Victoria is now a wife, a mother and is soon to be a grandmother. She’s created a new life for herself with a new family, and she’s never once told them who she really is. She knows they wouldn’t believe her anyway and it’s too late to tell them the truth now. Sometimes she thinks her past life was a dream because nothing remains of those days except her memories, and even they are fading fast…
The TARDIS landed on sand not far from a tropical jungle that echoed with the sound of tropical birds. The Doctor wasn’t sure where they were, but it seemed pleasant enough. Jamie pointed to a metal tower about a mile or so inland that rose up into a vertical column and went upwards into the sky. It seemed to go on forever and Victoria thought it must be at least 100 miles high. They suddenly realised they weren’t alone as three figures wearing black wetsuits and transparent visors emerged from the jungle and pointed strange weapons at them. One of them fired at the three travellers and they fell to the ground, unconscious.
The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria woke up with throbbing headaches and found themselves in a stark, grey control room. People wearing tight uniforms covered in black and white geometric designs walked about, studying instruments and checking clipboards. They were joined by a young lady, about 30 years old with an Indian complexion, who looked at them with cold disdain. She asked them what they were doing in the security compound and said only authorised personnel were allowed within a 10-mile radius of the Space Elevator. Victoria apologised and explained that they didn’t realise they were trespassing, but the Doctor was intrigued by the project and told his friends the metal tower they saw was a lift stretching for thousands of miles from the surface of the Earth all the way up into outer space. This must be the base station and the other end of the elevator was in geosynchronous orbit. Jamie was confused so the Doctor gave him a demonstration using a conker on the end of a piece of string.
The Doctor asked how the team had solved the stress-weight problem and the young woman explained that the Space Elevator was constructed using super-conducted carbon micro-tubing, like thousands of miniature drinking straws all glued together. The Doctor guessed they must be somewhere near the equator and the woman said they were in Sumatra. The woman introduced herself as Tara Kerley and said she was in charge of security. Before they could explain what they were doing here, an alarm sounded and everyone turned to a large TV screen. Communications Officer Bastell, a gaunt, middle-aged man, appeared on the screen looking terrified. He told the base team there was an emergency on the Sky Station caused by a fluctuation in the Earth‘s radiation belt. The Doctor said it sounded like some sort of magnetic storm. As the image on the TV screen started to fade away, Bastell asked for help and said the computer had gone out of control, giving everyone electric shocks.
For a moment, everyone was stunned, then the team burst into activity and tried to re-establish contact with Bastell. Unfortunately, there was no power registering at all. The Sky Station only had a limited air supply, but the Elevator capsule drew its motive energy from the electrical current passing down through the cable and without any power it meant the people up there were trapped. The Doctor darted around the room and inspected various readouts, then he began to scribble out a drawing and presented it to Tara proudly. He told her if she could provide the Elevator capsule with its own source of energy, it could winch itself up under its own steam. It wouldn’t be very fast, but it would get there eventually. Tara suggested fitting the capsule with their emergency chemical batteries, but said it would have to be a one-way trip as there wouldn’t be enough power to get it back. The Doctor was confident that once he got to the Sky Station he could find a way of switching the power back on.
The Doctor tried to persuade Jamie and Victoria to stay behind, but they insisted on going too. Once the technical alterations were completed, they entered the Elevator capsule, a circular chamber with padded benches fixed to each of the walls, and the countdown began. The capsule started to rise, slowly at first but then increasing speed at a startling rate. The pressure grew heavier until it became difficult for Victoria to breathe, so the Doctor suggested she enjoy the view from the window to take her mind off the acceleration. The jungle dropped away below them, shrinking into the distance until they could see the whole island, then the island itself disappeared and the capsule moved into a thin layer of clouds. With each passing second, the sky turned darker and then the stars appeared. Before long, the only thing they could see was the cable itself, stretching away below them and vanishing into space. The only disappointment Victoria felt was that her father wasn’t there to share the wonders of the Universe with her.
