There were times in Susan's life on Earth when she thought about vanishing. The 23rd century was advanced enough that there were plenty of options – ships out to anywhere within twenty or so light years. But she hung around, to watch her grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up. To be there, more or less.
Now and then walking down the street or sitting in the park she would hear an echo of the old familiar groaning noise. But however fast she turned around, there was never anything there. Sometimes she wondered what her grandfather was doing now, but she knew very well it was all relative. Out there, somewhere in Time, he was chiding a young girl for trying to be human. Somewhere else, he was probably saving a planet from certain destruction, or sitting on a mountaintop with a cup of tea enjoying the view.
She left Earth on New Year's Day 2345, aboard a cargo ship bound for the Tandonian Cluster. From the bridge she watched the planet she had lived on for so long recede until it was just a bright blue dot in the velvety blackness, and then it was gone.
Susan travelled. She rediscovered the joys of seeing the universe. It was different now, of course; different because she was alone and different because of the slower ships in which she begged, bought or earned lifts. There were always people in need of some sort of help, whether it be a problem that had to be solved or simply a vessel without a cook or a navigator or a pilot. Her initial rustiness in carrying out such simple tasks quickly disappeared, and she relished the challenges her new life brought.
She was content to be accepted as human. She had, after all, spent far more time on Earth than she ever had on Gallifrey – though her hearts still beat out a double rhythm and she still felt the universe in all its infinite glory and design within her soul. But she travelled further and further out to the edges of the Milky Way. If she kept on travelling, she knew there would be a time when technology would give her the means to move from galaxy to galaxy faster than thought, out to the far-distant constellation of Kasterborous and the orange grass she still remembered from her childhood. She knew in her gut that she could make it; from time to time she tried calling out to them, but it had perhaps been too long and there was never any answer.
Two centuries on by human years and Susan had reached the Andromeda Galaxy. On a planet named Melusine she felt a tug in her mind, but when she whirled around to its source she saw only a man with a long scarf swiftly striding away. She had other preoccupations including getting herself a job in Melusine's experimental time travel facility. Despite her lack of proper credentials, she convinced the director she was worth employing. Originally her plan had been to move on as soon as practicable, but the work was too absorbing – helping the human race along with the tricks of time travel without tinkering too much with the order in which events were supposed to happen. It reminded her of helping her grandfather mend the TARDIS. She felt at home, and she liked it.
They got the first human time machine working fourteen months into the project, sending a researcher back a week to get a copy of that day's newsdata. There was enormous celebration when he returned safe and triumphant and tinged, to Susan's eyes at least, with a tiny dose of artron energy. She stayed with the project after that, enjoying each new success and trying to instil in the humans the same rules she had been taught as a girl on Gallifrey, and, more usefully, by her grandfather: Never cross your own timelines. Never interfere in a fixed event (since she knew her colleagues would not be able to identify a fixed event, Susan settled for arguing that they should not get involved in events, full stop). Never tell someone something about the future that might change the past.
After the fifth successful trip out the director suggested Susan herself try the machine out. "You've been so useful," he said. "How about going to see the first Melusine Founders' Day parade? It was quite an occasion."
She agreed, and set off with an excitable young scientist by her side. The travel was quick but rough, and while Susan felt faintly nauseous on arrival in the designated slot her companion was promptly sick. But she was impressed to note that they had arrived exactly when and where they were supposed to, and had to admit that even the TARDIS had tended to be less exact.
The day was a thrill, mainly because once the scientist had recovered from his bout of vomiting he was so enthusiastic about everything he saw, heard or tasted. Susan let herself be swept along and remembered Ian's and Barbara's fear and wonder, as they stepped out on the dusty soil of an alien planet. She had liked having her old teachers along for the ride, and she found now, that she enjoyed experiencing time travel through the young eyes of her companion just as much. They watched the parade, took notes, tried food that had since gone out of fashion and picked up a celebratory hat each before returning to the present day. It was fun, and it made her realise how much she was enjoying herself. Although she was tempted to move on and see more of the universe, she decided to stay put, for the time being at least.
The project ran out of money before they had perfected anything more than short-range journeys on the same planet. Susan knew well that the human race would not manage to travel further afield or between different times and places for another hundred years or more, but she found herself as disappointed as everyone else when they were told.
