"I can see why you'd be such a hot commodity."
Spartus flexed the muscles of his right arm. It still ached, the whole thing was sore really, but it was an improvement since yesterday. He had taken a bullet for the Doctor after all, and had he been human his injuries might have been more severe. There was plenty to like about not being human, and his body's fast regenerative capabilities ensured that only the worst of injuries would have a detrimental effect upon him. Of course, he could still feel pain, and taking a bullet had hurt a lot. It had paid off though, since the Doctor was still alive and the TARDIS appeared to be in some kind of working order.
The Doctor moved around the control console, tapping buttons and adjusting dials. The central column glowed but it did not rise and fall. Rather, they remained in the year 2027, in orbit around the Earth as the Doctor ran some diagnostics. He had mentioned something about a 'time-storm' and how the 'space-time oscillator' had become dislodged. He had spent a few hours trying to fix the damage, and he had succeeded. Presumably he had not bothered to try earlier, since his curiosity as to where he had landed had made him head out, leaving his TARDIS where it had broken down. During the whole time, the Doctor had been somewhat morose, and even now, despite the energy he had on display, he carried a grim look about him.
"What now?" Spartus asked. A pertinent question. The Doctor stopped by the console, turning to look his way.
"I'll take you home."
"I don't have a home anymore, Doctor," Spartus replied. He spoke as if it were common knowledge, and he had long since become accustomed to the fact that he had no home and no family to go back to.
The Doctor picked up the Time Ring from where it sat upon the console. He examined it briefly, before turning back to Spartus.
"We could find out where this came from," he suggested. "I can hook it up to the TARDIS and we can follow it to its last known space-time coordinates."
"To Galva Prime?" Spartus shook his head. "That's a war-torn hellhole."
"We could trace it back to its origin," the Doctor added. "Someone misplaced their Time Ring. I'd like to find out who."
Spartus nodded. He was certainly curious as to its origins. He moved forwards, as the Doctor put the Time Ring down and tapped a few buttons on the console.
"Too many people died," the Doctor said.
"It shouldn't have happened."
"It was either kill or be killed, Doctor," Spartus countered. "There's nothing wrong with that. Karva wanted to destroy humanity. Were you going to let him do that?"
"No, of course not." The Doctor frowned at him. "But that's just it, isn't it? Karva was the problem. If something had been done sooner…"
"You can't anticipate that sort of thing, even with a time machine." Spartus found it odd, having to be the reassuring voice, but he did not like to see the Doctor get hung up on what had happened. They had done their best, given the circumstances, and things could have been a lot worse.
There was a long pause between the two of them. Spartus mulled over what else to add, finding very little to talk about. Most of the subject matter he could think of was somewhat downbeat.
"What will happen to the Sea Devils still asleep in the underground shelter?" Spartus asked.
"They'll remain there, most likely," the Doctor said. "UNIT will probably seal the place shut. It wouldn't be the first time for them, doing that sort of thing."
Before anything more could be said, the conversation was interrupted by the sound of a phone ringing. This was a strange enough noise in itself, Spartus thought, even if they were in some sort of phone box. The Doctor seemed startled, at least for a moment, before he flicked a switch. The doors opened, revealing the Earth below them, the atmosphere within the TARDIS no doubt contained by some sort of invisible force field. Spartus watched as the Doctor walked over to the open door and leaned around, sticking his head and arms out before retrieving the phone hidden in the compartment in the other door. Taking it off the hook, he walked back inside, the cable extending behind him. His face was serious, and he must have been expecting the worst.
"Hello?" He said this somewhat uncertainly. Spartus could just hear the other voice, that of a man, human no doubt, and this voice carried a somewhat pronounced accent that Spartus, with his limited Earth knowledge, could not place.
"Hello, Doctor. Do you remember me?"
"Can't say that I do." The Doctor and Spartus exchanged glances. Spartus just shrugged. If the Doctor thought he knew who it was, he was wrong.
"You don't recognize the voice? Surely your memory isn't that bad, Doctor. I mean, for me it's been, what, seventeen years almost? And for you, how long has it been? Five hundred years? One thousand? Two thousand?" There was a chuckle from the other end, a mirthful one at that. "I suppose that's forgivable, in your case. Even a Time Lord must forget some things after two thousand years."
