ONLY FOOLS AND DOCTORS
If one is moving in the right circles, then someone is likely to hear about something which would benefit someone else; which is more or less how this chain of events started. Recently, word had got out about a certain item of interest. One person, on hearing that nugget of information, passed it on to another, who then passed that same information onto someone else. It was that someone else — and his younger brother — who now stood in front of an imposing entrance to a public house. “Right, this is the place.”
The banner above proclaimed the premises as The White Swan. “It’s a bit of a naff name for a pub.”
“S’pose so.” The younger and taller of the two men agreed. “Are you sure this is legit?”
“Rodney, if it was legit, do you really think we’d be here? Now, in you go.” The interior of the public house was bright and, in the absence of a more appropriate word, snazzy. “It’s a bit... y’know,” said Rodney.
“Yeah.” The shorter one was all but dumbstruck. Then he remembered why they were here. “Right, no time to be admiring the decor. Let’s find him.”
The pub was pretty full, which made their search that bit more difficult. Another problem was that they didn’t know who they were looking for, never having met face to face. All they had was a name. “This is stupid, Del. How can we find someone when we don’t even know what he looks like?”
“Hold your horses, Rodders.” Del indicated the corner booth and the man sat quietly, his back to them. All that could be seen was a coat of many different colours. “That’s him.”
“Come on, bruv — he who dares.”
He was sitting quietly, occasionally sipping an orange juice. After recent intergalactic shenanigans, he was glad to be back on Earth for a while. Not that this was by any means a holiday, but he was glad to be here, and relatively inconspicuous for once. His reverie was broken by two men who were approaching his table, determined to make themselves known. “There he is, Rodney. I said it was him.”
“No need to apologise,” Del interrupted. “We were late getting here, that’s all.”
“Come on, Rodney. Don’t stand on ceremony — get the drinks in.”
As Rodney made his way to the bar, Del introduced himself. “Derek Trotter of Trotter’s Independent Traders. And it’s an honour to be in the presence of someone as influential as yourself.”
“I suppose it must be.” He took the offered hand, completing the handshake. “So, Mr Trotter, how can I be of assistance?”
“Oh, very good that. No, but when I was given the nod that you were looking for someone reliable to help in a business deal, well, how could I, in all humility, turn down such an offer from the Multicolour Mastermind?”
He coughed in surprise. “How indeed?”
It was at that point that Rodney returned with the drinks. “There y’go, Del. One Carribean Stallion, and an orange juice.”
The Multicolour Mastermind sipped at his orange juice, watching Derek and Rodney, who now joined them at the table. “Gentlemen,” he began. “I wonder if you might go over the pertinent details of our arrangement — just so that I’m clear on how much you already know. And secondly, I think addressing me as the Multicolour Mastermind is quite a tongue-twister. Please, just call me ‘Doctor’.”
Del nodded. “Ok, Doctor. Well, it was Denzil who put me onto you. He heard from somebody else that you were looking for someone who could help to find a missing jewel.”
“Yeah,” Rodney chipped in. “And no ordinary kind of jewel, neither.”
“Thank you, Rodney,” Del observed. “Y’see, from what we’ve been told, this little beauty sits in the palm of your hand — and it’s black.”
It was at this point that the Doctor managed to outwardly retain his composure, while inside his mind was racing. How had these two managed to hear about the jewel’s existence, never mind his being mistaken for some criminal mastermind? Perhaps the three of them here were more connected than any of them had realised. “Yes, the Black Star of Navristor. You’ve heard the name, I trust?”
“Oh yeah, yeah... well, no, not really,” Del confessed. “But I know people, and they know people who would know about your Black Star whatsit.”
“Mr Trotter, if I’m to entrust you with finding the Black Star, then you have to be aware how vital it is not to fall into the wrong hands.”
“Oh, cushty,” Del nodded. “Worth a lot, then?”
“Not in monetary value, no. But in its own way it is priceless.” He glanced around. “I don’t think it’s safe to talk here. Too many people.”
Del and Rodney nodded. They knew just the place.
