Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who. Also, I've stolen a character from C. S. Lewis. (Later chapter.)
Author's Note: Beta'd by ChellusAuglerie and tardis-mole. I'm not entirely sure how long this is going to be, but on the long side. Yes, I do know where it's going. There will be references to the Eighth Doctor novels and the Scream of the Shalka webcast, but you don't need to be familiar with either, and I don't think there are even any spoilers worth mentioning.
Yes, I'm still working on my 10.5 series. I've been sick recently (hence the long absence) but I'm better and hope to be posting regularly.
"We have seen the best of our time: machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves."
William Shakespeare, King Lear
Part I: The Silence
First there was silence, thinly veiled as peace
Then, oh, the lightening struck
And it started a fire
The Heartless Bastards, "Had To Go"
Chapter One: The Flight of the Wild Jailbird
1. Maximum Security, My Ass
"Get yer fuckin' hands offa me, ye damned sons a' Denebian slime devils! You think you gonna lock ME up? You couldn't lock up yer own granny—HEY! GIVE THAT BACK!"
The Doctor heard his cellmate long before he saw her. Her voice was deeper than one would expect from a woman her size, and (at the moment) impressively loud. She had a faint accent that could have been mistaken for an American drawl or an Irish lilt, but was far older than either.
And she'd always had a deplorable vocabulary.
There was a snarl and a spate of curses, this time from one of the Malgeon guards. "Shit! The little bitch bit me!"
The sounds of commotion grew as they approached, now with yelling in three voices and the smacks of fists and truncheons impacting flesh. From the yells, not all of the impacts were landing on the prisoner.
Finally, the cell door was slammed open, casting a rectangle of light into the interior. A small woman in a grimy white tank top and threadbare jeans was shoved into view. She lunged back towards the door, was knocked backwards by a last vicious blow that caught her across the face with a sickening crunch and a spray of blood, and fell to the floor, senseless.
The guards took the opportunity to slam the door closed again and lock it.
The Doctor, who had sat up in surprise when he'd heard her voice, lay back down on his bunk and waited.
"So," came a low voice from the floor, slightly clogged. There was a sound of hawking and spitting, and the voice continued, more clearly. "You think they bought it?"
"They appear to have done," he replied. "Was it really necessary to bite him?"
"I thought it added ver-isi-mil-i-tude," drawled the voice, making a meal of the word. With the guards gone, she spoke with her usual tone of mild amusement. "'Sides, bastard took m'damned hat."
The Doctor sighed. "Please tell me you didn't use venom."
"Aw, come on, lil' brother. Ain't ye got no faith in me?"
"I'm not your brother." She did have a brother, a real one—and considering her brother, it was just as well the Doctor wasn't him. "What are you doing here, Arkeros?"
"Rescuing you. Whatcha think?"
"I don't need rescuing."
"Ain't what Romana thinks."
"Romana." He couldn't keep the bitterness out of his voice. "Does she think I need help escaping, or is she just worried I'll try to escape from her?"
The cell was dark, but not pitch-black, not to a Gallifreyan. The Doctor could just see her shape, sprawled out on the cell floor. She sat up with a small grunt and returned his gaze. In the dark, her pupils had gone huge and round, reflecting a green shimmer like a cat's. She could probably see him more clearly than he could see her.
"Are you hurt?" he asked, relenting a little.
She made a scoffing noise and spat again—more blood, by the smell. "Does Cold Iron know pain?" Her voice was as hard as her namesake, but still amused. "And you? Be you well, little brother?"
"Oh, yes, quite well, thank you. Never been better. And stop calling me that."
"I call all men brother, an' y'ain't but a boy. Would you rather I called you Kaeoreolis?"
"No," said the Doctor shortly. He no longer wanted to be an Oncoming Storm, or any sort of storm, in any language.
The green glints continued to regard him, taking in the youthful face, the fall of chestnut hair, the silk waistcoat and the cravat. Or that was how this regeneration had started out. This incarnation was indifferent to mirrors, but he thought he was no longer so young, and the last time he'd looked, the chestnut was touched with gray. He'd lost his green velvet jacket a few battles back.
"Like the regeneration," she said. "Ain't met this one before. Number Eight, yeah?"
"Only gonna meet you the once, though. Never met Nine at all. You said. Or will say."
The Doctor nodded in the dark. He could live with that. Although … "I wouldn't count on that, I really wouldn't. This is a Time War, after all."
"Noticed that. Damn, I thought I caused some chaos. Ain't never seen aught like this shit. I blink and somebody's damn planet's been bombed into last Wednesday."
