When they knew their destruction was inevitable the Time Lord’s took the decision to do what they could to secure their race. They wove two for every house…children…their future hope and sent them out to every corner of the universe. So that they might one day bring back their species without fear of Dalek attack.
Cressida stared out of the window – with its crystalline patterns of ice – a blanket wrapped round her shoulders, watching the sun rise over the city. She placed her hand gently against the glass feeling the bitter cold. It was real enough but she knew this life she led wasn’t right, this wasn’t where she was supposed to be. She was home yet she felt homesick. It was her birthday today she should have been happy but she wasn’t. She was different from everyone else in everyway, taller, faster, more intelligent. When she had first arrived at the kids home she couldn’t even speak English. She never had or would fit in. Her foster parents were kind enough but she wasn’t happy. Cressida had a feeling she wanted to leave this place and travel until she found her true home. But how was a sixteen year old kid going to do that, with no money and no passport.
Cressida slammed the thick wood door behind her, leaning all her weight against the heavy oak her hearts beating double time. She ran her fingers through her short, bobbed dark hair, brushing her fringe from her face. She hoped the robot hadn’t seen her come in here. She looked around her. She wasn’t in the library anymore that was for sure. “Curiouser and curiouser,” she whispered quietly to herself. The walls were covered in hexagonal indents and the floor was made of some metallic substance. An organic hum echoed round her like the sound of an engine. She glanced up, covering one wall were rows of clothes of every shape, size and form. She spun round the door she had come through was gone. Alarmed she ran her hand along the now blank wall tapping it to see if she could find a hidden aperture. There was a door on the other side of the room. Cressida hoped it would lead her to somewhere more amenable. Moving cautiously down the corridor she glanced from side to side both expecting and fearing that she would meet anyone or anything else. She didn’t like the thought that maybe one of the robots might be tramping around the corridors. She took a left turn and found herself at a set of double doors. She could hear voices on the other side, a man and a woman she guessed. Cressida pushed one of the doors open a crack. She could see them a tall man in a pinstripe suite with wild hair and a woman in a wedding dress. They appeared to be having an argument. She decided not to interfere instead she backed down the corridor. She remembered that she had once heard that if you kept on hand on the wall of a maze you could find the centre, she couldn’t remember which hand though. Taking a chance she chose left.
It had been hours since she had started her exploration of the mysterious humming corridors as she had named them. Fortunately she had come across a bathroom and kitchen of sorts which was a great relief. On her journey she had passed through many different rooms including a swimming pool, and a home cinema of all things complete with stall containing popcorn and sweets. Cressida was tired, but other than that first room with the two people she hadn’t come across anyone else. Finally she opened one last door it led to a sparse bedroom containing only a few home comforts. The bed was made and there was no one about, so exhausted she lay there resting, but unable to sleep. It was funny she felt more at home than she ever had before.
The Doctor picked up the suitcase and headed for Rose’s old room. He was going to pack her things away along with the memories of her, and then he could get back to normality. Turning the handle he paused a moment, thinking he heard a sound from inside. He opened the door and stepped in. The room was empty except the bed covers were ruffled.
“Hello,” he asked. “Is there someone there?”
He put the suitcase down and looked around stopping by the bed.
“It’s alright I don’t bite…not unless I’m particularly hungry.”
“When I was a boy I was rather good at hide and seek,” he suddenly bent down to look underneath the bed. “Boo.”
But there was no one there. He shrugged his shoulders and approached the only other possible hiding place an ornate wardrobe which Rose had purchased on a trip to France. The Doctor pulled the doors open but it contained only clothes. He put his glasses on and searched thoroughly even pulling open some of the draws, but nothing.
“I know I’m not going senile in my old age. Now I’m not angry I just want to help.”
The sneeze came from above him. He grabbed the chair from beside the dressing table over to the wardrobe. It gave him enough height to look over the wardrobe pelmet. He grinned his most friendly grin.
“Hello, there. I’m the Doctor,” he held his hand out. “And what’s your name?”
“That’s an unusual name.”
“It’s not my name.”
“You had better get down from there…which reminds me, I’ll have to take a look at the TARDIS cleaning filters. Can’t have the place looking like Mrs Haversham has moved in can we?”
Cressida managed to climb down using the hexagonal indents.
“Mrs Haversham that’s from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens…I read it when I was six.”
“You like your books, good. Now would you mind telling me who you are and how you got here. Wow. It’s strange to be in the other side of those questions.”
