Less than an hour ago, the Duke of Manhattan had been dying.
His entire body, as big at was, had been slowly and painfully turning from flabby pink flesh into solid stone as the Petrifold Regression had ravaged and consumed his colossal mass.
But to look at him now, one might have imagined his previous condition as being nothing more than a dream. A nightmare that never was.
Peter had met the Doctor halfway down the wing, where the Duke's bed was. The raucous laughter of the aristocrat had made them curious enough to both venture over, and it was hard not to gawp at the picture of health that was now sat up in his bed with a glass of champagne in his large hand.
"How is that possible?" Peter questioned, turning to the Doctor. "Didn't you say that -"
"This isn't right." He said with a frown. "Not right at all."
Despite his time spent with the Doctor not yet even adding up to a full day, Peter had already begun to develop a sense of knowing when the Time Lord was right on such matters.
Something was wrong here. Something was not as it should be.
Not that the Duke of Manhattan had any lingering concerns over his miraculous recovery. Content with doing nothing but celebrating his own restored heath, he spotted the two men who were stood staring at him and beamed back at them.
"Ah, it's those men again!" He chortled, waving them over as though they were old friends. "They're good luck charms. Come in. Don't be shy."
His formidably scary aid, Frau Cloivs, was still stood at his bedside. Her own glass of champagne looked as though it had not been touched at all, but pearly white teeth could be seen peeping through the dark purple lipstick.
She did not protest as the Doctor and Peter ventured forward, but she was swift in reminding them on what conditions this had been permitted.
"Any friendship expressed by the Duke of Manhattan does not constitute a form of legal contract." She told them through her smile. "Nothing said or seen here must be made public without the expressed permission from the Senate of New New York."
Whether ignorant of such legalities, or perhaps he was just choosing to ignore them, the Duke let out another bellowing laugh.
"Didn't think I was going to make it!" He announced. "Winch me up."
Nodding obediently, Frau picked up a small remote control from the bedside table and pointed it at the bed at she pressed a button. The top half of the Duke's bed smoothly rose up so that he was now sitting completely upright. "Up!" He giggled. "Look at me. No sign of infection."
Having spared no expense for his hospital visit, even when it had looked as though he might die, the Duke had a butler in attendance to wait upon him.
Dressed in a crisp black suit complete with a bowtie, tailcoats and brass buttons, the man was expertly balancing a silver tray with two very fine looking crystal champagne glasses sat on it, each filled to brim with the expensive pale gold bubbly liquid.
Receiving a brief nod of instruction from his employer, he turned and offered these drinks to the Doctor and Peter.
"Champagne, gentlemen?" He asked politely.
"We're good, thanks." Peter declined, frowning.
The Doctor's attention had not shifted away from the Duke even for a second, and he seemed determined to understand how the ample man was still living and breathing when he should have been a solid stone monument to his own portly figure.
"You had Petrifold Regression, right?" He asked. "That was your diagnosis?"
Peter could understand his disbelief, but there had been no misunderstanding of the Duke's condition. Sister Jatt had not corrected them or told them otherwise, and the Doctor was most likely smart enough to recognise such a disease when he saw it.
"'Past tense indeed!" The Duke laughed. "I am completely cured."
"But that's impossible." The Doctor reiterated. "You can't be…"
One of the cat nurses had joined them at the Duke's bedside.
She was a perhaps few years older than Sister Jatt, with a much more angulated face, and Peter instantly come up with the image of a a narrow-eyed siamese, rather than a podgy-faced moggy.
But if Sister Jatt was the drill sergeant, then this feline was the general.
"It is always so nice to see patients on the mend." She stated, smiling at the Duke. "Always a pleasure to be able to assist."
The Doctor, however, was in no mood for such pleasantries and wasted no time in getting to the point of his enquiry. Mouth still slightly agape from the impossibility of the Duke's survival, he stared at the attending nurse.
"How on Earth did you cure him?" He asked her.
"How on New Earth, you might say?" She replied, smiling at her own joke.
The Doctor did not laugh back, and his furrowed brow only tensed further as he turned and pointed to the medicine being fed into the Duke's arm via a drip.
"What's in that solution?" He asked, eyeing it was suspicion. "What have you given him?"
