the fear of all sums


The Doctor blindly poked his left arm out of the TARDIS doors. While this looked, to Romana, to be a ridiculously pointless action, it was in fact the direct result of various complex thought processes that had occurred inside the Doctor's remarkable brain. His questionable logic wasn't immediately obvious to his companion, who watched with both amusement and irritation.

'Doctor, what are you doing?'

'Checking to see if there's anything out there,' he replied matter-of-factly. The exasperated look on Romana's face seemed to encourage him to elaborate. 'Scanner's on the blink again, and this is the best way to see if it's safe out there. If my arm isn't sliced off or shot at, we should be okay to have a wander around.'

Roman smirked. 'Silly me. How could I not have guessed that's what you were doing? It's completely obvious!'

The Doctor thought for a moment. 'Sarcasm?'

'Indeed,' nodded Romana.

The two of them waited in silence for a few moments, and were relieved to find that nothing happened. All was well, it seemed.

'Do you want to stay here, in the TARDIS?' he asked.

'Why?' replied Romana. 'Would you prefer to be alone when you reunite with the Cavalier?' She loved teasing him.

He didn't love being teased. 'Certainly not! I was thinking of you, that's all. Might be dangerous.'

'Oh,' said Romana, 'I'm coming with you. Wouldn't miss this for the world.'

'Why not?'

Romana smiled. 'Might be dangerous.'

'Good girl,' the Doctor said warmly, smiling back at her.

They shared a moment--an odd, beautiful, terrifying moment--that seemed to last for both a second and a lifetime all at once, in which the time-travellers from Gallifrey seemed to be looking right into each others souls. Romana's hearts were beating faster than ever before, even more than when she had been running from Daleks or Mandrels or sentient security cameras. In times like these, she was reassured that beneath all the Doctor's snide comments or sarcastic putdowns, he really seemed to care about her. She wasn't sure if the same could be said about his relationship with K-9. She almost hoped not...

Out of embarrassment and unease from their meaningful glances, Romana looked away. She cast her eyes over the control console, wanting to look at something else--anything else. She was scared. She could understand the complex trans-temporal and dynamic spatial readouts of the TARDIS, but she didn't know her own hearts... Or did she, she wondered, and she just couldn't admit it? Why not? Was it more that she wouldn't admit it? And again: why not? There was no good reason for her silence. There was something there, between her and the Doctor, almost definitely. She cared for him, that strange, ridiculous, completely bonkers man, who was stood just a few feet away from her with his arm hanging out of a police box.

Finally, after far too long, she decided she was going to tell the Doctor how she felt--or at least how she thought she felt.

She looked up again. 'Doctor, I need to tell you...'

But the Doctor was gone.

Romana just caught a glimpse of his scarf trailing behind him, as the Doctor tumbled out of the TARDIS, left arm first, as if he had been pulled outside by someone--or something. Either way, it couldn't have been good.

'Doctor!' she cried, as she hurried after him.


A few minutes earlier, the Cavalier had been asleep. His mysterious captors had finally decided to stop torturing him and allow him to rest. He certainly needed it. It had been such an insane few hours, from a chase through the Time Vortex, to a trudge through the impenetrable environment of the Alps, to an encounter with not-quite-Ancient Rome. He had just drifted off and was dreaming of Gallifrey, and his old friends who had become his enemies simply because he wanted to be different, when he heard a noise--a familiar, beautiful, reassuring noise that woke him immediately.

The Cavalier shook off his sleepiness and sat bolt upright on the pathetic excuse for a bed, watching as a bright blue police box faded into existence. He knew it from the stories, the myths and legends on a thousand worlds right across the universe, which spoke of a mysterious and magical wanderer known only as the Doctor. Of course, the Cavalier knew his old friend by a dozen other names, but he understood why he had changed it. “The Doctor” suited him much better. He always wanted to make people better, and from the stories the Cavalier had heard, it sounded like that was exactly what he'd been doing since leaving Gallifrey. And all those tales spoke of his police box, that rackety old TARDIS that he never fixed. The Cavalier laughed--that was very him.

But, he wondered, why had the Doctor come here? Was it random? Or had he really come looking for his old friend, the Cavalier, after all these years? He had thought that the Doctor must have forgotten him. But no, it seemed that he still thought about the Cavalier as much as he thought about the Doctor. They'd always vowed to remain friends, but then again people always did, usually right before they lost touch forever. But the Cavalier had always known that he and the Doctor shared a bond that was stronger than all of space-time. Nothing would tear them apart. But it seemed that it was more than that: now the universe had brought them together again.

He watched with bated breath for the moment when those TARDIS doors would burst open and the Doctor, in a new body all these years later, the Cavalier suspected, would look upon his old friend and smile. The Cavalier straightened the Roman armour that he still had to wear because he had nothing else, and waited to see the Doctor again.

But all that came out of the TARDIS doors was an arm--a left one, by the looks of it. The Cavalier approached it cautiously, studying it, trying to work out why it was there. Was it the Doctor's arm? Probably, he decided. Not many people were mad enough to think sticking an arm out a time machine was a good idea. 

The Cavalier thought for a moment. What was he supposed to do, just stand there and stare at the disembodied arm? But what if the TARDIS dematerialised without its occupants ever leaving the ship? If that were the Doctor, would the Cavalier just let himself stand there, dumbstruck, and give up the chance to see his old friend again after far too long? 

'No,' he decided aloud. He reached out and grabbed hold of the arm, pulling the body it was attached to out of the TARDIS and onto himself. 

The two Time Lords landed in a heap on the floor. 

'Hello, Doctor,' said the Cavalier. 

'Hello, Cavalier,' said the Doctor. 

