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Dr. Who - The Eighth Doctor 41 - Father Time

Dr. Who - The Eighth Doctor 41 - Father Time

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Miranda didn’t need much sleep, indeed she could do without it.
She knew this made her different but, usually, it didn’t bother her. She sat at
her desk and read. Sometimes she would play with her toys. She didn’t like to
make too much noise, in case she woke her parents, so if she did put the radio
or a tape on, then she always used earphones.
It was nice. It was a time to be quiet, a time to be alone. She never got
scared in the dark, as children were meant to. She didn’t like to sleep. She
didn’t like her dreams. She dreamed of fog and rocky, broken ground. She
dreamed of screaming and fire. Monsters, but not furry, scaly, giant monsters
as in Where the Wild Things Are or The Muppet Show, but monsters that looked
like people on the outside. There were silver palaces full of servants in her
dreams. But everyone was running from something. They were running away
from her because anyone who knew her was being killed where they stood.
They didn’t want to die, so they ran. It was always the same dream, and she
seemed trapped in it. It scared her.
So Miranda didn’t sleep.
But tonight was different. Tonight she wanted to sleep, but she couldn’t. She
lay on her bed, staring up at the ceiling. She was tired, but a part of her mind
was telling her that she couldn’t go to sleep, or she’d never wake up. She’d be
trapped in her scary dream.
Miranda realised she was crying, and she was lonely.
She went up to her parents’ door, and then into their bedroom.
Her dad had woken up. She heard him shift around, then turn on his bedside

light.

Mum was awake now. She looked at Dad to see what was wrong, then saw
Miranda. Her mum didn’t say anything, just pulled her up on to the bed and
hugged her. She was so warm and big and comforting.
‘It’s the UFOs,’ Miranda explained.

68

Inside the Spaceship

69

‘What do you mean?’ her mother asked.
‘The Doctor was telling me about them. And he says they are real.’
Her dad looked angry. ‘He has no right to. Look, he’s scared you.’
Mum was pulling on her dressing gown. ‘Let’s get you some cocoa.’
‘Are they real?’ she asked.
‘I’m going to have words with that Doctor,’ Dad said angrily.
Miranda looked over at him. ‘But are they real?’

They were right underneath the disc now. It was wrong that it was hanging
there, Debbie decided. It was bigger than a house, and it was made from solid
metal, but it hung there like a hot-air balloon.
And there were four aliens standing there, leaving footprints in the Der-

byshire snow.

The Hunters, standing together at the back, keeping out of the way but look-
ing down their noses at her. The balding man in SAS gear, standing to one side,
clearly ready to fight. And, at the head of the group, the imposing figure with
curly steel-grey hair and a green military tunic.
‘Doctor,’ this man said, his voice deep and full of authority. ‘I’m afraid I don’t
recognise your charming companion.’ He was their leader – that was obvious
from the way he stood, the tone of his voice. A born leader.
‘I’m not his companion,’ Debbie said quietly. ‘We’re just friends.’
The Doctor frowned. ‘You know me?’
The man hesitated. ‘Of course. You don’t know me?’
The Doctor gave a slight shake of his head.
The leader exchanged a quick look with the bald man.
The Doctor smiled helplessly. ‘Have we met?’
‘You don’t remember?’ the bald man asked, and Debbie was sure he was
fingering the scar that ran down his cheek.
‘No. I’ve... forgotten a great deal. I remember Rum and Th´elash, of course,
from our little chat today, but I’m afraid I don’t remember you.’
Debbie was nervous of the whole situation, but the little bald man in particu-
lar scared her. His combat gear was practical, and had obviously seen use. She
had no doubt at all that the pouches contained all sorts of weapons and lethal
devices. ‘You don’t remember Galspar, or Falkus?’ he asked, oozing suspicion.
‘Those are your names?’ the Doctor asked.
Mr Hunter burst into laughter. The bald man spun to face him, silencing him.
‘Places?’ the Doctor guessed.

