the shadow makers


It was Steven who noticed it first. The noise was barely discernable, yet the blinking light was unmistakable. He checked and double-checked before shouting for the Doctor, not wanting the old man to dismiss him with a wave of his hand and a curt word – he was used to that.

The Doctor took his time, not hurrying but ensuring when he did arrive that he scrutinised the console for minutes, striving to ascertain that what Steven had said was indeed correct.

To Steven the time seemed to pass imperceptibly slowly, the Doctor putting on and removing his half moon spectacles what seemed like dozens of times. It was he who was getting impatient, the Doctor’s measured approach irritating him. His patience was usually so great – all that time held captive by the Mechanoids had meant that he’d needed to keep sane, and being patient was the only way to do that. His mind occupied itself, until eventually, he’d thought, rescue would come. And indeed it did, in the form of the elderly gentlemen who was now severely testing that patience.

'Well come on Doctor, is it or isn’t it?' He couldn’t wait any longer for an answer so he had to force it out of the old man.

The Doctor didn’t seem to have heard him at first – or at least he feigned deafness, another trait that was all too commonplace thought Steven. Then, the Doctor looked up at his travelling companion and nodded sagely. 'You were very wise to bring this to my attention, very wise indeed. It seems to be some kind of message.'

Steven nodded. 'That’s what I thought. But is it a distress signal? Or some sort of alien ‘hello’?'  He paused. 'Or maybe it’s some sort of advertisement? That’s the sort of thing they were talking about when I was last on Earth, before the wars.'

The Doctor waved his hands in Steven’s direction. 'None of those dear boy, or unless...' He raised a finger to his lips, seeming deep in thought. 'Unless of course it’s all of them, hmm...'

'All of what?' Vicki yawned as she strolled into the console room.

Steven pointed at the blinking light on the console and watched as Vicki followed his own gaze. She then looked to the Doctor, and then back to Steven who nodded as if answering a question that need not be spoken.

The Doctor turned to Vicki. 'Ah my child, you’re awake. Steven and I were discussing what sort of message this light here was indicating.'

Steven rolled his eyes and mumbled, 'Hardly a discussion.' The scowl he got from the Doctor showed that he’d definitely heard this time. Steven smiled pleasantly in an attempt to placate him, the Doctor hurrumphing all the while.

The Doctor was about to speak when Vicki beat him to it. 'We’ve landed!' The noise around the room was eerily quiet. The TARDIS’s central column had stopped, the cacophony of sound that accompanied it also gone. The travellers looked at each other in confusion, and turned almost simultaneously at the faint noise of the scanner screen turning on.

The image that presented itself was nothing especially unusual. A couple of white coated scientists were milling about in a vast laboratory, the TARDIS not seeming to take much of their attention.

'Any ideas where we are Doctor?' Vicki was staring intently at the screen, watching the men moving around. She wasn’t sure, but something seemed a little odd about their movements.

The Doctor too was studying the image closely, scrutinising the actions of the figures. Suddenly another figure had appeared in the room, one the Doctor recognised all too well. He whirled around, and his suspicions were confirmed immediately.

'He’s gone! Just walked out of those doors, the impetuous young fellow!'  The Doctor moved to the ship’s entrance himself, but as he approached, the doors seemed to shut of their own accord.

Vicki was staring at the screen now, watching Steven attempt to engage the men in conversation. 'Doctor, they’re ignoring him! It’s as if he’s invisible!'

'Yes, yes that’s very interesting.' The Doctor looked back to the screen, his brief anger subsiding as he watched the two men still ignoring Steven. He saw Steven attempt to contact them, waving a hand in front of their faces, but no recognition. The two men at various times stood directly in front of the TARDIS but seemed to have no awareness of it.

Vicki squinted at the screen, the movements of the men puzzling her. 'Doctor, is it me or...'

They both stood gazing at the screen for a couple of minutes, the figures moving back to the positions they’d started in. 'It’s some kind of loop! Yes, the same actions repeated.' The Doctor chuckled. 'How very strange my child!' Yet the realisation of what else this meant suddenly dawned on him as Steven began to repeat his own actions, moving towards the TARDIS, trying to attract the attention of the men, then starting again. And again.

The Doctor looked at Vicki, who stared at him open mouthed. 'But Steven’s trapped out there! We have to help him!' She made for the door, the Doctor following as fast as he could. Yet both had barely moved when the scanner flickered off, and the ship began the elephantine trumpeting that signalled its departure.

'No, no, no!' The Doctor moved around the console with surprising speed, trying with all his might to stop the Ship from moving, but to no avail.

'Doctor, you’ve got to do something! We can’t abandon Steven there! We don’t even know where he is!'

