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

“Doctor, I’ve sorted out your accounts, as far anyone can… you are really sloppy about keeping receipts. It’s a good job you’re not registered for VAT! Anyway, I’ve done your expenses for the last three trips we made. And my salary. I checked the bank. It went in ok, even though you paid it through a bank on the planet Felspar Dios. Also, I’ve done a petty cash tin with Earth currency. You can’t keep trying to buy milk with Alsetian Cobals.”

The Doctor wasn’t listening to her. He had a habit of tuning out when he was working, but he wasn’t working right now. He was just standing there, staring at the console with a devastated expression in his eyes and his lips pressed together as if he was forcing himself to be impassive. Except the eyes gave it away. Something was upsetting him.

“Ok, never mind petty cash. Doctor, what’s the matter?” She put her hand on his arm and he jumped as if her touch was electrified.

“Donna!” He looked around her and spoke her name with false brightness. “I’m… Donna… hi… what… I mean…was there something you wanted?”

“You on the same wavelength as me,” she answered. “What’s up? And don’t tell me nothing. You’re totally spaced out. What’s happened?”

“That,” he said, pointing to a small button on the console. A green LED light on it was flashing on and off.

“Um…” The flashing light certainly seemed to indicate something important. But she couldn’t see what.

“It’s a special signal,” The Doctor explained. “It’s supposed to light up when there’s a communication from my own planet… from the Time Lords.”

“So… ET can phone home after all. What’s so bad about that?”

“It shouldn’t be happening. That button shouldn’t light up. They can’t communicate with me. They don’t exist. They’re all dead. My planet is dead. This can’t be happening. There’s nobody left to send a signal to my TARDIS.”

“Well… somebody can,” Donna pointed out logically. “So… aren’t you going to find out what it’s all about?”

“It’s an error. The button is malfunctioning. That’s all. It can’t be them.”

“Then why are you so freaked out about it?”

“It can’t be from Gallifrey.”

“It’s a button. You’re supposed to push it, right?” Donna reached out her hand and pushed the button in before The Doctor could stop her.

“Donna!” he yelled. “What did you do? No. you can’t. You can’t.”

“I just did. Nothing happened. You’re right. It’s just a loose wire in the console.”

The TARDIS lurched suddenly. The Doctor fell backwards, landing awkwardly between the console and the battered leather command chair. Donna managed to grab a handhold on the console and kept her feet more or less. As the TARDIS movement settled down into something less turbulent The Doctor dragged himself up and stared at the viewscreen. They were in the time vortex, but instead of being red for travelling into the future or blue for travelling back in time, it was wavering between the two, and a green colour that was neither one thing nor the other.

“What?” he explained. “What… What… is… no… no…no. It can’t. It’s not possible. The time lock would have to be broken. It isn’t possible.”

He ran around the console, pressing buttons, murmuring over and over again that it wasn’t possible and it couldn’t be happening. He seemed very out of character. Donna considered that she had only known him a month, and that she probably didn’t know him well enough to say what was in or out of character for him. But what she did know of him was optimistic and enthusiastic. Standing there complaining that something wasn’t possible wasn’t like him.

“We’re there, wherever there is,” she said after a while.

“We can’t be,” The Doctor protested, still unable to accept what was happening.

“Well… what’s THAT then?” Donna pointed to the screen that he finally brought himself to look.

“It can’t be…”

“Will you stop saying that and tell me what’s going on around here,” Donna demanded. “What is that thing?”

The Doctor stared at the huge space station that put Donna in mind of a family size thick crust pizza mounted on a bicycle wheel and painted black and silver. It revolved around its central hub slowly, so that different parts of it glinted in the reflected light of a star in the far distance.

“It’s… Gallifreyan. It’s from Gallifrey. It’s… a justice satellite. It’s a sort of court and prison in one… on a mobile space station with maximum security. It was built for conducting very serious trials. We materialised beside it because to get in requires an extra level of security codes… They’ll be transmitted soon… and then…”

“Then…. Why did they bring you to it?”

The Doctor sighed and decided that, as usual with Donna, the truth was best.

“They probably want to blame me for something. I’ve been put on trial by them twice before…. I’m their favourite scapegoat for the ills of our society.”

“Trial? What for?” Donna looked at him in alarm “You mean… you’re a criminal… you… Oh my God! All this time I’ve been travelling with you… you’re a wanted criminal… on the run…”

“Not a criminal,” The Doctor insisted. “More… like… you know… a political dissident. Like… a Russian defector. I disagreed with my government. I took my TARDIS and went into exile…. Donna, I swear to you…that’s all I’ve done. I’m not a criminal. I’m not dangerous. Please believe me.”

She looked at him carefully and said nothing for a long time.

“Political dissident…”

“Yes.”

“That’s sort… kind of… that’s ok, I suppose. So what are you going to do? Run away again?”

“Can’t. They’d never let me go. If I tried, they’d pull the TARDIS in, even if they pulled it apart to get to me. I have to give myself up, face whatever they’ve got against me this time.”

As he spoke, the viewscreen flashed with a series of letters, numbers and some other symbols that Donna didn’t recognise.

“The security code. It’s automatically feeding into Navigation. We’ll materialise inside, soon.”

“Doctor… what about… what about me?” She didn’t mean to sound selfish, but she was scared. She couldn’t help it. “If I’m with you… will they think I’m your accomplice or something?”

“They won’t harm you,” he assured her. “The worst they will do is send you back to Earth with your memory of meeting me wiped from your mind.”

“They… what!”

The Doctor looked at the navigation monitor. The TARDIS was being guided remotely to a specific place in the justice centre. Most likely the secure compound, he thought grimly.

When the TARDIS came to a stop it seemed as if he was right. A phalanx of Chancellery Guard soldiers stood outside. As usual they presented a visual paradox in their ridiculous looking toy soldier red uniforms and gold cloaks, but carrying deadly disrupter guns for anyone stupid enough to think they were just ornamental. The Doctor braced himself to be arrested as soon as he stepped out of the TARDIS, expecting to be interrogated and possibly tortured very soon.

“Don’t be scared,” he said to Donna. “They won’t hurt you.”

“I don’t want them to hurt you, either,” she answered. “Doctor… are you sure we can’t just fly away again?”

He didn’t answer that. He just took her hand in his and stepped towards the door. He reached to open it and walked out of the TARDIS.

He was ready to have guns pointed at him. He wasn’t ready to see the Chancellery Guards immediately stand to attention with an audible click of heels and their arms presented. The Doctor was puzzled.

“Oh!” Donna exclaimed. “Doctor… they’re not… they’re… an honour guard… to meet you. Like… My granddad… he was at an Arnheim commemoration last year, and the soldiers greeted all the veterans and their families like that.”

“But…” The Doctor was lost for words. Donna took his arm and stepped forward. He had no choice but to move with her. But she was right. The Guards were there to welcome him with full honours, not to arrest him.

Well, it made a refreshing change.

“Doctor!” As he reached the end of the line a Time Lord in the colourful robes of office stepped forward. A Cardinal, no less, The Doctor noted. And he bowed low to him.

“Lord Arcalia,” The Doctor bowed his head slightly. Donna, who was known to be slow on the uptake, nevertheless worked out that The Doctor had just pulled rank on the other man.

Lord Arcalia didn’t show any sign of being put in his place.

“You have regenerated again since I last spoke with you.”

“Yes,” The Doctor answered. “I think… I was in my eighth life then. There was some trouble with the Matrix. You needed me, as a former president, to help recalibrate the symbiotic interface and re-establish the equilibrium of the Amplified Panatropic Computer net.”

“Which you did admirably,” Arcalian remarked. “If a little unorthodoxly.”

“The Matrix never needed recalibrating before. There isn’t an orthodox method.”

“Perhaps so. But….”

“Lord Arcalia, you didn’t send a recall signal to me over time and space to talk about old times? What’s this all about?”

“Your skills are required,” Arcalia answered. “You are still a notarised member of the Gallifreyan Bar. And as such you are always liable to be called up to do your duty.”

