A MAJOR RUN IN
“So, you’ve finally turned up again,” the Major said blandly. “Like a bad penny. What will your superiors say?” He became aware of his “escorts” moving to take up position behind him, cutting off any chance of his making a run for it. He acknowledged this with nothing more than a flicker of his eyelids before returning his attention squarely to the man before him.
“There are some in the Party who believe this…openness is an error in our leaders’ judgment,” Borodin replied coldly. “To allow Iron Klaus to simply walk out of KGB Headquarters…”
“I seem to remember hearing this before,” Klaus said in a bored tone. His reply was a savage slap across the face.
“Insolent dog!” Borodin snarled.
The Major touched a hand to his mouth. It came away with blood on it. “That’s the second time you’ve struck me.”
“The only way to bring a dog to heel is discipline. And I will bring you to heel, Major Eberbach.”
“You can’t even get my name right, what makes you think you’ll succeed in that?” came the defiant reply.
“I have what I believe is called ‘home field advantage,’” Borodin said with a smile. He stepped away from the door and nodded inside. “Take him.”
The men on either side of the Major took him by the arms and dragged him through the door, Borodin following behind.
The Major took in the room with a bit of a jolt. It was nearly identical to the way he had pictured a KGB interrogation room to be, all the way down to the gray stone walls. How is this possible?
“Impressive, isn’t it?” Borodin remarked.
The Major did not reply, choosing instead to take in every detail of the room. The more he did, the more unsettled he became. Suddenly his captor was ordering him searched for weapons. It was obvious he wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice.
“Just look for weapons, you bloody perverts,” the Major snapped as his coat was stripped off. He was relieved of his gun and shoulder holster. Then he was dragged across the room and lashed to what looked like a large X the center of the room. He couldn’t decide if it were plastic or metal, the rubberized surface covering it obscuring the material. He might have a chance of breaking plastic, but metal was a different story.
Within minutes, the Major was securely strapped into place and stood glaring at his captor, refusing to speak. How many years had the KGB been trying to get him here? How many failed attempts at capture? Only to have his idiot superiors hand me over on a silver platter. He knew this would happen, but would anyone listen? Assurance of safety my ass. Fat lot of good that did him now.
The Major’s train of thought was broken when Borodin dismissed the guards. Klaus glanced over at the large mirror on one wall. It was obviously one-way glass and he wondered who might be behind it. Surely, there would be an audience for the interrogation of Iron Klaus.
Borodin gave a wry smile and crossed to the mirror. He then surprised his prisoner by dropping a shade over it. “No spectators today,” he said calmly. “It’s just you and I.”
The Major’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”
“Because too many minds clutter a room with noise.”
Klaus was completely thrown by this unintelligible reply. “What?”
“You’re willing to die rather than give up the secrets in your head. I find that…intriguing.”
Klaus found himself wondering if this man were quite right in the head. “What do you expect?”
“I expect fear,” Borodin said calmly.
Like that creature!
“Like, Major?” Borodin said in reply to the officer’s thoughts. He gave a small smile at the astonished look this produced. “Oh, yes. Did I forget to mention I can read your thoughts? Terribly sorry. Must’ve slipped my mind.”
An evil smile came to the Major’s face as several choice words to describe his captor and his tactics came to mind. He was rewarded with another slap across the face.
“Bastard!” Borodin snarled. “Why aren’t you afraid?”
“Fear clouds the judgment,” came the matter of fact reply. “And that’s the third time you’ve struck me.”
Borodin took the Major by the throat. “Defiance! Always with defiance!”
Klaus was puzzled by the look on his captor’s face. It was as though he were the one in danger. Then the Doctor’s words returned to mind. The alien didn’t seem to know how to handle aggression, fleeing from it each time it was confronted.
“The Doctor is too clever.”
“You are that creature, aren’t you?”
“Does that frighten you?” came the taunting reply.
The Major merely snorted. “You expect me to be afraid because you’re an alien? You’re not the first one I’ve ever encountered.” The hand at his throat tightened and he forced himself to stay calm. “I’m a professional. You won’t find me as easy to frighten as a load of peasants, a pathetic dreamer, or a mere boy.”
“Damn you!” The creature released its grip and stepped back, seeming at a loss as to how it should proceed.
“What are you called?” the Major asked evenly.
“What do you care!”
“Gathering information is my job. Did you decide to take Borodin’s appearance after he fled?”
“I didn’t flee!”
The Major’s eyebrows went up. “So, you were Borodin all along. How very interesting. The Doctor believes you were trapped here.”
The Major’s eye flickered. Good. He’s getting rattled. “Shut up? I thought I was being interrogated.”
“I’m going to break you, human.”
“So you say,” the Major replied blandly. “Well, get on with it then.”
The alien gave another growl. It shimmered for a moment, changing into Eroica’s likeness. “How about I do it looking like this?” it asked tauntingly, taking full advantage of the Earl’s honeyed tones.
Klaus felt his heart jump and had to force himself to remain calm. “That’s your choice.”
“But it frightens you, doesn’t it? Just a little?”
The Major snorted. “You put on the Earl’s appearance like some fucking Halloween costume and then try to frighten me with it. I know it’s just you in there, whatever you are.” The creature’s response was to slap him across the face again before tearing his shirt open. Klaus stiffened visibly but remained silent, knowing perfectly well what his captor was attempting as his undershirt was slowly sliced up the center.
“Ah, so you do fear. Just a little, but I sense it,” the creature purred on in Dorian’s silky tones.
“Don’t mistake surprise with fear. They both create an adrenaline response.”
The alien hit a switch, tilting the contraption his prisoner was secured to back until he was almost lying flat. “No one is completely fearless, Major. Not even you.”
“So, you intend to torture me.” The Major sighed heavily, putting on his best bored expression. “Not very original, are you?” He stiffened visibly when his captor moved to stand between his spread legs. Then he reached up to play his hands over his exposed chest.
“I can be very gentle, Major,” the alien cooed seductively, giving him the look that always caused him into a panic.
Klaus had to concentrate to stay calm. He could not allow this creature to send him into a mindless panic. “Like you were with Lord Gloria?” he countered forcefully.
The alien gave him a steady look and then laughed. “He didn’t tell you what happened, did he?”
“He didn’t have to. I saw the bruises. You tied him up and beat the shit out of him.”
“Is that what he told you?” The creature let out a laugh that sent a chill down the Major’s spine. It did not sound like the Earl at all, despite the fact that he was still in Dorian’s form. This was a gravelly and very alien sound. “Oh, Major, are you in for a shock. Allow me to show you exactly what happened.”
Klaus scowled, uncertain what the creature was raving about. Then his eyes grew wide as the attack on Eroica played out before him. He tried to turn away, to close his eyes, to block out the images, but they continued in horrific detail.
“Oh, you can’t turn away, Major,” the alien taunted.
When the images finally vanished from his mind, Klaus turned an angry glare in the alien’s direction. “What the hell was the purpose of showing me that…that…obscene display? Do you expect me to believe that Lord Gloria would refuse anyone?”
“You think that was a false image?”
“Have you stopped reading my thoughts?”
The bogus Dorian gave a small laugh before he started running his hands over the officer’s exposed chest again. “I just thought you might like to know what to expect,” he purred.
“Like hell!” the Major snarled and started to struggle against his bindings for all he was worth. “If you do that to me, you bloody well better kill me when you’re through!”
The alien’s hands were already at the officer’s belt and he stopped, looking up. “Why?”
“Because if you don’t, as soon as I’m free, I’ll fucking kill you with my bare hands!”
The alien stiffened visibly. There was no questioning that the Major meant exactly what he said. Nor was there any doubt that he was fully capable of carrying out his threat. Why wasn’t this working? All the things that had worked to elicit fear in other humans were just causing this one to become more aggressive.
The creature had no way of knowing that Klaus was drawing on every ounce of his training. Fighting back his fear with aggression. Fear clouds the judgment, ignore it. Fear causes mistakes, ignore it. Fear is for later. For when you’re alone and can reflect on how close you came to losing your life yet again.
The alien sighed heavily, returning to its Borodin guise. “Well, then, Major,” he said in resignation, “it looks as though we shall have to just get on with the interrogation.”
Before the Major could comment on this, a plastic rod was being jammed between his teeth and secured into place. He struggled to fight it off, hoping he might at least be able to sink his teeth into his captor’s hand.
“And don’t worry about answering. I can still read your thoughts,” the alien said as he pulled a cart closer to his prisoner. “Not that I really expect you to tell me anything relevant.” He held up two small paddles attached to metal rods and smiled. “You know that these are, I assume?”
Of course, Klaus knew exactly what they were. These thoughts were verified and then blanked out when the paddles were held to his exposed chest, electricity arcing through his body. He went rigid, a scream of pain torn from his throat.
“If you want to die for some noble cause,” the creature taunted, “perhaps I’ll give you the opportunity.”
* * *
The sudden hammering on the exterior doors of the TARDIS almost caused Jason to jump out of his skin. He had arrived in the console room only moments before and was in the process of giving the Doctor a progress report on Turlough.
The Doctor activated the scanner and scowled at the sight of two more soldiers. “Now what?” He threw Jason a sideways glance to see him shake his head.
“Maybe I will have to be a fly on the wall,” the Alterran muttered.
The Doctor gave a groan, pulling the door lever. “I hope this doesn’t mean the Major’s caused an international incident,” he said as he exited. A minute later, he returned, a grave expression on his face.
“Oh, no…” Jason moaned. “He hasn’t…”
“No. The Major never turned up at the Deputy Director’s office,” the Doctor replied soberly.
“What?” Jason gasped. He looked at his watch and then back up at the Doctor. “But…he should’ve been there more than an hour ago.”
The Time Lord gave the Alterran a steady look. Jason did not reply. He simply nodded, turned, and left the console room. A few minutes later, he returned with his medical bag and silently followed the Doctor out the doors.
* * *
“Doctor, this is getting to be a bad habit that I want to break,” Jason said as they walked through the empty corridors. “First Dorian goes missing, then Turlough, now the Major, of all people.”
“Yes,” the Doctor agreed. “This thing does seem to be singling us out, doesn’t it? If it is the alien, that is.”
“That doesn’t exactly make me feel better, y’know?”
“Jason, I think of all of us, you are the least likely to be overpowered by this thing.”
Jason gave his friend a steady look. “That does not bode well for you, then, Doctor.”
The Doctor stopped dead in his tracks. “That’s a very nasty thought.”
“You’re the one who thought of it.”
“Oh, sure, blame me.”
Before the Doctor could think of a suitable reply, the device in his hand gave a loud beep. “That’s it,” he said happily. “Jason, if I didn’t say so before, I’d like to thank you for giving the Major a key to the TARDIS.”
Jason gave a snort. “Now he’s happy.”
The meter in the Doctor’s hand suddenly started squawking loudly and he stopped, looking at the door before him. “Here, it seems,” he said as he shut the device off and pocketed it. He glanced back at the soldiers he had, well…ordered to accompany them in the search. “You might want to get your weapons ready,” he said quietly.
Jason held up a hand for silence and closed his eyes, tuning in his hearing for any unusual sounds. Nothing. “I don’t hear anything,” he said quietly. “I don’t like it.”
“Then step aside and let these gentlemen go first,” the Doctor instructed.
Jason threw the guards a sideways glance and nodded, obediently stepping out of the way.
“We’ll need the key, sir,” the senior soldier said apologetically. “That door’s made of reinforced steel. We won’t be able to break it down.”
Jason sighed heavily and returned to his position in front of the door. “What’s in there that it needs a reinforced door?” He looked back at the guards who were clearly uncomfortable. “Well…?”
“It’s an interrogation room, sir. Sound proof.”
“I’m sorry I asked.” Jason turned back to the door. “Just get ready to follow me in.” So saying, he gave it a mighty kick, practically knocked the door off its hinges.
The alien within jumped when the door suddenly crashed open. He had a very large knife in his hand that he had used to slice up his prisoner’s clothes and then gone on to use to make small cuts in his exposed flesh. His eyes locked with those of the shocked Alterran for a brief instant before a puzzled expression flashed across his face.
Jason took in the sight of the bruised and bloodied form spread-eagled on a cross that was now almost vertical. He did not have to see the man’s face to know it was the missing Major von dem Eberbach. “God dammit!” he thundered, his medical bag dropping from his hand as he stormed into the room. He snatched up the Major’s Mangum that was on the table beside the door and aimed it at the alien.
“Jason, no!” the Doctor cried. “You’ll hit the Major.”
Klaus helplessly took in the situation. He still had the plastic bit jammed between his teeth and clamped down on it in frustration. Shoot him! Never mind me, just shoot this bastard.
Jason caught his breath and was sure he was imagining things as the Major’s words rang through his mind as clearly as though he had shouted them at the top of his voice.
The alien turned back to the Major, a smug expression on his face. “He won’t chance hitting you, Major,” he said in a low growl. He took a fistful of his prisoner’s hair and jerked his head back, exposing his throat to the blade that was still in his hand. Then he looked over at the glowering Alterran.
“Back off or Iron Klaus dies.”
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Jason did not even pause. “I don’t think so, Comrade. You back off.” He slowly moved into the room, staying near the wall, his expert eyes sweeping over the Major’s injuries at the same time. To say the man was a mess would have been generous. His clothing was in shreds, his body was covered with bruises and small cuts, and his bare chest had what looked like electrical burns all over it. His face was battered and bloodied, his hair soaked with sweat. Jason suspected that the officer very likely had some broken bones, although this fact was not clearly evident. What was clearly evident was the fact that he had not given up. The instant the blade was held to his throat, Klaus went rigid, his hands balling into fists.
Keep fighting, Major, Jason silently encouraged. We’ll get you out of this somehow.
“Me back off?” the alien laughed. “Not a chance.” He gave the Alterran a smug look, content in the knowledge that no one knew his true identity—and his prisoner was in no position to be telling anyone. Notwithstanding the gag in his mouth, the Major’s vocal cords had been paralyzed, making it impossible for him to make a sound.
“You think I won’t shoot?” Jason said mildly.
“You won’t risk hitting Major Eberbach.”
“That’s true,” Jason agreed. Then a small smile came to his face as he stopped moving. “But from here, I have a clear shot.”
The shocked alien stiffened visibly, suddenly realizing its error.
“Now, Comrade,” Jason said in a firm voice. “Either you back away from theMajor—very, very slowly—or I shoot you. It’s your choice.”
Klaus found himself wanting to laugh at the horrified expression on his captor’s face. Now who’s afraid?
The alien looked him in the eye, a low growl rising in his throat. Then he heard Jason cock the weapon and looked up. There was more than a look of defiance in the Alterran’s eyes. He would very happily fire.
“You’d kill me?” Borodin asked innocently. “Just like that?”
A wry smile came to Jason’s face. “Who said anything about killing you? I said I’d shoot you. The knee is always good.” He moved the gun slightly to point at the alien’s legs. “Of course, that’s assuming I aim low enough. I understand a weapon of this caliber has quite a kick. I’ve never fired one before. I might miss and hit something…higher.” He paused a beat, adding, “It won’t kill you. But you’ll very probably wish you were dead.”
The man everyone thought to be Borodin blanched visibly. He slowly moved the knife away from the Major’s throat and then let it fall to the floor. He held up his hands, backing away equally slowly. The next thing he knew, the guards were taking him by the arms and pulling him across the room.
Jason followed his progress with his eyes and jumped when the Doctor was suddenly beside him, taking his arm in an iron grip.
“Jason, you need to calm down,” the Time Lord said gently. “See to the Major.”
Jason closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. “Doctor, I’m alright.”
“No, you’re not. You’re angry.”
“Angry? I’m bloody furious!” Jason corrected.
The Doctor did not even bat an eye. “Give me the gun.”
“Only if you’ll give me my arm back.”
The Doctor gave a wry smile before releasing his grip. He held out the Healer’s medical bag, which he happily exchanged for the gun.
Jason drew a deep breath as he turned to the injured officer. He could hear the Major’s labored breathing before he even approached him. Not a good sign. The exhausted officer’s head was back, his eyes closed. As soon as the Jason touched him, he started and went rigid, his eyes snapping open.
“It’s only me,” the Healer said quietly. “Try to relax.”
The Major’s eyes flickered in reply, his body relaxing slightly. When Jason touched him to examine his wounds, he clamped down on the rod between his teeth in obvious pain, his body going rigid once more.
“Sorry,” Jason said quickly. “I’ll try not to hurt you. But you’re in pretty bad shape.”
Already fully aware of his injuries, Klaus glared at him. Don’t tell me what I already know, you idiot. Just get me down from here.
Jason caught his breath when the officer’s thoughts rang through his mind again. “My God, I thought I was…” He turned sharply to the Doctor, who shook his head and looked pointedly over at the captive Borodin. Obviously, the Time Lord had heard the Major’s thoughts and had also deduced that Borodin was the alien.
Jason nodded his understanding before calling for one of the guards to assist him in getting the gravely injured officer down. He supported the Major’s weight while the other man unfastened the restraints.
“Just relax and let me do the work,” Jason said gently as the straps were removed.
Klaus had several thoughts on this, all of which were blanked out by pain as his arm suddenly dropped over the waiting Alterran’s shoulder. A moment later, he blacked out completely.
There was a stack of sheets on the table near the door and Jason asked the Doctor to spread one out on the floor. He was not about to place the injured officer onto the filthy stone surface. Once the cloth was in place, Jason gently lowered the unconscious Major onto it. He made another quick visual check of his injuries before pulling open his medical bag.
The Doctor retrieved the remaining sheets and was handing them to Jason when an appalled voice suddenly exclaimed from the open doorway, “This is an outrage!”
The Doctor turned to see the Deputy Director standing in the doorway. The very man the Major had been on his way to see when he disappeared. How on earth did he find his way here? “I don’t believe anyone here will disagree with you,” the Time Lord replied mildly.
“Are you responsible for this?” the Deputy Director demanded, turning pointedly to Borodin.
“Just following standing orders pertaining to Iron Klaus, Comrade Deputy Director,” came the smug reply.
Jason looked up at the man standing in the doorway and then over to the alien. “What standing orders?” he demanded angrily. “To torture him half to death!” He did not wait for a reply, turning his attention back to his patient.
“We must call for a medical team,” the Deputy Director said, suddenly seeming to realize the urgency of the matter.
“No need,” the Doctor replied. “Prince Jason is a surgeon. Major von dem Eberbach couldn’t be in better hands.”
The Major returned to his senses at this moment. The first thing he was aware of was he was no longer suspended from the frame. The second was the plastic rod had been removed from his mouth. The third was that he was practically naked, his shredded clothing having been removed by the Healer. He slowly opened his eyes, seeing Jason in the process of tearing a sheet into strips, which he used to wrap the gashes on the officer’s legs to keep him from bleeding to death.
Klaus was still unaware of the fact that his thoughts could be heard by the Doctor and Jason. Nor did he know if they realized he was unable to utter a sound. Then he became aware of the Deputy Director arguing with the Doctor.
“Be assured, Doctor, whatever Comrade Borodin may claim, no authorization was given for this…outrage.”
“Don’t give me that! Everyone knows the KGB has been trying to get Iron Klaus in an interrogation room for years!” the Doctor snapped.
“Are you threatening me, Doctor?” the Deputy Director replied. “Let me remind you, you and your friends are guests of the Kremlin.”