The Sky Station was 22,500 miles above the Earth. Jamie was convinced that at this speed they’d never get there, but the Doctor told him they were travelling at over 1,000 miles an hour and getting faster all the time. The journey lasted about four hours and to while away the time, the Doctor played his recorder one note at a time. Tara activated a small TV screen embedded in the wall and Bastell’s face appeared, but this time he looked different. His features were relaxed and his hair and clothes were tidy. He told them the emergency was a false alarm, but his voice sounded like he was reading from a well-rehearsed statement. The Doctor asked about the space radiation, but again, Bastell said it was a false alarm and repeated that the situation was under control. He told them to return to Earth, then the screen went blank again.
Tara said they’d passed the half way point and they didn’t have enough power to return to Earth safely, so they had no choice but to continue. For the remainder of their journey, Jamie paced up and down nervously, the Doctor played endless games of clockwork patience on the floor and Tara wrote up a report. Victoria just stared out of the window, so she was the first to see the Sky Station appear above them. It was a geometric structure covered in struts and solar panels. They returned to their seats as the capsule decelerated and then came to a smooth halt before docking with the Station. Jamie impatiently pressed a switch to open the door, but it was the wrong one and he activated the emergency fire defence system instead. A vent opened in the ceiling and thick, gurgling foam filled the capsule, soaking everyone. It was getting deeper all the time so the Doctor tried to plug the vent with his handkerchief, but he only succeeded in covering himself in even more foam.
Tara opened the door and everyone scrambled out into the corridor. They were still brushing the bubbles off their clothes when they arrived in the main control room. The atmosphere felt dry and oppressive and Victoria immediately noticed a smell in the air, which the Doctor identified as static electricity. The room was almost identical to the base station they’d just left and the only difference was a huge schematic map of the world which occupied the main wall and showed the state of the Earth‘s weather. The crew sat at their stations, working without a sound, and unlike those back at base, they all wore spacesuits made of a thick rubber material. At first no one acknowledged the arrival of the Doctor’s party, then Commander Harwood, a man in his 50s who used a walking stick, glowered at them and demanded to know why they were here. The Doctor introduced everyone and said they came up in the Elevator after hearing there’d been a power failure. Harwood said there had been a brief outage, but everything was running normally now.
The Doctor wandered around the control room, then he took a spoon from his pocket and waved it in front of people’s faces. They ignored him completely, even when he started tapping them on the forehead with it. Harwood ordered him to stop, but when the Doctor placed the spoon on the head of Bastell, the man they spoke to earlier, it stuck there. The Doctor concluded it was caused by electro-magnetism, but Harwood said he was quite mad. The Doctor told him to shut down all non-essential systems immediately as the safety of the Earth depended on it, but Harwood said he’d never ordered a shutdown in his whole career and had no intention of starting now. He asked Bastell to escort the group off the premises.
Tara intervened and said she was obliged to carry out her own investigation as the magnetic storm may have caused damage to the weather control systems. Harwood was suddenly overwhelmed by fatigue and he reluctantly agreed to let Tara stay, but said the others had to leave. He slumped into a chair, exhausted. The Doctor warned Tara to be careful, then he allowed Bastell to escort him, Jamie and Victoria back to the Elevator capsule. Bastell sealed the door, but as soon as he’d gone, the Doctor dismantled the controls and opened the door again. He told Jamie it was time they explored the Station properly, but he asked Victoria to stay here where it was safe.
Victoria waited for them to go, then she went off on her own down the opposite corridor. She heard a noise behind her and thought she saw something moving down the corridor. She was suddenly hit by the strong smell of ozone and burnt plastic, then Bastell appeared from nowhere and pushed her into a nearby storeroom. The door closed and Victoria was in complete darkness. As she banged on the door for help, she heard a crackling sound like an un-tuned radio. She knocked over a packing crate and saw the body of a dead man inside, his face horribly burned. The crackling grew louder until it became painful and she could feel her skin starting to tingle. Whatever was causing it, it was in the room with her…
There was a series of loud thumps and then the door swung open, flooding the room with light. The creature, or whatever it was that was making the crackling sound, dispersed. The Doctor and Jamie rushed in, saying they’d heard her screams. The Doctor examined the dead body and found it had third degree burns. There was a chubby, dark-haired man in his 20s with them, and Victoria thought he had a haunted look on his face, like he hadn’t slept for days. He urged them to leave before they were captured, so they moved down a series of passages, hiding whenever they saw another member of the crew.