“You need a lawyer?”

“We need a High Inquisitor,” Lord Arcalia replied. “You have the qualifications.”

“Oh.”

 

“Let me get this straight,” Donna said as she wandered around the Inquisitors plush office, opening cupboards and drawers and generally being nosy. “They brought you here to be the judge at a trial?”

“Yep.”

“And you really are qualified?”

“On paper, anyway. I never really used my law degree. The Doctorate in Thermodynamics was more interesting. Still, I don’t think it’s too difficult. Mostly I just sit and listen. The worst part is wearing the regalia. I don’t have the shoulders for it these days. Used to. I was broader in the chest in my earlier life. I could really wear a High Gallifreyan collar.”

“Earlier life?” Donna recalled part of the conversation with Arcalia and put it with that comment. “What is THAT all about?”

“Something I promise I will explain another time,” The Doctor answered. “Preferably in the lounge of a cosy bar with a couple of drinks and some ambient music. Because there’s a fair chance then that you won’t freak out. But right now…” He sighed. “Actually, it’s a lot more serious than wearing a darned uncomfortable costume. We shouldn’t be here. It’s impossible.”

“Don’t start that again.”

“But it is. Even before The Time War it was not permitted to travel back in Gallifrey’s time. The war itself… when the planet was destroyed… it triggered a Time Lock, making it impossible to go back to before… but we have.”

“So… isn’t that good? You’re here… among your own kind… instead of being alone.”

Donna’s brain was working overtime taking it all in. She had guessed from things he had said since she met him that something bad had happened to his world. That’s why he was the only person at the New Sydney Opera House who understood the language the opera was in. She thought she understood what he was saying about not being able to get back to before it was destroyed. But obviously they had. And she didn’t quite get why that was such a problem to him.

“We’re a telepathic race,” he said. “Do you have any idea… what a strain it is… putting up mental walls… to hide what I know… that everyone I meet here… people I know… whether I like them or not… I know that they’re all going to die, horribly, in…” He looked around the desk he was sitting on. He found something that looked like a perpetual calendar, except there were a lot more numbers on it than Donna had ever seen. “In less than twenty years. That’s how close the Time War is. And I have to hide that from them all. This room is shielded with lead in the walls. It cuts out all telepathic signals from outside. And the courtroom itself won’t be so bad. There are always psychic dampeners to prevent the accused playing mind games with the jury. But everywhere else…”

“I suppose… well, you can’t tell them, can you? Warn them?”

“If I did… they’d probably prosecute me for breaking the Laws of Time,” he answered grimly. But that’s not the point. The point is…”

His point was forgotten as Lord Arcalia returned along with two men in dark robes who looked like court officials. They were carrying a heavy folded cloth and an elaborate collar.

“It is time for Your Excellency to be robed,” Arcalia said. “The alien female…”

“Oi, who are you calling alien,” Donna protested.

“This is Miss Donna Noble of Earth,” The Doctor told him. “And she will be respected by all concerned or you’ll know about it from me.”

“My apologies, madam,” Arcalia said with a courteous nod to Donna. May I suggest that you come along to the ante-room, however. It would not be appropriate for you to be in here while the robing takes place.”

“Escort Miss Noble to the courtroom and provide her with a comfortable chair and table, and writing implements – old fashioned ballpoint pen and paper. She will be my independent court reporter. How many words per minute shorthand, Donna?”

“Enough,” she replied. “I won’t let you down, Doctor.”

One of the dark robed men showed her out of the room. Arcalia watched as The Doctor unfolded the Inquisitor’s robes and examined them critically.

“You are even more devious than I remember. It is well known that you do not trust the Electronic recording of court proceedings.”

“Electronic recordings can be manipulated. Even the Matrix is pliable in the hands of a confirmed liar. Remember the last time we were on this station. When it was my life on the line.”

“I recall,” Arcalia said quietly. “So you brought a stranger, a non-Gallifreyan, separate from our customs, and incorruptible, to produce a written account that cannot be disputed.”

“That’s correct,” The Doctor answered. “There will be no shenanigans in my court.”

“Indeed,” Arcalia turned over the unusual word thoughtfully. “Absolutely no…. Shenanigans.”

“These robes…” The Doctor said, holding them up critically. “They aren’t the ones the previous inquisitor wore are they? Only she was a woman… a very BIG woman at that.”

Donna was enjoying the respect she was getting from the court officials. Word seemed to have gone ahead of her that she was there by special appointment of the Inquisitor himself. She was given a very comfortable leather chair that swivelled smoothly and a big, wide table. Paper and a selection of pens were provided, as well as a crystal jug full of ice cold water and a drinking glass. She seated herself and chose the most comfortable pen to take dictation for the length of a court session. She had never done a verbatim report before, although she had sat in plenty of business meetings where she was expected to get all the important details down on the spot while executives rattled on. She figured she was up to the job. She wasn’t sure if The Doctor genuinely needed a court reporter or not. This all looked very high tech and her shorthand seemed superfluous. Just in case it was part of his plan, though, she got ready to do her absolute best.

Around her the court filled up. There was a gallery of what she presumed were just ordinary Gallifreyan people come to have a look at what was going on. There were lawyers in black outfits with strange collars. They carried briefcases that opened up into mini computers containing all their case notes. There were guards and bailiffs, lots of them. Security was an issue.

There were two places not yet filled. One was obviously for the prisoner. It was a box that looked like wood at a glance, but if you looked closer that was just a patina on strong, probably unbreakable metal. There were bars in front of the seat where the prisoner would go. She wondered what sort of prisoner was going to be tried. Somebody really evil for this much effort, she thought. And it was The Doctor’s job to make sure they got what they deserved.

His seat was the other empty one, of course. It was a high one, the entrance from the Inquisitor’s Chamber hidden behind a screen of the same metal that looked like wood. Behind the elaborate seat was a huge symbol. Donna had never been in a court before. But she watched plenty of TV crime dramas. In the British ones, there would be a Royal Crest there with the lion and unicorn around a shield. In the American ones, the symbol of the US justice system with the bald eagle with its wings spread inside a circle.

The equivalent symbol for Gallifreyan courts was a huge gold circle with a complicated pattern inside. It looked something like a figure of eight, but with swirling extra bits. She looked at it for a while, trying to see if the pattern was all one single line or overlapping bits but it made her eyes water.

There were raised voices all around and then the bailiff called for silence. Donna watched as the prisoner was brought through a hidden entrance into the dock. She was surprised to see that it was a woman. She was obviously the only one who WAS surprised. Everyone else clearly knew what to expect.

She looked at the woman carefully. She was in her late forties, perhaps. Maybe more with some good plastic surgery. That was Donna’s first guess. She looked like the femme fatale from one of those American glamour soaps of the 1980s.

Then she remembered that this wasn’t a Human woman. She was of The Doctor’s race and they aged differently, apparently. The Doctor was far older than the 35ish that he looked. This woman could well be hundreds of years old, too. So her actual appearance was probably deceptive.

The woman sat in the chair, to which she was chained. Two male guards stood either side of her and a female sat in a chair behind. The prisoner looked completely uninterested in her surroundings. She didn’t look worried about being on trial. She certainly wasn’t scared.

The woman looked around slowly at the assembled court, as if she was mentally noting the faces that looked back at her. Donna froze as her eyes stayed for several seconds on her. She tried to look away, but felt as if she couldn’t. The prisoner’s eyes were boring into her, trying to get through her skull and into her brain.

Then one of the guards nudged the prisoner on the shoulder and said something to her. Donna was relieved. The feeling was getting quite unpleasant. She remembered what The Doctor said about the court having psychic dampeners. This was why. The prisoner had been trying to hypnotise her.

“No chance, missy,” Donna thought. “Tried that. Chiswick Empire, last year. Me and Veena, one of those hypnotist shows. Veena doing backflips across the stage. But when he tried it on me, nothing. Mum said it was because I lacked imagination. Another chance to have a dig. But she was wrong. I was too strong for it. That’s what it was. And I’m not going to be taken in by any alien criminal type, either.”

