ALONE WITH MY MEMORIES
By Lorraine Anderson
The elderly lady sat in the ergonomic, comfort-equipped wheelchair and fidgeted. The attendant was at her side in a moment.
She waved the attendant away with an impatient hand, then smiled to remove the sting. "No, Susie," she whispered, once again shifting herself. "I'm fine." She sat back, trying to get comfortable, and looked at the stage. The show was "Cats", and she had so wanted to see the play again, volunteering eagerly when the staff of the Home organized this outing. She thought it would give her aching heart a short rest.
God, she had forgotten about Grizabella's theme... "Memory." "Touch me/it's so easy to leave me/alone with my memories/of my days in the sun." What a story to show old people. She cast a short thought back to her own days in the sun, then shook her head. What was past... was past.
"Cats" was rather a quaint production in this time. She had seen the new productions, with anti-grav devices and other special effects to make the dancers jump a little farther, the effects a little bigger -- but this production was a throw-back to the old days. Her day. The days when she was vital and strong and braving adventures, seeking things out, and didn't need an attendant and a self-aware chair to help her do everything but use the bathroom and administer drugs to keep the arthritis pain in check.
Damn it, she had made her pulse go up again. She could feel Susie's eyes focus on her BP monitor, attached to the back of her chair, and she forced herself to breathe deeply, softly, calming herself down.
She heard a small disturbance behind her, ignored it. Probably Miles acting up again, poor man. She had been mildly acquainted with him when they were both young, when he had been all smiles and sharp looks and a mischievous glint in his eye. He still had his good days, but the only thing left now was the mischievousness. No doubt they would have to take him to the lobby and walk him up and down to tire him out.
Wish she could walk.
She looked down at her bony hands. Were the blue veins getting more prominent? How could they? Her head was still down when someone slipped beside her and put a hand on her shoulder. She looked up, indignant at the liberty --
-- up into a face that was all curls and smiles and teeth.
She grinned. "Oh, Doctor. You remembered."
Sarah Jane sat on her bed in the Tardis and stared at the walls. The only problem with traveling in the Tardis was that travel was either all activity -- generally death defying -- or it was deadly dull. For one thing, the Tardis didn't have windows. When she suggested some to the Doctor, he stared at her and said, "For Time's sake, what would you see?" Then he switched on the outside viewscreen. After a second of staring at gut churning nothingness, she had to concede the point.
He then introduced her to a medium called videos -- small, tiny disks that she poked into a slot in the wall in the rec room. She was astounded to see the opening credits of "Singing in the Rain" pop up on the screen. He then showed her how to control the picture -- simple commands like "start" and "stop." But when she asked him why he didn't put voice controls on the Tardis proper, he clammed up and got a faraway look in his eye.
So she shut up.
Still, she didn't feel like a movie right now. She was very careful not to watch movies past her own time, even though the musical detailing the life of Evita Peron looked interesting -- and she had seen all the ones she wanted to see. She thought about a book, but decided she didn't have enough energy to get one.
The Doctor poked his shaggy head in the open door. "Sarah Jane," he said with preamble. "I've been thinking about a new look."
Sarah smiled. "And good morning to you, too, Doctor."
"What do you think?" He withdrew his head and posed in the doorway.
She started laughing, rolling over onto her side. "I think a paintpot exploded!" The Doctor was wearing a deep purple suit, a silver lamè tie, and a deep red shirt.
The Doctor looked crestfallen. "So, you don't think that's a good look for me? Looked great on an old friend."
"No," she giggled, then gasped as her bed lurched to one side.
"I believe the Tardis has landed," the Doctor said, and disappeared out the door. After a second, he poked his head back in. "Are you coming?"
Sarah had rolled off her bed and was picking up her shoes. With a groan, she jammed them on. "Yes, Doctor."
He disappeared and she followed, limping until she finally got her heel jammed into her shoe. When she emerged into the control room, he was pressing buttons and looking alarmed.
"What's wrong, Doctor!" Feeling as useless as ever, she stood by the Doctor, trying to see what he was seeing, yet trying to stay out of the way.