Through the transparent bag, it was clear to see that nearly all of the pale blue coloured liquid was gone now and had already been pumped into the patient's system. Quite obviously the reason for the Duke's recovery, it had become the Time Lord's sole focus of enquiry.
However, it seemed that this member of staff was unwilling to divulge any further information.
"It is nothing more than a simple remedy."
"Then tell me what it is?" The Doctor asked her. "Surely you can -"
"I am sorry, sir." She replied. "But that would breech patient confidentiality."
"Of course it would." Peter told her in complete agreement. "That would be the last thing we'd want to do."
Looking over at the lieutenant, the Doctor saw to some surprise a warm, polite smile on his face. It was quite a peculiar thing to see under the circumstances, but something was telling the Time Lord that Peter was not merely keeping the peace and was far from wanting to leave it there.
"Thank you, sir." The nurse said with a bow of her head. "Now, if -"
"But it is astonishing, what you've achieved here." Peter continued, still smiling as he nodded over the Duke. "He's me thinking that Petrifold Regression could never be cured?"
The Doctor's eyebrows raised up, impressed. Peter had been listening what he'd said that the threat of Petrifold Regression was still another millennia away from being eradicated. Additionally, the question had come out innocently enough, with just enough of a leading enquiry that the nurse would answer him without feeling as though she might be parting with any important information.
He recalled something that Peter's best friend, Stefan Amell, had once told him about the young Saiyan. Peter was more often than not very brash, aggressive and self-assertive in a manner like the wolf he could become, but he could also quite easily turn on the charm offensive if it suited him to do so.
Such an approach seemed to be working now.
"I sure you are." The feline smiled. "Primitive species would accuse us of magic, but it's merely the tender application of science."
"That's a lot of science in one little bag." Peter stated. "My mother is nurse herself, and she'd be amazed at this kind of breakthrough. Do you know if you're rolling this out planet wide? I'd love to know what was involved in making a cure like this one?"
Immediately Peter knew that he had tried too hard.
The nurse's eyes had narrowed with suspicion as her polite facade slipped away just enough to reveal her irritation. Regarding the man in front of her for a moment, her nose twitching slightly, a hint of a smirk slipped across her lips.
"As I said, primitive species would not understand our methods."
She hadn't quite said it, but it had been implied.
If these cats noses were anything like his own, then Peter knew that his scent would give away the fact that he wasn't human. Back on Earth, just days ago, a species of large predatory bat creatures had sniffed out his wolf side just as easily.
Perhaps the Doctor hadn't entirely been wrong back down in the lobby when he'd warned him about the issues of being around the feline kind.
"Excuse me?" He asked her through gritted teeth.
The nurse did not repeat herself. It was not out fear or embarrassment, however, but more so due to a quiet sense of satisfaction at her own well delivered and thinly veiled attack.
Seeing the thunderous look on the lieutenant's face, and sensing that whatever he might say next would not be polite, the Doctor quickly intervened just as Peter opened his mouth to speak.
"What my friend here is trying to say," he said, smiling. "Is how you've done this so efficiently."
"Yes, given that no one bag of medicine can possibly cure a parasitic illness, especially when such a cure doesn't even exist yet." Peter told her, folding his arms defensively as he scowled at the cat. "Times haven't changed that much. It takes years of tests and none human trial runs before anything is allowed even remotely close to hospital."
Unimpressed with his knowledge of medical procedures, the nurse had recovered some of her professional façade.
"I don't believe we've met?" She said evenly. "My name is Matron Casp."
"Lieutenant Peter Argent," Peter told her authoritatively. "This is the Doctor."
Matron Casp's eyes jumped to the Time Lord and narrowed again with wariness.
"I think you'll find that we're the doctors here." She said cooly.
Fortunately for the peace of the ward, the timely arrival of Sister Jatt put a halt to any further exchanges between the two visitors and the matron. Walking right up to her superior she did not speak up until she was right next to her, and even then her message was quietly whispered.
"Matron Casp," She stated. "You're needed in intensive care."
Matron Casp nodded once before turning back to the Doctor and Peter.
"Gentlemen." She announced with a shallow bow of her head. "If you would excuse me."
Whilst the Doctor politely nodded, Peter did not move an inch and watched with a glare as Matron Casp and Sister Jatt walked away.
