"Adipose Industries. How can I help you?" Tugging, for the fortieth time that morning, on the collar of her cheap uniform shirt, Rose wondered why she had ever thought this was a good idea. Yes, there was something fishy going on here and yes, it could possibly be alien, but what ever had made her think that this might be a good place to wait for the Doctor? He liked interesting and exciting, two words that could never be linked to this tiny cubicle.
A part of her wondered if he'd even come. Just because something was going on here, didn't mean he'd actually show up. For all she knew, he was off on some distant planet being chased by a group of angry aliens, or stuck in the past averting some kind of historical disaster.
She sighed and tapped her pen impatiently on the desk as she listened politely to the customer on the other end of the phone.
"No, I'm afraid we don't give out free pens, but you will receive our real, eighteen carat, Adipose industries pendant as a thank you for your custom." Rose almost yawned at the familiar words. The script was not exactly riveting and she needed a coffee. She finished the call with a less than heartfelt, "Thank you for choosing Adipose Industries."
She pulled out her earpiece, threw it on the desk and was about to make her way to the cafeteria when a familiar voice rang around the large office.
"Excuse me, everyone, if I could have your attention."
Rose stood up to see the familiar figure of Miss Foster, the office manager, standing in the centre of the room.
"On average, you're each selling forty Adipose packs per day. It's not enough. I want one hundred sales per person, per day. And if not, you'll be replaced. 'Cause if anyone is good at trimming the fat, it's me. Now. Back to it."
As Rose sat back down at her computer she heard a light tapping on the side of her cubicle. She turned to see a pleasant looking woman with ginger hair smiling at her.
"Hi, Donna Noble, Health and Safety. I was told I could speak to someone to get more information about Adipose?"
Rose gazed at her suspiciously for a moment; the woman had flashed her ID rather quickly and Rose felt a twinge of unease. Donna was staring at her, waiting for a response though, so after a beat, Rose finally gestured to an empty chair and said hesitantly, "Sure, I'd be happy to help you. What would you like to know?"
She spent the next few minutes explaining about the program and how it worked as Donna took notes on her pad.
All the time she was speaking Rose could not shake off a tingling feeling on her skin, not an itch exactly but it was bloody annoying. She couldn't help feeling that she should know what it was, but, as she had no idea, she kept on with her explanation.
"The box comes with 21 days' worth of pills, a full information pack, and our special free gift, an Adipose Industries pendant."
Donna nodded and took the pendant that Rose held. "I'll just need to keep this for testing. And I need a list of your customers. Could you print it off?"
Still weary, Rose nodded reluctantly. "Suppose so." She pressed 'print'. Donna was still chattering on, when, just on the edge of her hearing, Rose caught the ghost of a familiar voice and her breath caught in her throat. She jumped to her feet and her eyes scanned desperately around the room. Donna gave a start and then stood up too. "Is there a problem?" She looked warily at Rose, unsure of what she might do next.
Rose took one last, hopeful glance around the room and sat down heavily, her heart sinking with disappointment. "No, no problem. I just thought..." She suddenly remembered who she was talking to and trailed off, finishing with a feeble, "Never mind."
Donna sat down too and studied Rose sceptically for a moment before letting it go.
Only seconds later, and just out of sight, a tall pinstriped figure with really great hair, popped up above a neighbouring partition asking, "Where's the printer?"
"Where's the printer?" prompted Donna, wanting to get away from this rather strange girl and return to looking for the Doctor.
"Over there," Rose pointed half heartedly, "next to the plant."
Donna started wittering on about a code, but Rose didn't hear her, disappointment lying heavily on her chest. She couldn't breathe; she needed to get out of here. As much as it pained her, she was beginning to realize that maybe it was time she faced reality. She wasn't going to find the Doctor here.
Rose let out a big sigh as Donna's red hair swung out of sight. She stood and stretched, smiled weakly at the girl in the next cubicle and turned to leave by the staff exit.
