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

The Doctor felt as if he had a hangover. That in itself was strange, because he had never had a hangover in his life and he wondered briefly how he knew this is what a hangover feels like.

Thinking about anything as complicated as that hurt. He stopped thinking at all for several minutes, then he tried again.

Hung over was still the best description. His head pounded like he could never remember it pounding in his life. Even regeneration didn’t do that to him. He felt nauseous. He felt uncomfortable.

He was lying on some kind of bed with the hardest mattress he had ever known. He had, of course, slept in places where a mattress wasn’t an option. He had spent many happy hours lying on the thin sleep mats of the meditative monks of China, Tibet and Malvoria. He had slept in U.N.I.T. barracks on standard army issue beds. He had slept in tents and on the bare ground when it was necessary. He wasn’t a person who expected pocket sprung mattresses every time he laid down his head. But when he DID sleep on a mattress he expected it to be better than this one.

He tried to move to a more comfortable position, and found that he couldn’t. His arms and legs were in some kind of restraint.

“Ok,” he thought. “I’m in trouble.”

He opened his eyes and looked up at a white ceiling with the light fitting flush against it. It was possibly the most boring ceiling he had ever seen. It didn’t even have any interesting cracks or patches of damp that the imagination could work on while forced to look up at it.

He turned his head both ways and saw a room with no other furniture but the bed he was restrained upon. There was a door with a very small window in it that he just knew was locked.

He was fairly certain he did not have his sonic screwdriver on him.

He didn’t have very MUCH on him. He was wearing a hospital gown - the sort with no buttons or waistbands or belts or anything a patient could harm themselves or others with.

He turned his head again slowly and took in every detail of the room - such as it was. In the centre of the wall directly opposite the bed was something he probably wasn’t supposed to see.

A spy hole - a very small one - like people used in front doors to check who was knocking.

So he was being observed.

He looked around again at the door. Definitely locked and he had no idea what was behind it, or who. This was not the time to attempt to break out. He needed to know what he was up against, first.

He didn’t want to break out of anything with a headache. He closed his eyes again and concentrated his mind on the pain. He focussed on the nerves that were hurting and soothed them until the headache went away.

He felt better now.

But he still didn’t know where he was, or why he was there.

He tried to remember. He had been in the TARDIS. It was after he left Jasmin and Alec. He had told them he was going to visit Wyn and Stella in Wales. He set what should have been a simple co-ordinate. He just had to travel from Manchester to Wales. Jasmin and Alec had teased him saying it would be easier to put the TARDIS on the train as freight and travel in a nice first class carriage. They were making bets on how far back in time he would wind up instead of arriving in Llanfairfach a few hours after he left.

And that was the last thing he remembered. Everything after that was a blur. He thought he could recall the TARDIS falling. Did it crash? Was he in a hospital? There WAS a clinical look to the place. That was a bit worrying. He didn’t like hospitals. He especially didn’t like Earth ones. Doctors tended to get a bit strange when they found out he was an alien.

Was that why he was restrained? Was he being held until some expert on aliens came to probe him and dissect him, take samples of his blood to test?

Oh, bloody hell, he thought.

Not TORCHWOOD!

He lay there for another hour, still trying to remember what had happened to land him here in this situation, and what he could do to get out of it. He kept very still and quiet outwardly, to make the job of observing him as boring as possible for whoever was doing the observing. He tried to relax and remember more about his otherwise routine TARDIS journey. He had been happy. He was looking forward to seeing Wyn and Stella. Wyn had made a lot of her life since she had travelled with him. She had got her university qualifications. She was a professor – a DOCTOR of science. She had followed in his footsteps.

No, he reminded himself. That wasn’t true. She had followed her father, Professor Clifford Jones, who had won a Nobel Prize by the age of twenty-five. Just about as brilliant a man as a Human could be with the limitations of that race.

Wyn was a scientist and a teacher, like her dad. But he could at least take credit for pointing her in the right direction, showing her she WAS good enough and giving her the strength to try.

“Oh Wyn, love, I WILL get to you. I promise. Just as soon as I get out of here.”

Thinking of his friends made him sad because he WAS a prisoner in some way, trapped and unable to reach them. He felt lonely.

There was a sound of a lock turning and then the door opened. Three people came in. One was dressed in a tweedy suit and had the look of a doctor. The other two looked like male nurses – in the sense that they were wearing the regulation clothes. But they were both heavyset men with permanent scowls that didn’t go with the idea of a caring profession. If they were actors instead, he would have expected them to be typecast as ‘henchman’. One of them had wheeled in a trolley with syringes and other medical equipment on it.

“So, Mr Clay,” the doctor-type said. “Good to see you awake at last. Are you feeling calmer now? Do you feel ready to rejoin the other patients in the general ward instead of having to be isolated like this?”

“Mr who?” he asked. “That’s not my name.”

“Martin Clay, insurance salesman. Sectioned under the Mental Health Act because of delusionary behaviour that made you a danger to yourself and others.”

