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Doctor Who: The Ashes of Our Fathers

By Paul Cornell

The Doctor stood a little distance from the TARDIS console, hands clasping his lapels, pondering.

He'd beaten them, the fools of Gallifrey. He'd laughed in another of their courtrooms, and been cleared of the charges against him. But only after a revolution.

It had been too easy.

He'd spent the last two hours interrogating his new companion, Mel, about her life and how they were going to meet. Now she was sleeping, and the Doctor was pondering his feelings of doubt.

He felt heavy with fate. The business of Gallifrey was always stage-managed, but this felt even shallower. Peri hadn't died, the Master had offered his help... the Doctor sighed. The only real good that had been done was the revelation that someday the Doctor would become his own worst enemy. Out of the Pit of his mind would explode the Valeyard, the personification of all his mistakes.

And there had been many of them. He was starting to see that. It was as if there was an intelligence behind the whole farce. But what was he supposed to do about it?

"To be or not to be..." he raised one hand to hold an imaginary skull.

"I can offer an answer."

The Voice was softer than his own, precise and cutting. But where had it come from?

The TARDIS bucked as though something had hit it. The Doctor was thrown across the console room.

Something dark stepped from the shadows.

"All the world's a stage..." murmured the Seventh Dotor. "And I'm forgetting my lines."

"Who are you?!" bellowed the Sixth Doctor. "What do you want?"

The new Doctor's voice was a murmur as he stepped forward, apparently unaffected by the ship's violent concussions.

"I docked the TARDISes. Quietly. Mel's lost in the labyrinth between them. She'll assume it's because she's new here. Poor girl. So many knots in her time stream. She's almost a fictional character..."

The colourful Doctor glared up at him, in puzzlement. "You're me, aren't you? What are you going to do?"

"Change. It's time. And it seems not a moment too soon."

The intruder reached out and tapped a series of controls on the console.

The Sixth Doctor stared for a moment, a terrible fear overcoming him. He closed his eyes, and felt Time's hand gently soothing his troubles away. Then he played the part he had to play.

He lept up angrily, putting every ounce of hurt pride into his exclamation.

"Stand aside from the console! You may be me, but for the moment this is my TARDIS!"

And, with those dark eyes watching him, he reached out to reset the controls.

The blast of energy ripped through him, cells juddering with the blaze of death. For a moment, his face creased into what might have been, the dark shadow of the Valeyard dying in a bonfire of possible futures.

The Doctor released the controls, and, staggering, looked up at his killer.

The new Doctor, his face emotionless, reached out with his umbrella, deactivating the security circuits, and set the TARDIS into a collision course with the Rani's beam.

Then he turned to his former self. "You did well," he said. "Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust."

And then he left.

The Doctor swayed on his feet as he felt the TARDISes detach. He was splitting also, potentials dying in every spasmodic clench of his hands.

Assassinated, he fell against the console, and grinned with a final truth, blood tumbling with his words.

"Et tu..." he began.

And the rest was silence.



Not to be reproduced without the express permission of the author.