by Mark Simpson
The man in black stepped out through the doorway in the rock that had recently materialised in a fanfare of overworked engines and surveyed his surroundings. Dust and rocks spread away from his location in all directions and for as far as even his keen eyesight could comprehend. The planet Tersurus was a dull and desolate world.
But it was the place he had been summoned to. More inclined to giving commands than obeying them, this one had made him curious, otherwise he would have ignored it out of hand. So here he was, at the appointed place and time, awaiting the arrival of his ‘contact’.
A polite cough came from behind him and he spun, weapon in hand and raised, ready. At the sight of the robed figure in the high, ornate collar he relaxed, but not much. The weapon was returned to its place, close at hand if needed again.
“Nice to see you are on time,” the new arrival commented.
“I would be a poor Time Lord if I was not,” came the sharp reply. “Now, I did not come here to bandy words. You said I would learn something to my advantage if I met with you. So, what do you have to say?”
“Direct, I like it. I have news of the Doctor, if you are interested.”
The man in black stiffened at the name. “What of him?”
“The two of you are adversaries…”
“I prefer the term ‘enemies’. It is more precise.”
“Enemies then. The Matrix has predicted a time of great crisis for the Doctor. Possibly a fatal crisis.”
The other smiled. “A universe without the Doctor is something to contemplate,” he said with relish.
A hand cautioned his enthusiasm. “The prediction is that the Doctor will face a fatal crisis, beyond his own ability to regenerate. However, you are not the only two of our people with an interest in Earth. During the course of the upcoming adventure, the Doctor will meet another of our kind, who will help in initiating his third regeneration.”
“Why are you telling me this?” A frown had replaced the earlier smile.
Instead of speaking, the man in the collar handed over a folded slip of parchment. On it were a set of co-ordinates and a name.
“I do not understand.”
“Go to these space/time co-ordinates, kill the person named, and the Doctor will not regenerate. He will die.”
Nodding, the man in black folded the parchment, placed it in a pocket and bowed slightly. “Then I am indebted to you. But tell me, for I am curious. Why are you doing this? You obviously sit upon the High Council, otherwise you would not have access to this data. What do you get from the Doctor’s death?”
“Change is coming to Gallifrey,” the other said. “The Doctor would oppose that change. You can be part of it, if you wish, but either way, we both win from this deal.”
“I might just take you up on that, Cardinal Goth.”
Goth smiled as the other man walked back to the rock he had come from. “I shall expect you on Gallifrey soon, Master….”
Sarah Jane Smith was about to speak, when a familiar noise halted the words in her throat. Like the trumpeting of a hundred elephants, the sound heralded the arrival back at UNIT headquarters of the TARDIS, and it would seem, of the Doctor.
He had been missing for almost a month, heading off to a battle of wills with the Great One, a massive queen spider on the planet Metabelis 3 with delusions of universal domination. The Doctor had known he was likely going to his death, but he went anyway.
Sarah had been lamenting the loss of her friend with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, who had known the Doctor even longer than she had, when the sound of hope had interrupted them.
The TARDIS materialised in its usual corner, solidifying with a thump. As the echoes died away, the door creaked open and the Doctor stumbled out, collapsing on the floor at the feet of his two friends.
On her knees in an instant, Sarah was cradling his head. His skin was pale and slick with sweat, his eyes dull and barely open. He seemed thinner and smaller than when she had last seen him.
“Sorry to be so long…” he wheezed, his lungs reaching for air, “lost in the Time Vortex. TARDIS brought me home.” His head lolled back on Sarah’s lap.
It took something special to reduce Sarah Jane Smith to tears, but she wept now. A rogue tear dropped into the end of the Doctor’s nose and his eyes flickered open again.
“Tears, Sarah Jane?” he inquired in a whisper. “You mustn’t cry. Remember, while there’s life, there’s….”
His voice trailed away and his eyes slid shut again. Sarah cried harder.
The Brigadier had been watching all this, feeling useless. Now he saw an opportunity for action at last. He scooped up the receiver of the laboratory’s telephone.
“I’ll get the M.O.,” he told Sarah, “may still be something…”
“Too late Brigadier,” she wailed. “He’s dead!”
K'Anpo Rinpoche sat cross-legged on the floor of his study, meditating. His recent regeneration, into the body of his ‘second-in-command’ Cho-je, had left him feeling refreshed and ready for the challenges ahead.
At the moment he was sensing the Doctor, returning to Earth from his mission to Metabelis 3. His old friend and former pupil would likely need help, as he would surely be on the edge of death.
