Eighth Doctor
Human Resources
An online drama broadcast on Digital Radio BBC 7
Written by Eddie Robson
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Music, Sound Design and Post Production by ERS

Paul McGann (The Doctor), Sheridan Smith (Lucie Miller), Katarina Olsson (Headhunter), Roy Marsden (Hulbert), Nickolas Grace (Straxus), Owen Brenman (Jerry), Louise Fullerton (Karen), Andy Wisher (Malcolm), Nicholas Briggs (The Cybermen).

What Lucie Miller's been headhunted to join the staff of Hulbert Logistics, a respectable blue-chip firm in Telford. Great prospects, competitive salary -- you don't have to be mad to work here! But wasn't she made for better things, like travelling by TARDIS through time and space? The Doctor, meanwhile, has been fired -- into a confrontation with the most terrifying of enemies...
Original Broadcast

Part 1			11th February, 2007			6h00pm-7h00pm
Part 2			18th February, 2007			6h00pm-7h00pm

Each episode was broadcast again at midnight the same day.
A tie-in making of documentary titled
Beyond the Vortex was shown after each episode.

  • Featuring the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller, this story was commissioned by digital radio station BBC 7 as a follow-up to their previous broadcast of Big Finish Eighth Doctor Stories.
  • Part 1 of the story will be released on CD by Big Finish in July 2007 [ISBN: 1 84435 261 6], and Part 2 in August 2007 [ISBN: 1 84435 262 5].

Lucie Miller is woken from a deep sleep by the voice of the Headhunter, who apologises for leaving her alone and asks whether anyone got her a coffee. As Lucie comes to her senses, she starts to accuse the woman of bringing her here, but then becomes confused and asks where she is. The Headhunter tells her she's in the coffee lounge, but they've now found a spare desk for her downstairs. Lucie asks where the Doctor is, but then loses her train of thought again. The Headhunter offers to take Lucie down to the first floor, and as they leave, Lucie spots a poster for the company 'Hulbert Logistics' and recalls that she recently had a job interview here. The Headhunter confirms that she got the job and that this is her first day. Lucie is sure she was doing something else before she came here, but the Headhunter convinces her she's just been working out her notice at her old job. Lucie is still confused, but accepts that the woman must be telling the truth.

Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor is battling to get the controls working, but without success. As he hits the console in anger, a voice asks if he's having a bit of bother. A man enters the control room, claiming to have come in through the back door. Although he introduces himself as Straxus and says he's been sent by the High Council of the Time Lords, the Doctor refuses to talk to him until he's seen some identification. As he produces his paperwork, Straxus examines the dismantled TARDIS console and realises that the Doctor's been trying to bypass the isomorphic controls. The Doctor accuses the Time Lords of rigging the ship so that it would only work while Lucie was inside, but now that Lucie has vanished, he's trapped here and unable to help her. Straxus admits that they know where Lucie is. They're not sure exactly what happened, but she seems to have been pulled back to her natural place in time. He asks the Doctor why he didn't ask for their help straight away, but the Doctor reminds him that the Time Lords haven't been overly communicative recently, so he thought it would be a waste of time. He asks Straxus to fix the TARDIS, but the Time Lords will only agree to do that after the Doctor has got Lucie back for them. It's clear they don't entirely trust the Doctor, so Straxus insists that he travels to his destination via Time Ring. Straxus assures him it's the latest model and even has Vortex buffers built in, so eventually the Doctor agrees even though he feels it's a bit "bling" for him. He asks why the Time Lords won't just go and get Lucie for themselves, but Straxus says she's likely to be confused and it would help if they sent someone she already knows. Once the Doctor has found her, they'll take Lucie off his hands and make alternative arrangements -- but before he leaves, he warns the Doctor not to spend too long there as it's a temporal blackspot and isn't safe...

Part One
(drn: 50'41")

The Headhunter shows Lucie to the first floor and introduces her to the rest of the team. Her desk is opposite a young girl named Karen, who remembers Lucie, as they both had their interview on the same day. Lucie remembers too -- she'd run most of the way from the tube and her hair was in a mess, so Karen lent Lucie her mirror. Lucie also recalls that the company was only interviewing for one position, but the Headhunter says they're always looking for outstanding candidates, and as both were felt to be suitable, they created an extra post. She asks Karen to show Lucie the ropes and the two girls spend the next minute exchanging puns until they've both run out of jokes. The Headhunter then leaves to visit another branch, promising to check in on Lucie when she gets back. As soon as they're alone, Lucie admits that she doesn't know what they actually do here, so Karen asks if she minds being thrown in at the deep end. She needs help circulating some reports as there's a big round of planning meetings arranged for the afternoon and everyone needs to know the latest information from the other regions.

When the Headhunter calls the company manager, Hulbert, he tells her he was expecting to hear back from her earlier. She admits that it took longer to trace Lucie than she thought as the girl had hooked up with a time traveller. Hulbert is relieved to hear that she wasn't poached by another company, but the Headhunter believes she got lost on the way and the time traveller just found her. It's lucky the Headhunter is equipped to search through time and space, but it does mean the bill is likely to be higher than she originally quoted. Hulbert still believes Lucie may have been snatched away deliberately as he's never lost anyone like this before, but the Headhunter thinks he's just upset at the cost of tracking down a lowly data entry clerk. Hulbert tells her that he recognised Lucie had strong prospects and her aptitude scores were top-drawer. The Headhunter has followed his instructions and put her through the induction process, and Hulbert regrets that he didn't have time to assess her personally. He says Lucie's confused state is normal and if she interacts with the others a bit she'll normalise in no time. He asks the Headhunter to send him an invoice and promises to have her fee paid within three days. Lucie's performance will be reviewed in six months and the Headhunter's bonus, which is expected to be generous, will be based on the results.

Karen finds Lucie struggling to open the office window to let some air in, but eventually she gives up. Karen admits that they never get the air conditioning right here, but you get used to it after a while. A couple of months ago the boiler broke and everyone had to sit there in their coats. Lucie thinks there are laws against that and wonders why people didn't just go home, but Karen points out that the work wouldn't have done itself. Lucie has finished sending the reports round and Karen warns that it's going to get seriously hectic round here in the afternoon, so the more they can get done ahead of time, the better. Lucie is shocked to discover it's only 11.00am as it seems like the morning has really dragged. She asks Karen if she wants to pop outside for a minute for a break, but Karen turns the offer down. Lucie decides to go alone and asks Karen to tell people she's gone for a cigarette. Moments later, Lucie's phone rings and Karen answers it. She tells the caller that he's just missed Lucie and that she's gone for a cigarette, but the caller finds this odd and seems to be aware that Lucie doesn't smoke... Meanwhile, Lucie approaches a strange looking man in the corridor and, assuming he's from security, asks him why all the doors are locked. The man grunts back at her like an animal and she asks if it's OK if she pops outside for a cigarette. Unsure whether his response is a yes or a no, she decides to ignore him and walks off...

"Attention all personnel. Fresh sandwiches are now available from the vending machine in the staff lounge."

In the main office, Karen is having a laugh with her colleagues when the manager, Jerry Cooper, joins them, insisting that they address him by his first name. He makes small talk about how much he hates this time of year and flatters Karen on her figure, then asks if she's finished sending out the reports. Just then, Lucie returns and Jerry tells her he's been meaning to touch base with her. He introduces himself as Head of Operations for the Telford branch and makes an awkward attempt to appear casual and trendy. He thanks everyone for their hard work and then returns to his other duties. Karen explains to Lucie that he only got promoted last month and he's basically alright, but a bit annoying... and sexist from time to time... and although he isn't a racist, he sometimes says embarrassing things. Lucie suddenly remembers that Jerry said this was the Telford branch, which strikes her as weird for some reason. Karen then tells Lucie that someone from planning was asking after her. The man's PA had a bad accident doing Tai Chi and she won't be in for a month (apparently some fat bloke in her class tripped and fell on her) so Lucie is being seconded to take her place. Karen has never heard of the man before, so he must be new to the company, but Lucie is to report to him straight away at room 3G the third floor. As Lucie leaves, Karen asks her to do her best to get them some gossip from upstairs.

"Attention all personnel. Could staff please be more careful when chewing chewing gum whilst operating the photocopier. If gum becomes stuck to the plate and glass this does tend to inhibit the functioning. Thank you."

