11th Doctor
Nuclear Time
by Oli Smith
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Cover Blurb
Nuclear Time

'My watch is running backwards.'

Colorado, 1981. The Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive in Appletown - an idyllic village in the remote American desert where the townsfolk go peacefully about their suburban routines. But when two more strangers arrive, things begin to change. The first is a mad scientist - whose warnings are cut short by an untimely and brutal death. The second is the Doctor...

As death falls from the sky, the Doctor is trapped. The TARDIS is damaged, and the Doctor finds he is living backwards through time. With Amy and Rory being hunted through the suburban streets of the Doctor's own future and getting farther away with every passing second, he must unravel the secrets of Appletown before time runs out.

  • This is the fourth book in the series of original adventures featuring the Eleventh Doctor.
  • Released: July 2010

  • ISBN: 978 1 84607 989 4 (hardback)

University of Michigan February 23 1973
Doctor Albert Gilroy makes a breakthrough in his research while listening to 'Who's that Lady?' by the Isley brothers. As such he names his artificial intelligence Isley and gives it a feminine voice. While he is working late into the night he is told that the Vietnam War is over.

The same night, Major Geoffrey Redvers, a Vietnam veteran, ends his long journey home from the war. When his wife didn't meet him at the airport he took a taxi home. Throughout the journey his uniform has got him nothing but disrespect. Arriving home, his wife asks him why he bothered to wear it and he replies that he didn't realise what public feeling was but he does now.

Colorado, 28 August 1981, 3.39 p.m.
The TARDIS lands at the end of a small village which a crudely painted sign tells them is called Appletown. The Doctor, Amy and Rory step out into the heat of the afternoon and look around them. Timber houses, white picket fences, trimmed lawns and polished cars are everywhere as if someone had taken a slice of the suburbs and placed it in the desert. The Doctor pulls up the edge of one of the lawns to reveal that the turf has simply been laid on the desert. He points out the lack of trees and Rory notes that there are no roads in or out of the village. They split up in search of some locals and some answers.

Amy and Rory enter the Coffeehouse and sit down. A man suddenly appears behind the counter. When they ask him for a cold drink he apologises that the refrigerator is broken. Amy looks out of the window and sees that the deserted street is now alive with people going about their daily business. Among them is the Doctor. They leave the Coffeehouse to ask about his opinion. He says it is almost as if the village came to life in order to put on a show for them. He engages a few of the villagers in some polite banter. As he does so, Amy points up to a nearby window where a grey-haired man ducks quickly from sight. They decide to investigate.

One of the villagers, Mrs Sanderson, invites the Doctor in for coffee. He looks around the sparsely furnished house and notices that Mr Sanderson is watching a blank television screen. The man seems confused when this is pointed out to him. The Doctor notices that the room is bereft of any plug sockets and in the kitchen the taps aren't joined to a water supply. With a sense of dread he realises that the whole village is a fake and wonders what the villagers are.

Amy pushes open the front door to the house. They make their way to the attic bedroom where they find a young woman in a battered armchair. The woman is wearing a crumpled Star Wars T-shirt and jeans. She is listening to music on a pair of headphones and remains oblivious to Amy when she enters. Rory reaches out to remove the headphones when a man steps out from behind the door and tells him not to. He tells them that the music playing on a cassette is her reset music that allows him to talk without her military programming kicking in. bemused, Rory asks for an explanation.

The man introduces himself as Albert and the woman as Isley. She is a robot. He waves at the window and says that all of the people out there are robots, too. They are assassins created to be sent into foreign territory without putting American lives at risk. He adds that this is the end of the project, his designs have been burnt and the robots are to be destroyed. He seems most surprised that Rory and Amy don't know what or where the town is. He says it was specially designed so that the robots would think they were blending in as they were programmed until they are wiped out in one go. He tells Rory that they must leave quickly (but not run in case that triggers the robots' killer mode) and not go to the military base. He says he is going to stay with Isley and end with her. With horror he realises that Isley's tape has run out and she can hear what he has been saying. Her hand grips his and he orders Amy and Rory to run. They reach the path just as wood splinters above and Albert's corpse lands beside them. They run to the house that they saw the Doctor go into. He ushers them into the lounge where the Doctor has dismantled Mr and Mrs Sanderson. Amy recognises Mr Sanderson as the man from the Coffeehouse but the Doctor says there are only fifty models in all so some have been duplicated.

