A/N: Welcome one and all to the third story in my Academic Series, a revision of Series 4 to include my OC the Professor! If you haven't read Reunion (the first) or Recuperation (the second), you definitely should to understand who the Professor is and why she is the way she is in this story.
Some little things to note:
~8~ is a scene break
~/~\~ is a flashback (of which there will be 3 per story)
'italics' is the Doctor/Professor speaking telepathically.
Much of the stories in the Academic Series are based more on the Doctor or Professor's point of view, so there will be scenes missing. Assuming everyone has seen the show, you all probably know what happens during those scenes, so just get creative and plug mentions of the Professor in whenever someone talks about the Doctor in one of them.
The Professor, in this story, is a lean, blue eyed woman, with blond hair pulled into a ponytail, who wears a grey/blue thin strap tank top, knee length black cargo pants, black shoes, and black fingerless gloves, along with a (very familiar) sonic blaster in a holster around her waist.
And, just a warning, the Professor won't seem to say much at first, but actions always do speak louder than words...
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who...otherwise I'd have a TARDIS of my own parked outside...
Voyage of the Damned
The Professor quickly got to work, flicking various controls on the console, the Doctor shaking his head and following her lead as they closed the TARDIS walls, pushing out the ship before materializing within it.
He moved to step out of the box when the Professor pulled him back. He gave her a curious look but then realization dawned on him as she peeked out quickly, seeing what was out there as they hadn't checked the monitors before hand. When she seemed to deem it all clear she stepped out and into a supply closet. By the time he'd stepped out after her and closed the TARDIS door behind him she was already peeking out the doors to the main hall. She looked back and nodded, stepping out and waiting for him to follow.
They ended up in a wood paneled room, spotted with potted palms and Christmas decorations, people dressed in early 20th century garb milling around while waiters passed out some treats and champagne. There was a band playing in another room, a slower version of 'Jingle Bells.' The Doctor glanced at the Professor to see her giving the room and people a quick onceover before turning her attention to a golden, robotic angel in a white robe.
"Right…" he eyed one as it twitched.
"Attention all passengers," a man called over the loudspeaker, "The Titanic is now in orbit above Sol 3, also known as Earth. Population: Human. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Christmas."
The Doctor and Professor stood before a video terminal, watching a bald man with a laughably thin moustache sitting behind a desk, "Max Capricorn Cruise Liners, the fastest, the farthest, the best. And I should know because my name is Max," he smiled, his golden tooth glinting in the light, before the screen reverted back to the cruise logo.
The Doctor straightened his tie, now dressed in his black suit again, the Professor wearing loose, black dress pants and vest over a red button dress shirt, similar to the outfit she had worn to Lazarus Labs. They turned and walked into reception, passing a steward who called out, "Merry Christmas, sir, ma'am."
"Merry Christmas," the Doctor greeted though the Professor barely acknowledge the greeting.
Once they walked into the ballroom, they passed a man with slicked back hair on a sort of communication device, "It's not a holiday for me, not while I've still got my vone. Now do as I say and sell!" he walked off and the Professor gave the room another look.
The Doctor walked over to one of the robotic angels, "Evening. Passengers 56 and 57. Terrible memory. Remind me. Uh, you would be..."
"Information: Heavenly Host supplying tourist information," it replied.
"Good, so, um...tell me, 'cos I'm an idiot…where are we from?"
"Information: the Titanic is en route from the planet Sto in the Cassavalian Belt. The purpose of the cruise is to experience primitive cultures."
"Titanic. Um...who...thought of the name?"
"Information: it was chosen as the most famous vessel of the planet Earth."
"Did they tell you why it was famous?"
"Information: all designations are chosen by Mr. Max Capricorn, president of Max…Max…Max..." it started jerking its head, repeating itself.
"Ooh, bit of a glitch…"
"Sir, we can handle this," the chief steward rushed over, waving to some others for assistance. Two other stewards switched off the Host and dragged it away, "Software problem, that's all. Leave it with us, sir. Merry Christmas," and, with a nod, he turned and rushed off after them.
