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By Alden Bates

The Doctor's eleventh incarnation strode into the laboratory in the Capitol centre.

He feared that his body was reaching the end of the line, and it was for this reason that he had come to Gallifrey to rest. His eternal quest to find others of his own race was fruitless; all that he had found were beings of hate and evil. Even the idea of a new home planet seemed distant and forgotten. His only hope was to find another stepping stone in the race for existence.

In this incarnation, he was an elderly man with noble features and short gray hair. The staff he carried at his side had been acquired sometime during his eighth incarnation. It was charged with psychic energies. His current costume indicated rather less tactfully that his dress sense remained intact.

The laboratory contained his TARDIS, a large amount of machinery and two of the local inhabitants.

The TARDIS was still in its eternal shape of a battered blue police box, however it was now more battered than ever. Its outer shell was damaged beyond repair by centuries of misuse. On one side the police box sign had been partially burnt away, the result of the last narrow escape from the terminally paranoid Daleks. The other sides were pitted extensively.

It had not broken down completely, but it was well on the way...

Otherwise, the laboratory was a collection of consoles. They were all connected to a tall arch which the TARDIS stood beneath. The Doctor mused that for all he knew about the experiment that he had been called here to participate in, they might as well have been trying to construct an interdimensional TARDIS-wash.

Seated before two of the consoles, one on either side of the arch, were two Time Lords, a male and a female. The Time Lady he knew. Frelan had been a tutor at the academy at the time when the Doctor attended. She was well over twelve hundred and thirty. The younger Time Lord was no less well known.

Drenal was touted as the next Rassilon. The Doctor had quite seriously thought that he himself held this position, but upon looking at the child's thesis, he revised his opinion. Drenal had shown great interest in the Doctor and his renegade life, some called it teetering on the edge of idolisation. His creativity was being aided and guided by Frelan.

Drenal looked up in awe as the Doctor entered the roam. Frelan seemed to be ignoring him, concentrating on setting the controls. By now it was common knowledge that although the renegade appeared for all intents and purposes to be a Time Lord, he was actually billions of years older. It was also known that he was in a perpetual search for a new, more advanced race than the Time Lords to join. What he referred to as the next stepping stone.

The Doctor smiled benignly al the young boy. Drenal smiled back and manipulated the controls for power up. The Doctor considered briefly offering him a job as companion but the bay war probably so used to Gallifreyan life that danger would offend him.

‘So what is this great experiment I find myself volunteered for?’ he asked, wandering over to examine some scratched paint work on the TARDIS.

Drenal turned from the console to explain. ‘No doubt you know how Rassilon discovered that the space/time continuum has a time dimension of its own.’

‘Yes, yes, hyper-time he called it. He locked Gallifrey into a time bubble so that all the clocks ran on hyper-time and roped the TARDIS interiors into it as well. Made it impossible to travel into Gallifrey's past. All so that the Time Lords would outlast the other races of the Universe.’ The Doctor frowned. The time bubble had caused him no end of trouble.

‘Well we intend to hypertime travel,’ Drenal told him excitedly

The Doctor quickly realized that this meant that he could travel into Gallifrey's past and meet Rassilon in the flesh. He'd always suspected that Rassilon was one of his own race. If he could fit the TARDIS with a full unit...

‘All we really need you to do is to observe from within the TARDIS. We will project you forward approximately five thousand years, then bring you back,’ Drenal continued. ‘We have successfully done it over small time distances with inanimate objects. This should be easy.’

‘The question is, will there be any affect on animate objects?’ the Doctor interrupted quickly. ‘Namely me.’

‘Your TARDIS should protect you.’ Frelan assured him. ‘There is of course a risk of dismemberment.’

‘Pleasant,’ the Doctor balked. He paused on the threshold of the TARDIS. ‘Any other advice you'd like to give me before my atoms are scattered to the eight corners of the continuum?’

‘I don't think that will happen,’ said Frelan thoughtfully. ‘Just don't leave your TARDIS. The field of this device is small, if you are outside you will probably be left behind.’

