Saturday, 20 July 2019

FICTION: "The Orb of Amarella"

I've been sifting through my old files and emails for certain bits and pieces, and while naturally I can't find what I was actually looking for, some interesting bits have popped up. I wrote this story twelve (!) years ago, for a young lad called Edward. My mum used to work as a teaching assistant, and Edward was one of her pupils. I think he'd have been eight or nine at the time, but it was a long time ago so I'm not 100% sure. I met him on one occasion I dropped in to see mum (might have been a bit of voluntary work there now I think of it, but again, this was a long time ago). He was a huge Doctor Who fan, so naturally we hit it off. He was having a hard time of it back then,so I wrote a little story for him in the hopes it would cheer him up. By all accounts, it worked, and he loved it.

I thought this was long gone, but I'd attached to an email which was still sitting in my drafts folder. It's very much written for kids, and not particularly original to be honest, but reading it back I think it works pretty well. If you happen to stumble on it Edward, I hope you're doing well. You'll be around twenty now, I guess, not far off my age when I wrote this for you. I hope you enjoy it again.

The Orb of Amarella

Edward Thomson was pretty bored. Winter could be like that. There wasn’t much on the telly this time of year, with all the good stuff being saved for Christmas, and it was too cold and damp to go outside. A little snow would have been better – the cold never mattered so much if it was snowing – but the closest the weather got was a layer of frost on the cars first thing in the morning. It was enough to melt into a film of icy water by lunchtime, so that all the hard, frozen ground would be turned into sticky mud and ensure that no one was allowed outside during playtime at school. It wasn’t even wet enough to be proper mud weather. You couldn’t go out in your wellies and jump in muddy puddles; there was just about enough mud to make sure you slipped over and fell flat on your face.

So, on the weekends, when his homework was done, there was little for Edward to do but let his imagination wander. It was that or think about school – and he didn’t like to think about that any more than he had to.

It was on a Sunday night, as another dreary and drizzly weekend drew to a close, that Edward forgot his boredom and drifted off to sleep. He found himself woken some time later. What had disturbed him? Edward realised that he could hear something – a faint sound, a whistling, like in old Looney Tunes when a character fell from a cliff. Only, this was getting louder.

He got out of bed, and rushed to the window, pulling aside the curtains. He saw, in the sky, a glowing dot of light, brighter than the moon. It burned with a golden light. As he watched, it grew from a point to a sphere. It was getting closer. At first, he thought it was headed towards him, but he realised it was angled downwards, and that it would land further away. As he watched, the glowing orb sped into his back garden – crashing, not with a loud bang as he’d expected, but with a dull thump.

Edward rushed out of the house, not caring how cold he was or about the feel of frost against his feet. He gingerly approached the glowing orb, sitting, undamaged, on the lawn. It was about the size of a tennis ball. The glowing softened, until it appeared simply as a shiny golden ball. Carefully – would it be hot? – Edward reached out, picking it up in his hands. It wasn’t hot, merely a little warm. Rushing back indoors, Edward went into his room.

He decided he’d keep his discovery a secret for now – no one else had woken up, and who knew what this might be? He’d have to take it with him to school, to make sure it wasn’t found while he was there. Carefully, Edward put the orb into his schoolbag, a jumper stuffed around it to keep it from producing a suspicious lump.

Eventually, despite the mystery and excitement, he fell asleep.

Later, the next day, after the school bell had rung for the long-awaited final time, Edward trudged out of the school gates, the orb still in his bag. He could feel it there, pressing against his back, the slight heat of it just perceptible through the fabric. He looked around for his mum, hoping to get his new find back to home to safety as quickly as possible. What he saw was not his mum. It wasn’t even human. Standing over the other side of the road, large as life and twice as ugly, was what could only be called a monster. It had to be seven feet tall, and at least three wide. It was roughly the shape of a man, but was incredibly bulky, with the sort of proportions that would dwarf a sumo wrestler. Its body was a deep, metallic green – something like a tank’s hull, or maybe more like the shell of a beetle. In fact, a beetle was what it reminded Edward of most. Its head was little more than a shallow lump between its huge shoulders; two dully glowing red eyes were facing him, beneath stubby antennae.

