Chapter Twenty Six

Catherine watched as the Doctor turned and walked back towards the TARDIS. He reached the TARDIS doors, pulled the door key out of his jacket pocket and unlocked the door. After he stepped through the doorway and closed the door behind him, Catherine expected the TARDIS to dematerialise immediately. But it remained fixed where it was, much to her relief. She sighed to herself, as she turned away from the common room and the TARDIS to head to her quarters to write up a summary of her interview. This was something that needed to be done while it was all still fresh in her mind. If there were any legal issues over the interview and its results, her recollections of it could be subpoenaed as evidence. Once that unedifying task was done, she could return to see if she could assist the Doctor any further. That is, if he still needed assistance. She very much hoped that he did…..

The Doctor walked slowly, unusually for him, to the console. He arrived at the scanner in time to watch Catherine turn away and leave the common room. It was disappointing for him that she didn’t accept his offer immediately, but he respected her decision. He knew that it would be a major step for her, but he was pleased that she hadn’t rejected his offer outright.

One of the things that drew him towards her was her ability to think things through logically and he hoped that that was what she was going to do with his offer. He hoped that all she needed was time to consider it. But there was a limit to the time he could, or was prepared to, allow her to consider. He wasn’t planning on asking her a second time. Whether she travelled with him or not was her choice. There would be no ultimatum from him. She wasn’t a child who needed an inducement held out to her. Eventually, he knew he would need to move on from the Eye of Orion. If Catherine wanted to accept his offer, it was up to her to let him know her thoughts before he made ready to leave.

To an onlooker, this may have seemed a bit harsh, even arrogant. But to the Doctor, after all he had gone through before he arrived here, it seemed quite reasonable. For the moment, though, he wanted to see Catherine’s investigations through to their conclusion. There were too many unanswered questions that needed to be addressed and he couldn’t leave without them being dealt with to his satisfaction. In his mind, that depended on her involvement in the solution process. Whether he admitted it to himself or not, he was already thinking of the two of them as a team, so how could he consider letting her go…..

It took Catherine the best part of two hours (in Earth terms) to summarise her interview with her commander to her satisfaction. But the summary was everything she could wish for. It was precise and concise, stating the facts as she had submitted them, her commander’s reactions and his rebuttal to her submission. Of course, her case for the recognition of her use of the Doctor’s knowledge and skill and for his continued involvement in the investigation and the benefits to that investigation formed part of the recommendations and conclusion in her submission. “At least there has been no thought of arresting the Doctor for abduction or interference,” she thought. She wasn’t to know, but both those thoughts had occurred to her commander, but as there was no clear evidence to back those possible charges, he had rejected them.

After having stored the summary securely and made three identical backup copies in case of interference, Catherine knew this task was completed. Her first inclination was to return to the Doctor and see if she could assist him. But she knew she owed her duty to her team first and foremost, so she went to locate the two constables. It was customary after being present at one of these interviews for the attendees to be allowed the remainder of the day off. She need not have been concerned about them. Both constables were aware of the custom – it was one way to ensure attendance. When she found them, each was in his own quarters. George Black was lounging on a large bean bag, reading a detective novel. Oddly enough, Jeffrey Crane was located, sitting in a ‘director’s’ chair, completing the Times crossword. Catherine thought it was out of character for him and raised her eyebrows in surprise, until she saw that it was last week’s crossword and he had the solutions to it on the computer screen beside him! She smiled, in spite of herself. Cheating on the crossword was not something she approved of, but it was harmless and so typically Constable Crane!

The custom also pertained to those under scrutiny at one of these interviews. It was part of their guarantee of liberty and status that they were accorded the same privileges as if they had been a normal attendee. However, for Catherine, she had no desire to spend the remainder of her afternoon in her quarters. By now, she was almost bursting with curiosity to see what else the Doctor had discovered. But she needed to sort out another relatively minor piece of reporting first, so she returned to her quarters to complete it. This was more for her own benefit than anything else, to tie up the loose ends left from her hasty departure earlier. She didn’t like things to be outstanding and it wouldn’t take her long to complete. As she quickly completed it to her satisfaction, Catherine breathed a sigh, almost of relief, before locking it away, leaving her quarters and securing the door behind her.

Catherine returned to the common room and was inwardly delighted and relieved that the TARDIS was still there. Outwardly, she gave no indication of her thoughts, except that her hazel eyes were shining brightly. She noticed that the TARDIS doors, unusually, were not completely closed. With an outward appearance of calm, she quietly walked up to the TARDIS, pressed against the slightly open door and walked in.

The Doctor, who had his back to her as he worked at the console, said, “Close the door behind you, Catherine.”