The Doctor moved to follow when there was a crash, something glass shattering behind them. They looked over to see the slick haired man from before glaring down at a young blond woman in a waitress uniform standing before the broken glass of the drinks she had been holding.
"For Tov's sake, look where you're going!" he snapped, "This jacket's a genuine Earth antique."
"I'm sorry, sir," the woman replied, kneeling down to pick up the glass.
"You'll be sorry when it comes off your wages, sweetheart. Staffed by idiots. No wonder Max Capricorn is going down the drain," he stormed off just as the Doctor and Professor walked over.
The Doctor knelt down to help the woman while the Professor remained standing, eyes slightly narrowed at the man as he stalked off.
"Careful," the Doctor remarked, picking at the peices, "There we go."
"Thank you, sir," the woman nodded, "I can manage."
"I never said you couldn't. I'm the Doctor, by the way, that's the Professor."
"Astrid, sir. Astrid Peth."
"Nice to meet you, Astrid Peth. Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas, sir," she smiled, surprised at the man's kindness.
"Just 'Doctor,' not 'sir.'"
"You enjoying the cruise?"
"Um...yeah, I suppose. I don't know. Sort of just started for us."
Astrid stood, "Is it just the two of you?"
"Yep," he stood as well, "Just us. What about you? Long way from home, Planet Sto."
"Doesn't feel that different. I spent three years working at the spaceport diner, travelled all the way here...and I'm still waiting on tables."
She turned to walk away, the Doctor following after her as the Professor walked with him, "No shore leave?" he asked.
"We're not allowed," she mumbled, clearing away a table by the window, "They can't afford the insurance. I just wanted to try it, just once. I used to watch the ships heading off to the stars and I always dreamt of...it sounds daft…"
"You dreamt of another sky. New sun, new air, new life. A whole Universe teeming with life. Why stand still when there're all that life out there?"
"So...you travel a lot?" she looked between them.
"All the time. Just for fun. Well, that's the plan."
"Never works," the Professor remarked.
Astrid blinked, she'd noticed that the woman hadn't spoken at all till then. She frowned, her voice seemed odd…like it was more stating a fact than making a comment, "Must be rich, though."
"Haven't got a penny," the Doctor corrected, before whispering to her, "Stowaways."
"How did you get on board?"
"Accident. We've got this, sort of, ship thing. We were just rebuilding her."
"He left the defenses down," the Professor added, "And your ship crashed into ours."
"And here we are," he smiled at the Professor, she was starting to talk, if only a little. These were the first words she had spoken since she'd regenerated, he noted her voice was a low alto, it…fit…with her new personality, low, even slightly raspy, "Bit of a party, we thought 'Why not?'"
"I should report you," Astrid told them.
"Go on then."
She hesitated a moment before smiling, "I'll get you some drinks..." she whispered, "On the house," before walking off, passing a group of first class passengers who were laughing and pointing at a heavy set couple dressed in purple country western outfits sitting at a nearby table, eating.
"Just ignore 'em," the black man of the two told the white woman beside him.
"Something's tickled them," the Doctor remarked as they sat down across from the couple, the Professor's eyes more narrowed as she eyed the other table.
"They told us it was fancy dress," the woman remarked, "Very funny, I'm sure."
"They're just pickin' on us because we haven't paid," the man added, "We won our tickets in a competition."
"I had to name the five husbands of Joofie Crystalle in 'By the Light of the Asteroid.' Did you ever watch..."
"Is that the one with the twins?" the Doctor asked.
"That's it. Oh, it's marvelous."
"Probably not good enough for that lot," the man gestured to the laughers, "They think we should be in steerage."
"Can't have that, can we?" the Doctor reached into his pocket and subtlety pulled out the sonic, holding it under his arm at his side and aimed it at the table behind them. The champagne on the table popped its cork, spraying all of them with the liquid.
"Did…did you do that?" the woman asked him.
"Maybe," the Doctor grinned, putting the sonic away.
"We like you."
"We do," the man agreed, reaching out to shake his hand, "I'm Morvin van Hoff. This is my good woman, Foon," he reached out to the Professor as well but she made no move to take his hand. He cleared his throat and sat back down, blushing.
