The story below was written by Paul Burns, and was featured in Temporal Logbook III: Changed Lives. It is reproduced here with Paul’s kind permission. This is a poignant, intensely relevant tale which was an honour to edit and include in our charity collection.
The New Doctor
A Tale of the Twelfth Doctor
“And that is how we use the ingredients of blancmange to compartmentalise the human condition!”
The Doctor dropped his chalk to a hushed, mesmerised lecture hall. The students broke out in appreciative applause, not quite knowing what they had just witnessed, but at the same time, fully comprehending their tutor’s extraordinary lecture. The Doctor caught the eye of Bill Potts. As usual, she was smiling, and shaking her head in disbelief. He gathered his books up and made his way towards her, determined this would be the day he managed to speak to her. But as he walked towards Bill, she was already disappearing out of the room, and he was accosted by Eden Casey.
Eden, unlike Bill, sat at the front of almost all of his lectures. Her blue beanie hat, always perfectly positioned on her head; her wide, expressive eyes, partially obscured by her purple tinged fringe, always completely engaged with the Doctor’s words. He was always slightly distracted by her nose stud that unfailingly caught the light, as well as the excitable noises of appreciation that came from her after every sentence he spoke. She cleared her throat; her breath always smelled of cough drops. The Doctor prepared himself for another barrage of euphoric adulation. Eden did not disappoint.
“Oh my gosh, Professor, I know I was there a bit early today, and I know I’ve missed a few of your lectures recently, but I wanted to get my semi-usual spot, and I’m sorry I dropped my phone, but I was making so many notes as you were talking, and I had a little spasm, but I’m glad I made notes because that was your best lecture yet. I mean, I know we were supposed to be learning about the transcendentalist movement, but the way you introduced foodstuffs to highlight your points without missing a beat was extraordinary.”
The Doctor smiled patiently. “Well, Ralph Waldo Emerson made the best stews. He let me have a lot of his recipes.”
Eden laughed. “See, that’s what I love about you. It actually sounds as if you have met these people. I know you’re old but…”
The Doctor furrowed his brow. “Oh, you have no idea.”
Eden carried on talking as the Doctor caught sight of Nardole standing at the window of the lecture room.
“Right, ummm…” muttered the Doctor, the girl’s name escaping his memory.
“Eden!” she suddenly exclaimed. “Sorry, I know you have loads of students. Can’t remember everyone. I’m Eden Casey.”
The Doctor smiled. “Okay, Eden Casey, got to go!”
The young woman looked deflated at his abrupt departure and called after him. “See you tomorrow, Professor!” She gripped her side. “Hopefully.”
“Good save, Nardole,” the Doctor told his valet appreciatively. “Unlike yesterday…” he added, conscientiously tempering his praise with admonishment.
Nardole gave a slight smile. “It was only twenty minutes. I thought whatever she was talking about had to be important. I didn’t want to disturb you.”
The Doctor sighed. “Seventy years lecturing at St Luke’s, and I have never known a student so…present. Even when she isn’t here, she gets one of her friends to record my lectures, then they appear on the internet with an ‘Eden reaction’ video. They tend to last twice as long as the lectures!”
“She might be a bit in love with you,” noted Nardole. “You seem to have that effect on humans. Mainly female ones.”
The Doctor gave a dismissive stare at his grinning valet. “She’s harmless enough, and adoration isn’t always to be discouraged. But after every lecture, she’s there, talking, talking talking… Still, better than hugging I suppose.”
Nardole hesitated, then pointed in the direction of the Doctor’s blue box. “Sir, we have to get the Tardis into your study. I can’t believe it hasn’t been noticed in the grounds yet.”
The Doctor looked at his valet. “Students, Nardole; too busy with Snapbook and Twitface. Eyes down at their phones, world passing them by. As soon as I am sure Missy is ‘settled’, we can move the Tardis away from the vault.”
“We’ve had a bit of a hologram situation in the TARDIS, sir,” Nardole said. “Planet Morphea, delegate in a bit of a tizz. Angry space squids attacking his planet. Needs a genius to stop them.”
The Doctor stared at Nardole. “An economic summary, Nardole, you’re learning, but why did you wait so long to tell me this?”
Nardole sighed. “I was prioritising, sir. I know you like complaining about the purple, yappy girl. I wasn’t sure you were finished.”
“The purple, yappy girl will always be here, Nardole,” the Doctor chastised through his frown. “Irritable, inter-galactic delegates are less frequent.”
The Doctor strode ahead to the TARDIS, with Nardole following closely behind.
“Not that less frequent, to be fair,” the Time Lord’s faithful friend muttered as he stepped into the box.
Inside the time ship, the Morphea hologram was flickering above the console, but before the Doctor was able to review it, the agitated delegate disappeared with a spark and a fizz.
“Oh,” exclaimed Nardole. “The TARDIS must have thought that hologram was spam. Good to see the firewalls eventually kicking in.” The Doctor handed Nardole a small tablet.
