BBC Audio Book narrated by Paul McGann, released on 7 Sept 1998
Who. Earth and Beyond.
Dead Time, by Andrew Miller
Going to die. Going to kill. Who are you?
I am the Doctor.
Who are you?
I am the Doctor!
You are one of us.
It was cold. Freezing. The darkness was so thick and oppressive, the Doctor found wondering whether the walls and roof were actually fashioned from it, from patches of night sky resentful that no stars had ever shone in their confines. He had been standing, rooted to the spot, for what seemed like an eternity. His senses were dulled with both pain and the tedium of his incarceration. In this place, the moments, the minutes, the hours seemed so stretched out that the words lost all meaning. He felt his face with numbed fingers, reminded himself of what he was, who he was. And Sam, his companion, his friend, taken from him and held somewhere out there in the blackness. He could picture her, growing older as his struggles continued, her blonde hair turning grey, her wiry body wizening, her clear young skin wrinkling in this dark and empty place.
We know you now, Doctor.
The voice was a mocking whisper. But the loudest whisper he had ever heard, up close in his ears.
We are going to use you, to take from you what we need. We have been waiting so long, so patiently, for someone like you. One of us.
The sinister voice a low moan of pleasure.
And then we are going to kill you, Doctor. We are going to kill you so slowly, so tenderly, you won't even realise that the moment of your death has come. We will be cloaked in your memory through the eons ahead. For the freezing chill that bred this darkness will make you a monument to us. We'll keep your memory fresh and dead and ours. No one else's. Ours. Forever.
The Doctor said nothing. Grey blue eyes closed and the thin mouth clamped shut. But he knew the whispering spectre was telling the truth, and he could tell for certain that whatever was speaking to him was utterly mad.
Another voice came to him, echoing eerily the void. A girl's voice. Sam's voice.
"It's like being entombed, shut in with only the darkness. It's so black in here. Oh, Doctor, it's like nothing else has ever existed. Everyone I've ever known, everywhere I've ever been. It's like all that was just some kind of dream. It's only when I use clichés like that that I realise there has to have been something else."
"Sam, Sam, are you all right?" But the mirthless laughter in his ear told him she was still somewhere else. That he had been allowed only to listen in on her thoughts for a few moments. The forces here were trying to distract him while they found some new way of burrowing inside his psychic defences, reminding him that it was his fault that Sam was helpless in the blackness. He was the one who had brought her here. Memories, eyes still tightly shut, though it made no difference to the darkness. He remembered.
The Tardis was a long way out, tumbling through space and time, when the Doctor realised, as was so often the case when you were a wanderer in the fourth and fifth dimensions, something was wrong. An insistent beep was coming from somewhere on the wooden hexagonal console that was the heart of the Tardis's guidance systems.
"What is it, Doctor?" asked Sam.
"Oh, the old girl is just being a little over-cautious. We may be in for a bit of a bumpy ride, that's all. She's telling us something odd's happening to the time parameters."
"What sort of odd?" asked Sam. "What's wrong now?"
Things were always going wrong around the Doctor, and by now she had developed a kind of Sam Jones Richter scale of danger to measure them against. The Doctor shrugged.
"Ah, well, you know, a freak ripple effect, a Sunersland shift, something along those lines."
"Oh, that's all right, then," said Sam, rolling her eyes.
Unaware of the sarcasm, the Doctor seemed genuinely pleased to have put his friend at ease. "There's really nothing to worry about. It's only if that red light starts flashing at the same time that we"
"This red light?" said Sam, in alarm.
As the Doctor peered at the display Sam was pointing to, an enormous explosion threw them to the floor of the Tardis. The protesting scream of over-stretched engines sounded from somewhere deep in the heart of the ship.
"Yes, that's the one." confirmed the Doctor ruefully, as tremors shook through the control room. "Hold on!"
The Tardis vibrated and trembled as if afraid of where it was going. A klaxon sounded and instrumentation sparked and spluttered around them. Abruptly the control room was plunged into darkness. Sam cried out involuntarily. The sound echoed eerily around her then died away into silence. A chill ran through her.
"Listen." she whispered in the gloom. "The Tardis. It's stopped."
The comforting hum of the control room's incredible technology had been replaced by an oppressive silence. About seven point five on the Jones Richter scale.
