Chapter Six
The First Meeting

The Brigadier stared at the Doctor, as his jaw dropped. He could barely comprehend what he'd just heard. Then, finally, he managed to get out the question he needed to ask. "H...how?"

"How is he me?" the Doctor replied, looking at his friend. "It's quite simple. You recall my visit to that alternate universe during the Stahlman affair?"

"Yes, of course," the Brigadier answered.

"Quite," the Doctor smiled. But it was a cold smile, the smile of a man scared by something unimaginably terrible. "Well, anyway, in a trip to this planet's moon, about thirteen years ago-"

"By your time scale, or Earth's?" the Brigadier interrupted.

"Both, give or take a few months for Earth. Anyway, in the process, I discovered something about the Dictator of that reality, based on pictures I'd seen of his face on posters."

"That being...?" the Brigadier asked, although he had a feeling he already knew the answer.

"That his face was one of the faces I was offered at my trial, shortly before my exile," the Doctor said, grimly. "I rejected that face here, and all the others. The Time Lords had my new face formed at random- the me you knew best. However, in that reality, things were a lot different..."

"Ah," the Brigadier said, as the full implications sunk in. "So, he's a you that might have had, but weren't because you made a different choice from him."

"That's about it," the Doctor said, as he pulled out his sonic screwdriver, removed the back of the receiver and began to fiddle around with its workings. "We have to get Nina out of there, Brigadier. That man was once me, and he took over an entire world. He's definitely not all there in the sanity department."

"Yes, quite," the Brigadier said, a little put off by the fact the Doctor had said all that while looking constantly at the receiver's components. "Look, Doctor, what exactly are you doing there?"

"Trying to reverse the frequency of the receiver," the Doctor explained, as he burned a chip out of the receiver and then fused it back inside, but the other way round. "If this works, I should be able to use this thing to broadcast a warning directly into Nina's brain and tell her to get out of there before the Dictator finds out about her."

"How would he do that?" the Brigadier asked.

"I am capable of basic telepathy, Brigadier," the Doctor explained, as he began to tap away at a few buttons on the receiver. "If we don't get her out now, we may have a problem."

The Brigadier thought back to his own personal encounters with the Master. The time-bending affair at Cambridge was the one that was the most prominent in his memory, but then there was his last encounter with him during that Gaderene invasion. Neither of them were exactly the sort of thing he wanted to go through again, especially not in his current time of life.

"Go on, Doctor, he said simply.

"We're basically ready now, Brigadier," the Doctor replied, as he turned the receiver round so that the screen was facing him again. "I'll just see how Nina's doing, and then send the message."

*****

Inside the room, Nina shifted uncomfortably in her seat as Commander Harper talked to everyone at the table. The seats had seemed rather comfortable when she first sat down, but after only a few minutes it was getting sore, and a little hot. Besides, after everything she'd read about the Cortez Project in the files, as far as she was concerned Harper was just sprouting so much hot air at her and all the others. All that junk at the beginning, about being prepared to fight everything they'd so much as read about in files, from Autons to Zygons, had really been enough for her to listen to, and she didn't feel like listening to any more of it.

"...wouldn't you agree, Miss Spencer?" his voice said suddenly, breaking into her thoughts like a rock through a window. Looking up, Nina noticed Harper staring at her with a very focused look in his eyes.

"Hmm? Oh, yeah, yeah, absolutely," Nina said.

"I see," Harper replied, looking at her with a sudden smirk. "So, you agree with me when I say that the Doctor, who we know for a fact is helping these alien invaders, is a good man?" He looked around at the rest of the table. "While I attend to our 'friend' here, why don't the rest of you just leave us in peace?" he suggested.

Nodding, the people at the table got out of their seats and headed for the door at the end of the hall. Nina briefly thought about making a run for it, but the two men standing on either side of the door gave the general impression that that wouldn't be a good idea. Behind the door, Nina noticed a long table, covered with all kinds of snacks, salads and cold meats, much more than there was in this room.

