Now dressed in some ill-fitting clothes Mickey had smuggled to him - some spare scrubs and a white coat -from the store cupboard. The Doctor made his way, bare-footed, down the corridor, his new friend intermittently supporting the still weak Timelord.
"Did I really say that to you," asked the Doctor.
"Yeah, but the other you was nicer. Not that I think your not great."
"I'm relived. I would like to think my possible alternate future selves would be improvements not a backward step. The TARDIS let you in then?"
"Rose, has a key. Her Doctor left it with her."
"Ah, and you borrowed it to go snooping?"
"I wasn't snooping. So how did you, you know-,"
"Fit it in the TARDIS…well everyone has their secrets and the old girl has plenty."
"Which way next," asked Mickey as they reached the lifts.
"I think back to the TARDIS, don't you?"
The Doctor leant for a moment against the wall, breathless, his legs still shaky as he waited for the lift doors to open.
"Are you alright," asked Mickey concerned.
"Never better. I will be quite fine in a moment. There are things to be achieved and standing around won't get them done. Come on."
Rose opened her eyes slowly at first, then wide. She could feel a pain in the back of her head where her assailant had struck her. She sat up with a groan bringing her hand to her head. She glanced around, the room didn't appear to be disturbed. Suddenly she felt a jolt of panic, and hastily delved into her pocket. The device it was gone. She searched the floor but it was nowhere to be seen. Scrabbling to her feet alarmed at the prospect of someone else getting hold of the device especially if there was a new gap appearing between the worlds. Rose picked up the phone and dialled a very important number.
Back down in the storage room where the TARDIS sat beside crates and other artefacts collected by Torchwood. This was the place where the disturbance was at its peak, the very fabric of time and space ripping apart at the seams. Soon it would be a big enough gap for him to use the device and escape his fate. Escape this world, the Time Lord's and rule the world that was on the other side. He would be glad to leave this reality and the Doctor to crash and burn. He held the device in his gloved hand glancing momentarily back at the TARDIS.
"Stop," yelled a familiar voice. Its tone was filled with authority. "Stop there!"
The Doctor stood in the door way his bearing aloof, noble. He strolled forward frowning trying not to show the fact he was in pain.
"You think you can stop me. Doctor," replied the Master. A look of incredulity written across his countenance. He laughed mockingly. "You're bleeding. I'm glad I didn't take your body after all."
The Doctor looked down his hand reaching for the wound and then he pulled his hand away. It was covered in blood.
"Chang Lee was an innocent, and you took what was not yours. Is there anything left in there of him after you compressed his mind?"
"Not a jot. You should try this whole mind transference it's so much easier than regeneration, plus you get to choose which body you get next. And now if you'll excuse me I have to be going."
"Wait! If you use that device you won't only destabilise this world but the one it's linked to. It's suicide."
"You would say that wouldn't you? It's your fault the fabric is ripped-,"
"How," asked Rose. She had entered unnoticed by another entrance and now stood the other side of the Master, her back resting against the TARDIS.
"Because he cheated, my child."
"I had no other choice," snapped the Doctor in reply. "There is a war on you know!"
"Of course there was another choice but you had to play the hero, save Gallifrey and all those pompous old farts. The people you defy yet seem so concerned to please."
"A life is a life, whomsoever it belongs to."
"Oh, how droll," the Master clapped slowly and sarcastically. "The Doctor, a philosopher."
"Do not mock me," he replied, having noticed that Rose had begun to move towards the Master. "If you hadn't made that bargain with the Dalek's they would never have found out the codes for the transduction barrier."
"Well, I'm more important than a couple of dusty clerks. Now I've waited long enough-,"
He lifted up the device and prepared to press the button when it was kicked out of his hands. It went skidding across the floor. He went to retrieve it when a fist impacted with his jaw.
"That is for knocking me out," said Rose.
The Master made to lunge at her but she dived out of the way, giving a swift chop to the back of his neck. He crumpled to the floor. Moments later Mickey, and Jake and his 'Taskforce' swamped the room.
"Could you for once arrive before the nick of time," quipped Rose, to Jake. She then turned to the Doctor. "You shouldn't be up."