“As is Major von dem Eberbach,” the Doctor retorted sharply. “A personal guest of your General Secretary, much good that did him. No doubt NATO will be demanding a full explanation—”
The Major’s telepathic cry of alarm rang through the Doctor’s mind so strongly that he actually jumped. He stopped his tirade and turn sharply to look at the officer, whose desperate thoughts continued to sound in his mind.
“That’s what it wants! To stop the thaw in the Cold War.”
The Doctor’s mouth dropped open and he looked over at the alien, who had a smug expression on his face. “Is that what you’re trying to do?” he asked pointedly.
The alien blinked, his mouth dropping open. “What?”
Jason looked down at the Major, whose eyes were now wide as saucers. Then he looked over at the alien. “Right,” he said quietly, reaching into his bag. To the surprise of everyone, he pulled out a gun, pointed it at the alien, and fired, dropping him like a stone.
“Jason!” the Doctor gasped.
The Alterran did not even bat an eye as he returned the weapon to his bag. “Tranquilizer,” he stated matter of factly. “He won’t be vanishing into thin air for several hours.” He turned his attention back to his patient. “Major, I know you can’t talk,” he said gently, “but I can hear your thoughts.”
The Major’s eyes narrowed, only to widen in surprise when the Doctor asked, “How does that creature plan to stop the thaw in the Cold War, Major?”
The Deputy Director started to protest, only to be silenced by the Doctor. “It’s called telepathy. It would take far too long to explain the hows and whys. Suffice it to say, I can hear the Major’s thoughts. That thing opened a telepathic link and I intend to take full advantage of it.” He turned to the thunderstruck guards. “Please take your prisoner to wherever you take prisoners.” He threw a quick glance over to the door. “And take the Deputy Director with you. Prince Jason and I will look after Major von dem Eberbach.”
“Yes, sir,” the senior guard replied and then did as ordered, much to the annoyance of the Deputy Director.
While this was going on, Jason was treating the Major’s burned chest with an analgesic spray before going on to cover his upper body.
The Doctor crossed to the injured officer and got down beside him, opposite Jason. “Now, Major, what did you mean?” he said again. “Just think as you would speak and I’ll hear you.”
The Major gave the Time Lord a steady look before giving his reply. “The creature is trying to induce worldwide terror. To stop Glasnost. As you said, the KGB has been trying to get hold of me for years. NATO will accuse the KGB. The KGB will deny everything. Eventually, it will all spiral out of control. The disarmament talks will stall…”
“Disarmament talks?” The Doctor sat back, his eyes focused in the distance. “1987…”
Jason gave him a puzzled look. Now what does he know?
Suddenly the Doctor asked, “What’s the date?”
Jason blinked. “Don’t look at me.”
“It’s the twenty-second of August.”
The Doctor frowned, searching his encyclopedic memory. “Yes, of course. INF. NATO had a hand in that from the beginning. But the outcome made Bonn very nervous.” He looked over at the now completely baffled Jason.
“Doctor, I’m not following,” the Alterran said helplessly. As usual.
“INF. Intermediate Nuclear Force. The INF Treaty was—will be—signed in December of this year. But before that happens…” He turned his gaze to the Major, looking him in the eye. “Would I be correct in assuming you know about the announcement Chancellor Kohl will be making in a less than a week’s time?”
Klaus met his gaze but did not reply.
“No one other than Jason and myself can hear you, Major,” the Doctor reminded.
“I can’t breach security, Doctor. Not even for you.”
The Doctor’s eyes flickered, a wry smile coming to his face. “Then let me tell you your future. On the twenty-sixth day of this month, the Chancellor of West Germany will announce a plan to dismantle short-range INF missiles. Missiles that will not be replaced with more modern weaponry. But, there’s a catch. The plan is contingent on the United States and the Soviet Union eliminating all of their LRINF* and SRINF** missiles under the proposed INF treaty. The treaty that’s supposed to be signed in December.”
* LRINF - long-range intermediate nuclear force
** SRINF - short-range intermediate nuclear force
Jason’s eyes widened. “The treaty that might not even be agreed upon if the KGB and NATO start pointing fingers at one another.”
The Doctor nodded. “And in the face of that, West Germany will doubtless withhold the announcement after it learns that the NATO officer in question is one of their nationals.”
Klaus closed his eyes upon hearing this. He never once questioned the fact that he might have to give his life to prevent a war. Now, it seemed, his death might actually start one. Bloody ironic.
* * *
The Doctor opened the door to the TARDIS and then stood aside, allowing Jason to enter first. The Alterran had once again returned to his true form in order to carry the Major without injuring him further. He made straight for the inner door, pausing only long enough for the Doctor to open it for him.
Klaus had lost consciousness when he was being swaddled in a clean sheet before being lifted from the floor in the interrogation room. He returned to his senses just as the Alterran was passing through the inner door. He slowly opened his eyes and struggled to get his thoughts in order. Then he registered Jason in his true form and closed his eyes again. This was the second time he had regained consciousness to find himself badly injured and entwined in the Alterran’s tendrils.
“Couldn’t be helped,” Jason replied. “Just hang on. We’ll be at the sickbay soon.”
The Major’s eyes flickered open, an annoyed look flashing across them. “I don’t like having my thoughts read.”
“That can’t be helped, either, I’m afraid,” the Doctor said matter of factly. “But if the pattern holds true, it won’t last long.”
“But before that happens…” the Doctor went on. “What else can you tell us about that creature? Making so blatant a political statement seems to break its pattern.”
“I got the impression that was the original plan.”
“Apparently, Ivanov was the brains behind it all. The changing political climate was a threat to his power base.”
“As are you, apparently.”
“I don’t believe so. It was just trying to make me afraid.”
“You’re joking?” Jason injected in amazement. “You?”
The Major’s eyes flickered, but he was too weak to lose his temper and let the remark pass. “The room was exactly as I imagined it would be, almost to the last detail.”
“It took that out of your mind, believing you’d be afraid of it,” the Doctor said thoughtfully. “But you weren’t?”
“I was…disconcerted at first. That’s what made me suspect it was that thing in the first place.”
““You were correct on several points. It doesn’t know how to handle a direct confrontation on its own. I think that was what it needed Ivanov for. The more I pressed for information, the more uneasy it became.”
“Did you learn what is it?”
“No. What I learned is it adapts very, very quickly.”
The Doctor scowled. “So I’d noticed.”
“And we still don’t know the first thing about it,” Jason sighed. “We managed to capture it, but can we hold it?”
“Yes.” The Doctor stopped just outside the door to the sickbay and held out the bundle of the Major’s clothing he had been carrying. “Jason, while you’re working on the Major, I’m going to go ask for some help.”
This statement was enough to cause the Alterran to stop dead. “What? You really think the CIA will tell you anything?” Jason felt the Major stiffen in his grasp when he said this.
“Not the one you’re thinking of Major,” Jason replied knowingly, taking the bundle from the Doctor’s hands. “Although this one is just as unhelpful.”
“They’re the ones who sent me here,” the Doctor said coldly. “It’s high time they did a little assisting themselves.” So saying, he turned on his heel and headed back to the console room.
* * *
HEALER MODE REVISITED
“Stay with me, Major,” Jason said sharply. “You need to concentrate so I can hear you.” He had returned to his human form and was attempting to stabilize his patient’s condition.
The Major gave the Alterran an unfocused look and had to struggle to get his thoughts back in order. “Very…tired.”
“I know. I’m sorry,” came the gentle reply. “The pain killers are probably kicking in.”
“Forgive me for pushing you. I don’t know how long this telepathic link will stay open.”
“Not too long, I hope. It’s difficult enough to guard my actions without having to worry about guarding my thoughts, too.”
“Major, there’s nothing of a secret nature in your head that’s still secret in the Twenty-seventh century,” Jason said knowingly. “I should think the Doctor proved that rather effectively already.”
Klaus gave him a dark look. It wasn’t just intelligence information he was guarding. “He’s a show off.”
To Jason’s surprise, the reply was in Russian. “Just how many languages do you speak?”
“Fluently? Or with a passing ability?” came the reply in French.
“Now who’s showing off?” Jason replied. “It doesn’t matter. Once you’ve been in the TARDIS, she translates for you.”
The Major’s eyes grew wide. How had this piece of information gotten past him? Twice? “Translates…how?”
“Well…what language are you hearing now?”
“Interesting, don’t you think, since I’m actually speaking Alterran.”
“Then why do you sound like an American?”
Jason sighed. “I have no idea. The TARDIS can be a bit eccentric at times. The old girl is not without a sense of humor.”
The Major reflected on this. Technology of this order had incredible potential.
“Just think how frustrated you’d feel,” Jason said, breaking the Major’s train of thought, “if I couldn’t hear you at all.”
“I’m sure that was the intention.”
“Yes. Obviously that thing doesn’t realize that the Doctor and I are telepathic.”
The Major’s eyes narrowed as a sudden thought struck him. “Why? Why doesn’t it know?”
Jason stopped what he was doing and looked at him. “What?”
“If it can read minds, why didn’t it know already?”
“And it didn’t know what I intended when I was crossing the room,” Jason said in a quiet voice. “And when I confronted it, it gave me the strangest…” He caught his breath, looking the Major in the eye. “The Doctor can shield his thoughts, but I can’t. Major, I don’t think it can read my mind.”
“Perhaps you can make use of that.”
“Perhaps. Just now, you’re more in need of my making use of my medical training.”
“That I am.”
Jason gave his patient a quizzical look. “Are you always this subdued when you’re this badly injured?”
“This surprises you?”
“Yes, to be honest, it does. Especially since we haven’t exactly been on the best of terms. I was under the impression that we were working under a truce. Was I wrong?”
“No. But my life is in your hands. It would be unwise to provoke you.”
Jason actually laughed at this. “Oh, you have matured.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“It was meant as one.” Jason gave the officer a steady look. “Now, I need you to do something for me.”
The Major’s eyes narrowed. “What…?”
“Go to sleep.”
The Major blinked. “What?”
“You’re bleeding internally. Not a lot, but I’ll have to operate to stop it. So…”
“You’ve already drugged me.”
Jason’s eyes flickered at the accusing tone. He found it amusing but did not allow this to show. “No, actually, that would be unprofessional.”
“I apologize if I offended you.”
Jason’s mouth dropped open. “Did I just hear you correctly?”
“You’ve treated me as a professional this whole time. You deserve the same from me.”
Jason was momentarily at a loss for words. “Major—” He broke off, looking his patient in the eye. “Klaus,” he said firmly. “I need you to do more than treat me as a professional. I need you to trust me to keep you alive.”
“I don’t think you can.”
This was not what Jason expected to hear. “Why not?”
Klaus closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. “I know what that thing did to me. It…cooked my insides with electricity. And no amount of surgery will fix it. You can stop the bleeding, repair my cuts and bruises, but you can’t fix that, can you?”
Jason’s mouth dropped open. This was all true and he was amazed at how matter of fact the man was about it.
“I’m going to die,” the Major went on calmly. “You know it, and I know it.”
The concerned look on Jason’s face deepened into worry. “I know nothing of the kind,” he lied. “What I do know is I will do everything in my power to keep you alive. No matter what.”
“I believe you’ll try to work another miracle. I’m just not sure that you’ll succeed.”
“Damnation, Klaus! This is not the time for your fatalistic attitude. If you give up, I can’t save you, miracle or not.”
The look the Major gave Jason in reply made his hair stand on end. It also spoke volumes. This was a man who had looked death in the face more times than he could count. A man who knew that one day the odds would catch up with him. It seemed that the Major had decided that this was that day.
“Don’t stop fighting now,” Jason pleaded, meeting his patient’s intense gaze. “Please, don’t give up on me.”
Klaus was silent a long time. “I won’t give up if you won’t,” he said finally.
* * *
This last thought finally penetrated the Major’s consciousness. Safe. Safe? He so rarely allowed himself to feel safe. Only on those occasions when he was between missions and in the confines of Schloss Eberbach, and even then, he did not always let his guard down.
Klaus struggled to concentrate, to take stock of his current situation, to recall exactly what was happening. He was on a mission, that much he remembered. Something had gone very, very wrong, he remembered that, too. Vaguely. Had he been injured or captured? A voice in the back of his mind told him the answer was both. Both! Injured and captured. That was a disconcerting thought. But in what order had it occurred?
Klaus became aware of the sensation of floating accompanied by an equally odd sense of peace. This could only have been accomplished with drugs. Drugs. Yes, that would make sense. He had been drugged. Why? He tried to concentrate further. Why couldn’t he remember? Because you’ve been drugged, you idiot!
Klaus started to claw his way to consciousness. As he moved through the layers, more and more facts returned to mind. You are not safe, he told himself over and over. You’re in Moscow surrounded by the bloody KGB. In the Goddamn Lubyanka, for Christ’s sake. Then he became aware of the fact that he was not alone. Someone was standing beside him and was…
Jason was in the process of repairing the innumerable cuts on his patient’s inner thighs when the Major came awake all at once.
“Get your fucking hands off me, you Goddamn pervert!”
Jason almost jumped out of his skin. He let out an alarmed cry, dropping the instrument in his hand. “Shit!” he exclaimed, a hand going to his chest. “Don’t do that! You scared the hell out of me.”
The Major was still trying to get his thoughts in order, to remember exactly what had happened to him. He tried to move, only to discover he was strapped down. His legs had been spread an indecent distance apart and were secured at the ankles and knees. This only seemed to verify that he was still a captive of the alien and that his rescue had been an illusion planted in his mind. Just as the attack on Eroica had been.
“What are you doing to me?” he demanded, fighting the restraints holding him immobile.
“Why does everyone keep asking me that?” Jason moaned, switching from English to German, since this seemed the language his multi-lingual patient preferred at the moment. He put a hand on the struggling man’s shoulder. “I’m trying to save your life. What the hell do you think I’m doing?” he said firmly. “Now calm down.”
“Fuck calm down, you Goddamn—”
“Stop right there, Klaus!” Jason snapped, his voice suddenly cold and hard. “And give very serious consideration to what you about to say and to whom you are about to say it. Or have you reconsidered not provoking me?”
The Major’s mind cleared enough for him to register where he was and who was standing over him. He gave Jason a dark look, but did not reply directly. He did, however, respond in English, something the Alterran took particular note of.
Why does he think he needs to speak to me in English? It’s that wretched American accent, isn’t it? I have got to talk to the Doctor about that.
“Why have you started calling me by name?” Klaus demanded.
A small smile came to the Healer’s face. “Because, like your native language, you respond to it when you’re not fully cognizant,” he said, switching back to English. “So long as you’re my patient, you have no rank. Not in here.”
The officer gave a low growl of disapproval.
“Major,” Jason said pointedly, “has it escaped your notice that you are talking to me? Not thinking, talking. And in English.”
The Major’s eyes grew wide. It had escaped his notice. Goddamn drugs. What had not escaped his notice was the fact that he was lying naked on an examining table in an indecent position and unable to move. “Why have you strapped me down?” he demanded.
Jason heaved an exasperated sigh. The man was as predictable as ever. “So I could work on your injuries. And don’t you dare start accusing me of—” He broke off as a sudden thought struck him. He chose his next words very carefully when he asked, “Klaus, that thing didn’t…molest you in any way, did it?”
“No. I said I would kill it with my bare hands if it tried.”
Jason’s eyebrows went up. “Really? And it backed off?”
“Yes.” Klaus was about to ask why this surprised him when he realized what the Alterran meant. There was no reason for the creature to have backed off. He had been completely helpless, yet his captor had not crossed the line, despite the fact that it could have at any time. It had, however, played a very nasty game—down there—instead.
Jason was looking at the gashes he had been in the process of repairing. They covered a good portion of the Major’s inner thighs, and some had come perilously close to his genitals. It was obvious that the alien had been taunting the captive officer, but had stopped short of inflicting any serious damage on his…er, manhood. Jason closed his eyes as this last thought crossed his mind. Jesus, is this man’s Victorian modesty catching?
“Klaus, I have to finish working on your legs,” he said calmly.
“I know,” the Major replied with a growl.
“Then you also know I’m going to have to…touch you.” Yes, it’s definitely rubbing off on me.
Klaus gritted his teeth. This was one of the reasons he hated doctors. They were always putting their hands in places…
“That’s why you’re strapped down,” Jason informed. “You’ve been semi-conscious the last hour, and fighting me the whole time.”
“And now I’m awake, so you can let me go.”
“I’m not so sure about—”
The Major responded with an angry growl followed by a stream of curses. He pulled at the restraints in rage.
Jason observed this display without surprise. “Klaus, I know I told you not to stop fighting,” he said calmly, “but this isn’t exactly what I had in mind. You’re weak enough as it is. You’ll exhaust yourself if you keep this up. And I can’t see it helping the damage you’ve already done to yourself.”
Finally, the fog fully lifted in the Major’s mind and he stopped fighting. He recalled the conversation with Jason just prior to being sedated. Sedated. Yes, that was when he’d been drugged. Then he remembered how he felt just prior to waking. Safe. To his annoyance, he realized he still felt safe. Safe! Even strapped to a table, stark naked with an alien standing over him telling him he was about to start— He still felt safe. God fucking dammit! Had his instincts completely deserted him?
The Major was startled out of his thoughts when a sheet was suddenly thrown over him. It was then positioned so that only the area Jason was working on was exposed.
“Does that meet with your approval?” the Healer asked calmly.
Klaus chose not to point out that the only thing that would meet with his approval would be for him to be fully clothed and armed. “It will have to do,” he said sourly. He had to fight to keep his voice even as he asked, “Are you gonna keep me tied down?”
“Are you gonna keep fighting me?” Jason countered.
This was a fair question to which Klaus had no answer. Fighting back was automatic. To not do so would seem like surrender. “Why are you even bothering?” he asked finally.
Jason rolled his eyes. “So much for not giving up on me.”
“Don’t patronize me, Jason,” Klaus shot back. “That thing kept me alive the same way it did Turlough. Obviously, its influence has worn off. So, why am I still alive?”
Jason met the Major’s accusing gaze steadily. “You’re still alive because I have you on full life support,” he informed startlingly. “That’s what this bed does. It keeps you alive. It’s taken over just about every one of your major life functions.”
This was not what Klaus expected to hear and he fell into a stunned silence.
“Now, do you have any other questions?” Jason said calmly. “Or can I finish what I was doing?”
Klaus had several hundred questions, but did not want to ask them until his head was clearer. “Just get on with it,” he growled, forcing himself to relax.
“Will you give me your word you won’t fight me if I remove the restraints?” Jason asked cautiously.
Klaus gave another low growl. “Yes,” he said between clenched teeth.
Jason had to fight not to smile. “I’m trusting you on this one. As a professional,” he said as he removed the restraints.
“A wise move.”
Jason did not reply, turning his attention to the gashes on his patient’s legs. He reached down, stopped, and straightened, looking the Major in the eye again. “Um, just one thing…”
“Don’t kill me with your bare hands until after I’ve finished. Okay?”
Klaus’s eyes flickered and he could not prevent the edges of his mouth from curling upward in amusement. “That would be unprofessional.”
* * *
“By the way, Klaus, have I thanked you, yet, for not killing me?” Jason said sardonically as he covered his patient with a blanket.
The officer had withstood the extremely intimate and admittedly humiliating process while all the cuts on his legs were repaired. He had also kept his promise not to fight the procedure, although this did not stop him from expressing his displeasure the entire time. When Jason announced that he was going to bathe him, another stream of expletives was triggered. The Alterran ignored the outburst, ending the fight by threatening to return to his true form and meticulously sponge down every inch of the officer’s body.