She listened as the Doctor's fingers flickered over the controls, sounds seemingly everywhere at once. In response to his caresses, an eerie yellow luminescence bled into the grey stone Tardis walls. In the dim emergency lighting, the Doctor's face was lined with worry.
"We're in deep space," he muttered. "Deepest space. There shouldn't be anything out here, not for millions of years."
"How can you be sure?" asked Sam.
The Doctor scowled. "On my planet, children in nursery know that."
Sam was stung my his reaction, but saw how troubled he looked and walked over to him, tugging lightly on his coat sleeve. "So where are we?"
"I don't know," he replied.
"Perhaps we should ask the nursery children," she enquired with mock politeness. The Doctor looked set to make a caustic reply, but his face softened before the words would come out, relaxing into a smile. Sam smiled back at him. "What time are we in?"
The Doctor crossed over to the chronometric display. "We're. How odd."
"Deeply peculiar," affirmed Sam, nodding her head authoritatively. "What are you talking about?"
The Doctor was scrutinising some ticker-tape chattering out from a brass housing. "The readout's shifting. It won't settle." He frowned. "According to this, we've landed in countless different times all at once, over a span of thousands of years."
Sam frowned. "Is it up the spout? How can we be in different times all at the same time?"
"How indeed. Perhaps that's why we've lost power. Simultaneous arrival in hundreds of different time zones."
"Like falling into a shredder." whispered Sam.
"Precisely. We're lucky to be alive."
Sam looked at him as he stared ahead, his face shrouded in shadow. "Is it a trap?"
"Perhaps." Catching her worried look, he smiled. "Or a natural occurrence. There's always that possibility. In any case, we're rather stuck here until I can work out if the process is reversible."
"And where exactly is here?"
The Doctor shrugged at her as he scrutinised further controls. "No clear reading of mass. It's certainly not a planet. Seems to be made up of layers and layers of material the Tardis can't recognise, and yet I have a feeling"
"Some kind of cosmic papier-mâché?" ventured Sam, and to her surprise, the Doctor grinned broadly.
"Precisely. But how did they come by so much paste in the middle of a void?"
He activated the scanner, but there was only blackness as the old-fashioned monitor warmed up to show them the exterior view. They waited for some time.
"Scanner's broken," said Sam.
The Doctor took a deep breath. "No. That's what's out there."
We're going to rip right through you, Doctor. You're going to die. We're going back. We're going to kill you. Kill you. Kill you.
The Doctor felt the whispering demons pulling at his memories, twisting them, devouring them, attempting to erase them. He stayed calm, eyes shut, retreating into himself. It was like trying to keep control of a huge house full of wild children tearing from room to room. What a pity, he reflected, that his mind contained so many places to hide. Suddenly the Doctor could hear cries of anguish over the mad jabbering of the whispering voices. They were coming from Sam. No, please, let her go. Stop hurting her.
We're going to kill you. Kill you. Kill you.
Even as the Doctor was distracted by Sam's distress, he realised that the voices in his mind were taking the scraps of thought and memory he was sacrificing to the battle for control, and building a new image. Pale, yellow, a bloom of some kind. Flowers, tranquil against a deep indigo sky that was glittering with stars. He recognised the flowers. Recognised them from an age long distant, when as a young boy on Gallifrey he had watched funerals being conducted with pomp and magnificent ceremony. The flowers, almost invisible at first, so far were they from the eye, dropped fluttering from the far reaches of the vast cathedral-like arches of the Panopticon, and onto the crowd of mourners far below. As a child it had been easy to believe that the flowers had fallen from heaven itself. They were the Gallifreyan flowers of remembrance.
Somewhere in the dark, Sam remembered. "You can't go outside alone, Doctor. You've no idea what's there."
"Then I'll find the light switch."
"What if you can't breathe? If the controls are giving faulty readouts"
"I can go without air for some time, Sam. You know that. Besides, it's as if, as if I should know where we are." With that, he pulled the large brass lever that opened the doors, and left the dimly lit sanctuary of the Tardis for the comfortless dark outside.
"There's air here," the Doctor called back, then started as he realised Sam was at his side already.
"You don't think I'm going to let you go off out here all by yourself, do you? Probably end up enjoying yourself poking around. You'd forget all about me," she said with what she knew the Doctor would realise was false cheerfulness.