“Are you ill?”
“My name is Cressida Smith, after Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare I believe,” she frowned. “And Smith as in I don’t have a name of my own. I am someone’s natural daughter.”
“Don’t worry Smith is a much underrated name. I’ve met old Shaky back…oh, well a long, long time ago.”
The Doctor smiled nostalgically.
“I don’t know how I got here. One minute I was running from this robot thing like everyone else the next I run through a door and end up here.”
“This is starting to become a habit. I hope I’m not going to get unexpected visitors every day. Now where did you appear?
“In this room-,”
“No, in another one it had all clothes everywhere.”
“Ah…the TARDIS wardrobe.”
“You say that like it explains everything.”
“It’s a dimensional weak point. A lot of stuff ends up there. Erm…you don’t have any huon particles on you do you?”
“That was how it happened last time. What is the date?”
“That’s a silly question-,”
“Just tell me, please. It’s important.”
“February the twenty-ninth. I’m sixteen today.”
“Well done to you,” he replied distracted. “But what year?”
“1996. Is that important?”
“Sort of…why don’t you come with me to the console room and I can see if we can take you back home.”
“There’s no point,” snapped Cressida. “I have nothing to go back to.”
“Surely your parents-,”
“Gone. My foster parents were killed by the robot that was after me,” she hung her head, sadly. “I’m all alone in the world.”
There was an awkward silence. The Doctor swallowed loudly.
“I’m so sorry.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“I must say you are taking this remarkably well.”
“Well, you have to don’t you? I don’t go in for big displays of emotion.”
“Neither do I,” he said with a smile, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Now I’m here so you aren’t alone and you’re not in the world, you’re in the TARDIS.”
Cressida gave a pointed cough and lifted the Doctors hand from her shoulder.
“I also like my personal space.”
“Of course.” He took a theatrical step backwards. “Follow me, I’ll show you where I fly this ship from.”
The robot, a drone seeker sent by its masters to recover the girl and any others with the same physiology. He had followed her life signs destroying all who got in its way. Now his quarry had disappeared it must locate it again. His masters wished to possess a Time Lord, to discover the secrets of the species.
Cressida placed her hand on the bright turquoise panel of the console it lit up and hummed contentedly.
“She likes you,” said the Doctor. “And the TARDIS is very picky.”
“I’m honoured,” she replied, sarcastically. “What does it all do though?”
“A lot of clever stuff…like-,”
“Can it take me anywhere?”
“Within reason,” he swallowed. “Are you sure you don’t want me to take you home?”
“Sure. I’ve always wanted to travel.”
“But what about the funeral? Don’t you want to be there?”
“Nope. They would only send me back to the home. I have no future there.”
“Its not all fun and games you know. There’s danger…hey,” he suddenly gave a look of confusion. “Robot. What kind of robot?”
“The robotic kind.”
“Don’t be silly. Was it a silver or copper coloured robot? What shape was it, angular or smooth?”
“What difference does it make? It was still trying to kill me whatever it looked like.”
“Believe me its important. It’s the difference between a Cyberman and a Pilotfish.”
Cressida smiled complacently. Leaning against the console she accidentally activated the universe projection across the ceiling.
“Cool,” she exclaimed looking up at the blanked of stars picked out against a velvet black sky. “Where are we going next?”
“What about there,” she pointed at a small blue planet on the projection. “Second star to the left and straight on till morning I think.”
“Whose TARDIS is this mine or yours?”
“I leave you to figure that one out. Now how do I get a licence to drive one of these?”
She began to randomly pull leavers and press buttons on the console.
“No,” snapped the Doctor pulling her away from the console. “What do you think you’re doing? You should never ever-,”
The central column began to groan and wheeze into life. The Doctor dashed round the console trying to fix whatever she had done to the TARDIS. A look of panic crossed his face.
“We’re on a collision course.”
“But can’t you stop it-,”
“I’m trying! I’m trying!”
Cressida placed a hand on one of the controls and twisted it clockwise. The central column began to slow and with a sigh stopped.
“You were not trying hard enough,” she replied, smiling. “I did fix it didn’t I?”
“Yes you did.” The Doctor looked a little bemused. “How did you do that?”
“There’s a rhythm, a pattern to how you press the buttons and pull leavers. I just tried to copy it.”
“Well can you try not copying me until I tell you to,” he replied, frowning. “Now where have you landed us?”