Then the bailiff called for silence again and from all around, on the best sound system she had heard in a long time, a short burst of dramatic music was heard. Everyone stood. Donna did, too. The prisoner was the last to stand, hauled up by the two guards, her chains rattling ominously.

“This court recognises His Excellency, the High Inquisitor,” intoned the bailiff and Donna watched in amazement as The Doctor appeared dressed in an outfit that completely outdid the costumes worn by everyone else in the room. He was right about not having the shoulders for it, she noted. The stiff, high collar that rose up behind his head stuck out a bit either side. But he didn’t look ridiculous. He looked magnificent. The robe itself, deep red with gold embroidery all over the rich cloth, was like something from the Mikado.

And he looked as if he had worn that kind of fantastic stuff all his life. His head was held up proudly – although the collar probably made it impossible to do anything else. He had a solemn expression on his face. His eyes were the most impassive she had ever seen them. There was no humour, no sorrow, no emotion of any kind. He glanced her way once as he took his place. She thought there was the faintest flicker of an eyebrow, but that was all.

There was barely more of a reaction when he turned and looked at the prisoner in the dock, though Donna, watching him closely, noted a widening of his eyes and a very brief moment when his lips parted and he might have whispered a name. The shock registered for only seconds before he recovered his poise and sat down in the richly decorated High Inquisitor’s seat and the Chief Prosecutor stood. Donna wasn’t able to look at faces then. Her job as Court Reporter began from the moment the man started to speak.

“Your Excellency,” began the Prosecutor in a voice that Donna would have described as ‘oily’ if such remarks were required in a verbatim report. “We are here today to bear witness to the worst crimes committed by a Time Lord of Gallifrey since the dark days of the Cult of Morbeus itself. These are crimes that will shock and dismay. It scarcely seems conceivable that they could have been committed by one of our race…”

He went on for twenty minutes or more in that style. Donna faithfully recorded it, though if her opinion had been sought, it would have been that the prosecutor was full of hot air and could have said everything important in two sentences.

Basically, they were here to try a woman known as The Rani for what on Earth they called Crimes against Humanity, but on Gallifrey were called Extra-Species Abominations. It was extremely illegal for a Time Lord to conduct experiments using lesser species as guinea pigs. And Donna got the message from the Prosecutor’s long-winded opening remarks that ‘lesser species’ didn’t mean guinea pigs and rats, or even dogs or monkeys.

The Chief Prosecutor finally finished and Donna risked a glance around the court as he sat down and the Defence Counsel stood up. Judging by all the fidgeting in seats she wasn’t the only one who thought he was a right old windbag. The accused – The Rani – whatever kind of name that was – didn’t seem to have moved a muscle the whole time. She didn’t react in any way to the suggestions that she had committed really horrible acts of cruelty and depravity.

Donna quickly looked at The Doctor. The word to describe him was inscrutable. She really couldn’t make out what he was thinking at all. He might have been angry, amused, bored. His expression didn’t waver as he sat slightly to one side in the Inquisitor’s chair, his fingers pressed against each other and held just in front of his mouth as if he was deep in thought.

“Your Excellency…” The Defence Counsel began. “My client does not dispute the claims of the Honourable and Learned Chief Prosecutor. The Time Lord known as The Rani conducted the experiments which have been cited as acts of cruelty in the belief that she was furthering the cause of scientific understanding, for the glory of Gallifrey itself…”

Donna again scribbled furiously, filling page after page with Pitman shorthand. The Defence Counsel took nearly as long as the Prosecutor to make a case that everything The Rani had done to ‘lesser species’ was justified by the pursuit of knowledge that the Time Lords themselves, apparently, endorsed in their constitution, in their great academic institutions, and in their daily lives. Science was the cornerstone of Time Lord society. Learning was their raison d'être – and yes, Donna knew the Pitman for raison d'être, and thanks to the TARDIS and its translation programme, she also knew what the words meant.

She thought it was the most pathetic defence she had ever heard. Wasn’t there a Nazi who tried to use the same excuse for what he did to people in the camps? Donna couldn’t recall the name, but she was pretty sure that he didn’t get let off with that excuse. And she was certain The Doctor would not let this Rani off with it, either.

He didn’t. She almost forgot to keep writing when he rose from his seat and stopped the Defence Counsel mid-sentence.

“If that is your case for the defence, then we can save everyone a lot of time and effort and continue straight to sentencing right now,” The Doctor said. “The rights of what you and your client call ‘lesser species’ are protected under the Treaty of Lex, The Confederation of Rixos, and paragraphs 8b, 197c and 1534d section iv of the Shaddow Proclamation, all of which have been signed by representatives of the Time Lords and ratified by the High Council. Any experiments on sentient beings who have not signed a consent to take part in licensed medical trials is illegal under Gallifreyan law. Your defence is no defence at all, and I am surprised that you imagined you would get away with it.”

“Wow, Doctor! Impressive or what?” Donna thought. In the silence that followed his final words she again dared to look around the court. ‘Impressive or what?’ seemed to sum it up. She saw somebody at the back hastily scrolling through text on a computer screen. She wondered if he was looking up paragraphs 8b, 197c and 1534d of the Shaddow Proclamation, whatever that was. She was perfectly confident that The Doctor was going to be absolutely correct, down to the last ‘iv’.

“Your Excellency,” the Defence Counsel replied. “I bow to your far superior knowledge of statutes laid down by alien governments and federations, and our own government’s response to such statutes. I withdraw the defence of Scientific Necessity and instead, if you will permit, I shall submit a defence of insanity.”

The Doctor laughed sharply.

“Well, we can save even less time with that one. Everyone in the twelve galaxies knows that The Rani is insane. There are communities of peace loving gnomes who live in the crevices on the side of the great, unreachable cliffs of Moreh, who don’t even have a word for ‘insane’ in their own language, who know that The Rani is insane. Send her to Shada for the rest of her days and let’s all go home.”

The Doctor reached for his water glass and took a drink as he watched the Defence Counsel protest that the High Inquisitor himself was making a mockery of the Court of Inquisition. Donna expected some smart, funny reply from The Doctor.

But there wasn’t one. Instead there was a collective gasp from the court and a soft thud from the direction of the High Inquisitor’s Bench. Donna looked around and saw The Doctor slumped over, unconscious. She dropped her pen and ran towards him, but two Chancellery Guards stepped forward and restrained her.

“Madam,” one of them said, in a firm voice. “Nobody must touch the Inquisitor except…”

Donna watched as the bailiff approached the Bench and quickly examined The Doctor.

“He’s dead!” the bailiff exclaimed. “The High Inquisitor is dead.”

“No!” Donna screamed. “No, he can’t be. Let me see him. Let me…”

Lord Arcalia himself stepped forward and took her by the arm.

“Pick up your papers and come with me, madam,” he whispered. “Don’t look back. Especially don’t look at the prisoner.”

It was like being told not to think of an elephant. She automatically glanced towards the Dock and saw the malicious smile on the face of The Rani. Then the bailiff ordered the court to be cleared. The prisoner was pulled to her feet and taken away to wherever prisoners were kept, and Donna herself was ushered away through a concealed door behind the Chief Prosecutor’s seat.

The Doctor was dead, and The Rani thought that was funny.

She was the only one that did.

 

“Come with me,” Lord Arcalia said to Donna. “Say nothing, make no fuss. Just come with me, quickly, now.”

Donna did as he said. She was too stunned and grief stricken to do anything else. She couldn’t even speak. Her throat was constricted by the effort not to cry in front of these alien strangers in their grand costumes who stared and muttered among themselves.

The Doctor was dead. Just like that, among his own people. How wrong was that? He had talked about being a political dissident, who had argued with the government and been punished for it. The honour guard and the friendliness since they arrived here suggested that there had been some equivalent of the end of the Cold War on Earth. Now he was welcomed and treated with respect. But were there some, still, who resented him? Was that what it was all about? Had they killed him because they wanted the old order back and he stood in their way.