The Doctor thanked the woman he'd been speaking to and sauntered over to the printer to retrieve his list. Half-way there he stopped in his tracks, his hearts racing as he looked toward a swinging door at the end of the room. He could have sworn he'd caught a familiar glimpse of blonde hair. Shaking his head at his own ridiculous imagination, he made his way out of the office, down through the basement tunnels, and onto the street. A prickling sensation ran over his skin as he emerged in the alley-way behind the building. He glanced over his shoulder, but all he could see was a blue car, parked a few feet from the TARDIS. He quickened his pace, wasting no time in entering his ship and shifting into the vortex.
Once he was drifting comfortably, he contemplated the sensation he'd felt a few moments before. He could have sworn he'd sensed another time traveler, but how was that possible? Unless... "Noooooo," he said out loud. "Impossible." A niggling in his brain reminded him of the blonde he'd seen leaving Adipose but he forced himself to block the image from his mind. Rose was gone. There was no possible way she could be here and hoping otherwise would only lead him to more heartache and pain. He couldn't take anymore of that. Not after everyone he'd lost so recently; the Master, Martha, Astrid...
He shook his head, angry with himself for dwelling on such thoughts and stuffed his hands deep into his trouser pockets. His fingers snagged on a fine chain and he pulled out the capsule that he'd been given by the Adipose Industries rep. He needed a distraction and this could be it. Placing it under the magnifier on the console he studied it carefully. It was time to solve the mystery. At least that would keep him busy for a while.
"Ohh, fascinating. Seems to be a bio-flip digital stitch, specifically for..." The sound echoed through the empty TARDIS and his voice petered off as he realised that there was no one to hear his explanation, no one to get excited about him finding the key to a mystery. Suddenly he wished Martha was still with him. At least when she was around he was able to keep his thoughts at bay, his memories locked away. But now, alone in this empty space that had once been filled with joy and laughter and Rose, he had no escape from himself and he felt almost as lonely as he had when she was first ripped away from him.
Scrubbing his hands across his face, he looked down at the yellow pages he had retrieved from the printer. Perhaps he should visit some customers of Adipose Industries, see what they had to say about their 'product'. Mercurial as always, his mood shifted and he began to lay in co-ordinates in a frenzied dance around the console. With a flick of the handbrake, the TARDIS landed with a thump and he was out of the door before the central column had come to rest. Checking the address against the list in his hand the Doctor tapped on the door.
As it opened, he flipped open the psychic paper and gave his best 'trust me' smile.
"Mr Roger Davey? I'm from Adipose Industries..."
Donna stood outside Stacy Campbell's bathroom and frowned. She'd come to ask her about the Adipose diet but now she was getting concerned. She heard another yelp and she tapped on the door. "Stacy? Are you all right? I wouldn't mind a little visit myself. Everything all right in there?" She knocked again. "Only me. Do you mind if I pop to the loo? Stacy?"
The lack of response sent fear coursing through Donna's veins. She knew something was not quite right with Adipose Industries, and she had a suspicion that it was potentially harmful to people like Stacy.
Suddenly, Stacy yelled, "Help me! Oh my God, help me!"
Donna frantically tried to open the door, but it wouldn't budge. "What is it, what's wrong?" she shouted, "Stacy!"
Donna thrust her weight against the door continually as Stacy screamed in terror. The door finally burst open with an ear splitting crash only to reveal a pile of clothing.
"Stacy?" Donna called hopefully.
In response, a small, white blob with wide eyes and a single snaggle tooth climbed out of the heap of clothes and gurgled at her as it waddled to the window. She stared in utter disbelief as the creature stood on the windowsill, waving to her before it jumped down into the street.
Donna spun around and raced down the stairs, hurling herself out into the night, just in time to see a van driving away and no sign of the baby-like alien she'd seen in the loo.
A taxi pulled up, looking for Stacy. Donna, still in shock, could only say, "She's gone." The taxi driver, disgruntled, drove off leaving Donna standing alone in the deserted street.
She shuddered slightly as a twinge passed over her, similar to the feeling she'd had earlier when she'd met with the Adipose employee. She glanced over her right shoulder, failing to notice the familiar man standing on the adjacent street to her left.
Sighing, Donna turned away and walked reluctantly back to her car. It was time to go home. Perhaps her granddad would be able to offer her some perspective on the night's events.
