"I don't know, " Rose said, twisting a strand of hair uneasily.
"It will be fun," he grinned. "Don't be a chicken."
The look she shot him was meant to stab both his hearts and he knew it. With a boyish grin he ruffled his already unruly hair. "Well, we can always travel somewhere else."
Rose looked over to the structure again. He could see her doubts still written clearly on her face.
"You know I've a odd feeling about this building," she said absentmindedly still staring transfixed at it.
He shrugged. "It's just a structure."
She shot him a glance. "I can see that."
He grinned. "Then let's go."
She looked back at the building. "What's that in the third window?"
He turned to look. "Where?"
"There." She pointed to the four windows above the entrance.
He squinted his eyes, but could only make out a shadow. "Could be anything – a piece of furniture, maybe?"
She tilted her head. "Guess you're right, but doesn't the shape remind you of something?"
He looked at her surprised. "A desk? Does it really matter?"
She flashed him a smile. "What the heck, the TARDIS chose it. I bet you can call it—"
"Destiny?" he finished for her as he held out his hand.
Rose's smile widened as she took it. "Exactly!"
In two steps they crossed the deserted parking lot and were up the stairs leading into the building with DESTINY written in big letters over the entrance. A marble reception hall as empty as the parking lot greeted them. Rose looked around as the Doctor marched behind the desk and ran his sonic screwdriver over the terminal.
"Where is everybody?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "How should I know?"
Her head snapped back to him. "You're THE DOCTOR, remember?"
He looked up grinning. "That's who I am!"
Rose rolled her eyes, but let him get away with it this time. She strolled over to the blank panel board stretching out a hand hesitantly.
"Don't touch!" The Doctor shouted behind her. Rose jumped back a meter.
He grinned. "That was pretty impressive!"
"What?" She asked irritated. "You scared the heck out of me!"
"Well, we don't know what they are," he explained condescendingly.
"Since when did that ever stop us?" she shot back.
He tilted his head. "You're right. Touch it then! Go ahead. Never mind me, the time traveler."
Rose looked at him, uncertain. "What are they?"
"Direction boards," he said scanning the terminal again.
"So they're harmless?"
"Oh, yeah," he replied absentmindedly.
Rose turned around, marched over to him and swatted his arm hard.
"Ow, what was that for?" He looked up, hurt.
"For scaring the shit out of me!" Her eyes were flashing.
"Well, it could have been a transporter."
"Whatever," she turned around and tramped back to the panels.
Confused, he turned back to the terminal. Women! "You know, I was just looking out for you," he said, examining the information. "Rose?" Flipping further and further into the systems information, he read on. "This information is useless." Still no response. He searched deeper and deeper, but something was nagging at the back of his mind. "There has to be something in here. Did you find anything?" His eyes followed the rapid down scrolling of the text. "Rose?" Silence. "Rose!" He looked up. The hall was empty. There were no other hallways, stairs or exits. He glanced into the parking lot.
"Rose!" His frantic shout echoed through the hall.
She had to have been transported. That was the only logical explanation. Standing before the panels, he waved his sonic screwdriver over them, but came up empty. They were just direction boards. Deep frowns wrinkled his face as he circled the hall rummaging through his coat for inspiration. It was on his third round, when he heard her. The scream was high pitched as it resonated through hall.
"Rose!" His call joined hers, but the hall remained empty.
"The doctor! You will surrender!"
He shot around to the panel with a sinking feeling. This metallic voice haunted many of his nightmares. He would recognize it any time.
A holographic screen confirmed his premonition. Shining golden-metal with its telescopic arms sticking out and blinking in bright yellow lights when speaking, there stood a Dalek. It pointed its exterminator arms at Rose's heart.
The Doctor's shoulders slumped slightly. They never die!
"Let her go!" He tensed and spoke with as much authority as he could muster.
The Dalek cackled, his ear-like lights flashing. "The Doctor will surrender or his companion dies."
Rose looked at him. "Don't listen!"
The Doctor looked back at her while addressing the Dalek. "I accept your terms."
