'The Side of the Angels'
Featuring the Doctor and Romana
Seven hours of poking around with his vast collection of parts and tools, and the Doctor still had no idea what was wrong with the damn thing; the little subspace transceiver simply wasn't cooperating. Standing, he shook the knots from his shoulders, and shot a sideways glance at the woman who stood against the console room wall.
They'd found the small transmitter, one of the earliest models coming out of Sirius, in the ruins of a spaceship orbiting an otherwise completely dull neutron star. There was no sign of any trouble with the ship. It'd just been abandoned, and so, in a fit of curiosity, the Doctor had taken the transmitter, broken down and mostly useless, to see if he could make something of it.
"I give up," he said with a sigh.
Romana grinned. "So soon, Doctor?"
The Doctor shrugged. "I'm bored."
"But it's so simple, Doctor!" Romana said with a flippant laugh, flicking her red gold hair as she walked over to where he had been kneeling, and the small silver box he'd been tinkering with. She pointed at the open panel, and at the round interstitial compositor matrix. "Right there."
The Doctor leant closer, examining the tiny device. "Oh. Easy."
He lifted his sonic screwdriver, adjusted the settings and set it to work. A second later, the matrix began to hum. The small screen atop the device began to flash, brief glimpses of unfamiliar faces.
"I was never a fan of these kinds of antiques," the Doctor said, patting the transceiver. "A bit too… clunky."
"The Aljami would disagree with you, Doctor," Romana noted, standing at the console as he joined her.
"Of course, of course," the Doctor agreed, "but a people that worship the complex and unnecessary would find these kinds of transmitters absolutely gorgeous. Not being Aljami, I don't."
"So why did you repair it?"
The Doctor shrugged. "Why not? Do you know the kind of price this little item will fetch at the antiques show on New Kinshasa?"
"New Kinshasa? Never heard of it."
"Little human colony in the Jivvian Brigade, out on the Haverford Belts. Shall we go?" the Doctor didn't wait for answer before he began working the TARDIS' console.
The pitch of the constant hum of the TARDIS' engines shifted a third of an octave; all around them, the sterile white glow of the console room seemed to brighten, from the roundels in the wall, to the six-sided console in the centre of the room. The engines took on a throaty cadence, and the time rotor in the console began to pump up and down.
"Largest antiques show in the galaxy, or so they like to claim," the Doctor explained. "They'd love to get their hands on a genuine Sirius subspace transmitter."
"But isn't that cheating, Doctor?"
"Cheating?" the Doctor asked, manipulating the controls. "However do you mean?"
"Taking an object from the past to an antiques show? Does it even count as an antique?" Romana said, stepping beside him, watching him intently.
The Doctor looked away for a moment, before grinning. "One must cheat in every game every now and then, Romana dear. Makes things a little more interesting, I think. And the game of history could always be a bit more interesting."
"I'm not going to be able to stop you, am I?"
"Not on your lives. Now… New Kinshasa!" He slammed down one last lever, and with a triumphant grin, spun to face the massive TARDIS doors.
The TARDIS went dark. The engines were silent.
His grin fell away. "What?"
"What happened?" Romana said, turning to the console, checking readouts. She got no response from any of them.
"What?" the Doctor repeated.
"What happened, Doctor?" Romana repeated, still checking the console controls.
"What?" the Doctor said once again, his voice cracked and weak.
"Come on, Doctor," Romana insisted, grabbing him by the cuff of his coat and pulling him back to the console.
"Ow!" the Doctor roared.
"What?" Romana cried.
"My shin. I bumped it on that damn transmitter…" As he spoke, the TARDIS came back to life. The lights came back on, and the console began functioning; even the engines flared back to life, as though nothing had ever happened.
"Oh," the Doctor said, grinning. "That was easy."
"We're off course, Doctor," Romana said, checking the working readouts.
"We're not going to New Kinshasa?"
The Doctor nudged her aside, and looked down at the readouts. Sure enough, the coordinates had changed, but he couldn't quite make out what they'd been changed to. The time rotor continued to pulse, and they were certainly moving somewhere… he just had no idea where, or when. "How annoying."
He glanced down at the transmitter. "This is all your fault."
The TARDIS door swung open with its usual protesting creak, and the Doctor took a tentative step out. He found himself in a brilliant appointed but thoroughly dusty drawing room, complete with floor to ceiling bookshelves crammed with ancient tomes, with plush winged armchairs and a fireplace of the finest… Gallifreyan quartz.
