The dumbfounded Klaus lay staring up at the Doctor, not quite believing the force that had just been exerted against him. The man standing over him was incredibly strong. What should have followed was for his own gun to be held on him and several threats and/or demands to be made. Instead, his assailant simply helped the boy that he had been accosting to his feet.
The Doctor regarded the stunned officer a moment before sighing heavily. “Oh, do get up, Major. I didn’t hit you that hard,” he admonished as he crossed to the unconscious Jason and knelt down beside him.
“Too bad,” Turlough grumbled, rubbing his bruised shoulder. He looked at the figure stretched out on the floor and caught his breath. “Doctor, that’s—”
“Yes, I am aware of that, Turlough,” the Doctor snapped impatiently as he checked the Alterran over, a worried look creasing his face. “How long has he been like this?” he asked concernedly, looking over at Eroica, who felt certain the Major was right and they had materialized in a lunatic asylum.
“I don’t know,” Eroica replied. “A few minutes. He collapsed just after we…er, arrived.”
The Doctor looked from the Earl to the Major and back. “Did he bring you both through at the same time?”
The Doctor cursed under his breath. “Royal idiot. He should know better than to pull a stunt like that.”
“Always so encouraging…” Jason replied weakly.
“Jason…” Eroica said in a relieved tone. “I thought we’d killed you.”
The Alterran was genuinely surprised to hear this. “Did you really?” He turned his attention to the Doctor. “Are you going to—?” He broke off when he saw the Major’s Magnum in the Time Lord’s hands. “Dare I ask what’s been going on while I was unconscious?” he said as he sat up.
“I was awake and I’d still like to know,” Turlough replied astringently.
Jason looked up and grinned. “Turlough!” he said delightedly. “You look like you’ve had a run in with Iron Klaus.” He turned back to the Doctor. “And judging by the look of thunder on the Major’s face, I can only assume that introductions have yet to be made.”
“Full introductions have yet to be made,” the Doctor corrected mildly. He gave the sleeve of the Alterran’s royal finery a tug, adding, “Your royal highness.”
“Isn’t it always?” The Doctor got to his feet. “Might I suggest we go to more comfortable surroundings and compare notes?” He helped Jason up and then held out a hand to Eroica, who was still staring in wide-eyed wonder. “Well, come on, Dorian. I don’t bite.”
“Why is it everyone we meet already knows who we are?” Eroica said as he accepted the hand. He turned to Jason, nodding in the Time Lord’s direction. “He claims he’s the Doctor.”
Jason could not help but laugh. “He is.”
“Pull the other one.”
“Like I said before, long story.”
The Doctor smiled brightly, throwing a glance in the Major’s direction. The officer was leaning against the wall near the door, smoking a cigarette, and glaring at him. “Major, if I give you your gun back, will you refrain from using it until after you learn the whole story?”
The Major folded his arms and replied in German. “If you give me my gun back, I’ll put a bullet through your fucking heart.”
The Doctor’s eyes flickered before he responded in impeccable German. “Hearts. I have two. If you must shoot me, at least do it properly, Herr Major von dem Eberbach.”
Eroica gave an involuntary cry upon hearing this. “Two hearts? You really are the Doctor!”
“And you really are an idiot,” the Major said darkly.
Jason heaved an exasperated sigh. “Here we go again…” he moaned. “Can’t you two give it a rest for even five minutes?” He suddenly felt lightheaded again and put a hand to his head. Then the room seemed to start spinning. “Doctor, is the TARDIS far?”
The Prince’s tone set off an alarm in the Time Lord’s head and he turned sharply back to him. “Why?”
Jason gave him an unfocused look. “Because…I think someone may have to carry me.” With that, his eyes rolled back into his head as he passed out again.
“Not again!” Eroica gasped, catching the Prince as he collapsed a second time.
“He’s depleted his energy reserves protecting you both inside the temporal corridor,” the Doctor replied tersely. “And to be honest, I’m not sure you’re worth it.”
“Now steady on…” Eroica objected.
The Doctor thrust the gun into Turlough’s hands, ordering him to returning it to the equally stunned Major. Then he swept Jason into his arms, a look of thunder on his face. “You, Lord Gloria, are spoiled, selfish, and self-centered.” He rounded on Klaus before the officer could agree with him. “You, Major von dem Eberbach, are paranoid, arrogant, and ill-tempered. And those, gentlemen, are your good points. Jason risked his life to get you back here and all you can do is argue with one another!” So saying, he strode toward the door. “Turlough, door,” he snapped.
The last thing Turlough wanted was to be the next target of the Time Lord’s wrath. He pulled the door open, handing the dumbfounded Major his gun back at the same time. The Doctor vanished through the door, heading swiftly down the corridor in the direction of the TARDIS.
“Turlough, as soon as those two can act in a civilized manner, bring them with you!” the Doctor called before disappearing around a corner.
Turlough exchanged a look of mutual bewilderment with the Major and Eroica before he sighed heavily. “Come on, then,” he said and led the way out the door. With nothing better to do, and not wanting to lose sight of Jason, the pair followed him.
“Does the TARDIS still look like a Police Box?” Eroica ventured.
Turlough threw a startled look over his shoulder. “Yes.”
“And this is 1987?”
“And the Lubyanka.”
This was a statement of fact rather than a question and was spoken by the Major. He was standing in front of a portrait of General Secretary Gorbachev, looking at the burn mark that he himself had made on the wood frame. He touched the mark as if to verify it were real and then turned to Eroica. “If I didn’t believe him before, I do now.”
Turlough gave the Major a puzzled look. The Doctor was going to have a lot of explaining to do when he finally caught up with him.
* * *
Jason was more or less his old self by the time Turlough led the others into the TARDIS console room. He was in a chair with a large glass of something on ice in his hand. There was a pitcher on a table that was beside him that undoubtedly contained whatever it was that he was drinking.
“Jason, you’re alright!” Eroica sighed relievedly as he crossed to him and took a seat.
“On the mend,” the Alterran said mildly, raising his glass. “The Doctor remembered my secret recipe for fast recoveries.”
Turlough’s eyebrows went up. “Did he, now?”
The Doctor was leaning back against the console, his arms folded. “Do you feel up to comparing notes?” he asked calmly. “Starting with how you managed to retrieve Dorian and the Major from a time corridor in the Twenty-seventh century.”
Jason glanced over at the Major, seeing he was already in the process of lighting another cigarette. “Why not?” he sighed. “I doubt you’ll’ve gotten the full story from the KGB as to how they got in there.”
Klaus gave a derisive snort. “The KGB would never admit to the full story.”
“It would be far too embarrassing,” Eroica injected knowingly.
“Really?” The Doctor pulled up a chair and sat down. “Who wants to tell me about it?”
* * *
The Doctor listened in silence as Jason and the others told their separate tales. Jason wondered if he should tell about his encounter with Muriel, and finally decided to give only edited details. He referred to her as a “questionable source” rather than give a full accounting. If he told the Doctor the information came from a Mythryn, he felt certain it would be summarily dismissed.
“I’m not sure how much stock to put into this,” Jason said mildly. “But I know how you like to have all the facts, however obscure.”
The Doctor nodded absently. “It might be important.”
“Yes. And it might also be so much nonsense.”
“Well, we’ll find out eventually.”
The Doctor then explained what he and Turlough had managed to turn up in the few days they had been there. The energy readings were something that still needed to be fully evaluated, but the ghost sightings had also piqued his interest.
“Ghost sightings?” Jason repeated, throwing a quick glance in Dorian’s direction. “Is this a recent phenomenon?”
“Apparently not,” the Doctor replied. “It seems to’ve been going on for decades. The interesting thing is, the incidents seemed to’ve stopped for a while, and then suddenly started up all over again.”
Jason sat back in his chair. “Started back up with a vengeance, is that what you’re saying?”
“Just after the Major’s disappearance, as a matter of fact.”
Jason threw a startled look in the Major’s direction. At some point during the lengthy explanations, the Doctor had supplied the officer with a gun cleaning kit. Klaus was calmly cleaning his Magnum while taking in everything being said. This new piece of information was enough to make him stop what he was doing and look up, his eyes meeting Jason’s.
“And now,” the Doctor went on, “there’s a new twist. Before it was just ghosts. Now, apparently, the statues have started to move.”
“What!” This was Eroica, who practically fell out of his chair. He gave the Time Lord a horrified look before turning to Jason, who held up a hand in his direction.
“This just started happening?” Jason asked.
“Yes. Just before you arrived, in fact,” the Doctor replied, giving Eroica a puzzled look. “No one we’ve spoken to has ever heard of anything like this before.”
The Major gave a snort and started reassembling his gun. “The Earl can tell you all about moving statues.”
“Major, this isn’t bloody funny,” Eroica protested.
The Doctor exchanged a mystified look with Turlough, who shook his head and shrugged. He turned to the others, who obviously knew more than they were telling. “Um,” the Time Lord said calmly, “if you might enlighten me?”
Eroica put his head in his hands, too distraught to say anything.
“Dorian had a run in with a statue that ended up producing a brief psychosis,” Jason began slowly.
“Don’t be so clinical,” Klaus growled in annoyance. “He was delusional. Afraid of his own shadow because of some damn fool statue.”*
“Major, it moved!” Eroica protested. “It bloody moved! It shot an arrow!”
“But it missed you! It was just as lousy a shot as you are.”
“Major, you’re not helping,” the Doctor snapped.
“I’m not trying to help,” Klaus snapped back.
“That I can see. You obviously have no idea how to be supportive.”
“Supportive?” the Major snorted, waving a hand in the air. “You’re talking about ghosts and moving statues. Am I supposed to give that equal weigh to the KGB trying to kill us?”
Jason cleared his throat. “I’m afraid he does have a point there, Doctor. This isn’t the type of thing you usually bother with. Unless…” He suddenly remembered Muriel’s injuries and wondered if the manifestations in the Lubyanka and her attacker were linked somehow. “These sighting? They’re just that, right? No physical manifestations?”
“Like clanging chains?”
“Like flying objects. You know, typical poltergeist type stuff.”
“Ah. No, nothing like that,” the Doctor replied. He went on to relate his theory about the prototype creating a temporal fissure when it malfunctioned and the time corridor being the end result with all the sightings just glimpses into history.
“That doesn’t explain how statues move,” Eroica objected.
“If they were repositioned, that would overlap with the current time line making it appear as though they were moving,” the Doctor said simply.
Jason nodded. “I was afraid my questionable source might’ve run into this…ghost,” he said finally. “But it was violent. This…whatever-it-is, seems to only be interested in scaring the pants off of people.”
“Obviously, more investigation is necessary before we say it’s just a benign manifestation,” the Doctor concluded.
“Obviously,” Jason agreed with a sigh.
“And what about us?” the Major wanted to know. “Are we to stay in Moscow while you lot—?”
“Christ!” Eroica exclaimed, gaining everyone’s attention. “My men are still in Leningrad!” He turned to Jason, his eyes wide. “They think I’ve gone to look at an art collection. They don’t even know I went missing. They could be under arrest for all I know.”
“I’m sure someone in Bonn noticed I didn’t return from Moscow when expected as well,” the Major replied blandly.
The Doctor cleared his throat. “As soon as Jason contacted me that you were safe, Major, I let NATO know you had been unavoidably detained.”
Jason rolled his eyes. “I’ll bet that went over well.”
The Major gave a derisive snort. “My Chief was probably delirious hoping I’d been killed.”
“Actually,” the Doctor broke in, “I pulled a few strings with UNIT to assure the West that you were not being held against your will. You’re welcome to contact them yourself.”
“And my men?” Dorian asked.
Jason gave the Major a steady look. “You’re the expert in these matters, Major. Do you think the KGB will’ve arrested them?”
“At this point, I doubt anyone will admit to being involved in the plot to bring Eroica to the Soviet Union,” the Major replied knowingly. “That was a blunder that Ivanov and Borodin made.”
“Meaning what, exactly?” Eroica demanded. “That they’re trapped in this country now?”
Eroica put a hand to his head, overwhelmed by the prospect. Trapped in the Soviet Union!
“Perhaps I might be able to assist,” the Doctor injected mildly.
Eroica looked up sharply. “How?”
Turlough could not help but laugh. “The Doctor has friends in high places.”
Eroica’s eyebrows went up and he turned to look at Prince Jason, who also laughed.
“Don’t look at me, Dorian,” Jason chuckled. “Even in my time, the Doctor has more clout than I do.”
The Doctor grinned. “You think so?”
“I know so,” Jason stated flatly. “So, who do you know in Communist Russia? The General Secretary? Or the head of the KGB?”
* * *
As it turned out, the KGB was only too willing in assisting the Earl in getting his men out of Leningrad. However, this was contingent under the condition that Eroica never make public the fact that he had been brought to the Soviet Union under false pretenses.
With the Doctor’s assistance, Eroica was able to contact his men in Leningrad in order to give them the evacuation order. He was also able to contact the North Downs and order his Zeppelin sent to transport everyone back to England. Within a very sort period of time, all the proper authorities were notified, and the clearances were given.
Several hours after this was accomplished, a guard came for the Earl, telling him that the Director wished to speak with him about the evacuation of his men. Eroica was nervous about this at first, but knew that nothing would happen to him now that the ridiculous plot had been uncovered. Now all he had to do was wait until his own transportation back to England could be arranged.
* * *
A PROPOSITION GONE WRONG
After learning that his men would be out of Leningrad within hours, Eroica felt like dancing back to the TARDIS. Despite everything, this trip had not been a total loss, even if he hadn’t seen the full contents of the warehouse. He had managed to procure more than enough trinkets to pay for his trouble. And then some.
Eroica was singing by the time he passed an open doorway on the ground floor. He glanced idly inside the room and stopped dead in his tracks, his mouth dropping open. On the far wall was an enormous painting that he recognized instantly. A long lost masterpiece that had vanished during the Second World War. He crossed to the threshold and stood staring. Then he entered the room, pulling off his tie and stuffing it into his coat pocket. He wondered abstractly how the Major could stand wearing a suit on a daily basis.
“Exquisite,” he breathed approvingly. “Absolutely magnificent.”
“Didn’t you steal enough already?” came a stern voice from behind him.
Eroica spun around, relaxing visibly when he saw Jason leaning against the doorframe with his arms folded, a disapproving scowl on his face. “First the Major, then the KGB. Are you following me now?” he asked accusingly before continuing across the room.
Jason looked at the painting that practically filled the wall. “I think that’s just a tad too big for you to carry out of here,” he remarked aridly.
“I still have the pocket dimension you were kind enough to return to me,” Eroica countered, patting his chest. He received a disapproving snort in reply. He glanced at the carpet under his feet and stopped, squatting down to run a hand over the surface, feeling the texture and examining the workmanship. “This is genuine,” he said in surprise, throwing a disbelieving look over his shoulder. “Chinese. I wonder if it’s certified Communist.”
“Funny,” Jason said ironically. “That painting certainly isn’t Chinese.”
