The Doctor thoughtfully walked around the TARDIS console room, silent as the grave. He knew that, in some deep part of himself, he was considering the events of the past few days. The death of Daniel McKenzie. His own possible future self. The Key to – well, everything, really.
He had fought so much evil, and lost so much in the process.
He tired of it sometimes.
Still, he mused flicking a switch, there wasn't much else he could do. Go home? Nah. Ridiculous thought. They wouldn't have him.
He wondered if they'd been taking note of some of his more recent misadventures – his encounter with his future self, for one. Or the incident with the Monitor's and the Fake Doctor – Other Doctor, he mentally corrected himself. That brave man hardly deserved to be called a fake. Were his people watching this? Surely they must have taken note of Davros's tussel with the Nightmare Child.
The more he thought about it, the more the Doctor realised something was wrong with the state of things. A terrible – well, something, for lack of a better term.
A light flickered in the TARDIS console room. The Doctor looked up – the TARDIS had almost limitless power, the lights shouldn't flicker. Well, that was the theory. And there was something else – a dark stain across the ceiling, where some of the coral theme was covered by black metal.
"What?" the Doctor murmured. "That isn't possible. Oh," he added. "Oh no…"
The black metal spread across the ceiling, covering the roundels and the surface of the walls until the theme of the entire console room could no longer be seen. The Doctor, in hindsight, should probably have recognised the architect of what he was seeing – but he didn't. Instead, he only had one thought.
"Carrieeee!!" he yelled, running out of the console room to find her.
It – somehow it had stopped thinking of itself in gender terms – survival was the most important thing here – released itself upon the TARDIS. It knew exactly what it wanted. It knew exactly how to get it. It needed to herd the Doctor to itself, to make him see what it could do, and then it would restore itself utterly.
Carrie, out for a walk amongst the TARDIS corridors, heard the Doctors' yell, and turned to see him running at her, coat and hair flapping, panting, yet seeming scared. Something was wrong, she knew it.
"We have a major problem," he began, but stopped as the shadow spread behind him, corrupting the architecture.
"What is that?" Carrie asked, looking at it in half wonder and half fear.
"I don't know and I'm not sure I want to find out," the Doctor replied, putting her behind him as if to shield her. "We need to get to the secondary console room and try to land the TARDIS…"
"Um, Doctor?" Carrie said, "we kinda can't."
The Doctor spun around to face her – and found himself looking at more of the stain, covering his ship.
"It's like a disease!" he shouted, pulling at his hair in anger. "Like a horrid disease and we can't stop it! It's consuming my TARDIS!"
Carrie stepped back from the stain as it headed towards them. Fear like cold snow slithered down her back.
"If it's a disease," she said, "what'll it do to us?"
The Doctor stopped pulling his hair, his eyes widening in shock and dismay, looked at her, and she could see the hopelessness in his expression.
"I'm so sorry," he said to her, voice soft, eyes sad. "I didn't want this for you."
"No, it's alright," she said, trying to reassure him. "It was my choice to come. I wouldn't have had it any other way."
"We've had some times, haven't we?" he smiled.
"Yeah," she said. "Some times."
They turned, back to back, to face the end. Somehow, Carrie couldn't overcome the urge to close her eyes.
"You can open your eyes now," the Doctor's voice said. She did so.
The corridor was pitch black, so she couldn't even tell if there were walls.
"It's odd," the Doctor said. "It's like it's…"
"doctor," Carrie interrupted, pulling on his sleeve. "Look."
On the pitch black wall, an arrow formed, white and large, almost cartoonish.
"Right," the Doctor said. "I take it that whatever this thing is, it wants us to follow the arrow."
"Great," Carrie said. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"
"Not at all," the Doctor said. "Come on!"
The room was dark, with stained glass windows and burning torches. Carrie looked around and almost cried out when the bats flew around her head, but the Doctor kept her with him, and he smiled reassuringly.
"Don't worry," he said. "It's me it wants."
"Where are we?" Carrie asked, scared out of her mind.
"We're in the cloister room, I think," the Doctor replied. "It's very gothic, isn't it?"
"It's like the old console room," Carrie said.
"Oh c'mon!" the Doctor said, smiling in disbelief. "The old console room was… quaint. Vernish. Wellsian. This is Bram Stoker by comparison."
"Well," Carrie said, "I don't think it matters, to be honest."
"No," the Doctor said, and the smile faded. "It doesn't."
He stepped forward and looked up at the ceiling.
