THE SOUL OF THE MACHINE – Part 2

This time as the large guns blazed into action the Doctor grimaced as if in pain, and then collapsed silent and dignified to the ground. Quickly grasping what was expected of her Dodo drew on her childhood memories of Cowboys and Indians and spun theatrically to the dirt grasping at her chest and moaning loudly. The companions then lay still and silent, barely daring to breathe as the mechanical horror towered over them unmoving for what seemed an eternity.  Eventually, with a juddering wrench of gears, the giant war machine turned and strode away on the uneven ground not even glancing at the silent Tardis as it passed.

It seemed to Dodo that several lifetimes may well have passed as she lay there trembling, as much through excitement as through fear, before risking the opening of an eye. She stifled a relieved giggle as she saw the Doctor staring back at her, his eyes alive with excitement. Slowly he pressed his forefinger to his lips and craned his neck to peer after their slowly disappearing assailant.

“Now then child, quickly, quietly,” hissed the Doctor, “we have something to do, wouldn’t you say?”  “We do?” queried Dodo, before repeating “We do!” a little more firmly, all the time wondering what it was her companion had in mind.

The Doctor slowly eased himself off the ground, and brushed the dust from his coat before gathering his discarded cane. He beckoned Dodo urgently, and headed silently off in the same direction as the terrible automaton. The path was easy to follow as the mechanical menace had made no attempt to conceal its passing and the huge, fresh footprints were easily spotted in the early evening light. Once or twice the pair were forced to take cover behind blasted trees, or in dusty hollows, as they had caught up with their quarry far more quickly than expected.

On one such occasion Dodo asked the Doctor why they were following such an awful thing, and could he please explain his plan to her. The Timelord chuckled “Why my child, can’t you see? There has been a terrible war here.” He gestured vaguely around with his cane before continuing. “A war that finished a long time ago, I should imagine. So why does this war machine keep patrolling? Why does he keep fighting on, so many years later? We should find out and try and help, wouldn’t you say? Hmm?”

Dodo had long since learnt that there was no point in disagreeing with the Doctor when he was in this kind of a mood, so she agreed and the pair continued tentatively on their trek.

Although the companions had only been walking for a little over an hour the nature of their pursuit gave the impression that they had covered a great distance. The quietly parked Tardis, their home through so many adventures, seemed very far away as they stalked over yet another ridge.

This one, however, stood out in stark contrast to the rest of the bleak landscape. At the foot of a steep escarpment stood a low cylindrical metal structure, still imposing despite the obvious ravages of time. At first glance it was difficult to gauge how vast the building really was, as it gave the impression of a coin nestling in the dust. Closer inspection revealed hundreds of bays set into the circumference. Each one was large enough for a metal warrior, like the one the Doctor and Dodo had been following, to stand in, upright and facing outwards. The building itself was slightly shorter than the automatons it was designed to house, with the weathered flat roof reaching just over shoulder height. The two time travellers watched silently as their prey slowly backed into one of the bays and then stood quite still, the setting sun reflecting on its battered armour.

The Doctor’s keen eyes, and keener intellect, quickly took in the situation at the military base below them. Although several of the bays had occupants, the majority were empty and most of these were overgrown with well established plant life. A small number of the metal warriors appeared to be on sentry duty, although there were obvious gaps in the security perimeter where the guardians had either been destroyed or had ceased to function. The remaining handful of troops in the mechanical legion had all settled back into their bays for refuelling and rearming, although the Doctor suspected that the supply of ammunition had long since dried up.

Part Three>>>