With Rodney in the back and the Doctor in the passenger seat, the Reliant Regal had made it back to Nelson Mandela House in good time. “Home Sweet Home,” Del declared.
The inside of the flat wasn’t quite what he’d expected, but then the Doctor hadn’t been too sure what to expect. “Interesting.”
Rodney nodded. “It ain’t much, but it’s a roof over our heads. And it’s quiet — most of the time.” He joined Del and the Doctor as they sat at the living room table.
“Derek, Rodney — it’s time I gave you the full facts,” the Doctor announced. “I’ve been looking for the Black Star for some time. It was appropriated from its place of worship almost three months ago, relative time.”
“Appropriated?” Del queried.
“He means nicked,” Rodney informed him.
“The Black Star is vital to the stability of the known universe,” the Doctor continued. “It must be recovered before untold catastrophes are unleashed upon numerous worlds, including this one.”
Del stared open mouthed at the Doctor, then to Rodney, and back at the Doctor. “This is a wind up.”
“Denzil put you up to this, didn’t he? I’ll admit you had me going for a bit with the Black Star of whatever. I’ll bet you’re not even the Multicolour Mastermind.”
“I never said I was,” the Doctor agreed. “Look, everything I’ve just told you is the absolute truth.”
“All right, enough’s enough.” Del began to usher the Doctor out of the flat, just as the connecting door opened. “What’s all the racket then? I was having a nice kip. And who’s this?”
“Someone’s who’s just going, Uncle,” Rodney replied.
“Yeah, nothing to worry about — come on, sling your hook.”
The Doctor said nothing. He was staring at the old man in pyjamas and dressing gown. “I don’t believe it. Albert Trotter.”
“Yeah, and who wants to know.” Then Albert looked at him properly, unable to believe his eyes. “Nah, it can’t be.”
“Albert, it’s me. I know a few years have gone by, but...”
“More than a few.” Albert’s eyes lit up. “Blimey, it really is you.” The two men hugged each other, laughing.
Rodney and Del were becoming increasingly sidelined. “Do you two know each other?” Rodney asked.
“This is the Doctor,” Albert told them. “He saved my life, back when I was in the navy.”
“Yes, that was a tough time,” the Doctor remembered. “During the conflict with the Russians, and your ship sank.”
“I thought we’d had it, and then the Doctor turned up.”
“Just in time, as I remember,” said the Doctor. “Luckily, everyone got out of it alive.”
Del was having trouble keeping up. “So, you knew this bloke back in the war.”
“He don’t look old enough,” Rodney pointed out.
The Doctor smiled. “Well, that’s the benefit of being able to travel through time and space.”
“Oh well, I suppose — do what?” Del stared at the two of them as if they were mad.
“It’s true, Del,” Albert insisted. “When I knew the Doctor, he looked just the same as he does now.”
Del stared at them both. “I don’t know which one of you is more do-lally than the other.”
“Uncle Albert’s always been that way,” Rodney chipped in.
“Yes, thank you for that nugget of information,” Del continued. “Gawd, I’ve lost me thread now.”
The Doctor smiled. “Something about the two of us being off our respective rockers?”
Del felt as though he needed a drink. But if he was going to see this through he needed a clear head. “All right, I’ll go alone with all of this — for now.”
Then came the knock at the door. “Go on then, Rodney — answer the door.”
“You answer it.”
“Tch,” sighed Uncle Albert. “I’ll get it.” The door was opened to reveal a man dressed rather flamboyantly; almost Byronic, but with a determined look in his eyes. “Derek Trotter?”
“That’s me,” Del answered, as the man strode past Albert and into the sitting room. “And who might you be?”
“I’m surprised you asked, considering you were supposed to meeting me earlier tonight.” This brought looks of puzzlement from Del and Rodney. “I’m the Multicolour Mastermind.”
Albert stared at the newcomer. “What’s going on then?”
Realisation washed over Del. “This is who were supposed to meet at the White Swan in the first place.” He turned to the Doctor. “This is your fault. If you hadn’t pretended to be him in the first place...”
