“Somebody help me,” Sarah Jane screamed in what she thought must be her last moment. “K9…. Doctor…. Help me!”
“Mistress!” said a mechanical voice that was so familiar to her as The Dalek was suddenly enveloped in the red glow of laser fire. The organic creature inside screamed in pain before its top exploded. At the same time as K9 took out the Dalek the man who had come into the room with him hit Styre’s probic vent hard with the blunt end of a rather nice gold-plated candlestick that she kept on the mantelpiece in her drawing room. As Styre crumpled inwards like a very ugly balloon that had been popped, the man swung around and smashed the candlestick into the Cyberman’s chest. It screamed and started to self destruct melodramatically. Gold, of course, was its weakness. The man turned around to look at Sarah Jane.
“K9, this calls for precision cutting,” he said as he examined the tight metal cuffs on her hands and legs. K9 moved forward towards her.
“Keep still, mistress,” he said and his laser sliced carefully through the metal on the leg cuffs then her arms without touching her flesh. The stranger helped her to stand.
“Come, we must hurry. There are more than three of the nightmare creatures about.”
“Who ARE you?” she asked as she did as he suggested and hurried out of the torture room and along the metallic corridor of the ship. “Why are you here? How did K9 get here with you?”
“I am Mr Smith,” he answered and at once she realised why his voice seemed so familiar. “I am a humanoid representation of Mr Smith that is able to exist in this unreality for a short time. I am afraid I am using a lot of power. You will have a very large electricity bill next quarter.”
“Never mind that,” she said. “I didn’t know you COULD. And… how come you look like that? I mean… not that I’m complaining.”
He was a quite good looking man, late forties, light, sandy coloured hair, brown eyes, a well-proportioned face. He seemed slightly familiar but she wasn’t sure why.
“I am a default shape,” he told her as they ran. “Although the eyes seem to be your choice.”
Sarah looked closely at the eyes and smiled.
“Brown eyes, like The Doctor,” she said. “You’re not him. I NEVER imagined that you were him in any way. Even though you were called Mr Smith. But you’ve got a little bit of him in you.”
“Mistress, this way,” said K9, stopping at an airlock. “We go this way.”
“But… that’s an airlock,” she protested. “It leads outside… into space. This is a spaceship.”
”It is a dream projection,” K9 told her. “And this is the way out of it.”
“Trust him,” Mr Smith told her. “K9 believes this is the way out and you should trust him.
“All right,” she said. She looked at the airlock. It had a panel of digits for inputting an entry code.
“Nuts to that,” she said and pulled her sonic lipstick from her handbag before she remembered she didn’t have her handbag with her.
“This is a dream, isn’t it?” she said rhetorically. “If I can have you two with me, I can certainly have my handbag.”
She applied the sonic lipstick to the panel and there was a satisfying click as the airlock door opened. They all stepped into the small space beyond and the door closed again. She activated the outer airlock door. It counted down from ten. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath and remembered that once before, she had trusted her own judgement and stepped out of an airlock into what others had told her was the vacuum of space.
She had trusted herself then. She trusted herself now. She stepped forward and felt solid ground under her feet. She looked around and saw that she was in a tunnel. The walls glowed a luminous blue and she didn’t like the look of it at all. But it wasn’t a space ship.
“Keep moving,” Mr Smith said. “We have to keep moving and keep ahead of them. More will be coming.”
“More Daleks?” she asked.
“More creatures of your nightmares,” Mr Smith told her. “They are using your subconscious memories.”
“So they could be ANYTHING?” Sarah Jane suppressed a whimper as visions of some of the ghastly creatures she had seen in her time with The Doctor flashed in front of her eyes. Then she shuddered as she heard a scratching, creeping sound and knew what was behind her without having to look. The blue luminous walls were suddenly crawling with spiders the width of soup plates and she felt a soft pressure against her back.
“Get it off me,” she cried out, standing still in fear. “Please get it off me.”
Mr Smith reached and brushed the spider from her back and K9 zapped it with his laser. He kept on shooting at the spiders as Mr Smith pulled Sarah’s arm and they began to run together. They came to a dead end with a ladder leading up it to a hole in the rock roof.
“K9,” Sarah Jane said and turned to look at him retreating from the spiders, still shooting them down as they kept on coming. She adjusted the setting on her sonic lipstick and held it in the air. It emitted a high pitched sound. The spiders screeched in agony and began to fall from the walls, piling up on the floor. K9 span and wheeled towards them.
