The End of the Beginning
The gaps between the sudden transformations for the Doctor and his companions were getting smaller and smaller. This could mean only one thing – the Rani’s plans, whatever they were, were nearing fruition. Racing through Greenwich, he found himself tripping over himself – literally – each time the long legs of three of his selves suddenly shrunk down into those of the short Scottish one, or running out of breath as the burly one in the colourful coat. As he reached the Cutty Sark, he became the white haired one with the frilly shirt. He stumbled and Victoria, the young Nineteenth-century orphan who had travelled with him when he was the short tramp, took his arm and helped him up.
‘I should be taking it easy, not bounding around like some megaluthian slime skimmer.’
‘Who was that terrible woman?’ asked the petrified Victoria.
‘The Rani. One of my own people. Her handiwork is behind all this confusion in time and now her control is beginning to break down.’ They turned a corner and there it was – the TARDIS, just where he had left it back in 1973. Pulling the key from a chain around his neck, the Doctor opened the door to the police box and ushered Victoria in before stepping inside wearily and closing the door.
The TARDIS dematerialised from beside the Cutty Sark, then simultaneously materialised half a mile away at the Greenwich Observatory. It seemed the Doctor had finally got the hang of those short hops. The short Scottish Doctor stepped from the TARDIS, looked behind him and said ‘stay!’ to a companion hidden inside.
Just a few metres away, he saw a strange stone obelisk materialise with the customary grinding sound that accompanied all TARDISes. A woman emerged from behind the obelisk. She was tall with brown hair and piercing blue eyes. Her arms and legs, exposed by her brief costume of animal skins, were brown and smoothly muscular. Her pose was that of a captured wild animal preparing for a final fight.
‘Leela!’ the Doctor cried. Leela stared at the short man with the wise but comical face. Though he looked nothing like the Doctor she had known, who was very tall with curly hair and a long scarf, she knew that they were one and the same. Even so, she approached the man with caution.
‘The Rani let you go?’
‘I escaped, but not before she copied me. She has a zoo of animals in there, Doctor, trapped by teshnology.’ Leela had been raised as a savage on an alien jungle planet. She had long ago left behind many of her old ways, though her experiences with the Tesh tribe on her homeworld still left her suspicious of all machinery.
‘So long as you’re safe.’
‘But Doctor, the Rani is attempting to transfer a massive time tunnel through the Greenwich Meridian. She has a computer in there with genetic codes and brain prints of every living creature in the entire cosmos.’
‘And with it evolution is hers to control,’ said the Doctor. But something troubled him. Leela’s words were not those of a savage. ‘This is important, Leela. Whose form were you in when the Rani cloned you?’
Leela replied, ‘Romana. Doctor, I think the Rani thought that Romana was human’.
‘Ah! That means there are two time brains from our side embedded in the Rani’s computer. Quick – into the TARDIS! There’s an old friend waiting for you.’
As Leela stepped into the TARDIS, she was greeted by a high mechanical voice: ‘MISTRESS!’
The lights in the Rani’s TARDIS were a deep vermillion as the walls throbbed with a deep bass note. Cyrian clung to the central console. ‘Thirty seconds to full power status, Mistress.’
But the Rani was lost in thought, drunk on the results of her genius.
Finally, victory was hers!
Swamped in cables, the Doctor frantically issued orders to his friends. As Leela unravelled the wires and laid them out around the Rani’s TARDIS, the robot dog K9 welded them into position.
‘Twenty-five seconds, Master,’ chirped K9 helpfully. Leela suddenly flashed from existence – and Ace took her place.
‘What- where are we, Professor?’
‘No time to explain, Ace. Hold this!’ He threw a detonation box to his young friend, who recognised its purpose instantly.
‘I’m trying to overload the Rani’s computer, enhance the power of the time tunnel to pull her TARDIS in and not me.’
‘I assume it’s not as easy as it sounds?’
‘Of course not,’ the Doctor grinned.
‘Twenty seconds…’ said K9.
The Doctor was good at improvising, but even he knew that twenty seconds just wasn’t enough. They needed more time.
And then he realised – entirely by accident, more time is exactly what the Rani had given him.
‘I must free my other incarnations. Join me!’ He held his fists to his temples – and made contact.
‘We must pull free,’ said the tall one with the shock of white hair and the frilly shirt.
‘Together, we can succeed,’ said the cricketer.
‘Precisely,’ the colourful clown encouraged.