Lucie arrives at room 3G and knocks on the door. The Doctor invites her in and immediately asks her to stare into a pretty light for him. As she does so, he tells her to ignore the electronic noise and let it wash over her. A few seconds later he asks how she feels, and she instantly remembers everything. He tells her that she was brainwashed, but he's given her a sensory shake-up and cured her thanks to a device he made from some odds and ends and the sonic screwdriver. Lucie tells him that just before the Time Lords snatched her away, she'd got a new job and this is the place she was going to work. All she can remember is waking up a few hours ago in the coffee lounge; the woman in the business suit who kidnapped her from the Zimmerman house showed her to a desk and she just started working. The more she thought about the Doctor and the TARDIS, the more convinced she became that she'd dreamt it all. Whenever anything didn't make sense, someone explained it to her and she just accepted it. The odd thing is that the only reason she went for the job in the first place is because it was in London, so she could move down and live with an old school friend, yet this building is apparently in Telford. The Doctor says he's been here for about an hour. He bumped into someone on the way down to get her and bluffed them into thinking he worked here, but it all escalated until he ended up with a full employment record, his own office and a new suit from a supply cupboard full of clothes. Lucie is now to be his PA and he asks her to take a letter. She offers to take four letters and make a word out of them if he's not careful. The Doctor has been told to attend a planning meeting this afternoon, to be chaired by Jerry Cooper. He asks Lucie if she knows anything useful about Jerry and she tells him that Jerry's a chump.

Hulbert receives a telephone call from Jerry, assuring him that everyone is raring to go at this afternoon's meeting. Hulbert realises this is Jerry's first solo project and wishes him well, but makes an excuse to end the call swiftly. Jerry is impressed and concludes that the key to great business is man management -- knowing when to draw the line. In his office, Hulbert apologises for the interruption and returns to the client sitting opposite him. The client growls back at him and Hulbert explains that they don't usually take on the kind of work he's proposing. However, everything is negotiable, although the risks would have to be reflected in the price the company charges. The client points out that other operators would do the work for less, but Hulbert says they won't offer the same level of quality. The client becomes agitated and Hulbert warns him not to draw his scimitar or he'll have to call security...

The Doctor and Lucie agree that the building is very odd and it doesn't look like people are supposed to get out. The Doctor couldn't open his office window earlier and even tried smashing it with a fire extinguisher, but that didn't work either. He explains that the TARDIS isn't here because it wouldn't move without Lucie's presence, but that a rather smug Time Lord gave him a Time Ring which he was supposed to use as soon as he found her. She points out that he hasn't used it yet, and the Doctor admits that he's curious about this place. Lots of things aren't right here and he wonders if everyone else here has been brainwashed too, or are they all conspiring against Lucie specifically? Why are they locked in, and why did the Time Lords say this place was a temporal blackspot when it doesn't appear to be anything of the sort? The Doctor receives a page telling him he should be in the meeting, so he sends Lucie back to her desk, hoping they'll learn more if they split up. He's been given a phone, which he's now modified, so she should be able to contact him at any time.

"Attention all personnel. The lights have gone in all the gents' toilet facilities on the second floor. Please use the facilities on an alternative floor, or a toilet with its own exterior window. That is all."

Karen is surprised to see Lucie back so soon, but she explains that her new boss doesn't need her right now. Lucie notes that everything seems really quiet here, but just then an e-mail from the planning department in Stoke arrives with the co-ordinates they've been waiting for. Karen prints it out and shows Lucie how to put the numbers onto the logistics application on her computer in order to build a real-time simulation, while they wait for the planners to tell them what action's been decided.

Jerry decides to push ahead with the meeting although not everybody is there yet. He begins by reading out the apologies from absent colleagues, but is interrupted by the late arrival of the Doctor. Jerry identifies him as John Smith (although he says he prefers to use the nickname 'Doctor', which he got when he studied medicine) and introduces him to the rest of the planning department. Jerry then reads out a report sent from their Stoke branch which shows an underground stronghold where the enemy is keeping backup troops in cold storage about a mile beneath ground level. The enemy are looking to catch their lot by surprise when there's a lull and the Stoke office would prefer not to send anybody in if it can be avoided, in order to keep the costs down. Jerry suggests everyone split up into pairs to chew the situation over, then they can feed back to the rest of the group and hammer out a strategy. He offers to team up with the Doctor so he can help him get up to speed. The Doctor wonders if this is the sort of thing the planning department normally do and Jerry says that the fact this enemy base is underground adds a little spice, but basically yes. The Telford branch has a reputation for thinking outside the box, which the Doctor quickly claims is the reason he wanted to come here. He asks Jerry what resources they have access to, but Jerry says it would be simpler if the Doctor explains what he has in mind and they can check to see if it's feasible. The Doctor suggests that if they want a clean strike, they should use a focused sonic wave. Jerry has worked with those tools before and thinks they're not very precise, especially at this sort of depth. He says the base isn't defended from the outside as the enemy is trying not to draw attention to it, so the Doctor suggests cutting a narrow tunnel with a laser, then focussing the wave through that to disable the enemy. That way they could win the battle without actually killing anyone. Jerry is impressed and adds that they can get their manufacturing section to knock up a soundproof tube to minimise damage, which would please their clients. He congratulates the Doctor, who modestly says he's just doing his job.

Karen checks with Lucie to see how she's getting on with the co-ordinates, but then tells her she'll have to wipe it all off as there's new data coming through. Unfortunately Lucie can't remove the existing information as the computer system is protected and IT presumably haven't got round to giving her permission yet. Karen lets her use her password to override the system, but as Lucie does so she experiences a very strange feeling. When she realises Karen didn't notice anything, she changes the subject and says she must be getting a migraine. She puts in the password again and this time it works normally, but when she suggests going to get a coffee, Karen becomes anxious and reminds her they have to get all the information put on the system within twenty minutes. Lucie tells her to relax -- it's not like it's the end of the world or anything...

Jerry brings the meeting to an end and thanks everyone. He tells them not to wander off too far in case the deal stalls and he needs to pick their brains again. He takes the Doctor to one side and tells him his ideas were dynamite. In fact, he's worried the Doctor might be after his job soon, but the Doctor assures him he doesn't want it. The next stage is that Jerry's PA will send the minutes down to admin, package it up, action it and see what happens. Jerry is interrupted by his pager and is informed of a problem. He calls the boys in 2D and asks them whether the plasma cannon is fully charged as they might now be looking at a rearguard action situation. The Reading branch is all tied up in red-tape (as usual) so he asks them to handle it instead. He ends the call and tells the Doctor that when the deal has gone through, they should make time to touch base. Fortunately the Doctor says he can always make time...

Lucie returns to Karen's desk with a coffee for her. While she was away, the new instructions came down from planning, so Lucie really needs to get on with that now to make up for the lost time. Just then the phone rings and the Doctor compliments Lucie on her 'telephone voice'. She tells him it isn't a good time to talk and asks if she can ring him back, but instead he suggests she come straight up to his office.

"All staff wishing to participate in the office fantasy football tournament are reminded to send their entry fee to Tony Stein by the end of the week. Tony says that contrary to popular belief, not all the good players have gone already. Apparently you can still get Phil Neville."

Lucie arrives at the Doctor's office and finds him shredding every bit of paperwork he can find in the hope of annoying someone. She tells him she's been entering data on the computer, specifically co-ordinates from a map that had been sent over from the office in Stoke. The Doctor reveals that he was also working on information from Stoke, but it was to help knock out a military stronghold. It's all a bit different from the usual kind of planning meeting, but the way everyone was talking they might as well have been devising a strategy to expand their client base. He admits that he chipped in, not really expecting anyone to have a clue what he was talking about, but they loved his ideas. He asks her to go back downstairs and collect some of the maps she's been using in the hope that they'll reveal something. Just then, there's another public address announcement, congratulating everyone on their work and stating that the deal has gone through. The more the Doctor thinks about it, the more convinced he is that they're not going to like it when they find out what this deal is all about.

