Companions of the Doctor

By Paul Scoones

For one of those rare times in his long life, the Doctor was alone. Companionless.

Leela had stayed behind on Gallifrey for reasons which, the Doctor found difficult to fathom. He wasn't entirely sure as to why he'd visited his home planet in the first place.

Leela wasn't the only companion to desert him on Gallifrey. His - supposedly - faithful robot dog K9 had also stayed behind, proving despite all the claims to the contrary, that artificial intelligences do have a will of their own. The loss of K9 was not too distressing for the Time Lord who had been working on a new improved model of Professor Marius' creation, and now that the original was gone he felt justified in completing the Mark II version.

The TARDIS workshop was an enormous room filled with benches, lathes, and equipment for making or repairing practically anything. The Doctor had cleared off one of the worktops, and was now putting the final touches on the memory wafer assembly, the final component in completing the automaton's construction.

This done, he used his trusty sonic screwdriver to seal the specially hardened alloy panels and tapped out a sequence on the metal dog's control panel.

‘Activate,’ the Doctor commanded.

The optic screen glowed red, and the head lifted with a faint whirr of servos. ‘K9 Mark II activated,’ came the computer voice in a fair approximation of the original's. ‘Operational status one hundred percent, Master.’

The Doctor beamed delightedly, and commenced a series of tests which, would establish if, as he hoped, this K9 was indeed a significant improvement on the original.

‘No,’ declared Leela stubbornly.

‘What do you mean, 'No'?’ asked Andred. ‘You can't wear that barbarian outfit to President Borusa's inauguration ceremony!’

‘Who said anything about going?’ demanded Leela, adopting a determined stance in the middle of her temporary quarters.

‘But you're to be my wife. You must...’

Leela grimaced. ‘You are much less clever than you seem. I have no wish to be your mate.’

This revelation left Andred understandably speechless. When he recovered his voice, he asked, ‘Then why did you tell the Doctor that was what you wanted?’

‘Because he might not have let me stay if he knew what I planned. That's why!’ Leela started collecting a few supplies together in a small bag.

‘And what is your plan?’ Andred was beginning to wish he'd never encountered this feisty warrior.

‘Join Nesbin and the Outsiders again, of course,’ Leela replied as if there were never any doubt. ‘They are the closest I have encountered to my own way of life in my travels with the Doctor.’

Andred's expression betrayed his disbelief. He could not comprehend that anyone would wilfully choose to live in the wastelands beyond the controlled environment of the Capitol. ‘Aren't you happy here?’

Leela gestured at the sparsely decorated chambers. ‘This is your world, Andred. I prefer to feel the earth underfoot, see the sky above my head and the wind in my face.’ She slung the carry-bag over her shoulder, picked up her hunting knife and sheathed it as she made for the door.

‘You're leaving now?’

Leela turned back to face Andred. ‘Why not?’ She studied Andred's features critically and deduced he was sorry to see her go. She did like him a bit. ‘Why not come with me?’

Andred sighed. ‘My life, my work is in the Capitol. If you sure, then I shall make sure you're permitted to leave without fuss.’

‘I am sure,’ said Leela, and then unexpectedly embraced the Guard Commander. ‘Thank you, Andred.’

To the Doctor's delight, K9 was functioning perfectly, including the many subtle modifications. He set the dog down on the floor and put his coat and scarf back on as he moved towards the door.

‘Danger, Master,’ said K9 suddenly. ‘Do not proceed.’

‘Nonsense, K9. The TARDIS is a perfectly safe impenetrable environment,’ replied the Doctor indignantly. Obviously there were still adjustments to be made to the robot's sensors.

‘Sensors detect a hostile presence in the TARDIS, Master,’ insisted K9.

‘There's absolutely no cause for alarm,’ the Doctor assured him, and pulled open the door.

Stepping into the corridor, he discovered he was not as alone as he had thought. A pair of squat, ugly humanoids wearing black and silver space armour and carrying large bulky-looking blasters were waiting for him.

One of them stepped forward, raising his weapon menacingly. Small red eyes studied the Doctor intently and a harsh, guttural whisper issued from the thin, lipless mouth. ‘You are our prisoner, Dok-tor. You will pilot this ship to our homeworld, or you will die.’

They were Sontarans.

‘Maxil!’

The burly figure of the Deputy Guard Commander swung round suddenly at the sound of Andred's voice and came to attention. ‘Sir!’

Andred hurried across the Panopticon hall with Leela in tow. ‘Maxil, I want you to personally oversee the co-ordination of the Guard of Honour. I shall be back to take command as soon as I have attended to another matter. Until then you have full control.’

Maxil saluted. ‘Understood, sir.’

Andred studied his features for a moment. Did he detect a slight smile there? He didn't completely trust Maxil; the man was too ambitious and ruthlessly inflexible in his job, but unless he put a foot wrong, he would succeed Andred as Guard Commander.