"We don't seem to have fully materialized," he muttered, glancing up at the screen. She looked up. Periods of nothingness alternated with a pastoral scene of columns and fountains, and vaguely Greek looking buildings.
"Something's blocking us. But the Tardis has a few tricks up its sleeve." He pushed more buttons, then, looking frustrated, gave the control panel a smack. The center column went up once, twice, then was still. Sarah looked at the screen. The picture had settled down.
"Or maybe something's going wrong in the Tardis again." The Doctor muttered, taking a quick glance under the control panel. He pushed at something, then straightened up. "There."
"Where are we, Doctor?" Sarah said, not really expecting an answer.
He studied the screen intently. "I believe... we are on Enoria."
Sarah craned around so she could look the Doctor in the face. "You... think?"
"The buildings are Enorian, the atmosphere is Enorian -- but there are no people." He stared at the picture. "And we're in the main galleria in the city of Koosh in the middle of the day."
Sarah shook her head.
"Maybe they're closed."
"Enoria never closes." He pulled the lever to open the door and strode purposefully out.
"But, Doctor," she protested, then sighed. He had gone out without his coat and scarf. Not that he would need it or would care -- even though the natives probably were laughing themselves silly -- but if he had emerged into a dangerous situation, he had just left without a thing in his pockets. Including his Jelly Babies and his Sonic Screwdriver.
She took a chance and ran back to his room. His greatcoat was laid on his bed, the scarf beside it, and his pants were folded over an egyptian bench. She grabbed the items out of the trousers pockets, stuffed it into the greatcoat and grabbed the scarf. She then ran down the hall, hoping he hadn't gone too far.
She found the Doctor circling a fountain and peering down the streets that spoked away from the center. It looked somewhat like an English roundabout, and she felt a small pang of homesickness.
"No one," he said to himself, shaking his shaggy head. "Not a person." He finally noticed Sarah, who was panting slightly from carrying the heavy coat. "Oh. Thank you," he said absently, then slowly put the coat on, and throwing the scarf around so it almost draped into the fountain.
"Have you looked inside the houses?" Sarah said.
He looked at her. "Enoria is a tourist colony. A pleasure colony, if you will. They wouldn't be home in the middle of the day."
"They may be hiding."
"Possibly. But what would make them do that?" He got up purposely and strode down a street. "I used to have a young acquaintance who lived around here."
Sarah ran to catch up. "And how long ago was that, Doctor?" In spite of the situation, she had to smile. The Doctor occasionally had lapses when he didn't know quite when he was -- mostly when he hadn't bothered to look -- and had looked up acquaintances only to find they had died the century before.
The Doctor stopped, looked stricken, then brightened and waggled his finger at her. "Four years ago, local time. Impertinent of you to think I hadn't looked at the chronometer."
"How about in Tardis time?"
"Six years ago."
"Six years ago," Sarah said, looking at the closed and shuttered houses. "You were wearing a different face."
"Jazel -- all Enorians -- know about Time Lords."
"Ah." Sarah was going to trip up the Doctor someday. Not today, obviously. Then she wondered just how a pleasure planet would know about Time Lords... something worth pursuing someday...
The Doctor stopped in front of a house much like the rest. He shook his head, then knocked on the door.
Silence. Then a thin voice form inside. "Go away."
The Doctor knocked harder. "Jazel?"
"For your own safety, go away. Far away from this planet."
"You know I don't discourage that easily, Jazel. Don't you remember when I saved you from the Rof?"
"Doctor?" The voice brightened. A moment of silence. "You should still go away. I don't want you to catch my disease."
Disease? Sarah thought.
"I want to help."
"Do you have a cure for a virus?"
The Doctor cocked his head. "Sometimes."
"The door opened slowly. "Stand back," the voice said before the door was fully opened.
Sarah Jane obediently retreated; the Doctor stepped back, then held his ground.
"As you will." The door opened to reveal a handsome woman in late middle age. Sarah looked her up and down. She looked fine. Her hair was in disarray and she was obviously wearing a bathrobe, but there was no sign of sickness.
