Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

The Doctor looked around the console room. Rose and Wyn were sitting on the White House sofa reading one of the books from his library. Ten was actually at the drive controls at the moment, piloting both TARDISes while he was calibrating the navigation console. The TARDIS, he would SWEAR, was purring with two versions of the Time Lord it loved operating it. But if he said it out loud Rose would laugh and call him a soppy article.

They were heading out to a mutually chosen spot where they would go their separate ways again. But The Doctor found himself regretting that the parting was drawing near. He liked having Wyn around more than he would ever tell her. And even more reluctantly he would admit that he liked the company of his own successor. He had every reason to hate him. But he didn’t. He liked him. He even found himself envying some things about him. Ten was way more relaxed and laid back than he was. He seemed to take life in his stride, even with the same burdens, and a few more besides.

Of course, regeneration worked a change on the personality as well as the body. That was why he was so afraid of it. He didn’t want to lose the precious relationship he had with Rose because the new version of him didn’t value their love as much as he did. But he wished he could shed some of the angst of his life the way his next incarnation had done.

“Doctor,” Wyn said and both Doctors looked up at her, Ten thanking her silently for the distraction. He didn’t mean to listen in on his other self’s thoughts, but somehow it came easy to him when the thoughts involved himself. He knew he WAS different to Nine. He wished as fervently that he could lift his burden even a little.

Then again, his own burden could be just as heavy at times. He just seemed to have a different way of carrying it.

“Yes,” they both said at once to Wyn’s inquiry.

“I was wondering, how many of the Laws of Time have you broken?”

“Every bloody one by now,” The Doctor answered. Ten looked at him and grinned.

“Well, I don’t know about you,” he said. “But in my timeline Article II. Paragraph B has never been broken by me.”

“Well, that one exception,” The Doctor conceded. Wyn looked down the list in the book she was reading to Article II. Paragraph B.

“No being shall create a Grandfather Paradox?” She looked at them quizzically. “A what?”

“Going back in time to kill your own grandfather and/or impregnate your grandmother, therefore either making yourself not exist or altering your DNA by becoming your own grandfather.” The Doctor explained

“Well, that seems an obvious one to want to avoid,” Rose said with a smile.

“Article I. Paragraph A. Subsection 3. No Gallifreyan shall meet another Time Lord whose incarnations is out of sync with their own timestream,” Wyn continued. “That would be this situation with you two, wouldn’t it?”

“I think Article VII. No Time Lord shall interact with his own future, and paragraph A., No being may come into contact with his future self - probably come into this one as well,” Ten added.

“They get you coming or going.”

“Well, it's not as if we did it deliberately,” The Doctor said grumpily. “I presume you didn’t intentionally materialise inside my TARDIS and blow all the fuses?”

“No,” Ten said. “But I DID deliberately come to your aid when you were dying of Broen virus and we DID deliberately get together for the Rite of Progression.”

“Well, we had to make sure Wyn could get home ok.”

“I don’t think that would get much sympathy in a Gallifreyan court,” Wyn told them. “VI. - A. It is forbidden to allow non-Time Lords into a TARDIS. And if that is considered to be unauthorized use of a TARDIS you’re both in big trouble anyway. Apparently that carries a mandatory Death Penalty.”

“No kidding,” Ten muttered and The Doctor uttered a couple of choice swearwords in Low Gallifreyan. “They already got us on that one.”

“Death penalty?”

“Yes,” Rose said. “When he became the one your mum knew. The Time Lords had executed his previous life and let him reincarnate.”

Wyn looked as shocked as Rose was the first time she heard about it. Both Doctor’s shrugged as if it was old news to them.

“Wyn,” The Doctor asked. “Is Article I. Paragraph B. Subsection 5 still in force in the version of the laws in that book?”

“It is forbidden for Gallifreyans and Lesser Species to interbreed.” Wyn looked up at both Doctors. “What? But…”

“We are the embodiment of all that rule was meant to prevent. Half bloods with the power of Time Lords!” Ten grinned.

“Abated, 3.06.766, re-enacted 5.33.435, Abated 5.99.321…” Wyn read.

“Yeah, they could never make their minds up. The law was abated in our grandfather’s youth. So our father was free to marry our Earth mother. And I had no trouble marrying Julia. It got quite a trend in the Newblood and lower caste houses for a while. There was a weird kind of imbalance in our society. Only 18 per cent of the population was female. So a lot of men either took vows of celibacy or married ‘lesser races’. But not long after Christopher graduated from the Prydonian Academy they re-enacted the law. They were SCARED of too many of our kind. It was ok to have half-bloods at the lower end of society, cleaning our homes, serving our food. But an Oldblood House like Lœngbærrow that turned out Lord High Presidents….”

“Oh, there is one other law we haven’t broken,” Ten remembered with a sudden smile. “VIII – C. No using time travel to win the lottery.’”

“Whose lottery?” Wyn asked.

“Anybody’s,” The Doctor grinned. “Used to make me laugh, that one. The Laws are absurd the way they are written, and they’re arrogant and downright superior. But even if I ride roughshod over the details of the Laws, I DO keep to the abiding principle of them.”

“The Laws of Time give the Time Lords the divine purpose of serving Time itself by maintaining the continuity/history of the fabric of the space-time continuum and the causality of the Universe.” Wyn read.

“‘Divine Purpose’ See what I mean about arrogant. But yes. We have to prevent those things. We also have a duty to protect the ‘lesser races’ from abuse, from oppression, from themselves sometimes. And as long as we’re doing that, then the fact that the arrogant fools who wrote those laws are space dust slowly being sucked into a black hole where our world used to be doesn’t matter.”

“You think maybe we ought to try that lottery some time,” Ten joked. He agreed wholeheartedly with the sentiment his other self expressed. They both lived to uphold the spirit, if not the letter, of those laws. But their companions needed them to be a little less earnest about it. HE needed Nine to dwell a lot less on the past. For his own sanity.

“I think I might one of these days,” The Doctor agreed. “Meanwhile, I think we’re nearly there. Time for you two to depart.”

“Well,” Ten said. “We’ll probably drop by your way again, some time.”

“Well…” The Doctor tried to hide his feelings now that the parting was imminent, but he failed miserably. He looked at Wyn, who had put down the book and approached them both slowly. “Come here, give us a hug,” he said to her. She smiled and ran to wrap her arms around him.

