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Doctor Who Internet Adventure #02 - "Six Sides to Every Story"


Chapter 11
"The Beginning of Answers"
by Tom Campbell


---


White. The brightest white the Doctor could recall ever seeing, though not of the intensity that would actually prevent him from ever seeing anything again. It was simply blank, as though they'd managed to fling themselves completely outside the space-time continuum into the vast, uncharted realms that existed there in theory only.


       Still, that was not what attracted the attention of the Doctor, Merak, and a somewhat confused Grace Holloway at this time. It was, in fact, the object several yards away (if measurements meant anything wherever they now were), a blue police box, identical in every respect to that from which they had just exited. Not that they had much time to analyse its detail, though, as its light atop began to flash and the box proceeded to vanish, accompanied by a familiar wheezing, groaning sound.


       "Doctor," came a questioning, confused female voice just behind him. He turned to face his companion and a small grin appeared on his face.


       "Ah, Grace, back to normal, in a manner of speaking, I see. Splendid. Merak, why don't you take Grace back into the TARDIS and wait for me. I think I've got an idea why we're here and it's probably something I should take care of on my own."


       Merak could only nod, dumbfounded. Obviously, the places they'd been, things they'd seen, and events they'd encountered were beginning to take a bit of a toll on this man who'd spent much of his life sheltered on Atrios. Have to remind myself to have a long talk with him when this is over, the Doctor thought to himself. If we succeed in getting Astra back, it won't do for her to return to a shell-shocked husband. The man took Grace's arm and led her back into the time machine.


       The Doctor surveyed the area around him. All white, no sign of the little relaxed set-up he'd encountered here before (if, indeed, he was where he believed). Still, the faint telepathic trace he'd gotten from the departing TARDIS suggested his guess was right. And this was borne out when an elderly gentleman appeared in the distance, almost literally just fading in as he approached.


       "Ah, Doctor," the old man greeted courteously. "How nice of you to drop in. Though," and he gestured towards the empty spot which once held the other police box, "as you can see, it's not been nearly as long as it feels."


       "Indeed," the Doctor replied, "it seems like it's been a lifetime. Several, actually." He scanned the place with his eyes. "I see the old place hasn't changed much since the last time I was here."


       "Well, we guardians tend towards more Spartan surroundings than you mortal beings."


       "And can I assume that not as much time has passed for you as for I in the interim."


       The White Guardian chuckled. "Time. What a curious thing. Most beings have little understanding of it beyond the simple fact that it passes for them. Those few races, like your own, who have managed to break its confines have developed a greater wisdom about it. For we higher beings, though, its mysteries have been long since solved and it's no more than a tool to be utilized as we see fit."


       "I see," the Doctor replied. He didn't see, of course, but obviously he wasn't going to get a straight answer to that particular query, so he moved on. "Well, I take it this isn't just a social call?"


       The old man nodded solemnly. "I'm aware of your current quest."


       As I knew you must ultimately be, the Doctor thought.


       "You know, better than anyone, the power inherent in the cube. The Key to Time must not be reconstructed."


       "And it won't be, not if I have anything to say about it. Someone else initiated this series of events. And, with all due respect, I should really get on my way to track down that individual."


       The Guardian's expression suddenly grew very serious, more so than the Doctor even remembered seeing it on their initial meeting. "On completion of your previous search for the key, the balance between light and dark in the universe was restored. Should the key become fully functional again, that balance could be undone. But its ultimate intended use this time could prove far more deadly even than that."


       "Then let me give you the segment we do have," suggested the Doctor. "In your possession, nobody could ever fully reconstruct the Key."


       The Guardian's expression, if possible, became even more severe. "That can never happen, Doctor. My counterpart, if he possessed the key, would launch a destructive campaign unimaginable to your limited mind. Alternatively, myself being the White Guardian, I can never allow myself the temptation of controlling even the smallest portion of the key. The tipping of scales towards the light would be just as disastrous in its own way."


       "I understand. So, we mere mortals are left to safeguard the greatest power in the universe against those who would misuse it?"


       "A small price to pay for self-determination, wouldn't you say, Doctor?"