Karen is arguing with Jerry as her desk is being cleared of all her personal belongings. She's convinced they should have given her a written warning first, but Jerry points out that she's still in her probationary period. She made an error that put a major deal at risk and she's refusing to accept responsibility for it. Jerry says that if it was up to him, it wouldn't be a straight dismissal, but the company guidelines are very clear on this. If she doesn't believe him, she can get a copy from Human Resources. Lucie arrives just as Karen is telling Jerry that she doesn't give a stuff about company guidelines, and he points out that it's this attitude that's causing the problem. Karen tells Lucie that she's being fired because she put some numbers in the wrong column and Lucie is outraged, but Jerry tells her this stalled everything at a vital moment. Lucie argues that if they treat their staff like this they can expect to receive half a dozen lawsuits every day -- her Auntie Pat got four grand out of the council once after an accident with a hedge-trimmer. When Lucie admits that it was really her fault because it was her first day and she distracted Karen by asking stupid questions, Jerry decides she was equally responsible for putting the deal at risk and fires her on the spot too. He calls Clive from security and tells him to escort Lucie Miller and Karen Coltrane from the building immediately. Clive arrives and turns out to be the strange animal man that Lucie saw earlier in the corridor. The creature grabs them both and while Jerry holds the door open for him, he drags them kicking and screaming out of the office. Jerry calls out to them to say he's more than happy to provide a job reference for Karen, but not for Lucie as she's only been here for a day.

The creature drags the two girls towards the exit and Lucie wonders whether this sort of thing happens a lot here. Suddenly Lucie is less keen to be allowed through the door, but this time she has no choice and the man punches in the code, opens the door and hurls them both physically through it. They scream as they fall from the building and land on the grass below. They check that they're both OK, then examine their surroundings. They can tell instantly that they're not in Telford any more. Then the building itself starts rising up out of the ground. Incredibly, the office has arms and legs and resembles a gigantic robot. As it starts walking away from them, Karen convinces herself that she's hallucinating, but Lucie knows it's all real. Karen's head is bleeding from the fall so Lucie does what she can with a tissue and asks her friend not to panic. She uses her mobile phone to call the Doctor and tells him that she and Karen have been fired and are now outside the building. Their location doesn't look anything like Earth -- it's a dry, scrubby jungle and the sky is purple. But the really incredible thing is that the office isn't an office, it's a great big robot with weapons coming off it. She takes a photo on her phone before it wanders off too far and sends it to him. Karen is surprised at how Lucie seems to be taking everything in her stride and Lucie explains that recently her stride got a lot longer than it used to be. The Doctor has seen the photo and agrees that "a great big robot with weapons coming off it" is a fairly accurate description. Lucie can see more of them in the distance. The Doctor wants to join them outside, but Lucie points out that the only way to get outside is to get fired and then he won't be able to get back inside again. The people in the office obviously didn't build the robots so there must be someone else controlling them. She suggests the Doctor try to find out who's responsible and why. She switches her phone off and tries to get herself and Karen to cover.

The Doctor visits Jerry in his office just as he's finishing some dictation about the corporate strategy. He tells the Doctor he's drafting an action plan for the other regional offices to convey what it is that makes the Telford branch the most efficient in the country. Off the record, Jerry doesn't think it'll do much good because it's not so much what they do that's important, but who they are -- they simply have the best people, and although he'd like to take the credit for that, he can't, except in his capacity as a motivator and facilitator. The Doctor asks him why he fired that new girl and Jerry says it was a shame, but she wasn't a team player. It's the best thing for everyone and it gives her the chance to seek new opportunities outside the company. Unfortunately the Doctor had her on attachment as his PA, so now he needs another replacement. Jerry offers to get straight onto Human Resources as they bring in all the new people, and they may even be interviewing new candidates today. The Doctor asks if he ever sits in on the interviews, but Jerry says they have a fully qualified team who specialise in that and he'd only be getting in their way. The Doctor asks where Human Resources is based, and Jerry is surprised to learn that he's never been there, as everyone should go through there on their first day. Maybe the team was on an away day when he arrived...? The Doctor offers to go down now to make sure they've crossed all the i's and dotted all the t's.

Lucie helps the injured Karen get to safety and tells her at they seem to be on an alien planet in the middle of a war. Her only suggestion is that they find whoever's winning and try to make friends with them. Just then a small spaceship appears in the sky above them and they have no option but to run! Not far away, a voice calls out to them and a man waves them towards a hatch. They race over to him and the three of them jump inside. The man produces a large weapon and targets the approaching spaceship. He fires, then closes the hatch before waiting to see the result. Lucie begins the introductions, but in fact Karen and the man already know each other. His name is Malcolm and until a few weeks ago he used to work in the building too...

The Doctor arrives at Human Resources, but no one seems to be around and the door is locked. He opens it with his sonic screwdriver, but is caught red-handed by Jerry. Fortunately, Jerry's main concern is why he wasn't allocated a screwdriver too, although the Doctor assures him there are still some left in the supply cupboard. They enter the room and see what appears to be a dimensional corridor in front of them. The Doctor is curious to know where it leads and he steps into it ... and is transported instantly to an empty corridor. He calls out, but no one answers. He finds a door and on the other side is a rather surprised manager, who says he didn't hear him arrive. The manager conducts a scan of the Doctor and determines that he's extra-terrestrial, so it would seem that he's a potential client. The man apologises for running the check, but says he has to find out whether he's dealing with a client or a job interviewee -- he once made the mistake of chatting at length to a potential recruit about planetary conquest. The Doctor admits that he doesn't have an appointment, but the manager just happens to have a window in his timetable and he'd never willingly turn business away. He introduces himself as Todd Hulbert and explains that he recently moved offices from Ipswich to London as it seemed more business-like for the people who travelled here from halfway across the galaxy. He says that when he first set the business up he didn't expect the clients to know the first thing about Earth, but half of them have been here before and the other half have picked up our TV broadcasts from deep space and can do impressions of Del Boy and Rodney at the slightest provocation. He offers the Doctor a coffee, and the Doctor accepts with the words "lovely jubbly".

Malcolm isn't sure how long he's been in hiding, but it was soon after he got fired. Karen explains that Malcolm used to be her boss and everyone agrees it's amazing that Jerry ever got promoted, but then that's exactly what people like Jerry are like, building their own little empires. Malcolm doesn't know where they are, but there's obviously a war going on here and somehow the office is involved. When he got out, he started thinking about the work they were doing, and although it seemed normal at the time, he now knows the staff are guiding the robots from within and helping them destroy stuff. Everything here -- the rubble, the burning jungles -- it's all the result of the machines' handiwork. Karen wonders how they were able to get home every night at the end of each working day, but when she stops to think about it she can't even remember the last time she went home. Malcolm tells her the staff only think they're going home, but in fact the days just go on and on. They sleep at their desks and the food that's delivered probably includes added nutrients. Those that managed to get out of the building have been scavenging ever since, but there's not a lot of food about. There are a couple of other people from the Reading office here too, James and Donna, but they went looking for food two days ago and he hasn't seen them since. Lucie realises that if the regional bosses are being brainwashed alongside everyone else, then someone else must be doing the brainwashing. Malcolm is sure he knows the answer -- Todd Hulbert.

Hulbert tells the Doctor he doesn't have any support staff working alongside him in the London office and he pretty much runs everything himself. They get down to business and the Doctor explains that he got into trouble with the authorities back home and ended up exiled, completely cut off without friends or protection. Under the current administration he can't go home again and they're making life very uncomfortable for some of his old associates. Hulbert suggests a military coup and the Doctor says he likes the sound of that. Hulbert hasn't heard of Gallifrey, but he's sure he can help as his company has handled work like this before. Unfortunately all his resources are tied up on Lonsis until the end of next month as they're engineering a client's expansion plans there. This kind of thing constitutes the bulk of the work they usually handle -- a client will run out of living space or resources on their own planet and they'll be looking to expand onto other planets. The best planets are generally spoken for already, so Hulbert lays the ground work of getting rid of whoever lives there. Hulbert's company can provide a squad of combat machines to execute the operation, and although a lot of other suppliers offer that too, their competitors are usually controlled by one of three ways: computers, by remote or fully crewed. Even the most advanced computers or AIs can only be created within certain parameters, and remote control is useless if the enemy is able to scramble your transmissions -- which leaves fully crewed operations as the best option. However, it's expensive, it's difficult to recruit staff because of the personal risk, you don't necessarily get the best people and the turnover of staff is very high. Slave labour is an option, but it isn't very motivating, so Hulbert's answer was to bring in people from non-military backgrounds and translate the work of operating a heavy-duty combat machine into something they're used to doing... such as working in an office. Inside each of his combat machines, it looks like a regular office and all the PCs are linked up to the control systems. The Doctor has noticed some mental processing equipment in the corner and guesses that he conditions the staff not to notice the unusual aspects of what they're doing, so when they think they're attending a strategy meeting they're actually attending a different sort of strategy meeting. Hulbert agrees that a lot of the language used in offices is equally applicable to the battlefield. He interviews the candidates personally and if they're suitable, they're processed and sent through the portal in the next room to the inside of one of the combat machines on alien planets. The Doctor is genuinely impressed, but Hulbert doesn't want to take all the credit and says the operation was actually set up by another gentleman, or more properly a lizard, who was not of this world. Hulbert himself is human, but the technology he uses is alien. He admits that he was actually employed within the system once, but he was able to shake off the conditioning. He considered his options at the time and decided to execute a hostile takeover of the company. One of the first duties he did was to close the loophole that allowed him to shake off his conditioning, so that it won't happen again. He uses various tricks to deploy the attention of anyone who comes looking for the missing people, but in his experience when somebody gets a job in London and moves away to seek their fortune, their friends never expect to hear from them again.