Finally, the Major was clean and dry, his wounds dressed. Unlike the Earl, whose vanity demanded that his bruises be concealed, the Major’s injuries had been treated with a clear dressing.
Klaus allowed himself to relax slightly when a second blanket was thrown over him. He gave an indignant snort at Jason’s remark, being inwardly grateful that this was all the Healer would expect of him. He was completely exhausted and incapable of fighting any longer. It was obvious Jason intended to keep him naked in order to monitor his injuries, much to his extreme annoyance. But as long has he was completely covered, the Major decided that he would refrain from objecting. For the time being, anyway.
Jason checked the monitors at the Major’s bedside, making a few entries into the computer. Then he threw a quick glance over at his patient. It was all too obvious the officer was struggling to stay awake and Jason could not help but admire the man’s tenacity. “Klaus, you get some rest,” he said conversationally. “I need to leave you on your own for a bit while I check on Turlough.”
This was enough to gain the Major’s full attention. “How is he?”
“Out of danger and responding well.”
Jason gave the Major a sympathetic look. “You’re not still feeling guilty about what happened to him, are you?”
“What do you think?” the officer said frostily. “A civilian I was responsible for was almost killed because of my incompetence.”
“Bullshit. I don’t believe that for a minute. I might’ve before, but not now.”
The Major gave Jason a questioning look. “Why not now?”
“Because if that thing can get hold of Iron Klaus, it can get hold of anyone.”
Klaus gave a non-committal grunt.
“There’s nothing you could’ve done to prevent that thing from deciding to play Jack the Ripper and carve someone up.”
“I don’t know if I believe…” the Major’s voice trailed off. “Carve someone up?”
Jason’s eyes narrowed. “What?”
Klaus gave him a stunned look. “When they threatened to throw the Earl into the booth, I told them they could carve him up for Christmas dinner for all I cared.”
Jason’s mouth dropped open. “My…God…”
“And Lord Gloria said something about them taking me to an interrogation room for torture.”
Jason’s eyes were wide and staring off into the distance. “It’s using our—your—words against you,” he said quietly. “It must’ve picked up your mental images then.”
The Major did not reply, turning away. This only made matters worse.
Jason sighed heavily but did not go into it further. He had something else on his mind. “Dorian will be insisting on seeing you, you realize.”
The Major turned back, his eyes wide. “No. Don’t you let that pervert anywhere near me.”
“You insisted on seeing him,” Jason pointed out.
“That was different.”
“He’s only here because of me. The KGB thought they could use him to get to me, bloody idiots. He’s my responsibility.”
“Because he’s a civilian?”
Jason’s eyes flickered. Yeah, right. The man would rather face a firing squad than admit to being concerned about anyone, especially Dorian. “Is that the only reason?”
The Major gave the Alterran a steady look. “If you let that faggot in here alone, he’ll have these blankets off me in two seconds. The bloody pervert’s been trying to see me naked for years.” He gritted his teeth and grudgingly admitted, “And I don’t have the strength to stop him, and you know it.”
“Ah.” A smile started to blossom on Jason’s face. “He’ll have a bit of a problem, then. You’re inside an exclusion field.”
“A what?” This was a new one. More alien technology, no doubt.
“An exclusion field.” Jason indicated the glow surrounding the bed upon which the Major was lying. “The sterile field can filter out all kinds of things. I’ve reset the parameters to only allow specific individuals through, utilizing their DNA.”
“Dorian won’t be able to touch you. Only the Doctor and I can get through the field.”
Klaus blinked, giving the Alterran a stunned look. “When did you do that?”
“Reset the parameters, you mean?”
The grin on Jason’s face continued to widen. “As soon as I turned it on,” he replied. “Klaus, I really like Dorian. But that doesn’t mean I trust him. Even if I do tell him he can’t come in, we both know he’ll try to sneak in anyway.”
The Major closed his eyes and sighed heavily. This was true, damn the man. He’d done it before.* Although he doubted Eroica could do too much sneaking around in the TARDIS.
“Well?” Jason asked.
“If you must let the Earl in,” Klaus said at last, “at least do it while I’m asleep so I won’t have to listen to any of his foppish nonsense.”
* * *
Jason was surprised to find the Doctor in Turlough’s room and Dorian conspicuous by his absence. He soon learned that the Doctor had sent the Earl off to get some rest without telling him what had happened to the Major.
“You didn’t tell him?” Jason said in surprise.
“No. I rather thought he’s had enough shocks to his system,” the Doctor replied calmly.
Jason gave him a sideways look. “And you also rather thought that I should be the one giving him the next shock.”
Turlough gave a small laugh at the guilty expression this produced. “He’s got you there, Doctor.”
“I’m glad someone’s getting back to normal,” Jason said coolly, giving the boy a quick check. He asked a battery of questions, finally giving a nod of approval. “Yes, I can officially say you are out of danger and on the road to recovery.”
“What about the Major?” the Doctor asked.
Jason gave him a steady look, his expression grave. “I’d rather not say.”
The Doctor decided not to press further, his face darkening considerably. He threw a quick glance over at Turlough, recalling Jason’s equally pessimistic outlook following the young man’s surgery.
“From your expression,” Jason observed, “I can only assume the CIA is up to their usual standards.”
The Doctor drew a deep breath. “They’re checking into it,” he replied, a distinct edge to his voice. “Meaning we’ll have this sorted out six ways to Sunday before they decide to contact me again.”
“I am trying very hard not to say I told you so.”
“And I’m afraid I have more bad news…” the Doctor said grimly.
Jason’s eyes narrowed. “What…?”
“Apparently, your tranquilizer doesn’t have the same effect on the alien as it does on humans,” the Doctor began slowly. “It seems it vanished into thin air half an hour after it was locked up.”
Jason put a hand to his head. “Wonderful.”
* * *
Several hours after being sent off to rest, Eroica returned to Turlough’s room to find Jason there. He was sitting beside the boy, who had a laptop computer open on a bed table.
Jason looked up when the Earl entered, all smiles. This is not going to be fun, he thought darkly.
Eroica saw the grave expression on both men’s faces and stopped dead. “What?” he asked suspiciously.
“Dorian, sit down,” Jason said calmly.
“Why? What’s happened?”
Jason got to his feet. “Dorian, please, I have to tell you something…”
Eroica’s eyes were wide as saucers. “Something’s happened to the Major, hasn’t it?” He threw an angry look over to the door. “The bloody KGB—”
“No, not the KGB this time.”
Eroica’s eyes narrowed in bewilderment. Not the KGB? Who else was there? “Oh, hell!” he exclaimed, a hand going to his mouth. “That…thing?”
“When? How?” By this time, Eroica was on the verge of hysterics. He didn’t know if he wanted to cry or if he wanted to kill someone. He was also trembling badly and only vaguely aware of Jason guiding him to a seat.
“Do you want some water?” the Alterran asked gently.
“I want to see him.”
A small smile came to Jason’s face. “Dorian…”
“Bugger trying to talk me out of it, Jason,” Eroica snapped. “I want to see him. Now!”
“Well, you can’t,” Jason stated flatly.
“I’ll break into the room.”
“I have the Doctor reconfigure the TARDIS interior and move it.”
Eroica blinked. “What?” This reply was so unexpected it cooled his anger instantly.
“The TARDIS interior isn’t fixed. The Doctor can reprogram it whenever he likes.” Jason threw a knowing look in Turlough’s direction. “Although, the old girl has been known to change corridors around of her own volition from time to time.”
Turlough gave a groan upon hearing this. “Yes, she has,” he replied. He had spent the better part of a day trying to find his way back to the console room once when the TARDIS decided to change where one particular door led.
“If you try to sneak into the Major’s room before I’m ready to let you in,” Jason was saying, “I’ll have the Doctor remove the door out there and put it somewhere else.”
Eroica stared at the Alterran for nearly a minute. “You can be very cruel, Jason,” he said at last.
Jason could not help but laugh. “Listen to the pot calling the kettle black!” He received a wounded look in reply. “Don’t give me that injured two year old look again,” he admonished. “I’m not buying it.”
Eroica gave an indignant snort.
“I’m not letting you in to see the Major until he’s out of recovery and that’s final,” Jason stated flatly.
Eroica felt his heart miss a beat. Recovery. Just how badly did that thing hurt him? He gave Jason a searching look, but chose not to ask. In fact, he wasn’t sure he really wanted to know all the details. Not yet, anyway.
Suddenly Jason was getting to his feet. “I’ll be back to get you as soon as Klaus is out of recovery, okay?” So saying, he vanished through the door.
Eroica sat back, his eyes widening. “Klaus…?”
* * *
After waiting impatiently for nearly three hours, Eroica was finally standing in front of the door to the Major’s room. Jason was in front of him, his face more serious than the Earl had ever seen it.
“Dorian, you know the ground rules…” Jason began calmly.
“Of course,” Eroica replied breezily. “Look, but don’t touch. You’re no fun anymore.” In the time since he learned of the creature’s attack on the Major, and he had been able to recover his composure enough not to completely go to pieces when Jason came to get him.
“Dorian, I’m trying to be serious.”
“Well, I’m not,” Eroica replied bluntly. “I don’t know what to expect on the other side of that door. And you won’t bloody tell me!”
Jason lowered his eyes and sighed. He looked up, giving his friend a piercing look. “Klaus is in bad shape. But I’m sure you’ve already figured that out.”
“Is he going to die?”
Jason hesitated. “Not if I can help it.”
“Now, this is exactly why I didn’t tell you anything,” Jason said reprovingly. “You’re already panicking.”
“No, no, I’m fine.” Eroica waved a hand in the air.
Jason was less than convinced but did not remark on it. “One more thing. Please, don’t wake him.”
“I mean it. He’s extremely weak and needs all the rest he can get. You know how worked up he gets when you’re around.”
Eroica opened his mouth to remark on this and checked himself. If he started making off color remarks, Jason might make good on his threat to have the room moved. He had learned from Turlough that he had not been making this up. The Doctor could change the interior of the TARDIS around, and probably would if the Alterran asked him to.
“And,” Jason was saying, “he said that if you insisted on this, I was to bring you when he was asleep.”
“So he wouldn’t have to see me,” Eroica concluded.
“That is so like the Major.”
“Yes. The last thing he needs is for you to start pushing his buttons.”
Eroica had to stifle a giggle. “Jason, I’m trying very hard not to respond to that.”
“I know, not now.”
Jason sighed heavily. The man was impossible. “Do you agree to Klaus’s terms, or do I go in with you?”
“I promise, I’ll be as quiet as a mouse,” Eroica replied, crossing his chest with one hand. “Cross my heart.” The Alterran gave him a disapproving sideways glance. “Jason, if there’s one thing I know, it’s stealth.”
The Alterran nodded, standing aside to allow the Earl to enter. A voice in the back of his head told him that the thief would break his promise the minute he was inside the room. Not that it mattered. Dorian was in for a nasty surprise the moment he tried anything.
* * *
DORIAN & KLAUS
The Major’s room was brighter then Eroica expected. He had assumed the lights would be down, as they had been in the ARGO. He looked at the Major’s peacefully sleeping figure and was surprised when he saw the bruises on his face. He wondered why Jason had not covered them as he had with his own. Of course, the answer was obvious. Iron Klaus would never allow any kind of cosmetics.
Eroica moved silently across the room, finally coming to stand at the bedside. He looked up at the monitor and frowned. Surely, those readings should be higher. Then he remembered what Jason had said. Extremely critical. Was the Healer being generous in his assessment? Surely, the Major wasn’t going to die.
Klaus stirred, changing position before settling back into sleep.
Eroica looked down as the Major shifted beneath his blankets, his long dark hair falling onto his bare shoulder—
In an instant, all the promises the Earl had made to Jason evaporated.
Eroica’s eyes grew wide, a hand going to his mouth. Major! Are you naked under those blankets? He suddenly found himself extremely jealous of Jason, hundreds of questions colliding into one another in his mind. He looked at the blankets covering the officer’s battered form. They were only an arm’s length away. Just a short arm’s length away.
Eroica’s heart started to pound, his breathing quickening. Then his hand started to reach out as one part of his mind started to argue with the other.
You promised to behave yourself.
Jason will never let you back in.
The Major will wake up.
He’ll kill you if he finds out.
Before Eroica could decide which voice to listen to, his conscience or his lechery, his hand came in contact with the exclusion field. There was a sharp crackle of static and he let out an equally sharp startled cry.
What Jason had failed to mention was that, while Eroica could not reach into the exclusion field, the Major could reach out. The officer’s eyes snapped open and before he realized what he was doing, he had a firm grip on the Earl’s wrist. “You bloody pervert!”
Eroica let out another cry of alarm. “I wasn’t gonna—”
“Don’t fucking lie to me, Lord Gloria. I’ve known you too long.”
“I just wanted to see you.” Eroica regretted his choice of words the moment they were out of his mouth, the grip on his wrist tightened in response. “That’s not what I meant!” he said defensively.
“Major, let me go.”
“Why? So you can rape me in my bed?”
“Stop saying that!” Eroica cried angrily. “Stop bloody saying that! It’s not funny.”
Klaus saw a terrified expression flashed across the Earl’s face. The same one he had seen when… He blinked as he came to a horrifying realization. “It’s true,” he said quietly.
“What’s true?” Eroica asked petulantly. He gave up trying to pull free of the iron grip and tried a different tactic. A direct appeal. “Major, you’re hurting me. I’m still bruised under there.” To his surprise, the officer released his hold on him.
“That creature…assaulted you,” Klaus said in a disbelieving tone.
“You already know that!” Eroica said sourly, rubbing his wrist. Then he stopped and looked up. “Hang on, you said assaulted.”
“Not attacked. You said…” Eroica suddenly realized what the Major meant and caught his breath. “You know! ”
“How? Jason promised—”
“Not Jason,” the Major said sharply. “That…creature. I don’t know how. But it…showed me everything it did to you.”
“Oh, God!” Eroica closed his eyes, a trembling hand going to his mouth. He turned away, unable to face the Major’s penetrating gaze. “Go on, tell me I was asking for it. That I deserved it.”
The Major’s reply was not what Eroica expected, nor was his tone. It was almost caring. “Do you think you deserved it?”
“Oh, bugger! Just say it and get it over with.”
Klaus was watching Eroica’s body language. He may have been turned away, but his posture spoke volumes. “Lord Gloria, you said no. Several times.”
Eroica spun around, anger flashing in his eyes. “Did that surprise you, Major?” he spat bitterly. “That I actually said no.”
Klaus rolled his eyes, sighing heavily. “You expect me to lie to you?”
Eroica gave the officer a searching look. “No. I expect you to accuse me of lying.”
“Is that why you didn’t tell me everything to begin with?”
Eroica opened his mouth, only to close it again. After a long pause, he said, “Would it’ve made a difference?”
“Made a difference?” the Major repeated, wishing he had the strength to sit up. “That thing attacked you looking like me. ”
“No, that thing raped me looking like you, Major!” Eroica countered forcefully. “Go on, say the word. You accuse me of wanting to do it often enough.”
Klaus gave him a steady look. “Lord Gloria…”
“Dorian! My name is Dorian,” Eroica snapped angrily.
“I know that.”
“Then why don’t you call me that?”
“Because I’m not your friend,” came the matter of fact reply.
“That’s not what you said in Heinburg,” Eroica countered.
The Major’s eyes narrowed. “When?”
“At the bridge. You told them you were a friend.* I foolishly believed it.”
* Emperor Waltz
The Major closed his eyes as the incident returned to mind. Dammit, how did he find out about that? The Earl had been out of earshot when he’d said it. So, who the hell told him? “I don’t remember saying that,” he lied.
Eroica gave him a steady look and then held up his hands. “Fine. Just…fine, have it your way,” he said coolly. “I didn’t come in here to fight with you.”
The Major met the other man’s gaze with an almost bored look. “I’m gonna ignore the obvious,” he said astringently. “What did you come in here for?”
“Why do you think? I was worried about you!” came the defensive reply.
The Major gave a derisive snort. “Worried.”
“Yes, dammit, Major, worried. I love you!”
Eroica was not surprised when this declaration was met with a hostile look. He was, however, surprised by the reply.
“No, you don’t. You don’t know what that means any more than I do.”
“You claim you love me,” Klaus went on fiercely. “Then you steal from me. You involve yourself in my missions. You humiliate me at every opportunity. You betray me. And you still have the audacity to stand there and say you love me!”
“No…I…but…” Eroica sputtered.
“You see. You can’t even defend yourself. You’re not in love, Lord Gloria. You’re in lust,” the Major went on brutally. “You’re still the same selfish, self-centered narcissist you were the day I met you.”
The thunderstruck Eroica stood with his mouth open. No! He can’t be right. I won’t allow him to be right!
The Major continued to shock the Earl when he suddenly asked, “You want to see what that thing did to me?”
“No, that’s what you want, isn’t it? What you lust after,” the Major said tauntingly.
“Damn you. Now you are sounding like that—” He broke off when the Major pulled the blankets down far enough to expose his bare chest and reveal the horrific burns covering it.
“Take a good look, Lord Gloria.”
Eroica’s enormous eyes grew even wider and he caught his breath. “Dear God, Major, what…?”
The Major quickly pulled the blankets up again. “Electricity. It used it to…cook me,” he said coldly. He looked the Earl in the eyes and announced, “I’m dying.”
“No! You can’t—”
“Shut up!” the Major snapped impatiently.
Eroica stood staring, his mouth agape. How do you argue with a fatalist on death? His own death at that? “But…surely Jason…”
The Major gave a smile of irony that sent a chill down Eroica’s spine. “Jason can do only so much. I think he’s finally run out of miracles.”
The Major gave a small grunt of agreement. “You said it. As soon as I got this mission, I knew I was gonna die in Moscow. Goddamn, bloody, fucking NATO.”
Eroica found himself unable to meet the officer’s intense gaze and turned away. What more could he say? It would all sound trite or cliché. He’d told the man he loved how he felt before he died. That was something, at least, even if he didn’t believe it.
Klaus watched as the Earl struggled to accept what he was being told and was surprised when he realized he was actually impressed. He had expected some kind of emotional display, but instead the Earl was amazingly restrained. Is he actually attempting to be strong? That was so uncharacteristically selfless where Eroica was concerned. Damn you, Eroica. Don’t start being selfless now.
Klaus returned to reality when he felt a pressure in his chest. He closed his eyes and waited for it to subside. It didn’t. In fact, it started to intensify. Then he started to have difficulty breathing. His eyes snapped open and turned to Eroica, who still had his back to him. “Lord Gloria…” he said quietly.
“Don’t talk to me!” Eroica snapped. He was having enough trouble fighting back tears. The last thing he needed was to get into another fight. “Just don’t bloody—”
Eroica felt his heart miss a beat and he spun around. The Major’s eyes were wide and he had a hand to his chest. “Klaus…?” he ventured tentatively.
“Christ!” Eroica did not even think twice. He turned on his heel and bolted for the door, praying that Jason was still with Turlough.
* * *
The Doctor had been quiet a very long time. Jason sat watching as he mulled everything over in his head. The Alterran threw a quick glance in Turlough’s direction and received a don’t-look-at-me shrug. They could be there for hours.
“We don’t seem any closer to an answer now than we were when we arrived,” the Doctor said at last.
“I know,” Jason replied darkly. “I’m really starting to get annoyed.”