"No!" Rose screamed as she was shuffled out of the screen. "Don't do it! Doctor? Doctor!"
He heard her off screen. "Where are you taking her?"
"To a safe place. She will be held—"
The Doctor didn't bother to let him finish. "Release her and I'll come."
"The DaLeks take no orders!" Its lights were blinking rapidly. "The Doctor will surrender!"
"Yeah, yeah. We got that part." The Doctor flipped through the panel board with his screwdriver pointed from behind his back. They have to show on here somewhere, he thought.
"The Doctor will surrender!" The Dalek was rattling with excitement. "Stay where you are—"
The Doctor vanished with a grin.
"Exterminate her! Exterminate her!" The Dalek swung around with rage.
A hand pulled her aside into a dark hallway as a blue flash immobilized the two Daleks guarding her.
"Exterminate her! Exterminate her!" resonated through the loudspeakers as the Doctor drew her in a quick embrace.
"Am I glad to see you," Rose mumbled into his ear.
He grinned as they pulled apart and opened his mouth to reply as they heard the familiar sounds of Daleks approaching. "RUN!" He dragged her behind him further into the heart of the building.
"Where are we?" Rose asked several minutes later after running down too many corridors to count. "Or how do we get out?"
"By finding the exit port," the Doctor said over his shoulder. "This way!" He pulled her to move further along, but Rose tugged him hard.
"What?" he spun around.
Rose waved her hand vaguely. "Look around you! We have crossed this intersection twice already."
"No!" He looked around incredulously.
She nodded solemnly. "Here is where I made a dent 'coz I didn't catch the corner fast enough." She rubbed her left shoulder, feeling the bruise throbbing.
He walked over and examined the wall with his screwdriver. He looked over to her – utter surprise written all over his face. Rose was right, not that he would admit it so directly. "You may have a point there." He shuffled the screwdriver back into his pocket. "Nevertheless, we have to find the exit."
But Rose crossed her arms across her chest. "How about the directional panels? We crossed them a couple of times."
He tilted his head. "Now what would be the fun in that?"
At her crossed look, he flashed her a quick smile. "Just kidding. Brilliant idea. Lead the way."
Stunned by his reaction, Rose didn't move for a second. He raised his eyebrows expectantly, so she turned on her heels and marched right into the exterminating arms of a couple of Daleks.
"Exterminate THE human!"
"NOoooo!" The Doctor jumped forward, pushing Rose out of the blast.
"Doctor!" Rose's scream echoed in his ears before all went black.
He was cold. Every part of his body hurt. Cobwebs flocked through his brain like the nebulas of Andromeda. Andromeda? He hadn't been there for centuries – ouch – thinking hurt. I'm just going back to sleep, he thought, but something nagged in the back of his mind. "Rose!" He sat up with a start and regretted it immediately. A blurry blonde shape flung itself around his neck, babbling incoherently.
"You're alive… thought… were dead!"
He held her shaking body; hoping the nauseating spinning in his head would stop any moment. It was good to feel her warm body so close; the rapid beating of her heart helped his hearts to find a steady rhythm.
Rose pulled back, studying him closely as far as he could make out, his sight still being blurred.
"Are you okay?" she asked as he blinked rapidity to clear his vision.
"Say something, please. Anything…"
"Wobbledikopfwasch," was all he could think off.
A big smile enlightened her face. "Well, if you remember that I guess you're all right." She hugged him quickly one more time, totally upsetting his stomach again, but he held on. "Where are we?" He mumbled in her ear.
She pulled back. "Some prison cell, I guess."
He looked around. The room was startling white, making it hard to estimate with no windows or doors. "How did we get here?"
Rose bit her lower lip hugging herself. "I guess the Daleks were as frightened that they had killed you as I was."
The Doctor raised his eyebrows.
Rose shrugged. "Dunno. Guess it wasn't their proper order or something. So they shushed me up, put you in a transport field and dragged us in here."
He rubbed his head, feeling a big bump swelling up nicely. "That explains a lot."
"I thought they killed you!" Rose quivered. "I could see your hearts and bones – like x-ray style."