Rory and Amy ask how long the Doctor has known the people were robots and why he didn't warn them. He responds by telling them that the robots use deadly force when their cover is blown. Amy tells him that Isley killed Albert because they weren't warned. The Doctor apologises for not having more faith. A plane is heard in the distance. It suddenly dawns on the Doctor that the town is called Appletown because it is full of Apple Houses - the term used by the US military to describe the buildings used for testing nuclear weapons in the sixties.

They run to the front door, intent on reaching the TARDIS. The robots are gathered outside the gate, led by Isley. The Doctor shouts, "Run!" and sprints away. The other two follow but Amy trips over a hedge. By the time Rory has picked her up the Doctor has disappeared.

Arriving in a deserted alley the Doctor flashes a delighted grin at his two companions, only to find that they are not there. He sees somebody across the way, lurking in the shadows. This figure moves with an odd jerking motion and steps into the light. With a shock, the Doctor realises he is looking at himself.

California International Conference Centre, 3 August 1975
Albert stumbles, drunk and upset, across the beach. His life's work has been destroyed in a fire that is still burning behind him. As all evidence of his creation has been obliterated the day before he was due to present it he faces a future of being discredited in his field.

Colonel Redvers appears on the beach and tells him that the paperwork was not destroyed but removed by his men. However, Albert is inconsolable about the loss of Isley. Redvers tells him that she can be rebuilt and offers him a lot of money for his cooperation. Albert reasons that his public life is over anyway and accepts.

Colorado, 28 August 1981, 4.57 p.m.
The two Doctors meet in a golden haze. One Doctor appears to be speaking in a bizarre approximation of English, warning his counterpart that time is short and he must leave Rory and Amy. He points at the sky and announces that the bomb is imminent. Producing his psychic paper he shows a series of diagrams. Understanding them, his counterpart worries that what he is being asked to do could destabilize the TARDIS. The strange Doctor shuffles off and disappears into the shadows.

Racing back to the TARDIS the Doctor quickly activates the controls, locates the falling bomb and dematerializes. Whirling his hands over the controls he catches the bomb in a stasis field inside the TARDIS control room. With alarm he realises that the bomb is at the point of detonation. The heat inside the TARDIS rises incredibly. He paws his way to the door and flings himself out into the desert.

Amy and Rory race down the street, keeping ahead of the androids. They manage to evade the pursuers and arrive at the place where the TARDIS used to be but see only a flat dent in the ground. Amy says that the Doctor won't abandon them but Rory, wisely, says that they need to hide.

Utah Military Research Base, 27 May 1977
Albert works in a laboratory hung with plastic flesh and full of robotic limbs. The centerpiece is the female android he calls Isley. Geoff Redvers brings him a cup of coffee and discusses the progress so far. Albert and he talk about the androids' futures as assassins before Geoff lets slip that his wife has left him.

Colorado, 28 August 1981, 5.15 p.m.
The Doctor regains consciousness outside the TARDIS. There is a smell of burning from his scorched jacket. He goes back to the TARDIS and is surprised to find that it is cool to the touch. He looks at the town and sets off in exactly the opposite direction to the one he had intended. On the way, he notices that his watch is running backwards. Skirting through the streets he makes his way to the place where he last met himself. There he is. He pulls out his psychic paper and draws the diagrams that he saw earlier. Then, doing his best to talk backwards, he instructs himself on what to do next.

After this conversation he reasons out the situation. The TARDIS has tried to dissipate the energy of the bomb by going back down its own time line. The side effect of this is that he is living backwards through time. He sees the bomber gliding backwards across the sky and decides that he needs to warn the soldiers that the bomb is not going to explode.