The Doctor's eyes widened. "What has happened, Jazel?"
Jazel frowned. "I don't know. You know as much as I do. The city council thinks it's a virus."
"I hate to sound ignorant," Sarah said, "but what is the problem?"
Jazel bowed her head. The Doctor looked at Sarah sharply, then his eyes softened. "Of course. There is no way for you to know."
"Four years ago, Jazel was just becoming a young adult."
Sarah looked at Jazel, shocked, then pressed her lips together. Anything she could say seemed so... inadequate. "I'm sorry," she finally stammered.
A tear trickled down Jazel's face.
"May we come in?" the Doctor said gently.
Jazel stiffened, then her eyes misted over again and she led the way in. Moving across the living room, she gently closed what was obviously a bedroom door. Sarah glimpsed two skeletons stretched out on a bed.
"Your grandparents," the Doctor said gently.
Jazel nodded tightly, then rushed at the Doctor, sobbing. Awkwardly, the Doctor put his arms around her, stroking her hair until she settled down. She then pulled away, smiling sadly at the Doctor.
"Well," he said, sitting in a chair by a window -- which promptly collapsed underneath him. Sarah stifled a giggle. He sat in the ruins, nonplussed, then plucked at the fabric of the chair. He nodded as it tore readily, then he looked up. "When did this epidemic start?"
"About two days ago."
"And did it seem to follow the sun?"
Jazel looked puzzled. "I don't quite understand, Doctor."
"Did it spread across the planet from East to West?"
Jazel thought. "It did -- I had forgotten."
"Why is everyone inside?"
"Because people seem to age faster in the sun..." She looked at the Doctor with a suddenly bemused look on her face.
The Doctor scrambled up. "This is no epidemic. This is something caused externally. Your houses are made of an artificial material, but your furniture is organic, isn't it?"
"Yes." She looked down at the chair, comprehension dawning. "It's not a virus, or else the chair wouldn't have collapsed."
"Then," said the Doctor, "I would suggest we find out exactly what is set up in the general direction of your sun."
Jazel shrank back. "Do I have to go outside?"
The Doctor smiled gently. "Not if you don't want to." He looked around. "Actually, I was thinking more of using your videophone."
Jazel looked abashed. "Oh. Of course."
"And a directory."
Jazel moved to the phone. "It's on line. But you probably won't get anybody. What about Tapestry?"
Sarah had stayed out of the conversation, feeling somewhat like a cross between an intruder in a mausoleum and piece of furniture. But she couldn't let this pass. "Tapestry?"
"Like Terra's Internet."
"Internet." Sarah wrinkled her nose.
The Doctor looked at her, then moved to the screen. "Ah. Too early... it's like your computer bulletin boards." He spoke at the screen. "Tapestry!"
The Doctor looked at Jazel. "Teen talk," she blushed. Sarah remembered suddenly that Jazel was a teen, and not the older lady she appeared to be.
"Access current solar system information."
A picture map of Enoria's system popped onto the screen.
"Ten thousand known. List, bodo?"
The Doctor raised his eyebrows.
"'Friend'," Jazel translated.
"Anomalies, past week."
"Three known, two explained."
"List unknown anomaly."
The voice changed, sounding to Sarahlike something she would hear on the evening news. "A carrier wave of an unknown type has been detected emanating from the planet Selif. Selif authorities were questioned, but admitted to being baffled. Since the carrier wave seems to be harmless, the anomaly has been dismissed."
"Bad move," Sarah said.
"Agreed." The Doctor turned around. "I believe we should give the Selif government a call."
"Doctor... where is Selif?"
"Selif is Enoria's parent planet... the fourth planet out. They provide Enoria with the more... necessary items, such as food, for a cut of the profits. Inefficent, but they wanted to keep Enoria pastoral."
Jazel got a funny look on her face. "You're going to drop in on the Selif government?"
"Of course," the Doctor said, already striding out the door. "The ruler is an old friend of mine. Are you coming?"
"I think," Jazel looked to the bedroom, "I think I should stay here." Her eyes filled.
