Lord Borusa swore some choice Gallifreyan curses as he pounded a gloved fist on the computer.
“Lord Borusa, please!” Physician Thia said. “Rage is useless in a situation like this!”
“Useless?” Borusa whirled on her, clutching the back of his chair until the knuckles under the white gloves turned just as white. “Useless?” he repeated. “I don’t want to hear ‘useless’! I don’t want to hear ‘we don’t know’! My daughter has been stricken by this mystery illness! You and your physicians had better come up with something, and you had better do it before my little Aisha succumbs!”
Thia’s lips had gotten thinner and thinner under his tirade. When he finished, she spun on her heel and marched stiffly out.
“Lord Borusa, was that wise?” a gentle voice from the couch in the corner said.
Borusa turned, startled. “How did you--?” Then he chuckled. “Of course. A locked door is no barrier to a savage.”
The woman on the couch chuckled. She unfolded her lithe body from the couch and said, “And a harsh answer is no friend to cooperation.”
“Is that a Sevateem proverb?” Borusa snapped, but he was smiling.
The woman nodded her head, sending brown hair dancing around her shoulder. “My tribe had a saying for each facet of life. Another that would seem to apply is, ‘When you are up to your neck in Tesh, it is a good time to yell for help.’”
Borusa sighed. “Leela, what would you suggest?”
Leela, a former companion of the wanderer known only as the Doctor, and now wife of the captain of Gallifrey’s inner guard, smiled at him. “You’re up to your neck in trouble. It is a good time to yell for help. Call him.”
Borusa blinked. “You’re talking about the Doctor! But Leela, what if he’s been stricken as well? This seems to affect Time Lords, no matter where they are!”
The teasing smile faded. “If he has been stricken, he has companions. They can still help. Call him.”
The Doctor gasped and gripped the edge of the TARDIS console to keep himself upright. Now at the beginning of his fifth incarnation, he was a slim, young blond man with a ready smile and twinkling blue eyes; dressed in an Edwardian cricket outfit with a long, cream-coloured coat over it.
But now, that ready smile was gone and the blue eyes had a confused look to them. The peaches-and-cream complexion was an unhealthy shade of dull grey.
At that moment, his companions --air-hostess Tegan Jovanka and young, aristocratic Nyssa of Traken -- came into the control room. “Hey, Doc,” Tegan’s Australian accent rang out, “you don’t look so hot.”
Nyssa went over to him. “Are you all right, Doctor?”
“N-no,” the Doctor gasped, turning to face them. His twinkling blue eyes seemed to be clouded with a faint grey mist, and he seemed unsure of where the girls were.
In that terrible instant, Tegan and Nyssa’s eyes met, each feeling horrified shock.
The Doctor had gone blind.
“You need some help?” Tegan asked. She surreptitiously waved a hand in front of his face, and her heart contracted in her chest. He didn’t react at all. He wasn’t faking it.
He smiled. “I think I’d like that. I seem to have a slight problem with my vision.”
“What…kind of problem?” Nyssa asked.
The smile faded. “I don’t…I don’t seem to have any, Nyssa.” He reached out a hand. “Keep going on these co-ordinates. The TARDIS is programmed to go to…” He swayed. “…to….”
Tegan grabbed his arm. “Maybe you’d best let me lead you, Doc. Where to?”
The doctor’s smile returned -- a pale shadow of what it normally was. “Thank you, Tegan. My room, please. I need to lie down.”
Over his shoulder, Nyssa and Tegan cast glances again. Neither of them even knew where the Doctor’s room was!
Thia came into the president’s chamber. “We have progress, Lord Borusa.”
Borusa looked up from the starcharts he and Leela were poring over. “Report, then, Physician.”
“It is a viral agent, your Lordship. We have determined it has a very specific DNA structure. There is more good news.” She smiled. “The first ones stricken are beginning to recover.”
Leela smiled. “Andred?”
“Yes, my Lady. Your husband is recovering nicely. This is not the killer we feared.” She smiled. “We forecast all but one shall recover.”
Borusa frowned. “All but one? What do you mean?”
She frowned. “Lord Borusa, this virus is not natural. It was engineered. It is to make ill those without a specific DNA structure. The one who does, it is deadly to.”
“How will we know who that one is?” Leela demanded. “Wait till he dies?”
“No.” Thia sighed. “We have experimented on it. Run simulations. When the virus encounters the one it is designed to kill, it will attack his optical matrix.”
“Meaning?” Leela asked.
“Meaning he will go blind,” Thia answered.
The Doctor lay on his bed, the blue covers pulled up to his chest. He thrashed, moaning in his sleep. Tegan dipped a cloth in cool water and touched it to the hot forehead.
Nyssa appeared at the door. “How is he?”