As the door slammed shut behind the last person, Harper looked at Nina with a cold hatred in his eyes. "Now, Miss Spencer, we shall have a little chat."

"What are you talking about?" Nina asked, trying to look puzzled. "I was just thinking about something else at the time-"

"You weren't even listening to a single word I was saying there," Harper replied. "The only reason you wouldn't listen would be if you knew a bit more about the Cortez Project than some others." Raising one arm, he beckoned to two men standing behind him. "Secure her."

As the two men advanced forward, Nina leapt out of her seat and faced them. Privately, she had a theory that she could hold these guys off for a while if she restricted herself to using her hands, but she wasn't sure if it would be enough against her opponents. She'd taken some basic combat lesson after joining UNIT, it was a standard requirement, but these guys looked like they had a lot more muscle then her. Also, there was the fact that she was wearing a dress, while her opponent had on perfectly clean business suits- they'd have a lot more mobility in a fight, and they had the advantage in numbers as well.

Dammit! Nina thought, as one of the men started to charge towards her, his hands out in front as though to catch her. Quickly, with the fast mind that had made her a scientist, she hit upon the only way to avoid him, with her restricted leg mobility. Grabbing the back of a chair, she vaulted herself to the left, just in time to dodge the man. Unable to stop himself, he ran straight into the wall, hitting himself on the head. As Nina glanced back to check on him, he slumped to the ground.

Dead to the world, Nina thought to herself. However, just as she was about to turn around, a pair of strong arms suddenly grabbed her around the chest. Cursing, Nina remembered the second man, forgotten in her brief rush to escape the first one.

"Oops, huh?" the man smirked into her ear.

"Yeah, but to who?" Nina asked, as she clenched her left fist.

"Huh?" the man said, as he looked down and saw her arm moving.

"Take...this!" Nina yelled, as she dug her elbow into the man's stomach. The man grunted in pain and relaxed his hold for a brief moment. That was all she needed. Quickly, Nina ducked underneath the man's arms and spun around to face him. As he looked up to face her, she rapidly drove her knee into his slowly rising chin. She heard a satisfying crunch as his teeth thudded together, and he doubled over, clutching his mouth in pain. Rounding it off with a quick karate chop to the back of the neck, Nina watched with a smile as the man collapsed to the ground. Dusting her hands, she turned back to face Harper, who appeared utterly unfazed by her quick dispatch of his guards.

"Not all that tough, were they, Miss Spencer?" Harper asked her, as he placed his fingers together and stared at her. "Well, I'll have to try a little harder to take you down."

"Oh, really?" Nina asked, as she raised her arms and took up a defensive stance, facing Harper. "Well, why don't you bring it on?"

"Very well," Harper said, as he reached into his pocket and pulled out...

Well, Nina wasn't really sure what it was. It appeared to be a wide, flat, unmarked dish with some kind of handle on the back of it, with a small red button attached, but how it had managed to fit in his pocket was beyond Nina.

"What the heck is that?" Nina asked, as she stared at it with complete bafflement. "This? Oh, just a little something I whipped up in my spare time," Harper smiled, as he aimed it at Nina. "I just need a test subject to see if it works the way I wanted it too. And here you are... thank you, by the way."

And with that, he pushed the button.

Suddenly, Nina felt herself lift up from the floor, and something start to tighten around her. Looking around, she tried to see what was supporting and crushing her at the same time, but she couldn't see a thing. It was as though the very air and wind had decided to concentrate itself on her alone, in that one location, and was trying to grind her chest into dust.

"A little force field generator of my own creation, which I pieced together about sixteen years ago, give or take," Harper smiled, indicating the device as he raised his feet onto the table and lay back in his chair. "Of course, I've had to alter its original structure. I mean, originally this thing was meant to protect people. I simply configured it to cover someone and then close in on them. I would estimate you haven't got long before it starts to enter your body via every various entrances it can find- maybe two or so minutes. So, let's got down to business." Swinging his feet off the table, he rested his left elbow on the table, put his chin in his had, and glared at her. "Who sent you here?"

