In this place, all was quiet and still as it waited for the return of its master and his companion, the lights on its hexagonal control consoles pulsing softly in hues of reds, greens and yellows, its innards of wires, circuit boards and other indescribable contrivances humming in quiet harmony.
Harmony that was abruptly broken as the TARDIS detected the rapid approach of two lifeforms on its perimeter scanners, one of which bore the double-heartbeat of its owner. It unlocked the door to muffled shouts, cracks and bangs.
It wasn't long before the doors were flung open and a young black woman was pushed through rather unceremoniously, stumbling backwards up the ramp. She was quickly followed by what seemed to be a slightly older man, but who exuded a sense of wisdom far beyond his years. He backed hurriedly through the door, his eyes and attention drawn to what was outside, hounding them. As another crack rang out, ricocheting above his head, the man jumped back despite himself, slamming into his companion and sending them both sprawling to the floor in a heap.
Crying out in alarm, he disentangled himself quickly and kicked out a sneakered foot to close the doors behind him, more shots and shouts answering his actions as they banged closed and locked automatically. The gunfire continued unabated as the two of them picked themselves off the floor and checked for injuries. When none presented themselves they caught each other's eye, remembered how close they'd just been and backed away from each other wordlessly, their faces saying everything.
Running a hand through his ruffled head of brown hair, the man looked around him absentmindedly. "Should have known this was going to happen," he muttered darkly to himself, "and, I mean, why not? It's not like trouble ever had a problem finding us before, why should now be any different…and did I ever mention how much I hate – positively loathe – guns?" as if in answer another shot rang-out, this one cracking distinctively against the door. "Please tell me that wasn't one of my windows?" he groaned. "You wouldn't believe how hard it is to get those replaced; over half a billion – no, gazillion – glaziers throughout time and space, and not one of them can fit a police box window, silly really – sorry," he seemed to snap back to reality, "where were we?" Bang! "Oh, yes! Getting out of here, right now!"
Just like that, he was over by the controls, his hands flying as if with a mind of their own. Looking at him, standing tall in his smart blue suit, without much serious care for the dangers outside, the woman couldn't help but be amused; sometimes it seemed that he never moved, that he simply disappeared and reappeared somewhere else entirely.
"Sounds great," she assured him hurriedly as the shots picked up their relentless assault. "Really great! Where to?"
"Somewhere without guns!" he cried, looking up from the console as he slammed his palm down on the final button in the sequence. Almost instantly, the humming picked-up and intensified as the central column glowed brightly, a contraption within rising and deflating like bellows. The noise outside didn't so much fade away as get drowned out by the time machine as it picked them up and out of reality and pitched them both into the space-time continuum.
The man in the blue suit frowned despite their newfound safety. "Not a lot of places I know of that can fix Time Lord technology, either," he mused softly, staring off into the distance, "looks like I'll be getting my hands dirty for a lifetime…"
"Sorry," the woman threw up her hands, "what just happened back there?"
"You just got your wish, Martha, that's what."
Martha Jones scowled at him, "I asked for music, for culture, for history. I don't remember asking to be shot at by all of Dick Tracey's enemies!"
"Naaah, they weren't nearly colourful enough," he shook his head slightly as he leant back on the railing. "Besides, you can't honestly expect to visit America's Great Jazz Age and not get shot at. It just went together, like…like chalk and cheese!" he caught himself, frowned, and looked to her, "What does that mean, by the way? 'Chalk and cheese'? I never figured it out… the two don't go together at all - unless you're a Happlegant from the Zantax system, then maybe..."
"Excuse me, Doctor," Martha interjected firmly, "but last I heard, the history books never mentioned musicians packing a tuba and a Tommy gun!"
"Yeess, but they do mention that the Jazz Age was twinned with America's Prohibition Era, both sharing the years from 1920-29. Quite often, in fact – a lot, actually: gangsters, smuggling, bootlegging, gunrunning, concrete shoes…and, for the record, Martha? Probably not such a wise decision, telling Mr. Capone to his face that his beloved Jazz 'isn't all that.' He may have just taken offence at that."
"Oh, you really think – wait, Capone? As in, Al Capone?"
"Uh-huh, the most powerful crime lord of the Prohibition, and quite the lover of a good sax solo, it would seem. Those," at this the Doctor motioned towards the door even though no one was outside any longer, "were his men, I shouldn't reckon."
"Ah, well, that sure explains everything…so," Martha piped-up with feigned happiness, eager to change the subject, "where are we going, again?"
"Egypt!" grinned the Doctor, clapping his hands together excitedly. "The reign of Ramesses II, also known as 'Ramesses the Great', third Pharaoh of Egypt in its Nineteenth Dynasty…which would place us," he drew out this last word as he consulted the chronometer, "Yep! Martha, we'll soon be arriving in the year 1215 BC!" his eyes narrowed, considering this statement. "Isn't this the furthest back I've taken you?"