On a scale of one to stupid, this was probably the most ridiculous thing Rose had ever done. She moved gingerly, trying to get comfortable. When she had thought of hiding in the ladies loos until everyone had gone home, she hadn't taken into account the cramped cubicles or the lack of anything but water to drink. She was tired, achy and miserable. If she couldn't find anything out tonight, that was it; she was giving up. Perhaps it was time to get in touch with control and ask for another shift. Maybe this time they could refine the co-ordinates a little, get closer to the TARDIS. She had spent the last two years jumping through dimensions, each time finding nothing. But this was her dimension, she was sure of it; could feel it in the way her spirit was lighter, her hopes just that little bit higher.
The sound of the main door opening made her freeze and she quietly lifted her feet to rest them on the toilet bowl. The click of heels on the tiles stopped in a cubicle a couple down from her and soon she heard a mobile ringing. A garbled, whispered, one sided conversation about cars and being in church struck Rose as funny and she had to fight not to laugh out loud. Then all was quiet. 'Funny,' she thought, 'didn't hear her leave.' Her curiosity got the better of her and Rose was about to leave when the squeak of trainers on the tiles stopped her. The cleaner? Couldn't be security, they were dressed like the S.A.S. around here, boots and all.
Rose squirmed, her skin itching all over. There must be something in this place she was allergic to. Oh, she really did need to get out of here once and for all. Who did she think she was kidding?
"We know you're in here, so why don't you make this nice and easy, and show yourself?" The strident voice of Miss Foster made Rose's stomach lurch. They had found her...what should she do? She felt panic setting in as she made ready to run, but the mantra she had used all this time ran through her head, calming her. 'What would the Doctor do?'
There was a bang as a stall door was thrust open and Rose jumped, nearly falling from her perch on the toilet seat. Her heart was racing as another bang followed the first.
"There you are," Miss Foster said in that sickeningly sweet tone of hers. Rose looked up, baffled to see the door to her stall still safely shut.
She heard a muffled gasp and flurry of scuffling after that. Then there were several thuds followed by the squeaking of trainers and the clicking of high heels that seemed to fade into the distance.
The room fell silent again and Rose had to take several deep breaths to get her heart rate to slow to a normal pace again. After about five minutes, she finally decided it was safe and crept out of her stall. She released a sigh of relief when she discovered that the rest of the loo was empty. She was nearly to the door when she heard some rustling coming from one of the other stalls. 'Oh, no,' she thought, panicking. 'What if one of the guards stayed behind?' Without sparing a second thought, Rose bolted from the room and took the stairs to the roof.
Miss Foster walked calmly into her office as the Doctor struggled against the two guards trying to drag him in behind her.
He was furious. He never got caught like this. Okay, well, maybe not never, but seldom, well, not often... It had taken him by surprise to such an extent that he'd been speechless.
"Tie him up," Miss Foster ordered, pointing to a chair in the centre of the room.
As the guards thrust him into the chair and they began to bind his hands, his words returned with a flourish.
"You can't do this Miss Foster. Do you have any idea who I am? What I'm capable of? You have no right seeding a level five planet." He paused for the barest of breaths, gaining great pleasure from the look of shock on her face. "Oh, yes, Miss Foster. I know exactly what you're up to. When the Shadow Proclamation hear about this they'll be sending the Judoon after you. And then what will happen, Miss Foster? Who will take the fall for breaking the law?"
"Oh no," Miss Foster purred, "I don't think anyone is going to find out, because, Mr..?" she raised her eyebrows in a question.
"Just the Doctor. Perhaps you've heard of me?" He shot her his best Oncoming Storm glare but she merely shrugged. The Doctor felt a little crestfallen. That was a major blow to his not inconsiderable ego and he was about to bluster some more, when Miss Foster sat on the edge of the desk looking down at him, witheringly.
"No matter Doctor. Because soon, there won't be anything left of you to care." She pulled a capsule from beneath her shirt.
"That won't do anything to me; I haven't taken any Adipose tablets."
"Oh, but that's where you're wrong, Doctor." She stooped before him and stared directly into his eyes as she began to twist it. "That's just where you're wrong."
To Be Continued…