The Gilded Lily, an elaborate satellite orbiting the small planet of Ishdil, its gold patina reflecting in the warm glow of the systems sun. It was a failing business. Overseer Delmo handed over another pile of paperwork to his steward with a sigh. The satellite was meant to be a centre for leisure for the planets inhabitants and alien visitors, but they were in a backward part of the universe. The closer planets had not developed space travel and for those further a field it was a difficult journey, putting the less determined travellers off coming. Delmo knew they wouldn’t be able to keep running for much longer. Their only chance of survival would be the new transport rings allowing the more local population to travel cheaply to the complex. But even that was not guaranteed. There had been problems, sabotage. The atmospheric systems had gone haywire, leaving the patrons to suffer in the sweltering heat. At least the aquatic facilities were having more use than normal.
“Luckily were not in the middle of a sun,” exclaimed the Doctor, pulling the leaver that opened the doors. “This is a precision piece of engineering.”
“Doesn’t look like it to me,” replied Cressida.
“You are banned from touching any of the TARDIS controls.”
“You’re not the boss of me.”
“While you are in my ship, you do as I say!”
“Then goodbye!” she yelled, storming out of the TARDIS.
“Am I bothered,” the Doctor, shouted after her.
He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then opened them again.
“Yes I am bothered,” he added. “Very bothered.”
Cressida stepped out into a long, dark, industrial and frankly intimidating corridor. Instantly she felt the difference in temperature, the heat though barely brought a bead of sweat to her brow. She checked there was no one hostile around. Then turning right headed down the corridor, glancing back expecting the Doctor to follow her but he didn’t appear in the doorway. With a shrug of her shoulders she carried on, she didn’t need adult supervision to have fun exploring this new place. There was a ladder up against one of the towering cylinders that flanked the corridor leading to a platform and a door with exit written inn bold lettering above it. She went to climb but found the metal rungs to be scalding hot. Cressida took off her jacket and used it to protect her hands as she advanced up the ladder. On reaching the platform she found a large green button, she pressed it and the door hissed open revealing a luxuriously decorated corridor.
The Doctor waited for her to return, apologetic and ready to behave. But after ten minutes she still hadn’t come back and he was feeling worried. He stepped out of the TARDIS. Cressida was nowhere to be seen. He cursed under his breath, they had only just met and he had already lost her.
His voice echoed through the corridor bouncing of the metallic towers. He waited for a reply but none came.
“Teenagers,” mumbled the Doctor under his breath. “Never do as their told, at least Susan never went too far. Now which way?”
The Doctor took a small Venusian Penny from his pinstripe jacket pocket and flipped it. The coin landed on the floor.
“Heads, that’s left then.”
Cressida blinked at the light bright in comparison to the dark of the corridor she had just come from. This area seemed to be just as deserted as the other place. She couldn’t be the only person here. She wanted to meet an alien just to prove to herself that what she suspected was true, that she didn’t fit in for a reason. That she was an alien too. She looked up at the Perspex map with its list of the various levels and what facilities they offered on the wall by what looked like a futuristic lift. Now where next?
The Doctor found himself in a room full of control panels and monitors, the pulsing hum of an engine filling the room. He looked up. One of the screens showed a corridor and strolling along the thick carpets was Cressida. He just needed to find the location of the corridor. He flicked several random switches hoping to bring up a map. With a flick of his wrist he activated the sonic screwdriver bringing up information.
“Oy!” yelled a gruff voice.
The Doctor spun round his mouth forming an ‘O’ shape.
“What are you up to?”
“Me?” the Doctor looked round as if trying to locate someone else. “You mean me? I was just looking for the loo-,”
The guard didn’t look impressed.
“That won’t work will it?”
The rather large, ruddy faced security officer shook his head.
“You’ll have to come with me, sir.”
The lift doors open to reveal a reception area, where patrons in elaborate robes, checked in. She picked up a leaflet from the reception desk and sat down on the chairs by the wall to read. It looked like this was some kind of upmarket Butlins in space. It had a spa complex, accommodation, entertainment complex and sports program everything you could want. She checked the map on the back. They were a long way from Earth. Cressida leant back and peered over the top of the leaflet observing the miscellaneous clientele. There were two scaly looking creatures with what appeared to be furled wings, like humanoid dragons. The woman behind the desk looked human enough on the outside. She frowned. It seemed awfully quiet, but perhaps that was appropriate for this place. More relaxing probably. She wondered whether it might be nice to have a little holiday. She approached the reception hoping that if they wrote in English they would speak it as well.
