Turncoat

A forgotten tale of a Fourth Doctor who ruled the Time Lords, and destroyed Earth.

by Michael O’Brien, for the Unbound Anthology

 

Cardinal Borusa entered the unpleasantly primitive room that was the best they could manage for a potential Lord President of the Time Lords. “Candidate, you have a speech to make shortly. Are you prepared?”

The tall man in the room continued to gaze distractedly at a Time Window set into a frame on the wall. A frozen moment of the recent past, it showed Gallifrey burning as antimatter bombs rained down upon it. Borusa wished the candidate would not insist on keeping it in his office. The Window was a reminder of the Time Lords’ shame and defeat, and it stirred emotions in Borusa he did not wish to acknowledge.

“I suppose,” he said, acknowledging the Cardinal without looking at him. “It barely seems worth the trouble. Candidate Dominic has no support among the survivors of the Devastation.”

“He has more support than you may guess,” Borusa countered. “Dominic is a very clever man. Your resistance to taking him seriously may yet cost you the election.”

“Pah. He offers nothing but empty promises of easy victory. The Time Lords’ strength is a ghost of what it once was, Borusa. Why, we can barely hold on to this primitive planet we fled to.” He ran his hand in exasperation through his curly black hair.

“He will be happy to point out that is, in a way, your fault.”

“Well, I suppose he has something there, doesn’t he?” The tall man flashed a wide-eyed, toothy grin that somehow reassured and disturbed at the same time. “Let’s go and take another step toward my Presidency. I am eager to have this ridiculous election out of the way; only then can we crush the remaining resistance of the humans here on Earth.”

“As you say, Candidate… ah…”

“I will keep the name, Cardinal, even once I become President. I am still… the Doctor.”

 

“Your speech had better be a good one, Dominic. The Doctor is a charismatic man. Some of our people have been whispering legends of him for centuries. He has a reputation for decisive action, you know.”

“I know, Castellan Kelner,” Dominic replied confidently. “But after the Devastation, when the Time Lords fled to earth, he fought with the human resistance against us. I intend for no one to forget that.”

“That was his last regeneration, though. There are many who say he has made a fresh start.”

Dominic stood from his chair. He was a lean man with dark hair worn longer than the current style among the survivors. His strong, clean-shaven chin made him look like an adventure hero from Human storytelling; while no Time Lord would admit to being moved by simple looks, video recordings of his speeches remained popular.

Kelner, on the other hand, embodied the opposite of Borusa’s rock-steady dignity. He tended to nervousness and flattery; it was clear he himself aspired to the position of Lord President some day. It was equally clear to Dominic that he would never reach it.

“He has fought for the Humans since he first arrived on this boring planet. We searched for him before the Devastation with no success; yet finally he himself revealed his whereabouts to us, giving up his second incarnation in return for the lives of a few thousand of these primitives. A regeneration and an absence to ‘reconsider his position’ hardly constitute a fundamental change of his nature. He may have something up his sleeve – he always does – but it doesn’t matter.

“And whether he has changed his ways makes no difference. We sent him to face down Omega. When he weakened, we broke the First Law of Time itself to send his first and second selves to help. And we will never forget what happened then, Kelner.”

“The Devastation…” Sick horror filled Kelner’s voice as he remembered that day.

“They enabled Omega to break free of his antimatter prison. They fled from the black hole gateway with Omega close behind, bent on his revenge! And Gallifrey… Gallifrey burned, Kelner! With one of the greatest Time Lord scientists possessing mastery of antimatter and matter both, our defeat turned to slaughter.”

“I remember… I remember fighting for a spot on an evacuation TARDIS.” Kelner shuddered with remembered fear. “Time Lords, Shobogans, everyone desperate to cram through the doors before a bomb hit… people fleeing in antique hyperdrive ships…”

“Exactly. And those horrors can be laid at the feet of the Doctor. Fear not, Kelner. You and I have a great future ahead of us.”

 

After the speeches, Dominic worked his way through cheering crowds down to the lower levels of the hastily-built Earth Citadel. It was a pale reflection of the Gallifreyan original, but even so it had been capable of resisting everything the Humans could throw at it – even their toylike thermonuclear bombs had done nothing but create new wastelands around the Earth Citadel’s shielding.