She left Melusine behind, travelling onwards. Rumour of war was spreading – battered ships of refugees from far-distant planets would limp into one port or another, bringing tales of horror. Susan tried to find out as much as she could, for some reason feeling compelled to do what she could. Most worrying were the refugees' stories of great ships filled with implacable metal creatures seeking only to destroy. It took her a long time to find someone who could tell her more; who could provide details on who was fighting whom and why. Finally on a dark night in a grimy, downtrodden hospital she sat by the bed of an old Kahrulian, whose violet eyes shone bright with tears as he told Susan about the destruction of the forests of his planet.
"It was the Daleks," he murmured softly, fearfully, as if speaking the name aloud would summon them. "They say they're fighting for power over creation itself."
"Against who?" asked Susan, helping him drink.
"Just a myth – but the battles are not," said the old man. "They say it's the Daleks against the Time Lords." He coughed, blinking back pain and grief and tears. "What does it matter? Nobody can beat the Daleks."
She propped up the pillows against his head and took her leave of him, going out into the fresh air. Time Lords. She had not heard her people's name for so long, and now, to hear it associated with a destructive war ... surely the Kahrulian was mistaken. Susan closed her eyes, and for the first time since David's death, truly reached out with all her rusty senses.
When she opened her eyes again, the sky above her was flaming orange and the grass beneath her feet was the sweetly-scented red of her childhood.
"And now we are all gathered," said a voice. Susan turned around, to see a tall, elegant woman in the formal robes of the High Council. "Welcome," said the woman. "We had thought you lost."
Susan closed her eyes again for a moment and reopened them. But she was indeed standing before the Citadel, and the woman was indeed speaking Gallifreyan. Somehow when least expected, she had returned home.
"You're the last to return," the woman said. "Not that many had gone astray."
"I have been trying," said Susan, summoning up words in a language she had thought never to utter again.
"Sometimes it is difficult," said the woman. "I'm Romanadvoratrelundar, and I am to take you to someone who has missed you."
Susan's hearts leapt beyond hope. "I will come," she said.
He was in a room of the Citadel, surrounded by plans and diagrams, but he turned as they came in. "Oh good, I've been wanting to ask you, Romana ..."
"Look who I found wandering outside," the lady Romanadvoratrelundar said, with a smile.
"Susan?" said her grandfather. There was astonishment in his eyes, a sense that he did not quite believe she was standing there in truth.
She dared not speak, and in a moment found herself enveloped by his same old scent, the familiar feel of his mind against hers despite the youthful looks she did not recognise. He released her from the hug and held her out to examine her.
"You look ... well," he said. "Still not regenerated?"
"I've been lucky," Susan said. "Luckier than you." She looked him up and down, from the curls on his head to the long coat. "Although, actually, your dress sense hasn't changed much."
"He's just careless," said Romanadvoratrelundar. "What's this, Doctor, number eight?" He had the grace to look abashed. "The Council needs to see those plans," Romanadvoratrelundar said. "Susan, I do welcome you home despite the circumstances. He's missed you."
Susan sat and watched him work until the plans were ready and delivered to the Council for debate and then they had some time alone. He took her arm in his, quite in the old way, and said, "I have a surprise for you."
Susan rather thought she could work out what the surprise was, but was sincerely astonished when they rounded a corner to see the old familiar lines of the blue police box. "I thought you'd have fixed that circuit by now!" she exclaimed, running a hand over the wood. "Surely it's no use anywhere except ..."
"Except in a scrapyard in 1960s London!" agreed the Doctor. "Well, quite. But I'm rather fond of it, and you'd be surprised how few people really notice her. The improvements are all inside."
He opened the door, and let her go in first.
The TARDIS had changed beyond recognition, but she felt the same. Susan ran her hand over the console, mentally murmuring a greeting, and looked about her. The room was filled with books and bits and bobs, comfortable chairs and pieces of machinery. "More clutter than you used to have," she commented, glancing over her shoulder at her grandfather.
"I seem to have added stuff as I've gone on," he admitted. "I did keep the minimalist look for quite some time, you know, after ..."
"After I left," Susan said. She sat down in one of the armchairs. "Grandfather, what's happening here? What's going on?"
