Part One - THE LONG NIGHT
It was The Long Night. It had been going on for several weeks now and would continue for another few hours before dawn finally arrived.
Sarah sighed and stood, raising herself slowly from the rocking chair that sat next to the bed her husband had died in some days earlier. She felt her bones creak with age and her muscles complain at the work they were being made to do. It was almost her time too, she knew.
She stood out on the balcony, leaning on the walking stick the young men of the village below had spent weeks making for her. It bent and flexed with her weight as she walked around the upper ring, but not once did she fear that it would snap.
She slowly made her way around to the Arena. Below her, the forest and swamp that made up 80% of the planet’s surface had been painstakingly cleared away – aeons before she had arrived here – and looked down on the long paved road that led to a large shining pyramid some four or five miles away.
She smiled as her eyes ran up one of the edges to its peak and the continued up to where a small moon hung low in the sky above it.
She couldn't see it from here, but there was another pyramid, almost identical to the one on the planet, pointing back down at it. Every few thousand years, the points of the pyramids would align and the Great Cleanse would begin. She knew that it was close at hand. The natives of this world did not.
Pulling her eyes from the pyramid she turned to enter the room behind her, the room that looked directly out onto the peak of the pyramid where the village elder would lay in bed and receive the blessing of the moon god if they were worthy to continue leading.
His eyes were closed as she entered, but she knew better than to think he was asleep. Along the back wall, behind the bed head, his four personal guards stood, relaxed but alert. She nodded to each of them and they returned the greeting. She was the only one allowed in here with no escort. He trusted her more than anyone else.
“Stop pretending to sleep,” she said. “You'll miss it one of these days.”
“Haven't yet,” he said, a smirk on his face. His voice was old and tired and Sarah felt a pang of sadness hearing it strain to speak. “What’s wrong?” he asked immediately.
“We’re getting old,” she whispered.
“Aye,” he replied. “That we are. Not a lot we can do about that, I’m afraid. I might have the blessing of him above, but that doesn't mean he plays favourites,” he choked out a laugh and coughed for a few seconds before calming down and leaning back on his pillows.
“You should rest,” she said, coming over and straightening out his sheets and blankets.
“And you should too,” he croaked. “You're just as old as I am, you know.”
“Older,” she smiled. “But you've worn yourself out with your busy life around the village.”
“Someone has to,” he smiled back at her. “But go, enjoy the celebrations with your family, heaven knows you've earned it.”
“You're my family too,” she said quietly.
“Always will be,” he muttered and for a moment, she thought she saw something else in his eyes, but in a flash it was gone and his warmth and strength, such that was left, returned.
The celebrations he mentioned had been well underway already, but he was right that she needed to spend time with her family. She had not seen them since her husband had died and now that the mourning period was over, it was customary for her to find them all and thank them for not dying. She rolled her eyes at the strangeness of it all, but she was the one who had married into this culture. Thankfully, they would all be easy to find since they all wanted to be found. They missed her terribly but customs were customs.
She made her way slowly down to the middle ring, the habitation ring as she called it. It spread far into the forest, with lots of small collectives among the treetops all seemingly spiralling around the upper ring; a stand of trees twice as tall as the others.
Her family, being as important as they were to the larger collective, lived close to central trees and the upper ring, and as expected they were waiting quietly for her.
The younger ones, her grandchildren, were the first to spot her and rush up to hug her tight.
“Oh my darlings,” she said. “How I've missed you.”
“We missed you too,” they all crowed in their native language.
Their parents, her children, came next, smiling sadly and gathering her in a large, collective, embrace. “Mother,” they almost sobbed as once.
“My babies,” Sarah said, not stopping herself from crying. “It is so good to see you all again.”
“We miss you and him,” one of her sons said.
“We all do, and will always miss him. But we will see him again, remember?” she wiped her own tears away, then the tears of her children. She looked them all in the face one by one, and then over their shoulders at their husbands and wives and beckoned them over. “You're all family,” she said. “Family stays strong together.”
Hours later, the whole group sat around the family home. The children were outside running around and the adults had spread their chairs out around the traditional chair Sarah's husband had sat in. They had been telling stories all night, memories of the old man and how growing up under his watch had made them who they were.
Sarah had just finished telling them the story of how they met, all those years back when she was a totally different woman, when her eldest, a quiet man, stood.
“Mother,” he said, sounding unsure, almost afraid.
“What is it?” Sarah replied.
“I have a confession. I, and Dad, kept something from you for a number of years. I don't know why he asked me to do this, but he swore me to secrecy, but I guess now I can tell you.”
“What is it?” she asked, the familiar sharp edge on her voice keeping the others silent.
“Some years ago, I don't remember how long exactly, he gave me something, to keep safe. He said it was yours, and it was a reminder, you always said.”
Sarah's eyes grew wide. “No,” she whispered. “I thought I lost that.”
The man pulled a box from a bag next to his chair and handed it to Sarah. “I've kept it safe. Told no one. I'm sorry it’s taken this long to return it.”
Sarah opened the box and there, on a silk lining, looking exactly the same as the last time she saw it, was a large, dull grey pocket watch. All over it were smooth circular patterns and a few small gems. “Do you know what this is?” she whispered, in awe at the sight.
“No?” her son replied.