“Not good. He keeps calling for someone named ‘Sarah Jane’. D’you have any idea who she is?”
“Possibly an earlier companion,” Nyssa said. “There should be some record in the TARDIS’s memory.”
The doctor sighed and turned his head. Tegan sighed as well. “That should do it for now.” She stood up. “I don’t get it, Nyssa. How could he suddenly go blind like that? There was no warning, no nothing! Now he’s got a raging fever…”
“Let’s find this ‘Sarah Jane’,” Nyssa said. “Maybe she can help.”
They located her...Sarah Jane Smith – a reporter from earth. The Doctor Tegan and Nyssa had met had been her companion. And…
Tegan gasped as she saw the final images. “Strewth!” she gasped. “He’s in love with her!”
The TARDIS swiftly located her current location. In seconds, they had landed. Nyssa opened the doors.
A gasp was heard from outside, then a lovely brown-haired woman raced inside. “Oh, Doctor,” she cried out, “I knew you wouldn’t forget…”
The cries of joy died as she saw Nyssa and Tegan. Her mouth worked but no sound came out. “Who are you?” she gasped. “Where’s the Doctor? U-Unless…one of you….”
The very thought made Nyssa and Tegan smile. “No,” Nyssa said. “I am Nyssa, and this is Tegan. The Doctor is in his room. He’s very ill. And he was calling for you.”
“Calling for me?” Sarah gasped. “In his room?” She vaulted for the door.
Tegan physically blocked her way. “Hold on, Sarah-girl. There’s something you’ve gotta know. He’s not the same Doctor you left.”
Sarah blinked. “You mean he’s regenerated again?” At their shocked glances, she said, “I’ve seen him do it before. I can take it. Please…take me to him!”
The door to the Doctor’s room opened. Sara stepped inside, Nyssa and Tegan behind her. Sarah gasped as she saw the form on the bed. “My word! He’s…he’s so young!”
“He’s got a fever,” Nyssa said, and he’s…” she couldn’t finish.
“What?” Sarah whispered.
“….blind….” Tegan choked out.
“Oh, Doctor!” Sarah gasped. Before they could stop her, she crossed the room and sat on the bed. She took one of the limp hands. “Doctor,” she whispered. “Doctor, it’s me. Sarah Jane. I’m here.”
To their amazement, the Doctor seemed to draw strength from the touch. His eyes fluttered open. “Sarah…” he whispered. “Am I dreaming?”
“No. Nyssa and Tegan came and got me.”
His blinded eyes swiveled in her direction. “I’m…I’m not the….not the same.”
She chuckled and brushed a lock of damp blond hair from the hot forehead. “I know. I think it’s somewhat of an improvement.”
Now he chuckled. In his ill state it came out more of a gasp. “Did you…get…”
“K-9? Yes, I got him. He’s waiting outside the ship.”
The Doctor nodded. He swallowed hard. “I…can’t….” He swallowed again. “Drink,” he gasped.
Sarah got him a glass of water. He sipped, then groped for her hand. She clutched it and he whispered, “I…can’t…see.”
“I know. We’re going to help you.”
He shook his head. “Can’t…must get…Gallifrey…” The hand holding hers squeezed. “Sarah…get me….home…”
“We will.” She folded the hand onto the covers. “You rest. I’ll come check on you in a few minutes.”
He nodded. “I wish…I could see you…” He smiled and closed his eyes.
Sarah left the room. The instant the doors closed, she leaned against the wall and sobbed, once. “He’s so helpless,” she cried. “It’s not fair! He was the strong one, and now…”
“Now, we have to be,” Nyssa said. “Bring this K-9 in and let’s get him home.”
Sarah nodded and pulled herself together.
Tegan appeared at the bedroom door. “How is he?”
Sarah shook her head. “About the same. In and out of it. Lucid when he’s in, delirious when he’s out. Fever’s climbed another degree.”
Tegan whistled. “That’s eighty-seven then!”
Sarah nodded. “Normal Gallifreyan temperature is seventy-six.” She shook her head. “A fever that high might kill him.”
They hadn’t noticed the blinded eyes had opened until the Doctor whispered, “Perhaps…that’s what it’s…meant to do…”
Sarah took his hand again. “What do you mean?”
The Doctor licked his lips. “Thirsty…” Tegan got him some water. After he sipped it, he moaned. “Too sudden…to be natural….Sarah….think this is a bio…a bio…” He moaned again. “Word’s…too long…”
From the doorway came Nyssa’s voice. “Doctor, do you mean a bio-engineered deoxyribonucleic attacker?”
The Doctor smiled. “Bless… you, Nyssa….yeah, that’s it….”