"G' t' hell..." Nina grunted weakly, as the force field began to close in on her more and more. Privately, she wished she could have gotten something better out, but she didn't have the oxygen to say something longer.

"Really? You have the energy for insults at a time like this?" Harper said, grinning a grin that reminded Nina a little of Colonel Disch. "You have more spirit than I thought. However, that won't help you here." He swung his chair around, got out of his seat, and then walked towards Nina, holding the generator in front of him all the time. "I don't approve of spirit in humans, Miss Spencer. It's just yet another of the qualities I have found myself getting so weary off in your species in this regeneration. Now, talk."

Even in her current agony, Nina had taken in one key word in that statement that Harper had made.

Regeneration. What the Doctor, and other Time Lords, did whenever they were fatally injured. Nanotechnology in their blood reorganized their cells and rebuilt them in a completely different form, according to a file she'd read somewhere. But in that case...

"You're a... Time Lord!" she gasped, as she felt something start to tighten around the bottom of her dress.

"Ah, you know of my species?" Harper smiled, as he suddenly pushed the button on the generator again. Instantly, Nina felt the force field stop crushing her, although it was still holding her up and supporting her in the air. "Well, that certainly answers my question. There's only one Time Lord in this universe stupid enough to actually reveal our existence to a ridiculous primitive like you. And, if I'm right, his name would be...the Doctor?"

Nina couldn't help herself. Horrified, she glanced down at Harper, and saw him staring up at her smugly. He seemed almost certain that he was right. Inwardly, however, a sudden thought had just occurred to her. If Harper knew about the Doctor, and was a Time Lord as well, then he was more than likely...

...the Dictator!

"Ah, good, I see from your eyes I'm correct," Harper said, smiling as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a needle. "I presume you can guess what this is?"

"Truth drug?" Nina asked, although she had a sinking feeling that it was something a little more effective than what she was used to on Earth. Harper, or the Dictator, or whoever he was, seemed to be the most evil thing Nina had ever encountered or read about. The Master may have been a bad bit of work, but at least he had generally treated humans with a certain degree of respect- the Doctor had told her, over a few glasses of wine with the Brigadier the other night, that the Master did acknowledge that humans had a certain creative streak that Time Lords lacked. Harper seemed to just view her, and all the other humans in the room earlier, as just things. For all he cared, they might as well all have had the intellect of a village idiot.

"Well, I suppose that is basically what it is," the Dictator smiled, as he began to walk towards Nina, twirling the needle in his fingers. "I could go into more detail, but I'd just be wasting my breath. Now then..." he said, as he raised one hand and brushed a strand of dark hair away from her neck, "will you be willingly telling me everything you know about me and my activities here on Earth, or do I need to use this?" he asked, raising the needle. Suddenly, he seemed to make a decision. He put the needle and the force field generator down on the table. "I'll give you time to make your mind up," he said, looking up at her with an annoying, self-certain smirk on hi s face. "I need to make sure my guests aren't bored."

With that, he headed towards the wooden door. Just as he was about to leave, he looked back at her again. "You only have five minutes, Miss Spencer. In that time, you have a choice to make. You either tell me what I want to know willingly, or I get you to tell me by force."

Then, he left the building.

Swallowing, Nina stared at the needle as it lay on the table. If she didn't talk willingly, he'd get the answer out of her anyway. But, based on what she'd seen of his mental state so far, she doubted that he'd let her go when she'd told him everything.

Come on, Doc, she thought briefly, as she continued to stare at the needle.

*****

Meanwhile, up in the hall, the Doctor and the Brigadier had been watching this whole scenario unfold on the receiver. From the moment that Nina had been trapped in the force field, the Doctor had been trying to think up another plan to get Nina out of there, but now it looked like his chances to get her out were constantly getting lower.

"Any ideas as to what we do, Doctor?" the Brigadier asked, as the needle waved back and forth in front of Nina's eyes. Briefly he felt an itch in his throat, and longed to just finish this thing so he could get that distorter off his voice box.

"One," the Doctor said, as he turned away from the screen, looking directly at the stage. "Can you see if there's an operator for that Time Radio?"