“Not again,” Nardole whined, rolling his eyes.
The Doctor proffered a thin cable to Nardole. “I can’t risk Missy absconding while I’m off planet, and she’s probably already worked out all the old Quantum Lock codes. Plug this tablet into your database and it’ll download all the new security systems I’ve just installed.”
Nardole belligerently plugged the cable into his ear and his eyes glowed. “I hate the way it always makes my eyes fizz!” he grumbled.
“Right!” said the Doctor. “Off you go, back to the vault!”
“Affirmative,” Nardole robotically intoned.
With the heave and whine of ancient time engines, the TARDIS began its journey through the time vortex, while the Doctor busily browsed through his ship’s databank, trying to determine the identity of the alien race attacking Morphea. As he studied the conveyer belt imagery of life forms, he spoke aloud, seemingly to no one. But, with an instinct developed over eons, he knew he was being observed from the shadows.
“You can come out now. I left it just a fraction too late to leave you back on earth, and the TARDIS, for some reason, decided not to expel you, so I can only conclude you are here for a purpose and not just as an irritant, and you need to speak now, giving me a very short, and very precise explanation, because I AM VERY BUSY!”
Eden Casey meekly appeared in the console room doorway. “Professor, we’re moving… This is a ship, an actual spaceship…”
The Doctor sighed. “Not even a ‘bigger on the inside’… Why do they never say that anymore? I miss that…”
He looked at the time rotor and spoke to it, softly, imploring it to answer the question that flashed stubbornly through his mind. “Is this her, my new companion? Is that what you’re telling me?”
He turned to face Eden, whose eyes were darting around the console room, taking in the spectacle, as a wide smile grew irrepressibly on her face.
Her eyes met the Doctor’s furious frown and she gulped. “I’m sorry Profes – ”
“Doctor! My name is the Doctor!” he sternly interrupted, turning away from her and returning to the databank, his hands a blur across the control panel.
“I… followed you and the bald man. Every day you two went off together. I thought, that’s nice, his husband picks him up every day.”
The Doctor raised his eyebrows at this suggestion, as she continued.
“And then I saw the box. That was weird, I thought; old-fashioned police box in the university grounds, and I wondered if you two wanted some ‘alone time’, but I heard a bang and came in. How big is this ship? How many dimensions does it actually hold?”
The Doctor secretly approved of her observation, before remembering how cross he was with her. “You might not realise this,” he began, “but we are heading towards a planet currently in the crosshairs of very large, very squid-like creatures, who I have just identified as the Sorbba, and they are very annoyed and very determined to commit genocide. I can’t afford a small purple haired human getting in the way at the best of times, but least of all now!”
“I can help!” blurted out Eden.
The Doctor snorted. “What are you going to do? Throw your beanie hat at them? Pretty sure they’ll have developed a defence against beanie hats!”
Eden was taken aback. “Look, I know I shouldn’t have come in here, but I’ve always been a bit in awe of you; you were always so kind and brainy, but clearly you can be a bit of an ogre too! That’s a new colour to your aura and I can’t say I like it much.”
As the Doctor angrily left the console, the TARDIS completed its journey, wheezing its way into real-time on Morphea.
The Time Lord busily grabbed several pieces of equipment and looked at Eden. “You, stay here,” he ordered. “Don’t touch anything, feel free to use the library, but don’t go in the eco room; the parakeets have stomach flu, you don’t want that hat to get ruined.”
Eden looked at him imploringly. “Doctor, another planet, that’s immense…”
“No. Too dangerous!” he barked, struggling to attach a heavy electronic device to his back. “You are not to step foot outside this ship. If anything happens to me, I’ve set the coordinates to take you back to earth.”
She watched him as he swept out of the TARDIS, the doors firmly closing behind him.
Eden slowly walked around the console, running her hands tantalisingly close to the controls. Her imagination was running wild, picturing herself flying the ship through space. Her mind raced with possibilities. What else could the Doctor do? What powers did he have? Countless ideas played out before her eyes as the enormity of the last hours began to grip her.
With a familiar unpredictability, she clutched her side, and winced. The pain was tolerable today, but it was still able to take her breath away with its intermittent stab. Steadying herself on the console, and controlling her breathing, she brushed her fringe from her eyes, which reflected the circular lights of the console. Her heartbeat quickened as she realised the enormity of what was going on. What if the Doctor didn’t come back? What if the creatures he was fighting got into the…what did he call it? TARDIS? What would they do to her?
Only a short time later, she wasn’t sure how many minutes, the doors to the box opened with triumphant aplomb, and the Doctor walked back into his ship with his equipment slung around his back and smouldering slightly, exposed wires spitting small sparks around the cavernous room. He had a victorious glint in his eye.
Eden removed her beanie. “Didn’t need the hat then?” She grinned.