The Doctor took her by the shoulders, then awkwardly gave her a hug. "We'll be back soon... come, Sarah Jane. I want to see this old friend."
The two looked down at the skeleton collapsed in the regal chair. Sarah touched the Doctor's sleeve. "I'm sorry."
The Doctor sighed. "He wasn't that old a friend."
"Doctor! That's not funny."
The Doctor looked at her with a puzzled look. "What's not funny?" He walked off, a blank look on his face, then he shook his head. "I have to find someone..." Sarah saw him look at a corner, and she saw a man she hadn't seen before.
"You!" the Doctor yelled. "What's going on here?"
The man burrowed into the corner, glancing at them occasionally over his shoulder.
Sarah Jane glanced at the throne, glared at the Doctor, then strolled slowly towards the man. She knelt down beside him, putting a hand on his shoulder. He flinched back, then smiled back at Sarah.
"Hi. My name is Sarah Jane. What's your name?"
He looked back at the Doctor. "Zannie. Prince Zannie," he whispered.
"And how old are you, Zannie?"
Sarah nodded at the Doctor. He looked away, a slight look of shame on his face, then he looked blank again, then slightly puzzled. "Doctor?"
He shook his head again. "Yes, Sarah Jane?"
"Are you all right?"
"I... think that whatever is going on here is affect..." He looked blank again, then continued. "...affecting me. Affecting me in a different way than you."
Startled, Sarah looked at her hands. They looked the same, and she ignored the last comment. "We had better go back to the Tardis."
"No." He shook his head and smiled. "I'll be all right. I just have to keep concentrating."
Sarah stared at him closely, then turned her attention back to the boy. "What happened, Zannie?"
"Everybody got old." He looked at the chair, and a tear trickled down his face. "That's my Grandfather."
Sarah hugged the boy.
"Ask him about the machine," the Doctor murmured.
Machine? Sarah looked at the Doctor. "Zannie," Sarah said, blocking his view of his Grandfather. "Do you know what caused this?"
"A machine. A big machine old Reboco made." He shivered. "I heard Papa talking. He told Mama that everybody who got near it got old and died real fast and that it was his duty to try, 'cause he could run faster than everybody else."
"Where's your mama?"
"Sleeping. She sleeps a lot!"
"Can you take us to her?"
Zannie looked up at Sarah, then nodded. He got up, then looked surprised that he was taller then both Sarah and the Doctor. He giggled, then looked over at his Grandfather. A tear trickled down his cheek, and Sarah patted his shoulder. "This way, Sarah Jane."
The boy led them down numerous empty corridors to the sleeping chambers. An elderly woman laid in bed, and, for a moment, Sarah thought they were too late and gasped.
The woman opened her eyes. "Zannie. You brought the Doctor," she whispered. "It's been a long time." She looked alarmed. "You need to get away!" The boy sat on her bed and tried to smooth her hair.
"Hobah," the Doctor said. "We need to stop this... horror. What... can you tell us?"
The woman looked at Sarah. "It seems to affect him differently," Sarah explained. She put a hand out to the woman, glancing automatically at it. Did her hand look older? No, it wasn't her imagination. Her fingers were definitely twisting, and they suddenly hurt. She exhaled, a sudden feeling of panic going over her. "It seems to be starting on me!"
The Doctor glanced at Sarah and put his hand on top of hers. "Hobah. Tell us about the machine."
Hobah looked back at the Doctor. "Do you remember Reboco?"
"Young man. Inventor. Ambitious. I... warned him about being too ambitious."
"He had many good ideas. A lot of our newer technology can be traced to his ideas." She shut her eyes. "He had an abiding hatred towards the Enorians, though, for some reason. None of us were quite sure why."
"I... knew. His mother was Enorian. I'll tell you... later."