The Brigadier squinted at the stage. He may have been nearly seventy-five by now, and well past retirement age, but his eyes were still as sharp as they'd ever been. There was someone standing just behind that gigantic contraption, now that he was looking for it, but he was wearing something so dark it was hard to see him or her clearly.

"I think so," the Brigadier said. "It's hard to make out any distinguishing features, but I'm fairly sure I can see someone there."

"Perfect," the Doctor smiled, as he slipped the receiver back into his pocket. "At least I know he's there. Now, we just need to get around there without anybody noticing..." he said to himself, as he glanced around the hall. His eyes fell upon a large bowl of fruit punch, standing on a table to the left of the main stage.

"That?" the Brigadier asked, as he noticed where the Doctor was staring.

"That," the Doctor smiled, as he reached into another pocket and pulled out his sonic screwdriver. "A shame really, but I haven't much choice," he said to himself, as he reached down and began to fiddle with the screwdriver's settings.

"Shall I get moving?" the Brigadier asked, as the Doctor raised the screwdriver.

"Just a moment," the Doctor said, as he pushed a button on the screwdriver. Almost instantly, the punch bowl shattered into dozens of pieces, spraying the punch everywhere.

"What the...?"

"Huh?"

"How'd that...?"

"What just...?"

The Brigadier heard several voices call out those words and more, as everyone in the hall turned around and stared at the punch bowl. "It worked!" he whispered excitedly to the Doctor.

"Yes, it did, didn't it?" the Doctor smiled, as he indicated the stage. "Now, while they're distracted, run for the door!"

Following his friend's advice, the Brigadier ran for the nearby door as the rest of the hall gathered around the table, the punch already staining the tablecloth. No sooner had they reached the door than the Doctor had his sonic screwdriver at the keyhole, and was constantly twisting his hand around.

"Doctor..." the Brigadier said, as some people around the punch started to lose interest and begin to turn.

"Brigadier, don't distract me!" the Doctor whispered back fiercely, as he rotated the screwdriver left again. "We're just...about... there...now!" As soon as the words had left his mouth, the door opened. Quickly, the Doctor grabbed the Brigadier by the arm and ran into the door, slamming it shut behind him.

The Brigadier blinked a little as he glanced around at his surroundings. There hadn't been a lot of light in the hall, but here the lighting was bright enough so that he didn't have to look twice to gather what he was staring at. There wasn't all that much there either- just a few stairs leading upwards to another door.

Looking over at the Doctor, who was standing on the stairs a little upwards of him, the Brigadier noticed that he was rummaging through his pockets, apparently trying to find something.

"Doctor?" he asked, tapping the Time Lord on the shoulder. The Doctor glanced round, but continued to rummage away. "What are you looking for, exactly?"

"Earplugs," the Doctor stated simply, never stopping his constant shifts from pocket to pocket. The Brigadier had never known that a tuxedo could have so many pockets. "I'm planning on using the sonic screwdriver to emit a low-level frequency to send the Operator into a temporary coma, but hopefully not take down anyone in the main hall. However, to make sure we aren't knocked out as well, we need earplugs so we can't hear the sound either."

"I see," the Brigadier said. Privately, he was wondering what the practical benefit of all this would be, but he was sure the Doctor knew what he was doing.

"Ah, perfect!" the Doctor said, as he pulled out four small white bits of plastic. He passed two of them to the Brigadier. "Just slip them into your ear hole and they'll mould themselves to fit it perfectly. Once you've got them in, just follow me." With that, he slipped his plugs into his ears and headed towards the door.

Shrugging a little, the Brigadier picked up his plugs and slipped them into his ears. To his surprise, they were remarkably effective. The key thing he noticed was the lack of a creak. When the Doctor had started walking up the stairs in front of him, there was a clearly audible creaking to be heard on the steps. Now, there wasn't event he faintest sound of it.

Reaching the top of the steps, the Doctor turned to the left and positioned his sonic screwdriver in front of the door's lock. As the Brigadier arrived beside his friend, the Doctor was already twisting his hand around in front of the lock, working away at opening the door.