“To be fair,” the Doctor interrupted, “I never actually said I was him. You just assumed that was the case.”
“He’s right, Del.”
“Oh shut up, Rodney.”
The Mastermind looked at the Doctor. “I like the coat. Nice to see it from this side.”
“Thank you for the compliment,” the Doctor replied. “Though I am curious as to how you found us.”
“Well, when you didn’t show up I got in touch with your friend Denzil,” he told Del. “As he’d recommended you in the first place he was only too happy to pass on your address.”
“As long as you didn’t resort to underhand methods to get it.”
The Mastermind regarded the Doctor cooly. “I’m not sure I care for your tone.”
“And I’m not sure I care for your dress sense.” The Doctor glanced down at the green velvet frock coat, with matching waistcoat and trousers. “It looks like it was put together from a fancy dress party.”
“Do you often talk about yourself in that way?” The Mastermind smiled. To his surprise, it was a smile the Doctor recognised. “Oh no!”
Del, Rodney and Albert didn’t react. In fact, they hadn’t moved a muscle for the last few seconds. “This moment of time has been frozen. Now, we can talk.”
“You’re one of me, aren’t you?” The Doctor finally fell in. “I should have realised sooner.”
“I’m in my eighth incarnation,” the other Doctor explained. “We haven’t much time — the Black Star of Navristor is here. It’s up to you to find it.”
“And why didn’t you take care of it while you were here?”
“Because I shouldn’t be here; I crossed into your time stream by accident. Once I knew you were here I assumed the alias of the Multicoloured Mastermind, and made sure Derek and Rodney became involved. They are part of the resolution — and no, I can’t tell you how. Not directly,” he added.
“The Web of Time, I understand.” The Sixth Doctor nodded. “So, what happens now?”
“We bring back the Trotter family... now!” Time unfroze around them, as Del looked at both Doctors. “If you two are about to have a barney, we’ll hold your coats.”
“No need for that,” the Sixth Doctor assured them. “Just a small difference of opinion.”
“Which has been resolved.” The other Doctor turned to leave. “Derek, Rodney — good luck.”
The Doctor watched his future self depart. “Do I really look like that?” he whispered to himself. “Right, gentlemen. To business, and the Black Star.”
After much discussion without really getting anywhere, Del and Rodney decided some food was in order, so retired to the kitchen to concoct a meal of some description, leaving the Doctor and Uncle Albert on their own.
“So, you still travelling in that box of yours?”
The Doctor admired Albert’s bluntness. “The TARDIS, yes. I suppose it’s been my home for longer than I dare admit. And what about you, Albert, you old sea dog? How did you get yourself mixed up with those two?”
“Del and Rodney are alright,” Albert replied. He told the Doctor about Grandad’s funeral, and how he had managed to wangle his way into their home. “I’d never really had a family before. No, they’re good lads.”
The Doctor smiled. “I’m sure they are.” At that moment, Del and Rodney returned, plates brimming over with potential delicacies. The Doctor glanced down at the offering before them. “Corned Beef Sandwiches!”
“Yeah, sorry,” Del apologised. “Rodney had forgotten to get the weekly shopping in, so...”
“Oi, don’t start,” Rodney complained. “Who was it said we were alright for food?”
“Alright, yes,” Del conceded. “I’ll admit that was an error on my part.”
“But this is just what we need,” the Doctor interrupted. “Ordinary food to keep the brain ticking over. Now, come on you two. Tuck in before it’s all gone.”
“Well, when you put it that way...” Del and Rodney helped themselves and settled down on the sofa. Along with welcome mugs of tea, everyone silently agreed that this was a welcome break from the matters in hand.
Rodney had the paper on his lap, glancing at the small ads. He wasn’t really looking for anything, but some of the adverts people put in were little stories in themselves. He glanced back at one he’d almost missed and his eyes widened as he read it through twice to be sure. “Ere, Doctor. I think you need to look at this.”