He sighed, and leaned on the console as he told her. He told her how the Daleks had launched a war against the Time Lords and how, forced into action, Gallifrey had responded. "They called us back," he said. "Even me – think of that! Romana seemed to think I might be able to help and, you know I was President once."
Susan stared at him. "They made you President?"
"I wasn't very good at it," the Doctor said, cheerfully. "It didn't last very long. But nevertheless," he added, his expression emptying, "I know somewhat more of Daleks than most."
She watched him. "There's something else."
The Doctor smiled at her fondly. "You do know me well, Susan." He straightened up and began fiddling with the console. "They've ... well, they've brought Rassilon back. Turns out he was never really dead and gone."
Susan felt her face go slack with astonishment. Rassilon was a name from her childhood – the sort of name you studied in the Academy. He embodied all Gallifrey's history. He was history.
"What's he like?" she asked.
Her grandfather turned around. "Power-mad," he said. "He doesn't just want to end the war, he wants to win it."
"Doesn't everyone want to win it?" Susan queried. "Don't you want to win it?"
The Doctor shook his head. "No, Susan, I want it to end. Preferably yesterday, although of course we can't loop back to do that."
Susan leaned on her hand. "I've been talking to the refugees," she said, and told him about her conversations. "They're so powerless. They all look at us as though we're ... I don't know, gods, or something. Myths."
"To most of the universe, Gallifrey is exactly that," said the Doctor evenly. "Why do you think I ran away all those years ago?"
"We ran away," Susan corrected him, with a smile. "Both of us."
Moving away from the console, the Doctor went to the kettle sitting on the sideboard. "Tea? I got it in China before coming back here. It's good."
She accepted gratefully. It was comforting, somehow, to be sitting in the safe warmth of the TARDIS with a mug of tea; something from one home in another. But Susan knew they did not have time for sitting cosily with hot beverages; not now, and certainly not here. "We could leave," she said, not believing it but testing the sound of the words.
Her grandfather shook his head. "No, we can't. I've been working on plans that could deal with the Daleks, but his lordship's being picky about them. If only Romana was still President we might have a chance, but I just don't see him actually agreeing with anything I say." He sighed, and took away her mug. "We should find you somewhere to sleep. And some new clothes. I believe there's a meeting in the Panopticon and we're all supposed to be there."
He ended up handing Susan over to Romanadvoratrelundar in order to go and discuss the plans with someone else on the High Council. Susan found herself whisked away to a spotless chamber with a wardrobe full of rich Gallifreyan robes, and she changed behind the screen provided while her companion – who had told her to call her Romana as the Doctor did – waited.
"How do you know Grandfather?" Susan asked, pulling on the middle layer of robes. This she had not missed.
Romana laughed. "Straight out of the Academy they sent me to help him find the Key to Time. I was furious. I'd heard all about him, of course – he's quite the legend. So are you, by association." Susan digested this. "Anyway, I found him initially just as impossible as they said, but ... eventually I became rather attached to him. And rather irresponsible some here would say, as a result."
Emerging from behind the screen, fiddling with her collars, Susan met Romana's eyes. "I think he thinks a lot of you," she said.
"Well, it's mutual," said Romana. "Now look at you. Much more like a Time Lady."
"Much less like a middle-aged human wandering the stars," Susan agreed.
"There would have been no shame in that," Romana said.
Susan smiled. "You did learn from Grandfather, didn't you?"
"We can all be rebels together," Romana proposed. "Shall we?"
She had never been into the Panopticon before, having been too young when they left Gallifrey. As they took their places, she looked about her in amazement. The vast chamber, with its high ceiling and the dizzying drop below, was unlike anything else she had ever seen before. And she could feel the buzz, as well as hear it – thousands of Time Lord minds seeping into her own consciousness, such as she had not felt since she was a girl.
Standing in her allotted space, Susan looked for her grandfather and found him purely because he was the only one in the Panopticon not dressed in formal robes. She smiled to herself; evidently the renegade was determined to continue rebelling even as he tried to end the war. He was standing next to Romana, who had excused herself from Susan as they entered the hall, and was arguing something with her.
The gathering fell silent as a group of Time Lords even more richly-dressed than the rest entered. Susan guessed that the leader, carrying a great staff, must be the President. More than that, he had to be the legendary Rassilon, brought back from a long sleep from somewhere high in the Citadel. As he welcomed them to the meeting, Susan could feel the authority and the power rolling off him, present in every word he spoke.