As he prepared himself for a trip on the astral plane, a noise came from just outside his study. The familiar sound of a TARDIS materialising. But he had sensed the Doctor returning to his friends at UNIT, not coming here….
The door to the study opened silently and a man dressed in a black suit with an upturned collar entered. K'Anpo did not recognise him, though he knew from his aspect he was a fellow Time Lord.
“Are you K'Anpo Rinpoche?” the stranger inquired.
“I am,” the monk told his visitor, “but I have an urgent matter to attend to. If you would wait outside, I shall be available shortly.” K'Anpo closed his eyes again, the matter finished as far as he was concerned.
“But I cannot wait,” the Master said, pulling an Earth pistol from his inside pocket. K'Anpo did not even realise his life was over as he died.
The Brigadier had summoned the Medical Officer and replaced the receiver. He glanced over at Sarah, still sitting on the floor with the Doctor’s head in her lap. She shook her head sadly, her tears drying as she ran out of them.
“You know, the Doctor changed his entire face and body once. Called it regeneration. Happens when his body his damaged and dying, apparently.”
“Well, nothing’s happening now!” Sarah snapped.
A breathless young man with brown wavy hair, wearing a white lab coat over his normal clothes, appeared in the doorway. Seeing the man lying on the floor he stepped forward.
“Excuse me Miss, I’m a doctor,” he announced, dropping to his knees and pulling a stethoscope from his pocket.
Sarah stood and moved to stand beside the Brigadier, watching the new arrival work.
“Sorry I snapped, its just....” she paused, the words choking her.
Lethbridge-Stewart, never at his best with emotional females, patted her shoulder in what he hoped was a reassuring manner.
“I understand,” he told her.
On the floor, the young man was making little progress. “No pulse, no heartbeat. How long has he been like this?”
“A couple of minutes at most, Doctor Sullivan,” the Brigadier replied, glad to be of some small use at last. “Is there anything you can do?”
Sullivan was packing his stethoscope away. He turned and looked up.
“Sorry Brigadier, he's dead.”
Sarah burst into a fresh wave of tears.
The High Council of the Time Lords of Gallifrey was in session.
The Lord President tapped a small gavel beside his right hand, a ceremonial gesture as none of the other four members of the High Council were talking. He nodded to the man on his left.
“Castellan, would you like to give your report to the others?”
“My Lord President,” the Castellan answered. He consulted a scroll that looked ancient but was in fact a state-of-the-art soft-screen. “It has come to the attention of the Office of the Castellan that the renegade Time Lord known as the Doctor, recently released from a period of exile on the planet Earth, has died on that world.”
Councillor Thalia gasped aloud, Cardinal Hedin lowered his head, starring sadly at the table top, while Cardinal Goth looked stoic.
“I know, better than most, that the Doctor has always been a controversial figure in the recent history of Gallifrey,” the Lord President said. “Many believe his sentence of exile at the end of his previous incarnation was too lenient,” he glanced at Goth here, who inclined his head slightly in reply, “but he has also helped us out on many occasions, including foiling a potentially dangerous Dalek invasion of the galaxy and stopping Omega, to name a couple of recent occurrences. Others see him as a folk hero. The one thing we can all agree on though is that he divided opinion across our world.”
“The Doctor has been my friend for many years,” Hedin said quietly. “I for one will mourn his passing.”
“The death of any Time Lord is regrettable,” Thalia commented. “However, his passing will surely enrich the Matrix with his experiences in the galaxy at large.”
Goth cleared his throat. “It is no secret that I disliked the Doctor and all he stood for, but even I regret that he has gone. The galaxy will be a quieter place without him.”
The Lord President acknowledged the thoughts of his colleagues. “We are left with a problem, one that we need to make a decision about.”
“What problem?” Goth wanted to know.
It was the Castellan who answered. “The Doctor has established a network of allies and friends during his exile on Earth, and afterwards he remained close to these allies. This is a turbulent time for the planet and the Doctor was seen as crucial to a number of critical issues that are set to occur. The Matrix predicted a positive outcome for all of these due to his involvement. But now he is dead, the Matrix predictions are unclear on the future of Earth.”
“So we may have to intervene directly?” Thalia asked, distaste at the idea of the Time Lords getting mixed up in the affairs of a single world evident on her face.
“If we must, then we must,” Hedin argued. “We all know that Earth is set to become a major player in the affairs of the galaxy in the centuries beyond the time the Doctor favoured. The planet must be protected.”