Ten stepped towards Rose.

“Do you want a hug, too?” she asked, standing up.

“That would be nice,” he told her, reaching and embracing her tenderly. “But I really wanted to…. Rose, take care of him.”

“I always do. But…” She looked at him. “There’s something…”

“This thing about our son. I think… Well, HE does have a tendency to get obsessed with ideas. And this obsession… don’t let him drive himself mad trying to do the impossible. And don’t let him drive a wedge between him and you and everyone who cares for him because of it.”

“You’re really THAT worried about him?”

“Yes.” He glanced at his other self. He couldn’t say much more without making him suspicious. He had to hope Rose understood.

“I’ll bear it in mind,” she promised. “Thanks.”

“Good girl,” Ten said and kissed her gently before turning and reaching his hand out to Wyn. She came to him and there seemed no reason to put it off any longer. The Doctor opened the doors and Ten and Wyn stepped through into their TARDIS. He closed the doors and looked up at the viewscreen. The other TARDIS span away from them, moving through space at what Rose called impulse power, though only because there was no danger of the makers of Star Trek suing her for copyright.

“Now I’m going to miss Wyn all over again,” Rose sighed. “Got used to having her about the place with me.”

“I’m going to miss him,” The Doctor admitted. “He’s ok. When you get to know him.”

“Course he is. He IS you.”

“Yes. Took us a while to realise that, didn’t it.” Rose smiled at him. He grinned at her. Then he took the one compensation that being alone had. Rose sighed happily as he pulled her close and kissed her with that almost frightening masculine passion that thrilled her by its very hint of darkness and danger beneath the overriding message that he loved her with all his hearts and soul.

At least that was what he began to do.

“What happened?” Rose picked herself up off the floor, rubbing her bruised head dizzily. “I know you’re a knockout kisser, but not usually literally…”

“Let me look at that,” The Doctor said, adjusting his sonic screwdriver to tissue repair and soothing away the bruise. “I don’t know what happened but…” He looked up at the viewscreen as Ten patched through a video message. He became concerned for Rose when he saw what The Doctor was doing. “No serious injuries,” he assured him. “What about you?”

“We’re ok, but there is something funny going on here,” Ten said. “Have you noticed we’ve jumped space?”

“Haven’t looked yet.” The Doctor moved around to the navigation panel. “Oh my….” He whistled. “I didn’t even know that was still there.”

“Shada,” Ten said.


“And both our TARDISes have initiated automatic landings.”

“THERE?” The Doctor looked….

He looked scared. Rose stared at him. He’d mentioned Shada once or twice before. It was the Gallifreyan prison planet. That didn’t sound nice, but she didn’t know why he would be scared. She looked at the viewscreen. Ten looked disturbed too. She saw Wyn come to his side and put her hand on his as he leaned against his console. The Doctor reached out and found her hand and she was surprised to feel that he was shaking.

“Whatever it's about, we’ll find out,” The Doctor said to her, and to his other self and Wyn. He steadied his hand carefully. He was trying to control his emotions, hold in his fear. Rose looked at his face and saw the cheek muscle twitch as he concentrated on holding it in.

“Why is this place so scary?” Wyn asked when the four of them met up together on the planet. It was not especially welcoming, it had to be said. They looked up at the great gate with a foreboding sign above it that was the entrance to the prison. That was the only sign of sentient life on the planet that was otherwise a barren desert with an eerie wind. But even if it was inhospitable there was no real reason to feel scared except for a sense of dread and impending doom that seemed instinctive.

“The living damned are here,” Ten said. “That’s why.” He and The Doctor stepped towards the gate. Rose and Wyn followed. Rose found herself automatically reaching out and was not entirely surprised when Wyn grasped her hand. It was good to feel another human touch.

To their surprise, the gate opened as they approached.

“They open IN,” Ten explained. “But not OUT.”

“We can’t get OUT?” Wyn gasped turning just as the gates slammed shut behind them leaving them in a sort of halfway area with another set of gates in front of them. “But….”

“Halt!” A mechanical voice ordered and the two Doctors both halted, waving to their women to do the same. Rose and Wyn stood close behind them and watched as two robots approached. They were at least seven foot tall in a matt black metal. Their eyes glowed red but their mouths were just slits. When they spoke there was no facial expression. “Visitors to the prison must present themselves for bio-analysis.”

“Nothing to be scared of,” The Doctor assured them. They stepped forward to what looked like a weigh-station in a lorry park. They stood on a sort of grating and a light scanned them.

“Two humanoid females with no criminal record,” a mechanical voice said. “They may present their visitor passes at the inner gate and be taken to the prisoner they wish to observe.”

“They think you’re visiting one of the inmates,” The Doctor said when Rose and Wyn looked at him and were on the point of asking the obvious question. “Go on, it’s ok.”

They stepped off the grating and The Doctor and Ten stepped on. The white light scanned them and all hell broke loose. The light flashed red and green and a siren wailed noisily.

“Malfeasance!” The mechanical voice sounded almost hysterical. “You are the one called The Doctor. You are a criminal. You have an outstanding conviction.”

“Which one of us is it talking about?” Ten asked.

“Both of us, I think.” The Doctor replied. “But this is rubbish.” He tried to step off the grill but a force field held him back.

“You are a convicted criminal,” the voice repeated. “Under Malfeasance Order 309906, you, the Time Lord currently known as The Doctor, having been captured and brought to Shada, shall serve no less than 10,000 years in cryogenic suspension.”

“No,” The Doctor protested. “That Order was rescinded centuries ago. What’s going on here?” He and Ten stood back to back, sonic screwdrivers at the ready, but they knew there was nothing they could do as they saw the robotic guards approach. Even the laser beam function wouldn’t penetrate the force field. There was nothing they could do to stop themselves being taken.

“I’m sorry I got you into this,” The Doctor told his other self as they both felt strong metallic hands close on their arms.

“Wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” he replied with a grin. “See you in 10,000 years, Doctor.”

“That’s not funny,” The Doctor snapped. He glanced around and saw Rose and Wyn being held back by more of the guards. 10,000 years. She would be dead and gone by then. His hearts screamed out at the injustice. They weren’t exactly innocent, of course. They had both laughed about it earlier, but there were very few of the Laws that they hadn’t at least bent, and some they had broken with blatant disregard.

