The scenes which had just unfolded on the screen before him replayed in the Doctor's mind again and again. Yrcanos, caught in a time bubble, bursting into Crozier's laboratory; Peri, her dark hair shorn away, calling out in a voice that wasn't her own; the moment when Yrcanos destroyed everyone in the laboratory . . . Everyone, including Peri - and it was all the Time Lords' doing; if they had taken him out of time to face this so-called trial just a minute or two later, he might have been able to save her. And she might have been able to back up his version of events at the points where the scenes shown on the Matrix scanner contradicted his own memories. Despite what they said, the Doctor knew several key areas of the Valeyard's evidence had been distorted, the interrogation scene at the Rock of Sorrows being a key example. "It was never like that!" he had insisted when presented with the scene in which he appeared to be trying to force Peri into confessing that she was a spy for the Alphans.
And, now, he had no way to prove it. Peri had been the only person who could have confirmed what really happened and she was dead, killed because her body had become a vessel for Lord Kiv and the Time Lords had to see that all trace of Crozier's mind-transfer experiments was destroyed. The Doctor recalled the Valeyard's reply when he asked where Peri was: "Where you left her." At that point, he had just been taken out of time and had no memory of the events immediately before, but, as the trial progressed, he had begun to recall parts of it. He had tried to save Peri, but, when he was only yards from Crozier's laboratory, he found himself in the TARDIS, on his way to face trial. Peri, meanwhile, had perished in the massacre which followed moments later.
The Doctor was certain that all this was a plot to discredit him, to, as Peri had once said (albeit with a change of pronoun) "make him appear guilty when he wasn't." He did not know who was doing it or why, but one thing appeared certain - whoever it was had sacrificed Peri as though she was nothing more than a pawn in a game of chess.
"This isn't the first time, is it, Doctor?"
The Valeyard's words echoed clearly across the courtroom, but the Doctor gave no sign that he had heard. His mind was filled with an overwhelming grief of a sort he had not felt since he was in his previous incarnation. He looked down, not making any attempt to reply to what he knew only too well was a rhetorical question. Not that it would do him much good; the Valeyard would only use whatever he said against him.
"What are you talking about, Valeyard?" asked the Inquisitor, who had spent much of the trial trying to keep the arguments between the Doctor and the Valeyard from getting out of hand. More than once, she had had to warn them to "conduct themselves in an orderly manner" and there had been times when the Doctor would, had such a concept existed in Gallifreyan law, have been held in contempt of court.
"I refer to the fact that three of the Doctor's previous companions also died, irrefutable proof of his disregard for the safety of others." The Valeyard addressed the Doctor once more. "Katarina, a young woman from Earth at a time when it was still a pre-technological planet. You brought her into a world she could not understand and allowed her to be jettisoned out of an airlock. Is that not so?"
The Doctor did not reply, but the Valeyard pressed on regardless. "And no sooner was Katarina dead than you picked up a new companion - Sara Kingdom. She too became a victim of your meddling. As did Adric, a young stowaway who should have been returned to his people. Instead, you took him out of his native universe and this ultimately led to his death. And now Peri." The Valeyard shot the Doctor a look filled with contempt. "Four lives, Doctor. Four young lives lost because of your habit of dragging your companions into danger. How many more will join them if this is permitted to continue?"
"Valeyard," the Inquisitor cut in before the Valeyard could continue haranguing the Doctor any further, "may I remind you of something you seem to have forgotten?" She was not intervening out of concern for the Doctor, but out of a need to see that this trial stayed within the confines of Gallifreyan law. Her job was to act as an impartial judge, to avoid being swayed one way or the other no matter what either the Doctor or the Valeyard said. "The deaths of Katarina, Sara and Adric occurred during two of the Doctor's previous incarnations. He cannot be held accountable for them at this point."