She thought he must have the proverbial eyes in the back of his head to know it was her, but she didn’t question it. After all, he was an alien. Although she would have dearly loved to investigate his antecedents, there were more pressing matters that she needed to resolve first. “Doctor,” she prompted him, rather like the drama teacher in the wings at a performance of the school play, “You were about to discuss the destruction at the Eye before we were interrupted by my summons.” Catherine walked up the ramp and across to the console to stand on the right-hand side of the Doctor, at right angles to the console. She looked at him with a serious look in her eyes as she waited for some response from him.

The Doctor didn’t reply immediately. He was deciding how much he would tell her and how much he would leave for her to guess. This was a difficult decision for him in a way because, while he was reluctant to tell her too much too soon, he did respect her abilities and value her point of view on these issues. After all, he thought, he had not offered her the opportunity to travel with him on a whim. Although she hadn’t accepted his offer as yet, he thought it was only fair that he should show his trust in her by allowing her to see into some of the difficulties he had to deal with as the last Time Lord. “She doesn’t even know that I am a Time Lord, let alone that I am the last remnant of that once great race. Maybe it’s time that she did,” he thought. He turned around, meeting her serious look with his own serious, even slightly grim, look.

Catherine stood quietly, expectantly, as he reached his hands out to grasp her tightly above the elbows. She repeated her question from earlier in the day. “Doctor, who do you think is responsible for this destruction at the Eye?” Her hazel eyes opened wider as she gazed into the Doctor’s intense blue ones, awaiting his answer.

The Doctor replied, with quiet frustration, “I don’t know, Catherine. Oh, I have plenty of ideas, but no actual knowledge. This whole destruction of the ion generation mechanism and the archway, even the usage of the bacteria to expedite the situation is just too perfect. It can’t just be some casual terrorist bent on wanton destruction. There are the signs of a well-organised plan here. But there is no obvious reason for the destruction.” He dropped his grip of her arms, as he remembered the results of his grip on her wrist from their first meeting. Standing back from her slightly, he folded his arms across his chest. “You’re the security officer, Catherine. What do you think?”

Catherine thought for a moment and then replied, crisply, “Why don’t we start with the person who supplied the bacteria? They must know who they were supplying it to.”

The Doctor grinned. “Your wish is my command,” he said flippantly. He set the coordinates on the TARDIS console, after quickly calculating the most likely location of the person he just knew had to be the supplier of the ‘sand mining syndrome’ bacteria. The TARDIS dematerialised as he pulled the dematerialisation lever and set the time rotor in motion. “I’m taking you on a trip halfway across the galaxy and slightly backwards in time, Catherine. But we’ll be back in time for tea.” Catherine nodded. She had complete faith in him to return her on time. He hoped he could live up to that. The last thing he wanted was her having to front another interview with her commander.

This was the first time Catherine would be experiencing time travel, so she naturally had to ask, “Why the travel through time, Doctor?”

He turned to Catherine, a slight frown now creasing his brow. The Doctor thought for a few moments before answering her, truthfully, “Because the person we need to see literally lives in the past, Catherine. The latest results from the analysis of the rubble confirm a small temporal anomaly has been operating in the vicinity. We are simply following that anomaly to its origin.”

Catherine, remembering part of their earlier conversation, asked, “Is this person the one you said had no conscience? One of your own people?”

The Doctor nodded, grimly. “Yes.”

Catherine looked puzzled for a moment, wondering whether now was the best time to ask him who his own people were. But the decision was taken out of her hands. The Doctor added, perhaps a little too carefully, “I’m a Time Lord, Catherine, the last Time Lord.” There was a far away look in his eyes and for a moment she was sure that tears were going to overflow his eyelids, but he had a strong grip upon himself this time and they did not eventuate. However, Catherine did notice that his eyes glistened with unshed tears, nevertheless.

Catherine didn’t know quite what to say. She had heard of the Time Lords, of course, in her assignments on many different worlds, but had never been in the position to meet one before. And what did he mean by saying he was ‘the last Time Lord’? Deciding that, for the moment, discretion really was the better part of valour, she asked, “Anything special to see where we are heading, Doctor?”

“The person we are travelling to meet could be described as special, I suppose,” he replied, cryptically. “Depending upon your definition of special, of course.”

The Doctor didn’t expand any further on his remark and Catherine didn’t quite like to pursue it. After all, she would find out soon enough what he meant. But she did think that it was fair enough to ask him one question. “Who are we going to meet?” she asked, quietly.

The Doctor paused, before replying deliberately, and somewhat ironically, “One of the best chemists in the galaxy, but also one of the most ruthless beings in the galaxy. She’s actually an old girlfriend of mine – from my Academy days, Catherine. These days she likes to be known as ‘The Rani’.”

(* To be continued….. *)