FACING THE TRUTH
"Doctor, we can't just leave them," Jason protested as he was dragged into the Temple of Jaka.
"We can't stay, either," the Time Lord retorted as he opened the door to the TARDIS. "I don't know what you said to the police, but from what I could see from the summit, they seem to be coming en masse."
"I only told them where they could find Alex," his companion replied innocently as he pushed through the doors. A few seconds later, the TARDIS dematerialized.
At the highway below, the first of the police vehicles the Doctor had seen arrived at the base of the hill, the officers within locating Alex's car hidden among the trees almost immediately. The next group made their way up the dirt road, bypassing the Temple and making straight for the shrine where they expected to find the guilty Security Chief among the brethren of the Cult. To their amazement, they found, not the Cult of Jaka, but two heavily drugged individuals lashed to the alter. Their amazement turned to astonishment when the sacrificial offerings turned out to be the wanted Alex Grove and the missing (and presumed dead) Dr. Albert.
Alone in the console room, Jason made a quick temporal jump forward and then tuned into a Teggellan news broadcast, discovering that a media circus had followed the disappearance of the Cult of Jaka. One commentator after another rambled on with his or her own theories. Jason changed stations and caught his breath when he saw Frankie and Alex in the midst of a press conference. Satisfied his Teggellan friends were alive and unharmed, Jason was about to switch off the scanner when someone asked Dr. Albert about Crystal. Did she think the creature was the Guardian? Could this be why it had saved her life?
Frankie exchanged a knowing if somewhat amused look with Alex before stating that she believed Crystal had saved her life simply because she had grown attached to her. Behavior of this sort was not uncommon among some marine animals, and there was no reason to believe it was anything more spectacular than that. As for whether Crystal was the Guardian…? No, she wasn't.
Jason was so engrossed (and amused) by all this, that he failed to notice the Doctor enter the room. The equally amused Time Lord stood watching his companion for several minutes before putting on a serious expression and finally making his presence known. He closed the door with a bang, startling the Alterran who quickly switched off the viewer.
"You couldn't resist, could you?" the Doctor snorted in a disapproving tone.
Jason flushed slightly. "I'm sorry. I just had to know if they were alright."
The young man's color deepened. "Alright, she. Frankie did save my life, and well…"
"You'd grown very fond of her."
Jason nodded, lowering his eyes.
"Well, now that you've satisfied your curiosity, perhaps we can try, once more to get to Earth." Not waiting for an answer, the Doctor began resetting the coordinates.
After a long silence, Jason admitted guiltily, "I should've told you straight away about the Projector, Doctor. I should've told you everything. I…I wanted to. It's just…I couldn't!"
"I know. The fear implant," came the understanding reply. "It must've been exceptionally powerful."
Jason closed his eyes and shuddered at the memory. "It was like…fighting a demon. Every time I tried to tell you…the anxiety I felt. It was almost unbearable." He shuddered again.
"Jason, you do realize my threats to banish you from the TARDIS have always been in jest, don't you?" the Doctor remarked.
"Jest! Doctor, I tried to kill you! Twice!"
Receiving a look of genuine surprise, Jason admitted, "Yes, I know about the first time. That's what was in the program I had trouble accessing."
"Aaah, I see."
Shaking his head, the Alterran said, "After what I did, it's no wonder that you're—" Cutting himself off, he quickly turned away.
"Now don't start that again," the Doctor scolded. "Whatever you have to say, just say it."
Jason turned to face him, a pained expression on his face. "It's no wonder that you're afraid of me."
"What?" The Doctor's large eyes widened. "Jason, I'm not—"
"Don't tell me you're not, Doctor, because I know you are. Every eruption of Mt. Jason terrifies you. I get too close to the edge between rational thought and blind rage for your liking. You're convinced I'll go over that edge some day and won't be able to find my way back."
The Doctor blinked. This was all quite true, even though he had never put any of these thoughts into words. He had, however, brooded over them on more than one occasion. "When exactly did you…?"
"Read your mind?"
"When I was in the computer." Jason went on to explain that each time the Doctor was attacked by Jaka, his mental defenses were severely weakened, making all but his deepest thoughts accessible. It was only because his thoughts were fed through the computer that Jason was able to shield them from Jaka, giving only himself access.
"Doctor, why didn't you tell me!" Jason exclaimed. "All this time, I can't believe you've actually been afraid of me—"
"I'm not afraid of you, Jason, I'm afraid for you. There is a difference," the Doctor pointed out mildly. "And, strange as it may seem, I really do enjoy your company."
