Saved by the pitch
"Doctor!" sounded through the empty hallways of the TARDIS.
"DOCTOR!" It was surprisingly amplified with intensity. "DOCTOOOOOOOOR!"
He sighed and swung his feet off the console.
"I'm 903 years old, but I AM NOT deaf!"
With two leaps he reached the door.
"DOC—," Donna blasted into his face.
"YES, DONNA!" he yelled back.
"Oi!" Donna poked his chest. "I'm not deaf, you know!"
The Doctor threw his hands up in helpless disbelief.
"What?" Donna's eyebrows were raised threateningly.
He shrugged, buried his hands deep in his pockets. "Nothing. You were calling?"
Donna tilted her head to figure out if he was making fun of her.
"Your concern?" the Doctor asked leaning in expectantly.
"Oh, yeah." Donna brushed a strand of hair back. "Nutting, really." Quickly, she sidestepped the Doctor, heading for the door.
The Doctor scratched his head. "You were calling, though."
"I was?" Donna glanced carelessly over her shoulder. "Shall we go?"
"You did sound a bit—" The Doctor hopscotched to follow her.
"A bit what?" Donna shot around, eyes flashing.
The Doctor stopped dead. "Ah, well."
"Yeah?" Donna placed her hands on her hips.
He shrugged. "In trouble…"
She relaxed. "Oh, that. Never mind."
He stepped a bit closer. "Something wrong in the corridors?" He didn't let it pass, scrutinizing her with a mixture of concern and amusement.
Donna let out a big sigh. "Okay, you win. I was lost." She stared him down to not make a witty remark.
Surprise washed over the Doctor's face, quickly followed by relief. "Oh!"
"Yeah – only for a moment," Donna added hurriedly.
The Doctor laughed quietly. "Oh, happens to me all the time."
"You're kidding." Donna raised an eyebrow.
"You would think so," he grinned wide. "But even after all the time traveling with her, I still step into a new room, discover new corridors."
Donna laughed, relieved.
"You know..." the Doctor tapped his lips deep in thought.
"What?" Donna leant in, intrigued.
He looked at her and shrugged. "Sometime I think the TARDIS does it on purpose."
Donna beamed. "Could be and here I am thinking I'm daft."
The Doctor frowned. "You're not!"
"Yeah, well." Donna shrugged. "I thought you might think that with me being lost in your ship."
"Why would I think that?" The Doctor tilted his head, confused.
Donna smiled. "Never mind. Shall we go now?"
He smirked with a big wink. "We shall!"
He opened the door gallantly for Donna. She bowed majestically and strode through.
The Doctor had just leant back to grab his coat. "What?"
He peeked his head out of the door.
A blank desert landscape lay sweltering under a blazing green sun.
"Donna?" The Doctor raised his eyebrows and peered to the left and right. A silent emptiness greeted him. He searched the horizon. She can't possibly be gone that far, he thought. She wouldn't be hiding, would she? In a few steps, he jumped back to the console and did a quick area scan. No sign of Donna. Now, worry was creeping up his back and he ruffled his hair as he adjusted a few settings. Still nothing.
Optical illusion? Scanner malfunction? Just can't be! Thoughts flew through his mind. Have to look for myself. He pulled on the coat and ran to the door.
The same unchanged scene welcomed him back.
"DON—" he walked out and fell. He fell and fell. Actually, it felt more like a slide. He reached out to grab anything that might halt his descent.
A force field slide – mmmh, interesting… Going down fast, he thought as he leant back with folded arms to enjoy the ride.
Well, that explains why I couldn't find Donna on the surface.
The force field made a sharp turn and expelled the Doctor up-side-down into a holding tank.
"What took you so long?"
He heard a familiar voice as he paddled around to get his vertical back.
"Good to see you too!" he laughed, still horizontal. He kicked his legs hard and propelled upright.
"Ah, that's better. Where are we?"
"How should I know?" Donna's voice was quite a pitch higher than normal.
He looked around to see what worried her.
"Ah—" escaped his lips.
"Yep!" Donna nodded solemnly.
A small army of waist-high aliens in Bedouin-like tunics gathered around the tanks. Their faces were obscured by wide hoods casting a shadow so dense; the Doctor couldn't even make out their eyes, if they had any.
"Hello!" He waved, which created an immediate reaction as the aliens raised the objects they were holding. "WOUH – wait a min— argh!" The Doctor started to raise both arms in surrender, but before he could complete the move, the closest alien touched his tank. A spark connected, electrifying the Doctor like an insect under a microscope.