Jerry is shocked when the extremely angry Headhunter bursts into his office unannounced. She's just been told by one of his admin lackeys that earlier this afternoon he fired the new girl that she went to great lengths to track down and bring into the company. She demands answers from him and he tells her Lucie had to be sacked as she talked back to him. The Headhunter has a few things she'd like to say to Jerry too, but right now she's far too busy trying to track Lucie down again. But she promises to save her words for later!

The Doctor asks Hulbert what his rates are, but Hulbert says he'd first need to have an idea of the scale of the operation required. They're interrupted by a bleep which alerts Hulbert to an appointment he has at a function for prospective clients on Lonsis. The planet isn't very far from here, but it's been a big job and it's taken up all the company's resources for the best part of a year. It should be completed very soon so he's already started letting people know he's available for new business. He's pleased with how things have gone on Lonsis and he wants to use it to show clients what they can offer. He invites the Doctor to come along too and tells him not to worry about the hostilities, as they have a viewing platform with water-tight defences. When Hulbert asks for his name, the Doctor says that it isn't pronounceable in Hulbert's language, but he likes to be called the Doctor.

Lucie examines the weapon Malcolm was using and asks where he got it. Malcolm explains that he took it off the 'enemy' side -- the ones the office staff have been fighting -- and in fact everything they've got down here was looted from their bodies. The shelter was theirs too, but the only thing he knows about them is that they're losing...

The Doctor and Hulbert arrive through the portal and the Doctor compliments him on the smooth ride. Hulbert admits that he hasn't done anywhere near as much travelling as he'd like as he's been far too busy. The Doctor looks out over the landscape and dismisses Lonsis as a bit of a dump. He wonders who would want such a planet, but Hulbert explains that one man's dump is another man's unexploited reserve of mineral wealth. It was the war that caused this planet to end up like this, but it will recover one day. At the moment it's rather like looking at a house when you're only half way through cleaning out the dry rot. It's been a big job because the residents here are such a tenacious bunch that they couldn't be scared off and are hanging on to the bitter end. The Doctor respects that and Hulbert does too, grudgingly, but it's still annoying for him. The Doctor asks who the clients are and Hulbert says he can talk to them later as they're busy signing the handover papers. The Doctor wonders if they had a particular grudge against the people of Lonsis, or whether it was payback for an earlier act of aggression, but Hulbert isn't aware of anything and he always makes a point of asking because wars tend to be more complicated if there's bad blood. Hulbert asks whether the people who exiled the Doctor might be former clients of his, but the Doctor says they aren't... at least as far as he knows. Hulbert is pleased as he has a policy of only taking on simple jobs where there's no previous animosity between the two groups.

The phone in Hulbert's office rings and the Headhunter leaves a message. She asks him to call her back urgently. She says she's currently on Lonsis and has just discovered that Lucie Miller has been ejected thanks to the dunce who's in charge of the office. She's heading out in her pod to get Lucie back before she falls into enemy hands -- but she insists that it won't be her fault if Lucie dies...

In the viewing platform on Lonsis, Hulbert calls for everyone's attention and thanks them for coming today. He tells them he wants to keep the session informal and that it's been set up to give them an idea of how the company operates and what the end result is. He announces that a few of his previous clients have been good enough to attend, but before he can continue he is interrupted by a loud crash. He checks with the base, confirms that the platform is still secure, and gives orders for the Swindon and Telford teams to deal with the problem. He returns to the main group and explains that there's a minor insurgency just outside the platform -- and it looks like they may even have been waiting for him to arrive! He assures the group that there's nothing for them to worry about, as their defences are rock solid and this may actually prove to be a good opportunity for them to see his combat teams in action. He returns to his speech and invites everyone present to speak to the previous clients to get their testimonies. Suddenly there is another large explosion and Hulbert rushes back to the intercom to check on their status -- but he's shocked to discover their automatic defences have been lowered from the inside! The Doctor steps forward and admits that he did it as it seemed a bit unfair on the other lot and he wanted to give them a fair chance. He's seen enough of Hulbert's operation to know that he doesn't like it, so he's decided to turn the tables. But just then, they're interrupted by the sound of mechanical marching -- a sound the Doctor recognises only too well -- and to his horror, the Cybermen storm into the viewing platform! They approach the man and announce that he's responsible for the incursion against them. As they order Hulbert to cease the invasion of the Cybermen's home world, the Doctor realises he's made a terrible mistake...

Part Two
(drn: 48'06")

The Cybermen order their prisoners up against the wall and begin assessing which of them will prove suitable for conversion. Reports start to come in confirming that fourteen of the human security detail have been eliminated, and Hulbert is forced to confirm that there were only about thirty to start with. A Cyberman is instructed to take out a small patrol to kill the remainder, on the understanding that reinforcements can be sent in if required. The prisoners on the platform are ordered to hand over their weapons, and although the Doctor insists that he's unarmed, both the multi-purpose tool he's holding and the Time Ring are taken from him. The Cyberleader informs the other units that they've been successful and recalls them to this location to regroup. It announces that from this position they will recover and survive.

From the relative safety of the underground shelter on the planet's surface, Lucie tries to call the Doctor's mobile phone and is frustrated that it's been switched off for so long. She leaves a message explaining that she and Karen are in a bunker in the middle of a battlefield and they don't know what to do. Karen tells her Malcolm has gone to rustle up some food for them, but then they hear a noise outside and before they can react, the Headhunter bursts in and holds them both at gunpoint. She grabs Karen and threatens to kill her unless Lucie gives herself up. To Karen's obvious disappointment, Lucie refuses to surrender, but then Malcolm sneaks into the bunker behind the Headhunter and knocks her unconscious. The girls take her gun and tie her up. Lucie still doesn't know who the woman is or why she won't leave her alone. The Headhunter starts to recover and explains that tracing Lucie is her job.

The Cyberleader questions his prisoners, asking why the humans launched an offensive against them and what interest they have in the Cybermen's homeworld. The Doctor challenges this claim about the planet Lonsis and inadvertently reveals that he knows of the Cybermen. He tries to backtrack by saying that everyone has heard of them, but adds that he thought their home was on Telos. The Cyberleader has not heard of Telos and the Doctor pretends that he mixed the name up with somewhere else. The Cyberleader explains that his people were depleted and needed to rebuild after the destruction of their original home, Mondas; they settled on Lonsis because of its unimportance and the lack of other life. He again demands to know what motivated the humans to attack them, and Hulbert reveals that he was hired as a sort of mercenary. He even suggests the Cybermen could hire him themselves if they wanted. The Doctor points out that this would be against the company's own policy, but Hulbert says he prides himself on his flexibility. The Cyberleader asks what Hulbert can offer them, and he reminds them that he very nearly wiped them out for a start, which is evidence that he'd prove a valuable addition to their team. However, his methods are of no interest to the Cybermen, so instead Hulbert offers to hand over his staff. The Cyberleader agrees that if they're human they would be of interest, but Hulbert says that's just the start. He suspects the Cybermen don't want to remain on this grubby planet forever and he tells them he has a means of getting them to Earth instantaneously. Realising he's offering them a means of invading Earth, the Cyberleader asks if Hulbert places his own survival over that of his species, and when he says he does, the Cyberleader dismisses the offer and says they don't need his assistance; they will find a way of operating Hulbert's technology themselves.

