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Chapter





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On Gorgoror, the fleeing fugitives had found reserves of strength they hadn’t previously known. Unfortunately, the raging, bloodthirsty beast in pursuit wasn’t tiring either. It was about fifty metres behind them, bounding on all fours to increase its speed, when they reached the next cluster of gutted buildings. They scrambled, gasping, through the first entrance they came to, only to find themselves in a chaotic mesh of fallen girders and blackened timbers. Desperate and breathless, they fought their way through. When the creature entered behind them, it gave a mighty roar and, with Herculean strength, began smashing the impediments aside.

Harry took one glance over his shoulder and he knew they weren’t going to make it if they just kept running. Close by, a narrow ramp led upward. ‘Dora!’ He grabbed her wrist. ‘This way!’

She peered up in disbelief. Whatever this ramp was, it looked rickety, unsupported by scaffolding of any sort, and was terrifyingly steep.

‘We know this thing can outrun us,’ Harry stammered. ‘But can it out-climb us?’

‘You can’t be serious!’

‘I’m perfectly serious.’ He spun around. ‘Sophie, where are you?’

There were too many bodies trying to scramble through and over the beams and rubble, for him to get an immediate fix on his daughter. When she suddenly appeared in front of him: she was white-faced, her hair in disarray, her cheeks still smeared with mud.

‘We’re going up,’ he said, trying to grab her.

‘What?’

With another howl, the pursuing beast hurled a girder out of its way. It was so close they could feel the heat from it, could smell its rancid breath.

‘I’m not going up there,’ Sophie said, yanking her hand free.

‘Sophie, you’ll do as I tell you!’

She shook her head dumbly. ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about.’

‘Sophie!’ he pleaded.

‘No!’ she screamed. ‘You’re wrong! You’re always wrong!

She turned and fled with the others, tripping over a cable protruding from the concrete floor. Harry wanted to lurch after her, to help her. But Andrei did that for him, hauling the girl to her feet and running, both of them vanishing through the fallen wreckage. Fleetingly, Harry wondered if maybe he had made another mistake. But it was too late to change his strategy now. The others had gone and only he and Dora were left.

He pushed her towards the foot of the ramp – she objected wildly, struggling with him, crying out her daughter’s name. He knew there was no time to argue, and propelled her upward. The ramp was of trellised steel, and rusty and greasy with moisture. They fell constantly, barking their elbows, knees and shins. Dora was still shouting and weeping, even when they were about nine metres up. But now the monster had halted at the foot of the ramp, breathing hoarsely. Clearly it was torn between targets. In the end it opted for the one it felt would be easier – Harry and Dora.

When they realised this, they climbed desperately, Dora as eager as her husband. But the ascent was steepening, and they were already exhausted. When the monster started up, there was a clattering and groaning as metal joints warped and tore.

‘We’re going to die!’ Dora wailed.

‘No we’re not!’

At twenty-four metres up, they reached a platform with a catwalk leading away, bridging the cavernous interior. Harry tried to drag his wife forward, but again she resisted.

‘No!’ she squawked. ‘That thing will collapse. We’ll fall to our deaths!’

The monster clambered up behind them, grunting and groaning from its own efforts. The entire structure now shook.

‘This whole thing is going to collapse!’ Harry said.

‘Look what you’ve brought us to!’ his wife wept.

And then another voice intruded. ‘Harry, over here!’

On the far side of the catwalk, Harry saw another ramp ascending and connecting with an aperture in the building’s wall. A figure was standing in that aperture, waving frantically. It was Rory.

‘Over here!’ Rory shouted. ‘That bridge will hold! I’ve just crossed it.’

Harry took Dora by the hand, and they proceeded across. Behind them, the monster reached the platform, and bounded in pursuit.

The flickering screen showed two people struggling up the steep metal ramp, and a third, Rory, scrambling down it to try and assist them. The ramp was so flimsy that it swayed beneath their weight.

‘The entertainment in this place never ends,’ the Doctor said, biting his lip.

‘We have audio and visual censors installed in most sections of the Chase,’ Krauzzen replied. ‘For the protection of our clients, obviously.’

‘Obviously.’

On screen, a fourth figure appeared, a hulking brute covered in coarse black hair, lumbering up the ramp. Briefly, a jutting snout and curved horn were visible. The Doctor recognised it immediately.

‘Things aren’t looking good for these three,’ Krelbin said dispassionately. ‘That’s a moon-buck from the planet Peladon. They’re placid if treated properly, but this one is probably starving.’

‘Save yourself,’ came a panting voice from the screen. It was the older man, addressing Rory. ‘You didn’t need to come back for us… Go, run!’

‘And this is what we do?’ the Doctor said. ‘Watch them die? Even though we’ve paid for the privilege of hunting them ourselves.’

‘Sometimes, Doctor, yes.’ Krauzzen took a drink from a tray; thankfully, this waitress was not Amy. ‘Hopefully their colleagues watch them die as well, and it serves as a salutary lesson that, if nothing else, on Gorgoror they must keep running. Always running. Never stopping.’

Rory had now detached himself from the other two, and climbed back up the last couple of metres of ramp on his own. He vanished into a tunnel mouth, only to reappear pushing a huge wooden crate. The other two humans slid past it, and he pushed it down the ramp. It hadn’t gained much speed before it crashed into the moon-buck.

The monster was big enough to ride out the blow, though it had to rear up on two legs and almost overbalanced. As the crate spun down into the dimness, it continued up, only for Rory to send a second crate down towards it, and the bearded man to send a third. The monster reared again, but the second crate was turning end-over-end, and struck it full in the chest. It tottered backwards, its clawed hind-feet struggling to grip the slippery metal. The third crate slammed into its legs and swept them from beneath it. The moon-buck fell heavily down the ramp, before sliding over the side and dropping into the wreckage far below, where a spear of jagged metal pierced its torso, leaving it hanging like a fish on a skewer. Rory and his friends stared down wearily, before hurrying out of sight into the tunnel.

‘Poor Aggedor,’ the Doctor said under his breath.

‘What’s that?’ Krelbin wondered.

‘Just thinking aloud.’

‘I take it you’re impressed?’ Krauzzen said. ‘You should be. These scrag-ends of human society, these nobodies who their own civilisation has forgotten, can fight for their lives if they’re frightened enough. It won’t be easy when you get down there.’

Amy now appeared at the Doctor’s shoulder. She ignored him when he glanced at her, and collected the latest round of empties. He handed the last one to her purposely. She didn’t acknowledge this. Nor did she acknowledge the tiny fold of paper he’d slipped into the palm of her hand. Only when she was back in the kitchen area, and able to steal away from her fellow waitresses for a second, did she open it up. Inside it was the TARDIS key. There was also a message written in scruffy pencil. It read:

Off to Gorgoror. Find TARDIS. Hugs.

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