Intersect

By Craig Young

The distance in your eyes
Oh no I've said too much
I set it up
That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no I've said too much
I haven't said enough
Losing My Religion, REM

Prologue One: North London - 1973

The yellow roadster drew to a halt, perhaps faster than its Edwardian frame should permit. Inside was a grandfatherly figure, who had enjoyed giving his UNIT associates the slip for the day, especially when it meant the company of the four young people in the car with him.

It had been a productive and unusual meeting, but the Doctor and the four telepaths had worked well together against the crisis that had developed in the planetary system of neighbouring Alpha Centauri. They were discovering Earth's responsibilities in its new-found membership of the Galactic Federation; he was once more involved in humanitarian intervention in the wider cosmos. Both the Doctor and Tomorrow People appreciated each other as peers - although there were other overtones as well.

‘So... after you returned with Jo from that alternate future, you tried to contact your grand-daughter and... found that it was in another alternate future, and not the main timestream. She's a Time Guar- er, Lord. She's all right, wherever she is.’ Carol squeezed his hand and he kissed her gently on the forehead. He would miss her when she took up her new position as Earth's first ambassador to the Galactic Federation in a month's time.

Stephen coughed. ‘Uh, I'm sorry, Doctor. I had a look at the TARDIS timedrive but it doesn't look like we can help you fix it. It's so frustrating, I know the framework involved, but I can't quite apply it.’

‘Thank you for trying, anyway, Stephen. Well, John, I'm told that you've located another one of your number.’

‘Yes, at Stephen's school. Just as well, with Carol and Kenny leaving soon, we need the reinforcement. Unfortunately, we have no idea who it might be at the moment,’ John replied.

‘I wish you all well. Keep in touch... ah, I see young Kenny has the camera ready. Come on, everyone...’

It was a photograph of a summer's day at a fairground, a moment frozen in time. In the lives of each of them, memory would recall it as a simpler and more innocent era, before descent into hell.

Prologue Two: Geneva - The 1980s

‘Alistair...’ Alison ran after the Brigadier, her face stricken. She stopped as she saw the expression of contempt on his face as he turned to stare back at her.

‘We have nothing further to say to each other. Once a government security agent, always one, eh Alison? Even at the risk of humanity?’

Perhaps because she was so used to his stoicism and adherence to classical military demeanour, his tears startled her when they came.

‘You allowed it to happen. You let the SIS convince the government that a harmless group of young, non-violent telepaths presented a security risk that had to be dealt with violently, didn't you?’

Alison felt her fists clenched against her sides. ‘Oh, stop being so self-righteous, what about you and the Silurians way back in 1970? They were a risk, they have no allegiances and they presented a risk to the security of both superpowers. What about the Vlassova incident, or had you forgotten that? Or the fact that they erased official secret data on Sorcon interstellar flight technology from our databases? I don't know why the last government let them carry on that way - misplaced liberalism, perhaps.’

‘The Silurians were xenophobes. The telepaths were a persecuted minority. In fact, the SIS has driven the government into violating the Genocide Convention.’

‘That does not specify telepaths. They are not acknowledged to exist outside the work of the late Professor Neil Causton and Government files. Where are you going?’

The Brigadier turned. ‘You may rationalise what has happened in terms of nationalistic paranoia. I cannot continue to serve in an organisation where this sort of monstrous act of state butchery is concealed. I am going to resign.’

Alison bit her lip as he walked away. She thought briefly of those fateful days back at Coal Hill in 1963 and the encounter with the Daleks. Why couldn't he see that this was another security threat of similar magnitude, and that extraordinary measures had been needed?

She smoothed back he wind-blown pinstripe tailored jacket and skirt, clutched her briefcase, and walked back through the Swiss evening calm to her office.

Prologue Three: A Gulf War - The 1990s

Brigadier Winifred Bambera would never forget the Gulf. She hadn't been there in ‘91 of course, but then the decision had been made - Hassymr akhbar al-Takriti may have replaced Saddam Hussein, but he was cut from the same cloth. Not only that, he was a far better strategist than his predecessor, but the complacency created by intensive bombardment excluded the possibility of arms caches outside Iraq.