The Doctor smiled apologetically at them before shaking Foon's hand, "Foon. Hello, I'm the Doctor. This is the Professor."
"Oh, I'm gonna need a Doctor by the time I'm finished with this buffet," Foon remarked, "Have a buffalo wing. They must be enormous, these buffalo, so many wings."
"Attention please," an announcement came over the loudspeaker, "Shore leave tickets Red 6-7 now activated. Red 6-7."
"Red 6-7," Foon pulled out a ticket, "That's us," she stood up and looked at them, "Are you Red 6-7?"
The Doctor shrugged, "Might as well be," and stood, the Professor as well.
"Come on," Morvin smiled and put his arm around Foon, walking away, "We're going to Earth."
They walked the short distance across the room to where an old, slightly balding, man in a tweed suit was holding up a red sign bearing '6-7' on it, "Red 6-7. Red 6-7. This way, fast as you can!"
The van Hoffs rushed over, the Doctor and Professor following, when Astrid approached them, "I got you those drinks," she smiled, tray in her hand.
"And we got you a treat," he took the tray and put it down on a nearby table, before leading her towards the old man, "Come on."
"Red 6-7 departing shortly!" the man called.
The Doctor held up the psychic paper, "Red 6-7s plus one."
"Uh, quickly, sir, ma'ams, and please take three teleport bracelets if you would."
"I'll get the sack," Astrid hissed as the Doctor held out a bracelet, the Professor rolling it around in her fingers a moment, scanning it, before putting it on.
"Brand new sky," he whispered and she took it.
"To repeat, I am Mr. Copper, the ship's historian," the old man introduced, "And I shall be taking you to old London Town in the country of U.K. ruled over by good King Wenceslas. Now human beings worshipped the great god Santa, a creature with fearsome claws, and his wife Mary. And every Christmas Eve the people of U.K. go to war with the country of Turkey. They then eat the Turkey people for Christmas dinner...like savages."
"Excuse me, sorry, sorry, but, um...where did you get all this from?"
"Well, I have a first class degree in Earthonomics. Now stand by..."
"And me!" a small red skinned alien with short spikes along his head ran forward, "And me! Red 6-7!"
"Well, take a bracelet, sir…"
"Uh, but, um, hold on, hold on," the Doctor cut in, "What was your name?"
"OK, Bannakaffalatta. But it's Christmas Eve down there. Late night shopping, tons of people. He's like a walking conker. No offence, but you'll cause a riot 'cos the streets are going to be packed with shoppers and parties..." they teleported out and appeared in the middle of an empty street, "Oh…"
"Now, spending money," Mr. Copper called, "I have a credit card in Earth currency if you want to by trinkets or, uh, stockings or the local delicacy, which is known as 'beef' but don't stray too far, it could be dangerous. Any day now they start boxing."
"Christmas Eve, retail street," the Professor looked around, assessing it, "It should be full. It should be busy."
The Doctor nodded, "Something's wrong."
"But it's beautiful," Astrid breathed, looking around in awe.
"Really? Do you think so? It's just a street. The pyramids are beautiful, and New Zealand..."
"But it's a different planet. I'm standing on a different planet. Th…there's concrete...and shops, alien shops, real alien shops! Look, no stars in the sky."
"Light pollution," the Professor remarked.
"And it smells…" she inhaled, "It stinks!" she gasped, "This is amazing! Thank you!" she hugged the Doctor tightly, about to hug the Professor when she stepped back, avoiding the woman who looked down, bashful.
"Yeah?" the Doctor laughed, "Come on then, let's have a look," he walked over, across the street to a newsagent's booth where an old man with a slight beard was bundled in his winter clothes, "Hello there! Sorry, uh, obvious question, but where's everybody gone?"
"Oh ho, scared," he replied.
"Right, yes. Scared of what?"
"Where have you been living? London at Christmas? Not safe, is it?"
"Well, it's them, up above," he pointed up at the sky, "Look, Christmas before last we had that big bloody spaceship, everyone standing on a roof," he tapped his small TV, "And then last year, that Christmas Star electrocuting all over the place, draining the Thames..."
"This place is amazing," Astrid breathed.
