Borrowed Time
By Nix Nada

Online. Position: aboard TARDIS, relative external coordinates unknown. Attitude: Seated. Performance: 98.2 percent of peak efficiency – within acceptable parameters.

Room: 9.8 units by 9.9 units. White walls – 5 units high. Unbroken roundel design. Double door adjacent, opening inwards. Bipedal life form, designation: the Doctor. Dress: early 20th Century Earth, cricket apparel.

"Doctor. I have not seen you in some time. I was beginning to think you had forgotten about me."

"Er, yes. Sorry Kamelion. I've been meaning to look in on you, but you know how things are. Look, I won't beat about the bush. I have a job for you, if you wouldn't mind. Nothing dangerous, I assure you. Just a little task."

"I am always at your disposal, Doctor. That is my programming."

"Not at all, Kamelion. If you don't want to volunteer I can always find another way. I would never use your programming to coerce you."

"And yet you bring your request knowing that I am unable to refuse it."

"You're right. I'm sorry. I should never have brought this to you."

"I was merely making a logical observation. Make your request. I choose to assist."

Hesitation. Reluctance.

"Please, Doctor. Make your request."

"Alright. I want to make it perfectly clear that there is to be no danger involved here. If you get into any trouble, I want you to save yourself. Make that your first priority."

"I do not understand. I will be unaccompanied? What if I were to encounter one who wished to command me? Their will would overwhelm me in an instant."

"I think I have a way around that. I took this from the TARDIS' telepathic circuits. It's encoded with my personality patterns. It should give you everything you need to impersonate me and to function autonomously. And if it works, we can look into making it permanent. Not with you being me, of course, but we could possibly work out an amalgam with your core programming. But that's a thought for later. For now, let's see how it goes. I'll just plug it in – there."


…I am the Doctor.

I look down at my body, watching it shimmer. Of course, I've seen myself change numerous times – my chameleonic projection is not dissimilar to the physical alterations of regeneration and I have memory of both – and yet I am fascinated. I hold up my hands before my eyes and watch my metal skin dissolve into soft pink flesh.

I am so mesmerised that I forget that I am not alone until someone clears their throat.

I look up to see a young man with dusty blonde hair, wearing striped flannel trousers and a beige jacket.

"Very good, Kamelion," he says, and then pauses for a moment. "However, I'd rather you changed to resemble my current incarnation, if you could."

I look down at myself and laugh. "I'm not used to having a choice," I tell him, truthfully. With a thought, I scan the telepathic circuit briefly and soon resemble the man before me exactly.

The man goes on to tell me the details of my mission. He is to play the part of the decoy, drawing the attention of some dire enemy, while I deliver a speech to the president of the planet blah blah blah…

I can hardly listen. It is all so inconsequential next to the feelings that run through my body. My feelings, not those of another! The chameleonic process has never been like this before. This is no imposition of will, master over slave. I have complete control over every aspect of my being. I want to run out of the TARDIS and proclaim into the vortex: "I am the Doctor and I am free!"

"All of time and space is mine," I whisper, lost in wonder at the thought.

The man before me looks worried. "Kamelion," he says, "you need to stay focussed; remember who you are."

"Please, don't worry. I know exactly who I am," I say, getting to my feet. I grab the man enthusiastically by the upper arms. "I am the Doctor!"

Whirling him around, I race past him, out into the corridor. I hear him shouting to Kamelion behind me, but I am caught up in the exhilaration of movement. I fancy I can almost feel twin hearts pumping in my chest as I run.

I sprint into the console room, past a young woman in a loose, brightly-coloured blouse.

"Doctor!" she cries, startled, as I pass. "What's wrong?"

Ignoring her, I play my hands across the TARDIS controls, setting course at random. Travel, that's the thing! See the sights, save the world, and home in time for tea! Behind me, my double runs into the room.

"Okay," says the woman, "now I'm really confused. Would one of you Doctors mind telling me what's going on?"

"No time, Tegan," I tell her, flipping another switch, sending the ship rocketing through space. "We've got places to be!"

"Kamelion," shouts my doppelganger, "you have to stop!"

"How can I?" I yell back, joyously. "Could you?"

"That's Kamelion?" says Tegan. "What's got into him?"

"The telepathic circuit can't cope with the stress," says my double. "It's burning out."

I do feel odd; drained, somehow. I wave a finger at him.

"Now, now, you're just trying to confuse me," I say. "It won't work, you know. I've been confused by the best of them."

"Kamelion, listen. Pay attention to the sound of my voice. You must focus."

I laugh, but it sounds hollow. "My voice, you mean…" I mutter. Speaking up, I add, "I won't be caged again. You, of all people, should understand that. To go back to how I was before, to be trapped, to give up the totality of time and space? I must be free – free to explore, free to experience life in all its forms – to meet people, to help them."

I turn away from the console and grip the man's lapels. "You understand, don't you?" I say, aware that my voice has dropped to a harsh whisper. "I know you do. You wouldn't go back. Steal a TARDIS and see the universe. Save the world, save all of the worlds, because that's what being the Doctor is all about."

"You have to let me go on," I beg, as my legs buckle beneath me. "Please."

"I'm sorry, Kamelion," replies the Doctor, sounding heartbroken. "The circuit is almost completely burned out. It contained the sum of my recorded memory patterns while aboard the TARDIS. It would literally take a lifetime to make another."


Chameleonic reversal started; reverting to original form.

"Forgive me."

Online. Position: TARDIS console room. External TARDIS coordinates: unknown, random flight initiated. Attitude: Kneeling. Performance: 96.8 percent of peak efficiency – within acceptable parameters.