And something else, too. As the USSR lurched toward dissolution in 1991, Iraqi strategic hacking had detected the Vlassova Incident file. General al- Takriti read the hard copy with interest, and ordered the covert testing of young Iraqis. Six months later, he assembled a potent force indeed.

Operation Scimitar struck hard and deep. A psionic barrage of electronic interference disabled all American installations in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. A psychokinetic firestorm consumed Kuwait, vengeance for an earlier humiliation.

His name was Chas. He'd come from the Merseyside and joined up to avoid the grinding unemployment and violence on the estates. During his medical, the doctors noted that his EEG theta wave readings were wedge-shaped.

Chas had wanted to train as a paramedic. He found himself forced into psi espionage work for the government. He used his developing abilities to kill through psychokinesis and implanted ideas in the heads of certain difficult political leaders.

When Winifred met him, he was serving as a medic - he'd deserted to the UN Integrated Command, outside the ability of his government to influence and abuse him. But there were jurisdictional battles then - and when the decision to launch the nuclear strike on Baghdad was made, he vanished.

Several years later, UNIT found that he had been abducted by the SIS and then used as a decoy to lure Iraqi ‘paths away from discerning the American plan until it was too late... and he had been torn apart by collective telekinesis.

She still woke up crying from the memory of the image on the archive terminal.

No, she would never forget the Gulf - the lies, the treachery, manipulation and abuse of human rights which had culminated in the ultimate obscenity.

Prologue Four: Britain

When the public outcry over the abuse of telepaths and denial of their human rights broke, a mathematics professor placed a telephone call to Channel 4. The denizens of Brandon College were puzzled as they noticed the arrival of an ITV van outside the cottage on the perimeter of the establishment.

The former Brigadier had considerable satisfaction in revealing the events of the ‘Tycho Massacre’, as it had come to be known. He smiled at the file footage, and then wistfully at the photographs of the Doctor and Doris. He wondered how he was going to explain this to his old friend when they met.

A yellowed photographic copy of the Doctor's meeting all those years ago with the original Tomorrow People lay on the table before him.

ONE

Ace watched as the Doctor looked around the deserted charnel house and almost shivered. This was almost like Gabriel Chase's place, you could feel the violence that had been done. Across the cavern, the Doctor's eyes were filled with tears as he examined the broken domes of what had once been a mobile unit of some sort. She wanted to go over and comfort him, but if she moved out of the TARDIS, she could hear screaming. The Doctor was lost in what looked like grief.

Perhaps it was their time together, for Ace would once have derived some sense of satisfaction at the apparent dent in the Doctor's customary omniscience. But he was in too much pain, because of what this place meant to him.

He stood, and walked toward her with haunted eyes. She reached out to give him some recognition of what he felt, and he took her hand. ‘Professor? I've never seen you like this. What is it?’

‘You know, Jamie told me once about Culloden and returning home to find his home in ruins and his family massacred. At one time, these people were a family to me. I should have been there to protect them, Ace...’

Spontaneously, she embraced him and held him close. She felt a sense of belonging that she couldn't explain to him, but also one of recognition. Why did she suspect that he was hiding something from her, again? The Doctor smiled at her - wistfully, almost sadly - and then they separated.

Inside the TARDIS, he checked the console, and Ace caught sight of her own readings. She frowned - it didn't make sense, what did they have to do with her? Then she noticed the similarity of her lifesigns to the others. The Doctor noticed her puzzled gaze and moved to obstruct her view, but then found himself transfixed. At that moment, Ace experienced a sharp, stabbing pain across her temples. She collapsed, and fell to the floor. The voices flooded back as if she were standing inside an immense football pitch and she sank into pain-wracked unconsciousness.

The Doctor ran to her side, holding her close. He'd been afraid this would happen, since their encounter on the Hunting World. He was about to lose her.

TWO

Elizabeth M'Bondo awoke abruptly as the alarm activated. She was the group's leader, and it seemed to be one of those times that it wasn't letting up. She telepathed to her number two. ‘Honor?’

