Persistence of Memory
An Eighth Doctor Story
The Doctor's eyes flickered open. Jayne was bending over him, concern mixed with her grief. "What happened? I came back with Chris and you were like this - what's wrong?"
Chris helped the Time Lord up. The Doctor did not resist his assistance, straightening up, and prepared to tell them all that had happened; his mind still reeling from the dizziness.
"Why did the Rani let you go?" asked Chris.
"I can only explain this bluntly. Any other way would take up too much time. I have little of it left."
"Why? Has she done something to the TARDIS?"
"No. She has managed to do something many Gallifreyan scientists would refuse to contemplate. She removed the symbiotic nuclei that allow me to control the TARDIS and injected them into Alecia."
"That's what... what killed her?" asked Jayne. "How?"
The Doctor sighed wearily, and redirected his gaze to the now useless console.
"The telepathic link I share with the TARDIS has been severed. I cannot control her. No-one can. As soon as one of our race dies, so do the nuclei that allow a Time Lord to fly a TARDIS. Your race isn't advanced enough for your brain to cope. The Rani just did it to have the satisfaction of knowing I would die on this planet. And I will."
"Can't you use the TARDIS lab?" asked Chris.
The Doctor shook his head, his frustration evident.
"Even if Alecia weren't dead, I simply don't have the equipment! If I could fly the TARDIS, I'd set co-ordinates for Gallifrey, but I can't... " He paused. "Did you hear that?"
"Hear what?" he asked, only to be silenced by the Doctor, who raised his hand to quieten him. He tipped his head to one side, as he did so. Jayne looked across at Chris, who shrugged.
Suddenly, the door to the control room opened, and Alecia stumbled in, sagging against the door as she came in.
"Doctor...set co-ordinates...must..." she gasped, before collapsing on the floor. Jayne ran to her, unsure whether to be happy her friend was alive or concerned that she had fallen. The Doctor could not understand it. He moved to Alecia's side swiftly, and picked up her wrist to feel her pulse.
Jayne watched his expression change to disbelief.
"No...it's not possible..."
"What is it? Is she alive?" Jayne prodded.
"I want you to fetch her a blanket. Now!" he looked at Jayne, his face displaying urgency. "Chris, fetch me a neural scanner from the TARDIS lab." Seeing the blank expression on his face, he elaborated, "It's about this big," he gestured with his hands, setting them about ten inches apart, "And it has a small screen in the top. Got it?"
Chris nodded, and dashed out of the control room, leaving the Doctor with Alecia.
As soon as he had departed, the Doctor checked her pulse again. He needed to be sure. Not entirely convinced, he pressed his ear to the left side of her ribcage and listened. An erratic heartbeat, weak but definite, answered him. His curiosity piqued, he moved his head across to the right side, and listened again. A slow, regular pa-boom replied, causing the Doctor to sit bolt upright, part of him wanting Alecia to be all right, the other half not wanting to believe what he had discovered.
"Impossible! Absolutely impossible! Ridiculous! I would have known!"
"Known what?" came a female voice from behind him.
Startled, he turned to see Jayne with a blanket. She knelt next to him and put the blanket over her friend. "Is she all right?"
"I'm... not sure..." he responded, debating whether to disclose what he knew. Jayne frowned. The Doctor was usually so certain...
"Does this mean we still have a chance?"
"Hmm?" He looked across at her, a distracted expression firmly in place. She sighed, and repeated her question. "Oh. Probably. Possibly. I don't know."
This reply only served to annoy Jayne further. Alecia stirred, and her eyelids opened. Jayne, overjoyed to see her alive, bent over her and smiled a smile of relief.
"Alecia! Can you hear me?"
The first thing Alecia focused on was Jayne's face, her blue eyes bloodshot, tear track stains running down her cheeks.
"Jayne? Oh, God, Jayne!" She sat up, and embraced her friend, the blanket falling off her. She pulled back after a moment, and wiped the tear stains from Jayne's face.
"What happened to you?"
"What happened? I don't remember much... just... this falling sensation... and this... voice - although it didn't really sound like a voice... I don't know how to describe it, really..."
She looked to her left to see the Doctor. He appeared fatigued, drawn. His curly hair hung limply, and his eyes seemed to have less of that penetrative quality. Despite it, he was smiling at her with a genuine warmth. Before the Time Lord could protest, or move out of the way, he was caught up in Alecia's enthusiastic embrace. He glanced across at Jayne, who grinned back. He allowed Alecia a few moments, then broke the contact, pulling away.