"I've lost track of the dates, Doctor," she grinned with a shrug.
"Anyway, I don't know why the TARDIS is taking us there – I set the flight for emergency escape, which allowed her to choose wherever she pleased – but I don't care, honestly, because there aren't any guns waaay back then, which is always good! Mind you," he murmured, "some of those spears can give you a nasty nip…"
The TARDIS landed with a jarring, unbalanced groan, throwing Martha off her feet for the second time in as many minutes. The Doctor only avoided a similar fate by gripping the railing so tightly his knuckles turned white as bone. "Now, that's never a good sign," he muttered as the whole room continued to rock and lurch.
Then everything turned on its side and almost upside-down as a rumbling like an earthquake came over the TARDIS, sparks, debris and personal belongings flying through the air, showering down around Martha and the Doctor as they hung on for dear life.
"Do something!" she screamed desperately above the shriek and grinding of beaten machinery.
"Like what? I can't reach the anything to do anything!" he roared back as the shower of sparks burned black, smouldering dots in his suit. "Looks like we'll just have to ride –"
And, just like that, all was still.
" – it out…Ha-ha, see?" he cheered up immediately, unfazed in an instant.
"Great, Doctor, just great."
"Uh-huh!" there was that mad, beaming grin again.
"But we're still upside-down."
"That we are, Martha, that…we are," there was no denying it. "But at least I should be able to reach…the," he threw out a hand towards the central consoles, fingers splayed in a vain effort to lengthen his reach. They crawled over buttons somewhat gingerly before coming to rest on a particular lever, which he gripped and pulled in one swift motion. "The Automatic Landing Stabilisers! Got it…"
"And what exactly does the Automatic Land Stabiliser –"
The TARDIS seemed to blink out of existence for a split-second, before reappearing the right way up…and several feet below them, the Doctor and Martha falling back to the floor awkwardly.
" – do? And ow!"
"Plucks the TARDIS out and back into time so quickly the human mind barely registers it. In that time it simple rights itself, although I could have sworn I'd made modifications exactly so we wouldn't end up in the air," rubbing his aching elbows, the Doctor stepped back to the console nearest him and gave it a quick look. Then he did a double take and smiled broadly. "Oh…oh, we didn't."
"Didn't what?" Martha groaned as she picked herself up off the floor.
"Okay, so we did what?" she corrected herself.
"We, Martha Jones, have just – uh, well I suppose surfed is as good a word as any, yeah – surfed down the side of the Pyramid of Giza!"
"Didn't we just go through this?" the Doctor grinned cheekily. "Yes, we did…one of Capone's monkeys must have struck the TADIS' landing gear, so to speak, because she got all confused and plonked us right smack-bang on the tip of the Pyramid! Can you believe that?"
"No," Martha sighed with a warm smile of her own. "But I think I'm getting used to that…"
"Really?" he blinked at her curiously. "Because I've been doing this for nigh on nine hundred years, and even I don't believe it."
"I must just be more adaptable than you," she told him with joking smugness.
"Ye-eah…tell you what, change into something more suitable –"
"Something lighter, it's terribly hot out there."
" – Yeah, change and we can – what now?"
His attention was drawn to the doors, where a soft, tentative knocking was coming. He looked to Martha, eyebrow raised. "Who on Earth could that be?" he murmured, stroking his chin curiously, his eyes bearing into the doors as if trying to see through them. When this totally failed to produce results, and the knocking went on unabated for almost thirty seconds, he broke himself out of his trance, stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Guess I better find out, really."
In a heartbeat, he was over by the door and, with an excited glance back at Martha, quickly flung them open. Standing in wide-eyed wonder, he smiled amiably at someone out of her sight. "Oh, hello! Yes…uh-huh…well, that is a good question, now isn't it?"
"Who are they, Doc – ow!" Martha cried out as she stood beside him, rubbing her ribs from where he had hastily elbowed her. "Okay, what do they want, then?"
"These nomads –" that caused a bit of an outburst from the trio of rugged men standing just outside the TARDIS. " – sorry, merchants…well, they were just asking if we were okay and if they could give us a lift to the nearest city, which I believe is Cairo."
"A lift? On what?"
A guttural moan drew her attention out over the merchants' shoulders where a small band of camels were standing, lashed to trees that looked radically out of place in the desert. "You have got to be joking."
"Manners, Martha," the merchant on the far-right whispered urgently to the central figure, who in turn relayed the question to the Doctor in a tongue Martha was surprised the TARDIS failed to translate for her. "Sorry, did you says others?" he asked, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. The merchant nodded. "That can't be right…"
"Must be superstitious rumour…"
"Oh, right, sorry…these merchants want to know if us," he paused, eyeing the three merchants for confirmation, "gods are here to meet with the others."
"Other what?" asked his companion weakly, already dreading the answer.