This time, it didn't take as long as the other door. Presumably the Operator (As the Brigadier was beginning to think of him) had simply assumed that nobody would be able to sneak up the steps without him or anyone else noticing, so he simply hadn't locked the door that much. After a few seconds, the door swung open. Looking back, the Doctor gave the Brigadier thumbs up, and then walked through the door. The Brigadier followed on behind.

In front of them, on the stage, the Time Radio stood, looking a lot more complex now that the Brigadier was looking at it from behind. There were a great deal of monitors arrayed around the top of it, and there was a sort of keypad positioned just below that. Privately, the Brigadier wondered how the Operator managed to keep track of all those controls, but now wasn't the time to ask the Doctor about that.

Meanwhile, beside him the Doctor was fiddling around with the sonic screwdriver's settings, changing it to some other new frequency somehow. As the Brigadier watched, the Doctor nodded at him with a slight grin on his face, and then raised the sonic screwdriver so that it was pointing at the Operator. He pushed a switch, activating the screwdriver.

At first, there wasn't any noticeable difference in the Operator. He just stood there behind the Time Radio, working away at the control like nothing had even happened. Then, he suddenly removed one hand from the control panel and started to massage his head, as though he was in pain. Then, he removed the other hand, and let the Time Radio just keep on playing. Then, as the song started to approach its end, he groaned, his eyes rolled, and he fell to the ground.

Smiling, the Doctor reached up to his ears and removed the plugs. The Brigadier did the same, and instantly sound returned to his ears.

"Well, that worked out well," the Doctor said, as he went over to the Operator and checked his pulse. The Brigadier noticed, with some surprise, that the 'Operator' was Private Simpton, a solider he'd met briefly during that affair with the Jex and the Canavatchi.

"Evil. You never know where it hides, do you?" the Brigadier said, almost half to himself.

"Pardon?" the Doctor asked, glancing up form the floor, where he'd been making sure Simpton's heart wasn't damaged.

"Oh, nothing," the Brigadier replied, shaking himself back to reality. "I was just think about the many faces evil seems to be taking these days. I mean, you remember this man, Doctor?"

"Hmm?" the Doctor asked, as he crouched down and took a look at Simpton. "Oh yes, Private Simpton." He looked up at the Brigadier. "I see what you mean about evil, Brigadier. I never would have thought he'd go to the Project."

The Brigadier simply nodded. Staring down at Simpton, he bowed his head, spending a few private moments in memory of all those other soldiers he'd lost. Whether it had been because they had been killed, or whether they had turned traitor of everything they'd once believed in, they had still been taken.

Patting Simpton on the hand lightly, the Brigadier stood up again and indicated the Time Radio. "Let's get this over with, Doctor."

"As an old friend of mine once wrote, 'Seconded, thirded and motion carried'," the Doctor smiled. "But first," he added, as he suddenly walked around to the control console, "I'd better give these people something to listen to." Quickly, he tapped a few controls, and instantly, a new song came out of the radio.

Just a day, just an ordinary day

Just trying to get by

Just a boy just an ordinary boy but

He was looking to the sky

"Vanessa Carlton, 'Ordinary Day'," the Doctor smiled, as he swiftly reset his sonic screwdriver, crouched down beside the Radio, and began to work away at the metal rods that held it to the stage. Starting at the top left corner, he slowly raised his sonic screwdriver up, and watched as it dragged the rod up the way with it.

As the Brigadier crouched down beside him, the Doctor grabbed one of the rods and slipped it into his pocket, before moving onto the next.

Just as the crowd had started to move away form the shattered punch bowl, the Doctor suddenly stopped working on the left side and began to move over to the other side. As he passed by the control panel, he took a quick look at the control panel again, and seemed to be satisfied with how things were going. Then, simply nodding at the Brigadier, he ducked back down again and began to work away at the second pair of rods.

"Doctor, what exactly are you planning?" the Brigadier whispered.