"And this year, Lord knows what. So everybody's scarpered, gone to the country. All except me...and Her Majesty," he stood proudly and looked at the TV.
"Her Majesty the Queen has confirmed that she will be staying in Buckingham Palace throughout the festive season," the reporter was saying, "To show the people of London, and the world, that there's nothing to fear."
"God bless her!" he saluted, "We stand vigil."
"Well, between you and me," the Doctor remarked, "I think her Majesty's got it right. Far as I know, this year, nothing to worry about…"
And suddenly, they were teleported back to the ship.
"I was in mid-sentence!" he glared at Mr. Copper, annoyed.
"Yes, I'm sorry about that," Copper apologized, "A bit of a problem. If I could have your bracelets…"
"Apologies, ladies and gentlemen, Bannakaffalatta," the chief steward stepped up, "We seem to have suffered a slight power fluctuation. If you'd like to return to the festivities. And on behalf of Max Capricorn Cruise Liners, free drinks will be provided."
Astrid turned to the Doctor, handing him her bracelet, "That was the best, the best!"
The Doctor turned around to see the Professor standing before the steward, "What sort of power fluctuation?"
The steward gave a tense smile, "Just a minor glitch with the teleports, nothing to be concerned with."
And, before she could ask another question, he strode off. The Doctor watched her face as her jaw tensed before holding out a hand to her, "Let's have a dance yeah?" he offered, glancing at the floor where a few couples were dancing slowly, "It's not a waltz but I can manage that."
But she made no move to take his hand, remaining silent a moment before uttering the words that broke his hearts, "Dancing is a distraction."
He dropped his hand and watched her watching the couples. He closed his eyes a moment, taking a breath before opening them again, "To what?"
He frowned, "What mission?"
Her gaze simply skimmed the room again, "Notice everything."
He blinked and looked around as well, not really seeing anything off. The van Hoffs sat at their table, eating, while the chief steward eyed the Host warily, the slick haired man winning at roulette with a few members of the crew as Bannakaffalatta danced around, Astrid smiling over at them while serving drinks, the band playing in the background.
"Yeah, what am I supposed to be noticing?" he shook his head, confused.
"The Host are glitching, the stewards know that and are wary of them, keeping them in sight. The teleports are not glitching, they're offline, no teleportation to Earth. The crew, specifically those from the Bridge, have joined the guests."
"And that means..." nope, still not getting it.
"They've left the captain alone."
"And that's bad?"
She looked at him, something was affecting the Host, the crew were nowhere near the controls of the ship, there was no way off the ship, and the captain had been left to his own devices, "That's sabotage."
His eyes widened and he turned to move to check the ship's settings and shields when the Professor grabbed his wrist tightly. He looked back but she was gazing at the crowd again, taking in everything and everyone, making sure they wouldn't be noticed, before nodding to him, letting him go.
He walked over to a framed screen showing a loop of Max Capricorn, "...and I should know because my name is Max," he slipped on his glasses and took out the sonic, flashing the frame while the Professor kept her lookout, "The fastest, the furthest, the best...my name is Max."
He pulled open the frame and changed the settings to read the immediate surroundings, only to see that the shields were offline, and the only place the shields could be controlled from was the Bridge. He looked out the window, his eyes widening as he saw meteoroids approaching.
The Professor had been right, it was sabotage.
She snatched the sonic out of his hand and flashed a wire, activating the comm., wanting confirmation on her theory, "Reception to the Bridge Captain. You've got a meteoroid storm coming in West 0 by North 2."
"Who is this?" the captain demanded.
"Your shields are down. Check your scanners. You've got meteoroids coming in and no shielding."
"You have no authorization. You will clear the comms. at once."
"Just look starboard!" the Doctor shouted when two stewards who had noticed them came to escort them out.
"Come with me, sir, ma'am," the chief steward replied.
He reached out to grab the Professor's arm as two other stewards took the Doctor when she whirled around, "Touch me and I'll break your arm," she threatened.
The steward actually backed up at the sheer promise in her voice. The Professor eyed him a moment before following after the Doctor, not about to leave him.