“No. Fifteen century Italian, actually,” Eroica informed. With a grin, he added, “The Major would be horrified by the subject matter, don’t you think? All those naked bodies. Scandalously indecent.”
“What’s it supposed to depict? Man’s love for his fellow man, woman, and farm animal?”
“Now who’s trying to be funny?” Eroica crossed to the edge of the carpet and then examined the polished wood floor. “Teak. I think this floor is teak!”
“That’s good, I take it?”
Eroica turned back to look at his friend, who was still watching him from the doorway. “Jason, I thought you were an aristocrat, not a barbarian like the Major.”
“So sue me,” Jason replied darkly. “What’s the big deal about a teak floor, anyway?”
The heels of Eroica’s shoes clattered loudly on the wood floor as he moved closer to the painting. “It’s not just the floor. That painting is a lost masterpiece. The carpet is Nineteenth century Chinese, and in case I miss my guess, that’s an Eighteenth century desk over there.” He turned back to look at Jason again. “This is KGB Headquarters, not the Kremlin Palace. It’s supposed to be all austere and functional. So, what’s all this luxury doing here?
“You’re asking me?”
“Jason, I haven’t forgotten you’re an alien.” Eroica gave his friend a sideways glance through his eyelashes and lowered his voice seductively. “In fact, we never did get the chance to discuss all the things you could turn into.”
“Oh? And you really think this is an appropriate time?”
“Any time is an appropriate time.”
“Uh-huh,” came the non-committal reply
Eroica pulled off his suit coat and tossed it carelessly aside. He leaned against the wall beneath the painting, putting his hands on the molding atop the wainscoting and striking a seductive pose, fluttering his eyelashes. “Can’t I tempt you?” he said in an exaggerated breathless tone, tossing back his blond curls. “Not even once?”
Jason’s face remained unreadable. “To do what, exactly?”
“Change into something…exotic.”
“Exotic? And then what?
“Oh…I’m sure I’ll think of something,” Eroica purred seductively, going on to make a show of unbuttoning his vest.
After a long silence, Jason sighed heavily. “Alright, fine.” He stepped through the door, closing it behind him.
Eroica blink, certain that he had just heard wrong. “What?”
Jason hit the light switch, plunging the room into almost total darkness. The only source of light was a small banker’s lamp on the desk Eroica had pointed out a few minutes earlier. “You’ve worn me down. I concede defeat. I acquiesce to you demands.” As he spoke, he crossed to the thunderstruck thief.
“Jason, what—?” Eroica’s words were cut off when the other man suddenly took his face in his hands and kissed him very passionately on the mouth. When he came up for air, he stared at the Alterran in blank astonishment. “What’re you doing?”
“I thought that was obvious.”
Eroica tried to back away, only to realize he was already backed up against the wall. He could feel his heart hammering in his chest, hear the blood pounding in his ears. He had been teasing Jason for so long that it had become second nature. A game they played whenever possible. The last thing he expected was that the adamantly heterosexual Alterran would suddenly make this equally adamant one hundred and eighty degree turn. Jason had never been even slightly aggressive with him physically. He was always so mild mannered. Then the violent incident with the Captain in the mind probe room returned to mind and Eroica stiffened visibly. What have I done?
“Jason, you’re scaring me,” he said at last.
“I’m not scary.”
“You are now.”
“What makes you say that?”
Eroica felt a chill run down his spine as the Alterran reached over and started to play with his long blond hair. “Because this isn’t like you,” he said in as even a tone as he could manage.
“I think you want someone scary,” Jason observed in an almost seductive tone, taking a small step back.
Eroica’s eyes grew wide as the Alterran’s body shimmered and the Major was suddenly standing before him. “Jason, what are you doing?” He felt a second chill run down his spine when the reply came in the Major’s voice.
“Jason? No, call me Klaus.”
“Now you are scaring me. This isn’t funny.”
“It isn’t supposed to be funny. You wanted me to turn into something exotic, but this is what you really meant, isn’t it?”
“Don’t lie to me, Dorian.”
Again, Eroica shivered as the reply came in the Major’s voice. Dorian. The Major never calls me Dorian. “I’m not lying. It wouldn’t be real,” he stated flatly. He was becoming more and more unsettled by the second. The Prince—no, the alien. He’s an alien!—suddenly reached over to unbutton his shirt and he took hold of his hands to stop him. “No, Jason, not like this. It isn’t real.” He tried to push the pseudo-Klaus away and was rewarded with a savage slap across the face.
“Is that real enough for you?”
Speechless, Eroica stood with a hand to his stinging cheek and stared at the man who had suddenly become a stranger.
“Everything always has to be on your terms, doesn’t it?” the stranger growled. “Your ridiculous romantic fantasies.”
Before Eroica could even think of a reply, he received a savage punch to his stomach that sent him to his knees. The next thing he knew, he was struggling to fend off the incredibly powerful being in a brutal attack of fists and feet. Within a few minutes, he was a dazed and battered heap on the floor. He was vaguely aware of being dragged across the polished wood surface. Then his hands were being tightly bound together.
“What are you doing?” he demanded as his bound hands were pulled over his head and lashed to the leg of a heavy table. “Jason, have you gone completely insane?”
His reply was another forceful kiss. The man…the alien…his attacker!—was facing in the direction of the only source of light in the room and Eroica could actually make out his features. He stared at the face that was identical to the Major’s in every detail. Despite having been brutally beaten, he still found himself wishing that this were the real thing. Then the pseudo-Klaus sat back and looked at him, his eyes catching the light. They looked as though they were actually glowing green. That incredible, captivating…
Eroica felt his heart miss a beat. Green! Bloody hell, his eyes are green! In a flash, he had a horrifying realization. The man looking down at him was not Jason. The only thing the Alterran could not change when he transmuted was his eye color. Eroica had learned this detail during their last encounter. So, who the hell was this?
“You’re not Jason,” Eroica said in as even a voice as he could manage. “Who are you? Why are you doing this?”
“I’m whoever I want to be,” came the evasive reply. “And I’m doing exactly what you would expect me to do.”
“Dammit, that’s not a bloody answer!” Eroica snapped angrily, pulling against his bindings in frustration. To his horror, the man—the alien—suddenly ripped open his shirt, tearing the material and sending the buttons flying in all directions. Then he was running his hands up and down the thief’s exposed chest, causing him to catch his breath.
“You have very soft skin,” the alien said, sounding as if this were a surprise. He ran a caressing hand over a thick braided gold chain the thief had around his neck. “Pretty,” he said quietly.
Take it! Take it and go. Eroica closed his eyes and shivered as the hands started to play over his chest again, his terror rising with each passing second. He had a horrible feeling he knew where this was heading. First was the acknowledgment of all his advances, then a savage beating. Now he was bound and helpless. As soon as his captor started fondling his nipples, he knew for certain what was to follow….
Eroica’s worst fears were verified as his captor’s hands suddenly moved downward, pausing momentarily when they reached his belt before going on to unfasten it. “No!” he cried, finding his voice again. He thrashed unsuccessfully to keep the inevitable from happening.
“No? This is what you’ve always wanted,” came the taunting reply. “You and the Major. Together.”
“Not like this!” Eroica pulled frantically at his bindings as his trousers were pulled open and yanked down. They were followed by his underwear, fully exposing his genitals. His heart was pounding so hard he felt it was about to leap from his chest. “No, please, no,” he begged as his captor straddled his legs and then half-sat, half-knelt on them, effectively pinning them to the floor.
Eroica caught his breath, stiffening visibly as a hand started massaging his testicles, a low groan escaping him. “No…” he moaned, his back arching reflexively as a hand wrapped around his growing erection and started to slowly move up and down its length.
Eroica closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on reality. This isn’t real. This isn’t the Major. This isn’t… This isn’t… Stop, please, stop! Dear God, if you really exist, make it stop!
Unfortunately, and despite his unwillingness, his body reacted to the stimulation. He gasped as his captor suddenly started to suck on his slowly hardening penis and shivered as the pseudo-Major’s long, dark hair brushed against his exposed skin. Eroica gave another low moan as his captor succeeded in coaxing his penis into a full erection.
If only it were the Major. It feels so…so… Wrong!
“Please, don’t,” Eroica heard himself saying. To his surprise, the man stopped. But only long enough to rise up onto his knees and slap him hard across the face with the back of his hand, snarling at him to shut up.
The startled Eroica cried out in pain. Then he cried out in agony as his tormentor took his engorged member in an iron grip and used it to lift his hips from the floor. With his hands attached to the table and his legs pinned beneath the alien, he felt certain he was about to be non-surgically castrated. Obviously, his captor wanted to drive home the point that he was completely powerless to stop what was happening—or what was about to happen.
With his dominance fully established, the alien started sucking on his captive’s penis for all his was worth, moving his mouth rhythmically up down its length.
Eroica’s mind was now a confused jumble of conflicting emotions. How could he be aroused and terrified at the same time? He knew what was happening was completely wrong, but could not convince his body that this was the case. It was trying to convince him that this was a pleasurable experience and he should enjoy it. That somehow this was a fantasy come to life.
Eroica was completely helplessly against the unrelenting onslaught, unable to stop his body from jumping or arching reflexively as the powerful being practically swallowed the entire length of his erection. Eventually, he was trembling so badly that he was sure he was virtually convulsing. He couldn’t move, couldn’t fight, couldn’t stop… Couldn’t stop… Why is this happening?
Eroica groaned as his body finally won the battle, his back arching as he climaxed, his attacker greedily sucking the cum as he ejaculated into his mouth, going on to milk every drop of semen from him.
Breathless and exhausted, Eroica went limp. He prayed that this would be the end of it. That this twisted parody of the Major would just leave him for someone else to find. But this was not the case.
Suddenly the pseudo-Major was practically lying on top of him, kissing him forcefully on the mouth, the taste of his own semen still on his captor’s lips.
“Wasn’t that fun?” the alien asked brightly.
Again, Eroica felt a chill run down his spine at the uncharacteristic bounce in the Major’s voice. “No, it bloody well wasn’t,” he replied without thinking.
The man’s face twisted into an evil grin as he took his captive by the throat. “You don’t think this is fun? I think it’s fun.”
Eroica did not think it possible, but found himself even more terrified as the creature took hold of the gold chain and started to twist it into a garrote. He pulled against his bindings, his body thrashing wildly as he struggled in vain to breathe. Dear God, he’s going to kill me!
Eroica was just on the verge of losing consciousness when the strain became too much for the clasp on the chain and it finally broke. He gulped in huge lungsful of air, closing his eyes tightly. He did not want to look at the expression on the face of his attacker. Nor did he want to see if he was preparing to strangle him again. Even though he knew intellectually that it was not the Major, it did not help emotionally.
To Eroica’s relief, he heard the chain strike the floor as it was dropped. Then he felt the alien climbing off him and was afraid to contemplate what violence was to follow. To his horror, he was suddenly being flipped onto his stomach. His trousers were already down almost to his knees, exposing his buttocks and upper thighs. He felt his heart in his mouth as a hand started caressing his bare backside. “No,” he moaned weakly. “Please, stop this.”
His captor was sitting on his legs again, pinning him facedown to the floor. “Stop? You want me to stop?”
The alien grabbed a fistful of his captive’s abundant hair and jerked his head back, pulling a cry that was a combination of terror and pain from him at the same time. “I haven’t even started,” he hissed coldly. He released his grip and sat back, reaching down to unfasten his own belt.
It was at that moment the door on the far end of the room opened. The newcomer took in the scene in the semi-darkened room in mute astonishment. It seemed obvious what was going on. He was about to make a discreet exit when he noticed Eroica was tied to the table leg. Is this bondage play or the real thing? The answer came almost immediately when Eroica suddenly called out. “Help me! Somebody, please—!” The rest of his words were cut off as a gag was forced into his mouth.
“I told you to shut up,” the alien snarled. “Now, scream all you want. No one’s gonna hear you.”
“Someone already did,” came Jason’s angry voice from the door. He reached inside, turning on the lights. Eroica’s attacker looked up and Jason’s mouth dropping open in astonishment. “Major…?” That’s impossible. I just left the Major in… Who the hell is this? he thought as he stormed across room.
“Go away or you’re next,” the pseudo-Major said threateningly as Jason came to stand over him.
“I think you’ll find I’m a bit harder to overpower than a human,” the Alterran snapped coldly, pulling the man off Eroica with one hand.
The imposter gave him a startled look and then vanished into thin air.
ONCE A HEALER…
Jason blinked and stood staring at his now empty hand. “Well, that was unexpected,” he said ironically.
Eroica gave a low moan, leaning his head against one arm. He was so dazed and exhausted that he did not even realize Jason was there or that his attacker had fled. As far as he knew, this was just another pause in the violence. Maybe if he were lucky, he would pass out.
Jason looked down at the helpless individual lying prostrate at his feet, the physician in him fighting with his rage.
The physician won.
“Oh, Dorian. What did he do to you?” Jason whispered as he knelt beside his battered friend. He started to pull up the thief’s underwear, causing him to jump, a muffled cry of fear escaping him. “I’m pulling them up, not down,” he said soothingly.
Finally, Eroica recognized the voice and twisted around to look at him. Then he realized that the lights in the room were on and wondered why he had failed notice this before.
Jason reached over to remove the gag and was puzzled when Dorian flinched away. Then he noticed how unfocused the man’s eyes were, his pupils fully dilated. Has he been drugged? “Don’t be afraid, Dorian. It’s me, Jason,” he said gently as he removed the cloth from his friend’s mouth.
“Jason…?” Eroica looked around, but found he could not focus properly. The room around him as well as the figure beside him were just a blur of color. “Are we back to square one?” he asked bitterly.
Jason gave him a bewildered look. “What?” He untied the rope securing Eroica’s hands to the table, allowing him to turn onto his side. At the same time, he took in the bruises blossoming all over his friend’s body.
“Just kill me and get it over with.”
“Dorian, it’s me, Jason.”
“How do I know you didn’t just change again?”
Jason was struggling to untie the knot on the rope binding Dorian’s hands together while struggling to understand what he was talking about. He was not succeeding with either. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m the same Jason Krystovan you met seven years ago.”
“The same Jason Krystovan?”
“Yes. Do we have to go through all that again?” Jason stopped struggling with the knot a moment to sit back and look at him.
Eroica met the Alterran’s questioning gaze as best he could. “No. Just kiss me.”
Jason blinked. “What?”
“You heard me. If you’re the same Jason—”
“My God, Dorian, don’t you ever quit?” the incredulous Jason exclaimed. To his bewilderment, he saw relief wash over Dorian’s face, his body relaxing visibly at the same time.
“It is you,” Eroica said in a relieved sigh, closing his eyes and leaning his head back. “He…it looked just like you,” he explained shakily, “before he changed into that…that…” He gave way to an involuntary shudder. “But his eyes were green. They changed to green, and you can’t do that.”
Jason was genuinely surprised. “You remembered that about me after nearly four years?”