Edward gasped – the eyes were facing directly at him. The monster was looking right at him!

It began to stride over towards him – moving quickly, despite its bulk. It ignored the other children who stood around, stuck with fear and awe, and made straight for Edward. What should he do? What did it want? The answer came to Edward quickly – the creature had to be after the orb he had found. What else could it want with him? What should he do – hand it over to him?

A car screeched around the corner. The man driving it was going far too fast, and couldn’t brake quickly enough. Edward saw the look of shock on his face as his car smashed straight into the monster. The car buckled in the middle, as the driver opened his door, toppling out as he tried to escape. The creature was still standing, oblivious to the children screaming all around it, its attention momentarily taken by its collision. It didn’t look hurt – but Edward bet it was pretty angry.

Then, Edward did something possibly very brave, or possibly very foolish. He ran. He turned on his heels, and legged it as fast as he could in the opposite direction to the monster. He bumped and crashed into kids in his way, pelting down the road as quickly as he could. What was he doing? Wouldn’t the monster come after him? Why shouldn’t it have its orb back? However, something within him told him he had to keep the orb safe – and it wasn’t safe with the monster.

He snuck a look behind him – the monster had started coming after him. It wasn’t running, simply walking, calmly and purposefully towards him. It didn’t need to run. It would catch up with him eventually. Puffing, Edward continued to run – this was worse than cross-country!

He was concentrating so firmly on his running, that he didn’t notice a man step out in front of him from around the corner of the road. He ran straight into him , knocking the man back a bit. The man grabbed Edward by the shoulders, forcing him to a halt.

‘Whoa, steady on there, fella!’ said the man. Edward looked up at him. He was youngish, tall and skinny, with sticky-up brown hair. He was wearing a blue pinstriped suit with a shirt and tie, underneath a long, brown suede coat.

‘What’s the hurry? You late for your tea?’ the man had an enthusiastic voice, with a bit of a cockney accent.

‘There’s – there’s a monster after me!’ panted Edward.

‘A monster?’ said the man, then seemed to notice the creature that was approaching for the first time. ‘Oh, that monster – no worries. I’ll sort him out.’ The strange man pulled some kind of tool out of his jacket pocket – a thin, silvery instrument, sort of like a wand. He pointed it at the rapidly encroaching monster, and activated it. A blue light shone brightly from its tip, and an ear-torturing, skull-splitting whine filled the air.

The monster fell to its knees, clutching at its stumpy head. Edward felt like doing the same, but the man grabbed him by the hand and went running down the adjoining road. They swiftly came to a blue box, bizarrely just standing in the middle of the pavement.

‘In here – quick!’ he shouted.

The box was just about big enough for two people to squeeze inside, but it seemed better than no cover at all, so Edward followed the man through the narrow doorway…

… and into a vast golden cavern, in the middle of which stood some kind of futuristic machine, glowing from within with a blue-green light. Elegant crests of coral linked the floor to the ceiling. The man slipped off his coat and flung it casually onto a crook in one of the coral branches, dashing up a metallic gangway to the unfathomable device in the centre.

‘Go on, then,’ said the man, as he began to fiddle with buttons and levers on the machine. ‘Say it.’

‘Say what?’ asked Edward.

‘ “It’s bigger on the inside.” It’s what everyone says when they first come in.’

‘It’s fantastic!’ said Edward. ‘What is it?’

The man turned around to face him, a huge grin across his face. ‘It is fantastic, isn’t it? It’s called the TARDIS. It stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. It’s a sort of space-and-time-ship. It can take you anywhere, and anywhen. Brilliant, isn’t it?’

‘It really is,’ said Edward. ‘Um… am I allowed in here? I mean, I’m not really supposed to go with strangers.’

‘Very good policy,’ said the man, ‘but this is a pretty unique situation, wouldn’t you agree?’

‘Yes, but… who are you?’

‘I’m called the Doctor. What about you?’

‘Edward. Edward Thompson.’