"Alecia, I am..." he struggled for the right words, "I am relieved... that you are alive." The smile faded to a deadly serious expression. "But there is little time right now. I need you to listen to me. What I am about to tell you is going to be difficult to believe, I know, I am having difficulty believing it myself, but you must trust me."
Alecia looked back at him, puzzlement reflected in her blue-green eyes. The Doctor paused a fraction of a second, registering this. Blue-green eyes? Surely they should be brown? No matter. A minor detail, not relevant, not now. Time was of the essence.
"Jayne, I need you to leave a moment. Not long."
Jayne's reluctance showed. He turned to her. "Please.
Tell Chris, when he arrives, to stay outside with you."
Taking a last look at Alecia, Jayne got up and left the control room.
"What is it? What is it you can tell me and not them?"
The Doctor held up his hands to quiet her.
"They will know, eventually. But now is not the right time." He saw her puzzlement, and continued, "Do you trust me, Alecia?"
Clutching the blanket, she paused, her eyes searching his. Why did he need to ask that question?
"Do you trust me enough to believe that what I say is the truth?"
"Yes...yes I do."
The Time Lord lowered his voice slightly, and took a deep breath.
"You survived the Rani's injection for one reason only.
A human would have died almost instantly. You didn't, because you, Alecia, are a Time Lord yourself."
Alecia looked incredulous. The Doctor had expected this reaction, and responded accordingly. He took her hand, and placed her slim fingers on his wrist.
"Feel that. Feel the pulses."
Alecia lightly pressed her fingers down, to feel the double pulse. "A duocardiovascular system all Time Lords possess. Two hearts, two pulses. Now," he said, removing her hand from his wrist, "Yours."
She hesitantly placed her first two fingers on her right wrist, and felt for what she expected would be a single heartbeat, only to feel the exact same duplicate pulse she had just felt as the Doctor's. Her eyes widening in realisation, she looked up at him in astonishment.
"But...how? I don't understand! I'm from Earth - "
"You *thought* you were from Earth," he corrected. "And... so did I," he appeared annoyed with himself. "I don't know how you got there or even why you were there but one thing is certain."
"And that is?"
"You are the only one who can fly the TARDIS. I need you to take us to Gallifrey. Immediately."
"But..." the turmoil in her face at this revelation showed, and he hated to put her under pressure; but it meant their survival that they got help.
"Lives are at stake, Alecia!" The Doctor raised his voice, then, realizing, he lowered it again. "My life, your life, Jayne's... everyone's." He stood, bringing Alecia up with him, and led her to the console. "I will explain all that has happened as you work. Set the co-ordinates."
She glanced over the controls, then turned to him, her brow creasing. He gave her an encouraging look. Looking back at the console, she thought, how on Io am I supposed to work this heap of junk? But then, she felt something in her mind, and instinct took over. Alecia reached out and began pressing switches, following the 'instinct' in her head. The Doctor ushered Jayne and Chris in as Alecia glared at the time rotor. Suddenly, the Doctor began to sway from side to side, and had to be supported by Chris and led to his chair. He sat down as Jayne went to his side, worried for his health. He waved her off, shaking his head.
"Alecia!" he barked, the vehemence of his exclamation surprising even him, "Get going!"
Alecia narrowed her eyes at the time rotor, wondering why it wasn't already working. Then, following that strange 'instinct' again, she thumped the top of the console hard. A shudder, a groan, then the TARDIS rotor came to life, humming as it went up and down. The Doctor waved Chris away insistently, muttering under his breath.
"I still don't understand, Doctor. You said yourself Alecia was dead - you saw her!"
"Not now, Jayne. Ask me again later," he replied tiredly, waving her question off. He looked all of his thousand years, and more.
"So what can we do?" asked Jayne, frustrated that he had avoided the question.
"There's nothing more you can do. Except put the kettle on. And put that neural scanner away, Chris, I don't know why you brought that old thing out..." his voice drifted, and was soon replaced by a snore.
Jayne shook her fair head in mock dismay, then turned to Alecia, who had come over to join them. Chris decided to take up the suggestion of tea, and moved off to fetch the kettle. Tea, with lots of sugar.
"I think he's best left. He'll need all the strength he can save," she said.
"Yes, but does he have to snore so loudly?" asked Chris, from the preparation area somewhere near the huge mantelpiece.
"I do not snore," the Doctor's voice rose up from the chair. Jayne rolled her eyes, then pulled Alecia to one side.
"What was it he told you that he couldn't tell us?" she whispered.
Alecia was about to tell her, but felt someone in her head. It was the Doctor!
*Doctor? What - *
*Don't tell her yet.*
Alecia's indignation carried through her telepathic response.
