Chapter One

“No,” the Doctor thought, as the TARDIS continued its flight to its preset destination, “I am not about to return to Earth, yet.” It was more than that, though. He was absolutely determined not to return to Earth so soon. Visits to Earth always seemed somehow to result in him having to save its human inhabitants from some malevolent source – whether alien or home grown. Although he was extremely attached to Earth and its inhabitants, he just didn’t feel ready for that at this moment.

As he verified the coordinates he had entered, the Doctor leaned over the TARDIS console, a tall, striking figure clad almost entirely in black with a blue jumper being the only relief. As suited his personality, the blue was a strong blue – no washed out pastel shades for this man. It was also a colour guaranteed to emphasise the blue of his eyes, not that the Doctor would have known that, as he still was completely uninterested in his appearance. The battered leather jacket that he wore looked as if he had just shrugged himself into it in a hurry, but it was a look that suited him well.

Despite his clear acknowledgement of the memories and feelings around the destruction of Gallifrey, so essential to his ongoing health and well-being, he needed to take emotional and physical stock of himself as well. His recent regeneration had taken place without any major physical problem or difficulty and the fight in him and his physical fitness were now completely restored. However, the traumatic events leading up to it had taken their toll on his spirit and left emotional scars which, he thought, may never completely heal. He frowned as he looked at the TARDIS console and the time rotor moving up and down in a constant rhythm. His emotional responses had been seriously impaired, he knew, in that he did not know how much of his judgement could be confidently relied upon any more in dangerous situations; nor could he rely on that certain calmness in the face of adversity that had seen him through so much of latter years, allowing him to emerge relatively unscathed from various conflicts.

The destruction of Gallifrey – and his major role in its demise – had shaken him badly. He supposed that he was still in a state of emotional shock, not a preferred post-regenerative state of being for a Time Lord. Then it all hit him, rather like a car being hit by a bullet train. Not a Time Lord, but the last Time Lord! It had not sunk in until now that he was officially the last Time Lord. Tears were stinging behind his eyes, again, as he silently mourned Gallifrey’s passing, but he was determined that he had shed enough tears for the moment. He blinked his reddening eyes and the encroaching indications of tears vanished as quickly as they had appeared.

What he needed at this point of the time continuum – while he was still recovering from the after effects from his eighth regeneration and the events surrounding it – was a visit to a place of peace and tranquillity. The place he instantly thought of was a rather non-descript planet, astronomically, but with an incredibly beautiful location. It was known, locally, as the Eye of Orion. The last time he visited there, in his fifth incarnation, he had been travelling with two companions – an Australian woman, named Tegan and an alien man, named Turlough. A short stay, that time, because events intimately concerning him had summoned him back to Gallifrey, rather excruciatingly soon. A shadow seemed to pass across his face, with that memory, like the Moon casting its shadow across the face of the Earth during a solar eclipse.

However, he mentally shook himself away from that memory and concentrated on the benefits in revisiting the Eye now. He needed the tranquillity it provided in abundance. It was a place where there was a constant bombardment of positive ions – just the type of situation suitable for his full recuperation. This was the perfect opportunity, he thought. He was alone, with only himself to please; no companions needing explanations; no-one that needed to be watched out for. The Doctor sighed, loudly, as he verified the coordinates on the TARDIS console. He was used to being alone from time-to-time, but he had never felt as totally alone as he did now…..

Travelling through the time vortex could be incredibly boring at times, but he always found something to distract him to while away the time. On one celebrated trip, he remembered reclining on the floor to play competitive chess with a robot dog that he had at the time! It wasn’t a game that lasted for long though – the dog won and his incarnation at the time (his fourth) did not like to lose, even at chess. “Just as well a Time Lord grows out of such things,” the Doctor thought. With that sudden wide schoolboy grin that started at the corners of his generous mouth, spread across his face and finally found an echo in a sparkling twinkle in his eyes, he grinned at the thought of his younger self and that incarnation’s idiosyncrasies.

This thought cheered the Doctor up briefly, so he decided to relax a little – physically at least. He moved away from the console and sprawled across the padded two-seater chair nearby, absently tossing a spherical object that he had removed from near the scanner. The object was tossed from one hand to the other and back again, rather like an apprentice juggler testing the feel of the basic tools of his profession. The Doctor seemed to be relaxed, but he still remained alert for danger, even though he continued to toss the sphere from one hand to the other. His intense blue eyes had the beginnings of a far away glazed look in them and his boredom could not have shown more clearly on his striking face if he had written it in luminous green ink across his forehead! This man was intended for action not languor and he was impatient to be up and doing something – at least it would help him forget a little. A snatch of an old half-remembered lyric from an Earth song popped into his head – be careful what you wish for, you might get it! The Doctor tossed the sphere back onto the console, where it rolled briefly then found an indentation where it came to rest. He bounced up from the seat and raced over to the scanner – a completely unnecessary expense of energy, but he felt better for it.

The TARDIS’ familiar whining sound echoed around the console room as the time machine came into land. “The TARDIS should have landed me precisely one hundred metres from the old ruined archway,” the Doctor murmured to himself. He could always program in the coordinates, but it was not always guaranteed that that was where the TARDIS would end up. Many things could happen to interfere with a landing, as the Doctor well knew - space/time anomalies, unexpected interference from outside forces, just plain bad luck. The Doctor recalled on more than one occasion, his travels being interrupted by the Time Lords’ interference….. The Doctor shied away from that memory as quickly as it had intruded into his thoughts. He had argued against their interference in his affairs often in past incarnations, but what wouldn’t he give now to have them around to interfere once more.

He sighed and gave himself another mental shake, as he looked at the scanner. Correct time, correct place. There was that same spectacular view of rolling green fields that he remembered from his last visit to the Eye. He quietly walked out through the TARDIS doors. Nearby, there should have been a beautiful ruined stone archway, rather like some remnant from a decayed fourteenth-century priory in the north of England. It was one of the central sources of the positive ions in the area, being an extrusion to the surface of a powerful mechanism in the centre of the planet. Additionally, it was a great source of artistic beauty.

But there was only a mound of rubble and dust where it should have been. The Doctor, despite being briefly cheered up, was still in a post-regenerative emotional state, so felt absolutely devastated when he saw this quite wanton destruction. If he had been on Earth, it would have been called vandalism, but the Doctor knew better. He looked around for tell-tale signs of scarring from high-energy weapons, but there were none. The Doctor breathed a huge sigh of relief – he would have hated the Eye to have been a casualty of the Time War. Even so, he had an almost compulsive need to find out what had caused that archway to collapse. It had stood in the same location, generating its feeling of well-being for the weary travellers for centuries – why should it collapse now? He sensed that it was not a natural occurrence – something just did not feel right about everything here…..

(* To be continued….. *)