“This is the answer to everything and it will save us all from the Great Cleanse,” she grinned widely at her children and stood, leaning on her walking stick. “We need to get to the leaders room, now.”
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Sarah’s children all called out for her to stop as she walked, quite fast for someone her age, up the stairs that led from their sitting room out into the larger communal area and out again onto the habitation ring.
They followed her asking what was going on as she climbed the stairs up to the upper ring, where the guards had been sent out so the old man could sleep.
“You have to let me in,” she was almost shouting. “It’s important.”
“I'm sorry, Ma’am,” one of the guards said. “He has decided that the last few days of celebration have worn him out to the point of exhaustion. He needs his sleep.”
“And I need to see him.”
“You were just here, Ma’am,” the other guard said. “We can’t break the rules for anyone. Even you.”
“Mother,” her eldest, the one who had given her the pocket watch said. “Is it really that important to see him now?”
She turned to face her son and looked him in the eye with a look he had never seen before. “My darling, it is the most important thing.”
Her son sighed and rotated his shoulders. He turned to face the bigger of the guards as he rolled up his sleeves and clenched his fists. “I don't want to do this,” he said and shook himself. “But my mother does not, and has not, exaggerated anything in her life. You know her, probably just as well as we all do. You know what she’s like.”
“He is asleep.”
“He will want to be woken,” she snapped.
“If you don't let us in,” the son said. “Well, you know who I am, right?”
“Yes,” the guard swallowed and let go of the handle of his weapon he had been gripping nervously. “You can go in.”
“Thank you,” Sarah said sweetly and let her children, and then the guards, into the room.
Officially, he had no name. Most people called him Sir, or some synonymous honorific. To many he was The Leader, as he had been elected to the position almost immediately after joining the commune.
It was just that he couldn't remember.
He couldn't remember how he arrived at the commune, or anything about his life, including his name, before he was elected leader. But everyone loved and respected him. After some time of reflection, he came to the conclusion that he didn't want to know. That whatever had happened to him had happened for a reason and he declared that everyone should be as him and forget. And if they couldn't, they should pretend.
And so it was. The events of all those years ago were scrubbed from their shared history. There were no records kept and no one ever spoke about them.
Sarah’s children, not even born when it all happened, didn't know why he had no name. And their children would remember him as a strange old man who died before they really understood who he was at all. By the time they had kids, he would be merely a memory.
If not for Sarah.
The door swung back open just as the old man was feeling comfortable in his pillows. The light flashed on and there was a lot of noise.
“Quiet,” a familiar and beloved voice said.
“What is this, Sarah?” he asked, croakily, sitting up.
“I'm sorry to wake you,” she said, sitting at his side and taking his hands in hers. He felt something large and cold between them. “But it couldn't wait. Not even until morning. It shouldn't have waited this long, but you know how the kids are,” she shot her children an unknowable glance and turned back to the old man.
“You're not speaking like yourself,” he said. “You sound sad.”
She nodded. “I am sad,” she replied. “I'm a widow, and my time will be on us soon. But that's not why I'm sad right now. I'm sad because I need to apologise to you.”
“You vowed,” he said.
She nodded again. “I have to break my vow. I'm sorry.”
He swallowed and sat up further. “What is this thing?” he asked, trying to break his hands free of hers.”
“Mother,” her son said. But she ignored him.
“Sorry for what?” the old man asked.
She looked in his eyes and let go of his hands, which now held the pocket watch. “For not giving this to you sooner. It’s been years since the harpies have been here, years longer since they had your scent. But I lost this. It was taken and hidden from me and without it, I couldn't, we couldn't, move on.”
“What is it?” he asked, but his voice was a whisper now. He was enthralled by the watch and he turned it over in his hands slowly admiring it.
“A reminder,” she whispered and she took his thumb in her hands and used it to pop the watch open. “I'm so so sorry,” she cried, tears streaming down her face as beams of yellow-orange light flooded out of the watch and straight into the face of the old man.
Everyone watched in amazement at the light show and then, without warning, it stopped, the pocket watch snapped closed and the old man fell back into his pillows.
“What have you done?” one of the guards asked, reaching for his weapon with one hand and Sarah with the other.
“What I promised I would do years ago, but couldn't,” she sobbed.
“You said this would prevent the Cleanse?” one of her children asked.
“Gods willing,” she said.
“Never rely on the mercy of gods,” the old man said from the bed. His eyes were open now and looking at them all sharply. “Not when you have me.”
“Doctor?” Sarah whispered.
“I would say in the flesh, but I am running on the fumes here. Do you mind if I change into something a bit more comfortable?”
“Not like anyone can stop you,” she muttered.
“That's my girl.”
Slowly, The Doctor got out of the bed, much to the alarm of everyone except Sarah. He gave her a wink and stretched his arms out wide. The same yellow-orange energy erupted from his sleeves and the collar of his nightshirt, bringing back memories of the last time Sarah had seen this so many years ago. Once again she felt tears prick her eyes.
The energy dissipated and a new man stood before everyone. He was still dressed the same, but he was entirely different.
His hair had changed from thin and grey to long and dark, framing his new lean, angular face. His eyes were narrow and green, shining with unknown jokes and deep with sadness. He had grown several inches and the nightshirt he was wearing was almost indecent.