70

Father Time

‘Planets,’ the leader confirmed. He was stern, but seemed more amiable than
his colleague. ‘But you don’t remember them, do you?’
‘No. I’m sorry, but you have me at a disadvantage.’
Debbie was sure that the bald man smiled at that prospect.
‘I am Prefect Zevron, this is my Deputy, Sallak.’
The word ‘prefect’ summoned up for Debbie images of little badges and look-
ing after dinner queues, but she knew that it had been what the Romans had
called their military commanders. ‘We are time travellers, like yourself.’
Debbie and the Doctor looked at each other. ‘Time travellers?’ they asked,

together.

‘You know about Miranda?’ the Prefect asked, seemingly pleased that he had
managed to surprise the Doctor.
‘Yes.’
‘Thenitseemswehavesomethingwecouldlearnfromoneanother. Please...

step inside.’

The Doctor peered up the ramp, then turned to Debbie, grinned and began
bounding up into the spacecraft.

They walked through a small garage, or hangar, into a central landing sort of
area, with doors leading off in all directions. All the doors were closed but one,
which they passed through. The room they found themselves in was opulent,
with heavy metal sculptures mounted on the walls and on small plinths. The
floor was thickly carpeted, or perhaps it was fur of some kind. It was warm,
there was a thick, musky smell and a regular electronic burble in the air.
Debbie wanted to get out.
The door hissed shut behind them, sliding up from the floor.
‘We’re trapped,’ she said, panicking.
‘Stay calm,’ the Doctor told her. He was stepping further into the room, with
the same expression on his face kids have in toy shops.
‘But what if we take off?’ she asked. ‘They could be going back to their

planet.’

‘That’s out of our hands,’ the Doctor said. ‘If they were going to be hostile,
they could have thrown us into a cell, or a torture chamber, or just had us killed
outside.’

She wanted to go back the way they had come, open up the ramp and run as
far and as fast as she could. She wanted this ship to go away, and she wanted to
go back to her life, her stupid, normal life with her stupid, normal husband and
his darts and his police record and his Ford Cortina and his mortgage arrears.

Inside the Spaceship

71

Debbie forced herself to stand still. ‘I can’t hear an engine. I don’t think we’re

moving.’

‘Relax,’ the Doctor suggested.
‘There’s something wrong,’ she said, looking over to the Doctor for reassur-

ance.

‘No,’ he whispered.
‘There is,’ she insisted.
The Doctor shook his head. ‘It’s a natural reaction to this object and the
almost imperceptible differences that come from materials that weren’t mined,
refined or synthesised on Earth.’
Debbie realised he must be right. This place wasn’t shocking: it was perfectly
within the realm of human imagination. But there were tiny things, things that
she didn’t notice until she looked for them, but they unnerved her all the same
– the devil in the detail. There weren’t any screws or rivets. The furniture
seemed to be made out of metal, not wood, but it felt like plastic.
‘You don’t feel it?’ Debbie asked.
‘I feel it,’ the Doctor said softly. ‘I’ve felt it for as long as I can remember.
Every morning, when I wake up in a world with buttons, green leaves, paper
money and traces of argon in the air I breathe.’
Debbie rooted in her pocket for her cigarettes.
‘We all get like that. Everyone feels like they are on the outside looking in
from time to time,’ Debbie told him. ‘Most of us get over it by the time we’ve
done our A-levels.’

The Doctor glared at her. He had been deadly serious. He turned his back on
her, busied himself trying to open the door.
At least it was warm, and Debbie was glad to be given the chance to sit down.
The chairs were simple padded stools. The Doctor paced around the room, his
brow furrowed. He looked so at home here, surrounded by machines and
ornaments quite unlike anything Debbie had seen before. She lit her cigarette,
and took a deep breath, pleased to smell something familiar.
Debbie wondered why the Doctor wasn’t as scared as she was.
‘Passing for human,’ she said under her breath, looking at him again.
Nothing about him had changed. He was wearing the same black velvet coat,
the same boots, a shirt that was identical to the one he’d been wearing in the
photograph.