"If we're alive," Hobah smiled, and tried to move herself up on the bed. "We never knew that he had gone mad. Father," she shook her head. "Not my father, the King... gave him complete freedom and a laboratory of his own. After all, he was an icon. Could do no wrong. Nobody supervised him. Anyway, his notes were very explicit. He wanted to rid Enoria of 'its human rubbish.' Cleanse Enoria so that we could colonize it to start over again. His words." Her lips were tight. "He was the first to go. He was, we think, standing next to the machine when he was powering it up for Enoria's final blast, and..."
Sarah shivered. "I get the idea."
"There seems to be an area of high concentration surrounding the machine, up to about seven feet away. The whole planet is affected, to varying degrees. Enoria?"
The Doctor nodded. "Enoria, too, although slower, I think."
She closed her eyes. "It's on an independent power source... atomics, which is why no one wanted to bomb it. So we tried sending people to turn it off." She started weeping. "We lost..."
"Zannie told us."
She smiled through her tears. "You're a good boy, Zannie," she smiled.
He smiled back, and continued to stroke her white hair.
"I have a copy here, on the nightstand. They didn't want to give them to me, but I insisted." Her mouth twisted ruefully. "After all, I was an engineer before I married into the family."
The Doctor smiled. "Yes... you are." He reached for the notes.
"What do you think you'll find, Doctor?" Sarah said.
"Why... the off switch, of course!" His eyes regained their normal sharpness. "Sarah Jane, I'm the only one who can turn this off. You'll stay here with Hobah."
Sarah looked at him. "But, Doctor..."
The Doctor closed his eyes. "Tired." Then he opened his eyes with a snap and focused strongly on Sarah. "I don't age the way you do, Sarah. Therefore, I'm... the logical one to turn the machine off."
"But... Doctor, this thing is draining your intelligence. Will you be able to concentrate that close to the machine?"
"I... think so. You need to stay here."
"Uh, huh." Sarah Jane glanced at Hobah, who shook her head. "I don't think so. We're agreed. I have to come with you."
"Unthinkable. I don't know what it will do to you."
"You don't know what it will do to you!"
"I... have a good idea."
"I'm not going to argue with you. I'm coming." She looked down at her twisting fingers. As far as I'm able, she thought to herself.
"All right, Sarah Jane." She saw the fight drain out of the Doctor's eyes, and that scared her more than anything she had seen so far.
He gazed into the distance. Sarah looked over his shoulder at the notes, then poked the Doctor. "Doctor, I can't read this script. What do we do?"
"Oh," he refocused, then looked at the notes.
"Page 20," Hobah said quietly. Her eyes were half-closed. "Reboco was always one for keeping things simple. You just have to pull the red knob." She opened her eyes. "We think the shielding went. An eyewitness said that he looked fine for about 30 seconds, then..." She swallowed. "The shielding seems to be strongest on the south side, but the knob is on the north. It's locked down by a key that Reboco kept on him..." She reached over to her nightstand and handed the key to the doctor. "We couldn't send robots in because they broke down. We couldn't use poles because the damn thing was locked." She looked at the Doctor with fire in her eyes. "I never did warm towards Reboco." She shook her head, and the fire died. "Do you know the way?"
The Doctor looked at Sarah. "I do. One block to the North, in the Industries building, up in the second floor." He gave the notes to Sarah. "Here is what the... machine looks like, Sarah." He pointed to a certain spot. "The knob is in red. It... seems to be the only red knob on there." He smiled. "Green for go; red for stop." His eyes unfocused again.
She grabbed his arm. "Let's go, before I lose my nerve."
"All right. You lead me. I'm going... to conserve my strength." His eyes unfocused and he looked slightly puzzled.
"Good luck," Hobah said. "I wish I could help..." She was asleep. Her son smiled down at her.
"We'll need it," Sarah whispered. "Take care of your Mommy, Zannie."
"I will." The man... the boy smiled at her.
Sarah led the Doctor out of the room, only pausing a second at the mirror. She didn't look too bad... maybe a young fifty, but her joints were starting to hurt. She seemed to be aging faster than the Enorians. Figures. Was this a sign of things to come?
Not if she didn't get that machine turned off. Otherwise old age would overcome her before she knew it. She smiled at the irony. She used to fear old age. Now that old age was staring her in the face, she didn't fear it at all. Death, on the other hand...
