Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My 9th Doctor/Sarah Jane Smith story

And here's the second story for today. Sarah Jane, like the Brigadier, is a friend who's been around for a while. She first debuted at the end of the 3rd Doctor's era, and since then she's been close by. It's not as obvious as with the Brig, but Sarah Jane has also met up with almost all of the Doctors: the 1st and 2nd in The Five Doctors, the 3rd and 4th as their companions, the 5th also in The Five Doctors, the 6th in my own Time's Champion, the 7th in Bullet Time, the 8th in Interference book two, and the 10th in School Reunion/Journey's End. So, once again, the 9th Doctor is the odd man out in connection with this particular character. As it happens with these stories so far, you have to be careful how you attempt a 9th Doctor meeting, as Sarah Jane seems to indicate in School Reunion that she hasn't met the Doctor AT ALL since The Hand of Fear. Laying whatever that means aside, I needed to figure out how her dialouge wouldn't clash with this story. Then I remembered the Big Finish Sarah Jane Investigates audio series, particularly Dreamland, the last of series 2, released in April 2006 (the same month as School Reunion ironically enough), which ended on a cliffhanger with Sarah Jane trapped in a damaged space shuttle, with the sound much like the TARDIS in her ears...

Not Forgotten
A 9th Doctor/Sarah Jane Smith story, with the Brigadier and K9, and set before the regeneration sequence of The Parting of the Ways. For Sarah Jane, this takes place immediately after the events of Sarah Jane Smith: Dreamland
By Chris McKeon

27 September, 2006

Sarah Jane Smith was about to die. She could barely remember the twisted chain of events which had brought her to this, the frozen end of her wasted life. Once she had been an aspiring journalist, full of desire to investigate and expose the mysteries and conspiracies of the world. Then she had met the Doctor, an extraordinary man –more than a man, a unique alien of many faces- who whisked her away to worlds more mysterious and wondrous than anything the Earth could offer her. For some time they traveled together. Then, suddenly, without warning or hesitation, he had left her behind on Earth, simply saying he had to go home. No explanations, not even a goodbye. He had even left her behind in the wrong place.
That was almost thirty years ago now. Since then, she had tried to move on with her life, had tried to return to her stories, her investigations, her mysteries. But nothing was the same, nothing could compare to the life beyond the pale she had known, and the friend she could never replace.
“But did he replace me?”
Nevertheless, her life had trudged onward; she had forged ahead in her career, had kept in touch with her old friends at UNIT. She had even seen some of the other Doctors, both earlier and later than hers, from time to time. But they had never stayed for more than a moment, had never bothered to answer her one, undying question:
“How could you abandon me?”
Maybe she had been looking for the Doctor all this time, hoping he would answer her question, even if she might not like what he would have to say. Maybe that was why she started to listen to the mysteries again, why the unexplained had started piquing her interest once more. Maybe that was the reason she had boarded The Dauntless, an experimental civilian shuttle, to investigate a mysterious comet headed for Earth. Unfortunately the comet had inspired a cult following, which soon split into two rival factions. The pilot and fellow passenger of The Dauntless –both members of the warring cult- were dead, the ship’s guidance and life-support systems were damaged beyond repair, and all communications with Earth were cut off. All the while the ship was growing ever colder.
Sarah Jane Smith huddled against the biting chill and the thinning air. She let her thoughts settle upon the last time in her life she had been truly happy. She drifted back to the days when she had been the Doctor’s best friend, flying fast in his incredible blue box, its engines roaring, just like the roaring in her head she heard at that moment, as her thoughts disappeared and her mind slipped into the dark…

* * *

That same evening, Sir General Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, former head of the British branch of UNIT, ever and always the Brigadier, stood with rapt attention in his living room, watching the Breaking News broadcast on the television screen before him. That silly civilian excuse for space-flight, The Dauntless, had somehow malfunctioned while attempting orbit. Lethbridge-Stewart knew many investors would be tearing at their hair over the failure of this voyage, but he had a more personal involvement in the catastrophe: Miss Smith was aboard that craft.
He had of course made an immediate rallying cry to Mike Yates and Mr. Benton at UNIT HQ, and while NASA was scrambling to prepare a rescue attempt, his own organization had already launched a recovery capsule mere minutes ago. He had personally instructed the flight crew that they were to succeed at all costs, or answer to him personally. But now all he could do was wait and hope for the best, anything to fight the helplessness he felt. The minutes passed. Lethbridge-Stewart paced his living room. Still no word from HQ, still no results.
“If only I could help!” he thought, pounding a fist into his palm, just as a frantic pounding at his front door shattered his concentration startled him back to earth.
The Brigadier hurried over to the door, not bothering to check through the curtains to see who was on the other side. He threw the door open to reveal the Doctor –the same version he had encountered almost seven months prior during the Slitheen event- cradling in his arms the pale, space-suited body of Sarah Jane Smith.
“Help me, Brigadier,” the Doctor pleaded. Lethbridge-Stewart did so without hesitation.

* * *

“She was the only survivor; I only got to her just in time. I heard her ship’s communications as I was passing through the Vortex,” the Doctor commented, with folded arms. He and the Brigadier were standing at the side of the latter’s guest bed, in which Sarah Jane lay sleeping. They had just spent a hurried few minutes getting Sarah Jane upstairs into the guest bedroom, while the Brigadier’s wife, Doris, had removed Sarah Jane’s space-suit and had dressed her in a pair of her own pajamas before placing her under the covers. Doris was now downstairs preparing a light meal for when Sarah Jane would wake up. As they waited, the Brigadier stared down at Sarah Jane’s face, and his heart ached that, even asleep, the young and happy young woman he once knew now appeared so tired and careworn. He turned to the Doctor.
“At least Miss Smith was fortunate enough to have you close by to rescue her. I understand her shuttle was stalled directly in the path of some sort of comet; did you have any difficulty with that?”
“No, I just used the TARDIS to throw the comet back along its own course. It should come around again in the next few years, though. I’d be on the lookout if I were you.”
“Oh, we at UNIT always are, Doctor.” The Brigadier studied his old friend, physically unchanged since their last meeting save for the colour of his jumper, a purple so dark it looked almost black. There was, however, something odd about the Doctor, something subtly unsettled, nervous, as if he were about to leap out of his skin. He had to ask. “Are you in distress, Doctor?”
“No, not really. I’m just dying.”
“Good heavens! What happened? Is the world in any danger?”
“It’s nothing for you to spin your head over, Alistair! Just another tussle with the Daleks, that’s all. We stopped them though, a real show-stopper of an end too!”
The Doctor laughed, loud and long, and then he shuddered as his eyes brightened with golden light. As the dying Time Lord’s body stooped, the Brigadier caught him and supported his weight. The Doctor continued to speak.
“Looks like I’ve got less time than I thought. This time it’s coming on quick!”
The Doctor’s breathing was coming quick and laboured. The Brigadier’s heart ached to see his friend in such pain.
“I can’t believe this is happening to you again, and so soon!”
“Believe me, it’s been a lot longer for me than for you. But don’t worry, I’ll regenerate; it’s happened before! And you’ll see me again, my friend, and whoever else comes after.”
“Is there anything I can do to help you, old friend?”
“Yeah, take care of Sarah Jane for me, right? I wanted to stay and give her a sweet goodbye when she woke up, but I don’t think I’ll last that long. That’s why I brought her to you: I trust you to be good to her, until she gets better, ok?”
“I promise. But what about you?”
The Doctor grinned as he draped his arm over the Brigadier’s shoulders.
“Just help me get back to the TARDIS, Brigadier. I’ve got a little something special for Sarah Jane. One last gift…”

* * *

Several hours later she awoke. She remembered the deathly silence of the dying shuttle, the icy chill of space seeping through her skin, and the roaring in her ears. Then there was the darkness. Darkness then, darkness now, and the cold bed sheets and blanket upon her sensitive body seemed like the suffocating covering of an icy coffin. She panicked, tried to rip the sheets off away from her. From out of the darkness, came a voice.
“Alistair, she’s awake. The light,” came the sound of a woman’s voice by her side.
There was a soft click and her vision was awash with a soft, white light from a bedside lamp. Sarah Jane blinked. She was in a bed, in a small, clean, green-walled room with a white ceiling. Standing at the side of the bed were two faces she recognized: Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart –her Brig- and his wife, Doris. Sarah Jane was amongst friends. She smiled weakly.
“There…aren’t enough people here…for the…Wizard of Oz ending.”
The Brigadier smiled and leaned down, holding Sarah Jane’s hand between his own.
“Don’t worry, my dear, Mr. Benton and Mike will be along soon to add their welcome.”
Sarah Jane tried to chuckle, but her efforts dissolved into a hacking cough. Doris, having anticipated Sarah Jane’s condition, picked up a glass of water from the bedside table, approached the bed, and brought the glass to Sarah Jane’s lips, who gratefully sipped its contents. A few moments later, her eyes widened and she spoke again.
“The ship! Where is it?”
“The ship is being brought down by a UNIT recovery capsule as we speak. You were the only survivor, I’m afraid. NASA is being briefed on how to inform the world in the most mundane way of your rescue.”
Sarah Jane frowned and furrowed her brow.
“It’s being brought down now? But then how did I get…” She made the connection, and a light shone in her eyes as a smile quivered upon her lips.
“Oh my. I was right, wasn’t I? I knew I heard him. I knew it was the Doctor! Where is he, is he here?”
“He’s already gone, Miss Smith. He wanted to say hello, but he couldn’t stay.”
Sarah Jane heaved one shallow breath, like an ironic laugh. The light in her eyes dulled as she closed them slowly.
“Oh no? After all this time, after leaving me here alone so long ago, he comes back now and keeps me alive and he can’t even say hello? Am I just someone to save and not to remember?”
Already fatigued with physical stress, a wave of crushing disappointment drowned Sarah Jane as bitter tears flowed from her eyes. She turned over on her side and buried her face in her pillow. Watching her crumple, the Brigadier frowned sadly, then took Doris by the hand and led her out of the room.
“She needs some time to herself, my dear.”
“You’re right, Alistair. I think she’s needed to grieve about this for a long time.”
“I only hope the Doctor’s present will soften her…”

* * *

A short time later, just as the sun’s first rays were about to break, Sarah Jane rolled over and sighed. Her heart was heavy. She felt old.
“Oh, Doctor, why do always leave me so alone?”
Out of the corner of her eye, the early morning sunlight rose over the horizon and streamed through the guestroom window, slowly brightening the space around her. At first she wished she could remain hidden in the darkness, alone with her sorrow. But she always had loved sunrises, and in a few moments she turned to her side to watch the sun’s ascension. She gasped. On the windowsill, framed in the morning light, was the metal figure of K9 Mark III, a gift from the Doctor long ago, and so it seemed, once more today.
Sarah Jane eased herself out of the bed and walked over to the window. She knelt by the dog, now quite old and rusty, and had long since fallen into disrepair. But he was here, he was real, and there was only one way he could have gotten there. Sarah Jane noticed a small white placard hung by a plastic thread around the mechanical dog’s collared neck. She held it in her fingers and read the words scrawled on its surface.
Sarah Jane,
Thankfully our paths crossed just when it mattered most. I’m sorry I didn’t have time to clean out the old boy for you or stick around to say hello. Time moves quickly and unfortunately it didn’t allow me enough shore leave this time around. I promise I’ll make it up to you soon. Keep being the fantastic journalist you’ve always been. Maybe you’ll find me in your next story.
–The Doctor
Sarah Jane let go of the card, looking up into the now strong sunlight. She let it bathe over her face, highlighting the tears of joy that shown on her cheek.
“Thank you, Doctor, thank you for remembering me. Until we meet again; I’m counting the days.”
Less than a hundred days had passed before their paths crossed again.