"Who are you? And how did you get this number?" The Doctor's voice became serious and his patience was evidently wearing thin.
"Henry Van Statten. You've changed, Doctor, but I haven't. Older and wiser, maybe, but I'm still the same old me. Although one thing about you hasn't changed. You march into a place and leave a trail of bodies behind you."
"How did you get this number?" Recognition flashed upon the Doctor's face. It was clear to Spartus then that he did indeed know who this man was.
"A little birdie told me. Or, perhaps, a little lizard told me." Sarcasm laced the man's voice. "I thought I might thank you, for how you and your new alien friend cleaned up the Sea Devil business. For a moment there, I thought the whole thing might be traced to me."
"Traced? What do you mean?"
"Oh, no Doctor. No answers for you. I also called to suggest you keep a close eye on your new vaguely reptilian friend. I think he may have some skeletons in the closet you should be worried about." Another chuckle followed, and Spartus frowned. How did this Van Statten character know about him?
"I thought you were dead."
"Dead? No, far from it. I don't die easy. I've got plenty of money, Doctor. No one's going to erase my memories and leave me living on the streets like a tramp, not when you have the influence I do." There was pause, and then finally Van Statten spoke again. The Doctor was simply staring straight ahead now, as if the conversation had struck a chord in him. "It's been a pleasure talking to you again, after all these years, but I gotta run. I'm a busy man, people to meet, money to make. Goodbye, Doctor."
Before the Doctor could say anything more, there was a click on the other end and the line went dead. He lowered the phone, his face grim, and he glanced over at Spartus who was somewhat confused.
"Was there something we missed?" The Doctor asked aloud. No answers came his way, not from him or from Spartus, or anywhere or anyone else for that matter.
About twenty minutes later, the Doctor had put the phone away and the doors were closed. As he set the TARDIS into the time vortex, Spartus retired to the bedroom he had been offered, located somewhat down the corridor from the console room, leaving the Doctor alone.
There were too many questions on his mind. He had since hooked up the Time Ring to the console, leaving the TARDIS computers to figure out what secrets it might contain. As the autopilot sent them hurtling through the time vortex, the Doctor made his way through the corridors of the TARDIS' vast interior. Spartus was lounging in his new bedroom, giving the Doctor some private time of his own as he worked his way to the vast library contained within the TARDIS.
Rows and rows of bookshelves were here, containing all manner of tomes of varying shapes and sizes, along with all manner of computerised information storage. The Doctor approached the catalogue listed at the end of one aisle, his eyes scanning along it before he found the section he was looking for. With that in mind, he entered the aisle, bringing along with him the set of wheeled steps that were nearby. Stopping them towards the end of the aisle, he climbed up them, reaching for a set of old books on the topmost shelf.
The largest of the few he found was thick and heavy. Dense reading, to say the least. The front cover did not carry any images, simply a title, embossed in gold lettering: A Concise History of the Rebellion of Morbius. The Doctor put the others aside for now and flicked it open. He had a feeling, and Van Statten's phone call had simply made it all the more pronounced.
A few hundred pages in and he found what he was looking for: a detailed image of a soldier in a grey padded armour coat, wielding some kind of large portable energy cannon, striding through a war-torn battle-scape. Despite the visor he wore, the bluish scaly skin was evident. The caption beneath told the Doctor what he needed to know, to confirm his suspicions:
The Maval'Kar soldiers who formed part of the rebel forces were renowned for their strength and ferocity in battle, capable of taking incredible amounts of punishment before dying. From an isolated world, the Maval'Kar were most certainly recruited by the renegade, Morbius, because of their fast healing abilities.
The Doctor closed the book and took it down with him as he stepped off of the wooden steps. He had some history to catch up on, he realised.
Skeletons in the closet, indeed.
END (for now)
If you stuck with it until the end, then I hoped you enjoyed it. Some questions may be unanswered, but at some time in the future (well into the future, probably), I may write a continuation of sorts. My intention with this story was in a way to write a story reminiscent of the 1970s 'UNIT era' but meld it with the moral ambiguity and grimness of the mid-1980s Doctor Who era. This whole idea, involving the Sea Devils and an alien soldier being kept in captivity by a ruthless 'collector', had been in my head since about 2012, and it's a relief to finally have it written in some form.
For now, I hope I provided a satisfying standalone tale.