"Oh, bother," he sighed. "Romana, you'd best come out. Someone's brought us home."
There was no answer. He turned back, peering into the console room, and saw Romana standing at the controls, her back to him.
"Romana?" he repeated, and walked back in.
Still no answer.
He took her shoulder, turning her around. She had her eyes closed, as though she were listening intently to something. Finally, her eyes flickered open. "Doctor," she said, though it wasn't her voice.
The Doctor froze. He knew that tone. All too well.
"What have you done to her?" he demanded.
"Nothing permanently harmful," the being that had possessed Romana responded. "She is experiencing no discomfort."
"Did you bring us here?"
"Of course," the being replied. "I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but your presence was required here."
"Back on Gallifrey? I'd really rather it not."
The being laughed with Romana's lips. "Of course, Doctor, I understand, but my requirements trump your preferences. As they did when you and my current host first met. May I make a note that this body is quite… interesting. Very comfortable. I often find the possession of females to be quite tiring."
"You would," the Doctor said, "so get out of her!"
The White Guardian continued as if he had heard nothing. "You have a job to do, Doctor. A rather pressing one, in fact."
"A job to do?"
"Of course I have a job for you to do. Did you think this was just purely a social call? Doctor, you of all people should know that I don't make social calls."
The Doctor's nostrils flared. "Get out of her body. Now."
"I've brought you to Gallifrey," the Guardian said, turning from the Doctor and walking across the chamber, "to one of the most ancient houses of the Citadel. There is a creature here, a great evil. You must defeat it."
"What kind of creature?"
Romana's eyes twinkled, and the Doctor saw the Guardian behind them. "Oh, but Doctor, that would be telling."
"You had no problem helping me before, with the Key to Time."
"Helping you, Doctor? I suppose that's one way to see it," the White Guardian responded, and the Doctor could have sworn he heard glee. "This is more of a test. An essential test, but still a test."
"A test of what?"
"Of you, of course. And her."
The Doctor fumed. "Leave her body, and give me control of my ship."
"Of course. But Doctor, you will find that you will be unable to leave this house, until this creature has been dealt with. Understand, Doctor, this isn't an idle request. This creature is ancient and nigh upon incomprehensible. You see, you must defeat it. You simply must."
"Because if you don't Doctor, the end of the universe may well be at hand."
The Doctor sighed. "Again? I'm getting weary of the prevention of universal destruction being my responsibility."
The White Guardian simply flashed Romana's smile. "I can't say I believe that, Doctor."
After a few moments, the Doctor fixed him with a hard look. "Why me?"
"Doctor, don't you see? It must always be you."
Romana gave a thin gasp, and her eyes rolled backwards. The Doctor swooped in, managing to catch her before she hit the deck. She blinked, and the Doctor knew the Guardian was gone.
"What happened?" she asked.
"The Guardian," the Doctor replied.
With a soft groan, she said "Not again."
The Doctor helped her to her feet, and she braced herself against the console. "I'm afraid so," he said, gently rubbing her back. "Are you all right?"
"A bit queasy. It's not a pleasant feeling having someone else in your head, as you well know," she said, offering a grin.
The Doctor nodded grimly. "Do you know what he said?"
Her grin dying away, she nodded once. "What do you think it is, this monster?"
The Doctor shrugged. "I simply have no idea. We're on Gallifrey, I know that much. One of the older homes in the Citadel." The Doctor began to poke at the console, adjusting the controls. Though the systems were all still functional, none of them would respond to his commands. "We're stuck."
"Shall we have a look around?" Romana asked. "I mean, if we're stuck."
The Doctor gave her a quick look up and down. Beneath his mop of curls, his eyes lit up. "Yes," he said, flipping his scarf over his shoulder. "Let's."
He offered her his arm, and she took it. They turned towards the TARDIS doors. He took his hat from the coast stand and put it, as they stepped into the drawing room.
"Do you recognise the house?" the Doctor said, looking around.
The TARDIS stood in the corner of the chamber, its blue wooden exterior of a 1950s English Police Box hiding wonderfully the extent of its inside. Now they were on Gallifrey, though, such time-space dimensional warping wasn't exactly unique. Say what one will about the Time Lords; they knew how to make things bigger on the inside.
Standing in the drawing room of this house, undoubtedly ancient even beyond the Doctor's reckoning, he had a sickening feeling that the whole house wasn't… right.
"I'm afraid not," Romana responded. "Odd that no one's come to greet us, yet."