Or was it the prisoner? Had she killed him to stop the trial?

What actually happened to the previous Inquisitor? The Doctor hadn’t asked. Maybe he should have done. Was she murdered, too?

If so, why hadn’t they made more of an effort to protect him and stop it happening again? Was that why they called HIM? Did they think he was expendable?

Whatever it was about, he was dead. And she was on her own among a bunch of aliens that she couldn’t trust. Because one of them had killed The Doctor.

All that was running through her mind as Lord Arcalia ushered her quickly out of the court and into a public corridor, and from there through three sets of double doors that all had signs saying ‘private, authorised personnel only’. All of them were guarded by at least two of those red and gold soldiers that had formed the honour g uard. They all looked grimly impassive, nothing showing in their faces. Lord Arcalia was the same. She could tell nothing from his expression. She wondered exactly where he was taking her.

“Look,” she protested, finding her voice at last. “Stop. I’m not going any further with you until you tell me what’s going on. Where did you take him – The Doctor. I mean… I’m sort of… I’m the nearest thing he has to a next of kin… sort of. I want to see him. What did you do to his body?”

“Everything will be explained,” Lord Arcalia answered her. “This way, please.”

“No,” she answered. “I won’t. Arrest me if you have to. But I am not doing anything you say. I want to see The Doctor, now.”

“What’s all the fuss about?” said The Doctor, popping his head through the ornately decorated double doors in front of her. The two guards reached to open them fully. The Doctor stood there, wearing his usual suit and a wide smile. Donna ran to him and actually hugged him tightly. The tears of grief she had been holding back poured out for a whole minute, and then she punched him in the shoulder so hard that he reeled back.

“You scared me,” she told him. “You really scared me. They said you were dead. And here you are… alive. You could have told me. You…. You… undead spaceman!”

“I’m sorry,” he said, taking her hand and drawing her into the room. “I couldn’t tell you. It would have given the game away. Lord Arcalia couldn’t say anything, either. I am very sorry that you were distressed. But, as you can see, The News of My Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated.”

Donna punched him again for that flippant comment.

“Madam,” Lord Arcalia told her patiently. “Physical abuse of the High Inquisitor is not usually tolerated.”

“Will somebody tell me what’s going on, then?” she replied.

“Come and sit down,” he said. “And meet a friend of mine.”

He again held her by the hand, and took her towards a long, soft cushioned sofa in front of a huge video screen. A man was sitting on the sofa already. He was middle aged with blonde, curling hair and was dressed in an outfit that looked like it came from the bargain basement of Clowns R Us. Donna tried not to look at it as he stood and reached to shake hands with her. His expression, she noticed, didn’t match his garish costume. He looked grimly serious.

“This,” said The Doctor. “Is The Doctor. Doctor, I’d like you to meet Miss Donna Noble, my secretary, travelling companion, and trusted friend.”

“Pleased to meet you, Donna,” replied the man in the clown costume. “I’m The Doctor.”

“You’re The Doctor?” she answered. “No, he’s The Doctor.”

“Yes, he is. But I am also The Doctor.”

The Doctor said nothing, but there was a half smile on his face.

“Right,” Donna said in a decisive tone. “Obviously you two are playing some kind of game with me. But I’m not rising to it. Do either of you want to be serious for a minute and explain why you made me think he was dead. What’s going on?”

“Treachery and corruption is going on,” The Doctor – her Doctor – answered. “You’ve been watching?” He said that to the other Doctor.

“I have. Come and sit down, both of you. It’s interesting stuff.”

The oddly dressed Doctor waited until they were settled beside him before reaching for a remote control and using it to rewind what Donna recognised as a recording of the court proceedings. She had never seen herself on TV, so that itself was a bit of a surprise. But she realised that she wasn’t the focus of attention by the two doctors. They were watching everyone else, especially the Chief Prosecutor, the one who went on so long in his opening remarks.

“There,” the other Doctor said as they got to the bit where The Doctor was getting up the nose of the Defence Counsel and leaned back to take a drink. The Prosecutor smiled. He actually smiled as he watched the Doctor swallow the water. By the time he keeled over and the bailiff pronounced him dead, he had resumed his composure, but he had actually smiled.

Before The Doctor had actually collapsed.

“You mean…” Donna was working it out for herself. “You mean you think it was HIM. But he’s the good guy. Boring, but good. He’s trying to put her away for her crimes.”

“He’s a lawyer,” The Doctor commented. “It’s not a case of good guy, bad guy. The defence counsel is a boring prig, but he’s a good man. It’s his job to put up a defence for The Rani, whether he likes her or not. It’s the Prosecution’s case to prosecute regardless of whether he believes she’s guilty or not. And mine to sentence her regardless of my personal feelings. But I’m not sure the assassination attempt had anything to do with that. There’s something else wrong. Some other reason why aspirin was put in my drinking water.”

“Aspirin?” Donna was puzzled.

“Aspirin is a deadly poison to our species,” explained the other Doctor. “If he hadn’t guessed something was going on and pretended to succumb, I’d be witnessing my own future death. Not something any Time Lord wants to go through, I can tell you.”

Donna opened her mouth to ask the inevitable question, but The Doctor cut her off. He was still looking at the video. As his own body was carried from the courtroom, the Chancellery Guard had moved in and were asking everyone to sit down and stay where they were. But one man didn’t do as they said. He got up from his seat at the back of the public gallery and glanced towards the Chief Prosecutor before turning and going up the steps between the seats. At the top, he slipped behind a curtain. A few moments later there was a shimmer and the curtains blew slightly as if air had been displaced.

“No!” Both Doctors exclaimed together.

“Outrageous,” the other Doctor continued. “He had a TARDIS hidden in the courtroom. That is against every precept….”

“He’s in with the Prosecutor?” Donna guessed. “Who is that bloke, anyway?”

“Lord Gallica,” The Doctor answered. “He’s the brother in law of the prosecutor. A cool customer. I remember he was top of his class in Emotional Detachment. He didn’t give anything away. But he’s clearly in on it.”

“So what are you going to do about it?” Donna asked. “He tried to kill you…”

“We’re going to sort him out,” The Doctor answered. He looked over at the door where a Chancellery Guard officer was trying to attract his attention. He nodded and the doors were opened. Four more guards entered, hauling the TARDIS between them. Both Doctors winced as it was tipped in order to fit it through the door.

“Thank you,” The Doctor said. “That will be all. Tell the bailiff to inform the court that there will be a one hour recess and then the trial will resume.”

“Yes, your Excellency,” said the officer, saluting him. The Doctors both winced at being saluted at, too. They waited until everyone had left the room, and then stood up. Donna stood with them. The Doctor went to the TARDIS door, taking out his key. He looked at the lock for a long moment then turned to the other Doctor.

“Ah,” he said. “I think this is YOUR TARDIS, not mine.”

“Allow me,” said the other Doctor. He brought something from his pocket that didn’t look like any key Donna had ever seen before. He pushed back the Yale lock and inserted it into the keyhole hidden beneath it. The TARDIS door opened and they stepped inside. Donna followed. Neither had actually said they wanted her with them, but she was darned if she was going to be left behind.

“Hey…wow… this is…” Donna stared around at the interior of this TARDIS. It was much brighter than the one she was used to. The walls were white with roundels the size of washing up bowls set into them. The floor was a smooth, even surface, not like the green mesh of The Doctor’s TARDIS. The central console was hexagonal and looked high tech and retro at the same time.

“Very 80s,” she said. “I didn’t know they came in different styles. So how come you have the aquarium look? Did you choose that or did you get stuck with it?”

“This is…” The Doctor began. “It’s….” He no more wanted to explain to her that this was an earlier regeneration of the same TARDIS than he wanted to explain that the other Doctor was an earlier regeneration of him. Apart from the fact that she would find that freaky and probably a bit frightening, he knew she would never let him off if she found out that he had once chosen that style of clothes.

“Where are we going, anyway?” she asked, to his relief. “We’re following your man who left the court, Lord whatisname?”