But everything had changed. He looked perfectly at home here, standing in
a chamber in a UFO.
He wasn’t human.

72

Father Time

The Doctor looked over at her and smiled.
He wasn’t human.
She looked at him. She looked at the time traveller, the man without a past.
Before she could say anything, the hatch had opened again.
A young woman walked in, someone they’d not seen before. She was wear-
ing a grey tunic and veil, her long skirt made it look as if she was gliding. The
woman took their coats away and served them each a glass of dark-blue liquid
from one of the sculptures, which turned out to be a dispenser of some kind.
‘Thank you,’ the Doctor said, sniffing the drink, then tasting it. The servant
left, the door sliding up behind her.
Debbie put her drink down on a low table, untouched.
‘Slaves?’ the Doctor asked Debbie. ‘Servants at the very least. Not the mark
of a civilised society... by modern standards, at any rate. I suppose histori-
cally...’

‘I don’t trust them,’ she confessed.
The Doctor turned to look at her, disappointed. ‘Why ever not?’
‘I –’ But Debbie was unable to put it into words.
‘They are clearly very advanced,’ the Doctor said. He motioned around the
room. ‘Capable of producing some striking art, and maintaining a galactic
empire. That fact alone implies a great deal about the state of their commu-
nications, their transport and their logistical skill. They could teach us a great
deal.’

‘Are they your people?’ she asked, almost under her breath.
The Doctor stopped what he was doing.
‘That had occurred to me,’ he admitted.
‘You’re not a human being, are you?’
The Doctor couldn’t look her in the eye. ‘I’m not sure.’
‘No?’
‘No.’
‘I know I’m human,’ she said, surprised how angry she was. ‘Why aren’t you

sure?’

‘How do you know?’ the Doctor replied gently. ‘You only think you know. I
thought I was human – of course I did. I thought I was like everyone else, that
everyone else’s life was like mine. I learned that was not the case.’
Debbie took a deep breath. ‘And you travel through time?’ Realisation
dawned. ‘Of course! I saw a photograph of you at a chess game in the fifties.
You didn’t look any younger. But you were just visiting the past.’

Inside the Spaceship

73

‘I don’t travel through time,’ the Doctor said, ‘well, I do, but only in the same
way you do. I don’t age.’
‘But...’ That was worse, Debbie thought.
‘I told you I woke up in a train carriage. What I didn’t tell you was that it
happened over a century ago. In that time... well, I look a couple of years
older now than I did then, no more.’
Debbie wanted this to stop, but it didn’t.
The Doctor was deep in thought. ‘Now, I’ve no idea what my lifespan is. I
couldlivelongenoughtoseetimetravelinvented. Howlongcouldthatbe? I’ve
lived over a hundred years, I’d only have to live a couple more centuries – less,
if mankind makes contact with a people who have already got the technology.’
‘Shut up...’ Debbie said, very softly.
But the Doctor continued, enthusiastically. ‘Like... like the Prefect and his
people. Maybe I don’t remember meeting them because it hasn’t happened
yet. Perhaps this is where it starts – now I know time travel is a scientific
possibility, I’ll dedicate myself to building a time machine of my own.’ He
hesitated, looking around. ‘Or maybe I could skip all that by stealing one.’ He
looked thoughtful. ‘Perhaps even this one.’

The Deputy bowed his head as he entered the Prefect’s chamber.
‘You sent for me?’ he asked.
The Prefect was sitting on an austere, low chair. He said nothing, nor did he

need to.