The President gave an update on the progress of the war. All the power of Gallifrey was deployed against the might of the Dalek fleet; weapons of Time and fire and death. They had attacked on all fronts, decimated what remained of Skaro, sent hundreds of thousands of their enemy to destruction. But still the Daleks came, said Rassilon, and were attacking not only Gallifrey but any other planet that could be of use to them.
He spoke for some time, outlining the horror, before declaring, "And so, we turn to our chief strategist for our next plan." There was a note of withering scorn in his voice. "My lord Doctor."
Susan found herself suppressing a smile, despite the situation; it seemed strange to have her grandfather addressed as "my lord" by Rassilon of all people. There was a rustling of robes as everyone turned to the Doctor who stood forwards, arms behind his back.
"My lord President," he returned, with scarcely more warmth than Rassilon had shown. "It's time this ended."
"So tell us how it should end," Rassilon returned.
"The Daleks won't surrender," the Doctor said. "We know this." There was a mutter of disagreement from some quarters of the crowd, but he raised his hand. "Please. They're not designed to surrender. We're not dealing with free-thinking creatures. And before anyone says anything, again, Davros will not surrender either. My friends, I'm afraid we're fast running out of viable options. This war is costing too much in collateral damage. Reports have reached us from other planets, other civilisations. The Skaro Degradation is rising and there are those condemned to fight on even after death. This is wrong. What we do here affects millions."
"What we do here matters for us," snapped the President. "Doctor, you were tasked with saving Gallifrey."
"And I begin to ask whether saving Gallifrey is worth the cost," returned the Doctor. Susan felt her hearts fill with love for him. "Is Gallifrey worth the innocent children of Penumbra Nine? Is Gallifrey worth the infernos raging through the forests of Slivia? Are we worth all of those lives out there? Are we so great that they should die so that we should live? We could fight this war for the rest of Time itself, but is it worth it?"
Rassilon's face darkened. "That is not what I asked you."
"Perhaps not." The Doctor shrugged. "But I ask you to think on it." He looked around the assembled Time Lords. "I see these as our current options."
Susan listened to him lay out a series of plans that were to her, and she thought to her grandfather, unthinkable – plans involving besieging the Dalek fleets on a number of other worlds, plans involving calling up creatures from the depths of unimaginable darkness. He spoke about a weapon; something designated only as 'the Moment', which he said would eliminate the Daleks forever, but take with it Gallifrey and all its people. When he finished, he said, "I leave the decisions in your hands," and left the hall.
She found him much later sitting in his room in the Citadel staring into space. Without saying anything she sat down on the floor, as she used to, and rested her head against his knees. After a moment she felt his hand stroking her hair.
"Grey hairs," he said, softly.
"I'm not a little girl any longer," Susan said.
"Then tell me what they thought," the Doctor returned.
She hesitated. "Some of them agree with you."
"Not enough of them," said the Doctor. "I'm hardly surprised. Why listen to me, when you can listen to Rassilon himself?"
Susan twisted round to look at him properly. "What about Romana? Does she have any influence?"
"More than me, but less than she used to," said the Doctor. "I haven't got anything else to give them, Susan. If they won't listen to me, then there's nothing to be done." He sighed. "I'm glad you're here. I should have ... I should have come back for you years ago."
"I was happy," Susan said.
"I could still have come back," said the Doctor. "Picked you up a century after I dropped you off, that sort of thing."
She regarded him thoughtfully. "Why didn't you?"
The Doctor half-smiled. "I ... was busy. I have no good excuses, Susan. But I am sorry."
Standing up, Susan said, "is there any food in the TARDIS?"
"I don't know. Possibly. Why?"
"I'm going to cook," said Susan. "I got quite good at it. Dinner, one Earth hour, in the TARDIS. Go and find Romana and drag her along too. I want to hear all about your adventures together."
In the TARDIS kitchen – it, too, radically different from how she remembered it – she found enough ingredients to make a fair attempt at an authentic stir-fry. There was wine as well, tucked away in the cellar, and when the Doctor and Romana arrived arm-in-arm she had laid a table and was surveying it with pleasure. They sat down and ate and she persuaded her grandfather to tell her something of his travels while she had been gone. Over the course of the meal Susan found out a little about his other companions during that time. They were humans mainly, which made her smile when she thought about his initial withering reaction to Barbara and Ian all those years ago. He seemed to catch her thought.