But the Malfeasance Order HAD been rescinded. His sins against Gallifreyan Authority had been forgiven long ago. He had proved himself loyal to the end.

Even AT the end. He had answered the call. He had given himself to the service of his people when the Last Time War reached its crisis point, when Gallifrey itself was under threat. He had returned to his home-world and promised his allegiance to the cause.

And he had given it, to the DEATH, or as close to it as he had ever come. Because as irritating as it was, he loved his planet, he loved his people. And he had wanted to save his society, his species, from annihilation.

He had no crime to answer. This sentence was wrong. But the robots weren’t programmed to listen. They weren’t programmed to be bribed or persuaded, couldn’t be hypnotised, couldn’t have their minds warped by any telepathic power.

That was why they were such good guards for a prison that housed some of the most powerful and most dangerous minds in the universe.

They were taken in through the inner gate and nobody could blame either of them if their hearts sank at the sight before them. The cryogenic chambers were stacked ten levels high and the rows seemed to go on for miles. It was indescribable because there was nothing to compare it with.

“No,” The Doctor groaned as they were forced to walk along the avenue between the rows of chambers. “No, I can’t do this.” Nobody could call him a coward. But he WAS scared, for himself, for his other self, and for Rose and Wyn.

“Hang in there,” Ten told him telepathically as they were pushed into separate chambers side by side. “This has to be a mistake. These tin twerps following the letter of the Law.”

“Who are we supposed to appeal to about it?” The Doctor asked before the door closed on him cutting off even telepathic communication. He wished he had said something less irritable, something more friendly, in their last words to each other. He felt the loneliness sweep over him at once. He pressed his back against the far wall of the coffin like chamber and waited for the cryogenic process to begin, dreading the start of the living death.

“Let me through,” Rose said to the robot guards that barred the inner doorway. “We have already been admitted to visit a prisoner. At least let me be with him when you….” She tried not to cry. He wasn’t being KILLED. She understood that. But 10,000 years! It was as good as. What kind of universe would it be when they were released? One without her in it, that was for sure. One without his granddaughter and great grand-children. All the people he loved. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right.

“Please let me be with him,” she begged. But the guards were not ones that would listen to any appeal.

“Rose!” She turned, startled, when somebody called her name. She stared at the man who stood there suddenly where she was sure there was nobody before. For a moment she didn’t know who he was. Then the memory came back to her. And she shivered.

“You’re….” She stared again. He looked solid enough. Not a ghost. “You’re his dad…”

“And you’re the woman he loves.” The Doctor’s father, in corporeal form even though he died in the Time War, reached and took her hand in his. He felt warm, real, living flesh.

“But how can you…”

“We can take on corporeal form for a short time, if enough of us concentrate our energies on it.”

“Ok,” Rose said. It sounded freaky, but who was she to argue. Time Lord ghosts were bound to be smarter than the average Human ghost.

It could be a trap. It could be somebody taking on that form.

But something in his eyes told her he wasn’t.

“I gave that ring to my wife,” he said, touching the solitaire diamond. “Now it’s yours. Things have moved on between you and my son since we last talked.”

“Yes,” she said. “But… He’s… They’ve… Oh….”

“They’ve taken both of them,” Wyn said, controlling her feelings rather better than Rose was. “Please help, if you can.”

“That’s what I’m here for,” he said. “But what do you mean BOTH?” He turned and pointed his sonic screwdriver at the gate guards. There were muted explosions as if coming from inside the robot bodies and they went still. All around them, all the robot guards did the same as if a chain reaction had been started.

“That’s them out of our way,” The Doctor’s father said with a satisfied smile. They stepped through the gates. “Now, where is my son?”

“In those!” Wyn said pointing at the hypnotic rows of cryogenic chambers. “There’s millions of them.”

“Thousands, anyway,” Rose said. “But please, just get them out of there. Explanations can wait. They’re about to get frozen for 10,000 years.”

“No,” The Doctor’s father said calmly. “The machinery is defunct. The cryogenic chambers were powered by the Matrix on Gallifrey. When it died, it was all over here, too.” He adjusted the sonic screwdriver again. Rose and Wyn, despite their worry, found the multiple uses of that strange tool fascinating as ever. “There ARE two lifesigns here. Only two. This way…” And he strode off using the sonic screwdriver as a sort of divining rod. Rose and Wyn followed, running to keep up. The Doctor’s father was a nice old guy, but whether it was because they were girls or because they were merely Human, he seemed to consider them surplus to requirements.

He came to the two newly occupied chambers and operated the sealed locks on first one, then the other. Rose yanked one door open while Wyn went to the other. She was worried about HER Doctor being forgotten in this situation where HE also seemed surplus to requirements.

Rose’s Doctor was still standing with his back against the wall, his eyes closed. He seemed not to have heard the door opening. “Do you want to hang about for 10,000 years?” she asked him. “You’re reprieved. Come on.” She reached out as his eyes opened and he smiled as he took her hand. He looked around to see Wyn helping Ten out of his cell and then he saw….

“Father,” he cried joyfully. “Was it you that stopped the process?”

“The chambers don’t work,” Rose explained. “Other than that I don’t get it any more than you do. I don’t know how he’s here….”

HE was looking at Ten in astonishment. He looked back at Nine and then reached out his hand to the other incarnation of his own son.

“How is this possible?” he asked as he drew them both to him. “Son, what have you done? It shouldn’t be possible.”

“It’s possible,” Ten said. “And I’m glad. I’m so glad to see you.”

“Me too,” Nine added. “But why are you here? Why are ANY of us here? Surely not to pull that Malfeasance Order nonsense on us?”

“We need you,” his father said. “I don’t have much time. I can’t hold this form for long. I’m DEAD, remember. I was able to summon your TARDIS here. The guards and their ridiculous programming were an oversight.”

“Telling me,” Ten said. “So what…..”

“You’re here because you’re the only one who can stop it.”

“Stop what?”

“The Dark Matrix.”

“Father, please,” The Doctor said. “When you were alive you talked to me straight. There was never all this mystic mumbo-jumbo. And if I’d tried it you’d have knocked it right out of me.”

“Too right, you would. Dark Matrix….” Ten looked around at the thousands of cryogenic chambers. “Oh no. You’re not telling me….”

“Oh #£$^&*!#!” The Doctor said.