He peered over the Doctor’s shoulder as he read the advert. “It’s a message,” he realised. Amongst the small ads was one depicting a black star with what looked like a map in the background. “He said he couldn’t help directly,” the Doctor muttered to himself. “Now,” he wondered, “do you by any chance have a map of the area?”
“We’ve got an ordinance survey map.” Rodney began searching for it while the Doctor and Albert cleared the table. Del joined them as Rodney laid the open map on the table top. “Rodney, Derek; this map on the advert — do you recognise it?”
“Well, it’s Peckham,” Del replied, trying to identify landmarks. “See, there’s the street market. So, just left from there and...”
Then Del recognised that area. “That’s the Brotherhood’s manor,” he muttered. “Doctor, if they’ve got your Black Star, you won’t have a chance in getting it back.”
“And what is this Brotherhood — who’s in charge?”
“Brother Monachus,” said Rodney. “He keeps himself to himself.”
Albert looked down at the map. “Ain’t that the museum?”
“A museum!” The Doctor was fascinated.
“Don’t get your hopes up,” said Rodney. “It’s more like a collection of all the tat that’s been brought together and dressed up to look good. You’ve got the Brotherhood to thank for that.”
“Interesting.” The Doctor had a gleam in his eye, which to Del and Rodney meant only one thing — trouble. Sure enough, the Doctor’s next words sent a chill down their spines. “Perhaps we should pay this museum a visit.”
The Doctor studied each exhibit keenly, as if they were the most wonderful things to behold. Del and Rodney were caught up in the Doctor’s enthusiasm, albeit reluctantly. “You sure this was a good idea, Doctor?” Del asked.
“Hmm? Oh, absolutely,” he replied, his attention briefly held by a nearby exhibit. “I find it best to confront the enemy head on, instead of skulking in the shadows.”
“Maybe,” said Rodney. “But I like the idea of staying alive a lot more.”
“Debatable, but a fair point.” The Doctor smiled, as he resumed studying each exhibit in detail. “There’s certainly a varied selection of items on display here. As you said, much of it is junk. However, there are a few unexpected gems. Take this, for example,” the Doctor noted. “You wouldn’t find an example of such intricate craftsmanship anywhere else on Earth.”
They stared at what appeared to be a closely carved piece of ivory. “It’s that rare, then?”
“Not exactly. It’s just not from this planet.” The Doctor took in Del and Rodney’s shocked expressions. “I should have remembered — I’d seen a similar collection to this many years ago, back in 1066, during a confrontation between opposing Saxons and Vikings.”
“Well, yeah. Stands to reason,” Del muttered.
“You might as well come out where we can see you,” the Doctor called out. “I had an inkling it was you when Rodney told me your name; Brother Monachus indeed! Monachus — Latin for Monk.”
An amused chuckle came from the shadows. “I thought it was rather clever. Still, you can’t please everybody.” The Monk grinned as he stepped forward into the light. “So, Doctor, what do you think of my latest acquisitions?”
“You certainly have an eclectic collection,” the Doctor admitted. “A mixture of the good and not so good, alongside the truly remarkable.”
“I try to cater for all tastes.”
“I’m sure you do.” The Doctor studied the Monk. “So, why here? What would bring someone like you to Peckham?”
“A chance to encourage those less fortunate than us to appreciate the finer things in life.” The Monk picked out an exhibit. “Take this, for example; a product of its time, forgotten by many, but its place in the museum allows people to recognise its true value.”
“Oh yeah?” Del picked it up from its stand. “A Coffee Percolator? We sell these down Peckham market for a tenner.”
“And what’s this?” Rodney picked up another exhibit, reading from the record sleeve. “Big Hits by the Dave Clark Five, sung by Vera Lynn?” Rodney glanced around. “This place is a joke.”
The Monk was clearly flustered. “Well, new ventures take time to get going. Bound to be a few teething troubles.”
A sudden crack of thunder echoed around the museum. “Blimey,” exclaimed Del. “The weather forecast didn’t say rain.”
