Brief summary: Takes place during the of events of the third series episode, The Sound of the Drums, written by Russell T. Davies. The Doctor is reunited with the TARDIS.
The Doctor, Captain Jack Harkness and Martha Jones sprinted along a lengthy corridor aboard the Valiant, each caught up in their own thoughts and emotions. The Master, posing as Prime Minister Harold Saxon, was aboard, along with the American President and entourage to greet the Toclafane. Also on board was Martha's family, being held against their will, being used to try and keep Martha at bay.
Suddenly, a very familiar presence touched the Doctor's mind. It was almost a caress, a touch from afar, but the Time Lord sensed it nonetheless.
His trainers clattered on the grated flooring as he pulled himself to a halt beside a stairwell that led further into the bowels of the Valiant. Jack and Martha also stopped, both obviously wondering what was going on, but plainly anxious to avoid any delays.
"Doctor, we have no time to sightsee!" Jack reprimanded.
"No, wait, sh, sh, sh!" The Doctor held up a hand, head cocked as if listening to something the others couldn't pick up. The faint tones again touched his inner being as well as his mind. "Don't you hear it?"
"Hear what?" Jack whispered urgently.
The Doctor continued to concentrate, sending tendrils of thought towards the presence. Is that you, old girl?
A pause. Then: Doctor.
Martha impatiently turned to continue down the corridor. "Doctor, my family's on board!"
"Brilliant!" A wide grin spread across the Gallifreyan's boyish face. He glanced down the stairwell, then swung himself onto the stairs. "This way!" he encouraged, not bothering to see if his friends followed. Seconds later, their clattering footsteps told him they had. At the bottom of the stairway, another long, steamy corridor stretched before them. Without a moment's hesitation, TARDIS keys jaggling around their necks, the trio raced down the pipe-lined passageway to its end: the pair of metal doors.
The Doctor threw open the unlocked doors with a harsh squeal. His face brightened considerably as he spied the TARDIS nestled amongst some machinery. He whooped with sheer delight. "Oh, at last!" Martha's shout of joy echoed in his ears as he sprinted towards his lost ship.
"What's she doing on the Valiant?" the former time agent wondered aloud as he brought up the rear. The statement was lost on his exuberant friends.
The Doctor flung open the doors to his beloved TARDIS and excitedly entered, his two companions right behind him. The joyous grin dropped from the older man's face as his brown eyes took in the console room. The glow of red emergency lighting bathed the room, giving the sight before him an almost surreal appearance: what had been the TARDIS's control console was now a mish-mash of machinery spliced and welded together. Pipes ran at various angels, connected to strange boiler-like apparatus. Cabling hung like looping spider webs all over the room. The time rotor, red replacing its usual bluish hue, stood silent in the middle of the mass of metal construct; a metallic grate enclosed the area, effectively blocking any contact by interferring--specifically the Doctor's--hands. The Cloister Bell's insistant tolling added to the surreal atmosphere.
Due to the close proximity, the caress that had touched the Time Lord's mind earlier was now a dreadful wail.
Pain! Pain! Doctor! Wrong! Danger! Pain!
No! the Doctor hollered silently, taking in the massive changes that had been made to his ship. That the time machine was only speaking to him in single words wasn't lost to the centuries-old Time Lord. It took a great deal of the Doctor's reserve not to react outwardly to what his mind was picking up. What's he done to you, old girl?!
Help! Danger! Pain!
"What the hell's he done?" Jack's voice sliced through the Doctor's, and the TARDIS's, distress.
"Don't touch it!"
"I'm not going to."
"What's he done, though?" Martha asked, still standing disbelieving near the doorway. "It sounds like its... sick."
The Doctor was circling the cage that kept him from what was left of the main console. He recognized the configuration of the machinery that lay within. "It can't be," he stated through through clenched teeth, denying what his eyes were telling him. "No, no, no, no, no, no, it can't be!"
Martha stepped forward, though she continued to stare at the contraption that had once been a tempermental time machine. The death knell sound of the Cloister Bell was beginning to wear on her already frazzled nerves. "Doctor, what is it?"
"He's cannibalized the TARDIS!"
Danger! Pain! Doctor!
Jack circled the console from the opposite direction to stand next to his friend. "Is this what I think it is?"
The Doctor was looking upward, at the foreign cables that had invaded his time machine. "It's a Paradox Machine!" As he spoke aloud, he also reached out with his mind. Steady on, old girl! I'm here!
"A what?" Martha wanted to know, but both men were too caught up in their own thoughts to answer.
Jack was studying the intricate machinery, searching for a hint why the Master would have done this terrible thing to the Doctor's TARDIS. What could the man possibly gain by creating a Paradox Machine? That it had something to do with manipulating time was obvious, but beyond that, the immortal human was clueless.
Doctor! Pain! Danger!
A deep sadness filled the Doctor's brown eyes. He could feel the TARDIS's pain, hear her mental cries for help beyond the Cloister Bell's tolling... he had only himself to blame for his ship's suffering. He'd let the Master get inside her and use her like this; make her into this mockery of what it meant to be as a ship of a Lord of Time. Oblivious to everything else around him for the moment, he stepped forward and gently touched the grating that separated him from what was left of his time machine's main console. He mentally directed reassuring vibes to his beloved ship.
I'm sorry, old girl. This is my fault.
A soft, loving hum vibrated through his fingers. No.
The Doctor swallowed, eyes misting. He didn't deserve his ship's forgiveness. It is. I'm so very sorry. I'll make it right. I'll make you right again.
I know! I know! The Doctor paused as Jack interrupted.
"Doctor, it looks like there's a clock or timer just here."
The Time Lord spared a quick glance at the device his friend indicated before turning his thoughts once again to his TARDIS. Trust me, old girl?
Always. A brief flare of affection passed through the Gallifreyan's being. You are my Doctor.
Then I have to ask you to hang on just a little while longer. We have to find out what the Master's up to before we can undo what he's done. Then we -- I -- can make you right again. I promise.
Stepping back from the barrier, moist eyes hardening with determination, he stated aloud, "I promise."
Ignoring his friends' questioning looks at the words spoken aloud, the Doctor turned to examine the piece of equipment Jack had pointed out, but not without one last thought to his most constant companion: I promise!