"DOCTOR!" Donna screamed, reaching out.
"Don't. Move." He called between clenched teeth as the pain aftershocks rippled away. "Obviously they don't know the intergalactic sign language."
"Are you okay?" Donna's eyes were wide in her pale face.
The Doctor gave her a quick glance. "I will be."
He took a deep breath and looked at the aliens again. "Hello, again. We come in peace."
No reaction. The aliens stood motionless before the tanks.
"They don't talk," Donna tried to help.
"I noticed." The Doctor screwed his eyebrows trying to figure out their captors.
"You know, there is no need to contain—," he started again, but Donna interrupted.
"They don't react. Already tried that. I talked, I screamed and sang – no reaction whatsoever."
The Doctor's head swung around. "You sang?"
"Why not?" Donna huffed. "Been in a choir and all for years. Had the fullest vibrato."
The Doctor grinned. "I'll believe that."
"Oi," Donna exclaimed with a smug grin.
"Back to—," the Doctor looked to the still motionless aliens.
With a loud clank, they turned on the spot in military precision and marched away.
"Ah, well – see ya later, " the Doctor called behind them.
Donna watched them open-mouthed as they stomped away. "That leaves just the two of us."
The Doctor scratched his neck. "Ah, not quite."
"What?" Donna stared at him, but the Doctor was scanning their surroundings. So she followed his gaze and gasped. With the aliens around, she hadn't noticed before: the underground hall was filled with thousands of holdings tanks each carrying a different life form. Donna gulped. Most of them looked pretty dead to her, like specimens in a test tube.
The Doctor looked gravely at her. "They are."
"Oh nooooh! We're gonna die as study objects! We starve slowly or they electrocute us…" Donna wave her hands wildly over her head for the lack of pacing room.
"Oh my, oh my," she stopped and looked at the Doctor. "They'll torture us – like in the bloody alien movies, cut us open to look at our intestines, do weird experiments. Make us—" she broke off.
The Doctor only raised an eyebrow at her last suggestion.
"Never mind," Donna blushed and tried to pace, but the force field hindered her.
Light flickered and with a soft thud, the Doctor landed on the ground.
"How did you do that?" Donna's eyes widened in disbelief.
The Doctor tilted his head with a big grin as he wiggled his screwdriver.
"Oh," Donna grinned sheepishly. "Forgot about that."
The Doctor stepped to her tank, swung the sonic beam at the mechanism and Donna tumbled out. In a quick reflex, he caught her.
"Oi! Hands!" she slapped him.
"Sorry," the Doctor said insincerely, but let go of her. Donna brushed back her hair and stepped to the next holding tank.
"So what's this place?"
The Doctor came up beside her and pulled out his brainy specs. He examined the tank in which a six-legged life form was suspended lifeless.
"A museum – maybe. Looks like somebody is collecting life forms."
"But why?" Donna glanced at him.
"To catalogue," a voice boomed over their heads.
"But you're killing them in the process," Donna exclaimed, looking around for the source of the voice.
"A necessary evil," the voice replied. "You see, subjects are not cooperative."
"But why?" the Doctor raised his eyebrows.
"Isn't that obvious?" the voice sounded smug.
"Nah, not really," the Doctor countered.
"To have a complete scientific collection - a seed bank," the voice explained.
"You want to clone from their cell structure?" the Doctor sounded horrified and Donna looked at him surprised.
"Can you think of a better use?" the voice asked. "If a race becomes extinct, we can revive it."
The Doctor pulled his hair. "This is so wrong!" He started to pace.
"I was afraid you'd say that," the voice said almost with pity.
The Doctor stopped dead, looked at Donna. "RUN!"
He grabbed and pulled her behind him.
The ominous sound of approaching sandpeople followed them as they ran past holding tank after holding tank. The Doctor took a sharp right and squeezed through a row of tanks only to stand in an identical row with occupied tanks. He led her through more rows in an irrational pattern, zigzagging and backtracking until Donna lost all sense of orientation.
Suddenly, the Doctor stopped and Donna nearly bumped into him. Gently, he laid his hand on the tank before him. Donna peeked over his shoulders. The tank contained a small cubby alien with a big head and short legs sitting on a throne or something.
"The Toxx of Balhoon," whispered the Doctor.