She hurried the Doctor out of the room, and found the exit to the building without too much trouble. Now, which way was North?
"That way," the Doctor said, then he relapsed.
"Thank you, Doctor," she muttered, then looked around and shivered. The street was empty. Were the locals dead, or just incapacitated? Or had they evacuated the city? She had forgotten to ask, and perhaps that was just as well. They didn't have the time. The time! Sarah giggled. She had thought she had all the time in the world. She was young, she was pretty... and now her mortality was staring her in the face. God, what if the effect wasn't reversible?
She stopped dead. She hadn't thought of that before. Was her youth irretrievably gone? What would she be getting into when she walked into the room that held the machine? Would she be an old lady?
She shook her head and started walking for the building again. Zannie. She had to think of Zannie and those like him. Even if they were robbed of their youth, at least they would have some years ahead of them. And if she were scared of death, she would have stayed home. She wouldn't be gallivanting all over the cosmos with the Doctor.
She smiled and her step grew more determined. Looking up, she saw that she was in front of the Industries building... at least, it looked like the Industries building. "Doctor?"
"... Yes, Sarah Jane."
"Is this the Industries building?"
The Doctor looked up slowly. "Yes, Sarah." She wondered for a moment if he was agreeing or just responding, then he went on. "The laboratory is on the second floor. He's probably got the machine aimed through a skylight."
"Yes, Doctor." With a determined look, she opened the door, and looked around for stairs. Even better, there was an elevator, and the power was still on. She led the Doctor on, then pushed the second button up. Nothing happened. Swearing under her breath, she pressed the third button. She had forgotten about a basement.
The elevator moved up slowly, then the doors opened. Almost with a physical force, she felt the field hit her, bend her over, but she walked on. She felt the Doctor start to lead, striding down the hall as if he were back to normal.
He grabbed the door as if it were the exit to a burning building, then pushed her to one side of the room. She looked over at the machine and saw that the red switch was to the side facing them. The machine was humming loudly, almost painfully, to her ears.
Her eyes started to blur. She wondered why until she looked down at her hands. Age spots. Her hands had age spots. She flexed her hands and winced at the pain. Then, ignoring her hands and various other aches that had suddenly blossomed in her joints, she squinted towards the Doctor.
He was leaning forward as he walked towards the machine... and he was slowing. She could hear him muttering to himself: "Pull the red knob. Pull... the red... knob." Three feet from the machine, he suddenly stopped and shivered.
"Doctor? What is it?"
He didn't respond.
"Doctor. Turn around."
He turned slowly, and Sarah saw the vacant expression on his face as he looked blankly at her, then looked down at his fingers and suddenly shoved a thumb in his mouth.
"Oh, God." Sarah's hand flew up towards him, as if to push him away. If the Doctor couldn't fight this, then the population of two planets were completely doomed. She looked down at her hands and arms. Gnarled, wizened, twisted. One hand crept towards her face. Rather than the smooth skin she was used to encountering, she felt wrinkled skin. She could only assume the rest of her body was as old as her face. No, she wouldn't survive a mad rush towards the machine, herself.
But... she looked at the Doctor speculatively. "Doctor. Take the key out of your pocket."
Slowly, his hand crept towards his pocket, then pulled out the Tardis key. Not exactly what she meant, but at least she established that he could still follow commands. She hoped that meant that it wasn't his intelligence that was affected, but his intellectual volition... which meant he couldn't think, but could still react. "No, Doctor. Throw the Tardis Key towards me." He did so, and the key skittered towards her feet. At least, if she couldn't get the machine stopped and something happened to the Doctor, she might be able to round up some people and take them out with the Tardis... if she could get the Tardis started. "Take the other key out of your pocket. Keep it in your hand." He did so.