The Doctor laid his hand on her cheek. "I'm fine, a bit banged up – maybe." He grinned. "So we know where we are and how we got here." He stood up, staggering precariously, but Rose steadied him.
"Thanks." He flashed a smile, hoping the throbbing in his head would decide to stop soon. He rummaged through his pockets. "Where is it?"
Rose held up his sonic screwdriver. "Looking for this?"
A smile grew on his face. "You saved it?"
Rose nodded and handed him the instrument. He flipped it on to test it. "But it doesn't work on the door." Rose added. "Already tried that."
"Nah, it never fails to open doors," the Doctor said reassuringly looking up and walking to – what? He turned on the spot twice.
"There are no doors," Rose pointed out. "That's why I couldn't get it to work."
"WHAT?" He shook his head slightly as if to test if he would see better afterwards and regretted it instantly. This nausea was not gonna go way easily. "We did get in somehow," he looked at Rose.
"A door – maybe." Rose tilted her head, twisting a strand of hair vigorously. "I didn't really notice."
His eyes widened. "How could you not perceive an entrance?"
Rose shrugged her shoulders to avoid eye contact. "It didn't matter."
He stepped closer trying to get Rose to look at him, but she stared stubbornly at the spotless floor. "Rose?" he asked quietly covering the distance between them. Gently he laid his hand on her arm and lifted her chin with the other. Tears were glistering in her eyes.
"I thought you were dead," she mumbled.
He pulled her into a tight embrace. "Nah," he tried to joke as she held on desperately. "You don't get rid off me so easily."
Rose pulled back and shoved him hard. "Don't you ever say that again!" A new fire flashed in her eyes, one he hadn't noticed before making him want to…
"Anyway," he pulled back to shake the sensation off. "The door," he squeaked squeezing his sonic screwdriver hard. "We were looking for an exit."
Rose grinned. "There isn't one, remember? You bumped your head harder than it looked."
He laughed rubbing the soar spot absentmindedly. In two steps, he ran to the next wall and ran his screwdriver across it. "No door." He jumped to the next and the next while Rose watched him, her arms crossed in front of her chest. "And no door," she said in a 'told you so' tone.
"Mmh." He joined her in the middle circling her while saying, "Think. Think. Think." He threw his head back in frustration. A triumph 'Aha' escaped his lips and Rose looked up, too.
"We didn't drop through the ceiling…" she started as his head popped back to look at her.
"No, you didn't, but this is an anti-gravity chamber. You walk in and it adjusts, rearranging the exits."
Rose looked at him dubiously. "You just made that up."
"Yep," he admitted cheerily. "Nevertheless, that's how we get out."
Rose looked up again. "That's pretty high – not to rain on your party," she added with a grin at his incredulous expression.
"Party? Which party?"
"Never mind," she laughed. "Does your screwdriver's range go that far?"
"Of course it does," he said indignantly at the mere idea his favorite tool had limitations.
"Well, open it and who knows," she shrugged her shoulders. "Maybe a cable falls out."
He looked at her dumbfounded.
Uncertain, Rose looked back. "It was just an idea—"
He grabbed her quickly and spun her around. "No, it's brilliant. Should have thought of it myself."
"Oh, well then," was Rose's relieved answer as he joined her laughter.
"Let's try it." Still holding her tight, he lifted his right hand. Blue light waves attacked the ceiling. Without warning, the room revolved. Rose screamed as she held on to the Doctor. Together, they tumbled forward and landed with a loud thud right in front of a door. They looked at each other and laughed.
"It is a revolving room," Rose sputtered between laughs.
"Told you so," the Doctor puffed. He reached out, grabbed her hand and pulled her up beside him. "Let's get out of here."
"Any time!" She grinned.
He stuck his head through the exit and peeked down a long white corridor. "All clear."
"Stop." Rose pulled him back.
"What? We have to get out."
"Yes, I got that hours ago," she snapped. "But look around."
The Doctor followed her order. White hallways stretched out in front of him. All the same, all empty. He raised an eyebrow at Rose.
"Doesn't this look familiar?"