“I’m surprised you’re not completely exhausted,” Turlough observed. “We’ve all kept you rather busy.”
Jason gave him a small smile. “Gave me a chance to brush up on my skills. It’s been a while since I was in an operating room.”
Turlough gave him a stricken look. “I’m glad I didn’t know that before all this happened.”
Jason grinned, turning back to the Doctor, who still had a very serious expression on his face.
“How about your other patients?” the Time Lord asked conversationally.
“Obviously, Turlough is well on his way to being back to normal.”
“Thankfully,” Turlough replied.
“And Dorian’s trying to figure out how to steal the contents of the TARDIS wardrobe,” Jason said aridly.
“And the Major?” The Doctor saw a dark cloud pass over the Alterran’s face the moment he asked the question. That was not a good sign.
Jason met the Time Lord’s inquiring gaze before saying bluntly, “He’s going to die.”
The Doctor blinked. “What?”
“I can’t save him, Doctor. The life support equipment can only do so much. But his body will eventually give out.”
“And he knows it’s going to happen.”
“Did you tell him that?”
“No, actually. He told me.”
The Doctor fell into another thoughtful silence.
Turlough drew a deep breath. “It’s too bad the transmat doesn’t work properly. You could’ve used the imprint patterns in the buffer,” he said offhandedly.
The Doctor and Jason exchanged a look of mutual astonishment. Now, why hadn’t they thought of that?
“The transmat!” Jason gasped. “Turlough, you’re a genius!”
The young man’s eyebrows went up. “I am?”
The Doctor was already on his feet. “Yes, you are,” he said firmly. “That’s brilliant.”
“Doctor, I don’t understand. I thought the transmat didn’t work properly.”
“The one in this time zone doesn’t,” Jason replied happily. “But the one in mine does. And the Major was perfectly healthy when he stepped into it.”
The Doctor’s face darkened briefly. “I say, Jason. This won’t work if someone’s used it since you left.”
An enormous smile was threatening to take over Jason’s face. “Doctor, that transmat is off limits until the time corridor is shut down. No one will’ve gone near it.”
“Then what are we doing standing around here?”
“I don’t know.”
The Doctor gave a bright smile. “I think we’d be better served if I have the TARDIS tied into the transmat buffer.”
Jason gave Turlough a quick sideways glance. “You think you’re up to manning the TARDIS controls while the Doctor and I work on the transmat?”
Turlough threw off his blanket and swung his feet off the side of the bed. “Just give me my clothes back.”
“Not a tad eager, are you?”
“If I stay in this bed another minute, I’ll go mad.”
Jason grinned, handing the boy his clothes. “I’m not going to let you overdo it, Turlough,” he said warningly. “You’re in no condition to be walking around, either. I’m taking you in a wheelchair.”
“While you two get sorted out, I’ll be in the console room.” The Doctor pulled open the door just as Eroica burst from the Major’s room, clearly in a panic. “Dorian?” he gasped. “What on Earth—?”
“Jason? Where’s Jason?” Eroica asked breathlessly.
A bewildered Jason suddenly appeared in the doorway. “I’m right here. What’s wrong?”
“He can’t breathe,” Eroica practically screamed. “Jason, he can’t breathe!”
Jason threw a worried look in the Doctor’s direction. “I think you’d better get us to my time zone as soon as possible,” he said as he strode from the room.
* * *
Jason made straight for the monitors at the Major’s bedside, silencing the alarm that had sounded a split second after Dorian appeared outside Turlough’s room. It’s already starting, the Healer thought, and sooner than he expected. The Major’s body was breaking down. Soon, the equipment wouldn’t be able to compensate for the damage. Just hang on until the Doctor can work a little magic.
“Hang on, Klaus,” Jason said reassuringly. “Just a few more seconds…” His fingers flew over the entry pad as he adjusted the settings on the equipment.
Klaus closed his eyes and drew on every scrap of his training to remain calm. He could feel his heart pounding and wondered abstractly if he would feel when it stopped; feel when his damaged body finally failed him and simply stopped functioning. Then he felt the pressure in his chest subside, little by little. Finally, breathing became easier. Crisis averted. He wasn’t going to die. At least, not just yet.
Klaus heard Jason move up beside him and opened his eyes. He was still trying to get his breath back and could not find the energy to speak. The Healer’s face was a study of compassion and worry. Dammit, why are we trying so hard? This was the last thought to go through the Major’s mind before he blacked out.
“Shit!” Jason hissed. He ignored the monitors, his fingers going to the Major’s neck. He did a quick scan of his condition, his worried expression darkening.
“Jason…?” Eroica said tentatively.
Jason’s head snapped around. He had been concentrated on the Major so hard that he had completely forgotten the Earl was there. “Dorian, please leave,” he ordered.
The Alterran straightened, giving the man a piercing look. “That wasn’t a request.”
“I don’t care,” Eroica countered fiercely. “I’m not leaving.”
“Dorian, if Klaus finds out you were here while I was treating him—”
“He’ll just pitch a fit,” Eroica concluded. “So what?”
“More likely he’ll kill me with his bare hands.”
Eroica blinked, startled by the matter of fact tone in the Alterran’s voice. “Surely you are joking?”
“You don’t think he’s capable?”
“Jason, I’ve seen what you’re capable of. Are you telling me you think the Major is actually capable of killing you with his bare hands?”
Jason threw a quick glance back to his patient. “Well, not in his present condition, obviously. But under normal circumstances, if he were to catch me off guard, definitely. He came damn close when you were in my sickbay.”
Eroica was taken aback. He couldn’t imagine Jason being wary of anyone, even the Major. Why was everything turning on its head?
“I have the utmost respect for a trained killer,” the Alterran stated flatly.
“I’m a trained professional,” the Major corrected quietly.
Jason spun around. “Klaus, don’t talk.”
The Major gave an indignant snort. “Why?”
“To save your strength, for one thing.”
Another indignant snort. “Why bother?”
“Major!” Eroica gasped.
Klaus wished he had the strength to turn his back on the pair of them. He settled for turning his face away. “Let me die in peace, will you?”
“Don’t you dare give up on me, you pig-headed German!” Jason snapped.
“You call that an insult? Amateur.”
“Will you at least listen to me?”
“Because we have a plan,” Jason replied forcefully. “It’s a long shot, but it might just save your life.”
Klaus turned back to look him, a suspicious expression on his face. “How?”
* * *
When Jason finished explaining what he and the Doctor intended, he gave the Major a searching look. “Well, what do you think?”
“I think you’re both mad,” the Major replied bluntly.
Jason rolled his eyes, throwing his hands in the air. “Terrific. So you won’t even let us try?”
“I didn’t say that. What do I have to lose?”
Jason gave the Major a disapproving sideways look.
“When are you gonna attempt this lunacy?” Klaus then asked.
“I don’t know. Soon.” Jason cocked his head and listened a moment. “We’ve already dematerialized.”
“How can you tell?” Eroica asked.
“The TARDIS hum is different when we’re in flight.” Jason threw a quick glance over to the door. “Turlough is going to monitor things in the console room. I need to get him there. I’ll be able to check on our status at the same time.”
Klaus nodded and closed his eyes. “Then, I’ll conserve my strength.”
Jason could not prevent a small smile from coming to his face. “Good. You do that.” He looked over at Eroica, who had been amazingly quiet during the entire conversation. “I’ll leave Dorian to keep an eye on you, if that’s alright?”
The Major’s eyes flickered open. “Is the exclusion field still operating?”
The Major closed his eyes again. “Then it’s alright.”
The Healer gave the monitors another quick check before he headed for the door.
“I won’t be a moment, Major. I need a word with Jason,” Eroica said suddenly and followed the Healer to the door.
Jason stepped into the corridor, holding the door for the Earl. He closed it behind them and then turned. He was surprised by the angry expression on the other man’s face. “Dorian, what’s—” He got no further and was almost knocked off his feet when Dorian slapped him across the face as hard as he could. “What the hell was that for!” the shocked Alterran demanded, a hand going to his stinging cheek. When he pulled his hand away, there was blood on it. “I’m bleeding!”
“You bastard!” Eroica snarled, beside himself with anger. “You damned bloody alien bastard!”
“What did I do?”
“Do? What did you do? ” The enraged Eroica looked on the verge of tears. He also looked on the point of striking the Alterran a second time. “You lied to me!”
Jason took an automatic step back. Despite the fact that the Earl was taller in stature and more muscular in appearance, Jason was considerable stronger than he looked, even in his human form. He was fully capable of inflicting some very serious injuries if he chose to, which he did not. He also did not want to have any more injuries inflicted on himself, either.
“When? When did I lie to you?” he asked helplessly.
“You told me the Major wasn’t going to die!”
“No, I didn’t!”
“I said,” Jason broke in sharply, “not if I could help it.”
“Damn you!” Eroica swung again.
This time the Alterran was ready for him and caught him by the arm.
Damnation, Eroica thought as the vice-like grip tightened around his wrist. Twice in one day! “Let me go!”
“Not if you’re going to hit me again,” Jason replied logically. “Now calm down.”
“Calm down! You expect me to calm down with the Major—” Eroica broke off, correcting himself. “With Klaus lying on his death bed in there!” He waved his free hand at the door beside him to make his point.
“Yes,” Jason countered fiercely. “In there. And you’re out here having a hissy fit.”
“Yes, fine, damn me. But standing out here swearing at me and going into hysterics isn’t going to make this situation any better,” Jason said calmly. Dorian gave him a look that actually sent a chill down his spine. He had never seen the man so angry. “Now calm down. If Klaus sees you like this…”
“Dorian!” Jason snapped with an authority he rarely used, “Calm…down. Now!”
Eroica stood glaring down at the Alterran, who met his gaze unflinchingly.
“Please,” Jason said in a level voice.
Eroica closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. He then made a valiant attempt to get hold of himself. It took a few minutes before he finally succeeded. “May I have my arm back, please,” he said politely.
“Certainly.” Jason released his grip and gave his friend a searching look. “Now, are you alright to go back in there?”
“I don’t know.”
Jason gave a small smile. “You’ll be fine. You know where to find me if you need me.” So saying, he turned on his heel and headed back to Turlough’s room.
* * *
Eroica reentered the Major’s room, pausing at the door. You can’t die. You simply cannot die. Not like this. It’s too senseless.
After several minutes, Klaus turned his head, seeing the Earl at the door. He was clearly surprised to see him. “You’re back.”
“Yes. You sound surprised.”
“You’re very quiet.”
Eroica closed his eyes and fought to stay in control of himself. “I promised Jason I wouldn’t upset you.”
“Really?” Klaus gave the Earl a searching look. Now you decide to behave yourself.
“Don’t look at me like that!” Eroica exclaimed, turning away from the officer’s piercing gaze. Dear God, don’t make me want to hold you!
Klaus could not help but smile at this. “I think I’m supposed to say that.”
Eroica turned back to face him, a stray tear staining his cheek. “Oh, Major!” He could not say more and turned away again, struggling to get hold of himself once more.
Klaus merely sighed heavily. He simply did not have the strength for this anymore and closed his eyes.
Jason returned after several minutes. He took in the scene a moment before cautiously asking, “Have you two been behaving yourselves while I was gone?”
Klaus gave a snort but did not reply.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Jason remarked. “We’ve arrived in my time zone,” he announced. He crossed to a cabinet and started pulling linens from it. “I need to get you ready to be moved, Klaus.”
Eroica cleared his throat nervously. “I know how this is going to sound, but is there anything I can do to help?”
Jason turned to face him, hearing Klaus respond with a low growl. “Yes, as a matter of fact, there is something you can do.” He gave the Major a quelling look before any protests could be issued, being unaware of the fact that the officer lacked the strength to issue any.
Jason went to another cabinet and pulled out a small box, placing it on the counter. “The transmat will be reconstructing Klaus exactly as he was when he stepping into it. The more things he takes with him that he had at the time the better.” He pulled out another, larger box that had the Major’s jacket neatly folded on the top. Underneath were the shredded remnants of the clothing he had been wearing when attacked.
Eroica looked at the torn and bloodied material and felt ill, a hand going to his mouth. Oh, dear Lord, I don’t think I can do this. Suddenly Jason was squeezing his arm.
“I need you to empty the pockets and put everything into that box for me,” Jason said gently.
Eroica swallowed hard and nodded. “Alright,” he managed to croak out.
Jason gave him a sympathetic look before returning to the Major’s bedside. “Now, let’s get you sorted out.”
Klaus gave the Alterran an unfocused look. “If I’m on full life support, how are you gonna manage this?”
“Ah.” Jason grinned. “I’m going to use a portable life support system. It only has minimal functions, so you’ll feel a lot weaker than you do now.”
“I don’t think that’s possible,” came the sardonic reply.
Jason smiled briefly. “I’m going to revert to get you ready. I work much faster that way.” His only reply was a resigned sigh. “Um…you may pass out when I move you.”
Klaus gave the Alterran a suspicious look. “Why?”
“Because you’re not exactly in peak health, are you? And you have been on your back for a while. Even if you don’t pass out, you’ll probably be very dizzy.”
Before Klaus could think of a suitable reply, Jason was in his true form and moving him into a sitting position. A wave of dizziness washed over him and he gave a low groan, being determined to stay conscious no matter what. This was the last thing he remembered before blacking out.
Eroica tried to ignore what was happening behind him. He heard the Major groan and closed his eyes. Just concentrate on what you’re doing, he told himself. He had emptied all the jacket pockets and was caressing what remained of the Major’s trousers. He tried to push his lecherous thoughts out of his mind as he reached into the pockets. The last object he retrieved was the TARDIS key that Jason had give the Major what seemed like weeks ago. Should this go into the box?
Eroica turned to asked Jason what to do and froze, his eye growing wide as saucers. It wasn’t because Jason was in his true form. He fully expected that. It was because the Alterran was holding the Major’s naked form above the bed and was in the process of dressing him in a pair of cotton pajamas.
Eroica was so stunned by what he saw that he immediately forgot why he had turned, the key dropping from his hand and into the box. He let out a small gasp, a hand going to his mouth. He also started to have some very interesting sensations below his waist.
Jason realized his error much too late. He should have been doing this on the opposite side of the bed. Instead, he was giving Dorian a first rate view. He finished the job of dressing his unconscious patient before laying him on a clean blanket, which he then wrapped around him. A moment later, he was back in his human form, his eyes locked with the awestruck Earl. “You will not, under any circumstances, tell him what just happened,” Jason stated categorically.
Eroica found he could not speak and just nodded. All those years of sneaking around and it happens by accident! My God, he’s magnificent! Bruises and all, absolutely—
“Have you finished?” Jason asked sharply, bringing the Earl back to reality.
“Yes.” Thank God, I can talk again. Just don’t ask me to walk.
“Good. You carry the box, I’ll carry the Major.”
* * *
The TARDIS had materialized just outside Transmat Room 12, much to the Doctor’s delight and Jason’s amazement. The Doctor double-checked the readings before pulling the door lever and leading the way out. Eroica threw a worried look in the Major’s direction before following.
Jason had returned to his true form to carrying the officer to the console room, Klaus having returned to his senses during the journey from the sickbay. Jason double-checked his patient’s status and the portable life support system attached to the blankets he was swaddled in before finally following the others.
The Doctor was standing before the door to the transmat room, Eroica beside him, when Jason finally exited the TARDIS with his precious cargo. Turlough remained behind to monitor the instruments, and, supposedly, to rest.
Just as Jason came up to the others, he felt a very strange sensation wash over him and actually faltered. The Major felt the Alterran’s grip on him slacken for a split second before it tightened again.
“You’re not gonna drop me, I hope,” Klaus said weakly. He, too, had felt a strange rush of energy but was more concerned with the Alterran carrying him. He scarcely had the strength to keep his eyes open. The last thing he needed was to be dropped to the floor.
“I’m alright now,” Jason replied.
“What happened?” the Doctor practically demanded.
“I don’t know,” came the confused reply. “It’s as if...time went out of joint for a second.”
The Doctor gave Eroica a steady look. “See if Turlough picked up anything.”
Eroica nodded and dashed back to the TARDIS, re-emerging a moment later. “He says there was a brief time spike, whatever that means.”
The Doctor frowned. “It could be from the time corridor,” he said thoughtfully.
“Doctor, can we worry about this later,” Jason broke in. “The portable life support unit only has a limited battery life.”
The Doctor nodded, opening the door to the transmat room. He crossed to the controls while Jason went straight to the booth.
“Well, that explains it,” the Time Lord remarked, looking up. “According to this, you’ve only just left. You must’ve felt the time differential.”
“That might explain why I passed out at the other end, too,” Jason replied. He carefully placed the Major in a sitting position on the floor before returning to his human form. He went on to check his patient’s condition once again. Klaus was deteriorating rapidly. “How are you holding up,” he asked quietly.
“About as well as the battery on this thing,” Klaus replied weakly, indicating the life support box.
Jason gave him a small smile, rewrapping him in his blankets.
“Jason, I think we may have a problem,” the Doctor said suddenly. “The three of you went through at once. The TARDIS can exclude your DNA from the buffer because of its silicon based composition. But it won’t be able to separate the others.”
Jason cursed under his breath.
Dorian looked from one to another. “What does that mean?”
The Doctor and Jason exchanged a knowing look. “It means,” the Time Lord replied calmly, “that either you both go through, or neither of you does.”
“You mean…the only way to save the Major is for me to go with him?” Eroica replied.
“That’s it in a nutshell, yes.”
“No.” This was Klaus, who surprised even himself with his vehement tone.
“Nein. You’re a civilian. This has nothing to do with you.”
“Nothing to do with me if your death starts World War Three?”
The Major snorted. “I’m not that important.”
“No? I didn’t sit around the whole time I was recovering,” Eroica informed startlingly. “I talked to Turlough about a few things. The TARDIS has a very interesting historical archive. Did you know that?”
The Doctor stiffened visibly upon hearing this and Jason threw a surprised look in the Time Lord’s direction. Oh, no…Turlough, what did you do?
“You don’t think,” Eroica was saying, “that every NATO country will take exception to your being murdered by the KGB after the General Secretary of the Communist Party guaranteed your safety in order to get you into the country?”
Klaus closed his eyes. “Lord Gloria…”
“No! Dammit, no.” Eroica squared his shoulders and crossed to the transmat booth. “I’m not gonna just let you die, Major,” he said forcefully. “Not if I can do something to prevent it.”
“You know what will happen if this doesn’t work,” the Doctor pointed out.
“I’d rather die with him than live without him.”
The Major groaned and rolled his eyes. “You idiot—”
Jason chose that moment to intercede. “Dorian, are you sure about this?”
“Yes.” Eroica turned his gaze to the Major, meeting his disapproving gaze. “There are things that I don’t want to remember, either.” And things that I do, but you have to take the rough with the smooth.
Klaus drew a deep breath and closed his eyes. Of course. Now the truth comes out. And I foolishly thought he was being selfless.
“Alright,” Jason said calmly. “There isn’t a lot of room in here, so you’ll have to support him.” He stopped the protests that he could see forming on Major’s face with a quelling look. “Klaus, we don’t have time for this,” he said firmly. He waved a hand, indicating where Eroica should sit, taking the box full of the Major’s belonging from his hand and placing it on the officer’s lap. Then he leaned the Major back against the Earl.