“My name is NOT Martin Clay,” he answered. “There has been a mistake. Mistaken identity. I am The Doctor.”

The doctor-type sighed wearily.

“We’ve been through this before. This whole fantasy you have woven around yourself, this fiction about being from another planet, is what is preventing you from making a full recovery and returning to your ordinary life.”

“I don’t HAVE an ordinary life,” he replied. “I’m The Doctor. I am a Time Lord. I am the LAST Time Lord.”

“Mr Clay… Martin.…” the doctor sighed again. “Please try to co-operate. It will be better for you if you do.”

“I am NOT called Martin,” he responded. “I am not an insurance salesman and I should NOT be here. Let me go or you will be sorry.”

“Martin, you have been told before, you must not say things that sound like a threat. We will have to punish you if you do that. You have been isolated from the other patients because of your unreasonable behaviour. I don’t want to have to make you suffer any further. But if you continue to act this way I will have no other choice.”

“Let me go,” he repeated. “I don’t belong here. This is a mistake. I am NOT Martin Clay.”

“You ARE Martin Clay. You are thirty-six years old. You are an insurance salesman from Guildford. You had a nervous breakdown after your marriage broke down and your wife left you.”

“My wife?” The Doctor flexed his left hand in the restraint. He could see that a ring had been removed from his finger. There was a white mark where it should be. “My wife is a lovely woman who lives on a planet covered in huge forests. She lives in a tree top village and weaves silk. She is called Dominique. We have a son called Dominic.”

“Your wife is called Sandra. You have a son called Brian. Sandra left you for another man, your office supervisor. You knew nothing about the affair until you came home from work and found her and your son gone.”

“That’s not true,” he replied. “I’ve never even MET anyone called Sandra in my life.”

“Your life.…” the doctor smiled quizzically. “All right, let’s play it your way. If we work through this delusion fully we might find a way of breaking you out of it. You say you are called The Doctor. And you are a Time Lord.”

“Yes, I AM a Time Lord. I come from the planet Gallifrey in the Kasterborus constellation. From Earth it forms the bow of the constellation Sagittarius. I am over 1,000 years old and this is my tenth incarnation. My body can regenerate twelve times, allowing me to renew myself if my body is fatally damaged.”

“You’re from where?”

“Gallifrey, in the constellation of Kasterborus. It was the second planet of our solar system and the centre of our Dominion.”

“Was?”

“It was destroyed in the Last Time War. The whole system was destroyed. Everyone is dead. Except me.”

“And how did you escape? Don’t tell me, when you were a baby your parents put you into a travel pod and launched you into space and you landed on Earth as a little boy and were adopted by a farmer and his wife.…”

“Don’t be silly,” The Doctor responded. “That’s Superman.”

“You know Superman? He’s a friend of yours?”

“He’s a fictional character from an American comic book, movie and TV series. He’s not real. I AM!”

“Well of course you’re REAL,” the doctor told him. “So tell me what is different about a Time Lord to a Human? You can’t fly and run faster than a speeding train like Superman?”

“No. But I do have two hearts and I have blood that is different to yours. You must have examined me physically. You know that.”

“You have an unusual birth defect. The secondary heart. It is in your medical records. Your parents were told when you were a baby that it happens once in ten million births. It is a harmless anomaly. It doesn’t make you from another planet. And your blood – you were born with a rare condition. Your blood contains no iron. Your red blood cells are lighter than usual as a result, and when you bleed the blood looks different to the naked eye. Again, this is not doing you any harm, although it does mean that you have to take vitamin supplements daily to prevent anaemia. You ARE an ordinary Human being, Martin, despite your unusual physiology. You got it into your head that you were different. You invented this world – this world that no longer exists, that cannot be found on any star chart – because you wanted to be different. You wanted to be more than a salesman. There was no chance of promotion, no other employment prospects. You were nobody and you wanted to be somebody so you invented a world of your own, made yourself into something else. And that would have been fine if you just went around talking to yourself in the street and staring up at the stars. But trying to break into a nuclear power plant because you thought there were aliens using the reactor to power their starship – that was when you went too far. That was when you had to be sectioned. For your own safety as well as others.”

“I never did anything of the sort,” The Doctor protested. “This is the fiction. Martin Clay is the fantasy, the one who doesn’t exist. I AM THE DOCTOR.”

“Don’t shout,” the doctor told him in a very calm, quiet voice. “You must not shout. If you shout you will be punished.”

“I am The Doctor. I am a Time Lord. You are holding me under false pretences. And you WILL be sorry for it.”

“Another threat? I AM sorry, Martin, because I don’t want to have to do this. But threatening behaviour is not tolerated from patients. You know the rules.” The doctor stepped back and nodded to the ‘heavies’. One of them stepped forward and held The Doctor’s arm while the other one prepared a syringe. He struggled. Of course he did. He had no idea what was being injected into him. It could have been a harmless sedative that wouldn’t even make him drowsy or pure aspirin that would kill him in seconds.