‘You are worried by the Doctor’s presence,’ the Deputy told him. ‘We know
that this era was monitored and protected, and the –’
‘I know my history,’ the Prefect snapped.
The Deputy tried to keep his master calm. ‘We also know that Earth in this
period is one of the Doctor’s favourites, and is a major nexus. But the strategy
computers discounted the probability of his intervention.’
‘Computers,’ the Prefect spat. ‘If we’d trusted ourselves to computers, we’d
have been dead a long time ago.’
‘We registered no time travel to or from this zone except our own time corri-
dor. He’s got in under our detectors. He has also managed to find the Last One
before the Hunters have.
ThePrefectlookeddangerouslyclosetopanic. ‘Thiscannotbeacoincidence.’
‘The Doctor claims not to recognise us. As far as he is concerned, this might
be before Last Contact.’
The Prefect was intrigued. ‘Is that possible?’

74

Father Time

‘I will have to check the files,’ the Deputy admitted, ‘but time travel throws
up these possibilities. He may be lying, but if he doesn’t remember us, it gives
us a great advantage. We have him and his companion where we can see them.
This situation is far from lost.’
The Prefect nodded. ‘We need to hear the Hunters’ report before deciding on
a course of action.’ He pressed a control on the arm of his chair and a door slid
open.

RumandTh´elashenteredandstoodtoattentioninfrontofthePrefect’schair.
The Deputy took his place behind his leader and looked at the sorry couple
in front of him. Everything about them looked unprofessional – their clothes
were flashy, impractical, in stark contrast to his own combat gear. The man in
particular stood sloppily. The woman showed more potential, not to mention
better muscle tone, but there was insolence there, mixed with complacency.
Were these really the best Hunters in the galaxy?
‘Report,’ the Deputy ordered.
‘The Doctor is here,’ Th´elash said.
‘Evidently. So?’ the Deputy asked.
‘So,’ Th´elash snapped, ‘we should get out of here before he thwarts our plans,
uses our own weapons against us, blows up our home planets and gives you
another scar... sir.’

His partner’s defiance had made Rum bold. ‘Our contract says nothing about
intervention. The Doctor has contacted the Last One and...’
‘Your mission has not changed,’ the Deputy told them. ‘We are very con-
cerned with your performance. The Prefect is not pleased.’
‘Isn’t he?’ Th´elash began, glaring down at the Prefect. ‘He’s keeping very
quiet. Are you as scared as I am, Prefect Zevron?’
The Deputy moved forward, ready to kill her for her insolence.
The Prefect held up his hand, stopping the Deputy in his tracks. Then he
stood and stepped forward. Now he was right in front of the woman, one hand
resting on the curved dagger that hung from his belt. He wasn’t as tall as she
was, but that didn’t matter – she looked small, like a tiny child alongside him.
He smiled, and it was the sort of smile that made the woman take a step back.
‘My colleague and I mean no disrespect,’ the woman insisted quietly, her

head bowed.

The Prefect reached out to stroke her face. She tried hard not to flinch.
‘I’ll deal with the Doctor,’ the Prefect assured her. ‘But I need to know where
I stand. He has located the Last One.’ He turned to her partner. ‘Have you?’
‘Our search continues,’ Rum admitted, his voice trembling.

Inside the Spaceship

75

‘You have already taken longer than you said you would. Doctor or not, the
timegate reopens tomorrow night. We only have until then.’
‘We are aware of the deadline,’ Th´elash said firmly, in her mannish voice.
‘The delays were forced upon us – our colleague attacked a native, and as a
result the local authorities are being more vigilant. We’ve had to keep a low
profile, and spend time covering our tracks.’
‘We operate better alone,’ Rum added. ‘If you hadn’t insisted Mr Gibson came
with us, we could have operated more openly.’
The Prefect nodded. ‘That is regrettable,’ he agreed. ‘But at the same time,
this is a primitive civilisation. Are they really so much of a match for you?’
‘I know we’re being well paid,’ Rum replied. ‘We appreciate that you want a
return on your investment.’
The Prefect turned to him. ‘Your mission is a simple one,’ he reminded them.
‘We have made progress,’ Th´elash said.
‘Progress?’ the Deputy asked sceptically.
‘Sir, we have familiarised ourselves with the area.’
‘This was meant to be a snatch-and-grab operation, not a sightseeing one,’
the Deputy reminded them.
Th´elash glared at the Prefect. ‘There has always been the chance of hostil-
ities, and the need to prepare for them. The Doctor’s arrival proves we were
right to take such precautionary measures. Sir, we have been aware of the Doc-
tor’s presence since yesterday and have monitored him. It is clear that he is still
investigating this situation, sir.’
The Prefect nodded. ‘I have heard enough. We can find out from the Doctor
where the Last One is hiding.’
The Deputy began to usher the Hunters from the room.
‘Hey!’ Rum objected. ‘What happens now?’
‘Your services are no longer required.’
Th´elash dug her heels in. ‘When do we get paid?’
‘We will review that shortly,’ the Prefect promised.
‘What does that mean?’
The Deputy smiled. ‘It means if you behave, we’ll pay you. If you cause any
more trouble, then we’ll slit your throats.’

