It was like looking in a mirror. She remembered when she’d been inside her own mind, looking at fractured versions of herself, splinters of her one true form. Yet this was reality, solidity. She could prod the flesh and it would respond just as she herself would. She walked all around it, this doppelganger, studying it, trying to ascertain if it was indeed her.
For a split second she was confused, unsure which of them was the genuine article. She dismissed the thought from her mind – that way lay madness.
Outside of the room, the scientists observed this interaction, congratulating themselves on their own ingenuity. The enemy would have no idea what had hit them, wouldn’t understand the true nature of the duplication. While they still held the original they could ensure the cooperation of the man who had made all of these endeavours possible.
The man who would win them the war.
The man known only as the Doctor.
One week earlier
The TARDIS was in flight, adjusting itself once more after its recent invasion and seeming destruction at the hands of the creature it had now left to live out its days on the planet Kolkokron.
The Doctor peered studiously through his half-moon spectacles at the console, trying to fathom exactly what had happened to the old girl. He shook his head, removed his glasses and turned to Tegan who was – as more often than not – sighing.
“Tegan, would it help to share the problem?” He raised his eyebrows in her direction, opening himself up for a barrage of abuse and/or questions.
“I never thought I’d say this, but shouldn’t we be getting back to Turlough?” Her arms were crossed, so the Doctor knew that she meant business.
“Not having fun, just the two of us?” He seemed slightly offended by Tegan’s desire to go back for their travelling companion.
“Oh come on Doctor, you know it’s been fun, but we’ve been away for over a month now.”
The Doctor looked up at her. “Has it really been that long? Still, it’s all relative as far as a time machine is concerned. We can be back for Turlough before we’ve even left...or at least just after. We don’t need to confuse him with temporal anomalies.” The Doctor’s hand hovered over the controls. “You’re sure? I can’t tempt you with one last trip first?”
Tegan looked at him. There was a playful boyishness in his eyes, an almost puppy-dog look. She knew she’d regret it but...“Alright! But just one. No more delays after that. Promise?”
The Doctor gave a weak smile. “Scout’s honour. I was hoping you’d agree. You see, we’ve just landed!”
The door opened and rifle muzzles were pointed directly at the pair of them.
“Great! A welcoming committee! Can’t you ever land anywhere where the locals are pleased to see us?”
The Doctor looked directly into the face of the man who stood at the front of the group. He was sure he recognised the face. Had he been here before? Certainly not in this body, but perhaps in a previous incarnation. It suddenly hit him, where he’d seen this man before.
“Ah good, General Munro isn’t it? We’re expected I assume?”
The general looked him over with a suspicious air, not entirely sure who or what this stranger was. He eyed the box warily. Something that could appear from thin air was most impressive, but something that transcended time as well...
“Take them to Novik. I’m sure she’d like a little chat with them.” He motioned a couple of the others forward and the Doctor put out his wrists, expecting them to be bound. Under duress Tegan did the same, but no bonds were forthcoming. “We have no need of restraint. Though we will of course impound your craft.”
The Doctor sighed. “Is that really necessary? We’re not in a hurry to go anywhere are we Tegan?”
“Of course not,” she replied with heavy sarcasm. “We’ve got all the time in the world!”
The machine was like a primitive X-Ray scanner from Earth, thought Steven, as it took pictures of his internal structure. He watched as they appeared on a screen, Novik manipulating them and studying them carefully.
“So you appear out of nowhere, with traces of chronon radiation, and you say you’re not Voltrani?” She peered at him over glasses. If Steven didn’t know better he’d swear she was flirting with him.
“No, I’m from Earth. Originally. I fought in the Dalek wars, was captured, and then met the Doctor. Why do you keep insisting I’m one of these Voltrani?”
She turned the scanner back on, checking the readings once again. “It’s the chronon fluctuation. No Selafan has anywhere near that amount of time energy surrounding them. The Voltrani’s experiments are more advanced than our own, and from the little we’ve found out, the chronon energy imbalance has not been rectified.”
Steven looked her in the eye. “I swear to you, I’m not one of these Voltrani. Like I said, I arrived here in a craft with the Doctor, and he left without me.”
She moved over to undo the straps that had held him securely to the machine. “Well, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. For now. You’ve got to prove your usefulness and honesty somehow though.”
Steven stretched as he got off of the scanner. “I’ll do my best,” he smiled. What other choice have I got?
“So where are we? This planet must have a name?” Tegan asked of anyone who cared to answer.