Eventually they arrived at another storeroom, this time filled with broken machinery. As they sat down to rest, the man introduced himself as research scientist Seager. The Doctor asked him what was going on here and he said it all began with a magnetic storm, like space radiation, but of a kind they’d never seen before. He said it got into the computer somehow and then the power failures started. Then the rest of the crew started changing, as if they weren’t quite human any more. Each of the possessed humans carried a charge of static electricity which caused them to be magnetic, which is why they all wore insulated clothing. They had the ability to pass electric current through the air and anyone who resisted had been killed. Seager said he ran away and hid when he saw what was happening and he’d been on his own ever since.
In order to find out what was going on they knew they’d have to go back to the control room, but they also knew that if they were spotted they’d either be converted or killed. Victoria realised that when she was pushed into the other storeroom with the creature, the intention was to convert her. If they thought it had been successful, she could go to the control room without being challenged. The Doctor and Jamie protested, but she convinced them it was the only way. Seager told her she’d have to change into one of the insulation suits, but she only agreed to put it on after everyone else stood facing the opposite wall.
Victoria approached the control room using a map of the base that Seager had drawn for her. Her mission was to find out as much as she could without arousing suspicion, then return to the others. The other crewmembers continued to work silently at their desks and Commander Harwood watched over them with a glare as they plotted out weather systems down on Earth. Victoria heard them refer to the Coriolis Effect and she saw the swirl of a storm on the huge map as a spiral of clouds gathered in the Pacific Ocean. When Victoria saw lightning in the centre of the spiral, she realised they were creating a cyclone and guiding it towards the island of Sumatra where the base of the Space Elevator was located.
Victoria was approached by Tara Kerley, now wearing one of the rubber insulation suits. Victoria was relieved to see her and revealed that she was pretending to be converted so she could find out what was going on. Then it suddenly dawned on her that everyone in the room was staring at her. Tara removed her gloves and raised her hands - and Victoria could see small sparks of lightning at the ends of her fingers. Tara denounced her as an intruder and Victoria could see an unearthly glow in her eyes. She turned and ran as fast as she could, back down the corridor, but Tara came striding after her, her hands reaching out and crackling like fire.
Victoria reached the storeroom and dived inside, but there was no sign of the Doctor, Jamie or Seager. She saw a random tangle of spare wires strung across the upper shelves like a spider’s web. She tried to close the door behind her, but it jammed. Tara entered and Victoria backed away helpless as her skin started to tingle. Suddenly the Doctor, Jamie and Seager jumped down from an open ventilation shaft and tugged at the wires. They fell down around Tara like a cage and the Doctor plugged the wires into a socket. Tara froze completely, desperately trying not to touch any of the wires. The Doctor explained to Victoria that the net formed a Faraday cage and if Tara made contact with it, it would earth the creature inside her. Victoria is shocked to discover the Doctor had expected someone to come after her and he admits that he thought it would be better to be safe than sorry.
The Doctor questioned the creature inside Tara and it revealed that it had come from space and had been drifting for thousands of years. The creature said it was nothing but a voice, an echo in the darkness, but it planned to grow by consuming the gathering storm. It then threatened to call the others to help it and said the Doctor and his friends would soon become part of them. Victoria said the possessed crew in the control room were creating a huge electrical storm hundreds of miles across that would shortly reach Sumatra. The Doctor realised they intended to use the Space Elevator to recharge the creature’s batteries. It existed as a kind of electromagnetic field and it needed huge amounts of static electricity to live. When the cyclone hits Sumatra, the creature will travel down the Elevator cable where it will absorb the energy and become even more powerful. Unfortunately the storm will also create massive tidal waves and flooding on Earth, killing millions of innocent people. The Doctor also suspected that wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the creature and that it would use the Sky Station to keep creating more electrical storms in the atmosphere until the whole planet became one vast battery.