Romana rushed out of the TARDIS just a few steps behind the Doctor, fearing for her friend's safety. Stepping out the police box, she found herself in a dark prison cell. But the environment didn't demand her attention so much as the two men lying on the floor did. 

'What's going on?' she asked, in disbelief. 

'Oh,' said the Doctor casually, looking down at his old friend, 'we were just getting reacquainted, weren't we?' 

The Cavalier smiled. 'It's been a long time, Doctor.' 

'Too long, old friend.' 

'Do you want to get up?' asked Romana, with her hands on her hips. She wasn't impressed. 

'I suppose so,' sighed the Doctor. 'It's no use wasting two good legs, is it?' 

The Doctor clambered up off the grubby floor, and the Cavalier did the same. He looked Romana up and down, almost suspicious of her, or at least curious. 'Hello there,' he said, flashing his dazzling smile. 'I don't think we've met, have we? I think I'd remember you. They call me the Cavalier.' 

'My name is Romana,' she replied formally, shaking the man's hand. 'I'm a Time Lord, too. I've heard a lot about you.' 

'All good, I assume?' 

The Doctor smirked. 'I left out all the naughty bits. Just mentioned how you're not particularly fondly remembered, back on Gallifrey.' 

The Cavalier looked away in embarrassment. 'They're not too fond of me, those stuffy old Time Lords.' 

'Far too serious, that lot,' the Doctor said, nodding agreeably. 'That's why we ran away, isn't that right, Cavalier?' 

'And Romana, you've run away as well, yes?' 

'Sort of,' she said. 'I like it out here in the universe. But I could go back, one day. I've not burned all my bridges like you two did.' 

'Oh, I'm not that bad,' the Doctor replied defensively. He stood tall, throwing back his shoulders and sticking his nose in the air, and said, 'You, Cavalier, are in the presence of Gallifrey's Lord President!' 

The Cavalier hooted with laughter. 'You? No way! That's so cool!' 

'I know!' the Doctor grinned, dropping his stance of mock importance. 'It's a laugh, I suppose. The other day, I sent a communication cube back to the Capitol, banning all those funny hats and demanding that everyone should wear scarves like mine instead. I think they thought I was joking. I wasn't.' 

'Sorry about these clothes, by the way,' said the Cavalier, drawing attention to his Roman uniform. 'They're not mine, I had to borrow them. You see, I woke up naked this morning.' 

Romana rolled her eyes. 'Oh, you are just ridiculous--' 

'Intruders!' came a heavy, rasping voice from nearby. 

The three Time Lords jumped in fright, and turned to face the source of the interruption. Barely visible in the shadows outside the cell door was a Zeronaught, tall and menacing in its jet-black armour. Its piercing red eyes that shone out from beneath the helmet spooked Romana, and it felt like her blood ran cold. 

'What is that thing?' she asked. 

'They're the ones who kidnapped me,' said the Cavalier. 'Well, they have kidnapped me. Present tense. I'm not free yet. Yes, that's a point. Doctor, why haven't we left already?' 

'I don't know,' the Doctor shrugged. 'I don't even know where we are. Some sort of spaceship, I assume?' 

'At the heart of the Accumulation's fleet, escorting the prisoner to our home world,' said the Zeronaught. 'We are the Zeronaughts, and we will destroy you.' 

The cell door swung open, and the Zeronaught stepped through. It raised a gloved hand that sparked with fiery red energy as it advanced upon the Time Lords. 

'Stay back, you two,' said the Cavalier confidently. 'I'll handle this.' He raised his own fist, which also began to glow brightly. Golden energy played around his hand, lighting up the darkness and cutting a trail through the air as he swung it towards the Zeronaught. 

The knight in black armour staggered backwards, shaken by the blow, until it tumbled onto the floor of the cell. 

'Knocked him out cold!' the Doctor observed admiringly. 'Nice work, Cavalier. How did you do that?' 

'Used my residual regeneration energy to give it an extra kick. Well, an extra punch. But you know what I mean.' 

'You've recently regenerated, then?' asked the Doctor. 'Congratulations!' 

'Not exactly,' said the Cavalier miserably. 'It was my twelfth one. This is my thirteenth and final body.' He looked himself up and down. 'I know, I'm not exactly going out on a high, am I?' 

'Oh, I wouldn't say that,' said the Doctor, looking his old friend up and down. 'I like it. I think it suits you.' 

By this point, Romana's eyes had been rolling almost constantly, so much so that her head started to ache. 'Doctor, we've got to go,' she urged.. 'There must be more of those things.' 

'We're okay for a while,' said the Doctor, kneeling down beside the unconscious figure. 'Before we leave I have to find out some more about this lot.' 

'Yes, what are these so-called Zeronaughts?' asked Romana. 'Are they like astronauts?' 

'Not really. They’re explorers of the worlds of physics and mathematics, not the wonders of the universe. To them, reality has no beauty; it is merely a string of numbers. They see the great questions about life, the universe and everything not as enjoyable philosophical debates but as equations that need to be solved. That’s their aim. That’s what they do. They take the fun out of everything, balancing the problems of reality, reducing everything to zero.' 

'So why did they kidnap him?' Romana asked, gesturing towards the Cavalier. 

'Good question,' mused the Doctor. 

'Oh, never mind that,' said the Cavalier, with a dismissive wave of his hand. 'I’m always getting kidnapped, it’s nothing really. It’s become a bit of a hobby, I suppose. A better question would be: why are they in these big scary suits?' 

'Because it makes them look big and scary,' said the Doctor simply. 'They’re only scientists, remember. And pompous brain-boxes like the Zeronaughts frequently get picked on anyway. Imagine how many more people are going to picking on them when they tell them that they’re trying to alter the fabric of reality. The suit is protection, keeping them alive.'

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