Three pairs of eyes met in alarm. They had never heard the Doctor not say ‘yes’. Three hearts constricted as they realised his speech was beginning to slur.
“Are…are we on our way….Gallifrey…” The Doctor gasped.
“Yes, Doctor,” Sarah said, gently brushing some of the sweat away from his forehead. “K-9 is monitoring the journey. He says we should be there any—“
As if on cue, the TARDIS began the familiar asthmatic wheezing that signaled they were landing.
The Doctor smiled weakly. His eyes closed and his body sagged in relief. Then he drew his lips together and began to sit up.
“No way, Doc!” Tegan gasped, gently putting him back onto the mattress. “You’re in no shape to go anywhere!”
“Have to,” he gasped. “Have to get…Med Central…”
“I’ll go,” Tegan said. “I’ll get somebody to come getcha. You stay put, hear?”
He sagged into the pillow and nodded.
Borusa, Leela, and Thia walked toward the landing bay, where a TARDIS had made an abrupt and unscheduled landing.
“Who could it be?” Borusa wondered.
“Perhaps a Time Lord suffering from the plague,” Thia mused.
The doors opened and Leela broke into a wide grin as she saw the familiar blue Police Box. “It’s the Doctor!” she cheered.
At that instant the door opened and a short, black-haired woman in a purple uniform flew out. “He’s sick!” she cried, pointing back inside. “He needs help! Ya gotta come!”
The smile vanished from Leela’s face. “Lead the way!” she cried, running toward the TARDIS.
Thia summoned a medical transport team as the two rushed inside.
Tegan raced back into the Doctor’s room. “In here!” she cried.
Nyssa and Sarah gasped at the tall, lithe woman in the animal skins who burst in behind her. “Xoanon!” she gasped as she caught sight of the Doctor. “Is that the Doctor?”
At her voice, he stirred. “Leela?” he gasped. “Leela…lives on…Gallifrey...we made…”
Leela stepped forward. “Yes, Doctor.” She looked at the three women. “It seems you are building a harem.”
The Doctor tried to laugh. It came out a gasp. “Blunt as ever… No…they’re helping me….”
Thia and two med-techs with a gurney came in. Leela addressed them. “He is obviously feverish and weak. It is the plague.”
“You know what’s wrong with him?” Sarah said, rising to her feet as the med-techs transferred the Doctor to the gurney.
Sharp-eyed Leela smiled as she noticed Sarah never released the Doctor’s hand.
“Yes,” Thia said. “This plague strikes Time Lords no matter where they are.”
“Y’mean other Time Lords get that fever and go blind?” Tegan asked.
Thia’s head snapped around. “Blind?” she countered. “He is blind?”
“Yes,” Nyssa said. “That was the first symptom of his disease.
Thia and Leela’s eyes met. Leela paled. Thia ordered, “Take him to Med Central.”
As the gurney rolled out – Sarah following, never releasing his hand -- Tegan snapped, “What was that all about?”
“It is a fake bug,” Leela said. “A madman made it to sicken all the Time Lord and kill one.”
“Kill the Doctor,” Thia added. “The blindness is the indicator he is the one with the specific DNA sequence.”
Tegan’s eye narrowed. “This smells of the Master.”
“Agreed,” Nyssa said.
“Who is the Master?” Leela asked. After they filled her in, she nodded. “That sound like him.” She swore vehemently.
After a moment of silence, Tegan summed up the situation as only she could. “So now what d’we do?”
Thia blinked as she raised up from the microscope. “What?” Sarah demanded.
The Doctor squeezed her hand. “Let…her do…job…Sarah.”
“The virus seems to be rewriting his DNA!” Thia shook her head. “I have never seen anything like the samples I took from his eye!”
Sarah gently released the Doctor’s hand and peered into the microscope. She straightened back up. “So? Looks like normal eye tissue to me.”
She frowned. “No…here, let me show you a normal Time Lord’s eye.” She raised a lens to her own eye and told Sarah to look.
Sarah blinked. “Let me have that.” Thia surrendered the lens and Sarah raised it to her own eye. “Look here. This is a human eye.”
Thia pulled away, startled. “He has human retinal patterns!” she gasped.
The Doctor sighed. “Thia…remember who… my parents were?”
Thia snapped her fingers. “Of course! The human female!” She began working frantically.
Sarah moved to the Doctor’s side and took his hand again. “You never told me about your parents.”
“Mother… was human… ‘M a… pariah…. To my people….cause I’m… a half-blood.”
Tears sprang to Sarah’s eyes. No wonder he liked Earth so well! “Thia… the slurring’s getting worse.”
“I heard,” she said, moving over to them. “His human half is preventing the disease from progressing as rapidly as it did in the others. Perhaps there is still a chance. If I can isolate the human DNA and inject him with it….”