He returned a smile; his mood had softened towards her now that the danger had passed. “Well, the hat would have been useful, I’m sure, but I had a trans-dimensional transducer which converted what you would call the sat nav of the Sorbba’s spacecraft into a teleportation signal and I sent their entire fleet into the Cascade of Fallen Shadows. It will take them ages to get out of that particular nightmare maze.”
Eden smiled. “Literally just words, but I love it!”
The Doctor fanned the smoke off his transducer and deposited it on the floor of the TARDIS. He reached into his pocket. “The Morpheans were very grateful and gave me a few chunks of their planet’s surface as a thank you.” The Doctor held out his hand to reveal slightly glowing rock samples.
“All of that happened in a few minutes?” Eden asked.
“Foiled a big alien invasion, got a gift bag, home for tea. Just another day at the office,” the Doctor said, throwing the rocks into the air, and catching them expertly. He put them back in his pocket. “Now,” he said, “time to get you home.”
Eden looked disappointed. “Could we just visit an alien planet?” she implored.
“I just did,” the Doctor snapped back. “Fun time over, it’s back to the university. Chips and learning, the perfect human combination.”
“I bet there’s a whole chip planet somewhere,” Eden sulked. “Oh my gosh Doctor, have you met the chip people?”
Without warning, as he reached for a control, the Doctor felt his vision blur and he stumbled. He looked over at Eden, who was displaying a similar unsteady movement. The Doctor tried to speak, but found he was unable to, and a tiny, pricking sensation played out on his eyelids as he fell to the TARDIS floor. He saw the same fate had befallen Eden. His eyes reflected a hazy glow over Eden’s prone body. The Doctor’s head was swimming, and his skin felt hot. He could feel something in his mind, slightly tugging. Fighting this bewildering assault on his senses as best he could, his singular thought before he lost consciousness was one he had mulled over countless times before: wouldn’t it be nice for other people to sort their problems out? How wonderful it would be, for someone else to be in charge.
“Urggghhh!” He groaned as he sat back up, looking around him. He felt different. It was a sensation he thought he had felt before, but his memory was hazy. He looked at his reflection in the shiny chrome of the TARDIS Console. His face had the same craggy features, surrounded by grey hair, but he was dressed differently. He wore a featureless white shirt, stiff starched collar. No tie, black trousers, not a single splash of colour anywhere. He panicked; something or someone had clearly changed him. He had to find a way back from that. Was this regeneration? No, and besides, he thought, what was regeneration?
Stumbling to his feet, he looked around the ship he found himself on. It was familiar but he suddenly didn’t feel the same ownership he once did. The blue box belonged to someone else. His eyelids felt heavy, as if they carried whole universes on them. He found himself thinking about other, human things. Human? Why should he make that distinction? He was human, he always had been. The strands of a hazily remembered previous existence were drifting away, like ribbons in the wind.
“Are you alright John?” He turned round in the direction of the voice. Emerging from the shadows was a familiar figure. Purple hair, nose stud, and wide, expressive eyes, which no longer darted nervously. She was dressed in a black, untucked shirt, a blue frock coat, high waisted purple trimmed culottes and black Doc Marten boots. She held out her slender hand, her fingers festooned in silver jewellery.
“Do I know you?” he asked, his mind still a haze.
“I would hope so, John Smith. I’m the Locum.”
John looked surprised. “That’s…not what I thought you were going to say. How do you know my name when I am having difficulty remembering it?”
The Locum smiled. “Just before you woke up you were muttering it over and over. I just assumed…”
John ran his fingers through his hair. “What kind of name is the Locum?”
She looked at him with a slight confusion. “Actually, it’s more of a title than a name. I know my destination but I’m still travelling towards it. Once I’m at the end, I’ll find my name. Don’t worry. I’m used to long journeys, and the destination is always worth it, trust me.”
John steadied himself on the console. The Locum touched his arm hesitantly. “Must admit, you gave me quite a fright when I saw you keeled over in here. I thought that was a weird place to sleep. Just woken up myself, actually.” The Locum smiled, as she busied herself at the ship’s controls.
“I don’t recall what happened,” said John, “My mind feels…ordered. I have a vague recollection of thinking the alphabet was absurd. Why were all the letters in that particular order? And why twenty-six of them? Why would I think that? It makes no sense.”
The Locum cast a quizzical look at her companion as he looked around the TARDIS Console room. “John, are you okay?”
John Smith held his head in anguish and carried on. “Now, it makes perfect sense!” he bellowed, “All those letters lined up, in order. My mind has had a decluttering, it’s much bigger on the inside now. All that extra room and I’m thinking smaller thoughts, how ironic.”
The Locum broke into a wide grin. “And I feel like I’m bursting!”
John Smith looked at the Locum. He felt a memory burning inside his mind, an impulse to gain information from this girl. It might be the key to unravelling what has happened. “Tell me how you feel, what you are experiencing,” he said, his voice almost a whisper.