"I know but I never was one to follow Doctor's orders," he smiled although it ended up more like a grimace. "I've got to close the rift before both worlds are pulled inside out."
"And how do you to do that?"
"I have to destroy it-,"
"You can't," said Mickey joining the conversation.
"I have to. The Master was right, it was cheating. Everything has its day, everything dies. It's time," the Doctor began to stagger towards the TARDIS, sad resignation in his eyes.
"What is or who is in there," asked Rose. "What's or who's had its day?"
"Tell her Doctor."
"Maybe you had better see for yourself," he patted his pocket absently. "I don't seem to have my key on me-,"
"Is this it," asked Mickey handing over the key. "Retrieved it from storage."
The Doctor took it from him; somehow that small piece of metal seemed so much heavier this time. He placed it in keyhole and turned the lock clicked and he pushed the door opened. It pained him to see the old girl in such a state. He led them through the corridors -their progress slow as he had to stop often to catch his breath and steel himself before continuing - towards the room.
When he opened the door he felt the same amount of awe as Rose and Mickey at the scene. Every time he saw it the majesty of it never ceased to amaze him.
"You have-, you have a-," stammered Rose.
"In the TARDIS?"
"I'm not quite sure myself; it was a flash of inspiration really."
"And are there-,"
"No. They fled before-,"
"I'm just saving it for them."
"So let's just clarify this, just you know so there is no confusion," said Rose.
"You have a PLANET in the TARDIS?"
"And that planet is?"
"In temporal stasis, taken out of the timelines, hidden from the enemy."
"I mean which planet is it?"
"Haven't you guessed yet," replied the Doctor.
"It's your home isn't it," said Mickey.
"Gallifrey." There were almost tears in his eyes. "Now I have to say goodbye forever."
"I can't keep it in the TARDIS its putting enough strain on the timelines as it is. That's why the rift opened at a weak point. I either must restore it to its rightful place and see it destroyed by the Dalek's, or destroy it myself. Not much of a choice."
The Doctor began to press a series of buttons on the console in front of him.
"What are you doing?"
"Setting the sequence that will jettison Gallifrey into the void and disengage the stasis field."
"Are you sure this is the only way," asked Rose placing a hand on his shoulder.
"Time is running out and this is what must happen. At least my fellow Time Lord's were able to flee, maybe they'll find a new world to colonise I don't know. All I know is it is my duty to preserve lives."
He held his hand, hesitating, above the large red button which would initiate the process. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."
Rose laid her hand on his.
"Let me take some of the responsibility," she said as they pressed the button together.
Meanwhile in the storage room the Master had come round. He could see the device only a few feet from him on the floor. He lay still biding his time hoping the soldiers would still think him unconscious. Then suddenly dived for the device scooping it into his hands taking the soldiers by surprise. Before they could open fire he pressed the bright yellow button. Too late he realised his mistake, the rift was closing rapidly and the transportation device only had half its power left after 25 years in Rose's desk. His cry echoed round the room as he disappeared into the void.
The Doctor, Rose and Mickey emerged from the TARDIS. Jake immediately informed them about what had happened.
"So he just disappeared. What should we do?"
"He won't be any trouble anymore," said the Doctor, with a sigh.
"Put it in your report," said Rose. "Dismissed."
"Yes, Ma'm," replied Jake.
He saluted then led his troops out of the room.
"So-," she said.
"More travelling I suppose," replied the Doctor, already starting to feel a little better.
"You don't want to stay and recuperate with us do you," suggested Mickey.
"No, its time I went."
"You wouldn't-, oh, its silly…you wouldn't want a travelling companion would you?"
Rose looked at him expectantly, hoping he would say yes but at the same time, knowing she was needed here. It was selfish of her to want her old life back, to leave Mickey, and her mum and dad.
Her heart sunk. It must have shown on her face.
"But two travelling companions, that would be fine," the Doctor grinned. He had seen both their expressions. "Before we go any chance of picking up some spares?"
He started to rummage through the crates. "I think the old girl is going to need a refurbishment. Oh, and some new clothes wouldn't go amiss."
"You really are the Doctor," she said. "No matter which world you come from, you're still the same."
This story continues in 'Firestar'.