Persistence of Memory
An Eighth Doctor Story
"Your last regeneration was kinder to you, Doctor."
The Rani approached the Doctor slowly from the shadows, confidence exuding from her every movement, her catlike gaze fixed upon him. To his left, about ten feet away, Jayne, her fair hair dark and matted with mud and blood - not her own - was being held by one of the Rani's servants, a genetically engineered race known as the KchClkkt. They resembled Earth crabs, but their pincers could be poisonous, and they were twenty times larger in size. Jayne looked distressedly at the Doctor, and tried to wriggle free, only to have the vice-like grip further increased. She let out a muffled cry through her gag, which the Doctor heard. He did not take his eyes from the Rani, but set his jaw, his face dark with barely restrained fury.
"Let her go."
The Rani's laughter jarred in the Doctor's ears. The planet's dense atmosphere had made exertion difficult for his human companions; and only Jayne had not made it back to the TARDIS in time. At least, that's what the Doctor thought.
"Do you honestly think I'd be so stupid as to let you get away so soon?"
"You lured me here to this... abomination of a planet that you created, all the while making me believe that this was a civilisation of people in slavery - "
"Oh, it's all for a reason, Doctor, believe me. I shall have my revenge upon you for what your seventh incarnation did to me. Give yourself up and your friend goes free. Simple as that," she leered at him.
The Doctor stared back, his eyes narrowed.
"You tried this before, Rani, and failed. You're obsessed." He shook his head.
"Well, Doctor? Do I kill her now, or do you agree to my terms?"
She raised her weapon, aiming it at Jayne's head. Jayne's blue eyes widened in terror, as she glanced from the Time Lord to the Rani and back.
"What do you have planned for me, Rani?"
"It's not up for debate!" she spat, "Decide!"
"I need a guarantee of her safety." The Doctor's gaze never wandered from the renegade Time Lord. "No tricks."
The Rani nodded at the KchClkkt. It opened its pincers to release Jayne, who dashed across to the Doctor, pulling off her gag. She tried to tell him.
"Doctor - "
"Go." The Doctor didn't even look at her.
"But Doctor - " she clutched his arm. This time he looked directly at her.
The urgency in his voice led her to move away from him, and out of the dank cave. Once outside, she ran, stumbling over the pale blue rocks of the planet surface, tears blurring her vision. She collapsed against the TARDIS door, panting like a fish out of water for breath, pulling out the spare TARDIS key the Doctor had slipped her in that brief instant. It took a few frustrating moments to get the key into the lock and turn it, but when she had, she pushed the door open bodily, slamming it behind her.
Running into the control room, she found the unconscious Chris Drenson on the floor. Shaking him, he moaned, and raised a hand to his head, where a trickle of blood had run down his forehead and begun to matt his blond hair, forming a scarlet blotch on his white jumper.
"Chris? Are you alright?"
He nodded, slowly, as he focused on his friend.
"It was a trick, Chris! I tried to tell the Doctor, but - " Frowning, he sat up, and looked around for the Doctor.
"Where is he?"
"She's tricked him, Chris! She's got the Doctor and Alecia! She let us escape the first time and used me as bait to catch him!" She buried her face in her hands.
"But we saw Alecia come into the TARDIS with us!"
Jayne shook her head.
"An illusion! A hologram! I tried to tell him, but he wouldn't listen!"
Chris stood up, and tried to comfort her, but inside he knew there was no way out. For any of them.
* * *
The Doctor had failed to notice the KchClkkt approaching from behind, and crumpled unconscious to the damp floor of the cave at the Rani's feet. She gave him a look of pure disgust, then turned and walked away, towards her own TARDIS, disguised as a KchClkkt statue.
"Bring him. Prepare him for conditioning."
With a chattering, clicking sound, the KchClkkt dragged the Doctor into the Rani's TARDIS. She walked through the main control room and into her laboratory, and smiled at her other captive lying bound to one of two tables. Alecia struggled against her bonds, but the Rani simply laughed and laid her weapon down across the room next to a specimen container holding a KchClkkt foetus in a yellow fluid.