Their UNIT organization had been the most troublesome. With scientific advice from the Doctor’s guilt-ridden third incarnation, they developed weaponry that even the Time Lords took notice of; but notice was all they took. Perhaps a few shield generators blew on occasion, but the cost in lives among the human troops was staggering. Soon, even their morale failed. There was a rumor that the Doctor had in fact lost his third body to an episode of grief-stricken madness suffered by UNIT’s military leader. Dominic had no interest in learning the truth but it sounded like something a Human would do.

The quiet of the underlevels was always welcome relief to the near-hysteria brought on by his campaign speeches. The Doctor’s too, if Dominic was honest about it. Earth wasn’t home, and the Time Lords felt vulnerable as never before. That underlying fear could be very useful, he reflected. Useful indeed.

Dominic arrived at the very heart of the Earth Citadel, where sat one of the dearest treasures recovered from Gallifrey. How Time Lord engineers had brought the Eye of Harmony safely from the dying planet to Earth from under Omega’s nose was a tale for the ballads, and Dominic admitted he didn’t understand the details. Some said the Eye did not exist in one single place in the real universe, but could be accessed from it – if you knew how. 

Somehow, he’d half expected the tall figure to be down here. There are ways in which Time Lords have nearly the same mind, and Dominic knew the Doctor to be as fascinated by the Eye of Harmony as he was. He wondered if the relative dimensions invoked by TARDISes and by the eye applied to Time Lord brains as well in some ways.

“Not that we dare to use our few TARDISes anymore,” said the Doctor absently as if continuing his thought.

“No. A short trip here or there, quietly, rarely. Otherwise it draws Omega’s attention, and we lose another time capsule we cannot spare,” Dominic responded.

The Doctor looked over quickly, as if Dominic had just teleported directly in. “Do you ever wonder what he’s doing with Gallifrey now that he has it?”

“He did not leave much of the planet to do anything with. Perhaps he is content with his revenge. If I recall your rather sketchy reports from your trip into the antimatter universe, running one reality was wearing enough for him. Another may be just too much.”

“Or perhaps he’s just building up strength, biding his time,” the Doctor said with quiet portentousness.

“An unhappy thought.” Dominic turned back to the Eye. The artificial singularity had endless aspects, but currently looked like a matte black obelisk. The blackness reflected nothing, and made the object hard to focus on but easy to get lost in. “I prefer to come down here to meditate on the future of the Time Lords: specifically, the best ways to ensure we have one.”

“Your speech was very good, I liked it. Lacking depth in places here and there I suppose, but your audience ate it up.”

“You are a powerful speaker yourself. And if your plans are grandiose and a bit implausible, no one seems to mind.”

“Are they? Well, I have to reach the new Gallifreyan, the veteran of planetary disaster.” The Doctor looked into the monolith again through the layers of physical, force-based, and temporal shielding that encased it. “I admit I miss the old days where we Time Lords navel-gazed and bothered no one except the occasional Dalek expedition.”

“Not to mention leaving your precious Humanity alone. Mostly.”

An expression that was almost rage flickered across the Doctor’s face and was gone. “Humanity? Ungrateful children. I was too kind to them for too long. I will say that once we control this planet completely, you’ll be surprised how much you like it. The blue sky and green trees grow on you after a while.”

“Hard to imagine,” Dominic said politely.

“Yes, well, don’t let me keep you. The election draws near, and I’ve a load of things to take care of before somebody gets elected.” The Doctor turned away, and walked off, waving vaguely at the Eye. “Give my regards to Infinity, would you?”

 

Election Day dawned. Some optimistic group of Earthlings launched a tricobalt missile with a shell of interphased dureum intended to slip through the Citadel’s defenses, but instead simply dropped out of spacetime entirely on impact with the shield. Perhaps in some other reality, somebody had an explosively bad day; but the Time Lords continued with their election.

There were no speeches to be made this day: no tours, no posturing, no last-minute accusations and declarations. By tradition, all Gallifreyans were free to concentrate today on their civic duty. (By old rumor, a cabal of high-ranking and other influential Time Lords would decide the new Lord President secretly in advance: but if this had been true in the past, the chaos of the Devastation had shattered any such power structure.)