The Doctor chose not to react, instead turning away from the console in frustration. 'Infernal time distortion! That’s what it is my child.' He raised a hand. 'But don’t worry we’ll get Steven back.' Under his breath and out of Vicki’s eyeshot he added, 'I hope.'


Steven paced around the room, surveying the equipment that was covering the workbenches. He looked up, noticing the TARDIS had disappeared. He hadn’t heard it move, so assumed the Doctor had been doing something with the Ship. The Doctor may have been irritated by his leaving the ship, but he wouldn’t go to such extremes as taking off without him. Would he? After all he seemed to have no control over it, so there was no guarantee he’d return...he shook his head, dismissing the thought, and went back to his examination of the room.

There were no windows, but a great deal of artificial light from two hovering globes positioned equidistant from each other at each end of the room. The two men he’d seen had faces obscured by masks, the outfits there were wearing resembling radiation suits. They seemed to be talking, but Steven heard nothing of the conversation.

Suddenly, an alarm sounded, and Steven watched as one of the men ran and consulted a screen. He stood behind the figure, the other man completely oblivious as to his presence.  Steven read from the screen, mouthing the words to himself as he stood back and the man seemed to pass right through him. Chronon particle leakage. Evacuate room immediately.

The two men made for a door in the far wall, Steven dashing to join them....and found himself staring at the TARDIS once more, or where it had been. He tried to talk to the men, heard the alarm, looked at the screen – and only then realised the events were repeating themselves as he made for the door once again....and was back staring at empty space once again, the alarm gone.

The process happened time and again, on each turn Steven remembering a little earlier exactly what was happening.  Soon, he was aware of it from start to finish, though enable to change his actions, as though he were being forced to re-enact them against his will.

It was when he heard the unmistakable sound of the TARDIS engines that the door to the room opened, the men leaving through it, that the loop stopped. The door shut behind him, trapping him as his body began to feel heavy. His eyes closed, his legs gave way, and he found himself falling to the floor.

The chronon particles swept over him as he slept, time literally changing around him.

As he opened his eyes after what seemed like aeons, he knew immediately what had occurred.

He just didn’t know how to reverse it.


The time ship appeared before him, tearing the very air around it apart as it did so. The blue box solidified as several armed guards took up a firing stance around it, each eager to fire the first shot at the enemy.

General Munro looked at the box curiously. It wasn’t like the ones they’d seen before. It was rather fanciful for a craft of war, as if someone had designed it for more aesthetic than practical purposes. Even then, it wasn’t the most pleasing of sights, though greatly more so than the wretched devices that usually manifested themselves.

The other thing that puzzled him was how the machine had appeared in central control. The barriers usually meant that the enemy were deflected to the perimeter of the city, no matter how hard they’d tried to land close to the operations centre.

Was it possible that the ship contained an outsider? Had the Voltrani started employing mercenaries from off-world? And if so, how had the communication broken through the chrono-sphere?

He walked around the object, deep in thought. He tentatively put a hand to the surface of the box. It felt like wood, but the sensation in his fingers was like pin and needles. It didn’t hurt per se, but felt uncomfortable. Against his better judgement he put an ear to the side of the machine, a faint humming resonating against his ear drum.

This is no enemy vessel, he reasoned. This is our means to win the war!

He motioned at the men to stand down, hoping it would provoke the occupants of the craft to step outside. Moments later an elderly man and a young girl stepped out of the box, and General Munro hurried forward to greet them.


Steven opened his eyes and studied his surroundings carefully. He was in the same room, but there appeared to be thriving activity around him, people carefully conducting experiments at the workbenches. He wasn’t at all sure what the experiments concerned, but was keen to learn more, if only to get himself out of his predicament.

A hand reached down to him to helped him to his feet, which immediately surprised him. 'You can see me? And feel me?' he asked the young woman who’d assisted him.

'Yes of course. Now perhaps you can explain what you were doing lying in the middle of a laboratory?' There was a faint smile as she spoke, Steven hoping he could use that to his advantage, turn on the old space pilot charm. If he could remember how! All those years in confinement didn’t help when it came to social niceties.

'Well, I’m not really sure. One moment I was in this room with two men, neither of whom could see or hear me, and then I was in this room with you.' He paused, remembered what he’d seen on the screen. 'I have a feeling I’ve been displaced in time. Does your research involve chronon particles?'

At those words, several pairs of eyes turned to him and he smiled his best smile in an attempt to cover himself. The figures turned back to their work immediately, but Steven realised that it was more to do with the dismissive wave that his assistor had given rather than his own efforts.

The woman took him to one side. 'How do you know about that? This research unit is top secret, high level clearance only. There’s talk of a war coming, after the accident. Are you a spy?'