He turned around to her, his eyes brimming with sadness.
"The lost son of the Moxx of Balhoon."
Donna looked at the alien with pity. "He's obviously been here for a while."
The Doctor nodded solemnly. "He went missing without a trace centuries ago."
"He is?" Donna swallowed.
"Dead? Yes!" He caressed the tank, then shrugged out of the gloom. "We need to find a connection to the surface."
He pulled his screwdriver out and scanned their surroundings. Donna watched in expecting silence.
"Mmh," the Doctor frowned and tucked the screwdriver away.
"What?" Donna asked eagerly.
"Nothing – this way," the Doctor sprinted to his right.
Donna chased after him with a sigh.
"Did the screwdriver tell you that?" Donna huffed out between breaths.
"Ahm, well, not directly." He dashed around a tight corner.
Donna stopped dead.
"Wait a minute! Are we just running in random circles?" she hissed as she rounded the corner and full speed into the Doctor. They bounced back embarrassed and the Doctor scratched his head. "Well, kind of."
"Kind of! So you have no clue where we are going?" Donna starred him down.
"Not really – let's run," he turned, but Donna grabbed his arm.
"I AM NOT running down aisles at random!"
"How about a door?" The Doctor grinned wide and stepped aside.
Donna gaped and shook her head. "You are a genius!"
"So I've been told," the Doctor said smugly and earned a smack from Donna.
The Doctor voiced an "OUCH!" but at Donna creased eyebrows thought better of it. Quickly, he ran the screwdriver over the lock and stepped through.
"You know—," he started when he noticed Donna wasn't behind him.
Oh, no – not again, he thought and poked his body through the door.
"Are you coming?"
But Donna stared lost in thought down the row of tanks, then swung around to the other end.
The Doctor sighed silently. "How? About? NOW?"
He opened his eyes wide as he yelled the last word. He leant back further ready to grab Donna.
"You know—," Donna pointed down the tank row, counted and turned to the other end.
"Yes?" He asked pointedly. "You are aware we are kind of under pressure here."
Donna looked at him like she had never seen him before.
"It's a trap!" she yelped as she snatched his arm.
"Wha—?" the Doctor protested as Donna nearly pulled him off balance. His leg just slid over the threshold as the green holding light lit up the chamber.
"How—?" he jumped back. "You?" He pointed at Donna. "There's no way you could have known!"
But Donna was already running down the aisle of tanks.
"This way!" she pointed triumphantly as he fell into a soft trot behind her.
"How could you've possibly known it was a trap?"
Donna glanced at him. "What? Can't take it if an Earth girl saves your scrawny alien bum?" She giggled mirthfully.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "Course not. But how?"
"Okay, okay. It's the numbers," she said running around a corner.
The Doctor looked up. Each tank had a number and each aisle had a corresponding one.
"I temped all my life. I AM good with filing," Donna explained as she pushed him right, down a new aisle. "If this is a seed bank, they need a filling system."
"You think…" Realization dawned on his face.
"Exactly," Donna beamed. "The numbers should lead us to the first subject and the exit or at least," she hesitated unsure, "the center or a mainframe, so you can do your screwdriver magic."
"I'll do that," he grinned at her.
"Good – we're coming closer," Donna turned left and the Doctor followed her still in awe.
"Hang on." He stopped. "Wait a minute."
Donna half-turned. "Can we keep moving?"
"Oh, yeah. Right." The Doctor jogged up to her and fell in with her slowed steps.
"How did you know the room was a trap?"
"Didn't," Donna shrugged.
The Doctor screwed up his face into a big question mark, so she added with a crooked grin. "I did what you do all the time."
His eyes widened even more. "And what would that be?"
Donna gave him a quick glance and fastened her steps. "Guess."
The Doctor's mouth fell open as he stopped in his tracks. He mumbled something incomprehensible and Donna called over her shoulder. "Are you coming?"
The Doctor shook his head, laughed and jogged to catch up with her.
"You know..." Donna tilted her head. "Come to think of it, that door was not on the number grid."
"So you deducted something was wrong with it?" the Doctor asked and Donna nodded.
"Brilliant!" he beamed at her and she waved him off, flustered.
He nudged her. "No, really! Superb!"
She smiled. "You're welcome."
Ahead of them, the aisle ended in an open space and they slowed down to a tiptoe. The Doctor peeked around a holding tank with a nun.