The Valeyard looked as though he thought this, the idea that a Time Lord could not be prosecuted for offences committed in a previous incarnation, was a legal loophole that needed to be closed as quickly as possible. "Very well," he conceded ungraciously. "But the fact remains that the Doctor is not only an incorrigible meddler, but a constant danger to those around him. As a result, his lives are forfeit."
The Inquisitor was about to ask the Doctor if he had anything to say, but one glance in the direction of the dock made her think twice. The Doctor was slumped forward in his seat, his head in his hands, making no sound. Only the shaking of his shoulders betrayed the fact that he had broken down, but it was enough to tell her that he was in no fit state to answer questions or to defend himself. She rose to her feet and addressed the whole court. "Under the current circumstances, I feel a recess is required," she told the assembled Time Lords. "The Doctor needs time to grieve for Peri and it will also give him a chance to prepare his defence. And may I remind you," she added before the Valeyard could object, "that the Doctor, no matter what he is accused of, is entitled to a fair trial? If that means calling a temporary halt to proceedings, that's the way it must be."
The Doctor was escorted out of the courtroom by two Time Lords dressed in the red-and-white uniform of the Chancellery Guards. He stared rigidly ahead, not uttering a word as they led him into an antechamber and directed him to sit on one of the benches. All trace of the arrogance he often displayed in his current incarnation was gone. Replacing it was a sense of overwhelming loss, coupled with what he could only describe as frustration that his fellow Time Lords could not see that the evidence was being manipulated. As far as they were concerned, the data stored in the Matrix could not be interfered with - end of story. But the Doctor knew virtually anything was possible, if you knew how to do it.
Right now, however, his mind was filled with memories of Peri. He recalled his first meeting with her when he was still in his previous incarnation; Turlough (who had returned to his own people not long after) had saved her from drowning and brought her into the TARDIS. A short time after this, the Doctor and Peri had become caught up in the fight for control of spectrox, a powerful drug which, in its undiluted form, was deadly poisonous to any organic lifeform. Peri had stepped in a pile of the stuff and the Doctor had become infected himself while trying to brush the spectrox off her legs. The only thing which could save them was the milk of the Queen Bat, but the Doctor had only been able to obtain enough for one person. He'd given the dose to Peri and that meant the only way he could shake off the effects of the spectrox was to regenerate.
Following his regeneration, he had become unstable and erratic, prone to outbursts of temper and with an arrogance which contrasted sharply with his previous incarnation's personality. For reasons best known to himself, he had chosen to wear the most outlandish outfit the TARDIS's wardrobe contained, including a coat made of various mismatched pieces of fabric. But, more than that, he had even attacked Peri, something he'd never done to any of his previous companions. Still, despite the constant bickering, he and Peri had been close friends; he would never have betrayed her, certainly not to the extent he had been accused. He had tried to get her away from Crozier's laboratory, but the Time Lords had taken him away from Thoros Beta before he could reach her. Consequently, he had once more been forced to watch helplessly as one of his companions met an untimely end.
Indeed, he had not directly caused the deaths of any of his companions, unless he counted the time Kamelion fell under the influence of the Master and had to be destroyed. But Kamelion had been a robot, not an organic being like Katarina, Sara, Adric and Peri . . . Four young people dead before their time and, as far as the Valeyard was concerned, the Doctor was culpable in all their deaths.
He recalled the room on the TARDIS which served as a shrine to the memory of his dead companions, the room he had first used shortly after Katarina's death. When Sara was aged to death by the Daleks' Time Destructor, he and Steven had used the same room to hold a memorial ceremony for her, after which he had not been called on to use it again - until Adric was killed during an encounter with the Cybermen. These simple ceremonies had been the closest he could come to holding funerals for his fallen friends, whose bodies had all been lost. In Peri's case, however, it looked as though even that would not be possible, not if things kept going the way they were. The Doctor knew what his fate would be if he was found guilty; he would be led into a chamber and vaporised. Vaporisation was the standard method of execution on Gallifrey, designed to ensure that the condemned Time Lord was destroyed utterly, thereby preventing any possibility that they might try to use regeneration as a means of escaping justice.