A small snarl of protest escaped the Major as Eroica snuggled up against him. Dammit! He’s gonna push this to the limit. Klaus clenched his teeth as the Earl gave a delighted sigh as he put an arm around him to keep him upright. Damn the fact he didn’t have the strength to sit up on his own.
“Oh, you should probably have this,” Jason said, holding out the Major’s Magnum. It was still in its holster and Eroica took it, placing it in the box, inwardly praying the officer didn’t have the strength to fire it. “How long will all this take?” he asked.
It was the Doctor who replied. “Five minutes, give or take.” Then to Jason, he said, “Go to the TARDIS and make sure we’re properly tied into the transmat controls. I’ll feed the information from the buffer to you. So long as the old girl has a sample of your DNA, she should be able to filter it out and send the corrected pattern back here.”
Jason nodded and shut the door to the transmat, making certain it was latched before leaving.
Eroica closed his eyes and drew a deep breath, leaning back against the clear wall of the interior.
Once Klaus got over his annoyance at having to be at such close proximity to the Earl, he realized the man was shaking. “You’re afraid,” he observed.
Eroica jumped when the Major spoke. His tone was calm and quiet. He looked down, seeing a strange searching look in the officer’s green eyes. “Of course I’m afraid. I’m bloody terrified.”
“But you’re doing this anyway. It can’t just be to forget what happened. And don’t tell me it’s for any noble cause, either.”
“You’re right, it isn’t.”
“You know why, you idiot German. It’s because I love you!” Eroica snapped. “The world wouldn’t be bearable without you in it.”
Klaus sighed heavily. “Lord Gloria…”
“Yes, yes, I know,” Eroica snapped. “It’s foppish nonsense, and you hate me.”
“I don’t hate you.”
Eroica blinked. “What?”
“Not after what you did at the bridge.* I couldn’t get mad at you then. And…I can’t seem to hate you anymore, either. God knows I’ve tried.”
Eroica’s mouth dropped open.
“You were right. I did tell them I was a friend,” Klaus went on. “You’re real pro. I admire you for that.”
“Who are you? And what have you done with the real Iron Klaus?” Eroica demanded. To his amazement, Klaus actually smiled. Smiled! “This is a hell of a time to tell me all this.” He looked up, as Jason returned to the room. When he looked down again, he saw a very strange look in the Major’s eyes. “Maj—Klaus, why are you telling me this now?”
“Because in five minutes, we’ll either be dead, or we won’t remember any of it.”
Eroica blinked. Then he felt himself getting angry. “You bastard.”
Suddenly Jason’s voice came through a speaker in the ceiling of the booth. “If you two can stop arguing for a minute,” he said calmly, “we’re ready to try this.”
Eroica felt the officer’s body relax in his grasp and looked down. The Major had leaned back and closed his eyes, preparing himself for whatever lay in store. “So, we won’t remember?”
“No,” Klaus replied without opening his eyes.
“None of it?”
“Jason explained that. We won’t remember anything that took place after we arrived at the Lubyanka with him.”
The booth started to hum and Eroica gave a small sigh. “Then you won’t remember that I saw you naked.”
The Major’s eyes snapped open. “Was?”
“Wherever did you get that scar on your hip?”
Klaus made a small strangled noise.
“And you won’t remember this.” So saying Eroica leaned down, gently cupped the Major’s chin in one hand, and kissed him on the mouth.
Klaus was too stunned to even move. He stared into Dorian’s face, having no idea what to do. And even if he did, he lacked the strength to carry it out. So he just lay there, allowing another man…no, not just another man. Allowing the Earl—Eroica—Dorian—Dammit! He was kissing him!
Dorian sat back, a look of triumph on his face. “My darling Klaus, you are wonderful!”
A split second later, the pair faded from sight.
Jason stood staring with his mouth agape. He turned back to look at the equally shocked Doctor. “If this doesn’t work, and they remember what happened, I’ve a feeling the Major will be using that gun I gave him.”
The transmat booth started to hum again, bringing the Doctor out of his daze. He looked down at the controls, making several adjustments. An alarm sounded and he gave Jason an inquiring look. “Well? Shall I override the weapons safety, do you think?”
“Might as well.”
The Doctor silenced the alarm and then hit the final switch. “Here goes,” he said and looked up expectantly.
Jason turned back to the booth, a satisfied smile coming to his face when Dorian and Klaus— No, not Klaus, he told himself. He’s not your patient any more. The figure that was materializing didn’t have a bruise anywhere. He was also quite unconscious, as was Dorian, who was lying over the top of him.
Jason pulled open the door and removed his friends from the cramped interior of the transmat booth. He laid them out on the floor and then checked them over, the grin on his face widening as he verified that they had come through with flying colors. “Success, Doctor,” he said happily.
Jason heard a low moan and turned just in time to see the Major’s green eyes snapping open. He watched in fascination as the officer repeated his initial arrival at the Lubyanka. His body tensed and he looked around, getting his bearings before turning his intense gaze upward.
“Was ist los?” Klaus asked, switching back to English with his next sentence. “Is this the Lubyanka?”
The Major sat up slowly, and hand going to his spinning head. “No?”
“You’ve been there and back again, Major,” Jason said calmly.
Before the Major could issue any kind of reply, Eroica gave a low groan and opened his eyes, a hand going to his head. “That was bloody awful,” he moaned.
“Don’t start whining,” the Major snapped impatiently as he stood up.
Eroica sat up slowly. “Don’t start with me, Major. I’m too hungover.”
“Well, they sound normal, at any rate,” the Doctor remarked. He received an astonished look from Eroica. “Bloody hell!”
The Major’s reaction was more forthright. He spun around, his gun in his hand in a blink. Jason was instantly beside him. “No!” he said sharply, grabbing the officer’s wrist with both hands and pointing the weapon at the ceiling. “He’s a friend.” It was the most powerful grip Klaus had ever encountered and he gave the Alterran a stunned look.
“Where did he come from?” the Major demanded.
“Gallifrey,” Jason replied sardonically, releasing his hold on the officer’s arm. “This is the Doctor.”
“Pull the other one,” the Earl said as he got to his feet.
“I shouldn’t’ve overridden the weapons safety,” the Doctor said aridly. “That’s the second time you’ve pointed a gun at me, Major.”
“Third, actually,” Jason corrected. “There was that time in Iceland.”
“Oh, yes. I’d forgotten that.”
The Major threw a baffled look in Eroica’s direction. “We’ve materialized in a lunatic asylum.”
The Doctor put his hand to his chin and leaned on the console. “It occurs to me, Jason, that we overlooked how we’re going to explain all this.”
Jason threw quick glance over at his bewildered friends and nodded. That they had. “I think we’d be better served to do this in the TARDIS,” he said mildly.
“Do what in the TARDIS?” the Major asked suspiciously.
Jason drew a deep breath. “Explain how the Doctor just saved your life.”
* * *
The Doctor led the way into the TARDIS console room, the others trailing behind. Turlough was in one of the chairs and cocked his head to one side as the visibly restored Major passed through the doors. “Success, I see.”
The Major’s eyes narrowed and the young man stiffened visibly. “You’re not going to hold a gun to my head again, are you, Major?” Turlough asked.
Eroica gave the Major an amused sideways glance. “Did you hold a gun on everyone, Major?” he teased.
“How the hell should I know,” Klaus growled back. “I haven’t held one on you yet, have I?”
The Doctor waved a hand in his companion’s direction. “Since we’re starting from scratch,” he began calmly. “This is my traveling companion, Turlough.”
“And…we’ve already met him?” Eroica replied, giving the boy an appraising look.
“Down boy,” Jason admonished playfully. “Turlough’s still mending.”
“I think you two better have a seat,” the Doctor suggested, holding out a hand. “This may take a while.”
* * *
Taking “a while” was an understatement, as it turned out. It was several hours before everything was explained to the dumbfounded Major and Eroica. Then the theories concerning the creature were presented. The Major was, as usual, skeptical, but he could not deny that the notations on several documents were in his own handwriting.
“I don’t see why you haven’t just laid a trap at the transmat,” Eroica observed suddenly.
The Doctor turned to him in surprise. “What? Why do you say that?”
“Because it’s obviously its base of operation.”
The Major’s eyebrows went up. “Obvious to you, perhaps.”
Eroica gave him a steady look. “Unlike myself, most thieves operate in an area that they’re familiar with. So if something goes wrong, they can retreat to safety quickly.”
“A comfort zone.”
Eroica nodded, looking down at the map that was laid out on the control room floor. It was of the level of the Lubyanka that the creature had been sighted on, red X’s in the areas where it had been seen. “What’s the scale of this?” he asked, getting down on his knees.
The Doctor told him and then watched in fascination as the Earl took a ruler and made some quick measurements. Then he looked up. “Do you have a pin and a pen or pencil?”
The Doctor exchanged a bewildered look with the others. “Will a thumb tack do?”
“Lovely.” The Earl took the tack and pencil offered by the Doctor. He then fixed one end of the ruler to the floor and put the point of the pencil into a hole at one point in the ruler. In a few seconds, he had a perfect circle on the map containing all the red X’s.
The Major threw an astonished look over in Jason’s direction. He, in turn, looked over at the Doctor in amazement.
“What did you use as the center?” Turlough asked.
Eroica looked up, a brilliant smile on his face. “The transmat room.”
“My…God…” Jason breathed.
“It never goes further than this point, and it doesn’t go to different levels. So, it either can’t go any further away, or it won’t leave its comfort zone.”
The Doctor stood marveling at the Earl a moment before looking over at his companion. “What did the computer come up with?”
Turlough went to the console and touched a button, turning to the scanner as the results were displayed. The map that came up was almost identical to the one on the floor.
The Doctor and Jason exchanged a look of mutual astonishment. “I think I’m losing my touch, the Time Lord remarked.
Jason could not help but smile at this.
“Dorian, I’m sorry I didn’t show you this before,” the Doctor said as he came to stand in front of the map. “That’s absolutely brilliant. I don’t know why none of us thought of it sooner.”
“It’s because none of us thinks like a thief,” the Major replied matter of factly.
Jason gave the officer a sideways glance. Was that an actual compliment, Major? “Okay, we know where it is…maybe,” he said mildly. “How do we trap it?”
* * *
The TARDIS materialized back at its original position and the Doctor led the way out the door. Once again, they left the recovering Turlough in the console room.
“I’m not entirely sure what we’ll be looking for,” the Doctor said as he led the way to the prototype transmat room. “I dismantled the console.”
“When?” Jason wanted to know.
The Doctor looked back at him. “When Dorian was hurt.”
Eroica exchanged a glance with the Major, who shrugged. “I’m beginning to suspect I should be glad I don’t remember any of this.”
The Doctor pushed open the door. “Let’s just say you’re better off not knowing,” he said as he entered the room.
As soon as the group was in the room, the door slammed shut, apparently on its own.
“What the hell…?” Jason gasped.
“Perhaps I can enlighten the Earl…” a voice purred from across the room.
To the astonishment of them all, the creature was standing beside the transmat booth in its Borodin guise.
“Step into my parlor, is it?” the Doctor remarked aridly.
Borodin gave him an evil smile. “Funny you should say that, Doctor…”
Jason took a step forward. “Why?” he demanded.
“Back off, sunshine,” Borodin snarled.
The Doctor held out an arm, stopping the Alterran’s progress. “Look, what do you want?” he asked. “If it’s to get off of Earth, I can help you.”
“You want to help me?”
Borodin’s eyes narrowed, a sly smile coming to his face. “Really?”
“Don’t trust him,” the Major said warningly.
“Why? Because I’m KGB, Major?”
“No, because you’re a lying son-of-a-bitch,” came the succinct reply.
The Doctor threw a long suffering look in the officer’s direction. “Major, you’re not helping.”
“Just one thing, Doctor,” Borodin said mildly.
The alien suddenly came forward, taking the Time Lord by the arm. “The Major is right.” So saying, they promptly vanished.
“Doctor!” Jason screamed. Then he cursed in several languages, slamming a fist against the wall and making a sizeable dent.
“Dammit!” the Major snarled, adding to the Alterran’s stream of expletives.
Eroica, on the other hand, had his eyes on the booth. “Jason, should that thing be glowing like that?”
Jason spun around, seeing what he meant. Then he heard the unmistakable whine of a power build up. “He’s set it to overload!” he cried.
“What does that mean?”
“It means it’s going to explode!”
Klaus was already at the door, but it would not budge. “It’s locked us in!”
The noise of the power build up grew steadily louder until it was almost deafening.
“Get down!” Jason screamed.
Klaus grabbed the Earl and thrust him against the wall. “Get down and cover your head,” he ordered.
Jason came up behind them. “Major, you get down, too. I can protect you both!” he shouted over the noise.
“There’s no time, just do it!” Jason gave the officer a shove. His body shimmered as he transmuted, becoming a shield that surrounded his friends. A few seconds later, the room was shaken by a colossal explosion. It put a sizeable hole in the walls and ceiling, and sent debris flying everywhere.
“Don’t move, you two,” Jason instructed as the debris continued to fall. After a minute, and once he was satisfied there would not be another explosion, he returned to his human form and took a step back. He gave an amused smile as he took in his friends’ positions. Dorian was crouched against the wall, his arms over his head. The Major was on top of him, shielding him with his body. Oh yeah, you don’t care if he lives or dies, do you, Major? Who do you think you’re fooling?
“I think it’s safe to get up now,” Jason said mildly, kicking the debris at his feet. He turned back, taking in the devastation.
The Major stood up and looked around in amazement. “Mein Gott,” he said in a small voice. He gave Jason a stunned look. “How did you protect us from this?”
Jason gave a self-conscious smile. “I can change into all kinds of things, Major.”
Eroica hugged himself. “Now what do we do?” he asked helplessly. “No alien. And now, no Doctor.”
“First, we get out of here,” Jason replied. He pulled at the door, which still refused to budge.
“Brute force?” Eroica asked mildly.
Jason threw him a sideways glance. “Brute force,” he concurred. He pulled the knob off completely and then put his hand into the hole, ripping the door from its frame. “I wish I could say that made me feel better,” he said as he dropped the door to the floor among the rest of the rubble. Then he led the way out of the room.
* * *
AN IMPOSSIBLE SEARCH
Jason stood leaning on the TARDIS control console, his eyes moving from the controls to the scanner and back. “Come on, old girl,” he whispered encouragingly. “You can find him.”
Turlough threw an apprehensive look over at the Major and Eroica, seeing they looked equally dubious. He turned back to the Alterran and said calmly, “Jason, it’s a very big universe out there.”
“If the Doctor can find the TARDIS anywhere, she should be able to find him,” Jason replied logically, his hands manipulating the controls. “They’re telepathically linked.” He did not even look up as he spoke, and hoped his voice sounded more convinced than he was himself. It wasn’t just the universe. It was all of time and space that had to be searched.
A deafening silence followed.
Then the TARDIS gave a sudden lurch. A moment later, the room was filled with the sound of materialization.
“Well, we’ve arrived somewhere,” Jason remarked aridly. The image on the scanner was one of chaos. He adjusted the controls and the scanner slowly cleared to a solid image. An image that cause them all to stare in a horrified silence.
They appeared to have materialized in a large room. The far wall looked like it was made of a rubberized substance and had an enormous gash in it out of which was attempting to slither what could only be described as a gigantic red slug. There was a humanoid creature working at a terminal nearby that Jason suddenly realized was the alien they had been chasing. If this weren’t horrific enough, closer to the TARDIS was a platform with a chair in the center. It was enclosed on three sides, the front having a forcefield of some sort across it. Strapped to the chair, and with an appalling amount of hardware attached to him, was the Doctor.
“Mein Gott,” the Major said in a horrified whisper, finally breaking the silence.
“We’ve got to get him out of there,” Jason said with much more conviction than he felt, and quite unnecessarily, Klaus thought as he turned to him in amazement. “You have a plan?”
The Alterran’s eyes did not move from the screen. He shook his head helplessly. “I have no idea. I just—” He broke off, turning back to the control console. “Maybe the Doctor knows what to do.”
Turlough gave him a shocked look. “Jason, you’re not planning on going out there and asking him, I hope!”
Jason looked up sharply. “No. I’m trying to be serious.” He looked down at the console again, shifting position to stand in front of another panel. “That creature still may not know I’m telepathic.”
Eroica exchanged a look of mutual bewilderment with the Major. “And…” the thief prompted.
“And…” Jason replied as he placed his hands on two disks, “I might be able to communicate with the Doctor.”
“You know he’ll just tell you to stay in the TARDIS,” Turlough said knowingly.
“Yes. And he knows I won’t. So we’ll get that out of the way and then get down to finding a solution to this mess.” Jason drew a deep breath and closed his eyes. “Just pray this works,” he added before going completely still.
* * *
When the TARDIS suddenly materialized out of nowhere, the Doctor feared the creature had actually been able to make good on its threat to bring the time machine there itself. After several minutes passed and no one appeared, however, he relaxed. Obviously, the creature could not control those inside, as it had hoped.
The Doctor scowled when the phantom voice suddenly sounded in his head. He thought he had been able to keep his mind shielded from his captor.
“Doctor? Can you hear me?” the voice said, growing louder with each word.
Now what? the Doctor thought darkly.
“Good. You can hear me! ”
The Doctor recognized Jason’s delighted voice a split second before the Alterran went on to say, “Doctor, it’s Jason. And before you ask, I’m using the TARDIS telepathy circuits to contact you.”
The Time Lord frowned, throwing a quick glance in the direction of his captor. The alien creature was still busying himself at the equipment and seemed oblivious to Jason’s telepathic presence. “What are you lot planning?” he practically demanded.
“Nothing as yet. ”
“Good. Keep it that way.”
“Doctor, I’m not going away. And I’m not staying in the TARDIS forever,” Jason said firmly. “I’m coming out there.”
“Jason, you don’t even know what this thing is after.”
“I am aware of that, Doctor. Why do you think I’m contacting you?”
The Doctor closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. He did not have the energy for an argument, telepathic or otherwise.
“Are you alright?” Jason asked suddenly. “You look exhausted.”
“I’ve been better.”
Jason felt his temper flare and fought to control himself. “Doctor, just give me a quick rundown. If I can’t handle it, I’ll call the Time Lords.”
“You might not be able to.”
“Fine. If this turns out to be hopeless, I’ll hit the button that must never be pressed and seal off this section of the vortex.”
The Doctor’s eyes snapped open upon hearing this. Clearly, Jason knew more about the severity of the situation than he had given him credit. He drew another deep breath and then concentrated his thoughts, telling his former companion what he could of the alien’s plans.
* * *
While Jason carried on his telepathic conversation, the others waited impatiently for the verdict.
“This is getting us nowhere,” the Major growled, throwing his hands in the air.
“Major, you can’t possibly think we’re prepared to handle this,” Eroica objected.
“Did I say that we were?” Klaus snapped back.
Eroica flinched. “No. I just—”
“What? You thought I’d just go charging out there with no plan?”
“Well, yes. That is what you do.”
The Major’s eyes narrowed. “Let me tell you something you may not realize, Lord Gloria. In a dangerous situation, I think before I act.”
“I’m very glad to hear that, Major.”
Klaus actually jumped when Jason suddenly spoke and he turned sharply to face him.
“The last thing we need is to go charging off without a plan,” Jason said calmly.
“And you have one, I take it?”
“Of a sort. According to the Doctor, our unfriendly alien out there has been working for, or with, that…slug thing that is presently trying to get through a weak spot in the vortex. That’s what the TARDIS hit when we landed. A kind of…crack in space/time.”