The Headhunter has regained all her senses, including her sarcasm, and mocks her captors' living accommodation. Malcolm tells her to be quiet, but Lucie doesn't mind the woman talking, as long as she explains why she was after Lucie in the first place. The Headhunter says it's no great secret; Hulbert interviewed Lucie for a job, but when he sent her through his portal, she disappeared before she arrived. Hulbert doesn't know why because he inherited the technology from someone else and doesn't really know how it works. He wanted Lucie back partly because she was promising and he didn't want to lose good staff, and partly because he thought she'd been poached by a competitor and he wanted to know who they were. If they'd scanned Lucie's brain they'd have been able to discover how his brainwashing techniques worked. In retrospect, of course, none of Hulbert's reasons were particularly well-founded, but Lucie is more disappointed that this means there isn't anything 'special' about her after all.

In the main office, Jerry Cooper answers the telephone. On the other end, the Cyberleader is on the other end declares that the human controller is being held captive and orders them to return to their base of operations with their weapons lowered. Jerry thinks it's his colleague Kieran putting on a funny voice, and he jokingly tells his friend to get back to work and then hangs up. The Cyberleader turns to Hulbert in confusion, but Hulbert knew it wouldn't work and explains that there's a system they have to follow. It's not that he has exclusive control exactly, it's just that he knows how to talk to these people. This time Hulbert calls Jerry and casually asks if everything is ship-shape. Then he asks him to make some north-westerly progress towards the head office so they can arrange a tête-à-tête. Hulbert tells the Cyberleader they should be here in about an hour, and the Cyberleader orders him to instruct all the other vehicles to cease hostilities and go to standby. Hulbert takes this to mean that he and the Cybermen are now working together, but the Cyberleader still wants to know who hired him to carry out the offensive against them. Hulbert is reluctant to break his confidentiality rules, but on this occasion he's willing to make an exception. He points to the alien clients cringing in the corner and identifies them as representatives from the government of Shinx. As the Cyberleader orders for them to be separated from the others, the Doctor questions Hulbert's revelation; he knows the Shinx as traders, and they've never committed an act of aggression before because war destabilises the markets. Hulbert explains that their planet, Shinus, is in the next system and the Shinx were worried that when the Cybermen eventually got their act together they'd be next on their to-conquer list. The Doctor thinks this sounds really, really strange, but then the Cyberleader gives orders for the Shinx to be destroyed. The air is filled with the sound of laser fire and screaming, but the Doctor knows things are still going to get a lot worse before they get better...

It seems to have gone quiet outside the bunker, so Malcolm sticks his head out to check. Lucie asks the Headhunter whether she comes from the Telford branch and the Headhunter confirms that she does. The office must be about twenty kilometres away by now, so Lucie realises the Headhunter must have her own means of transport. Unfortunately it's very small, but they might just be able to squeeze all four of them inside. Karen wonders what the plan is and Lucie orders the Headhunter to help them get back inside the office so they can rescue the Doctor. Lucie's phone rings and the Doctor whispers to her that things are going badly and he can't talk for long. He tells her he finally met the boss, but then he tried to sabotage the operation and it went very wrong. He reveals that Hulbert has been fighting the Cybermen and by trying to sabotage him, the Doctor has inadvertently helped them! He explains that the Cybermen are from Earth's twin planet and although they were human once, they're now cyborgs and not remotely nice. They're planning to take the humans from Hulbert's office and turn them all into Cybermen, and then Hulbert is going to help them invade Earth. But Hulbert doesn't know the Doctor has sabotaged the gateway to Earth, so that will buy them a bit of time. Unfortunately, the Cybermen have taken the Time Ring, which is their only way of getting back to the TARDIS. Lucie assumes the Time Lords will wonder what's happened and come after them, but the Doctor tells her not to count on that.

Inside the Doctor's TARDIS on Earth, one of the engineers tells Straxus that they've finished the repairs. He comments that he's never seen a TARDIS done up like this one before and Straxus says the Doctor prides himself on his 'uniqueness', although they try not to encourage it. He tells the others to return to Gallifrey while he waits here for the Doctor to return. The engineer points out that the Doctor should be back already by now and asks if Straxus is planning to go after him, but the Time Lord says not if he can help it.

The Cyberleader orders Hulbert to correct the flaw in his defences that allowed them to penetrate the platform, but he assures them that won't happen again as the dome over the platform was sabotaged by the Doctor. He suddenly realises the Doctor is nowhere to be seen, and they catch him red-handed making a phone call on his mobile. On the other end, Hulbert can hear Lucie calling for the Doctor. Lucie is shocked when Hulbert himself responds and she switches off. She tells Karen that they've caught the Doctor. Although he's no longer in the office, Lucie decides that recapturing it should be their priority.

The Cyberleader demands to know how they failed to detect the Doctor's outgoing signal and the Doctor tells him the mobile has a special feature that shields it from alien comms scans and still gives him fifty off-peak minutes a day free. Hulbert realises the Doctor must be the time traveller who found (or took) Lucie, although he's starting to wonder whether the Doctor may be working for someone else. The Doctor says he isn't working for anyone, except himself, justice and righteousness. The Cyberleader recalls that before Mondas was destroyed, their advance party on Earth encountered interference from someone called the Doctor, who travels in time and alters his appearance to avoid detection. Similar information has also been logged by their planner in the Earth invasion project and also on Planet 14, and the Doctor is pleased to boast that he's listed as one of the most arch of their arch enemies.

Lucie, Malcolm and Karen escort the Headhunter back to her transporter, but because it's a one-person ship, she insists they all sit in the back. As she prepares to lift off, she detects that the office is on the move again and is now heading back towards Hulbert's viewing platform. Lucie realises that's where the Doctor is, and urges the Headhunter to get a move on. The Headhunter advises them to buckle up as she likes to fly fast...

The Cybermen have verified the Doctor's identity, but he points out that he never denied it anyway. Unfortunately they've also discovered that the dimensional gateway has been tampered with, but the Doctor claims he didn't have anything to do with that. The Cyberleader decides he is too time-consuming and orders him to be destroyed, so the Doctor suddenly offers them access to his time machine. He tells them it's inside the office which is on its way here, but they'll need him to show them how to operate it. The Cyberleader reconsiders and then orders him to repair the damage to the gateway, promising that when their mothership arrives, they will convert him and absorb his knowledge. The Doctor is satisfied that his plan works every time.

Inside the office, the security guard Clive receives a signal from the Headhunter asking him to hook her up to the recognition system so she can get in. He grunts and then activates the controls. The Headhunter enters, accompanied by the others, and she asks Clive to contact Jerry and let him know they're on their way up. As they walk off, Lucie asks whether Clive always looked like he does. Malcolm remembers he was always a big lad, but he always thought he was more 'human' than that...

The Doctor is quite impressed with his own handiwork and pats himself on the back for doing a good job of sabotaging the gateway. The Cyberleader asks him to stop work while he answers some questions, but the Doctor is confident he can multi-task. The Cyberleader knows the Doctor helped them capture the platform, but these actions defy logic and he wants to know why. The Doctor explains that he always tries to help the oppressed -- but not the Cybermen -- and to be honest, he didn't know it was them. He mocks the mighty Cybermen for being beaten by humans. He explains that he opposes the Cybermen because if they win and their existence is no longer threatened, they're not the kind of people to buy a farm or settle down with a nice Cybergirl. The Cyberleader confirms that the resources on this planet are not sufficient and they need more in order to survive. The Doctor asks why they need to survive, but the Cyberleader finds the question meaningless, so the Doctor answers it himself. He says survival is about the need to create and to achieve, but the Cybermen don't do that. They just oppress others to preserve themselves. He asks if they've learned anything from being oppressed themselves, but it's clear they still have no humility and no empathy. The Doctor thinks they deserve to be oppressed.

Jerry is angry when someone bursts into his office unannounced and is surprised to see that it's his former boss Malcolm, followed by Lucie, Karen and the Headhunter. They shift him from his desk and decide to lock him in the office cupboard. Jerry still thinks they're joking and says Red Nose Day is no excuse for the way they're behaving. He continues to bang on the cupboard door, demanding to be released, until the Headhunter tells him she's quite prepared to kill him if necessary. Lucie can't believe they've taken control so easily, but the Headhunter says there's little need for security as the people Hulbert has been fighting wouldn't have the foggiest idea how to operate in such an environment. In any case, they have to keep the systems usable to a fast turn-around of staff, so instead Hulbert concentrates all his security on the front door. Lucie is suspicious that the Headhunter seems so co-operative, but the woman points out that Hulbert has joined the Cybermen and they're not likely to do anything to help her. All she asks is that they remember how helpful she's being when this is all over. Malcolm realises his name will no longer be on the company records and he won't be able to log onto any of the systems, but the Headhunter thinks she might be able to help. They must be quick though as the office can't be far from Hulbert's platform.

