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Authors: Ian Briggs

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Doctor Who: Dragonfire

BOOK: Doctor Who: Dragonfire
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DOCTOR WHO

DRAGONFIRE

IAN BRIGGS

 

Based on the BBC television serial by Ian Briggs by arrangement with the British Broadcasting Corporation

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

Sergeant Kracauer's words hung mockingly in the frosty air of the Cryogenics Chamber.

'Oh you lucky, lucky people...' He paced in front of the new volunteers, eyeing them suspiciously. Six thugs - four men, two women - with more muscle than brain, recently the crew of the space-vessel Nosferatu.

'You are the chosen ones,' he taunted. 'The elite. Specially selected to join our crack band of mercenaries, to create fear and terror wherever you go.' He gestured round the dark chamber at row upon row of vertical tubes - over a hundred of them, maybe a thousand. The tubes, mostly opaque with frost, contained the motionless figures of humans caught frozen in suspended animation.

Kracauer halted in front of one of the new recruits and stared at him. A grimy, rough-faced crewman whom Kracauer had marked down as a troublemaker as soon as he saw him. The rough-faced man snarled back defiantly, 'We were tricked!'

Kracauer smiled. 'Mr Kane paid seventeen crowns for each of you - and Mr Kane always insists on getting his money's worth.'

'Seventeen crowns?' The rough-faced man's eyes began to blaze with anger. 'You couldn't buy a dog for seventeen crowns.'

In a single, powerful movement, Kracauer grabbed the man, and dragged him forward. The sergeant's voice

was no longer mocking. It was full of threat. 'Precisely. I wouldn't have paid seventeen crowns for the lot of you, let alone each.' He saw the fear in the man's face, and laughed, releasing his victim with a slight push. The rough-faced man fell back, and clutched at an open-topped vat steaming with low temperature gases. His face contorted with pain as he felt the biting cold burning into the flesh of his hand.

Kracauer laughed again. 'Only frost-burn,' he mocked. 'The vats contain liquid nitrogen at minus 200 °C. Just be grateful your arm didn't go inside the vat - otherwise it wouldn't have come out again..." He turned to one of the two guards standing over the new recruits. 'Right, freeze them!' he ordered crisply.

The crewmen and women began to shuffle fearfully. A dark-haired crew-woman - either braver or more foolish than the others - spoke up.

'You mean we're going to be frozen?'

Kracauer turned to her. 'Until Kane needs your services, yes. What's the matter - getting cold feet?' He laughed at his little joke.

The rough-faced crewman looked round quickly. There were only two guards. One was preparing the six cryogenics tubes that stood waiting for the new volunteers. The other was momentarily occupied as he pushed the dark-haired woman back into line. The crewman took his chance. He threw himself on the nearest guard and wrestled the gun out of his hands. He then fired off several shots before the second guard could reach for her own gun. The pulse beams cut through the air in a series of random lines. Everyone but Kracauer dropped to the ground for safety. One of the cryogenics tubes exploded as an aimless pulse beam burst into it like a detonator.

The rough-faced man looked round for an escape route. They had been marched into the Cryogenics Chamber through a doorway beside the equipment

 

controls. But even if he could get past the guard who was now turning her gun on him, he would encounter more guards down the passageway, drawn by the sound of weapons firing. As the guard pulled her gun up into a firing position, the man spun round and took the only alternative: a bulkhead doorway marked Restricted Zone. He hauled on the door as the guard's first shot exploded against the wall alongside.

Sheer terror gave him a strength he had never known before. He felt the guard's second shot graze his shoulder, and burning metal sparks from the door showered his face. The guard's third shot came too late and exploded into an empty doorway, through which the rough-faced man had escaped barely a moment earlier.

The guard turned to Kracauer for orders. Kracauer smiled. 'Leave him.

He's in the Restricted Zone. He's a dead man...'