“Help me lift him,” Sarah Jane told Mr Smith. And between them, very awkwardly, they climbed the ladder while hauling K9 up with them. Mr Smith pushed K9 up through the hole first. He and Sarah Jane froze on the ladder as they heard his laser being fired rapidly for several minutes before he told them it was safe to come up.
They were in a cellar of some sort, and the bodies of several robot mummies lay on the floor, their bandages smouldering in the aftermath of K9’s assault upon them.
Sarah Jane tried not to think about what else might turn up as they picked their way through them and reached the door. Mr Smith opened it and then closed it again as a hideous part humanoid, part plant creature loomed.
“Krinoid!” Sarah Jane groaned. “I should have known. Another one that gives me the creeps. K9, are you up to it? There’s no way out I can see except through that door. You’ve got to…”
“I think so, mistress,” he answered. “But my batteries will not last much longer.”
“I don’t think MINE will,” Sarah Jane answered as Mr Smith opened the door again and K9 fired on the Krinoid. “How much more of this can there be?”
She couldn’t help it. The images came into her mind of monsters and creatures she had seen in her travels with The Doctor. Dinosaurs in London, the Loch Ness Monster swimming up the Thames, Zygons, Aggador on Peladon, androids that looked just like all of her friends, even The Doctor, until their faces came off to reveal mechanical brains inside, Professor Kettlewell’s giant Robot, the horrible, parasitic Wirrn…
“NONE of those things can hurt me,” she said. “Because they’re all gone. Dead. Defeated by The Doctor. So I WON’T see any of them through this door. I’m not going to put up with ANY more of this.”
And having decided that she stepped forward over the remains of the Krinoid that smelt like burnt cabbage. She gasped as she looked up at her own house from the garden.
“I’m home,” she said, running up the front path. She unlocked the door and ran inside. “I’m home. K9, Mr Smith, we’re home. It’s all ok.”
“Not quite,” Mr Smith told her. “We are still in the dream.”
“How do you know?” Sarah Jane asked.
“Because I am still here.”
She thought about that a bit more and then reasoned that, if Mr Smith was still there, then so could some of the nasties she had thought about.
She ran to the kitchen and threw open her knife drawer. She took out two long, sharp carving knives and slid them onto her belt before she turned back and mounted the stairs. Behind her, Mr Smith picked up K9 and carried him up the two main flights of stairs and then the smaller one to the attic.
She pushed open the door and stepped into the attic. She saw everything just as it should be except for three things.
First, there was herself, lying on the sofa, fast asleep, still clutching the galaxy diamond. That was quite unnerving, seeing herself there like that.
Second, the fact that Mr Smith – the computer – was displaying a view of her back as Mr Smith the man stepped into the room behind her. He must have put K9 down because he whirred into view beside her.
Third, the four creatures that hovered over the sleeping version of her. They wore hooded cloaks like three foot high monks, but their faces were far from holy. They were shrivelled green gnomes, pixies, something like that, anyway, with pointed ears and sharp noses and mouths with needle like teeth. They were hovering over her as she slept and thrusting out bony, shrivelled arms with claw-like hands towards her, but it seemed as if they couldn’t actually touch her.
“I’ve NEVER dreamt of anything like that,” Sarah Jane said. “Does that make them real?”
“Yes,” Mr Smith said. “They’ve been putting the images into your mind. It’s nearly over. Finish them off and you can wake up and all will be well. But Sarah Jane…”
His voice sounded weak. On the screen the picture flickered. She hardly dared to turn around.
“Your power is failing?”
“They’re trying to interfere with the programme. I will have to reboot to prevent them from getting in. Sarah Jane, good luck.”
“Thank you,” she answered. She never turned around. She couldn’t. She had to keep her eye on the creatures. She felt she couldn’t take her eyes off them.
Behind them Mr Smith’s screen went blank and then a single cursor appeared in the corner. He was rebooting. She felt a little more lonely than usual without him in either form.
But she didn’t have time to worry.