“I am suitably impressed.”
“You should be flattered,” Eroica said without thinking. He had not meant it to sound like a petulant remark, but it still seemed to come out as one. To his relief, Jason apparently realized this and said simply, “I am.”
The Alterran Healer held off the hundreds of questions that were filling his mind. The battered man on the floor beside him was in no condition for an interrogation. He finally got the knot untied, freeing his friend’s hands. “Here, let’s finish getting you put back together,” he said gently. He started to pull the thief’s trousers up to where they belonged, stopping when Dorian’s body went rigid and his hands moved to stop him, a sharp cry of “No!” escaping him.
“Dorian, I’m not going to hurt you,” Jason said mildly. “I would never hurt you.”
Eroica closed his eyes again and nodded, allowing his friend to continue. “Sorry. I’m just…”
“You’re just scared out of you mind,” Jason said, his gentle tone unchanged. He finished redressing his friend as best he could and then squeezed one of his hands. “I’m going to look after you.” He gave Dorian a searching look. “Do you believe me?”
“Do you believe me?” Jason repeated. “Considering what you’ve just told me, I want to make absolutely sure I know where I stand.”
Eroica smiled weakly. “Yes, I believe you.”
“Good.” The Alterran started to move what was left of the thief’s shirt out of the way, causing him to jump. Don’t react. Don’t say anything. He’s jumpy enough as it is.
“Dorian, look at me,” Jason said firmly, receiving an unfocused look in response. “I need to look at your face, okay?” He put a hand under his friend’s chin as though he were examining the bruises on his face and the mark on his neck. Instead, he was looking at his eyes and scanning him. He found no drugs in his system, but detected a great deal more than he expected, anger passing over his face like a dark cloud.
“As soon as you can stand, I need to get you to the infirmary, or whatever they call it in this place,” Jason said, waving a hand in the air. “Then we can play—” He broke off and sighed heavily. “Now you’ve got me doing it.”
Eroica scowled. “Doing what?”
Jason gave a small smile. “I was going to say play doctor, but I don’t think the obvious double entendre is appropriate just now.”
Eroica gave another weak smile before he shakily closed his trousers and refastened his belt. Then he looked at his shirt. Part of the material was torn and all of the buttons seem to have been pulled off and were probably halfway across the room. “I think this is a lost cause.”
Jason smiled briefly, helping his friend to sit up before sitting down beside him. The last thing the obviously traumatized Dorian needed was to be rushed. He needed to take this at his own pace, and Jason was perfectly willing to give him as much time as he needed. When Dorian was ready, he would help him from the room.
“I can’t stop shaking,” Eroica said quietly. He looked down at his trembling hands, finally wrapping his arms around his body as though hugging himself.
“Don’t try. It’s an adrenaline response,” Jason informed quietly. He looked around. “Where’s your suit coat?”
“Over there, I think,” Eroica replied shakily, nodding in the general direction of where he had tossed his coat.
Jason nodded and quickly retrieved it, going on to help his friend put it back on. He received a weak smile as he did this. Then he sat down again and looked into Dorian’s enormous blue eyes. He looked on the verge of tears. “Come ’ere,” Jason said gently, and pulled the trembling man over to him, wrapping his arms protectively around him.
Eroica shifted his position slightly, leaning his head against Jason’s chest and listening to the steady beating of his heart. He suddenly felt safe and protected as the Alterran wrapped his arms around him, pressing the folds of his jacket against his body. He felt relief wash over him. This was the real Jason. The alien—no, the man—who had saved his life on more than one occasion. The man who, a long time ago, had told him adamantly that he would not to let him die, despite all the evidence to the contrary. The man who had just rescued him from…from…
“I thought he was gonna kill me,” Eroica admitted in a small voice. Then the ugly, brutal reality of what had just happened seemed to hit him all at once and he broke down, burying his face against Jason’s chest.
Jason gave his sobbing friend a gentle squeeze and stroked his mass of blond curls. “It’s over. You’re safe now,” he said soothingly. It was like comforting a child, he thought, and considering their age difference, this was not far from the truth. He knew he was going to have to press for details, eventually. In fact, he’d probably have to fight to learn exactly what had happened once this strong willed human recovered from the shock.
But not now.
Dorian was still too badly shaken. Now he needed to be handled with kid gloves.
Jason quietly stroked his friend’s hair, the only sound in the room Dorian’s occasional quiet sobs as he struggled to regain his composure. After a few minutes, the Major’s disapproving voice suddenly broke the silence like a pistol shot. “Shall I close the door so you two can have some privacy?” he asked contemptuously.
Jason looked up, choosing to ignore the remark and the dozens of sarcastic replies that sprang to mind. “Major, this is escalating. Dorian was physically attacked,” he stated flatly. He watched in amazement as the officer’s manner changed instantly. The Major drew himself to his full height, his expression going from revulsion to outrage, and Jason would have sworn he saw concern momentarily flash across his features.
“When?” Klaus demanded as he entered the room. He held up a hand, and pointedly asked, “No, who?”
“To answer your questions in order,” Jason replied. “About five minutes ago, and we don’t know.” He turned to the shaken man beside him. “Do you think you can stand?” he asked softly.
Jason put his friend’s arm over his shoulder and helped him to his feet. Dorian was still unable to stop trembling and leaned against the Alterran who put an arm around his waist to support him.
By this time, the Major had crossed the room and could clearly see the evidence of the assault. Notwithstanding his torn clothing, Eroica was covered with bruises, had ligature marks on his wrists and throat, and what looked like the beginnings of a black eye. Without a word, he moved to his side, placing the thief’s other arm over his shoulder to assist Jason in helping him from the room.
Jason observed this extraordinary display of apparent concern with a small smile. Sometimes the Major could be the most inscrutable of individuals.
“Where are we going?” the Major asked, breaking into Jason’s thoughts.
“Does this place have a decent infirmary?”
Jason threw the Major a sideways glance. Was that a joke? “It would be nice if it had the technology from this time period. What you would consider up-do-date.”
“Jason, this is the Soviet Union,” the Major replied with a snort. “The only thing up-to-date here is the propaganda.”
“Then we’re going to the TARDIS.”
* * *
THINGS HAVE ESCALATED
Turlough was in the console room, his eyes fixed on the data readings when the exterior doors suddenly swung open. He looked up in surprise when Jason and Major entered supporting the battered Eroica.
“Jason, what on earth…?”
“Dorian was attacked,” Jason stated succinctly. He looked around the room and then back at Turlough. “Where’s the Doctor?”
“He’s out taking readings,” Turlough replied, waving a hand toward the doors. “He asked me to monitor the energy spikes.”
Jason was halfway across the console room and stopped short, turning back to face him. “What energy spikes?” he practically demanded.
Before Turlough could respond, the Major cut in. “Can’t this wait until after you’ve seen to Lord Gloria’s injuries?” he asked, much to the surprise of all present.
“I think this may be important,” Jason said firmly. He looked the puzzled Eroica in the eye. “Can you wait a few minutes?”
Eroica nodded. “Yes.”
Jason looked at the Major, seeing him glaring angrily at him. He unflinchingly met the officer’s disapproving gaze. “Don’t make me order you, Major.”
The Major stiffened visibly. Despite the fact that Jason had differed to him as an expert in several things, he was still the one in command, Klaus reminded himself, and he had agreed to assist in his mission. Even though it was obvious he wanted to say a considerable amount in response, his reply was to help Eroica to a chair while Jason crossed to the console.
Turlough watched this battle of wills in an awed silence and was only returned to reality when the Prince forcefully asked, “Turlough, what energy spikes?”
Turlough pointed at the display he had been monitoring when the group arrived. A long printout was cascading to the floor beside it. “The Doctor noticed them when we first arrived. They’ve been fluctuating quite a bit. Most of them coincide with those ghost sightings. Up until a minute ago, the strongest reading that registered was the transmat. But that’s been deactivated.”
“I’m assuming you just got another strong reading?” Jason said, his eyes flashing over the equipment.
“Yes. It went off the scale and then…stopped. Just like that.”
“About ten minutes ago?”
Turlough gave the Alterran a stunned look. “How could you possibly know that?”
Jason nodded, turning in the Major’s direction. “Our alien attacker, no doubt.”
Turlough scowled. “What?”
“An alien something attacked Dorian,” Jason informed. “It’s definitely not a ghost. But it can change form like I can.”
Turlough rolled his eyes. “Great. Any other good news?”
“Yes. It vanished into thin air before my very eyes.”
Turlough blinked. Note to self. Do not ask questions you do not want to hear the answers to. He tore off the printout and started to fold it up.
“I have no idea what it is, but if I know the Doctor, he’ll have a name to go with that scant description,” Jason remarked.
“A name, history, and planet of origin, most like,” Turlough agreed. “I was just going to go look for him when you arrived.” He waved the papers in the air. “He wanted to see the recordings as soon as anything registered.”
Jason nodded approvingly. “Tell him we may’ve found a connection.”
“Consider it done.” Turlough turned toward the door.
“I’m coming with you,” the Major announced.
Turlough stiffened visibly. “I don’t think so.”
“It wasn’t a request. There’s already been one civilian casualty. I’m not making it two.”
Turlough threw a pleading look in Jason’s direction.
“Don’t look at me,” the Prince said in response to his unspoken request. “I happen to agree with him.”
Eroica made a small, startled noise. “I think Hell just froze over.”
Jason shot him a sideways glance. “Funny.”
“Jason…” Turlough began, only to be cut off.
“Turlough, you’ll be better of with the Major than without him.”
“Well, for one thing, you’re less likely to be hassled by the KGB.”
Turlough shot a quick look at the Major, who was in the process of lighting a cigarette.
“And, Jason added pointedly, “you’re unarmed. The Major has a very big gun, isn’t afraid to use it, and is a crack shot. Believe me, you couldn’t be in safer hands.”
Klaus blew smoke in the air. “I want you at my next efficiency review,” he remarked aridly before heading towards the door. “Come. The Doctor won’t learn anything with us here.”
“No, Major, wait,” Jason called.
The officer stiffened visibly before he turned, an impatient look on his face.
Jason was already addressing Turlough. “Do you have a TARDIS key?”
Turlough scowled. “No, why?”
“Because I’m locking the doors behind you and not letting anyone back in again.” Jason pulled out his own TARDIS key. “Major, I think you’d better carry this.” The Major reached out to take it and Jason pulled back. “No, hold out your hand, palm up.”
Klaus gave the Alterran a dark look but did as instructed. Jason placed the key in the palm of his outstretched hand. “There,” he said happily. “Now, it will only work for you and me. No one else.”
“How is that possible?” the Major asked, looking at the oddly shaped key in fascination.
“DNA, for one thing. It now has yours and mine imprinted in its memory.”
Klaus continued to look at the key in amazement, marveling at the technology that would produce such an item. “DNA…” he said quietly. Obviously, there was a great deal more to this new marvel of modern science than anyone in his time realized.
Eroica could just see the wheels turning in the officer’s head. “He’s already wondering how to reproduce that, Jason.”
Jason grinned at the dark look this produced on the Major’s face. “I’m afraid that’s Time Lord technology. The key also has psychic coding that’s linked to the TARDIS telepathy circuits. In an emergency, such as now, the key will only work for those individuals that the operator trusts.”
Klaus looked up. “The operator?”
The Major’s eyes narrowed a moment before he pocketed the key. The more he learned about the Doctor, the more he suspected that he was considerably more than the unassuming alien he made himself out to be.
“Major,” Jason said in a serious tone, “according to Dorian, that alien can change its eye color. I can’t. My eyes are blue. Sapphire blue, to be even more specific.”
The Major looked directly at the Alterran Prince, memorizing his features before he nodded. “Good to know. Just don’t go changing your appearance,” he replied crisply. He then turned on his heel, vanishing through the doors. Turlough threw Jason a dark look before grudgingly following him.
As soon as they were gone, Jason closed and locked the exterior doors. Then he turned to the battered Dorian. “Just you and me again, it seems,” he said as he crossed the room.
“Is that your way of saying ‘Alone, at last?’” Eroica replied, trying very hard to keep his voice from trembling. He did not succeed and Jason gave him a concerned look.
“No, actually. I didn’t think you’d be up for any of our usual nonsense.”
Eroica blinked. “Our nonsense?”
An amused smile spread across the Alterran’s face as he helped his friend to his feet. “Good Lord, Dorian, you don’t think I’d put up with your constant harassment if I were seriously annoyed by it, do you?”
“I have no idea. After hearing you agree with Iron Klaus, I’m not sure about anything anymore.”
Jason gave a small chuckle. “Let’s get you patched up first, shall we? Then we can go into the intricacies of our non-existent relationship.”
* * *
While Turlough would never have admitted to it, he found himself grateful that the Major had insisted on accompanying him. They had scarcely left the room in which the TARDIS was stored when two soldiers appeared at the end of the corridor. They regarded the pair momentarily, received a piecing glare from the Major after which they decided that continuing in the opposite direction seemed like a good idea.
The Major turned to Turlough as if nothing had happened. “Did the Doctor indicate where he would be taking his readings?”
“No, but if I had to guess, I’d say he went to that prototype,” Turlough replied. “He seems to think that’s the nexus point.”
“Nexus point?” This was a new one.
Turlough pushed open the door to the transmat room and was relieved to see the Doctor was actually there. He also had the control podium in pieces.
The Major stepped through the door and stopped dead. And people accuse me of being a machine maniac. “Doctor, what are you doing?”
The Time Lord looked up, the grin on his face disintegrating when he saw the grave expression on Turlough’s face. The Major always looked serious, but his companion was another matter entirely. “What’s happened?” he asked, rising to his feet.
“Things have escalated,” the Major replied soberly. “The Earl was physically attacked by whatever it is that’s haunting this building.”
“What?” The Doctor’s mind raced through all the information he had gathered. There was nothing to indicate that the…creature were violent in any way. Then he recalled Jason’s questionable source. “When? Where?”
“Within the last half hour. And in an office a short distance from here.”
Turlough cleared his throat and held out the printout. “We brought this for you, Doctor,” he said, explaining about the readings coinciding with the incident.
The Doctor took the papers and quickly flipped through them. He heaved a heavy sigh and looked up. “Other than the intensity, this still tells us nothing.”
“Then perhaps we should question Jason and the Earl,” the Major suggested. “Jason said that it vanished into thin air.”
“How badly was Dorian hurt?”
The Major’s eyes flickered. “The thing beat the shit out of him,” he replied succinctly. “He had ligature marks on his wrists and throat.”
The Doctor nodded. “Jason won’t let us near him until he’s convinced he’s alright,” he said knowing. “That gives us at least an hour or two.”
The Major frowned. “An hour or two for what?”
The Doctor grinned back at him. “To see if we can convince the KGB to evacuate this section of the building.”
“What?” Turlough and the Major said in unison.
“Doctor, you’re not serious?” Turlough objected.