"Quite," the Doctor agreed, and took to examining the nearest bookshelf. "Oh. It's all history. I quite approve."
"Gallifreyan?" Romana asked, joining him.
"Some of it. But look. Alfava Matraxis. Bellerophon. Raxicoricofallapatorius. Ooh, and look at this one. Oolon Colluphid." The Doctor was moving down the shelves; none of it was ordered, and the books were so thickly coated with dust, the binding so cracked, that it looked like none of them had been touched in centuries.
"I wonder why no one's yet come," Romana remarked, intently observing a sculpture of what looked like a cephalopod, carved out of an odd red-black-green stone that seemed to take on different dimensions as she circled it. "These old homes should be packed with retainers."
"Only one, I'm afraid," came a reedy voice from the other end of the room.
The Doctor and Romana spun about, to find a thin old man in a red Gallifreyan robe, without the usual headdress, standing at the far end of the room. He was small and wizened, but his eyes blazed.
The Doctor grinned, taking his hat in his hands and holding it to his chest. "Good morning!"
"It's evening," the old man corrected. He looked first to the Doctor, and then to Romana, and finally to the TARDIS. He seemed unimpressed. "Who are you?"
"I'm the Doctor, and this is Romana."
"How do you do?" Romana piped up.
"How do I do?" the old man repeated, as though surprised he'd been asked the question. "I'm fine. Now what are you doing in my master's house?"
"Fantastic question," the Doctor granted. "We were on our way to the antiques market on New Kinshasa—"
"Never heard of it," the old man interrupted.
"—and something happened to our guidance system, and so here we are."
The man looked to Romana, as though expecting her to verify the Doctor's story. She nodded vigorously. "Oh, yes, exactly as he said."
"You will leave immediately," the man said. "My master doesn't like to be disturbed."
"Doesn't he? So sorry to bother him, then."
"You'll be forgiven," the old man assured them. "If you leave."
"Ah, yes," the Doctor said, and he stepped over to the sculpture Romana had been studying. "An interesting piece, this. Wherever did you get it?"
The old man's nostrils flared. "My master procured it."
"Did he? How? This is Jagrofellan garnet. It's been illegal on Gallifrey for six thousand years."
"That legislation was not retroactive."
The Doctor's eyes widened. "Are you saying your master is more than six thousand years old?"
"I'm not saying anything. Now, kindly board your ship, and leave."
"And these books," the Doctor continued, as though he hadn't heard the old man. "From all over the galaxy. Quite odd, wouldn't you say, Romana?"
"Oh, yes, indeed, Doctor," Romana remarked. "Unusual in the extreme. What would a Time Lord as old as that want with so many books on the history of other worlds?"
The old man tapped his foot.
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to insist on meeting your master," the Doctor said, with a grin. "You see, I share his predilection for the alien."
Comprehension seemed to dawn on the old man's face. "Oh. I know who you are."
"Doctor," the old man said, as though speaking a curse.
"Quite!" the Doctor agreed, sounding very pleased with himself. "Quite."
"My master is no deviant, Doctor. Unlike you."
"Shame," Romana replied, with a slight sigh. "I quite like deviants."
"Oh, yes," the Doctor agreed heartily. "Me too. Now, dear friend, can we please have an audience with your master?"
As though on cue, a chime rang through the chamber. A disembodied voice sounded, stately and regal. "Enarcher? Have you found the intruders?"
Sounding almost annoyed, the old man, Enarcher, responded "Yes, my Lord, the intruders have been located. In the seventeenth drawing room. Their time travel capsule dematerialised right in the corner."
The Doctor and Romana shared a look, and glanced back at the TARDIS. The White Guardian had indeed managed to park it quite well.
"Have you sent them on their way?" Enarcher's master asked.
"I'm afraid not. One of them is insisting on seeing you," Enarcher answered.
"A guest?" the voice sounded almost happy. "After all these centuries? A guest? Well bring them up, bring them up!"
"Bring them up, Enarcher."
Enarcher glared daggers at the Doctor and Romana, who smiled back pleasantly. The Doctor offered his hands, wrists up towards Enarcher, as though expecting to be handcuffed. "Well, you heard him. Take me to your leader!"
Enarcher rolled his eyes. "Follow me."
From the folds of his coat, the Doctor produced a small paper bag. "Jelly baby?"
A/N: This story's mainly a side-project, just something fun for me to play around with when I get stuck on my bigger pieces. I hope you enjoy it, but I've gotta warn you that updates will probably be slow.