Leela found herself standing in the same position, but everything was dark and she could see Bacora’s face twisted into a silent scream. All around her the Cathartics stood on their rocks, not moving. Leela heard Co-ordinator Angell’s voice inside her head, telling her to concentrate on finding her prey, and then she heard the sound of a nearby rodent. She could no longer feel the water around her or see Bacora and the other Cathartics. She was suddenly underground. When she lifted her own hand, she was surprised to see it covered in hair. At first she believed she’d been transformed into a rodent, but Angell told her she’d completed the telepathic link with one of her prey and she could now see through the rodent’s eyes and feel where it was hiding in the tunnels.
Leela didn’t know how many rodent’s mind she entered, nor did she understand how she was able to do it, but with each rodent she was able to see further inside their minds until she could actually feel not only their hunger, but their anger and their despair. Then as swiftly as she entered the shadow world, she left it. She found herself back with the other Cathartics, but now there was only half the original number of participants. All that remained of the other half were piles of smouldering ashes. Bacora explained that those people failed the selection and were driven mad by the water.
Angell declared that the selection was at an end and he congratulated the successful candidates, especially Leela as it meant his decision to choose her as his representative was a wise one. Leela was surprised to see that a huge crowd had appeared to cheer the Cathartics on. Leela and the other survivors stepped onto a metal pathway that carried them through the air towards a platform surrounded by rushing water. The crowd went silent and Angell addressed them, announcing the beginning of the Empathy Games.
The ground opened up below Leela and the Cathartics to reveal a huge dark cavern. The platform began to descend into the pit as the crowd cheered and clapped. They came to a rest deep underground in a small cave, then the roof slid back into place above them, shutting out all sunlight. The cave was lit by the strange red lights that danced in the air above them like insects. Tunnels led off in every direction and at each junction there was a pile of weapons. Leela was the first to arm herself, then the others collected weapons and ran off down the tunnels. Leela thought they should stick together and hunt as a pack, but it was too late. Bacora was about to follow them when her eyes suddenly went pale and her face froze. She started speaking but Leela couldn’t make any sense of her words. Then a rodent leapt out of the shadows and knocked Bacora to the ground. Co-ordinator Angell announced the first catch of the Games.
The rodent was about to plunge its teeth into Bacora’s neck when Leela grabbed a spear and flung it at the creature’s head. Angell said she’d made a foul move and awarded six penalty points to both Bacora and to Leela. Bacora refused Leela’s help and accused her of ruining her chance of having the first kill of the Games. She ran off down one of the tunnels and Leela took the opportunity to examine the dead rodent in more detail. This one seemed more human than the one she’d seen in the market, but as she studied it the creature began to transform and change it shape, becoming less human by the second. She was suddenly hit by the same sensation she’d felt back at the selection and she was aware that she was seeing through the eyes of another rodent - her first prey!
Through the eyes of the rodent she saw was herself approaching with a spear! They stared at each other and she saw that the rodent had started to take on a rough approximation of her own face. The rodent spoke to her, asking why she wouldn’t fight - and when Angell announced that they’d found a ’talker’, the audience applauded. The rodent challenged Leela and they fought hard, but eventually she manage to pin the creature to the ground and raised her spear, ready to deliver the fatal blow - but instead she threw it straight into the nearest dancing light, which exploded into a thousand pieces. The cave was plunged into darkness and the rodent asked Leela why she didn’t kill it. She explained that he wasn’t her enemy and it was the people who made them fight on their behalf who were really the enemy. Two more dancing lights floated into the cave and Co-ordinator Angell told Leela she’d made an illegal move and had therefore been eliminated from the Games. A blinding beam of light burst from one of the globes, but Leela managed to roll out of the way. She destroyed the light with the spear, then the rodent did the same to the second globe.
Leela told the rodent they should gather together an army and the creature led her to another cave with huge waterfalls on one side. Bacora was there, standing over the dead body of her fourth rodent kill. At first the dead creature had Bacora’s own face, but then it slowly returned to its normal animal-like state. Without warning the rodent accompanying Leela attacked her again, but Bacora stabbed it with her knife and it screamed in pain. Bacora waited for Leela to kill the creature, but once again she refused. Bacora was horrified at Leela and asked her why she agreed to be the Co-ordinator’s Champion if she wasn’t willing to fight. Leela said she’d been told the rodents were just vermin, but she’s discovered they can understand her words. Bacora says the ’talkers’ are freaks, but before she can explain further they hear the sound of a klaxon which indicates the Games have been terminated.
Bacora told Leela they’d be filling the caves with gas soon so she ran down a tunnel, followed by several other Cathartics and the rodents. Leela helped her own rodent to its feet, then she saw a massive wave of water knock Bacora off her feet and smash her into a wall. Leela saw her friend’s neck break and her lifeless body was washed away her on a wave. With no time to mourn her, Leela grabbed her rodent’s arm and let the wave carry both of them towards the waterfalls. Then, working together as one, they both swam towards the gaps in the rock, which then landed them painfully in the middle of the stadium.