“You’re also completely mad,” the Major rejoined. “Do you really think you can convince the KGB to evacuate an entire section of a building because of a disappearing alien? They’ll lock us up!”
The Doctor gave him a knowing look. “We’ll see, Major. We’ll see. I’ve convinced people of far worse things.”
Turlough sighed heavily. “He has, Major,” he injected. “I’ve seen him do it.”
The Major considered. “I’m glad I’m not a betting man, Doctor, or I’d ask you to quote me the odds on this succeeding.”
* * *
“This it the last place I ever thought I’d see again,” Eroica remarked as he entered the TARDIS sickbay.
Jason gave him a small smile but did not reply. He led the still shaken man into a large room and then over to an examining table.
Eroica started to climb onto the table but was stopped by the Alterran, who put a hand on his arm and then turned him around, looking him in the eye. “Dorian, you realize I’m going to have to give you a complete physical examination, don’t you?” he said seriously.
Eroica met the Healer’s steady gaze. “Why?”
“You already know why.”
“You haven’t even asked me what happened yet,” the thief protested.
Jason’s serious expression did not change. “Dorian, I’m almost three hundred years old. I know what I walked in on. I just haven’t asked how far it got.”
Eroica closed his eyes and shuddered. “Far enough.”
“I know you need time,” the Alterran Healer said gently. “But the sooner you tell me exactly what happened, the sooner we can go about catching that thing. As far as I can tell, you’re the only one who’s had any kind of extended contact with it.”
“Lucky me,” Eroica said ironically. He opened his eyes and took in the room. “So…what now?”
“Now you—” Jason could not help himself and laughed. “Dorian, you are the last person I ever thought I’d be saying this to.”
“Take off your clothes.”
* * *
Several hours after his arrival in the TARDIS sickbay, Eroica was fast asleep in one of the guest rooms. The last time he had been Jason’s patient, he had been more dead than alive and remembered very little of what had happened until he woke up in one of the recovery rooms.*
* My story – Do UNIT & NATO Spell Disaster
This time was different. Although battered and badly shaken, he was fully aware of what was going on. He was also amazed that Jason wasn’t in the least self-conscious about what he was doing, or to whom he was doing it. Considering the unrelenting sexual overtures Eroica made every time they met, the thief found this quite remarkable. In fact, it was he who was self-conscious, possibly for the first time in his adult life.
Jason had taken note of this, going on to remark on how truly prudish the Earl actually was, being “all talk.” Eroica did not reply, because he knew it was true. His over the top behavior was an excellent shield that kept all but a select few at bay.
After a scan was taken of Eroica’s body, Jason produced what he called a “Rape Kit” and proceeded to very carefully collect evidence from all over his patient’s body. The Healer explained exactly what he was doing and why as each procedure was carried out.
Eroica wondered just how much his friend could deduce about what had happened to him, and how the tiny samples of DNA could identify his attacker using something called a DNA profile. He had heard about this newest breakthrough of modern science, of course. DNA was the buzzword in the criminal underground, although many of the courts were still dubious as to its validity. Now, here was Jason talking about it with such conviction. He had mentioned it in the console room as if it were commonplace. Then again, now that he thought about it, Eroica realized that it would be commonplace to someone from the Twenty-seventh century.
“Do you want me to explain it to you?” Jason had asked in the gentle, soothing tone he adopted when in “Healer mode.” After a pause, he added, “It might help keep your mind off of what I’m doing.”
Considering the Alterran was about to start swabbing his genitals and combing out his pubic hair, Eroica agreed that this was probably a good idea. Then he listened in mute fascination as his alien physician explained about DNA, genetic fingerprints, the best sources of DNA on the human body, and so on. The next thing he knew, the examination was over, all his injuries had been treated, and Jason was giving him a robe to wear.
Jason led the still shaken Eroica to an enormous bathroom where he could either shower or soak in a warm bath. He chose the latter. Jason provided him with a pair of the most luxurious silk pajamas he had ever seen, a stack of towels, shampoo, and several very exotic smelling soaps. Then he made a discrete exit, saying that he would give his friend a little privacy while he bathed, but would be just outside in the sickbay should he need him.
After a long, relaxing soak, Eroica went on to take a shower, washing his hair and body several times. He wondered if he would ever feel clean again. As he dried himself off, he looked at the artificial skin that Jason had used on his injuries. The scratches and bruises were still there, of course, he could feel them. But they were completely camouflaged, just as the first set of bruises had been. He exited the room to find Jason at work at a computer, patiently waiting for him.
Jason looked up when Dorian opened the door and stood nervously looking at him. He just smiled and got to his feet, leading the way to the residence area
* * *
Jason held open the door to a guest room, allowing Dorian to look inside. “Well, does this room meet your high artistic standards, Lord Gloria?” he asked with a smile.
Eroica gave his friend a puzzled look. “I get to choose my room this time?”
Jason’s smile widened. “Why not? There are several dozen,” he informed. “Let’s say this one is temporary until you’ve gotten some rest.”
Eroica nodded and entered the room. He gave his surroundings a cursory glance before making straight for the bed and climbing in, sinking into it gratefully.
Jason dimmed the lights, throwing a quick glance over at his patient. There was an odd, almost frightened look in his eyes. He checked himself before asking if Dorian were still afraid of the dark. No need to add trauma to trauma. “Will you be alright on your own?” he asked instead.
“Do you want me to stay?”
“Would you?” Well, that was pathetic, Eroica thought with a wince, adding quickly, “Just until I fall asleep.”
The Alterran gave a small smile. “Dorian, I’ll stay as long as you need me to.” He took a seat near the bed and stretched. It had been a very, very long day.
Eroica settled himself under the covers and turned onto his side. He looked at his alien friend a moment before saying quietly, “Jason, you have a very soothing bedside manner, has anyone ever told you that?”
“Not in those exact words, no. The Doctor calls it ‘Healer mode.’ He says if you know what to look for, you can see it happen.” Jason smiled self-consciously. “Personally, I think he’s just pulling my leg.”
“No, he’s right.” Eroica hesitated before going on to say, “I know how this will sound, but…I’m glad it was you who found me.”
Jason gave his friend a bewildered look. “Why?”
“Because—” Eroica paused. “You don’t see me the way others do.”
“Didn’t we have this conversation once before? I’m not from your time. I don’t use the same standards of judgment.”
“I don’t know if it’s that, either. You’re…” Eroica searched for the right words. “You’re very easy to talk to.”
Jason frowned. “This is a problem for you? As I understand it, you have men and women practically throwing themselves at you.”
“Yes, and jabbering inanities at me at the same time. I should think you have the same problem. You’re incredibly good looking, Jason, but you don’t seem to care one way or the other.”
“You mean I’m not vain, like you?”
Ouch. “You’re also brutally honest.”
“Sorry. The fact that my true self scares the hell out of people may have something to do with that.”
“Only at first.” Eroica drew a deep breath. “I feel—I don’t know—safe talking to you. I’ve thrown some rather ridiculous propositions your way, but you’ve never retaliated. The Major usually threatens to hit me.”
“Dorian, I threaten to do all kinds of things to you.”
“But never seriously.”
“True.” Jason paused, shaking his head. “It isn’t easy, y’know. You are relentless. It’s as if you think that one day I’ll magically change sexual orientation and—” He broke off as a frightened look came to Dorian’s face. Somehow, he’d just struck a raw nerve. “You okay?”
Eroica shuddered, pulling the covers up more. “Someone just walked over my grave.” He tried to put on a brave face, but knew he wasn’t fooling anyone, including himself. “At least you’ve never taken a swing at me,” he said in as upbeat a tone as he could manage.
Jason gave an amused grunt. “The last thing you want is for me to lose my temper. When Mt. Jason erupts…” He shook his head. “The Major is an amateur compared to me in a full-blown rage.”
Eroica was genuinely surprised. “You mean you didn’t lose your temper in the mind probe room?”
Jason laughed, shaking his head. “I was damn close. I’ve gotten better at keeping my temper in check over the years, thankfully.” He drew a deep breath and sighed heavily, leaning back and closing his eyes. “I don’t know about you, but I’m very tired.”
Eroica studied him a moment. “Jason…?”
Jason did not move. “Yes, Dorian.”
“Don’t tell the Major what happened to me.”
Jason frowned and sat up. “It’s a little late for that, isn’t it? He helped me bring you here.”
“No, I mean…” Eroica sighed heavily. “Don’t tell him the details.”
“Dorian, I don’t know the details.” Jason saw a pained look come to his friend’s face.
“You just used a rape kit on me,” Eroica said gravely. The only reply he received was a steady look. He returned the look with a serious one of his own. “Jason, I am trying very hard to be serious.”
“And succeeding admirably.”
“You know he’ll say I deserved it.”
Jason gave his friend a steady look. “Are you sure about that?”
“Hells bells, Jason, this is Iron Klaus we’re talking about!”
“Are we?” Jason asked pointedly.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I don’t know about me in Healer mode, but I’ve seen the Major switch over to Iron Klaus. It’s…chilling, to be honest.”
“That’s my point.”
After a thoughtful pause, Jason nodded. “If you don’t want me to tell him, I won’t. I’m your doctor. And more importantly, I’m your friend.”
After a short silence, Jason said, “You should tell the Doctor what happened.”
Eroica scowled. “Why?”
“Because chasing hostile aliens is what he does best. If anybody’s got a chance of catching this thing, he does,” the Alterran said knowingly. “He won’t judge you, either.”
The man in the bed gave a laugh of irony. “I wouldn’t be so sure. You didn’t hear what he said after you passed out in the transmat room.”
Jason furrowed his eyebrows. “Why? What did he say?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Don’t lie to me, Dorian,” Jason said playfully. The horrified look this statement produced puzzled him. Somehow, he had struck a nerve again. “What did the Doctor say?”
“He said I was spoiled, selfish, and self-centered.”
Jason blinked. “You are.”
“Thank you very much.”
Jason actually laughed. “He must’ve been very angry to be so blunt.”
“He said we almost killed you.”
“Ah.” Jason nodded, a knowing look coming to his face. “Protective mood. Did he apologize?”
“Later, yes, but…”
“He meant it. He always does.” Jason met his friend’s questioning look. “He won’t tell the Major if you ask not to. Believe me, he’s very good at keeping secrets.”
After a long silence, Eroica nodded. “Alright. I’ll take your word—” A sudden thought struck him and he caught his breath, his eyes growing wide. “Bloody hell, Jason!” he cried, sitting up in bed. “The Major!”
“What about him? Surely he’s not spoiled and self-centered.”
Eroica had a panicked look on his face. “What if that wasn’t the Major?”
Jason was suddenly completely lost. “What? When?”
Eroica did not seem to hear him. “We just assumed it was. What if it wasn’t?” He threw a frightened look over to the door. “And we sent Turlough with him—alone!”
“Dorian, welcome back,” Jason said with a grin. “You’re finally thinking straight again.” He held up his hands to calm his friend. “Don’t worry. It was the Major.”
“You can’t know that for sure.”
“Yes, I can.” Jason met Dorian’s questioning gaze. “Do you remember the body scan I took of you?”
“Yes. What has that to do with anything?”
“Well, I only did that to get the information into the computer. I didn’t need to do it for me. I can scan anything I touch. And I touched the Major when we brought you here. Believe me, it was him, no question about it.”
Eroica blinked. “So…when you touched me…”
Jason gave his friend an apologetic look. “I knew all I had to know.”
The man in the bed closed his eyes a moment. “You can be very scary sometimes, did you know that?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
Eroica looked up sharply, giving the Alterran a stricken look.
Jason’s eyes narrowed. “Now what?”
“Nothing,” Eroica replied and he slid back under the covers.
“Something. That’s the third time you’ve done that.”
“Reacted negatively to something I’ve said.”
Eroica shuddered as a chill ran down his spine. “That thing sounded a lot like you.”
The Healer nodded and then waved a hand in the air. “I won’t press for details. You need to sleep. You’re exhausted.” He leaned back in his chair again, closing his eyes. “And so am I.”
The room was silent for several minutes.
“You’re welcome. Now, go to sleep before I sedate you.” Jason heard a low chuckle in response to this. A good sign.
“Always with the threats…”
An amused smile came to the Jason’s face. “Idiot.”
* * *
The Doctor sat quietly in Eroica’s room, his face unreadable. He was in the chair Jason had occupied earlier, listening intently as the Earl gave his account of the alien’s attack. Jason was seated on the edge of the bed, giving moral support whenever his friend faltered.
After Eroica completed his story, there was a long silence. The Doctor sat mulling everything over, his face still unreadable. Jason sat watching him, patiently waiting for the Time Lord to speak.
Eroica was not as patient. “Isn’t anyone going to say something?” he said at last, looking from one to the other.
“Yes, actually. I have a question,” Jason said quietly.
Eroica gave him a suspicious look. “What…?”
“I’m going to assume that you were wandering in that part of the building because you were looking for something worth stealing,” Jason began calmly, his voice lacking its usual disapproving edge.
“No, I was on my way back from the third floor,” Eroica replied defensively.
“Then what made you go into that room?”
Eroica gave Jason a bewildered look. Then he realized the Alterran must have meant which of the numerous art pieces in the room had caught his attention. “The painting.”
Jason scowled, throwing a bewildered look in the Doctor’s direction. “What painting?”
Eroica sat up a little more. “What painting? That huge thing on the wall.”
“Dorian, there’s no painting in the room I found you in,” Jason informed. “It’s just an office.”
“A very opulent office,” the thief countered in as forceful a tone as he could manage.
The frown on Jason’s face deepened and he threw a quick glance in the Doctor’s direction, seeing a thoughtful expression on his face.
The Time Lord held up a hand. “Dorian, what did it look like to you?” he asked. “As much detail as you can remember.”
Eroica described the room and the numerous works of art that he had pointed out to the false Jason.
The Doctor saw a stunned look come to the real Jason’s face and asked what the room had looked like to him. His description was completely different to that of the Earl.
“I know what I saw!” Eroica said defensively.
“Dorian, no one is arguing with you,” the Doctor said calmly. “I think you saw exactly what you were meant to see. Something that would entice you to enter the room.”
“Like bait.” Jason sat back, his eyes widening. “Doctor, what do you know you’re not telling us?”
The Doctor gave his former traveling companion a small knowing smile. “I have a few theories…” he said evasively.
Jason turned to the bewildered Eroica. “Translation. The Doctor’s not going to tell us anything helpful until he narrows down the dozens of possibilities he has in his head. We could be here a while.”
The Doctor ignored the jib, addressing Eroica. “The alien. You said he looked like Jason at first.”
“Looked like, walked like, talked like…” Eroica confirmed.
“But not acted like?” Jason injected.
“Only at first.”
“And the Major?” the Doctor asked.
“The same. Only…” Eroica paused. “Well, he acted more like the Major than not.”
“In what way?”
“Well, the Major has taken a swing at me on more than one occasion. He even held a gun to my head once.” *
* Veni, Vidi, Vici
“Has he ever threatened to kill you?”
