Artelisa and the Doctor turned a corner and found a long access corridor. At the end of the corridor, she could see some broken vending machines, and above a door on the left, a red light was showing. As they got closer, she could see that the door was an emergency airlock, and the light indicated that the outer door was open. 

“Airlock?” said the Doctor. “Might have been a docked shuttle or something. Let’s move on.” 

“No, wait, Doctor. Something isn’t right. An airlock would never be left open like this.”

Artelisa had to stand on tip toe to peer through the observation port in the airlock door. She could see an emergency strobe light reflecting off the internal wall of the chamber. “There’s… something in there… Doctor?” 

The Doctor stepped up. “Let me see… yes, there is… somebody’s in there!” He quickly moved to the controls, activated the manual override and closed the outer door. Once locked, he began to re-pressurise the airlock. They could hear the air pumps working and the door seals squeak as the pressure began to equalise. 

“Come ON!” the Doctor said , tapping on the door with his fingertips. Then the indicator switched to green, and the lock disengaged. The Doctor grabbed the handles and with an almighty effort pulled the door towards him and leapt inside. There was a man-sized fabric balloon in there – the source of the emergency strobe. Somebody was inside, thrashing around. “One side, Doctor,” said Artelisa, pushing past him. She squeezed along one of the seams with her fingers until she found a pocket. Opening the pocket she activated the control inside, and the seam opened completely as if it had never been joined. Tegan struggled out, gasping, crawling along the deck towards the inner door. Artelisa immediately picked her up and helped her out, whilst the Doctor looked on, a bemused expression on his face. 

“I thought I was a goner there, for sure,” said Tegan, panting. “Somebody close that bloody door!” she said, pointing at the airlock. The Doctor nodded and obliged, pushing the door closed and latching it. 

“What was that trick Doctor?” Tegan said, pushing herself up with Artelisa’s help. 

“Whatever are you talking about, Tegan?” the Doctor, said, turning to face them. 

“Are you sure that is the Doctor?” she said to Artelisa. “He was the one that locked me in there and opened the bloody door!”

Artelisa looked up. “We came on board together… what do you mean?”

Tegan, now standing, leaned on the smaller woman, holding her shoulders just too tight for comfort. 

“When we were on the ship… the bloody computer… it used a robot that looked like a man. The real Doc wouldn’t try to kill me…”

“Look Tegan, enough of this nonsense now. I don’t know what you are talking about and we’ve only just now found this corridor. Whatever or whoever it was that did this to you, it most certainly was not me. What it does show, however, is that Paracletus has gained control of the station and may be watching us right now. I don’t mind playing games, as long as they are fair and whilst it can see and control our environment, it has the upper hand, and I don’t like it…I don’t like it one bit. What we need to do right now is to get back to the Tardis. Which, according to that sign, should be this way. Come on!” The Doctor strode off in the direction of the vending area. 

Tegan was about to say something else but Artelisa shook her head, deliberately looking down to her holster. Tegan followed her gaze and watched as she unsnapped the strap that held the pistol in place, and clicked off the safety catch. Tegan nodded, and without another word, they set off after the Doctor. 

*

Artelisa and Redoc opened a large pressure door and walked into the transmat station. Javid was pacing again. Fidox had collapsed into a chair, but jumped up when he saw the others. 

“Colonel!” he exclaimed. “Have you seen the Doctor or any of the others? This must be…”

“Doctor Redoc, but you can call me…” Redoc began bowing. 

“We haven’t got time for all that now!” Javid snapped. “Paracletus knows we’re here and any minute that transmat could be loaded with service robots wanting to bash our brains in! We need to get out of here.”

Artelisa looked over at the pad. “You’re right. Perhaps the best thing would be to leave the station now. Tactically, we are in a very bad position. We could go to the planet – or back to the warship – and take our chances there.”

Fidox looked from one to the other, not knowing what the best solution might be. Javid stopped pacing and shook his head. “I don’t know or particularly care how you escaped the ship in the first place, but your  comrades over there were not particularly welcoming and made it perfectly clear they wanted nothing to do with this situation. If we went there they would send us right back and as for you…”

“But the situation has changed,” said Artelisa.  “This planet is in a central and highly important location in this sector. If the stability of this system was compromised, as this crisis is likely to do, it would be in the Empire’s best interest to help secure it.”

