A Rose in the Basement
The Doctor was in the basement. This is where they stored most of the mannequins but his sonic screwdriver indicated this wasn't where the relay was located.
Okay, up on the roof. Logical really. He pocketed the screwdriver and worked his way back to the service elevators through the maze of corridors. He could hear people leaving the building for the day. Someone nearby was yelling for someone, probably their ride. The building would empty out soon. Good. None of the mannequins were active yet, but he checked all the doors anyway, making sure they were locked, no need to give the Autons an easy way out once the fire started, best to keep them confined to the building.
He pulled one door shut, locked it, and moved on around the corner, deep in thought. It had surprised him to find traces of Nestene emissions coming from Earth. He'd have thought they'd learned their lesson the last two times they tried to invade. But lots of things had been unsettled since the war, species going outside their normal parameters as they tried to adapt to their new situations.
He turned the corner and stopped to wrap a length of fire hose around the handles of a fire door. He'd been busy ever since the war, putting out brush fires here and there, he'd barely had time to glance at himself after his regeneration, pulled immediately into another crisis. It was probably a good thing. If he'd had time to think....
What was that?
He finished tying off the hose and turned to cock his head. The mannequins were becoming active. No time for more precautions. He headed for the roof at a trot. He thought he heard a yell and stumbled to a stop. Wasn't everyone out of the building by now? There was the sound of a scramble from the next room. That wasn't any sound an Auton would make. A voice again, muffled by the walls.
That definitely wasn't the sound any Auton would make. There was someone in there. He ran to the nearest door and yanked it open.
Why was it always a girl?
She was cowering near the wall, a group of Autons crowded close, one raised his hand, ready to chop her.
He didn't think. He just reached out his hand and grabbed her. She looked at him, startled.
He yanked her out of the room just as the Auton smashed the steam pipe beside her. She yelped as the steam stung her bottom and ran faster.
He hauled her down the corridor, her young hand tight in his. He searched for the way out.
All the Autons were active now, not just the ones chasing them, he could hear ones in the other rooms banging against their doors, ones behind the display grills reached out for them, making the girl duck and squeak.
He found the elevator and pulled her inside. He turned just as the elevator doors closed on the horde that had been following them.
Hah! An arm! Yes, that would help him track down the Nestene controller. He grabbed the arm and started pulling. It was stuck. He pulled again. Surely these mannequins were modular, they weren't molded all in one piece were they? Suddenly the arm jerked free with a satisfying popping sound.
The doors closed on the other seething faces with a plasticy squeak.
"You pulled his arm off!" the girl said behind him, reminding him she was there. He turned and tossed his trophy to her. She jumped, but caught it.
"Plastic," he said nonchalantly. He wished the elevator would hurry up, he needed to get her out of here and get on with the job.
"Very clever, nice trick," she said sarcastically. Apparently she was one of the ones that got sarcastic when she was scared. "Who were they then? Students? Is this a student thing or what?"
She keeps her head though, he thought, and asks good questions. "Why students?"
"I don't know."
He found himself falling back into the habit of making his young friends think their ideas through. "Well, you said it. Why students?"
"'Cause, to get that many people dressing up and acting silly, they've got to be students."
Smart too. "That makes sense. Well done." It was always nice to come across a smart young one.
She didn't sound very grateful. Oh well, so many of them weren't. "They're not students."
"Well, whoever they are, when Wilson finds them he's going to call the police."
Ah, so that had been the man's name. "Wilson's dead."
"That's not funny. That's sick."
Yes, to the young death was sick, not the inevitable outcome of life. He felt the darkness bearing down around him again and forced himself to focus on what he was doing. Disable the elevator so the Auton's couldn't follow them. Get the girl to safety. "Hold on, mind your eyes." He fried the elevator controls then strode off, leading her to the outer door.
The girl followed, still wittering on behind him. "I said, who are they?" she yelled.
"They're made of plastic. Living plastic creatures." He batted aside the leaves of a plastic curtain. Ah, good, the effect hadn't reached down here yet. "They're being controlled by a relay device on the roof. Which would be a great big problem if I didn't have this!" He pulled the gelignite pack out of his pocket. "So, I'm going to go upstairs and blow it up." Ah, good, the back door, at last! "And I might well die in the process." He bundled her out the door. "But don't worry about me, no. You go on, go on, go and have your lovely beans on toast." She stood there shell shocked, which just proved his life was too much for most people. As if he needed the reminder. "Don't tell anyone about this because if you do you'll get them killed."
He slammed the door in her face. Finally, thank god. The last thing he needed was another innocent dragged into the disaster that was his life. But she did seem like a nice girl. Smart, if not exactly clever. She'd grasped the situation and followed his lead without a fuss. Much.
On impulse he turned back and opened the door. "I'm the Doctor, by the way. What's your name?"
"Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life!"
He closed the door and headed for the roof.
Yes, she'd looked like a nice girl. Not someone who'd want to get involved in his life.
He could hear the Auton's stirring.