Disclaimer: I do not own the Power Rangers or Doctor Who. They belong to their respective copyright owners.

The Invisible Prison

Is a man held within a cell he cannot see or hear, or sense in anyway still not a prisoner even though he believes himself free?

In a far off part of space surrounded by a minefield of asteroids and black holes there rested a space station in the form of a giant gothic castle. Around the castle were hundreds of the deadliest fighting craft ever devised, their weapons pointed directly at the structure they were supposed to guard. Outside the walls of the vast structure were pockets of sentries and guards all under strict instruction to fire upon anything that attempted to approach the castle and to fire upon anything attempting to leave that had not been authorised.

The walls of the floating castle were immense. Miles high and equally thick, they were composed of the densest material available a sealed within the heated gravity of a dwarf star. There were no cracks or windows, no doors that would allow an intruder to breach the defences or a prisoner to escape. Sensors, camera and nasty surprises for those trying to approach were the order of the day, the powerful tractor beams obscured within the metal panels made sure that unauthorised persons would not be able to avoid triggering those defences.

Inside the walls was a ring of barracks manned by fully armed and well supplied soldiers. They were under instructions that no unauthorised beings were to cross their territory and that should any attempt to do so they were to shoot first and only question how the intruder had gotten so far after. Their territory was the space between the outer wall and the slightly less fortified inner wall.

And within that inners wall, through a labyrinth of corridors and security checks, there lay a cell block with only a single cell. It was a very large cell, easily taking up the space of a football pitch. It was filled with machinery and technicians working tirelessly to keep their prisoner sedated. The machinery monitored all of the body’s needs and analysed all bodily functions to detect even the slightest hint that the occupant was about to awaken. The minimal thought processes were checked and when necessary adjustments were made to keep the dream proceeding as they needed. It was in the minds of its designers, the perfect prison.

And at that precise moment, the alarm had sounded bring all on board to a state of readiness, aware that should the cell’s occupant overcome the first obstacle between himself and freedom, there was a good chance that those behind his imprisonment would decide to destroy the entire prison along with the guards. Somehow despite the sedatives in his system and the neural blocks in place to prevent any rational thought, their prisoner had awoken.

He became aware of his surroundings. He was in pain, absolute agony from the needles that had been implanted into his body. A mask had been attached to his face, allowing him to breathe and there was something poking into the back of his head. He reached up, aware of the viscous fluid that made moving difficult and grabbed the object. It was a tube, a thick cable that had been slotted into the upper part of his spine.

And then there was a click, followed by a whirling noise as the tubes retracted itself, causing the needles and other cables to pull themselves free. The mask on his face was torn away, leaving him to drown before the surface beneath him vanished and the fluid drained away.

And the darkness was transformed into glaring light.

“Welcome back, Doctor. You had me worried for a time there.”

He raised his head and regretted doing so. His head was thumping, a side effect from the trauma it had suffered. A quick assessment revealed that the needles he had felt on his first awakening were gone, as was the thing that had been attached to the back of his neck.

“You were very lucky,” the voice continued. “You suffered a minor stroke as a result of bleeding inside your brain. As suicides go, that poison was not a painless method.”

“Where am I?” he asked. His mind was still affected by the recent trauma.

“An insignificant little research facility on a world that cannot possibly exist; trapped behind the event horizon of a black hole just as the star it recently swallowed turned into a super nova. I am told this world was once called Minitee; that’s a silent m, but be sure to pronounce it fully.”

“That’s impossible!” the Doctor snapped, realising as he did so that the contradiction had been exactly what was needed to give his higher reasoning a kick. With his awareness returning, he took the time to study his surroundings and was not surprised to find that he had been lied to. He could feel the gravity fluctuations of multiple black holes, but this was not a planet. He had been on too many worlds not to know artificial gravity when he encountered it.

With that confirmed he chose to study his captors. Most wore black and white tunics with a gold seal embroidered on the left shoulder. That identified them as low tier technicians. Most would overlook them, but he had come to realise that the lowliest of workers often held the greatest knowledge of their jobs. He recognised some of the insignias they wore, complex data disguised as a seemingly innocent image. It depicted the worlds they had been recruited from and spoke volumes about his people’s empire building; while Gallifrey no longer sought to colonise other worlds and had a strict policy of not trying to interfere with the development of younger worlds, once a race reached a level where they were of use, it was not unknown to approach them through a number of carefully selected ambassadors and secure their services… for a generous payment of course.