"In a moment, Brigadier," the Doctor replied, as he removed another plug and put it away with the others. "First, do me a favour and turn the volume up on the control panel."

"The volume?" the Brigadier asked, as he got up and stared at the panel. It looked a bit more complicated than the Doctor and the Operator had made out when they were working it- a great deal of the controls had letters on them that reminded the Brigadier of what he'd seen of ancient High Gallifreyian writing, and what few dials there were had a numerical system that he didn't understand at all.

"Doctor?" the Brigadier asked, leaning over to look at his friend. "What dial controls the volume on this thing?"

"Oh, I don't have the time to give all the details," the Doctor said, reaching up and waving one hand vaguely at one corner of the panel. "Just try the dial around there. Turn it up, by the way, not down."

"I see..." the Brigadier said, as he looked at the corner that the Doctor had indicated to him. Unfortunately, there were two dials on it, and the Brigadier couldn't be certain which one did which. For all he knew, the Dictator had been so deranged as to implant a dial on this thing that could kill everyone in the hall.

Taking a chance, the Brigadier reached over to one of the dials, the one with the most numbers on it. Somehow, he doubted the Dictator would have given a dial that could kill people more than two settings- for him, it would be either on or off.

He turned the dial up a few figures.

Instantly, the volume increased to nearly double its original noise. Several people standing near it clutched their ears in pain, and everyone moved back several feet to protect their ears.

"Was that intended?!" the Brigadier yelled at the Doctor over the sudden outburst of sound.

"Yes, Brigadier!" the Doctor yelled back. Suddenly, and without any warning, he reached up to the back of neck, took off his modified Takei mask, stuffed it into his tux's pocket, and tore the distorter off. "Now," he yelled, his voice back to its customary Scottish burr, "get that mask off and help me out here!"

The Brigadier's mask had been getting very uncomfortable lately, and he was only too glad for an excuse to take it off. Reaching back behind his neck, he tugged the mask off his head and the distorter from his throat.

"What now?!" the Brigadier yelled. Privately, he was glad to hear his normal voice again, but there wasn't any time to get used to it again.

"Push this over!" the Doctor yelled, as he placed his shoulder against the Radio and began to push.

"What?!" the Brigadier cried, a he joined his friend's shoves at the Radio.

"If we can...push this over..." the Doctor gasped, straining a little with the energy needed, "it should...create a long...enough...distraction...for us to...save Nina!" "I...see!" the Brigadier yelled back. Turning the volume up made a lot more sense now that this had been revealed- the Doctor had wanted to make sure that nobody was hurt when he pushed the Radio over.

"Almost...there!" the Doctor said, as he felt the Radio give. It moved forward a few inches.

Gritting his teeth, the Brigadier shoved with all his strength again, and forced his corner of the Radio forward. Glancing around the side, he saw that one corner was hanging off the edge of the stage.

Grimly, the Brigadier got himself back into his original position, and shoved again. The Doctor, meanwhile, was also making progress- now, both their sides of the Time Radio were hanging over the edge of the stage.

"One...last...PUSH!!" the Doctor yelled. Instantly, the Time Radio fell, crashing into the wooden floorboards beneath them.

The Radio was so heavy that it broke right through the floor, causing the floorboards to fly up into the sky and hit the walls. The back half of the Radio also broke off in some places, and began to burn from where it was exposed to the air. What he could see of the inside of the machine reminded the Brigadier of some of the TARDIS circuitry that he'd seen the Doctor work on in the early days, but there were several other parts that he didn't recognise at all.

"It worked!" the Doctor smiled, as he looked up at the action in the hall. Looking at the hall himself, the Brigadier saw what he meant- several people were running towards the Radio, and others were running away from it, but all attention was still focused on the Radio.

"Quick!" the Doctor yelled, as he grabbed the Brigadier's arm and leapt off the stage. The Brigadier briefly winced as he landed, but a few seconds later he was running after the Doctor as fast as he could. However, that wasn't as fast as it could have been- sometimes, the Brigadier forgot that he was almost seventy- four now, instead of the forty he'd been when he'd first met the Doctor.