“Your mother would not like you using words like that,” his father admonished him.

“Mama never spoke Low Gallifreyan,” Ten replied on his behalf. “She wouldn’t know what it means.”

“Anyway,” The Doctor added. “YOU used those words all the time. Where do you think WE got it from?”

The Doctor’s father smiled at both incarnations of his first born son. It was an unexpected turn of events, but on the whole he thought the situation was BETTER for their dual presence.

“You guessed right,” he said to Ten. “Somebody has created a Matrix of all the minds of all the most vile criminals incarcerated here. It could be used for evil we cannot imagine. You must stop it. For the sake of the universe. It's a dark enough place already, despite your attempts to bring light to it. If the Dark Matrix is allowed free reign….”

“Don’t suppose we get any clues as to where to start?” Ten asked.

“I don’t know. We only know that something is being attempted here. Something that WE can’t stop. We can only take on corporeal form for a short time and it took all my energy to disable the guards and free you from the chamber. I must….”

“Father,” The Doctor said. “Before you go… Let me… I never told you the last time… I forgot to tell you so many times….”

“I love you, father,” Ten cut in quickly. He learnt the lesson too bitterly once before. He didn’t waste time on extraneous words.

“Yes,” The Doctor added. “Yes, that’s what I wanted to say. I love you. And I’m sorry if I disappointed you.”

“Disappointed me?” His father laughed softly, though his laughter seemed oddly distant now, and he himself seemed not quite as corporeal as he was, though his grip on their hands still seemed solid enough. “My son, I have always been proud of you. You have already fulfilled part of your destiny – the last, the greatest Time Lord. You cannot disappoint me.”

“Wait,” Ten called to him, but they both felt his hands dissolve away beneath their touch. “I wish…”

“So do I,” The Doctor sighed. Neither of their companions knew what it was they both wished, though they could take a guess. “Ok, come on, things to do, evil to vanquish, some serious darkness to bring the light to.”

And as a preliminary he stepped towards the nearest of the cryogenic chambers. He examined the name inscribed in Gallifreyan script on the door.

“Lissandro Harpaindrix Gellovia,” The Doctor said.

“You can get pills for that,” Wyn told him.

“Unfortunately, you can’t,” Ten responded. “Gellovia is a $#£$%^&^.”

Rose and Wyn both had the same thought at the same time. The Doctor’s sainted mother would have had no trouble translating the SENSE of that word, even if she didn’t know what it meant. And she would have been shocked. There was such venom in the way he pronounced the word.

“$#£$%^&^ is too polite a description for him,” The Doctor said, operating the lock release and opening the door. Ten stepped back automatically, but there was no need. What was in there, after slowly desiccating for nearly fifty years in its sealed chamber, could not do any harm to anyone – unless they had just eaten and were of a particularly sensitive disposition.

“Well, I’m not opening them all,” The Doctor added as he closed it again. “Let’s assume they’re all like this.”

“Your father said that the cryogenic chambers failed when Gallifrey died,” Rose told him.

“So how come they didn’t all come back to life or… you know…”

“Because they were still encased in ice when their life support was cut off. They would all have suffocated or drowned, possibly both.” Ten looked around as he spoke, and shuddered. These were the scum of his society. Murderers, rapists, lowlife. He didn’t waste any sympathy on them. But he knew it must have been a terrible way to die. Cryogenic prison wasn’t just like taking a nap for 10,000 years, dreaming pleasant dreams. Your brain was allowed to work, slowly. You knew what was happening to you. That was why it was done. It was the proverbial fate worse than death. Atomisation was agonising, as he knew well enough, but it was over in a few minutes. He would choose that before 10,000 years of living horror any day.

“I doubt any of them were sane enough to know they were dying,” The Doctor told him telepathically. “It would drive most sentient beings mad before the first 1,000 years was up.”

“I hope you’re right. Where do you think this Matrix would be?”

“Got to be housed somewhere. The original Matrix was in the Panopticon in the Capital. I bet we’re looking for something the same size.”

“Will you two stop talking to each other telepathically and share with us,” Rose complained. Both Doctors turned and smiled disarmingly and let the two women in their lives catch up before repeating what they had been saying to each other.

“What IS this Dark Matrix anyway?” Rose asked. “Obviously not another remake involving Keanu Reeves.”

“I just knew one of you was going to get THAT joke out,” The Doctor said with a knowing grin to Ten. “On Gallifrey, when a Time Lord died, finally died, at the end of his regenerations, all that he was, all his knowledge, skill and wisdom, entered the Matrix. It was a sort of well of knowledge, the wisdom of ancients, controlled by the most skilled technicians of our world.”

“And now, apparently, somebody has done it with the minds of THIS lot,” Ten said. “All the evil they were in life has been pooled into the antithesis of the original Matrix.”

“And we have to find it, and destroy it,” The Doctor said. “Problem number two is a biggie, but there’s no point worrying about it until we solve problem number one – where is it?”

“You think it would be in some kind of big public area?” Wyn said in answer to that question. “Like the panwhatsit from your own world.”

“Yes, but this isn’t the sort of place that HAD public places,” The Doctor mused. “The prisoners were all asleep. They didn’t need exercise or food or education like in an ordinary prison. And the guards are automatons. The few maintenance people that would come here now and then wouldn’t need much in the way of facilities.”

“Does it have to be on the planet?” Rose asked. “You guys seem quite good at stringing stuff out. SangC’lune is light years from here, so is Gallifrey itself. Couldn’t this Dark Matrix be on another planet?”

“Not a planet,” Ten said, looking up. The Doctor looked up too, at the geo-synchronised moon of Shada.

“The COURTROOM!” they both said at once and turned and ran back to where their TARDISes had landed.

Rose and Wyn decided that ignoring lesser species must, in fact, be a Gallifreyan thing, and followed.

“This had robot guards, too,” The Doctor said as they landed inside the court facility on the moon of Shada. “Hopefully the chain reaction that disabled them all worked here. I’m not going through all that Malfeasance Order nonsense again.”

“What did you do to deserve 10,000 years in jail?” Wyn asked as they made their way through the stark reception area of the building. “And did my mum know you were a fugitive from the law?”

“I never quite broke it to MY mum that I’m engaged to a jailbird, either,” Rose kidded. But then they both saw the cold look on the faces of both men. For them it wasn’t funny. Especially after they had faced that sentence square on not so long ago.