He wondered which future incarnation of himself she'd met. Wondered if that future could still exist. In his darker moments, he couldn't imagine peace anymore. Couldn't imagine that the War wouldn't spread out backwards and forwards in time and consume everything.
"An' they says it's getting better."
"They've been saying that for some time. It even seemed to be true for a while." The Doctor sighed. "I don't suppose he sent any messages, did he?" he said, with some asperity. Trying not to hope.
"He did. But it ain't for you."
They sat in silence for a while. This regeneration used to be on the chatty side, but these last few years, it had begun to seem like too much effort to speak. Pointless. You could have a conversation with someone and turn around and found it had never happened, or not have a conversation and turn around to find you had.
And everyone died. He knew, now, why dead men told no tales. What was the point of speaking, when everyone was dead?
But he still got bored as easily as ever. "Are you planning a daring escape anytime soon?" he asked.
"You know," said the Doctor, "there's a full two-inch gap under the door. And I know for a fact that you only need one. May I ask what you're waiting for?"
"Well, I was thinkin' I'd wait for my nose t'stop bleedin'. Among other things. An' I ain't getting you out no two-inch gap."
"Why didn't you come in that way, then? Or do you just enjoy causing a spectacle?"
"Well, yeah … Got me a practical reason, too. They got them some mean force-fields here, tripwires, all this shit. See, they had this guy, right, 'bout five years back. An' he had this friend—damn, can't recall her name, something like Ramona--Romana, that was it—"
Arkeros' sarcasm was more caustic than her venom.
"If you're referring to my previous incarceration by the Malgeons, it wasn't my idea for her to send micro-bots through their ventilators to shut down their security. Or for her to take down the planetary defense grid with distronic missiles. And I didn't ask for you, or anyone else, to come to my rescue this time."
"No worries," said Arkeros. "Does Cold Iron complain? I like me a challenge. Got nothin' better to do with my time, anyway."
"How did you manage to get yourself thrown in the same cell as me?"
"Well, I figure they got you in the maximum security wing. Romana gave me some intel, an' they only got two cells with humanoid-friendly toilets. One of 'em's got Thedris Ard, the cannibal—ate his last two cellmates. So the only place they got to stick me is—"
"In here. And how did you convince them to put you in the maximum security wing?"
"Ah? Ah? Oh, no. No no no no no. What have you done?"
"Been having me some fun with the Rebels. Thought you'd approve of that, at least. Desperate band struggling to overthrow an oppressive government, and all. I led a few raids, supplied some explosives …"
The Doctor groaned.
"Broke into three different military bases in the same night and spiked the tea in the officer's mess with industrial-strength laxatives …"
"Well, at least that's non-violent."
"Won't stay non-violent if them officers catch me up."
"So what's your plan for escaping?" Despite himself, the Doctor found that he was genuinely curious. Arkeros' plans tended to be nearly as … original … as his own.
"Well, right 'bout now the Rebels'll be launching a major campaign. They'll be setting off the bombs under the capitol building, hijacking the space-fleet, and seizing communications. That oughta distract the authorities."
"No doubt." The Doctor had some small sarcasm of his own.
"And I know you're gonna disapprove, but yesterday I stole me a car and drove it recklessly through the city until the cops pulled me over."
"Is that how you ended up here?"
"Nah. I was in disguise, an' I escaped 'fore they could haul me in. They did get the drugs out of the trunk."
"Drugs? What drugs?"
"Kerrophane." Kerrophane was a mild narcotic. Possession was a low-level criminal offense. "Twenty bricks of it. Leastways, the outsides was made of kerrophane. Reckon they got it in the evidence lock-up by now. That's one wing over."
"Oh?" said the Doctor. Then, sitting up abruptly, "Oh! Oh, I see. At least, I think I see. Do I see?"
The explosion shook the building hard enough to pitch him off his bunk.
"Yeah, you sees."
"I see that I see. How much explosive did you have hidden in the kerrophane?"
"'Bout fifty pounds nitro-twelve, mixed with a slow-decaying chemical catalyst. That friend of yours gave me the recipe, last we met. Now, if you'll excuse me, Cold Iron's gonna go for a walk." The light-levels in the room had dropped even further—it looked like the bomb had knocked out power and the hallways were on emergency lighting. But the twin shimmers of her eyes were still visible, and one of them winked at him.
Then both shimmers vanished. The Doctor thought he could detect a faint slithering noise over the commotion, but he wasn't sure. He definitely heard the thumps and yelps outside the cell.