"I have some interesting plans for you...and your friend," she gestured towards the Doctor, who was being bound to the other table as she spoke.
Alecia twisted her dark head to see him, and cried out.
"Don't bother. He can't hear you."
The Rani walked around the room, setting up equipment too advanced for Alecia to comprehend. She connected what looked like electrodes to the Doctor's temples, and ordered the KchClkkt out of the lab. They scuttled out with their characteristic chattering and clicking sounds, and the door shut behind them.
"If I get out of here I swear to God I'll kill you!" Alecia declared, struggling futilely against the restraints. "You're so pathetic that you have to get other races to do your dirty work for you!"
The Rani briefly ceased her routine and stood over the young woman, a menacing expression on her face.
"Be careful what you say, human, or I may have to kill you ahead of schedule!"
Alecia's dark eyes met the Rani's, never wavering. "You've already caused me too much trouble as it is," she continued, glancing briefly at the mess her last escape attempt had made of the laboratory.
Her reply was rewarded with a narrow-eyed glare from the Rani, who went back to her preparation.
"I can assure you that your death, in particular, will be especially painful," she answered, "But for now, I need you asleep."
Picking up a needle, she returned to Alecia's side, and inserted it and its contents into her arm. Alecia struggled again, then fell under the drug's influence. Turning to the Doctor, she ran a finger down the side of his face. Such a shame that those looks were being wasted on this idiot, she thought.
"And as for you, my dear Doctor..."
* * *
When the Doctor began to surface from his unconscious state, he tried to focus on contacting his TARDIS, in an attempt to tell it to take his friends away from this rock, but felt nothing. No response, not even the mental presence he usually felt in the very back of his mind. He reached out again, but again, nothing. He was alone. How could he be separated from his TARDIS? He knew of no other way than having the Rassilon Imprimatur removed from the TARDIS' briode nebuliser, but it wasn't the Rani's style. What would she want with an obsolete Type 40 TARDIS? She had her own, more advanced model, and it would be too easy for him to get away and reprime the nebuliser with his own symbiotic print again. The only other way would be -
"No!" His thoughts turned into spoken words.
"So you've figured it out, Doctor? Regeneration obviously hasn't helped your intelligence, has it?"
Opening his eyes, the Doctor focused on the Rani, standing over him, syringe in hand. "This, Doctor, contains your symbiotic nuclei! I have extracted it from your DNA..." she trailed off, looking across at Alecia's unconscious form, "And I will soon inject it into your disagreeable companion here."
The Doctor frowned, and followed the Rani's gaze, then realised who it was.
"And all this time you thought she was in your TARDIS!" mocked the Rani, "I expected better of you."
"You can't inject a human with Time Lord genes! It'll kill her! The telepathic link will overload her nervous system!" The Doctor's expression was one of incredulity. "Just what do you expect to gain from this?"
"My revenge, Doctor, and the satisfaction of seeing you die - permanently!"
She moved to Alecia's side, and began to inject the syringe's contents into her left arm. "I have plans, you see, and I hate to have them scuppered time and again by you and your meddling companions! This time, I kill two birds with one stone...quite literally."
"She's done nothing to you! Nothing!"
The Doctor pulled against the restraints, but to no avail, as the Rani completed administering the lethal DNA. Withdrawing the needle, she turned back to the Doctor, and put her face close to his. He flinched slightly, but maintained eye contact. The Rani delighted at his reaction as she spoke.
"Good riddance, to you and your friends!" she gloated,
"Without you, they will starve here on this barren planet with noone to find them while I continue my experiments on Earth!"
It was the last thing he remembered before waking outside some time later, weakened by his ordeal, next to Alecia. The humid air dampened his skin, making his hair cling to his head. The twin suns of the KchClkkt system seared the pale yellow silk sky. Slowly, he sat up, and turned to his companion. Her skin was cold. He could not see her chest rise or fall. Carefully, he scooped her up in his arms, and made his way to his TARDIS. From a distance, he heard the Rani's TARDIS dematerialise. She had won. He shut his eyes briefly as a stabbing pain clouded his vision, then gritted his teeth and continued walking.