‘Thanks,’ the Doctor replied heavily before going inside.

There was a moment's work as Drenal and Frelan moved controls. Finally Frelan turned to her companion. ‘Are you sure about what we are doing?’

Drenal didn't make eye contact.

‘Pass,’ he uttered, pulling the last lever.

The arch pulsed with light, bathing the TARDIS in a warm glow. There was a crackling noise and the TARDIS faded away.

‘It worked,’ announced Drenal triumphantly as they powered down the equipment. But the crackling noise continued to grow.

Three men materialised in the centre of the room and the crackling died down. All three, although humanoid, were exceptionally tall. The leader almost scraped his head on the top of the arch as he walked through.

‘I really don't think you should be here,’ Frelan told them, producing a staser pistol.

The leader of the three men stepped forward.

‘You are experimenting with hyper-time. You are tampering with forbidden knowledge.’ The voice was unnatural, booming all around them, the man's lips didn't even move.

‘Forbidden by whom?’ Drenal asked.

‘By our high council,’ the man said. ‘We are the masters of hyper-time. You are tampering with forces unknown to you.’

Frelan was indignant. ‘We have authorization from the High Council of Time Lords.’

Drenal didn't catch the invader's next words but realized what was about to take place as the three men stiffly raised their arms. Three beams of energy cut through the consoles and archway, the putrid stench of burning plastic filled the air. The invaders lowered their arms.

Frelan's staser was set on kill. The beam from her weapon played around the lead invader for a minute before he turned away and calmly returned to the spot where he and his fellows had materialized.

‘You are to permanently cease all research into hyper-time travel.’ the first man told them before the trio vanished.

Frelan and Drenal looked at each other in bemusement. The Time Lords had just been given some of their own medicine.

‘But what about the Doctor?’ Drenal pointed out.

The Doctor was wondering that himself.

After a brief shudder the TARDIS had come to rest. All the displays indicated that it had landed. However when he activated the scanner and the wood paneling slid back, all that appeared on the screen was the gray of the Continuum. He strode around the TARDIS' secondary console room, deep in thought. A single light flashing on the small hexagonal console, indicating that something was moving outside.

‘Doctor.’ The voice boomed around the console room.

The Doctor started. The audio circuits for the scanner were inoperative, and even if they were there was no atmosphere in the Continuum to conduct any vibrations.

‘Step outside your machine.’ the voice boomed again.

‘I would not survive, he shouted back. ‘I am not built for the vortex.’

‘An area has been prepared.’

The Doctor looked at the scanner screen, the picture seemed to writhe and change until it was transformed into a Grecian temple with fluted pillars and a high marble ceiling. Instantly the Doctor changed tack.

‘I must stay in my vessel,’ he protested. ‘My friends intend to transport me back.’

‘That is no longer possible. You must come out. You are stranded,’ the voice told him.

The Doctor checked the readings. They indicated a Gallifreyan atmosphere and conditions. If only the other console room wasn't being repaired he would know more...

Resigned to his fate he stepped outside.

The first thing that struck him was that the actual temple differed from the image on the scanner screen. Large portions of the columns and room had vanished, although what remained hung there quite happily.

He realized that his eyes could only cope with three dimensions, unlike the scanner which could translate the extra time dimension.

A distinctly odd-looking object was floating towards him. It seemed to be composed of several disjoint shapes which were somehow invisibly joined. As if this wasn't enough, parts slid in and out of reality as it moved.

‘Where am I?’ he shouted at the object.

‘The space/time continuum of course.’ the creature boomed at him. ‘I am one of the masters of hyper-time.’

‘No, I mean what is this temple doing slapped in the middle of a busy intersection.’

‘Simply a mental projection. You will remain unharmed as long as you do not leave this area.’ the master told him.

‘Thank you, now when am I?’ the Doctor attempted to boom back. The effect was lost in the spacious temple.

‘You are some four million years in the future, three and three quarter million years after your race destroyed the last Chronovore,’ was the reply.

‘How were the Chronovores destroyed?’

