SEVEN

Eric told the others of Ramsay's plan to wipe out the entire station crew and take over the planet's mineral wealth, and since Jason had said not to look for him, they assumed a confederate had picked him up. It was not until the Alterran finally regained consciousness that the whole story came out.

"He was hit by a chunk of bulkhead, I think," Jason said in a quiet, tired voice. "It just…carried him out in to space."

"Oh, how horrible," Shawna whispered.

Eric was incensed. "How can you say that? He tried to kill us."

"I don't care," she replied. "I wouldn't wish something like that on anyone. It's just too… horrible."

"It's better than what's ahead for us," Eric countered bitterly. "We still don't have unlimited supplies, you know. And once they're gone, we're going to starve."

"Wait a minute," the puzzled Jason broke in quietly. "Do you mean…? We're not still at the Spaceport, are we?"

"Where else would we be, dear boy?" the Doctor wanted know. "The TARDIS—"

"Is in one of the aft storerooms," his companion informed, much to the Time Lord's delight —and relief. "No, what I want to know is, why haven't any of you taken the ship to the surface? When I was on the flight deck, it was only minutes away from takeoff."

"What!" they all cried.

Jason winced. He still wasn't feeling one hundred percent and felt if he could get up to fifty percent he'd be doing well. Unfortunately, all this attention was doing nothing but wearing him out. He gave the Doctor a curious look. "I'd've thought you, at least, would've been up there by now, Doctor."

Aurora gave an amused grunt. "Are you kidding? He hasn't left this room since he brought you onboard."

Jason saw the Time Lord throw the officer an angry scowl at this apparently unwanted revelation. He smiled a tired, knowing smile. His friend was still unaware of his presence in the room during his moral upheaval, and despite this rare glimpse into the Time Lord's soul, Jason found that it only served to make him more perplexing than ever.

The Doctor caught the look and studied the Alterran back. During their travels he'd watched the young man grow and change. No doubt this incident would have a profound effect on him. Yet another event to mold him in preparation for the greatness the Doctor felt certain the future held for the unassuming young man who, at that moment, seemed to be on the verge of dropping off to sleep any second.

Pulling up the blankets, the Doctor said softly, "You get some rest. You deserve it after all that." He then went to the flight deck, finding it just as Jason described. It wasn't until he gave this good news to the crew that he learned, not to his great surprise, that Ramsay was the only pilot among them. After a small show of reluctance, he allowed himself to be persuaded into shuttling the stranded crewmembers to the newly established settlement.

Before departing, Eric pointed out that it might be a good idea to locate the equipment Ramsay had purposely omitted from the solar generators. Everyone agreed that this was a good idea and a thorough search of the ship was made for the vital parts. During the search, they discovered not only the equipment, but also a rough survey map of the planet showing numerous mineral deposits along with several ore samples. Someone even managed to locate the TARDIS.

Once everything and everyone was accounted for, the Doctor piloted the starliner to the planet, the journey lasting only a few minutes. Locating the new colony, on the other hand, took considerably longer. A massive storm front had blanketed the entire area, and due to the archaic, and unreliable nature of the radio equipment on the ground, Aurora's people were forced to wait for the weather to break before they could establish contact.

The Doctor could do little else but put the ship into orbit until the noticeably more cheerful crew could give him the exact coordinates for his landing. Seizing the opportunity, he went to talk to his uncharacteristically subdued companion.

"Feeling any better?" he asked as he entered the cabin.

"A bit." Snuggling further down into the blankets, Jason added, "I don't think I'll be warm for a month, though."

The Doctor's grave expression didn't change, and his companion feared the worst. "Doctor, what's wrong? The settlement? It's not—"

"What? Oh, no, they're still looking for it," the Time Lord replied, waving a hand toward the door. "No doubt they'll be able to give me the exact coordinates once the storm clears."

"Then what on earth's the matter? You look like you just lost your best friend."

"I almost did."

Realization dawned and Jason sighed heavily. "Doctor, what happened to me wasn't your fault. A few seconds either way and it never would've happened. It was just bad timing, that's all."

"That doesn't really help much. I'm supposed to be an authority on Time."

The Alterran smiled a tired smile. "I know. You're a Time Lord. Keeper of the immutable Laws of Time. Trained to observe, not interfere," he said in as lofty tone as he could manage.

"Something like that."

"Well, whatever it is, I'm just glad you didn't leave the crew when you saw you couldn't repair the power station."

The Doctor's astonished look caused Jason to blush slightly, which only served to give his pallid face a little color. "I, uh, was there when you were working all that out," he admitted guiltily.

"Were you, now?" the Doctor snorted. He was about to issue a firm rebuke when he recalled what he'd said during what he had thought to be a one-sided conversation. "I can't even accuse you of eavesdropping, can I? Since I was talking to you, in a way."

"I only wish you could've heard me, then."

"Yes, that reminds me," the Doctor said, seizing the chance to change the subject. "That was a telepathic link between us, wasn't it?"

"I don't know what else it could've been."

"I've been wondering about that, you see. Was it just temporary, caused by the suspension? Or is it possible you're genuinely telepathic?"

Jason considered a moment before shrugging his shoulders. "I have no idea. Either, I guess. It's possible the suspension triggered some latent ability I didn't know I had. Telepathy's actually quite common on my mother's side of the family."

"Yes, I know. I've met your Uncle Quinton."

The Alterran laughed for the first time since regaining consciousness, much to the delight of the Doctor, who was beginning to think the usually boisterous youth would remain solemn and withdrawn forever.

"Now you can't judge everyone by him," Jason smiled. "Being Lord Emperor gives one certain advantages."

"None the least of which is limitless power."

Before the Alterran could think of a suitable response, Shawna came in with the news that the settlement had finally been located.

The Doctor returned to the flight deck and within an hour the starliner was touching down just outside the newly established colony.

The ship was immediately surrounded by an excited throng of fellow crew members and in the confusion that followed, the Doctor slipped away unnoticed. When order was finally restored, the station's real Commander asked Aurora to explain everything that had happened. She turned to introduce the Doctor, only to find he was no longer there. Thinking he'd gone back to his companion's cabin, Aurora went into the ship to get him and was just passing one of the aft storerooms when she heard a strange wheezing and groaning sound. She looked in just in time to see the TARDIS dematerialize.


The next story in this arc "THE GATHERING DOME"


Silent Witness © 1993 Margaret Price is an original work written for the enjoyment of Doctor Who fans. No copyright infringement is intended.
Original series broadcast on the BBC. Format © BBC 1963
Doctor Who and Tardis are trademarks of the BBC.
The story and all other original characters are © Margaret Price