The distinctive imprint of an American woman in her late twenties accompanied a telepath's ‘voice’ inside her head. ‘I'm already there, Liz. Cargo teleport bay.’

‘Don't open fire until I'm there. Any ideas?’

‘Okay, the Saps have discovered matter transmission independently of us... which is unlikely as that involves a technological standard comparable to interstellar flight level, which they don't have. Or it's Mike.’

‘No, Honor. He doesn't attack other telepaths.’

‘Uh huh, Liz, he just hates Saps. Suppose he's decided to extend that to Sap-lovers?’

Elizabeth sighed to herself. If she'd been half the leader John had been, then she could have kept them together during the massacre. But no... Mike and Sheila had both left after tactical disagreements. His were born of outrage, alienation and the loss of the woman he had loved - for Hsui Tai and Andrew had been killed when the attack happened. She clipped on her lapel jauntbadge and teleported herself to the New Lab's heavy mass matter transmission section.

Honor and her squad were there waiting, with the American woman wearing battle armour that covered her whole body except for her black, short-cropped hair and face. As the TARDIS materialised, she clutched her Star of David and prayed silently. The doors opened and Honor said: ‘Open fire!’

‘DON'T!’ cried Elizabeth, knocking her colleague's hyporifle away from the entrance. In the next instants, they were abruptly bowled over as a fierce and localised wind tore through the bay. An infuriated Ace stalked out.

‘I don't like being shot at -’ Then she stopped, and stared down at herself. Hairline pulses of viridian light shone around her hands. The Doctor followed her.

‘Damn it, I told you to wait,’ Elizabeth and the Doctor both said at once, angered at what their respective charges had just done. Then Elizabeth got up and said: ‘You've changed again, haven't you? It's so good to see you.’

Honor and Ace exchanged puzzled glances. Ace decided to break the ice first. ‘Uh, look, that was my fault. Let me help you up...’

Honor accepted the other woman's hand and said apologetically: ‘Nah, I fire too quickly. Once an army brat, always an army brat. Hey, that looks like heavy stuff... you always that prepared?’ She indicated the baseball bat.

‘Look, I'm Ace. Don't ask the real name, it's too girly.’

‘Honor, Honor Thurston. My old man was an Admiral in the US Navy -’

For an instant, a painful memory of a large adult form pressing into the bed, telling her not to cry out or he'd kill her, fumbling at her nightdress, flooded into her mind. Ace shook her head to dispel the personal demons.

Elizabeth and the Doctor were in conversation. ‘...so that's it. Ace is one of you. The incident on the Hunting World unleashed her latent telepath abilities, although Fenric used them to teleport her to Iceworld earlier. It took time for the changes to happen, but now they have. What happened, Elizabeth?’

‘The SIS convinced the British Government that we were a risk to national security. They'd attacked the lab once before, but this time, they killed some of us. I'm in charge now.’

‘Is John..?’

‘He tried to rescue some of the others and lost his abilities in the process. You remember Mike? He blamed John for not being prepared, and started Eclipse - it's a telepath supremacist group, heavily into retaliatory violence.’

‘Can the Federation do nothing about this..?’ enquired the Doctor.

‘Bureaucratic obscurantism. Those days seem so far away. Perhaps if we hadn't been so busy offworld, we might have noticed some of the warning signs earlier. The, uh, impetuous one is Honor, my second in command. Yes, I know it sounds militaristic, and I'm not proud of that.’

‘Do you need help, Elizabeth? I'm here to drop off Ace -’

‘You what?!’ A telepathic voice echoed in their minds - then Ace sank to her knees.

‘I have to, Ace. Look, you are a member of homo superior, like them. You belong with them.’

Ace opened her mouth to argue with him, but then hesitated. She remembered the charnel house and the looks that had crossed the faces of Elizabeth and Honor. She remembered Manisha too, and tears spilled over her eyes. ‘All right. You know me, Professor, I hate injustice with a passion. Wherever it happens, whenever it happens. Only it used to happen to other people. Guess I'm going to have to start opening up.’