‘Edward! Ed. Ted. Eddy-boy! Pleased to meet you!’ The Doctor dashed forward and shook his hand vigorously. ‘Now, before you ask, that thing outside is a Normanite. It’s from the planet Norman. Yes, it’s a ridiculous name, but it means something thoroughly grand and impressive in Normanish, I’m sure.’

‘What does it want?’ asked Edward, although he was sure he knew the answer already.

‘Same thing as me,’ said the Doctor, once more attending the strange central machine. ‘I’m looking for something very valuable. It has to be around here somewhere – I’ve been tracing it, tracking it across the Galaxy. I’ve been to Valuensis, Lonsys, Magathoria, Viltvodle Six, Baragwin… spent three weeks stuck in the Great Fellasorian Republic on Mannaton Three, after I took a wrong turn in the Sylvannic Wastes… got locked up for a month on Slarn, and totally lost the blooming thing. Finally got another trace on it, and where did it finally land? Only Earth! Can you believe that? Of all the places, on all the planets, in all the star systems, it lands in England!’ He finally stopped to take a breath. ‘Not entirely sure where, though, but it can’t be far. In fact, I think I’ve got its location traced… very strong signal… incredibly strong! In fact… it’s in here!’

The Doctor spun round to face Edward. ‘It’s in your backpack, isn’t it?’

Sheepishly, Edward removed the bag from his shoulders, and fished out the orb, still glowing gently.

‘Where did you find that? said the Doctor.

‘It landed in my garden.’

‘And you had to go and pick it up! Honestly, humans, have to go and have a poke… still, can’t whinge really, I’m the same. But, I’m afraid I’d better take that right now.’ The Doctor held out his hand, expectantly.

‘What is it?’ asked Edward, handing it over, a little reluctantly.

‘Only the most powerful object in this Galactic Cluster. That, Eddy-boy, is the planet Amarella.’

‘How can that be a planet?’ asked Edward, confused. ‘It’s tiny.’

‘Well, so’s the TARDIS on the outside. But it’s just huge on the inside. Amarella’s sort of the same.’ The Doctor sat down in front of Edward cross-legged. ‘You see, the Amarellans are an incredibly advanced race. About a million years ago, they developed psychokinetic abilities unparalleled in this Universe since the Carrionites and Hervoken wiped each other out in the Dark Times. It was practically magic – as close as you can get to magic in the real world, in any case. Of course, all the other species in the Galaxies wanted this for themselves. So to stop everyone trying to invade them, the Amarellans shrunk their planet down to the size of a tennis ball, enclosed in a protective sphere, trapped a baby sun inside to keep them warm and suntanned, and set it shooting off around the Universe. Clever, eh?’

‘So, what do you want it for? Are you after the power too?’

‘Me? Power! Nah, I’m just trying to keep it safe. After it swung back round into this Galaxy, I knew someone would get wind of it. Sure enough, the Normanites got a whiff of its power trail and set off after it. Found it had landed here just about the same time I did, it seems. Fortunately, you found it before them. I shudder to think what they could be capable of with that kind of power. Right bunch of thugs, the Normanites. They invaded Trion once, went around smacking the Trions with half-bricks in socks. Anyway,’ he took another deep breath, ‘I’ve got it now. Just need to get it back into the intergalactic void and away from trouble. Then I can nip back and send the Normanites packing.’

The Doctor leaped up, returning to the bank of machinery at the centre of his ship. ‘All I need to do…’ he said, flicking a series of switches, ‘… is dematerialise, and rematerialise somewhere between the Andromeda and Triangulum. Should be plenty far enough.’ The glowing object in the dead centre of the ship began to rise and fall, a noise like a warped trumpet rising from the depths. The movement stopped with a sudden clunk.

‘Now, wait a minute…’ said the Doctor, under his breath. ‘This isn’t right…’

‘What’s wrong?’ asked Edward, a bit worried about the idea of an alien spaceship going wrong with him in it.

‘Oh, nothing, nothing,’ said the Doctor, as he frantically pressed levers and twiddled with buttons. ‘Come on, old girl, what’s wrong?’

‘Doctor,’ said Edward, getting a mite panicky, ‘what is wrong?’