It also didn’t surprise him to learn that his own people were involved in his incarceration. There were very few who were capable of trapping and holding him for very long. He had been trained to escape from situations and had taken it upon himself to further his education beyond the more conventional means. Of course his escapes usually involved finding lapses in security that he could exploit. That was very difficult when his mind was suppressed by machinery. And keeping his mind active but focussed elsewhere was a good way to limit his chances of escape. But now that he knew something was wrong, his subconscious would be aware and the technique they had been using would be less effective.

So now he knew he was in familiar, but far from friendly hands and that in turn allowed him to start planning for his escape. First though he needed to understand why he was being held prisoner. Fortunately there was almost always somebody willing to share that piece of information. He turned his attention to the person that had addressed him earlier; there was a meeting of minds as they telepathically introduced themselves – for Time Lords preferred to identify each other using telepathy given how easily the other senses could be fooled. As usual upon making contact with a familiar mind, his memory recovered the memories of their previous meetings and replayed them at an accelerated rate, merging the person he had known with the stranger before him. As it did so his brain identified the emotions that person projected: hatred and overwhelming darkness. The pieces clicked into place. And he didn’t like it one bit.

This was not a person in the conventional sense. It was a demonstration of just how skilled and talented his people were with their manipulation of temporal mechanics and a testament to their history of genetic and biological manipulation. It was a being that had existed for a fraction of a second in all likelihood, a moment when the Doctor had been at his lowest point, a moment when the darkness he had buried deep inside had been allowed to rise up. In his younger days the Doctor had not always been a good man. He had aspired to be a person that would make things better, but inside he knew that there had been rage and anger, and darkness. Instead of dealing with those emotions he had buried them inside himself and concentrated on righting the wrongs of the Universe. Doing so had allowed the darkness to grow as he subconsciously pushed everything dark to one side. Just a tiny fraction of time that he had quickly suppressed. But to the Time Lords it was enough to bring forth an abomination.

The enemies he had created among his own people had found a way to extract that darkness without him realising it and had given it a temporal body normally reserved to allow a future incarnation to manifest before its time to assist its former self. They had used an Extraction Chamber to view the Doctor’s timeline and identify the moment when the darkness within him was at its greatest. And then they had used the same technology to pluck the Doctor from history, locked inside that tiny instance of time. And using Time Lord technology they had managed to stabilise that dark version of the Doctor, granting it a pseudo-life. They had promised that if it managed to defeat the Doctor it could claim the Time Lord’s body.

It was called the Valeyard and it was an enemy he had hoped never to see again. He remembered the previous times they had met, but then the Doctor had not known that in reality it was just a temporal possibility of a being that would arise from his own dark side. Fortunately he had defeated it with a little help from some unlikely allies, but it had escaped in the chaos that had ensued. And now it seemed it had found its way into the good graces of its former masters and gained itself a position of authority.

But why did it exist? The Doctor had spent centuries following his encounter with the Valeyard meditating. He had confronted the darkness within and purged the things that he believed would lead to the Valeyard’s creation while assimilating the rest back into his personality. It had made him act in ways he was not especially proud of, but he had controlled himself eventually. It seemed that his attempts had failed.

“Oh Doctor, you can’t erase me," Valeyard told him. "You created me, you sustain me… you are me just as much as I am you. No matter how hard you try there will always be a speck of darkness inside you and that is all I need to exist. I am a fixed point in your timeline. At some point before your final day, the light and the darkness within you will fight for supremacy and whichever part wins will take what remains of your life while the rest will become… something less. And the Time Lords will find what remained of that dark incarnation and will use it in their plans leading to our first recorded encounter. You cannot prevent it and if you did you would condemn billions of innocents. Accept it: I will emerge.”

“You’ve changed though,” the Doctor noted.

He hadn’t failed to notice that the Valeyard claimed to emerge during his final life, not as he had been told previously at a point between the Doctor’s Twelfth and final regeneration.

The Valeyard chuckled. “It would appear that there have been some changes to your life expectancy and that in turn has an effect on myself. When we first met I was the amalgamation of the anger and rage you kept suppressed throughout your very long life. All that murderous intent just waiting to boil over. So many feelings and thoughts and desires, too much darkness for you to hope to suppress it completely; at the time of your trial that darkness had already started to break through your mental barriers. But then you became aware of me and changed your behaviour. You embraced your darker side and controlled it which meant that I no longer represent all the darkness within. You made me… different.”

“So you’re claiming not to be my dark side anymore?”

The Valeyard laughed, shaking his head in wonderment of how naive he had been when he was younger. It was a cruel and mocking laugh.