The Doctor and Debbie were sitting in silence when the door slid open and the
Prefect and the Deputy entered the reception chamber.
The Doctor raised his glass. ‘Thank you for the drink.’

76

Father Time

The Deputy smiled, his earlier gruffness replaced with an amiability that
Debbie found at least as disturbing.
‘No doubt you have many questions,’ the Prefect deduced. He was talking to
the Doctor, and barely seemed to notice her. She wondered if the women on
his planet were second-class citizens, or whether it was a more personal snub.
The Doctor nodded. ‘Where are you from?’
‘You said you were time travellers,’ Debbie reminded him.
‘We are from your future.’
‘When, precisely?’ the Doctor asked, businesslike.
‘The exact figure is difficult to calculate,’ the Deputy told them. ‘But it is
several million years hence.’
Debbie was looking over at the Doctor. ‘And that is where the Doctor is from?’
The Doctor was already shaking his head. He may not know what he was,
but he did seem to have some sense of what he wasn’t.
‘The Doctor has visited our time zone on a few occasions, but is not a native.
Now, if I may: where is the Last One?’
‘Who?’
‘Miranda,’ the Prefect explained.
The Doctor sat back in his chair. ‘Last One? Last what, precisely?’
‘The last empress of the most corrupt regime the universe has ever seen,’ the
Prefect said, letting the words hang in the air.
‘Miranda’s not an empress,’ Debbie said, laughing. ‘She’s just a girl. I remem-
ber her starting at the school.’
The Doctor winced, and put a finger to his lips.
‘So you know her as well?’ the Deputy asked.
‘I know her,’ Debbie said, defying the Doctor’s silent attempts to shut her up.
‘And she’s not some evil space queen.’
The Prefect nodded, but didn’t look at her. ‘She is not what she seems. She
contains the seeds of evil. It is her genetic destiny.’
The Doctor snorted. ‘Nonsense.’
‘She is not human, Doctor. She is the last of her kind. Power corrupted them
– they became decadent, sadistic. They believed themselves to be above all
other life forms. The lesser races were... playthings to them. Their powers
were unrivalled. They started a sequence of events that led to whole galaxies
being evacuated, whole sections of the timeline being erased. When that was
done, when most of space and time was left broken and dead, they imposed
their regime on the survivors, exterminated any opposition.’
The Prefect paused.

Inside the Spaceship

77

‘And so it was for a thousand years. The Imperial Family, rulers of the uni-
verse, answerable to no one but themselves. Millions died through their ne-
glect, their cruelty, or just for their sport. There was a Senate, but it was
powerless: it lived in fear of the Emperor.’
‘You were a Senator?’ the Doctor guessed.
The Prefect smiled. ‘Yes. There were powerful and influential factions within
the Senate. I am the ruler of Faction Klade. The Imperial family let us fight
among ourselves for scraps of power and wealth. But then we stopped fighting.
Secret meetings were held, alliances forged. A revolution was hatched. The
leader of this insurrection was my mother, a powerful Senator. And when the
conspiracy was discovered, and my mother was dragged from her home and
murdered in the street, that was when the revolution started. Fifteen years
ago. I was made to watch, holding my infant brother in my arms.’
Debbie tried to smile sympathetically. The Prefect must have been about her
age when it happened.
‘The civil war was brutal, but it was short. The Imperial Family were wiped
out, many by my own hand. A new regime rose, a more democratic system is
now in place.’