"Tread carefully," was his only answer. He lit a match, but although it burned brightly it lit up nothing of their surroundings. Puffing it out, he produced a torch from the pocket of his frock coat instead. "Less gothic," he apologised, "but never mind."
The torch beam shone brightly but still they could make out nothing but shadows.
"I suppose there's no point going back to the Tardis, is there?" Sam asked tentatively. "We could wait there."
"Wait?" queried the Doctor. "For what?"
"I don't know. It's like, it feels like something's going to happen here."
The Doctor stared at her a little strangely. Suddenly embarrassed, Sam started striding confidently off into the darkness.
"Sam!" called the Doctor suddenly, whipping out a hand and grabbing hold of her tee shirt. "Don't go marching off like that. You might step in something. Here, take this."
Sam felt smooth fabric being wrapped around her wrist and realised it was the Doctor's silk cravat, its silver grey colouring lost in the unrelieved blackness. Since she was blushing anyway, Sam ventured casually, "Have we just tied the knot?"
The Doctor simply said, "This should keep us together."
They moved off warily. It felt to Sam a little like walking on sponge, the way the dark surface of this place absorbed the noise of their footsteps.
"What's this?" she said, groping the air in front of her and touching something solid and fibrous. "A wall?"
"It's some kind of archway," confirmed the Doctor.
The wall was smooth, but she couldn't decide whether it was hard or soft, warm or cool to the touch. It just was. That seemed to sum up this place. Somewhere that just was. The Doctor led the way as they moved cautiously through the narrow tunnel. It twisted round and round, becoming narrower and narrower, when suddenly the Doctor stopped dead and she bumped into him with a cry of alarm.
"Shush," hissed the Doctor, "there's something up ahead."
Sam turned behind her then, as if a voice had whispered her name. She caught a glimpse of something moving. A dull pale gold shadow someway off, just for a moment, then it was gone.
The more the babbling creatures caused havoc in the Doctor's head, the more the confines of this dark citadel were dimly illuminated, the more concrete and definite the sinister shadow of the giant man clawing at his head became, towering over him. He closed his eyes once again. Was this another attempt to make him lose his concentration, to surrender to whatever force was inside his mind? The Doctor wasn't all that concerned about the damage the creatures could be doing to his synapses. He felt strong enough at present to resist their probing, and was keeping their subtle re-routings of his neural pathways to a minimum. What really bothered him was the ease with which they were moving round his mind. He himself found it a baffling, confusing place to be at times, particularly soon after regeneration. How had these shadows gained access so effectively? Running round like children, like children in a nursery. The Doctor remembered talking to Sam back in the Tardis, soon after they arrived here.
Sam remembered. The sharp tug on the cravat wrapped round her wrist bade her follow the Doctor, and although she opened her mouth to tell him what she had seen, she suddenly decided against it. What if she had imagined it? The Doctor needed someone he could rely on in his travels through the cosmos, not a stupid schoolgirl who jumped at her own shadow. Play it cool, Sam. Say nothing. It was nothing. She cast a look over her shoulder despite herself, but there was nothing but the pitch-blackness. She cursed the Tardis for having to land them here, then cursed whatever had actually made it do so, then cursed the gold thing she had glimpsed. This seemed exactly like being in a bad dream. There seemed no logic to it, no obvious way to respond. Miserably, she accepted that she was totally out of her depth. So, she reflected a little sadly, as usual all she could do was trust in the Doctor. But what if the Doctor was out of his depth too?
They rounded the corner of the narrow, twisted passage, and the Doctor stopped abruptly. They were on a precipice, and for the first time since they'd left the Tardis, Sam could feel something akin to a breeze. Pinpricks of painfully bright light sparkled, but it was difficult at first to tell just how far away they were. Then the lights began to appear more frequently, like glow worms in a vast underground tunnel. Sam peered into the gloom. She could discern shapes in the darkness now, like shadows stretched and twisted into things they were not. Half-formed, stunted shapes that could have been people littered the giant cavern of darkness, as if their creators had grown bored sculpting them, and had abandoned them where they stood. A shiver of fear ran through her at the sheer scale of it all.
"What is it, Doctor?" she whispered, relieved at least to be able to make out the tall figure of her friend beside her.
The Doctor was transfixed. "Those flashes," he muttered. "I wonder."