“I am and always will always be what you consider to be your dark side, Doctor. No matter how you try to change it you will fail; any time you feel a slight pleasure in watching the downfall of an enemy, any cruel remark or desire to throttle an unhelpful official, your darker nature will emerge. You’ve let go of the murderous intent and the desire to lash out… all the things that helped mould my being. But you cannot eliminate all of it. Right now I am a representation of your dark side. As your personality grows darker or perhaps lighter, I will change to represent the darkness within. It’s very subjective but I am only a reflection of your nature and compared to your — our — earlier self, there is less darkness there to reflect.”

It made sense in a twisted sort of way. The Valeyard was a snapshot of the darkness at any given time and depending on when he encountered it would affect how it appeared to him. Had it appeared during his first incarnation it would have been completely ruthless, seeking out its idea of paradise and then destroying it just to prevent it from changing. It would have been the reflection of an old man that was prepared to kill a savage in order to get his own way. If he had met him during his seventh incarnation, it would have been manipulative, unrepentant and ruthless; a cold methodical madman fully at ease that his actions were for a greater good.

“So what are you now?” he asked. “Remove all the murder and the anger, and the bitterness. What is there left to give you form?”

“I’m the one thing you can’t stop yourself from hating,” Valeyard replied. “I am the personification of your self-loathing. I’m the part of you that bullied, manipulated and eventually engineered the death of your previous self just to fit your needs. I represent everything you hate about yourself and you are everything I hate. In the end locking you up here, and watching you exist in a state of non-being was intensely gratifying.”

Around them the technicians making adjustments to the machinery. Clearly this discussion was intended to distract from the need to escape. So far, it was working.

"Do you remember back when you were in the Acaedemy?" he asked. "You wrote that fascinating little paper on the nature of evil in the universe and how it should be the dominant force above all other. I recall you were rather scathing towards the High Council while presenting it, so much so they tried to block your graduation."

Oh there had been meetings and debates over his becoming a Time Lord, but the law had been on his side and they had been unable to prevent it despite his obvious nature as a troublemaker. He remembered the harsh arguments between himself and the pillars of Time Lord society as he had submitted plan after plan for their approval only to be blocked every time. It was what had led after a few centuries to him stealing a TARDIS and leaving his home behind as he embarked upon a renegade existence.

"I can see you do remember after all this time. Old age hasn’t dulled your memory then. But oh my, all that detailed data you collected with pictures and a graph too if I recall… all to show that despite the logical argument that evil should be the default behaviour of most species, good somehow seemed to hold the balance. And then your little quest to try and identify why that was the case and perhaps use whatever kept evil at bay to spread good throughout the universe and make it a nicer place." There was no doubt in the Doctor’s mind that he was being mocked. "Shall I tell you something I’ve learnt since your incarceration, Doctor? The level of cruelty and evil in the universe has increased almost year on year since you’ve been here. And that led me to the conclusion that evil truly does thrive where good men do nothing. I’ve taken great pleasure in making certain that you’ve had little chance to do anything besides gaining a few pressure sores.”

As he spoke the memories returned. The Doctor remembered the trap – so obvious now that he thought about it-, being captured and then spending months trapped within some sort of modified suspension capsule, alone. His mind had been manipulated so that in his dreams he had been sent to an alternate Earth alongside Samantha. The adventures he had had there seemed so real even though he knew they were the result of chemical and electrical manipulation of his brainwaves. He had been used as a bridge between the two realities causing the events that would lead to the creation of the alternate reality he visited.

“So why did you stop? You could have continued playing with my mind indefinitely. What’s changed?”

"Your awareness. You’re now aware of what is happening and I know the things you’ve done to protect yourself and the traps you’ve built to make sure you cannot be toyed with. You’ve been inside the world of the Matrix and the equipment available here is sadly lacking in comparison. Your mind started to doubt the illusion we created and when it did so, it triggered one of those defence mechanisms you picked up. Your mind started to close down, disrupting the process and causing a feedback loop. If we hadn’t removed you there was a chance you would have destroyed the entire facility. And once that happened keeping you secured inside that prison would have been impossible.”

"But why are you doing this in the first place? I don’t understand."

“There was a war spoken about in the old times. Do you remember the semester your class spent studying the old legends? The ancients knew what was coming, they just didn’t know when. Over time their predictions turned into legends, then they became myths and were finally just ignored. They didn’t realise that the war they had predicted had already started. They just couldn’t see the events unfolding around them, The Time Lords have fallen behind Doctor, far behind an enemy that is already positioned through time and space, but the first shots have yet to be fired.