“I don’t think it is,” the Doctor noted. “That came from inside.” He threw a glance at the Monk, whose face was a picture of innocence, but the Doctor was far from convinced.
The Monk visibly jumped as another thunderclap resounded. “Must be something I ate,” he suggested.
“Or something you obtained for your collection,” the Doctor countered. “So, where is it — where is the Black Star of Navristor?”
“Oh, come now, Doctor. Do you really think I would have something like that in my possession?” Yet another thunderclap echoed through the building, as if answering the Monk’s own question.
“Well, you’ve got something here,” Del piped up. “Something that’s making a heck of a racket. So come on, Monk. Cough it up.”
The Monk stared in turn at Del, the Doctor and Rodney. Sighing heavily, he led them to a room at the back of the main display area. As they approached, shafts of white light could be seen flaring out from the gaps around the doorway. “I have to admit that things haven’t gone quite to plan.”
“Sounds like one of your dates, Rodney.” A further clap of thunder from behind the door silenced Del.
“What have you done?” The Doctor’s face was a mixture of shock and anger. “What has your incessant meddling resulted in this time?” He flung the door open, and was swamped in a bright light, so white that he could barely see the Black Star. Only a vague outline was discernible, and that appeared to be undulating. The Doctor closed the door, pausing for a moment to get his bearings. He glared at the Monk. “You really have done it this time, haven’t you?”
“I didn’t know,” the Monk protested. “I’d heard of the Black Star, of course. I just wanted to have it in my collection. I thought all the stories about it were just hearsay and rumour.”
“Oh, really.” The Doctor stared balefully at the Monk. “You mean those that stated it was the most powerful relic in all the ten galaxies; that by order of Rassilon himself no attempt should ever be made to remove it from its celestial resting place for fear of total disruption of the whole universe?”
“Yes,” replied the Monk. “Those rumours.”
“Doctor.” It was Rodney who spoke. “Doctor, what is this Black Star? What is it really?”
“It’s a very powerful life form from deepest space. As I said before, it provides stability to the known universe, so that the balance between good and evil is evenly spread.” The Doctor pointed an accusing finger. “And now, by his actions, the Monk has almost plunged the universe into unending chaos.”
“So how did he bring it here is the first place?”
“I’ll explain later,” the Doctor assured him.
“So, what you’re saying,” said Del, “is that this Monk has pretty much brought about the end of the world as we know it?”
“That’s about the size of it, yes.”
Del moved closer to the Monk until he was nose-to-nose with him, and delivered his most damning critique. “You know what you are, don’cha? You are a complete and utter plonker.”
The Monk might have drawn himself up to his full height, as if to deliver a rejoinder to Del’s put-down. Instead, he sank down to the floor, head in his hands. “You’re right. I’ve been a complete fool.”
“Hold on,” said Rodney. “Wind back a bit — Doctor, you said he’d almost done for the universe. So is there a way out of this?”
“Well remembered, Rodders,” Del complimented his brother. “Come on, Doc. There’s got to be a last minute solution.”
“There is a way out of this,” the Doctor admitted. “But it’s not without a certain degree of danger.”
“Well, given what the alternative is,” said Del, “I’ll take anything.”
“The Black Star has to be delivered back to its point of origin, in deep space,” the Doctor explained. “But thanks to the Monk, it’s in too dangerous a state to even consider.”
“I stupidly upset the delicate balance of good and evil,” the Monk sighed. “It’s all my own fault.”
“Be that as it may,” the Doctor continued, “we have to find a way to calm it down, before we can safely remove it from here.”
“Well, can’t you do it?” Del asked of the Doctor. “I mean, you are the hero of the hour, and all that.”
He shook his head. “I may be on the side of the angels, but even I have my dark side. No, it needs to be someone who is more innocent in their outlook than I.”
While the Doctor and Del debated the problem, Rodney was staring at the closed room that housed the Black Star. How could something so small generate so much power, he wondered, his hands idly touching the door as the light continued to splay out from the gaps in the doorway. “It’ll be all right,” he found himself saying.