It was a neural inhibitor. As the drug circulated through his blood stream The Doctor couldn’t help but cry out. Neural inhibitors were painful. They paralysed his body while causing him excruciating agony in all of his muscles. As it spread he couldn’t even scream. His vocal chords seized up. He could just about breathe and his hearts kept beating. But that was all.

He was unstrapped from the bed and dragged between the two ‘heavies’ along the corridor. His feet touched the ground and he tried to walk, but really he was just being hauled along.

He was put into the padded cell. The heavies put him into a straitjacket and pushed him down on the floor and then they turned away.

“Just you take some time to think about your situation,” the doctor told him. “I’ll talk to you again tomorrow.”

The door closed. The Doctor was alone in the cell. He was lying hunched up on his side. It was uncomfortable, but he couldn’t move. The neural inhibitor had frozen his body and would not wear off for several hours yet.

His mind still worked, though. Neural inhibitor! That meant one thing.

They KNEW he was a Time Lord. This insistence on him being some insurance salesman called Martin Clay wasn’t a mistake. They knew who he really was. They knew ordinary drugs wouldn’t work on him. And somebody had told them HOW to subdue a Time Lord.

His mind was still free. Nothing and nobody could take that away from him.

He let his mind do the exploring that his body couldn’t. His mind didn’t have to be confined to a padded cell. It didn’t have to be confined anywhere. He reached out mentally, feeling for the minds around him.

He found a lot of them that were fractured and confused. That didn’t entirely surprise him. If this WAS some kind of mental institution then that was bound to be the case. He touched some of them briefly and found grief and pain, and fear. They were all afraid of the man who had spoken to him. They called him Doctor Marsh, and his methods were barbaric even for the inexact science of psychiatry. The flashes of memory of the ‘punishments’, the remembrance of cold rooms and bright light and overwhelming pain that he picked up from them disturbed him deeply - not the least because he had been threatened with the same punishments later.

He moved away from the patients. They were too hurt to tell him anything other than that they were deeply unhappy about being here. He focussed on the nurses. They weren’t all the thuggish types. Some of them seemed to be pleasant looking young women with scrubbed faces and neatly pinned up hair who chose a career helping people. He fixed on one of them as she moved down the corridor pushing a trolley with medication. He could see the building through her eyes as she went into the large common room where a lot of the patients were.

He noticed that these ones seemed less frightened, less hurt than the first ones he had found. These seemed like people who were getting better, slowly. The nurse chatted with them and they responded. Some of their conversations were disjointed and peculiar. There were a few delusions that would be amusing if they weren’t tragic, but these were just people who needed looking after because for one reason or another they couldn’t look after themselves. The others he had found seemed to be receiving a different kind of treatment.

She finished giving out the medication and sat at the nurses desk with two other young women. One gave her a newspaper to read. The Doctor focussed very hard on the main story. It was about the decision in parliament to stop giving free milk to schoolchildren over seven.

“Thatcher The Milk snatcher” the alliterative headline said of the Education Secretary who had made that decision. That told him several things that he needed to know.

It was the summer of 1971 and he was somewhere in England.

1971! Methods of psychiatric treatment were hardly sophisticated even when they weren’t in the hands of the sort of sadistic bully who those patients feared. Electric shock, drugs that befuddled the mind even further, and if all else failed, a straitjacket and a padded cell.

But WHERE exactly was he? The nurse looked up and around at the patients, casting a practiced eye around the room. It was large, with a linoleum floor on which rugs were scattered here and there, tables and chairs where patients in pyjamas and dressing gowns and slippers played dominos or card games, and windows that had wire mesh running through them to make them unbreakable.

There was something slightly familiar about the room, but for the moment he couldn’t think why. Of course, it looked much like every day room in just about every hospital in late 20th century Earth. And maybe that was the reason. But he kept thinking he had been there before.

One of the other nurses stood up and reached for her coat. It seemed to be the end of her shift. The Doctor fixed his concentration on her instead and found himself in her mind, looking out of her eyes now. He saw her go down the stairs to the reception, sign herself off duty and step out through double doors.

The hospital was a big old country house set in gardens of flower beds and neatly cut lawns. And that, too, looked familiar. As the nurse turned to wave at somebody who had called out to her he saw the name on a wooden sign.

Brockley Hall.

“Brockley Hall?” said Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge Stewart to his scientific adviser. “You’re telling me you’re picking up a trace signal from another TARDIS at Brockley Hall?”

“You know the place?” asked The Doctor as he passed the Brigadier a clipboard with the printout of his readings on it.

“This means nothing to me, Doctor.” The Brigadier passed the clipboard back. “That’s why I have a scientific adviser. So I don’t HAVE to understand gobbledegook like that. Give me a piece of Military Intelligence and I’m your man.”

“Well, take my word for it, then. There’s a TARDIS there. It has a dampener on its Dimensional Recognition Device, so I can’t identify WHOSE TARDIS it is, but it’s a TARDIS.”