“I’ve got a trace on his TARDIS,” the other Doctor said. “He’s going to Gallifrey.”

“He is?” The Doctor looked at, then at the viewscreen as a green-blue vortex span hypnotically. “We’re… we are going to Gallifrey?”

“It’s been a while?” asked the other Doctor in a sympathetic tone.

“A… very long while,” The Doctor replied. “Very long.”

The other Doctor looked at him intently over the console. He frowned.

“You’re keeping something from me. It’s bad enough you know everything I know as well as everything you’ve done and seen since. But when there are things I’m not allowed to know…”

“It would do you no good. It might even do you, and many others, a lot of harm. Don’t try to find out what it is. Just trust me.”

“Well, of course I trust you. If I can’t trust you, I can’t trust me. And if I don’t trust me, then I don’t trust anyone.”

“Exactly.”

“Do either of you intend to explain to me what you’re talking about?” Donna asked. “Because from where I’m standing it’s a bit mental, you realise.”

“No,” The Doctor answered. “It’s too complicated. I promise, when we’re done, when this is over, I’m going to take you to that cosy bar I mentioned and I will explain everything. But right now, we have more immediate things to worry about. All that you need to know is that you can trust him as much as you trust me, and if we get separated, you can depend on him to look after you. And if anything happens to me…”

“What’s likely to happen to you?”

“Nothing,” the other Doctor hastily said. “Take no notice, my dear young woman. He is just being melodramatic.”

“Yeah, he does that. But less of the ‘dear young woman’ from you. Just call me Donna. Or if you’re interested in my secretarial skills, that will be Miss Noble.”

“Donna,” the other Doctor said. “Come and help us. Tracking another TARDIS accurately, without deviating temporally, is a job for more than two pairs of hands. We have to stay right on it. Even a few hours deviation would be bad in this case.”

“You want me to help fly this?” She looked at the console nearest to her. It looked like the control panel for a really advanced photo-copier and fax machine. Except it almost certainly took more than half and hour with the manual to make this work,

“If you could hold down the temporal manifold and the helmic regulator,” the other Doctor said to her.

She looked blank.

“That button there and the lever by your right hand,” The Doctor told her. “Hold them both and watch the two LCD panels. If the figures displayed in them go above 50 and 90 respectively shout out.”

She did as he said. The Doctor and the other Doctor both pulled levers and pressed buttons on the other five sides. They worked together as if they had done so for years, each anticipating the other’s actions. It was impressive to watch. And since neither LCD indicator looked like going over 50 or 90 she watched them intently.

“I am doing something useful here, aren’t I?” she asked after a while. “You two aren’t just humouring me? I really am helping you to steer this thing?”

“Oh, yes, absolutely,” The Doctor promised her. “Yes, you are helping Donna. Really, you are.”

“You’re keeping us in the right temporal location,” the other Doctor explained. “So we don’t overshoot. But… look… there it is. You can let go now. We’re there. Gallifrey, the shining planet.”

“Home,” The Doctor murmured.

The viewscreen resolved into an orbital view of a planet. The Doctor took a deep breath as he saw it. Donna looked curiously. It was a very red planet, like Mars, except it obviously had oceans and seas, a lighter red than the landmasses. It had two large ones of those, with a wide strait between them, and polar ice caps that looked pinkish-orange.

“It’s the atmosphere that makes it look like that,” The Doctor said. “The southern continent especially has lots of verdant, watered places. It’s not all desert. It’s beautiful. It really is. The seas look grey-green close up, like any other seas. The sky is yellow orange by day and a deep burnt orange at night. And the moon… depending on her aspect… is either deep copper or shining silver. It’s… it’s… I never thought to see her again. I’m…”

He stopped talking. The other Doctor was looking at him with the same frown. He was putting up mental walls to protect his most terrible secret.

“It really has been a long time, hasn’t it? But we aren’t here for a home coming. We have to catch a traitor and find out who else was involved. And what exactly they think they’re up to.”

“Do you have a fix on him, still?” The Doctor asked, his melancholy mood changing to brisk efficiency again.

“Yes, but I have to get us through the Transduction barrier undetected. You know what a bunch of sneaky runts work in the Traffic Control Division. If Lord Gallica has one of them in his pocket… Anyway, they might get picky and want Donna to go through immigration control and all of that.”

“So the bad guy comes in all legit, and we’re sneaking in under the radar?” Donna summed it up for them.

“Yep,” The Doctor said. “Anyway, that button by your left elbow, can you press it and keep it pressed. Here. Use this.” He passed her a lump of blu-tac. She looked at it and then did as he said. She noticed there was a trace of old blu-tac on it. obviously this was a trick the other Doctor often used. She wondered how her Doctor knew about it. “Very good. Now take hold of both of those red sliders and push them slowly up, keeping them level with each other.”

Again Donna did exactly as she was told. The viewscreen had something like a visualisation from Windows Media Player danced across it for several minutes before it darkened and the central column of the console came to a halt.

“Did I do something wrong?” Donna asked as she took her hands off the two slides and stepped back. “We’ve stopped, but there’s nothing outside.”

“Yes, there is,” the other Doctor assured her. It’s the undercroft of the Capitol. There are no lights down here.”

“Undercroft?” Donna grimaced. “You mean… sewers?”

The Doctor adjusted his sonic screwdriver to penlight mode and buttoned his long overcoat. The other Doctor looked impressed and just ever so slightly jealous.

“You’ve got a new sonic screwdriver,” he said, “I always meant to get one. I got the mail order catalogue from the Villengard factory, but I never had time to place the order.”

“Yes, I remember,” The Doctor replied. “The tereleptils destroyed my old one. You had to improvise.”

“Anyway, let’s see where we are,” the other Doctor said, reaching for the door release.

“I think I’ll stay behind,” Donna said. “Seriously, sewers are not my thing.”

“It’s not a sewer,” The Doctor assured her. “Come on. You don’t want to miss out on the adventure?”

“I signed up to do shorthand, typing, keeping the petty cash balanced,” Donna replied. “Not adventures. At least not adventures in dirty, manky tunnels.”

But she came anyway, walking between the two Doctors. The penlight of the sonic screwdriver illuminated old, but surprisingly clean and mank free red brick. Every so often there were sections with bricks of a different texture that looked like doors or windows that had been sealed. Donna looked up and saw that the walls went up about three storeys and then curved in on themselves to make a roof over the path. It wasn’t like a sewer at all. It was more like an underground street.

“Where is this exactly?” Donna asked as they came to a place where the path they were walking was intersected by a much wider one. The Doctors both looked as if they were getting their bearings and then turned left. The ground on this wider path was covered by an elaborate, if faded and cracked, mosaic. “It looks like an underground city.”

“It is,” The Doctor said. “This is the old Capitol. These were the streets and avenues a dozen millennia ago. I’ve seen old pictures. It was a bright, beautiful place, then. A city of scholars and philosophers. Think of ancient Rome with senates and bath houses, libraries, theatres. It was magnificent. All of these walls would have been faced with pure white stone. It shone.”

“What happened to it?” Donna asked, expecting to hear about some disaster on the scale of Pompeii.

“Ambition,” the other Doctor answered. “They wanted to build bigger and better and taller. They wanted a city with the sky above us. This one was built under a closed roof, fully ventilated and brightly it, but they wanted to see the sky.”

“So the new Capitol was build over ground, right above the old,” The Doctor continued. “Towers and spires, great golden domes that shone in the sunlight, everything reaching to the sky. As tall and magnificent as they could make it. And they enclosed the new Capitol in a great enviro-sphere. They controlled the sunlight let in, repelled harmful rays. The weather was controlled. It was like Camelot – it only rained after sundown. A perfect city, a jewel on the face of the shining planet.”

“And the old city just stayed here, right where it was.” Donna looked around as they came out into a wide place that could have been called a square or a plaza, or a piazza, whichever word Time Lords had for such things.