“Hello I’ve just arrived and-,”
“Hello, madam we’ve been expecting you,” replied the receptionist. “My name is Archidine, here is your welcome pack.”
“Thanks,” said Cressida, a little surprised it was so easy.
“It contains your keys. You are in room 5738 on the 77th floor.”
She turned to leave.
“Will your uncle be arriving soon?”
“I don’t have-,”
She heard footsteps behind her.
“Ah, Cressida,” said the Doctor, grinning. “There you are. Already checked in I see.”
“Yes,” she snapped, frowning.
“I hope you enjoy your stay in the Gilded Lily Leisure Spa,” said the receptionist.
“We will,” replied the Doctor, leading Cressida toward the lift.
The doors slid open and they stepped inside.
“What are you doing here?” she grumbled.
“I could ask the same question,” he said, folding his arms. “You should never go running off like that.”
“I didn’t run.”
“Aren’t you going to ask how we had reservations?”
“Well I managed to persuade the head of security that we are agents investigating some of the guests.”
“What do you think?” He took out the sonic screwdriver, it buzzed for a few seconds then he turned his back to the CCTV camera. “When I was looking for you I found out something about this place. Something rotten.”
“Are you trying to ruin my holiday?”
“That’s what this place is for, stupid.”
The lift juddered to a halt.
“Was that meant to happen?”
“We’re only up to the 100th floor, so I would say no, this isn’t supposed to happen.”
“Great,” she mumbled. “Isn’t there some emergency button?”
“Yes, but we don’t need that,” he replied undoing the control panel, and pulling wires out seemingly at random. “With a little luck we can get it going again.”
“I would feel better if you didn’t go playing about with the system preventing us from falling to our death.”
“Don’t be such a worrywart.”
He attached two wires together. There was an ominous creaking from above. With a clang the lift began to fall, Cressida’s stomach lurched. The floor numbers ticking down slow at first but soon speeding up.
“Doctor!” she screamed.
“I’m trying! I’m trying!”
“Emergency brakes engaged,” said a calm computerised voice.
The lift stopped abruptly jerking them off their feet. Cressida hit her head against the hard metal walls, pain exploding in the back of her head.
“Are you alright?” asked the Doctor, as the doors slid open with a chime.
“No thanks to you,” she grumbled, rubbing the back of her head. “Next time I’m taking the stairs.”
They quickly exited the lift. The Doctor ran his sonic screwdriver over the exterior control panel.
“It wasn’t my fault. I swear. It was a command from the main control.”
“How do you know that?”
“I was trying to access it but I got bumped off the system, probably by whoever sent the lift plummeting. Now if I can just get back in to the protocols again we should find out where at was accessed from and then we can narrow down the suspects.”
“How many suspects could there be? Wouldn’t the controls be in a secure area? And they would have to know how to operate the lifts.”
“Did I hear you correctly? Did you say I was right?”
“Don’t get too accustomed to it.”
“So who is in charge here? There doesn’t appear to be a distinct chain of command.”
“You amaze me.”
“You come up with intelligent comments then you go acting like a child. I wonder what year this is…this place is so backward it’s hard to tell.”
“Backward?” she exclaimed. “But this place looks state of the art.”
“The controls are not touch-screen or voice activated, you have to physically press the buttons and type in codes.”
“That mean this place is built to old specifications before galactic law introduced a standard for all satellites and spacebourne facilities. You see if you got claws, buttons are no good that’s what the voice activations for…ensuring all species can use the technology especially safety equipment. Its all health and safety stuff, boring really.”
“Ooh, suit yourself, if you want to remain ignorant. What’s the point of travel if you don’t learn and broaden your horizons?”
“Having fun,” she replied, with a frustrated sigh. “Which is something I’m missing. Can you please forget about your silly conspiracy theories and just relax.”
“I am relaxed. This is very,” he swallowed loudly, “relaxing. There’s nothing like a good mystery to sooth the soul.”
“Weird…weird…hmmm…isn’t that a weird word weird?”
“I give up.”
“That’s the spirit. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Hang with the weird and wonderful, they’re much more exciting than your square friends.”
“Are you from the sixties or something? No one says ‘square’ anymore.”
“Not even the hip, groovy cats?” he replied in his best Austin Powers impression.
“Now you’re just trying to wind me up.”
“True.” He grinned. “Look, I just want you to try and play along…you never know you might enjoy it.”
