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By Phillip J Gray

The TARDIS spun erratically through the maelstrom of space, gyrating wildly as each stomach-churning tumble propelled the craft further onwards through the empty wastes of space. The battered blue exterior with its chipped framework and peeling surface belied the true nature of the shuddering box; the innocent outer form concealed sophistication far more advanced than anything on Earth, let alone a metropolitan police box. The TARDIS was a living machine, a combination of sentient awareness and engineering far beyond the dreams of the most brilliant Earth scientists of the twentieth century.

Nevertheless the weathered and aged shell of the TARDIS did reflect to a very high degree the unpredictability of the inside machinery, advanced though it was. Like all beings and engines, although faithful to its purpose and its original specifications, it often experienced illness. This particular TARDIS was a very old model. It had been very old when it had been 'borrowed' by its current occupant. Every so often it had periods of illogical behaviour. These manifested themselves within the delicate synapses and circuitry, and resulted in erratic changes in behaviour and function.

At this precise moment, deep within the TARDIS, the owner was attempting to use his eponymous talents to cure some of the more obvious eccentricities in the craft.

Cursing fluently, the Doctor spat at a particularly innocuous-looking tangle of wires and circuitry protruding from an open roundel deep within one of the corridors of the TARDIS. At this particular point in his time stream, the Doctor was occupying his sixth incarnation. This personality had the acerbic wit, and most definitely much of the arrogance of his first and third personae ascendant. Corporeally he was a tall and strongly built man, with a powerful body topped by an arresting shock of carrot-coloured hair. His feline features were dominated by a noble brow and a voluptuous mouth, which gave an overall air of superciliousness.

The Doctor was trying to effect some repairs with a high degree of failure. He jabbed at the gently waving wires before him, and then scowled as the strands reacted like some minuscule Medusa, retreating and emitting a high-pitched squeak before settling back into their previous positions.

Annoyed, the Doctor stuffed the filaments back into the roundel and sighed theatrically. He bent down and grasped the strangely contoured tools scattered on the floor and shoved them randomly into the pockets of his enormous patchwork coat. The coat was something of which the Doctor was extremely fond; despite the protestations of his current companion in her many attempts to dissuade him as to its sartorial elegance.

The Doctor frowned as his senses detected the approach of his current companion. Instinct told him to hide. This was not for any dislike or inherent animosity towards Mel, but because of her insistence upon his diet. A ridiculous idea if ever he heard one. He trotted out of the room, darted down a couple of passageways and through a dusty enclave, down several flights of steps... He panted as he jogged, reflecting wryly that he was fulfilling Mel's intention by evading her! Slowly he looked around him in moderate amusement as he realised he was in a part of the TARDIS he rarely visited; in fact he had not been here for several of his regenerations.

The room he had entered absent-mindedly was large. It was a perfect reflection of the miracle of dimensional transcendentalism that featured so prominently in the design of the ship. The Doctor's ears registered the soft footsteps behind him, and he turned to watch Mel come through the entranceway. Her petite figure was framed against the doorpost as she gazed about her interestedly. Mel was a young woman who had a very definite opinion of herself and she was already asserting her presence.

She was holding a small book. Idly the Doctor wondered why she had followed him so deep into the TARDIS as the girl crossed the dusty floor towards him. ‘Doctor.’

‘Mmm?’ replied the thoughtful Time Lord as he saw Mel open the book at the title page.

‘Who was Peri?’ came the question that he had not expected. It came like a knife stabbing at his memory, tearing apart the carefully prepared wall of forgetfulness around that part of his mind. He reacted savagely, snatching the book from her hands and hurling the tome away to the other side of the room in a futile attempt at denial.

Mel was bewildered at the sudden change in his behaviour. She backed away with the dawn of fear in her eyes. She turned and ran for the console room, suddenly afraid at the raw emotion she had seen in his eyes.

The Doctor sank to the floor, cradling his face in pain. The reminder of the tragic death of his former companion had sent his mind reeling and had destroyed the superficial barrier of memory deadening the pain. It shook him to the core to realize that he had been directly responsible for the death of his young American friend. He had sent her to her death in a callous act that had cut through his consciousness with all the pain of battle. In his almost indecent haste to erase her he had completely neglected the long Gallifreyan process of grieving. He had failed to confront the spiritual loss that her death had sundered within him.

The Doctor sat silently; re-living Perils travels with him in the cathartic Time Lord grieving process. He remembered her first encounter with him, before his regeneration. In the depths of his mind he saw her rescued by Turlough, the enigmatic boy whom he had never really understood. In many ways he had seen her as a kind of replacement for Tegan.

Tegan. Deeper memories welled up inside him and he experienced the moment of Tegan's departure, her disgust at his apparent callousness. He moved on to Peri again, and a kaleidoscope of images burst upon him. He remembered Peri after his regeneration, during the terrible time when he had lost all self-control, after the desperate events on Androzani Minor.

He felt the shame of a criminal as he relived her terrified expression when he had tried to... strangle her. He forced himself to remember everything. Her eventual acceptance of his new, acidic personality. The Doctor followed Peri through their journeys and experiences on a hundred planets, in a hundred situations. Peri, sitting beside him as he fished for gumblejack. Peri, with her hair streaming out behind her laughing with delight at the exhilaration of the Ferris wheel at Blackpool...

He sat bolt upright. His reverie had been interrupted by a deep and sonorous noise that pervaded all the depths of the TARDIS. Instinctively he realised that Mel was using the only thing she knew would wake him from his seclusion. The Cloister Bell rang again, and he struggled to his feet. He had not dispensed with his grief, but he had succeeded in fulfilling the ritual of remembrance. He had lessened the pain that had seemed to have been quietly gnawing at his hearts forever. Slowly he walked out of the room, silently closing the door behind him.

Instead of taking the same route back to the console room, he made a deliberate diversion to another part of the TARDIS. He boarded a small escalator and ascended to another level, gravely striding past countless rooms and passages until he found what he was looking for. It was a small cloistered room, half-hidden behind some crumbling columns. He paused to collect his maze of thoughts before sliding open the door. The room was randomly dotted with plinths. The Doctor crossed to one of the surrounding walls and lifted a small statue, revealing a small series of dials underneath.

He turned several of the dials and retreated to the entrance. In front of him a few of the plinths began to flicker. Slowly the spaces at the tops of the columns began to solidify into familiar features. The Doctor watched silently as the faces appeared before him, a panorama of all the people who had been such an important part of his many lives.

Long ago he had created this room as a remembrance of all those who had accompanied him in the fourth and fifth dimensions. He advanced past the columns and saw the innocent face of his loving granddaughter Susan. He stopped to allow himself to smile at the pretty blonde features of Jo. Sarah Jane... Nyssa... the whimsical features of both of Romana's regenerations. He thought of Romana and K9 in E-Space. That led him to... Adric. Painful recollections washed over him again. No - he must concentrate upon...

He came upon her at the final plinth on the far side of the room. It held Peri's exquisite face. He stopped and stared.

She was crying...

This item appeared in TSV 30 (September 1992).

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