“I believe we’re on a charming little planet by the name of Manalex Alpha. It has a twin you know.” The Doctor seemed rather pleased that he’d been able to recall so much.
“Let me guess, Manalex Beta?” Tegan ventured.
The Doctor nodded, careful to watch his step as he walked, cables strewn all about the corridors. “Yes. Humans don’t quite have the elegance for naming planets. Maybe they should leave it to the artists rather than the scientists eh?” Tegan gave no reaction. “Well anyway, Manalex Beta has a rather wonderful set of ruins. Or it will do.”
Tegan stopped abruptly, causing the Doctor to walk straight into her. “Is any of this relevant? Shouldn’t we be trying to find some way out of this predicament?”
“The devil is in the details Tegan. There might be some vital clue we’ve missed.”
One of the guards prodded Tegan who continued on with a minimum of fuss, save for when she spoke back to the Doctor. “Well when you find out what it is, let me know won’t you?”
The pair of them were ordered to halt outside a door. A woman gestured to one of the guards who then escorted another male away down the corridor. The Doctor recognised Steven immediately, but knew it was important not to make his presence known. The other guard ushered the Doctor and Tegan through the door after the woman, and after closing the door stood on guard.
“Eleanor Novik.” The female extended a hand to the Doctor, then Tegan. Both took it out of politeness, though neither was immediately any the wiser as to their current situation. “I’m head of time-travel research on this base, and you – it seems – are time travellers. Correct me if I’m wrong.” The pair remained silent, so she continued. “Your craft, is it of Voltrani design?”
The Doctor and Tegan looked at each other. Was it best to tell the truth or....
“It’s Earth design. I made it myself. It’s impenetrable though, so good luck getting in if that’s what you were thinking.” Tegan watched the Doctor’s face quickly regain composure after her words. He clearly wasn’t expecting her to come out with the faux revelation. “He’s my navigator. Not always the most reliable, but he’s decent enough. Can we go now?” She didn’t really think it would work, but it was worth a try.
“So, not Voltrani either, that’s very interesting.” Novik motioned to the guard. “It may be a little below your responsibilities, but since I’m in charge could you go and fetch smoe refreshments, there’s a good fellow.” She gave him a disarming smile, and the soldier saluted, and left through the door.
The Doctor was at the far side of the room, inspecting a rather large piece of monitoring equipment. “Some kind of full body scanner isn’t it? But what’s scanning for?”
Novik walked over to him. “Why don’t you give it a try? Let’s see what we can learn from a navigator.”
The Doctor smiled, much to her surprise. “An excellent idea. These straps here is it?” Novik seemed frozen, unsure exactly what to do. “Well hurry it up I haven’t got all day. Ships to navigate.”
Novik did the only thing she could think to do and operated the scanner.
One week later
Novik stared through the glass at the two identical women. The Doctor was trying to ascertain which was the genuine article and which the copy. Neither woman was allowed to speak. It was part of the ‘test’. If he succeeded then they’d be allowed to leave. Take the TARDIS and get away from this place. He knew as soon as he’d stepped out of the ship that they’d need to get away as fast as they could.
He knew that Tegan was going to die. It was inevitable. It had happened and he’d been powerless to prevent it. Until he’d realised what they’d wanted. The scan didn’t just check for chronon energy, it replicated the genetic structure of the individual and stored it, ready for use. He’d made sure his own template had been deleted. After that incident with the Cybermen he couldn’t afford to make the same mistake twice. So he’d left Tegan’s imprint. They thought she was the pilot after all, and it was her they really wanted.
He knew which one was which. They’d arranged it previously. He just had to make a show of things, to make it look like the decision was tougher than it looked. If Novik suspected he knew, they wouldn’t be allowed to leave. Why she’d decided to do this, he had no idea, but she must have her reasons.
At least, he thought, they’ve not be able to get into the TARDIS.
One week earlier
Munro stared at the blue box, walking all the way around it. It didn’t look particularly solid, yet it had appeared from nowhere, travelling through space (he knew) and time (he assumed). He tested the door, and to his immense surprise found it unlocked. Stepping through, he looked at the vastness of the interior and realised that there was something especially unique about this craft. Immediately he pulled out his pocket scanner. There was no reason why it wouldn’t be able to replicate the control area, he rationalised, and began a detailed scan of the entire room.
It took him far longer than he’d imagined it would, and luckily for him, he didn’t notice the door leading to further sections of the craft.
Stepping outside, he scanned the exterior, little noticing the door he’d come out through close behind him, locking this time.