“Halt!” A metallic voice called and the groan of impatience and exasperation from the two Doctors was in perfect synchronisation. They pulled their sonic screwdrivers together and aimed at the two robot guards that barred their way.

“That should sort those out,” The Doctor said as they heard the muffled sounds of the chain reaction all through the complex.

“They seem very easy to put out of action,” Rose observed.

“They’re running on reserve battery power,” Ten explained. “They worked on the same principle as the TARDIS technology, drawing unlimited power from the Eye of Harmony on Gallifrey. But now Gallifrey is gone our TARDISes just have their individual fragments of the Eye and we have to find ways of recharging it every half a millennia or so – like we did in Cardiff. But these guys only have an ordinary power source without the mains to plug themselves into. So when we disrupt them they’re sunk.”

“Suits me,” The Doctor said. “I doubt if we’re going to get an easy fight against the Dark Matrix, so I’m quite happy to save my strength for the real fight.” He looked at the doors leading from the reception, all marked in that strange Gallifreyan text that looked like no language any where else in the universe and strode off through the middle doors. Ten looked at his retreating back and reached his two hands out to Rose and Wyn as they followed him.

“Wow, who’s she?” Wyn said as they stopped in their tracks and looked at the high, cathedral size doors that apparently lead to the main courtroom. They were at least fifteen feet high, and standing before them was a woman – or the image of a woman at least. She looked like a hologram projection –A fifteen foot high projection. Even at normal size she would have been formidable. She was the archetypal female sexual predator. And something in the way the hologram shimmered as The Doctor approached gave Rose the feeling that this was a woman The Doctor had some history with. Though the way he stiffened his back and the way his lips became a thin line of contempt suggested this was NOT an old flame.

“Doctor!” she said with a scornful laugh. “So we judged correctly. YOU were sent to destroy the Matrix.”

“Rani?” The Doctor looked up at her. “YOU were here? A prisoner?”

“Yes,” she replied, her form shimmering angrily. YOU helped put me here. You snivelling sneak, telling the High Council that I was conducting experiments on lesser beings.”

“So you’re dead?” he continued, ignoring the accusation that he was responsible for her incarceration. He probably was, for that matter. But she deserved it. She was a nasty piece of work. Always had been.

“Good riddance,” Ten said, in a tone that was uncharacteristically uncharitable. Rose and Wyn both wondered what was between The Doctor and The Rani. It definitely wasn’t a love interest. More like a HATE interest. But it seemed much more personal than the enemies The Doctor usually tangled with.

“Who is HE?” Rani asked looking at Ten. Then her eyes boggled. “Oh my! And they called ME Renegade. You’ve just about broken every rule in the book.”

“Well, several sections, anyway,” Wyn laughed.

“They’ve never rigged the lottery or tried to be their own grandfather,” Rose added, also giggling. But something in that woman’s eyes drove the laughter from them when she turned her stare on them.

“I see you still have a hankering for ape-forms,” she sneered.

“Sooner a whole jungle of ape forms than a Time Lord traitor,” The Doctor snarled. “But if you’re dead, that’s one less problem to deal with.” And he stepped forward through the shimmering figure and pushed the doors open. Rose gasped as she saw him falter in his step. He clutched his chest as if he had been hurt.

“He has,” Ten said, and she remembered that he could read her thoughts as easily as The Doctor could when he chose to. He stepped forward, too. But before he stepped through the door, he pulled his sonic screwdriver. He aimed it at the ghostly form of his old adversary. As he thought, she was created by a form of plasma energy. No wonder. It would be like walking through live electricity.

He adjusted the screwdriver and it emitted a beam that merged with the Rani energy form momentarily before she disappeared as if suddenly switched off.

“It’s safe now,” he said and ran ahead of the two women. Rose had caught him up even so.

“Doctor,” she cried reaching for him as he stood clutching the rail of a wide balcony overlooking the courtroom floor. “Are you all right?” Stupid question, she chided herself. He wasn’t all right. He was nearly doubled up in pain and his face strained with the effort just to say her name. He looked as if he was having a heart attack.

“Let me.” Ten gently moved her aside and helped his other self stand up straight before he reached out his two hands and placed them over his hearts. Both were in serious arrhythmia. Only a Time Lord could be both brachycardic and tachycardic at the same time. He concentrated on steadying both hearts, slowing one, and bringing the other back to the correct speed before setting them into their proper rhythm, the left beat slightly ahead of the right.

“Nearly killed yourself just to score points with a ghost,” Ten chided him. “You like that life so much, you have to look after it better than that.”

“Yeah,” The Doctor agreed, still catching his breath. That had scared him more than he would let on to his Human friends, though he knew he couldn’t hide it from Ten. “Even dead she’s a….”

“Yeah, she is. Come on. Let’s get on.”

“Do you still get the feeling we’re surplus to requirements with this double act?” Rose asked Wyn as they followed the two men down the steps that led to the courtroom floor. Or what was meant to be a floor. What should have been a floor looked like a dark pool of blackness. It was impossible to tell if it was solid or not. If you looked at it one way it seemed like a polished black surface, like a mirror that absorbed rather than reflected light. Another way it was a bottomless nothingness that sucked at the eyeball in its impossible depths. Every so often it seemed to ripple and shimmer as if it was a pool of obsidian black water.

Whichever it was, it was scary. The two Doctor’s stood looking at it. Then they turned and looked at Rose and Wyn as they started to follow them down the steps.

“Stay up there,” The Doctor ordered them. “This is…”

“Guy stuff?” Rose answered scathingly. “Come on, Doctor you know…”

“It’s Time Lord stuff,” he said, cutting them off. They began to protest, but there was something in his voice that quietened them. “The Matrix is thousands of Time Lord minds joined as one. If they turned on you, your brain would fry in an instant. Even we…”

“If it's so dangerous, what can you do? You’re only two of you… against thousands.”

“One of us against thousands,” The Doctor glanced at Ten. “One of us will have to go into the Matrix, you realise.”

“We can both do it,” Ten said. “Together, we’re stronger.”

“But they might take on physical forms, too. Somebody has to be in the real world.”

“What are we?” Rose demanded. “Stop patronising us, both of you. We can both fight. YOU taught us so that we can fight our corner.”

“Here,” Ten passed Wyn his sonic screwdriver. “It's set to neutralise the plasma projections like The Rani used. Point and click.”