A nun? Donna looked closer. A cat in a nun's outfit! It couldn't get any weirder, could it? Donna thought as she peeked over the Doctor's shoulder.
A central computer dominated the deserted hall.
So maybe this was really just a storage facility, the Doctor looked around still musing over the absence of any life signs. Then he sprinted forward, pulled out his screwdriver and was already scanning through various computer files by the time Donna caught up.
She sneaked up beside him, looking nervously around. "Found anything?"
The Doctor fished out his glasses and peered into the screen. Hardly being able to contain her curiosity, Donna gave the Doctor a moment, then she had enough. In short staccato, she tapped his shoulder. "Anything? Find something?"
He looked pointedly at his shoulder and Donna pulled her hand back mouthing a 'Sorry'.
"This is just a normal cataloguing system," he explained.
"And you needed that long to find that out?" Donna exclaimed. "I could have told you that!"
The Doctor raised his eyebrows.
"Okay, okay. Anything else?" Donna looked at him expectantly.
The Doctor scratched his head.
"Were you looking for this?" a voice boomed over them as the TARDIS appeared on the screen. It was standing peacefully where the Doctor had parked it.
"Don't you dare touch it, " the Doctor glowered in a low voice.
"Don't worry. You won't be needing it any more." With that the TARDIS was engulfed in green light. The Doctor opened his mouth, but the scream died on his lips as the TARDIS disappeared. He snapped it shut and pressed his lips into a thin line.
Donna had gotten very still beside him as she stared white-faced at the empty screen. Then, she exploded and shot such a fury of words, accusations and curses at the ceiling that even the Doctor had problems following her. Amazed and impressed, he let her rave until her final. "How dare you?"
The voice remained silent. Donna heaved, straitened her jacket self-consciously and glanced at the Doctor beaming at her.
"You told him off!" he applauded and Donna looked directly at him, with an embarrassed grin. "Feels better, once it's off my chest."
"I believe that," the Doctor added with a smirk as he turned back to the console.
Donna stepped closer. "So, what do we do now?"
The Doctor peeked over his shoulder. "Find the TARDIS."
Donna beamed at him. "Sounds like a plan. Do you want to got to the surface and see if you can track her there?"
"I wouldn't recommend that," the voice piped in.
"Oh, you again," Donna sighed. "You know, I am getting quite tired of this. At least you could show yourself."
Donna and the Doctor looked at each other, then shrugged.
"Okay, let's find the exit," they said simultaneously and chuckled.
"Not recommended," the voice insisted, almost sounding sad.
"And why is that so?" Donna looked up and around.
The screen flickered to life again. It showed the surface, but it was obscured by raging sandstorms.
"Oh." The Doctor bent closer.
"Can't be the whole planet," Donna said, but his expression remained grim. "Can it?"
He turned to her. "Looks like it."
He pointed at readings and little maps on the side of the display.
"But why would 'HE'," she pointed up, "care?"
"You are two perfect specimens," the voice answered for the Doctor.
"Thanks," Donna said sarcastically.
"It would be pitiful if the objects got damaged by the storms."
"Gee, thanks again," Donna looked at the Doctor. His head was tilted listening to something Donna couldn't hear. Suddenly, he sprang to life and grabbed her hand.
Without protest Donna lunged forward and they zigzagged again through the labyrinth of holding tanks. The sound of thousands marching followed them, resonating off the wall of the hall. The sandpeople seemed to come from everywhere. Frantically, the Doctor looked left and right, then he pushed Donna through two holding tanks and squeezed in himself.
"Oi," she protested, but he clamped his hand over her mouth.
"Ssh." Cocking his head, he listened intently and then Donna could hear them too: marching feet coming closer. She tensed and closed her eyes for she didn't need to see when they find them in this mousetrap. The boots approached, their vibration shivering through Donna's body and then they went past.
They actually went by? Donna's eyes flew open.
The Doctor grinned and let go of her mouth. "Perception filter." He dangled the TARDIS key in front of her before twisting out of their hiding place. Scanning the aisles quickly, he leant back in. "Let's go."
But Donna sank to her knees, her head in her hands.
"Donna?" the Doctor asked surprised.
She looked up with empty eyes, head still resting on her hands.
"How do you do it?"
"What?" He knelt down in front of her.
"Keep on going," she said, listlessly pointing around vaguely.
He remained silent waiting for her to go on.
