The Transmutation Of Time – Part4 © 2003 - Time Line Two - A Different Kind Of Guardian© 2000Margaret Price
AUTHOR'S NOTE: It is set immediately after Part 2 - A Hole In Time and follows the 7th Doctor and Ace after the 5th Doctor is returned to his proper time stream. This is also a sequel to the sixth story in my 4th Doctor arc The Guardian, seeing the return of the main characters and locations introduced therein.
TIME LINE TWO
A DIFFERENT KIND OF GUARDIAN
The Seventh Doctor and Ace
THE CALL HOME
Despite the fact that the Aylsworth mansion was richly decorated, the living quarters allotted to the estate's procurement agent, a mysterious individual known only as Reed, were Spartan at best. Felix Aylsworth preferred to spend his money on things that were important to him, these being the unique objects he collected. In his opinion, people were not unique and, therefore, were not important. Not that this mattered to Reed. He did not much care for his employer and wanted desperately to break free of the insufferable man's company. In recent weeks, he had allied himself with a powerful individual who had promised to assist him in achieving this as, well as other goals.
After a long day's work, Reed entered his quarters, going to a large mirror that was mounted on the wall near the door. Unlike most mirrors, this one had the unusual quality of being completely black, its surface seeming to pull the viewer into itself.
Reed stood before the glass as though studying it. After a moment, he said, "I did you asked. The beacon is active and the relays are in place. But I had to strip down the last of the controls in the ship to do it."
"Excellent," a deep voice replied from within the depths of shiny surface. "You have done well."
"Did you hear what I said?" Reed said insistently. "I used all—"
"That ship was already useless to you," the voice broke in. "What difference does the loss of a few parts make?"
"What difference? The owner left me to safeguard it. What happens when he returns? The primitive technology on this planet can scarcely supply the raw materials for the parts I require, never mind the micro-circuitry," Reed shot back.
"You have had sufficient time to realize the owner is not returning. He has abandoned that ship—and you."
Reed glared into the dark surface. "That's all very well for you to say, but there is insufficient data to substantiate your claim. This isn't the first time he's disappeared without word. If he's gone into hiding, it could be several months before he returns."
"Then you will be unencumbered by his presence while the game is played."
"Game? What game?"
"The beacon is the signal beginning the game," came the enigmatic reply.
Reed scowled. "You said nothing about any game. Just what're you getting me mixed up in?"
"You want to be free, don't you? Free of this world and the owner?"
"You know I do."
"And am I not your Guardian? Trust me. Your efforts will be rewarded very soon."
"I would prefer a complete explanation of this…game."
A low chuckle issued from the mirror. "In time."
A quirk of fate had sent the Doctor's fifth incarnation too far forward in his own time stream, bending it to the point where his companion, Turlough, had found himself face-to-face with the Time Lord's future seventh self. The unnatural bend had thrown the Doctor's body so far out of phase that he became too ill to realize what was happening. It also brought together others from the Doctor's future, one of whom Turlough knew, this being Jason Krystovan. When last they met, Jason was Crown Prince of Tel-Shye, but the bend in time brought not the Prince, but King Jason and his son Juris, the current Crown Prince.
Through the efforts of the Doctor's friends and his future self, he was safely returned to his proper place in time—with only Turlough knowing the exact details of the bizarre event. Details he could not reveal without disastrous ramifications.
As the TARDIS containing Turlough and his former self dematerialized, the seventh Doctor breathed a sigh of relief.
"I don't envy Turlough what he has to go through," Jason said quietly, giving way to an involuntary shudder at the thought of his own past returned to mind.
"I don't envy you what you had to go through," the Doctor replied quietly, receiving a weak smile in return.
After an awkward silence, the Alterran monarch said, "I think I—we—had best be off. The Captain's probably wondering where we've all disappeared to." Turning, he started toward the double doors.
"Do you really have to go?" Ace asked plaintively.
The King stopped, turning slowly to look at his son. The reason for their journey had been to settle a feud between them concerning his ward, Asta. But since their recent encounter with Ormril, this was no longer necessary.
"It's up to you, Father," Juris said in response to the unspoken question. "You're the one who set this up, remember?"
"Ye-es," came the somewhat guilty reply. After a long pause Jason said, "I don't know what I was thinking, hop-skip-and-jumping across the quadrant. This trip's been a disaster from the start."
The Doctor was slightly puzzled. "The shuttle wasn't taking you directly to the Alterrous?"
"No. We had several connections to make along the way."
The Time Lord broke into a broad smile. "Then, if your Captain doesn't mind, allow me to take you directly."
While King Jason went to inform the shuttle captain that he had found alternate transportation, the Doctor had Ace show Juris and Asta to the TARDIS' living quarters where they could settle in for the journey. The Time Lord then began setting the coordinates for the Alterran home world. The moment Jason returned, the TARDIS dematerialized.
"Your Captain wasn't too disappointed, I trust?" the Doctor said conversationally.
"Relieved, more like," his friend replied. "Apparently the damage was worse than he thought and—"
"Jason, we didn't abandon them, did we!"