Andred nodded for Maxil's benefit, and then took Leela's hand and hurried off.

Maxil stared after them impassively. He disliked strangers on Gallifrey. There was no place for them in Gallifreyan society. Maxil hoped that the new President's Castellan would take a dim view of Andred's involvement with the alien woman and retire him early, allowing Maxil the top position in the Capitol Guard.

Savouring his dreams of greatness, Maxil hurried off to assemble the Guard.

The Doctor sat slumped in his favourite armchair in a corner of the console room, watching the rhythmic rise and fall of the time rotor. He was all too uncomfortably aware of the blaster barrel aimed at his forehead and the oily breath of the Sontaran standing guard over him. His companion stood at the console, keeping a constant watch on the computer screens to ensure they were still on course for the planet Sontar.

The Doctor slowly reached into his pocket and drew out a paper bag. He held it out to the nearest of his captors. ‘Would you care for a jelly baby?’ he inquired politely.

‘Silence!’ ordered the Sontaran harshly, and struck the proffered bag of sweets across the room. The Doctor snatched back his hand, wincing in pain at the force of the Sontaran's blow.

‘Patience, Starn,’ recommended his guard's colleague. ‘We will soon be home where we shall present the Dok-tor and his TARDIS in triumph.’

The Doctor chose not to think about what would happen to him then. His mind drifted instead to the question of how the Sontarans came to be on board his TARDIS. He had no recollection of how he escaped from certain death when he was captured after the TARDIS was drawn to the flagship of the Vardan warfleet. The next thing he remembered was waking up on the Panopticon floor wearing the Sash of Rassilon. From what he could gather from Leela, Borusa and the others, he had been instrumental in foiling an invasion of Gallifrey - or rather two invasions; one by the Vardans and another by the Sontarans, during which time he had temporarily held the office of the President of Gallifrey, but his own memory was blank. All he could suppose was that the two Sontarans currently holding him prisoner were survivors of the invasion who had somehow managed to secret themselves aboard the TARDIS.

A tall, aristocratic woman with dark hair which, fell in long curls sat in a chair in front of a row of monitor screens and wished she was somewhere else. In short, she was bored. Years of research at the Academy, specialising in history (local and general galactic, with an emphasis on the rise and fall of great empires), as well as a thorough grounding in Temporal Technologies with a Triple Alpha at graduation, had all seemingly counted for nothing, as here she was, stuck in front of a bank of computers at Capitol Control.

She looked up disinterestedly as Guard Commander Andred entered the room with an alien-looking woman in tow. They approached her desk.

‘I require access for the outer doors in this sector,’ he told her, and presented his security pass.

She feed it into the reader and waited for the request to register. ‘Will that be all, Commander?’ she inquired.

‘No. I also need to make an amendment to the Gallifrey population records. Redefine Leela, native of the planet Mordee, as a voluntary Outsider.’

The Time Lady looked up, mildly interested in the unusual request. Her eyes briefly locked with Leela's, and then passed on. ‘A Shobogan recruit?’ she inquired.

‘You know of them?’ asked Leela.

‘Gallifreyan history and society is a special topic of mine.’ she explained, pleased to be able to demonstrate that she had more education than her current job demanded. Andred and Leela watched on as the Time Lady made the entry on the computer keyboard.

Moments later, the reader spat out Andred's security pass. ‘Access to the outer doors has been granted,’ she told them.

‘Thank you,’ said Andred, and led Leela away.

The Time Lady cleared the screen and slumped back in her chair once more, but before she had time to relax, a message began printing itself across the screen in glowing letters. It was a request to go to a particular room in the Capitol at the conclusion of her workshift. Nothing indicated its origin; even the customary identifying chapter seal was absent.

Immediately, she set up a search routine within the computer network to trace its source, and perhaps even its sender; nothing can be logged onto the Gallifreyan computer network without first identifying oneself. At least that was the theory.

The tracer report came back within a few seconds: Negative. No one had entered that message on any screen.

A systems fault, she decided. It was the only explanation.

And then the message formed on the screen once more. This time it requested her by name; her name.

Romanadvoratrelundar.

The time rotor shuddered to a halt, and the Doctor's guard - the Sontaran known as Starn - pulled him roughly from his chair.

‘Alright,’ protested the Doctor. ‘There's no need for that. I was about to get up anyway.’

Starn shoved him towards the console. The Doctor staggered and fell against it.

‘Open the door, Dok-tor,’ said the other Sontaran.

The Doctor considered resisting. Eventually they would probably kill him. But if he obeyed, the Sontarans might just let their guard down long enough for him to slip away. He shrugged and opened the doors.

The Sontarans then marched him out of the TARDIS.

They found themselves in a small chamber, dominated by a large, intricate-looking machine, consisting of a sophisticated-looking console and an attached archway lined with small scan sensors of a type the Doctor didn't recognise.

