'Doctor, you can't. The computer will burn out your brain in seconds.'
'Do you have a better idea?'
'All right, Doctor,' said Vorshak. 'Get into the chair.'
The Doctor settled himself in the synch-op chair, and lowered the helmet over his head. He could feel the metal terminals inside the helmet pressing into his skull. If only the link-up was close enough...
Tegan looked on appalled. 'Can't you disconnect the computer, Doctor?'
'I'm afraid not, Tegan, there just isn't time.' Vorshak said, 'He's right. We're already on final countdown to ignition.'
The clock stood at 139, 138, 137...
Even at the moment of greatest danger, the Doctor had time to think about the fate of his enemies. 'Tegan, Turlough. Look after the Silurians. Try giving them oxygen.'
Tegan and Turlough exchanged glances. It seemed ridiculous to worry about saving Silurian lives at this date, but it didn't seem the time to argue. Obediently they knelt beside Tarpok and Scibus and began trying to revive them with the oxygen packs.
Vorshak was busy at the computer console. 'I can perform the manual tasks, Doctor, but you'll have to do the rest. Are you ready?'
The Doctor nodded.
The clock read 119, 118, 117...
'Good luck, Doctor!' Vorshak pressed the switch.
The headpiece began to glow and crackle with energy.
The Doctor's body went rigid and his face twisted as the ma.s.sive data input a.s.saulted his brain.
'The strain's too great,' said Turlough. 'He'll never manage it.'
Vorshak was studying his read-out screen. 'It's working!
His mind is synchronised with the computer. Doctor, can you hear me?'
The Doctor nodded, his face set with strain.
Vorshak glanced at the clock: 100, 99, 98...
'I'm going to switch you through to the ignition circuit.'
His hands moved over the controls. 'Right, I've isolated the ignition circuit, Doctor. See if you can identify it. Nod if you can.'
The Doctor nodded.
'Now, concentrate, Doctor,' urged Vorshak. 'I'm going to feed in the charge. You must concentrate and direct it, to burn out the circuit.'
The Doctor nodded again.
The clock ticked on: 60, 59, 58...
Icthar was close to death, but he could not, would not die with his task unfinished. Moving with agonising slowness, he reached out for a weapon that had fallen from the hands of one of the dead Sea Devils. Slowly, agonisingly, Icthar crawled towards it Abandoning all hope of reviving her Silurian, Tegan looked up and saw Icthar swaying to his feet, weapon in hand. 'Turlough,' she screamed.
Shakily Icthar aimed the weapon at the Doctor. Then Vorshak stepped forward, shielding him. Turlough was already on the move. He sprang forwards and grabbed the blaster, just as Icthar fired...
Vorshak staggered for a moment, then steadied himself, gripping the edge of the console.
Turlough s.n.a.t.c.hed the blaster from the weakened Icthar and shot him down at point-blank range.
Vorshak's voice sounded unnaturally calm. 'Listen to me carefully, Doctor. The charge must must be in phase with the pulse of the circuit. If not, it will destroy you. Concentrate, Doctor. Let nothing distract you.' be in phase with the pulse of the circuit. If not, it will destroy you. Concentrate, Doctor. Let nothing distract you.'
He shot a glance at the clock: 30, 29, 28...
Vorshak threw another switch and a surge of energy crackled through the terminals of the Doctor's helmet. His body shook, his face twisted with concentration.
'Now Doctor,' shouted Vorshak. 'Now!'
5, 4, 3, 2, 1... The read-out screen went blank.
Suddenly the words 'ABORT. ABORT. ABORT.
LAUNCH CANCELLED' were flashing from the screen.
The headpiece rose up automatically and the Doctor slumped back in his chair.
'You've done it,' said Vorshak softly. Slowly, painfully he moved closer to the screen. 'Mission cancelled.' He looked wonderingly round at the others. 'He did it,' said Commander Vorshak, and slumped forwards over the dead body of Icthar.
Tegan was shaking the Doctor's shoulder. 'Doctor, are you all right?'
The Doctor opened his eyes and smiled at her.
'Turlough, he's alive!' said Tegan joyfully.
Turlough was examining Vorshak. 'The Commander wasn't so lucky. He must have been hit when Icthar fired.'
The Doctor got shakily to his feet. 'Did I succeed?' he asked dazedly.
Tegan ran to his side. 'Yes, Doctor. Look!' She pointed to the screen with its 'MISSION CANCELLED' message.
The Doctor nodded, but there was no triumph, no pleasure in his face.
Turlough was staring around the room, taking in the full extent of the tragedy. 'They're all dead, you know,' he said wonderingly.
So many dead, thought the Doctor sadly: the traitors Nilson and Solow; Maddox, their helpless p.a.w.n, and his victim, Karina; Lieutenant Preston; all the crew members killed in the attack; and now Commander Vorshak himself. Then there were those other deaths that would always be on the Doctor's conscience: the Sea Devil guards, and Sauvix, their leader; the Silurians Tarpok and Scibus; Icthar, their leader, last of the great Silurian Triad.
Bulic at least had survived and there would be other human survivors, scattered about the Base. Bulic would have to take charge, explain what had happened to the astonished rescuers from the surface.
Still, at least the missiles had not been launched.
Mankind had not destroyed itself not this time. They would go back to the TARDIS, decided the Doctor, repair it, leave without fuss and look for some happier place, some more peaceful time. He took a last look at the bodies of Vorshak and Icthar.
'There should have been another way,' said the Doctor sadly. He led the way from the Bridge.
« Previous My Bookmarks Chapters Next»