*Why not? She's my friend, isn't she?*
*She is not ready for it. Alecia, you are not who she thinks you are, and neither are you.*
*I'm tired, Alecia. Please respect my wishes. They are for your own good.* An image of the Citadel on Gallifrey appeared in her mind. Alecia had a sense of déjà vu about the place, but couldn't figure why. He was suggesting that she actually came from his own home planet! That she was a… an… alien! Her head began to hurt.
*I intend to find out what happened to you. They will know. Trust me* he sent to her, as though he could tell she was feeling disorientated. She could almost see his lopsided smile, and despite her shock, felt a little reassured by his presence.
"Alecia? Are you OK?" Jayne waved a hand in front of her face.
"So? Can you tell me?"
"I wish I could. But I promised the Doctor I wouldn't say."
Seeing her friend's disappointment, she put a hand on her shoulder. "I will. Eventually. Just not now. We need to get to Gallifrey. Talking of which..."
She left Jayne and approached the console, the time rotor rising and falling steadily.
"How do you know how to work this thing?" asked Chris, making his way over to her. He looked enquiringly at her across the console, through the time rotor.
"Just a matter of implementing the synchronic feedback circuit...dematerialisation in ten seconds..." she muttered, flicking a series of switches.
"Are you even listening to me?" Chris stood over her shoulder.
"I'm busy. Wake the Doctor."
Giving the young lady a hard stare, Chris backed up and called to the Time Lord.
"Doctor? We're almost there."
The time rotor rose once more, then ceased.
"Nothing 'almost' about it!" declared Alecia, straightening from the controls. "There."
She activated the TARDIS scanner, which slid open to reveal a hexagonal room, consisted of mainly grey metal. A web-like hexagonal pattern was ingrained into the floor. Six Citadel guards waited outside. Jayne watched them, fascinated. Alecia made her way across to the Doctor and assisted Chris in helping him out of the chair and out of the time machine. He was getting progressively weaker by the hour, and leaned heavily on the pair as Jayne activated the lever to open the doors. As they came out, the Citadel guards raised their staser weapons, but lowered them again when they saw the by now unconscious Doctor.
"Well? Aren't you going to help him? He's going to die if you don't do something!" Alecia glared at the commander, who sent a guard to fetch the Surgeon General. Two guards stepped forward and relieved the pair of their burden. The Doctor's curly head came up slowly at the sound of approaching footsteps. Through clouded vision, he saw the Surgeon General entering the room.
"Ah," he smiled, weakly, "Surgeon General...how nice to see you..." he said as his head flopped back down again. The Surgeon General reached out and lifted the Doctor's head up, then let it droop.
"Take him to the medical centre. What has happened to him?" he redirected his attention to the three standing in front of him.
"If you please, sir, I will explain as we go. It is essential we waste no time. Shall we?" Alecia gestured ahead, where the guards had taken the Doctor through the doors and out into the hexagonal corridors, the toe ends of his shoes dragging across the floor. Between the three of them, they managed to report what had occurred in the KchClkkt system.
"But, my dear child, you survived this injection... this means you must be a Time Lord yourself?" he said, raising an eyebrow at her. "There is no other way you could have lived."
Alecia visibly winced as he said it. Her two friends halted suddenly and looked at each other, then caught up to her. Jayne clutched Alecia's arm, an expression of bewilderment on her round face. Alecia stopped walking, puzzling the Surgeon General.
"Give me a few moments?" she asked.
"You are needed in the medical facility. The Doctor cannot survive much longer." He paused, seeing Jayne's bemusement. "Please make it short."
As he continued down the corridor, Chris stepped forward.
"Just what, exactly, are you playing at?" he asked, confused. "Is there something we should know? Or weren't you planning on telling us?" There was a trace of anger in his tone. Alecia looked offended.
"Of course I was going to tell you! The problem is I'm not sure I quite believe it myself! I didn't know until the Doctor told me!" she looked lost. "And I'm still trying to grasp it. I don't understand what it means - not yet."
"Does that mean you're... like him? Like the Doctor?" Chris prompted.
Alecia wrung her hands, getting increasingly worried as she tried to accept the reality of it. Jayne laid her own hand on hers, causing Alecia to look up. It was then Jayne noticed the change, and drew her hand away, with a gasp.
"What is it? Jayne?"
"Young lady, if you have quite finished..?" The Surgeon General's baritone cut into the conversation, ending Alecia's hopes of getting an answer. Her confusion getting stronger by the minute, she bade farewell to her friends for the moment and went with the Time Lord into the medical centre. It wasn't long before the two humans were taken to the President's office in the heart of the Citadel.