“So…why does it want the Doctor?” Turlough wanted to know.
“Believe it or not, it wants complete control over Time.”
“What? Using the TARDIS, you mean?”
“No. It wants to physically control time.”
Turlough blinked. This was the last thing he expected to hear. “That’s impossible, even for a Time Lord.”
“You know that. And I know that. But try talking logic with a megalomaniac,” Jason replied calmly. “Apparently the alien is helping it because of the terror that will cause.”
Turlough glanced over at the screen and shuddered. “That makes sense. It scares the hell out of me.”
“Hear, hear,” Eroica replied.
Jason silently agreed before going on. “It’s draining the Doctor’s life force,” he said darkly. He looked over to the image on the viewer and added, “If we don’t get him out of there, he’ll die.”
“How do we get him out?” the Major asked practically.
Jason gave a small smile. “I’m going to create a diversion so you can take that cannon you’re carrying and blow a hole in the computer right…there.” He indicated the machinery on the scanner screen. “That should confuse things enough so that Dorian can get the Doctor out.”
Eroica’s eyebrows went up. “Me?”
“You’re the best thief in the business. I want you to steal the Doctor back.”
“How? He’s inside a box with a forcefield in front of it.”
“The Doctor believes it’s an exclusion field.”
Jason gave a small smile before explaining what he meant. He then asked, “You still have that pocket dimension the Doctor gave you, don’t you?”
“Why? What good will that do me?”
“If you hide in it, I can toss it through the exclusion field. That thing will think I’m just trying to annoy it and shut off the alarms, leaving you safely inside the containment grid. You’ll be protected against anything that system has to throw at you while you’re in there.”
Eroica pulled out the pocket dimension and gave it a dubious look. “You’re sure?”
“Absolutely. Don’t forget, insides and outsides are in different dimensions. The exclusion field filters out DNA.” Jason tapped the pouch. “This isn’t organic. No DNA.”
Eroica looked less than convinced. “And how do I get out again? I can’t exactly throw myself through while I’m inside.”
Jason’s eyebrows went up. This was a valid point that had not occurred to him. He reached into a pocket, pulling out a length of string, which he attached to the pouch. “There. If the security grid is still operational, the Major can pull you and the Doctor out using this.”
“The Major?” Eroica looked over at the equally startled officer.
“Yes. I’ve a feeling I’m going to be a tad busy by then.”
“Why don’t I just put a bullet into that slug instead?” the Major asked bluntly. “It would be easier.”
Jason cleared his throat. “Yes, I’m sure it would be,” he replied mildly. “But we’re inside a pocket of reality inside the vortex, Major. That slug whatever-it-is has created a small haven inside that…chaos so it can squeeze itself through. I don’t know how it’s keeping it stable. And neither does the Doctor.”
“In other words,” Eroica added mildly, “don’t shoot it until we’re all back in the TARDIS, right?”
Jason could not help but smile at this. “Right.”
“I’ll keep it in mind,” the Major replied soberly. He looked at Eroica and frowned. “What are you waiting for?” he snapped impatiently. “Get in.”
“Major, I’ve been inside this thing before,” Eroica replied nervously. “It’s…enormous. I need something to loop over this button or I’ll never find my way out again.”
The Major looked into the pouch, his eyes widening. Enormous did not even begin to describe the interior. “What did you use before?” he asked, looking up.
“The chain on K-9’s dog whistle.”
“Here.” Jason took his TARDIS key by the chain and held it out. “Use this. Just don’t lose it.”
“Or steal it,” the Major rejoined as the thief took the key.
Eroica gave the officer a disapproving look. “Major…”
“Shut up and get in. We’re wasting time.”
“And what do I do during all this?” Turlough asked practically.
Jason gave him a steady look. “You have the most important job of all.”
Turlough scowled. “What? Hiding in here?”
“No. Making sure that thing doesn’t get into the TARDIS. Once we’re all out there, lock the doors. And if things go wrong…” Jason made an entry into the computer and then leaned down, indicated a small red button on the underside of the console. “Hit that.”
Turlough looked at the button and frowned. Why don’t I like the look of that?
“What will that do?” the Major asked.
“It will summon the Time Lords,” the Alterran announced. “They’re very protective when it comes to the power over Time. That’s why they got the Doctor involved in all this. Hitting that button means we’ve failed.”
“I’m almost afraid to ask, but then what happens?” Eroica asked hesitantly.
“They’ll seal off the tear in space/time and sterilize this portion of the vortex.”
“What? With us in it?”
“Yes, with us in it. Us and that creature out there,” Jason stated flatly. “The Doctor is a Time Lord. He’ll let that thing kill him rather than reveal the secrets of time travel.” He turned to Turlough, adding seriously, “He’ll prevent himself regenerating if he believes that’s what it’ll take. I’m not willing to let that happen.”
“Jason…” Turlough said in a frightened voice.
Jason met his gaze levelly. “I’m trusting you on this one, Turlough,” he said firmly, having no idea how powerful these few words were.
Trusting me! Turlough thought, feeling his heart miss a beat. Oh, hell. Finally, somebody’s trusting me. Why did it have to be in this?
“Jason, I…don’t know if I can do that.”
“Then we’d better not fail,” the Major stated practically. He pulled out his gun, gave it a quick once over, and holstered it again.
“Always so stoic,” Eroica observed admiringly.
The Major saw a familiar amorous look creeping into the Earl’s eyes. “Keep your mind on your work, you bloody pervert. Now, get in.” He looked inside the pouch one more time before holding it out. When he looked up, his eyes locked with Eroica’s.
The Earl was momentarily stunned when he realized there was no anger or malice in the dark, green eyes looking at him. Is that admiration, Major? I’ll make you proud of me. Just you watch. He looped the chain from Jason’s TARDIS key over the button, going on to make certain he had a firm grip on it. “How will I know when it’s safe to come out?” he asked practically.
“I’ll signal you,” the Major replied. He watched in fascination as Eroica’s tall form vanished into the tiny pouch. “That’s a good place for you, thief.”
“I heard that, Major!”
“Good. Then you’ll hear my signal.” The Major looked over at Jason just in time to see an odd expression pass over his face. “What are you planning on doing as a diversion?”
Jason met the officer’s inquiring gaze and then took the pocket dimension from his hand. “To be honest, Major. I haven’t the faintest idea.”
Turlough’s mouth dropped open. “What?” he gasped, certain he had just gone mad. “You’re just going to march out there with no plan at all?”
“I’m taking a page from the Doctor’s book and improvising,” Jason replied calmly. “I just have to keep its attention until Dorian and the Major can get the Doctor safely back to the TARDIS.”
“Jason, that’s suicide!”
“I’m rather hoping it won’t get that far.”
“Turlough, ” Jason snapped, “the Doctor is more important than I am.”
“I doubt he would agree,” the Major said sharply. “Everyone in this room owes you their lives at least twice over, myself included.”
“And everyone on your planet owes the Doctor their lives several times over,” Jason retorted. “Believe me, Major, the Doctor is far more important than I am. That’s why we have got to get him out of there.”
Before anyone could object further, Jason pulled the door lever and strode out the exterior doors.
* * *
Jason expected someone to sense his presence the instant he exited the TARDIS. To his surprise, the alien continued to work at the equipment, its back towards him, and the slug seemed oblivious. He drew a deep breath, throwing a quick glance in the Doctor’s direction.
The only thing that moved were the Time Lord’s eyes. Obviously, he was aware of the Alterran’s presence. The rest of his body, however, was either completely paralyzed by the equipment, or too weak to move.
Jason could feel his anger rising, but unlike the hundreds of other times when this happened, he did not attempt to control it. If he allowed himself to lose his temper, his energy level would soar. Perhaps it would cause his psychic energy level to rise to a point that the creature finally became aware of him. He moved slowly forward, making certain to stay slightly to one side so the Major would have a clear shot when he came out.
The alien finally turned to face him. “Well, if it isn’t the Prince come to save his friend,” he sneered. “What are you going to threaten me with this time?”
“Only myself.” Jason carelessly tossed the pocket dimension at the Doctor’s feet. The security grid came to life, triggering a cacophony of alarms. “Oops.”
The creature gave a low growl.
“Perhaps I should threaten you with…annihilation. How’s that sound?” Jason replied coldly.
The creature gave him a quizzical look before it burst out laughing. Then it turned to silence the alarms, oblivious to the threat the Alterran posed.
Good, you keep thinking I’m nobody important, Jason thought before calling out, “Major!”
Klaus was out of the TARDIS the instant the Alterran called, gun in hand. He crossed to stand in front of the Doctor and leveled his weapon at the computer. He heard the alien snarl a split second before he realized that he could not move.
Jason waited for the weapon to explode behind him and finally looked back at the officer in disbelief. Surely, he’s not having second thoughts? “Major, fire!”
Klaus had to force the words from his mouth. “I…can’t…move!”
Jason turned a horrified look in the alien’s direction, seeing a smug expression on its face. “Dammit!”
“Humans are so predictable,” the creature said dismissively.
“I’m not human, you moron!”
“I know. I’ve been waiting for you, Alterran,” the creature replied. “That’s what you’re called isn’t it? Alterran?”
Jason’s eyes narrowed.
“Major Eberbach’s mind is filled with fascinating images of you…changing. You have enormous power.” The creature turned to the paralyzed officer. “He fears you,” he said smugly. Then an odd look came to his face and he turned his gaze to the Doctor. “No… It’s the Time Lord who fears…” He closes his eyes, taking a deep breath. “Magnificent!”
“What?” Jason turned a horrified look in the Doctor’s direction. This made more sense then he cared to admit. Are you still afraid of me, Doctor? Or afraid for me? “Oh, God…” He spun around, his eyes wide. “You lured us here. Why?”
“Power. The Doctor has power over Time. And you have…power.” The alien reached up a hand in the Alterran’s direction.
Jason felt a sudden drain on his energy reserves and immediately threw a forcefield around himself. He saw a bewildered expression come to the alien’s face when this happened. It had no way of knowing that he was one of the rare individuals who were in “the First Circle,” meaning he could combine the power of his true self with whatever form he happened to be in.
The alien gave a low hiss. It turned to the computer behind it and twisted a dial. The same instant, the Doctor gave a cry of pain and pulled at his bindings.
“What are you doing?” Jason demanded.
The alien gave him an innocent look. “Just finishing one job so I can start the next one.”
“The job of killing the Doctor,” Jason completed. He could feel his anger rising with each passing second. His body was already trembling, his breathing getting faster and faster.
“When I’ve done with him, I’ll start on the Major again.”
That was the last straw. Jason let out an enraged scream. “No, you won’t, you bastard!” A ball of energy suddenly appeared above his right hand. “I will not allow you to harm my friends again!” He threw the energy ball full force at the alien, knocking him backwards and breaking its hold on the Major.
The Major did not need to be told twice. The Magnum exploded in his hand. He had to shield his eyes from the explosion that followed, backing away from the flames that erupted from the destroyed panel. He turned to the exhausted Time Lord, who was now slumped in his chair. Whatever he had just blown up had stopped the Doctor’s torment.
“Eroica, come out!” the Major called.
A mass of blond curls appeared from the pouch. “What took so bloody long?”
“Shut up and get to work. There isn’t much time.”
“Is the grid still up?” Eroica asked as he extracted himself from the impossibly small sack and got to his feet.
Eroica looked in Jason’s direction and was stunned by what he saw. Diversion, indeed. The Alterran was surrounded by a bright blue glow, as was the alien. The two were hurling energy balls at one another. Just hold him off a few more minutes, he thought as he turned his attention to the Doctor. “Let’s get you out of this thing,” he said gently.
The Doctor gave Eroica an unfocused look. “Tell the Major to target the power source,” he said weakly. “It will deactivate this whole system.”
Eroica scowled. “Where is it?”
“Over there.” The Doctor glanced in the direction of the power source. “The gray box on the floor.”
“I heard,” the Major said and promptly fired a round into the box, turning it to so many fragments.
Eroica, in the meantime, was removing the Doctor’s bindings. The Major crossed the short distance to assist in releasing the Time Lord. “Can you walk?” he asked.
“Major, I doubt I can even stand,” the Doctor replied truthfully.
Jason did not even turn around. “Use the pocket dimension and get him out of here!” he commanded.
“No!” the alien snarled. “They won’t be able to leave. I control this world.”
The Major heard Eroica give a small gasp and turned to him. “Help me get the Doctor inside. Then you get in with him,” he ordered, holding the pouch open.
“Major, that thing…” Eroica said in a trembling voice.
“That thing is trying to frighten you.”
The Major took the Earl’s arm in an iron grip, turning him to face him, and bringing him back to reality. He gave the startled man a steady look. “Fear clouds the mind, Lord Gloria. Ignore it.”
“Yes, Ignore it.”
“Major, I’m not like you. I don’t think I can—” Eroica broke off when Klaus snapped, “Dorian! Ignore it and do your job!”
The Earl stared at the officer in blank astonishment. You called me Dorian! “Yes. Yes, alright.”
A ghost of a smile passed across the Major’s face. The bloody idiot was so easy to distract it was almost laughable.
In less than a minute, the Time Lord was safety within the pocket dimension and the thief was climbing in after him. “Major, don’t let Jason kill himself. Take the bastard out,” Eroica said before vanishing inside.
“That I will gladly do,” Klaus replied coldly. He went quickly to the TARDIS and only had to thump on the door once before Turlough opened it. “Mission completed,” he called from the threshold. When the Alterran did not reply, he called again. “Jason!”
“Shut the door!” Jason yelled. “I’m sending this thing to hell and I don’t want to take any of you with me.” So saying, he returned to his true form, sending another massive wave of energy across the room.
The Major stiffened slightly upon hearing this. There was a finality in the Alterran’s voice that spoke volumes to his experienced ear. Jason had no intention of returning, but it was something Klaus knew he would have to deal with after he made certain the Doctor was safe. He turned on his heel and strode into the console room. “Close the door,” he ordered the instant he was inside.
“But Jason…” Turlough began.
Klaus was in no mood for arguments. He hit the door lever himself before opening the pocket dimension. “Eroica, come out.”
“Major, I’m going to need your help,” Eroica called from within impossible depths of the pouch. “I had to let go of the key.”
“Not now, Major, just give me your bloody hand!” Eroica snapped impatiently. “The Doctor’s unconscious.”
The Major’s anger immediately evaporated. He reached into the pouch, and felt a hand take hold of his wrist. He took hold of the Earl’s wrist and pulled, drawing Eroica to the opening of the pouch. The thief had an arm wrapped around the Doctor’s chest. The Major helped him out and assisted in placing the unconscious Time Lord on the floor.
The Major put his fingers to the Doctor’s neck, the frown on his face deepening when he felt the Time Lord’s double heartbeat. He looked over at Turlough. “Do you know how to help him?”
Turlough shook his head helplessly. “All I know is the TARDIS is the best place for him when he’s ill.”
“Why?” Eroica wanted to know.
“I don’t know. But every time he’s ill, he comes here.”
Eroica turned his attention to the scanner screen and the continuing power struggle going on outside the TARDIS. “He’s gonna kill himself, isn’t he?” he said quietly, seeing the energy surrounding Jason suddenly swirl violently.
“He’s gone over the edge,” Turlough said knowingly. “The Doctor’s the only one who can talk him down when he loses his temper like that.”
Eroica turned back to the image on the scanner, his eyes wide. “That’s what happens when he loses his temper? Bloody hell…”
Eventually the systems behind the alien could take the assault no longer and started to overload. The creature shrieked in rage, turning away from Jason just as the computer erupted into flames.
Without a word, the Major rose to his feet, hit the door lever, and strode through the exterior doors. He stood on the threshold a moment, watching as the alien tried to stop the overload before its master was destroyed.
Jason’s sensors picked up the movement behind him. A quick scan verified the individual’s identity before he even spoke. “Major, get back in the TARDIS!”
“It’s over. The Doctor is safe,” Klaus announced. “You get back in the TARDIS.”
“I can’t. The only thing holding this thing back is me.”
As if to verify his words, the slug gave a terrifying streak, the end of its body opening to reveal a mouth full of jagged teeth. Then it started to writhe. The alien that had been dueling with Jason continued to fight a losing battle with the computer system.
The horrified Major was taken aback by all this. “What?”
“No time to explain,” Jason called back. “I can feel…the temporal energy drain. The damage. I was wrong! The Doctor was wrong! Now get back in the TARDIS and press that button.”
“Nein! ” came the defiant reply.
“Major, don’t make me order you.”
“I don’t just follow orders, remember? The only way to save Time is to destroy that thing, yes?”
“I don’t know anymore!”
The Major drew his Magnum and pointed it at the slug. “Then we’ll find out.” So saying, he pulled the trigger.
* * *
WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?
Klaus wasn’t sure what happened after he fired his weapon. He remembered an explosion and blinding white light. The next thing he knew, he was waking up on the floor of the console room, the exterior doors firmly shut beside him. There was debris from the destroyed computer room scattered everywhere throughout the console room.
He pulled what looked like a sheet of wallpaper off himself and slowly sat up. He took a moment just to make certain he was still in one piece before looking around the room. What a mess. Klaus slowly got to his feet and crossed to the console, leaning heavily against it a moment. He looked over at the scanner, seeing only static.
Eroica was on the floor a few feet away beside the prone form of the Doctor. Both of them were covered with dust, sheets of paper and plastic, and bits of rubble. There did not seem to be any sign of Turlough. Then a groan from the far side of the control console and a rustling of debris verified the young man’s presence in the time machine—and among the living.
Turlough was extracting himself from a pile of debris when the Major came around the console to look at him. “Are you alright?” the officer asked.
“What do you care, you lunatic?” the boy snapped. “You could’ve killed us.”
“You’re fine,” Klaus snorted dismissively, waving a hand in the boy’s direction.
“Not that you care,” Eroica groaned as he sat up, “but I seem to be relatively unscathed.”
“And the Doctor?”
Eroica pulled the wreckage off the Time Lord’s body and did a quick check. “Still unconscious. He seems alright.” He looked from the Major, to the scanner and back again. “What the hell happened?”
“How the hell should I know?”
Turlough was at the console trying to clear the readings. “I’m no expert, but it looks like we’re still in the vortex.”
“You mean…we went through all that for nothing?” Eroica moaned.
Turlough gave the Earl a dark look, as did the Major.
“Any idea what happened to Jason?” Eroica asked cautiously.
Turlough struggled with the console a moment and then turned to the scanner. It was still nothing but static. “It’s not reading anything, ” he said helplessly. “Let me see if I can clear the static.”
While the young man continued to struggle with the console, the Major started searching for his gun, which had apparently been blown from his hand by the exploding computer room. He tossed the debris aside, throwing papers and chunks of plastic into a heap as he went. He reached the far side of the room before finally locating the weapon. He quickly checked it over and was surprised to see it appeared undamaged. He returned it to his holster and was about to turn away when he noticed something protruding from the debris that made him stop short. A hand. A bright red human hand.
Klaus yanked the large sheet of plastic aside, revealing Jason’s battered form beneath. It took the Major a full second to register that the Alterran was back in his human form. Then he was kneeling beside him, checking for a pulse.
Jason moaned when the fingers touched his skin, his eyes opening a crack.