“Rodney!” Del hurried up to him, pulling him away. “You got a death wish or something?”
But Rodney smiled. “It’s okay, Del. Nothing to worry about.”
“Eh? Doctor, I think Rodders has gone a bit funny in the head.”
The Doctor had been following this exchange. “I’m not so sure. Rodney, explain to me what just happened.”
He shrugged. “I dunno. It was like we connected. It reached out for help. Doctor, it reached out to me, and I understood.”
“Listen to you,” Del ranted. “You’re seeing something in things where there’s nothing.”
“Sometimes,” the Doctor observed, “those can be the most fascinating things.”
“See, you’ve got him at it now,” Del went on at Rodney. “I don’t understand you.”
“I think I do.” The Doctor drew Del aside. “Remember what I said before, about the Black Star needing someone innocent?”
“Yeah, but...” Del looked to Rodney and back to the Doctor as he finally realised. “No, you can’t mean Rodney. That Black Star of yours’ll eat him for breakfast.”
“I don’t think so. Listen.” The Doctor nodded toward the room where the Black Star was contained.
“I can’t hear anything.”
“Exactly. No more thunderclaps.” And the ferocious shafts of white light had now changed to a quieter shade of blue. “You heard what Rodney said — he’s somehow formed a connection with the Black Star.”
“I don’t care about all of that.” Del was clearly torn over what to do. “He’s my little brother, y’know? Family.” He stared at the Doctor. “Can you promise me he’ll be safe?”
“I can promise you he’ll be in good hands.”
“That’s not good enough...”
“Del.” Rodney put a hand on Del’s shoulder. “This is up to me. And I want to do this. And anyway, it ain’t every day we get to save the universe.”
Del sighed. “All right — but if you mess this up, I’ll do you.” He reached out and grabbed the Monk, who had all but been forgotten. “And I will definitely do you, that’s a promise.”
Rodney smiled, and the two brothers hugged each other briefly. Then Rodney turned to the Doctor. “I’m ready.”
He nodded. “Just relax and approach the Black Star. It’ll know what to do.” The Doctor opened the door to the room and Rodney stepped inside.
The Doctor and Del watched as beams of blue light seemed to pulse and encircle Rodney, spinning and rising until it completely enveloped him. Then the light began to contract, compressing itself into Rodney’s body shape, before absorbing itself into him. Del and the Doctor entered the room which was now dimly lit from above. Of the Black Star of Navristor, there was no sign. “Where’s it gone?”
“It’s inside Rodney,” the Doctor answered. “He’s become a host for it until it can be returned to its rightful place in the universe.”
“Very clever, Doctor,” the Monk spoke up. “But how are you going to deliver the Black Star back? You have very little time.”
Del turned on him. “Is that a threat?”
The Monk shrank back. “I was just stating the facts. No need to get high and mighty with me.”
“He is right, though,” the Doctor admitted. “We only have a limited amount of time to deliver the Black Star before it begins to reject Rodney as its host. “Of course, your TARDIS would be close by, in case of emergencies.”
“And I would be glad to offer its services — for my freedom of course.”
“You’re hardly in a position to make deals,” the Doctor replied. “However, I do have this...” From his pocket he produced a small device which the Monk recognised. “A Stattenheim remote-control? I’ve always wanted one of those.”
The Doctor smiled. “I have friends in high places.” He put two fingers to his mouth and whistled. As if on cue, the grinding and wheezing of an engine of time saw the TARDIS materialise before their eyes. “Quickly, inside, all of you — and that includes you,” the Doctor added, hauling the Monk inside. “You can help.”
“Oh yes?” The Monk eyed the Doctor with suspicion. “What’s in it for me?”
The Doctor glared back at him. “How about the future of the Universe?”
The Monk gulped. “Well, when you put it like that...”
Del was expecting it to be a tight squeeze inside, but instead stood open mouthed at the interior of the TARDIS. “Naa, naa it can’t be. I mean, it’s just an old Police Box.”