Hulbert observes that the Doctor isn't getting very far with the repairs to the gateway, but the Doctor has discovered it takes a lot longer to mend things than it does to break them. He thinks Hulbert should really have an engineer who could do this sort of thing, but unfortunately the Cybermen have already killed him. The Doctor tells Hulbert he isn't the first person who thought he could work with the Cybermen and it never ends well, but Hulbert says he's just dealing with a situation the Doctor himself created. The Doctor suspects Hulbert is either expecting the Cybermen to keep their end of the deal, or else he's thinking he may be able to turn the tables on them later, but he can guarantee that neither will work. Hulbert learns that the office is about to arrive and the Cybermen are preparing to board, so he orders the Doctor to keep working on the gateway.

Malcolm successfully gains access to the computer systems inside the office, but he's not sure what to do next. Lucie suggests he do what he's always done -- boss people around. Malcolm isn't sure he can do this properly as the last time he was here he wasn't in full possession of his mind, but Lucie assures him it should be like riding a bike or anything else that's easy to pick up again when you haven't done it for a while. Malcolm picks up the phone and speaks to Kieran, telling him that Jerry's unwell. He asks Kieran how quickly he can arrange some heavy artillery.

When Hulbert tells the Doctor he doesn't trust him any more than he trusts the Cybermen, the Doctor offers him his condolences as it's likely he's going to die. Hulbert tells the Doctor they don't really need the gateway any more as the Telford office is nearly here now and they all come with their own gateways installed. The Doctor is frustrated that he was given a long painstaking job that didn't really need doing, but then that's par for the course inside Hulbert's offices. Hulbert had realised the Doctor was deliberately working slowly, but he didn't care as the only reason they gave him the job was to keep him occupied. Suddenly there's a huge explosion and the Cyberleader reports that Hulbert's office isn't allowing them to board and instead has opened fire on them. He accuses Hulbert of secretly arranging the attack. Hulbert is confused, but offers to talk to his staff. He calls the office and Malcolm puts him on the speakerphone. Hulbert demands to know where Jerry is and Lucie tells him he's indisposed. He asks how she managed to get inside and take control, and the Headhunter whispers to Lucie not to tell him about her involvement. Lucie immediately tells Hulbert that his Headhunter has been helping them and when Hulbert challenges her, the Headhunter explains that loyalty is a rare commodity these days and she's fresh out of it at the moment. Hulbert demands that they stop firing on the platform and put Jerry Cooper back in charge, but Lucie insists they hand over the Doctor first. Hulbert refuses, so Malcolm invites him to call them again if he changes his mind, then hangs up.

Hulbert tells the Cyberleader that the office has been taken over by some disgruntled employees. The Cybermen have made repeated attempts to penetrate the machine, but they failed, so they can't understand how the humans succeeded where they failed. They think it's more likely that Hulbert has engineered the whole situation, but he denies this and explains that the staff had help from someone with all the access codes who's betrayed him. The Cyberleader informs him that their reinforcements will be arriving soon and he's confident they'll be able to deal with things.

Lucie can't hear anything outside but Malcolm is able to interpret the data they're receiving. He emails Kieran, who starts launching another bombardment. The Headhunter points out that the platform is solidly defended and she doesn't have any tips this time. Suddenly, Lucie has a very strange feeling again, just as she did earlier when Karen let her use her password to override the system. It's as if she's being split into different versions, each experiencing the same moment from different perspectives. Once again, no one else in the room seems to have noticed anything unusual. She can hear a faint humming coming from under the desk, which sounds a bit like the TARDIS. On closer examination, she finds something lodged underneath the floorboards and uses a weapon on a low setting to release it. She pulls out the strange-looking device and shows it to Karen, but neither of them know what it is.

Hulbert can't understand how his staff have been able to break down the platform's defences and the Cyberleader suspects he deliberately weakened them himself. The Doctor thinks the staff may be hitting the ebb points in the energy wash of the force field, which is actually extremely difficult to do. The Cyberleader asks for an update on how close their strike ships are. Several of the Cyber ships fly into the area and move into group formation so they can concentrate their fire on the office's supports, as they've detected a blind spot in its weapon range. If possible, they'll try to salvage the structure, and although it would be useful if the humans inside survive, they're to be regarded as expendable. If necessary, the entire machine and its occupants will be totally destroyed.

Malcolm tells Lucie that a report has come back from analysis. The shields on the platform are starting to crack, but unfortunately the Cybermen are coming in fast on an attack formation. Kate questions whether they can afford to wait for Hulbert to hand the Doctor over, but Lucie thinks they may not have to. She asks if there's a weak spot in their shields small enough for the Headhunter's pod to get through, and Malcolm confirms that there is. Lucie suggests they move round and attack another section of the platform to draw the Cybermen away and keep them occupied.

The Doctor is genuinely impressed with the success that Hulbert's machine is having. The Cybermen detect that the office staff are shifting their focus of attack again, but their own strike ships should arrive in the area in a matter of seconds. They also instruct Hulbert to summon all his other offices to help defend them. Realising that the office staff's main objective is rescuing the Doctor, the Cyberleader orders him to be taken to their ship and confined. The strike ships open fire and their attack is observed by Lucie and the Headhunter aboard her personal pod. The Headhunter realises they could use this opportunity to get away to her warp ship in orbit around the planet, but Lucie has no intention of abandoning the Doctor or letting the Cybermen invade Earth, so she tells her to shut up and get them inside the dome. The Headhunter isn't sure she can do it as the fracture in the force fields isn't very wide...

Karen checks the damage reports with Malcolm. At the moment they're not in any immediate danger, but if the Cybermen continue concentrating their fire, they won't last much longer. They watch as the strike ships come in for a direct attack on the giant machine's legs and Malcolm warns that another two hits like that will finish them off. Three ships come in for another strike and Karen urges Malcolm to take them out, but he tells her there's no way they can hit all three of them as the angle is too tight. The Cyber-pilots are ordered to remain in the blind spot and concentrate their fire as they realise the enemy machine will not be able to withstand further attacks. However, one of the strike ships is hit and destroyed, and a second ship explodes as it tries to take evasive action. Finally, the third ship is also hit, and Malcolm is amazed to discover they were successful after all.

As a Cyberman escorts the Doctor from the platform, it detects intruders in the area. There's a flash of weapon fire and the Cyberman crashes to the ground, with both Lucie and the Headhunter claiming it was their shot that did it. Lucie calls to the Doctor to join them, but he insists there's something he needs to get first. Lucie and the Headhunter provide covering fire as he races back into the main platform area, then moments later he returns with the Time Ring. Lucie contacts Malcolm and tells him their mission was successful. She orders to him to move the office to safety and tells him they'll catch up with them later.

On the platform, Hulbert is surprised to see the office leaving the area, but the Cyberleader reports that the Doctor has been rescued. He demands to know what's special about that particular machine, as it has a perfect record of success in combat and has just destroyed three of their strike ships in spite of their superior tactics. Hulbert acknowledges that this branch is his company's top performer, but the Cyberleader believes its record is statistically improbable as it's won every encounter with their troops, sustained minimal damage and has never been forced into retreat. The Cybermen lured it here because they wanted to find out how this improbable success is possible, but as far as Hulbert knows, that machine is exactly the same as all the others. The Cyberleader says they will gather all their remaining forces once the mothership arrives and take the office by force, then the humans inside will replace the Cybermen they have destroyed.