The Doctor suspected the creature had some sort of telepathic control over the humans using electrical chemical pulses in the brain. They turned to see Bastell and two of the other possessed crewmembers standing in the doorway. The Doctor and the others backed away as Bastell ordered them to release Tara from the net. Seager shook with fear and picked up a crowbar, but as he swung it at them, a spark of lightning flashed out of Bastell’s fingers and hit him directly in the chest. Acrid smoke poured from the gaps in Seager’s uniform, then he fell to the floor, dead. The Doctor was furious as two of the crewmembers, still protected by their gloves, lifted the net from around Tara. The creature decided Jamie was unnecessary and would be destroyed, but the Doctor said he’d help them willingly if his friends were unharmed. He volunteered to let the creature use its mental control on him, so Tara reached out to touch him and a spark of electricity jumped between them. The Doctor opened his eyes and spoke in the flat voice of the creature. Tara ordered her crew to accompany her back to the control room, but as they moved out into the corridor, Victoria thought she caught just a glimmer of a wink in the Doctor’s eye.
The control room was bustling with activity when they arrived. On the map they could see the cyclone had doubled in size. Tara and Bastell resumed their work as the Doctor announced that the storm would reach Sumatra in just under two minutes. The creature prepared itself to absorb the power and Victoria told Jamie it would have to go down in the Elevator to Earth. With just sixty seconds to go, the Doctor suddenly called for everyone to stop. He told his delighted companions that he always had a trick up his sleeve - although in this case, it was up his trouser leg. He revealed a copper wire tied round one ankle, with the other end trailing along the ground to act as an earth. He said the creature could only control people if they were completely insulated from their surroundings.
The possessed crewmembers surrounded the Doctor, who prompted Jamie to remember what he did back in the Elevator capsule. In a flash, Victoria knew exactly what he meant. She found the emergency fire alarm controls and slammed her palm down on them. The fire alarm went off immediately and above them vents in the ceiling slid open and thick white foam gushed like a waterfall into the control room. Within a matter of seconds, the foam had covered the floor and everyone found themselves covered in bubbles. The possessed crewmen staggered around as if stunned and then they started to loose the protection of their insulation and began to conduct electricity. One by one, the crewmembers collapsed.
Bastell lurched towards Victoria, but then his legs got caught in a gush of foam and he buckled as the electricity discharged over his insulation suit. Tara was the last one standing as she’d managed to reach a higher level, but eventually she slid off the platform and she too disappeared under a torrent of bubbles. By the time the foam was waist high, the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria were the only ones remaining.
The Doctor was sure the crewmen would be alright and now their bodies were no longer insulated from their surroundings, the electrical creature would have lost its hold on them. Then he discovered the creature had managed to escape down the Space Elevator cable and was on its way down to the base station where the thunder storm was raging. Fortunately it wouldn’t have got there yet, so the Doctor dived towards another control panel and started flicking switches. He said the creature needed electricity, but if he could divert the electrical storm in time, it wouldn’t have anything to feed on when it arrived on Earth. They watched the map, but the storm didn’t seem to be moving.
The Doctor opened a TV channel to the crew back at the base station and ordered them to earth the Space Elevator cable, saying something very awful and dangerous was coming down the cable towards them. As they returned to the weather map, the Doctor sighed with relief as the storm moved away from the island and back out to sea where it would quickly disperse. He said the electricity creature would be earthed too and would be absorbed into the Earth’s crust where it could do no more harm. Jamie wondered why the creature couldn’t just come back up to Sky Station, but the Doctor said the cable was a conducting medium travelling through the magnetic field of Earth so the current could only flow in one direction.
Source: Lee Rogers