“Well?” he asked in a smooth, soft voice. “Ooh, I like that. How do I look?”
“You're back,” she said with a sad smile.
“And just in time,” he said with a peek out the window. “What do you think? Six days?”
“Seven,” she corrected him. “I've been counting.”
“Seven days then. Just enough to get to know the family before we save their lives, right?”
“Who are you?” the eldest son asked incredulously. “What just happened? Seven days until what?”
“You have seven days until The Great Cleanse,” The Doctor said. “But don't panic. I came here to stop it,” he stopped speaking and looked at Sarah. “How many years?” he asked shocked.
Sarah chuckled. “It’s been 84 years,” she said.
“I came here 84 years ago to prevent the Cleanse,” he said. “I suppose I should get to that,” he clapped his hands together and rushed out of the room, leaving everyone watching in confused awe.
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“Doctor!” Sarah called after him, leaning on her walking stick, following.
“A doctor?” the eldest son’s wife asked. “Our leader was a doctor?”
“Could have used him how many times?” one of the guards asked.
“And how did he change like that. I've never seen anything like it.”
“Doctor!” Sarah shouted again.
“Right,” The Doctor said, spinning on his heels to face the others and slapping himself on the forehead. “I cannot save the world dressed like a grandpa.”
“You are a grandpa,” Sarah muttered.
“More than once, I’ll have you know,” The Doctor replied, ducking into a nearby room.
“Mother,” the middle child said. “You need to explain.”
“It’s as he said,” she shrugged. “We came here a long time ago, to help you survive the Cleanse, or to prevent it if we could. But we were being hunted. We hid here, among you all, but I lost the means to bring him back because, apparently, your father was more jealous than I thought.”
“He was our leader.”
“Yes, and he was a good one, wasn't he?”
“He was,” the middle son’s wife said. “What happens now though? That man is not our leader, he changed.”
“He’s The Doctor, and that's what he does,” Sarah said, sighing nostalgically. “But you're right, that man in there isn't our leader. We’ll need to vote in a new one.”
“He’ll leave, go off on his adventures. Saving other worlds and other people. It’s what he does best.”
“And you?” the eldest son asked.
The Doctor had, over the years, taken many liberties with the clothes he chose to wear, often changing outfits to suit a particular whim, or a particular companion.
Here, though, in the Forests of Tuilia, without the advantages of his own wardrobe, he had to settle for something simple. And while he wasn't the man who had been the leader of this village anymore, he did remember those years and the understated, yet elegant, way that man comported himself stuck with the renewed Timelord.
He fronted Sarah’s family in a simple white shirt, half buttoned, all of which were closed, tucked into a freshly pressed pair of dark blue pants. A belt with the symbol of the Forest people held them up and his feet fit snugly into a pair of standard black shoes. A small hair tie kept his newly lengthened hair out of his face.
He stood, somewhat awkwardly, in front of Sarah’s extended family and listened as she recollected – mostly accurately – the events that had led them to arriving on this world. As much as he wanted to, he didn't interrupt when she got something wrong.
“So you can stop it, then?” one of Sarah’s brother-in-laws asked. “Save us from the Cleanse?”
The Doctor shrugged. “Shouldn't take me more than ten minutes,” he replied.
“He says, 84 years later,” Sarah said with a sly wink at the Timelord.
“Do you remember everything you did for us?”
“I do,” The Doctor said taking the hand of the middle aged woman who had spoken. “I'm glad I did something with myself while I was in hiding. I'm glad I was able to keep you all safe.”
“You'll be missed,” Sarah’s own son said.
“I’ll come back,” The Doctor replied cheerfully. “As often as you like. See you all, all the kids. Remind myself why I do what I do.”
“If you remember,” the son said.
“I'm The Doctor, I'm more than 1500 years old. I've seen events, been places, and known things that none of you could ever believe if we all lived another 1500 years each. But the one thing that you need to remember about me is that I never forget.”
Sarah and The Doctor sat on the balcony overlooking the pyramid in the distance. It glowed golden under the moonlight and they could see, even from here, that the two pyramids were almost aligned. Every so often, the ground shook beneath them; a reminder that time was, indeed, limited.
“It was nice here,” The Doctor said. Sarah knew that tone. Even with a changed body, she knew it.
“It is nice here,” she said.
The Doctor fixed her with a wry smile. “Shall we?” he said, leaping lightly to his feet and helping her up. “A quick wander to the temple, little bit of the Doctor magic, yeah? Home for supper.”
“You'll be needing this, then,” she said and from around her neck she pulled a simple necklace made from twine. At the end of it hung a single, unmarked, silver key.
The Doctor smiled warmly and took the key from her as she handed it to him.
“I didn't lose this,” she said.
“Where is it?” he asked, his excitement getting the better of him.
“Safe,” she said. “I checked on it very regularly. No one ever saw.”
“Sarah,” he said. “Where is my TARDIS?”
“It’s in the pyramid,” she said. “No one is allowed in there. It’s safe.”
“Clever,” he grinned.
Sarah let them into a backroom underneath the pyramid. There, covered in dust and with cobwebs clinging to the sides stood the blue box they had travelled together in.
“Oh my beauty,” The Doctor said, running his hand along the window frames. “You didn't clean it very well,” he muttered.
“I'm an old lady,” she said. “I cannot make the journey down here as often as I once could.”