‘We’ve materialised on a planet,’ said the Doctor, straightening and sweeping his hair back. ‘A planet where there shouldn’t be a planet. And now the TARDIS is refusing to leave. Something is keeping her here, and I don’t understand what…’

He grabbed hold of a computer screen that protruded from the central machinery, swivelling it round to face him.

‘That’s impossible…’

‘WHAT?’ shouted Edward, and you couldn’t really blame him.

‘The planet we’ve landed on,’ said the Doctor, looking surprised, and a little dumbfounded, ‘is Amarella.’

‘But, that’s the planet you’re holding!’

‘Yeah, that’s right. So, the TARDIS is on Amarella, and Amarella is in the TARDIS.’ He broke into a huge grin. ‘Brilliant! Only, a bit of a problem really. No wonder we can’t take off – infinite recursion. A’s inside B but B’s inside A… we’re stuck in a loop. The Amarellans final trick… it’s a space-time trap.’

To be continued…

Part Two

The TARDIS door swung open, revealing a landscape of gently glowing silver rock, like the surface of the full moon after a bright and sunny day. The Doctor stepped out, his gangly legs striding swiftly across the plain.

‘Right, so here’s the plan. The Amarellans have got to be around here somewhere. We just need to find them, explain the situation and I’m sure they’ll send us on our way. Close the door behind you, Edward.’

Edward did so, breaking into a jog to as he followed the Doctor, who was strutting across the rocky plain talking away happily to himself.

‘I mean, once they understand that we’re on their side, they’re bound to be all right by us. They’re an enlightened people. They banned smoking before most races had discovered fire. I remember – I got kicked out of an Amarellan pub back in my first incarnation. My granddaughter never did let me forget that.’

Hurrying after him, Edward took in as much of the surroundings as he could. The sun – the baby sun, the Doctor had called it – hung low in the sky, bathing the surroundings in a rich light. It wasn’t like the sunlight back on Earth, though – it was silvery, the setting sun like a blob of mercury on the horizon. He looked ahead, and saw ivory spires in the distance.

‘Is that where we’re going?’ he asked the Doctor.

‘Yep,’ he replied. ‘Looks like a city to me. Bound to be where we’ll find the locals.’

‘But it’s miles away!’

‘Hard to judge here, but I’d guess, given the standard dimensions of Amarellan architecture, that it’s about forty to fifty-five miles off.’

‘What?! I can’t walk all that way?’

‘Well, sorry, but I can’t shift the TARDIS. So we haven’t got a lot of choice, have we?’

Fortunately for Edward’s feet, their arrival had not gone unnoticed. From deep within the city, a sparkling bolt of energy rose into the sky, scattering sparks like a spent firework. Three sparks, little glowing blobs of energy, fell to the ground in front of them. The Doctor stopped in his tracks, putting out his arm to stop Edward. The balls of energy flared, each materialising into a humanoid figure.

These being were nothing like the monstrous Normanite that Edward had encountered earlier. They were tall, maybe seven feet each, but also incredibly slender, their stick-thin arms ending in large, seven-fingered hands, and their legs in saucer-like feet. Their skin was white, shining with the same soft glow as the planet’s rocks. They didn’t appear to have clothes, but their bodies were smooth and featureless, so Edward supposed they didn’t really need to wear them. Their faces were simple, serene – two large, silver eyes above a tiny slit of a mouth.

‘Ah, the Amarellans, I presume?’ exclaimed the Doctor. ‘An absolute pleasure, really, and thanks for dropping by. You’d saved us a whopper of a walk.’

Silence, said the Amarellans. Only, they didn’t seem to actually say it – the word simply popped into Edward’s head, three voices in time with each other.

‘There’s no need to be like that,’ muttered the Doctor. ‘Telepathy’s all well and good, but you can’t beat a good chinwag, can you, Edward?’

Identify yourselves.

‘I can’t identify myself and be silent at the same time,’ said the Doctor, smiling. Three impassive faces stared back at him. ‘Okaaay, not big with the humour. I’ll remember that. I’m the Doctor, and this young chap is Edward.’

You arrived here in a time capsule. To which civilisation do you belong?

‘I’m a Time Lord,’ said the Doctor. ‘I’m sure you’ve heard of us.’