My 9th Doctor/Davros story

Hi all! Sorry for the wait for new material, but I've got two new stories to make up for the delay. The first is with the 9th Doctor, Rose, and...Davros. This idea came about when I considered that besides the Master and the Brigadier, every Doctor has encountered Davros since his debut with the 4th in Genesis of the Daleks. All except the 9th, that is. When Davros returned to face the 10th Doctor and many friends in Journey's End, quite a few details were revealed concerning him and the Time War, mainly that he had almost nothing to do with it; he had been presumed dead (and possibly was) before the first year of the War was over. So this meant Davros had more than likely only met up with the 8th Doctor before his loss, and a 9th Doctor encounter was near impossible before Series 4. But, as it always should be when you want creativity, it was only "near" impossible...

The Jaws of Flame
A 9th Doctor/Rose story, also featuring Davros, and set in the TARDIS while overlooking The Gates of Elysium, which takes place sometime between The Long Game and Father’s Day
By Chris McKeon

Since encountering the Dalek, things had changed. Before they had heard its distress signal and landed in Van Statten’s vault to respond, whenever Rose had broached the subject of the Time War, the Doctor –always chipper, bouncing with excitement and eager simply to talk- would harden beneath the surface and close up, bending near the console and letting its bright lights swallow his concentration, or carrying himself off into the branching corridors of his ship. He would return soon, of course, happy, cheery and talkative as ever, but that inner silence had lingered, like a shadow behind his eyes.
But then came the Dalek, the last survivor of the enemy race of the Doctor’s people, the Time Lords, and with it, not only the memory of that terrible war, but the inescapable fact that both sides were gone forever, leaving only the Doctor to remember them. But if memories only existed in telling them, the Doctor was now bringing them to life. Since destroying the Editor and his master, the Jaggrafess, on Satellite Five, and kicking Adam out of the TARDIS, the Doctor had no sooner closed the doors of the Ship when he had turned to Rose and, with an enormous grin, cried, “Right, now that we’ve got that bit sorted out; let’s take a trip down memory lane!”
“Which one?” Rose had asked, pulling the pins from her hair as the blond strands fell loose around her head.
“Mine! Who else has the best scenic route?”
And with a giddy laugh the Time Lord had rushed up the metal ramp from the doors to the console, pulling levers and punching buttons as the TARDIS launched back into the vortex.
“And I know just the place!”

* * *

And what a place it had been, but Rose had traveled long enough with the Doctor by that point to know that where there was one, there would be countless, and very quickly the Doctor’s trip down memory lane had become an extensive tour through the metropolis of his life: They had visited the Great Wall of China during its construction, the sound extravaganzas of Nocturne, the labyrinth passages of The Library of St. John the Beheaded, the Pacifist Age of Varos, the Co-habited Era of Magnus, the dazzling society of Solos, the edge of the First Earth Empire, the industrial might of Dulcis, the culinary prestige of The Crystal Bucephalus, the volcanic deserts of Sarn, the Third Morestran Theocracy of Zeta Major and the misty forests of Kursall. As the days and weeks and spectacles rushed by, Rose would sometimes stop and stare in wonder at the man whose life she was sharing, whose incredible existence she was experiencing, first hand. And yet, even with each wonder of the Universe visited and each unique spectacle beheld, Rose still felt that although she was getting to know the Doctor, she still was nowhere near the point of understanding him, his tastes, his opinions, and above all, his anger.
She had seen it, in his eyes, as she had stood between the Dalek mutant, a broken creature yearning for freedom as it sat in its open casing and felt the warm sunlight and fresh air caress its twisted flesh; the Doctor, a wounded man torn open from the sorrows and horrors of a past war so terrible, so agonizing, that it had twisted his happy countenance in a hard mask of a rage ready to release its feelings through the barrel of a gun. Thankfully, he had been unable to fire, and as the Dalek had destroyed itself, only an expression of confused sorrow had remained on the Doctor’s face. Rose watched that face once more as she sat on the leather couch in the Console Room while the Doctor guided the TARDIS away from their most recent destination, the planet Vortis. As she studied his bright blue eyes she knew one thing: he would never have pulled the trigger to kill the Dalek, even if she had not stood in his way. The Doctor was too strong in his convictions, too constant, too good, to become like his enemies. But she needed to know what could have damaged him so deeply; she needed to know what had happened. So she decided to ask.
“Doctor, tell me about the Time War.”
The Doctor’s hands froze in mid-pump. Only for a moment. He continued his rhythmic guidance of the TARDIS’ flight.
“Not much to tell, really. The Daleks fought the Time Lords. Both sides died, both sides lost, and I was the only survivor. Well, now I am. End of story.”
“But that Dalek survived, made it all the way to Earth. What if others escaped too?”
The Doctor’s brow furrowed as a frown creased his face. His hand tightened on the vortex primer. The green-blue light from the central column washed over him, darkening his skin with a sickly-hued pallor.
“The Dalek’s search systems couldn’t find any other of its kind alive, and its range wasn’t limited just to space. Believe me, Rose, if there were any other survivors, I’d know about it. I’d want to know about it.”
Rose stared at her friend, saw the haunted look on his face and the quiet anguish in his voice, and suddenly felt ashamed for bringing up the subject.
“Well, forget I mentioned it then.”
The Doctor remained hunched over the console, the lights from the console and its various instruments flashing across his face. After a few moments, he sprang straight and threw his arms wide and towards Rose.
“Rose Tyler, you’re brilliant! And I don’t often say that about other people. And now I’ve got a brilliantly dangerous idea!”
Despite his ebullient compliment, Rose blinked in shock at the Doctor’s sudden turn of mood. There was a near-mania in his eyes she could quite trust to be a good thing.
“You don’t have to go running around just because of me. I mean, you already said it: the Dalek couldn’t find any other survivors; it really was alone.”
“I know, and it was. But you’ve given me a thought, a real scary one too.”
“What’s that?”
“That there was someone else who could have survived, someone that wasn’t a Dalek!”
The Doctor leaned toward to the Console and rushed around it, spinning curves and tugging protrusions upon its panels Rose had never noticed him use before. The TARDIS began to shake as its engines propelled the Ship through the vortex.
“What are you mucking about for, Doctor?” Rose cried out as she fell back upon the couch. The Time Lord, a swift-moving blur of green and dark brown dashing around the console, replied loudly, “I’m taking a detour from memory lane! I’m going back to the Time War! And I hope I make the trip for nothing!”
The Ship spiraled through the vortex, quaking and spinning with increasing ferocity. Suddenly, the shuddering in the room began to subside, but instead of relaxing into the calm that signaled a landing, the interior seemed to shift, as if the TARDIS were pulling away from itself, leaving ghostly echoes in its wake, splintering apart, and just as everything burst into light there was the screaming, a voice like a Dalek only…
“It’s over,” the Doctor said. Rose looked around, blinking. Everything seemed normal; the constant background hum in the room was soft and consistent.
“What just happened?” Rose asked, rising from the couch to join the Doctor at the console.
“We’ve materialized at the Gates of Elysium, overlooking one of the earliest battles of the Time War. Well, as close as possible.”
“‘As close as possible?’ What’s that mean?”
“I mean as close as possible. This was a clash of titans, Rose, strong and massive enough to melt your reality like paper in a fire. So, to protect all the little unsuspecting worlds around, the Time Lords set up a Time Lock, that’s a sort of wall, around each and every battle in time and space we fought against the Daleks. We fought so much and so long, I’m amazed there’s anything left not locked up. But we nudged up against that lock just now. We’ve only got a few moments before it pushes us away.”
“And this time lock, it keeps you from getting inside?”
“Yeah, or anything from getting outside. And that’s what I need to find out.”
The Doctor activated the scanner and pulled the screen in front of him and Rose. She leaned towards the image and her eyes widened in horror at what she saw: Flames. Flames tearing through space like teeth ripping through raw flesh. The jagged fire emerged from the open maw of…something, something gigantic, like an enormous cloud of smoke and glass, blossoming in the surrounding scarred space.
“What…what is that?”
“That, Rose Tyler, is The Nightmare Child, a living craft of mutated space-time, formed from the Gallifreyian anti-matter foundries of Maladoom. It was an abomination fit only for a war like this.”
Rose stared at the flames spewing from the Nightmare Child, and realized the fire was frozen in place.
“It’s not moving, the fire. It’s all stuck in place.”
“Yeah. Good reason for that too. The Nightmare Child was dying- you see the large bit of fire, right at the front? That’s the command ship, The Glory of Skaro, flying straight into the jaws. If the anti-matter had exploded the local space-time would have ruptured, killing everyone in range. So we froze time just before the explosion; it’s been like that since. But you know what the stupidest thing is? The command ship was just trying to run away, but the pilot just couldn’t resist going out in style, one last glorious show of force.”
The Doctor stood back from the scanner. Rose watched his face, and was struck by the raw rush of emotions coursing across his face: anger, sorrow, hopelessness, rushing so fast and thick they could burst forth at any moment…In a moment they were gone. He opened his mouth and spoke, his voice calm but tired.
“But it didn’t matter then and still doesn’t now. It’s all just as it was. No one’s left alive. Everything’s safe and buried. We might as well go.”
Rose nodded, not wanting to keep the Doctor near the grave of his memories any longer. As he moved past her to re-set the guidance systems, she asked one last question.
“This pilot, did you know him?”
“Oh, yes. More than you…” The Doctor’s head snapped to the side towards Rose. “How did you know it was a he?”
“I didn’t, I don’t. It’s just…as we were coming here, I heard this screaming; it sounded like a man, only different, metallic…”
“So it wasn’t just me!” The Doctor cried, as he scrambled to the opposite edge of the console and peered into a flashing row of symbols. He stepped back and his eyes widened.
“It can’t be…”
The Doctor returned to the scanner and toggled a control. An image appeared on the monitor, zooming in upon the jaw-clenched flames embracing the broken edges of a white-hulled hexagon-studded craft, then past the hull and into the ship itself. The scanner showed only fire, of all colours, frozen in its coruscating destruction. But at the centre of the flames, surrounded by their consuming inferno, was a figure, sitting in a chair that looked just like…Rose inhaled in fear: it looked like a Dalek.
“You wanted to know about the Time War, Rose. Well, now you can meet one of its founders. This is Davros, the creator of the Daleks.”
“Their creator? You mean someone actually made them? Why?”
“Long story. Let’s just say, he was the undisputed ruler of a people at war, and he offered them the perfect weapon to end the fighting. But peace wasn’t part of the Daleks’ programming.”
Rose studied the image of Davros with both horror and fascination. Although his upper body was clearly humanoid, his lower half –if he even had one- was hidden within a chair exactly like the base of the Dalek she had faced in Utah. Except where the Dalek’s metal had been a tarnished bronze, Davros’ chair was black with silver knobs lining its metal slats.
“Why’s he sitting in that thing?”
“He was crippled in a radioactive attack before I met him. It scarred him, body and soul.”
Rose gazed upon the part of Davros that still resembled a body. He was dressed in a black leather tunic which reflected the surrounding fire sharply upon its surface. His left arm hung limp at his side, while his right arm was raised in defensive agony above his head. Rose blinked as she saw his hand.
“It’s metal; his hand is all metal.”
“Another long story, well, a couple of stories. He lost more and more of himself to violence and conquest.”
Finally, Rose gazed upon the face of Davros; a hairless covering of melted gray flesh crowned with a silver wire injected into several places around the skull. His eyes were hollow, only dead useless lids sealed his eyes. They had been replaced by a single, brilliant blue mechanical eye shining in the centre of his forehead. But the most haunting feature of the face was the mouth, twisted forever into a wide scream…
The Doctor stepped close to Rose and spoke, soft and resigned.
“The Time War was a terrible, complicated event. Old friends were lost forever, old enemies returned for final battles, and some people were just caught in the crossfire. Davros may have created the Daleks, but they never thanked him for it. In fact they tried to kill him for the rest of his life. In the end, he wasn’t just running from us, he was running from them.”
“But…but he’s still there, still alive. We heard him, his screaming…”
“No, that’s just an echo from the past, no more, no less. I think the only reason we can even see him now is because of a slight temporal delay of the Time Lock. All it comes down to is he’s gone, gone long before we ever arrived.”
A harsh chime from the console attracted the Doctor’s attention and he glanced at the signaling instrument.
“The lock’s pushing us back. Hold tight now!”
As the TARDIS began to shudder and white light filled the Console Room, the echo of Davros’ screams broke into the ship once more. With a look of anguish, the Doctor glanced at the image of his old enemy of the scanner, blurring with static.
“I tried to save him, Rose. I tried so hard to make peace. And now it’s too late.”
“But if you had another chance, you’d save him now, wouldn’t you?”
The Doctor looked at Davros once more, then back to Rose.
“Yes, I would do it! Why not?”
The TARDIS shifted…
…and then they were in flight once more, cruising through the currents of the Time Vortex. The Doctor sighed and leaned upon the console, his breathing deep, his face white and his eyes wide, but without steel underneath. What lay within was stripped bare. Rose approached the Doctor and placed a hand on his arm.
“Are you all right?”
The Doctor looked up at with his hollow eyes, and for a moment he looked as if he were about to crumple. Then his face flashed a wide smile.
“Course I am, what else would I be?”
He then hurried around the console and began to re-calibrate the flight path director. Rose watched him for a moment.
“I’m sorry I asked you, Doctor. I’m sorry I made you go back. I can’t imagine how it was.”
“Well, a little memory isn’t a bad thing, you know, to remember why it happened, and what we fought for. But it’s in the past now. And you know what? It makes the present and future look so much better.”
The Doctor grinned. Rose returned the smile.
“So, Rose, where are we off to next?”
“How about somewhere new? Someplace off memory lane?”
The Doctor grinned even wider.
“Your wish is my coordinates!”
And they spun off in the TARDIS to places new.