"Oh, sorry about that, Brigadier," the Doctor said, as he arrived at a nearby door and opened it. "I tend to forget you're not as young as you used to be."

"Well, at least I'm not the only one," the Brigadier said, smiling at his friend.

"Yes, well, time for that later," the Doctor said, as he opened the door and waved the Brigadier through it. "We have to stop the Dictator. It almost cost Benton and I our lives to take him out when he was only a bank robber. He's not going to change history on this kind of scale." For a brief moment, the Doctor looked a little sad. "And I won't lose any more friends..."

"Like Miss Aldwych, Doctor?" the Brigadier asked.

"Exactly," the Doctor said, as he and the Brigadier ran towards the shed. Briefly, outside the door of the shed, just before he went in, the Brigadier remembered Claire Aldwych, an old friend of him and the Doctor in the clown- like coat.

A friend dead at the hands of the Third Reich, used as a double for Hitler's wife, Eva Braun.

He wouldn't allow Miss Spencer to be added to that list.

"Brigadier, come on!" the Doctor yelled, waving him in from the bottom of the stairs.

"Coming, Doctor," the Brigadier replied, as he ran down the stairs.

"I only hope we're not too late..." the Doctor said, as he reached for the door handle.

*****

Swallowing, Nina stared at the door in front of her as it slowly swung open, and the Dictator came out of it. He'd changed from his original suit into an outfit that reminded Nina of World War Two films of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, except the swastika on his arm had a background that looked like an extremely fancy figure of eight instead of the normal white circle.

"What's with the threads, Dictator? Trying to impress anybody?" Nina gasped, as he walked over to the table and picked up the force field and the needle.

"Don't flatter yourself, Miss Spencer," the Dictator replied, as he twirled the needle in his right hand. "I simply couldn't stand that ridiculous suit any longer- I wore it for nearly one hundred and five years where I come from and I really didn't want to keep on wearing it if I can avoid it," he smirked, smiling at her.

Nina didn't even bother to reply to that, although she had been thinking up some decent put- downs during her time in the air. She was too busy trying to handle what Harper had just said. He'd lived for over a hundred and five years...!

"What, so you're only six hundred and... what is it, ten? Eleven?" a familiar Scottish accent said from the other end of the room.

"Doctor!" Nina yelled, relieved to finally have a little help. "Some assistance over here?"

"Just a minute, Nina," the Doctor said as he walked in front of her and stared at the Dictator. "So, you're what might have been. I have to say, as my alternates go, you're one of the less pleasant versions."

"Ah, Doctor," the Dictator replied, as he slipped the needle into his pocket and faced his opponent. Privately, Nina wondered where that thought had come from, but then decided it fitted the scenario anyway. The way the Doctor and the Dictator were looking at each other, Nina wouldn't have been surprised if one of them punched the other. "So good to see you again."

"I'm not sorry I can't say the same thing to you," the Doctor replied, as his eyes flicked over the Dictator's clothes. "I see you haven't changed your costume since we last met."

"You have, I see," the Dictator countered. "Along with practically everything else. Which model's this, fourth?"

"Seventh, actually," the Doctor replied. "The third was shot, the fourth fell, the fifth caught a virus, and the sixth got trapped in a tractor beam."

"You've used up four lives since we faced each other?" the Dictator smiled. "I've not even lost one! Rassilon's beard, you're one careless son of an Othering Other!"

"Well, you've just been lying around here on Earth trying to destroy the future, haven't you?" the Doctor countered, an angry look on his face. "Whereas I have been trying to prevent the Universe being taken over by all evil in creation and its second cousins once removed every weekend, and spent the other five days dealing with attempts to take some part of it over. You haven't been sticking your neck out for anyone, have you?"

"Hey, I just look out for the greatest intellect the Universe has ever produced, OK?" the Dictator replied, matching the Doctor's expression.

As the Doctor and Harper talked, Nina heard the door open again, and caught the faintest sound of a footstep on the ground. However, neither Harper nor the Doctor turned around at the sound, so Nina dismissed it from her mind.