"You've got a rock storm heading for this ship and the shields are down!" the Doctor was trying to argue before managing to twist his way out of their grip, running to the stage, "Everyone, listen to me! This is an emergency! Get to the lifeb…" a Host covered his mouth and pulled him away, the stewards watching the Professor warily should she try something similar, but she just followed him out, "Look out the windows! If you don't believe me, check the shields yourself!"
"Sir, I can vouch for him!" Astrid called as she ran after them down the hall.
"Look, Steward, he's just had a bit too much to drink," Morvin tried to reason as he and Foon followed.
"Sir, something seems to have gone wrong," Copper came over, "All the teleports are down."
"Not now!" the chief steward snapped, taking over and hauling the Doctor down the maintenance corridors while the small group, now joined by Bannakaffalatta, followed.
"The shields are down," the Professor tried to state, calmly, seeing the Doctor's tactic wasn't working, "We are going to get hit."
"Oi!" the slick haired man called, catching up to them, "Steward! I'm telling you the shields are down!"
"Listen to him!" the Doctor begged, "Listen to him!"
A second later the meteoroids struck the side of the ship, throwing everyone to the floor. The Doctor and Professor quickly tried their best to shield the others as they were thrown about, waiting till it calmed enough before standing.
The Doctor leapt to his feet, shushing them and listening, "It's stopping…" they quieted down, hearing that it had, in fact, stopped. He looked at Astrid, helping her up, "You alright?"
"I think so," she breathed, shaken, but fine.
"Bad name for a ship. Either that or this suit is really unlucky."
He looked over to see the Professor kneeling beside a fallen steward, a hand resting on his neck before shaking her head, he was dead.
"My name is Max," one of the video terminals nearby started to loop, "My name is Max. My name is Max."
The Professor walked over and ripped out the wires, stopping it.
"Ev…everyone..." the chief steward stood shakily, "Ladies and gentlemen, Bannakaffalatta, I must apologize on behalf of Max Capricorn Cruise Liners. We seem to have had a small collision."
"Small?" Morvin cried.
"You know how much I paid for my ticket?" the slick haired man glared.
"If I could have silence, ladies, gentlemen…" the steward began again, but everyone ignored him, arguing, till high-pitched whistle echoed. They winced and looked at the Professor who lowered her hands from her mouth, nodding at the steward, "Thank you," he turned to the group, "Thank you. I…I'm sure Max Capricorn Cruise Liners will be able to reimburse you for any inconvenience. But first I would point out that we are very much alive."
"Are you alright?" Astrid turned to Mr. Copper, seeing a cut on his head. She dabbed at it with a handkerchief as the Doctor walked over to look.
"She is, after all, a fine, sturdy ship," the steward continued, "If you could all stay here while I ascertain the exact nature of the…the situation," he turned to open a hatch.
"Don't open it!" the Doctor shouted.
But it was too late.
The door flew open and the steward was sucked out into space by the vacuum. Everyone grabbed hold of the piping, trying to keep their footing. The Professor deftly and quickly made her way to the comm. and pulled out another set of wires, the oxygen shields kicking, sealing the hatch.
"Oxygen shield stabilized," the computer announced.
The Doctor ran over to her, checking to make sure she was alright, but she simply nodded. He turned to look back at the group, "Everyone alright? Astrid?"
"Yeah," she panted.
"Foon? Morvin? Mr. Copper? Bannakaffalatta?"
"Yes," Bannakaffalatta said as the others nodded.
"You," he pointed to the slick haired man, "What was your name?"
"Ah, Rickston Slade," he replied.
"No thanks to that idiot."
"The steward just died!" Astrid glared.
"Then he's a dead idiot."
"Alright, calm down," the Doctor cut in, "Just stay still, all of you. Hold on," he walked over to the hatch opening and looked out, the Professor with him, observing the rubble and bodies floating around them.
"What happened?" Astrid asked, walking over, "How come the shields were down?"
"I don't think it was an accident."
"How many dead?"