The Locum took his hand and placed it on her temple. “Can you feel it, John? It’s like my brain is fizzing with impossibility. All these wild and crazy scenarios.”
John looked at her in horror. “I can see a city on another planet,” he said, a tremor to his voice. “Huge gleaming spheres inside a glass dome. Men with big collars, looking grumpy and serious.” Their eyes met as the shared images filled both of their minds. The Locum closed her eyes, “And then, I’m stealing a ship with my…. granddaughter? I know for a fact that isn’t possible. The granddaughter I mean, not the stealing. Of course, I can steal. In fact, I feel as if I can do anything.”
The Locum suddenly gasped. John dropped his hand from her face as she held her side. “Same old pain though, I wasn’t clever enough to get rid of…hang on, something in the back of my head… Regeneration? I can heal myself. Is that possible?” She looked at John Smith; he re-placed his hand on her temple. “Oh, all these amazing things you can do, but there is so much darkness. One purple haired girl bringing slivers of light to a universe constantly under threat of conquest and oblivion.” Tears formed in the Locum’s eyes. “I can’t comprehend what drives people to extinguish beauty, hope…life. John, I feel like I’m running in quicksand.”
John looked at the Locum with concern. “Perhaps you need a bit of a lie down too.”
He was startled when the Locum suddenly threw back her head and laughed. “And there I am. Bang! Saving millions of lives and just getting into my blue box to do it all over again. Daleks, Cybermen, Sea Devils, bring ‘em on! I’m the Locum! Righting wrongs and bringing fair play and kindness, from the dawn of creation to the end of time. I can do anything!” She raised her arms up for dramatic emphasis, then dropped them, bowing her head. She brought a clenched fist to her temple. “Oh John, how do I stop myself from going insane?”
John looked at her empathetically He looked around the ship, almost being able to hear the faint echoes of its previous occupants: time stamped whispers that remained behind after the passengers left. “Because you usually have friends who help you,” he said, “Human beings…” He hesitated. “And the odd alien who keep you grounded as you spin around the universe. I think that is why I’m here. I’m your anchor as you circumnavigate the madness of time and space.”
The Locum hugged John, who instinctively recoiled in horror. He broke free of the embrace. “Anchors don’t really need hugs. We need to go…” He found he couldn’t finish the sentence as he had no idea where they were going.
The Locum picked up her beanie hat and placed it on her head. “Back to Earth! Let’s go home,” she said, but hesitated at the controls. She looked at John. “I mean, your home, let’s go to your home.”
Suddenly, a view screen lit up and Nardole’s face was displayed. He looked at the occupants of the TARDIS with confusion.
“You’re the small purple yappy girl. Why are you in the TARDIS?”
The Locum looked at the incredulous face she found strangely familiar. She went to respond, but gasped and stumbled back, holding onto the console.
“Are you alright?” Nardole asked, then saw the man he knew as the Doctor appear behind the ‘purple yappy girl’ as he steadied her.
“Easy, I have you.”
The Locum smiled appreciatively at her companion. “Thank you, John.”
Nardole stared in wide-eyed confusion, then broke into a grin. “Ahh, cosplay! Is that what this is? That’s new.” He chuckled.
The Locum glared at the view screen. “I’m the owner of this time ship and this is my companion, John Smith,” she explained.
Nardole raised his eyebrows. “Blimey, it’s deeper than cosplay, it’s roleplay.”
The link was abruptly broken as the console emitted a small explosive charge and went blank.
“Okay,” said the Locum, wafting away the smoke. “Something else to be fixed. But first, Earth!”
The TARDIS materialised in a small street beside a canal. The Locum stepped outside.
“This doesn’t look like St Luke’s,” she said. Nearby, a pub was playing music. She smiled. “Must be one of those retro bars; that’s the Spice Girls.”
John Smith emerged from the TARDIS and winced unappreciatively at the girl band’s Christmas number one: Too Much. “Definitely ‘too much’,” he intoned.
The Locum looked at the wall of a house, which had paintings of bees on it. There was a tug in her mind; this place was certainly familiar, but she could not put a name to it. She was suddenly aware John was nowhere in sight. He emerged from a nearby newsagent with a newspaper.
“January 7th, 1998,” he said, displaying the front page.
“That’s random,” the Locum remarked.
The Locum and John walked into the city centre. She looked around and through the chaos of her Time Lord augmented mind, realizing she had a strong connection to this place. Had she defeated the Autons here? Fought the Master? Battled an army of monster bees? Or was it something smaller, quieter? Simply shopping and eating, meeting friends on street corners and playing records? Why was it so difficult to remember?
The Locum broke into a wide smile as they approached a shopping centre. “Come on John, I need a new hat!”
John Smith felt awkward; he had no idea why they had arrived in this city at this particular time. It certainly couldn’t be to go shopping. Suddenly, his thoughts were rewarded by an all-too familiar sound of panic. Screams erupted from the centre, and flowing out of it, a panicking mass of humanity, fleeing for their lives. Directly behind them was the source of their panic: white coated humanoids with stainless steel faces and large hypodermic needles in place of their hands. Some of those needles had made contact with human flesh, and those unlucky victims had fallen to the ground, their flesh boiling.