Whatever the crewman might have expected to find through the door to the Restricted Zone, he was completely unprepared for the chill gloom he now found himself in. Huge, shadowy walls of ice intersected at right-angles, turning the huge chamber into a confusing maze. Ice boulders lay at the foot of the walls, and the crewman had to pick his way carefully. As in the Cryogenics Chamber, vats of supercooled gases overflowed with a silent mist. Far away, he heard a thundering echo that sounded like icebergs shearing away from one another - except there was no sea here on the planet Svartos. Closer by, he heard the shimmering tinkle of icicles. And, faintly but insistently, there was a tapping sound.

The crewman moved nervously among the boulders of ice and the mist-shrouded vats. As he picked his way through the ice and moved deeper into the Restricted Zone, the tapping sound grew louder. He followed the sound.

As he grew closer to the source of the sound, the Restricted Zone seemed lighter, allowing the man to make out detail in the shadows of the ice walls. He edged nervously towards the light and the strange tapping sound, which seemed to be coming from behind an ice wall in front of him. He readied his gun, tensed himself, and suddenly threw himself round the corner into the light, with his gun levelled at the source of the sound -whatever, or whoever, it might be.

His eyes opened wide in amazement.

He saw a brightly lit clearing amongst the ice walls and boulders. In the middle of the clearing stood a huge, rectangular block of clear ice.

Beside it, a man wearing a sculptor's smock was chipping at the ice with a hammer and chisel.

The Sculptor stopped, and turned to look at the gun pointing at him. He seemed more puzzled than frightened.

The crewman was startled and confused by the Sculptor with his block of ice. He suspected some kind of trap, and wheeled round with his gun, in case someone should creep up behind him. But there was no one there. Just a large horizontal cabinet standing empty nearby, looking like a coffin with a clear lid.

The crewman wheeled back towards the Sculptor. As he did so, he slipped on the ice and fell sideways. The gun fell from his hand, and tumbled into one of the vats of supercooled gases. He tried to grab at it as it bounced on the rim of the vat, but he was too late. He saw it disappear into the frozen mist.

 

Carefully, he tried to reach into the freezing gas to retrieve the weapon.

He reached into the cold mist, but as his hand came within a few centimetres of the liquid gas, he felt the biting cold eat into his flesh like acid. Instinctively, he pulled his arm away. He tried again, thinking of the gun that might save his life, but again the pain was too much. He crouched over the vat, nerving

himself for another attempt. Suddenly another arm plunged deep into the vat of agonising cold.

The crewman watched in horror as the stranger's arm pulled the gun out of the liquid gas. The flesh of the stranger's hand was now caked in hard, dry frost. The crewman looked up. The stranger was dressed in the same clinical white uniform of the Iceworld guards, but where the others bore an official name patch on the chest of their uniform, the stranger's said simply KANE. The crewman looked up at Kane's face. It was deathly pale, apart from the intense shiny black of Kane's eyes.

There was no emotion in the face.

Kane held the gun out for the crewman to take. Mesmerised, the crewman took the gun. He instantly felt the biting cold of the superfrozen weapon, and dropped it with a cry of pain. The gun hit the ground and shattered into fragments. A slight smile seemed to flick across Kane's face, but quickly disappeared. Without taking his piercing black eyes off the crewman, Kane carefully removed the white glove from his other hand. The crewman watched, like an animal hypnotised by a cobra. Kane slowly reached forward as if to embrace the crewman's face. He pressed his hands against the man's flesh.

Immediately, the crewman felt the frozen cold eating into his skull. He struggled briefly against the searing pain, but quickly fell unconscious.

 

Kane held on until he felt the last spark of life die in the crewman, and then released him. The crewman fell to the ground. The prints of Kane's hands were branded on the crewman's face.

Kane turned to the Sculptor, who had been watching quietly. He spoke softly to the Sculptor, 'Pay no attention to the intruder. You may return to your work.' Obediently, like a faithful servant, the Sculptor turned back to his block of ice and resumed his task.