The vote was close. By no means were either the Doctor or Dominic dispassionate enough to ignore early reports, steadily updated tallies, or excitable predictions; but soon, all the votes were in – a pitiable number compared to the last election on Gallifrey – and the winner was clear. 

Dominic entered the Doctor’s candidate office with tightly controlled purpose. He found the Doctor trying on the Sash and Crown of Rassilon and admiring his reflection in a full-length mirror. The heavy metal Sash wrapped around his neck and dangled nearly to the floor, resembling a high-tech golden version of the ridiculous scarf the Doctor had worn on his return from ‘absence’. Normally, the Crown would link the Doctor directly to the Matrix containing the sum knowledge, and not a few stored personalities of the Time Lords: but again, little of that had been rescued from the Devastation. Dominic reflected that probably saved the Doctor from a rather painful first integration.

“Isn’t that a bit sacreligious? Your investiture won’t be for several hours.”

“Well, I want to be prepared to look my best,” the Doctor said. “Besides, I won’t have a chance to enjoy it properly during the investiture. Ceremony, pompous musical selections, grave pronouncements from self-important Time Lords… tedious at best.”

“I see.”

“Before we get farther into discussions of fashion, perhaps you should show me what you are clenching so tightly under your robes.”

Dominic smiled a tight smile. “We will have a perceptive Lord President while you still rule.” He drew a staser from beneath his robes, and the Doctor could see it had been set to maximum output. A shot from that pistol would kill, and prevent regeneration forever.

“President-Elects just can’t find good guards these days,” the Doctor observed.

“I would help if you weren’t ducking away from them at every opportunity.”

“True,” he admitted.

Dominic stepped closer… then flipped the gun in his hand until the grip faced the Doctor. He held out his hand, offering the weapon.

“I do not think your overblown ideas about final control of the Humans and the reconstruction of Time Lord society will ever work,” Dominic said. “However, you are my Lord President, and I will support you to the best of my ability. This may include informing you when you are behaving as a complete idiot.”

A real smile broke out on the Doctor’s face. “Well! Well, well, well. If you mean it, this may be the most faith another Time Lord has ever had in me.” A sly look followed the smile. “In fact… come with me. Let me show you the height of my potential idiocy. Keep the gun.”

Together, they followed the path Dominic had trod so many times. Down, down, down they went, and soon the Eye blazed before them. Today, it looked like a trapped sun, blazing a deep red orange and throwing prominences that splashed against the protective shielding.

Dominic was enthralled. “I’ve never seen it look like that.”

“Oh, I have once or twice. Usually when the Eye is all excited about something.”

“How can a failure point in space-time get excited about something?”

“Oh, I don’t know, ask it sometime!” The Doctor was dangerously merry. “Now, let me show you something. Stand back a bit: the Sash of Rassilon is supposed to protect against any and all kinds of energy, but no one’s tested that in a while, which is why I didn’t like that staser of yours very much.”

“Thank you very much for that information, Doctor.” The staser made its characteristic crack of energy, and the Doctor jumped – then swiftly realized the shot hadn’t hit him. He turned around, to see Dominic dead on the floor, a staser burn clearly visible in his back. The silhouette of a man with a pistol appeared on the wall; then Borusa stepped into the light, his own staser barrel still glowing with discharge.

“Borusa? How could – what do you think – he was no danger to me, he had just sworn fealty to me, to us – to the Time Lords!”

Borusa nodded absently. “Interesting. A shame he didn’t do so publicly, the story of his treachery would be even more interesting if he had.”

“Treachery? What treachery?”

“Why, the assassination of the new President-Elect, of course. A shame the Sash of Rassilon couldn’t protect him. I would have arrived just too late to stop him, but in time to punish him for his crime.”

The Doctor looked into Borusa’s eyes, and at the weapon pointed directly at his primary heart. “You were a great help getting me elected, you know.”

“Why of course! Anyone could understand a patriotic Time Lord mad with determination that the notorious renegade not take over the rule of Gallifrey. After all the destruction you’ve already caused? Why, they’d beg me to take emergency power.”

“Ah. Lord President Borusa. I always wondered if you harbored secret desire for power. You did seem the type, honestly.”