"We're alive," the Doctor said quikckly, seeing the Professor open her mouth to answer, having already calculated the probability of life from the damage done by the collision, "Just focus on that. We will get you out of here, Astrid. We promise. Look at me. I promise," she nodded, "Good. Now…" he looked around, "If we can get to reception, we've got a spaceship tucked away…"
The Professor simply pointed and he looked out to see the TARDIS just floating alongside the ship.
"What is it?" Astrid asked, "What's wrong?"
"That's our spaceship over there," he pointed.
"There, that box. That little blue box."
"That's a spaceship?"
"Oi, don't knock it!"
"It's a bit small."
"A bit distant. Trouble is, once it's set adrift, it's programmed to lock onto the nearest center of gravity and that would be...the Earth."
They watched as the TARDIS headed for the Earth.
"Deck 22 to the Bridge," the Doctor called into a comm. the Professor had fixed, "Deck 22 to the Bridge. Is there anyone there?"
"This is the Bridge…" a man replied a moment later.
"Oh hello, sailor. Good to hear you."
"What's the situation up there?" the Professor cut in.
"We've got air," he replied, "The oxygen field is holding. But the captain...he's dead. He did it. I watched while he took down the shields. There was nothing I could do. I tried. I did try."
"Alright," the Doctor nodded, "Just stay calm. Tell me your name. What's your name?"
"Nice to meet you, sir."
"What's the state of the engines?" the Professor got to the point once more.
"They're um...hold on…" he groaned.
"Have you been injured?" she frowned slightly, if he were injured the pain would hinder him. Humans and their tiny nervous systems. Academics during the war were expected to be in complete control of their bodies at all time, using their minds to manipulate their systems, even down to a cellular level. The wound for a human would only provide a distraction and they could not afford anything of the sort.
"I'm alright," Frame replied, "Oh my Vot. They're cycling down."
"That's a nuclear storm drive, yes?" the Doctor wondered.
"The moment they're gone, we lose orbit."
"Oh yes. If we hit the planet, the nuclear storm explodes and wipes out life on Earth…"
"Midshipman, fire up the engine containment field and feed it back into the core," the Professor ordered.
"This is never going to work," he argued.
But the Doctor nodded, "Trust us, it'll keep the engines going until we can get to the Bridge," he switched off the comm. and turned to face the others.
"We're going to die!" Foon wept.
"Are you saying someone's done this on purpose?" Copper asked.
"We're just a cruise ship!" Astrid argued.
"Okay, okay," the Doctor began, "Tch, tch. First things first. One, we're going to climb through this ship. B..."
"Two," the Professor corrected.
"We're going to reach the Bridge. Three, or C, we're going to save the Titanic. And, coming in a very low four, or D, or that little 'iv' in brackets they use in footnotes, why? Right then, follow us."
"Hang on a minute," Rickston glared, "Who put you in charge and who the hell are you anyway?"
"I'm the Doctor and this is the Professor. We're Time Lords. We're from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. We're 903 and 901 years old and we're the ones who're gonna save your lives and all six billion of the people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?"
"In that case, Allons-y!" he turned, reaching out to take the Professor's hand when she turned as well and strode off before he could even touch her. He swallowed hard and headed off after her.
The Doctor and Professor shoved against a doorway, slowly pushing it open into the stairwell, only to see it littered with debris and sparking cables.
"Careful," the Doctor called as they forged their way in, "Follow us."
They moved ahead, clearing a path as Astrid, Copper, Rickston, Bannakaffalatta, and the van Hoffs followed.
"Rather ironic when this is very much in the spirit of Christmas," Copper remarked, "It's a festival of violence. They say that human beings only survive depending on whether they've been good or bad. It's barbaric."
"Fallacious," the Professor muttered, shoving aside a sheet of metal.
The Doctor had to agree, "That's actually not true. Christmas is a time of…of peace and thanksgiving and...what am I on about? Christmas is always like this…" he stepped forward and uncovered a dormant Host, "We've got a Host. Strength of ten. If we can mend it, we can use it to fix the rubble."
"We can do robotics, both of us," Morvin stepped up.
"We worked on the milk market back on Sto," Foon told him, "It's all robot staff."
"See if you can get it working," the Doctor nodded, "Let's have a look."