The Locum suppressed her horror and shouted to her companion. “John, try and get these people to safety. Make sure someone has called the emergency services. I’ll deal with these…Hypodermic Men.”
The Hypodermic Men struck with impunity, their needles administering a powerful and lethal substance upon contact. Their movements were precise and their targets indiscriminate. The Locum fished in her coat pocket, finding her sonic screwdriver. She aimed it at masonry above two of the creatures and they fell under the weight of the stone. She observed as the destruction and anger took over, underscored by more screams, which fuelled her determination to stop the attack.
At the same time, John helped the panicking people to safety. His natural instincts were to protect. However, he found this protection to be somehow less effective than in the past. His reactions and instincts seemed slower; he faintly recalled a time when his mind would’ve been crowded with ideas and solutions.
John saw a young girl on the floor, cowering beneath a Hypodermic man, about to inject her with its poison. He found himself propelled towards the creature, felling the creature with a well-administered karate chop to the head.
The woman looked up at John, “That was incredible, thank you.”
He was as surprised as her. “I’m putting that down to muscle memory,” he said, helping her to her feet.
There were a few more blasts from the sonic aimed at the Hypodermic Men before the Locum became aware of one of the creatures standing apart, observing the carnage, rather than participating in it. She confidently approached it.
“Who are you? Why are you doing this?”
Her questions hung in the air and received no answers. The blank, stainless steel visage of the Hypodermic Man reflected her angry expression.
Unexpectedly, the Locum’s sonic glowed in her hand; it proceeded to guide her hand towards the long sharp needle protruding from the sleeve of the white coated humanoid. It beeped and she looked at the readings electronically displayed. John returned to her side and, to his surprise, he understood what the readings said.
“These creatures administer the poison contained in the needles by propulsion,” he explained.
The Locum examined her sonic. “The poison is in a separate casing to the rest of their bodies. Why is that?”
“Maybe it’s poisonous to them too,” John replied.
The Locum smiled. “Spot on, John. I can use the sonic to reverse the polarity of the needles, feed the radiation back into the creatures.” She pressed a button on her sonic and aimed it at the Hypodermic Man. The sonic sent the radiation compound collected in the needle into the Hypodermic Man’s body. It convulsed and collapsed.
“John, there are too many. We’ll never get to them all before more people die.”
John grabbed the Locum’s arm. “This one stood apart from the others, as if it wanted to make contact.”
Once again, John’s observation sparked a realisation in the Locum. “He was the leader!” she triumphantly exclaimed. She bent down and ran the sonic over the needle. “Hive mind, if they are all connected…” She aimed the sonic at the needle and all of a sudden the Hypodermic Men stopped in their tracks and began convulsing. They all dropped to the ground as the Locum breathed a sigh of relief.
Sirens screamed out in the distance. The Locum walked over to the entrance of the shopping centre and took in the devastation beyond. Smashed glass and department store clothes were strewn across both the Hypodermic men and the fallen shoppers. Her eyes focussed on a small child in a doorway. The boy looked bewildered and was on the verge of tears as his eyes met the Locum’s. She clasped her hand over her mouth to suppress her emotion. She started to approach him, but a woman appeared before her, blocking him from view.
“Adam!” she screamed, running to him and scooping him up.
The Locum stared at the woman, wiping the tears from her eyes. “Keep holding onto him. Make him safe, don’t let him go,” she whispered to herself, before another stab of pain sent her sinking to her knees. She felt a hand on her shoulder, and a familiar voice from behind said, “Are you okay? Can I help?”
The short haired blond woman helped the Locum to a bench as the aftermath of the chaos carried on around them. The Hypodermic men lay motionless on the pavement; the emergency services were busy tending to the injured whilst the police were herding the frightened public away from the area. The Locum looked at the blond woman. The chaos in her mind seemed to pause, and a memory buried deep beneath rose to the surface, triggered by those eyes and that unmistakable accent, forged in her mind from hours of experiencing both on her television set.
The Locum smiled warmly. “Thank you, you’re very kind,” she said as the blond woman held her hand.
“As long as you’re alright,” the blond woman said.
The Locum looked at the little boy carried by his mother as she walked past them. The boy looked over her shoulder. Tears once again formed in the Locum’s eyes as they met the little boy’s.
“I was just on my way to work,” explained the blond woman. “I’m an actor, you see, and me being late is going to hold up filming. Which I know is nothing compared with what has happened to these poor people. It’s just I have a big scene today, so I was already nervous, and then all this, it’s just awful.”
The Locum looked at her in mild awe.
“What’s your name?” the woman asked.
“I’m…the Locum,” she replied.
“Oh, that could be handy with people needing a doctor. I’m Julie,” she replied.