She sighed. "We've been captured as 'specimens', hunted by sandpeople, observed by an invisible voice. Running for who knows how long and now the TARDIS is gone!"
"So?" the Doctor tried to figure out where she was going with this.
"Not giving up?" Donna studied him tiredly.
He shrugged. "No. Always moving forward." Sadness crept in his voice. "What else is left?"
Donna held his gaze trying to read him, but his eyes were dark and once again she felt like she was standing at a gate, bolted and locked tightly in protection. To protect whom? Him or her? She blinked and shook her head slightly to clear the image while the Doctor remained silent, observing her with his unreadable eyes.
Donna sighed. "You're right. What else is left." She grinned as she extended her hand. "Be a gentleman, Spaceboy, and help an Earthlady up."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow as pulled her up. "Earthlady?"
"I'm a Noble, already forgotten?" Donna straightened her jacket.
"Yeah – right," the Doctor drawled, letting every syllable slip off his lips.
Donna laughed before she gave him a smack on the arm.
He yelped. "I really wish you'd refrain from that!"
Donna looked around. "Should we run again, then?"
The Doctor stopped rubbing his arm and grinned wide. "Right then!"
He stepped out of their hiding spot.
"What?" She followed him and instantly was swept away by an army of sandpeople.
"Doctor!" She reached out trying to hold on to him.
"Donna!" the Doctor shouted as he was pushed away in the opposite direction.
The sandpeople were swift on their feet and hauled Donna down the row of endless holding tanks.
The Doctor kicked and rowed his arms in vain as he attempted to climb over them, but new ones just replaced the ones he stepped over, constantly flowing in the opposite direction. They rounded a corner and he lost sight of Donna as her screams faded away.
"Let me go!" the Doctor was really angry now and grabbed the first sand person; he could reach and smacked the hood off. He froze as empty eyes starred at him out of a metallic face.
"Robodroids." The Doctor sank back, being carried away swiftly.
"Who is controlling you?" He fumbled for the screwdriver and pointed it at the sandpeople.
"I would not recommend that," the voice advised and the Doctor looked up. He was back in the control room and without a warning the sandpeople dropped him while forming a tight ring around him.
"Where is Donna?" the Doctor spat.
"What do you want?" The Doctor circled and the sandpeople moved accordingly keeping him out of reach of the consoles. "You could have dropped us back in the tanks. But you didn't."
"You are different," the voice explained, sounding bored. "Nobody got away so far. Nobody put up such a fight."
"So?" the Doctor tapped his foot impatiently.
"I wanted to reconfigure my initial scan of you."
"Yeah, you could have asked," the Doctor paced again, the sandpeople moving with him. "Where is Donna?"
"If you mean your companion, she was deposited in a more secure storage facility," the voice explained.
"Ha!" the Doctor laughed joyless. "You are scared of her!"
"Scared?" the voice paused.
The Doctor had the vague feeling it was verifying the information it was given.
"No," it finally said. "Scared is an emotion. It is not in the database."
The Doctor's head snapped around. "You ARE the central mainframe."
"The Organizer," said the voice.
"But I don't get it. How do you get your specimens?" The Doctor edged closer to the controls.
"The robodroids - they swarm out on the planet's surface and in the solar system. They can't go much further than that, but this is a waystation. The transport beams get activated and the specimens land in the tank. I catalogue and sort them into categories, get them numbered and registered for storage."
"Ah ya," the Doctor tilted his head eyeing the consoles. If he could only find out which one was the main. "But who built you?"
The voice paused. "Explain your question."
The Doctor rolled his shoulders. He got him now! He swung around carelessly, hands deep in his pockets. "You know, who is the mastermind behind you."
"I AM the mastermind!" the voice shot back.
"Really?" the Doctor twisted around to see the lights on the nearest console.
A computer to his right attracted the Doctor's attention.
"I am the Organizer – the mastermind," the voice stated, more lights flickering on the console.
"You must excuse me." The Doctor strolled over to the right and the ring of sandpeople huddled with him. "I'm just a bit confused here."
"Why is that?"
The Doctor scratched his head. "Well, just as to how you were created?"
Silence. The lights on the console flashed in rapid succession on the right console. The Doctor took another step closer.
"You know, somebody must have put you in place, activated you, made you collect specimens." The Doctor had reached the console and casually pulled his screwdriver out.
"I AM THE ORGANIZER!" the voice boomed. "I wasn't built."
