by Gareth Roberts
Tucked between the twisted curves on the fringes of the Pristatrek galaxy is a pink sphere just large enough to be classified as a planet. It is the eighty-seventh of the bodies that whirl and twist about the star called Frinjel. The atmosphere of the planet continues to thin, and the modest mountains and small seas that once attracted holidaymakers have now eroded and evaporated. One person still lives in the Frinjel 87, though. He sits cross-legged outside his house. He is naked and very old and his eyes are closed. He is covered in pink dust. It’s been four years since he ate or drank or slept. He stopped breathing two months ago. But his mind is still alive, and his meditations have take it as far out as the cloudy rim of Spyra and the gluon falls of Cleve. This is the way he lives, shifting his consciousness apparently without effort along the forty-ninth plane as only a true Master can. And that is where the Friars of Pangloss found him, and why they selected him. He is the link with their distant domain. He is their puppet. A small spacecraft touches down right next to him. The door opens and a pregnant woman steps out. She is carrying a gun. A teenage boy emerges after her. Both mother and son possess handsome dark eyes and full pink lips. They walk over to him curiously. His psychic summons, disguised as a simple subspace communication so as not to alarm them, promised twenty million glatoks. That’s enough to retire on, so the newcomers are suspicious and anxious. He opens his mouth and the Friars speak, explaining the task to the listening woman. She asks how she will know the man she has to kill. In reply, the Friars transmit a pyramid made of red crystal into the old man’s hands. She takes it and makes plans to come back in a week’s time to collect her payment. She walks back to her spacecraft. The boy remains. He stares at the face of the old man and admits to himself that he feels scared. Then he follows his mother back to the ship, looking at the prints that his boots are making in the dust. The ship takes off and the old man is alone again. The Friars slip from his mind but he knows they will return. They are beings so humourless and inflexible. He wonders how they have learned to bend the wills of others. What enormous evil is the foundation of their great powers?
The Supreme One finished off his breakfast of fried lizard wings and dabbed his lips clean. It was time to check the morning reports. Rows of neat black type on crisp white paper told him of the night’s activities on Olleril. The wars between the independent states were progressing nicely. If all continued to go well, the predicted rout of the peace-keeping force would occur by Tuesday at the latest. That would give the International Union the excuse to begin shelling. The conflict had to last until the end of the year. It was essential to his plans. Vijjan mortality rates were still not nearly high enough, though. He picked up his fountain pen and made a note to authorise the release of a class C viral strain over Vijja that afternoon. The milk of the Vijjan mothers would be contaminated and the harvest poor for the third year running. He did a quick mental calculation and estimated he could kill off about four million by winter. In Empire City, the most troublesome place on the planet, riots were causing structural damage close to the construction stores. Something was needed to keep the people calm. He chewed the end of his pen and thought. Some sick children in the news might do the trick, particularly at this time of year. He would ring Grubb at the Clarion later and ask him to send some cameras out to the hospitals on the South Side. He closed the folder and rested his large head in the padded rest of his chair. His predecessors in the position of Supreme Leader of Luminus had left behind an obsolete method of global control that he judged costly, inefficient and irksome. Too much paperwork, he thought, and not enough strong, direct action. But not to worry. Things would be changing soon. He smiled. Oh yes, things on Olleril would be very different after Tragedy Day.
The battered blue police box shell of the TARDIS spun though the space/time vortex, the light on its roof-top flashing nonsensically. For the first time in many years, the erratic Doctor was not in control of his equally erratic craft. He had activated the navigation controls on a random setting, more because he fancied a surprise than for any other reason. Now he was relaxing in the TARDIS jacuzzi, scrubbing his back and playing with his rubber duck. Ace was along the corridor in her room, reading some old comics that she’d found in a cupboard. And Bernice was watching the Time-Space Visualiser and laughing her head off. In the empty control room, a melodic electronic burble came from the console. It was as if the TARDIS was pleased that its master and his companions were friends again. Levers and switches started to move by themselves as the random co-ordinates aligned with the real-world interface and the materialisation process began.
Source: Doctor Who Magazine #210