“This is why you don’t talk to strangers,” said Cressida, throwing her hands in the air.
“You’re not that strange.”
The look of disapproval on her face told the Doctor he had taken the joke far enough.
“I’m going to find my room,” stated Cressida.
“I wouldn’t go there if I were you-,”
“Whoever sabotaged the lift may have some other nasty surprises waiting.”
“Oh, so what am I supposed to do then?”
“I have a plan…but I need your help.”
Cressida stood on lookout duty by the door, as inside the security hub the Doctor was investigating.
“What are you looking for?” hissed Cressida. “You could just ask the manager or whatever it’s called for what you want to know.”
“I think he might be the one behind our little accident.”
“Shush, stop asking questions I’m trying to concentrate. Keep your mind on the job.”
“Aye, aye captain,” she replied, sarcastically.
From inside she heard the Doctor let out an exclamation of joy.
“Bingo,” he squeaked. “So it’s you again.”
Cressida suddenly heard some approaching footsteps. There was nowhere to hide in the long utilitarian corridor, they would be spotted if they tried to run.
“Doctor,” she hissed. “There’s someone coming.”
“In here then.”
“They’ll catch us, there’s nowhere to hide-,”
“No they won’t.”
He pointed at the ceiling a maze of structural poles and metal grids.
“And how are we supposed to get up there?”
“You are, I’m not. I’ll give you a leg up.”
“We don’t have time for arguments just do it,” he snapped. “And once you’re up there don’t move.”
She reluctantly did as she was told using the Doctor like a ladder to reach the ceiling. Just in time she lay across the grid, not daring to move, in case it drew attention to her hiding place. The security guard entered the room instantly spotting the Doctor.
“What are you doing in here again?” accused Officer Grang.
“Overseer Delmo, gave me permission to search the records,” explained the Doctor.
“You could have done that at a reception station, no need to come down here.”
“Well, if were just patrons I was looking for yeah, but I was looking at staff records.”
“Yes, you’ve had a rather chequered past, like the majority of the people employed by the Gilded Lily. Violent crime is your MO.”
“I did my time, and paid my debt to society.”
“Security, gives you a chance to be a thug with a licence, hmmm?”
“I don’t have to use violence…this is a respectable establishment with well behaved guests.”
“But it’s not the guests your paid to keep inline is it? This place’s owner wants the staff kept of a short leash. Who does own the Gilded Lily?”
“I don’t have a clue, Doctor. It’s not in my interest to know things that don’t concern me.”
“Who are you afraid of?”
“I’m not afraid of anyone.”
“I can see it in your eyes. Don’t lie to me Grang. I don’t like people who keep things from me, and I’m way scarier than your boss when I’m angry. I could send you back to prison with a click of my fingers.”
He let the threat hang in the air, as the Doctor stared at the officer a manic gleam in his eye.
“We should let Overseer Delmo sort out who is lying and who isn’t.”
Once they had left the room Cressida waited for a while, just to make sure they wouldn’t come back into the room and catch her. She got onto her knees and looked around, realising that she was trapped. If she
tried jumping down she’d probably break her ankle. There had to be another way.
The Doctor followed Grang down the corridor, through a grimy looking door. When he entered the room he realised that he had made a mistake.
“Oh, dear,” he said. “This isn’t Delmo’s office.”
He spun round as the door clanged shut.
“I think we need to have a chat,” said Grang, cracking his knuckles. “Doctor.”
“Now, there’s no need…we can-,”
His sentence was cut short as a solid punch impacted his stomach, causing him to double over with a groan of pain.
“It’s a shame to mess up such a pretty face…but business is business.”
Cressida glanced around observing her surroundings hoping inspiration would strike. Suddenly she spotted an air vent. She crawled across the scaffold poles over to the grill, and pulled at the thin mesh covering the vent. It came away surprisingly easy.
“Crawling through air vents…how clichéd,” she muttered to herself, as she entered the metre wide tunnel.
Grang slammed the bruised and battered Doctor against the wall. The Time Lord winced blinking as blood from his head wound trickled down his face.
“We don’t appreciate people like you sticking your nose in where you’re not wanted.”
“What’s wrong with my nose? It’s rather a pretty nose,” the grip on his neck tightened. “I’ll be quiet now,” he gasped in a high pitched voice.
“You will leave immediately and never come back or you may get to experience a vacuum in space firsthand. Understand?”