"I've you to thank, you know," he said, putting down his fork. "If you hadn't got those two worried about you, I might never have even contemplated taking anyone else with us."
Romana sipped her wine. "He's really far too sentimental about humans."
"I don't think you can be," Susan returned, thinking of David and his fierce, proud heart. "They're ... amazing."
"I suppose they must be," said Romana, "to capture all your hearts in such a way." She stood up. "There's another meeting tomorrow to decide between your plans and the President's."
"They'll vote for him," the Doctor said. "He's offering them godhead. This is the end of the War."
Romana touched his shoulder. "I trust you," she said, and left.
"I need sleep," said Susan, watching her leave.
"Sleep? How very human of you," the Doctor observed.
"I fell into the habit and never managed to break it," she admitted.
"Better go to the Citadel," said the Doctor. "Technically I'm not supposed to be using the TARDIS. We may as well stay out of trouble." He helped her pile dishes in the sink and together they walked to the console room. "I've just got a few things to do here – you go on," he said. "Thank you for dinner."
"I'm sure they'll see sense, tomorrow," Susan said, though she did not quite believe her own words. "We'll talk to them. You and I and Romana."
"Yes. We'll try," agreed the Doctor. He pulled her into a hug. "My dear Susan. How I've missed you."
"And I you, Grandfather." She gave him a severe look. "Don't wear yourself out fiddling," she said.
He shrugged off his velvet coat and produced his screwdriver from a pocket. "Yes, ma'am. Goodnight, Susan."
The days that followed blurred in Susan's mind as the Dalek ships rained fire down on the Citadel and were brought down in turn. The twists and turns of Time brought forth horrors such as Susan had never imagined, but to no benefit to any side in the War. The Nightmare Child rose up in the sunsets of the south, a battleship raining fire down on the planet. The Horde of Travesties attacked, bringing torture and pain to all Gallifrey's neighbours and breaking the minds of their inhabitants. Even some of the Time Lords were reduced to silent, shaking figures left wandering the corridors of the Citadel, unable to speak. The Doctor, fighting both the Dalek fleets and the Council, was more irascible than Susan could remember – but she did what she could to raise a smile on his lips, even if it did not reach his eyes.
A week or so – if she had stopped to think and to count in human days – after she arrived on Gallifrey, the war seemed to have reached an impasse. In the Panopticon, they listened as the Doctor argued the case for destruction of the Daleks and Gallifrey alike, and once again the assembly voted against him.
"So be it," said the Doctor, as Rassilon gave the result. "My lord President, there is nothing more I can do for you in this War."
He turned and left, to a ripple of talk around the great hall.
Susan was unable to leave the meeting straight away, but as soon as it broke up she hurried down to the room where the Doctor was working. It was empty of everything; the papers, the bits of machinery, the teacups from the TARDIS. With a feeling of panic building in her chest, Susan picked up her robes and ran to the echoing chamber where the old ship was stored.
That, too, was empty. Susan stared at the space where the blue box had stood, reaching out to touch the nothingness before turning and going to find Romana.
"Well," said Romana, after she had heard the news. "I can't say actually, that I'm very surprised. Did he take everything?" Susan nodded. "In that case I think it's clear what he's planning, don't you?"
Susan knew she was right. The Doctor could have just run, but she knew what his preferred option was and she knew he would do it. "He'll use the Moment," she said, voicing the thought she had been trying to suppress. It brought home to her how far they had come from the old life in the TARDIS, that her grandfather, who used to run from trouble, would now be the cause of her planet's utter destruction.
"The end of the War," Romana agreed. "The end of Gallifrey. I suggest we try not to tell anyone as long as we can. Rassilon will discover the Doctor's gone eventually, but let's give him all the time he needs." She rose and a smile broke across her face – brief and bitter. "Strange, that it should end this way, and by his hand. I used to think he was a fool, or a coward."
"I don't think he's ever been either," said Susan.
Romana nodded. "I know. I learned that later. Sentimental, perhaps, and occasionally foolhardy. A coward, never."
The room shook and there was a thunderous crash from outside – glass shattering into a million shards. Going to the window, Susan saw the wreckage of a Dalek ship at the base of the great dome which was broken now. Flames licked up one of the Citadel towers.