"OH, yes, you were," the Doctor laughed jovially. "You can tell me. We are among friends, aren't we? Well, and anyway you were about to store me, so what's the harm in me knowing?" The Doctor adjusted the settings on the screwdriver behind his back.
"I AM me," it said, less confident as the console lid up in a random sequence.
"Just search your data, any hidden files. I'm sure you'll find a manufacturer code."
Smoke sizzled out of the console.
"I AM so sorry," the Doctor whispered as he pointed his sonic device. The console exploded. Lights flickered in the hall, went out before the emergency lighting kicked in.
"Really, sorry, but I had to stop you." The Doctor looked around.
The sandpeople stood frozen and he had to wiggle between them to get free. Pent energy was sputtering and the Doctor pointed the screwdriver to the screen. A cursor popped up on the otherwise blank screen. Putting the screwdriver back in his pocket, he typed rapidly.
"Didn't mean to shut you down completely," the Doctor muttered. "Just some adjustments to the program—" the Doctor stopped as the screen beside him came to life. A sequence of surveillance images appeared distracting the Doctor enough to not notice the command flashing across the main screen. The Doctor turned to the second screen and punched command codes to slow down the images.
"Storage 1, Storage 5 and 6," the Doctor counted. "Come on, where is she?"
A picture of Donna popped on the screen.
"There! Gottcha!" cried the Doctor triumphantly. He stopped the image and got a layout of the station. Quickly, he cross-referenced it and got her location.
"Hold on, Donna." He touched the screen gently. Donna was pacing a small cell, occasionally hitting the door. Her voiceless scream filled the screen. The Doctor looked closer. She was calling his name.
"I'm coming, Donna!"
He turned back to the mainframe, where the cursor waited patiently. He typed in a new command, but before he could hit enter the screen froze.
"What?" the Doctor frowned. He pulled the screwdriver out again, ran it over the console, but no reaction.
Strange! He hit the keyboard in a last attempt, but the screen remained lifeless.
"Well, guess I have to come back to you." The Doctor patted the screen affectionately. He downloaded Donna's holding location into the screwdriver from the second console and set off in a fast trot. Behind him, the main screen came back to life.
The Doctor skidded around a corner reading the screwdriver's directions. Suddenly, it flickered and the information was gone.
"WHAT?" the Doctor stared at it in utter disbelief, then he shook it and held it to his ear.
It was humming quietly. He pulled it back to stare at it. All was working properly, only the directions were gone.
"Blimey. Note to self: check screwdriver."
He pocketed it and ran down the aisle – going off memory, then. 300 m further down; he came to a crossroad. Sliding to a stop, he looked down each identical corridor, pulled his hair in growing frustration, before turning on the spot. Suddenly, he titled his head.
Very faint or was it?
He stepped into the left aisle.
No more than a whisper, but a smile crept on his face as he dashed down the corridor. A couple of corners later, the shout was clear, three more hallways and it started to hurt his ears.
"OH, nononono," the Doctor halted to listen. "Not what I wanted. DONNA?"
He grinned and ran on as the lights around him started to flicker.
"I'm coming, Donna!"
"Doctor? DOCTOR!" Donna screamed at the top of her lungs.
"Here I am." He skittered to a halt. Donna's face peered at him through a tiny window in the door. She grinned, relieved, as he pointed his screwdriver at the lock. With a soft pop it opened and Donna flew out.
"At your service," he beamed, opening his arms wide.
"Am I glad to see you!" Donna barley stopped herself from running him over and gave him a bear hug.
"And I'm glad you have such a strong sound organ!"
Donna pulled back, her face clouded over and the Doctor hastened to add.
"You saved the day!"
Surprised washed over Donna's face. "I did?"
The Doctor nodded eagerly. "If you hadn't shouted, I wouldn't have found you."
He wiggled the screwdriver, studying it closely.
"For some reason, it did lose you coordinates."
"A screwdriver malfunction?" Donna asked, eyebrows rose.
The Doctor caressed the instrument. "I'm not sure," he said, distracted, as Donna rolled her eyes.
The light in the hallway flickered. Surprised, the Doctor looked up as the sound of approaching feet filled the air.
"What?" he spun around. "That can't be!"
"What's happening? Donna looked at him.
"I have turned off the mainframe. Unless…" he ruffled his hair. "Oh, no. No. Nonono – can't be possible!"
"Doctor?" Donna had difficulty following his erratic movements.