Some of the points of light had begun to coalesce, forming faint patches of luminous mist. In the light they cast, Sam could see the shapes had distorted, screwed up faces that should never have been seen this way, the features pinched and pulled. Fear, pain, confusion. Basic terrifying emotions in their rawest state seemed to have been carved into these tortured beings. She shook her head, aghast, then she noticed the cloud of light was getting brighter, stronger. It was also getting closer.
"Back away, Sam." hissed the Doctor.
Together they turned and stumbled blindly into the tunnel. Casting a look over her shoulder, Sam could see the patch of light floating towards them.
"It's following us."
"Quickly," said the Doctor, "down here.
Once Sam had realised that whatever material had formed this place was too fibrous to cause any real physical harm upon impact, it made it easier to run like the devil was behind you. The two of them jostled against each other in the darkness as they pitched forward at high speed into nothingness.
"Do you know where you're going?" panted Sam.
"Possibly," replied the Doctor, enigmatically.
Everything was silent as they ran, but after some time, Sam realised their footfalls were sounding louder, that the fabric beneath their feet was changing, growing harder, almost like stone. Gradually she could hear something else. What felt at first like a low pressure in her ears, but soon became a throbbing, insistent hum. With the noise came a faint phosphorescence around them. She stopped running.
"Shh, Sam. I know."
The Doctor too had stopped, then with a tug on the cravat to pull Sam along, he strolled almost casually forward into what seemed like a vast gloomy amphitheatre. As they stepped inside, the deep sonorous noise became louder. It sounded in some way familiar. A noise she had grown used to, distorted and twisted, broken up as if heard through giant crackling, rattling, loudspeakers.
"Well, well," murmured the Doctor solemnly.
Sam could make out weird indentations in the walls, like half-formed circles. Lumps of the spongy black material that composed this alien place were tilting up from the uncertain flooring. A huge hexagonal protruberance grew from the middle of the chamber, and a giant statue of what might have been a man clutching a bizarre black shape that was surely his head towered menacingly some twenty feet above them.
"Don't you see, Sam? Of course. Since I reconfigured the control room." The Doctor thrust his hands in his pockets and marched slowly around the murky room. "All this was once alive, pulsing with power. The power to travel anywhere in time to any point in the universe." He smiled sadly. "We've spent all this time running round a derelict in space. All that's left of the ragged hulk of an ancient, dying Tardis."
"A Tardis? Of course." Sam realised what the noise had reminded her of, although it was a far cry from the clean, comforting hum of the Tardis she knew. This noise conveyed sickness, pain, as the Doctor had said. Death. A thought struck her. "So, did it come from your planet?"
"And what about him?" Sam gestured to the huge distorted figure, its head in its hands. "Were there many giants there last time you looked?"
The Doctor ignored Sam's remark and gazed around him. "There's something more than just decay affecting this place. The whole aspect is changed, warped around the original way of things. I can just about recognise the design, enough to know it would have been taken out of service millennia ago." He stopped abruptly with a sharp intake of breath. When he spoke again it was in a rushed whisper. "One of the earliest time-space vessels."
"Is that significant?" queried Sam.
The Doctor looked as if he were about to launch into one of his famous flaps. "What is significant is that we seem to have activated something. Switched it back on."
Along with the pleading low whine of power in the room, the deformed roundels in the wall pulsed with a faint light, as if attempting to emulate the emergency lighting of the Doctor's Tardis.
"You think we tripped something?"
"I think it knows I'm a Time Lord, and is responding to my presence." said the Doctor distantly, still looking around in sad wonder at the malformed magnificence of the ancient edifice they stood in.
Sam swallowed hard in the gloom and took a deep breath. "I've got to tell you, Doctor. It's been bothering me. I saw something earlier. I mean, I think I did."
"Saw something?" He was looking at her strangely again. "When?"
"Back in the tunnels before we saw the giant's playroom out there. I know it sounds stupid, but it was gold coloured, sort of fluid." She realised the Doctor was looking past her. "Er, hello? You did ask."
The Doctor straightened up and motioned her towards him. As she moved, he spun her gently around so they were looking the same way. "If you see it again, could you ask it to ask that to kindly go away and stop bothering us."