“I understand completely, utterly, entirely, absolutely-,”
Grang let go and walked out slamming the door behind him. The Doctor slid down the solid cold wall onto his knees with a groan of pain holding his stomach. He tentatively moved attempting to crawl towards the door, but a spasm of pain shot through his body.
“Broken rib, not good and,” he winced, “some internal damage.”
He pulled himself up using the locking wheel of the door.
“I’ll leave alright, but there is some unfinished business to deal with first.”
She was starting to see a downside to her plan, not only was it sweltering hot but every one of the labyrinthine tunnels looked the same and she had no way of telling where she was or where -quite frankly- she should be heading to. So far the safest place had been the TARDIS, but even if she found the thing she wouldn’t be able to get in as easily as she had the first time, not that her intrusion had been intentional. She was starting to feel very claustrophobic trapped in a small area with no exit in sight, panicking slightly, her breaths shortening. She crawled at a frenetic pace, turning randomly at every junction becoming more and more frustrated and alarmed, afraid of dying alone and unmissed in this maze of steel. Cressida cursed the Doctor’s name at coming up against another dead end next to a slowly rotating fan. It was all his fault. She sat down heavily and leant against one of the sides, letting out a yelp as something dug into her back. She lifted her feet up and spun round on the spot to see what it was. A small black box was attached to the metal. Cressida tapped it lightly. It lit up displaying a series of numbers and a keypad on the screen.
“That’s odd,” she said. “None of the other technology here has touch-screen. It must be new or something.”
Perhaps, she thought, it would allow her to send an SOS to the Doctor or whatever form of emergency services they had in this place. She typed in ‘999’ hoping that the number was still the same in the future. Cressida instantly regretted her decision as the tunnel she was in began to get hotter, so hot the metal scolded her.
“It must be a temperature control.”
She pressed ‘cancel’ and retyped in a new number ’25’. She wasn’t sure which scale they used but anything was better than being roasted alive. There was an almost instant affect as the fan to her right began to turn, slowly at first but then faster. She could feel the pull of the air pressure created and realised too late that she had made another error. The fan was drawing her inevitably towards its sharp spinning blades.
The Doctor walked into the penthouse suite of the Gilded Lily, his manner confident ignoring the pain continually shooting through his body. The room was all gold, black and tiger print. In the centre of the room was the person he was looking for. She sat like a queen upon her golden throne, looking very different to when they had first met. She had a body.
“Cassandra,” he said his face like thunder.
“Do I know you?” she asked, languidly. “This is private suite.”
“I know you and I know what you’re up to.”
“I have no idea what you are on about,” she purred. “I’ve called security.”
“You can call them all you want they won’t hear you,” he held up a small clear rectangle. “I’ve removed the communications circuit.”
“You are bluffing.”
“Oh no, I’m not…I’m deadly earnest. Never try the same con twice.”
“This place is failing. It’s so far in the red no amount of investment can save it.”
“What is that to do with me?”
“After a lot of digging amongst some of the more sensitive files I discovered that you own the Gilded Lily.”
“You must be mistaken I am only a client,” replied Cassandra.
“Give up. I’ve already informed the authorities.”
“Owning a satellite is not a crime.”
“But insurance fraud is. You’ve sabotaged this place so that you can claim the money back.”
“You can’t prove a thing. Now get out,” she reached into the draw of the table beside her and pulled out a gun. “Unless you want to find yourself with more holes than is normal?”
Cressida grabbed at the metal surface her fingers failing to find any kind of purchase on the smooth walls. In a moment of panic she cried out, closing her eyes an anticipation of a no doubt painful demise.
“Help! Someone help me please! Doctor!”
She felt two strong hands grasp her wrists and pull her away from the blades of the fan. She looked up to see who it was. A handsome young face stared back at her, skin white as porcelain, his eyes pale and pupils bigger than normal and thick brown locks falling round his cheeks.
“Thanks,” she said. “Who are you?”
“I’m Meridian and you need to hold on tight, I’ve a rope round my waist.”
“Pull,” he yelled, glancing behind.
They were dragged back away from the fan and to an area of the ventilation shaft where a grating like where she had entered by an unseen hand. Cressida fell on the ground in a heap it being close to the floor.
The room in which she found herself was dimly lit and furnished with solid mahogany chairs, red flock wallpaper and thick curtains.
“Who are you?”
“Did you bump your head on the way out?”
“I told you my name.”
“I know that, stupid,” snapped Cressida. “But who are you? Why did you save me and how did you know I was in trouble?”