* * *

In the silence of time unremembered, behind the Time Lock of a race long deceased, The Glory of Skaro died continually in the jaws of The Nightmare Child during the battle at The Gates of Elysium, fought in the first year of The Last Time War. Within the Nightmare Child’s jaws of flame, Davros, creator of the Daleks, cowered in frozen fear in the last moments of his life, stilled for all eternity just before the moment of his death, the sound of his own screaming resounding in his synthetic ears. For a long time, all remained this way. And then, long after the Doctor and Rose had come and gone, another scream approached…

Monday, July 14, 2008

My 9th Doctor/Master story

This story came about when, after I'd paired the 9th Doctor and the Brigadier, I felt it absolutely required to pit this Doctor against the Master. Given the revelations provided of the Master post-Time War in Utopia, I wasn't sure how to accomplish this. Then, I remembered Paul Cornell's Scream of the Shalka, and the idea came to me...

Under the Stairs
A 9th Doctor/Rose story, featuring the Derek Jacobi Master, and set in the TARDIS sometime between Father’s Day and The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
By Chris McKeon

Rose Tyler leaned over the banister of the bronze spiral staircase and looked up, counting the innumerable levels of floors inside the TARDIS’ Wardrobe Room, each cluttered with all types of clothing and analogous apparel. She then cast her gaze downwards and tried to count the number of fabric-laden floors beneath her, but the thick darkness surrounding (what must have been) the base of the staircase made her heart beat and her mind swirl with dizziness and unease.
She brought her eyes level and spied something appealing: a white t-shirt with a Union Jack emblazoned on its front and back. That’s more like it, she thought to herself. Rose had felt in need of an image change for a while now, ever since that relationship misstep with Adam, and then later, meeting her Dad after he should have been dead. That was something she had changed, and something that had nearly destroyed the Earth. Rose knew the Doctor had forgiven her for what she had done there, but as for forgiving herself…since that adventure she definitely had needed something to boost her mood.
She stepped off the staircase onto the desired level (although she had no idea how the steps managed to merge onto the required floor) and retrieved the shirt, along with a pair of jeans just her size. Rose smiled and patted a nearby coral-shaped support column.
“You and me, TARDIS or whatever you really call yourself, we do all right together, don’t we? I just hope you don’t mind sharing the Doctor.”
Rose thought of him as she walked back to the staircase and started her descent to the level with the entryway that led back to the Console Room, where she had left him. He was so amazing, so fun, so strange, and so…mysterious. Rose wished she had always known him, always traveled with him; her life until now would have been much better. But at least I have him now, she mused as she reached the doorway and passed through. Rose paused: the corridor looked different somehow, darker perhaps, with more shadows. She was not completely surprised; the Doctor had informed her that the TARDIS was alive, and sometimes liked to shake up its inside layout. Even so, the shadows made her uneasy and as she closed the door Rose kept her arm stretched out to let her fingers brush along the roundels inset within the corridor’s wall, just to keep her bearings.
Suddenly, the door clicked behind her; Rose tugged at the handle; the door was locked. Then, very quickly, the temperature began to drop. What was the TARDIS playing at? Rose stopped and looked upwards.
“All right…old girl, Ship…this isn’t funny anymore. I’ve done my shopping and found my new clothes; I just want to get back to the Console Room and the Doctor, our friend. Well…your friend and mine.”
The temperature continued to drop; the metal walls creaked with the cold. Rose shivered and held her arms close to her body, and as she inhaled a shuddering breath, the surrounding shadows seemed to darken and draw in closer. Something was wrong: this was not the TARDIS playing games, this was some other power. And then she heard it, coming out from the shadows: something was chuckling.
Rose was about to break into a run, if only to be going somewhere, anywhere, but then a thought came to her: Okay, so something’s mucking about down here, but I think this is still the same way I came. So before you go rushing around in the dark, think, Rose, stick to the plan, the way you came. So what was that, what were the directions the Doctor gave you…directions, directions…Yes! First left, second right, go third on the right, go straight ahead, under the stairs, past the bins, fifth door on my left. Right, so…
Rose let go of the wardroom door’s handle (the skin of her fingers clung for a moment to the frigid metal) and, moving quickly but steadily and keeping her hand near the wall, she counted the doors on her left as she moved past: Fifth, Fourth, Third, Second, First! Rose looked forward and gave a small laugh: there were the bins, large, black, rubber and smelling of…bananas? Moving past the containers, Rose kept her eyes peeled for the staircase: nothing at all like the one in the wardrobe room, this one was carved from black oak varnished smooth, with burgundy carpeted steps leading to some upper floor…she saw it, straight ahead. Rose hurried beneath and saw out of the corner of her eye a black double door with a white roundel near its top on both sides, set into the wall under the stairs. She cried out in terror as the doors swung inwards and a powerful inrush of wind pulled her inside. She dropped the Union Jack shirt and the jeans, which flailed in the air as she fell while the doors slammed shut, plunging everything into darkness…

* * *

The Doctor was hunched over the console, using the scanner to monitor the artron energy saturation levels within the core of the TARDIS. The recent incident on Earth with Pete Tyler and the Reaper caste of Chronovores had drained some of the machine’s power but it would be quite a while before she would be in need of refueling. His concentration was interrupted by a deep chime resonating throughout the Ship.
“The Cloister Bell? What’s got you so jumpy, old girl?”
At that moment there was a subtle but notable change in the time machine’s atmosphere, as if the air had grown heavier, colder. Something was stirring within the TARDIS, something very familiar. Then, from the corridor leading out of the room, there was a sharp cry: “Doctor!” The Time Lord immediately recognized the source.
The Doctor dashed from the console, to the exit door, out into the rest of the Ship. The air was even colder in the corridor and the lights were dim and flickering. The Doctor called for Rose but heard no reply. Where had she been heading? The Wardrobe Room. The directions were easy enough; the Doctor hurried through the passageway and took the first left…