The Doctor’s eyebrows went up. “Interesting.”
“If you say so. I find it very disconcerting.”
“It hasn’t stopped you from harassing him at every opportunity, though, has it?” the Time Lord pointed out more harshly than he intended.
Before Eroica could reply, Jason broke in. “I think we’re straying from the point just a bit, Doctor.”
The Doctor’s eyes flickered but he did not reply directly. “Dorian, you said this thing changed into the Major’s likeness before it physically attacked you.”
Eroica nodded. “I thought it was Jason until I saw his eyes.”
“Wait a minute,” Jason broke in. “Did he sound like me or the Major?”
“The Major, why?”
Jason sat up a little straighter and turned to the Doctor, a startled look on his face. “Doctor, he didn’t sound that way to me. He looked like the Major, but the voice was…odd. I can’t really describe it.”
The Doctor gave him a thoughtful look. “Could you duplicate it?”
“I only heard a few words…”
“Do the best you can. This may be important.”
The Alterran nodded and closed his eyes, recalling the incident. Then he repeated the words the alien had spoken in a voice that was several times deeper than his own and had an odd, growling quality.
The Doctor gave a small nod before turning back to the Earl. “What did the room look like after Jason arrived?”
Eroica scowled. “I don’t understand. I just told you what it looked like.”
“You told me what it looked like before, what about after?”
The Earl put a hand to his head. “I don’t really remember. I was a bit of a mess by then.”
“Very…” Eroica caught his breath. “Yes! I couldn’t focus properly.” He turned to Jason, his eyes wide. “That’s why I didn’t believe who you were at first. I recognized your voice, but I couldn’t make out your face.”
Jason nodded, turning to the Doctor. “I noticed that, too. I thought he’d been drugged. His pupils were the size of dinner plates, and his hypothalamus was working overtime.”
“Sensory override,” the Doctor said calmly, looking at the bewildered Eroica. “The alien, or whatever it is, must’ve overridden your visual and auditory senses.”
“You mean…it actually took them over?” Jason asked in amazement. He sat back, his eyes focused in the distance. “That would explain a lot.”
“How?” This was Eroica, who was hanging on to the conversation by a thread.
“The hypothalamus regulates, among other things, fear and sexual arousal.”
“You saw, heard, and reacted just as it wanted you to,” the Doctor said, a hint of anger creeping into his calm voice. “And when it was gone, your senses were able to return to normal.”
“No wonder I couldn’t…” Eroica shuddered, closing his eyes. “How would it know how to…to…”
“Use the proper techniques?” the Doctor said helpfully, receiving a nod in reply. “Forgive an indelicate question, but was it your preferred method of…?”
“Doctor!” This was Jason, who had a horrified look on his face.
“I did agree to tell him everything,” Eroica reminded.
“I know, but there are limits.”
Eroica gave a small smile. He found Jason’s sudden protective behavior against the Doctor, of all people, to be very amusing. “What I’d really like to know,” he said, hoping so completely sidestep the question, “is how it knew so much about Jason and the Major.”
“As if it—” The Doctor blinked. “As if it read your mind.”
“Do you think that’s why it didn’t work on me?” Jason asked.
The Doctor shrugged. “Insufficient data, as K-9 would say. Possibly. Or it could be because you weren’t the target.”
“But Jason saw the Major, just as I did,” Eroica objected.
“Yes, odd that. If it’s capable of shape-shifting—and forgive me, Jason, but that’s the best term to use here—it should also be capable of replicating voices.”
“Unless it wasn’t shape-shifting. A holo-projector would produce the same visual effect,” Jason replied.
Eroica sat back and put a hand to his head. “You two are getting beyond me again.”
Jason smiled and gave him a sympathetic look. “You know what a hologram is, don’t you?”
“Well, this projects the image around the object. Or in this case, the person.”
“The ultimate disguise,” Eroica said, his eyes brightening.
“Jason, you’re giving him ideas,” the Doctor chided playfully.
Jason snorted. “Look who’s talking. You’re the one who gave him the pocket dimension.”
Eroica could not help but laugh at this. Then he realized it was the first time he had felt even remotely like himself since the incident the day before. “How could it have me seeing and hearing things?” he asked.
“A focusing device of some sort, presumably,” the Doctor replied.
“I don’t know.”
“It seems to thrive on fear, doesn’t it?” Jason remarked offhandedly.
The Doctor caught his breath, his eyes focused in the distance. “Fear. It thrives on fear. Terror…” He jumped to his feet, striking his forehead with the palm of his hand. “Of course! Why didn’t I see it?”
Eroica gave Jason a searching look, only to receive a shrug and shake of the head in reply. Obviously, they were both lost this time.
“Jason, you’re a genius!” the Doctor cried and turned sharply back to look at Eroica. “Dorian, who’s the most violent person you know?”
“The Major, obviously,” Eroica replied blandly.
“And the gentlest?”
Eroica turned his gaze to Jason.
The Doctor nodded. “You wouldn’t think it unusual for the Major to strike you, but you would if it were Jason, correct?”
“Doctor, what are you getting at?” Jason wanted to know.
The Doctor was becoming more animated by the second, the words tumbling out of him. “It used your likeness, Jason, to get past Dorian’s defenses. Then it turned everything on its head.” He turned sharply to Eroica, who was struggling to keep up. “Until you saw his eyes were different, you thought the person attacking you was Jason, yes?”
“And it terrified you.”
“To put it mildly.” Eroica closed his eyes, giving way to an involuntary shudder.
The Doctor gave him steady look. “You said you asked it why. What was the reply? The exact words.”
“I don’t really remember, exactly.”
“Then tell me inexactly.”
Eroica drew a deep breath. “He said something like, ‘I’m who I want to be and I’m doing what you’d expect me to do.’ Something like that.”
The Doctor’s eyes narrowed. “What you’d expect me to do…” he repeated. “That is a very odd choice of words.”
“I take it that means something?” Jason injected.
The Doctor seemed to snap back to reality. “If it got all the information out of Dorian’s head, then it does, in an odd sort of way.” He looked up. “It gave you a fantasy mixed with reality. What you’ve always wanted with what you know as reality. Result?”
“Absolute terror,” Jason replied, his eyes growing wide. He turned to Dorian, seeing a horrified look on his face. “The more frightened you were, the stronger it got.”
“And the more violent,” Eroica agreed.
“Precisely. Which just began the cycle all over again,” the Doctor stated flatly.
“So how do we go about finding it?” Jason wanted to know.
“Until I learn more, I’ve no idea.”
“Swell,” the Alterran moaned. He threw a quick glance in Eroica’s direction seeing him close his eyes. He seemed to be holding on by a thread, and was clearly exhausted. In a blink, Jason was in Healer mode. “Are we done here?” he asked. “Dorian still needs to rest.”
The Doctor observed the Alterran’s change of mood with a knowing smile. “Yes. We’re done, for the moment.”
The Doctor started toward the door. “Perhaps the computer can make something of those samples you pulled.”
Jason got to his feet, giving Dorian a steady look. “You get some rest. I’ll be back to check on you later,” he said gently. He received a half smile in return. He turned, following the Time Lord from the room.
The Doctor waited until the door was closed before asking, “Did you recognize the genetic information that thing left behind?”
The Alterran shook his head. “No. I’ve never encountered it before. It has some very strange properties, though. There’s artron energy present, and a faint trace of chronons. I’m not sure if they’re naturally occurring or from contact with Dorian.”
The Doctor nodded. “The TARDIS should be able to sort that out.”
“I hope so.”
The Doctor gave his Alterran friend a steady look. “You really are worried about him, aren’t you?”
Jason nodded. “For all his show of indifference, Dorian is very vulnerable emotionally.”
“But not with you, it seems,” the Doctor observed astutely.
“What do you mean?”
“He trusts you not to hurt him.”
“My dear Jason, you really can be obtuse sometimes, do you know that?”
Jason gave the Doctor a dark look. “It’s a good thing you trust me not to hurt you right now.”
* * *
DATA AND THEORIES
“Major, I’m not really sure how Dorian will react to you,” Jason said as he led the officer to the sickbay. “He’s still pretty shaken.”
The Doctor had given the Major an edited version of events, telling him that the Earl had been lured into the room by the alien when it looked like Jason. It had then changed into the Major’s likeness before physically attacking him. Obviously, the officer assumed he knew the rest. The real Jason had arrived in time to intervene before the alien could inflict any permanent damage on Eroica, or before it decided to kill him.
“That’s to be expected,” the Major replied coolly.
“Just…let me tell him you’re here, alright?” Jason paused outside the door. “He might be asleep.”
The Major’s eyes flickered but he did not reply. He had no doubts that the Earl would agree to see him. It wasn’t often that he actually came of his own volition. The idiot would probably be beside himself with ecstasy.
The Alterran slipped into the room and Klaus lit a cigarette as he waited. A minute later, Jason reappeared and pulled the door open, waving the Major inside.
“I’ll be out in the main sickbay, Major,” Jason said as he left.
The Major nodded and then turned to see Eroica sitting up in bed in a reasonably sensible pair of long silk pajamas. His enormous blue eyes were wider than he had ever seen them. Whether this was due to fear or astonishment, he could not tell. What did surprise him was the fact that the Earl wasn’t bubbling over with glee. Perhaps Jason had been correct in his observation that Eroica might not be able to separate the real Klaus from the false one.
“I didn’t expect you to be checking on me, too, Major,” Eroica remarked mildly.
Klaus noticed a slight tremor in the Earl’s voice and found himself surprised by this, too. He crossed to the chair and sat down, leaning back to study the Earl’s battered appearance more closely. Jason had told him that he had covered the bruises, but Klaus could see Eroica’s face was still slightly swollen. “I have a message for you,” he said calmly.
“Yes. Your men arrived safely at the North Downs this morning. I thought you would want to know.”
Eroica closed his eyes and sat back in bed. “Thank you, Major. I’ve been very worried about them.”
The Major nodded, taking a drag on his cigarette. “The Doctor told me that thing attacked you looking like me.”
Eroica looked up sharply, a shiver running down his spine. “Yes. It looked like Jason at first. Then it…changed.” He shivered again, and hugged himself. “I looked just like you, Major. Exactly.”
The Major’s eyes flickered. “And then it attacked you?”
Eroica nodded. “The Doctor thinks it read my mind. That it became you so it could…”
“So it could beat you up?” Klaus snapped angrily. “Is that what you consider me, Lord Gloria? A bully?”
“Major, you can’t deny that you’ve hit me.”
“Twice. Perhaps three times in how many years?”
“You held a gun to my head!”
“You’re still here, you idiot! And even you couldn’t miss at that distance.”
“I don’t beat up people who can’t defend themselves,” the Major said fiercely, rising to his feet. “And I especially don’t tie people up so I can beat the shit out of them. You, of all people, should know that.”
Eroica sat with his mouth agape. He never expected so vehement a reaction. Surely, the man would change his tune if he were to learn the whole story. “I’m sorry, Major,” he said quietly. “That came out badly.”
The Major drew himself to his full height but did not reply. He did not sit down again, either. He stood glaring down at the Earl, the smoke from his cigarette turning into a storm cloud above his head.
“What I was trying to say was that the Doctor thinks that thing was trying to make me afraid by having people I trust do things…” Eroica voice trailed off and he shuddered. “Having them do things they wouldn’t normality do.” He met the officer’s gaze steadily. Argue with that one!
Klaus blinked. Then he nodded. “That makes sense. Although, I’m puzzled as to why it would suddenly start a physical assault. Until now, it’s been using psychological means.”
“The Doctor’s puzzled by that one, too.”
The Major stood thoughtfully a moment. “Perhaps all the reports should be gone over again.” He turned on his heel and headed for the door.
“Major!” Eroica called out.
Klaus stopped dead and stiffened visibly, turning back slowly. “What?”
Eroica smiled brightly. “Thank you for coming to visit me,” he cooed, primping his pajama top. “Only next time, let me know in advance so I can be properly undressed.”
The Major sighed heavily. Obviously, it had been too much to hope for that the Earl would carry on a conversation without making at least one indecent remark. “Do you want me to hit you now?”
“No. I’m just making sure it’s really you.”
* * *
Several minutes after the Major left, Jason reappeared in Dorian’s doorway. “Well, how did it go?”
Eroica smiled brightly. “Surprisingly well, I think. Not one serious threat. And he even gave me a message that my men returned home safely.”
“Excellent.” Jason gave his friend an appraising look. “You feel up to getting out of bed for a bit?”
“Oh, do I!” Eroica practically threw the covers off the bed.
Jason could not help laughing at his enthusiasm.
“What’s so funny?”
“Sorry. This might be inappropriate under the circumstances, but… Normally you’re the one trying to get everyone into bed.” Jason was relieved when his friend laughed. He held out a hand. “I thought you might like to wear something other than pajamas.”
Eroica looked down at himself, rubbing the fine silk material. “These are quite nice, actually.”
“The Doctor tells me they’re from when he visited the court of Kublai Kahn.”
“Yes. Apparently, he won them playing backgammon.”
Eroica shook his head. “If it weren’t the Doctor we were talking about, I’d say you were making this up.”
“Just trying to distract you. I have no doubts that you’ll be adding them to the other goodies in the pocket dimension,” Jason replied knowingly.
“Oh! The pocket dimension!” Eroica gasped, a hand going to his mouth. “I don’t know what happened to it.” To his relief, the man at the door was suddenly holding out the little pouch.
“It was in your coat pocket,” Jason said mildly.
Eroica took the pouch and smiled, clasping it to his chest. “I’ve grown rather fond of this.”
“I’m not surprised.” Jason turned and led the way out. “Come on. I have another treasure trove for you to see.” He threw a quick glance over his shoulder. “But it isn’t to end up in that little goodie in your hands, got it?”
“No promises,” Eroica joked. “What is this treasure trove?”
“You just wait and see. I know how you love surprises.”
Within a few minutes, the pair were standing in front of a plain white door. It looked like the dozens of other plain white doors in the stark white corridors of the enormous interior of the TARDIS. Eroica regarded it a moment and then turned to Jason. “Well, don’t keep me in suspense.”
“Open it,” Jason invited.
Eroica hesitated. “Why? What’s in there?”
“The TARDIS wardrobe. Well, one of them.”
“Wardrobe?” Eroica’s eyes narrowed. “How big is it?”
“I think the word enormous might cover it.” Jason grinned and pushed open the door. “Where do you think the Major got all his changes of clothes from?”
A small delighted noise escaped the Earl as he took in the gigantic room. “Oh, my…” As far as he could tell, it would hold at least one football pitch, possibly even two. It was literally packed, from floor to ceiling, with clothes. From hundreds of different worlds and hundreds of different time periods. Racks and racks and racks of the most exquisite clothes he had ever seen.
Jason took the thunderstruck Earl by the hand and pulled him through the door. “Over there are the mens clothes,” he said, waving a hand to take in the ocean of garments. “Over there are the ladies. There are the accessories. Shoes, belts, jewelry, and what not. And over there, is the mirror, although I suspect you’d’ve found that on your own.”
