They materialised in the back of a proverbial closet. Actually, deep in a gloomy back cavern seemed more appropriate but it was basically the same thing. Peering out from behind a giant slimy rock, Rose thought the aliens could've chosen a better place for their den, but on looking closer, she could see no sign of life anywhere. The steady drip of a stalactite echoed emptily around the cave, echoing her empty thoughts.
"Isn't this fantastic?" The Doctor beamed.
She glanced at him listlessly. "What is?"
"How is it, Doctor? We've been led on a dead end, again." Rose scowled, banging a fist on the damp slimy wall. She quickly withdrew her hand.
The Doctor was still grinning from ear to ear. "No we haven't, but shall I tell you why this is so fantastic? Because who would've thought that the last hiding place of the Striker Empire would be on or should I say in a meteorite?" He didn't wait for Rose's mouth to drop open in astonishment. "Perfect hiding place. Small density, pocketed with holes, in fact a whole network of underground passages. Kind of like a honeycomb-"
"-or catacombs," Bobby murmured darkly, spluttering a cough.
"Yeah, and due to the composition of this meteorite it would be hard to detect if there was any life in it, which would be made harder by the technology of the Striker Empire. I wonder how much of Asinistra Four was really destroyed?"
The Doctor muttered something indecipherable before striding off to explore. "Careful now Rose, these Asinistrans sound very dodgy from what Jack's said."
"Wait, Doctor, what about Bobby?" She indicated the prone helpless boy, lying in an awkward position. He lifted his head gingerly and gave them the briefest of smiles.
"You go, go save the world," he murmured listlessly. He shuddered as a spasm wracked his body. "I'll…be safe here…no one around…to find me…" His eyes dulled and his breathing settled.
"Poor boy," the Doctor leant against the wall, eyes closed. "Must need to shut down his whole system so he can fight the virus." He sighed, and there was real pain in his expression, almost if he was feeling what Bobby must have been suffering right now. "But it will be a losing battle, and no matter how prolonged it is, he will end up like all the others, and there is nothing that we can do…"
Damn him! Rose thought. Why is he wallowing in misery? What does he have to be miserable about, she mused wonderingly.
"…until we get to the bottom of this mess and sort it all out!" He looked up, and the light was back in his eyes, brighter than before, only now it burned with a fiery resolve. "You heard the guy- he'll be safe for now, so let's go!"
Rose followed him, and together, they advanced down a tunnel- chosen entirely by random, Rose suspected. The Doctor was right in what he'd said about the place being like a honeycomb.
"Sweet!" Mickey crowed as Jack turned into the street driving a fully equipped Rhino. The tank was state of the art, newly commissioned by so and so, and it was loaded will full on military artillery.
"Borrowed it from the museum up north!" Jack called. "We'd better be quick, I don't think the cops are best pleased!"
Mickey shook his head as Jack switched the engine off. He didn't need to shout now to make himself heard. Jack climbed out of the tank and jumped to the ground catlike, before getting up to admire his personal taste in military extravaganza.
"That's a threat to national security," Mickey shook his head, eyes full of wonder. He stroked the cold hard metal, and he looked as if Christmas had come early.
Jack laughed to himself. Mickey was still just a little kid.
He turned to the TARDIS, careful this time not to touch the time machine. "Come on now, let's crack this baby!"
The engines roared as Jack turned the ignition, giving the tank all she had. Reversing slowly, until he had the TARDIS in his line of sight, he gave Mickey the thumbs up. "Get the hell away from here now!"
Mickey nodded, and ran down to the other end of the street. Under the dim street lamps, he was sweating. From the weather or sheer excitement, he didn't know. It had been so long since he'd really felt anything, but he wasn't going to let himself get carried away. No matter what, the Doctor and that Jack guy were still dangerous- every time that phone box showed up it meant trouble, and Mickey had no intention of cutting his life span short of fifty years. Safe behind a wall, he peeked out and prayed that everyone was too preoccupied with the weird new disease or the heat wave to notice.
Jack pushed a button and the weapons lined themselves up with the TARDIS in a screech of metal. No! He didn't want to blast the thing. Pressing what he assumed to be cancel, his mouth opened in horror as the guns opened fire on the TARDIS.