The Doctor began setting the controls. “Appearances can be deceptive, Derek Trotter. Now, here we go.” The glass column at the centre of the console started its rise and fall as the TARDIS began its journey.
The Monk found himself standing next to Rodney. “I imagine this must all seem rather confusing, young man.” Glancing up, he could see a fine line of sweat on Rodney’s forehead. “Oh dear,” the Monk realised. “Doctor, I think you need to get a move on.”
“What?” Then he saw. The whole of Rodney’s body was glowing a dark black. “Rodney, hold on; just a few more seconds.”
Despite the shock at how Rodney now looked, Del went to his brother. “Rodney! You’re doing great. I’ve got every confidence in you.” It was said with a confidence he didn’t feel. “Doctor, hurry up.”
“Got it! Quickly, turn him around to face the doors.” The Doctor flicked a switch on the console, opening the TARDIS doors out onto the vastness of space. Del and the Monk moved Rodney into position, as a fierce dark light began to emanate from his chest, and the Black Star of Navristor left Rodney’s body, ready to return to the stars.
Del was transfixed at seeing the Black Star in its full glory. “Blimey, what a sight, eh Rodders?” Then he felt his brother slump against him. “Rodney? Rodney, wake up.” The dark pallor had gone, but now Del saw how pale Rodney was looking. “Doctor, there’s something wrong.”
Rodney had now passed out on the floor of the TARDIS. The Doctor checked his pulse. “We’re losing him. The absorption of the Black Star must have been too much for him.”
Rodney’s eyes fluttered open. “It’s all right, Del,” he whispered. “One day we’ll be millionaires.” Then his head fell back.
The Monk was just as concerned. “Can’t you do anything, Doctor?”
He shook his head. “Out of my field; but that doesn’t mean I’ll give up. Come on, Rodney!” He began performing artificial respiration, crossing one hand over the other and pressing down on Rodney’s chest.
“No, no he can’t die.” Del was beside himself. In desperation he turned to the TARDIS’s open doors. “Oi, Black Star. Come back — come back and help my little Rodney.” His voice broke as he fell to his knees, desperate for help.
“Doctor, look! It’s returned.” The Monk shook the Doctor’s shoulder, pointing outside. Hovering between the TARDIS doors was the Black Star of Navristor. Stepping away, the Doctor watched as it floated towards Rodney’s prone body, swaying from side to side as if examining him. “Please,” Del begged. “Do something.”
It seemed to look directly at Del, perhaps understanding his plea. Then a tendril snaked out from its central form, gently touching Rodney’s forehead. The effect was immediate; his breathing became more regular and his skin regained its natural colour. Del knelt beside him, gently tapping his cheek. “Rodney. Are you ok?”
His eye flickered open. “’Course I am.” Then he focussed on the Black Star, and remembered. “Oh yeah.” He raised a hand in farewell. “Thanks, and good luck.”
“And to you.” Before anyone could respond, the Black Star of Navristor abruptly departed into the realms of space, the TARDIS doors closing behind it.
It wasn’t until the TARDIS had materialised back in the Monk’s museum and everyone was standing outside the police box facade that Del finally found his voice. “It spoke. That Black Star spoke.”
“It was a sentient being,” the Doctor explained. “You can’t expect every life-form to have two arms, two legs and a questionable hair style.”
“I suppose not.” He turned to his brother. “And what about you, saviour of the universe — how are you?”
“I’m ok,” Rodney replied. “I can still remember the Black Star being inside me. She was all right.”
Del smiled. “Yeah, she was... hang on. She?”
The Doctor turned to the Monk. “I must say, you were a great help back there.”
He shrugged. “Well, when the fate of the whole universe is at stake, we all have to pitch in, don’t we?” He caught the sly looks from Del and Rodney. “What have I said now?”
“It’s more what you didn’t say,” Del replied. “The fact that this was all your fault in the first place.”
“Yes, I daresay that is a telling point against me.” Abruptly, the Monk pushed past the Doctor, leaving Del to grab at empty air. “Where’s he off to?”
