Thursday, January 18, 2007

A brief encounter in a story you never read


The bearded figure wrapped his arms around his chest as if trying to ward off something, agony crossing his face before the muscles went slack. The Doctor stepped from behind the console as the figure fell heavily on his back, the raging red flames mingling with the crackling sparkles of light.

As the Doctor stared into the flickering silver storm of light, seeing metal change to cloth and flesh and then back again, and the agonized groan emerge from lips that weren’t there, he remembered a few days previously.

Turlough stood over the console, adjusting the settings. He had only recently begun to master the new symmetrical layout the Doctor had formatted the console room to when he started going stir-crazy on the Eye of Orion. That manic energy was gone now, the Time Lord either asleep or wandering the corridors of his time machine deep in thought – about anything except Tegan and her abrupt, near violent departure from their lives.

Turlough looked at the figure in the chair beside the console, tore his gaze away and concentrated on the displays. The lights were blinking in sequence as the flight computer narrowed the position in time and space to the one that Turlough had requested.

The figure in the chair did not speak or comment. The face was blank, emotionless... little more than a corpse. The fact it was the face of Tegan Jovanka seemed the closest it would get to resistance.

The familiar ethereal grinding of the engines built up and Turlough began to power down the console. He didn’t have long. Not long as all. There was no time for doubt.

So this was the moment the doubts came back.

He was already regretting it, wishing he’d reset the controls and returned the TARDIS to its former course, pretend that it hadn’t happened. "I didn’t want it to be like this you know," he told the other occupant of the room.

Silence. The engines had faded. The TARDIS was in the outside universe once more, a real and solid object in time and space.

"It’s better than you deserve."

No reply.

Turlough tugged a red handle on the console. The doors opened. "Get up."

The thing in the shape of Tegan Jovanka looked at him.

"What about the Doctor?"

"What about him?"

"He won’t approve."

"And your point is? Move, Kamelion."

Kamelion’s face, identical in every respect to Tegan, held an expression of mutiny. But it rose. It had to obey. It had no choice. If it had a choice, this wouldn’t be happening, though.

"Where have you brought us?" Kamelion asked.

"A planet thrown out from the constellation of Zenscor."

"I do not know it."

"You will. From now on, it’s home as far as you’re concerned."

"You don’t wish to discuss this?"

Turlough remembered Tegan. And Laird. And the soldiers on Earth and the space station. The corpses. The smell. The screams.

"I don’t wish to discuss this. Move."

Turlough watched as the fake Tegan crossed the room and headed for the exit. Kamelion had worn that shape when Turlough had strode into its quarters. Despite its claims to have a mind and will of its own, that inside the TARDIS it was truly an individual, Kamelion had obeyed Turlough’s every whim. Except it stayed in the shape of Tegan.

Whatever true personality Kamelion possessed, it was subsumed so much of the time as to make no odds. The Doctor-sanctioned Kamelion was polite, friendly, helpful and smug. Was that the real Kamelion? Either way, that Kamelion vanished out the door. And outside, Kamelion was prey to so many outside influences.
Like his creators. The Daleks.

Kamelion had fallen completely under their command. He had killed without qualm, remorse or emotion. He seemed to turn back to the Doctor’s side, but there was no guarantee. Not any more,

There was no other way.

Kamelion stepped outside the police box onto the barren slate grey surface of the planet. A few arch-like growths of stone were the only things to break the monotony of the landscape. A few lakes of oily black liquid were calm. There were no stars in the night sky. The air was thick and warm.

"You’re going to leave me here?" Kamelion asked in its usual bland voice, this time female and with an Australian accent.

"It’s better than you deserve."

"And you think I cannot leave here? That I will not be found one day?"

"There’s no one else here, Kamelion. Nothing. You can’t pretend any more. You’ll be yourself. Alone."

The fake hair was whipped on Kamelion’s head.

"Someone will find me. Some time."

Turlough swallowed. "Very well. You convinced me."


"Destroy yourself."

Kamelion turned Tegan’s face towards him. "I beg your pardon?!"

"Do it. Destroy yourself. You must have some self-destruct built in. I order you. Destroy yourself."

Tegan dissolved in a storm of silver sparkles. Turlough was suddenly looking at himself accusingly.

"You can’t control me. I have a mind of my own."

"Then use it. We can’t risk you getting off world. Dalek technology..."

"We?" the other Turlough jeered. "The Doctor didn’t condone this plan."

"The Doctor," the real Turlough growled, "isn’t up to this any more. Now, you’re too much of a risk to stay aboard the TARDIS. But you’re too much of a risk to let anyone find you. Either you’re marooned or you die."

"There are weapons aboard the TARDIS," Kamelion said at length, reverting to the true silver shape was its own form. Its voice, fruity, synthesized and very close to the one King John had owned. "If you wanted to kill me, you could do so easily."

Turlough did not let his emotions reach his face. "I’m a soldier, Kamelion. I’ve killed dozens of people."

