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After a quick shower to refresh himself, he hurried to the Master Librarian's quarters. He had not been there in four days.
The hallways were very quiet. This place had always calmed him in the past but now he found the silence ominous. He reached the Master Librarian's personal quarters where Melosin waited for him.
"Good afternoon, Doctor. He is awake and anticipating your visit with interest."
The Doctor nodded and then regretted it. His head was still muzzy and he felt himself stagger. Melosin grasped his arm steadying him.
"I will have some tea, " with a speculative stare, "and some food brought. You have not been nourishing yourself."
"I don't need ..."
"I regret disagreeing, but I do not believe that is an accurate assessment of your current condition. Some sandwiches?"
A half smile. "That would be very nice. And appreciated. Thank you."
Melosin waggled a eyestalk at him and led him to the small room in which the Master Librarian was reclining on a floating bed. Campble greeted him warmly.
"My dear friend, come in and sit down. Melosin, tea?"
"Of course. Thank you."
Melosin bowed his head and left them alone together.
The Doctor had not seen Campble for the last six days and then only briefly. He was relieved that the anger had been replaced with this calmer demeanour.
As if reading his thoughts, Campble said, "I have to apologize for my behaviour the last time you were here."
"No, no. I understood."
"No excuse for such a verbal and physical attack. I was horrified when I regained my composure. Please, in your patience, I beg your pardon. I have been unreasonable."
When the Doctor began to protest, the Master Librarian took hold of one of his hands, the almost unheard of action by a Siblui -- even with a family member -- surprised the Doctor. The Siblui's voice was wavery with emotion.
"I beg your forgiveness. I will understand if you can not give it."
"You have my understanding and if it is your wish, my forgiveness. Not that I think there is anything to forgive."
A rippling of skin and the gentle swaying of eyestalks. "Thank you. Most gracious, as always. I am finally understanding how much my situation is affecting everyone, even if my mental connection with most of them has been cut off. How involved the staff and others are in trying to find solutions. In making things easier for me. I forgot that and let myself be carried away by my own feelings. It was self-centred, not recognizing the needs of others and how difficult this is for them too."
The Doctor smiled, less tense than he had been in days. "I am glad you are more ... relaxed."
"You are not. I don't think I have ever seen you as tired. I know you have said you don not need as much sleep or nourishment as other species but ... tell me, how long since you rested?"
"I am resting now," trying to avoid the question.
"You know what I am asking. Sleep."
"A while. I'm fine. A cup of tea will give all I need."
Melosin came in with the Master Librarian's servant to deliver the needed tea and the promised sandwiches.
"You see, just when it's wanted." After Campble indicated he wanted nothing, the Doctor served himself and sat back sipping gratefully. He was about to ask Campble how he was feeling when the Master Librarian put a question.
"Your researches into a cure? Yes, I know that the reason you have not been sleeping is all your good work on my behalf. Any ... any results?" The voice tried to be casual but failed.
The Doctor tightened his shoulder muscles and shook his head.
"Nothing?" very softly.
"I have searched. The TARDIS has analyzed but no. I am sorry."
"No, I appreciate all your efforts. I am concerned what this is doing to you. And to the Medicus and Melosin and others. It is too much."
The Time Lord was nearly on his feet. "No! No effort is too much for you." The Doctor subsided back into his chair, blushing a bit.
Softly, "Thank you, dear friend. It is unfortunate, you know. There is so much I could have done. I had just begun the development of a new analytical system and I believe it would have been quite revolutionary, saving much data storage room and processing time. There were indications that it might give ... infinite space. Or as near infinite as not to be significant for many millennia. But ..."
The Doctor was intrigued. "That sounds wonderful."
"Yes, yes but ..."
"But what? Surely this is the sort of thing that could be ..." He stopped speaking suddenly, appalled by what he was going to say.
"That could be completed after my death?" A sad shake of Campble's head. "No, it is not sufficiently developed. I had not involved anyone else and now, with the effects of my illness, I could not achieve the necessary mental connection to communicate even one half of the design to anyone. Something I will take with me. If only I had the time to finish this, I could die without regret."
"If only I could help you."
"Anything I could."
The Master Librarian leaned slowly toward the Doctor. "There is a way I thought of. Just to give this special gift to the people of the galaxy." He fixed the Doctor with his four eyes. "Not too hard. Quite simple. And you can do it in just a few minutes."
"I don'tůsome sort of neural connection?"
"No. Nothing that hard. It is so easy. So simple." The Master Librarian's voice was quiet and hypnotic. The Doctor felt himself sway toward his friend.
"What are you speaking of?"
"Simple. Prevent me from breathing the vratha."
The Doctor understood immediately and shook his head.
Campble continued. "Just go back in time ... I can give you the exact temporal and physical location ... and stop me entering the computer core. Then I can live out my normal life span and fully develop this project." He ignored the Doctor's reaction. "What a legacy! Your legacy to the galaxy as much as mine."
Softly, "I can not."
"Of course you can, my dear friend. A few moments in your TARDIS. A few timely words and I will not be dying of vratha poison."
Even softer, "I can't."
"Why? What harm? You will be saving life not taking it."
The Doctor pushed back his chair. "The laws of time ..."
"But you don't care for laws. You have told me how irritating you find the strictures of Time Lord society. Its rigidity and coldness. This is a chance to do good. Not just for me."
"I can't. Please don't ask me."
