Candlelight flickered in the console room. A soft jazz number played in the background. Up on the dais the Doctor's legs poked out from under the console, his feet bobbing merrily as he tinkered. The soft background thrum of the Tardis echoed in the vast, librarylike space.
The bleeping of a distress call shattered the peace. The Doctor bolted upright and hit his head on the underside of the console. With an oath he jumped up and slapped irritably at the volume control, muting the siren.
He deftly worked the controls, locating the origin of the distress call. "Hmm," he checked the readouts, "Automated distress beacon, no further information." He stared up at the the old fashioned monitor which showed a large spherical ceramic ship rolling placidly through space. The ship had a few nicks and dings and some smudges of meteor collisions, which only enhanced its resemblance to a cue ball. There was no apparent damage, no hostile attacking aliens.
"Interesting." With a grin, he kicked the toolbox underneath the console and started setting coordinates.
The Tardis materialized in a long corridor. The Doctor stepped out, a slender man in a bottle green coat and cravat, he looked around. The corridor was deserted. He stuffed his hands in his pants pockets and did a quick turn, then set off in a random direction.
The ship walls were the flat gray color of potter's clay with a wide strip of energized crystals in the ceiling providing light. Potted plants dotted the corridor at regular intervals, giving it the look of a college campus, or a doctor's office. The Doctor inhaled the air that had that wonderful earthy smell of a countryside after the rain.
He leaned forward to examine the wall, scratching at it with his fingernail. He pressed hard with his thumb. The wall gave, leaving a shallow thumbprint.
He looked up at the sound of footsteps.
A young man in a yellow and black uniform approached down the corridor, oblivious to the Doctor. The Doctor watched as he knelt in front of a plain section of wall and used a spray bottle to mist a portion of the wall a dark gray. He returned the bottle to a loop on his belt and drew a machete, which he stabbed into the wall, cutting out a circle as big as his head, mitering the cut so the circle couldn't fall back into the wall. He pushed his fingertips into the clay and lifted out a circle, a good six inches thick, from the wall and set it aside.
Inside the wall was an easily recognizable array of electronics.
The Doctor casually walked up behind the boy, munching on jelly babies. "What's the trouble?" he asked.
The boy turned and looked him over with preternatural calm. "I don't know you," he said, disinterested.
"I'm the Doctor. Have a jelly baby?"
"No. Thank you." The boy turned back to his work.
"So what's going on?" The Doctor looked over his shoulder.
The boy flicked some switches inside the circuitry and all the power lights came on, lines humming. "The captain said to cut all external communication lines until the baby is found." He picked up his machete and slipped its wide metal blade in behind the mess of electrical wires.
"Wait!" The Doctor lunged forward.
The boy yanked the machete, severing the wires.
Blue lightning exploded from the circuitry. An aura of crackling blue energy surrounded the boy, he jerked. The Doctor was blown backward by the explosion.
The young technician calmly picked up the circle of clay and fitted it back into its niche over the burned out mess of wires. He didn't seem to notice anything odd had happened. He used his thumbs to smooth the cut edges of the clay back together and turned to the Doctor. "I'll take you to the captain if you like. He'll help you with whatever your business is." He retrieved his knife, settled the spray bottle back in its loop, and wiped his hands on a towel before tucking it back in his pocket.
That was different, the Doctor thought. Usually he was grabbed and hauled up before the authorities whether he like it or not. This young man seemed completely indifferent, almost detached. Mystified, the Doctor waved a hand for him to lead the way.
The boy wasn't much of a conversationalist. In fact, he seems singularly uninterested in why the Doctor was there.
The Doctor filled in the time examining the architecture. He saw a vertical rod traveling along a track parallel to the wall, misting water on the walls, keeping them from drying out completely. Fascinated, he stuck his finger into the spray, tasted it, plain water. What an unusual way to maintain walls.
He'd been aboard more spacecraft that he cared to remember but this was the first one that looked like it was made of adobe. In fact it reminded him a great deal of Zanak. They passed by open archways leading to a high ceilinged open courtyard, plants hung in baskets from hooks in the walls. The artificial light in the courtyard simulated sunlight.
Around the second corner they met their first people, a couple of guards. "Hold! State your business!" They were clothed in uniforms similar to the boy's except that theirs were red and sported weapons holsters instead of a tool belt. And they were edgy. "Jayden, what are you doing down here?" the senior of the two asked.
"Severing communications lines. Captain's orders," the boy answered. The Doctor stood still and watched. Something very unusual was going on. Jayden was answering the guard in a flat, almost rote voice, devoid of all expression or life. While the other guard, the one not talking, was as agitated as Jayden was listless. He virtually hopped back and forth, his eyes darting everywhere with an increasingly maniacal gleam in them.
"His knife!" the antsy guard shrieked. He launched himself at Jayden. The boy was knocked to the ground as the guard pounced on him. Jayden sat placidly, leaning back on his elbows as the frantic guard, laying across him, scrabbled Jayden's knife out of its scabbard and held it down to the floor, beating it with the butt of his gun as if it were a poisonous snake, shrieking unintelligibly all the while.
Jayden exploded upward in a gout of fire. The Doctor and the other awestruck guard were thrown backwards by the force of the flames.
When they looked back, all that remained of Jayden and the guard was a black scorch mark on the floor and a pile of melted metal that had once been the knife.
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