“We’ve got an operative working undercover at Brockley Hall trying to find out what’s going on there,” the Brigadier continued. “We know something sinister IS happening. But we don’t know what. And now you say there’s a TARDIS there. The Master?”

“He’d be my first guess. Most of the other Time Lords avoid Earth like the plague. If he’s involved you’d better tell your man to be careful.”

“Not MY man,” the Brigadier said. “YOUR girl. I was going to tell you, but you sent this memo up to me about Brockley Hall.”

Brockley Hall! The Doctor breathed in deeply. Or as deeply as he could with his body still painfully paralysed. Now he remembered. It was the place he had rescued Dodo from in 1967. There was a Doctor Warner in charge then, he recalled. Marsh must have taken over from him.

Okay. He knew WHERE he was. But he still didn’t know WHY.

“It’s no use, Doctor,” the Brigadier told him. “The bods at Whitehall are being stubborn about it. They say they can’t authorise a military raid on a private medical institution without proof that something is going on there that is a danger to national security.”

“You told them you suspect The Master is there?”

“Yes, but there’s a new chap in charge. He doesn’t seem to grasp how much of a threat The Master is. I don’t think he actually BELIEVES that either you or him are REALLY from another planet. I’m not even sure he believes what we are here at U.N.I.T. for. ”

“Tell him from me, he’s a short-sighted fool.”

“I would be delighted to,” The Brigadier said. “But unlike you I NEED this job.”

“Goodness KNOWS what The Master could be doing there. And we’re tied down by red tape from Whitehall. You know, if I wanted to bandy words with civil servants, I could have stayed on Gallifrey. At least Time Lords are arrogant because they ARE superior to everyone else. Not because they think they went to a better public school.”

The Brigadier wondered briefly if he could get a transfer to the Gallifreyan military.

The Doctor felt a sudden icy cold. He withdrew his mind sharply from its wandering through the hospital. He became aware that he was soaking wet. He could move his head slightly now as the neural inhibitor began to wear off, and he saw the hose pipe aimed through the small spy door in the centre of the big, locked main door. Freezing water sprayed him cruelly. He couldn’t even regulate his body temperature while the inhibitor held him in its grip. He was powerless. He lay hunched up and shivering with the cold, hoping they would stop soon.

They did, but wet and cold he continued to shiver, alone in the cell, still unable to move his limbs.

“Electric shock next,” said a voice. He looked around to see where it came from but it wasn’t from anyone near him. The voice had been in his head.

And no, he wasn’t going mad after all. It was somebody reaching out to him telepathically.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“My name is Sydney Sholl,” the voice answered. “I’m in a cell near you, I think. You’re pretty loud in my head. You must be a strong telepath. You’re not from Amato VI, are you?”

“No,” The Doctor replied. “Are you?”

“Yes. Though I came to Earth twenty years ago. Do you know Amato?”

“Place full of telepaths. Very noisy planet. You LITERALLY can’t hear yourself think.”

“We enhanced ourselves genetically, and then found we had no way to block each other’s thoughts. All day, every day, all night, we could hear EVERYTHING. The only option was to leave the planet, and find a place where telepathy is rare or non-existent.”

“So what are you doing here?” The Doctor asked. “You’re a patient?”

“Guinea Pig, more like. Marsh has some way of recognising alien DNA and he kidnaps people like us. Uses us for experiments. He makes out that we’ve been sectioned for dangerously delusional behaviour. It’s almost funny really. We’re all in here for believing that we’re aliens!”

“All? How many…?”

“Alive, about eight. Sane… you and me. He does things. When he’s probed as much as he can, got what he wants, he lobotomises his guinea pigs and they end up in the general ward being spoon fed mush by a nurse, their minds vegetating inside their bodies. He’ll get to me, soon. He’s studied my telepathic ability as far as he can. He can’t use it for the same reason I can’t control it. So I’m for it.”

“I’m sorry,” The Doctor said. “I can’t help you. Usually, it’s my job to help people. But I’m helpless right now. I can’t even move.”

“Nobody can help us. We’re doomed.”

“Don’t give up,” The Doctor told him. “I never do. There’s always a way. Somehow. But what is Marsh doing this for? WHY is he studying us?”

“He wants to become a superman,” Sydney answered him. “He wants to use our abilities to become an enhanced being. He especially wants telepathy and longevity. He wants to extend his life beyond that of the ordinary Human lifespan. He found a couple of Kresslens and tried to extract that part of their DNA that lets them live up to 500 years. It failed. They died horribly. You don’t want to know how, but I felt their screams from the basement.”

“Telepathy and longevity!” The Doctor groaned. “I’ve got both. My people live thousands of years.”

“You won’t, if he starts on you.”

“I’ll lobotomise HIM, first,” The Doctor vowed, though it WAS an empty thread so long as he was trapped in a body that couldn’t move.

And the thought really DID scare him. He felt bad enough as he was, with his body paralysed by the inhibitor. But if they took his mind away….