"I don't think it'll be long," she said. "Let's do what we can while Gallifrey still stands. There are those that need healing, the defences to be reinforced. If we withstand, he can do what he must."
Much, much later in that endless day, Susan was resting alone in a corridor, leaning her head against the wall and wondering how much longer it would be. Suddenly she found her hand grasped by another, and she was drawn away into a corner.
She found herself gazing at the strange woman known only as the Visionary, who, tattooed and wild, had been imparting prophecy after prophecy throughout the war. Susan had seen her in the Panopticon, always scribbling on a scrap of parchment. Now, looking into her eyes, she saw that the Visionary was clearly at least a little insane.
"The Doctor will die," the Visionary said, clutching Susan's hand. "Unless you can reach the old soldier."
"I can't reach anyone," Susan said. "We're time-locked."
"Reach out, with your mind," the other returned. "He must take up arms, to save the Doctor's life, but the Doctor must not know. It would break his hearts and his will."
Susan blinked at her. "Who am I supposed to talk to?"
"Look!" said the Visionary, and into Susan's mind there appeared the image of an old man – an old man with kind, wise eyes full of sorrow. "His name is Wilfred Mott," the Visionary said, "and the Doctor travelled with his granddaughter. He fought, once, but now he is needed more than ever. Reach him."
She let go of Susan's hand, and hurried away down the corridor.
Susan closed her eyes, and wondered how she was supposed to reach a man so very far away. She wondered whether the Visionary was giving her advice that should be followed, but in her gut she knew anything that had even a small chance of helping her grandfather was something that should be tried.
Retreating to her small room, she stood at the window and watched as a bolt of fire shot down from the orange sky. Night was falling, and with it the end of hope. Susan turned away and sat down on the floor, closing her eyes.
She pictured the old man, Wilfred Mott in her mind, focusing on his compassionate gaze and the mind she felt sure was equally compassionate. She pictured Earth – the planet she knew and loved so well – and sent her mind racing out through the stars, seeking its target.
He was in a church. With a jolt, Susan realised she knew where the church was. She'd been there, before Shoreditch, before Barbara and Ian and before everything changed. They'd landed there, in the TARDIS, and fought off an alien invasion in the 14th century. The nuns had called her grandfather the sainted physician. Now, Susan realised, there was a tiny image of the TARDIS in the church window.
The connection with the old man lasted only a few short moments. She gritted her teeth, for sending the first message had exhausted her already, and tried again. He was, possibly, more inclined to hear her this time around, but she made a third connection to ensure he had acted on her warnings. Satisfied, she opened her eyes and sat back. It was done.
Deep into the night, Rassilon called another meeting. The atmosphere was even more tense than ever, and outside the Panopticon flames licked up the side of the Citadel. They listened as the President set out his final plan. He described ascension beyond the physical body to consciousness alone. Looking around, Susan saw that her fellow Time Lords would accept his plan, and follow Rassilon to the terrible victory he depicted. They would choose this life of disembodiment, free of physical sensation – all-knowing, all-seeing, but lacking any compassion or emotion.
She voted against it. There was nothing else to do – and, after all, she thought wryly as she was led to Rassilon's chamber, she had a reputation to live up to on behalf of her grandfather. Gallifrey's renegades. In the corridor, she passed Romana, who avoided her gaze.
The President was pacing the room when she was brought in, but he turned and fixed her with a direct, severe blue glare.
"So, you're the rebel," he said. "Susan." The name sounded experimental, strange on his lips. "The woman who ran away with a human. The woman who voted against me." She said nothing, and he stared at her for a moment. "Where's the Doctor?"
"I don't know," said Susan. "He left."
"Did he tell you he was going?"
"No. I'd have tried to go with him, and I'm sure he didn't want that," Susan returned. "You know what he'll do."
Rassilon raised his gloved hand at her, before lowering it. "He will fail. This is not our time to fall. Well, if you cannot tell me where he is, you'll come with us. You and the other who voted against. You will be the witnesses to our triumph."
Susan said nothing.
The other dissenter proved to be a Time Lord she had not previously met. He gave her a rueful little smile as they followed Rassilon, the Chancellor and two other councillors back to the Panopticon.