* * *

Rose opened her eyes; she saw only dull shafts of light. She had not quite lost consciousness as the wind had pulled her into…wherever she was now, but she almost had, enough to make her head ache and her body wish to keep down on the floor, but she had to stand: the Doctor was sure to have noticed the TARDIS turning balmy and she had made sure to scream loud enough for him to hear. He would find her, and until he did, she would do her best to make the search easy. She stood, rubbed her eyes and took a deep breath to steady the throbbing in her head.
“You’d better not have dropped me in the dungeon,” she said to whatever part of the Doctor’s ship might be listening. Then she looked around to where the TARDIS had taken her: a large, dark room lit with occasional pools of soft light, like the one directly before her. What was standing in the light? Stepping closer, Rose saw it was the portrait of a young woman with red curly hair, smiling enigmatically like a Mona Lisa in bottle-green velvet. Or at least Rose thought it was a woman with red curls dressed in green: the paint was so old and faded that the colours presented almost seemed to merge into a uniform grey. Rose stepped back and saw many other framed portraits, of many people, although some were clearly not human- one almost looked like a penguin. This was some kind of art gallery, Rose realized, but who were the subjects- friends of the Doctor, perhaps?
No matter whose portraits they were, this gallery had seen better days, Rose thought. It was like a museum no one had taken care of or kept clean, except… A well-lit area not too far away within the vast room caught Rose’s eye. She turned to get a better look, and saw, beneath a single, cold white light, a collection of large paintings mounted on ornate stands of black iron. Rose approached the montage and examined the pictures. Unlike the other, faded paintings she had just seen, these were clean and well-preserved, with colours rich and striking. Nevertheless, the predominant colour in each portrait was black, but what portraits they were. On each canvas- half a dozen or so in number -was the full body image of a man, a different one for each, all incredibly handsome. Rose stepped close to examine them.
On one canvas was stenciled the figure of a young, devilishly handsome man with long, sharp sideburns and a thin, beard length moustache. His hand vainly clutched at a strange medallion hanging around his neck, as if clinging to the only power in his possession, while a dark, misshapen shadow stretched behind him, like two bodies mashed together. Another featured a suave, older man with a dark goatee, dressed in a black Nehru style jacket and trousers, his eyes radiating a fierce, evil intelligence wrapped in charm. The next portrait was oddly designed: a trypthic, which featured in its centre another man with a goatee dressed in a bizarre, music-hall black velvet penguin suit. Flanking him were two images of the same hideous, skeletal-faced cadaver, on one side dressed in a tattered black cloak and hood, on the other in a majestic black jumpsuit with a deep purple cape. One other portrait revealed a young man, similarly bearded, in a black tailcoat edged with silver at the collar, a blue waistcoat and green cravat, with a lean face, aquiline profile and shoulder-length black hair. Yet another image presented the frightening figure of a man with dark, swept-back hair and yellow snake-like eyes, dressed in a two-piece black velvet jumpsuit with a gigantic cloak the hue of coagulated blood. Rose gazed closely at this man’s image: at first it seemed he was the only one of the lot without a beard of some kind, but then she saw a very thin goatee squaring a cruel mouth. She stepped back from the collection and gazed at the presentation in total, and wondered, despite the care and pride of place clearly given to the portraits, if the images were of the Doctor’s friends, or foes.
Then Rose noticed a painting she had missed, although she was not sure how she could have. It was a long, rectangular image of yet another bearded man with dark swept-back hair, wearing a leather suit so jet-black it looked almost shiny; on the finger of one gloved hand was a ring with gold circles etched into its flat jade surface. What struck Rose the most about the image, however, and perhaps more than any of the others, was the man’s eyes: deep hollows, filled with shadow and malevolence; at the centre of both were piercing circles of deep blue, so penetrating and dark…
Rose blinked and looked away. She still needed to get out of there, find the Doctor and find out what had been going on. She stepped to the side to walk past the canvas, and froze with surprise: there was something standing behind the painting! Rose was on the verge of jumping back but noticed the figure, draped in the shadow of the canvas behind it, had not moved at all when she had come into view. There was no way it could miss her; why was it keeping still? Keeping her distance, Rose called to it.
“Hello? Who are you then?”
There was no reply, no movement, no sign the figure was registering her presence. Then Rose noticed something very important: the figure was not even breathing. It was some kind of statue, she realized, no danger at all. But a statue of what?
The portrait was slanting back and over the statue-which Rose by now could tell was in the shape of man-and blocked most of the light bathing the entire display from above. Rose reached behind the figure, grabbed the obstructing picture’s supporting iron stand and pushed it back from the statue as best as she could; portrait and stand were both very heavy. She managed to clear the light’s path and the statue was revealed. Rose blinked in surprise. It was an exact and very life-like replica of the man in the portrait: the same perfect, swept-back black hair, the neatly trimmed goatee beard, the smooth black leather suit and gloves. Every detail was re-created, even down to the eyes, so dark and piercing and…and…mesmerizing…pulling her in…down into the shadows of the eyes…what?...the ring? What ring? On the finger. It’s there, just like in the painting. It’s so beautiful, so pretty. I just want to touch it…
Rose reached out her hand to the ring…

* * *

The Doctor’s feet clanked quickly on the metal grating beneath him as he hurried down the corridor. The air was freezing cold, and he sensed the familiar presence in the space around him; something had reached out here, reached out and pulled, but where?
Just as he was about to pass under the stairs, the Doctor noticed something on the floor before him, and stopped. A Union Jack t-shirt and a dark pair of jeans lay crumpled on the ground, just in front of a large double door set into the wall, black with two white roundels near the top. A pair of doors he had sealed himself, to keep inside…
The Doctor flung open the doors and crossed the threshold, his fingers clenched…

* * *

Rose’s hand reached forward, her fingers touched the surface of the ring on the statue’s hand, and she jumped back with a sharp cry as an electric pulse slid up her arm. She swayed on her feet, her mind felt hazy and unfocused. The fog in her mind cleared as she witnessed a bizarre transformation: the statue was awash with its own light, a light somehow dark and dense. Rose gasped- the statue, the man was moving, and smiling…
The light faded. The man blinked and his dark eyes focused and fixed upon Rose. His smile, with no trace of kindness within it, widened and he spoke.
“Thank you, my dear child. You have ended a most unwelcome slumber.”
“What are you talking about? What did I do?”
The man stretched his neck and limbs. “I should have thought your actions were clear- you broke the stasis field binding me when you touched my ring; it was the focus point of the energy, you see.”
“But…but you were in my head, I heard you. Wait. It was you, wasn’t it? You brought me here.”
“Yes, I must admit some complicity in your arrival, and also some surprise: after all these years of bondage in the darkness,”-the man’s voice grew harsh and venomous- “I had worried my hypnotic abilities would have atrophied beyond retrieval, but now I find they have only grown stronger through the frustration, the inequity, of my imprisonment! I reached out through the TARDIS, discovered your presence- a simple, childish mind- and I lured you, gripped you, to free me so that I, at long last, can face the Doctor once more, and collect the final dues of my revenge!”
The light overhead dimmed and stuttered; the room grew cold, even colder than the corridor outside had been. The man advanced upon Rose with eyes blazing, coming to a halt less than a foot in front of her, and smiled once more.
“Has fear so gripped you that you can’t even speak, girl?”
“I’m not afraid of you,” Rose retorted, even as she heard her voice quake and her skin go numb. “So you’d better tell me who you are, before the Doctor finds you.”
The man laughed a frightful, jeering chuckle. “Oh, how wonderful-you don’t even know who I am! Well then, allow me to announce myself. I am the Master, and you have restored me, and ensured the Doctor’s final destruction!”
Rose drew herself up with anger. “And just who are you to the Doctor?”
“He’s one of my people, Rose. He’s a Time Lord, aren’t you, Master?”
The Master stiffened at the voice-the Doctor’s voice-from behind. Then he rubbed his hands together and turned around to face his fellow man, whose silhouette stood still amongst the portraits and the shadows.
“Yes, Doctor, as always. Not even death can alter that; I speak from vast experience.”
“Yeah, well, from my vast experience I know it’s rude to turn off other people’s lights, so…” the high-pitched whine of the Sonic Screwdriver warbled and a large column of light suddenly brightened the immediate area, revealing the Doctor standing mere feet from the Master and Rose. The Doctor extended his free hand.
“Come here, Rose. My company’s better anyway.”
“But I think it’s mine you should attend to, Doctor,” the Master said, as Rose joined the Doctor at his side. “I have waited a good many years to have yours again.”
“You can wait a bit longer then,” the Doctor sneered as he turned to Rose. “Are you all right? He hasn’t hurt you?”
“No, he only just woke up. Oh Doctor, I’m sorry-I got pulled in here and found him just standing there, and then I just heard his voice telling me to touch his ring…”
“It’s all right; it’s not your fault. The Master’s a genius at hypnotism, but I never knew him to be so extensive in his persuasion.” The Doctor turned on the Master. “Did you tie into the ship’s telepathic circuits to get to her then?”
“You speak as though you doubted my abilities, but you should know their extent by now, and my power, the power of a Time Lord, the power we both wield!”
Rose gripped the Doctor’s arm and whispered, “But you said all the Time Lords were dead; you knew it in your head.”
“Yeah, I did. I still do, see?” The Doctor tapped his head and grinned. “Same head, same certainty.” The Doctor stared at the Master, and Rose could have sworn there was true sadness in his voice when he spoke next. “And I know you’re really dead.”
“Don’t be so preposterous, Doctor, I clearly live! Or have you finally lost your senses?”
“No, but you will.” The Doctor raised his Sonic Screwdriver and pressed a control, which emitted a soft, fluting sound pulse. The Master blinked and convulsed slightly before standing motionless; the blue of his eyes dimmed. Rose stared at the Doctor in shock.
“Did you kill him?”
“No, Rose, he was never really alive.”
“And is he really a Time Lord?”
“He was. A great one, the most evil one, but great too. I knew him all of my life.”
“And he was your friend?”
“But he became an enemy?”
“Then what is he now?”
“Let’s find out.” The Doctor took a moment to prepare and then toggled the control on the screwdriver once more. The Master shook as his eyes brightened like miniature headlights. He blinked rapidly and stared hard at the Doctor.
“What happened to me?”
“I turned you off, Master. I deactivated your systems.”
“Deactivated…my systems? What do you mean?”
“I mean I shut down your electronic pathways, what else-you were never this thick when you were alive.”
“You lie; this is some sort of trick to confuse me!”
“Well go on then, if you won’t believe me, see for yourself; take off your glove, the one on the hand without the ring.”
The Master sneered at the Doctor’s instruction, but obliged, fully expecting to see nothing but smooth skin beneath the leather. All too soon he felt all his expectation drain away as the material slipped off to reveal a mass of gleaming metal and intricately woven circuitry studded with miniature lights. The only resemblance it had to a hand was its shape, and even that, to the Master, seemed unfamiliar. After a few moments, he spoke again, his voice flat and dull.
“So it’s true. I am some kind of android.”
“Yeah, you are: the first and last of your kind.”
“What ‘kind’ is that, my dear Doctor?”
“A prototype Gallifreyian consciousness receptacle, an artificial body for a living mind. When the Time Lords retrieved you from within the TARDIS’ link to the Eye of Harmony, they constructed a bio-mechanical drone to house your consciousness, at least until a new body could be woven for you.”
“How industrious of them, although I never knew the Time Lords to be so concerned with the aesthetics of appearance,” the Master interjected, gesturing to his face.
“Yeah, well, it was decided to imprint your future incarnation’s appearance upon the receptacle, enough to make it an easier transition for you.”
“Ah, yes, I see. Your voice in the matter, no doubt. I find it almost amusing and contemptible that you felt there was any situation I would find traumatic, particularly resurrection. You should know me better, Doctor.”
“I’d hoped to have known you in a new way, a new beginning.”
“It’s the ending I’m unsure of-you say this…container for my mind was built simply as a waiting cell until a true new body could be formed for me. Were the Time Lords successful in this?”
“They were, for all the good you caused them.”
“I expect nothing less from myself. And I also expect that you will now tell me that you kept this technological design as a momento of your kindness to me, even when something of mind still resided within, trapped and caged in the darkness?” There it was again, the feral rage hardening the Master’s voice. His hands clenched tight. The Doctor noticed this and approached this echo of his oldest friend and enemy, with pleading in his voice.
“No, it wasn’t like that! The Time Lords told me there was nothing left of you inside the machine, not even a trace.”
“And you never bothered to confirm.”
“Of course I did! There was nothing I could detect, nothing remaining.”
“Ah, but there was, I made sure of it. Just one thought, one consideration, Doctor: the thought of your death. That primary concern, that shard of my will I left behind in this vehicle for the right moment when I could inflict it upon you, as you had inflicted it upon me.”
“I tried to save you.”
“I don’t need your charity, Doctor, I never have. I only need your death.”
The Doctor stepped back, his face a mask of bitter disappointment. Then he gave a sad half-smile. “Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it? Because, Master or not, you’re still just a thread of thought in a metal suit. And we made sure not to give you any weapons.”
The Master smiled as he pulled the glove back onto his hand. “Perhaps so; it is true I am simply a shadow of myself, and unarmed at that. You’ve already proven you can deactivate me at will, but your young friend, Miss Rose…”
“Tyler,” Rose answered, coming to the Doctor’s side but keeping her eyes from the Master’s face; she did not like the way he was watching her.
“Ah. As I say, Miss Tyler has also proven I can be awakened. What I had, in my mental delirium, assumed to be a stasis field which broke when she touched my ring, was in fact, I imagine, an on-switch. You can confirm this, I’m sure, Doctor?”
“Why should I?”
“Ah, thank you. That evasion will suffice.” The Master’s fingers gripped the sides of the ring. “I wonder if the energy input can be reversed.” The Master twisted the ring and a bright spark of electricity lanced to the Doctor, striking the fabric of his green jumper directly over his hearts. The Doctor howled in pain as he fell to his knees and his limbs and torso convulsed wildly, the line of energy sparking and flowing into his body as the Master advanced upon him step by step, his mouth opened with a wide smile as he chuckled with loud laughter.
Rose, her body tense with outrage and shock, turned to the Master and screamed, “Stop it! You’re gonna kill him!”
Between harder laughs, the Master replied, “Killing the Doctor has been my intent for more years than he cares to admit; nothing will stop me now…now…n-n-n-…”
The Master shuddered. The electric line connecting his ring to the Doctor’s chest flashed and winked out. The Master’s arm dropped and his body drooped, but his eyes remained bright. The Doctor fell back onto the floor, his jumper smoking and his face drenched in sweat. After a few moments, he coughed and wheezed the words, “Not enough…energy to go…around, huh? Or to…finish the job. You’ve got…a limited power supply, Master,” the Doctor said with stronger voice as he lifted himself up his elbow, “and once that’s gone, well, you won’t need me to turn you off.”
“Perhaps not, Doctor,” the Master sneered, his voice slightly slurring but filled with hatred, “Nevertheless, I always maintain a fresh supply of alternatives!” With speed not born of flesh, the Master leapt towards Rose and clamped his hand around her throat. The Doctor tried to stand but the Master squeezed his fingers ever slightly and Rose’s eyes bulged from the pressure.
“I have the strength of the strongest Gallifreyian metals, Doctor; it will take very little extra pressure to collapse the girl’s throat permanently. Now you will take me to the Console Room immediately, or young Miss Tyler will learn, first-hand, what it means to die as your faithful companion.”
The Doctor held up his hands in front of him. “All right, all right! I’ll come peacefully.”
“Very good, Doctor, and peacefully means no weapons of any kind, particularly your screwdriver.”
With a grimace, the Doctor looked at the Sonic Screwdriver in his hand and flung it away into the shadows of the gallery. “There. Satisfied with the terms?” he asked with an insincere smile.
The Master smiled. “Perfectly. Now move!”
Leading the way, the Doctor walked towards the gallery doors, with the Master and Rose just behind.