Sarah felt some weakness in her legs and suddenly staggered. "Damn," she muttered to herself, then lowered herself slowly to the floor, back to the wall. Then she faced the Doctor, and in a voice that sounded weak to even her, started to direct him again. "Arrange the key like you were putting it into a lock... that's it. Turn back towards the machine." If they ever got out of this one, he was never going to live this down. She laughed nervously. Gallows humor. No, there was no time for humor. "Doctor, walk towards the machine... stop!" He had almost ran into the machine. "Crouch." That should put the knob about eye level. She saw him crouch down, then saw the back of his coat split. Good God, his clothing must be part organic. She hoped briefly he wouldn't end up naked from his exertions. "Put key in lock." Her eyes blurred again, but she thought he had done it right. "Turn key in lock." She saw him make a turning motion. Saying a brief prayer, she spoke again. "Doctor... pull the knob."
He pulled. For a moment, nothing happened, and Sarah felt tears start. Then, like a wind-up toy running down, she heard the machine run slower and slower and stop with a hiccup.
"Doctor, we did it!" He remained crouched towards the machine, still pulling at the knob. Sarah bit her lips, hoping his condition wasn't permanent. "Doctor. Release the knob. Stand up. Walk over to me. Sit beside me." Without a word, and with a blank expression in his eyes that tore at Sarah Jane, he did all she said. Something would have to be done, but she was tired and couldn't think any longer. She leaned her head on his shoulder and went to sleep.
She woke to find a hand stroking her hair. She sighed happily, then opened her eyes, and, with a gasp, realized where she was. The machine crouched before her like a malevolent being, and she sat up and shrank back. She heard someone beside her chuckle. "It's dead, Sarah Jane."
She turned. "Doctor?"
She looked him over. The glint of intelligence was back in his eyes, and he smiled a toothy grin at her. His greatcoat was rent in many spots, his scarf was in tatters, but the rest of his clothing was as pristine as ever. She fingered his outrageous purple shirt. He looked down. "Ah. Gallifreyan made. They believe in dressing for the centuries." He grabbed her hand. "Don't you notice something?"
She concentrated on her hand... she had completely forgotten the machine's effect on her own body. It looked... it looked normal! As she watched, wrinkles filled out, and the last age spot faded. "Am I back to normal?"
"I thought I would be old for the rest of my life."
She caught a fleeting sadness in his eyes. "No, you won't be old until you think you're old. As to whether your body is back to the way it was before we landed on Enornia..." He shrugged. "Yes."
"And everyone else?"
He sighed, got up, and pulled her up. "Let's go look. I imagine they have reversed the same way you have."
"And... the dead?"
"Will, unfortunately, remain dead. Only living tissue can regenerate." The way he looked made her wonder whether she weren't closer to death than she thought. She shivered, then put the thought out of her mind.
She shook out all of her muscles, did a little hop, then smiled back to the Doctor. After stretching, she looked at the Doctor hesitantly. "Doctor, before we go, can you promise me something?"
"Anything, Sarah. You saved both worlds."
"When I truly get old... and I'm not still with you... will you promise to visit me? Visit me at least once before I die?"
The Doctor smiled. "You know I can't always keep those type of promises... but I promise to try."
Sarah smiled. "Good enough." She held her arm out to the Doctor, and arm and arm, they exited the lab.
Lost in thought, half listening to "Cats", she saw the Doctor smiling at her. "Yes, I remembered my promise, Sarah Jane."
She shifted in her wheelchair. "Does this mean... I'm close to dying?" She saw the pain in his eyes, and suddenly knew the other reason why he left her... and the others like her. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't made you come here to see me like this. We should have left each other to our memories."
"All creatures age and die, Sarah Jane." He smiled. "Even me."
She frowned. "But not as fast, Doctor. You shouldn't have to see me old. You shouldn't have to see me die." She smiled gently at him. "If you never have to see me die, then I'll never be dead to you... just lost in time."
He sighed. "No, Sarah. I think it's time I faced up to old age. Besides, is age any worse than any other form of death?"
"It's better. But are you sure you want to stay?" She searched his eyes.
"I'm glad you're here." Smiling, she leaned her head onto his shoulder. Together, they watched Grizabella being taken up to the Heaviside layer. And as the final chords of "Cats" ended, she slipped away, silently, happily, his hands holding hers.