"I was at the Academy with your grandfather," he said quietly. "He was a year or so older than I – I rather looked up to him. He always refused to conform. I wished I could have been so brave. He was a good man."
"He still is," said Susan. "He still is."
The next few moments seemed to pass in a blur. Forbidden from seeing anything, Susan could only listen to the boom of Rassilon's voice and then the noise and light, even through her fingers, of the teleport to Earth. As the shuddering subsided, she heard laughter – delighted, joyous laughter. And then there was a crash, the sound of glass breaking, and a thud.
The silence was broken by Rassilon's voice, sonorous and tinged with scorn. "My lord Doctor," he said, and Susan knew that somehow her grandfather had made his way to the here and now for the last battle the Visionary had spoken of. She longed to uncover her eyes and look at him, but she did not yet dare. When he spoke, she knew this was a different regeneration from the one she had last seen standing alone in the Citadel. His voice was lighter, faster, more desperate.
The room shook again, and Susan knew the existence of Time itself was hanging in the balance. She heard the Doctor, pleading, with the President, with the one they were both calling the Master. In his voice she heard all he had not said back on Gallifrey. All his fear and worry and hatred of Rassilon and the war, brought into the open. Behind her hands, Susan's eyes filled with tears.
The shuddering stopped. Into the sudden silence there was a click as a pistol was cocked. Rassilon spoke, the Master spoke, but the Doctor said nothing. The Master goaded him, taunted him, and still nothing.
Susan's mind was racing. She knew the link that had brought the Time Lords and Gallifrey to Earth had been forged in the Master's mind and made physical by a diamond. Surely that meant ...
Carefully she lifted her hands from her eyes and raised her head.
Amid the shattered glass on the floor her grandfather stood, a gun pointed straight at Rassilon in an unwavering hand. There was immense pain and weariness in his eyes, and though he stood tall Susan saw fatigue in the thin body. He was different, but he was still the Doctor.
She looked past him to the figure in a plain jumper and the contraption wired up behind him. There – there was the diamond, there was the link. Susan thought frantically, look at me! and the Doctor did, just for a second. A second long enough for her to signal with her eyes; a second long enough for the realisation to register in his with a flicker in his expression.
He swung around again, spoke, and fired. The diamond shattered and the link was broken; Susan felt the tug instantly as the connection began to fail. She heard the resignation in the Doctor's voice as he accepted his death, and she covered her eyes again. She did not want to see her grandfather die.
But the Master spoke again, full of rage, and as they were dragged back to Gallifrey there was the noise of lightning striking. A flash of bright whiteness, and a terrible scream from Rassilon.
Susan opened her eyes. They were back in the Panopticon – the five who had left, and the Master, rage in his glare. Rassilon was slumped over, breathing heavily, and there was still energy crackling from the Master's hands.
"You did this to me!" he repeated, apparently oblivious to the watching Time Lords. "Do you have any idea what it was like, always that drum beat, always in my head?"
"It was necessary," Rassilon rasped out. "Necessary to stop the Doctor."
The Master laughed, bitterly. "Yeah. Nice job on that. He'll destroy us all, and you know what? Maybe he was right to, after all." He looked down at the President. "I'm going to look on Hell for one last time."
He left, an incongruous figure in filthy Earth clothes.
In the halls outside the Panopticon Susan found Romana. She was standing at a window, gazing at the destruction.
"What happened?" she asked.
"I'm not quite sure," Susan admitted. "Grandfather ... well, he was living, when we were sent back. But he's broken; it's like he's missing something."
Romana swept an arm at the devastation. "This. He's missing this. He's missing us. Somewhere above us, right now, he's hesitating over pressing that button. And then it'll just be him – the last of the Time Lords, travelling alone." She turned to Susan. "I'm sorry, for voting against him. I couldn't bear the thought of him like that. I thought, maybe, if Rassilon's plan worked, maybe he'd be with us. I'm sorry."
Susan nodded. "I know. He said – on Earth, I mean, just now – he said this was Hell."
"I think, perhaps," Susan said slowly, "that what he has to endure may be the real Hell. We'll never know what it's like, to be all alone. He'll have to carry that for the rest of his lives."
They fell silent, and they watched from the sky above, as the explosion began and built. Susan looked up at the flames, and forgave her grandfather, and knew no more.