The door swung open. Arkeros stood silhouetted in the dim light. She had something dark and shapeless jammed on her head. It looked like it might have started out life as a fedora, several sizes too large for her.
"Come, little brother," she growled. "We got shit to do."
2. What Would Have Been
The Doctor sat on a branch, examining his sonic screwdriver with a jeweler's eyeglass and tsking under his breath. The dawn light was streaming through the leaves around him, bright and clean. The air smelled of greenery and dew.
And then the wind shifted, and he caught a whiff of ozone and scorched metal.
He looked down and to the east. The tree he sat in was one of a few still standing in the midst of an old battlefield. It had a number of broken branches and a scarred trunk, but it lived. Below was a slope of churned soil, a mass of craters and deadwood, now overgrown with several years' worth of weeds and wildflowers.
In the distance, he could see the ruins of the city he had just departed. It was wreathed in flames, and the sun was rising bloody behind a pall of smoke.
A rust-colored hawk glided down towards the tree, wheeling in a half-circle to lose momentum. It landed on the branch beside the Doctor, lowering its head and shaking its wings. When it looked up again, it was with Arkeros' face, like a solemn child's, and she was crouched on the branch in its place.
She was wearing an ornate bronze ring on one pale finger. A Time Ring. Evidently, the time distortions were so severe that even Arkeros found unprotected travel unpleasant or even impossible. The Doctor, like most Gallifreyan operatives these days, had a buffer implanted into his arm, and he could still feel the distortions like an incipient migraine.
"Tangore?" he asked, but the expression on her face was answer enough.
"Dead. Shot in the street." She pulled herself up to another branch and retrieved an extremely worn leather jacket and short sword, which she strapped to her back. With the jacket on, she looked larger than she was, more substantial. Its sleeves covered the rusted remains of iron manacles on her wrists, mementos of a long-ago misadventure.
"I'm sorry," she added. He was surprised to realize that she meant it. He'd forgotten that there was more in her heart than cold iron, despite what she sometimes claimed.
"He was my local contact," the Doctor explained. "He had a wife and children. He said he didn't want them to grow up under Briad's regime …"
"They won't," said Arkeros, gazing out over the flowers, towards the flames. Her face was like a statue's, serene and unmoved. She might have been any age, if she were human, from thirteen to late thirties; her skin was unlined and glowed like alabaster where the dappled sunlight hit it, but it was marked with faint rusty stains, like smudges of dried blood. There were no traces of her injuries from the night before. "Not now."
"No," agreed the Doctor, with a sigh.
The wind shifted again, stirring the Doctor's chestnut curls and Arceros' rusty locks, rustling the leaves and bringing them the scent of the flowers below. If he closed his eyes and watched the scraps of leaf-filtered sun through his lids, he could imagine that Tangore's children would grow up in a peaceful world.
Almost. Even with his eyes closed, he could feel this world dying. Time had been torn apart here. Now it was too damaged to fly a TARDIS through. In a few days, a few weeks at most, it would give way completely. The planet would be pulverized by the stresses, as its history had been. Even if the reports were right and the tide had turned against the Daleks, it was too late for this world. Evidently Arkeros could sense it as well.
He'd seen it before. He'd built up a tolerance for the physical assault of the time distortions on his senses, but never for the loss of life.
"It wasn't supposed to be like this," he said. "Malgeon was meant to be in a period of peace and stability, under a single world government. I visited once, before the War. A century or two from now. Their cities were made of colored glass, like jewels in the sun. They were filled with gardens, and you could hardly tell the gardens from the buildings. Fountains—they had fountains everywhere."
"Not any more," said Arkeros. And there was enough cold iron in her, after all, not to blink at that destruction.
"There was a city in the southern hemisphere, not far from the coast, called Ilkaron," the Doctor persisted. "They had this opera hall there, with chandeliers made of artificial diamonds. Always made me nervous, thinking of good old Gaston … Anyway, one night I went there with my friend Sarah Jane, and they were playing …"
He trailed off. Arkeros had sat down on the branch next to him, listening with her strange patience. Her eyes were cat's eyes, slit-pupiled and green as the spring leaves of the tree, stained at the edges and through the whites with rust, like an untimely autumn. The skin around her eyes was stained as well, as if she'd been weeping bloody tears.
"Never mind," he said. "Never happened, now."
He pulled a battered cassette player from his pocket, popped off the back, and began tinkering. Change a circuit here, a line of programming there …
"Whatcha makin'?" asked Arkeros.