*****

"You really think you're that intelligent?" the Doctor countered to the Dictator. "I'll have you know that I still had some way to go towards being the smartest thing in the Universe when we diverge from each other, and given that you've spent the past century or so of your life stuck on Earth, I doubt you're smarter than me even now!"

"Who said I had to be smarter than you?" the Dictator smirked back at the Doctor in reply. "I simply have acknowledged a few simple truths about the Universe that you can't seem to comprehend."

"Those being?" the Doctor asked, waving his hand in a circle.

"That evil will always be here," the Dictator replied, looking so smug now that Nina wanted to hit him. "That every man has the seeds of darkness within him. That the only thing keeping back a complete collapse of society from that darkness is man's basic impotence and fear. That evil is superior to good at every turn, even at the very end of existence. Why do you deny that?"

The Doctor looked back at the Dictator, his will almost causing visible tension in the air. "For one very simple reason, Dictator."

"Which is?" the Dictator asked, smiling a little. He seemed confident that his argument could not be rebutted.

"Because I simply won't accept it," the Doctor replied, looking directly at Harper's eyes. "Because I believe that no force is ever so strong as to be indestructible. Everyone has a weak point, and I believe that I will find the best locations to apply the pressure required to make them stop. Because I have seen even the mightiest of empire fall apart simply because they developed a small crack somewhere. Besides, no future is ever written in stone. As you once knew yourself, a whole lifetime ago."

The Dictator looked back at the Doctor, with something approaching disdain in his expression. "You really think you can make that much of a difference, Doctor? I gave up on that a long time ago. I joined the winning team. Why won't you?"

"I told you," the Doctor stated simply. "Because I believe in order."

"Well, then, Mr I-believe-in-order, take...THIS!" the Dictator yelled, as he suddenly ducked down and swung one arm in a karate chop at the Doctor's legs. The Doctor fell like a ton of bricks onto the floor, struck too fast to even think of reacting. "You're going down. And then I'm taking your friend, Miss Spencer, as..." he said, his voice suddenly faltering as he looked over at where Nina had been hanging in the air earlier. At some point during his argument with the Doctor, she had just vanished...

"Looking for me?" a voice said. Looking behind him, the Dictator saw Nina standing there, her left hand on her hip while her right was holding a small wooden truncheon.

"I really hate being treated like I'm the village idiot, Harper," Nina said simply. With that, she swung the baton, and struck Harper in the left side of the face.

It was the last thing the Dictator felt before he collapsed.

*****

Clutching the wound, the Dictator slowly fell down to the floor, dark red blood leaking from the mess that had been his cheekbone.

"Good hit, Nina," the Doctor smiled, as he got up from the floor. "Oh, and thank you as well, Brigadier," he said, nodding at the Brigadier's position from the other side of the table. He'd noticed the Brigadier sneak over to the table while he talked with the Dictator, so he'd kept him occupied long enough for the Brigadier to free Nina.

"Anything else needing done, Doctor?" the Brigadier asked, as Nina handed him back the baton and he slipped it into his pocket.

"No, Brigadier," the Doctor replied. "We know who Harper truly is, and that's enough for the moment."

"You know?" Nina asked, looking in between her two friends. "Who is he?"

The Doctor and the Brigadier exchanged a rather guilty look. Personally, the Doctor was uncomfortable already, and he really didn't want to discuss his darker side with Nina until all of them were safely hidden away in the TARDIS.

"I'll explain later," the Doctor said, as he turned away and headed for the door. "Right now, we have several Cortez soldiers trying to tame a fire in the hall, and we should really get away before anyone else finds us here with him," he finished, indicating the Dictator.

"OK, but just one thing first," Nina said. Walking over to stand beside the Dictator, she kicked him in the groin.

"All right, let's go," she said, as the Doctor opened the door. Instantly, she and the Brigadier raced out of the door, the Doctor following on close behind.

Privately, the Doctor was already going over the conversation he'd have with Nina when he got back. How do you explain to a friend that your nemesis is, technically, you...?