"It's time to surrender to your fate," the voice announced.
The Doctor's shoulders sank. "It is possible."
Donna grabbed his arm. "Fill me in!"
"The specimen had thought he could turn me off," the voice announced sounding almost cheerful.
Donna stared at the Doctor, who shrugged.
"I was certain the override program shut everything down, but before I could finish the system froze."
"A simple fail switch," the voice explained. "Lets the intruders think they succeeded. All systems get shut down – only to restart after a few minutes."
"Fooled me," the Doctor said.
"What now?" Donna looked at him.
"Run?" he suggested.
"Again? Without a plan?" Donna sighed.
"Well," the Doctor titled his head. "You got any better ideas?"
Donna broke into a wide smile. "As a matter of fact, I have."
The Doctor's eyes widened with excitement. "Well. Share."
"Mmh," Donna tapped her finger on her lips – fully enjoying the moment as the Doctor pattered impatient on the spot.
"All right, all right." She threw her hands up in surrender. "You know, grandpops always says: Patience is a virtue."
She smiled innocently. "How about we just get into the TARDIS and leave?"
The Doctor stared at her wide-eyed, not sure if she had gone bonkers or if she was serious.
"Ja, well," he stalled, trying to read her. "That sure would be nice."
"Good. Let's go then," Donna turned and strode purposefully down the hallway.
"Ah, Donna?" the Doctor stood rooted to the spot.
"Are you coming?" she asked casually over her shoulder.
The Doctor grinned wide and followed her. She stopped a few doors down looking at the Doctor expectantly. He peeked through the window.
"Oooh, there you are," he breathed affectionately.
"Under difference circumstances, I'd give you two a moment," Donna said. "But—"
"What?" the Doctor pulled off the door.
Donna nodded towards the lock and pointedly back at the Doctor.
"Oh," a slow smile crept over his face. "Now you'll need me."
Donna rolled her eyes.
"How did you know she was here?" he asked, fishing for his screwdriver.
"I tried to memorize the path they took me," Donna explained.
The Doctor looked up from the lock as it clicked. "Smart thinking."
Donna smiled and they slipped through the door, just in time to see the first sandpeople marching down the corridor.
Donna ran across the room as the Doctor sealed the door behind him.
"That's when I saw her." Donna stroked the wood. "And boy, was I glad!"
She looked over her shoulder at the Doctor who watched her with a big smile on his face.
Fists pounded on the doors and the Doctor jumped.
"No point hanging around."
Donna fumbled the key into the look and the door swung open. The Doctor sprinted past her, flipped a few switches, pumped a lever and stared at the screen.
""Everything all right?" Donna looked over his shoulder.
"Yeah – she is fine."
"Well, what do you say? Let's get out of here," Donna suggested.
"Just one more thing," the Doctor looked at her before pulling the communicator lever.
"You can't leave," the voice responded. "Nobody leaves! It's against protocol!"
"Yeah, well – your protocol has to be changed." The Doctor stared at the screen.
"Negative," the voice sounded confident. "Organizer doesn't allow access from outside the mainframe."
The Doctor scratched his head. "Well, then let me back into the mainframe and I'll adjust your settings to only—"
"My settings are working well," the computer interrupted. "No calibrations needed."
"No." The Doctor's face turned hard. "I can't let you harvest new specimen."
"That's my purpose!" the voice protested.
"Your duty can be rewritten to storage and maintenance," the Doctor said. "I'm offering you a chance."
"Or what?" Donna scrutinized him.
The Doctor looked up from the screen. "I have to shut down the system."
"Let it die?" Her eyes widened.
"Well, the specimens are already dead," the Doctor, said quietly. "I checked the database. And I can't allow him to 'collect' more lifeforms."
"Good! Shut it down." Donna nodded, determined.
The Doctor studied her, unyielding. "I have to give it a choice."
"Oh," Donna blushed with realization. "His right to exist?"
The Doctor nodded and turned back to the screen. "Organizer – I can change your settings—"
"No!" the voice shouted. "You will gain no access!"
The Doctor shook his head sadly. "Then, you give me no choice."
He pushed the lever down and the familiar sound of the TARDIS dematerializing rang through the control room.
"Where are we going?" Donna asked.
"Back to space. I can't fire an electromagnetic pulse from within – it would ground us, too," he smiled sadly.
The planet's desert surface appeared on the screen; it was swarming with sandpeople.
The Doctor flipped the switch.