She seemed a part of this landscape, somehow. Ancient and young, alive and vital in the midst of carnage, like the tree in which they sat. Innocent and bright, yet stained with blood and death.
The Doctor had had his fill of stained things.
"You shouldn't have come," he told her.
She smiled. It was a crooked smile, as always, all stained teeth and childish glee and a wicked glint in her eyes. Like she delighted in all things in the world, the dark as well as the bright. "An' you was gonna escape … how? I wanna hear your plan. Your plans're almost as … original … as mine."
The Doctor pulled a security card from his pocket. "I'm a dangerous terrorist," he explained. "The Warden interrogated me personally. I provoked him, he got rough, and in the scuffle I picked his pocket—replacing his card with one of the guard's I'd stolen earlier. If he noticed, it was much later, and he didn't connect it with me."
"So … you was just gonna let yerself out?" Arkeros wrinkled her nose. "Too damned boring for me. What about the guards?"
"I was not going to 'just let myself out,'" corrected the Doctor. "I'd already let myself out. Out of my cell, anyway. I didn't have to go far to find a computer terminal. Programmed it to have me transferred to a lower security wing, then to change my name, then to drop the minor charges against John Bowman and have him released."
"Still boring. An' don't get you offworld. Them time distortions—they're a killer. Can't get a TARDIS through em. Why they sent me instead. An' even Cold Iron needed help." She held up her hand, flashing the Time Ring. "So what then?"
"Then I planned to use a third name and a set of forged credentials I'd programmed into the central computer system to pass myself off as a spaceport safety inspector. The Malgeon ships wouldn't get past the blockade, but if I stowed away on a Dalek courier, I'm sure I could have gotten quite a long way away."
"Not boring," conceded Arkeros. "Suicidal, mayhap, but boring it ain't. Then what?" An extra gleam of wickedness crept into her smile. "Was you gonna blow it up?"
The Doctor found himself smiling, despite himself. "Most likely."
"And then what?"
"Well, at that point I would have made up the next bit of the plan."
"A truly foolproof strategy. I like mine better." She cocked her head. "It occurs to me … you was in that cell for round about three months, yeah?"
"And ye had that key-card since you was arrested?"
"So you coulda broke out while there was still Gallifreyan agents flyin' in an' out of that spaceport."
The Doctor didn't answer.
"Why didn't ya?" asked Arkeros.
"Because," he explained, with exaggerated patience, "there wouldn't have been any Dalek ships to hijack."
She laughed, an easy, happy sound. Despite the destruction all around them, there was a core of serenity to her. He almost despised her for that, for being able to bear the death of worlds. He wondered if his future self had told her …
Arkeros tilted her head, regarding him with her bright, stained eyes. Only curious about what he was thinking. If there was any concern in that gaze, it was only for him.
No. She didn't know.
3. Hawk's Eye View
Arkeros watched the Doctor as he tinkered with his sound-machine. He was using one sound-machine to tinker with another, which amused her, and he wouldn't tell her what he was doing, which did not.
She'd met a lot of Doctors, knew their story better than most. They were a good bunch, really, at heart. Hearts. They had something innocent in them, and she loved them for that. Needed a good smack, most of them, but good people.
He had a bad side, too. A real bad side, worse than her own. Sometimes he reminded her alarmingly of her mother. And there was something not quite right about Time Lords in general. Something missing. They were a race that had been engineered to live beyond its time, with only regeneration to save them from themselves. It seemed that most of them ended up going sour anyway.
Romana. Arkeros had met her before, thought she was a good sort. But now … if the Doctor was giving in to despair, Romana was giving in to denial. The Time Lady had made herself into something cold, something empty. Something less than she really was. What was it about mortals, that they got stupider instead of wiser as they aged?
Reminded her of her idiot of a brother.
And this Doctor. He was one of the younger ones, physically. And one of the ones from … Before. The Time War would break something in him. Arkeros didn't know what it was, but it would make him both better and worse. Damaged and alone, but somehow more free. Now he was a child, caught between his own beliefs and those of his people, still afraid to admit how wrong they were.
He wasn't broken yet, but he was headed for it. He looked at the green grass and the flowers and the sun like he hated them for being so bright in a world that was going down into darkness. But then, he'd always feared his own darkness, and now it seemed that it was swallowing him. This was a bad world for such a man.
And a bad world for hunting, everything coming unraveled at the edges. Better to show this place a cat's mercy, the quick bite to the neck that severed the spine and killed in an instant. The Doctor was too busy fighting his own shadow to admit it, but he would see it in time.