Back in the office, Lucie shows the Doctor the area of the floorboards where she found the strange device that made a noise like the TARDIS. The Headhunter argues that they should let her go, but the Doctor points out that the operation she helps run is massively illegal. He reveals that he's a Time Lord and she admits that they've already had a couple of run-ins with his lot. He promises that she now has another one to look forward to. The Doctor examines the device more closely and Lucie tells him that a couple of times during the attacks, it appeared to be making noises, but she has no idea what it was doing. The Doctor recognises it immediately as a quantum crystalliser, a device that can splinter the timelines over a small area and let different possibilities play out until it gets one that its programmer likes. It can be set to recognise certain outcomes as positive and others as negative, and then it fixes the favoured timeline and lets the others die off. He realises Lucie was able to find it because time travel has made her sensitive to this sort of temporal manipulation. He recalls that Jerry told him this branch was the most successful regional office in the company, which means it must have the best record in battle. The reason why it was so successful was because it had the crystalliser tilting the odds in its favour on a moment to moment basis. The Headhunter knows this technology is considerably in advance of anything else that Hulbert owns, but the Doctor tells her this doesn't belong to the company. In fact, he already knows exactly who put it here. He makes his excuses and says he's going to get some answers. He tells Karen they'll be back before anyone knows it, then he and Lucie both hold onto the Time Ring...

The Cyber mother ship arrives and touches down next to the platform. The Cyberleader gives orders for the remaining hostages to be taken aboard for conversion, while Hulbert will remain behind to assist in their capture of the office machine. After the takeover has been achieved, he too will then be considered for conversion. Hulbert starts to protest, but the leader points out that if he's willing to align himself with the Cybermen then there's no reason not to submit himself to the process. It argues that the benefits of conversion are numerous, but if he turns out not to be suitable then they will destroy him. Inside the Telford office, Malcolm warns the others that the Cybermen are coming after them again and he's not so confident they'll be able to deal with them as there seem to be rather more of them this time.

The Time Ring returns the Doctor and Lucie to his TARDIS, where Straxus is waiting for them. The Doctor apologises for being late and asks if everything here is working again. Before Straxus can answer, the Doctor produces the quantum crystalliser and Straxus angrily tells him he shouldn't have removed it. The Doctor demands to know what Time Lord technology was doing inside a mercenary's battle machine in the middle of a petty little skirmish on a planet he's never even heard of. Straxus assures him it has nothing to do with the High Council and reveals that the Celestial Intervention Agency installed it. The Doctor explains to Lucie that the CIA are an organisation on Gallifrey that opposes the Time Lord policy of non-interference in the affairs of other species -- a bit like him, in fact, but with the difference that they're entirely self-interested and immoral. Straxus believes that assessment is a little unfair, but the Doctor points out that the CIA obviously seeded paranoia in the minds of the peaceful Shinx and convinced them to hire a squad of battle machines to go and do their dirty work. Straxus believes the cause of wiping out the Cybermen justified their actions, but the Doctor argues that they've endangered the lives of the Shinx and lined the pockets of a slave-driver. Straxus says that when the High Council learned about it, they put a moratorium on any further action, but they nevertheless left it to run its course, knowing that with the crystalliser Hulbert's army would eventually win. The Doctor realises Straxus invented the story about the witness protection scheme and the temporal blackspot, but it doesn't explain why he sent the Doctor to retrieve Lucie instead of going himself. Straxus says he'd agreed with the CIA that neither he nor they would interfere on Lonsis and both sides are monitoring the planet to make sure the other doesn't meddle. If he'd gone himself, the CIA would have accused him of hypocrisy. The Doctor is angry with the petty politics, the duplicity and the in-fighting, and claims the Time Lords would let whole planets die rather than look bad. Straxus emphasises that point and says it's very, very important that they don't look bad...

Now that he knows the witness protection scheme story wasn't true, the Doctor asks Straxus why they lifted Lucie out of her time stream and placed her with him. Straxus suggests it might be better if Lucie doesn't hear what he has to say, but the Doctor insists she has the right to stay and hear everything. Straxus reveals that Lucie is another of the CIA's projects. Lucie is amazed to discover that the CIA have plotted out her future and discovered she's destined to become a powerful political leader. During a period of extreme instability, she will establish an oppressive right-wing regime in Europe and influence the early stages of Earth's interplanetary expansion so that it's put on an aggressive footing. Neither the Doctor nor Lucie find this believable, but Straxus adds that Lucie's future self is no reflection on her character now. He says the CIA have repeatedly manipulated Lucie's timelines and removed certain negative formative experiences, with the result that she's now been guided entirely away from the future he described. Straxus placed her with the Doctor so the CIA wouldn't discover she'd been taken. The Doctor realises the CIA must have been using the quantum crystalliser on Lucie, which means she's already had too many interferences in her timeline and that proximity to the crystalliser may have made her dangerously unstable. Lucie asks why they can't just put her back on Earth, but Straxus points out that Hulbert would simply find her again, and they couldn't allow that until after the Cybermen had been defeated and he'd arranged for the crystalliser to be removed. The Doctor realises the Time Lords would have been happy to allow Hulbert to kidnap Lucie if the circumstances had been different and Straxus agrees that their policy would have prevented them from interfering in such things. The Doctor argues that Hulbert isn't much better than the Cybermen, apart from the fact that he makes a nicer cup of coffee, and he still believes he was right to put a stop to Hulbert's operation -- but now he has to go back and deal with the fallout.

Lucie asks the Doctor if everything she's just heard is true and he confirms that it is. She's horrified that the Time Lords decide what they think is best for people and then tell them it's for their own good, as if humans can't be trusted to make their own decisions. Straxus prepares to return to Gallifrey, but Lucie points a weapon at him and orders him to take her and the Doctor back. Straxus knows the weapon won't work inside the TARDIS, but the Doctor points out that his ship hasn't been in a state of temporal grace for years; nevertheless, he advises Lucie not to overreact. She's still in shock at discovering that she's basically a made-up person and that she was supposed to become a dictator, so he has no right to tell her how to react. She snatches the quantum crystalliser from the Doctor, ignoring Straxus' warning that it's very dangerous for her to be too near it, and demands that they do what she says. The Doctor programmes the TARDIS and the ship dematerialises...

...and lands inside the Telford office. Lucie emerges and runs off, warning the Doctor and Straxus not to follow her. Straxus starts to panic and tells the Doctor that if anyone finds him here, the ramifications will be appalling. The Doctor isn't remotely interested in his protests and they both leave the TARDIS. Malcolm tells them that Lucie just ran past him and she seemed upset, and the Doctor explains that she's just discovered she has rather more 'issues' than she could ever have imagined. He wants to go after her, but Malcolm points out that he also has some serious issues -- they're being boarded by Cybermen!

Hulbert leads a squad of Cybermen into the office and they find themselves confronted by the security guard Clive. The Cyberleader detects instantly that Clive's intelligence is too limited to be of any use and orders that he be destroyed. Hulbert apologises to Clive as the Cybermen march over his dead body, then the Cyberleader tells his troops to seize each of the four stairwells to prevent any of the humans leaving.

Lucie is intent on taking control of the office, but she's surprised to find the Headhunter is there alone. She asks where everyone else has gone and the Headhunter tells her the Cybermen have invaded. Lucie reveals that the Time Lords have been messing with her life and she's just discovered she was supposed to grow up evil. She's so angry she doesn't know what to do, except get back at the people responsible. She reveals that he has the quantum crystalliser and the Headhunter realises that with that and control of the office, Lucie can do almost anything she wants. Lucie points out that it would be too dangerous for her to use it, so the Headhunter suggests she might want to hire someone else to use it on her behalf. She's impressed that Lucie is prepared to take on the Time Lords and she has some ideas of her own as to how Lucie could make their lives very difficult...

The Cybermen start to take over the building, keeping as many of the humans alive as possible so they can be taken for conversion. Led by Karen, the office staff fight back using the Cybermen's own weapons, but the Cybermen are convinced they can still succeed. Hulbert explains that the entire machine is controlled from Jerry Cooper's office on the top floor, and this becomes the Cybermen's main objective.

The Doctor, Straxus and Malcolm find Karen and discover that things are not looking good. She's been helping to confine the Cybermen to the admin offices, but unfortunately the staff are still under Hulbert's mind control and it's proven difficult to convince most of them what's going on. The Doctor is aware that if they don't shake off their conditioning soon, they'll become dead meat or worse. Malcolm reports that they're short of weapons as they only have the Cyber guns he found on the battlefield. Straxus has no weapons of his own, and the crystalliser is no good as it was intended to be linked directly into the actions of the office; now that it's been disconnected it will have to be operated manually.

Lucie asks the Headhunter how the crystalliser works, and she explains that although the programming is complex, it can be keyed to recognise certain actions and respond to them automatically. Or alternatively Lucie could try just switching it on. The Headhunter starts to experiment with some of the controls.