“Rose…” The Doctor adjusted his own sonic screwdriver to the same setting and passed it to her. “Be careful, both of you.”

“Same goes for you two,” Rose answered. “Doctor… both of you… You…” She looked at Ten. “You’re him, too. I care what happens to you.”

“I know you do, Rose,” he said. “We’ll do our best. Can’t promise more than that. If we fail… get back to the TARDIS. You know how to get back to Earth in your own time. You can get Wyn home…”

“Don’t fail,” Rose told them. “Seeing as everyone’s giving everyone else orders around here, that’s MY order to you. Don’t fail. Get back to us safe.”

The Doctor smiled at her and turned and stepped towards the Dark Matrix. It wasn’t an inviting prospect. His chest still hurt and he felt as if he couldn’t breathe deep enough to fill his lungs. But he had to do this.

He stepped onto the floor. The sensation was of standing at the same time on a solid surface, on water, and in thin air.

Rose screamed as she saw him sink under what NOW really did appear to be shimmering liquid. For a moment she could see him suspended in it, his arms and legs outstretched and his jacket splayed out around him. Then it seemed to become solid again and she couldn’t see him.

“Get him out,” she yelled. “He’ll drown.”

“No, he won’t” Ten told her. “He’s passed through into the Matrix. I’ve got to go with him. He needs me. You two…” He broke off. He’d already told them to be careful. Saying it again would be surplus to requirements. He turned and stepped onto the black surface.

He opened his eyes to find himself in a three dimensional version of the same dark illusion. The room seemed to be circular, and seemed to be about twenty metres across. The walls, if they were walls, were black that was either glass, or liquid or empty space. It was impossible to say.

“Between realities, of course,” Ten said to The Doctor as he stepped up to him.

“I know,” The Doctor said. “Neither one thing nor the other. A space that does not really exist in any dimension, created by a couple of thousand warped criminal brains.”

Ten reached at his side and drew a long sword. “Have you ever wondered why we carry swords in our psychic battles?”

“Symbol of power,” The Doctor said drawing a matching sword. Both, he noticed, had the seal of their House on them. “Besides, we’re good with them. I’d trust a strong, sharp sword over a gun any time.”

“Get ready,” Ten said. “We’re going to need them.” He nodded towards the dark far wall where several shadowy figures who seemed to be a lighter shade of the darkness lurked menacingly.

“You know, we were counted as criminals just like them,” The Doctor said as the figures approached. “We could just tell them we want to join their gang. All us Renegades together.”

“We’re NOT Renegades. That was the mistake the High Council made, calling us that in the first place.”

“Yeah,” The Doctor grinned as the adrenaline rush steeled him for the fight. “We never fiddled the lottery!”

The shadowy figures loomed closer. Eight of them in all. Now the Doctors saw their faces. They recognised some of them as the most notorious criminals in the history of Gallifrey. They understood why the ghosts of his people were concerned. These minds collected into a source of power like the Matrix would be a curse on Creation itself.

And they understood fully as they launched into a fight for their lives, that merely killing these phantoms, who were just part of the illusion, was not enough to destroy the Matrix. This was only the opening gambit.

As he cleaved the head off the illusion of an infamous murderer who had passed into legend 1,000 years before he was born, The Doctor wondered just how many they would have to fight. He still felt the chest pain and shortness of breath. The Rani had dealt him a vicious blow and he felt it still.

“Shake it off,” Ten told him. “You have to. If we die in here they’ll take our minds and make us a part of the Matrix.”

“No chance,” he said as he dispatched another mass murderer of legend. “I’m not going to give The Rani the satisfaction of knowing she weakened me.” He breathed deeply. It hurt, but he filled his lungs with the air he needed to circulate through his blood as he fought for his life.

“I wouldn’t give her the time of day.” Ten ducked and lunged and stabbed a multiple rapist through the heart and pulled the sword back in order to decapitate a dark figure who he didn’t recognise but who was about to strike The Doctor over the shoulders with a meat cleaver. “She only hates us because we wouldn’t take her to the spring ball when we were 150.”

“Oh, is that it!” The Doctor answered, sarcastically. He swung his sword and took out another knife wielding maniac and turned to see Ten hesitate when faced with a blonde haired woman who, if you weren’t concentrating, if you let your mind wander, looked a little bit like Rose. He thrust his sword into her neck and she fell, cursing him.

“Sorry,” Ten said. “But that one threw me…”

“Jocastra Tyriea Ravenwode,” The Doctor said. “The one who ATE her own children. And no, she doesn’t look anything like Rose. Not really.”

“We can’t let ourselves be distracted that way,” Ten said, even though it was HIM who had been distracted.

“Don’t YOU get distracted by thoughts about MY girl,” The Doctor said. “You had your chance and blew it.”

“That was uncalled for.” Ten protested. “You know that….” He stopped. He looked at The Doctor. “They’re playing games with our heads. We fell for that one hook, line and sinker.”

“Stupid!” The Doctor cursed himself. “And we had so much experience of it in the Rite of Progression! Come on, let’s get this done with. If they’ve finished coming at us with murderous ghosts.”

“Do you have any idea what we have to do to stop this?”

“Find the core of the Matrix,” The Doctor replied.

Rose and Wyn watched each other’s backs cautiously.

“What’s THAT?” Wyn screamed. Rose turned and saw the pool bulging upwards until it formed what seemed to take on a humanoid shape. It resolved into a man who stepped towards them. They both turned their sonic screwdrivers on him but he just laughed and kept on coming.

“I’m not made of plasma,” he said. “If we concentrate hard enough one of us can take on flesh temporarily. And this flesh hasn’t had an opportunity like this for a long time.”

“Who are you?” Rose asked, backing off as quickly as she could.

“Lissandro Harpaindrix Gellovia,” he said.

“The one you can’t get pills for,” Wyn whispered but Rose remembered well enough. She still didn’t know what the word was that Ten and The Doctor both used to describe this man but she knew just by looking at his face that she didn’t want to get any closer to him than this.

But he clearly wanted to get near her. He moved faster than she had expected and grasped her by the neck with one hand, while his other reached to lift her blouse. “Very attractive, for an Earthling,” he growled. “You’ll do for amusement.”