He wouldn’t know it, of course. He would have lost everything he ever was. His memory, his experiences, his life. A man is the sum of his memories, he once said. A time lord even more so. And he would be less than a Time Lord, less than a man, if Marsh reduced him to a lobotomised living vegetable sitting in the common room being fed by a nurse whose face he would not even be able to focus upon.

He thought he would rather die and be done with it than live maybe a thousand or more years in that state.

He spent a long, cold night. He didn’t sleep. Nobody, he supposed, expected him to sleep. He lay there, acutely aware of the passage of time, aware that his captors would be coming for him, and that they could do so at any moment.

The longer they stayed away, the worse it was, not knowing when it was going to happen.

He was scared. He admitted it to himself. He was lonely and scared and he felt a long way from anyone he cared about or who cared for him.

It was morning when they came. He knew, not because it was darker or lighter, since there had been a light on all the time anyway and there were no windows in the cell, but because he was a Time Lord and always knew what time it was. He felt it in his bones. Time was a part of him.

“Doctor Marsh wants to talk to you again,” he was told as he was hauled up by the same pair of heavies thinly disguised as nurses that had brought him to the cell the day before. He was still quite weak but he thought enough of the neural inhibitor had worn off him by now to make some kind of effort towards freeing himself. He twisted in their grasp and got a punch in, flooring one of the heavies. But his reflexes were far from what they should be. The other one was behind him still when he felt the prick of a needle in his neck and the icy pain of the neural inhibitor raced through his bloodstream. Despite himself tears pricked his eyes and while he still had control of that much of his body he blinked them back. He didn’t want Marsh to see that he HAD hurt him, that he HAD made him feel utterly defeated. Even his eyelids froze, though, as the second dose of the drug enveloped him. Only his hearts and lungs and his brain remained active.

Just.

He was taken to a room with a reassuring sign saying ‘Therapy’ on it, but he knew that was almost certainly a euphemism for torture. There were two beds inside, both with restraints for the patient and nothing in the way of comfort. He was strapped to one of them, looking painfully up into the overhead light. His brain had registered that the other bed was already occupied but he couldn’t see who it was.

“It’s me,” the man in the other bed told him telepathically. “Sydney.”

“Hi, Sydney,” The Doctor answered. “How are you?”

“Performing my last useful service for Marsh,” he replied. “He wants more questions answered by you. I am to speak for you. If you don’t tell the truth, he’ll hurt me.”

“I’ll try to tell the truth then,” The Doctor said. “I won’t let him hurt you on my behalf.”

“That’s all right,” Sydney answered. “In a way, I will be glad to have it over. Dead or lobotomised, at least it WILL be over.”

“Don’t say that,” The Doctor begged. “I’ll TRY to help you, help us both.”

“You’re worse off than I am,” Sydney told him. “But strangely, I do believe you’ll try. I’m not sure it helps. I’ve been without hope for so long. Being offered a glimmer of it just seems cruel.”

“Enough chat,” Marsh said. “Mr Sholl has had enough time to explain the situation to you. Did he mention that he is wired up to a polygraph machine and ECT. If you lie, he WILL suffer.”

“Yes, I understand,” The Doctor said mentally and Sydney relayed the words.

“Good, then let us begin. Doctor, I want to ask you first about your psychic abilities. How extensive are they? What about other forms of paranormal behaviour? Can you predict the future? What about telekinesis?”

“He says…” Sydney said after a minute or two. “One thing at a time. You Humans and your multi-part questions.”

“Flippancy is also punishable,” Marsh replied. “Be warned. Telekinesis. What about that?”

“No,” Sydney answered for The Doctor. “I’m pants at telekinesis. Lucky for you because otherwise there are plenty of blunt objects in the room that would connect with your cranium.”

“NO!” The Doctor screamed in his head. “Don’t tell him THAT. He’ll hurt you.”

“It’s worth it,” Sydney answered. “That was a bloody good reply. I wish I’d thought of it.”

Then he screamed, out loud and telepathically as the electrical current coursed through his brain, causing painful convulsions. The Doctor screamed in sympathy.

“It WAS worth it,” Sydney assured him. “By the way, have you noticed he called you ‘Doctor’. He’s dropped the whole pretence that you’re an ordinary man called Martin Clay. He did that to make you admit to being who you are.”

“And I fell for it,” The Doctor groaned, cursing his own stupidity. “I told him everything.”

“Even about aspirin killing you,” Sydney said. “I’m sorry, but he was using me to monitor you long before I had the chance to make contact. He made me tell him everything that went through your head.”

“Not your fault.” The Doctor replied. “Besides, I don’t think he’s going to kill me with anything as boring as aspirin.”

“Let us begin again,” Marsh said. He pressed a series of questions about The Doctor’s abilities, his uniqueness in the universe, and so on. Some of them touched on his TARDIS, and he got the impression that was in the building somewhere. They had been trying to get into it but, not surprisingly, without success. Even WITH a key they still had to get past the TARDIS’s own defences, including a bloody-mindedness of its own. It wouldn’t let anyone in who wasn’t armed with a small thermonuclear device.