“K9… take the one on the right. I’ll take the one on the left,” she whispered. And on the count of three they both moved forward. K9’s laser caught one of the creatures square on. It gave a snarling scream, teeth bared malevolently, and then turned to a foul smelling greenish-grey ash that fell to the floor. Sarah Jane wielded her two carving knives, stabbing and slashing and in what had to be a lucky strike, decapitated the one she was attacking. Again it turned to ash. K9 took out a second one, but as he did so his voice called out in a slow, sad tone.
“Batteries fail…ing, mis…tre…ss… I… am…sorry.” And his eyelight went out and his head drooped. She was on her own now.
“The galaxy is OURS!” cried the remaining creature as it swooped and grabbed at the diamond. It COULDN’T touch her, but it COULD take the diamond.
“Oh no it isn’t!” she replied. She lunged with the knives crossed in front of her and plunged them into the creature’s neck before pulling them apart. The head came away from the body and both became dust. The diamond fell. Sarah Jane took one and a half steps forward and caught the diamond and finished the step. Long ago, too long ago now, she was a schoolgirl, and she had been a REALLY good netball player. She was good at catching balls in mid air, and when you catch a netball, you are not allowed to move more than one step before you have to throw it to somebody else.
Except there wasn’t anybody to throw it to. There was just her, standing there, with K9 in recharge mode, Mr Smith still rebooting, and the other version of herself sleeping still.
She put the diamond back in the sleeping arms of her other self and wondered what would happen next.
“Time to wake up,” she told herself.
Sarah Jane woke up, suddenly. She felt the diamond in her arms still. She looked around and saw K9 beside her starting to stir as his battery recharged. She heard the merry little tune that went with Mr Smith’s welcome screen.
She had woken up thinking about netball and couldn’t think why for a moment. Then everything crowded into her mind. She stood up and looked around. There were only a few signs that anything wrong had occurred. There were some piles of grey-green ash that would need the Dyson later. There was a gold candlestick from the downstairs living room mantlepiece and two carving knives lying on the floor. That was all. But it was proof enough that what she was remembering WASN’T just a dream.
“Systems restored, all primary functions normal,” intoned K9 then he raised his head and spoke directly to her. “Good morning, Mistress.”
“Good morning, Sarah Jane,” added Mr Smith through the computer speaker.
“Hello to both of you. Didn’t we have a HELL of a night!”
Then she heard something else. She turned around and stared as the walls of her attic dissolved away and were replaced by the walls of the TARDIS. Not the clean, white walls she remembered from the TARDIS she travelled in, but the version HE had now, like an upturned bowl with a pattern of roundels all over it. She looked at the green glowing console beside her as it completed the materialisation and then she looked at The Doctor as he stepped towards her and hugged her gently.
“How bad was it?” he asked.
“Bad?” she answered him a little tetchily. “Bad doesn’t BEGIN to describe it. Daleks, Cybermen, bloody Sontarans, SPIDERS, Krinoids, MUMMIES and what the HELL were those things at the end?”
The Doctor laughed softly.
“This is our Harry Potter moment,” he said.
“You know how it is. Harry fights the monsters, defeats Voldemort, and then wakes up in the sick bay and has to listen to a whole chapter of Professor Dumbledore explaining what the heck it was all about.”
“So I’m Harry Potter and you’re….”
“Ok, you can take a metaphor too far, maybe. But anyway, I promised you an explanation. The creatures you fought last, they’re called Mara. They’re a demon from beyond the universe that have got into the mythology of many planets. Even mine. They’re the cause of nightmares. Mara… mare… see. There are always one or two of them kicking around the galaxy. One alone can’t do much except make people wish they hadn’t had that cheese for supper. But I found out that there was a whole army of them, thousands, getting ready to attack the galaxy. They would have been able to decimate whole worlds. Nightmares would have become reality - as I think they were for you?”
“Yes,” she said. “But…”
“So I protected the galaxy by enclosing it in the diamond. You don’t really want to know how that’s done, do you? Oh... Ok, then, it’s to do with the TARDIS being infinitely big, you see. Big enough for me to actually surround a whole galaxy if I juice up the engines a bit. Had to draw on a supernova to DO that. Really tricky stuff. So anyway, I surround the galaxy and then relative dimensions do the rest. The diamond formed as a protective shell. And then I just had to find a place to keep it safe while I rounded up the Mara army and put them out of harms way. I’m sorry I couldn’t come to you, by the way. Really, if I’d stepped outside the TARDIS it would all be over. I still can’t do that yet.”