‘I like a happy ending,’ the Doctor informed him.
‘It isn’t over, yet,’ the Deputy snarled at him. ‘There’s still much rebuilding to
be done, there are still many wounds that must heal. The Prefect is a key figure
in the reconstruction.’
‘Ifthat’skeepingyoubusy, thenwhyleavetheretocomehere?’ Debbieasked.
The Prefect looked at her for the first time. ‘An intelligent question,’ he com-

mended her.
‘And the answer?’ the Doctor asked.
The Prefect smiled. ‘The war, as with all wars, saw refugees. Even before
that, to escape the political purges instigated by the Imperial Family, many
people fled into the depths of space or –’
‘The depths of time,’ the Doctor completed. ‘People used time machines to
hide in the safety of the past.’
Debbie wondered what the Doctor could be running from.
‘As their palaces and fortresses fell, some members of the Imperial Family
fled into time. With her dying breath, my mother declared a blood feud on the
Emperor and all his line...’
ThePrefectdrewaknifefromhisbelt. Ithadasix-inchblade, slightlycurved,
with an ebony handle. The blade was rusted. It looked very old, but also very
sharp.

78

Father Time

‘A ceremonial weapon,’ the Doctor guessed. ‘You’ve tracked the Imperial Fam-
ily. Hunted them down.’
There was a glint in the Prefect’s eye. ‘It was a system instigated by the
Imperial Family themselves. The terms of the feud and the rules of engagement
are clear – everyone of his blood is to die by that knife. Miranda is the Last One.
The last of her race.’
Debbie gasped. ‘You want to kill her? You want to kill Miranda?’
‘I will cut her hearts from her chest as I did with the others. And then it will
be over.’ There was a hint of regret in his voice, but not a flicker of doubt. He
would do it, given the chance.
‘Hearts?’ the Doctor echoed.
‘Members of the Imperial Family have two hearts,’ the Deputy explained. ‘It’s
how you tell their kind apart.’
The Doctor shook his head. ‘She’s a girl.’
‘Now, yes. But she will be a tyrant. It is inevitable, as inevitable as an acorn
becoming an oak. You must help me find her and stop her.’
‘You’re asking me to tell you how to find a ten-year-old girl so you can go
round and butcher her?’
The Prefect nodded earnestly. ‘For the sake of the universe. To put things

right.’

‘Whatever crimes her family committed, whatever wrong they did you, Mi-

randa is innocent.’

‘I remember her starting school,’ Debbie told him. ‘I’ve watched her grow up.
She’s never harmed anyone. She’s kind, and funny and clever and...’
‘She is evil,’ the Deputy stated simply.
The Doctor stood. ‘Can we have our coats back, please? This discussion
is over. I will not be party to the death of a ten-year-old girl, whatever her
destiny, however inevitable it is.’ The Doctor hesitated. ‘I will do everything in
my power to stop you,’ he vowed.
The Prefect nodded. But not at the Doctor’s request – he was giving a signal
to his Deputy. Debbie glanced over her shoulder, and saw that the bald man
had moved behind the Doctor. There was something in his hand. Something
metal. He raised his arm.
‘Doctor!’ she screamed. ‘Look out!’
But it was too late. The Deputy stabbed down at the Doctor’s head, slapping

something to it.

The Doctor’s legs buckled and he fell over, a glistening metal slug attached
to his scalp. It wriggled into his hair.

Inside the Spaceship

79

He scrambled, trying to get it off. He fell to his knees, his arms swiping

spastically.

When it started to bury itself in his head, the Doctor started to scream.

Chapter Eight

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