“Humans don’t get this,” Sarah said. “Are you saying you could create some kind of … vaccine … out of human DNA?”
“With luck, it should wipe out the foreign disease and cure him.” She smiled at Sarah. “And cure all of us who are ill and make those who aren’t, immune.” Thia then frowned. “But how to isolate the human DNA, that’s the problem.
The Doctor was smiling. “No… problem. Leela, Sarah…Nyssa, Tegan… Thia, you’ve… four humans…here. Use…their DNA.”
“Doctor,” Thia said, “this could be extremely dangerous. There’s no way of predicting what human DNA will do when it merges with Time Lord DNA.”
“Oh…yes…there is…” The Doctor tapped his chest. “I’m…a merger…remember? Regenerations…difficult…only result.”
Thia licked her lips, thinking. Then she turned to Sarah. “Let’s do it.”
Two hours later, Thia injected some of Sarah’s DNA into the Doctor. Four hours after that, Tegan, Nyssa and Leela appeared at his doorway. Sarah had never left his side.
Tegan tapped lightly. “Can we come in, Doc?”
The Doctor was sitting up in bed. He was still flushed, but no longer sweating. He smiled, turning his head slightly. “Tegan. Yes, come on in!” The slur was gone.
Tegan walked in and sat beside Sarah. She looked at his eyes. Still grey. “How you feelin’?”
He smiled his ready smile. “Much better. The virus is burning out rapidly.”
Sarah smiled. “His temperature is down to seventy-eight and still falling. Thia estimates it’ll be normal in another hour or so.”
“And his vision?” Leela asked.
The Doctor sighed. “It’s still gone, Leela. Thia says it should return in a week or so.”
Sarah looked up at Leela. “It was the first symptom to come; it’ll be the last to leave. When he can see again, the virus will be completely out of his system.”
“That’s wonderful news,” Nyssa said, smiling.
“So, Doc,” Tegan teased, “when are you getting out of here?”
“As soon as Thia will release me,” he replied. “I prefer not to remain here one minute longer than I have to!”
Tegan laughed and joined the pair at the door. “Comin’, Sarah-girl?”
“No, I’ll stay awhile. You go on.”
After they left, the Doctor covered the hand holding his. “Thank you for staying with me.”
“You did the same for me, remember?”
“I’m sorry about the abrupt departure. Please come with me again?”
She shook her head before she remembered he was still blind. “I can’t, Doctor. I’m raising my Aunt Lavinia’s ward. He needs me. But when he’s on his own… who knows?”
He smiled. “I’ll wait till that day comes, Sarah Jane.” And he squeezed her hand. “I’ll wait as long as it takes.”
“You don’t have to, Doctor. You’re hundreds of years older than I. You’ll outlive me by hundreds more. I can’t ask you wait for something that may never happen.”
He leaned forward, blind eyes trying hard to focus on her. “I will wait, Sarah Jane.”
Sarah leaned forward and hugged him.
“Are you sure you won’t change your mind?” Borusa asked at the entrance to the Police Box.
“I’m sure,” the Doctor said. He stood there, an arm linked with Sarah’s. Tegan and Nyssa were preparing the ‘old girl’ for takeoff. “I’ll be all right.”
“But, Doctor,” Leela protested. “Your eyes---“
He smiled, covering Sarah’s hand with one of his. “’Don’t work’. I know, Leela. But I’ve three good friends who will take care of me till they do.”
Thia chuckled. “I can’t argue with that, the way they banded together to help you.”
“Shall we?” the Doctor asked.
Sarah just smiled as she guided him into the TARDIS.
“All right,” the Doctor said as they walked into the control room. “Tegan, close the doors. Nyssa, program a course back to 1986 England. Let’s get these two home.”
“Aye, captain,” Tegan teased as they obeyed him.
The Doctor chuckled. “Sarah, do you remember the arboreum?”
She sighed. “Yes, but I couldn’t guide you there.”
“Let’s find it together,” he said as they walked toward the doors that led to the rest of the TARDIS. “We’ve some time before we land and I want to spend it with you.”
He then stopped and cupped her chin in both his hands. “My only regret, Sarah Jane, is that I haven’t yet seen you this trip.”
“Maybe you will before it’s over,” she said, smiling and taking his hand.
“Maybe,” he chuckled as the doors closed behind them.
Nyssa sighed after them. “I wonder if we can manage to make the trip last longer than the forty-eight hours Thia estimated were left before his sight returns.”
Tegan laughed. “In this crate? I’m still surprised it got us to her as quick as it did! I’d be shocked if it did that twice in one trip! He’ll be able to see her before it’s over,” she finished. “This bucket never works right!”
Nyssa, chuckling, had to agree.
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