Intensely, "Is our friendship ..." then more calmly, "my friend, I need your help. Please."
The Doctor's eyes were closed and he was having painful spasms in his chest. His voice came harder and louder than he intended. "No! I can not. Things changed change other things and the time lines unravel. The results of such interference can not be gauged. Potential catastrophe! I can't, don't you see? For the sake of the universe."
A controlled tone, "That sounds rather egotistical. That what you do affects the universe. It is so small a thing I am asking."
"It is not because it is me. Anyone tampering with the timelines can wreck such havoc. There are too many variables to be able to assess the results accurately. To avoid terrible outcomes. That is why the Laws of Time are there."
"Is my death not a terrible outcome?" A short pause. "Then why bother travelling through time? Or develop the technology to allow such travel?"
"To ... they knew, not long after that development that the only thing they should do is visit. Study under very controlled conditions."
"And all the things your have done when you have visited places? All those stories you have told of your adventures? Were they not breaking these Laws? Changing the future?"
"But that is different than deliberately following a timeline back and changing something!" The Doctor was on his feet now, stepping away from the Master Librarian. "I can't do this. I can't."
"Not even for the value I would bring to the universe? Not for my offspring? Not for our friendship?"
The Doctor shook his head to each statement.
The Master Librarian sat still and silent for a few moments. His digits picked at the bedding and he studied a loose thread. "You are a hard man, Doctor. At heart you are hard. A true Time Lord."
The Doctor groaned. "What you ask is hard. But I owe the universe before I owe a single creature of the universe. Including myself."
The Master Librarian flowed away, murmuring "So simple, so easy. A little thing" and left the Doctor standing alone in the sitting room.
The Doctor stood still, staring at his shaking hands.
The Doctor redoubled his research efforts toward finding a cure, spending another sleepless week. Futilely. He was being forced to the conclusion that there was no cure that would help Campble but he fought the idea.
"No! There is always another choice. Another way to go. Always." He stopped, knowing he was deluding himself but unwilling to give up searching.
A sharp rapping on the exterior doors of the TARDIS startled him out of his thoughts. She had augmented the sound as he had requested her to do so that he would hear in the lab room. When he opened the doors, the Third Underlibrarian stood before him.
"I have been sent to fetch you, sir. To come to the Master Librarian."
The Doctor's hearts lurched. "Is he ... ?"
"The Master Librarian asked you to join him for tea, sir."
The Doctor began to breathe again and unclenched hands he had not realized had tightened into white-knuckled fists. " A moment while I fetch my coat."
When they reached the doors to the Master Librarian's private quarters, the Third Underlibrarian's breathing was ragged and the Doctor realized he had been moving very quickly. He made an apology face at the Third Underlibrarian. "Forgive me once again."
His escort was too breathless to speak but he waved three of his hands dismissing any need for an apology. His fourth hand gestured for the Doctor to proceed into the room.
The Time Lord entered and was immediately struck by the sound of Siblui laughter. A tinkling and chinging sound, almost metallic. There were perhaps a dozen Siblui in the room, grouped around the floating bed on which Campble rested. "Oh!" He felt as if he had intruded when the laughter stopped and over fifty eyestalks turned his way. Feet moved in half steps back toward the door until Campble put a hand out.
"My friend," his voice relaxed and warm, "thank you for joining me on such short notice. Come and meet some of my offspring. Here, make space for the Doctor, my Ones."
Several of the younger Siblui rose so that a spot on the floating bed next to Campble's side became available.
"Come, sit. Have some tea. Now, my Ones, where is that tea? Don't tell me someone has drunk it all?" His voice was light and calm.
A very dignified Siblui of middle age replied. "No, Progenitor. A new pot has freshly arrived. Shall I serve it?"
"Yes, yes. Good. You are most reliable, Panmure."
As he was about to sit, the Doctor was handed a cup of steaming tea. He inclined his head in thanks to Panmure. Settling, cradling the warm cup, he studied the Master Librarian. Campble's skin was very mottled now, with as many as a dozen shades of blue and mauve in splotches across his body. The texture seemed rough, almost scaly. It was the look of death on him. The Doctor felt a catch in his stomach at the sight. At what it meant.
Campble had been watching him. "You do not drink your tea, my friend. Is it not as you like?"
"I ... it is fine." He sipped a mouthful to prove it.
"My Ones have come to meet you. They have heard of you, the Time Lord that travels through the Galaxy visiting many worlds and helping peoples. They did not believe. You see, my Ones, here he is. No myth or fancy of the mind. Pray, Doctor, related one of your adventures from your travels. I too would enjoy that. Perhaps the visit to the Sevateem in which you were mistaken for a god."
A murmuring of wonder from the Siblui around him.
The Doctor shook his head. "Not a god. An evil being."
"Truly, not a god nor evil. An honest mistake. A lack of care. A computer that was affected by being mentally connected to my mind." He reacted to the rapt attention by shifting into his storyteller mode. "I was trying to repair the damage to the computer of some colonists by using my own neural pathways. It worked. The computer started functioning again and I left a group of grateful colonists to go on my way.
"Unfortunately, in the glow of their praise, I forgot to erase my mental patterns from the computer core. Over time, that affected the programming, making the computer react in odd and damaging ways. The colonist had initially made a large sculpture of my face to remember me I suppose but when things started to go wrong, the image became one of fear and hatred. Not a god at all. Never a god."
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