* * *

They entered the Console Room a few minutes later, and the Master, with Rose in tow, walked up to the console itself, surveying its design.
“You’ve made significant alterations to the machine’s control interface, Doctor, and…if I didn’t know better I’d say you’ve changed the energy requirements of the TARDIS itself, almost as if…it has a different power source. Your TARDIS is no longer connected to the Eye of Harmony, why?”
The Doctor shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t you remember?”
The Master set his jaw. “No matter, I can find my answers where we are headed.”
“And where would that be,” the Doctor asked, keeping his eyes on Rose, reassuring her.
“To where I am, Doctor, to the location of my true self. We will trace the whereabouts of my TARDIS from here and then I will rejoin my full consciousness and start again. Now do it!”
The Doctor remained where he stood, and genuine sympathy appeared in his face.
“You really don’t remember, do you? No, you wouldn’t. You only remember what came before.”
“My memories are not your concern, but unless you want to carry the memory of your dead friend on your conscience then you will obey me!”
“I can’t! Not the way you want. I can’t obey you because there’s no you left out there. I’m sorry, but what I said before is true: you’re dead. The real Master is dead.”
The Master’s eyes widened and he set his ring to Rose’s neck.
“It is not in your interest to lie to me right now. Take me to myself!”
“I’m not lying! I’m being very hurtfully honest!” The Doctor’s voice shook as he continued to speak, as if long buried emotions were rising from their resting place. “I saw you die, in the Time War. Your TARDIS shattered in the focus of the Cruciform-I saw it happen, I saw you on the scanner and you saw me. And then there was nothing but the time winds. You’re all that’s left of the Master, a broken off splinter in a metal shell. You’re just a ghost of the past that should never have woken up.”
The Master stared daggers at the Doctor, disbelief and fury blazing in his eyes.
“I don’t believe it,” he whispered, and then much louder, “I won’t accept it!” He threw Rose brutally to the side and fell onto the console, his fingers flying over switches as he activated the scanner and pulled its screen before his face. Then, even in the white light of the screen, the Master’s face seemed to blanch.
“It’s impossible…” he whispered. The Doctor, silent and grief-stricken, joined the Master by his side and placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, but it’s true. It’s all gone. Gallifrey’s gone.”
For a moment neither man spoke. Then the Master began to laugh, but stopped when he noticed the Doctor’s hand. With a snarl he slapped it from shoulder and threw the Doctor against the far wall of the room, who slid down nearly senseless.
“As if I care who died in that infantile conflict; I have survived! And therefore I must be out there somewhere, I must! I just have to find myself…”
The Master hurried around the console, searching for…The telepathic circuits! With a rush of anticipation he laid his hands upon the interface and, cursing his metal form, focused his will into the exionic circuitry, flooding the vastness of the Vortex with his consciousness, searching for himself…and found nothing. He tried again, pushing harder. Still nothing. He boosted the power to the device, dispersing his mind as far as he could think, to all the places in the Cosmos he had visited: the planet of the War Games, London, Exarius, Spiridon, the Gaderene's homeworld, Scotland, 22nd centuty Earth, Terserus, Xeraphas, Sarn, Singapore, The Great Attractor, Perfugium, San Francisco, everywhere! But there was no sign, no memory, and no presence of the Master, other than himself. But still he refused to give up. The Master hissed as he poured more of himself into the TARDIS’ telepathic circuits; smoke began to billow of the console, and his own body…
Suddenly the Doctor was at his side, yelling in his ear.
“You’ve gotta stop this; you’re overloading the circuitry, you’ll burn out your mind!”
“I never knew you were so concerned for my safety, Doctor, nor so unaware of my strengths! I am the Master, and I will succeed in spite of weaknesses, and in spite of you!”
Fire began to leap from the panels, engulfing the Master’s hands and traveling up his arms, melting the leather upon them. He felt no physical pain from the assault, but his mind was burning as the mental stresses of his frantic search unraveled his thoughts. The Master screamed in torment…and then the TARDIS’ engines roared into life, as the ship spun violently through the vortex, throwing the Doctor, who had only just begun to recover, to the floor. Only the Master remained standing, his hands clamped tight upon the telepathic interface. He began to laugh with abandon.
“You see, Doctor? Even your own antique ship obeys my command, and she has found me at last!”
“No, it’s not what you think,” the Doctor shouted as he struggled to rise. “The TARDIS is only reacting to your invasion of her systems. She’s flying blind, trying to get away from you; if you don’t let her go now she’ll force you out, she’ll destroy you!”
“Never, Doctor, never! I am a Time Lord, the greatest of all, and greater than you! I have overcome death itself, nothing more can harm…” The Master went silent as if hearing something within. There was a flash of blinding light as a tremendous explosion expelled fire throughout the console, sending the Master flying backwards into the main doors, screaming, wild and incoherent. At that moment, the room grew still and the central column ceased to move.
“What’s happened, Doctor?” Rose asked as she stood and stared at the smoking, slumped figure of the Master.
“We’ve landed,” he replied, also rising and examining the console. “Thankfully there’s little actual damage done, but the destination settings are all scrambled; I don’t even know where, or when, we are.”
“Well, let’s take a look,” Rose said as she switched on the scanner and the two peered at the image on its screen: a breathtaking seascape of silver dunes like metal waves undulating as far the horizon sparkling in the distance. A massive spiraling nebula of silver fire and smoke hung in the sky, sifting and shimmering and twisting. The Doctor smiled wide.
“This is the Silver Devastation, Rose, one of most magnificent planets within the Isop Galaxy. It’s also the homeworld of the Face of the Boe.”
“It’s gorgeous,” Rose said, turning to smile at the Doctor. “But is it safe?”
“Of course it’s safe, completely visitor-friendly.”
Rose looked over to the TARDIS doors, and her smile vanished.
“Yeah, well, it’s about to get an unfriendly visitor.”
The Doctor followed Rose’s gaze: the TARDIS doors were open; the Master was gone.
“Come on,” the Doctor said as he hurried out through the doors.
Outside, the planet seemed less inviting, as cold air pressed against Rose’s skin and dark clouds crossed over the sky; a storm was approaching. She and the Doctor followed the footsteps- and further on drag marks- of the Master, until the Doctor stopped in his tracks at the crest of a steep slope of silver sand. At the bottom of the valley, crumpled in the sand, lay the Master, his blackened face staring up into the rolling clouds. The Doctor raced down the slope, but Rose purposefully stayed behind- the Doctor deserved this moment alone. Then she noticed something not too far off to her left. She went over to get a closer look…

* * *

Down below, the Doctor knelt by the body of what remained of his once best friend and later greatest enemy, a cruel murderer, a being of pure malice, the quintessence of evil. If only he could help him…The Master’s eyes snapped open. He chuckled once more.
“I could never have let myself be nursed by you, Doctor, be cared for by you. I would prefer extinction to that courtesy. But this is not the end. You think you are the lone survivor, Doctor. You think you are the last. You are wrong, as always. I won; I found myself, and soon I shall be whole again. Just you wait…”
“But there’s nothing here, nothing to find. You’ve only lost yourself forever.”
“Oh my dear Doctor, ever none the wiser…” the Master fell silent and his head slumped. The lights of his eyes sank down into the darkness. The Master was well and truly dead.
There was a flash of lightning and a torrent of rain began to fall from the heavy clouds above. The storm had arrived. The Doctor cradled the Master’s head in his hands and felt his hearts overflow with emotion. But before any tears could fall, he heard Rose cry out his name. He looked over his shoulder and saw her standing at the top of the slope, carrying something wrapped in a dark bundle. The Doctor hurried up to meet her and to see what she carried. It was baby, no more than an infant, sleeping peacefully.
“I found this just over there, wrapped up like this,” Rose said. “Doctor, who could have left this baby here all alone?”
“I don’t know, Rose, I don’t know. We’ve got to take it somewhere safe and warm. Let’s go back to the…” The Doctor paused as something caught his eye. Rose followed his gaze and saw them: a caravan of people, countless in number, traveling across the silver wastes. The Doctor smiled. “Come on then, large groups can always use one more!”
The Doctor and Rose carried their little find to the head of the group, whom they discovered was leading a group of travelers away from their dying homeworld. They accepted the small child from the Doctor and Rose with gratitude, pleased to increase their throng of survivors. Leaving the mass of wanderers behind and fleeing from the increasing storm, the two friends raced back to the TARDIS.
Safe inside the Console Room, the Doctor set the ship in flight once more and began repairs to the flight path indicator.
Watching him, Rose said, “I’m sorry for your loss, Doctor, even if the Master was monstrous; he was probably the last thing you had of home.”
“Yeah, he was. But he was dead to me a long time before that. Still, I have the TARDIS and I have my life.”
Rose smiled. “You’re all right then?”
The Doctor grinned. “With you, Rose Tyler, I’m fantastic.” And the two continued on their adventures.