“I shall have the secret of that box sooner or later,” Marsh said. “Don’t think you or it can hold out against me. Even when I’m finished with Mr Sholl there are OTHERS here I can torture and hurt until you give me the information I need. Now, let us continue.”

They continued for hours. The Doctor felt the time passing as the questions came one after the other and Sydney told as much of the truth as he dared without suffering for it. Sometimes he would be shocked anyway just to remind them both who was in control. Then Marsh turned to one particular detail of his physiology.

“Your two hearts? What advantage DO they give you? Can you live with just one?”

The Doctor briefly thought of several lies, but he couldn’t risk Sydney’s life on them.

“They give me increased stamina, speed, agility over humans. I can endure physical hardship for longer. Yes, I can live with only one.”

“Good,” Marsh answered. “Then I think that concludes this session. Prepare him. Kill the other.”

“NO!” The Doctor managed to emit something like a low growl of despair from his own frozen lips. He felt Sydney’s body convulse one final time as the ECT was turned up to maximum and left on until his brain could take no more.

The Doctor felt his death as the peace Sydney had begun to long for and he mourned not that he was dead, because it WAS a relief in that sense, but the fact that he had given him that glimmer of hope and had not been able to make good on it.

He was still helpless as one of the heavies administered a dose of sodium thiopental, an anaesthetic that he would normally be able to expel from his body easily. The neural inhibitor inhibited that ability and he felt himself losing consciousness quickly. He came as close as he ever did to a prayer, for himself, to still BE himself when the anaesthetic wore off.

The anaesthetic wore off, and he knew instantly that it was something like twenty hours later. His Time Lord body clock told him that. The rest of his body told him that the neural inhibitor had worn off as well, but he was restrained again in the room with a spy hole to keep an eye on him.

There was something wrong with his body, even so. He took a deep breath and his chest felt strange. His hands were restrained so he couldn’t physically check himself, but he reached mentally into his body and searched for the problem.

He found it.

“You %#£$@#£!” he cried out, knowing that somebody would be listening. “You took my right heart away.” He felt again. “And a LUNG. What the hell are you trying to do?”

There was no wound. His body would have repaired quickly while he was unconscious. There was no pain, as such, though when he concentrated he could remember the agony of the operation sharply and keenly.

“They grow back, you know,” he said. “It feels horrible. And it takes AGES. But they grow back. If you really want to have fun you could cut off different bits of me. Hands, feet, an eye, ear. Then watch them grow back.”

He hoped they didn’t take him up on the offer. But he just wanted them to know that they couldn’t defeat him that way. He may have only one heart, no TARDIS, no sonic screwdriver. He may be a prisoner in this place. But he was STILL a Time Lord.

They couldn’t take THAT away from him.

He closed his eyes. Being able to do that voluntarily, felt good. The tear ducts washing the eyeball that had been dry and exposed to the light for so long were comforting. He kept his eyes closed, just because that was one action that he was still able to do without restraint. His one freedom.

The door opened. A trolley was wheeled in. His hearts – heart – sank as he expected more torture. Then a female voice spoke softly.

“Hello,” she said. “Are you awake? Would you like some tea?”

He opened his eyes and looked at a pair of gentle hazel eyes that was the only part of her face not covered by a surgical mask. She reached and lifted his head slightly and put a plastic cup to his lips. It WAS tea. It wasn’t very hot, and there were too many sugars in it, at least four, he thought, but that was all the better. The warm liquid soothed his throat and the sugar did what it did for most humanoid bodies, it gave it an energy burst that it needed. He couldn’t remember when he last ate or drank anything. Certainly not while he had been in this place.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

“What have they done to you?” she asked. “It can’t be right. That’s for sure. Look, I’m not really a nurse. I’m a spy. I work for U.N.I.T. and I have a friend there. He’s called The Doctor. And he can help you. He will. I promise you.”

The Doctor looked again at those eyes and he wondered how he hadn’t known them before, to say nothing of the chattering voice of the kindest hearted, worst spy British Intelligence ever trained.

“They’re watching,” he said, his eyes flickering momentarily towards the spy hole. “Get out of here. Get back to U.N.I.T right now.”

“I will,” she told him, and she leaned over and kissed him gently on the cheek before she turned away. She gave a yelp of shock as she found the door barred by one of the heavies.

“What are you doing in here?” he demanded.

“Tea trolley,” she replied, jiggling it as if in proof. “Bringing tea to the patients.”

“This patient is isolated. He doesn’t GET tea. And the door should have been locked.”

“Well, it’s not MY fault if it WASN’T. Do you want me to report it? Whoever didn’t lock it might get into trouble. Was it your job to lock it?”

“Get back to your work,” the heavy responded and added a swear word that even The Doctor found withering. He wondered how that sweet, innocent soul managed not to wilt before it, but she pushed her trolley out of the room with her head held high and a cheery ‘bye for now’ addressed not to the heavy, but to him. Those cheerful words did what all the torture and punishment couldn’t do. They made the tears overflow that he had kept back until now. He felt even more lonely than before.