“There a broom cupboard down at the far end,” said Rodney. “Nothing else.”
“His TARDIS, of course!” The Doctor realised. “Come on, after him.” The three of them hurried on after the Monk, but he was some distance away.
Before they could reach him, the Monk had stepped inside the broom cupboard. “What’s he up to, playing hide and seek?” Del gasped.
“That broom cupboard is the Monk’s TARDIS,” the Doctor explained. “We’ve lost him now.” But instead of the expected sound of dematerialisation, there were the sounds of a scuffle from inside. Then the door flew open, the Monk held by the scruff of the neck by a tall, thin faced man. “It’s against Council regulations to squat in a broom cupboard.” The man glanced up at Rodney. “Friend of yours, Dave?”
“So, this Monk fella got collared by Trig?” There was general merriment inside the Trotter household, as Del, Rodney and the Doctor told the story of their adventure to Uncle Albert. “I tell you what, Doctor,” Albert went on. “Us Trotters have been in some tight spots before. But this sounds like the one to top ‘em all.”
Del had to admit that it was up there with many of Albert’s tall stories — except this one was true. Maybe, he thought, just maybe Albert’s stories weren’t so far-fetched after all. “So, Doctor, what about the Monk — what are you gonna do with him?”
“I haven’t decided yet,” he admitted. “For now, I’ve got him in my TARDIS, confined in a temporal stasis chamber. I’ll make sure he doesn’t cause you any more trouble.”
Del shook his head. “I still can’t get my head around that TARDIS of yours.”
Albert smiled. “Just accept it, Del.”
Rodney had pretty much recovered from all that had happened to him, and was feeling more like himself. Something caught his eye as he glanced out of the window. “Hey, Del — Albert, Doctor. Come and look at this.”
They all looked out at the evening sky, as flecks of white came fluttering down. “It’s snowing.” Del immediately thought back to years gone by. “I’d forgotten it was Christmas.”
“Well, we have had a lot on recently,” Rodney observed. “Saving the Universe, that sort of thing.”
“Yeah.” Del winked at his brother. “Come on, let’s get down to the Nag’s Head and celebrate. You coming, Doctor?” But the Doctor was nowhere to be seen. All that was heard was the front door closing. Del and Rodney stood there, feeling as if something rather wonderful had just walked out of their lives. Del sighed. “Well, that’s that, then.”
The Doctor glanced up at the sky as he made his way back to the TARDIS, which he had parked just a short walk from Mandela Towers. The snow continued to fall, and he idly wondered where he’d left his umbrella. The Doctor wasn’t a great one for goodbyes — never had been, through all his incarnations. All it took was a quick return to the TARDIS and on to the next adventure. As his fingered touched on the blue exterior, his reverie was broken. “Oi. Where d’you think you’re going?”
He turned to find Albert standing there. “Oh, I was just leaving — you know.”
“Yeah, I remember from before, during the war. You didn’t hang about then, either.”
“Well, you know how it is — places to go, people to see.”
“And not staying in one place for too long, I reckon,” Albert guessed. “Doctor, it’s Christmas. Don’t you have any special place to go?” He could see the look of puzzlement on the Doctor’s face. “Look at you, on your own. Don’t you have a family?”
“Ah.” He shifted uncomfortably. “None to speak of. And the friends I have are all in different times and places, living their own lives.” The Doctor laid a hand on Albert’s shoulder. “I’ve lived far longer than any of my greatest friends, and eventually they die. It’s the curse of being a Time Lord, Albert.”
“Then break the curse,” Albert insisted. “Come with me, and join Del and Rodney for a Christmas knees-up at the pub — or do you really wanna spend Christmas in that TARDIS of yours, with that Monk bloke for company?”
The Doctor glanced back at the TARDIS, undecided. “Well, when you put it like that...” He turned back to Albert. “All right. You’ve convinced me — and it’s very rare for anyone to change my mind.”
Laughing, the two of them headed off to the Nag’s Head. “Merry Christmas, Doctor.”
He smiled. “And a Merry Christmas to you.”