Notes: The characters aren't mine, and the story is! This fic is a Season 6B fic, taking place after the events of "The Two Doctors" (and also taking place after the drabbles I wrote for that serial, from my Jamie drabble series, "Those Who Help Us Most to Grow"—the Loyaulte Me Lie mini-arc, and the Taking the Long Way Home standalone drabble). Many thanks to voords and aragonite for plot help!
Jamie couldn't help but smirk in amusement as the Doctor served up breakfast for the both of them.
"Fish again?" he queried.
"This is some of the best quality gumblejack from this side of the galaxy!" the Time Lord said. "And after I've taken great pains to ensure that it is seasoned to nothing less than absolute perfection, the least you can do is eat it!"
Jamie stared at the Doctor in surprise.
"…I was only joking."
"Oh. Yes. I knew that; so was I."
"Were ye?" Jamie asked, picking up a knife and fork and starting on the fish. "Ye've been acting strange lately."
"Strange?" the Doctor asked, now fetching the teakettle. "Whatever do you mean by that?"
"I don' know…" Jamie said. "Ye havenae been acting like yer old self lately. The only time ye were anywhere close was when we were at the pub last night. …Is something bothering ye?"
"Really!? I can give you my assurance, Jamie, that I am perfectly fine—oh, my giddy aunt!"
The Scot nearly jumped out of his chair.
"What!? What happened!?"
The Doctor was staring inside the teakettle, gingerly sniffing at it.
"Jamie… what is this in the teakettle?"
The Scot turned red.
"Aye, that would be some scotch, from the pub last night."
"…And why is there scotch in my teakettle?"
"…It's fer an experiment!" Jamie blurted out, after thinking for a moment. "Ye're always telling me to broaden my horizons and take the initiative to learning aboot science, so I'm trying an… experiment, just like ye always do…" He trailed off, wincing as the Doctor placed a hand to his forehead.
"…You didn't want to waste any scotch. And all you could find in my pockets was the teakettle."
"Aye… Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time."
"I imagine it did," the Doctor sighed, placing the teakettle on the table. "Oh, Jamie, what am I going to do with you…?"
"I don' know, but it's nae fair that ye can use yer touch-telepathy to tell when I'm lying. I ne'er know when ye're telling the truth or nae. But ye don' see me trying to read yer mind, do ye?"
"Well, it's nae as though I havenae tried!"
"Well, touch-telepathy is something that comes more naturally for some species than others," the Doctor said. "The Gallifreyans, for instance…."
"How nice for ye, to be able to read the thoughts of the lesser species whenever ye like…" Jamie muttered.
The Scot looked up.
"I do believe you are the one who isn't 'acting normally,' Jamie!"
The Doctor and Jamie stared at each other for a long time before the Doctor finally managed a wan smile.
"Look at us," he said, sitting down at the breakfast table. "I do believe we're both a bundle of nerves. We've been running all sorts of missions for the Agency lately; we've been pushed to the breaking point."
Jamie smiled back.
"Think we'll ever get back to normal?"
"I daresay we shall, once we're allowed to relax," the Doctor said. "Aha, I know the very thing! We haven't been given any other missions since our last one; I say we spend some time visiting the Eye of Orion and do absolutely nothing!"
"There're no beasties in this Eye of Orion?" Jamie asked.
"None, Jamie. It's where many intergalactic travelers go to relax after difficult journeys."
"Aye, then let's go there," Jamie said. "Oh, and… Doctor?"
"For what it's worth, this is good fish."
The Doctor smiled.
"Thank you, Jamie. And I'm sure that, somehow, your little 'experiment' with the teakettle will prove useful—"
The Doctor's train of thought quickly derailed as the TARDIS lurched violently; the contents of the breakfast table began to spill to the floor, and Jamie quickly saved the scotch-filled teakettle before it spilled. His relief at accomplishing this feat, however, was short-lived as he saw the look of concern on the Doctor's face. There was much about the TARDIS that Jamie didn't understand, despite having traveled with the Doctor for 13 years; one thing he did know, though, was that if the Doctor was worried about something, then he'd better be worried about it, too.
"Doctor, what is it?" he asked.
"I don't know for certain," the Time Lord said, as they raced back to the console room. "But if it's what I think it is… Oh, crumbs!"
The console monitor was flashing all sorts of warnings written in the Gallifreyan language; Jamie caught a few familiar words that the Doctor had been teaching him—
"Control loss… remote pilot…?" he asked, recognizing the phrases.
"I'm afraid so," the Doctor said. "Something's caught the TARDIS in a retractor beam; I can't escape from it!"
"Can we nae dematerialize!?"
"No; the dematerialization circuit has been disabled by the beam!" the Doctor hissed, pounding a fist onto the console in frustration. "That is Time Lord technology being used against us!"
"It must be the Celestial Intervention Agency…" Jamie said. "They don' like the idea of us going to the Eye of Orion."
"No, that couldn't be it; I disabled all of their excess listening channels; they couldn't possibly have heard us!" the Doctor assured him. "Perhaps if we see where we're going, we might be able to get an idea…"
He adjusted the monitor, and an all-too-familiar sight appeared upon the screen—a place Jamie once described as "twenty castles in the sky."