He had been in trouble before, more times than he cared to count, but never to this extent. His companion was dead and he was on trial for his life. Worse, there seemed to be no way out; if he tried to make a run for it, he was unlikely to get to the TARDIS. And, even if he did make it, he knew his fellow Time Lords well enough to know that they would almost certainly have immobilised it to make certain he couldn't escape.
The Inquisitor's voice distracted the Doctor from his thoughts and he looked up to see her standing in the doorway. "Doctor," she said again, "I know I'm supposed to be strictly impartial, but I want you to know that I believed you when you said you don't relish danger."
"No, I don't suppose anyone does," the Doctor said, silently thanking her at the same time. "And, regardless of what the Courtyard says, I certainly don't like putting my companions' lives in jeopardy. To suggest otherwise is a foul slur on my character."
"I'm afraid you're going to have a hard time convincing the court of that," the Inquisitor told him, deciding that now was neither the time nor the place to rebuke him for deliberately getting the Valeyard's title wrong again. "And your behaviour during the Valeyard's presentation of his case against you won't have helped your defence. Speaking of which, have you decided yet how you're going to rebut these charges?"
The Doctor shook his head; since witnessing the massacre in Crozier's laboratory, his mind had been focused on Peri and how he had been denied the chance to save her. He had been told that there was no other option, that the only way to prevent the mind-transfer experiments that had been happening on Thoros Beta from endangering the whole of creation was to kill everyone involved. To that end, the Time Lords had taken control of Yrcanos and used him as an assassin. The Inquisitor had assured the Doctor that Yrcanos would never know he had been used in this way. Indeed, the chances were the Time Lords had done something to the warrior king's mind so that he now had no memory of having met Peri in the first place. And Peri had been the innocent victim in all this; she had not asked to have the mind of Lord Kiv transfered into her body, but she had paid the ultimate price.
"Well, you'd better start thinking about it," said the Inquisitor. "I can't postpone the rest of the trial indefinitely. And, Doctor," she added, looking him full in the face, "I never knew Peri personally, but I'm sure she would want you to keep fighting."
"Then that's what I intend to do." There was a look of determination on the Doctor's face, mixed with grief for his recently fallen companion. "I'll prove the case against me was nothing but trumped-up charges and a distorted version of the truth! And there's still the matter of why potentially vital information was bleeped from the Matrix," he added, refering to the scenes the Valeyard had shown in his first segment of evidence. This had involved the Doctor and Peri visiting a planet whose name was recorded as Ravalox, but which they later discovered was, in reality, Earth (long after Peri's time) shifted in space by a couple of light-years. Twice during this presentation, a few seconds of evidence had been cut, ostensibly because it contained privileged information, though the Doctor wondered just how privileged that information was.
"Doctor, I told you before - that will be looked into," the Inquisitor reminded him. "However, I recognise that you need evidence to back up your defence and that's why I'm giving you permission to view the Matrix."
The Doctor had spent several hours studying the Matrix, searching for something he could use in his defence. It was painful having to watch footage of Peri so soon after losing her, but there was no other choice; the young American woman had been his companion since before his latest regeneration and that meant his recent adventures had all involved her. But, no matter how hard he looked, he could not find anything that was of use, anything that even someone as determined to convict him as the Valeyard seemed to be could not dispute. Simply presenting one of his past adventures and pointing out that he had been the one to sort out the problems on such-and-such a planet or at such-and-such a point in time would not be enough. What he needed was a situation in which his help was specifically requested in such a way that no-one could refute it.
As he reached forward to stop the Matrix after yet another fruitless search, an idea occurred to him. It was a somewhat unorthodox idea, but he was in a situation where playing by the rules would get him nowhere. If he failed to produce any evidence in his defence, he would lose the case by default - and that would mean a one-way trip to a vaporisation chamber. He turned to the Keeper of the Matrix, the Time Lord responsible for looking after this vast store of knowledge, clearing his throat to get his attention. "Er, Keeper, I need the advice of an expert."