“I’ve died and gone to heaven,” Eroica said at last. Then, without thinking, he gave Jason an enormous hug.
“Dorian, you’re crushing me!” the amused Alterran protested.
“Oh, Jason, I think I love you,” Eroica sighed, planting a kiss on the other man’s mouth.
Jason took a stunned step back. Christ, he’s a damned good kisser. “Down boy, or I’ll call for the Major to protect me.” He could not help but grin at the obvious stars in Dorian’s eyes. He had hoped the wardrobe would help get his friend’s mind off what happened to him. He never dreamed it would work so well as to make Dorian forget everything.
“I don’t know where to start,” Eroica said as he crossed to the nearest rack of garments.
“You can have as much time as you like,” Jason replied happily. “I’m supposed to go help the Doctor and the Major sort through all that data that was collected. And, apparently, the KGB was good enough to supply the incident reports that they’ve been keeping over the years.”
“Sounds like you’ve got a full afternoon ahead of you.”
Jason grinned. “I think yours is going to be more fun.”
* * *
The Doctor scowled down at the papers that were strewn all over the console room floor. Well, perhaps not strewn. The Major had been meticulously sorting the reports, having divided them into categories. Each category containing a stack of papers, some stacks being larger than others. Turlough was at the console loading the data into the computer as it was called out to him. Jason, in the meantime, had simply listened as each event was described.
“So, what can we conclude from all this,” Jason asked finally. “Aside from the fact that this thing seems to have been operating, relatively undetected, for decades.”
“I can’t shake the notion that this is some kind of…mind parasite,” the Doctor remarked.
The Major looked up and frowned. Then he noticed that Jason and Turlough seemed equally perplexed. “Mind Parasite?” he asked.
“Yes. I encountered one once that fed off evil.* Perhaps this one feeds off fear.”
* The Mind Of Evil
Jason’s eyebrows went up. “Well, jumping out at people in the dark is certainly enough to frighten them,” he remarked. He glanced at the stack for that category. Then a thought struck him and he looked over at the Major. “Are all those from the same time period?”
Klaus turned back and picked up the stack, quickly thumbing through them. He nodded. With the exception of the events of the past week, all the other instances were within a fifteen year time period that ended sometime in the mid 1970s. The Major looked up. “That’s when that bastard Borodin started the matter transmission experiments.”
The Doctor gave him a stunned look. “I’m guessing that’s not common knowledge.”
“No. But NATO intelligence has been keeping tabs on it,” Klaus replied. “It’s been rumored that every time a dissident vanished without a trace, it was through that thing.” He gave a small smile of irony. “I can now attest to the fact that the rumors were true.”
“Yes…” the Doctor said thoughtfully. “It seems Comrades Ivanov and Borodin were keeping house for someone.”
“Doctor,” Turlough injected, “you’re not saying they were working with that…whatever-it-is, are you?”
“Hardly. But the creature, parasite, whatever-it-is, seems to’ve giving up its spectral diet of tiny frights and developed a taste for sheer terror.” The Doctor nodded over to one of the stacks, adding, “And if all those reported disappearances are in some way connected to this, its appetite is increasing.”
Jason sat back in his chair, his eyes wide. “My God, it’s like an addict,” he whispered.
The Major turned sharply to him. “What?”
Jason gave him a steady look. “The pattern fits that of an addict. You humans have all kinds of hormones kick in when you’re frightened or startled. An adrenaline rush being one of them. Fight or flight, I think is the current theory.” He looked over at the Doctor. “But it can’t be just the adrenaline rush from fear. There are other emotions that trigger the same biological reactions.”
“Yes, but the psychic energy it creates is different,” the Doctor pointed out. “The parts of the brain that are utilized for rational thought are different than those used when in a blind panic.”
“Doctor, are you saying this creature is like the thing in the Hakol probe?”* Turlough wanted to know.
* The Awakening
Jason frowned, throwing a quick glance in the Major’s direction. “Hakol probe?”
“Yes. Turlough and I just had a run in with one in 1984,” the Doctor replied. “The inhabitants of Hakol utilize psychic energy the way humans utilize electricity. It’s just another power source to them.”
“So…it’s not unreasonable to assume there’s something out there that feeds on the psychic energies produced by fear,” Jason concluded.
“And anyone being tossed into that transmat would undoubtedly be terrified.”
The Major remembered Eroica’s reaction when he was thrown into the booth. Terror. Raw terror.
“And now that it’s offline?” Turlough asked.
“If it is an addict, it’s probably going through withdrawal,” Jason concluded. He nodded at the papers in the Major’s hands. “Obviously, the spectral events of a few years ago aren’t enough anymore. It’s gotten addicted to the heightened energies produced by sheer terror.”
The Major’s eyes widened. “That’s why it attacked the Earl! He was the last one to be thrown into the booth.”
“Yes,” the Doctor replied thoughtfully. “It would’ve been familiar with his fear pattern.”
“But why the physical attack?”
“Conditioned response, perhaps. From what I understand, the guards were rather physical when they threw him into the transmat.”
The Major nodded and then looked the Doctor in the eye. “So, how does knowing all this help us catch it?”
* * *
Jason returned to the wardrobe to find Dorian curled up on the floor. Or more accurately, curled up on a mound of clothing on the floor. He felt his heart in his mouth at the thought that he had taken ill. “Dorian?” he said worriedly, touching his shoulder.
Eroica rolled onto his back and smiled. “Mmmm. Hello, love.”
“Oh, thank God!” Jason said in a relieved voice, sitting down on the floor beside him. “I thought you’d passed out.”
Eroica rubbed his eyes, finally coming fully awake. “Jason? I thought…” He sat up slightly and looked around. “I must’ve been dreaming.”
Jason nodded but did not remark on the fact that he was delighted his friend had not had a nightmare. “I see you found something to your liking,” he said instead, taking in the Earl’s incredibly elaborate outfit. What struck him was the brocade jacket that was very similar to the one he himself had worn when he first appeared in the infirmary six centuries in the future.
“I found lots of somethings, as you can see,” Eroica replied muzzily, rubbing his eyes again. “Do you think the Doctor would mind if I kept just a few outfits?”
“Jesus Christ Almighty, Dorian!” Jason moaned. “Can’t you keep your mind off thieving for five minutes?”
“I’ve been in here longer than five minutes.”
Jason put his head in his hands. “Give me strength.” The man was impossible. When he looked up, he saw the Earl studying him with an odd look on his face. “Now what? Have I grown another head?”
“No. I’d…like to ask you something,” Eroica began hesitantly. “I’m just not sure how to go about it.”
“My Lord, you actually sound serious.”
“I am, and that’s just what I wanted to ask.”
Jason blinked. “You’ve lost me.”
“I know about your being an alien and all that. And that you speak English rather than your own language…”
“It’s…the expressions you use. My Lord. My God. Pray this works. I need another miracle.” Eroica paused before asking. “Are they just…”
“Expressions?” Jason completed, receiving a nod in reply. “No, they’re not.”
Eroica blinked. “I never thought about it before. That…well, aliens might…”
“Might also believe in a Supreme Being, as it were. Someone higher than themselves working for the greater good,” Jason stated succinctly.
“Yes. You…really believe that?”
“With all my heart.”
Eroica sat back and looked at the Alterran a moment. “How?”
Jason laughed, lowering his eyes. “Dorian, I’m a doctor. I’ve seen too many strange and wonderful things to believe that it’s all a random jumble. People call me a miracle worker. But I like to think I just pass on the miracles I’m given.” He looked up, his eyes narrowing as he noticed his friend was clearly uncomfortable. “I assume you don’t agree.”
“Jason, I’m a homosexual.”
“Yes, I am keenly aware of that fact.”
Eroica drew a deep breath and looked the Alterran in the eyes. “Do you think I’m evil?”
“What?” Jason gasped. “Where on earth did that come from?”
“I’ve been called some really horrible things. I’m…an abomination against God, apparently.”
Jason sat back and marveled. “Dorian, I think you’ll find that your own Bible says that homosexuality is a sin against the flesh. That the…er, act is an abomination.”
The Earl looked up sharply. “You’ve read the Bible?” he said in disbelief.
“I’ve read a lot of the works from your planet.” Jason gave a small smile. “I prefer the view that one should hate the sin and love the sinner.” He saw Dorian close his eyes in response to this and said mildly, “I suppose all that is dependent on what one considers a sin.”
Jason could not help but smile at the petulant tone. “What do you believe?”
“I’m an atheist.”
Jason found himself marveling again.
Eroica lowered his eyes. “So’s the Major,” he added quickly.
Jason let out an amused squeak. “Now there’s irony for you,” he snickered. “Aren’t I supposed to be the godless alien?”
“I suppose.” Eroica could not help being amused and gave him a sideways glance. “What about the Doctor?”
“Ah. I have no idea, actually.”
“What? After all the time you’ve known him?”
“I supposed he’d consider himself an agnostic. But to be honest, in all the time I’ve known him it always seemed to be understood that the subject was off limits.”
Eroica sat thoughtfully for a minute, mulling this over.
“Dorian, why is this suddenly so important to you? You’re a thief, for petty’s sake,” Jason said amusedly. “I seem to remember ‘Thou Shall Not Steal’ being in the Bible, too.”
“I don’t know. I suppose…” Eroica’s voice trailed off and he considered a moment, only to frown. “Why is it whenever I’m around you I get all serious and introspective?” he said accusingly.
Jason laughed as he got to his feet. “Because I’m easy to talk to? Change of pace?” He gave a sly grin. “Because I’m a good kisser?”
Dorian gave him another sideways glance.
Jason held out a hand. “Come on. The Doctor’s sent Turlough and the Major off to take some readings. That’ll take a while. I thought you might like something to eat before they need me again.”
* * *
Turlough was not pleased to be teamed up with the Major when he was sent to collect the energy readings. The Doctor had insisted that the best way to verify his theory would be to check the areas where the most recent sightings had taken place. He had also insisted that the officer go along.
The Major carried a map upon which the Doctor had indicated the areas they needed to check and the last energy reading that had been taken there. As the pair moved through the building, Turlough would report the reading and the Major would make a notation on the map alongside the Doctor’s figures.
It seemed that all of the readings were going down. Eventually, the pair finished at the furthest point, and turned to go back to the TARDIS. Turlough was inwardly grateful this odious task was over, as the Major had done nothing but berate him the whole time. The only reason the boy did not snap back was the fact that the officer was armed.
The Doctor is going to have a lot to answer for, Turlough thought darkly, sending him off with this control freak.
* * *
As Turlough slowly trudged after the Major, he suddenly found himself wishing he had stayed in Little Hodcomb with Tegan. As soon as this thought went through his mind, he stopped dead in his tracks.
“I’ve gone mad,” he muttered darkly. He looked up just in time to see the Major turn a corner further up ahead and sighed heavily as the call of, “Hurry up, boy,” followed.
“Coming!” Turlough called. “I know, I know. The readings won’t deliver themselves,” he grumbled, adding a few uncomplimentary remarks at the same time. His pace was far from hurried, however. It wasn’t as though the KGB was likely to hassle him now that the entire section of the building had been cleared. He stopped and looked down a corridor, recalling how it had been filled with people only a few days earlier.
When he turned back, he gave a startled cry. The Major was suddenly looming over him, a look of thunder on his face. “Don’t do that!” Turlough snapped, a hand going to his chest. “You scared the hell out of me.”
“Can’t you follow even the simplest order?” the Major demanded.
Turlough gave him a dark look. “Look, I’m not one of your underlings, Major,” he snapped, having had his fill of the man’s badgering.
“You’re not anything as far as I can see.”
Before Turlough had the chance to come up with a suitable retort, his arm was taken in an iron grip and he was being pulled down one corridor and then another, in the wrong direction. Then he was being pulled through a doorway. “This isn’t the way to the TARDIS!” he protested. He pulled his arm free and tried to leave, only to be shoved further into the room. “What are you doing?” he demanded as the door was closed.
“You need to be taught a lesson, boy.”
“And who’s going to teach it to me? You?” Turlough spat bitterly.
“You don’t know the first thing about me.”
“You tried to kill the Doctor.”*
* The Guardians Trilogy
Turlough stiffened visibly, his mouth dropped open. “Who told you—” His eyes grew wide as he realized what was happening. “You’re that…that…thing!” The reply was a wry smile that sent a chill down his spine. As frightening as the Major was, the alien creature was even more so. He could predict what the Major would do…well, more or less. But this thing. There was no telling.
“You can’t scare me like you did the Earl,” Turlough said in as even a tone as possible. “You can’t give me a twisted parody of what I want.”
“Do you even know what you want, Turlough?”
Turlough gave a bitter laugh. “Like I’m going to tell you!” He fought to keep in control of himself, to keep from running in terror, doing anything in terror. He waved a hand in the air. “Let me see what you really look like. Not this bad copy of the Major.”
The alien changed form, taking on the Doctor’s likeness. “Really, Turlough, there’s no need to be insulting. I know exactly what you want.”
“And what’s that?”
“You want to be accepted. One of the crew. You want the Doctor to trust you the way he does Tegan. Am I right?”
“The Doctor doesn’t want you around, does he?”
Turlough clenched his fists in rage. “I said shut up!”
“He doesn’t trust you. Nobody trusts you. Sometimes you wish you could just cut out your heart, it hurts so much.”
“You don’t know anything!”
“Oh, but I do,” the alien said in a low voice as it slowly started to advance.
The sound of Turlough’s terrified scream echoed out in the corridor, but there was no one there to hear it.
* * *
The Major was moving so quickly that he practically fell into the console room when he arrived. He took in the stunned occupants before he practically demanded, “Is Turlough here?”
The Doctor was at the console, Jason beside him. Eroica was in a chair a few feet away, leaning on his elbow, a bored expression on his face.
“No. He’s supposed to be with you,” the Doctor replied in an almost accusing tone.
“What? How?” The Doctor threw a horrified look back at the console. They had started picking up yet another energy spike only minutes before the Major arrived. Which meant…
“He was following me, then he wasn’t,” the Major was saying. “I searched the area but couldn’t locate him.”
“So you thought he came here ahead of you,” Jason completed, receiving a nod in reply. “Well, he didn’t.” He threw a worried look in the Doctor’s direction. “Would he just wander off like that?”
“Not with a violent alien on the loose,” the Doctor replied knowingly. “In fact, I’m surprised he even let you out of his sight, Major.”
The Major shook his head. “I was careless. I let him lag too far behind.”
Eroica gave a startled cry. “Major, I don’t believe for a minute that you would be that careless.”
Klaus gave him an angry look, but it was himself that he was angry with.
Before the inevitable argument could begin, the Doctor intervened. “Major, take us to where you last saw him. We’ll start there.” He turned to Eroica, adding, “Not you, Dorian.”
“I wasn’t even thinking of going,” Eroica replied shakily.