“I know who you are,” the Locum replied, gripping Julie’s hand.
The actor smiled. “Not many people recognise me without the wig.”
“I need to tell you,” the Locum said, finding the strength in her voice. “What you’re doing, the part you’re playing — it will mean so much to people. It will help change the law of this country. You’re amazing.”
Julie looked embarrassed. “Well, that’s lovely to hear, but I’m just an actor. It’s the writers who make me look good. Hang on, what did you say about the law changing…?”
John Smith appeared behind the two women. “Sorry to break this up, but it’s time to go.”
The Locum looked at Julie. “You are far more than just an actress; you’re a symbol, a beacon of hope, and a companion on so many journeys.”
Julie looked confused as John helped the Locum to her feet.
“Thank you for your help,” he told Julie.
“Take care of her,” she said to John. “Get the doc a cuppa. A brew sorts everything out.”
“Best you get going. Don’t keep Roy waiting.”
The Locum beamed at Julie, who smiled quizzically. She nodded, and ducked under the police tape.
“Come on,” said John, helping the Locum to begin their journey to the TARDIS.
“Who was that woman?” he asked.
“Actress, worked on a soap. Her character and I….owww.” The Locum winced in pain once more. John quickened his pace towards the TARDIS. “Come on, back streets, avoid the crowd.”
The TARDIS door closed, and John helped the Locum to a chair.
“I’m okay, John, but you don’t look so good.”
John was ashen as he placed his hand on his side. He pulled it away and examined his hand; it was covered in blood. Pain followed this discovery and he sank to his knees.
“John!” The Locum gasped, leaving the chair and kneeling with him on the TARDIS floor.
John smiled in discomfort. “One of them obviously hit the bullseye.”
The Locum lifted her companion’s shirt; the wound was glowing. “Radiation!”
“But you’re human, why didn’t it kill you like the others?”
“Maybe I have nine lives.” John grimaced.
“I need to get you to the sick bay,” the Locum said.
With that, the lights in the TARDIS flickered and a shadow was cast over both of them.
A brittle voice, like gas escaping from a frozen pipe, filled the compromised ship as it began moving: “I am called The Malignance, Time Lord. While you were distracted by my foot soldiers in the city, I was able to enter your craft.”
The Locum turned to look at the creature. A mass of white and black cells approximating a human shape, with a face at its centre. The features were cast in shadow, and fluid, seemingly melting from one image to another. It was like staring at a contorted flip book of human suffering. “Like my soldiers, I was born from the darkness in your mind. You have experienced the life of a Time Lord, and to every Ying, there must be a Yang. I aim to use this ship to spread my disease throughout space and time. I will extinguish civilisations, whole planets before they have the opportunity to flourish. I will revel in the exquisite pain. I will bathe in the loss and suffering. I will feast on it. My empire of darkness, seeded in this blue box of endless opportunity.”
The Locum looked at John, who was writhing in pain. “John, what do I do?”
Her companion smiled weakly and pointedly tapped his shirt pocket. She reached into it and pulled out the Morphea rock samples. They glowed in her hand, casting an orange glow on John Smith’s face.
“Reverse the polarity!” he whispered before closing his eyes.
Suddenly, the Malignance enveloped the Locum, attacking both her body and mind. It was a familiar pain, but magnified. She felt as though she was being drowned in shadow, the light of her very being slowly extinguished. That usual sanguine fortitude was being consumed, as her eyes turned black. Mustering a brief defiant strength, she reached into her coat pocket for the sonic. She was trembling as she heard the Malignance laughing, feeling herself succumbing to its poisonous presence. She aimed her sonic at the rocks in her palm, but she was too weak to press the buttons on the device. John opened his eyes; a breath of orange energy escaped his lips; he clasped his hand over the Locum’s and the sonic glowed into life, bathing the rocks in a blue glow. He looked at her and whispered: “Close your eyes.”
The Locum did as she was instructed and John followed suit. Suddenly, tiny sparks of glowing dust lifted from the eyelids of the Locum and her companion. The sonic had magnetised the rocks, which were busily reabsorbing the tiny flecks. The Locum and John remained on the floor of the TARDIS; the Malignance screamed its frustration as it began evaporating. The Locum felt her knowledge dissipate, her connection to space and time unravelling, and the normal plates of humanity slotting back into place. It was an easier process for John Smith. He had experienced humanity briefly before, and this return to Time Lord consciousness was considerably less painful than last time. The difference being, this time, the transference was welcomed. He looked down at his side; his wound was already healing itself thanks to a small burst of regenerative energy. The transformation was completed with their former appearances restored.
The Doctor scrambled over to Eden, who weakly asked: “What happened?”
“I was careless,” answered the Doctor, “I should have remembered the planet Morphea is full of dream mites. Tiny vampiric organisms called Morphytes. They are powered by the dreams and fears of their stolen host bodies. They hide on the eyelids, absorbing your thoughts. Brain parasites with the ability to change the reality of the host, to give them what they desire most. The downside is they also manifest your darkest fears, chomping away at them and giving them form.”