"Of course, Doctor, I know all there is to know about the Matrix."
"In that case, could you tell me if it's possible to use the Matrix to view the future?" the Doctor asked, resisting the temptation to ask the Keeper if he was aware of the Matrix having been tampered with lately.
"Any Time Lord may use the Matrix to view any point in space and time," the Keeper replied loftily. "Provided, of course, they have permission to do so."
"Good, because I need to see scenes relating to my personal future." The Doctor knew he was taking a big risk in making such a request; even the Time Lords were not supposed to know too much about what the future had in store for them. But, if searching through his past had failed to produce the evidence he needed, there was nothing else for it.
The Keeper paused to consider. "Very well," he said finally. "On one condition - you are to confine yourself to events concerning your current incarnation." Even this small concession meant bending the rules, but the Doctor tended to do more than bend the rules. Even as a student at Prydon Academy, he had regularly been in trouble with his tutors; it was said he had received more formal warnings than any other Time Lord who had passed through that establishment. Not that they seemed to have done much good . . . Nevertheless, the Doctor needed evidence to present in his defence and, if he had failed to find anything useful in his past, maybe there was something in his immediate future. Regardless of the charges against him, he was within his rights to present any evidence that could refute those charges, even if the evidence concerned events that had not yet happened.
Eventually, the Doctor found what he was looking for - a situation in which he and a new companion, a young woman named Mel, were caught up in a life-or-death struggle on a 30th Century spacecraft. This involved genetically engineered plant-creatures called Vervoids who had declared war on what they called "animal kind" and had to be wiped out because of the threat they posed. Under Article #7 of Gallifreyan law, this amounted to genocide, an even more serious crime than meddling. However, there was no other option; no part of a Vervoid, not even a leaf, could be allowed to reach fertile soil. But, more important, the ship's commodore asked the Doctor for help in dealing with the menace - and even the Valeyard could not argue with that.
Having done all he could, the Doctor could do nothing but wait to be called back into the courtroom.
The trial was over, with all charges against the Doctor dropped. As he had maintained all along, the evidence had been tampered with and it was the High Council who were responsible; to cover up the corruption in their ranks, they had conspired with the Valeyard to frame the Doctor and have him put on trial. The Valeyard himself had proved to be a potential future incarnation of the Doctor, a manifestation of the darker side of his nature, who wanted to destroy his past self so that he could absorb the Doctor's remaining regenerations, as well as ridding himself of what he saw as the shackles of morality. It had been the Master who interceded, sending both Mel and Sabalom Glitz (a trader in dodgy merchandise whom the Doctor had met on "Ravalox") to act as witnesses, though he was not acting out of concern for his long-time rival, but because he feared the Valeyard more than he feared the Doctor.
The Doctor, meanwhile, had confronted the Valeyard inside the Matrix, defeating him, while insurrectionists on Gallifrey overthrew the High Council. While it was too early to say what the long-term effects would be, the chances of preventing such a situation from recurring in a society as insular as the Time Lords were, at best, uncertain. The most anyone could do was hope that, when the new High Council was elected, its members would prove to be more accountable.
On a more personal note, the Doctor had learned that Peri was still alive and married to Yrcanos. It seemed the scenes in which she was killed were another fabrication, though questions still remained. In particular, was she now living with Kiv's mind inside her body? Or had the scenes where she seemed to have been taken over by the Mentors' leader also been faked? Had Yrcanos, in fact, intervened before Crozier could complete the mind-transfer operation? And, assuming that Peri was indeed "alive and well and living as a queen", how did she feel about the Doctor for apparently abandoning her in her hour of need?
Right now, however, the Doctor had another question on his mind - how to dissuade Mel from plying him with carrot juice.