"Both sides are building their military and trying to undermine the other side. There have been a few minor skirmishes on the very edges of existence, but the ferocity of the fighting has yet to reach the point of outright war. Our people have drawn up complex battle plans with the help of detailed knowledge from the future but as it stands, the plans they have been given are for a war that has been fought and lost. The War Chiefs struggle to change those plans without stopping to ask themselves what they did that caused them to lose the first time. They’re playing games with time against an enemy that is just as adept at playing that game and had a head start – not to mention a backdoor to their greatest secrets. Soon they will become desperate and when they do they will become just as dangerous as the enemy. And you Doctor will be spending most of your time making sure that they keep their war to themselves. And THAT is why you had to be kept locked away: your desire to protect the lesser beings makes it more difficult to predict events.”

“And where do you fit into all this?"

“The Laws of Time have already been suspended. The rules that define the Universe have been placed into flux to give the Time Lords an advantage. Doing so has caused some of the oldest laws laid down at the very Dawn of Time to be unwritten. Reality has changed and those changes have made it impossible for our people to control all the possible outcome of those changes. And so they recruited me as you must admit, I do have a unique view on existence among our people.” He paused, clearly weighing the danger of revealing any more. “And not just me. They needed the greatest minds our race has produced, which just happens to include most of the renegades, criminals and undesirables you could name. And they needed you out of the way so that they would have more time to prepare for the war without your… conscience interfering with things. They tasked me with making certain you remained ignorant of the situation and gave me everything I asked for in return without considering why I wanted it. My knowledge of how your mind works was invaluable to them, mainly because I knew that sooner or later you would realise the truth.”

The use of the Time Lord prison known as Shada had been the perfect place to keep the Doctor, but the Time Lords knew from past experience that the strongest of prisons was not enough to stop the Doctor from interfering. And that was why they had located the Valeyard in the non-space where he had been deposited, promising him a limited existence in return for his services. And he in turn had manipulated the Doctor’s memories — his memories, suppressing key events and the trap he had walked into. From there it had been easy to manipulate it so that events played out as needed and the Doctor was free to do as he wished without affecting the Time Lords’ plans.

But the Valeyard was aware of how dangerous the Time Lords had become and with his existence threatened he had decided that the time had come to unleash the one force capable of making them see sense: the Doctor. First though he needed to impress upon the Doctor how dire the situation had become.

“The problem Doctor is that this was not supposed to happen. You were supposed to visit Angel Grove, set down long enough to understand how bad things have become and then leave. I never expected you to bring the human with you. I’m not sure how you accomplished that anyway since she no longer exists in this reality. But then I suppose that would be a side effect of the compression.”

“Compression?” the Doctor queried, his mind racing to slot all the pieces into place. “Time is being squeezed and accelerated? Why?”

The Valeyard chose to look out over the suddenly spectacular view of Angel Grove. He had not noticed it at first, but then slowly events had seemed to accelerate, skipping ahead without warning. It was most obvious when watching the Doctor’s allies the Power Rangers and their enemies. Whole battles seemed to begin and then fast forward to the end. Evil Rangers had arisen and were next seen free of whatever means had been used to control them. He couldn’t even recall their names although he knew they had existed. The sudden return of Lord Zedd, the struggle between the Rangers and their enemies on multiple fronts… Zordon’s capture which had been set in stone… key events of history were being preserved but the story surrounding them had been washed away.

And he knew that the Time Lords were responsible, just as they were the ones that had kidnapped the majority of Earth’s heroes, erasing their existence from the rest of the world as they tried to build an army of super warriors. Of course their plan would not succeed any more than their attempts to use alien monsters as cannon fodder and in the end they had had to return the majority of those they had abducted. Their enemy was time active and no matter how powerful an army was, if the enemy could shift across time as well as space and they couldn’t, they were useless.

“The Time Lord’s have been using this world for their experiments,” he said. “They’ve been taking advantage of the Earth’s rather unique nature to help them create their super weapons.”

That was true. While the population was not considered very advanced by Gallifrey standards, the Earth was a very powerful planet. Over time it had been theorised the planet was a nexus point of probability where alternate realities intercepted. That was why Time Lords needed to be wary when travelling near the planet not to get drawn into a different time stream. It was why despite being easy to manipulate, history was extremely resilient where the little planet was concerned.

“Why Earth?”

Valeyard gave him a cruel smile.