“We have been keeping an eye on what’s been going on here,” replied Meridian.
“We?” She tried to peer through the shadows.
“My and Eternity, she’s the one that spotted the energy spike.”
“Definitely not,” he chuckled. “She is my guardian and an android.”
“Right. Thanks again for saving me back there, but I’d better be going.”
“There is no need.”
“I’ll be fine,” she said stumbling to her feet and heading towards where she had thought the door was. “I have to go find…my uncle. He’ll be wondering where I am.”
“Is the Doctor your uncle?” He asked approaching her. “They are on to him you know, you must warn him.”
“What do you know? Who are they?”
“The people that run this place they are not nice people. They…a friend of mine annoyed them and well let’s just say he will never walk again. Look,” he shrugged on a jacket, put on his sunglasses and wide brimmed hat.
“I didn’t make it that cold did I?”
“No, I am just sensitive to bright light and I’d rather not be recognised.”
“You are telling me this because?”
“I am coming with you, for your own protection.”
“I’m not a toddler. I can find my own way you know.”
“Arguments are not allowed,” said Meridian, guiding her towards the door. “I need to talk to the Doctor myself.”
“You need a doctor, more like,” she scoffed, as they entered the corridor. “Are you an alien?”
“I come from a neighbouring system-,”
“Yes, but are you human, like future version? You look human.”
“Rhidian was a human colony in the very far past, but there were also a native species already living there. Most Rhidianise are a mixture of the two. My family can trace their lineage right back to the princes of the Dian dynasty.”
“Fascinating,” said Cressida with a hint of sarcasm.
“I’m only telling you this in the strictest confidence because I trust you. My name is not one to chuck around in these parts, people have long memories, and I am not flavour of the month.”
“Now, that’s much more interesting. What did you do?”
“None of your business,” he snapped. “We will take the back way…I don’t want to use the main corridors.”
The Doctor stood his hands still raised above his head.
“Look, now there is no need for violence. Can’t we talk?”
“You are starting to bore me, next you’ll be saying; You’ll never get away with this,” replied Cassandra.
“Well,” he swallowed. “Those wouldn’t be my exact words, but I was contemplating something to that effect.”
“Where are they,” she snapped, tapping the comms panel furiously.
“I told you I dealt with the communications.”
“Shut up! Shut up or I’ll make you shut up permanently.”
He made a gesture of zipping up his mouth.
“Why do you think he is here?” asked Cressida, as they stood outside the penthouse suite.
“I don’t, but this is where I would go. Straight to the top.”
“You seem to know a lot about this place-,”
“Honour among thieves, Cressida.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Shush,” he produced a small credit card sized device, and placed it against the access panel. “Stand back.”
The doors slid open to reveal the Doctor with his hands in the air while a woman of a certain age sat on an audacious throne pointing a gun of some sort at him.
“Doctor,” yelped Cressida, in surprise.
The Time Lord’s reply was cut short as he dived out of the way of the shot fired by Cassandra, and Cressida found herself pushed to the ground by Meridian.
“Ouch,” she exclaimed. “Get off me!”
“That is twice I have saved your life,” he replied, rolling on to his knees then leaping quickly to his feet. “Doctor, catch.”
Meridian threw something to the Doctor that Cressida didn’t quite see before he launched himself forward taking the woman by surprise, knocking the gun from her hand which went off with a bang. For a moment it was if time stood still or at least slowed to a snails pace then it all speeded up again. Meridian collapsed holding his left leg, a look of agony on his face as Cassandra pressed something on a necklace shoe wore and disappeared into thin air.
“Where did she go?” exclaimed Cressida.
“Transmat,” replied the Doctor, as if that explained everything.
“A little help please,” squeaked Meridian through gritted teeth, gripping his leg with blood soaked hands.
“Here let me-,” she took a tissue from her pocket and held it to the wound.
“You could have stopped her with that.” Meridian nodded at the device in the Doctor’s hand.
“What this?” It looked a little like a motorola razor, he flipped it open. “Ooh, a sonic mobile…it’s got everything, I’m jealous.” He tapped several buttons. “Even a multi-phase DNA and medical scanner with the latest software…interesting.”
“It is nice you are taking an interest but I am bleeding to death here.”
“Nonsense. You are just,” The Doctor gauged the damage. He made a sound like a mechanic about to give bad news. “That’s nasty. Luckily I always carry a first aid kit.”