The luminous cloud that had pursued them before was suddenly there, hovering in the warped doorway of what had once been this Tardis's control room. It was as if the sparks and traces of life within it were attempting to depict some kind of image. Sam thought she could see the ghosts of humanoid figures trapped in torment, struggling to get free of the light that bound them. It hovered near them.
"Confuse it?" asked Sam, looking up at the Doctor. He nodded.
"We'll split up," he said. "You go round the back of the console, try to get its attention. We've got to lure it away from the door." He gave her a gentle push to get her going, and she sprinted over to the far side of the huge black outgrowth.
"Come on then, if you think you're hard enough," she bawled at it, her words echoing around the dismal chamber. Suddenly the light cloud changed its slow but relentless course. "Doctor!" Sam cried, warningly. "It's after you."
"Run, Sam! Get back to our Tardis quickly."
"I can't just leave you to that." Sam broke off as a glimmer of light down the dark passage caught her eye. She shivered. For a moment she could see someone standing like a statue in the faint glow. It was herself, arms outstretched as if trying to push away something terrible.
But Sam was already moving steadily towards her likeness, through the door and into the dark corridor beyond, as if drawn on irresistibly in some way. The image was fading now into a grey mist. She felt fascinated and horrified at the same time. What the hell was going? Something moved at Sam's feet, like a trail of dull gold spinning upwards in a spiral. As she jumped instinctively, she felt a thrill of satisfaction. "Didn't dream you then, worst luck," she muttered as she found herself twisting round to follow it, arms raised to defend herself. Abruptly she felt her body freeze. She knew in an instant she had become the image that had transfixed her. She was unable even to cry out as the dull gold poured into her eyes and nose and mouth. The last thing she saw before the blackness swallowed her was the Doctor, standing stock still in front of a looming statue of the giant figure as the cloud of light burst over him.
We know who you are, Doctor. We know where you come from, where you can take us.
"I can't take you anywhere. Landing inside your Tardis has fractured my own."
It is not our Tardis, and we do not need yours.
"Well, it really is a terribly long walk to the nearest inhabited stellar system, and I don't know where you intend to" The Doctor broke off as he felt something biting into the back of his mind as if it were a nice fat juicy steak. He shuddered, willing the feeling out of his thoughts. "What is it you really want?" The Doctor voiced the words out loud through gritted teeth.
Freedom regained, Doctor. Freedom to move, to travel, to travel to our memories.
"If only you'd stop speaking in riddles, perhaps I could help."
You will help us, Doctor. You will help us as you die. As you die. As you go back and back, further and further, younger and younger, and time takes us where we need to go.
The Doctor screwed his eyes tight shut once again. He felt the presence there behind them, bracing itself for a stronger attack. Then he shut down his cardiovascular system and retreated inside himself. Held in stasis by the light cloud, his body barely moved as all signs of life left it.
"That won't do you any good."
The Doctor opened his eyes. The voice was familiar. It belonged to the figure sitting in a comfortable chair by an old mahogany table, pouring himself a cup of tea.
"That's my best china you're using," said the Doctor, a little tetchily, rubbing his forehead. The figure simply gave him a cheery smile, but the Doctor found himself frowning. There was something infuriatingly familiar about this man in his dark green velvet frock coat, grey trousers and white wing collar shirt.
"You're me! What are you doing serving me tea inside my head?"
"Well, it is my head too, after all. I'm not exactly trespassing. Nice try, shutting down your body to consolidate your strength of mind. But it didn't confuse them for long."
"Didn't? What do you mean, didn't?"
"I know your head is under siege right now, but do try to use what bits you've got left, hmm?"
"You're from my, our, future?"
"Precisely. And no, I'm not a trick or an illusion. This ancient Tardis's telepathic circuits have corroded to the point of dissolution. I was able to use vestigial spillage from them to send an aspect of myself back to myself. Well, to you."
"Very clever. Exactly what I'd have done myself if I was on the verge of death and had to get a warning across."
"It's our last chance."
"What about Sam?"
"Oh, these idiots will release her soon, unharmed. Humans can't aid them in their plan so they think it the most wonderful fun to let her watch me die before. Yes, well, never mind all that. They end up getting so chatty they practically bore us to death. They're insane, but massively powerful and well-adapted. We've got no more resistance left in us just a few hours from now. This was as far back as I could reach me. You, I mean. I know it goes against the laws of Time, but if we don't do something soon, there may be no laws of Time left to break. Biscuit?"
