When all is at Stake...

Rose Tyler had all of time and space in her head, and in that brief time before it was emptied, she saw echoes of the Doctor's past lives... and his deepest regrets.

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2. What is the Right Thing?

The great Citadel of the Time Lords rose from the earth like it had grown there. It looked like it had always been there.

This wasn't too far from the truth. Time Lord mastery of time and space extended to all corners of existence- but it influenced every facet of their empire. Gallifrey itself was not immune to a Time Lord's whim- the Citadel existed across time, a unique bubble within a bubble.

The Doctor did not like what he saw contained within.

So many of his fellow Time Lords were now preparing for war. New, heavily armed TARDISES were being grown, others refitted. So many detestful guns, and missiles, and bombs...

Well, there was no way his TARDIS would share that fate. There had to be another way... there was always another way.

The corridors were busy but this was perfect. The Doctor's recent regeneration had meant he was not so easily recognised as he strolled toward the docking bay. Rassilon had no doubt placed safeguards and shields to prevent any unauthorised travel, but the Doctor was not concerned- he had after all, stolen a TARDIS before.

The bland grey corridors led out to a small chamber with several doors. Behind the very first door was his TARDIS.

As expected, there was a security code to be entered. Enter it incorrectly and an alarm would be triggered. Try to tamper with the lock and the alarm would be triggered. With a nine-number keypad, there were so many possible combinations that 'lucking out', as humans said, would be nigh-impossible.

He did like a challenge.

Out came the sonic screwdriver, discreetly slipped out of his pocket and now pointing behind him. In theory the keypad was designed to be resistant to sonic devices- but the Doctor had made several modifications to his over the years, including a few quasi-legal ones. A few seconds passed, and the light on the pad turned green. The door slid out and the Doctor quickly slipped inside.

Another quick burst from the screwdriver and the door shut again. Now came the tricky part.

In front of him, contained within the small landing area, was a beautiful blue box. From the outside she looked like an old earth police box, circa 1960s England. But she was so much more.

A force field had been wrapped around his TARDIS. It glowed red and promised pain if he attempted to physically breach it. Clearly Rassilon had expected the Doctor to attempt escape.

"Oh Rassilon... you never learn..." He muttered to himself. To his right was a detachable panel- a quick wave of the screwdriver and away it fell. Behind it were several neon lights, wires and tubes. Someone had seen fit to install a deadlock security system here; the screwdriver would be useless.

So the Doctor used his brain instead. Carefully, gently, he pulled at one of the red wires, slowly easing it away, before ever-so-carefully touching the live end against one of the neon indicators.

"Just got... to reverse the polarity..." There was an explosion of sparks and the Doctor flew backward.

"Well, that was certainly worse than I expected..." But the force field flickered and faded away.

Once inside, the Doctor took a second to admire the latest interior the TARDIS had shaped for him. The green walls, the sort of eerie yet comforting seaweed-like complexion... it shouldn't have worked, but it did.

The Doctor removed his jacket and stepped up to the controls. A few quick scans of the area, prep the engines, release the brakes...

What was this? The entire landing bay was surrounded by time fields. Try to breach them and it could tear a TARDIS apart. Not a pretty way to die- part of you would become thousands of years old, and another part of you wouldn't have even been born. Most unpleasant.

"Nice try Rassilon..." He whispered to himself, as he turned a few dials. It was time to try a rebound.

The TARDIS traveled, backwards in time, back billions of years, right to when Gallifrey was still a mess of asteroids and dust, slowly coming together. The time shields could stretch their reach that far back, but at great cost, for there was no Gallifrey for them to rest upon in that time frame. When the Doctor's TARDIS ramped up the power and blasted away from Gallifrey, the shields were already at their most vulnerable.

There was a little discomfort as for a micro-second the TARDIS and the Doctor existed at all points of time and space, but it passed as quickly as it came, and the Doctor was free.

It was then that he received the hail. He took a moment to smile to himself, then switched on the monitor

"Hello Rassilon. How's the weather?"

"So not only will you fail to act to destroy the universe's most dangerous creatures, you abandon your home in the hour of its greatest need?"

"I will remain true to who I am Mr President. I am the Doctor. I am the man who helps people. I will not destroy lives. Then I am no better than a Dalek."

"And so that is how you justify yourself Doctor? The man who helps people, who would watch his people suffer and die rather than atone for his greatest mistake, because you refuse to fight?"

"The fault is yours. The Time Lords could have sent anyone- !- to Skaro that day."

"A feeble excuse Doctor and we both know it. Rest assured, if Gallifrey survives what is to come, you will never set foot upon her soil again, not while I draw breath. You are banished for all time from here, and I will see to it the name Doctor is forever linked with the word coward!"

The link closed. The Doctor stood there for a moment, deep in contemplation. Then he walked, slowly, toward the main interior of the TARDIS, suddenly feeling weary.

Then the tears started to fall. For despite his protests, he could not shake the feeling that Rassilon was right.

****

"So, you see Rose, I had the chance to end the Daleks, once and for all, and I let my compassion get in the way. I was stupid Rose, completely and utterly stupid, and it cost me my people." Never had Rose seen the Doctor's chocolate eyes look so.... bitter, so full of self-loathing.

"A short time later, the Time Lords launched their first counter-attacks, and from then on whole galaxies were wiped out, restored, wiped out again, altered... throw in other species and empires that felt they could make gains and you had chaos. And whilst this was going on I... well, I'm the Doctor, the man who helps people. So I tried to help people, anywhere and everywhere. It was like..." Tears were welling up now. "It was like trying to mop up a tidal wave with a sponge."

They sat on the floor of the TARDIS, and Rose put a hand on the Doctor's arm.

"You couldn't have known Doctor, you couldn't possibly have known."

"I should have known. I knew what the Daleks were like, I knew how dangerous they could be. I don't think I will ever be able to make up for that mistake."

"But you'll never stop trying, right?" Rose looked expectant.

The Doctor offered up a weak smile. "I'll never stop. I won't repeat that mistake. When I first set out in my TARDIS, I said I was going to fight evil. And I will never stop fighting evil. Not whilst I draw breath."

Rose smiled. "And I'll be right here, fighting with you."

"Oh Rose... my brilliant Rose." They hugged, for a moment forgetting the universe and the Daleks and all things evil. Together they knew, they would never stop fighting.

 

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