Fear was quickly becoming full on panic!
Jenny couldn't believe she had been put into a coffin alive. Her hearts sped up and her breathing came out in shallow rasps. She screamed at the top of her lungs, slamming her fists into the cover over and over, until neither her hands nor her ears could take it anymore. With frustration, she gave one last pound into the cushioning below her. She couldn't shake the surreal feeling of this whole experience.
Only when she shivered due to ambient chill of her surroundings did some sort of sanity set in. Jenny scolded her rash behaviour. "I'm being ridiculous. Of course, considering how absolutely barmy this situation is..." she said, before drawing a deep, cold breath in, "but I need to think smartly."
Lifting her sore hands, she placed them on the surface above her. Meticulously, she skimmed it, looking for some kind of edge or split where it might open. "It's a coffin, so reasonably there must be a place where the lid and box meet. If there is, I can find it and open it," she told herself, despite a creeping fear. "Unless of course, it's locked." Shaking her head, she tried to dismiss that thought and the gnawing discomfort it created in the pit of her stomach. "Think positively, Jenny. Just like Dad. There's always a solution, if you just look for it." Drawing in a few more icy breaths, Jenny's attention shifted to the central, elongated glass surface.
Pressing one hand against the glass, she noticed the misty whiteness subtly faded under her touch. She realised it was a window of some kind. That ignited a bit of hope in her mind. She tried to clear the glass further. The moisture was just as cold as her surroundings, coating her bare arms and hands in tiny, nipping ice crystals. She ignored the discomfort, too determined to find a way out. Once, the glass was clear, she leaned forward and pressed her nose against it, peering out.
The room beyond was the same sterile white as her coffin. Straining her ears, she couldn't hear a single noise coming from outside. Of course, she didn't know whether that was due to a lack of sound or the box being sound-proof. If it was the latter, it would explain why no one heard her. Continuing to glance about the outside world, Jenny looked for anything that might help her better understand her situation and escape her confinement.
There were several control panels at different points in the white room. Many of them had a corresponding screen. Most these screens appeared blank, except for one. Jenny had to crane her neck to get a good view of it. Staring intently at the lit screen, she noticed with some surprise that the image appeared to be a top view of a white room, much like the one she had seen outside her confinement. There was a raised table in the white room on the screen. On that table sat an elongated white box with an elongated glass window. In fact, when she waved a hand across the window of her confinement, she saw a subtle repeated motion from the window of the white box on the screen.
"Hey!" she called out. "Is someone there?" Glancing about the rest of the room, she noticed no obvious door or any person within view. Quickly, she returned her view to the screen. To her surprise, the top view image had zoomed in closer to the white box. She could now just start to make out her own, blurred face in the window of the white box. "If you can hear me, please let me out! I'm not dead!"
The image flickered before a new, more zoomed in image appeared on one side of the screen. On the other side, a series of unfamiliar symbols and numbers appeared, scrolling from top to bottom. It looked like some sort of analysis, but she didn't know of what.
"Please let me out!" Jenny said, banging a few times on the window with her fist. Drawing in a long breath, she tried to calm herself, but it was hard. The ramped fear still raked over her. That combined with the cold was making it hard to breath. She was beginning to feel eerily tired.
"Please open this box!" Jenny called out anxiously. "It's getting hard to breathe in here. I don't think there's enough oxygen." Almost as if to confirm her words, '10%' appeared on the screen underneath the word 'oxygen'. A moment later, the percent changed to '9%.'
The response quickly came after that. There was the distinct sound of a click and a hiss as if gas was being released. Then, the box gave a quick shake as the white surface above her began to move up and away from her, before tilting to the left.
Jenny kept her hands up before her, just in case the worst happened and it closed again or whoever opened had plans to attack her. Drawing in a few deep, ragged breaths, she waited. No attack came. After a few seconds more, she dared to sit up slowly. One quick glance about the room told her that there was nothing new from her previous investigation. Thus, she quickly pushed out herself up and out of the white box.
However, her legs weren't prepared as she thought. She found herself tumbling to her knees and on to the floor. "Ouch!" she said, clutching her left knee. Hissing, she rubbed both them as she gave the room a more thorough examination.
"Definitely a med lab of some kind," she said before she heard the sound of a sliding door from behind her. Turning sharply on her right knee, she readied herself for anything. The sight of a luscious green forest on the other side of an open doorway wasn't one of them. "Or maybe not a med lab but some kind of science lab?"
Furrowing her brow, she pushed herself up to her feet. Steadying herself against the table with her former confinement, she tried to see beyond the doorway and into the forest. "Hello?" she called.
No answer came back.
After a few test steps with her legs, she felt comfortable enough to go forward. There was no point in her mind to stay here anymore. Something more was waiting. That's when she contemplated her earlier thought. "Maybe this is more than just a medical lab. Maybe this is the afterlife," she said, before glancing back into the medical room. "If it is, it sure is odd afterlife."
