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Persistence of Memory
An Eighth Doctor Story
He swept past her without a word, through the control room and into the corridors of the time machine, an unreadable expression darkening his aristocratic features. From deep within the TARDIS came a deep tolling sound. Jayne hesitated one moment, baffled by it, as she tried to comprehend why the Doctor had failed to even acknowledge her presence. Then, setting her jaw, she turned on her heel and dashed after him before he could disappear into the labyrinth of corridors that led off the control room.
She called after him breathlessly, just as he entered the Cloister Room, but again, he refused to acknowledge her existence. What was wrong with her friend? Jayne made a last sprint to the Cloister Room, and burst in, gasping for breath. Please God let her be all right! she thought, before calling out again.
"Doctor! What's happened? What's wrong with Alecia?"
She approached his turned back as he laid her friend's limp form down gently, the soft light catching his hair, forming a kind of halo on his red-brown curls. As she reached them, she saw the Time Lord stroke a few stray wisps of black hair from his human companion's face. Jayne knelt beside him, and, for the first time, realised how pale Alecia's skin was.
Silence; a tension-charged silence followed. It seemed to last an eternity for Jayne, until at last, the Doctor turned his head slowly to come into eye contact with her. She felt an icy grip take hold of her insides, twisting them like garden wire as she read pain, loss, and a barely contained anger reflecting in his clear blue eyes. They said everything. Quietly, he spoke.
"I'm sorry, Jayne. There was nothing I could do." He turned away from her, shoulders sagged, as if he was too ashamed to meet her horrified gaze.
Jayne's breathing became irregular, shallow. She looked from the Doctor to Alecia and back, not quite comprehending, her instincts not wanting to let her believe.
"She's not... dead?" she asked, her voice barely a whisper.
"I did all I could, Jayne...the Rani refused to cooperate. I told her an injection of my own symbiotic nuclei into a human gene structure would result in absolute sensory withdrawal, coma and death, even she knew that..." he went on, muttering to himself, a sense of helplessness creeping into his voice, "But she did it anyway ... and there was nothing I could do..."
Jayne suddenly wanted to fling herself at the Time Lord, hit him, scream, pummel him into oblivion, yell it was all his fault -- but all she could do was remain where she was, rooted to the spot, staring at him, through him, not quite grasping the reality of it. It couldn't be!
"Is she dead?" she asked again. The Doctor was staring into the middle distance as he continued to mutter, his head shaking sporadically, his hands gesticulating wildly.
"Human DNA just isn't compatible with Time Lord genes ... the molecular -- "
"Is she dead?" she repeated, loudly this time, hoarsely, trying to fight down the tears that threatened to overwhelm her. The Doctor ceased his muttering abruptly, and turned back to Jayne, seeing her as if for the first time. There was a pause, as he looked from her to Alecia, and back again. He took a deep breath.
"Yes," he exhaled, with effort, as though he no longer wanted to live himself.
"It's complicated, Jayne - "
"Tell me!" she stood up, angrily. The Doctor rose too, and made to comfort her, only to have the young Scot start hitting out at him. "She didn't ask for this!"
Strong hands grasped Jayne's wrists, halting her assault. Suddenly realising the futility of it, she ceased struggling and let the tide of emotion wash over her. The hot tears sprang forth, bitter, salty, stinging her cheeks. It was a good few moments before she realised she was in the forgiving embrace of the Time Lord.
"Come on," he said, softly, "There's nothing more we can do now."
Jayne, reluctant to leave her friend's side, glanced back at Alecia's motionless form, before the Doctor led her out of the Cloister Room and back to the control room.
Jayne watched the Doctor as he worked on the console, pressing switches, moving levers. The time rotor refused to come to life. Frustration and anger at himself, and grief over the needless loss of a companion's life, flooded into his patterns of coherent thought, smashing rationale with blinding rage. The resounding thump as he hit the console with a balled fist startled Jayne, who was trying to control her shaking through her sobs.
"It was all a trap... an elaborate trap. And I didn't see it. How could I have been so na´ve, so blind?" he muttered, cursing his own stupidity.
The Rani had taken away his TARDIS, by removing the Rassilon Imprimatur; and without his symbiotic nuclei to reprime it, he could not fly the time machine. Worse still, his own genetic structure would, in a matter of hours, begin to decay, with no hope of regeneration. They were stranded here.
After yet another long silence, broken only by Jayne's erratic intakes of breath, the Doctor straightened up from his scrutiny of the TARDIS controls, and sighed audibly.
She didn't respond at first. Her mind, her limbs, had gone numb. She was staring blankly ahead, not seeing or hearing anything. The Doctor turned and noticed her state, and moved to her, placing his hands on her arms. Gently he shook her.
Steadily, she redirected her gaze to focus on him. Her normally startlingly clear blue eyes were clouded with grief.
"What?" she replied, her voice barely audible.
"I need you to do something for me."
Jayne frowned, mystified. "I need you to find Chris, and bring him here."
She nodded, and left the control room, wiping her tears in the cuff of her blue shirt. The Doctor watched her go, then closed his eyes wearily. It was all so pointless! He leaned on the TARDIS console, looking at the coordinate settings. How could he get Jayne and Chris away from here? His telepathic link with the TARDIS severed, he faced certain death himself in a matter of hours in subjective time.
It was while he was attempting to think of a solution that he felt the touch, the gentle brush of a another's mind against his. It wasn't so much coherent thought as emotion, but it drifted away from the Doctor almost before he realised it was even there. Curious, he reached out gently with his own mind, in an attempt to discern the sender, or at least what the emotion was, but it seemed to fade and reappear erratically, a mental butterfly eluding his touch.
It seemed unaware of his presence, unaware that it had been detected, but nevertheless its persistence warranted attention. The Doctor tried yet again to 'hear' the stray thoughts, irritated by his failing ability to use his telepathic skills. This time, however, he managed to grab hold of the net and catch this butterfly. Yet what he found was to leave him as confused as before.
The emotion, or emotions, seemed to be contradictory, but strong in nature. The Time Lord attempted to discern the distinct emotions amongst the jumble that appeared to be one, more complex emotion. The feelings he could determine were both puzzling and enlightening. The first he could 'feel' was joy, a great sense of warmth, happiness, but it was coupled with a great sorrow, an emotion the Doctor felt very strongly himself.
The only other he could make out, after a few moments of intense focusing, was a sense of longing, but for what? It was hazy. The Doctor's brow creased, annoyed that he could not grasp who or where it was coming from. Unfortunately, in his redoubled efforts, he gave away his mental presence to the sender, whose immediate reaction was to become startled. The emotion was lost completely, and the sender withdrew sharply, leaving the Time Lord with a mystery. All he could tell was all those emotions were part of one more complex feeling. But what was it about?
Briefly he toyed with the idea of re-establishing contact, but dismissed it. From what he had gleaned from that encounter, the sender had been unaware that he or she had been broadcasting their emotions, and to attempt a contact directly might only further alarm whoever it was.
The Doctor blew out his cheeks, and returned to his original train of thought as he moved away from the console, only to have an overwhelming sense of giddiness cause him to stumble. He groped wildly for the console to steady himself, but missed and fell to the floor, succumbing to the blackness that greeted him.