The Doctor screams again, and it pierces Rose’s very soul. It’s a scream full of fear and desperation. There’s none of the usual hope or humour her Doctor always has. He’s strapped down to the contraption; no chance of escape and she wouldn’t bank on mercy either. They cracked the electric whip across his bare chest again. His screams shatter her heart. But there’s nothing she can do.
“Tell us the truth!” they rasp, circling his trapped form like sharks, getting closer with each turn till they’re leaning over him. He stares up at them, eyes pleading with their stone-hard faces.
“I am. I don’t know. I don’t know what happened to your people.”
“Liar!” they exclaim. “You destroyed them, burnt them in the name of war. You murdered our family and friends and we want to know the truth! We will know the truth!”
They flog him again, eliciting howls of pain. Rose can see the angry red welts shining crimson against his pale flesh. She wishes she could comfort him, soothe his wounds and hold him until he falls into a gentle slumber, but she’s chained to the wall, forced to watch this spectacle. As a form of torture, this is working pretty well.
And then they attach wires to his head. The Doctor shakes violently, pleading in a broken voice not to do it, not to take the one thing he has left.
“Silence!” they command. “These memories are not yours. They are of our planet, consumed by flames. We want them!”
They flip a switch, and the screams her Doctor’s uttered before pale in comparison. His whole body vibrates with the force of his pain, and Rose cries at them to stop this torture. She doesn’t understand what’s happening or what they’re doing, but she sees her Doctor in pain, and it cuts her like a knife.
To Rose, it feels like the hours crawl slowly by before they leave him. Darkness descends on the room as they exit, and she can no longer make out the shape of the contraption, or his body. The only sign she has that he’s there are the short, shallow gasps he makes as he tries to maintain the façade of calm and control for her benefit. But she knows he’s hurting, and she wants to run to him. If only she could get loose.
She leans forwards in her chains, and feels them give. It feeds that tiny spark of hope and she pulls harder, trying to dislodge them from the wall, her mood improving with every gained inch. With one last, vicious tug, she falls forwards, chains crashing to the floor. Praying no-one heard, she crawls over to her Doctor, the length of chain clanking on the stone floor behind her.
He knows she’s coming, and yet he still flinches under her touch. Her nimble fingers slide into his pocket, searching for the Sonic Screwdriver. The metal feels cool under her skin, and she draws the device out, unsure of what to do.
“Setting 693,” he croaks. She obediently changes it, and holds it to the manacles around her petite wrists. The blue tip glows bright in the inky blackness, and it comforts her, in a strange way. With a clunk, it falls open and she gets to work on the other. It too opens after a moment, and with her hands free she starts to release him.
He’s sore and stiff, and leans heavily on her as he clambers down from the contraption. His chest is crisscrossed with vivid red lines, the edges distorted as the blood oozes from them. She holds his weight as he stumbles to the door. They know from experience that the guard walks past the door every three minutes, and that 40 feet down is the TARDIS, locked in a room. Rose uses the Screwdriver to unlock the door they’re been trapped behind, the Doctor still nauseous from his torture and struggling to stand on his own two feet. The door swings open soundlessly, a fact Rose is grateful for, and they start off down the corridor. The Doctor manages ten feet before he has to pause for breath, his head spinning. Rose can’t help but glance behind her, only too aware of how little time they have to make their escape. By the time they reach the door, behind which is the treasure they seek, the Doctor’s about to collapse, and Rose’s nerves are shot to pieces.
This door is stiff and Rose has to lean all her weight on it to force it open. This one creaks, and she cringes as she pushes it. As soon as the Doctor is safe inside, she rushes to heave it shut, feeling better once she can no longer see the corridor. She thrusts her key into the TARDIS’ lock without much grace, and apologises in her head. Once the door is open, she turns back for the Doctor, and the grimace of pain on his face cuts straight to her heart. He stumbles through the blue doors just as the guards erupt through the steel one. Rose slams the door shut in their wild faces.
The Doctor is slumped on the floor, eyes closed and trying in desperation to calm his frantic breathing. Rose hurries to his side and cradles his head in her lap, the tears already threatening to fall.
“Doctor?” she whispers in a strangled voice. His eyes flutter open and Rose swears she sees further into the murky depths than she’s ever seen before.
“It hurt so much Rose,” he murmurs, so quiet it’s little more than a breath. “They tried to take my memories.”
His hand feels for hers and clutches it so tight it hurts, but Rose doesn’t care and holds it to her chest.
“S’okay Doctor, they didn’t get them.”
“They’re all I have Rose,” he says, voice getting stronger as he presses his point. “Without my memories, I have no past. My planet lives only in my mind. If they took those memories, Gallifrey would be gone forever.”
Rose feels the tears finally overflow and slide down her cheeks, letting out the pent-up emotion she’s been keeping inside since they were taken.
“But you’ve still got them. You’ve kept your memories. S’okay Doctor. Gallifrey’s still up there.”
But the Doctor doesn’t seem to be there any more. His eyes are unfocused, and he’s repeating ‘my memories’ over and over, like a mantra. As Rose sits beside him, cradling his hand to her breaking heart, she thinks to herself, ‘no Doctor, you’re wrong. The memories you worship inside of your head aren’t all you have. Because, no matter what you want, you have me’.