The Doctor stared at the console column intently. There were no particular thoughts in his mind. Still, he couldn't pull his gaze away.
"So," Donna said suddenly, reminding him he wasn't alone, "where are we off to now, Doctor?"
Glancing in her direction, he raised an eyebrow. With a shrug, he said, "Wherever you like."
"How I'm I suppose to know?" Donna asked with a smirk. "You're the experienced time traveller."
The Doctor wanted to smile back but couldn't get his lips to curve. Instead, he nodded and turned back towards the console. "Then, I'll try to get you a list," he said unenthusiastically, "if you'd like." Stepping around the console, he moved up to the monitor and proceeded to bring up a list.
"A list? If I'd like?" Donna said questioningly with an irritated scoff. He could hear her footsteps following after him. "Doctor?"
He spared her a brief look, before returning to his search using the monitor controls. A moment later, he felt her hand on his right arm. "Are you going to be alright, Doctor?" The tone of worry in her voice was very clear.
Without raising his gaze, he said nonchalantly, "I'm always all right."
"No really, Doctor" Donna stated, tugging him in her direction. He only slightly resisted, before turning to face her. He looked at her seeing the evident concern in her eyes. "Talk to me."
Dipping his gaze, he drew in a breath. "I'm..."
"Doctor," she said firmly. The deep frown on her lips told him to quite pretending. Donna was never one to just accept him at face value. He supposed that why he liked her so much, why he trusted her unquestioningly.
The Doctor sighed deeply. "I'm going to be okay, Donna" he told her. "I just... I need..."
"Time," Donna finished for him. When he met her gaze again, he saw her smiling.
For once, he felt the tiniest smile flicker on to his own face. "Yeah. Something like that." As quickly as the smile came, he felt it vanish both from his face and his hearts.
"Then, let's hold off on that trip for a bit," Donna said, gently squeezing his arms. With a sigh, she took a step back to him. "Besides, I'm feeling a bit tired. Give me a bit of a rest up and then I should be good to go. Okay?"
He knew Donna was lying. If he had to guess, she probably thought he didn't want to travel right now. That was as far from the truth as one could get. He wanted to be anywhere but here, alone to his thoughts. On board the TARDIS, they plagued him unrelentingly, along with his numerous regrets.
Holding her gaze, he considered contradicting her. The thought of just randomly choosing any old destination crossed his mind. Then, he reconsidered. Donna might have a point. If he couldn't make a simple decision on a destination, maybe he wasn't ready to face a new adventure. There was no way he could help others, if he couldn't help himself. Once again, Donna proved why he trusted her so implicitly.
Forcing a smile, he nodded his agreement. "Sounds good. Just tell me when you're ready."
Donna nodded once back. "You too, Spaceman."
The fresh smell of life consumed Jenny's senses. The air was filled with a mixture of sweet flowers and fruits, and the hint of dew drops danced in air. She couldn't help the huge grin on her face. This was more wondrous than the garden on Messaline in so many breath-taking ways.
Every so often, Jenny stopped to admire a particular flora, marvelling at how distinctive it was from the last hundred or so before it. She couldn't imagine how such a vast variety could exist in one place. In her mind, the idea of the afterlife seemed like the only explanation.
Still, Jenny didn't feel dead. Death, in her opinion, was more like the dark void. Only fear and the absence of everything could be death. This was too wondrous to be death. Thus, she pushed that dark thought away and continued down the natural, worn path she had been following.
The path seemed to purposefully lead her towards each new type of flora as if missing just one would ruin the experience. Stopping again, she stepped up towards a rather tall, slender, and grass-like plant with a broad, maroon flower at its centre. The three wide petals of the flower were spread wide, exposing the deep amber feelers within. When Jenny leaned forward to smell it, she noticed a tiny, purplish bug with silvery wings crawling about inside. It appeared to be collecting pollen.
"Not just natural beauty," Jenny commented joyfully, "but a bit of natural ecosystem. Brilliant!" She laughed, clapping her hands over her mouth. The tiny bug was beautiful, but she wondered how many other insects there must be to maintain this perfect garden. Surely, this one bug couldn't pollinate this entire garden on its own.
That's when a shiver ran over her shoulder. The breeze fluttering through the trees didn't cause it. That was a warm and pleasant sensation compared to this new one. This was the feeling of being watched. She was sure of that as she shot back up to a full, standing position and turned sharply. Every soldier instinct kicked into action. She scanned the area as far as she could. She took note of every little quivering branch and leaf in sight, just in case there was a creature close by looking to make her its next meal. She listened for any new noises. When she still couldn't see or hear anything that she could interpret as a threat, her gaze rose to the ceiling.