Indeed. We viewed your war against the Daleks, across time and space, in our past and our future. We were not impressed.’

‘Ah, well, you see… the thing about that is, none of us wanted that war. The Daleks were a threat to the entire Universe. We had no choice.’

There is always a choice. The Amarellans turned their heads to face Edward. And what are you, child?

‘I’m… I’m from Earth,’ said Edward, quietly.

Earth… we are not familiar with this world. Tell us, is Earth yet another world of war?

‘You don’t have to answer to them, Edward,’ said the Doctor. ‘And neither do I. You lot have been stuck in here for the last million years; maybe you’ve forgotten what it’s like out there in the Universe. Yes, there are wars – but there’s so much more than that. The people of Earth are capable of violence, yes, but also of great compassion, wondrous imagination and incredible courage. So don’t go getting all high and mighty with my friend Eddy here!’

You speak highly of this race, Time Lord. You leap to their defence more readily than to your own. It is interesting to us. Now, tell us… why have you come here? Why have you invaded our sanctuary?

‘We aren’t invading. We’re here by mistake. We were trying to move your world out of harm’s way. However, we didn’t reckon on your defences trapping us in here! What’s the point of it? If you wanted to keep threats out, why do that?

Within our sphere of influence, we have supreme power. If we so wish, we could remove you from existence with a single thought. It is the simplest way for us to deal with an external threat.

‘We aren’t a threat to you. But there are others who are. And they could be here at any time.’

Edward, scared as he was by the increasingly threatening events around him, was keeping up with the aliens’ dialogue. ‘But,’ he asked, ‘I thought we got away from the Normanites?’

‘I was hoping to give them the slip in the TARDIS,’ replied the Doctor, ‘then nip back to Earth and sort out any who’d stayed behind. But now we’re stuck here, the TARDIS and the planet are just hovering in the Vortex, and nothing’s stopping the Normanites tracking us down.’

As if on cue, a low rumbling sound filled the air. It rattled through Edward’s bones and made his teeth chatter. He looked up into the mercurial sky, and saw that the air itself seemed to be rippling. It was like someone had dropped a pebble in a pond – only in reverse. For the ripples opened out to reveal a shimmering, grey-green cube. The air returned to normal, the cube hanging in the sky. It was the size of an office block, but it simply hovered there, suspended, against all logic.

‘There, you see! What did I tell you?’ the Doctor waved his hands at the object. ‘A Normanite warship. Punched its way right through. And those fellas aren’t nearly as friendly as us.’

They will be dealt with.

With a crackle of blue energy, three Normanites materialised. They stood a few feet away, their greenish exoskeletons glinting in the alien sunlight. Striding over, they each raised a horribly large gun - the same green, metallic material as their bodies, bustling with tubes and valves and worrying-looking spiky bits.

The lead creature spoke. Its voice had a coarse, mechanical sound, its eyes glowed redder and its antennae twitched as it spoke.

‘This planet is claimed as part of the Normanite Empire. You will take us to your base of operations. This world will be handed over to us, and you will allow us to bring it, and its denizens, back into space/time. You will learn to serve us.’

I do not think so.

The Amarellans turned to the Normanites, raising their hands. With a flick of the wrist, they assailed the creatures with burning silver lightning. However, the Normanites simply stood there, the energy apparently absorbed by their armour. The lead Normanite looked at the Amarellans, and Edward thought he could see the eyes twitch into what must have been a smile.

‘Your powers, though impressive, will not work on us,’ gloated the Normanite, as smoke curled off its armour.

The Doctor raised his glowing blue tool. ‘Do you mind? Just a screwdriver, nothing to worry about.’ Which made Edward smile, as not that long ago he’d used it to knock one of these creatures over. However, he merely waved it in the general direction of the Normanites, while it emitted a soft, shrill hum.

‘Strange matter!’ said the Doctor, a grin spreading across his face. ‘You’ve laced your exoskeletal armour with strange matter. That’s brilliant! You lot aren’t as thick as I thought.’ He turned to Edward. ‘Strange matter is another form of matter. Most of the matter in the Universe is made of first-generation quarks and leptons; strange matter is made of second-gen particles. Much stronger, much, much heavier, and, clearly - ’
he turned to the Amarellans, who, despite their featureless faces, seemed to be distinctly worried, ‘not subject to the same forces as normal matter. So, your powers can’t affect them. In fact, I reckon you’re desperately trying to dematerialise this lot as we speak, but you’re not having a lot of luck with that, are you?’