Hit cancel dammit! The whine of bullets ceased immediately as Jack, after trying five different buttons, managed to get the right one. Appropriately, it had been marked STOP. Sighing, he wiped away beads of sweat and ignored Mickey's "what the hell do you think you're doing?" and concentrated. From where he was sat, the forcefield seemed to have not taken the slightest damage. But, the guns had been low grade.
It was time to ram the baby. Surely people would've noticed him by now, so there was only one thing for it. Grinning insanely, he hit the gears and the tank rolled.
Picking up speed, Jack counted silently to himself- 5…4…3…please work…2…1…his eyes widened…BAM!
In a shower of blue sparks the force field yielded to what must've been at least ten tonnes, and with an eerie screech tore open, disintegrating immediately.
"Phew, that wasn't so hard," he chirped, emerging from the tank.
Mickey climbed over the wall and bounded to the TARDIS. "It worked, didn't it?"
"Yeah." Jack ran a hand through his hair.
"Well, what are you waiting for? Aren't you gonna go and save the world?"
In the sleepy orange light, Jack hesitated before replying. "Yeah…but there's something else I need to take care of first…"
Mickey stared at him. "You mean that Knife thing you guys were going on about earlier?"
Jack nodded gloomily, storm clouds over his head. "I'm a marked man, I keep sensing on it's presence nearby…and I just feel so cold."
"Tell you what," Mickey murmured. "You're slightly nicer than that weird Doctor guy…I know a few toughs around here, so I can help you look for it…but first you got to get that tank out of here!"
"Oh," Jack mumbled sheepishly. He hoisted himself back up, and was about to climb in when Mickey cut through.
"Say, you know the weather, do you think it's related to that alien disease?"
Jack smiled thinly. "I don't think it, I know it. The virus is electronically based, and what happens to electricity? The more resistance it meets, the more friction is produced, and friction equals heat. Every time the virus spreads, it's heating uo the atmosphere."
"Don't you think we should tell the Doc?"
"No need, he'll have figured it out ages ago."
The tunnels were becoming more and more lifelike, as if these ones were more often used. The darkness had been replaced by a subtle glow that seemed to be emanating from the walls themselves.
"Fungus," the Doctor grunted. Rose sometimes wondered if he was really psychic or not. "Creates it's own self sustaining atmosphere- reason why we…you haven't shrivelled up and died yet. I wasn't sure until we reached here."
Rose was slightly taken back. "You mean you didn't know whether we were going to live or not when we fell out of that vortex?"
"Well…not really. But we did, right?" The Doctor beamed, disregarding Rose's scowl.
Inside, she knew…well she hoped that the Doctor was just being…well himself, and that he really did know what was going on because she sure as hell didn't. So consumed by her thoughts she was; that she didn't see where she was going until she tripped over something.
Yelling something obscene, Rose grabbed the Doctor's arm and managed to steady herself.
"Yikes Rose, what was the need for that?" His gaze travelled to Rose's feet, and froze.
The 'something' Rose tripped over happened to be a 'someone'. A body lay spread-eagled, half encased in a dark beetle like armour. It's limbs were a light purple, and apart from the colour the body seemed humanoid, though the hair was more thick and tentacle like, obscuring the face.
The Doctor set Rose down and brushed away the hair to reveal two giant bulbous pools of darkness for eyes, still open. Moving back, he noticed the legs of the being for the first time. From the waist down, the figure stopped being humanoid and turned alien. It must have had about six legs- all bunched together like a jellyfish, only now they were bent and twisted at sharp angles where the creature had fallen in it's final resting place.
The Doctor stood up, and ushered for Rose to move on.
"What was that thing?" She whispered in hushed tones.
"I'm not sure," the Doctor replied. "I've never encountered a creature like that one before so this is all new to me too."
They continued on in silence. The dead alien served to remind them how serious the situation was, how much in danger they truly were.
"Come on, we've tried Baker, Meatloaf, Skids and Razor…we've only got another two left to go before I'm fresh out of ideas." Mickey dragged his feet along the pavement. Most of the toughs had been wary on his appearance at their porches…one of them was currently in hospital, so he'd had a free run of the house.
"Nothing," he'd said to Jack and they'd left. There were too many bad guys living here, he sighed. Maybe when Rose came back, they could… He shook himself free of those thoughts. Rose wasn't going to come back and he knew it. So why was he getting caught up in all this, why was he still hoping?