"Doctor…" the Scot said, going pale at the sight.
He clung to the Doctor's arm, and the Time Lord didn't even need his touch-telepath abilities to read the piper's unease.
"I know, Jamie. I know," he said, quietly, as he gripped the human's shoulder. "Space Station Chimera."
"I ne'er wanted to see that horrid place again as long as I lived," Jamie said, shaking his head in denial. "Doctor, please, isn't there anything ye can do to get us away from here? Anything!?"
The pleading tone of his voice made both of the Doctor's hearts twist. It took a lot for the normally stalwart Highlander to turn craven. And though he wanted to escape this place as much as Jamie did, there was nothing he could do.
"We shall… just have to be careful once we land," the Doctor said. "We'll find that retractor beam, disable it, and leave immediately."
Jamie nodded, shuddering in spite of himself. Neither he nor the Doctor said another word as the TARDIS landed, her lights still illuminated in protest. The Doctor still gripped Jamie's shoulder.
"We'll be alright as long as we stay together," he said, trying to reassure himself, as well as the piper. He gave another wan smile. "So no wandering off."
"That's the last thing I'll do," Jamie vowed.
"Good lad," the Time Lord said, opening the TARDIS doors.
They both braced themselves as they exited the TARDIS and entered the dimly-lit corridors of the space station.
The first thing that gripped Jamie was the lack of something that had been here the last time he had been forced to stay here.
"They're all gone."
"I beg your pardon, Jamie?"
"The… bodies," he said, shuddering again. "When the Sontarans came and…"
"Oh, yes. Yes, I see… Or, rather, I don't see—as you so aptly put it…" The Doctor glanced at an electronic calendar. "But we are definitely here at a point in time three months after our last visit."
"Someone must have come here and cleared e'erything," Jamie said. "But who? And why?"
"Whoever it is apparently has some business with us," the Doctor said. "I'm hoping that all they require are some answers as to what happened here."
"But ye said that it was Time Lord technology that trapped the TARDIS. The Time Lords already know what happened."
"I ought to know; they wouldn't stop questioning me!" the Doctor scoffed. "And that is what's worrying me, too…"
He suddenly turned around, his eyes narrowing as he glared down the darkened corridor.
"I think something was watching us—around that corner," he murmured. "Can you see anything?"
"I cannae even see the corner!" Jamie lamented, squinting in the hopes that he could see in the dark better. This proved futile; his human vision, like his attempts at touch telepathy, was pathetic when compared to the Doctor's Gallifreyan senses.
"Well, it is sure to have gone by now," the Doctor said, turning back around. His arm was still protectively around Jamie as they continued to walk.
The creature hiding behind the corner didn't dare to move until they were out of sight; even then, he waited, only moving when a fellow member of his species arrived.
"Tell her that he is here," the creature hissed. "With a Tellurian in tow! Ask her if the Tellurian is to be given to us!"
The level of quiet and the lack of any sign of who or what was in the space station with them was more than a little unnerving for the Time Lord and the Scot.
"This is more than a little vexing," the Doctor muttered. "I don't like not knowing what we're up against. I can't make bricks without clay!"
"…Di'n Sherlock Holmes say that?"
"Who do you think taught him that?"
Jamie rolled his eyes, but then, he stopped in his tracks.
"Jamie? What is it?"
"I know how we could possible find oot who is in here!" he said. "Whoever is in here… would they use the computer?"
"Possibly. I quite imagine they would, if they wanted to know what happened during the massacre; it's clear that they've cleaned it up rather well…"
"Then ye just follow me," Jamie said, dragging the Doctor to the main computer room. He saw the controls on the table.
"I remember this room…" the Doctor said. "The Sontarans brought me in here—made me stand in front of that wall. Never did know why; there didn't seem to be any point to it. …Though, mind you, I was unconscious for a good while after that…"
"There's a camera in that wall," Jamie said. "And it's part of the computer; it makes a holographic projection of whoever had their picture taken by the camera. If I can just remember what yer other self did…"
The Doctor watched him, proudly, as the Scot began to use the computer controls. Here was an eighteenth-century Highlander, who had once thought photography to be a form of witchcraft, using highly advanced computer equipment! While the Doctor knew that he could easily figure out the controls himself, he was more than content with letting his companion figure it out for himself.
"Aha!" Jamie exclaimed. "Doctor! I think I have it!"
"Well done, Jamie! Let's have a look, then!"
Jamie hit one more button, and the hologram appeared on the platform in front of them, in one of the large, glass cylinders.
It was a feminine image; the being's face was angular, and dark hair flowed down her shoulders.
But it was her eyes that made the piper nervous—piercing, cold eyes that seemed to be calculating…
A sharp intake of breath from the Doctor brought the piper to the present; he looked back at him.
"Do ye know that lassie, Doctor?"
"Yes, Jamie," he replied, quietly. "I'm afraid I do." He glared at the image, staring into her piercing eyes. "She's a Gallifreyan, and one of the most brilliant ones to ever exist—the Rani."