“Everything was stripped from it. even the shining white stone, all the sculptures and memorials, fountains. Right above us now is the old Tranquility Plas. It’s easy to recognise because they recreated it in exact detail. Up above us now, it’s there. A huge fountain in the middle, and the garden laid out in a huge Seal of Rassilon, with golden paths between beds of rare red grass. Around it is the Museum of Galifreyan antiquities, the great library with its dome, and…” The Doctor closed his eyes as if he was remembering. “What was on the south and east side of the Plas of Tranquility?”

“The Hexagon Theatre,” the other Doctor replied. “And the Astronomy Society headquarters with the gold-plated telescope on the roof.”

“Of course,” The Doctor sighed. “How could I have forgotten that? I remember. The sunlight would glance off the telescope and make it into a mini-sun shining down on the Plas. It was beautiful.”

“Was?” The other Doctor frowned again. “Just how long has it been since you were home?”

Donna looked at her Doctor. She knew the truth, of course. All the glory he was talking of was long gone in his time. This very planet was gone. The other Doctor was one of the people he had to hide that knowledge from. She could see in his eyes just how difficult that was.

“So,” she said. “If it’s all so great up there, remind me why are we down here in the dark?”

“We’re down here because Lord Gallica is down here, somewhere,” The Doctor answered. “Whatever he is up to, he’s doing it here.”

“Hadn’t we better find out what it is, then?” Donna suggested. “Sight seeing can wait.”

“She’s right,” the Other Doctor said. “Let’s try to focus. Besides, I never really liked the Capitol. I preferred to live under the real sky, where it rained any time of day or night.”

“Yes,” The Doctor agreed. “Yes, I did.”

Donna started to ask a question, but The Doctor shushed her. They all listened carefully. A sound echoed around the old Plas. A sound of several people chanting in unison.

“It’s coming from the old theatre,” The other Doctor said. “Come on. I think we’ve found our traitors.

“Noisy lot, aren’t they,” Donna commented as they crossed the plas and went in single file down a narrow passage beside what had once been a very grand and beautiful building but was now just red bricks with the façade stripped away. Nobody was entirely surprised when they found a doorway that had been opened up again, the bricks left in a heap beside the hole.

“It’s not quite when we went to the opera,” Donna commented as they stepped through the gap and emerged into a place that felt even darker and more claustrophobic than the dark subterranean streets they had followed before.

The chanting was louder, too.

“Why can’t I understand what they’re saying?” Donna asked as she followed the Doctors along the passageway, their footsteps sounding differently now they were walking on boards. “And… how come this place is in such good nick for something that’s thousands of years old?”

“They’re using Ancient Gallifreyan, the form used only in old rituals and rites. The TARDIS doesn’t translate it because she sees no reason to do so. Contrary old thing that she is,” The Doctor explained.

“The undercroft is hermetically sealed. Nothing decays. It will last forever,” the other Doctor added in answer to her last question. Donna was getting used to them talking in relay to her, by now. It had ceased to puzzle her how they did it.

“So…you don’t know what they’re saying?” she asked.

“Oh, yes,” The Doctor replied. “I learnt Ancient Gallifreyan centuries ago. And Latin and Sanskrit. Dead languages are fascinating. Basically, they’re saying…. Oh…. %&@£$#.”

“The TARDIS also doesn’t translate Low Gallifreyan swear words,” the other Doctor pointed out. “Because she’s a lady and what he just said isn’t polite.”

“No, but…” The Doctor gripped the other Doctor by the shoulder. “Listen to the chant. Do you hear…”

The other Doctor listened, too. Then he groaned and also said a word in Low Gallifreyan that would make the TARDIS blush.

“So what are they saying, then?” Donna asked, reminding them of her presence.

“Omega Will Live! Praise to Omega, Greatest of Time Lords. Omega Will Live.” The Doctor translated

“Omega!” the other Doctor said in a doleful tone.

“Omega?” Donna repeated. “I take it we’re not talking about cat food? Or the stuff they get from fish and stick in health food?”

“Cat food?” the other Doctor queried.

“You’ve not been to Earth for a while?” The Doctor asked him. “Never mind. No, we’re not talking about cat food, Donna. We’re talking about a long dead Time Lord who has been a thorn in my side too many times already. And some idiots want to perform a ritual to raise him from the dead and make him ruler of all Time Lords….”

“If Omega is allowed to get hold of that power he’ll not only rule all Time Lords, but all Creation,” the other Doctor added.

“So where does killing you come into it?” Donna asked.

“I have a horrible suspicion,” the other Doctor answered. “Come on, let’s get closer. Quietly, now. We don’t want to be heard.”

The Doctor turned off his sonic screwdriver light and put it away. There was no need for it. Ahead, the passage ended in what was obviously a much bigger place. There was a flickering light as of the sort of rush torches that always seem to be ready and waiting in the secret underground caverns that the likes of Indiana Jones habitually found. The chanting was obviously coming from the same direction.

They came out into the back of the stalls in what reminded Donna immediately of the Royal Albert Hall. A grand, in-the-round theatre with the pipes of a huge, elaborate organ taking up one entire wall. Below, in the performance area, three men in robes were circling around a sarcophagus. It was open, and something lay inside it, something that Donna thought she didn’t really want a closer look at. As the robed men circled and chanted, smoke or steam, or something was forming in the sarcophagus.

“The Rite of Rinascita,” The Doctor whispered. “They’re getting ready to bring whatever that is in there back to life.”

“Omega?” Donna queried.

“If it is, I don’t know where they found him,” the other Doctor said. “The last time I saw his physical body it was disintegrating in a canal in Amsterdam.”

“Yuk,” Donna commented about that.

“I’m going for a closer look,” The Doctor said. “You stay here and look after Donna. Donna… you look after him. He’s known to be impulsive and irrational.”

The Doctor slipped down the aisle between the seats before either of his companions could reply to those comments. The other Doctor muttered about the ‘irrational and impulsive’ comment and added something about the ‘pot calling the kettle’ until Donna elbowed him in the ribs and told him to shut up.

“Something’s going on,” she said. “Look….”

The chanting had stopped. The three men all looked around at a sound that echoed noisily in the empty theatre, bereft of the soft furnishings that would have given it the perfect acoustics for performances. There was a rush of air and a box appeared. It looked about the same size and shape as the TARDIS she knew, but it was just a grey cabinet with some interesting swirling symbols on it. The three men looked expectantly as the door opened and the oily and long-winded Chief Prosecutor stepped out. One of the robed men pushed down his hood. Nobody was especially surprised to see it was Lord Gallica.

“Where is The Doctor’s body?” he demanded.

“I do not know,” the Chief Prosecutor replied. “I searched the chambers – even those I was not supposed to enter. The body is gone. His TARDIS capsule is still in the reception, but there is no sign of his body. The woman he brought with him is missing, too.”

“We need The Doctor’s body,” Lord Gallica snapped. “We cannot complete the ritual without it. The Doctor’s DNA was bonded with Omega’s when he was brought into our universe from the universe of anti-matter. Only his body will do to bring him to life again. Any attempt to bond another Time Lord would be fatal – to the Time Lord and to our plan to restore Omega to the greatness he truly deserves.”

“Wow!” the other Doctor whispered. “Who’s Mister Exposition here? Now we know what’s going on and why.”

“Shush,” Donna replied to him. “I’m trying to get it all down.”

The other Doctor looked at her in surprise. She had a notebook open and was scribbling down everything that the conspirators were saying.

“Clever girl,” he told her. “Keep writing. By the way, the other two are called Lord Benick and Lord Cathina. Just for the records.”

Then Donna forgot to write for several horrifying seconds. The other Doctor groaned in exasperation and again muttered about the pot and the kettle as The Doctor stood up from his hiding place near the front of the stalls and stepped towards the conspirators.

“It’s ok,” he said. “You don’t need to look for me. I’m here.”

Lord Gallica looked at him and made an angry growling noise in his throat before uttering a whole string of those Low Gallifreyan swear words. The Doctor stood there, his arms folded, head to one side, looking, there was only one word for it, cocky. He had walked into the dragon’s den, offering himself up for sacrifice, and he was smiling about it.