“But we are forbidden to interfere,” Goth countered. “We might occasionally use a renegade like the Doctor to do the jobs we find distasteful, but what is the alternative? Sending a loose cannon like the Rani? Or a meddler such as Mortimus? No, we must keep to ourselves and just observe.”
“That is not an option,” the Lord President told him. “Hedin is correct, we must protect the future of Earth. The only question is how we do that. Castellan?”
“There are two possibilities open to us as I see it. Either we send a team from the Celestial Intervention Agency to each critical point in the timeline of the planet Earth to deal with each crisis point as it develops, or we select an agent to send there who can fulfil a similar role to that the Doctor was playing, using his network of allies to defeat the threats as they appear.”
“Then I propose we vote on each option. Raise your right hand if you are in favour of sending in a C.I.A. team each time there is a crisis.” Only the Castellan raised his hand. “Proposal denied,” the Lord President continued. “Now, raise your right hand if you are in favour of sending an agent to Earth to continue the Doctor's work.”
This time the vote was different. The Lord President, Thalia and Hedin raised their hands, while the Castellan and Goth did not.
“Vote carried by three to two,” the Lord President said. He turned to the Castellan. “You put this suggestion forward, even if it was not your favoured option. Do you have an agent in mind?”
“Actually I do. A student who is projected to get a Triple-first in the next couple of spans....”
“A student?” snorted Goth. “You're proposing to send a fresh faced Time Tot who hasn't even graduated yet?”
The Castellan glared at Goth. “A student with great potential, I'll have you know.”
The sound of the Lord President's gavel brought a halt to the argument. “I have reviewed the file on this student and I approve the choice of the Castellan. But we must put it to the vote.”
This time the vote passed by four to one, with only Goth voting against.
Sarah sat on a lab stool drinking, but not tasting, a mug of strong tea. Beside her on another stool, and trying to help, was the newly promoted Warrant Officer Benton, keeping up a stream of chatter that was going in one ear and straight out of the other.
“...and when I first met him, he didn't look like the Doctor we've all been working with, he was a small, dark-haired bloke in a scruffy jacket and a spotty bow-tie.”
“Hmmm,” Sarah replied, watched as Doctor Sullivan supervised the two medical orderlies who were carefully loading the Doctor (no, the Doctor's body, she told herself sternly) onto a stretcher to take to the UNIT morgue.
The Brigadier walked in just as Sullivan and his team were leaving. He caught sight of his Warrant Officer and Sarah.
“Ah, Benton. I need you to go over the guard rotas for next week.”
Benton looked puzzled. “But I did....” Then he noticed his superior looking pointedly from him to the young woman at his side and took the hint.
“Yes sir, right away sir.” He smiled at Sarah as he stood. “See you later, Miss Smith.”
“What? Oh yes, bye Sergeant.” She looked back down at her mug, his presence forgotten before he had walked out of the door.
“Now, Miss Smith....” the Brigadier began. He didn't like having to remove her from the premises, but she was a civilian inside what was supposed to be a secret military establishment.
But she didn't seem to have hear him. Instead, she was looking towards the corner of the room, to the Doctor's TARDIS.
He was about to try again, maybe with his parade ground voice, when he heard something too. Something that sounded oddly like the Doctor's voice, coming from the still slightly open door of the police box.
“Its him, he's alive!” Sarah cried, dashing over and pushing the door open.
“I say, look here!” But she was gone, and the Brigadier could only follow her into the TARDIS.
Both the Brigadier and Sarah had been inside the TARDIS a number of times, but each time it was brightly lit and humming with barely suppressed power. Now however it was darkened and shadowy and there was virtually no sound.
Which made the voice that suddenly boomed from all around them all the more surprising.
“Ah, there you two are at last. I've been waiting ages for you to turn up.”
They both turned to locate the source of the voice. Before them stood an image of the Doctor, much like a three dimensional photograph that was partly transparent and fizzed slightly at the edges every few seconds.
“Doctor! You're alive!”
The Doctor-image smiled sadly at his companion. “I'm afraid not Sarah, my dear. This is a holographic projection I created for the TARDIS to activate after my death. So by the fact we are talking like this, I must be dead.”
“I'm sorry, the technicalities would probably bore you to tears. I am here because the Doctor wanted you to know his wishes after his death, so he made this recording.”
The Brigadier had a question. “If this is a recording, then how come you can talk to us as if you were here?”
“Well, because the technology that powers it is very clever and has an interactive element. I have just enough sentience to be able to provide basic answers in much the same way as the Doctor would.”