Florida Airbase, 3 February 1980
A helicopter lands, and is promptly surrounded by troops. Geoff and Albert discuss a mission that went wrong. Isley's security pass wasn't cleared in an embassy where she was supposed to be carrying out an assassination and she murdered all witnesses. The soldiers bring Isley from the helicopter. She is neutralized within an electro-magnetic field. Her plastic flesh has been ripped away and her metal skeleton is on view. Albert slips headphones over her ears to neutralize her with the Isley Brothers music so that he can interface with her without being killed. In this way he learns that not only did she kill her intended target but also fifty witnesses.

Colorado, 28 August 1981, 5.38 p.m.
Amy and Rory make their way through the gardens until they are finally seen by Isley. She chases them and they break into a house. The two androids inside immediately become murderous. Rory holds off the female android by throwing a television at her head. This gains them enough time for Amy and him to barricade themselves into the bedroom. The robots try to break in briefly but soon go away. Any sense of relief that is felt by the two humans is abruptly dispelled when they relies that the house beneath them is on fire.

Washington DC, 28 February 1981.
After a six hour hearing into the embassy debacle the project is wound up. Geoff tells him that the androids are to be nuked at Appletown. This will have a secondary purpose of testing out the resolve of the Soviet Union in the cold war when they see that the USA has resumed over ground nuclear tests.

Colorado, 28 August 1981, 3.28 p.m.
The Doctor makes his way across the blazing desert. Time stutters at one point as the universe attempts to come to terms with the anomaly of someone moving backwards in time. He falls to the ground in agony, rising with a pain in his stomach from an event he has yet to experience. He sits for a while, wondering whether his actions are now predetermined or if he can change the course of events that are, for him, yet to occur. Three trucks reverse towards him at high speed. The soldiers inside look weary and the vehicles are spattered with bullet holes and blood. The trucks vanish towards the golden glow that is Appletown.

Half an hour later the trucks reappear. Lining up between two tyre tracks he waits for one of the trucks to reverse into him and flings himself onto the back panel. He tumbles into the dark interior. He finds seventeen immobile androids around him. An itchy feeling all over his body tells him that he is in a strong electro-magnetic field. Along with him, he finds a human being with crumpled clothes and grey hair. He realises that this must be Albert. He sits down next to him and hugs him in thanks for helping Amy and Rory escape from Isley.

The truck slows and reverses into a military compound. The Doctor hops down into a group of soldiers who are pointing guns at him and walks slowly forward towards the troops (who back away slowly). The Doctor notes that he is patting his clothes, brushing dust into them. With a sinking feeling he notes that many of the soldiers are wounded. Three dozen dead soldiers lie around the compound.

Colorado, 28 August 1981, 2.00 p.m.
Geoff tells his superiors over the telephone that his men are working as quickly as possible the shortage of EM emitters is making the process of getting the androids to the village a dangerous prospect. The response frustrates him and he offers his view that the task can either be done quickly or safely but he knows what is wanted. He slams the phone down in frustration.

In the watchtower Albert and Geoff talk about the Russian spy plane that is on its way to observe the 'nuclear test'. They know that the result could be a war.

Geoff warns his men that the EM fields haven't been set up but the androids have to be loaded so they need to watch what they say. Just then, one of the sentries calls up to say a foreigner who can't speak or walk properly has ridden in on a bicycle. He does, however, have an Access all areas Health and Safety pass. Geoff reminds the sentry that there is no such thing. He picks up a file and a piece of paper falls out that says I am living backwards through time. There is no point asking me any more questions I'm sorry. Albert and Geoff are perturbed because the folder came direct from the Pentagon.

Turning to another drawer, Geoff hands Albert a gift-wrapped present but before it can be opened a sergeant bursts in with the Doctor who speaks to them incomprehensibly. Albert says he hasn't the time to waste and leaves. The Doctor picks up the message he wrote and unwrites it in front of Geoff's eyes. Unimpressed, Geoff tries to interrogate the Doctor but gets nowhere so orders him to be loaded onto the trucks and taken to the village with the androids. At that moment a burst of gunfire sounds from below.