Everyone but the van Hoffs continued on, up the stairs, to see their path blocked by wreckage, "It's blocked," Astrid frowned as the Professor moved past them to the comm..
"So what do we do?"
"That's the attitude. Rickston, Mr. Copper, and you, Bannakaffalatta...look, can I just call you Banna? It's gonna save a lot of time."
"No!" the alien glared, "Bannakaffalatta!"
"Alright then, Bannakaffalatta, there's a gap in the middle. See if you can get through."
"Easy. Good," he squeezed through the opening when the ship lurched, sending loose debris falling around them.
"This whole thing could come crashing down any minute!" Rickston shouted.
"Oh, Rickston, I forgot," the Doctor looked at him, "Did you get our message?"
"No. What message?"
"Bannakaffalatta made it," he called from the other side.
"I'm small enough, I can get through," Astrid moved to climb through the hole as well.
"Careful," the Doctor called.
"Thing is, how are Mr. and Mrs. Fatso gonna get through this gap?" Rickston wondered cruelly.
"We make the gap bigger," the Doctor glared at him, "So start," he shoved him a piece of metal to help them clear away the debris. A few minutes later, laughter drifted up to them from the van Hoffs.
"What happened?" Rickston sneered, "Did they find a donut?"
"I can clear it from this side," Astrid yelled through the debris to them, "Just tell me if it starts moving," she disappeared a moment later but nothing moved.
"What's going on up there?" the Doctor called, trying to look through the small space.
"I think Bannakaffalatta and I just got engaged," Astrid laughed.
"Almost done!" Morvin shouted up to them.
"Good, good, good," the Doctor nodded, before turning back to the comm. as the Professor finished working on it, "Mr. Frame, how's things?"
"Doctor, I've got life signs all over the ship but they're going out one by one," Frame replied.
"What is it? Are they losing air?"
"No. One of them said it's the Host. It's something to do with the Host."
The Doctor and Professor looked down to where the van Hoffs were just when…
"It's working!" Morvin shouted.
The Doctor ran down the steps, the Professor behind him, just as the Host grabbed Morvin by the throat, shouting, "Kill. Kill. Kill."
"Turn it off!" the Doctor ordered.
Foon tried to but couldn't get close enough, "I can't, Doctor!"
"Go!" he ran past her, ushering her to the stairs. She ran past the Professor as the Doctor aimed the sonic, "Lock! Double deadlock!" he put the sonic away and pried Morvin free with his bare hands, "Okay, go upstairs!"
"Run, darling, run!" Foon shouted.
The Host turned on the Doctor instead, "Information: kill, kill, kill..."
"Information override!" the Professor called, "You will tell me the point of origin of your command structure!"
"Information: Deck 31."
The Professor gave a nod and then…
The Host's head exploded.
The Doctor whirled around to see her holding the sonic blaster, aimed at the robot. She simply lifted up her pant leg and slipped it back into her leg holster, before turning and walking back up the stairs.
He stared after her a moment, swallowing hard, and most certainly not in shock…he squirmed a bit, he really, really shouldn't find the sight of her handling a gun like that so appealing.
"Foon!" Morvin shouted as he reached his wife, "Foon!"
"Rickston," the Professor took command, "Get them through."
"No chance," Rickston spat, before shoving himself through the narrow path.
"Rickston!" Copper shouted.
"I'll never get through there," Foon cried.
"It's alright," the Doctor cleared his throat, walking up, "The Host was…disabled. We're fine for now."
"Thank goodness," Copper breathed, before turning to Foon, "Let me go first…I can widen the path."
The Doctor nodded and Mr. Copper went through. The Doctor walked over to the comm., "Midshipman Frame, it's the Host. They've gone berserk. Are you safe up there?"
There was no reply.
"No, I'm stuck!" Foon shouted. He turned around to see Foon partially through.
"Come on, you can do it!" Astrid called from the other side.
There was a creaking as some of the debris lifted slightly, "It's going to collapse!" Copper strained out as Foon made it through.
"Morvin, you're turn," the Doctor turned back.
Morvin nodded and tried to get through, only to get stuck less in than Foon.
