CHAPTER 61

END OF THE ORDEAL

The TARDIS returned to the space station and the same circular storage room it had occupied previously, making another perfect bull's eye as it materialized at the center of the seal of Rassilon. The room was completely empty, just as it had been when the Doctor first arrived.

The Doctor popped his head out and looked around before stepping away from the door. "All clear," he said quietly.

Jason appeared behind him, peering cautiously out the door. He was dressed in his persona as Crown Prince; his clothing elaborate brocade, a gold circlet on his head, a long cape sweeping down his back and his collar of rank gleaming around his neck. "I am not looking forward to this, Doctor," he said darkly.

"If you want to clear your name and get your life back, it's the only way," the Time Lord retorted sharply.

"I know, but that doesn't mean I have to like it."

Mel came up beside him. "Do I really have to stay behind again?" she asked in annoyance.

Jason stepped away from the door and then realized he was going at this the wrong way. He drew himself to his full height and turned back to her. "No," he said firmly. "You shouldn't have to stay behind." He held out a hand to her, a clear sign that she join them.

The Doctor blinked. Where did this transformation come from? "Jason…" he began cautiously.

The Prince gave him a steady look. "No, Doctor, I'm sick of feeling guilty. They made me feel like a criminal. And I didn't do anything wrong!"

"No, you didn't," his Time Lord friend agreed. "Now let's go prove it." So saying, he turned and strode towards the door, the others following behind.

The corridors outside the storeroom were also completely empty. All the observers and additional staff had returned to their duties on Gallifrey after the Alterran's escape nearly a week earlier. The three time travelers were able to cross the short distance to Eustis' office without encountering anyone.

The Inquisitor was working at his desk. He did not even look up when the outer door opened, thinking it to be one of his aides with another report on the continuing search for the ARGO. "Any news on Prince Jason's whereabouts?" Eustis asked blandly.

Jason's eyebrows went up. He exchanged a surprised look with the Doctor, who smiled devilishly before saying, "Approximately ten feet to your right, Eustis."

The Inquisitor looked up and jumped, an involuntary cry escaping him.

"I've come to give myself up," the Prince said mildly as he entered the room, the Doctor and Mel coming in behind him.

"Now, Eustis," the Doctor said quickly, "before you do something drastic, like sound an alarm or something, we'd like a private word with you."

"A word?" Eustis said, finding his voice at last.

"Yes," Jason said firmly. "We found Trevor."


Within hours of their arrival, the Doctor and Jason were back in the courtroom watching as the Matrix screen played out the Doctor's confrontation with Trevor. With each admission, Jason felt the noose around his neck loosening. Then came the unintelligible reasons for it all and Trevor's final admission as being the one to destroy all life on Eldeberon.

When at last the lights came up, the Doctor waited a moment before saying, "My lord, at the beginning of this inquiry, you asked Prince Jason to make a statement. At the time, it seemed to us all to be, if you'll forgive me, a lot of nonsense. In light of this last piece of evidence, it now makes perfect sense." He glanced over to Jason, and asked him to repeat his statement.

The Alterran got to his feet, and for the first time the Inquisitor saw the proud aristocrat who had been hiding within the frightened prisoner all these weeks. "The charges are true and they are not true. Accurate and erroneous. Deception and reality. I am guilty. And I am innocent."

The Doctor paused before saying, "My lord Inquisitor, the defense rests."

"Thank you, Doctor." Eustis turned toward the silent prosecutor. "Have you anything to say, Lord Fitzhugh?"

Even though he had been warned as to the content of the evidence, the prosecutor was still stunned by it. He took a moment to collect himself and gave a slight bow. "My lord, in light of this new evidence, the prosecution respectfully withdraws all charges against Crown Prince Jason of Tel-Shye," Fitzhugh said urbanely.

Eustis gave a small smile turning back to the Alterran Prince, who was standing erect, his head high. "Your royal highness, you are free to go with this court's apologies." He tapped his gavel on the desk. "We are adjourned." He rose to his feet but only received a bow from Fitzhugh.

On the defense side, Jason was receiving a hug from Mel. "I can't believe it's finally over," he sighed relievedly, stepping down from the prisoner's dock for the first time without having to wait for his shackles.

"Once Eustis makes this official, we can get you home," the Doctor said mildly.

"Yes." Jason looked in the direction of Eustis' chambers and held up a hand as a thought occurred to him. "There's something I need to do first," he said mysteriously and made straight for the door.

The Inquisitor was at his computer officially withdrawing all charges against the Crown Prince of Tel-Shye. The door to the courtroom suddenly opened and he glanced towards it, doing a double take when he saw the Prince himself on the threshold. Without realizing, he found himself rising to his feet. "Your royal highness?"

"I came to thank you, Cardinal," Jason said as he entered the room.

Eustis blinked. Considering all he had put him through, this was the last thing he expected to hear. "Thank me?"

The man's bewildered expression brought a smile to the Alterran's face. "For keeping an open mind, sticking to your values, and not giving in to the obvious pressure from the High Council," he said admiringly. The Doctor came up behind him and he nodded in his direction. "And for designating the most unorthodox defense council imaginable for me."

"And not putting you back in chains," the Doctor injected playfully.

"Yeah, that too," Jason grinned. He crossed to the desk and held out a hand. "Thank you for helping me get my life back, Cardinal Eustis."

Eustis looked at the outstretched hand and then up into the Prince's face. "I thought you had a problem with time auras?"

"I do." Jason threw a knowing look in the Doctor's direction. "But I don't have a problem with friends."

- THE END -


AUTHOR'S NOTE: I will be posting the story within the story - Mission: Eldeberon - in it's entirety. It is in chronological order and contains scenes that I could not use in the trial without giving the game away. It also combines the multiple points of view, including Trevor's.