In the 1970's, a network of Watchdog satellites had existed around the solar system, salvaged from defunct American and Soviet uncrewed space vehicles, and turned into a surveillance system that detected interstellar craft. With the Massacre, the network decayed as years of neglect accumulated.

One day in the late eighties, an alien artifact entered the solar system, on a cometoid trajectory. It departed once again - and because there was no-one to perceive it, a sinister expression of malicious pleasure on the face of that creature went undetected. The fool had been duped.

It had been so easy to trap the Doctor into the induced hallucination that he had tainted his memories and slanted his actions since Lakertya. Already, the consequences of the Skaro Nova were reverberating across the continuum, to name but one event that had arisen from the implant.

Delicious irony, thought the Nemesis to itself. The delusion of omnipotence on the Doctor's part was wreaking havoc in its wake, the proverbial road to hell paved with good intentions. Within its microcircuitry, the Valeyard's programme pulsed.

For seven years it crossed the void, stopping to consume planetary systems to feed its rapacious energy needs. The bulk were inhospitable to any form of life.

Then, it came across Demnos, around which orbited a waterworld dominated by aliens similar to cetaceans. Dispassionately, it plunged into the primary of the system, and swayed amidst the fires of the main sequence sun. Then, Nemesis laughed silently and her circuitry pulsed as she reached out to envelop the core - and feed on its energies.

Demnos went nova, an event that should not have occurred for several billion more years. A wavefront of heat and light coursed across space and the gentle natives of the Demnian trenches and seamounts cried out as they were scalded - before tidal pressures blew their planet apart.

And in the heart of the dying star, Nemesis laughed to herself. Then she sped away, gorged - and located the distant pinpoint of Sol in her navigation systems. With luck, this would bring the Doctor.

‘No!’ Honor said abruptly. Ace was the first to reach her.

‘Hey, are you all right? I'm the one who's... ‘breaking out’...’

Elizabeth had become grave. ‘Honor's a precog, and that sounded quite painful.’

The younger woman turned haunted eyes toward them. ‘I saw genocide. It was evil. It wants to destroy our solar system because it needs energy for some reason. Doctor, it wants you.’

Elizabeth winced, as did Ace and Honor - although several hundred light years away, the Demnian species deathcry had just hit them.

Ace frowned. ‘Honor, what did it look like?’

The image of Nemesis came into focus and the Doctor clenched his fists. ‘How..?’

‘It is the Nemesis. Professor, what have you done?’

The Doctor felt as if a chasm had opened beneath his feet. But the Nemesis was his creation, wasn't it? If it wasn't... someone was playing with his mind. He turned to leave. ‘I'm going out there to face it. Alone.’

Ace realised what was happening. She roughly grabbed his shoulder. ‘Oh no you don't, Professor. Don't you realise what's happened?’

‘Oh yes... I thought I was god. Forgive me. For never telling you about things, for the times when I manipulated you. Goodbye, Ace.’

‘What are you talking about, Professor?’

‘You will become one of the most eloquent and compassionate of your kind, Ace. All of your time with me was training for that time when you would fulfil your destiny.’

Elizabeth stepped forward. ‘Doctor, I've seen unwarranted guilt destroy another valued friend. Don't. Is is so wrong to admit that you're fallible?’

‘Yes, when my hubris contributes to the demise of billions of innocents. Elizabeth, I am proud to have known you. Never doubt your courage, your ability to love and your skills as leader. One day, they will speak of you in the same breath as King, Mandela, Romero, Ghandi and Gorbachev.’

Ace turned to Honor. ‘What happens? Will he die this time?’

She stood back and watched as the TARDIS disappeared from the New Lab, and Elizabeth began to cry. ‘I'm sorry, I couldn't tell you...’

‘You see, Ace, we encountered a different culture that dominated the structure of time/space. It was known to us as the ‘Guardians of Time’, not Time Lords. In that future, Gallifrey is so much ash.’

‘And... the Doctor?’