Colorado, 28 August 1981, 2.38 p.m.
Albert watches his creations being taken from the sophisticated EM-laden transport vehicles into the courtyard before being transferred to the robust desert-worthy trucks that will drive them to their deaths. He tells the troops he will escort Isley himself. She is the last android to come out of the EM field. As he guides her past the, frankly, terrified soldiers he puts his hand in hers. One of the soldiers mutters, "Android lover". Isley instantly snaps the soldier's neck. The soldiers cock their guns but it is too late - all of the androids are in military mode at once. Isley grabs the dead soldier's gun and shoots down several soldiers. As they fall the androids grab their weapons and start shooting, too. Isley pushes Albert to safety away from the carnage.

Colorado, 28 August 1981, 2.47 p.m.
Up above the slaughter, Geoff is trying to plug in an EM generator but struggling to fix the wires. The Doctor leans in and buzzes it with his sonic screwdriver. Geoff suspects sabotage and pushes him away. The Doctor falls over the balcony and lands with a thud. Geoff realises that the EM machine is now active and throws it into the courtyard where the massacre is happening. Silence falls immediately as the androids collapse.

Geoff stalks over to Albert and says that thirty seven men have just died because of his inappropriate relationship with Isley. He orders the surviving men to put Albert on the trucks, too. Then he goes back up to the office and unwraps the present he had intended to give to Albert. Inside are banknotes and a false passport. In tears, Geoff puts the passport in his own pocket. And then time is re-written.

Colorado, 28 August 1981, 2.41 p.m.
The Doctor stands amid the corpses and looks at the circle of collapsed androids. He sees the EM generator and realises it can't have been activated in time to save the men's lives. At that moment he vows that, just because he has seen the end result it doesn't mean that he can't somehow alter the outcome. As time unspools for him he sees the gun battle unfold in reverse. Dead men return to their feet, bullets fly back into guns. Then time stutters and freezes while he stands amid all the carnage, determined to do something. He sees the strands of all the possible futures and chooses one. Time lurches again and this time the Doctor is moving forwards. He checks his watch and sees that he has three minutes before he reaches the point where he stepped out of his time line, three minutes in which he needs to break the flow of the natural laws of physics so that the universe will change.

He sees Albert, sheltering from the hail of bullets that are flying again. Stepping to him, the Doctor asks what started the battle. Albert confesses that it was his love for Isley. This is all that the Doctor needs to know.

When the loop ends the Doctor starts to travel backwards through time again. Finding himself prone and winded on the floor he realises that he had a fall. As his body sweeps up through the air he takes his opportunity and kicks out his foot against the underside of the balcony, preventing himself from reaching the place from where he was pushed. Time reforms its pathways again.

Colorado, 28 August 1981, 2.23 p.m.
The Doctor is brought in by the sergeant and introduced as the health and safety guy. He is introduced to Geoffrey Redvers and Albert. He demands to know the exact time and is pleased to find that he has twenty minutes. He tells the men in the room that they have some things to sort out and gives them a brief and accurate explanation of the current situation. They are suitably shocked at his knowledge but are more dismissive when he tells them that he is going backwards in time. He tries to demonstrate the theory with string but Albert loses interest. The Doctor switches to a different story where he is an undercover Pentagon officer and starts to ask questions about the androids. Albert tells him that they are virtually indestructible other than by nuking them. Geoff adds that nuking them will probably be seen as a sign of aggression by the Russians and will lead to a war.

At this point they notice that Albert is missing. The Doctor says he needs to stop him: Albert's actions will lead to the deaths of most of the platoon. Geoff realises that the Doctor is now back in his backwards-time travel guise. The Doctor says that it is Albert's love for Isley that will breed disaster. Geoff reluctantly gives him five minutes before he will be loaded onto the trucks.

He finds Albert with Isley and warns him that he is about to cause a seriously violent situation. He says that he can understand why Albert loves Isley but, as a robot, she can never respond. He tells Albert that he has seen a future where Isley kills Albert in the village. However, by having this conversation the time line will have changed and the outcomes will be different. The problem is that the TARDIS's dissipation of the energy from the bomb has also been altered. He doesn't know how he can change that. Nor does he know how he can warn Amy and Rory because he hasn't actually arrived with them yet.