He rubbed his chin. "Us running?"
Rose nodded. "Down the same corridors – over and over again."
He twisted his head to see past her down the hall. "Kind of."
"So, what do we do now?" Rose leant against the wall behind her. "I feel like a lab rat running in a maze."
"Rose – you're brilliant today!" The Doctor chimed as she threw him a half-hearted 'Thanks for nothing' look.
"We are in the destiny maze—," he mumbled.
"The what?" Rose interrupted and earned a raised eyebrow in response. She threw up her arms in mock surrender. "Sorry, please continue."
Happy for the obedient audience, the Doctor rattled off facts and tidbits without stopping for breath. "… Always thought it was a legend." He finished walking around Rose who turned around the spot to follow him.
"So what we do now?"
He stopped dead, tipping his chin with his finger. "Dunno. Never looked into it." He looked at Rose.
"Go to the center?" She grinned.
"Sounds as good a plan as any." He stretched out his hand.
Rose took it as she asked. "Do we have to run?"
The Doctor turned around to her. "What would be the fun without it?"
"Thought so," Rose grinned.
"Left or right?" The Doctor turned to Rose after they'd been running for what seemed like forever again.
"Left," she shouted, excited.
"Left it is then," and they continued. So far they hadn't encountered any more Daleks, but ran twice into a dragon queen from Ostalia, who wasn't very pleased to see her lunch getting away. The Doctor's coat still smoked slightly.
They turned left. The Doctor stopped so abruptly Rose bumped into him, for she had been looking over her shoulder to see if the werewolf was still pursuing them. "Auah," came a muffled sound from his coat as she disentangled herself.
"You will be upgraded," the metallic voice of a Cyberman ran chills down his back.
"Not them too," Rose whispered behind him.
"Destiny is working overtime to keep us from the center," he said slowly, pushing Rose backwards around the corner. "Run!" But Rose was already sprinting down the corridor – the right one this time.
A metallic thud-howl sounded behind them. "Cyberman met werewolf," the Doctor commented dryly.
Rose giggled. "Right on friendly, these two."
They ran on. "So, tell me," Rose puffed between struggling for breath. "Why are they all here?"
The Doctor slowed down a bit to answer. "It's obvious, isn't it?"
Rose rolled her eyes. "Crystal clear," as she ran past him, she called over her shoulder. "Thanks for sharing with the NOT 900 years old time traveler."
Oops, he had done it again. The Doctor sprinted behind her and laid a hand on her back. Rose slowed down slightly, but refused to look at him.
"Sorry – forgot," he offered and Rose cast a side look at him. "There are an awful lot of your friends in the maze."
"Too much for coincidence, you mean?" He grinned, grabbing her hand and taking the lead again.
"You got it," she answered jogging along side him.
"That's what destiny is all about, isn't it?" He glanced at her to see if she was following his line of thought. Rose tilted her head, but didn't answer. This was one of these moments when he hated lecturing, for it was so much fun watching her grasping it. Maybe with a little hint. "We encounter what destiny throws at us."
Rose wrinkled her nose, then a smile flashed over her face. "We have to find our way fighting obstacles."
He nodded, excited. "How better can you describe destiny?"
She grinned. "So this maze just collects them all for us?"
"Thus keeping us off track," he finished.
"To keep us from finding the center," she continued, tapping her finger on her lips. "The reason behind it all."
"Or in this case – the exit," he laughed. "See, you don't need me for answers. You got them all yourself in…" he tapped her forehead and earned an outraged "Ow!" from Rose. He grinned.
She beamed at him. "Part of destiny is to fight your way through what life throws at you."
The Doctor clapped enthusiastic. "Oh, you humans are so philosophical." This earned him a rib stab by Rose. "What was that for?" he cried out in mock hurt.
"Watch out!" Rose shouted pulling him down as a laser beam hit the spot where he had been standing.
"Better keep moving."
"It's so quiet," Rose whispered.
They were walking down a corridor.
The Doctor turned around. "Why are you whispering?" His voice boomed down the hallway and Rose flinched.