"I am here," he said. And then, to Carrie's horror, dozens of - well, she didn't know what, but they had the consistency of smoke and looked vaguely like three dimensional shadows, all human shaped, sprang up around the Doctor. One of them suddenly took form - a tall, thin figure –a familiar figure to the Doctor, right down to the pinstripe suit, brown this time, though still it flickered to the old black, with blue stripes that turned white when the suit was black.
"Helloooo," it said, the syllable stretched out, twisted, cruel. "Looks like you're back here again, eh? Fighting ghosts, and shadows, and never seeing the full picture."
The Doctor said nothing to it; theatrics, he thought. They seemed very familiar in style if only he could place it.
"Weeeeell, can't say I'm surprised – I know you, too well, after all," the Shadow continued. "Too well. You're just a useless old fart really, couldn't stop this timeline if you tried. And you did, oh, I'll give you that, you've tried so hard to avoid this time line, but guess what – you failed! Ha! You failed, everything will fall, and you'll turn into me... a man so scared of dying he'd do anything to stop it from happening, even break the laws of time themselves!"
The Doctor, when he spoke, was calm and collected. Dangerously so, so much that the shade of what might be stepped back in surprise.
"I'm not interested in the façade," the Doctor said. "You're theatrics. Props. I want the truth of this."
And with that, the shade of a possible future vanished into the other shadows, and another figure stepped forth - slightly shorter, slightly stockier, wearing simple clothes, and a smug grin on it's face.
"Truth," it said. "You want the truth? The truth is, this is all your doing. You couldn't stop it," this shadow said, the voice cocky, tinged with a northern accent, hard as stone. "Ya failed miserably. I'm the next one, 'case you were wondering what you were gonna look like. Despite the heroics of that Fake Doctor," and the emphasis was horrible, "I'm the real you. And will ya just look at me?" he added, stepping back and throwing his arms out to the sides as if to show himself off. "I'm hard, I'm cold, I'm nasty, I'm unfeeling, and I'm you. Nice to 'ave summat to look forward to, in't it?"
"I am not interested in this charade anymore," the Doctor said, calmly. "Show me what you're hiding."
His fifth self came next, face torn in anguish, pained and saddened.
"You could have prevented yourself so much pain," the phantom murmured. "You could have prevented the death, the destruction. Instead, what did you do? You've let it happen. All the madness that is to come, is to come because of you. I was too weak to save the people on the Seabase, too weak to save Adric. You? You were too weak to save anything..."
"I have no interest in your words, shadow," the Doctor said. "Show me your master."
Then the shadows laughed, a horrible, ugly sound.
"That is the most hilarious thing I ever did hear," a new voice said, as the fifth Doctor faded away. "And I've heard a lot of funny stuff."
"I don't care," the Doctor said. "Get back to the point."
"The point, my dear Doctor," this voice said, yet an incredibly old one at the same time, "is that you will die here, today. You have failed to save your young friend, and you have failed to prevent the rebirth."
"What rebirth?" the Doctor asked.
"The rebirth of the supreme one," the shadow smiled. Then it seemed to resolve into an image – an old man, whose face was hidden, and whose clothes were similar to the Doctors own, minus the frock coat. Then, the image shifted, and a youngish man with a winning smile appeared, dressed in a sharp black suit.
"Hello," he said, and his grin was one of madness. "It's been a while, hasn't it? Oh, yeah…"
The Doctor wasn't sure who this was.
"What do you represent?" he asked.
"The future," the man smiled, and didn't elaborate. "I'm here today to say – well bloody done! You've successfully knacked up your entire life from day one! Dear Dr Holloway, the Daleks, the Cybermen… the Master."
"The Master is dead," the Doctor said at once. "And gone."
"Perhaps dead," the creature said, "but gone? Oh, no, never gone. Never ever, ever, ever gone, never dying, never resting, for the drums march on, and on, and on…"
And then the Doctor understood, and his anger came to him in a flash of power that shot through his entire being.
"You," he said. "It's you. You've been manipulating my ship. Torturing us. I should have realized!" he yelled, now addressing the dark Eye. "I should never have left you! I should have gone home and purged you from my ship, made sure your essence was dead and gone! Instead, you're here, trying the same trick twice! What's the matter Koschei?! Run out of imagination? Run out of ideas? Or has being dead addled you to the point of not remembering two bloody weeks ago?!"
Carrie had never heard the Doctor so angry, and she had never heard him swear – he must have been more furious than anything alive, and yet she was scared now not of him – but of the thing he was yelling at. The shadows were gathering again.
Then, in the centre, a blue light erupted, and a dark silhouette burst out. This silhouette was raised high, in a crucifixion pose… and then the lights and the shadows receded, and a man, breathing heavily, lay on the floor in front of Carrie and the Doctor, dressed in tattered black and red robes...