"Unbelievable." He huffed as soon as they had reached the end of the wing and vanished around the corner. "Bloody cats."
"Now now, don't be starting anything." The Doctor told him as he tried not to laugh. "I know that -"
"Oh, shut up." Peter snapped at him. "Just get on with whatever it is you're planning on doing."
"Who said I had a plan?" He asked nonchalantly.
The look the lieutenant gave him was enough to answer the Doctor's own question for him and, with a agreeing nod, he pulled out the sonic screwdriver and got to work.
As urgent as it was, Sister Jatt had resisted the temptation to immediately explain the situation to Matron Casp until they were away from the rest of the hospital and in the secluded safety of the intensive card ward.
Such matters were not to be discussed out in the open.
"It's happened again." She stated in a low tone as they walked. "One of the patients is conscious."
"Oh, we can't have that." Matron Casp tutted, her nose wrinkled up at the unpleasant, highly sterilised air.
Intensive care was the worse part of the hospital, even though it was vital to their work, and she hated coming down here. The white, minimalistic design was gone now, as were the clean and airy wards full of patients in need of healing.
This was a dark, dirty and foreboding place that not every nurse in the building was prepared to venture into.
The narrow passageways were made of metal, and dozens of exposed, steaming pipes lined the walls and ceiling. Hissing quietly, they weaved up and down across the dank, damp walls.
This was not a place of healing.
Sister Jatt had long since given up on trying to estimate how many containment cells were spread across the dozen or so floors which made up the ward. Sealed shut with large bulkhead doors, the green lighting within each of them shone through heavily frosted glass and cast the entire place in a eerie green glow.
As she and Matron Casp continued their walk past these cells, Sister Jatt continued to update her superior of the situation.
"It was having a perfectly normal blood wash, and all of a sudden it started crying." She explained as they turned a corner. "It's this one."
Leading Matron Casp over to the indicted door, she quickly imputed the correct security code into the small control panel next to the cell and stepped back as the door unlocked itself with a loud clunk and slowly swung open, allowing the two cats to see the inside.
The cell's occupant was weak, and it took all their strength for their arms to lift up and desperately stretch out towards the two nurses.
"Please, help me." The wheezing voice begged. "Please…"
Being aware of the current development, Sister Jatt was not surprised by what she saw and observed what was before her with a neutral expression. Matron Casp, however, was quite taken aback by creature's obvious state of consciousness.
"Look at its eyes." Sister Jatt informed her. "So… alive."
"Positively sparkling." She gasped. "How strange."
"Please, where am I?" The cell's occupant begged them. "Help me."
"Speech too!" Matron Casp continued, shaking her head in disbelief. "How can it even have a vocabulary?"
Sister Jatt considered for a moment, pondering the notion as she watch the humanoid figure uselessly reach out from them. To ill to move, it could not lift itself away from the metal from which was supporting it upright.
"Sister Corvin has written a thesis, it is based on the migration of sentience." She told Matron Casp. "It's rather worth a read."
Matron Camp shivered at the sight of the man. She hated these creatures almost as much as the ward they were stored in. But she knew that she must tolerated them both because of what they were able to provide.
The hospital and mankind itself needed the resources and result such an undertaking could produced.
"I've seen enough, thank you." She muttered, already walking away from the cell. "Close the door."
Obeying her superior, and ignoring the continued cries for help as she shut the door on the man, Sister Jatt quickly caught up with the matron.
"This is not the first time this has happened." She pointed out, as if to reassure her.
"Yes," Matron Casp agreed. "But if this happens again, we might have to review our brain stem policy."
"And what should we do with the patient?"
"Standard procedure. Incinerate."
At the end of the corridor there was a large fuse box which had been welded into the wall. There was only one lever, which Sister Jatt pulled down on upon reaching it.
Instantaneously, huge charges of electricity found their way into the inspected cell behind her, causing the occupant inside to scream and cry out horrendously. It was not until the screams had died away complete did Sister Jatt consider ending the procedure.
A few more seconds, she thought as she watched the bright white light flash against the green-lit cell.
Pulling the lever back up, she made one last observation of the now silent ward. Satisfied, she walked away and headed off to rejoin Matron Casp and the rest of the hospital.