“A quick trip should clear these freeloaders off,” he said. “Come on.”
The Doctor inserted the key into the lock and turned it slowly. The door swung open and he ducked inside quickly. The door swung closed behind him and it took a few seconds before he reappeared at the door.
“Well?” he asked, holding it open for her.
“I can’t,” she said. “I'm old, Doctor. I have a family.”
The Doctor looked back at her and slowly nodded. “Of course,” he said. “You going to be ok?”
“I've been ok,” she said. “I thought this day would never come. Go, Doctor. Save my people.”
The day of The Great Cleanse came and Sarah and her family stood out on the ring with everyone else in the commune. Above them the moon slowly rotated towards the pyramid.
Sarah held her grand kids by the hand and watched as the two peaks of the pyramids aligned with each other. A beam of light linked the two of them for a moment and everyone held their breath.
The beam of light disappeared and the moon rotated on. The moment had passed and everyone looked around at everyone still standing there. There had been no Cleanse. The Doctor had done it.
Three days had passed and there had been no Cleanse. Sarah was sitting out on the balcony. The sun was shining on her and she was almost asleep. She thought she was dreaming when she heard that noise. The noise she would have killed for when she was younger. The noise of The Doctor’s TARDIS phasing in not far away.
“Grandma look!” one of the small children shouted.
“About time,” she said. She walked over to the TARDIS and waited in front of the door. After a few moments, the door swung open and in the doorway stood a grinning Doctor throwing a small object in the air with his left hand. “Here,” he said and threw the object to Sarah who caught it awkwardly.
“What is it?”
“A crystal,” he said. “From the temple up there on the moon. If you want the Cleanse to start again, just put it back.”
“Why would we do that?” Sarah asked.
“I have no idea, people are strange beings that I still don't quite understand. I'm pretty sure there's meant to be another of them in the pyramid down here, but there wasn't. Maybe having both of them would do something else? I don't know. The other crystal is gone.”
“Thank you, Doctor.”
“Anytime,” he said, nodding satisfied. “Last chance to come with me?”
She shook her head. “Look,” she said, pointing to the small children who had gathered around her. “How could I leave them?”
“You're right, of course you are. It was fun, though, right?”
“The best,” she said.
The Doctor saluted her and stepped back inside the blue box. As the door closed, for a moment, Sarah felt a pang of regret and almost moved to follow him. But before she could, that noise started again and within a second, the TARDIS was gone.
The Doctor watched the door close and when it clicked closed, he made his way up the small set of stairs to the console. He took the other crystal from the forest pyramid out of his pocket and threw it down a small chute next the main controls. As he flicked the many levers and pressed all the buttons, all the lights around him glowed red and a deep droning bell sounded from far beneath his feet.
“Email!” he shouted joyfully. “Oh,” he said reading the strange language that scrolled down the screen. “Well, I can’t turn that invitation down, can I?” he asked, flicking more buttons and pulling the levers.
As the TARDIS flew off into space, a single word stayed on the screen. The Doctors current destination. Skaro.
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The Doctor left the message on the screen.
The word Skaro covered almost the whole display in bright red block letters. It wasn't a place he had ever thought he would return to, given what had happened last time, and the time before that, and he could feel the TARDIS only moving in that direction with great reluctance.
“It’s ok, girl,” he cooed to the console. “Do this for me and then you can choose the next place we go.”
Nothing changed, but he knew the TARDIS had heard him. She always heard him.
Skaro had been a planet on the rise. Allied with Gallifrey for many years as it expanded its own influence into the cosmos.
Its people were intelligent, friendly and open to the many wonderful possibilities that space travel afforded them. It was a time of mutual benefit and joint defence.
Then came the harpies. Out of nowhere and everywhere at the same time, they descended upon Skaro and decimated the population. In their wake, as always, was the trail of poisoned soil and clouds of ash high in the sky. Skaro died in that time. Almost entirely.
The survivors, such as they were, did their best to come to terms with their new existence, but rebuilding was beyond their ability. That was when The Doctor made his first, but not last, trip to Skaro.
From The Doctors perspective, Skaro was one of those places that other Timelords talked about in passing, but never did anything with. They weren't a threat to Gallifrey, so they weren't treated like one. But, at the same time, they weren't overly useful to the Citadel either so within Timelord society, they were largely ignored.
The harpies, on the other hand, were a threat to Gallifrey, and the Timelords had spent a lot of time and resources into combating them wherever they showed up. But their ability to appear and disappear seemingly at random strained their small amount of military experience to its limit, so when Skaro begged for help again and again in the years when the harpies were destroying everything they had built, the Citadel feigned ignorance and waited.
Once Skaro fell, and the harpies retreated to their hiding place, they sent The Doctor, something of a rogue Timelord, a chaotic and unpredictable person, to the planet to learn as much as he could about the people there and how the harpies had left them. The Timelords expected The Doctor to return and report an extinction level event, the same as every other planet the harpies had hit, but he did not.
A young Doctor stepped out of the doorway of his TARDIS, which had taken the shape of a battle damaged Skaran building, and into the empty street.
He had left his usual travelling companion, a young Gallifreyan he had been training out of the Academy, behind and was alone.