The Alterran laughed at the Time Lord's appalled expression. "No. They've got to take the ship in for repairs, that's all. I think he was only worried about getting paid. As soon as I told him to submit his fee—in full—he seemed happy as a clam."
"His full fee?"
"You are a generous monarch as well as benevolent, I see."
This remark brought an amused, if somewhat embarrassed smile to the King's face. He then inquired after his son and ward.
"Ace's taken them to…to…" The Doctor's words trailed off and a far away look came to his face. An oddly familiar chiming sound had suddenly filled his head. A sound he heard not so much with his ears as with his mind. He concentrated on the sound, his eyes growing wide as he realized what it was.
"Doctor, what's wrong?" Jason asked concernedly.
"The Panopticon summons…" came the almost dreamlike reply. "The call to Gallifrey."
Now it was Jason whose eyes grew wide. "What?" he gasped. "After all this time?"
The Doctor came out of his trance, looking over at his friend who was one of the few to understand the implications of what had just happened. Before he could say anything, Jason said seriously, "Doctor, you have to go home."
After what seemed an eternity, the Time Lord replied, "No, I must get all of you home first."
"No, this is too important. I can send for a ship when we arrive." As he spoke, the Alterran halted the TARDIS' progress in vortex.
"Jason, this will just delay you further," the Doctor said, reaching for the controls. Suddenly his wrist was caught in an iron grip.
"I'm not going to arm-wrestle you over this, Doctor," Jason said firmly. "You're going home. Now, either you set the coordinates or I will. I can still fly this crate, remember."
The Doctor feigned an indignant snort, dramatically pulling his hand free and entering the coordinates for Gallifrey. "There, I hope you're happy."
The Alterran monarch grinned, only to become serious again. "Doctor, what about Ace? Shall I look after her for you?"
The Time Lord's face darkened. "I'd appreciate that. Heaven only knows what could've happened that they'd feel the need to call me back after all this time."
The moment the TARDIS materialized, the Doctor activated the scanner, the image it revealed startling him.
It startled Jason as well. "Is that…? That's the High Council Chamber!" he gasped in amazement, turning to the equally amazed Time Lord. "How did you do that?"
"I've no idea," the Doctor replied. "I didn't think the TARDIS could penetrate this far into the Capitol without—" He broke off as a unit of Chancellory guards appeared.
"That's an inviting welcome," Ace remarked dryly.
Sighing heavily, the Doctor muttered, "And they wonder why I don't like coming back."
To the Doctor's surprise, the Lord Chancellor himself emerged from the Council Chamber and came to stand in front of the TARDIS, obviously waiting for him to emerge.
"It appears you were expected here after all," Prince Juris observed softly.
The Time Lord threw a quick glance in his direction before squaring his shoulders and heading for the double doors. On the opposite side, he was greeted warmly by the Lord Chancellor, who expressed his delight at the Doctor's timely response to the recall. "There were those of us who thought you might not come at all," the Chancellor said, the statement seeming to have another meaning that eluded the Doctor at the time.
Jason appeared in the TARDIS doorway and the Doctor threw a quick glance back at him. "This is the man you should be thanking, Chancellor. King Jason persuaded me to answer the summons rather than delay by returning his party home first."
The Lord Chancellor inclined his head and bowed slightly, taking advantage of how near this brought him to the Doctor's ear to say softly, "You know the rule about aliens, Doctor."
The Doctor gave him a surprised look, and then shook his head. "Oh dear, oh dear, I really am slipping. Chancellor, allow me to introduce King Jason of Tel-Shye."
"Tel-Shye?" the Chancellor repeated with a note of surprise.
The monarch stepped away from the door as the Doctor went on to say, "In the Alterran Empire." The moment these words were out of his mouth, the guards drew their weapons, startling the King who threw the equally startled Doctor a baffled look.
"Chancellor, has something happened that Alterrans are now treated as criminals rather than allies?" he asked sharply.
Before the Chancellor could reply, Juris and Asta emerged from the TARDIS. Asta was a powerful telepathic who had received her training on Gallifrey. She immediately discerned the reason for the uncharacteristic hostility. "They're afraid of you, Majesty," she informed matter of factly. Looking over at the stone-faced Chancellor, she added pointedly, "Very afraid."
"Afraid of me?" Jason was incredulous. "Why?"
"Yes, why?" the Doctor wanted to know, turning back to the silent High Councilor.
The Chancellor did not reply immediately. He stepped aside, holding out a hand in an obvious gesture that the Doctor follow him into the Council Chamber. "I will allow the Lord President to explain," he said at last.
The Doctor and Jason exchange a bewildered look but when the King made to follow, the Chancellory Guard barred his way.
"I'm not coming if you don't allow his Majesty to hear this too," the Doctor stated categorically. "If this affects him, he has the right to hear it."
The Chancellor opened his mouth only to be cut off by Jason, who asked, "The Alliance is still in effect, isn't it?"
The look he received in reply sent a chill down his spine. Looking over at the Doctor, he remarked, "Now I'm afraid."