She wondered if he knew what was coming.
4. Your Carriage Awaits
The Time Lords couldn't get a TARDIS through the time distortions. And they couldn't spare the operatives to break him out of prison the old-fashioned way.
Which should have begged the question, the Doctor mused, of what (and who) they were sending instead.
His first hint that it was a) a question he really should have asked with b) an answer he really didn't want to hear was when Arkeros stood up abruptly in humanoid form (out of the small, rust-colored cat that had been washing itself) and announced, "Well, looks like our ride's here."
The Doctor looked up, and saw a very small, very battered rocket ship falling out of the sky in their general direction.
"Hope he don't go landin' on top of us," mused Arkeros, almost cheerfully. "Shit. Musta been hit. Looks like he's on fire."
"Quite a lot of fire," agreed the Doctor, standing up and preparing to dive out of the tree if the craft didn't alter course very, very, very soon. Although, if it crashed on top of him, he wouldn't have to worry about it crashing with him in it. "Er, terribly sorry for asking … but exactly how far are we supposed to get in that?"
"Either to the edge of them time distortions so's a TARDIS can pick us up … or t'an untimely demise."
It did change course. In fact, it changed course so drastically that it crashed (even if it had survived the impact, the word 'landing' couldn't, in all fairness, be applied to any touchdown that made a noise that loud) out of sight behind a line of trees that stood several miles away.
"Ah, well," said Arkeros. "You been cooped up in that prison so long, bit of a stroll do you good. Just hope he ain't hurt himself to bad. Or the ship."
"Who?" asked the Doctor, but Arkeros had already shifted. His only reply was the scream of a hawk as it swooped away.
He sighed, climbed down out of the tree, and began to walk over the field in the direction of the trees.
5. Hurry Up Before This Damned Thing Turns Back Into a Pumpkin
When the Doctor finally caught up with her, she was helping a tall, skinny man with a horsy face, receding crew-cut black hair, and an ill-fitting Gallifreyan Army uniform to patch a burned section on the tail of the ship. The ship, the Doctor was slightly dismayed to see, looked like it might still be capable of getting off the ground. Briefly.
"How bad is the damage?" he called.
"We can probably get it off the ground," Arkeros called back. "If we're all outa our bleedin' minds." She looked at the two men. "Yeah, we're good."
"Theta Sigma!" said the skinny man in the rumpled black uniform. He grinned crookedly. "It is you, isn't it? Well, well, well—which regeneration is this?"
"Drax?" asked the Doctor. Time Lords had a knack of recognizing each other, regardless of regeneration. And Drax was a bit hard to miss. "Eighth. I haven't seen you since …"
"Yeah, the Shadows! I'm on my eleventh, can you believe it?" Drax smiled trying to make a joke of it, but there was a haunted look in his eyes. "I've been shot down a few times before."
He turned abruptly and loosened a panel, making a show of examining the power couplings underneath. There was obviously nothing wrong with them. Yet.
"I've had enough close calls to put an army of cats to shame," replied the Doctor. "I don't know why, but everyone seems to want to stop to gloat before they shoot me. I suppose I just have one of those faces. Tiresome, but it gives me time to get away. They've got you working as a courier?"
"Yeah, yeah, that's right." Drax fidgeted and tugged at the tight collar of his uniform. "I'm not very good at it. They keep shifting me around, assignment to assignment. I guess I'm just no good at this sort of thing."
The Doctor opened his mouth to disagree, but then a flash and a spray of sparks and curses came from the burnt-out panel Arkeros was working on, proving Drax right. He settled for, "Well, is anyone?" Because this was war, and it was no fit occupation for man or beast, and really, who could want to be good at it?
"You are," said Drax.
"Drax!" called Arkeros. "Save the chit-chat, little brother, an' get yer butt inside and check th'diagnostics. We're gonna miss our rendezvous."
"Right." Drax hurried off.
The Doctor looked up. Arkeros was apparently absorbed in her work. And she was making enough noise that she might not notice the hum of the sonic screwdriver.
He pulled the device from his pocket, held it over the third power coupling, and hit it with a quick disruptive burst of vibration. There. It wouldn't interfere with takeoff, but after the ship got out of orbit it would cut their speed considerably.
He had no intention of making their rendezvous.
"Done!" The Doctor whipped the screwdriver behind his back, but Arkeros didn't seem to have noticed. She slammed her panel shut. It gave a loud crack and fell off, and she looked at it for a moment in dismay before shrugging. "Ah, well. It'll hold together long 'nuff. Well, granted the chewin' gum lasts."