In the sky, thick clouds of ash from a nearby volcano blocked all but the dimmest light from breaking through. Under his feet, material that used to be tall buildings crunched as he walked slowly down the road.
The Timelord Council had heard distress signals from the planets surface and The Doctor had been sent to verify. Both he and the Council did not expect there to be anyone on the surface and assumed the signals would be automatic.
But then The Doctor saw. Not everyone had been killed by the harpies. There were some hardy Skarans left, surviving on what they could. In the distance, maybe a few miles from where he stood, pillars of smoke emerged from the top of a building that was less damaged than the others around. Making sure the TARDIS was closed up securely, The Doctor made his way down the road towards it.
The Skaran survivors were huddled together, around a series of fires that burned weakly in the strange atmosphere the harpies had left behind. They all looked up in shock as The Doctor walked in. Several reached for old, almost useless weapons that lay nearby but one Skaran stood and walked confidently towards the newcomer.
“You are from Gallifrey,” he said, stopping a small distance before the Timelord.
“I am,” The Doctor replied. “I am The Doctor.”
“It’s too late for medicine, I’m afraid,” the Skaran said. “Or maybe you're one of those other doctors. The ones who are less ethically minded about how they heal their patients.”
“I’m here to learn,” The Doctor said. “We received some distress signals from the surface and I was sent to investigate.”
“Only now,” the Skaran said, turning back to his people, “do the high and mighty of Gallifrey send their people. And only a singular! What must they think of us here, suffering in this poisonous wasteland.”
“We did not receive word of the attack until it was too late,” The Doctor said. “There was nothing we could have done.”
“You see how easily he justifies their lack of engagement. These beasts they fight across the cosmos, but here, on Skaro, it doesn't mean anything. We aren't important enough for them.” The man turned back to The Doctor. “You have time travel,” he spat. “You could have gone back, prevented this.”
“That's not what the Timelords do,” The Doctor said slowly. “We could not have prevented this.”
“Don't make me laugh. I know you, Doctor. I know your kind. Your arrogance will be the end of you all. Sitting up there in your perfect little Citadel with your perfect little machines. Deciding on your own who lives and who dies. Not here, Doctor.”
“I can help you. Here, now. I can give you resources.”
The Skarans all laughed.
“You hear that, he wants to help us. Wants to protect the few of us who are left. I say to you, Timelord, no. Your kind are no longer welcome here. I will save these people. I will determine the future of my kind. Go now. Go back to your comfortable bed. Go back to your glass encased castle in the sky and tell your people of our struggle. Tell them how we will rise from this ash and poison and we. Will. Come for you. Tell them this, Doctor. Tell them who will be the fall of Gallifrey.”
“Who?” The Doctor said. “Who is this man who will bring down the era of the Timelords?”
“Davros,” the Skaran said, standing proud and tall before the Timelord. “I, Davros, will engineer the death of all Timelords.”
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It was many years before The Doctor, really any of the Timelords, heard from Davros or Skaro again.
Gallifrey had expanded its diplomatic network to several other systems at this point and was preparing to launch diplomatic missions to more. However, the harpies were preventing any major moves on their part. The Timelords weren’t used to other beings having the ability to almost instantaneously travel in time and space and were having real issues dealing with it.
The Doctor, at this point, had been travelling on his own, spending a lot of time on a relatively unadvanced planet called Earth.
Gallifrey had not reached this part of the universe yet and the people of this small planet were free to live their lives without what he saw as his people’s heavy handed diplomacy.
But, as before so again, and the harpies found him. After a particular nasty battle above Earth, he left his friends behind and disappeared back into the inky darkness. The Earth would be safer if he wasn’t there.
As The Doctor made his way around the undiscovered parts of the universe, he heard tales of a strange new power rising. Planets being obliterated and species wiped from existence.
Out of curiosity more than anything else, he investigated.
His investigation and travels brought him back to Skaro and he was surprised to see that very little had changed in the many years, relative to the planet, since his first visit. The soil was still poisoned and the skies were still covered in deep grey ash clouds. In the distance, the volcanoes which had caused the ash clouds rumbled ominously and their peaks glowed a bright orange.
He landed his TARDIS in the same place he had the last time he was here, although thanks to the battle with the harpies above the Earth, it’s chameleon circuit had been broken and the machine was stuck in the form of a phone booth from the mid-20th century, as the humans called it. He sighed as he locked the door, and ran his hand through his hair. As much as the ability to merge with its surroundings was a key aspect to how he was able to travel incognito through the various places of the cosmos, he did like the look of it.
He threw his long coat back on and wandered off through the death and loneliness of the planet and looked for any evidence that something still lived here. What he realised first, before even taking a dozen steps, was that the harpies had not returned here. They knew to stay away.
The buildings he had been in the last time he was here, where the man called Davros had made his passionate declaration, were empty. There was no sign that anyone had been there in some time.
He spent a few days walking around the desolate fields of the planet before he found it. An immense structure had been created within the foothills of the volcanoes. As he approached it, alarms started screaming and small machines poured out of an opening that appeared in the front of it.
The machines only came up to The Doctors chest. The upper third appeared to be a rotating head, of sorts, which had a long protruding stalk that stuck out from the top. Each of these machines were identical and they all pointed these stalks at the Timelord.