The being paused slightly. ‘A great time implosion. After that there were no predators to prevent us from evolving. We learned to project our mental selves into your three dimensional universe, appearing as natives to prevent your race from destroying us as well.’

‘Fascinating,’ the Doctor said dryly. ‘How long do you intend on keeping me here?’

‘Not long.’ the master shuffled around. ‘We wish you to take a message to your people, the Time Lords.’

‘They are not my people. What is the message?’

‘Not to tamper with hyper-time. They are more likely to obey if it is you who tells them instead of us.’ The master turned as three of its fellows approached.

‘We have carried out our mission.’ the lead master announced. ‘The Time Lord equipment was destroyed.’

‘Oh very clever.’ the Doctor yelled up at the creatures. ‘How do you expect me to deliver your message if I am stranded?’

The original master turned back to him. ‘One of us will go with you and fit your craft with a hyper-time travel unit. When you have been returned, they will remove the unit and return to our time.’

‘Very well. I will do it,’ the Doctor consented calmly and moved to the TARDIS.

As he entered the control room, he noted that the promised master was already there, disguised as a very tall man in a multicoloured one piece costume. A large gray box sat throbbing on one panel of the console, attached by numerous wires.

The Doctor operated the controls, setting the co-ordinates for the Gallifreyan laboratory. That done, he stepped back.

The master carefully manipulated several controls on the box. The Doctor watched carefully.

‘Why can't the Time Lords attempt hyper-time travel?’ he asked casually.

‘It is too dangerous. If they tamper with the time lines... The Doctor saw the picture on the scanner dissolve. It was, he realized, a direct analogy of the way the Time Lords treated other races who were attempting time travel. And like those other races the Time Lords were unlikely to comply.

Finally the police box shuddered to a halt. On the screen could be seen the devastated lab and Drenal and Frelan staring stunned at the TARDIS.

Sighing, he operated the door control.

Frelan and Drenal watched the Doctor emerge with the tall master.

‘What happened?’ Drenal asked immediately.

‘They want a stop to hyper-time experiments,’ the Doctor said gently. ‘I suggest compliance. They obviously know what they are doing.’

Frelan raised an eyebrow. ‘What are you saying? That they will destroy us if we disobey?’

The Doctor looked at the master, whose expression did not change. ‘Most probably. I will now allow this kind gentleman to remove the hyper-time unit and return to his people.

The master nodded and the Doctor followed him quietly into the TARDIS. What can be mentally created can be mentally destroyed he reasoned, raising the staff with both hands above his head.

The master froze within feet of the console as the Doctor began to pronounce the ancient words that would condition his mind for the effort.

‘...Umbar Hemate!’ he finished, shouting. The staff was glowing with a magical light. The master slowly turned around to face the Doctor.

‘What are you doing?’ it managed to gasp before the mental image was ejected back to the vortex it had come from.

The Doctor lowered the staff and examined the console. The gray box was still attached and now he would have the freedom of Hyper-time in which to roam.

He realized that the masters of hyper-time were the next stepping stone; he must become one to survive. Quickly he set the unit to lake him back to the temple.

The unit began to throb faster. The screen image faded once more.

A small blue police box spun into hyper-time - to be met by an on rushing bolt of mental energy. The TARDIS spun out of its flight path...

The Doctor lay groaning on the floor. Beside him the magical staff lay twisted, blackened and useless. Something began to rush through him.

What rose from the floor was no longer the Doctor. The mental onslaught had snapped him completely. The being was full of evil.

The Valeyard stood up, shaken. The TARDIS at least was intact. The gray box still throbbed away on the console but there was no longer any clue as to where or when it was taking him.

He looked down at the tattered clothing he wore and wondered briefly how he would look in black. His mind focused on the whirling images on the scanner screen.

Then post regeneration trauma set in...

Author's note: This story was the last I wrote which used the theory I put forward in the Future's Lost series in Timestreams 4 that the Doctor actually originated pre-Big-Bang and just happened to be masquerading as a Time Lord. The magic staff he carried was from the Arthurian world from Battlefield.

This item appeared in TSV 33 (April 1993).

Index nodes: Fiction