Eden furrowed her brow. “Obviously I wanted to be you, but you wanted to be human?”
The Doctor raised his eyebrows. “Not…exactly. I just wanted to know how it would feel to let someone else take charge. I got my wish; you were pretty good.”
Eden coughed in pain.
“You’re sick,” the Doctor said, looking at Eden’s saddened expression.
“Then everything is back to normal,” she whispered. The Doctor became aware the TARDIS rotor had activated and the ship was moving. “Just in case anything happened to me, I set the coordinates to take you back to Earth.”
He smiled approvingly. “Spoken like a true Doctor.”
The TARDIS landed. The door opened and Nardole appeared. The Doctor threw the Morphea rocks to him.
“Nardole! Put these in a stasis lock immediately and try not to think what you really desire or dwell on your darkest fears. They may come true.”
Nardole muttered, “Well, I certainly don’t want to turn into a tin dog!”
The Doctor ignored his valet and looked down at Eden, cradled in his arms. She wasn’t moving.
Not long after, the Doctor and Nardole stood outside Eden’s room, as the nurses made her as comfortable as they could.
“It’s been over a month since we left. The Morphytes feed off their hosts’ time span at a rapid rate. She must have felt that chronal energy being eaten away and set the Tardis coordinates to this point in time…”
“To the end,” finished Nardole, with sadness. The Doctor remained silent.
Nardole blinked, “Look at it this way, Sir. She brought forward the inevitable and saved herself a month full of pain.”
The Doctor bowed his head, processing that line of thought. He looked into the window of Eden’s room and whispered an order to Nardole. “Best check on Missy.”
The Doctor sat silently by Eden’s bedside, head bowed and hands clasped in front of him. The room was dark, illuminated only by a thin strip of light from an overhead light fitting. Eden opened her eyes, shifting her body uncomfortably against the starched white sheets. She turned her head towards the Doctor and gave him a fragile smile. He looked up and returned her warmth. Her face broke into a pained grimace as she gave a sharp intake of breath. The Doctor hesitantly reached for her hand.
“The staff think I’m your grandfather,” he said. “If I really was, I’d have known how ill you were.”
Eden’s eyes left the Doctor’s concerned gaze to stare at the ceiling; a look of guilt crossed her face. “All the time I was at your lectures, I forgot how ill I was, Doctor. You have no idea the power you have, do you? I don’t mean the box and the time travel. It’s your words. Oral bombs of knowledge, making everyone feel dumb and smart at the same time. And you’re hilarious…in a grumpy Scottish way. My mad professor, teaching me and making me laugh, helping me forget what’s going on in this body. I can now see why you call yourself Doctor; you make people better without them even realising it.”
The Doctor looked at the clock on Eden’s bedside. “The staff told me they have contacted your mother; she’s on her way.”
Eden closed her eyes and sighed. “I don’t need her; I have my grandfather.”
The Doctor felt her hand tremble, then grip his hand as tightly as her faded strength could muster.
“My mum washed her hands of me a long time ago, when she couldn’t deal with her son becoming her daughter.”
The Doctor raised his eyebrows and sighed. “I see.” He looked at her. “That tells me a lot about you, Eden, about how brave you are, braver than me.”
A look of puzzlement touched Eden’s features. “How so?” she asked.
“I know something about changing bodies,” the Doctor said softly. “In fact, I have a history of changing my own, several times. And each and every time it’s been involuntary. Granted, the change saved my life, but I had no choice what I looked like, who I became.”
Eden regarded him and smiled. “Change saved your life. I know exactly how that feels.”
The Doctor narrowed his eyes, his brow casting them in shadow.
“The difference with you,” he replied, “the power you had was your choosing to change, and from the sound of it, on your own. That’s amazing.”
Eden’s moist eyes fixed the Doctor’s. “Knowing you has made me realise I have already transitioned into the best version of me, but blimey, Doctor, who wouldn’t want a sonic screwdriver and a time machine? I mean, how awesome is that?”
The Doctor returned her smile and gave a small nod. “Well, now you mention it, yes, that is pretty awesome.”
Eden looked at the Doctor. “I don’t want to see her.”
“Your mother?” the Doctor asked.
“I don’t want her deadnaming me. My journey is ending as Eden, not Adam.”
Eden shuffled slightly in her bed. “My head is full of the time we shared Doctor, but…it’s patchy. I’m even having trouble remembering what I was wearing..”
“Once the Morphytes are out of your system,” the Doctor explained, sombrely, “the memories of what they did, and the effects of their actions fade. Your perception of reality snaps back to what it was. All of that carnage with the Hypodermic Men never happened.”
Eden fixed the Doctor with a steely expression. “But Doctor, I don’t want to forget. That mad, brilliant time, all that knowledge, that fantastic costume, the blue box. I was healing people, just like you.”
