Reed drew a sharp breath, his systems taking a minute to come fully on line. He blinked a few times, finally focusing on the Doctor, a pained look coming to his face. "I'm sorry."
The Doctor's eyes narrowed. "You remember what happened?"
"Yes," the android said sadly, closing his eyes in regret. "You won't believe me, but I did try to stop it. I couldn't."
"I believe you." This was Jason, who had seen, and deleted, the Black Guardian's program alterations. "And that's the last time anyone will force you to do anything against your will." He went on to inform the startled Reed that the program revisions were ready for installation. "The only alteration I made was to reset your inhibitors on the ethics program. That's the only program you will never be able to alter yourself." As he spoke, Jason brought up the program and displayed it on the monitor beside the awestruck Reed.
"If the changes are acceptable, I'll leave them in," Jason informed calmly.
"I don't understand you," the android said in bewilderment. "After all I've done…why do you still want to help me?"
"I'm a romantic. Just ask anyone," Jason replied tersely, waving a hand in the air. "Now, do you accept the changes?"
"Yes. I should've thought of that myself."
"Yes, but you didn't. That proves your ethics program is faulty," Prince Juris injected.
His father waved a hand to silence him. "Will you allow me to install your program?"
Reed wanted desperately to say yes, but was prevented by his program inhibitors kicking in.
"Jason, he can't change his own programming," the Doctor reminded. "Perhaps you should rephrase the question."
The Alterran nodded. "Reed, will you allow me to install my modified program?"
Reed smiled, replying instantly, "Yes."
"I don't what to hear any more about Guardians; black, white, or orange," Reed was saying as he and Ace followed the Doctor through the Imperial Palace. "I just want to find a place where nobody knows what I've done so I can live in peace."
From the end of the hall, a voice said, "Then you've come to the right place, my dear sir. We are at peace." It was Emperor Quinton.
The Doctor looked at the Imperial sovereign. He still wasn't his usual robust self, and his voice lacked its usual power. But the power of the Great Seal was very clearly evident, and the Time Lord had no doubt the Emperor would be back to normal in no time at all.
Now dressed in royal finery, King Jason and Prince Juris came up beside their sovereign. The King grinned at his friends, waving them over.
Uncertainty suddenly washed over Reed and he stopped, puzzling the Doctor.
"Come on, then," the Time Lord said quietly. "You're the one who wanted to meet him."
"Yeah, I'd quite like to meet this all powerful Emperor myself," Ace injected in an irritated tone.
"I'm sorry. It's just…" Giving the Doctor a frightened look, Reed said, "I'm not sure this was such a wise decision. I've found organic lifeforms to be incredibly unpredictable. Especially in the face of…well, a repentant adversary."
The Doctor could not help himself and laughed. "Congratulations, Reed. You've just discovered one of the joys of self-direction. It's called self-doubt, and believe me, it won't be the only time you experience it."
Jason came to see what the delay was about, overhearing the last of the conversation. Then he too laughed. "That's for sure! I think it's my usual mode of operating. I'm always sure I've made the wrong decision."
"Always?" the Doctor asked amusedly, glancing over at Reed.
Catching his eye, Jason smiled self-consciously. "Well, almost always," he replied.
The group then made their way to the throne room, and while Prince Juris took the lead in the introductions. While this was going on, the Doctor drew his former companion aside. "Jason, what exactly happened in the console room?" he asked quietly.
Jason gave him a blank look. "The console room? When?"
"My mind is fuzzy on the details, but I'm sure you stopped the TARDIS before Ace threw you the sphere. I'd quite like to know how you did that." The Doctor's voice was low and mild, but it held an accusatory edge that was unmistakable. "And that missing half hour—"
He broke off when Jason took him firmly by the arm. "Let it go, Doctor," he said equally firmly. "For once in your lives, let it go. If you never do anything for me again, please, do as I ask and let it go."
The gravity in Jason's voice stunned the Doctor, who met the almost pleading gaze steadily. "It's that important?"
"Yes. It's probably the most important thing I've ever asked you to do in my life."
The Doctor stepped back to look at him. "Considering all we've been through together, that's saying quite a lot."
The Doctor continued to study the Alterran's expression, Jason's resolve unwavering before the Time Lord's steady gaze. There was a great deal more to this than met the eye, and somehow the Doctor knew that, one day, he would learn the reason.
"All right. I won't pursue it," he said at last.
Seeing the relief flood over Jason's face, the Doctor could not resist adding playfully, "But you realize I won't be able to sleep nights from now on."
This story has the distinction of being the only Doctor Who I have ever written in which there were no deaths. I challenged myself to write such a story, and took 10 years before finally accomplishing it.
The next story is set approximately 10 years after the conclusion of Part 3 – "The New Argonauts." It is a 6th Doctor story called, "Random Chance," and at 61 chapters is the longest stand-alone story to date.
The Transmutation Of Time - Book Two © 2003 is an original work written for the enjoyment of Doctor Who fans everywhere. 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