"Oh, Doctor, please," Jason moaned, "don't patronize me. Not now. I'm a contradiction in terms; a violent Alterran. I'm no use to anyone."
"Rubbish! If that were true, your Uncle never would've—" The Doctor bit off his own words but it was already too late.
"My Uncle...?" Jason was completely thrown, knowing his friend was referring to the Lord Emperor of Alterrous. "What does he have to do with any of this?"
The Doctor heaved an exasperated sigh. "A very long time ago," he began as if telling a fairy tale, "just after you joined me as a matter of fact, I had a rather unsettling conversation with the Emperor Quinton. He told me that our being together was not by accident and that a day would come when you would be forced to face your own duality and come to terms with it, one way or the other. He did not, or perhaps could not, elaborate on where or when."
Shocked, Jason's mouth dropped open. "Wh…why…didn't you tell me this before?" he stammered out at last.
"Because you weren't ready."
"I'm not sure I am now."
The Time Lord smile benignly. "Time will tell. It always does," he observed and returned his attention to the console, looking up in surprise when his companion suddenly asked, "What else did he tell you, Doctor?"
"You heard me. You're holding something back. Now, what is it?"
The Doctor frowned down at the console, making a show of closing off the telepathy circuits and bringing an amused smile to the face of his uncharacteristically somber companion.
"Well…?" Jason asked when his friend looked up again.
The Doctor hesitated, wondering if the Alterran was ready to hear everything. Seeing no way around it, he said, "My job was to guide you. The Emperor believes you're more powerful than you realize yourself. And if you didn't receive some sort of guidance, you'd become more dangerous than any of us could possibly imagine."
Jason's eyes grew wide in horrified astonishment.
"Apparently Jaka isn't the first demon you've had to fight," the Doctor observed.
The young man shook his head. "No, he wasn't."
"I suppose you could say my job is to help you live up to your name."
"Krystovan. As I recall, it means Unity from Conflict," the Doctor observed. "And I can't think of a better description of what you've had to deal with all these years."
The Alterran gave way to an involuntary shudder and turned away. "The Emperor. He told you I was in the First Circle, didn't he?"
"No, he didn't, actually. Jaka used that term, too. What does it mean?" The words were barely out of the Doctor's mouth when his companion's body sagged. Jason had assumed this to be the reason behind his friend's fears and he cursed himself for having brought it up at all. Then again, after all they'd been through, the Doctor had a right to know everything.
Jason drew a deep breath, squaring his shoulders. "The First Circle," he began slowly, "is an ancient term for those few who can take on another form without diminishing the powers of their true self."
"What? All of them?" the Doctor heard himself asking.
This wasn't what the Doctor expected to hear and, not surprisingly, he was stunned. He knew that the Alterrans had long ago discovered that their powers were greatly diminished when they took on another form. Their policy of concealment had been adopted to automatically restrain themselves from abusing their extensive powers. If, as a member of the First Circle, Jason not only retained his powers but could also combine them with whatever form he chose, he would be more than a serious threat. He would be an unstoppable force.
Jason saw a fearful expression flicker across the Doctor's eyes and moaned. "I sometimes think I was born too powerful for my own good."
The Doctor replied without thinking. "Rubbish! You're one of the gentlest people I've ever met."
"With a temper that—"
"You're not the only one in the universe with a hot temper, you know? You just have to work on controlling it."
"But I can't control it, Doctor!"
"Can't you? Are you sure? You've had all that power at your fingertips for…what? Close to a century?"
"And how many times have you used it in anger?"
To the Time Lord's relief, Jason replied, "Never, actually, but—"
"Then for goodness sake, stop torturing yourself before I lose my temper!" the Time Lord scolded. To his delight, his companion laughed in spite of himself. "Now that's more like it."
Sighing heavily, the Alterran turned his gaze back to the blank scanner, causing the Doctor to groan inwardly. Now that they had all that sorted out, perhaps they could work on the young man's annoying romantic tendencies. Jason was lovesick far too often for the Doctor's liking. It was not until the boy spoke again that the true reason for his melancholy became known.
"So…it's back to Tel-Shye, then?" Jason said sadly.
The Doctor gave him a mystified look. "Tel-Shye?"
"Now that I've faced myself, as it were, your job is done. Isn't it?"
The Doctor knew his job was only just beginning but kept this thought to himself, saying with a grin, "I thought you wanted to visit Earth."
Jason blinked. "But I thought…"
"My dear Jason, the Emperor only said you weren't with me by accident. He didn't say there was a time limit."