* * *

On the Silver Devastation, at the bottom of a shallow sandy valley, the charred remains of an android body smoked and sizzled in the rain. Then its eyes flashed and a mass of golden energy, like dust, rose from its head and flew into the air. It traveled some distance, towards a moving caravan of countless people, before settling over a naked child wrapped in black fabric. The golden dust flew down, not into the child, but into something hidden inside its blanket. The child’s caretaker failed to notice all but a stolen glimpse of a flash near the child’s skin. Reaching into the blanket, the woman pulled out a small golden circular object, covered in strange foreign markings, attached to a gold chain. For a moment, she thought of tossing the bauble into the sand. But her mind was soon overtaken by an odd and sudden blankness, her hand thoughtlessly placing the object back into the safety of the child’s blanket, where it was left forgotten and forever unnoticed.

* * *

Some time after the caravan had departed the shores of the Silver Devastation, the rushing winds brushed away the imprint of their footsteps. The winds also uncovered a small buried object: a long, black tube, with a bulbous circle at one end, which bore an uncanny resemblance to a weapon a certain Time Lord had always favoured...

My 9th Doctor/Brigadier story

Hi all! This isn't about Time's Champion, but I decided to post my fictional works on a separate page so as to devote more attention to these new works. I'm placing here the two stories already written so far, and in the near future I will also post another story I wrote for the Shelf Life anthology- after its full publication- and, as they come, more fictional works. Hopefully some of these will either inspire or lead to more official publications in the time to come! :) So, onward and upward! -Chris

My first story, Personal Correspondence, a 9th Doctor/Brigadier story, was written about a month before the announcement that the Brigadier himself was returning to The Sarah Jane Adventures. To honour that moment, and in the hope he'll return to Doctor Who next, I'm posting this adventure, set at the end of Aliens of London/World War Three. I chose this setting as the tv episodes involved already feature UNIT, and I asked myself, as far back as 2005, 'if the Brigadier were watching these events unfold, what would he do in response?' The answer is this narrative, which may be, so far, the only existing fiction featuring this Doctor/Brigadier pairing. But, from me at least, it won't be the last. :) Here's to the hope they'll appear on-screen together soon, along with the 10th and the rest! :)

Personal Correspondence
By Chris McKeon
A 9th Doctor/Brigadier story also featuring Benton, Yates, UNIT, Doris, Bessie, and a Slitheen, set before the final scene of Aliens of London/World War Three

From the journal of Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, Date Entry 5 March, 2006

Sometimes I wonder how different the world would be if everyone were to chuck out their computers to the dustbin and take up pen and paper again. But, so it seems, the information age is upon us, and has been for a good many years. Why else would the top brass at UNIT insist upon only electronic correspondence? Maybe I’m simply growing nostalgic for old times, and absent friends.
Doris and I have just returned today from a delightful stay in the Lake District, where we met with Kate and young Gordy for his sixteenth birthday. The lad has so much of his mother in him, so bright and young, with much to offer the world. He might yet make a fine soldier.
It seems, however, while we’ve been gone, there’s been a surprising amount of UFO activity right in the heart of London. Reports on the News indicate that a ship of apparently alien origin crashed into the Thames early this afternoon, taking a good swipe out of Big Ben’s tower as it passed. Of course I immediately logged on to the UNIT mainframe for the real news, but, strangely, I found no clear intelligence. Now I know I’m not exactly on the front lines anymore, but neither am I stuck in mothballs these days. Perhaps the recent ICIS business has left my relationship with UNIT’s current establishment rather more strained than I believed. If only every covert organization could work together.
Thankfully, there are still those who recognize the chain of command; a call to Mike at HQ provided the necessary details. But the details are the strangest of all: the alien pulled from the craft and examined at Albion Hospital wasn’t alien at all, but a bona fide pig in a space suit! Either someone’s having a lark or these are the most juvenile extraterrestrials UNIT will ever encounter.
Whatever the source, the government considers this situation a threat and has scheduled an official meeting for the country’s top alien experts. Captain Frost and several other officers will be attending and soon events should become clearer. Doris is calling me-the television news reports that the experts are arriving at 10 Downing Street just now. I’ll just go and have a look; perhaps I can recognize some faces…

From the journal of Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, Date Entry 6 March 2006

This is absolute madness. So much horror just in the last day. It seems the meeting was a death trap; all that attended were quickly murdered by, according to initial intelligence, high electric discharge devices hidden within the identification cards given to each attendee. Following this, an MP for the DEFRA committee announced the Prime Minister’s death, and, as acting PM, announced that the country, even the world, was now in its first interplanetary war. He then proposed that the UN release its nuclear codes to attack the alien threat, which they did- the fools! -but then, inexplicably, someone on the outside hacked into UNIT’s missile defense system and launched a projectile directly at 10 Downing Street itself! The site is now in ruins; it’s unclear how many survivors there are, but a woman claiming to be the MP for Flydale North was seen leaving the premises, shouting that the crisis was over. Thank heaven for that.
The fact nevertheless remains that good people, most of them top-ranking UNIT personnel, have been murdered, and UNIT Command wants answers. I’ve just received word from HQ that I am to be placed on active service until this situation can be fully assessed, rectified, and managed while qualified replacement officers can be assigned. It seems old soldiers never retire, especially when they’re on reserve. However, being an old soldier, I have the privilege of choosing my escort, and I know Mr. Benton has been longing for active service for some time. I only hope he can make it here in time: we are to report to the remains of 10 Downing Street by 1800 Hours, where Mike will meet us with a full report. We’ll need that and more to sort through this tragedy.
One strange thing bothers me: in the news footage last night, as the experts were arriving at Downing Street, there was one man there, a tall, short-haired fellow in a leather jacket with an incredible grin, accompanied with a young girl matching the description of a teenager missing for the last twelve months. I know I may be jumping to conclusions but I could almost swear he was…

Lethbridge-Stewart heard the doorbell ring and rose from his seat. He walked forward a few steps and peered through the glass window panes set into the wall next to his front door, his eyes squinting from the glare of the early spring sun outside. Staring back at him on the other side of the glass was the same man he had seen on the news, flashing an even wider grin than the one he had brandished the previous evening. The man pressed his forehead upon the windowpane.
“Brigadier, do you recognize me?” he spoke with enthusiasm through the glass. Lethbridge-Stewart knew it could be only one person. He permitted himself a small grin of his own, leaned over and pulled the door open by its handle, stepping back to let his guest and oldest friend enter his home.
“By now, Doctor, that question is almost rhetorical. Welcome back.” The Brigadier extended his hand as the Doctor crossed the threshold and grasped it within both of his own with a vigorous shake.
“Alistair, you’ve no idea how chuffed I am to see you.” Chuffed? The Brigadier reacted with inward surprise to the Doctor’s word choice; he could not recall the Time Lord’s vocabulary ever being so…local. His current voice also struck the Brigadier’s ears with what seemed to be a pronounced Northern accent. Yet another new development, Lethbridge-Stewart thought to himself, but he recalled how often the Doctor’s mannerisms made sudden radical shifts over the years and decided to keep the observation silent; after all, who knew how many Norths the Doctor had visited? He decided upon a more nonchalant reply.
“And I, you; it’s been some time since we last met.”
“Yeah, it has, hasn’t it? Well, I pop up when I can make an appearance.” The Doctor leaned onto the open doorjamb and crossed his arms. The Brigadier took a moment to examine his friend’s current dress sense (or lack of sense): a battered, very dark brown leather jacket, coupled with dark trousers and matching shoes. The only spot of real colour upon this Doctor was the dark red jumper he wore beneath his jacket; there were no other flourishes or eccentric adornments, no flashy ties or loud fabrics upon the new regeneration’s lean frame. Even his hair-which Lethbridge-Stewart remembered for most of the previous Doctors as being long, striking masses of light or dark hair- was simply a military-style crew-cut of dark brown. The monochromatic ensemble gave the appearance of something non-descript, of someone hoping to hide away in the sidelines. Except for that grin, and the voice, and the bouncy demeanour. All these proved that the man before the Brigadier was the Doctor, for whom it was impossible to fade into the background.
The Doctor spoke again, his large eyes sweeping over the house and its furnishings. “I love what you’ve done with this place, Alistair-what style is it, early 21st century?” The Doctor grinned again.
A small smile crossed Lethbridge-Stewart’s face. “I think I’m still struggling to get past the last one. But speaking of appearances, it’s obvious you’ve changed yours again. Was it recent, the regeneration?”
The Doctor’s grin dissolved in an instant and his face seemed to darken. His posture stiffened against the doorframe. “A little while back now, yeah. I’m just glad to be me these days.” Something in the Doctor’s tone made the Brigadier feel as if he had tread upon very personal ground; he decided to change the subject, but filed it away for future reference.
“On the television last night I saw you were with a young woman: small, blond, rather trendy in her dress sense-much like your clothing choice these days.”
As fast as he had darkened, the Doctor snapped back into brightness and stood with a small jump away from the door.
“It’s a nice change isn’t it, the brown leather- I’d had enough of green velvet anyway. And yeah, she’s with me. Her name’s Rose, Rose Tyler. Or Tyler, Rose as she’d be listed on your UNIT files. You’d like her. I picked her up during the last Auton invasion-she saved my life, you know. You wouldn’t believe the places we’ve been together already.”
“The Auton invasion? So, it was you; witnesses reported a disappearing Police Box, but none of your predecessors were recognized at the scene. But Doctor, that was twelve months ago; that young woman has been a listed as a missing person by her mother since then!”
“Look, I told Rose I’d have her back in twelve hours-it’s not my fault the TARDIS decided on months! Her mother’s given me a face-full for it already. Her name’s Jackie by the way: single mother, very protective-you wouldn’t like her, Alistair, but lucky you, you’ve got Doris- is she around?”
“I’m afraid not at the moment; she’s gone over to the home of Mrs. Lawrence: an elderly widowed neighbour of ours. Doris prepares supper for her now and then whenever the woman feels faint, and this dreadful business at 10 Downing Street has shaken her up a bit.”
“Well, then Doris won’t care if I steal you for a while.”
“I’m sorry Doctor. As much as I’d love to travel I must go to London immediately; this situation requires UNIT’s full attention.”
“I know; that’s where I’m taking you. You wanna know exactly what happened; I was there; I saw it all. I can fill you in!”
The Brigadier smiled; he had hoped the Doctor’s activities would mirror his own-he had a few questions for him.
“Very well, if you don’t mind, we can get there faster in your TARDIS. I’ll radio Benton to meet us in London.”
“Uh, better yet, Alistair; let’s just have Benton give us a lift. Less attention that way.”
“But we’re expected in London by 1800 hours, and Benton has to come from a distance. Even if he were to have left already, we’d be hard pressed to arrive there on time.”
“Just have him bring Bessie; she’s faster than any of his second-hand cars.”
Lethbridge-Stewart blinked in surprise. “How did you know Benton has your vehicle?”
The Doctor raised his eyebrows, stood before the Brigadier, and placed both hands on his shoulders.
“Alistair, it’s me. I know.” And then his mouth widened into a grin once again.

