The Hall of the Absolutes was a vast cavern of deep blue crystal, softly illuminated by molten minerals coursing through myriad veins in the rock. Behind me stood the Tardis, its pulsating light reflected by a thousand glimmering points. Ranged before me was a series of black marble chairs – thrones, in fact – on which imposing, richly robed figures sat immobile and impassive. The crystal hall echoed to an angry, staccato rapping: the Doctor’s umbrella.
Bewildered by this alien splendour, I had kept my gaze firmly fixed on the Doctor throughout his audience with the Absolutes. After an initial ceremony of formal greetings, the Absolutes had remained silent as the Doctor pleaded for them to bring an end to the devastation wrought by the Thlaarx. Their lean, pale faces were set and expressionless. Their gaze remained fixed on a point somewhere above the small figure of the Doctor as he tried to put his case. Increasingly frustrated by their lack of attention, his began to shout and stamp, gesticulating extravagantly and almost dancing with vexation. He might have appeared comical if his words had not been so impassioned. At last, with an air of defeat, he paused and began his irritable tapping on the crystal floor.
‘Well?’ he said. ‘What will you do? Your Majesty, I appeal to you personally!’
He addressed a woman of exceptionally regal bearing.
‘Balderdash!’ exclaimed the Doctor, and he poked his umbrella dangerously close to the Absolute’s face. She raised an eyebrow. ‘These are very pretty clothes you are wearing, your Majesty. And this is a very pretty place. Don’t try that “we’re above human experience” rubbish on me. I’ve heard it all before on Gallifrey. Zeris, come here!’
I jumped at the sound of my name. I hurried over and the Doctor drew me in front of him.
‘I will ask a boon of you, your Majesty, before I leave you to your idle contemplations,’ he continued. ‘Look into this child’s eyes and see for yourself what he has seen.’
It was a command. The Absolute obeyed (despite herself, I imagine). Her cold eyes dropped to mine and my brain seemed instantly to fill with ice. A thousand horrifying images span before me but I could not take my eyes away. I cried out and struggled in the Doctor’s grip. Then the Absolute closed her eyes and my brief torment was over.
‘I see,’ said the Absolute prosaically. ‘Yes, and felt it, too, as you intended, Time Lord. I had hoped never to feel such things again. Very well, it shall be as you ask.’
She turned and conferred for a moment with her fellows. The Doctor tried to interrupt.
‘Wait!’ he said. ‘I thank you, but please be guided by me. I do not wish you to destroy theThlaarx. There are other ways…’
But he was interrupted in turn by the royal Absolute.
‘It is done,’ she said. ‘Now you must leave us.’
‘Have you destroyed them?’
‘It is done.’
‘No!’ the Doctor yelled. ‘Why destroy them? You could have disabled their technology… transported them elsewhere...’
‘You must leave us now,’ repeated the Absolute.
‘Genocide,’ murmured the Doctor. ‘In an instant. On my insistence. It was what I feared.’
Forlornly, the Doctor led me back to the Tardis. Minutes later, we were in New London. The Doctor pointed out to me clouds of black dust on the horizon and told me they were all that remained of the Hooded Ones and their craft. They had been vapourised in an instant by the silent command of the Absolute. So, too, had every other member of the Thlaarx race, in orbit and elsewhere on the planet’s surface. The Doctor said nothing more, but hugged me and left me to sit alone among the rubble until, at last, the dazed and weeping human survivors drifted back.
Do you still wonder, then, why my answer to you is ‘no’? Why I refuse to put my name to your declaration of war against Persia Redux? Sixty years ago I was the unwitting means by which our race was saved. Yet you ask me now to wilfully contribute to its destruction. The Doctor saved the lives of all of us, including those not then born. The price was a heavy one: the extinction of another race. How can a man live with such a burden on his conscience?
So, brand me a traitor, if you must. Threaten me with death. That is no threat to me: my life’s purpose was fulfilled when I was 12. I shall not be a traitor to my conscience. Nor shall I betray the Doctor and make vain the sacrifice he made for us. He gave us all – every human in every colony on this world – a future. Take this step and you will prove the Absolutes right. The human race will prove transient indeed.