We have not encountered this technology before.

‘Yes, well, you’re out of touch, aren’t you? Things have moved on a bit in the last million years. Ooh, and I bet you’re scared now. ‘Cause that’s why you’ve hidden yourself away, isn’t it? Never mind all your power, you’re terrified of all the warmongering aliens out there, terrified that they’re coming after you. Well, now they have, and there’s nothing you can do.’

‘If I may interject?’ said the lead Normanite.

‘Oh, sorry Norm. I expect you want to get blasting with those impressive guns you have there. Ooh, do they use strange matter too? I bet they do. Go on, take a blast at the Amarellans here. They won’t be able to do a thing to stop you.’

‘Doctor!’ said Edward, beginning to get pretty worried about this turn of events.

‘Very well,’ said the Normanite. ‘Perhaps a show of strength is just what is needed.’ The three Normanites raised their weapons, aiming at the Amarellans. They sent a volley of glowing green energy at them, ball of fire shooting forth.

The Doctor raised his screwdriver, and clicked.

The fireballs bounced back in the direction they came, straight into the three shocked-looking Normanites. They barrelled backwards, knocked clean off their feet, landing noisily in a heap several metres away.

‘Fortunately for the Amarellans here, Edward, sonic waves work just as well on strange matter as on ordinary matter. Now, I don’t think you gents will have much of a problem with them – that feedback will have knocked out all the strange matter from their systems. Even the ship should have its defences offline now.

We are… grateful to you, Doctor.

‘Doesn’t sound like you’ve had to say thank you in a while, gents. So, what are you going to do with them?’

We shall annihilate them. It will be as though they never existed.

‘Wait!’ shouted Edward. ‘Why do you need to do that? Can’t you just get rid of them? Send them back to Norman? You don’t need to destroy them, do you?’

Why would this matter to you?

‘Well… because, it’s wrong. It doesn’t matter how powerful you are, you don’t need to kill them.’

‘You see?’ said the Doctor. ‘You’ve spent so long hiding in here, convinced that the Universe outside is full of monsters. It’s not like that. There’s good in the Universe too. Send this lot home. Release my ship, and we can put your planet back in intergalactic space. They’ll never bother you again.’

The Amarellans were silent for a moment. They seemed to be thinking about it.

Very well. We will release your vessel.

As Edward watched, the Normanites and their ship faded away.

And we have sent them back to their world.

‘Come on Edward,’ said the Doctor, slipping his screwdriver back into his pocket. ‘Back to the TARDIS.’ He turned to look at the Amarellans again. ‘Maybe, after a few more years of isolation, you’ll realise what you’re missing, and you’ll come back to the Universe, instead of hiding away here. Only, leave Earth alone for a bit, eh? They’re only young.’

Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor set the controls for their journey. The central mechanism began to rise and fall, the trumpeting and groaning starting up once more.

‘Right,’ he said, leaning over the controls, ‘we drop Amarella back in the intergalactic void, then I nip back to Earth, check there are no more Normanites hanging around and get you back home.’

Edward suddenly realised something. ‘We’ve been gone for hours! My Mum’s going to be so worried! And she’ll probably kill me for running off like this!’

‘Oh, don’t worry about that,’ said the Doctor, smiling. ‘The TARDIS will take us back to the very moment we met. It’ll be like no time passed at all.’

‘But, in that case… I don’t have to go back just yet, do I?’

The Doctor turned to face him. ‘Oh no you don’t. You’re going back home right now!’

‘Oh, but Doctor, you can take me back later! If this is a time machine…’

‘Of course it is! Don’t you believe me?’ He looked Edward hard in the eye. ‘Oh, all right. One trip, you understand? Just one. Then straight back home. OK?’

‘OK, Doctor!’

‘Right then, Eddy Boy… do you like dinosaurs?’

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