Karen tells the others that the Cybermen have now reached the Human Resources Department and have taken over the entire first floor. The Doctor realises they now have access to the gateway and can get to Earth. Malcolm goes to check on the barricade set up on the stairwell. Straxus is shocked at how quickly the situation has deteriorated, as the last he heard was that the Cybermen were all but beaten. The Doctor admits that he made an error of judgement, but he's trying to correct it and he promises he will leave the situation better than he found it. Karen tells the Doctor that she's almost reassured by his words... when suddenly, for a moment, there are multiple different versions of her, just like there were of Lucie when the crystalliser was operated earlier. Karen is unaware of this, but both the Doctor and Straxus noticed it. The Doctor realises this is an example of personal timeline instability and an idea occurs to him. He asks Straxus how the High Council first knew that one of the CIA's projects was on her way to Hulbert's office. Straxus says it was based on intelligence from one of their agents within the CIA itself, and the Doctor realises that the High Council must have picked up the wrong person. Lucie had told the Doctor that she and Karen were both interviewed on the same day, and it now looks as though it was Karen they've been manipulating all these years, not Lucie. Straxus believes the High Council were deliberately led to the wrong person in order to make them look incompetent, but the Doctor suggests it's more likely that the High Council were indeed incompetent and probably just made a mistake. Straxus asks what they should do and the Doctor suggests he takes Karen to the TARDIS as it's the safest place. They're lucky she hasn't become unstable already! Karen agrees to accompany Straxus if he'll explain what's going on when they get there, and the Doctor makes him promise to tell her everything in detail. In the meantime, the Doctor wants to find Lucie before she does anything silly.

Malcolm rejoins his staff on the stairwell and discovers they're being overwhelmed. One of the team, Pete, is killed right in front of him, but the Cybermen urge the workers not to fight as there's no need for them to die. Realising the situation is futile, Malcolm orders everyone to fall back. The Cybermen take control of the entire floor and receive further instructions to continue upwards...

Lucie isn't sure what to think, but the Headhunter urges her to make up her mind fast. The Doctor knocks gently on the door and says he has something important to tell Lucie. He says he has good news, but she has to let him in first. She refuses to accept his conditions and demands that he tells her now, so he informs her the Time Lords made a mistake and she's not the one the CIA were meddling with -- it was Karen! Although the Headhunter claims the Doctor is making it up in order to get his hands on the crystalliser, Lucie opens the door. The Doctor asks what the Headhunter's interest in all this is and she freely admits that there's a lot of power contained within the crystal and she'd like a share in it. The Doctor tells Lucie not to listen to her.

Straxus leads Karen towards the TARDIS and tells her to stop complaining. On the stairwell, they pass Malcolm and the others as they retreat from the Cybermen. The air is filled with the sound of gunfire and marching feet -- and when the Cybermen appear, Straxus and Karen are separated in the confusion. The Cyberleader appears and demands to know where the control room is. Hulbert points him in the right direction, but then the Cyberleader announces that his usefulness is at an end and orders him to be placed with the other prisoners awaiting conversion. Hulbert warns them off and pulls out a weapon. He destroys one of the Cybermen, but he is soon overwhelmed by sheer numbers and killed.

Lucie has never let the Doctor tell her what to do and she isn't about to start now. He tries to convince her that she can't use the crystalliser to do whatever she wants as the Time Lords aren't that stupid. All he wants to do is put things right. Before they can argue any further, the door smashes open and the Cybermen march in, demanding that they hand over their control of the office. Lucie tells them she has something that can destroy them and the Cyberleader recognises the box in her hand as the device that allowed the office to defeat them in combat. The Headhunter tells Lucie she has the power to do whatever she wants, but the Doctor pleads with her to see sense. Lucie accepts his word and hands him the crystalliser -- and is then shocked when he then hands it straight to the Cyberleader! The Cyberleader demands that the Doctor demonstrate how the device works, but he refuses and says they'll have to kill him first. As the Cybermen open fire, their weapons fail to activate and then suddenly, one by one, all the Cybermen in the room crash to the floor. The Doctor calmly takes the device back and explains to the others that the CIA would never allow the machine to fall into the Cybermen's hands, so they programmed it not to allow the user to win, but to make sure the Cybermen lose, no matter what. Cybermen are extremely resilient and the chances of one of them suffering an abrupt systems failure are absurdly remote -- but it's not impossible. As if to demonstrate, two more Cybermen enter the room and approach them... then without warning they collapse to the floor too. The Doctor thinks the device is typical Time Lord technology -- there's no need for the user to get their hands dirty as the enemy just loses. Another Cyberman enters and demands to know what the Doctor is doing to them, but the Doctor is keen to make an announcement that will allow all the other Cybermen to hear what he has to say..

“Attention all Cybermen. This is the Doctor. Yes, the Doctor. Your leader is dead. At the moment my weapon is only affecting the immediate area around it, but if I expand the range and you continue to attack, you'll all be destroyed. I'll leave you be if you release at once all the humans you've captured and surrender immediately.”

The Cyberman who stands before the Doctor says it isn't authorised to make that decision, but the Doctor says if he won't order the Cybermen to leave, he'll finish the job that Hulbert started. The Cybermen refuse to accept the Doctor's proposal, so the Doctor makes a further announcement giving the Cybermen permission to continue fighting. The building is once again filled with bursts of weaponry and screaming... but the sound is soon followed by the electronic whine of the Cybermen as they each come under the influence of the quantum crystalliser and drop dead where they stand. The Headhunter congratulates the Doctor on a job well done, then she too pulls out a weapon and orders the Doctor to hand over the crystalliser. Lucie urges him not to listen, but the Doctor is tired of arguing and casually tosses it over to her. He then tells her the device is useless as the more unlikely the outcome, the harder it had to work to make it happen. By expanding its range and then standing here doing nothing, he effectively burnt it out. The Headhunter stabs away at the controls, and realises the Doctor was telling the truth and the machine no longer works. Straxus arrives and is furious. Realising there's nothing more she can do here, the Headhunter decides to leave and insists that nobody bother following her. Lucie tells her not to flatter herself and the Doctor agrees as he's had enough fighting for one day. Straxus explains that the Cybermen are all dead and he himself has been injured and might have to regenerate. The Doctor tells him that as soon as he's recovered, he's going to have to destroy all the robotic offices so that no one can get their hands on them in the future. Straxus argues that the CIA won't like it, but the Doctor isn't interested and tells him he must do what he knows is right. The Doctor opens the office cupboard, allowing a relieved Jerry Cooper to come tumbling out, and tells Straxus to help Jerry get all the surviving humans home. As he looks around the devastation, Jerry demands to know what the hell has happened to his office!

The Headhunter's pod slowly ascends into her ship in orbit around the planet. Eventually Karen wakes up, and the Headhunter explains what's happened and tells her she's in the medical bay of her ship. She got shot up quite badly but she should pull through. The Headhunter says she has no idea what happened to the others, but she rescued Karen because she's heard some rather interesting things about her. She might even have an opening for an assistant...

Jerry tells the Doctor that he's been on the phone to the other offices and explained some of the situation to his colleagues there, although he didn't go into too much detail. The Doctor suggests he tell everyone to go down to Human Resources and just walk inside, as this will take them all home. Jerry says a few of them have volunteered to stay behind for a bit to see if there are any more survivors outside. The Doctor assures him it should be safe now as all the Cyber ship blew up when their photon cannons backfired. Jerry still isn't sure exactly what's been going on, but he knows that he needs to thank the Doctor.

The Doctor returns to the TARDIS and finds Lucie waiting for him. He's confident the ship will work without her presence, so there's no reason for her to stay with him any more. He assumes she wants to go home, but Lucie isn't sure. This wasn't the answer he was expecting so he says she can stay if she wants. Lucie thinks he's just pretending, but he tells her she's been good company. Lucie is delighted and enjoys teasing the Doctor for being the first to admit that they enjoy the other's company. Satisfied that she's won the game, she asks where they're going next...

Source: Lee Rogers

Continuity Notes:
  • There is currently a gap between the Doctor's travels with Charley and C'rizz and his travels with Lucie; it is as yet unexplained how he became reconciled with the Time Lords after the events of Zagreus, or how this ties in with the events of the Gallifrey audios.
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