The middle third also rotated independently of the other two and had two protruding stalks, one that looked like a small plunger, and the other The Doctor recognised as an old weapon. It had been years since he had seen these and frowned. They were a terrible, painful way to die, but they were exceedingly effective. Even the Timelords had no counter for them.
The lower part of the machines, which was about half of the total body, was a metal case covered in little golden brown bumps. It widened the closer it got to the ground and they seemed to have no issues traversing the uneven and soft ground.
“Identify yourself,” one of the machines shouted. Its voice was metallic, loud and disjointed.
“Identify! Identify!” the others chorused.
“I’m The Doctor,” he replied. “I’m looking for Davros.”
“How do you know that name?” the lead machine said. “Explain!”
“I met him once,” The Doctor said. “Back that way, towards the city. How do you know him?”
“He is the creator.”
“The creator of what?” The Doctor frowned.
“Makes sense, I suppose. Who are you then?”
“We are the Daleks.”
“Daleks,” The Doctor said thoughtfully. “Is Davros here?”
“He cannot be seen.”
“Why’s that then?”
“Oh my, is that the mighty Timelord, come to see the good work?” a voice said from above The Doctor. Anything else he might have been saying was drowned out by the machines repeating Timelord! Over and over again.
“Inside!” the voice barked, loudly cutting through their noise and they all turned and made their way inside. “Please, follow them in, Doctor. Come and see what I’ve been doing.”
Inside the building, which The Doctor soon realised was an organic structure and looked as if it had been grown as opposed to built, rows upon rows of tall transparent tanks filled with a slightly green liquid stood. The Doctor peered into a nearby one and saw a small creature inside. From the bottom and the top of the tank, thin tendrils kept the creature centred.
“These are the Daleks, Doctor,” Davros said, appearing from a door nearby. The Skaran was emaciated and drove himself in something that resembled the lower half of the Dalek shell. “My creation; my contribution to the cosmos.”
“What are they?”
“Creatures designed to rid the universe of pain.”
“These wouldn't be the same things that were involved in the Vemorth system incident, would they?”
“Oh you heard about that,” Davros almost crowed. “They do quite efficient work, my creations.”
“Gallifrey does not look kindly upon these actions,” The Doctor said.
“My good Doctor, please be careful with how you speak. These creatures are trained to pick up on certain words and the name of your home world is one of them. I cannot be held responsible should they decide you are a threat.”
“And if I am a threat?” The Doctor said.
Davros made a grimace that passed for a smile. “I promised you something the last time you were here, Doctor. Do you remember?”
“I do not forget,” The Doctor said.
“Look around you, each tube contains a Dalek. There are several of these facilities on this world. Very soon they will be ready to level your precious little citadel and return your kind to the dust they rose from, as they let happen to my kind,” Davros had raised his voice and was spitting by the time he finished his sentence.
The Doctor backed away slowly and out the door he had entered through. “Well,” he said. “That's a problem.”
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The Doctor, inside the TARDIS, orbited several hundred miles above Skaro. There was nothing down there, the scanners and all the sensors and everything onboard the TARDIS showed nothing. No life, or even biomatter of any kind. Tectonics had stopped and the core of the world was frozen solid. Skaro would sit here in space, empty and devoid of anything until its star expanded and swallowed it.
“Come on,” The Doctor shouted. “There’s nothing down there, you can see that. What are you afraid of?” he flipped switches and levers and pressed buttons all over the console, attempting to make the TARDIS land on the rock below. “I will get you those upgrades, just land and let’s find out what’s happening. I’ll even fix your chameleon circuit!”
The TARDIS did nothing and continued spinning in its orbit. The Doctor threw his up and stormed off down to the undercarriage of the console.
“I’ll do it,” he threatened, holding a long trail of wires and cables that seemed to grow out of the base of the console in one hand and a pair of cutters in the other. “I’ll cut them and leave them.”
There was a moment of silence before a deep sonorous bell tolled from deep inside the TARDIS.
“Alright, fine,” The Doctor said, dropping the cables. “Can you just land though?” There was silence all around him. “What was the point in coming here then?”
“Is that you, Doctor?” an old, yet familiar voice echoed through the control room.
“Davros?” The Doctor called out. “How are you talking to me?”
“My good Doctor there are many many technologies in the universe that can bypass TARDIS security measures.”
“Well, something else to deal with later, I suppose. Where are you? You’re not on the planet.”
“No,” Davros said bitterly. “After your last visit, the surface was rendered uninhabitable.”
The Doctor smirked at an unsaid joke. “And the caverns? The mountains?”
“You’ve scanned the world,” Davros nearly shouted. “It’s all dead. There’s nothing. They don’t even want to mine it for its stone.”
“Land,” Davros demanded, ignoring The Doctor’s question. “You know where.”
“I’ve been trying,” The Doctor said, returning to pressing buttons and flipping levers. “This dumb machine is being stubborn.”
Davros chuckled and the audio cut out. In its place, all the screens in the control room flared white and the TARDIS started to dematerialise.
“Excuse me?” The Doctor asked, confused. “I didn’t do that.”
Almost immediately, the TARDIS rematerialised on the surface of the planet. The Doctor shot a look at the console and grabbed his coat before stepping out into the cold wind of the dead world.
Nearby, a small ship he recognised as a mining vessel was lowering itself through the atmosphere. The branding of the company that used to own it was worn down, but still readable.