“Ha! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Doctor, you have always been a fool. Borusa has been dead for quite a long time now.” He reached up as if to remove a pair of eyeglasses, and his face fell away to reveal another countenance. Darker, more saturnine than Dominic, with a neatly trimmed goatee…

“It’s you,” the Doctor said flatly. “The Master. You were supposed to have been killed trying to broker a deal with Omega for a new regeneration cycle.”

“Omega certainly thought he killed me,” the Master laughed. “But there are secrets and energies in the matter universe of which he knows nothing. This is hardly a regeneration, but this body should last long enough. Once I am Lord President, I will secure a new cycle on my own, and rule the Time Lords!”

“And finish destroying humanity, as you always promised,” the Doctor said bitterly.

“Destroy? Hardly. It will be easier to rule two scared populations at eternal war with each other.”

“What?”

“Doctor, you are so vain. I’m not killing you for my own pleasure, though I will certainly enjoy it. I’ve been sent here by the pitiful remnants of your Intelligence Taskforce, by your United Nations in exile! After all the devastation you caused with your last body, planning and arming hopeless adventures that killed thousands, regenerating and dropping out of sight for ages, and coming back with the intent to become President – oh yes, they know – they begged me to stop you.” The Master laughed again. “You can imagine the deal I made. They believe I’ll be satisfied as a wealthy top-level advisor, but they’ll learn.”

“Well. I must admit that’s a very good plan – no really, a smashing plan. One of your better efforts. Would you like to shoot me now, or would you like to save it for later?”

“While I would love to savor the moment longer, there will be witnesses here soon enough. I’ll want to have a convincing tableau ready. Would you like to try running, uselessly?”

“I’ll settle for looking you in the eyes. Do what you must.”

The Master raised the weapon. The Doctor’s expression was almost mocking. The barrel of the gun wavered ever so slightly. “Damn you, Doctor,” he cried and fired. He fired, and fired again.

The Doctor staggered, fell to one knee, then climbed shakily to his feet. The Master fired again, but this time the Doctor just rocked slightly.

“Just as well,” he said, and gasped. “I was wondering how much longer I could hold it in. This will speed things up.”

The Master fired again, but this time the Doctor barely noticed. “Did Omega tell you anything of what happened to him when he was thrust into the antimatter universe?”

“Yes!” the Master snarled. “He became a creature of antimatter himself, eventually existing only by an effort of pure will!”

“That’s right. And after I regenerated, I went back to his universe. My TARDIS know the way, after all. I thought maybe, perhaps, I could find a way to stop him besides the matter bomb I attempted with my other selves. I spent a long time there… depending on how you look at it.”

“And failed, clearly!”

“Have I failed?” the Doctor whispered, wobbling a bit. “Well, I suppose I will never know either way. Here’s a riddle: besides matter, what is the other fundamental component of our universe? The component our people have claimed to control for so long?”

“Time, of course,” the Master sneered.

“Precisely.” The Doctor dropped the Sash, and dropped the Presidental robes. “So obviously, the corresponding component of an anti-matter universe would be… ?”

“Anti… time? What are you blathering about? What in blazes could ‘anti-time’ be?” 

The Doctor’s body began to glow blackly, as if regenerating in reverse. Energy funneled into him from all directions, but especially from the nearby Eye, through all the protective barriers. “I don’t know… but I know I have quite a case of it. So let’s experiment.”

Furiously, the Master fired and fired and fired again, but the staser may as well have been a toy for all the effect it had. The Doctor saluted him, faced the Eye, squared his shoulders, and leaped – 

 

And on far-off Gallifrey, the Time Lords celebrated as their three-Doctor gamble succeeded. Omega was defeated, the white hole created over his rift in the universe flooded Gallifrey with life-giving energy, and the Time Lords prepared to thank the Doctor for his efforts by lifting his exile on Earth…

 

And the Master felt his life force failing, and began to plan a revenge on the Doctor and Gallifrey that would bring new live to his swiftly decaying stolen body. Dimly, he felt it would be especially appropriate for reasons he could not quite remember. Now, who was that easily manipulated fool of a Chancellor? Goth, yes, that was the man…

 

THE END

Comments are closed.