“I’d die first,” she said as she realised exactly what that Low Gallifreyan word meant. She brought her knee up sharply and connected with those parts of a Time Lord that were as vulnerable as they were in almost every species she had encountered. As he doubled up in agony she got ready with a Gung Fu move that would finish him off, but he recovered faster than she expected and she no more than winded him with her move. He grabbed her by the hair and she screamed. Wyn moved in, kicking the man as hard as she could as he swung Rose around and tried to get a firmer hold on her. Rose, meanwhile looped her foot around the back of his kneecap and pulled him off his feet. They all three went flying down the steps towards the dark, strange floor. She heard Wyn scream and reach a hand out to save herself, but she was still grappling with her assailant and they both hit the strange black surface together.

The two Doctors were both trying to get their bearings and find the core of the Matrix when they heard the scream and the crash as two people seemed to fall through the roof and then immediately materialise on the ground. It was a hard landing all the same and they all heard the crack as the man’s head went back and his neck broke. Rose lay stunned for a moment before both Doctors ran to lift her up. HER Doctor embraced her in his arms while Ten bent to examine the body.

“He’s dead,” he said. Then to his not too great surprise the body vanished. All the ones they had fought had vanished, too. The Matrix re-absorbed the temporary bodies of those it had created to fight them off.

“Rose, you shouldn’t be here,” The Doctor told her. “You have to get out of here. You’re…”

“I’m ok,” she said. “I feel fine. Nothing is…”

“She absorbed the vortex, remember,” Ten said. “This is nothing like that kind of power. I think she can handle it.”

“I can,” she said. “Really, I’m ok. And… what’s that light…”

“WHAT light?” the two Doctors both asked together.

“THAT….” She pointed towards what must have been the dead centre of the dark area.

“I can’t see anything,” The Doctor said. Rose walked towards the centre, and they followed her. “Rose, whatever it is, don’t touch…”

“It looks like the vortex,” Rose said.

“THAT’S why SHE can see it,” Ten guessed. “Because she’s been a part of it.”

“It’s the core of the Matrix,” The Doctor said. “It was there all along. But…. Rose, DON’T touch it. We don’t know what it could do.”

“It’s….” Rose backed away as she saw what they could not see. The light was resolving into a figure. She felt both Doctor’s grasp her arms and hold her back and as the figure solidified they, too, could see it.

“The MASTER!” Both spoke at once. Rose shuddered. She knew enough about that character to recoil from him no matter what he looked like. As it was, he looked like a middle aged man in a dark, hooded robe. He was neither frightening nor benign in his appearance. It was only the name that made him sinister.

“My dear Doctor, or should I say, DOCTORS,” he laughed. “That is an amusing twist, isn’t it! I knew those fools would call on you. I never expected two for the price of one.”

“You’re behind this?”

“Of course I am.”

“But you’re dead,” Rose said. “The Doctor told me you were dead. I’ve seen your pyramid.”

The Master looked at her and she felt as if he could see right through her. He sneered at her.

“Another earth-ape? Doctor, will you ever learn to have a little taste in your love interests?”

“So you created the Matrix?” Ten said.

“How?” The Doctor asked. “You were destroyed by my previous incarnation. The Eye of Harmony swallowed you.”

“The Eye of Harmony destroyed the body I was occupying. But my mind remained free. Because the Eye in your TARDIS was still linked to Gallifrey I was able to travel there. And from Gallifrey to Shada. I remained here, a part of the system, biding my time. And my time came. When the cryogenic chambers failed, the very air was THICK with the freed minds of the Renegades and Criminals here. I called them to me and they formed around me as this dark entity you see around you. We created the Dark Matrix. But we lack one thing. Mobility. We cannot get away from this place. That is why we let our existence be known to what remains of the Time Lords, the ‘phantoms’ that still exist on another plane of existence that isn’t life. Because we knew the one they would send to help would be YOU. And you would bring the means of transport.”

“That was the plan?” The Doctor laughed. “You had a LOT riding on them even bothering to contact me. Suppose they’d decided to just put Shada into a slow-time envelope and ignore you? Anyway, the plan failed. I’m not taking you anywhere.”

“Oh yes you are,” The Master replied and before either Doctors could blink he had moved. Rose screamed as she found herself, yet again, dragged by the hair by a Time Lord with no manners. “Summon your TARDIS or this one you’re so fond of dies.”

“I’m not that keen on her actually,” The Doctor replied. “Keep her.” And he deliberately turned and walked away even though he knew he could get nowhere. “Go on, Rose,” he whispered. “Do your own stuff.”

Rose DID her stuff. A mixture of Gung Fu, Karate and Malvorian Sun Ko Du. The Master went down hard on the floor, though he got up again straight away and began to fight back.

“Hell with that,” The Doctor said. “Rose… duck.” Rose threw herself down as he launched his sword like a javelin, piercing The Master’s throat. At the same moment, Ten launched himself, sword arm extended as he swung and sheered The Master’s head clean off. His body stayed upright for a minute and then fell to the ground, glowing eerily as if it was made of smouldering embers of a fire.

“He’s the core, kill him, or his form at least, and it breaks down,” Ten shouted above the whining sound that began to emanate from the glowing corpse. He grabbed Rose up from the ground and reached out to his other self, pulling them both into a sort of group hug as they rode out the psychic storm that raged around them. The Matrix WAS breaking down. Rose looked once at the swirling faces that appeared in the darkness around her. Not just their faces but in some cases the memories of their crimes. It was like being trapped in a very convincing ghost train ride. The sight, the sound, even the FEELING of evil that swirled around them all was horrifying.

And then it was gone. The silence was almost as frightening before it was shattered by Wyn’s scream of joy as she ran across the courtroom floor and flung her arms around all three of them together.

“You’ve done it!” she cried.

“Have we?” Ten asked looking around.

“Yes,” The Doctor said. “We have. Killing the image of The Master killed the core of the Dark Matrix. His mind was holding all the other minds in place, the lynchpin. Without him, it broke up.”

“Simple as that,” Rose said.

“Simple as that, in the end. But without you we never would have found it. And we would have never got out of it.” The Doctor looked at her carefully. He touched her cheek gently. “Are you sure you’re all right? That was no place for you to be. I’m sorry you were mixed up in it. Gellovia... he came to you in corporeal form. Did he…?” The thought of one of Gallifrey’s most notorious abusers of women touching her sickened him. “Rose…”

“You taught me to look after myself,” Rose assured him. “I can handle one perverted Time Lord.”