       "If you like," the Doctor replied sarcastically. The arrogance of superior beings irritated him greatly. Was that how he had sounded in his previous incarnation? Yet another personality trait he'd have to work on changing. "Well, perhaps you've brought me here to point me to my opponent, then. You do seem to have some knowledge of his or her identity."


       "Again, Doctor, I cannot be seen to interfere. Such an overt action would also serve to tip the scales towards light. No, I'm only here to warn and advise."


       Ah, behind the scenes cosmic interference. Now why did that seem so familiar? "Well, you've warned, so I can only assume you've still some advice to impart to me."


       "You are presented with the conundrum of a seventh segment," the Guardian said.


       Ah, perhaps some useful information to come now.


       "There is no seventh segment," he continued. "Your piece is real, but so are all six possessed by your opponent. The answer to that conundrum lies in your own memory. Search it well."


       Or perhaps not, the Doctor concluded.


       "Anything else?"


       "Your guesses concerning who has stolen the key are, thus far, farther from the mark than you could possibly imagine. Beware the enemy within, Doctor. Beware." And, with that, the White Guardian faded from sight.


* * *


Grace looked around her, slowly regaining her focus on where and, indeed, who she was. Merak was attending the still unconscious Time Lord they'd recovered from the Lovecraftian dimension they'd recently travelled to and the Doctor was outside doing who knew what. At least, he had been. At that particular moment, he re-entered through the double doors.


       "Grace," he beamed. "Welcome back. How was your brief out-of-body experience?"


       "Welcome back yourself. And I don't really remember that much of it."


       "Yes, well, obviously the TARDIS momentarily overwhelmed your neural pathways, so it wasn't really an out-of-body experience. Your mind simply thought it was the TARDIS. And, you know, she hasn't said that much to me in years."


       "That's nice, Doctor. It won't happen again?"


       "Well, as long as the telepathic connection remains, it might indeed. You might want to have a conversation with her about severing that link at the earliest possible opportunity. I think it would be in both you best interests."


       Grace couldn't argue with that, though there was a part of that connection that gave her a feeling of comfort and peace that she could never recall having had her entire life. "So, where to now?"


       "Well, even though you removed the segment from the rotor, the coordinates should still be fixed in the TARDIS navigation system. And, you know, I have the strangest feeling I know where the old girl is taking us." The Doctor activated the controls and the dematerialization sounds began. "There's no place like home, Grace. There's no place like home."


* * *


Normally, when Castellan Spandrell would enter the security offices of the Capital, there would be numerous guards manning the consoles, scanning the interior of the Capitol, the surrounding areas, and monitoring traffic beyond the transduction barrier in the system which Gallifrey was a part of. This day, though, it appeared that several had an unusual curiosity concerning whatever was on Guardsman Killian's console. Memory instantly told him that Killian was today monitoring the time field in this region.


       "Have things become so secure lately that we can afford to neglect our duties?" he barked at the onlookers. He felt some satisfaction at the stiffness that suddenly jumped into them, and the swiftness with which they came to attention. "Well, obviously our new president's administration is doing an even better job than promised. Why, we may even be forced to make cutbacks in the Chancellory Guard with peace and harmony so rampant in the Capitol. After all, no need for so many guards if that's the case, is there?"


       The men immediately returned to their posts, with a half-hearted "Yes, Castellan" being spoken. Ah, yes. Nothing like a healthy fear of your superiors.


       Spandrell looked over Killian's shoulder. "Now, what has so fascinated my guards that they're so quick to abandon their monitors?"


       Killian pointed to a couple of the monitors. "I picked this up a few minutes ago, sir. A time trace. A capsule of some kind. At first, I thought it was just another race attempting to break the time barrier with limited success, but this one is sustained."


       "That could be trouble," Spandrell nodded.


       "Yes, sir, but there's more. This time trace is converging to our present. And there's an associated spatial disruption involved. The capsule is headed for Gallifrey."


       Spandrell frowned. Very few races attempted to find their way to the Time Lords and those that did rarely duplicated their efforts. One primary suspicion rose to mind. "It's a Gallifreyan time capsule. Can you specify which?"


       "It's coming in too erratically and too quickly. I have pinpointed its exact materialization point, though."


       "Show me, then."