“Because of you, Doctor. They have seen the forces that the people of this world have repelled with your help and they believe that they can harness such a force. They wanted the Earth’s heroes, so they took them, leaving only those that have likely come into contact with you. Is it any wonder they started messing with forces they didn’t completely grasp, ripping tears into the fabric of reality and forcing time to compress just so they could buy a little more time?”

The Doctor shook his head. The Time Lords were so desperate that they were willing to commit unspeakable acts in the hope that they would somehow stumble upon the key to a Time Lord victory. And then he realised that it was not those creations that the Time Lords sought, it was whatever arose to counter them. They were forcing the humans, the universe even to give them a blueprint for a new army.

“It’s strange really that the reason the Time Lords’ desire to win has required them to sacrifice everything they hold dear,” Valeyard continued. “They have even found a way to rationalise the existence of magic. They can access forces they previously dared not dream about and turn them into a scientifically explainable weapon.”

Time Lords had a natural fear and hatred of magic hard wired into their genetic codes. Only certain renegades seemed to be able to bypass the restrictions normally. If not for that oddity, there was no way the Master could have ever rationalised his contact with demons as aliens beyond the dimensional void. Oh there were limits, the Doctor doubted any of his former associates would be able study or manipulate the Morphin Grid. That would move beyond mere rationalisation and into the realms of insanity. But that raised the question of how the Morphin Grid could be there in the first place when magic was erased from existence by the Time Lords?

“They’ve had help of course,” Valeyard explained. “The compression of time is a side effect of the Time Lords twisting the personal timelines of their comrades, making it possible for them to exist in the present, and the near present where they have proven able assistants. And while the protectors of this world have been distracted by their recent adventures, the Time Lords have continued their work in the background, working on projects to aid the Time Lord war effort.”

And then it occurred to the Doctor that the Time Lords had gone too far. They had extended their influence not only into the affairs of Earth and the nature of magic, but were trying to manipulate the ongoing war between Good and Evil, concepts they could barely understand. And all so that when they war came they would have a slim hope of changing the outcome in their favour. Somehow the Doctor doubted that would occur.

“So why am I here?” he quickly added: “Awake I mean.”

“To stop them of course,” the Valeyard told him. “Think of it as a choice Doctor: your precious planet Earth or the chance of a Time Lord victory. Which would you chose? Which do you value most, your own planet or your adopted home? How far are you prepared to allow this war to spread before you take action. How far are you willing to let either side go before you meddle in their plans even if it costs them the war?”

And whichever choice he made the Doctor knew that it would only bring about pain and suffering. And to see he suffer and question his decision, to watch as he agonised over an impossible choice. That was what the Valeyard desired. And the Doctor had no choice. He knew that he would never bring himself to fight a war for either side, but he was prepared to fight both sides on behalf of those that could not.

“And now you have been made aware the question is whether you are prepared to put your rules aside for them?” the Valeyard told him.

What followed was a list of the atrocities the Time Lords had already committed to prepare for war. They had already broken the rules of time, breaking through the temporal buffers surrounding their planet’s past to retrieve genetic samples of long dead peers. The genetic looms used for breeding new Time Lords had been altered to recreate bodies using that DNA as a template. The repository of Time Lord Knowledge, known as the Matrix, had been pillaged to fill those bodies with the memories and intellects of the beings they resembled. All so that the Time Lord’s ranks were swelled with some of the most intelligent and sadistic leaders an army could need – all of them soulless travesties.

Then to make matters worse, they had released their prisoners, offering suspended sentences in return for military service. For the cause of victory those crimes they had committed in the past were considered tactics. Amoral scientists, deviants, corruptors of innocents… all were welcomed so long as their methods helped to build the military might that was needed. And those that had been involved with the Doctor directly, his enemies? They too had been offered the forgiveness of their people if they could prove themselves useful. Some had received bribes far beyond money and power.

“No, I can see that you’re not ready to do that… yet. Did you know it took seven attempts before you finally broke free?” the Valeyard asked. “The first time you became so immersed in the mental simulator we had to remove you before you transferred your mental capacity to the device. After that with each attempt your mind became more and more able to pick the world apart and notice the inconsistencies.”

“And now?” the Doctor asked. He noticed the Valeyard gesture to one of the technicians and felt the prick of a needle.

"Now that your body has healed you will return to sleep until we have need of you. By that time I’m certain you will be willing to do whatever needs to be done."

The chamber started to close as the Doctor struggled to overcome the sedative. His hand touched something in his pocket and he smiled as he realised that his situation was not hopeless after all. Where there was a screwdriver, there was a way.

End of Part.

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