“The woman who came to me…”
“Martha. Nice lady. She’s like you, getting on with her life. She’s a doctor now. I’m well proud of her. I materialised around her in the hospital corridor and press-ganged her into running that message for me. I hope she’ll still speak to me after this!”
“Ok… so… these Mara… some of them escaped your round up and came after me?”
“Yes, I’m afraid that was always going to happen. That’s why I gave you the galaxy to care for. I knew you’d be capable. And you were. You did well. Now we can put everything back as it should be.”
“You’re going to take the galaxy back where it belongs?”
“It’s already where it belongs. Did you look into it?”
“Yes. It was beautiful.”
“I bet you didn’t look at THIS part of it?” He took the diamond from her hands and turned it several times, looking for the right facet. Then he gave it back to her. She looked inside. She gasped in amazement as she saw a familiar solar system that closed in as she looked until she was viewing a blue-green planet that she knew better than any other.
“Earth?” She looked at The Doctor.
“Yes,” he said. “The galaxy you were protecting is your own galaxy, the Milky Way. Don’t ask me to explain how. We’d need a flipchart and pointer and a whole new chapter of exposition. It’s something like when you get two mirrors and stand between them, but way more complicated. But yes, your galaxy, Earth and every other planet is inside there. WE are inside it now. But because I’m a genius and my TARDIS is fantastic, we’re also standing outside it. That’s WHY I couldn’t leave the TARDIS when the Mara were looking for a way into the Galaxy. It would have given the game away.”
She still didn’t understand. But The Doctor smiled reassuringly and she felt it didn’t really matter. He took the diamond back from her and carefully placed it on the floor, then he flipped something on the console and reached out to take her hand.
“Watch,” he said.
She watched. And as she watched the diamond split apart into dozens of glittering shards and the galaxy came spiralling out. She saw it for an instant the size of a beach ball, then the size of a car. Then the console room barely contained it and it kept on expanding out beyond its walls. She saw constellations, solar systems, planets, whiz by her. Sometimes she seemed to pass through them. They were not quite solid. They were like a ghost of a galaxy getting bigger and expanding. After what seemed like an eternity standing there with The Doctor holding her hand she recognised her own solar system. She saw Pluto, and Sedna the new planet, Neptune, Saturn, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, the asteroid belt, Mars fly past her. She saw Earth’s moon, then Earth itself filled the console room and kept on getting bigger and bigger. London came racing towards her. Then her house was there. Then the attic, with the TARDIS sitting in the middle of it.
Then she was looking at a ghost of a console room that shimmered slightly as it fitted exactly across the real console room. And in that moment she felt a wonderful sense of pure joy and she turned and hugged The Doctor tightly. She had been a bit cross with him for leaving her to fight all those horrible things on her own. But she had to forgive him. She had to just hug him tight because he was the nearest warm, living thing and she just wanted to hug somebody.
“Every being in the galaxy just felt the same way,” he told her. “A perfect moment of joy. I only wish it would last. But there you are. The galaxy is back to normal and totally Mara free. Any nightmares anyone has now are their own problem.”
“Wow,” she said. She looked at the broken shards of diamond. “Shame. It WAS wonderful being able to look into it and see all those worlds just like we used to visit.”
The Doctor said nothing but he bent and picked up one of the shards. He held it in his hand for a few minutes and then he gave it to her. Somehow he had compressed it into a perfect teardrop shaped diamond with dozens of shining facets.
“It will have the echo of the galaxy within it for a few hundred years,” he said. “Look.”
She looked through one of the facets and smiled as she saw a planet orbiting a strange star. She focussed on it and watched its people for a few joyous moments before she remembered that she was still in the TARDIS with The Doctor.
“I wish there was something I could give you,” she said. “I suppose a cup of tea…”
“Well, I was going to suggest taking you for one of those. If you don’t mind hospital canteen tea. I thought I’d go and beg Martha’s forgiveness and maybe introduce the two of you properly. I’d like you to be friends. When I’m not around and either of you are in trouble you could help each other.”
“I get to travel in the TARDIS again?”
“Only across London, and you might have to get a taxi home after. I’m a busy Time Lord these days, you know. But…”
“No buts. Just let me go get my coat and handbag and tell K9 I’m going out. Don’t you go anywhere until I get back.”
The Doctor smiled warmly. He had no intention of going anywhere without her.