While this story could theoretically be read on its own, it's written as a sequel to my stories, "The Girl in the Stalking Spaceship", "Age of Bronze", and "Lantern Extinguished". Enjoy!

Thanks again to my betas, KateCarter and Saavik13, for looking this over for me!

Disclaimer: Surprise, surprise, I don't own Doctor Who. Nor do I get anything from writing these stories--except wonderful, constructive reviews! Wink, wink; nudge, nudge ;)


Chapter 1, Escape

The Doctor climbed to his feet amidst the tremors in the cavern. "Oh, you beautiful girl," he said to the TARDIS, fitting his key into the lock. He burst through the doors and up to the console. Flipping a series of levers, he looked in dismay at the scanner. "Coordinates unknown?! How can they be unknown?" he asked his ship. "Never mind. If dematerialization's out, we'll fly the old fashioned way!" With that, he launched the TARDIS into the air, soaring out of the pit. The Doctor watched in amazement as the readout ticked off the miles he'd fallen. He very well might have been at the center of the planet.

As the TARDIS landed at the edge of the pit, the Doctor was nearly knocked off his feet with the planet's convulsions. He raced out through the doors, quickly discovering the unconscious Ida and drawing her into the ship. He took only enough time to remove her helmet before he was back at the console, attempting another dematerialization sequence. "Still no coordinates? Fine!" He steered the TARDIS up the shaft, determined to reach the sanctuary base before it was swept off the face of the planet.

To his horror, ten miles up, the scanner displayed the bare and quickly-disintegrating surface of the planet. Not a trace of the base remained. "The rocket," he murmured, initiating a scan of the surrounding space. Relief flooded him as the TARDIS located and locked onto the rocket, which, in the absence of the gravity funnel, was now hurtling back towards the planet and the black hole beyond.

"Three sets of human life signs detected," the Doctor read from the display. So, the Ood hadn't escaped. Neither had half the crew.

But was Rose even on board?

It seemed the TARDIS had read his mind—which she very well might have—because, in the right hand corner of the screen, the flashing words, "TARDIS KEY DETECTED" appeared. "Brilliant!" the Doctor exclaimed. "Knew I was right to believe in you, Rose Tyler!" he said, becoming decidedly "not giddy" at how close he was to seeing Rose again. Alright, so, he was excited. Sue him.

The Doctor stepped away from the console to check on Ida as the TARDIS moved to intercept the rocket. She was still unconscious, but breathing well, and her pulse was steady. He propped her feet up, then returned to the console, increasing the oxygen content of the onboard atmosphere, just as the rocket came within range.

A quick manipulation of the TARDIS' gravity field, and the rocket was safely in tow, headed for normal space. After just a bit of jiggery pokery, the Doctor had the rocket's comm. patched into the TARDIS.

He heard Zach's astonished voice, apparently unaware that he was now broadcasting. "We're turning around. We're turning away!"

"Sorry about the hijack, captain," the Doctor replied. "This is the good ship TARDIS. Now, first things first: have you got a Rose Tyler on board?"

The most beautiful sound in the universe—to the Doctor, anyway—came in response. "I'm here! It's me! Oh, my God! Where are you?"

The Doctor couldn't help but smile, hearing his own relief mirrored in Rose's voice. "I'm just towing you home. Gravity, schmavity. My people practically invented black holes. Well, in fact, they did. In a couple of minutes, we'll be nice and safe. Oh, and captain, can we do a swap? Say, if you give me Rose Tyler . . . I'll give you Ida Scott? How about that?"

"She's alive!" "Yes! Thank God," the Doctor heard Zach and Danny yell over the comm.

He glanced over at Ida. "Yeah, bit of oxygen starvation, but she should be all right. I couldn't save the Ood. I only had time for one trip. They went down with the planet." The TARDIS signaled that they were clear of the black hole's gravitational pull. "Ah! Entering clear space. End of the line, mission closed."

At long last, the Doctor was able to set up a dematerialization sequence, but he wasn't about to put the TARDIS through too much strain. One quick hop into the rocket's cargo hold, then he'd let her get nice and recalibrated.


To be continued.