“Good. You can hold the fort, as it were. And lock the doors behind us,” the Doctor ordered. He turned to Jason. “I’m going to assume you gave the Major your key,” he said in a mildly disapproving tone.
“I did. When he and Turlough went to find you the day Dorian was attacked,” Jason confirmed. “I explained about the psychic imprinting, too.”
The Doctor nodded, pulling another key from a compartment in the console and wordlessly handing it to the Alterran. He then turned to Eroica. “No matter what happens, do not open the doors for anyone. We’ll let ourselves in.”
Eroica shivered. “Don’t worry. I’m not getting anywhere near that thing again if I can help it.”
* * *
Jason looked around the empty hallway and then over at the Major. “You last saw him here?”
The Major nodded. “Right where you’re standing. Dragging his heels.” He tried not to sound disapproving. Turlough was his responsibility, and he had allowed himself to lose sight of him. If anything happened to the boy, he would never forgive himself for such incompetence.
“Yes, that sounds like Turlough,” the Doctor agreed. “No signs of a struggle, not that I expected any.”
Jason held up a hand. “Then let me listen. That’s how I found Dorian.”
The Major gave him a startled look. “You heard him?” Somehow, he felt he should have known the Alterran was capable of this, yet it still surprised him.
“Yes.” Jason closed his eyes, altering his sensor array to increase the volume of his hearing. After nearly a minute, he moved down the hallway in one direction, then back in the other. Suddenly, he heard a sound. A low gurgling moan. Pain. His eyes snapped open, searching the hall for the source of the sound. “He’s here…”
The Major watched the Alterran move further along the corridor and drew his gun. “That’s the wrong direction,” he said quietly to the Doctor.
“Which would explain why you couldn’t find him,” the Doctor whispered back.
* * *
“Mother of God…”
This was all Jason could think to say. The sight that met his eyes was too horrific for words. He would not have even known the body beside the alien was Turlough were it not for the boy’s red hair.
The Alterran Healer had seen his share of death, of mortal injuries, of man’s inhumanity to man. But this was just…just… Jason closed his eyes as he realized there were no words to describe horror he felt.
The alien did not even seem to care that he had been interrupted. He simply glanced up, the blade in his hand dripping red. His eyes locked on the Doctor and a cruel smile twisted his face.
“Goddamn butcher!” Klaus snarled. The alien creature was still in the Doctor’s form, but this detail did not even slow the Major down as he pointed his already drawn weapon at him. “Get away from the boy before I put a bullet through your fucking heart!” he ordered as he stormed into the room.
The alien did not move. He shifted his gaze from the Doctor to the Major. “Another step closer and I kill him,” he said coldly, causing the officer to stop short.
He’s still alive! How could anyone still be alive after…? The Major’s eyes narrowed, his hand moving fractionally as he drew a bead on the alien’s heart. “You kill him. I kill you.”
The creature considered this and gave a small smile. “Then, you win.” So saying, he promptly vanished.
“God fucking dammit!” the Major roared in frustration.
Jason mentally agreed with him as he went swiftly to Turlough’s side, only to be repulsed further on his arrival. It was all he could do not to be sick on the spot, a hand going to his mouth in horror. “My God…”
The Healer got down beside his friend, uncertain where to start. The boy’s piercing blue eyes were staring blankly into space, but when Jason touched him to turn his head there was a slight flicker of movement. Bloody hell, he’s still conscious! Jason felt his stomach lurch again and fought to stay in control. Turlough’s life depended on it. He quickly scanned his friend, discovering he had been completely paralyzed. If he survived, it would fade away. If he survived.
“Hang on, Turlough, the cavalry’s arrived,” Jason said gently.
The boy’s clothing was completely shredded, exposing his flesh to his attacker’s blade. The alien had hacked and sliced Turlough’s arms, legs and throat, yet, whether by miracle or by design, had missed opening his arteries and larger veins. Some of the cuts were scarcely a scratch, while others were deep gashes. These were nothing compared to the worse of his injuries. Turlough’s chest and abdomen had been laid opened with surgical precision. How can he still be alive? the Healer thought. He could see and identify the boy’s internal organs. Could see his lungs moving as he breathed. His heart pumping inside his rib cage.
Dear God, what does this thing think it is? Jack the Ripper?
“I can’t work on him here,” Jason announced, closing the gaping wound as best he could. “There’s too much damage. I need to get him to the TARDIS before he bleeds to death.” Then he wondered if the alien had kept the boy alive in the same way it had kept Dorian under its power. If so, he needed to move quickly before the effect wore off.
Jason looked up, seeing a look that was a combination of anger, horror, and guilt on the Doctor’s face. This was slowly being overshadowed by rage. He did not take kindly to having one of his companions attacked.
“Doctor, TARDIS!” Jason snapped, bringing the Time Lord out of his daze.
“Jason, don’t let him die,” was all the Doctor said in reply.
For once, Jason could not bring himself to make his usual promise. He did not know why Turlough was still alive to begin with. By rights, he should have died of shock and blood loss. Jason turned to the Major, who was standing beside the Doctor. “Major, have the patrols been started in this section of the building?”
“Yes,” the Major replied. “Two men each. Why?”
“I’m going to have to revert to carry him and I’d rather not be mistaken for that thing.”
“Jason can do many things,” the Doctor said knowingly, “but deflecting bullets isn’t one of them. He’ll need protection through the halls.”
“He’ll have it,” came the succinct reply. The Major was suddenly Iron Klaus, his face hardening. He drew his Magnum again, turned on his heel, and strode to the door, stopping on the threshold to wait for Jason to follow.
Jason observed the officer’s transformation with a shutter and found himself glad that they were on the same side. He returned to his true form, his tendrils entwining his friend with extreme care before slowly and gently lifting him from the floor. Turlough gave a low moan as this was done, causing the worried look on the Doctor’s face to deepen into unbridled rage.
This wasn’t a simple hunt for an alien any longer.
Now, it was personal.
* * *
“Don’t let him die…”
The Doctor’s words echoed through Turlough’s mind as Jason carried him through the halls of Lubyanka. He couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, couldn’t fight. The creature had seen to that. He could imagine what he looked like, although the very thought made him sick. Mercifully, he was beyond pain, almost beyond comprehension.
The taunts had been unending. Just cut out my heart and get it over with! But no, it had to inflict one more cut, one more stabbing pain, one more opening in his flesh to allow his blood to spill out and drain his strength that much more.
Then it happened. The alien, the creature, his tormentor…was gone. Finally, someone had found him. Finally, voices he knew; Jason, the Major, the Doctor.
See, the Doctor did come! But too late. You’re too late, Doctor. It’s killed me.
Jason was beside him, working like a man possessed, telling him to hang on.
It’s too late. I’m already dead.
“I can’t work on him here…”
It’s too late.
“I need to get him to the TARDIS…”
“Jason, don’t let him die.”
Turlough felt his heart miss a beat.
Don’t let me die.
* * *
DON’T LET ME DIE
Jason did not even pause when he entered the TARDIS. He shot through the console room and was practically through the inner door by the time Eroica registered his presence. The Earl scarcely had time to notice the bloodied form entwined in his tendrils before he was gone. The Doctor and the Major entered moments later. From the dejected looks on their faces, it was obvious that the alien had eluded them again, leaving Turlough as the latest casualty.
After a moment, Eroica turned to follow Jason. He was uncertain as to whether he would remember the way to the sickbay. Then he realized he did not need to. All he had to do was follow the trail of blood. Another thought flashed through his mind and he paused just inside the inner door, throwing a quick look back into the console room. No, if Turlough were dead, Jason wouldn’t have been moving so quickly.
Neither the Doctor nor the Major took any notice of the Earl’s departure, both being too intent on berating themselves for what had happened to Turlough.
The Doctor pulled the door lever, took a few steps toward the inner door, and stopped, giving a chair Eroica had just vacated a savage kick and sending it skittering across the room. He picked up the chair’s mate and threw it as hard as he could in the opposite direction, a roar of anger escaping him.
Suddenly the Major was holding him by the arms, preventing him from doing any further damage to the console room. “Doctor, this will not help the boy,” he said firmly.
The Doctor pulled out of the officer’s grasp, his eyes blazing with a murderous rage. “You’re a fine one to talk, Major,” he spat back. “This is my fault! Turlough could die, and it’s my fault!”
“Nein. The boy—” the Major broke off, correcting himself. “Turlough—was my responsibility. I should never have allowed us to get separated.”
“I appreciate what you’re saying,” the Doctor replied in a slightly calmer tone, “but my companions are my responsibility. I brought him here, got him mixed up in this…mess. Will I never learn? I’ve already lost one companion.” He turned his gaze toward the inner door. “Now I may lose another. And for what? It’s so…senseless!”
The Major gave the Doctor an astonished look. He had once accused the Doctor of having a total lack of responsibility, of leaving after the fight with an alien invader was over, of leaving others to clean up his mess, which often included several deaths. It had never occurred to him that one of those deaths might be someone traveling with the Doctor, despite the fact that he himself had saved Jason’s life while he was the Doctor’s traveling companion. Yet, the Doctor himself always seemed to come away unscathed, unaffected by it all. Unaffected, that is, until now.
“Then do something about it!” Klaus snapped angrily. “This is a time machine!”
“If you’re about to ask me to go back and stop this from happening, don’t,” the Doctor said firmly. “There are rules even I cannot break.”
“Then what good is it?” Klaus thundered back. “What good is a time machine if you can’t use it to save your friends?”
“Don’t you think I would if I could?” the Doctor countered forcefully. “One of my companions died, Major!* And I could do nothing to prevent it.” He thumped a fist on the console in frustration. “It would’ve been so easy to just turn back the clock. Snatch him away before—” He broke off, giving another chair a savage kick and sending it skittering across the room to join the first. He was shaking with anger and frustration. “There are greater consequences to consider than what I want!” Why do humans always want to change things? Why do I always want to change things?
The Major stood silently a moment before saying, “Then I am sorry for you.”
The Doctor turned, his expression one of shock and outrage. It was almost laughable. A human feeling sorry for a Time Lord. “You feel sorry for me?”
“Yes. I’m not the only one who wishes they could change the past. I thought you had this power, Doctor. Now you tell me that you don’t. That you never did. That not even you, in this marvelous machine, can change anything.” The Major gave him a piercing look. “If I’m to believe what you say, then your so-called power over Time is an illusion.”
The Doctor stood staring into space. An illusion. Was everything he did an illusion? A way of fooling himself into thinking it was all for some noble purpose, when in reality nothing in the bigger picture ever really changed? “Am I just fooling myself?” he said quietly before turning to meet the officer’s challenging gaze. “I’m a fraud, Major. It’s all been for nothing.”
Klaus snorted, waving a hand in the air. “Now you sound like the Earl when he feels sorry for himself.” He casually lit a cigarette, looking the Time Lord up and down. “It doesn’t suit you, Doctor. You’re not the kind of man who whines.”
The Doctor’s eyes flashed. “Major, I do believe you’re actually being supportive.”
“Don’t be an idiot,” the Major replied, a faint smile curling his lips as he blew smoke into the air. “I don’t know how to be supportive. You said so yourself.”
“Then I apologize. It seems I was wrong.”
Klaus met the Time Lord’s intense gaze. He had been partially successful in getting the Doctor’s mind off Turlough. There was nothing either of them could do for him. Jason would either work another miracle, or he would not. If they didn’t want this to happen again, the Doctor needed to concentrate his encyclopedic brain on finding a solution.
“If that’s so, then what else might you’ve been wrong about?” the Major asked challengingly.
* * *
Eroica was in the observation room of the sickbay, watching Jason in an awed silence. The Alterran was in the surgery on the other side of the window, still in his true form. He had placed Turlough on the operating table beneath a glowing light the thief remembered from his own time as the Healer’s patient. Jason had told him it was a sterile field that protected his patient from infection. Considering the massive wounds that covered Turlough’s body, Eroica felt certain the boy needed all the help he could get.
Jason was moving fast. Incredibly fast, his tendrils seeming to flash in several directions at once. Eroica could not follow everything he was doing in his frenzy of activity. He was bewildered when the Alterran came to an abrupt halt for a few minutes before beginning the frenzy again.
Eroica noticed the speaker in the wall and realized it connected into the operating room. He turned it on just as Jason stopped again. When his quiet, gentle voice came through the speaker, Eroica felt ill as he came to the horrifying realization that Turlough was still fully conscious.
* * *
Jason was unaware of anything save getting to the sickbay. He practically flew down the corridors. The TARDIS seemed to recognize the urgency, aiding in his mad dash to save one of her crew, a new door appearing that led into the sickbay rather than another lengthy corridor. Jason whispered his gratitude as he made straight for the surgery.
As soon as Jason laid Turlough on the operating table, all the monitors connected to it came to life. A split second later, the Healer saw his patient’s heart rate jump dramatically, his respiration joining it. The boy was obviously terrified.
“Turlough, don’t be afraid. I know you’re conscious,” Jason said gently, his tendrils flashing in several directions as he prepared his friend for surgery. “And I know you can’t answer me.” He paused a moment, searching for any kind of a response. “I don’t know how that thing is still affecting you, but the paralysis will wear off.”
Turlough seemed to calm down upon hearing this. His heart rate slowed slightly, as did his breathing. Encouraged, Jason told him what he was doing, and what he was preparing to do. “I can’t risk a general anesthetic without knowing what that thing used on you.” He squeezed his friend’s hand. “But I don’t want to hurt you, either. Can you move your eyes at all?”
Turlough’s eyes continued to stare into space, his only response being a slight flicker of his eyelids. Obviously, the answer was no.
Jason tried not to sound disappointed. “Try to close them for me.”
Turlough made a valiant attempt, managing to partially close his eyes.
“That’s enough. How far can you open them?”
Again, Turlough’s eyelids flickered.
“That’s fine. I’m going to ask you yes or no questions as I work. Open your eyes as you just did for yes. Close them as best you can for no. Okay?” Jason smiled inwardly as his patient’s eyelids flickered again. “Excellent. First question. Are you in any pain?”
“Are you afraid?”
Yes. Yes. Yes.
“Not of me, I hope.”
“Good. I move faster in my true form. I’m going to start closing your chest wound. You’ll feel pressure as I work, but you shouldn’t feel any pain.” Jason paused a moment, giving Turlough a chance to take this in. “If I sense any changes, I’ll stop. Okay?”
The Alterran began his work in earnest. The whole time he was talking, he had been preparing Turlough for the surgery, cleaning his limbs, putting temporary bindings on the gashes in his extremities, starting a transfusion of synthetic blood, and another, and another.
Jason was vaguely aware of Eroica’s presence in the observation room but did not stop to dwell on it. He needed to concentrate on getting Turlough stabilized and then put back together. He doubted he would be able to completely finish the job of patching him up. Turlough was far too weak to remain in surgery the length of time this would require. If he survived, then Jason could go about repairing the scars the slashes would leave on his skin.