* * *

Lethbridge-Stewart put in the call to Benton, informed him of the Doctor’s return and indicated the suggested mode of transportation. Benton confirmed that with such means he would arrive within half an hour.

* * *

At the appointed time, clad in an olive green suit and waist-coat Benton came rolling up the Brigadier’s driveway in a freshly waxed and shining yellow roadster that delighted in the afternoon sun. Exiting the vehicle and sighting his waiting passengers, Benton and the Doctor exchanged a warm greeting; the former offered the Doctor the driver’s seat, which the Doctor declined. As he settled himself into the back leather seat beside the Brigadier-dressed in his most military-looking tweed suit-the Doctor stroked the car’s sun-hued side door beside him, and sighed. Lethbridge-Stewart was struck by how sad the Doctor seemed in that moment, but said nothing. Then Benton put Bessie into gear and the three friends sped off toward London.

* * *

At exactly 1800 hours, Benton parked Bessie just beyond the outer cordon surrounding the remains of 10 Downing Street. Wisps of smoke wafted up from the rubble strewn ground. A young UNIT corporal of slender build and pale complexion came jogging with a limp to the car. He halted in his stride. “General Lethbridge-Stewart.” There was a flash of awe in the corporal’s eyes as he recognized the older man sitting in the backseat; it failed to replace the fear already lurking there.
“Corporal,” Lethbridge-Stewart replied with mild annoyance as he stepped out of the vehicle, “I believe you know my preferred title of address.”
“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir. What rank would that be, sir?”
“Brigadier, Corporal, what else?”
“Ah, of course, sir. Brigadier, sir. Sorry, sir.”
“Quite all right, quite all right.” The Brigadier then drew himself to his full height-which, even at his age, was still impressive-and with practiced ease assumed his authority. “Corporal, by order of UNIT Command as of now, 1800 hours, I am in charge of overseeing the salvage operations at former 10 Downing Street. Please let us pass.”
The young soldier’s mouth tightened, as did his grip on his automatic rifle.
“I’m afraid I can’t let you go through.”
The Brigadier stiffened. Much as he cared for UNIT’s rising generation, he could not abide a defied command.
“Corporal, who ordered the quarantine?”
“I did, sir,” said an approaching svelte, light-voiced man. “But I think after all you’ve been through, you’re practically untouchable.” Mike Yates, clad in full UNIT uniform, came to a stop before the Brigadier and, smiling, offered a salute, which his former commanding officer returned. Yates then extended his hand. “Welcome back, sir.”
The Brigadier shook Yates’ hand and smiled. Unlike himself, Mike had changed very little over the years: always the capable- if somewhat independent- thinker, his presence here with Benton and the Doctor made Lethbridge-Stewart feel all the more secure.
“Good to see you too, Mike.” He gestured to the two men exiting Bessie behind him. “As you can see, I’ve brought Mr. Benton with me, and this young man…is the Doctor.”
Yates’ eyes widened slightly as he took in the Doctor’s newest form. “My word, Doctor, you never cease to change.”
The Doctor hooked his arm over Yates’ shoulders. “Yeah, well, I’d be boring if I did. Now what’s going on-why lockdown the place?”
“It’s difficulty to say exactly. An hour ago, radio reports from the personnel clearing away the debris at the impact site indicated finding what appeared to be a large mass buried beneath the rubble. Then over the comlink there were sounds of surprise and a struggle. Then all communication ceased; they never even had a chance to describe what they found.”
“Well, I can.” The Doctor’s voice, along with his face, was suddenly dark and cold. “Big and green with claws for hands. And a gas-exchange problem.” Benton drew close to the Doctor. “‘A gas-exchange problem?’ What’s that mean, Doc?”
A determined look set into the Doctor’s face. “It means, Mr. Benton, that there’s a rogue Slitheen out on the loose in the Greater London area who’s none too happy its family just got blown sky high, so why are we waiting around here asking questions about flatulence? We’ve gotta find it before it kills again!”
The Doctor was about to break into a run when the Brigadier remarked, “Doctor, your body might be new, but ours aren’t! We’ve all long past the point of gallivanting in the streets.”
“Well, we’ve got Bessie, haven’t we,” the Doctor cried, his lean frame almost bouncing in place, impatient for movement. “I’ll drive this time. Come on, Mike, Mr. Benton, you’re in the back, Alistair, you’re in the front with me. And you-” the Doctor motioned to the young corporal-“what’s your name?”
The young soldier blinked, then replied with a slight cough, “Fallon, sir, my name’s Fallon.”
The Doctor nodded. “Well then, Corporal Fallon, you hang on to the spare tire in the back, ok?”
The Doctor then hopped into Bessie’s leather driving seat, started her engine, and reversed the car away from 10 Downing Street’s remains, spewing up twisting vapours of dust and smoke into the dying light.