Klaus was uncertain as to whether the Alterran were conscious or not and took no chances, telling him not to speak. It was obvious that there was nothing he could do for him. Jason’s body was a twisted, bloodied, and broken mess, his skin a livid red. He looked like he had been burned, either by heat or with chemicals. Perhaps he had been, Klaus thought as he took in the rest if Jason’s devastating, and very probably mortal injuries.
“Turlough, get us out of here,” the Major ordered without looking up.
“I can’t,” Turlough replied helplessly. “The TARDIS won’t dematerialize.”
Klaus looked up sharply. “What? Why?”
“I don’t know!”
The Major issued a stream of curses.
Eroica sat back and gave a resigned sigh, a hand going to his head. “So we’re stuck here?”
Turlough threw his hands up. “We are until the Doctor wakes up.”
“Splendid. Who knows when that might be?”
To the astonishment of them all, the Doctor quietly replied, “I think now would be a very good time.”
Eroica nearly jumped out of his skin, his hand going to his chest. “Bloody hell!”
The Doctor sat up slowly, a hand to his spinning head. He looked around himself, his eyebrows going up. “You lot have certainly made a mess of my TARDIS,” he remarked aridly.
“You can thank the Major for that,” Turlough snapped angrily.
Eroica helped the Doctor to his feet and then over to the console, which he used for support as he moved from panel to panel, checking the readings. After a minute, he was able to clear the scanner of static.
“Do you really think you should be on your feet so soon?” the Earl said concernedly.
The Doctor glanced at the scanner. “I don’t really think I have a choice.” He turned his gaze to the Major, his eyes falling on the battered form beside him. “Oh, no…” He held out a hand in Eroica’s direction and the Earl came up beside him, helping him across the room.
“Oh, Jason, what did you do to yourself?” the Doctor said quietly as he got down beside his unconscious friend.
“Is there anything we can do?” Eroica asked. Like the Major, he had a pretty good idea what the answer would be. It was not the one he received.
The Doctor did not even look up. “Pray for a miracle.”
Eroica blinked. “What? You’re not serious?”
“That’s the only thing that will save him now,” the Doctor stated flatly.
“Wonderful,” the Major snorted, rising to his feet.
Eroica gave the officer a knowing look. “Now there’s irony for you, Major. He’s telling a room full of atheists to pray for a miracle.”
The Major met his gaze steadily. “What else do you do when the miracle worker is the one in need of a miracle?”
“You’ve spent too many years sitting in churches,” Eroica said scornfully. “You’re actually starting to believe all that crap about having faith.”
“And you call me a pessimist,” Klaus shot back. “Faith has nothing to do with it. I made a promise not to give up hope.”
“Klaus…” came Jason’s weak surprised voice. “You remembered.”
The Major turned sharply to the Alterran, a startled look on his face. Remembered? Of course he remembered. He remembered everything that ever happened to him.
“Jason, don’t talk,” the Doctor said gently.
“Doctor, he shouldn’t…remember,” Jason said insistently. “It…happened after…”
The Doctor’s eyes widened. “After your initial arrival?”
“Yes. After he…was hurt.”
Klaus frowned. Then he realized what Jason meant. He should not be able to remember what he did. Suddenly, events were in his memory that had not been there even an hour before. Everything that had happened after he and Eroica returned to the Lubyanka with Jason.
The frown on the Major’s face deepened as he realized not everything was there. Something was missing. He clearly recalled Jason carrying him as far as the transmat room and then…nothing until he woke up completely restored. Everything beyond that door was missing. Something had happened just as they arrived at the transmat room. Something Jason had said…
“Time out of joint,” Jason and the Major said in unison.
This was enough to bring Klaus out of his daze with a jolt.
The Doctor threw a quizzical look in the Major’s direction before turning back to the gravely injured Alterran. “Jason, please. Don’t talk.”
“No, Doctor,” Jason said as forcefully as possible. “You need to know…about that…thing.”
The Doctor threw a quick glance over to the scanner screen. “It’s dead, Jason. And so’s that creature we were chasing.”
Jason shook his head. “It’s not alone,” he informed. “It’s like…like…” He paused a moment, struggling to find the right analogy. “A bacteria.”
“It found a weak point…in the vortex, like…when a bacteria…enters a cut in the skin.”
The Doctor’s eyes grew wide. “And we’re the anti-bodies,” he said in a small voice.
“They feed on time.”
“Feed on it?” the bewildered Eroica repeated.
The Doctor nodded. “That would produce an enormous amount of temporal energy.” Then he realized something. “Bait. The temporal corridor was bait to attract the attention of the Time Lords.”
“And the alien? How did it fit into all this?” the Major wanted to know.
Jason gave a small smile of irony. “It had nothing to do with any of it. It was just…feeding on the by products. It really was a parasite.”
“Christ,” Eroica muttered.
“Doctor, there are thousands of those things.”
“Mein Gott,” the Major breathed in horror, his eyes wide.
“I didn’t realize… Then it was too late,” Jason said weakly. “I didn’t have the energy to…stop the damage.”
“That’s what you get for playing hero,” the Doctor admonished gently.
Jason gave him a weak smile, squeezing the Time Lord’s hand. “That’s what I get for losing my temper with an over abundance of energy to draw from.”
The Doctor’s eyes flickered but he did not reply.
“You have to…cover the wound before they push their way through.”
“I’ll do that. Now, you mustn’t talk. Please…”
Jason closed his eyes, swallowing hard. “It’s too late…” He could feel his strength ebbing away and squeezed his friend’s hand again. “Doctor…tell Shadra I love her and…I’m sorry.”
“Jason…” the Doctor said in a strained voice.
Jason opened his eyes, giving his friend an affectionate look. “Isn’t it strange?” he said in a quiet, calm voice. “I always knew you’d be with me when I died.” He seemed to relax, letting out a long breath before going completely still.
The Doctor felt the Alterran’s hand go limp, watching his bright blue eyes go dull. Lifeless. He closed his own eyes and lowered his head. It was difficult enough to say good-bye when companions went their separate ways, but to say good-bye when they died was beyond difficult. In fact, it was the worst feeling in the universe.
After what seemed like an eternity, the Doctor drew a deep breath and looked up. The Major was still standing beside him, a haunted expression on his face. He had the look of a man who had seen far too many men die unnecessarily. The Doctor could not help but wonder if his own face mirrored that expression.
Turlough was still at the console and had turned away. Eroica did not even attempt to hide his tears as he came to stand beside the Major. Then he heard the officer catch his breath.
The Major’s voice tore through the silence in the room like a gun shot, his tone one of warning rather than consolation. The Time Lord looked up and then followed the officer’s gaze to the scanner screen. A new alien slug had pushed the body of the other through the gash in the vortex and was now attempting the squeeze itself through before it closed.
The Doctor gently closed Jason’s eyes. Then he pulled a sheet of plastic from the pile beside him and used it to cover the Alterran’s body. He got to his feet and went to the console as quickly as he could.
“Let’s cover that wound, shall we?” he said coldly.
“Doctor, the TARDIS won’t dematerialize,” Turlough said shakily, hurriedly wiping the tears from his face. “I’ve already tried.”
The Doctor scowled, scrutinizing the instruments. He pressed several buttons, flipped several switches, and turned half a dozen knobs, apparently without any success. He heaved an exasperated sigh and finally gave the console an almighty thump with his fist. Behind him, the exterior doors gave a low whirring sound. He spun around just in time to see them judder slightly.
“A-ha! There’s the problem,” he said triumphantly. “The doors aren’t closed properly. Something’s jamming them.”
“I’m not surprised,” Eroica replied, taking in the debris still littering the room.
“Well, we’ll have to un-jam them, won’t we?” the Doctor snapped impatiently.
“Doctor, do you really think it’s wise for you to go out there again?” Eroica asked. “That thing wants to kill you.”
“That thing wants to kill all of us,” the Major corrected sharply as he strode to the doors.
“Now there’s a comforting thought.”
The Major gave him a dark look.
The Time Lord held up his hands. “Let’s worry about that after we’ve got the doors open.”
There were two sets of exterior doors, the larger set that swung into the console room, and the smaller exterior set that were part of the Police Box façade. The Doctor pulled the door lever and the internal set of doors swung open. The space between the two sets of doors was packed with debris.
“Well, that explains it,” the Time Lord muttered aridly.
“How do we clear that lot?” Eroica wanted to know.
“Simple. Pull it into the console room,” the Doctor replied. “Then open the second set of doors and chuck the lot.”
* * *
It took very little time for the three of them to clear the doorway. Once everything was in a pile, the Doctor tried to pull open the Police Box doors only to find that they, too, were stuck. He struggled with them a moment before realizing something had become wedged up underneath. It took the combined efforts of the Doctor and the Major to get what turned out to be Eroica’s pocket dimension from beneath the doors.
“I wondered where that got to,” the thief said as the Major turned around with the mangled cloth in his hand. Eroica reached out to take it, only to have it pulled away.
“You don’t need something that makes it easier to steal,” Klaus snapped.
Eroica gave him a steady look. “Then may I at least have Jason’s TARDIS key?” he said politely, indicating the object that had become tangled in the string and was dangling from it.
The Major looked at the key and gave a resigned sigh. It was obvious the Earl wanted it as a memento and he held out the pouch, allowing him to untangle the key.
“I promised not to lose this,” Eroica said in way of explanation as he clasped the key in one hand and held it to his chest.
The Major gave him an inscrutable look before turning to the Doctor. “I think you should have this back before the thief decides to steal the TARDIS,” he said, holding out the pocket dimension.
“Major, I don’t think even that pocket dimension is big enough to hold the TARDIS,” Eroica said in a petulant tone as he crossed the room.
“This is coming from a man who stole a tank!”
Turlough’s eyebrows when up. “You stole a tank?”
The Doctor gave his companion a quelling look. “Dorian, Major, please! This really isn’t the time—”
The rest of the Time Lord’s words were cut off when the Major opened the pouch. He was intending to use it to make his point. Instead, bright light suddenly spilled from its depths. He was so startled that he dropped the sack as a rush of wind burst forth, filling the room. The exterior doors of the Police Box flew open with a bang, the debris swirling around the room.
Eroica was thrown back against the wall near Jason’s body, which seemed strangely unaffected by the chaos in the room. The thief grabbed at the nearest roundel to keep from being sucked out as the wind abruptly changed direction. Turlough had been standing at the console and held on for dear life. The Major was thrown back against the console and grabbed what he could to stay on his feet. The Doctor ended up beside him and expertly took hold of the console with one hand while attempting to manipulate the controls with the other.
“What the hell did you do?” Turlough demanded.
“The pocket dimension must’ve stored the energy release,” the Doctor theorized as his struggled with the controls.
The Time Lord looked up at Eroica’s panicked call. The plastic sheet had blown off Jason’s body and a stream of energy was now pouring into it from the pocket dimension. The Alterran’s inert form was glowing brightly.
“What’s happening?” the frightened Eroica called.
The Doctor shook his head. “I don’t know.”
After nearly a minute, and to the amazement of all present, Jason took a gulp of air, his eyes snapping open. When he looked up, the thief recoiled. The Alterran’s eyes were glowing a bright and angry red.
Jason slowly got to his feet, the light of the energy stream still pouring into him. His body started to expand, as if unable to contain the power pouring into it.
The maelstrom abated as suddenly as it began. All the debris was abruptly carried out of the console room, the doors to the Police Box exterior closing with a bang.
Then everything went deathly quiet.
“Jason…” Eroica said in a horrified whisper as the Alterran’s clothing started to burst at the seams, the skin beneath a livid red.
“It isn’t Jason,” the Doctor said firmly. “Jason’s dead. That’s nothing more than an animated cadaver.”
The creature turned its gaze on the Doctor. “You survived,” it observed, a surprised tone in the almost unnaturally deep voice.
“Yes...” the Doctor replied evenly. “Who or what are you?” he asked cautiously.
The creature seemed to struggle with the reply. “Time…will be ours.”
The Doctor stiffened visibly. “No. I won’t allow it.”
“We will…use this host to complete entry.”
“What does that mean?” the Major wanted to know.
“It’s going to use Jason’s body to finish opening the portal into the vortex.”
“What! That’s…that’s…” Eroica found himself at a loss for words.
“It’s obscene!” the Doctor hissed. “I will not allow you to—”
The red eyes glowed even more brightly. “You can’t stop it. You won’t harm your…” The creature paused as though searching the Alterran’s memory for the correct term. “Friend. Even like this.”
The Doctor ground his teeth, a low growl rising in his throat. This was the truth and he knew it.
The creature turned towards the door only to find its path barred by the Major, who had his gun out and aimed unwaveringly at it.
“And what do say about me?” Klaus challenged coldly. A small smile curled the edges of his mouth when the creature took a step back. It was a smile that had sent the most hardened of KGB agents packing. A smile that sent a chill down Eroica’s spine. He knew what that smile meant, even if the creature didn’t. It meant Iron Klaus would very happily kill whoever or whatever he was pointing his gun at.
“Do you think I won’t shoot?” Klaus asked calmly.
The glowing red eyes closed, and the creature looked as though it were in pain. When it spoke again, the voice was Jason’s. “It isn’t sure, Major. But I am. I know you’ll do it if you have to.”
Klaus frowned. What kind of trick is this?
When the eyes opened, they were back to their normal blue color. “Time…” Jason struggled to say. He turned to the Doctor, a pleading look in his eyes. “If it gets control of the TARDIS—” He struggled a moment before saying, “Please, end this. Stop it, now!”
“How?” Klaus demanded.
When Jason turned back to face him, the Major found it very disconcerting to see the familiar blue eyes staring out from the bloated red creature now before him. It was obvious the Alterran was fighting the creature that had taken control of his body.
Jason knew his should be dead. No, he already was dead. Somehow, the creature was winding back the clock, extending his life in this unnatural suspension of the Laws of Time. Changing time to give itself more energy.
“How? How do we stop it?” the Major demanded again.
“Don’t let it—me…don’t…” Jason drew a deep breath.
The Doctor threw a quick look in Turlough’s direction. “Get ready to dematerialize,” he said quietly and then hit the door lever.
The exterior doors had scarcely closed when Jason seemed to double over in pain as the creature clawed at his mental defenses. “Fire, Major! I’m dead. Kill this thing. Don’t let it take control of the TARDIS!” It was all too obvious that Jason was not giving up without a fight. It was equally obvious that he was losing the battle as his body distorted further. Then a low growl rose in the Alterran’s throat. When he finally straightened, his eyes were glowing red again. The creature had won.
Klaus did not even hesitate. He fired his weapon, blowing a hole in the Alterran’s chest and sending him flying back into the wall. The look on the creature’s face was one of shock as it struck the wall and slowly slid to the floor.
Eroica had been behind Jason and found himself splattered with blood. He gave an alarmed cry as the Alterran’s body struck the wall beside him and slumped to the floor, an enormous pool of blood forming almost immediately. Eroica jumped back, dropping the TARDIS key. It landed in the puddle of blood at his feet. “Dammit!”
To the amazement of all present, the pool of blood started to glow. It began around the key and slowly spread, eventually engulfing the shattered and bloated corpse. The hum of the TARDIS console momentarily grew louder, the time column flickering several times. The Doctor turned sharply to look at the readings, his eyes growing wide. “Clever girl,” he said approvingly.
“Doctor,” Eroica gasped as he backed away from the glowing form, “what’s happening?”
“The TARDIS seems to be trying to separate the alien’s DNA from Jason’s,” he replied calmly.
“What? How?” This was Turlough, who was starting to feel completely lost.
“The same way it did in the transmat.”
“Doctor, we had a copy from the buffer for that,” Turlough objected.
The Doctor turned to look at the creature. The glowing red skin was starting to ripple, the color fading. Then the Alterran’s body started to take on a more humanoid appearance again.
“Dorian, how did you get Jason’s TARDIS key?” the Time Lord demanded suddenly.
Eroica blinked. “What?”
“Did you take it or did Jason give it to you?”
Eroica’s mouth dropped open. “This is hardly the time to be worrying about whether or not I stole something, Doctor!” he snapped angrily.
“Jason gave it to him.” This was the Major, who was just as confused as the thief as to why this was suddenly of paramount importance. “Why does that matter?”
“Because it will still have his DNA coding!” Turlough gasped, his eyes growing wide.
“Don’t you remember? Jason told you about—” Turlough broke off when he realized what he was saying. All that would have been erased in the return trip in the transmat.
But Klaus did remember, and he still had no idea why.
“Dorian, if you’d stolen the key, Jason’s DNA fingerprint would’ve been erased,” the Doctor informed. “He put a copy of his DNA in the computer for a comparison when we separated the imprint from the buffer.”
“Doctor, I didn’t follow any of that the last time you explained it,” the Earl said helplessly.
The glowing form suddenly convulsed as the alterations made to Jason’s DNA were relentlessly removed. After several minutes, the Alterran’s body went completely still, having returned to normal. A glowing cloud of red mist rose into the air the same instant the exterior doors swung open. The cloud was then sucked from the room, the doors swinging shut behind it.
The Doctor turned to look at the scanner, his hands flying over the controls. “Now, let’s plug that hole.”
Turlough exchanged a bewildered look with the others. He had no idea what the Doctor actually intended. “How are you going to…um, plug the hole?” he asked finally.
The answer came when the TARDIS gave a violent shudder, sending them all staggering.
“I think the old girl will do rather nicely until the Time Lord’s can fix that tear in the fabric of space/time,” the Doctor remarked airily.
Turlough turned to look at the scanner, seeing nothing but swirling colors and distorted shapes. “I don’t have to press the button, then,” he said calmly.
The Doctor frowned. “What button?”
Being nearest, it was the Major who replied, pointing to the button that Jason had indicated earlier. “This one. Under the console,” he said as he calmly lit a cigarette.
The frown on the Doctor’s face deepened and he came over to see what the officer meant, his eyes growing wide when he leaned down to look under the console. “Who told you to press that?” he demanded.
Turlough was taken aback and exchanged a baffled look with the Major and the Earl. “Jason did,” he said defensively.
“What? When? Why?”
“Doctor, what is it?” the Major asked practically. “From your tone I can only assume it isn’t what we were led to believe.”
The Doctor straightened. “No.” He pressed a switch and the button flipped around, concealing itself within the console again. “It must never be pressed under any circumstances.”
“Because that’s the self destruct switch. If you press it, the TARDIS will explode.”
TIME OUT OF JOINT
“I can’t take much more of this,” Eroica said as he sagged against the wall, a hand going to his head.
The Major turned an annoyed scowl in his direction but did not comment. He couldn’t exactly deride the thief for getting himself involved in this mess, since that was the bloody KGB’s doing. All he could do was put up with him until they returned to their own time and he could be rid of him.
“Is that it?” Turlough wanted to know. “Now we just…wait for the Time Lords to figure out we’re here?”
“Well, it might be a good idea to contact them,” the Doctor said mildly. “Hopefully, they’ll be more helpful than that last time I called them.”
“Doctor,” Eroica said in a small voice. “We can’t just…leave Jason on the floor like this.” He looked down at the Alterran’s inert form and shuddered, closing his eyes. “It’s not decent.”
The Doctor sighed heavily. “Yes.” He threw a quick glance in Turlough’s direction. “We’ll put him in Tegan’s room until…” His voice trailed off and he closed his eyes. Until I can contact Tel-Shye with the bad news. He thought back on all the years Jason had traveled with him. All those years his father had been dead set against it, trying to get him to return home so he would be safe, only for him to die because of something he had gotten involved in on his own.