‘Good luck!’ came the voice of the Bohemian, his woollen scarf billowing in his own dark dimension.
‘Five seconds…’ said K9.
‘Ace, activate the converter!’ the Doctor said. And Ace realised his voice was inside her head.
Ace pulled the switch on the detonator. The air filled with the sound of the Rani’s TARDIS dematerialising…
But instead of disappearing, the stone obelisk shuddered in position. Slowly, a whirling light appeared around it – the Time Vortex!
The pressures of the vortex flooded into the Rani’s TARDIS. Cyrian lost his grip on the TARDIS console. He flew into the air and found himself pinned to the ceiling, unable to move. The Rani tried desperately to reach the console, but the time winds pushed her back, lifting her up against the curved wall of the chamber. Huge electrical charges filled the air. The capsules of the menagerie shattered open and all of her captors awoke, blinking in shock (at least, those captors who had eyes that could blink; it was difficult to tell what the Cyberman’s reaction was).
The elderly Doctor fell from his capsule, his fall broken by the supine form of the already released second Doctor. The two men, who were the same man, helped each other up, shook each other by the hand – and promptly disappeared. All around the chamber, the aliens were fading away as they were returned to their own proper places in time and space.
The ape-like creature appeared in the sprawling grounds of an English stately home. The confused Ogron had just enough time to recognise that he was back where he had been taken from before he felt a thud against his chest. In the distance, a tall white-haired human with white hair and a frilly shirt was pointing a gun at him. The Ogron clutched his chest – and disappeared.
The Cyberman scanned its surroundings. It was deep in the ice catacombs of Telos. As it began to pull in data from Cyber control’s central computer, a nearby doorway exploded, knocking him from the gantry and into an abyss.
The mutant with the exposed brain was back in the laboratory of his ship, strapped into a machine, surrounded by his brothers. A tall human male with a pleasant, open face stood frozen in fear next to an older man with a military aspect. Suddenly another man entered the room – yet he was also a younger version of the military man. The two forms of the same man stared at each other in bewilderment and reached out to each other. With a blinding flash, the time differential shuddered through the machinery and at last the mutant embraced the finality of death that he had longed for through the centuries.
The plant creature fell by its fellow Vervoids as they withered and died together from exposure to vionesium charges, detonated by a tall, curly haired human in a colourful coat and a petite woman with a mane of red hair. The plant’s leaves became dry and they crumbled in the breeze of the air conditioning of a space liner hundreds of years into the future.
The Time Lord, still in his ceremonial robes, looked out defiantly across the courtroom. The court prosecutor, dressed all in black, handed a scroll to the Inquisitor. He heard the words of the Inquisitor: ‘Morbius, you have been sentenced to death by disintegration…’ but the Time Lord knew that this was not the end. In the gallery, high above the witnesses, he spied one of his most loyal followers. Doctor Solon had promised him a way to cheat his impending execution. The man was holding a glass jar, an expression of cold ambition on his face…
One by one, all of the Rani’s captives returned home – and instantly wished they hadn’t… and out in the time vortex, the Rani’s TARDIS spun helplessly out of control…
Ace patted herself down. She was herself again. At least for the time being. The Doctor was buried under a mass of cables and wires. She untangled him and brushed the dust off his face.
‘Hoisted by her own peTARDIS,’ he coughed. Still the same old Doctor.
‘What did you do to her?’
‘Well, thanks to Romana, there was an additional rogue time-brain in the Rani’s computer and I used that to rocket the Rani into the trap that she set for me,’ he said, rolling each ‘r’ with a flourish.
‘So now your other selves are all free?
‘Certainly I – I mean we – are difficult to get rid of.’ Ace looked over at the mess they had made. From beneath the frayed cables, there was a glowing red rectangular light.
‘Master!’ it said. ‘Mistress!’
‘K9! Doctor, you forgot K9! Shouldn’t he have gone back with one of the other lot?’
The Doctor shot Ace a guilty look. ‘Yes. Ah well, we can drop him off on the way.’ Ace looked up with excitement.
‘Where next, Professor?’
The Doctor just gave her a look and smiled. She knew better than to ask questions that he had no way of knowing the answers to. He filled Ace’s arms with all his broken equipment, held the TARDIS door open for her and then waited patiently as his old robot dog trundled over the threshold. Just like old times.
The colonnades of the Greenwich Observatory echoed with the sound of timeless engines grinding into action. With a pleasant wheezing and groaning sound, the Doctor’s TARDIS disappeared.