* * *

“Raxa-what?” the Brigadier cried across to the Doctor as he sped Bessie around another street corner. “Raxacoricofallapatorius, the homeworld of the Raxacoricofallapatorians. The Slitheen were a family of criminals, laying waste to whatever world they could dig their claws into for a profit; and they almost nuked the Earth.”
The Doctor’s eyes were on everything but the road before him as he shot rapid glances in every direction-even behind him-in search of the missing creature; they had been hunting for the last ten minutes, and the Doctor, his bright eyes piercing into the deepening darkness, was driving ever faster; the Corporal hanging onto Bessie’s spare tire clung tight to the rubber wheel and wheezed as the vehicle’s back tires dipped into a pothole. The Brigadier had to clamp a hand over his cap to keep it from flying into the wind.
“Could you please drive with a little more care, Doctor; we are exceeding Bessie’s passenger capacity as it is.”
The Doctor sighed, but did not relax at all. “Sorry, Alistair. I just haven’t done anything so…direct in a while. I’m a bit out of practice. But we have to stop this, we have to make sure everybody’s safe!” There it was again: the hard steel beneath this Doctor’s cheery surface, and something deeper, something sadder. There was more bothering him than escaping alien criminals. Seeing this, Lethbridge-Stewart knew he had to ask the question he had wondered about since he had last seen the Doctor, on that terrible day… The Brigadier placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Never fear, Doctor, you’ll put it right, you always manage that.”
The Doctor looked over at his friend, and smiled. The Brigadier removed his hand and turned back to the streets rushing past. Yes, he would ask the Doctor, but not yet; there was still the task at hand.
At that moment, from his seat behind the Doctor, Benton leaned forward.
“So Doc, these Rexacorinthians…”
“Raxacoricofallapatorians. Really, Sergeant,” Yates chided at Benton’s side, at the same time distracted by the heaving breaths of the Corporal behind him. Mike turned his head to the young man’s direction and was suddenly struck by how pale he was. Benton continued to speak.
“Right, sir, that lot. Anyway, they’re first-timers to Earth, aren’t they? So, what do they look like?”
Benton could see the Doctor’s bright blue eyes reflected in the rearview mirror, not looking at him but locked on something behind him. The Doctor made his reply, his voice low.
“Why don’t you ask Corporal Fallon-he’s been at the site.”
Benton started to turn around, but held still as he caught sight of Fallon’s pale, almost porcelain complexion and haggard, heaving breaths.
“Blimey son, are you all…” Benton’s caring voice trailed off as he saw Fallon’s face and neck bulge with every breath he took; he heard the skin of his hands and beneath his uniform stretching tight; a loud rumble bubbled from within him. Then, with eyes large with fear and pain, Corporal Fallon’s mouth opened wide, his head leaned forward and from his throat emerged a noisy belch, accompanied by a dense cloud of light green smoke. The foetid stench was overpowering. Suddenly there was the Doctor, his face right in the middle of the dispersing cloud, his lean body balancing over the driver’s seat as his feet turned Bessie’s steering wheel. The Doctor breathed in deep the foul cloud, sniffed once, and looked into Fallon’s eyes.
“Ever hear of toothpaste? It’s perfect for treating bad breath…and Calcium decay.” And then he grinned.
Fallon snarled; his hands flew to his rifle, which he pointed straight at the Doctor’s face. But the Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver was already held steady before the rifle’s barrel; they were just centimeters apart.
“A stand-off, Doctor,” the Corporal hissed, his voice distorted within his expanding throat.
“Maybe,” the Doctor answered, “but we’re driving, remember? And I’m holding the wheel. Greyhounds, Sit!”
As the Brigadier, Yates and Benton hunched down tight into their seats, the Doctor twisted his feet upon the wheel, as Bessie spun in a wide clockwise, then counterclockwise circle. In the sweeping motion, Fallon scrambled to hold fast the spare tire and his automatic weapon was flung from his hands onto the London street behind him. Shrieking with rage, the ever expanding man reached up to his forehead and tugged at the skin there, but nothing happened. Eyes bulging with fury, Fallon launched forward into the car’s cabin, knocked Yates and Benton to the sides of the vehicle, and locked his hands around the Doctor’s neck, pulling him forward and over back end of Bessie.
The car started to careen over the road; Lethbridge-Stewart rose and leaned over to the wheel, gripping it tight in his hands, trying to direct its motion; no one was pressing the brake. In the rear mirror, the Brigadier saw the Doctor being throttled by Fallon, being pushed over the back edge of Bessie, his feet kicking wildly…and then Benton rose up like a lion and struck Fallon across the back of his head with the butt of his UNIT pistol. Fallon turned sharply to Benton, narrowed his eyes, and lifted an arm over his head; the skin of his fingers began to stretch tight. Then Yates aimed his SSPK revolver at the Corporal, pulled the trigger and let fly a bullet, which burrowed into Fallon’s shoulder. In a flare of sickly green light, a small explosion tore off Fallon’s arm and a flare of sickly green light, leaving only a ragged, green-bloodied hole at the shoulder- the lost limb arced wildly into the air and fell somewhere within the shadows. The creature howled with tortured rage and leapt from the still racing vehicle.
Without hesitation, the Brigadier maneuvered himself into Bessie’s driver’s seat, steadied her motion with the wheel and, easing on the gas pedal, brought her to a full and complete stop. He allowed himself a moment’s pause for a deep breath of relief. Then he turned to look behind and saw Benton and Yates pulling the Doctor into the back leather chaise.
The Doctor, rubbing at his neck, stared at the Brigadier with admiration and said, “You’re a fantastic driver, Alistair.”
“Well, we all have our hidden talents.”
“Like Fallon,” Yates interjected. “The Slitheen are natural shape-shifters then, like the Zygons?” “More like artificial, Mike. The Slitheen harvest the skin of their victims and shove themselves inside- like a parasite inside a dead host. One of the family must have survived the missile strike, just barely, but it must have. The UNIT soldiers cleaning up the mess then found it and…”
“And poor Corporal Fallon lost his life to a monster,” the Brigadier said. Yet another life lost on my watch, he thought to himself. I’d thought those days were past me.
“But, Doc,” spoke Benton, “that Slitheen, it looked as if it didn’t fit proper inside Fallon’s skin.”
“That’s because it doesn’t, Benton,” the Doctor leapt out of the car to stand behind the back spare tire. “The Slitheen are eight-feet tall and quite bulky in the mid-section. They use gas-exchange waist-bands to compress their mass to fit inside human skins, but the technology only goes so far- they need bigger people to fit comfortably inside; that’s why they just killed the Prime Minister rather than using his skin: he was too thin.”
“So was Fallon,” the Brigadier said, understanding, as he exited Bessie to stand by the Doctor. “But the creature had to make do with what it had available…”
The Doctor nodded quickly and interrupted, as if he had been the one already speaking. “But the over-compression’s straining the disguise, stretching the skin too far. Plus, it’s got a terrible case of gas.”
“Doctor, please.” The Brigadier’s tone made no effort to hide his embarrassment.
“No, really,” the Doctor replied, his tone making no sign he noticed. “With all that stress on its systems, the Slitheen’s gas-exchange band is failing, releasing within its skin-suit a continual build-up of flammable material.”
“How can you know the gas is flammable,” Mike asked.
The Doctor’s eyes widened and he wobbled his head in disbelief. “You blew its arm when you shot it, Mike! Bullets don’t do that to aliens; it’s common knowledge.”
Benton then spoke. “Doc, that thing’s wounded and probably getting more desperate by the minute-we’ve gotta get after it!”
“I know, and there’s only one place it can go now: its spaceship.”
“The one that crashed in the Thames,” the Brigadier realized. “Come along then; we must ride there immediately!” “No need, Brigadier,” the Doctor replied with a smile. “We’re already there.” The Doctor pointed his finger to one side to reveal the winding trail of the Thames and the Slitheen’s craft floating upon its surface like a bulbous sting-ray tarnished with rust. The Doctor had brought them directly to where the alien ship had landed the day before. Yates, Benton and the Brigadier looked on at the extraterrestrial machine in amazement; it was just like old times. Then the Brigadier’s mind pulled back to the present and he turned to the Doctor.
“How did you know to come here?”
“Isn’t it obvious? Where else can an invading alien escape to once its invasion’s failed? The same way it got there.” The Doctor looked out to the craft bobbing on the water’s surface, and spotted the rogue Slitheen racing towards it. “And that’s where we’ve got to get to. Come on!”
The Doctor began to hurry down the same pathway the alien had taken. Watching him run, the Brigadier turned to his two most trusted junior officers, and smiled.
“Right then. We don’t want the only thing about us advancing to be our age-Forward!” And with that cry he used when charging into battle in defense of his world, Alistair Gordon Lethbrdige-Stewart armed himself, and with Benton and Yates close behind, they hurried forward after the Doctor.
They found him several hundred yards ahead, standing still and staring at something off towards the darkness of the river. Lethbridge-Stewart, who had reached his old friend first, was about to ask the Doctor why he had ceased his pursuit of the Slitheen when he followed the Time Lord’s gaze and saw a pitiful sight: The creature, sprawled on the riverbank, its remaining arm reaching and clawing towards its craft, scant yards away. A haunting mewl gurgled from the prostrate being. As the cry lifted into the air, the Doctor spoke, as if in apology.
“I didn’t chase the Slitheen to kill it, Alistair; I chased just to find it, keep it from harming anyone else, to convince it just to leave.”
“Its kind has killed many good people, Doctor, people who had good families, including the young man whose skin it wears now.”
The Doctor turned on the Brigadier, and for a moment there was thunder in his eyes. But then his shoulders sagged and his voice remained low, and sad.
“Yeah, I know. I know, old friend. But there’s been enough killing and bloodshed today. And besides,” the Doctor looked once again at the wounded monster, alone on an alien shore, “it lost its family too.”
The Doctor slowly walked towards the fallen Slitheen, and with his UNIT comrades by his side, he stood over its form, which by now had expanded to nearly that of its natural size; only charred tatters of Fallon’s flesh clung to its own greenish skin, having been stretched beyond its elasticity or corroded by the escaping toxic gases. Fallon’s features still covered the creature’s face, although the skin was warped and pulled almost beyond recognition. Viscous green blood poured from a mouth stretched wide and large, as it did from the ragged hole where its arm had been. The injury combined with the ones already sustained from the missile on 10 Downing Street told the Doctor one, inevitable fact: death was near.
“Can I do anything for you?” the Doctor asked his fallen enemy, past any fighting now.
“Yes,” the Slitheen gurgled through the blood and muck in its throat. “Let me die…naked.”
Ignoring his friends’ perplexed expressions, the Doctor nodded and crouched down, feeling his fingers across the alien’s human-clothed forehead. Then, finding what he sought buried beneath many folds of bloated skin, he pulled up on what appeared to be a large tag of a zipper, and carefully tugged the metal across the forehead, uncoupling the zipper’s interlocking teeth, through which erratic sparks of electric blue light flashed. Finished, the Doctor carefully pulled away the last vestige of Corporal Fallon to reveal a green hairless domed cranium with heavy, drooping jowls, and small black-green frowning lips. Its eyes, however, were the most striking of the being’s features: like saucer-sized black disks that seemed to stare deep into whatever it saw, while letting nothing from the outside within. Expect, the Brigadier noticed, the Doctor’s eyes, and what they saw in each other…
The Slitheen’s eyes closed, dead. The Doctor sighed, stood, and carrying Fallon’s ruined face in his hand, walked slowly back towards Bessie. Benton and Yates followed immediately after him. Lethbridge-Stewart tarried for a moment, pondering what he had seen: reflected in the eyes of both the Slitheen and the Doctor, he had seen the same loneliness, and the same sadness, like the eyes of an orphan…

* * *

The four men had driven back to the Brigadier’s home in silence. The repairs to UNIT’s leadership would continue, but could wait till morning. There was nothing more to uncover in the rubble of Earth’s first interplanetary war, although, as Yates informed the Doctor, a good cover story was already being prepared. Benton had smiled at this: it was his cover.
Back at his home, Lethbridge-Stewart re-introduced Doris to the Doctor, who greeted her with warmth, and wished her and his friend the best of the years remaining to them. The Brigadier found this statement curious, but let it slip as an ever-constant facet of the Doctor’s myriad personality. Then the Doctor shrugged his shoulders and announced his departure. Lethbridge-Stewart realized he had not asked the Doctor what he needed to know, but how to ask him as he was leaving? It was Benton who, fortuitously, provided a solution.
“Hey Doc, can we see your TARDIS? Just for old times?”
The Doctor agreed, and the four friends, with Doris making five, marched to the blue Police Box standing stoically on the front lawn.

* * *
“Blimey Doc, you’ve changed the place right out. I think I prefer the white one though,” Benton said.
“Mr. Benton is correct about your redecorations, Doctor, but I know I prefer the gothic theme,” Yates said.
“I think I prefer our own home,” Doris said, arm linked with her husband. “But I do think it’s beautiful. Don’t you, Alistair?”
“Oh, yes,” the Brigadier replied. “I rather like the coral motif.” He smiled for a few moments, letting the memories of the place, in all its forms, linger in his mind. He was glad to share them still with his friends. But what he needed to know from the Doctor he needed to ask alone.
“Well, Doris, Mike, Benton. Let’s not keep the Doctor from his endless traveling-he has his current companion, Miss Rose Tyler, to pick up.”
“Right, sir,” Benton replied. He shook hands with the Doctor. “Goodbye, Doctor, take care of yourself.”
“Always, Mr. Benton, and always a pleasure.”
“Nice to see you again, Doctor,” Mike said, offering his own hand to the Doctor, which the latter held warmly. “Don’t be long in returning.”
“If the old girl and I can manage it, we won’t be.”
As Yates and Benton exited the ship, the Doctor turned to the Brigadier and his wife.
“It’s always hard to say goodbye, Brigadier, and you never get used to it.”
“No, Doctor, we can’t.” Now was the time, but with Doris there… “Doris, dear,” he said, “would you please give the Doctor and I a moment. Old soldiers, you know.”
“Of course, Alistair; I’ll be upstairs. Find me when you’re free.” With a smile to the Doctor and a small kiss to the Brigadier’s cheek, Doris left her husband and his friend to their goodbyes. As she shut the door behind her, the Brigadier turned to the Doctor. His face was grave.
“You know what I have to ask you, Doctor.”
“If it’s about the Vore invasion, I repelled it, obviously.”
“No, it’s not that. I need to know what happened after. Were we successful?”
“Successful in what?”
“The mission, man! To Espero. The task you sent your metal dog friend and I on. We found Madame Xing, she agreed to help return your memories and restore Gallifrey and the Time Lords.”
“You were there, you know that bit.”
“Yes, but what happened to them afterwards? What happened during the Time War?”
The Doctor stood before his old friend, and knew that what he wanted to know was something he could tell no one, not even his closest friends. But Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was more than a friend; he was like his brother, a brother who had helped him in his darkest hour. Of all people, he deserved to know.
“All right, I’ll tell you. Only you. And you can’t tell anyone. Please.”
The Brigadier nodded, and listened to the story the Doctor told.

Yates and Benton had been waiting outside the TARDIS for what seemed nearly an hour before the door opened and the Brigadier emerged, his white beard framing a face uncharacteristically pale. His eyes were hollow.
“Are you all right, sir?” Yates asked, concerned at his commanding officer’s appearance.
“Perfectly, Mike, perfectly.” The Brigadier inhaled and turned back to the TARDIS where the Doctor stood in the doorway, backlit by the lights of the console room.
“Goodbye then, Doctor, remember your friends here on Earth. We’ll keep you in mind.”
“Cheers, Alistair, Mike, John,” the Doctor responded. “You are, and always were, fantastic.” The Doctor turned away and with his hand began to push the TARDIS door closed.
At that moment, Benton said, “Doctor, the next time you see the Master, let him know he’s still on the top of my list to capture, right?”
The Doctor paused, his face cloaked in shadow. Then he answered, without emotion, “The Master is dead.” Then he shut the door and the ship engines trumpeted as the Police Box once more vanished into the air. As the three men remaining began to walk back to the house, Mike Yates asked Lethbridge-Stewart, “May I ask, sir, what did the Doctor tell you for so long, and what did he mean, that the Master’s dead?”
The Brigadier, keeping his eyes forward, replied, “The subject of my conversation with the Doctor remains closed. For now. Our options must still be considered and assessed.” The Brigadier stared at Yates, then Benton, and to the surprise of both he placed his hands on their shoulders and smiled.
“It was good being with you both today, my friends.” And the three walked through the silence of the night.

From the journal of Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, Date Entry 7 March, 2006

What I couldn’t tell Mike, and not even this record, about the Master being dead, beyond the obvious significance of course, is that the Doctor is more alone now than he’s ever been, and Benton, Yates and I may be the oldest friends he has left. Heaven help us all.