"I don't know, but it's eerie."
He gave her skeptical look and marched on.
"We haven't encountered anything for ages," Rose insisted.
"Maybe we are close?" He offered hopeful.
"Yeah, but wouldn't there then be more hindrances?"
"You know," he said stopping so abruptly that she nearly ran into him, "it felt like we passed into the inner circle after the corridor back there."
Rose nodded. "As if we left the monsters behind."
"Different life forms," he corrected.
Rose made a face at him. "Who like to kill us."
He shrugged. "Difference in perspective."
"You would say that," she said, grinning. "So what's this level about, I wonder."
He rubbed his hands. "Won't find out if we stand here."
"Did you notice?" She pointed to both ends of the corridor.
"No turn-offs." He raised an eyebrow.
"There's just one option: forward."
"Well, that's good, isn't it?"
"Dunno, feels too easy." She looked down the corridor.
"Oh, you humans," he exclaimed. "Always prophets of doom."
She stabbed his chest. "Something I picked up traveling with you."
He threw his hands up in mock surrender. "Shall we continue?"
"Lead the way."
They marched, following the bend around to the right and stood in front of a metal door. The silver stood in sharp contrast to the white hallways. Without hesitation, the Doctor took Rose's hand and strode on. The door slid open with a hissing sound behind it they could see a control room.
"The center," the Doctor said excitedly, but as soon as they stepped through an alarm shrieked. The room was suddenly flooded in red light.
"ONE LIFEFORM ONLY!"
They jumped back. The alarm and red lights stopped. The door closed slowly.
"That can't be it," the Doctor said irritated and pulled Rose with him. Instantly, the alarm went off again.
"You should go ahead and see if you can turn it off," Rose shouted over the howling.
The Doctor turned around sharply. "I am not leaving you behind!" He marched on pulling Rose behind him. Two steps into the room. BOOM. He ran head first into a force field. The alarm shrieked louder, and the red lights flashed faster. Annoyed, he rubbed his forehead, motioning Rose to turn back. They returned to the corridor. The howling stopped, the door closed.
The Doctor walked around in circles juggling his sonic screwdriver. "There has to be another way."
"I didn't see a turn-off, you?" Rose looked uncertain.
"No," he said more forcefully than he intended.
Rose turned away from him to look at the door. "Just go ahead. You go through equals one life-form and I follow a few minutes later equals again one life-form." She paused, still not looking at him. Her hand came up as she twisted a strand of hair. She glanced back quickly. "I don't mind."
But he knew her well enough to know she was hiding her fear and anyway, he didn't believe it would work that way.
"Nah, what's the fun in that?" He held out his hand. "We just find another way – TOGETHER."
Rose grinned, jumped to his side and took his hand.
CLICK. A metallic swish and the wall beside them sank into the ground. Rose stepped a little closer to him and he squeezed her hand.
"The center," he said positively surprised. "So it's all about choices."
Rose looked at him. "What?"
He grinned. "The right choice shall lead you there." He said in a deep Zen voice.
Rose laughed. "Who is being philosophical now?"
"Shall we leave, then?"
"Lead the way, master." Rose gave a mock bow.
They walked into the control room where a circle of blue light pulsated. Standing close to each other, the Doctor said, "Parking lot – TARDIS."
The blue lights engulfed them and he felt the hair on his neck prickle. Rose leant closer to him. The light faded as the TARDIS materialized in front of them.
"It worked," Rose shrieked as she danced towards the TARDIS. Cautiously, she knocked on the door to see if it was real.
"Nobody's home," he couldn't resist saying.
Rose rolled her eyes, but laughed. Then her glance gazed over to the building behind them. He turned around too. For a moment, they contemplated the modern looking building in silence.
DESTINY – the letters shown brightly in the late afternoon light. The building had an irresistible attraction to it and he felt the urge to go back. Rose stepped beside him and took his hand. It broke the connection. He stared at the third window on the right. A cylindrical shape moved as if on wheels in the shadows.
"Creepy," Rose muttered beside him.
He looked down at her. "That's destiny for you."