Glancing at Jack, he saw that he was shivering again. They must be nearer- so it was Paddy's gang Jack had gotten rough with. Mickey whistled. His respect for Jack had increased by a notch.
Turning into a shabby street, he caught the word- die amongst other profanities scrawled across the walls. He hoped that nothing like that would happen…though from what Jack had told him about the Knife…how it would seek it's target to the last atom on the galaxy.
"I'll sort this one out," Jack said to Mickey, indicating that he should wait at the gate.
"Your funeral," Mickey muttered.
Jack had his hand on his blaster as he knocked on the door.
"Yeah, who is this?" A hooded guy answered the door warily. It sounded like there was a guy night in.
"Dammit, did you seen that chick Beth at Stacy's?" Someone called.
"Nah, heard she got that dodgy virus. All strung up too, with your poser of a brother Bobby," another one replied.
"Leave Bobby out of this!"
Jack smiled inwardly. They'd gotten the right place. "Say…you don't know anything about a knife right?" He was praying that they'd forgotten what he looked like. "Only I'm a collector and I heard that there was a real rare one around." Don't overdo it…
"Yeah, I got your knife," the youth who'd defended Bobby appeared. It seemed that they were related, probably brothers. The guy had brown hair, spiked up just like Bobby's, only his face was a lot tougher. There was a long scar running down his cheek, and his eyes were narrowed suspiciously.
"What do you want for it?"
"What you got?" The guy challenged back. The hooded guy left the youth and Jack to it.
"You like driving?"
"Sure I do…say, don't I know you from somewhere…?" The kid peered closer at Jack, and he could smell the alcohol in his breath.
"Yeah, I was at Stacy's too," he said hastily.
"Damn good party that was," the kid slurred. "S'where I got my blade from too." He produced the weapon, and Jack recoiled. The blade knew he was here, and it seemed to be straining to get at him.
"Who gave it to you?"
The youth frowned. "Some person all cloaked up. Couldn't see their face. Said they'd…they wanted to get rid of it…but I swear they were purple…they looked sickly, man." He suddenly rounded on Jack. "You gotta help my brother, they said he's in hospital!"
Jack backed away. The guy looked desperate. "Erm…"
"There was this real tosser, took on Paddy's bird so we had to sort him out, know what I mean?" He reeled forward. "Would've showed him too, but the guy was like uber fast…it was unreal. Dammit, I shouldn't have run away, I should've stayed to the end, then maybe Bobby…"
"Hey man, I know what happened to Bobby," Jack murmured, an idea springing to mind. The kid was still holding onto the Knife. "That virus…he caught it from…" he tried to imagine someone who'd died. It wasn't hard. "About yay high…grey hair…bit weird…name's…Albert…Albert Einstein."
Mickey kicked himself.
"Einstein huh? Who does this brainiac think he is? I'm gonna kill him when I find him…"
That's right, Jack thought silently to himself as the Knife glowed faintly. Take it away from me. He laughed as he thought of how the Knife would never find it's new target.
"The deal?" Jack said when he was sure the Knife had finished readjusting.
"A tank for the weapon."
"A tank!" The youth's eyes widened.
"The Rhino, specifically. And here are the keys in good faith," Jack said, dangling a set of keys from his finger. "It's parked up in North Street."
"Woah, deal!" The youth grabbed the keys and tossed the Knife to Jack.
"Pleasure doing business with you," Jack nodded and left with a huge grin.
"The tank?" Mickey cried, running up to meet him. "You mean you didn't return it to the museum?"
"Sure I did," Jack said evenly. "But the kid doesn't know that."
There was a bright light up ahead. Rose crept towards it, and as she rounded the corner, she saw that the tunnel opened into a cavern bigger than the one she'd arrived in. It was exactly the same as the other one, only this one was buzzing with life. Hundreds of those purple humanoid beings milled about, engrossed in whatever it was they were doing. A bank of monitors lined a wall, and a select group of the creatures were studying them with increased interest.
As the Doctor appeared beside her, the creatures studying the monitors turned as one to face them, weapons cocked.
For the record, I don't know anything about tanks, other than what I've seen on the video game GTA3, so most of the functions and buttons…well the whole tank related thing is kinda made up.
For the alien race, I borrowed some features from the character of Spydra in the cartoon Gadget Boy. I don't know…the image of her just sprang to mind when I was planning this fic.