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! :)
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.