“So you're not really him?” Sarah asked in a small voice.
“I'm sorry, I'm not. But I do know the Doctor was very fond of you, Sarah Jane.”
A single tear rolled down her cheek.
“Very well,” the Brigadier said, seeing the practicality of the situation. “What are the Doctor's final wishes.”
The Doctor-image straightened slightly, squaring its virtual shoulders. “The Doctor wished to be buried in the churchyard at the village of Cheldon Boniface. He even provided a casket for the job.”
There was a whirring sound behind them and a spotlight illuminated a slim tube sliding out from behind one of the indented circles in the wall of the console room. It was grey, about seven feet long and two wide. There was a small control pad set into the top of the casket at one end, under a clear cover.
“All his equipment provided by UNIT of course reverts back to UNIT, as does the house on the edge of Cheldon Boniface whose rent was paid for from his wages. The TARDIS is to be locked and placed into storage until such time as the Time Lords see fit to recall it to Gallifrey. That should clear up everything.”
The hologram started to fade, until Sarah stepped forwards.
“Yes, Sarah Jane?” the Doctor-image said kindly.
She swallowed down a lump in her throat. “I'm never going to see you again, am I?”
“Well, you're not really seeing me now.” He paused, seeming to sense her upset. “No, I'm afraid you won't. Just in case we didn't get a proper one, let me just say, goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith.”
“Goodbye, Doctor,” she whsipered.
Smiling at her, the hologram faded away and the TARDIS lights dimmed further. Breaking the sudden silence, the Brigadier cleared his throat.
“I should round up a couple of the men to help move this...erm...box.” He placed a kindly hand on Sarah's shoulder. “Come along Miss Smith, I'll get Benton to make you some more tea.”
The funeral took place the following day. The Doctor's futuristic casket was carried on the shoulders of four UNIT soldiers, plus the Brigadier and Benton at the front. All were wearing their dress uniforms.
Sarah sat between Lethbridge-Stewart and Benton at the front of the church. Doctor Sullivan was with them, along with Mike Yates in his civilian clothes, which Sarah still found strange. There were a handful of other guests not connected to UNIT, including a woman Sarah recognised as Dr Elizabeth Shaw, a Cambridge physicist she had interviewed for a piece in Metropolitan the year before.
Yates had brought further bad news, that the leader of the monastery at the heart of the Doctor's final adventure, K'Anpo Rinpoche, had also died a couple of days ago. He had been shot, but the murderer was still on the loose.
The Reverend Davidson read the service but Sarah hardly heard it. Her mind was still full of the Doctor as he had been, bursting with life and energy. She still had a hard time believing he was dead.
They then moved outside and the casket was lowered into the ground. The lights on the small panel flickered behind the glass cover, then they faded out and went dark, but Reverend Davidson didn't comment on any of that. He read a short prayer, then cast a handful of soil into the grave. Lethbridge-Stewart followed suit, then Sarah and finally Benton.
With the funeral over, the mourners started to disperse. Sarah stayed with the Brigadier and Doctor Sullivan, whom she had been briefly introduced to under less emotional circumstances than their first encounter. He was a Naval surgeon, seconded to UNIT recently as medical officer for the next two years and he had insisted that she called him Harry. He cut a very dashing, square-jawed figure in his dark blue uniform and white cap but Sarah barely noticed.
“Well at least the weather stayed decent,” Lethbridge-Stewart said to nobody in particular.
Harry Sullivan nodded. “Though I think they've forecast rain for....”
Sarah never did discover when or where they had forecast rain for. They were interrupted by a faint but familiar noise, which the Brigadier and Sarah instantly reacted to, looking around for the source.
That source materialised right in front of the trio. A young woman, tall and slim with dark hair and high cheekbones stood in their path. She was wearing a floor length white gown with wide sleeves and on her left wrist was a chunky metal bracelet with a swirling design set into the top.
“I say!” Harry exclaimed in surprise, his eyes almost bulging from his head. Sarah suppressed a snigger at the look on his face and she half expected him to add the words 'Ding-Dong' to his statement.
“Am I late?” the woman asked, her voice sounding like the purr of a cat.
“Late for what?” Lethbridge-Stewart replied.
“For the Doctor's funerary rite,” she answered him, giving the soldier a cool, appraising look.
“Yes, you are too late, Miss....?”
The woman starred at him for a moment before catching on. “Oh, you're asking my name?” She drew herself up to her full height. “I am the Lady Romanadvoratrelundar, sent by the High Council of the Time Lords of Gallifrey to replace the Doctor!”