‘Justly, one of the greatest Time Lords, the equal of Rassilon and Omega, in other ways than contemporary. I only hope he realised that.’

The Doctor sped to meet the incoming Nemesis, as it locked onto the TARDIS. There was a moment of discomfort as the Time Lord checked the vehicle's infrastructure, aware that Nemesis would know it all to well. As to whether the craft could withstand impact with the Validium mass, that was a favourite question in Academy hyperdimensional physics exams. He wished he could remember them.

A deep sense of despair filled him as he became aware of the events of this past incarnation and what they might lead to. There was only one way to atone for it, and the Doctor realised it for what it must be.

By the time the Nemesis artifact deduced the reason for the TARDIS trajectory, it was too late for her to change course. The last moments of its existence were spent cursing its creator.

The TARDIS survived the impact, but was catapulted through the vortex. Its internal integrity was breached, and a battered and burnt Doctor lay unmoving on the vessel's floor.

His facial features blurred, and then a young man with red hair and an acne-covered face groaned. He staggered to the console to stabilise the TARDIS systems, then found the location of the Zero Room.

He passed Ace's room and touched the delete remote panel. After what seemed an eternity, he found the Zero Room and entered recovery phase. His hibernation was filled with distorted dreams of the recent past and nightmares of an uncertain future.

Epilogue: London - Mid-1990s

The swirl of dust from the disused warehouse died away as Ace stepped from the site she'd appeared at. No-one noticed anything unusual amongst the party noises, as the legend read: COMPANIONS OF THE DOCTOR REUNION. She passed a striking red-headed bloke with a gorgeous backside (which she pinched) and hoped Mel hadn't noticed her. Nothing personal, but the Doctor had told her what he'd really thought of her interminable exercising and somewhat manic personality.

Polly and a tall woman with an Australian accent (Tegan? It must be!) were having a political argument. A younger man cleared his throat.

‘Hello, my name's Brendan, Richards. When were you with the Doctor?’

‘The last time I saw him, it must have been his seventh incarnation. I know he survived, it's just that the last time I saw him, he'd tried to tackle something beyond his control.’

‘I'm here for my aunt. She would have made it, but she's covering a narcotics story in Latin America. Perhaps you've heard of her - Sarah Jane Smith, the journalist?’

‘Yes, I have. Look, I was so sorry to hear about Harry Sullivan. I hope she got my card.’

‘Ah yes, Ace. Yes, she really appreciated it. Ah, I see someone else. Excuse me.’

Tegan was stalking away from Polly, angry. She stopped as she caught sight of Ace. ‘Hi. Tegan Jovanka.’

‘Ace. Ace Dudman. Yeah, I know, Polly's such a Tory bigot. That an Aussie land rights t-shirt?’

‘Yeah, I decided to combine business with pleasure. I've seen you on the telly, haven't I? That's right, you were the telepath who stopped the Eclipse bombing raids.’

‘Yours would have been the fifth one, right? Mine was the seventh. We had a run-in during the time I was with him that suggested he did have a future incarnation beyond that, but I wish I knew more.’

‘It's a shame Tree isn't here. She was last year, she was apparently one of his companions during his eighth incarnation. Something pretty traumatic must have happened.’

‘Yeah. Uh, you know Mel, she of the high decibels? The story is that the Rani, a renegade Time Lord, attacked the TARDIS, and planted these memories in his mind. You know what he's like, he'll keep flagellating himself for a moment when he was vulnerable to suggestion.’

‘I accused him of being heartless and cold when I left, he'd just wiped out a Dalek detachment with no remorse.’

‘While I was with him, Skaro itself was destroyed. That must have been part of the false memory implantation, I don't know. It could have been something to do with Susan's death, though.’

‘You know, when they told me about you, I thought you were this aggressive street fighter type. But... you look like a strong, resourceful and very compassionate woman now.’

Ace smiled. ‘Thanks. Anything that happened to me is due to him and what he did for me. I'll never forget him.’

This item appeared in Timestreams 4 (April 1992).

Index nodes: Fiction