Turlough crossed to the inner door and pushed it open. He was in no condition to be carrying anyone, and probably should not have been on his feet nearly as long as he had been already. He turned back and waited.
Eroica looked down and took a hesitant step, stopping dead when Klaus snapped, “I’ll carry him.” The thief gave him a stunned look but did not reply. After all, technically, the Major had just killed the person in charge of his mission.
“Where is this room?” the Major asked as he knelt down.
“Just in here,” Turlough replied, nodding through the open door.
Klaus nodded and turned back. The expression on his face changed from cold determination to shock when he repositioned the body in order to lift it from the floor. Was that a moan I just heard? He put his fingers to Jason’s neck, his eyes widening at the same time. “Doctor, he’s still alive!” he announced in astonishment.
“What?” everyone in the room cried in a collective gasp.
The Doctor strode across the room and knelt down at the Alterran’s side. “What in this cosmos is keeping you going?” he muttered, shaking his head.
“Is it Jason or that…thing?” Turlough wanted to know.
The Doctor looked up, drawing a deep breath. He did not reply directly. Instead, he looked at the Major. “Let’s get him off the floor, shall we?”
* * *
Less than an hour after being placed in Tegan’s room, Jason slowly opened his eyes, being somewhat surprised to find himself alive. Again. He realized very quickly that he lacked the strength to move. In fact, he scarcely had the energy to keep his eyes open. He took stock of his injuries, or lack there of, and discovered why he was so weak. The alien DNA had been purged from his system, but his own DNA was unstable…and unraveling.
Great. I’m going to die. Again.
Jason heard movement in the room and mustered his strength to turn his head. A few feet away, the Major was sitting in a chair, calmly smoking a cigarette, and silently watching him. The officer gave no reaction when the Alterran’s eyes locked onto him, continuing in his silence.
“If you’re trying to unnerve me,” Jason said weakly, “don’t bother. I don’t have the energy.”
The Major’s eyes flickered but he did not reply.
Jason closed his eyes. “Are you here as my bodyguard, or my executioner?”
This question got a reaction. Klaus sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. “Why would you think I’m your executioner?”
Jason had to struggle to open his eyes again. “You’ve already killed me once,” he replied calmly. “I’ve no doubt you won’t hesitate to do so again if you believe it’s necessary.”
The Major’s eyebrows went up. “And will it be necessary?”
“No. My DNA is unraveling at the seams.” Jason closed his eyes and sighed. “I can’t seem to stay alive, can I?”
“The Doctor is trying to find a way of stopping the…unraveling.”
“He’s alright, then?”
Jason breathed a sigh of relief. “How did he get the alien DNA out of my system in the first place?”
“He didn’t. After I shot you, Lord Gloria dropped the TARDIS key into your blood,” the Major informed matter of factly. “The Doctor said the TARDIS did the rest.”
“The TARDIS…” Jason gave a wry smile. “We must’ve left the separation program running.”
“Yes. The one that put you back together. It separated my DNA from yours and Dorian’s so the transmat could…” Jason’s voice trailed off. “I guess the old girl couldn’t extract and stabilize mine at the same time.”
“An either/or proposition?” Klaus concluded.
The Major took a drag from his cigarette and sat thoughtfully a moment. “Could the TARDIS stabilize your DNA if the same thing happened?”
“Coming in contact with the key, you mean?”
“I’m sure the Doctor’s thought of that. It must only work one time. The imprint must’ve been erased.” Jason drew a deep breath and struggled to open his eyes. “You won’t have the pleasure of killing me again.”
The Major stubbed out his cigarette and got to his feet. “I find nothing pleasurable in killing a friend,” he said coldly.
Jason blinked. Did he just say friend? I’m dying and going mad.
Klaus reached into his pocket, pulling out a TARDIS key. “This is yours, I believe,” he said as he held it out.
“Major, I just told you…”
“This isn’t the one you gave the Earl,” Klaus interrupted. “This is the one you gave me.”
“What…?” Jason’s eyes opened fully and looked at the key dangling from the Major’s fingers. “You still remember what happened before?”
Jason scowled. “Almost?”
“That’s not important now,” Klaus said impatiently. “Take the key.”
“No, I can’t…”
“Do you want to die a third time?”
Jason drew a deep breath. “Major, the reason we came here was to stop the future from being altered.”
“I’m supposed to be dead.”
Klaus met the Alterran’s gaze steadily. “How do you know that?” he said sharply. “What if your dying changes the future?”
Jason blinked. He hadn’t considered that possibility. “I might not have the strength to withstand the process.”
“What difference does it make? You’re gonna die anyway.”
“You really have a way with words, you know that?”
“Shut up and take the key.”
Before Jason could object, the Major was placing the key in his hand and closing the fingers around it.
Everyone in the console room practically jumped out of their skin at the sound of Jason suddenly screaming at the top of his voice. “Klaus! No!”
“Bloody hell!” Eroica exclaimed. “The Major’s killing him. Again!”
The Doctor was already storming to the inner door. He struggled with the door to Tegan’s room to no avail. It refused to open.
“He’s jammed it shut,” the Doctor said as he started pounding on the door. “Major! Open the door.”
“Major! Dammit, open the door!”
Klaus stood at Jason’s bedside, looking over at the doorway in silence as the Doctor continued to pound on it from the opposite side. The chair he had been sitting in was jammed up against it, effectively keeping the Time Lord out. He turned his gaze back to Jason, who was gasping for breath, his eyes tightly closed. His body was starting to glow faintly, radiating from the key clenched in his fist.
The Doctor straightened as a scream burst forth from the other side of the door. He turned on his heel, pushing Turlough and Eroica aside as he stormed back into the console room.
“Doctor!” Eroica gasped. He turned to Turlough in bewilderment. “Where’s he going?”
Turlough shrugged. “It’s best not to ask when he’s like this.” He jumped and threw a nervous look back at the door as Jason screamed again. “What the hell is he doing in there?”
Eroica shuddered. “With the Major, it’s usually best not to ask, either,” he replied knowingly.
The Doctor reappeared, making straight for a door in the far wall that Turlough suddenly realized had not been there a few seconds earlier. Then he knew what the Doctor had done. He had changed the TARDIS’s architectural configuration. No doubt this door now led into Tegan’s bedroom.
Turlough’s suspicions were confirmed when the Doctor threw open the door.
Klaus look up in surprise when the far wall suddenly had a door in it that was just as suddenly thrown open, the Doctor on the threshold, a look of thunder on his face. A look that changed to total bewilderment when he saw the officer standing calmly at the bedside. Jason was writhing on the bed, his body glowing faintly.
“Major, what on Earth…?” the Doctor began. He got no further. At that moment, Jason let out a low moan and went limp. The key dropped from his hand and hit the floor with a faint clank.
Klaus gave the Time Lord a steady look before bending down to retrieve the key. He wordlessly returned it to his pocket, going on to light a cigarette as the Doctor came over and quickly checked the Alterran’s condition.
After a moment, the Doctor looked up. “What did you do?” he practically demanded.
The Major blew smoke in the air, meeting the Time Lord’s accusing gaze. “The same as the Earl.”
“Me?” Eroica gasped from the doorway. “What did I do?”
“You gave him his key.”
The Doctor blinked. It had completely slipped his memory that Jason had given the Major a TARDIS key. Then again, he had though that the key had been lost after the creature’s attack. Obviously, the officer had not lost the key. It was equally obvious that he also had not lost the memories that had suddenly returned to him.
The Major pulled the chair away from the door and took a seat. He looked as if absolutely nothing out of the ordinary had happened as he calmly smoked his cigarette. “How long do you think it will be before we can return to 1987?” he asked conversationally.
The words were no sooner out of his mouth when the TARDIS gave a violent judder. If there had not been a second violent lurch, the Doctor would have said that this was the TARDIS being removed from the gash in the vortex by the Time Lords. But they had a bit more finesse than this.
The Doctor headed back to the console room, stopping dead in his tracks when he reached the inner door. The time column was moving. Somehow, the time machine had taken flight on her own. He crossed to the console and scrutinized the readings, becoming all the more puzzled as he went.
“Doctor, what’s happening?” Turlough asked sheepishly.
“It seems the TARDIS is taking us back to 1987 all on her own,” the Doctor replied as he looked up.
“But…what about that…creature?” Eroica asked. “And the crack in the vortex, or whatever it was?”
“It was never there.”
Everyone jumped when Jason suddenly spoke.
Eroica turned back, seeing the Alterran struggling to sit up. He could not quite manage it and fell back onto the pillow.
“I’m no doctor,” Klaus remarked aridly, “but I don’t think you should be doing that.”
An amused smile came to Jason’s face and he chuckled. “And you say you don’t have a sense of humor,” he said softly. His voice was weak, but undeniably his own. He turned his head to look at the others who now stood in the doorway. They seemed hesitant to come near him. Considering all that had just happened, he could hardly blame them.
“Do you think it will be necessary to shoot me, Major?” he asked mildly.
Jason closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. “Tomorrow, then. When Time returns to normal.”
“What do you mean?” This was the Doctor, who had returned to the room. He did not like the readings he had seen on the instruments in console room.
Jason opened his eyes. “That…thing drew energy from temporal paradoxes.”
“We know all that,” Turlough said impatiently.
“During that…power struggle it was…winding things…backward.”
Jason nodded. “That’s why the Major suddenly remembered everything.”
“I don’t remember everything,” Klaus said matter of factly.
Eroica gave him a stunned look. “How do you know that? How can you possibly know…well, that you don’t know?”
“Time went out of joint,” the Major replied. “I remember it happening and nothing after. Not until we returned to the starting point.”
The Doctor’s eyes narrowed. Somehow, he had the feeling that there was more to this. That time was still out of joint somehow. Somewhere. Somewhen.
“It’s just a small paradox, but enough to cause a ripple in the fabric of Space/Time,” Jason said quietly.
“And give it more power,” the Doctor concluded.
“Yes.” Jason paused a moment, drawing a deep breath. “When it…took me over, I saw what it’d done. It…wound time back too far.”
The Doctor frowned. “Too far?”
Jason nodded. “The gash in the vortex. It’s…closing on its own because of it.”
The Doctor’s eyes widening. “It caused the paradox that will keep it out of our universe,” he said in an amazed tone. “That explains the readings the TARDIS is picking up.” He threw a quick glance back into the console room.
“That alien whatever-it-was discovered it by accident,” Jason said.
“When the transmat latched onto the time corridor,” the Doctor concluded.
“But…” Turlough broke off when all eyes turned to him. He sighed heavily, asking, “Why would it take on the identity of a KGB scientist?”
“Fear,” Jason said softly.
The Doctor’s eyes widened. “Yes, I’m beginning to understand now.”
The Major sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. “Care to enlighten us, Herr Doctor?” he said astringently.
The Doctor gave him a knowing look before stating that it seemed likely that the alien parasite had assumed the identity of Borodin because of the fear the man instilled in others. Especially if the real Borodin were already allied with Ivanov. Rather than jumping out of corners, all he had to do was walk into a room and people would be terrified.
“And then the Major went and killed Ivanov,” the Doctor concluded. “And you, Jason, threw the transmat offline, completely isolating it.”
Jason closed his eyes and sighed heavily. “And put it into withdrawal. Wonderful.”
“It’s dead now,” the Major stated flatly. “It won’t be terrorizing anyone anymore.” He gave the Earl a steady look that completely bewildered him. He would never know what had really happened to him. And Klaus was not about to tell him.
The Doctor saw Jason struggling to keep his eyes open and gave him a small smile. “Jason, you get some rest,” he said calmly, “while I make certain that gash is completely sealed.”
Eroica looked in the Major’s direction before crossing to the bedside. “Now it’s my turn to look after you,” he said happily.
“Dorian, I just need to sleep,” Jason said quietly.
“The Major’s watched you sleep long enough,” Eroica replied as he sat down on the bed. “It’s my turn.”
“Great. Do you think this is your chance to finally get into my bed?” Jason said playfully.
“You meant it isn’t?” Eroica said innocently.
“I was right,” Eroica moaned playfully. “You don’t love me anymore.”
Jason’s eyes flickered in the Major’s direction. “Major, if he tries anything while I’m asleep, please, shoot him for me.”
“Is that an order, your royal highness?” Klaus replied coolly.
An evil smile came to the Major’s face, his eyes narrowing. “I think I might enjoy carrying out that order.”
“Major!” Eroica gasped. He heard Jason give a chuckle and turned back to him with an annoyed look on his face. “You two are evil, do you hear me! Evil!”
The Doctor gave a very dramatic groan and turned to leave. “Well, obviously things are back to normal inside the TARDIS,” he said as he went back into the console room. “Let’s see about the rest of the universe.”
* * *
BACK TO NORMAL
ARGO Flight Deck
Jason sat staring at the computer screen without really seeing it, his mind elsewhere. Well, several elsewheres, actually. First was the North Downs of England and Castle Gloria. Saying goodbye to Dorian—again. He was sure that Dorian must’ve thought he’d lost his mind when he returned the Earl’s enthusiastic hug. He had even agreed—sort of—to remember him when he became King Jason, whenever that might be.
The next thing he knew, he was standing outside NATO Headquarters in Bonn, saying goodbye to the Major. He was astonished when the officer actually accepted his handshake. Right to the end, the man was as inscrutable as ever.
Then the worse goodbye of them all. The Doctor. Even a handshake would be too much for the Time Lord. Jason knew the Doctor would forgive him any emotional display he might put on, but he had refrained from doing more than simply saying goodbye and exiting the TARDIS. He would either see the Doctor again, or he wouldn’t. He prayed that they would cross paths again, but wasn’t going to hold his breath.
Jason had gone on to make a quick check into Earth’s past and the year 1987. Like the Doctor, he could not shake the feeling that Time was still out of joint somewhere. The only anomaly he could find was the inexplicable events surrounding the Stock Market Crash on the nineteenth of October when markets fell worldwide. Even the experts could not explain the suddenness of the event that appeared out of nowhere, and played out in a single day. Someone later called it the Big Bad Wolf. Jason knew the Doctor would call it a residual time ripple.
Sully had been watching the Prince for a long time. It wasn’t like him to be so quiet for so long. He had been working at the computer for nearly three straight hours without speaking. Not a single word. Then he suddenly asked to see the new design for the ARGO. Just like that. It was…eerie.
“Jason, are you sure you’re alright?” Sully said finally.
Jason looked up in surprise. “What? Why?”
“Because you haven’t said more than two sentences since the Doctor dropped you off,” Sully pointed out. “You’re not mad that I let Muriel leave without saying goodbye, are you?”
“No, of course not.” Jason sat back, a wistful expression on his face. “I always get like this when…” He closed his eyes. When the Doctor leaves me behind yet again. “One day, it’ll be the last time. And, well, Dorian and the Major…” He sighed, his eyes focused in the distance. “That was over six hundred years ago. They’ve been dead a very long time now. I…don’t really like thinking about that.”
Sully’s eyes grew wide. “Sorry, I never thought of it that way.”
“It’s okay. I’ll…” Jason gave a smile of irony. “I’ll live.”
Sully gave his friend and employer a searching look. “I was afraid something bad might’ve happened,” he said at last.
Jason’s looked up sharply, his bright blue eyes lighting up. He started to chuckle. Then he started to laugh.
If he only knew!
* * *
Little Hodcomb, England
The Doctor was closing down the console when he heard a thudding on the exterior doors. He looked up and scowled, exchanging a bewildered look with Turlough. His companion pulled the door lever and turned, his eyebrows going up as Tegan came marching into the console room.
“Tegan?” the Doctor said in a surprised tone. “What on earth…?”
“I just realized that you two are up to,” Tegan said accusingly, looking from one to the other.
“Yes. You think I’m stupid or something?”
Turlough gave a theatrical sigh. “No comment,” he replied as he went to sit down.
“Tegan,” the Doctor said quickly, coming to stand in front of her. “What are you talking about?”
“If you think I’m going to stay behind while you two go off on some adventure you’ve got another thing coming!” Tegan shot back, folding her arms. “So…let’s go then.”
“Yes,” Tegan sighed impatiently. “To straighten out that science project gone wrong.”
The Time Lord blinked and stood staring down at her in mute astonishment. Then he looked up, seeing an amused expression spread across Turlough’s face a few seconds before he started to laugh. A moment later, the Doctor joined him.
Yes, the universe was very definitely back to normal.
* * *
“Oh, my poor, poor, James,” Eroica cooed as his accountant told his tale of woe. Of course, this was the third or fourth telling of how the group had been whisked out of the Soviet Union, so more embellishments were being added with each telling.
Eroica had heard a slightly less emotional version from Bonham, who told him that everything had gone amazingly smoothly. James had sold all the electronics they had stolen from the hotel for a sum that paid nearly all the expenses. It was the “nearly all” part that had the accountant so wound up.
“Jamesie, darling,” Eroica drawled, interrupting the man in mid-complaint. “I have a present for you, if you’ll be quiet long enough for me to give it to you.”
This instantly gained James’ attention. He looked up sharply, his eyes wide. “Present, m’lord? For me?”
“Yes, all for you.” Eroica pulled out the pocket dimension and reached in, pulling out a jeweled necklace. “Isn’t it lovely?” he asked. He thought James’ eyes would pop out of his head as he laid the object on the table in front of him. And then another. And another.
“My lord!” James squealed, pulling out his Casio mini and punching in numbers. “I can put the money in the bank,” he muttered. “At the current interest rate…”
“You do whatever you like,” the Earl said happily, as he leaned back and put his feet up. There’s more where that came from, he thought, playing with the pocket dimension as the little man chattered on delightedly.
Eroica did not even hear what James was saying. He was thinking of all that had happened. He was sure he should probably be traumatized by the horrors he had witnessed, but for some reason, his dreams weren’t plagued with nightmares. In fact, ever since his return he had been having the most delightfully erotic dreams about the Major. Dreams of that lovely body—naked, and with a very sexy scar on one hip.
Someone turned on the television and Eroica turned to watch as a News story came on about some announcement from West Germany. There was his lovely Major in the background, looking deliciously uncomfortable, as always.
This was a very important announcement. Somehow, the Earl knew that it had been pivotal in the events he had just lived through. Events that had been erased from his memory. Yet, he had a feeling it would all be resolved by year’s end, and found himself wondering where he might be come December…
* * *
The Major sat in his study, the smoke from the ever present cigarette rising above his head. He had his nose buried in the newspaper. In fact, he’d had his nose buried in one newspaper after another almost from the moment he arrived home. He had scarcely taken the time to change into his pajamas before he was back in his study going through the pile that had accumulated in his absence.
“Master,” the butler said from the door. “The evening papers you requested.”
Klaus did not even lower the paper in his hands. He gave an unintelligible grunt as he went on with his reading.
“There’s an excellent picture of you in the paper today, sir,” the butler said as he entered the room.
This was enough to gain the Major’s full attention. He lowered the paper to his lap and gave his butler a piercing look. “What are you jabbering about?” he asked sharply.
The butler was unfazed by the outburst. He merely smiled thinly and held out the paper in question. It had a photograph of the Chancellor giving a speech. Behind him, in a group of various individuals, stood the Major.
Klaus took the paper and studied the photograph. He had tried his utmost to avoid being photographed, but the damned reporters were everywhere. His eyes took in the article and a small, knowing smile came to his face as he read, “Chancellor Announces Plans To Dismantle Short-Range INF Missiles.” Then he remembered the Doctor telling him the future and wondered abstractly where he would be come December…
— END —