The Doctor reverts to travelling backwards, noticeable to Albert who - this time around - leaves Isley to be loaded in the truck without him. He hurries away sadly as the Doctor is also put aboard.

Colorado, 28 August 1981, 6.07 p.m.
Amy and Rory find the floor collapsing beneath them as the house burns. They run to the window and see the words Follow Me mown into the lawn. A path has also been cut across the gardens. Sure that it is the Doctor's message they leap down from the window and run. They find themselves back in the house where Albert was killed but there is no sign of his body. They see the path continuing across the gardens and realise that it must have been put there before the robots arrived or they would have noticed it rather than assuming it was just part of the village. Eventually they find a large warehouse and enter it through a gaping hole. Inside is a large motor mower. Sitting on it is Isley.

Colorado, 28 August 1981, 6.30 p.m.
Amy approaches Isley cautiously while Rory creeps up behind the android and slips the headphones (that are around her neck) onto her ears. He plays the cassette and she slumps forward. She asks them where Albert is. Rory reminds her that she killed him by throwing him from the house but Isley denies that Albert was ever in the village. The last time she saw him he was in the compound with their friend. Amy whispers that the Doctor has changed the past. She notices a post-it note on the wooden door. It tells her she has nine minutes and twenty four seconds to get to the town square from the moment the building begins to disintegrate. At that moment the roof of the warehouse flies off and a yellow sky is revealed. A wind whips up. Amy jumps onto the mower and guns the engine. Rory leaps on behind and they crash through the door and away. Isley jogs beside them asking where Albert is.

Colorado, 28 August 1981, 2.04 p.m.
The Doctor uses his screwdriver to turbo-charge the lawnmower. He then posts his sticker on the door and hops on the bicycle he appropriated earlier. He rides to the centre of the village where the TARDIS stands. Inside there is a war between the air conditioning and the exploding bomb. He writes down his three tasks: rescue his friends, eject the bomb to destroy the town and its androids, do so without creating a mushroom cloud. He sets the TARDIS in motion, reorienting it around its own timeline and then races it into the future, ejecting the bomb on the way. He halts the time machine at 6.49 p.m.

Rory sees that the mower is being closed down by the androids. Around them the buildings are dissolving in the eerie light and the androids begin to melt too. The ground is on fire as they approach the TARDIS which is materialising in front of them. The mower begins to crumble and they skid up to the doors which the Doctor opens as they arrive in a flurry of melting metal. He catches a black box that flies off the mower and then shuts the door as they stumble inside and then the TARDIS melts away.

He tells them that the device was to stop the mower disintegrating before they reached the TARDIS. He says that the bomb was ejected while the TARDIS was moving quickly through time so that its explosion is being spread out over an hour and a half. Amy asks if he managed to save everyone and he smiles sadly and says that he did.

Colorado, 28 August 1981, 5.20 p.m.
Albert and the soldiers watch in awe as the bomb continues to explode slowly across the desert. Albert and Geoff discuss the Russian spy plane that passed over with nothing intelligible to witness. Then Geoff hands Albert a blue folder that was given to him by a friend in the Pentagon that implies that both of them will be made to disappear after the explosion. Whether this means they will be killed he doesn't know. He hands Albert his present and Albert looks at the false passport, the million dollars in traveller's cheques and a bag of dollar bills. He tells Albert that there is a motorbike hidden in the compound and that Albert needs to take it while the soldiers are distracted by the explosion. They embrace one last time while Geoff says that he just wants to give Albert back the life he lost when Geoff took it from him all those years before. His own life, he says, was his wife and kid and the war and all that is gone now. After Albert leaves, Geoff takes off his safety goggles and looks into the explosion, thinking that he may as well enjoy himself if he is going to be dead the next day.

Albert rides along the desert highway. He sees a woman by the road. It is Isley, somewhat the worse for being in the village when the bomb exploded. He asks her why she ran away from the village and she replies that she needs him. He kisses her and helps her onto the bike while telling her that he needs her, too. They speed off towards New Mexico.

Source: Mark Senior
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