The Doctor gently placed his hand on Eden’s imploring face. “I will make you a promise. I will help you to remember everything. Close your eyes and focus. I will give your mind a boost, and I will ensure those memories stay with you, forever.” The Doctor gently pressed his fingers against Eden’s temple and closed his eyes as he made a connection, his consciousness entering hers.
The Locum opened her eyes and looked down. She brushed debris off her blue coat and regarded John. “Well, that was quite a day.”
John Smith surveyed the devastation around them. He clumsily crunched down on broken machinery under his feet, stumbling slightly. “I still don’t know how you did that. The Cybermen and Daleks, defeated in one fell swoop. Quite extraordinary.”
The Locum smiled, approvingly. John carried on.
“Excellent work finding the Sea Devils a twin planet to Earth for them to settle on. Might run into trouble naming it Sea World though. I think that’s trademarked.”
The Locum looked up at the stars twinkling in the sky and breathed in deeply. “Can you feel it, John?” she asked her companion. “The change in the universe? The message has gone out. Daleks and Cybermen are no more, that ripple effect spreading through space and time. The greatest darkness finally vanquished. We’ve done it.”
John smiled and clasped the Locum’s hand. “Finally,” he said. “The universe is at peace. All it took was one remarkable day, one remarkable woman. No longer a Locum; that title is now redundant. This is the dawn of the New Doctor.”
So many emotions stirred within the woman newly anointed as the Doctor, and she let out a small gasp at John’s acknowledgement. She smiled, having never felt such happiness. The two friends were bathed in light, as the New Doctor felt John’s grip tighten. Then there was silence.
The hospital visitor’s room was dimly lit. Outside, the clouds hung above it like a sombre halo. The Doctor’s face was impassive as he stared down at the car park below. Beyond the doorway he heard hushed conversation, then a woman’s footsteps. “Hello, I’m Amanda Casey. You knew my son?”
The Doctor angrily turned from the window and looked at her, recognising her as the woman in the shopping centre. “No, I knew your daughter. I was her tutor and her friend, and you are late.”
Amanda bristled. “There were roadworks….”
“Years too late,” the Doctor interrupted.
Amanda glared, taken aback by the stranger’s outburst. “You have no idea about me and Adam.”
“Eden!” he snapped. “Her name was Eden.” He turned away and looked out of the window. “I’m sorry…” Amanda folded her arms in silent awkwardness. “You’re right,” the Doctor continued, “I don’t know anything about your family, but I did know Eden, and you have to know that although the body may change, the person within doesn’t. Oh, the spirit may be lighter, but the core of the person remains. Trust me, I know.” The Doctor bowed his head and continued. “I’m sorry you never got to share the best years of Eden’s life and never knew the extraordinary young woman she was.”
Amanda fought back the tears forming in her eyes. “I didn’t even know she was ill,” she stammered.
The Doctor looked at her. “Because after she shared her secret with you and you turned your back on her, she knew she was alone. Any journey she made would be made in solitude. Journeys don’t end in decision, Mrs. Casey, they end in realisation. Every person has the right to feel comfortable in their own skin, the body they choose. Eden realised and achieved that, eventually, on her own. She died in her true body, with her mind at peace. And, Mrs. Casey, on that final journey she wasn’t on her own, far from it. She had me, me and the entire universe, and everything was finally peaceful.”
The Doctor looked back out of the window. The sun was struggling to emerge from the angry, black clouds. Amanda shuffled nervously, clutching her coat, unsure of what to say. The Doctor broke the silence. “I am sorry for your loss. Moreover, I’m sorry for the universe’s loss. It was a much better place with Eden Casey in it.”
As the Doctor left the room, Amanda Casey began to weep.
The Doctor walked slowly across the hospital car park and joined Nardole as the sun burst through the clouds, bathing the cars in a golden hue. “I’ve always liked a sunrise, Nardole. Full of hope and promise.”
Nardole looked uncomfortable. “Sorry, Sir, just heard there’s a commotion going on in town. Apparently, a rogue squadron of Sea Devils are launching a mini-invasion. It’s the ones with the string vests, not the samurai variants. That’s why the police think it’s a load of students — rubbish costumes.”
The Doctor pulled out Eden’s beanie hat from his pocket and smiled. “Ha!” he exclaimed. “I had hoped that universal peace would last for a bit longer.”
Nardole looked confused as the Doctor pulled the beanie hat over his fluffy grey hair. Nardole winced. “Ahh, she wore it better, sir.”
The Doctor fired his valet a melancholic smile and removed the hat, his thumb lingering on the material for a moment, as he pressed it back into his pocket. He pulled his hand out, his eyes widening in anticipation of what lay ahead; clicking his fingers, he watched the TARDIS doors fly open.
“Time to go, Nardole,” he exclaimed as the pair stepped into the box. “Let’s do this in the name of the New Doctor.”