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Missing Link

By Philip Braithwaite

This story takes place directly after The Five Doctors.

Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart strolled along the grounds towards UNIT H.Q. with his colleague of old. The short man with dead straight jet black hair and a deeply lined face stared up at his old friend; old not for a Time Lord but certainly old in human terms.

The Time Lord knew why Lethbridge-Stewart was angry and still somewhat shaky, but he enquired regardless. ‘What's wrong, Brigadier? I mean, you haven't said a word the whole way home.’

Lethbridge-Stewart tried to maintain his military calm but found it difficult. ‘I'm not a Brigadier anymore I'm an old schoolteacher, and that Doctor, is what is wrong.’ The Time Lord was about to speak when Lethbridge-Stewart continued. ‘You drag me halfway across the galaxy, we meet old monsters that I was fighting almost twenty years ago and, Doctor, honestly, I'm too old for this!’

The Doctor was about to protest, but deep down he knew that Lethbridge-Stewart didn't really blame him so instead he smiled and said, ‘Just like old times eh?’

Lethbridge-Stewart grunted and looked the other way carefully concealing his own smile. The Doctor stopped walking. ‘I must go now, Brigadier.’ He said quietly.

Lethbridge-Stewart wanted to correct the Time Lord's error once again, but he was too taken aback by what the Doctor had said. Perhaps he should've expected it; after all it was the Doctor he was dealing with. ‘But why so soon?’ he asked, obviously deflated. ‘I thought you wanted to stay for my reunion, listen to my speech?’

The Doctor looked apologetic, ‘Oh, I do, I do, but, well you see...’ he looked down at the ground in shame, why should his old friend suffer because of his wrongdoings? He spoke softly. ‘I can't.’

‘Why not?’ Lethbridge-Stewart demanded.

The Doctor broke into explanation. ‘I very much wanted to, but then I realised that if I stay in any one place for too long, well...’ he gestured towards the skies above with his index finger. ‘...they might track me down.’

‘What do you mean? Who?’ insisted Lethbridge-Stewart.

‘It's a long story, Brigadier, but you see I'm sort of on the run from my people.’

‘But, Doctor, why would you be on the run from your own people?’

The Doctor contemplated explaining but instead drew an analogy. ‘Why is a criminal on the run from the police? They are his own people; they just operate on opposing sides of the law.’

‘But you, what have you done, Doctor?’ the former Brigadier asked.

The Doctor carefully chose his words, seeming almost fearful of losing his old friend's respect. ‘Brigadier, it's not exactly a matter of -’ Suddenly the Doctor cried out as he felt a searing pain from across the galaxy reach out to penetrate his skull and grip his brain like a vice. Lethbridge-Stewart looked on helplessly as the strange little man fell to his knees in agony. His eyes were red and almost freed from the grasp on their sockets. His mouth was wide open. Tears of anxiety were trickling down his face in response to the tremendous effort it was costing him to control the pain. A voice spoke inside his head; every word caused his brain to contract, every thunderous syllable echoed deafeningly through his mind.

‘Doctor.’ the voice boomed, ‘You didn't really believe you could elude us... did you?’ The grip weakened in expectation of a reply.

‘I had to try.’ The pathetic figure of the Doctor yelled to thin air. ‘Did you think I was going to sit around while you sent exiled me? While you regenerated me and removed years from my life? While you took away my time travel theory?’

The voice spoke once again, re-tightening its grip on his brain. ‘Your regeneration was a mere threat,’ the voice became louder, the grip tighter, ‘A threat that, in light of your defiance, we shall now have to carry out.’ The voice grew to unimaginable volumes and echoed throughout his entire body, the intense grip seizing his very soul. The echo of thunder shook him violently until... nothing.

All too suddenly the grip was relaxed. The Doctor's hearts cried out as his mind shattered. Lethbridge-Stewart watched in utter panic, military stoicism disregarded, as the lifeless body of the Doctor crumpled to the ground and lay there like a pile of discarded rubbish.

‘You fool! You absolute fool!’ Lethbridge-Stewart yelled at the Doctor's stationary figure. ‘Why did you have to die on me?’

The Lord President of the High Council of Gallifrey did not smile. He did not enjoy inflicting this sort of pain on anyone, let alone forcing the recipient to endure it for any length of time. But it was his duty; he used it only as a last resort. The Council had keyed the machine to the Doctor's brain pattern during the trial. They had to show him that it was unquestionably impossible to defy his superiors. Nevertheless it was torture.

The President disconnected the psycho-control machine and studied the monitor screen. He stared sadly at the lifeless figure. ‘Please do not die. Doctor. You must survive.’

Trying to determine his next move Lethbridge-Stewart peered down once again at his old friend. Would this change his own past? He must seek help. He had begun to move when his eyes flickered over the Doctor once again. Lethbridge-Stewart observed that his face was... swimming. Liquid facial features moved around his head, engulfed in a sea of colours. The features then began to settle into the shape of a new face. A familiar face. A crop of white hair, older, wrinkled skin, with a somewhat large nose. Lethbridge-Stewart decided there was only one course of action - to use that wretched contraption.

Inside the TARDIS, Lethbridge-Stewart laid the lifeless Doctor on the floor. Somehow he knew the old box would lead its owner to the right place like a loyal dog and with its master. He walked out and stood outside the cabinet. Before his eyes it dematerialised, faded out of existence, until, nothing. Lethbridge-Stewart sighed deeply, ‘Until we meet again, old friend.’

This item appeared in TSV 38 (March 1994).

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