Much like the white room, the ceiling was a sterile white colour. She noticed with interest there were a few small, dark coloured bumps at different points in the ceiling. Walking closer to one of them, she squinted at it. Subtly, an amber coloured light appeared near the centre, but it was very dim.
"Hello?" Jenny said questioning. "Can you see me? Are you the one that released me?"
As usual, there was no response.
Managing a small smile, she continued. "If you are, then... thank you," Jenny said, before putting on a thoughtful look. She wanted to say more, to ask more. She still didn't know where she was. This certainly didn't look like anyplace she had been on Messaline. More than that, she didn't know where anyone else was at. In particular, her thoughts drifted to her father, Martha, and Donna. She wondered if they were still okay and if they might be nearby.
"Excuse me, I was wondering, were there any other people that came with me here?" Jenny asked. "One of them, a slender man with wild brown hair..." She gestured around her head emphasizing his defining characteristics in her mind, "and a really great smile... perhaps a bit rude and over energetic and... and, well, you see, he's my father. I'd like to find him."
She paused, considering the possibility that her father and the others might not be here. That thought darkened as she considered the possibility that they'd left her. Just thinking of being alone and abandoned by the closest thing she'd had to family and friends made her hearts ache. She didn't like being alone. It was too much like being consumed by the dark void or trapped inside the white coffin again.
Strengthening her voice, she continued. "That is... if you can. I mean, if you haven't seen him or any others that were with me, I understand. He might have had to... leave me behind. I guess... I'm just worried about him. I want to know whether he and the others are..."
The words died on her tongue as she heard a noise similar to the one she heard before when a door appeared. Looking towards the noise, she saw a door had once again appeared. She looked puzzled at the new door that led into a hallway. It didn't look as brightly lit as the garden, but it certainly wasn't too dark to impair seeing. Turning once more to the dark bump on the ceiling, Jenny smiled. "Is that where my father is, or the others who were with me?"
Once again, she got no response. Jenny accepted that and walked through the doorway.
A very short moment passed before her eyes adjusted. The lightening seemed about as good as the tunnels on Messaline. There was a bit more light than required to navigate but there were few to no distinctive characteristics to distinguish one hallway from another. Edging forward, Jenny made her way taking note that there were a few doors lining either side of the hallway. Whenever she dared to try one, she found it securely locked.
"Okay, obviously not the way my host wants me to go," Jenny said to herself. "Fine by me. I'm much more interested in finding out where this leads."
The hallway eventually led to an opened doorway. From within, there was a vibrant array of warm colours emanating in a rhythmic pattern. She paused in step several arm lengths away. There was hesitance in her mind. She was glad to be close to figuring out why she was here and who locked her in the box prison or coffin or whatever it was. Still, at the same time, this was all very strange and confusing to her.
She was a soldier without a gun on foreign ground. There was little her military training could do beyond preparing her to fight if the need arose. She considered using the shadows to hide herself, except she didn't want to hide. She wanted to be found. More than that, she wanted to find her father, and if this led to him, then she had to push forward. Swallowing a lump in her throat, she went through the door.
The warm, organic glow gave way to the shapes within. Jenny was particularly captivated by the towering column that moved up and down in a rhythmic pattern. She felt drawn to it, so she approached with a curious mind and broad grin. Although, before she could rest a hand against the inclined control area, she caught sight of a figure a the doorway on the other side of the room.
A tinkle of apprehension raked over her skin. She prepared to act in whatever way was necessary. However, the figure did not seem to take notice of her. Cautiously, she moved around the console and towards the figure. She noted that the figure was silent and mostly motionless. The figure's gaze appeared focused out through a pair of double doors. The form was slender, shadowed as it reclined against one of the doors. Its head with the wild hair was titled away.
Within two more steps, Jenny recognized the figure as her father. Her face broke into a wide smile. She wanted to cry and jump for joy at the same time. Before either happened, she caught sight of what captivated her father. A vast spirally nebula framed by thousands of sprinkling stars lay sprawled out before him.
Jenny's mouth fell open as she slowly moved forward and beside her father. Much like him, she leaned against the other door, just taking in all of the vast beauty of the universe. "It's as beautiful as you said, Dad," she said off-handedly. "Maybe more so."
With a distracted voice, her father agreed, "Yeah. Yeah, it is, Jenny." Out of the corner of her eye, Jenny saw him smile. It was one of his wide, warm smiles that she loved.
Then, all of a sudden, the smile fell away, and he turned sharply towards her. "Jenny!" he said, his voice jumping an octave. His gaze was buzzing up and down her. "But… but… that's not possible!"
He was looking at her, moisture building in his brown eyes as his lips moved silently. The emotions seemed to pour out of him and on to her. Words escaped her too. All Jenny could think to say was what she once heard her father say to Donna about Jenny herself:
"Not impossible, Dad. Just a bit unlikely."