The TARDIS hummed that little bit louder, the noise almost imperceptible. Finally her defences were reasserting themselves, but not before Munro had managed to take the information he’d needed.
But the TARDIS was a clever old girl and she might – just might – have made a few minor alterations to her operating systems as Munro had scanned her. He may have part of the puzzle, but he was certainly missing a vital piece.
And it would be the downfall of his entire race.
Tegan had been scanned immediately after the Doctor. He’d assured her it was nothing to fear, and she knew him well enough by now to take his word. It hadn’t hurt, merely left her with a slight dizzying sensation.
She was hoping that by maintaining this pretence, they’d eventually get bored and let her and the Doctor go. They were motioned to exit the room by a different door to the one they’d entered by, and found themselves in what appeared to be a small holding area.
“Wait here. I’ll send someone to assign you temporary quarters.” With that, Novik marched out of the room, leaving a bemused Doctor and Tegan behind.
“What’s going on here Doctor? Arrested and scanned within minutes – that’s a little quick even by your standards!”
The Doctor was busy looking for an exit point in the room, but could find nothing. “Yes, most odd. Though I must confess I have been here before. My younger self. Youngest in fact Something was very odd then, all sorts of time distortion. The man we saw leaving the room was my companion, Steven. He was stuck here for a year, and this must be the start of it.”
Tegan crossed her arms. “You mean that old guy with the white hair is about somewhere too?”
The Doctor shook his head. “No, not yet. But he will be. In a year’s time. Do try to keep up Tegan!”
She stared daggers at him. “Is it my fault that you live such a complicated life? How I meant to keep ahead of it all? And besides...”
Before she could continue she noticed the Doctor put a finger to his lips. He was listening carefully to the room itself, tapping the walls every so often to see if he could find another way out. Eventually, he gave up and sat down cross-legged on the floor.
“It’s no good, we’re going to have to wait it out. Though while we’ve got the time, we need to talk about a plan to get out of here when the time comes.”
Tegan joined him on the floor. “But how are we going to plan for every contingency?”
The Doctor smiled. “You forget, I’ve been here before. There’s an advantage to living such a complicated life on occasion...”
One week later
The Doctor and a Tegan left the room, much to the delight of Novik. She watched them leave, accompanied by armed guards, right to the door of the TARDIS.
“Why you needed me here I don’t know. I know you’ve already scanned my TARDIS.” The Doctor looked to Novik, who didn’t seem surprised.
“We wanted to test you, see if you were who we thought. But it seems you aren’t. You’ve not tried to dissuade us, tried to bring down our society. You disappoint us Doctor.”
Tegan stepped into the TARDIS. “Let’s just leave Doctor, I don’t want to stay here any longer than we have to.”
The Doctor pulled himself up to his full height. “No, it’s definitely time we left. I would say it’s been a pleasure, but...” He stepped through the door to the ship and closed it firmly behind him.
Novik saluted as the TARDIS dematerialised.
The man who had saved the world.
The Doctor set the coordinates for Frontios, for the pair of them to retrieve their errant companion.
“So how did you know that their scan of the TARDIS wouldn’t be able to replicate it?” Tegan was confused.
“Simple really. The TARDIS is a living being, intelligent, independent. I knew that she wouldn’t let them copy her completely. She’s bound to have put some little glitches in the system.” He could see Tegan was about to speak, and anticipating her question, jumped in before she could. “You forget, I’ve been here before. The use of their ‘TARDIS’ is what caused the time fluctuations. They end up stuck in a perpetual loop, all because they tried to use technology that was beyond them.”
Tegan looked aghast. “So this is all your fault? You caused it all?”
The Doctor shook his head. “No, not all. They were already experimenting, my visit was an unfortunate side effect.”
“But I died! A copy of me maybe, but still me! Not only that, but all those people. Can’t you do anything?”
The Doctor sighed. “In the future perhaps, but not now. We’re too caught up in events. I’m sure I’ll come back, one day.”
Tegan walked towards the interior of the ship. “I need some time alone Doctor. Let me know when we’re back on Frontios.”
The Doctor watched her leave with sad eyes. He knew he would never return, that he never could.
It was time to move on, and he wouldn’t be surprised if Tegan felt the same too. No one stayed forever.
With a heavy heart he set the ship in motion. Wherever he went next he would try to make a positive difference.
The TARDIS headed on toward Frontios.The Doctor didn’t know it yet, but it was the beginning of the end.