       The main screen showed a layout of the capital and one point in the layout was lit red. The Castellan recognized it immediately. "Oh, no. Have Andred get a squad down there. I'll join him immediately."


* * *


"And so, my lady," Cardinal Butrece continued, "we foresee the possibility of enhancing the shared power from the Eye in such a matter that the proposed type 97 time capsule will not only be able to maneuver more swiftly through the space-time continuum, but will be able to do so with an increase of %35 in the interior space."


       Lady President Romanadvoratrelundar sighed wearily. When she'd become president of the High Council, she'd foreseen sweeping changes in Gallifreyan society, a more active and free interest in the affairs of the universe around them. Yet, somehow, it seemed as though all she did was deal with political infighting, bureaucratic details, and tedious sessions on the latest innovations in time travel developed by a race that had long since surpassed all others in that area. Oh, for the days when she'd been able to roam the galaxy, free of the responsibilities of being a Time Lord. But those were days of the past. It was time to look to the future.


       "Well, that's all very interesting," she commented, "but what will we do with it?"


       "My lady?" Butrece had obviously been taken off-guard with an unanticipated question. "I don't follow."


       "Well, I understand that you've come up with a bigger, faster TARDIS, but what'll we actually do with it? Why is it necessary?"


       "Well," he spluttered. Romana always got a perverse enjoyment out of forcing these retentive codgers out of their limited worlds and into real life concerns. "Well, we can study the chronoverse with it, my lady."


       "Don't we already do that?"


       "Yes, but now we can do it faster."


       "And install a hot tub, to boot," Romana offered.


       "A hot tub? Whatever you say, my lady."


       The doors to the president's office suddenly burst open and Andred and several of the Chancellary Guard burst in, weapons drawn. They did a quick scan of the room.


       "May I help you, Captain?" Romana asked pleasantly, though with a touch of annoyance.


       Before Andred could answer, Romana recognized an all too familiar wheezing sound. A time capsule, she knew, though this one sounded like its better days had gone by centuries ago. Still, it did remind her of one TARDIS in particular. That being the case, she wasn't too surprised to see a large blue cabinet labeled "Police Box" appear in the corner of her office. A moment later, the doors opened and three unfamiliar faces disembarked.


       "Extremities where I can see them," Andred ordered. At the sight of the weapons aimed at them, the lead individual raised his arms. Momentarily, his companions did the same.


       "My lady," began Spandrell as he entered the chamber, then halted. "Ah, I see you have the situation in hand, Andred. Good man."


       The oddly familiar man with the longish curling hair addressed the Castellan. "Spandrell? By Rassilon, can I please put my arms down? They're starting to go numb." His attention shifted to Romana. "Romana? Spectacular! You haven't changed a bit. You're starting to make me feel even older than I am. Still haven't regenerated, eh?"


       His aura and demeanour finally confirmed his identity. "Well, Doctor, I didn't expect to see you back here again this soon." She turned to the guards. "Oh, please, put those down. This man's no threat; he's a friend."


       Spandrell stepped forward and looked the Doctor up and down, nodding approvingly. "Taller than when we last met. Much slimmer, as well. Gaining a little more control over your regenerations, eh, Doctor?"


       "I could only hope," he replied. Relaxing now that the pressure was off, he gestured to his companions. "This is Dr. Grace Holloway and I believe you know Merak, Romana."


       Merak stared at her like he'd seen a ghost. She thrust out her hand. "It's very, very good to see you again, Merak. How're things on Atrios?"


       "Incredible," Merak muttered. "The resemblance is uncanny."


       "Yes, well, I was always one to go with the 'in' look."


       The Doctor addressed Spandrell again. "Castellan, you'll find an injured Time Lord in the TARDIS console room. I'd suggest you take him to a secure infirmary. I'll fill you in on the details as soon as the president and I have had a chance to talk."


       Spandrell waved to a few of his guards and they entered the machine.


       "Well," the Doctor said to Romana, "I think it's time I let you know what we've been up to."


* * *


The hooded figure switched off the monitor and returned to the key. So beautiful, so powerful, yet still incomplete. Somehow, another segment was out there. Still, it would soon be his. The Doctor had kindly brought it to Gallifrey. Now he just needed to wait for the segment to find its way to him. Then the real game would begin.


---
To be continued...



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