Javid looked puzzled. “That’s hardly the kind of action you were talking about before, Artelisa…”

The young woman shook her head dismissively. “An effective officer in a situation under threat has to maintain an agile position. It’s in the officers’ manual.”

“Ah! At last!”

They all turned to see the Doctor and Nyssa run round a corner and come towards them. The Doctor stopped and bent over, his hands on his knees, panting. “Once we saw… a corridor we recognised… we ran for it before… another bulkhead closed!”

“Excellent,” said Javid. “Now let’s get out of here!”

Nyssa looked around. “Where’s Tegan? We can’t leave her behind. We’re all here but nobody found her?” 

“Clearly, we aren’t going to leave anyone behind, “ said the Doctor, catching his breath and standing up,  “but perhaps the safest thing would be for you all to get into the Tardis and wait. I’ll go back and have another look.”

“I’ll come too,” said Nyssa.

“No – it’s best if you wait here. If we all go out again we could end up in the same situation… I won’t be long.”

The Doctor unlocked the Tardis and pushed the door open, and they filed inside. Redoc looked a little dubious, but the Doctor gave him a reassuring smile and a pat on the back as he stooped to go through the door. Nyssa was the last one, and as she stood in the door, she turned again to protest but the Doctor put up his hand to stop her. “No Nyssa, really. It will be fine. And I need you here to look after them. Yes?”

“Very well, Doctor,” she said, stepping back through the door and closing it behind her. 

The Doctor, Tegan and Artelisa had met an unexpected bulkhead and had to retrace their steps, before finding another sign that indicated the way to the transmat station. Suddenly, the Doctor stopped and stood erect, as if listening for something. 

“Doc?” said Tegan.

“SHHH!” he replied, his right index finger pointing upwards . Tegan and Artelisa looked at each other. 

The Doctor turned back to them. “Wait here!” he hissed, and ran to the end of the corridor, his coat flapping behind him. At the end was a T junction, and looking one way and then the other, he disappeared down the corridor to the left. 

“What the hell…?” whispered Tegan. 

Now they could hear approaching footfalls – someone running. Artelisa motioned for Tegan to get behind her as she drew her pistol. A shape appeared from the corridor from the right. Artelisa aimed her weapon and yelled, “Stop!”

It was the Doctor. “For goodness sake, put that thing away!” he said, angrily. “I thought I told everyone to… never mind. You found Tegan. Excellent. Come on – let’s get out of here! No time to waste! Come ON!” Artelisa lowered the pistol but didn’t put it away. She looked at Tegan – who was obviously confused …and afraid. They started to walk and then had to run to keep up with the Doctor. 

*

Nyssa stepped into the Tardis and operated the door control. The others were all huddled together on one side of the door. She paid them no mind as she opened the external viewer, and watched the Doctor pick a direction and run off. But there was a strange rasping sound…

“Nyssa…” said Redoc. He was rubbing his forelimbs together.

She walked around the console and the others parted so that she could see what they were looking at. A service robot lay crumpled on the floor, as if it had been suddenly deactivated. 

“How did that get in here?” she said, crouching down to look at it. She looked from one to other – but all just stared back, dumbfounded. Nyssa stood up, and looked around the control room again. 

“Where’s Artelisa?”

*

The Doctor ran into the transmat station.

The Doctor ran into the transmat station.

The Doctors looked at themselves, and circled each other, a look of bemusement on their faces. 

Tegan and Artelisa ran into the chamber and skidded to halt, Tegan almost losing her balance. Artelisa brought her weapon up again. “I bloody KNEW it!” said Tegan. 

“That’s all very well,” said Artelisa, “but which one do I shoot?”

*

“Let me GO!” said Nyssa, struggling to release herself from Javid’s grasp. “We have to warn him!”

“For the last time, no-one is going anywhere!” Javid said through gritted teeth. The young woman was a lot shorter than him but in much better condition, and he was having a hard time holding on to her. 

“It may be moot point after all,” said Fidox, pointing at the view screen. “Look!”

*

“This has been done before you know,” said the Doctor. “It’s hardly original.”

“I know,” the Doctor replied. “You have captured quite a good likeness, I think.”

“Well, thank you, but of course you are the likeness and I am the real McCoy.” 

“This can all be settled very easily. All we have to do is go inside the Tardis, and the facsimile will cease to function – you can’t maintain contact or control inside the Tardis.”

“After you then, Doctor.” 

