of its own, and in the shadows of its vapour trail the ships of the Cybermen flew on.