He leaned against a large rock and picked at his fingernails as the door to the other ship opened and slid a long ramp down to the ground.
“Please, Doctor,” Davros’ voice boomed in the space between them. “Welcome aboard.”
The Doctor entered the ship and saw Davros sitting in his chair in a large open space. Around him were several Daleks. As one, they crowded their creator as if protecting him.
Davros waved them away. “He is unarmed. And it doesn’t matter, this is not a hostile encounter.”
“Four Daleks is still hostile enough,” The Doctor said. “I remember what a single one can do. They’re right to think like that.”
“Five,” Davros said and illuminated a part of the ship that had been in shadows this whole time. There, chained to the bulkhead and waving its tentacles around wildly stood another Dalek. Its upper casing had been torn away to reveal the organic creature housed within. Its yellow eye stared intently at The Doctor and it started to giggle.
“He is here,” it said. “The man who is at the end and the start of it all. The Doctor will cause the end of the Timelords.”
“That’s not one of yours,” The Doctor said to Davros. “It’s far too,” he paused and looked for the right word. “New. You don’t, never did, have the capability to work that metal.”
“Indeed, Doctor. But it is still one of my creations. But it is a future Dalek.”
“Future?” The Doctor said, stepping towards the chained creature. “Daleks don’t have time travel.”
“Not now, but apparently in the future they do.”
The Doctor peered at the creature with no small amount of disgust. “How do you always survive?” he asked it quietly.
“We are Dalek,” one of the whole Daleks chanted in that voice The Doctor had grown to loathe over the years. “We will survive everything.”
“Except,” the chained Dalek giggled. “Everything comes sooner than you want.”
“What is it talking about?” The Doctor asked Davros.
“The future,” Davros stated confidently. “Dalek Khan knows the end of everything and he knows how it happens.”
“War and fire and blood and the fall of the Timelords,” Dalek Khan shouted maniacally.
“What does that mean?” The Doctor asked.
“It means your precious Gallifrey will fall to my creation,” Davros said. “As I said all those years ago.”
“You’re not taking Gallifrey with four and a half Daleks,” The Doctor scoffed. “I don’t see any armada in the sky. You’re bluffing.”
“I don’t have those things yet,” Davros said. “You’re not thinking like a Timelord. This is Dalek Khan. A Dalek from the future where I do have those things,” Davros laughed almost as manically as Khan.
“And a time where they have names? You’d allow that?”
“It does worry me,” Davros said awkwardly. “But if that’s the cost of the fall of your world and the end of your kind, so be it.”
“You’d really wish that? After all I showed you. After the worlds you saved? The person you became?”
“You showed me how to kill a world,” Davros said. “That’s all. The rest was just noise.”
The Doctor looked somewhat guilty but it passed in a flash. “You won’t win.”
“Gallifrey falls in fire and ash,” Khan said. “I saw it happen.”
“You saw it?” The Doctor turned to the Dalek, angry. “You saw the planet burn?”
“And I saw you there too, Doctor. I saw what you did. I saw it all as I flew into the wild.”
“The wild,” The Doctor said, eyes wide.
“Now you start to understand,” Davros said. “Yes, Dalek Khan flew through the time vortex itself.”
“You’re utterly insane,” The Doctor said.
“That doesn’t make him wrong.”
The Doctor ignored Davros. “What else did you see?” he asked Khan.
“I saw the truth of the Timelords,” Khan said, its mania dying down for a moment. “I saw the lies and the deception. I saw you learn. And I saw you turn. I saw you burn it all down.”
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“You see, Doctor?” Davros gloated. “Every step of the way, every path you take, you cannot escape your own tyranny.”
The Doctor, though, ignored Davros, instead getting very close to the creature that was Dalek Khan. “What does that mean? What happens?”
But aside from a few quiet noises, the Dalek had finished speaking.
Davros hit a switch on his carrier and the light that illuminated the insane creature went out. “It is done, Doctor,” he said. “What I called you here for. This revelation. It is done.”
“You’re lying,” The Doctor said, standing straight and turning back to face Davros. “All of this is some setup for some master plan you’ve yet to enact. You’re trying to push me off balance.”
“I could be,” Davros growled, “but you can see Dalek Khan with your own eyes. You said yourself I cannot work that metal. They cannot have the time travel capability that brought it here and now. You, though, Doctor, you do have that capability. Sitting just over there. You can find out what the future holds. But you won’t.”
“What?” The Doctor asked, confused. “Why won’t I?”
“The same reason you left me here after our journey together. The same reason that you cannot, even now, look me in my eyes. You’re afraid that what Dalek Khan has said here is true. You cannot stand the idea so you will not see it.”
The Doctor said nothing, but cast a withering glare at each of the four security Daleks then a different look at the darkness where Khans soft giggles could still be heard. “Whatever this is, whatever you’re doing, I will stop it. You may have four Daleks now, Davros, but I will ensure you never have any more.”
“The Doctor is incorrect,” one of the Daleks said.
“I am many things, creature,” The Doctor said, pointing a long finger down the eyestalk of the Dalek. “But I am never wrong.”
“Davros has an entire fleet of Daleks.”
“What?” The Doctor turned back to Davros.