"Chewing gum?" asked the Doctor.
"Yeah. S'holding the spoon in place. An' don't be lookin' at me like that, Kaeoreolis. You done used that trick yerself. 'Twas you what taught it me."
"I must have been hoping you'd get yourself killed."
"Don't worry, Thete," said Drax, emerging from the entrance hatch. "You'll be perfectly safe. I'm piloting."
"Oh, no," said the Doctor.
6. Pumpkin Time
"Kaeori!" shouted Arkeros. "Hard to starboard, now!"
The Doctor wanted to make a tart remark about backseat drivers, but instead he followed her instructions immediately. As much as he liked to tell her and anyone else who would listen that she drove like a maniac (which was true) she did know what she was doing.
As a result, the shot from the Malgeon vessel only winged them, instead of hitting them dead-center. The little ship spun wildly before the Doctor could bring it under control again. "And don't call me that!" he shouted back. "I am not a meteorological phenomenon!"
"It's a metaphor."
"And I'm not a metaphor, either!"
Arkeros ignored him. "Drax, I need more engine power."
"Third power feed to reactor four. Get me a bypass!"
The Doctor gave her a startled look, which she returned with a level stare. But before either of them could say anything, another blast rocked the little ship.
"I thought you said the rebels had taken control of the space forces!" said the Doctor.
"Ah, well. Must've missed a few."
"That's not a few, that's most of the fleet!"
He was forced to take evasive action again, this time less effectively. Drax, who was standing behind them feverishly modifying a control panel (the Doctor had refused to let him fly the ship) was thrown to the floor. Smoke began pouring out of something under the console.
"Drax, get to the escape pod," ordered Arkeros.
"Gotta lock this down—"
"Go!" shouted the Doctor.
He went. Arkeros hammered at buttons and the smoke diminished, but didn't stop. "It ain't gonna hold. We out of the distortion field?"
"No. And I'm not sure if our mayday's getting through. You said there's a TARDIS waiting to pick us up?"
"There was," said Arkeros. Her eyes moved to the tactical display. It showed the fleet closing in. Most of the fleet. She looked at the Doctor.
"Daleks," he breathed. "They've changed the timelines again."
"Shit. They know we're here?"
"I don't—oh. They do. Look!"
Saucer-shaped craft were materializing among the Malgeon needleships, rapidly overtaking them in pursuit of the fleeing ship.
"I think—" began the Doctor.
"—it's time to get the fuck out," finished Arkeros, and they flung themselves out of the cramped cockpit and bolted for the escape pod.
Drax was waiting, not in the escape pod, but outside of it, fiddling with a control panel. The other two didn't waste breath. They grabbed him as they barreled past, all three falling into the escape pod in a tangle of limbs, and the Doctor reached up and hit the emergency release button. Gravity cut out, then started to come back on, not quite compensating for the tumble of the pod.
An instant later, a massive concussion threw them all against the wall.
"Was that our ship?" asked Drax.
"No," said the Doctor, shoving wayward curls out of his eyes. "At that proximity, if that had been our ship, we would have been dead." He pointed at the small veiwport. A curved piece of metal spun past, studded with bumps. Smaller fragments, including several objects like the remains of metallic pepper-pots, drifted in its wake. "It looks like the cavalry's arrived."
A second, closer blast buffeted them and sent them into a wild spin, knocking them around the inside of the pod. The artificial gravity, unable to keep up, cut out entirely for a moment before reasserting itself at the worst possible moment and flinging them all to the floor.
"That," said the Doctor, where he lay sprawled in a heap, "was our ship."
The com buzzed. "This is the Omicron to life pod. We are engaging tractors. Please turn off your thrusters."
Arkeros staggered to her feet and hit the relevant controls. "Such original names your people give to things," she commented. "Kaeori? You much hurt, there?"
The Doctor rubbed his head and sat up gingerly. His vision swam. Drax was sprawled across his legs (there not being room enough in the escape pod for more than one person to be sprawled on the floor without overlapping), apparently semiconscious and beginning to stir. "I've got a terrible headache, but I'll live."
"Y'ain't thinking of passing out on me, are you?" asked Arkeros. She slipped the Time Ring from her finger and tucked it into her pocket.
"Pity," she said. "Would've spared me doing this."
The Doctor barely had time to look up before a hard blow to the nerve cluster in his shoulder knocked him out cold.
Coming Soon: Lords of Time