“Take him!” Lord Gallica demanded. The other two robed Time Lords were so startled by the turn of events that he had to repeat himself before they moved to carry out his command. When they did, The Doctor was no longer standing with his arms folded but was in a defensive martial arts stand. The other Doctor made a grumpy noise as he watched him beat off first one, then the other of the two men with a kick and a counter punch in traditional Shaolin Gung Fu.

“I’d forgotten how to do that,” he said. “He’s thinner than me, anyway. More agile. I’m a thinking Doctor!”

“Then think,” Donna told him. “Two against one isn’t fair. Besides…”

She looked around and sighed. Now the other one had disappeared.

The two Time Lords were at least as good as The Doctor. They were taken by surprise by his first moves, but they came back and he was fighting for his life. Lord Gallica and the Chief Prosecutor took no part in the fight, but he knew they were just biding their time.

And he was running out of time. He had expected old men who he could outwit mentally and physically. But these two were fighting him into the ground.

And they were fighting dirty. The Doctor groaned as he was kicked in the ribs hard enough to crack them if he were a mere Human with an ordinary, fragile bone structure. At the same time his legs were taken out from under him by a sweeping movement that was banned in competitive martial arts, but known to anyone who ever used the skills outside of competition fighting in a real life battle.

As he went down, though, his assailants were startled by a sudden noise. It reverberated all the way around the theatre, and it was a few moments before The Doctor recognised it as music. Somebody was playing Jerusalem, on a loud but badly out of tune organ, with all the stops out. The noise was almost unbearable. The Doctor rolled over, ignoring the pain in his legs and ribs, and looked up at the high ceiling of the theatre. It was difficult to see, because the torches that lit it were only a little above head height and anything beyond that was in darkness, but a Time Lord’s eyes could see in the dark much better than any other species, providing there was a small amount of light from somewhere for their retina’s to process. He saw elaborate plaster carvings that had been too much trouble to remove when the theatre was abandoned. They were in good condition, of course, like everything else. But they had been left in silence for thousands of years. Now they were being subjected to sound vibrations. He saw cracks appearing.

So did Lord Gallica. He screamed above the noise as Jerusalem gave way to a painful rendition of I Vow To Thee My Country.

“Stop that fool, before he kills us all! And bring The Doctor here.”

Lord Benick obeyed, running towards the organ where the other Doctor played enthusiastically.

“Oh, no, you don’t,” Donna murmured as she scurried along the row of seats and came out just above the organ. She could see the other Doctor pounding the keyboard, now playing I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside in a key several octaves higher than usual. Lord Benick was coming up behind him with a length of cord that had been around his waist, tying his robe. Donna didn’t think about what she was doing until afterwards, when the thought of it made her wince. She climbed over the partition between the seats and the organ pit and jumped onto Lord Benick’s back, stabbing her shorthand pen into his shoulder. He went down hard. She landed on top of him and his head cracked against the floor. She panicked for a moment, thinking she had killed him, but he was just out cold.

“Thanks,” the other Doctor called out to her above the sound of his terrible playing. “I owe you one.”

“You’re welcome,” Donna answered. “But what about The Doctor?”

“I can look after myself,” the other Doctor assured her.

“Yeah, but what about him?” she repeated. “Aren’t you going to help him? I mean…”

Donna looked around as The Doctor was pulled up from the ground by Lord Cathina and the Chief Prosecutor and pushed towards the smoking sarcophagus. He was struggling, but they seemed to have him at their mercy.

As he was dragged closer, Lord Gallica stepped between him and the sarcophagus. He was intoning the final part of the rite that would restore Omega to life by fusing his remains with The Doctor’s DNA.

The Doctor looked up and then ducked, pulling Lord Cathina and the Chief Prosecutor down with him as a large chunk of the plaster started to fall. A shower of dust and fragments spread around them, but the largest piece hit Lord Gallica. He staggered backwards, and collapsed over the sarcophagus.

“We are in trouble now,” The Doctor said. “If I were you two, I’d stay down here and keep my head down.”

Cathina and the Chief Prosecutor clearly agreed. They stopped trying to hold onto The Doctor as they cowered away from the thing that rose from the sarcophagus, accompanied by a sombre, sinister piece of music that Donna recognised from late night Hammer horror movies. The creature that rose up, certainly looked like something that Hammer would have loved to have had the budget for. It was vaguely humanoid, enclosed in a hard carapace that began to split, revealing white fleshy stuff beneath. The hands reached to claw away the stuff from the head which was revealed as looking something like Lord Gallica, but pale white and with red eyes that glowed bright, then dimmed to black as it let out a scream of agony.

“Gallica was fused with the remains,” The Doctor said. “Now both are dying. And the roof is about to come down on us all, anyway. I suggest running, right now.”

The Chief Prosecutor ran towards his TARDIS, but another lump of plaster falling at terminal velocity cracked his skull open. He fell in front of the strange, mutated thing that used to be his brother. The dying Omega/Gallica fusion stumbled and fell over him, screeching in its own death throes.

“You, come with me,” The Doctor said to Lord Cathina, dragging him upright as he ran. “Donna, Doctor, come on, get out of there.”

The music stopped abruptly as the other Doctor and Donna turned to do as he suggested. They, too, brought a prisoner along, the semi-conscious Lord Benick as they headed for the corridor.

Lord Cathina screamed. The Doctor turned to see him hit by more falling plaster. The whole ceiling was coming apart. Cathina stumbled, blood from a ghastly head wound blurring his vision. The Doctor looked at him and made a decision. He pulled him over his shoulders and ran with him to the safety of the passageway. Behind him the rest of the ceiling came down on top of what was left of Omega, Gallica and the Chief Prosecutor. He kept on running, bringing up the rear as the other Doctor, Donna and Benick ran to the door.

Out in the Plas, they could hear the sounds of the fallen plaster settling. The Doctor called out to the others to stop a minute.

“I think this one’s in trouble,” he said. “Donna, help me. Take the sonic screwdriver and hold the light over him so I can see.”

The other Doctor kept a tight hold on his prisoner while Donna watched The Doctor lay his man on the ground and put his own coat under his head to comfort him.

“Is he dying?” she asked. “Is it as bad as that?”

“He got a very bad head wound. A lot of damage. I think he is. But… he’s a Time Lord.” He looked at his injured prisoner. “You’re in a lot of trouble. You know that. When this is over, you’re still in the custody of the High Inquisitor. You know what that means?”

“Yes,” he answered. “I will… I will face my judgement.”

“All right then,” The Doctor told him. “Good luck.” Donna was surprised when he reached out and held Cathina’s hand. She was even more surprised when she saw his body begin to get ice cold, frost forming on his face.

“What’s happening?” she asked. “I thought he was dying. Is that what happens with your lot? Do you get really cold that quick?”

“He’s not dying,” The Doctor answered. “He’s regenerating. My species… we’re not immortal. We have a finite life span. It can be as much as seven thousand years, so it seems like immortality to the rest of Creation. But we can die. Only… we have twelve chances at it. If we’re mortally wounded, we can reorder our DNA, every molecule in our body, and live again in a new body, a completely different face – but with all the same memories of who we are, everything we ever knew, everything we ever did. In his case… he will look like a different man in a few minutes, but he’ll still have to answer for his part in this conspiracy.”

“What will happen to him?” Donna asked.

“He committed treason. Even if he was a small player – which I rather think he and your man there, were – it’s still treason. A plot to assassinate a High Inquisitor, trying to perform a banned ritual to bring a long dead Renegade back to life. Gallica and his brother were the ones with the ambition. But they’re still both in big trouble.

“He said he would face his judgement,” Donna said.

“Yes, and that was brave of him. He could have… there’s a second or two when we still have command of our faculties… when it’s possible to stop the process, to let the body die and not regenerate. He could have taken the easy way out like that. I really thought he would. But I think there’s still a bit of honourable Gallifreyan in there. One that was ready to take his punishment.”

“What will the punishment be?” Donna asked.