Both versions of her Time Lord thought about the perversions Gellovia was reputed to have inflicted on women and shuddered.

“He taught you very well,” Ten said, kissing her cheek tenderly. “I’m glad he did.”

“Where did they go?” Wyn asked, breaking into their thoughts with an obvious and crucial question.

“Back to Shada,” Ten said. “To haunt their miserable coffins.”

“Hope so,” The Doctor responded. “I don’t want to go look, do you?”

“Let’s get out of here.”

“You pilot again,” The Doctor told Ten when they were back on board the TARDIS. “THIS time we should be able to get rid of you successfully.”

“Didn’t think you wanted rid of me that badly,” Ten said in a good-humoured way as he took over the control. “We make a good team, you know.”

“Yes, we do,” The Doctor admitted. “But we’re pushing our luck. One of these days we’re going to create the sort of paradox that unravels time.”

“I think you just did,” Wyn said, jumping from the sofa and running to Ten as a bright light suddenly invaded the TARDIS interior. He put a protective arm on her shoulder as The Doctor slid his arm around Rose’s waist.

“Oh!” he said, letting go of her and moving towards the light. “Oh it's….”

But Ten had realised it, too. As the face of their Creator, Rassilon, coalesced in the midst of the light, they both fell to their knees in reverence to him.

“Why are you afraid of me?” he asked them. “Yes, you’ve broken nearly every rule in the book time and again. But you know, I DIDN’T WRITE THEM. And the only ones I particularly worry about are II - B and VIII – C.”

“Sire…” The Doctor began.

“You mean it's ok for them to break the rules as long as they don’t become their own grandfather or fiddle the lottery?” Rose asked as she worked out what those rules were.

“My lord,” Ten whispered loudly. “Forgive her. She is… Humans do not understand your power. Please…”

“Stand up, both of you,” Rassilon told them. “There is nothing to fear. Your Human girl is correct.” The two stood and faced him. “You said yourself, Doctor. The rules and their makers are dust. As long as your motives are honest, as long as you seek to help others, and not yourselves – that’s why the lottery rule is in there, you know – you have nothing to fear.”

The two Doctors looked at each other in surprise. The nearest thing they had to a god was JOKING with them.

“I don’t get much chance to lighten the load,” Rassilon told them. “Immortality is tedious, you know. But never mind that. I came to thank you. You destroyed the great evil that we ourselves, the Time Lords, created by our own arrogance.”

“We were stuffed without Rose,” The Doctor said. “A Human woman showed us the way.”

“I never wrote the rules that let us believe we were better than other species, either. Yes, we are stronger, wiser, more powerful. But we can always learn from others. You are the greatest Time Lord we have ever had because you learnt that.”

He turned to Ten, who was looking a little dazed, still. “It is time there was only one of you in each dimension of time. Say your goodbyes and I will ensure that you go safely back. But go with my blessing, and my thanks.

“Back?” Ten looked at him. “Do you mean…”

“To your own universe,” Rassilon said. “I can help you find the way.”

“But… I’d have to go without Wyn and…”

He heard Wyn gasp behind him. He looked around at her and Rose. He looked at Nine, then he turned back to Rassilon and addressed him in Ancient Gallifreyan, the one language the TARDIS did not translate. Rose and Wyn didn’t know what he was saying.

“No, sire. Forgive me for disobeying you, but no. I will not go back. I cannot be sure I can re-open the door without risk to both universes. And I have nothing on that side and everything on this. In that universe I lost Rose. She is gone from me and I can never reach her. In this universe she doesn’t belong to me. And I have accepted that. But at least I know she is here. She is with him. He is fulfilling the hope and dream I had for us. And… now and again… I CAN see her and know that she is happy with him. I could not bear to go back again to that universe that doesn’t have her in it. Let me stay. Let this universe have two Doctors, with their two separate destinies. Mine to be the lonely god, ever travelling, ever solving the universe’s problems. His to… his to have that which we both wanted but both could not have.”

He ran out of words. He felt Nine’s hand on his shoulder and risked a glance at him. His face was impassive. His mind was closed to him. He didn’t know if his other self approved of what he had just said or not. And as the silence lengthened he didn’t know how Rassilon was going to react. He could only hope for his mercy.

“Son of Lœngbærrow you are a troublesome child,” he said.

“Damn right,” Nine commented.

“What will that universe do without you in it to champion it?”

“It will have to learn to champion itself, just like it did before I was born, as it will after I am dead,” Ten said. “I am not a god. I am a man, and if you deny me that which I need as a man, that small crumb of comfort in a cold life… then…”

“I am not a god either,” Rassilon said. “I am merely your Creator. And I created you with free will.” He touched him on the forehead and Ten shuddered as if he had been given an electric shock. And then Rassilon was gone. The two halves of the same soul looked at each other and smiled.

“Is this universe blessed or cursed for having the two of us in it?” Nine joked in Ancient Gallifreyan before they turned to their two human companions again.

“Have you noticed that we’re back where we were going to separate the last time?” Rose said, glancing at the viewscreen.

“Time to go,” Wyn said, looking disappointed. “That’s if…” She remembered what Rassilon had said before they started talking Gallifreyan. “That’s if it's ok for me to be with you still.”

“It’s up to you,” Ten said to her. “I know you and Rose are friends. If you would like to stay…”

“No, I want to be with you,” she said, quickly.

“I’ll miss you,” The Doctor said, not to Wyn, but to his other self. “We ARE a great team.”

“Yeah,” Ten said. “But we DO have to go. Let’s just…” He paused and smiled. “No tears, no anxieties,” he said as words he had spoken centuries ago came to his mind.

“Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me I am not mistaken in mine,” The Doctor finished the sentence. He nodded and reached to hold Rose’s hand as Ten took Wyn’s and they walked through the door to their own TARDIS.

“That seemed kind of final,” Rose said as The Doctor simply walked to the console and began programming a new destination. “We’ll never see him again?”

“Don’t count on it,” The Doctor said. “That bit of old history we were quoting just then. The first part of it, actually, was – ‘I shall come back.’ He locked the co-ordinate in place and then reached out his hand to her and pulled her close to him. “Meanwhile, now we ARE alone again. There was something we were in the middle of before we were interrupted.”