"What are these creatures?"
"The Forgotten. That's the name they've given themselves. It's no wonder they've been forgotten. Just one more shameful secret in the Dark Scrolls of Gallifrey's history. Memory surfers using the cerebral cortex's of Time Lords for high tide."
"Yes, it's starting to come back now, isn't it? Way, way back, when the amplified panatropic neuron network of Gallifrey was created. When the minds of our dead were converted into so many neural complexes arranged in a matrix pattern to form the repository of all Time Lord knowledge."
"Would you mind sparing me the lecture? Talking to yourself is a terrible habit and I imagine we're running out of time to break it."
"A group of Time Lords working on the neuro-mechanics of the Matrix learned all sorts of secrets in the course of their work. They reasoned that through exploiting an individual's reserves of Artron energy, it should be theoretically possible to travel through a Time Lord's actual physical past."
"Oh, yes. Each micro-second of experienced life is stored in our minds. Makes sense. It explains why the APC network is so terribly efficient at pondering the Time Lord's imponderables."
"Why it's the ultimate contemplator of Gallifreyan navels, you mean. Go on."
"I'm sure you can imagine the rest. In their arrogance, their boredom, their irresponsible quest for thrills, this bunch of Forgotten nit-wits underwent a temporary conversion into aggressive electrochemical impulses, and got into some poor soul's head. Back, back, through the hundreds of years he'd lived, and then upstream back to their present. And on their little jaunt they learnt another secret."
"The means with which to interact with the victim's own history. Gaining physical access to his past."
"Time travel through an individual's time line."
"Through a Time Lord's time line. Some caprice of the genetic imprimatur that enables any of us to travel through time. And by stopping off at any point in the victim's past when they're in close with another, older host, by bridging the synaptic gap"
"They can move ever further back through time. But why?"
"Why not? It was a game to them. A diversion. And a proving of their own genius. Imagine if their experiments had proved successful? Biological Tardises grown from Time Lord cells. But there was a side effect they couldn't have foretold."
Kill you. Kill you.
"There isn't much time. Quickly."
"They perfected the move from carrier to carrier, but, on exiting the body the life of the initial host simply unwound. At the point of entry, the meddler's effect had unpicked a stitch in the physical pattern of their host, left a thread dangling. When they left the body they tugged on that thread and the host's entire life unravelled. Imagine it. An innocent life being made to die a trillion times over through every point in its history. The records of Time being rewritten with each passing second as that person's life was truncated, cut off at the point where the electrochemical surfers left the host body."
"And started again on someone new."
"Yes. They were trapped in a subjective past, moving from host to host, killing indiscriminately. I'm not surprised old Rassilon abandoned them to their fate. They ended up inside the poor old owner of this ship. He must have had some kind of seizure while on reconnaissance, charting this sector of space for the time-space maps way, way back."
"They went mad with him. Well, lovely meeting me, but I really think you'd better stop them now, don't you? They'll travel back down our time stream to a point before we left Gallifrey to run amok there. Who knows what damage they'll do. They're desperate to be free, to be remembered, celebrated as pioneers."
"Pioneers? Dah. Reckless bunglers and murderers. Deranged killers!"
Even as he yelled out the words, the Doctor clutched at his temples and the blackness closed in around him.
He came to in the gloom of the ancient cartographer's Tardis, his mind reeling as he felt the mental dams he'd erected beginning to crumble under the onslaught of the Forgotten. An image of the Flower of Remembrance blazed in his head so brightly it threatened to eclipse all coherent thought,
"Doctor, you're all right."
The voice echoed through his confused thoughts. He focused on it, used it to consolidate his senses in the midst of the assault. It was Sam's voice.
"Hello, Sam," he mumbled. "I'm glad you're all right."
Sam looked at him with a worried frown.
"Just about. Are you all right?"
The Time Lord leapt to his feet.
"On the contrary. I'm going to be used as a bridgehead to wreak havoc across all Gallifrey before ceasing to exist, rewriting about a million histories and wiping out a mighty chunk of the entire causal nexus that holds the universe together." He shuddered, then gazed at his bemused companion. "You know, when you've been about as much as I have, I really hate to imagine what the universe would have been like without me."