The heavy sneered at the sight of his tears and turned away. The Doctor heard the lock turn and he was alone except for his observers behind the spy hole.

But he had a reason to hope now. She had given him it. He wondered why he hadn’t thought of it before, in fact. They must have confused his brain somehow.

It was 1971. He wasn’t alone and friendless. In 1971, his third incarnation was exiled on Earth. He was working for U.N.I.T. in return for the means to try to repair the TARDIS and defeat the Time Lords’ plan to keep him confined on this one planet. He could picture it so well, that laboratory, the wooden door with one glass panel that looked so much like a school classroom; the TARDIS parked in one corner and a huge work-surface covered with half complete pieces of the console. He could actually see himself working there, humming tunelessly, pretending to be happy when his hearts were yearning to be free of his earthly prison. Any moment now, the Brigadier would burst through the door with something urgent to report. The only person who wouldn’t be there was Jo, because she was, at least he hoped she was, getting herself out of Brockley Hall before somebody realised she WASN’T the tea lady.

It was an effort, but having imagined that room, his telepathic mind could reach out to it. He reached to the one mind he knew could receive him.

His own.

He saw through his own younger eyes that familiar room. And right on cue the Brigadier burst in.

“I wish you would knock,” The Doctor complained. “I WAS in the middle of something important.”

“I thought you ought to know, there’s been a development. Sunley Park experimental nuclear power plant. They had a break in four nights ago. A man was arrested. Our operative there said that he claimed aliens were in charge of the plant and using the nuclear core to power their space ships.”

“And….”

“And we raided the plant, and it turns out the aliens WERE in charge. But the funny thing is, the chap who was arrested was taken to Brockley Hall. There seems to be some kind of loose connection.”

“That WAS me!” The Doctor cried out in his head. “I DID go there. I was in the vortex, on my way to Wyn’s, and I noticed the anomaly, and being the nosy parker that I am, I took a detour, knowing I could still get to Wyn in Llanfairfach in 2032 on time and neither she nor Jasmin would know any better. I was almost there when they caught me.”

“Doctor?” The Brigadier looked at him curiously. “Are you listening to me?”

“No,” The Doctor answered, raising a hand to shush him. “I’m listening to somebody else. No, actually, I tell a lie. I’m listening to myself. Yes, I hear you. Yes. I’ll tell them. Look, you conserve your strength. You don’t sound too good and communicating like this is exhausting.”

“Brockley Hall,” The Doctor said to the Brigadier. “We have to get there RIGHT NOW. Afterwards you can blame it on crossed communications, say that you thought the authorisation was through, whatever. But we have to get there right NOW. MY life depends on it.”

The Brigadier started to protest, but there was a look in The Doctor’s eyes that brooked no refusal. He sighed and reached for the telephone.

The Doctor sighed wearily. His other self was right. It HAD taken it out of him. Days of his body and mind being generally messed up weakened him. That last telepathic communication finished him off. He had to rest, even if he DID wake up lobotomised. He closed his eyes again and let sleep overcome him.

Jo Grant reached the front gate of Brockley Hall. She began to feel she was going to get away safely. There had been one scare. As she stepped out of the front door somebody called her back. She was sure she was caught, but it was just the receptionist telling her to sign off duty. She signed and then RAN. All thought of walking casually, nonchalantly, as if she wasn’t running for her life dissipated and she RAN.

As she stepped out of the gate, an army Land Rover stopped. Behind it was a Bedford Four Tonner from which men were pouring out. She saw The Brigadier get out of the passenger side of the Land Rover and the sight of him gladdened her heart. But the man she ran to with tears of joy was the one who drove up last, in a bright yellow open topped vintage car affectionately known as Bessie.

“Doctor!” she cried and flung her arms around him. “Oh, Doctor, I’m so glad you’re here. I was scared. They’re doing experiments on people in there. Weird experiments.”

“Yes, we know,” he said in a calm, gentle voice. “I’m sorry you had to see such things. Will you come back in with me now, and show me where the man is that you gave the cup of tea to. The one who told you to get away.”

“How did you know about him?” she asked but he didn’t explain. The Doctor and Jo and the Brigadier waited until the two unit platoons had stormed the building and begun to secure it before following. Jo showed them the way. Sergeant Benton and another soldier stepped in line behind him. When they reached the door The Brigadier nodded to them. They took out their service revolvers and broke the lock. The Doctor was first inside, followed closely by Jo.

“Who IS he?” she asked as The Doctor began to examine the patient. “Why is he important?”

“He’s me,” The Doctor answered. “A later version of me. Brigadier, I was right. There IS a TARDIS here somewhere. HIS TARDIS. Be a good chap and have it brought to HQ.”

“Good as done,” the Brigadier said. “But what about him? Is he…?”