‘Where are we?’ inquired the Doctor. ‘Are you sure this is Sontar?’

‘Of course,’ replied Starn. ‘This is one of our duplication chambers.’

‘Ah, so that's what this device is,’ said the Doctor. ‘I thought you Sontarans used a genetic process for cloning.’

Starn's comrade pulled out his communicator and identified himself as Varg, and then asked for a squad to he sent to them to seize the Doctor.

‘Genetics enable us to improve our characteristics, but to expand the size of our glorious Sontaran armies, we simply use a duplicator on the newly-cloned individuals.’ explained Starn. One thing about Sontarans, thought the Doctor, is that they can never resist the opportunity to show off their superiority.

The Doctor, however, had used the opportunity to discreetly pull a small dog whistle from his pocket and put it to his lips. He blew hard and fast, and then hurriedly returned it to his pocket.

‘This duplicator is a triumph of Sontaran technology...’ went on Starn.

‘Yes, yes. I quite agree,’ said the Doctor. ‘Now why are we waiting in here?’

Varg swung round. ‘We are waiting for the arrival of a troop, at which time we shall display you and your craft as our prizes of war. We did not conquer Gallifrey, but with you and your TARDIS, we shall still have mastery of time!’

The Doctor suddenly ducked behind the machine. ‘Really? And what makes you think that?’

Starn lumbered towards him.

The Doctor flicked a switch on the console, and the machine hummed into operation. ‘Come on step closer, and I'll set this on overload,’ threatened the Doctor.

‘You lie,’ claimed Starn. ‘Destroy the duplicator, and you will die as well.’

‘That's a risk I'm prepared to take,’ replied the Doctor. ‘K9!’

The Doctor's fully operational new-improved robot dog shot out of the TARDIS and advanced towards the Doctor.

Varg swung round to blast the dog, but K9 shot his weapon from his hand. The small robot then manoeuvred quickly to avoid a shot from Starn's gun, and motored through the duplicator archway to join the Doctor.

‘Back to the TARDIS!’ ordered the Doctor, and ran for the welcoming sanctuary of his craft. Behind him, he could hear K9 firing stun pulses at his former captors. The Doctor fled inside, and waited for K9 to follow - and they did. There were now two K9's. The duplicator machine had made a perfect copy.

The Doctor hurriedly shut the doors and dematerialised the TARDIS.

Outside, Starn and Varg were slowly recovering as the door burst open and a number of Sontaran troopers swarmed in - only to witness the departure of a rather noisy police box...

Romanadvoratrelundar located the room from the message, and knocked. The door opened automatically, and she entered, to find herself in a dense mist, illuminated by an amber light, which appeared to come from all directions. The door shut behind her.

‘Hello?’ she said hesitantly.

A faint creak of wickerwork came from in front of her, and the mist slowly cleared to reveal a figure dressed in ornamental Gallifreyan robes sitting in a high-backed wicker chair, beside a round bamboo table. Romanadvoratrelundar moved closer, and was surprised to find she was in the company of President Borusa of Gallifrey. She bowed her head in respect. ‘Lord President, I am Romanadvoratrelundar.’

‘I know who you are, child. I have selected you for a task of the greatest importance,’ he began, and produced from beneath his robes a slender wand-like object, which he pressed into her hands. ‘Tell me,’ he continued. ‘ Have you heard of one of your race, a man known as 'The Doctor'...?’

Hillview Road in South Croydon, circa 1978, was a quiet sleepy place, and the arrival of the TARDIS in one of the front gardens went completely unnoticed.

Inside the Console Room, the Doctor bent over one of the K9's. There was no way of telling whether this was the one he had constructed or the duplicated one - they were completely identical - even down to memory. The other K9 had been deactivated by the Doctor temporarily.

‘Now, you are called K9 Mark 3, understood?’ said the Doctor.

‘Affirmative.’

‘You are to be a gift to Sarah Jane Smith. The Earth year is 1978. I want you to give her this message when you speak to her. Give Sarah Jane Smith my fondest love. Tell her I shall remember her always.’

‘Affirmative, Master.’

‘Activate when you hear this voice,’ commanded the Doctor, and operated a control on the console. It was a seldom-used device similar to an aircraft flight recorder, which recorded all activity in the TARDIS. The Doctor had found a place on the tape. A female voice floated out over the speakers.

‘I can't believe it. After all this time you've finally managed to get me home,’ said the voice. ‘Yes, well I'd better be off then...’

The Doctor shut off the recording. ‘Voice pattern logged,’ confirmed K9.

The Doctor smiled. K9 was the best gift he could give his former companion. Once he had delivered the robot dog, he decided he'd have a long, holiday - alone...

This item appeared in Timestreams 1 (August 1990).

Index nodes: Fiction