If he survived…
* * *
“Still at it?” the Doctor asked quietly as he entered the observation room.
Eroica turned as the door opened. “Yes. He’s scarcely slowed down in three hours. I don’t know how he’s kept up the pace. I’ve never seen anything—anyone—move so fast.”
The Doctor nodded, turning his gaze into the next room. The gaping wound in Turlough’s chest had been closed, as had the worst of the gashes on his extremities. Jason was in the process of closing the slashes on his throat.
“Where’s the Major?” Eroica asked in as casual a manner as he could manage.
“Doing a bit of research for me.”
Eroica caught his breath. “Doctor, you haven’t—”
“No. I haven’t sent him off on his own,” the Doctor replied calmly. “Nobody is going anywhere on their own anymore. He’s using the communications system to contact Bonn. He’s getting quite adept at using the console.”
Eroica nodded absently.
“You’ll excuse my saying so,” the Time Lord began slowly as he sat down, “but this hardly seems the type of thing to hold your interest.”
Eroica met the Doctor’s inquiring gaze a moment and then turned back to the window. “Have you ever watched him, Doctor?” he asked calmly. “I mean, really watched? I’ve never seen anything so graceful. The way he moves, all those…those…”
“Yes. They don’t just fly if different directions, do they? I never thought about it before now, but he must’ve operated on me the same way.”
“I would imagine so. Jason always prefers to work in his true form.” The Time Lord’s eyes narrow at that moment. Then he caught his breath as he came to the same horrifying conclusion about Turlough that the Earl had earlier.
“Yes, he’s awake,” Eroica confirmed with a shudder. “I don’t think he’s in any pain though.”
“What makes you say that?” the Doctor wanted to know.
“Because every time he so much as twitches, Jason stops to talk to him.”
The Doctor closed his eyes, his hands curling into fists. This was far worse than he could’ve imagined. The creature had to be stopped before it finally killed someone. He opened his eyes, taking in the mutilated form of his companion and prayed that it had not killed someone already.
* * *
Jason did not know how many hours he spent working on Turlough’s injuries. He only became aware of time slipping away from him when the boy’s paralysis started to fade.
After the gaping wound had been closed, Jason went on to concentrate on the deeper gashes in Turlough’s arms and legs. Blood was pouring from his wounds almost as fast as Jason was pouring it back in. Then, at long last, a turning point. The blood loss slowed until, finally, it virtually stopped—after countless transfusions.
Then, an hour later, another turning point. A low moan rose in Turlough’s throat and Jason froze. This was the first sound the boy had made since being lifted from the floor. Jason watched in amazement as his friend very slowly closed his eyes. Fully closed his eyes. He seemed to struggle to keep them closed. Or was he just shocked that he could do it? Jason wondered.
“Turlough?” Jason ventured. “Am I hurting you?”
When the boy actually spoke, the Alterran visibly started, his body rippling with color. Turlough’s voice was thick and heavy, but he had spoken nonetheless. “I know you want to, but you mustn’t talk,” the Healer said quickly. “Just lie still. I’m almost done.”
Turlough opened his eyes, giving the Alterran a steady look before closing them again. He was grateful he was not in any pain and wondered just how long the blissful numbness would last. Then he realized how incredibly tired he was, most certainly past the point of exhaustion. But he was afraid to sleep. What if he didn’t wake up again?
At that moment, Jason returned to his human form to allow his friend to read his expression. He squeezed one of Turlough’s hands, a small smile coming to his face as the fingers moved slightly in an attempt to squeeze back. “Turlough, I won’t leave you, I promise,” he said gently. “I won’t—”
“Don’t let me die.”
Turlough surprised even himself when this plaintive request passed his lips, despite the fact that it had been the one thought in his mind since being lifted from the floor. The one thought he had wanted to scream at the top of his voice. Don’t let me die! Please, Jason, don’t let me die!
After a long pause, Jason said calmly, “I won’t if you promise me one thing.”
Turlough’s bright eyes opened wide and then a smile slowly curled at the edges of his mouth. He closed his eyes and tried to relax as the Alterran returned to his true form and started to work on his injuries again.
Don’t die. Was it really as simple as that? Just…don’t die.
Within a few minutes, and without realizing, Turlough finally drifted into sleep.
* * *
Eroica was alternately watching the operation in the next room and the Doctor beside him. The Time Lord’s grave expression had not changed, although relief seemed to pass over his features when Turlough spoke for the first time.
Then the operation seemed to be over and Jason was bathing Turlough’s extremities, gently cleaning the blood from his body. Eroica watched in further fascination as the Alterran carefully washed the blood from the boy’s hair, making certain that he was completely clean before binding his wounds with clean dressings. Then he moved him from the operating table, covering him with a blanket.
The Doctor seemed to take this as his cue and got to his feet. “Excuse me, Dorian. I need to see if he needs anything special in the recovery room.” He did not wait for a reply, vanishing through the door.
* * *
BACK TO SQUARE ONE
The Doctor returned to the console room to find the Major glaring down at the control console, his arms folded, the cloud of smoke over his head looking like a gathering storm. To say the man did not look happy would have been an understatement. In fact, he looked on the verge of pulling his Magnum and firing it into the communications panel.
“From your expression,” the Doctor began mildly, “I can only assume you were unsuccessful.”
Klaus looked up, his eyes blazing. “Classified!” he snapped angrily. “Eyes only. Need to know. Need to know? What the bloody hell do they think I’m asking for?” This time it was his turn to kick a chair across the room, causing the Doctor to wonder if it might not be wise to remove all the furniture for the time being.
The Doctor gave the frustrated officer a steady look, came to a decision, and nodded. “Right,” he said as he stepped up to the computer. “I’m not really supposed to do this, but I think the situation calls for it.”
Klaus had no idea what the Time Lord was talking about and said so.
The Doctor looked up. “I’m going to see what the TARDIS data bank has to say on the matter,” he stated flatly. “And if that yields nothing, I’m going to the library.”
“Library?” The Major’s eyes flashed to the exterior doors. Surely, he wasn’t talking about out there?
The Doctor could not help but smile. “The TARDIS library, Major. It’s…rather large.”
“Everything in this ship is large. I’ve been in your smaller wardrobe, remember?”
The Time Lord nodded absently, his fingers clattering on the keyboard.
“What…” Klaus began hesitantly, “is Turlough’s status?”
The Doctor looked up, and wanted to kick himself for having forgotten the reason he had come to the console room in the first place. “Out of surgery,” he said calmly. “Jason isn’t giving any promises, which is worrying, to be honest. He’ll let us know.”
Klaus nodded but did not reply. There’s nothing you can do for the boy, he reminded himself. Keep focused on the mission. On finding the creature responsible for this whole mess. He looked over at the Doctor who was scowling down at the computer screen, apparently having the same lack of success as he had with Bonn. He had no doubts that if anyone could find this thing, it was the Doctor. And when they did find it, Klaus promised himself, he would take the greatest satisfaction in blowing its brains out.
* * *
Eroica heard the Doctor leave the sickbay and waited several minutes before going to the recovery room. Turlough was beneath a sterile field on a bed that had a bank of monitors on the wall beside it. Jason was leaning forward in a chair, his head in his hands. He was clearly exhausted.
Jason suddenly started and looked up, seeing the Earl at the door. Damn. I dozed off without realizing. “How long have you been standing there,” he asked quietly.
“Just a few seconds, actually,” Eroica said as he crossed the room. “You look completely knackered.”
Jason gave a weak smile and nodded. “I haven’t been in an operating room in several decades,” he said with a sigh. “And even longer than that to be in one on my own.”
Eroica’s bright eyes widened. It was still difficult to fathom the gulf of years that had passed since he last saw the Alterran. It was still only four years as far as he was concerned. Not the century and a half it had been for Jason.
“I don’t even know how long I was in there,” Jason went on to say.
“More than five hours.”
The Healer nodded. That would be about right, considering how tapped out he felt.
“You should get some rest before you collapse,” Eroica said finally.
Jason looked up in some surprise. “Are you volunteering to act as Turlough’s nursemaid?”
“I’m not entirely useless, you know.”
“You’ll forgive me, Dorian, but you’re not exactly the unselfish type.”
Eroica gave a small smile. “I…don’t really have anything else to do.”
“Yes.” Eroica started to play with one of his curls. “Everyone else is doing something to try and catch the thing that—” He broke off and shuddered, hugging himself. “I can at least sit with Turlough while you get some sleep.”
Jason gave him a sideways glance. “And what are you going to be doing in the meantime?”
“I’m sure I’ll find something.”
“What did you bring with you?”
Suddenly Jason was on his feet with his hand out. “Give it to me,” he ordered.
“The pocket dimension. Give it to me.”
“Alright, alright.” Eroica handed over the little pouch. Jason pulled it open and looked inside, his eyes widening. He reached in, pulling out a very large, ornately decorated, and obviously valuable book.
“What in the world…?”
“It’s a book on Renaissance fashions, if you must know.”
Jason looked up accusingly. “You pinched that out of the wardrobe!”
“I was gonna put it back.”
Before the argument could go any further, Turlough shifted position and moaned before saying, “Could you two fight somewhere else?”
Jason turned sharply, thrusting the book and the pocket dimension back at Dorian before going to the boy’s bedside. “I didn’t expect you to wake up for a couple hours yet,” he said happily.
Turlough gave him an unfocused look. “I’d be more than happy to go back to sleep if you two will argue someplace else,” he said weakly.
“Okay, we’ll do that,” Jason grinned. “You go back to sleep.”
Within a few minutes, Turlough was fast asleep. Jason watched him another minute, checked the monitors, and then turned to the Earl. “Dorian, I think we’ve turned the corner.”
* * *
“Nothing!” the Doctor growled. “Damn and blast!” He gave the control console a thump in frustration.
The Major drew a long drag on his cigarette. It wasn’t a good sign when the Doctor got frustrated. The man, well, this version of the man, seemed to have the patience of a saint. “Nothing on this parasite you mentioned?”
The Doctor looked up. “Oh, there’s plenty on the one I mentioned, but that one fed on a completely different emotion.”
“How did you fight it?” Klaus wanted to know.
“You said you encounter this…parasite. And defeated it, yes?”
The Doctor blinked and then frowned. Yes, how did he defeat the thing? It had been a very long time ago; during his third incarnation.* Of course! “I didn’t so much defeat is as control it,” he said at last. “It fed on evil, so we controlled it with good.”
* The Mind Of Evil
Klaus gave a derisive snort. “Doctor, sometimes you talk absolute rubbish.”
“That’s the simplest way of putting it, Major,” the Time Lord replied defensively. “I don’t think you want me to go into chapter and verse of what happened, do you?”
“No, I do not.”
“Then suffice it to say, we fought evil with good.” The Doctor paused. “Then a friend of mine, another military man, blew it up.”
Klaus drew a deep breath and told himself not to lose his temper. “Alright. So how do we fight fear? And if you start quoting Franklin Roosevelt, I will hurt you.”
The Doctor could not help but grin at this. The quote the Major alluded to flashing through his mind. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Yes, how does one fight fear? Fighting fear with fear certainly won’t work in this instance. It was an excellent question to which he had no definitive answer.
“You know, Major,” the Doctor said thoughtfully, “when you confronted it, it seemed…baffled.”
“As am I. What the hell are you talking about?”
“Didn’t you notice? You threatened it, it threatened back. Obviously, it was attempting to make you afraid for Turlough. But instead…” The Doctor’s voice trailed off as the scene played out in his head once again. Then Dorian’s story returned to made, and Jason’s forthright intervention.
Klaus felt himself ready to explode when he saw the Doctor’s eyes light up. He could almost see the light bulb going on above his head. “You’ve thought of something,” he observed.
The Doctor threw him a sideways glance. “It’s only a theory…”
“That’s all we seem to have right now.”
The Doctor drew a deep breath. “You and Jason reacted to that thing with aggression rather than fear and it fled both times.” He paused. “I think the way to fight fear is with defiance, Major.”
Klaus thought this over. “I’m sure that will come in useful,” he said blandly. “But first, we need to find it.”
* * *
After a few hours of well earned rest, Jason went to the console room to find the Doctor sitting in a chair staring down at the papers that were once again spread out on the floor. The Alterran was surprised to see the Major was conspicuous by his absence.
“I sent him to get some sleep,” the Doctor informed.
“I’d tell you to get some, too,” Jason replied, “but I already know what the answer will be.”
The Doctor’s eyes flickered but he did not reply directly. “Apparently the KGB’s Deputy Director of some department-or-other wants some kind of a progress report by tomorrow afternoon.”
“Yes. The Major has volunteered to give it.”
Jason’s eyebrows went up. “The Major?” He threw a quick glance back at the inner doors. “Our Major? Mister Not-Even-Close-To-Diplomatic von dem Eberbach? That Major?”
“I must confess to being surprised myself. Although I suspect he just wants to shout at someone. And since we know that there’s no love lost between himself and the KGB…”
An evil grin came to the Alterran’s face. “Oh, I would love to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.”
The Doctor gave him a sideways glance. “Coming from you, that’s not all that out of the question, is it?”
Jason could not help but laugh. “True. But I rather think I’m needed here just now.” He saw a pained look come to the Time Lord’s face. “I came to tell you that Turlough’s out of danger.” The words were barely out of his mouth when he saw relief wash visibly over the Doctor’s entire body.
“Thank you, Jason. That means a great deal.”
“I know. I was one of your traveling companions once,” the Alterran replied knowingly. “I know how you get whenever somebody gets hurt.”
The Doctor gave his friend a pained look. “Jason, I lost one of my companions not too long ago,” he informed soberly. “It isn’t something I’d care to repeat.”
Jason stood with his mouth open, uncertain how to reply to this. He looked down at the papers and up again. “Care to let me in on what this is all about?”
* * *
The Doctor had gone over what little information they had with the Major before the escort arrived to take him to his meeting. The Time Lord had been uncertain as to whether he should accompany him and finally chose not to interfere. This was, after all, the Major’s area of expertise. The fact that he would be traveling with an escort was also a deciding factor. It seemed highly unlikely that the creature would make any moves against him. Of course, it seemed highly unlikely it would make any moves against him even without the escort. The Major was hardly the type to succumb to terror.
The Major’s escort arrived earlier than planned, much to the officer’s delight. He was looking forward to the dressing down he was going to give the Deputy Director where Ivanov and Borodin were concerned. He did not take kindly to KGB agents trying to kill him.
* * *
“I’m gonna be late,” the Major said impatiently to his escort. Neither man so much as glanced back at him. He gave an annoyed growl and found himself wishing for the hundredth time that he knew the location of the Deputy Director’s office. Then he would have been able to make the journey alone and very probably in less time.
The Major’s escort stopped abruptly in front of a non-descript door. The senior officer gave a respectful rap and stepped back.
Klaus was wondering why they were still on the same floor, and why there were no markings on the door when it opened. To his shock, he found himself standing face to face with Alexei Borodin.