"What are you talking about, Doctor?" asked Sam, fear and worry lining her face. "What's"
The Doctor's cry of pain cut her off.
"Have to do something. It's now or never. They're through. They're moving back through my time line."
Sibilant whispering laughter echoed around the void as the Forgotten exalted at the continuation of their journey. Subatomic particles flashed and jostled and decayed about them as the impulses travelled faster than inspiration through the encoded DNA patterns of the Doctor's physical history.
"Psychic surgery," whispered a voice in his head. It was his own voice. "Come on, you can do it. I'll help."
Flashes of memories came to him, a rough chart of the impulse's progress. They'd easily broached the last time he'd regenerated, pushing past bleary operating tables and bullets in San Francisco, through Cheetah People, Daleks, Nimons, Kraals. The Doctor was bewildered at the speed with which they were moving back, so fast he could barely register what was happening. And still they were moving through his lives, to Ogrons and Draconians, Drashigs and Axons, ever further back.
He tried to focus himself, to concentrate. The regeneration was imminent.
"Now!" came his own voice from far away, but it was already too late. He shuddered as the grey-haired, dandified figure was born from the pain and dismay of the little dark-haired clown, tried and convicted by the very people he was fighting now to save. Back through the past of his second incarnation, through Krotons and Ice Warriors, Yeti and Macra. Yes, he'd feel them more acutely now.
"Feed them through. That's right. Back, back, come on! Come on!"
"Come on, Doctor", urged Sam. The Doctor knew what was coming. He remembered. It had happened in the Tardis as he'd left Antarctica after his first meeting with the Cybermen, his body changing from that of an old man, rejuvenating itself, jewellery slipping from his new fingers, a part of him dying off so another could be born. It was there he had to act.
"Step inside," he whispered quietly as the rushing babbling and laughter reached a crescendo. He held his head as if impersonating the huge figure above them, and for a moment he winced as he felt something leave him. A ghost of a possible future that had given him the help he'd needed to cheat it. He shook his head. It never paid to analyse paradoxes too closely.
"Come on!" he yelled, then realised Sam was already at the doorway of the blackened control room.
"You come on," said Sam, challenging him, but there was no disguising the tears of relief in her eyes. In a moment he was by her side, then pulling her along behind him, explaining what had been happening to him as he went. He suddenly seemed to know where he was going despite the darkness.
"You were held by the defence mechanisms of this old crate," he continued, although by this time Sam was finding it difficult to boggle and run effectively at the same time. "A kind of temporal stasis field. We Time Lords were a far more paranoid race back then. Wouldn't get any nasty tricks like that on the Tardises I grew up with.
"This place is really that old?" marvelled Sam, breathlessly.
"Really. The Forgotten externalised their madness on to the rest of the ship through the telepathic circuits, stained it black like this. But now they've made the jump to me, this whole time stream will be coming unstable. The owner died millions of years ago, and this Tardis never came here." He paused, suddenly reflective and sombre. "I'm glad that all these eons of insanity and darkness will be wiped clean."
Something seemed to be happening. It was getting lighter, and the dull humming of the decaying ship was starting to rise in pitch. At last they reached the reassuring blue Police Box exterior of the Doctor's Tardis.
"And these Forgotten things?" asked Sam, her mind racing to catch up. "They're still in your head now?"
"Trapped in a sealed segment of my brain. A tiny part of my mind that dies when I regenerate. It's like shedding a skin, or, for the Forgotten, it's like being caught inside a cut that's healed over."
"Can you contain them in there? I mean, for ever?"
"I hope so," said the Doctor, pausing in the Tardis's doorway. "I only hope they'll be able to keep themselves entertained." He grinned. "I'm planning to be around for quite a little while yet, you know."
The shades of darkness outside were blurring, shifting. "This reality is dissolving. Come on, Sam, It's time we were gone."
"So the Tardis will be freed, yeah?" said Sam as she was ushered inside. "I mean, it'll never have been here."
"Precisely," said the Doctor with a grin.
"So will we remember any of it then?"
The Doctor's eyes were haunted as the Tardis began to vibrate in sympathy with its surroundings.
"Perhaps somethings are best forgotten," was his only answer. And at that self-same instant, the dark carbuncle in space was no more, leaving the Doctor and Sam free to continue their journey.
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