The watching crowd screamed and panicked as rodents swarmed out of the caves. To Leela’s surprise, the Doctor was waiting for her, now fully recovered and with a smile on his face. The elderly Co-ordinator joined them and accused the Doctor of an act of sabotage. The Doctor denied this and said it was an accident as he was still numb from his coma and he must have tripped the wrong wire by mistake.
Suddenly large cracks began to appear in the ground and the Waters of Empathy roared angrily in the sky above them. The crowd began to run for their lives as a cold wind swept in through the entrance to the tunnels, knocking many of them off their feet. The Doctor explained that when he woke up, he saw the Games being shown on screens throughout the city and decided to rescue Leela. To do this, he disabled the dancing globes by modifying the city’s central nervous system with his sonic screwdriver.
Angell pulled out his gun to shoot the Doctor, but Leela’s rodent knocked it from his hand. Together, Leela and the rodent pinned the old man to the floor, but she had to hold the creature back when it looked like it was going to take a bite out of him. Angell still believed this was the end of their civilisation, but the Doctor insisted he could repair any damage back at the Buildings of Stability and the worst they could expect was a few un-seasonal rain showers. Angell pointed out that the rodents were now running riot and killing people, but the Doctor said the creatures were only scaring people. In fact, it seemed as though they were all heading in a particular direction and the only people getting hurt were those who got in their way.
The Doctor, Leela and the rodent led Angell in the direction of the Co-ordinator’s flying vehicle, but as they passed through a tunnel, the walls suddenly collapsed at both ends, trapping them inside - but as the dust settled, Leela discovered the Doctor was on the other side of the rock fall. He called out and told them he’d find some way of getting them out of there, but Angell was convinced he wasn’t coming back, so he ordered Leela to kill the rodent before it killed them. Leela refused and pointed out that the rodent was afraid, but Angell said that’s the reason it had to be killed. Moments later, the collapsed wall was knocked aside as the Doctor drove the Co-ordinator’s vehicle into the tunnel and freed them all.
As they headed for the Buildings of Stability, they could see the pools and rocks outside the stadium had disappeared beneath a lake of dark, bubbling water. Large cracks had appeared in the ground and water rose in jets of steam from deep inside. The streets were full of people running from building to building and the rodents were all heading towards the Palace of Tranquillity. The Doctor said he’d been in a self-induced coma due to an attack on his brain at a cellular level. When he woke up, he discovered that his fear of fire had literally been removed. Angell confirmed that this was why Synchronis was such a peaceful society - they remove the darkness from people’s minds and put it into the rodents instead. Leela realised she too had had her fear removed - and it had been transferred into her rodent!
Angell revealed that the rodents carried all his people’s diseased thoughts - their evil, guilt, fear and criminal impulses - and the annual Empathy Games was a means of purging their sins by wiping out the rodents. Suddenly, the flying vehicle tipped to one side. Acting on instinct, the rodent was trying to take them to the Palace where the other rodents were heading. The Doctor tried to open the door to the cockpit, but he vehicle fell from the sky and crashed into the steps at the bottom of the Palace. The group climbed out just in time to see the rodent joining the rest of its kind.
They followed it to an enormous room filled with machinery, which the rodents were destroying. The Doctor recognised the equipment of a transplantation factory, where the embryo rodents had the fears and dark thoughts of the people implanted into them. The three globes that formed the Helix of Synchronis were part of a brainwave distributor and the dancing globes were telepathic communication nodes. A rodent stumbled towards them and they saw that it had some of Angell’s own characteristics. The rodent revealed that what Angell really feared was the truth and the end of his power. Angell commanded Leela to kill the creature, but for a moment she saw through the rodent’s eyes and she too could sense the Co-ordinator’s fear. The rodent knew that Angell could have saved many of those that died today during the flood, but he chose not to, just in case the rodents survived too.
The Doctor finished working on the equipment, then the Helix started pulsating. The dancing lights filled the room and swarmed around the Helix, then there was an explosion and each of the lights spread out and landed on the rodents. Leela’s rodent walked towards her and they touched - then Leela felt all her pain and fear returning. The rodent collapsed into her arms and then its face changed back into its natural animal image. There was nothing left of Leela inside it.
Angell also held a rodent in his hands, its face at peace. The Co-ordinator said Synchronis had been destroyed, but the Doctor believed it was a new dawn for the city. He said their Games were a thing of the past and the people had a new race to share their world with - two new races if they included the Cathartics. Angell feared there would be chaos and that without the Games his people would become a race of evil, twisted savages, but the Doctor told him they had to learn to live with their darker sides. He said they should use their fears and conquer them, just as every other race does.
They went outside and saw that the waters had destroyed the Buildings of Stability and created a gleaming ocean, stretching to the horizon. This was the new Synchronis and the start of a new beginning…
Leela finishes her story. She tells the crying prisoner that when she was a child, she saw her mother struck down while trying to protect her from a wild animal on Mount Kremnon. She held her as she died and then protected her body and soul until the first hours of sunlight. She told her stories, the same stories her mother had told her when she was younger. From that moment on, she never feared death, but she was still afraid to be alone. She says she has many other tales to tell, stories of a warrior who fought not with knives and crossbows, but with words, truth and honour. And one day, when she passes on to the next world, she’ll meet the Doctor again and they’ll face the new dawn together.