“Dalek Khan returned from a war where my Daleks were on Gallifrey, Doctor. How do you think such a war starts?”
Outside of the TARDIS was inky blackness. The closest star was millions of light years away. There was nothing here except the small blue box and the angry man pacing inside it.
He had been here for more than three weeks now, stewing over the claims made by the insane Dalek Khan and his megalomaniacal creator. He kept coming back to a single course of action. But each time it reappeared at the front of his mind, he slapped himself and tried to think of another way.
The Doctor, in his many years, had been to a lot of places once, and only once. The TARDIS, of course, kept a record of all the places they went and could take him back to any of them at any time he wished. On another hand, there were a few places, like the spot the blue box hung in space now, that were the opposite. Favoured spots, that he returned to time and time again. Places he actually liked to go. Either to relax or to think. The Earth was another.
But there was another category of place. Places he had been to that he vowed never to return to. Some, in fact most, were because returning would place his life in extreme danger. But there was only one place he couldn't stomach on any level. The only place that he had locked the TARDIS out from ever going.
It was the one place that kept creeping to the front of his mind as he tried to formulate a plan.
His home. The planet known as Gallifrey.
It was another three weeks before the TARDIS moved again. The Doctor, having given up on finding a new way around this mess, had gone down into the bowels of the ship and had removed the inhibitor which prevented landing on Gallifrey.
“This is temporary, remember?” he said to the console, waving a spanner at it. “And only because I need certain information that I can’t get anywhere else. Don’t think this is going to be some lovey dovey homecoming. You’re in this as deep as I am in their eyes.”
The TARDIS, as usual, said nothing in reply, but after a few moments, started its engines and dematerialised from the deep blackness of space and rushed through the time vortex towards the orange skies of Gallifrey.
It had been a beacon, once, of diplomacy and justice. The Lords of Time had stood guard over those who would interfere with the natural order.
But the mighty Timelords fell victim to their own arrogance. Soon their agents were among the stars, doing whatever they felt was right and proper. Acting on behalf of Gallifrey, they said.
What happened next, to the eyes of the universe, was a mystery. The Timelords were recalled en masse and their citadel was locked off from the outside world. The Timelords withdrew and became legends.
Aside from a small handful of what were known as Rogue Timelords, their influence was never felt again.
The Doctor sighed and glared back at the console as he opened the door to the TARDIS. “Here you can land right where I need to be. Anywhere else, near enough is good enough, but here you get it bang on. If I didn’t know any better,” he didn’t finish the sentence, but closed and locked the door. A few steps away was the main entrance into the glass dome encased Citadel of the Timelords. The capital of their culture and their seat of power.
Beyond the glass wall of the dome stood the city proper; surrounded by farms and greenery, the tall spires looked almost out of place as they reached high up towards the glass dome.
Nearby, several guards were standing awkwardly waiting for him to approach.
“Fellas,” The Doctor said as he walked up. “Nice day for it.”
“You approach the Citadel of the-”
The Doctor waved him away. “I know where I am.”
“Then you know this city is closed to visitors.”
“It’s not closed to me. I need to speak to the Lord President.”
The guard scoffed. “There isn’t a Lord President,” he said. “It’s Lord Protector.”
“Fine,” The Doctor rolled his eyes. “Take me to this Lord Protector then.”
“No need,” another voice said, coming out from a building just inside the glass dome behind the guards. “I’m here.”
“You’re this Lord Protector?” The Doctor asked, assessing the small, bespectacled man before him.
“Lord Protector Torlanfonargulpol, at your service,” he bowed. “It is good to see another of our kind return home.”
“It is not for long,” The Doctor paused, fixing the Lord Protector with a look. “Torlan,” he finished.
“That is what most call me,” Torlan smirked.
“You know who I am, of course.”
“Ah,” Torlan said, scratching his chin. “I am afraid I’m at a loss. Your TARDIS is unregistered and the, oh whats the word?”
“Transponder?” The Doctor asked, knowing what Torlan was about to say.
“Yes, that pesky thing seems to have been deactivated.”
“My TARDIS is a bit customised, yes,” The Doctor replied. “Had to be my own mechanic for a while now.”
“I see,” Torlan said. “So, please, introduce yourself. Let me know who has landed here and demanded to see me.”
“I expected Rassilon, to be honest,” The Doctor said.
“Ah yes,” Torlan nodded. “The Lord President was deposed some time ago. I have taken up his role until an election can be held.”
“Hmm,” The Doctor said, but said nothing further. “I’m The Doctor,” he added as an afterthought.
“Of course you are,” Torlan said, his voice changing. Deepening as if surprised and unsurprised at the same time. “You would come back here now, wouldn’t you? At this time of change and chaos.”
“What are you talking about?”
Torlan erupted into raucous laughter. “You’ll see. Come, Doctor. My dear, dear friend. Come and join me as I give you the grand tour of my new Gallifrey.”
“Wait,” The Doctor said, stopping in his tracks. “What did you say?”
“You remembered!” Torlan said, clapping his hands eagerly in front of him.
“You changed your name.”
“You changed your face.”
“What are you doing here?” The Doctor asked, not quite angrily, but close.
“Ask me properly, Doctor,” Torlan snarled.
The Doctor stood up straight and took a deep breath. “What are you doing here, Master?”
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To be continued in Invasion of the Harpies