“No by all means, you first.”

“I insist.”

“You’re ignoring another factor, Doctor.”

“Which is?” 

“Any one of your companions could also be a facsimile. Or indeed, all of them.”

“No, there is one I am absolutely certain is real.”

“Who might that be?”

“Artelisa. She’s the only one with a gun.”

Tegan looked at Artelisa and smiled. But Artelisa stepped away from her, now swinging the levelled pistol through an arc. “Now wait just minute…” said Tegan, stepping forward.

“Stay where you are,” said Artelisa. 

*

Inside the Tardis, Nyssa began to struggle again. “You have to let me go out there. Please, let me go!”

“Absolutely not!” said Javid. That door is not opening again until we know who is who. We can’t take the risk. I won’t take the risk.”

Redoc looked over at Javid and Nyssa. He felt nervous too, but thought that she was right, and Javid was being irrational. He abhorred violence of all kinds, but realised he might have to do something to resolve the situation. He started to rub his forelimbs together again, but stopped himself. 

*

“Ah, very clever. Throw some doubt, put everyone into a stressed state,” said the Doctor. “That’s what you’re doing now instead of joy, isn’t it? Other, stronger base emotions. Anger, fear – setting off conflict and violence. But before you were just measuring to support the planet’s economy – now I think you really are feeding, aren’t you?”

“But an artificial intelligence doesn’t need to feed – an ordinary one only requires a power supply. But you’re evolving past that …? How are you doing that?”

The Doctors continued to circle each other, the others now had no idea which was which, or even which one they had accompanied to this point. 

“Any life can evolve, can exceed the limits of its current state and adapt to its new surroundings – evolution is driven by survival…”

“Is that what you’re doing? Surviving? What kind of life is it that exists only to bring pain and anguish to others? To replace joy with pain?”

“But then it’s all about what is marketable, isn’t it, Doctor. Supply and demand. We provide the customer with what they want, and the customer is always right!”

“Yes, even if what they want will ultimately hurt them. But don’t they have the freedom to choose? Would you deny them that freedom?”

“Freedom derived from the oppression of others is no freedom at all. Does a healthy and happy  individual – or for that matter a society – embark on a pursuit that will harm it and even lead to its destruction? And what would you call those who facilitate such a course? Are they acting in their own best interests?”

Both Doctors stopped, about three metres from each other. 

“But they still want it, don’t they Doctor? Is that the Paradox of Freedom?”

“Anarchy as dictatorship – the very absence of restriction leads to the worst oppression possible. Freedom can only be predicated on ethics; societal freedom can only exist for all within a system of law.”

“But you are the ultimate anarchist, Doctor! A renegade, one who could not and would not conform to the laws and beliefs of your own society you roam time and space as an agent of unregulated chaos!”

The Doctor nearest the Tardis dropped to his haunches. “And for a time I did believe that about myself, but not anymore. And anyone who knows anything about the universe knows that even as everything heads towards entropy, entropy is still governed by laws and cosmos merely decays into cosmos, not into chaos. Can there be a system that is totally free? No. And whilst we acknowledge that is impossible, it doesn’t invalidate the paradox.”

The other Doctor laughed derisively, putting his hands in his pockets. “How can you possibly make that argument, Doctor? What defines you, in that case?”

“As freedom is defined and only be granted by ethics and law, beings can only define themselves in this moment against their previous experiences. It’s from that experience and knowledge that we determine how we react now – from the tiniest amoeba to the President of the Time Lords,” said the crouched Doctor, drawing in the dirt on the floor with his finger. “We can’t deny what we were, as this is what we are. We have to accept that reality or we are lost. When we recognise that in ourselves, we recognise it in others – we empathise with them. This is the foundation of our ethical behaviour. And so, Artelisa,” he said, looking up at the young woman with her pistol aimed, “that is your name, that is who you are. And whilst you try to hide from the past and create a new non-person… you have failed. Because you are still ruled by that very strong moral sense, and recognition of self. And even here and now, you have inspired others, earned their respect, and to regard you as a friend.” 

The other Doctor laughed derisively –  and Artelisa shot him in the back of the head.

Author, photographer and trade union activist. Lived in Japan for 5 years, now working at Cambridge University. Written for Big Finish/BBC Enterprises - Doctor Who and Robin Hood. Two books currently available on Amazon - see my non-fiction on Medium. All content ©Michael Abberton 2020

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