“For High Treason… death by atomisation,” the other Doctor said. “No chance of regeneration.”

The Doctor looked at the other one in the dim light. Donna saw his eyes. They were pools of grief. She thought she knew why. She knelt close to him.

“You don’t like the death penalty?”

“No, I don’t,” he answered. “But everyone on Gallifrey is under a death penalty right now. They have twenty years… and then they’re all dead… all but me. Cathina, Benick, Lord Arcalia, everyone who was in the courtroom. Even The Rani. She was a prisoner on Shada when the end came. Our cryogenic prison for the worst scum that passes through our justice system. When the planet was destroyed, Shada’s power source was destroyed. All the prisoners died, slowly, agonisingly, more terribly even than those who were killed instantly in the fireball that engulfed Gallifrey. It’s bad enough I have to go back and condemn her to that. I don’t want to…”

Donna looked at his face as he knelt beside his frozen, dormant prisoner. She put her hand on his shoulder gently.

“You’ll do the right thing,” she told him. Then she turned and looked at Lord Cathina. She gasped as she saw his features changing before her eyes. He was becoming younger, slimmer, his eyes and hair changed. He really was a different man – on the outside, anyway. It was incredible. If she hadn’t seen it, she never would have believed it.

“You all right?” The Doctor asked him as he opened his eyes. “I know, it’s a wretched business. I’ve done it nine times, myself. Last time I nearly didn’t make it.”

“I’m… I think…” He tried to sit up. The Doctor reached and helped him. “I am… alive. I owe my life to you. Whatever else happens, I thank you.”

“Yeah. Just… sit there a minute. Regeneration does your head in. Let the synapses rest a bit. Benick, come over here and sit with him. Donna, setting 4u&3 on the sonic screwdriver is what I call sleepy-bye mode. If either of them moves a muscle in a suspicious way, feel free to use it on them. I’m going to have a quick word with The Doctor over there.”

The two prisoners did exactly as The Doctor told them to do and he went to speak to the other Doctor. They both looked grim-faced at each other as they spoke in a low voice. Then they both came back.

“How did you two get down here?” the other Doctor asked. “Is there a way in somewhere?”

“No,” Benick answered. “We came in Gallica’s TARDIS. It’s in the theatre. Why?” His face paled. “You’re not… you’re not going to leave us down here, to die of thirst?”

“As if,” The Doctor replied. “I just wanted to make sure there was no chance of anyone else coming down here and making mischief. I’ll see that they put an anti-materialisation field on the undercroft and seal it off completely. Meanwhile, you two will have to come back with us. It’s only a short walk. You should be up to that much by now, Cathina.”

“Yes,” he said. “Yes, I am. But…”

The Doctor said nothing. Neither did the other Doctor. Donna didn’t know what was going on, anyway. The two prisoners walked with them along the underground roads back to where the TARDIS was waiting. They stepped inside wordlessly. The two Doctors went to the console and programmed a very short journey before opening the doors again.

“Come with me,” The Doctor said to Donna, taking her hand. “I want you to see this.”

He stepped out with her first, followed by the two prisoners and the other Doctor. Donna looked around to see a desert of red sand and slightly darker red rocks. She looked up and saw a yellow-orange sky and a burning sun high in it. She turned and gasped as she saw a city rising out of the desert some way off. It was beautiful. Tall, graceful spires rose up, domes glittered. A graceful bridge arched across almost from one side to the other. And the whole of it was enclosed in a huge, transparent bubble.

“The Capitol, the greatest city of Gallifrey, centre of our government, of culture and art, learning, philosophy. The greatest minds in the universe call that city home.” The Doctor spoke proudly. Then he turned and nodded to the other Doctor, who held out two water packs to the prisoners. “We’re about ten miles away. A morning’s walk for a fit Time Lord. You’ve only just regenerated, Cathina, so the two of you take it slow and have a drink when you need it.”

“My Lord…” Benick looked as if he could hardly believe what he was being told. “You’re letting us go?”

“I’m the High Inquisitor. I’ve judged you guilty but stupid. Your punishment is a long walk in the desert, which is quite an ordeal for a couple of pen pushers like you two, who’ve spent your lives in an accountancy office. When your punishment is over, go and live decent, honest, honourable lives, and never forget your first loyalty is to Gallifrey. When she calls upon you… when she is in need… as she will be, sooner than you think… make sure you answer that call.”

The two men said nothing. They took the water packs and set off walking towards the city. At first they glanced back nervously, as if they were expecting it to be a trick and they would be shot in the back or something. The two Doctors waited until they were at least a half mile away before they turned and went back into the TARDIS.

“Now, what?” Donna asked.

“Now, we have to get back to the justice satellite and finish the job, there,” The Doctor answered. “The chief prosecutor used the trial to get to me. He incapacitated the previous inquisitor and then somehow bumped my name up to the top of the list so they would send for me. It was all a ploy. But I still have to finish the job.”

“You have to condemn her… the Rani… to… a gruesome, horrible fate no matter what?”

“I have to do what’s right,” The Doctor insisted. “She is an evil woman and she deserves the fullest measure of justice meted out upon her. And it is my duty to do that.”

He would say nothing more about it. The other Doctor programmed their return to the satellite. Donna was only slightly surprised to discover only an hour had passed there. It was only an hour more after that before they were all in the courtroom again. The Doctor was in his High Inquisitor’s regalia again. The other Doctor, who was also a fully notarised lawyer, took his place as the Chief Prosecutor. Nobody seemed to be able to find a reason why he couldn’t be. The prisoner was brought back into the dock. She looked only surprised to see The Doctor for a brief moment before resuming her impassive expression.

“Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” The Doctor said as he opened the proceedings. Donna wrote that down on her notebook and continued to write as he then said that he was prepared to accept the Rani’s plea of guilty but insane, and that being the case he was prepared to listen to the Defence Council’s plea bargain in regard to her sentence. The two lawyers approached the bench and there was a quiet discussion that Donna obviously wasn’t meant to record. Then the prosecution and defence went back to their seats and The Doctor stood up. The only sound in the court was the faint vibration of the satellite’s engines and the scratching of Donna’s pen on the paper as he spoke.

“The Time Lord known as The Rani is found guilty of Extra-Species Abominations of the most heinous kind. Having been judged insane at the time that she commited those unspeakable acts, she is sentenced to Shada for the term of no less than 3,000 years. Take her down.”

The prisoner was whisked away almost immediately. The Doctor turned and left the court. Donna gathered up her papers and stood up. The other Doctor took her arm and walked with her to the Inquisitor’s Chamber. By the time they got there, The Doctor had got out of his regalia again and was sitting there in his blue suit with his tie neatly knotted at his throat. He smiled as Donna and the other Doctor came into the room, but he couldn’t disguise the fact that he was upset.

“I condemned her to death, you realise that,” he said to the other Doctor.

“You did what you had to do. This… great tribulation that is coming to Gallifrey in the near future… I’m not allowed when or what, of course. But… I take it there is no question about my loyalty. I will answer the call… I will fight to my last breath…”

“You will,” The Doctor said. “Yes, you will.”

The other Doctor said nothing. But he seemed satisfied by that. He turned to go, as if his work was done now. But Donna had something she wanted to say to them both, yet.

“That big thing you wanted to tell me about in a cosy bar, over a drink, so I wouldn’t freak out. It’s about regeneration, isn’t it…. what happened to Lord Cathina. It’s happened to you… nine times before. That’s what you told him.”

“Yes.”

“The two of you, all the time you’ve been together, you practically thought the same thoughts. You anticipated each other. You both remembered the same past. And you said way back at the start that we’d been dragged out of our timeline. So I suppose anything is possible. So…” She looked at the other Doctor and sniggered. “So, Doctor… how many lives back was it that you were regenerated without a fashion sense gene?”

The Doctor smiled widely. He recalled that the Donna Noble he had briefly known in the other universe was accused of being unable to point to Germany on a map. He observed himself her unique ability to miss the big picture. This Donna, he was happy to note, not only got the big picture, could put together a thousand piece jigsaw of it.