“They’ve messed him up good and proper,” The Doctor said as he examined his much later incarnation with the medical analysis mode of his sonic screwdriver. “Not badly enough to trigger regeneration, but enough to make him VERY ill.”

“We’ll get him to the U.N.I.T. medical centre,” the Brigadier said. “Our new Lieutenant Surgeon, Harry Sullivan, can look after him. He’s a good man.”

“No need,” The Doctor said. “I have what he needs in my TARDIS. A few hours in a zero room will revive him. It won’t replace the missing heart and lung. That’ll take a few months. But he’ll be fit enough to cope with that.”

“Missing.…” the Brigadier began, but Sergeant Benton stepped up to him with a message relayed from one of the other men and he was distracted from the question. The Doctor, with Jo’s help, got ready to take his other self to safety.

The Doctor woke feeling as if he had a hangover. He groaned. Not again, he thought. Will I never wake from this nightmare?

He flexed his hand, expecting to feel the restraints pulling against his wrist. To his surprise he lifted his arm freely. And he realised he wasn’t lying on a bed.

In fact, he wasn’t lying on anything. He was levitating. That was something he hadn’t done for some time, but it was a sensation he would never forget. As his mind cleared he became aware of a rather pleasant scent of rose petals, like walking in a garden just after a summer rain when the smell was hanging in the moist air.

Only the air here wasn’t moist.

He opened his eyes and looked up at a ceiling that was a gentle pinkish-grey colour. His eyes filled with nostalgic tears as he recognised his surroundings. He had lost the original zero room from his TARDIS five whole regenerations ago. The replacement was smaller, darker, like a walk in cupboard, and didn’t have the rose petal smell.

He pushed his weight forward so that he stood upright, then let his feet touch the ground. Bare feet, touching a pleasantly cool floor. He was naked. He looked around and saw a plain cotton robe folded up by the door. He put it on before he stepped out of the zero room. He walked through a TARDIS that was completely familiar to him even though it wasn’t HIS TARDIS any more. He almost choked with emotion as he came to the console room. He hadn’t seen it like this, all white and clean looking with the basin sized roundels on the walls, for a long time.

As he stepped through the door into his old U.N.I.T. laboratory he decided he wasn’t even going to TRY remembering how long ago it was that he had that white hair and the penchant for frilled shirts and opera cloaks. But looking at his earlier incarnation he felt like he was seeing an old friend.

“Feeling better?” his other self asked.

“Much better,” he answered. “Thanks. Could you tell me… what the heck was that all about?”

“The usual thing,” his other self said. “Mad scientist looking for the secret of immortality. He found out about me from some stolen U.N.I.T. files. You accidentally landed in this era and he got hold of you and your TARDIS instead of me and mine. Luckily for you, the Brigadier and his chaps already had an idea something funny was going on in that place. They’d had it under observation for a while. We’d have got to you sooner but the Minster for Defence went to the same public school as Marsh and wouldn’t sanction the raid until we had absolute proof he was up to no good.”

“Is Marsh under arrest?” The Doctor asked.

“Marsh is dead,” The Doctor replied. “He had your organs transplanted into himself. But his body rejected them. Not sure why, because our DNA ought to have just overridden his own and he’d be all right. I think he might have already had genes from some other alien species grafted onto his own. His body decided enough was enough.”

“Can’t say I’m sorry. But….” He turned and smiled as he saw two things that warmed his spirits. First, his own TARDIS standing next to the other one, and beside them both….

“Jo, my sweet nurse. I almost thought I was dreaming. Of all the faces I could dream about.”

“That is the nicest thing anyone ever said about me,” she said as he hugged her tightly. “I didn’t even know it was you. I just thought you were so sad and you needed a cup of tea”

“I WAS,” he told her. “Terribly sad. But I’m not now. Oh, Jo, I wish I could tell you what I know of your future, how happy you’re going to be. But YOUR Doctor would deal me one of his Venusian Aikido chops to the neck and I’ve had enough pain for a lifetime lately. Just let me hold you for a while, and look at that sweet face.”

And he did so. For all the good the Zero room had been in mending him physically and mentally, the final thing he needed to revive his soul was to hold onto her until his earlier incarnation cleared his throat meaningfully and demanded his assistant back now.

“You might find those useful, by the way,” The Doctor said, pointing to a cardboard box on the workbench. “They were in Marsh’s laboratory with the TARDIS.”

The Doctor picked up the box and smiled joyfully. He saw his suit and shirt and tie folded neatly and all of the possessions he had on him when he was captured; his sonic screwdriver, TARDIS key, his wedding ring. He picked that up and slipped it on his hand. Jo and his other incarnation both noticed him do that and they both looked as if they wanted to ask him when he acquired a wedding ring, but both wisely decided not to ask the question. He held his hand out in front of him and studied the ring for a long time, and he felt the empty place where his missing heart should be. He knew that he could STILL visit Wyn an hour after he left Jasmin, but first there was one place in the universe better than a zero room where he could stay until his heart was mended, literally and figuratively.