CHAPTER TWO

The Doctor looked at Mel's inverted face. She was balanced in a headstand against one of the walls in the TARDIS Console Room. Her face looked peaceful, but it had a sort of... well - an upside-down quality about it. She hadn't moved for the last twenty minutes. The Doctor looked slightly crestfallen - like a child who's lost his playmate.

He turned to the viewing screen showing the clear image of a planet.

He turned back to Mel and cleared his throat loudly. There was no response from Mel.

'Mel?'

Still no response. 'Can I tempt you to a jelly baby? You can have the red ones...'

Again no response. She can't be dead, he thought, otherwise she'd have fallen over. He sighed. There was nothing else for it. He pushed at a slide control on the central console. The background hum of the TARDIS

suddenly grew louder and the time machine lurched drunkenly.

There was a thud and shriek from behind the Doctor.

 

'Ah, Mel,' he said brightly, turning to the heap on the floor, 'back in the Land of the Living at last.' The heap on the floor, however, was in no mood for such good humour.

'Doctor!' it screeched. 'You did that deliberately!' Mel picked herself off the floor, and began to advance on

the Doctor.

'What, me?' protested the Doctor, backing away slightly, and wondering if overloading the TARDIS's stabiliser circuit had been such a phenomenally good idea after all.

'I was meditating! I was in a state of blissful serenity!'

The Doctor didn't know much about states of blissful serenity, and he continued to play the innocent. 'No, honest, Mel - temporary fluctuations in the ion field...'

'I'll give you temporary fluctuations!'

The Doctor wasn't too sure what Mel had in mind, but it sounded unpleasant. He'd never had an older sister, but he was beginning to understand why they had such a bad reputation. He decided a different approach was called for. He pointed to the viewing screen. 'Look - the planet Svartos.'

Mel peered at the screen. One side of the planet was baked in the intense heat from the nearby sun, but the dark side was cold and mysterious. A large structure which appeared to be made out of gigantic ice crystals glistened on the dark surface. And Mel could just make out several tiny spacecraft, which were either just approaching or just leaving the outer crystalline limbs. 'What's that on the dark side?'

she asked, turning to the Doctor.

'That's Iceworld - a Space Trading Colony. Space travellers stop here for supplies.' He turned excitedly to Mel. 'I've been picking up some faint tracking signals. I'm sure there's something interesting going on!'

Mel's face broke into a broad smile. It was no use trying to be angry with the Doctor - not when there was always another adventure waiting just round the corner...

The Freezer Centre was the size of a vast, low-ceilinged flight hangar.

Brightly lit freezer chests stretched away as far as you could see, as hundreds of curious-looking

space travellers trundled their shopping trolleys up and down the aisles. Posters hanging over the freezer chests proclaimed various special offers: Iceworld Free-Range Phoenix Eggs - 19:95 crowns per megagram, Iceworld Special Offer - Crab Nebula Pasties - now only 9:95

crowns per thousand. Concealed loudspeakers waltzed with a forgettable melody that had been 'bubbling under' the Easy Listening charts here in the Ninth Galaxy for the last 200 years. The music was occasionally interrupted by a bing-bong as some cheery woman with a sing-song voice intoned a distant announcement: 'Don't miss our latest special offer in the Motoring Spares Department - photon refrigeration units for only 24:95. Thank you.' Bing-bong.

Stellar was fed up. She was a Starchild, looking roughly similar to a six-year-old Earth girl, and she was fed up of traipsing round a boring freezer centre with her mother. 'Do keep up, Stellar,' complained her mother from behind the mass of exotic black feathers that decorated her clothing. This mass of black feathers then turned to inspect the contents of another freezer chest, while Stellar trudged wearily behind wondering if they sold toys here.

There was a faint grinding sound coming from somewhere. Stellar looked round.

The sound was getting louder, but no one else appeared to have noticed it. It sounded like some kind of very old machinery, and it seemed to be coming from a gap between two freezer chests. As Stellar watched, she saw the faint outline of a tall object beginning to appear out of nowhere. She tugged at her mother's sleeve.

BOOK: Doctor Who: Dragonfire
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