SETTING THINGS RIGHT

She stared at the computer screen, unwilling to accept what had just occurred. But as she has said herself on many occasions, she could not dispute the facts . . .

Zoe Heriot had long since returned to Earth after a spell on Space Station Three, and had reluctantly agreed to take a holiday. But after a week she was itching to come back to work. Before returning to full duty, she submitted herself to a thorough examination to assess her health and fitness.

The medical examiner came back to her with the results. "Well, physically and mentally you're fine. No problems there."

Zoe noted the involuntary pause. "But?" she prompted.

He stared at his notes, reluctant to continue. "There are concerns."

"What concerns? Is it serious?"

"It depends on how you define the problem." The examiner referred back to his notes, almost as if he were unsure of his own findings. "When were you born?"

The question surprised her. "7th December 2147."

"And how old are you?"

This was becoming odder by the second. "Twenty."

"And how long were you based on Space Station Three?"

"A little over six months."

"And that's the problem." The examiner sat back in his chair. "As part of your check-up, your physical chemistry was tested. Purely routine, at least it was supposed to be." He showed her the findings. "When we saw the results, we discovered something we just can't explain." He let the words sink in. "Zoe, during your six months on Space Station Three, you've aged a whole year."

*****

Zoe's mind was full of questions as she left the surgery. How could she have aged a year and not remember it? Thinking back, Space Station Three had been a catalyst for many things; her first encounter with an alien species in the form of the Cybermen, with catastrophe only narrowly averted by two strangers, the Doctor and his friend Jamie. Then with the crisis over they disappeared in the TARDIS and . . . no, that wasn't right, because . . . no, she'd stayed behind to wave them off on the Wheel. But the TARDIS was stranded on that supply ship, the Silver Carrier, and . . .

What happened next could only be described as a temper tantrum. Zoe stamped her feet in frustration, clutching her head in confusion. So many contradictions, so few answers! What to do?

With an effort, more from embarrassment of being seen, her cool exterior slipping for once, Zoe forced herself to be calm. What was needed, she told herself, was a logical approach to the problem. And the only place she could think was at her rooms at the Institute.

*****

Zoe's rooms were small and tidy, almost a mirror image of herself. With her qualifications, she could have had the pick of the best, but what would she do with all that unnecessary space. Instead, she surrounded herself with simple tastes in her living quarters, with a den set aside for any additional work. And that's where she retreated to at this moment.

Zoe set to work immediately, activating her laptop. "Voice activation."

VOICE PATTERN RECOGNISED. HELLO, ZOE.

"Personal life history, please."

ACTIVATED.

"Query length of time spent on Space Station Three."

SIX MONTHS.

"Age at beginning of duty term?"

TWENTY YEARS.

"Age at end of term?"

TWENTY-ONE YEARS.

"Explain age discrepancy."

SEARCHING. Zoe waited as the computer searched through various sub- routines, matching some, discarding others, to form the eventual answer. She wasn't sure if an answer would be forthcoming, but it was a starting point, if nothing else.

AGE DISCREPANCY CAN BE ATRIBUTED TO ONLY TWO CAUSES.

Zoe was curious. "Elaborate."

COMA INDUCED SLEEP OR SPACE TRAVEL.

Zoe remembered that long periods in space could affect the metabolic rate to an extent that the body slows down, effectively reducing the aging process. But her situation was completely different. She decided to try another tack. "Search for archive recording."

RUNNING.

"Space Station Three, main corridor, 1st June 2167." A sub screen activated, showing the interior of the Wheel, and its main walkway. Tapping a key, Zoe sped the film forward. In fast motion she saw Gemma Corwyn, Giles Kent; almost all the crew passing this area at some time that day. Then came the Cybermen and their Cybermats, and then their defeat by the Doctor and Jamie. Zoe set the recording to PLAY and watched the aftermath of the events play out.

*****

"Well, that's that, Jamie."

"Aye, we'll not see them again in a hurry."

"Well, I hope not." The Doctor seemed none to sure. He turned to Zoe. "I wonder if I could trouble you for some Mercury, Zoe?"

"Mercury? For your TARDIS?" she guessed.

"Well, we need it to replenish the fluid links. After that, we'll be on our way."

Jamie tapped him on the shoulder. "Doctor, have ye forgotten?"

"Forgotten what, Jamie?"

"The TARDIS. It's still on the Silver Carrier."

"Oh, no!" The Doctor looked crestfallen. "Well, I'm sure Mr Ryan can arrange transport for us." He turned to Zoe. "Perhaps you'd like to come and see us off," he suggested.

She smiled. "Yes please."

*****

Zoe sat back, amazed. In her mind, the scenario she had just watched never took place, but now she knew different. She couldn't disprove the facts.

She was about to stop the recording, but instead held back. She had a feeling she knew what was about to come next.

The sound of a TARDIS dematerialisation filled the air as, on the Wheel, Zoe stepped into view. She looked back, uncertain, as Tanya Lernov approached. "Have the Doctor and Jamie gone?"

"Oh, yes," Zoe replied. "I've just seen them off."

"Well, we'd better get back to work if we're to get the Wheel up and running again." She paused, concerned. "Zoe, are you sure you're alright."

"Yes. I thought I'd forgotten something important . . ." Zoe froze the picture. Yes, she had forgotten something important, but now she remembered. All her travels through time and space. And the final goodbyes when the Time Lords caught up with the Doctor, put him on trial and returned Zoe and Jamie home.

"Will we ever meet again?" she recalled. Out of the corner of her eye she caught a movement behind her. A moment before, Zoe would have sworn she was alone in her room, but as she turned he was there. A short man not unlike the Doctor, but dressed in muted check trousers, red waistcoat and dark jacket, with a floppy hat. She stared, open-mouthed. "Doctor?"

He smiled. "As I've said to you before, Zoe, Time is relative."

"But your face is different."

"So was Jamie's, once," the Doctor answered.

And Zoe returned the smile, recalling the memory. "Oh, yes!"

*****

For the next few moments the Doctor fielded many questions. Answering many, while avoiding others. Zoe could hardly contain herself. "And Jamie. How is he?"

"He's fine," the Doctor reassured her. "In fact, I've just come from seeing him. Like you, he now remembers everything."

"So, the blocks the Time Lords put in our minds . . ."

"I had to give Jamie a helping hand," the Doctor admitted. "Left on his own, his mind might have broken."

"But you didn't think I needed such help?" Zoe asked. "Wouldn't I have suffered like Jamie?"

The Doctor sat down beside her. "Zoe, your logical mind wouldn't accept the inconsistency. You knew instinctively that something wasn't right in there . . ." he lightly tapped the side of her head, "so I knew you'd sort it all out eventually. After all," he added, "you're almost as clever as I am!"

They both laughed at the memory of those words. "So why are you here, now?" Zoe asked. "What's this all for?"

The Doctor sighed. "You could say I'm tidying up. Setting things right, like you and Jamie." He smiled, but it was a wistful smile. "I have one more duty to perform, and that will be the hardest of all."