He removed a small box from his inside pocket, opening it up he took out a spray bottle and thin torch-like item. He sprayed the liquid on the leg then ran the glowing torch over it. Cressida let out a gasp as the wound healed before her eyes.
“Cool trick,” she exclaimed.
“It’s not a trick,” mumbled Meridian, with a frown.
“This piece of tech,” said the Doctor, examining the ‘sonic’ mobile. “It’s a bit pricy. How did you afford this and who sold it to you?”
“It was a gift.”
“From who? It’s not a coincidence you are here and fully equipped is it?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about, now give it back,” he tried to snatch the ‘mobile’ off the Doctor who pulled it out of his reach.
“No. Not till you tell me the truth.”
“Yeah, right,” scoffed Cressida. “Doctor, give him his stuff back and Mary-Ann spill.”
“Are you talking to me? My name is Meridian not Mary-Ann.”
“Well you are acting like a girl. Stop being so secretive, we aren’t going to judge you or get you in trouble.”
“Cressida,” warned the Doctor, his countenance suddenly serious. “It’s his choice and I hope he knows what he is doing.”
“I am earning back my freedom and reputation.”
“Just make sure your orders come from the very top or you may find yourself being made a scapegoat again, trust me I know.”
“I’m not stupid.”
Meridian got slowly to his feet.
“What are you going to do?”
“Tie up the loose ends, fix the sabotage.”
“Do you need any help?”
“I will be fine. I always stay till the bitter end Doctor.”
“I don’t want to break up this moment but what about that woman? Aren’t you going to go after her?” asked Cressida.
“Doctor,” Meridian held his hand out, the Doctor returned his ‘mobile’. “Managed to get a tracking device on her before she shot me and this is a long range receiver.”
“So you can track her movements-,”
“And let the authorities know where she is. Anyway we had better be going,” said the Doctor.
“Can’t I stay with him?” asked Cressida. “I like him better than you.”
“No, no, no, no, no…you are coming with me.”
“What do you think Meridian? Want a new travelling companion?”
“I don’t think it would work.”
“It just wouldn’t,” said Meridian backing away. “Do you really want to travel with a criminal?”
“Think about it. Either you can go with him and be stuck in one time…that is right isn’t it Meridian your time machine broke?”
“Yes, unfortunately…and you know why.”
“Or you can come with me and go ANYWHERE in space or time.”
She pondered this for a moment.
“I hope you’re not offended Meri, but I’ll stick with the Doctor.”
The Doctor stood by the TARDIS leaning against the door with a confident manner, a conceited grin on his face, spinning a long silver chain with a key attached on the end of his finger.
“So you going to open the door or what,” said Cressida, her hands resting firmly on her hips.
“You couldn’t refuse the draw of time travel.”
“This is for you,” he handed over the key. “Keep it safe.”
“A key, just what I’ve always wanted.”
“It goes with the TARDIS, you’re getting the key to the front door young lady.”
“It’s handy if you want to get inside,” he said, raising an eyebrow.
“Great-,” she said trying to get past him and through the doorway. “Are you going to let me in?”
“In a minute…I want you to answer a couple of questions first.”
“What’s this, the Spanish inquisition?”
“Well, I hardly know you-,”
“You’re a stranger to me but you don’t hear me asking stupid questions, so move it,” she said pushing him aside and stepping over the threshold.
The Doctor let his hands hover over the TARDIS controls, his eyes closed, muttering some alien incantation under his breath.
“This is no time to sleep,” snapped Cressida.
“I’m not sleeping,” he replied opening one eye. “Just trying to remember some co-ordinates and stuff…where are your family?”
“I said no questions…especially no personal questions.”
“If you do want to talk…you know about anything…I’m here…waiting.”
“You’ll be waiting a long time.”
“We’re on Earth,” said Cressida, stepping out of the TARDIS. “You have the whole of space and time to choose from and you decide to visit…20th century Earth and of all the dull places on this damp planet you land in London. I should have stayed with Meridian.”
“Have you finished yet?”
“I need to find out how you got in the TARDIS and the only way of doing that is-,”
“By boring me to death.”
“No, no, no, no…I just need to find out some more about you.”
“Well, I don’t want to tell you anything.”
“I’ll find out somehow, whether you like it or not.” He smiled. “Now, where to first?”
The drone detected the alien life signs as soon as they left the shielding of the TARDIS. It was pleased -as much as an emotionless robot can be pleased- he had not one but two quarries to track. His masters would be delighted.