"In battle," came the indifferent reply. "At distance from the weapons panel of a Trion star ship. You cannot murder in cold blood."

"You’re not a real person."

"The Doctor thinks so."

"The Doctor is deluding himself. You’re not sentient. The food dispenser has a better claim on life than you. You’re just a mass of distorted reflections. Around the Doctor, you’re an obedient little robot. Around the Daleks, a cold-hearted killing machine. And..."

"And around you?"


"Is this a private function or can anyone participate?"

Standing in the doorway was a blond figure in a cricketing jumper and stripy trousers, arms folder.

"Doctor..." Turlough began.

"No, Turlough. Enough. We’re leaving. All of us."

"Don’t be stupid, Doctor, you’re not a fool!" Turlough spat. "You know what we’re risking if he stays aboard!"

"Better than you do, Turlough."

"He’ll get us all killed."

"Will he? Was he the one that ripped out the space time element so the TARDIS and everything on it would melt? Was he the one who abandoned his friends to take on the Sea Devils alone?"

Turlough finally looked the Doctor in the eye. "You dare to compare me to that lump of solid state circuitry!" The very thought of it hurt. At that moment, Turlough never wanted to see the Doctor or the TARDIS again. It would fade in time but never go away.

"Yes, I dare. Kamelion doesn’t have a choice. You did."

"So are you going to dump me here?" Turlough challenged, furious.

"I’m not dumping anyone. Come on. Both of you. Inside."

Kamelion’s human-looking eyes moved in the silver mask of his face. Then he moved to take a step forward.

Turlough blocked him with a thought. "Kamelion, you’re staying here."

The Doctor beamed at the young redhead. "Don’t make me lose my temper," he said in a reasonable tone that would have given Cybermen pause.

"We should do as he says," Kamelion said quietly.

"Oh, surprise me," Turlough sneered. "He sold us out!" he screamed.


"Better people have done worse. We’re alive, Turlough. Leave it at that."

Turlough felt like stamping his foot. "Yes, that’ll bring Tegan back, won’t it? Pretending none of it ever happened, that all’s well with the world, have another cucumber sandwich and read Wisdon’s damn almanac one more time! Well it happened, all right? And he is the cause!"

Kamelion didn’t seem to notice the accusing finger aimed at him.

"And what did you do to stop me, Mister Turlough?" he asked politely.

Turlough’s face fell. What had he done? Was that why he was so angry? Because he hadn’t done enough? But what else could he have done? Dived in front of a Dalek ray in the hope one of those humans wouldn’t die? The Colonel and his men had deliberately gone on a suicide mission! That wasn’t his fault.

Was it?

Should he have spoken up like Tegan? Tried to convince them to stay? Was that the be all and end all – it’s not what you achieve, but what you attempted? Had Tegan run off because of him just as much as the Doctor, just as much as the death and violence?

It may have been hours later, but Turlough found his voice.

"Doctor. We can’t take him with us. And if we can’t leave him here... there’s only one alternative, isn’t there?"

"Is there?"

"There’s no other way."

"There’s always another way!" the Doctor snapped at him. The anger fled his voice and he looked up at the black dome of the sky. "There must be."

"Doctor, we have to face facts..."

The Doctor looked at Kamelion. The android could be destroyed. Somehow. It was certainly possible. But then, if he killed Kamelion, why should he spare the equally unreliable Turlough? Or Tegan? She had been a wild card. And Adric had caused as much trouble as the others put together...

But Nyssa hadn’t. Or Gus. Or Justin.

Kamelion turned its face towards him. It sensors picked up a pattern of images it quickly dismissed as irrelevant – a space freighter crashing into a primeval planet and exploding; a medieval knight stabbing a monster through its heart and being consumed in a flash of light; a shallow grave on a tropical island in a redundant time line; a mass of twisted girders and gantries, a plague pit at the centre of time; and a pale shape running off into the darkness of Wapping, 1984.

The Doctor turned and unlatched the left-hand door of the police box, widening the portal into the time machine. "Come on, you two. We’re leaving. We all need some rest. We can discuss things tomorrow."

"And do what?" Turlough demanded. "Give Kamelion a tinfoil cap to stop him being controlled by the strongest mind in the vacinity?"

"Get Mister Turlough to visit an anger therapist?" Kamelion suggested dryly.

The Doctor smiled again. This time it was genuine.

"Why not?" he said, and waved at the confines of control room impossibly inside the police box. Turlough watched as the silver android strode inside and, after a final defeated sigh in the hot air, boarded it himself.

"There’s always another way," said the Doctor with a quiet, sad smile.

If only he knew he could be proved right.

He stepped inside his disguised time machine and pushed the doors closed. A moment later there was a wheezing, groaning noise in time with the flashing beacon on the stacked roof. The TARDIS faded away, leaving no trace it had ever been there – bar footprints in the dirt that would baffle several archaeologists until the end of time itself.

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