"Doctor, he's stuck!" Astrid shouted.
"Mr. van Hoff, I know we've only just met but you'll have to excuse me," the Doctor replied before grabbing Morvin's bum and shoving him through.
"That's it," Astrid shouted, "We've got you. Come on you two, get through!"
The Doctor gestured for the Professor to move first and she expertly climbed up, shimmying through on her elbows, the two of them being quite thin and able to get by with less effort.
"I can't hold it!" Copper strained as they made it through.
"It's ok," the Doctor stood up, "Let go!"
Copper dropped the pole he was using as a lever and the entire tunnel collapsed.
The group stepped into another room only to find themselves in the kitchen. Foon gasped, spotting something on a table, "Morvin, look, food."
"Oh great," Rickston remarked sarcastically, "Someone's happy."
"Don't have any then," Morvin glared as they moved over to the food.
The Doctor and Professor, however, headed for the comms., "Mr. Frame, you still there?" he called.
"Yes, sir, but I've got Host outside. I sealed the door."
"They've been programmed to kill. Why would anyone do that?"
"That's not the only problem, Doctor. I had to use a maximum deadlock on the door, which means...no one can get in. I'm sealed off. Even if you can fix the Titanic, you can't get to the Bridge."
"Yeah, right, fine. One problem at a time. What's on Deck 31?"
"Um, that's down below. It's nothing. It's just the Host storage deck. That's where we keep the robots."
The Doctor looked at the screen of the comm. where a schematic of the ship had been brought up, "Well, what's that?" he put on his specs and looked at a black panel, "See that panel? Black. It's registering nothing. No power, no heat, no light."
"Never seen it before."
"100 percent shielded," the Professor remarked.
"What's down there?" the Doctor wondered.
"I'll try intensifying the scanner," Frame told them.
"Let us know if you find anything," he pulled off his specs, "And keep those engines going!"
"Saved you some," Astrid smiled as she brought them over a small plate of food, "You might be a Time King and Queen from Gaddabee but you need to eat."
"Yeah, thanks," he took the food and sat down, the Professor sitting stiffly beside him though she took no food.
"So, you look good for 903 and 901," Astrid remarked as she sat across from them.
"You should see me in the mornings," the Doctor said with his mouth full.
"Okay," she said, before her eyes widened, realizing what she'd said, and blushed. It may not have been obvious to others, but she could tell the Professor and the Doctor were something of a couple or close if the looks the Doctor gave her when he thought no one was looking were anything to go by.
"Doctor, it must be well past midnight, Earth time," Copper joined them, "Christmas Day."
"So it is," he nodded, "Merry Christmas."
"This Christmas thing, what's it all about?" Astrid asked.
"Long story. We should know, we were there. We got the last room."
"But if the planet's waking up, can't we signal them?" Copper wondered, "They can send up a rocket or something."
"They don't have spaceships."
"No, I read about it. They have shuffles, space shuffles."
"Where did you acquire this degree in Earthonomics?" the Professor asked him, the tone of her voice implying she was growing very tired of his constant inaccuracies.
"Honestly?" he sighed.
"Just between us," the Doctor agreed, sensing the Professor's annoyance.
"Mrs. Golightly's Happy Travelling University and Dry Cleaners," he mopped a brow with a hankie and plopped down.
"You…you lied to the company...to get the job?" Astrid gasped.
"I…I wasted my life on Sto. I was a travelling salesman, always on the road and I reached retirement with nothing to show for it. Not even a home. And Earth sounded so exotic."
"Hmm, I suppose it is, yeah," the Doctor agreed.
"How come you know it so well?" Astrid eyed him.
"We were sort of...a few years ago, were sorta made...well, sort of homeless, and, um, there was the Earth," the Doctor shrugged as the Professor tensed.
"Thing is," Copper sighed, "If we survive this, there will be police and all sorts of investigations. Now the minimum penalty for space-age fraud is ten years in jail. I'm an old man. Well, I won't survive ten years."
"We may not survive tonight," the Professor countered.
The Doctor looked at her, "This one is very bluntly honest isn't she?" the Professor only gave him a look before there was a banging on the door. The Doctor jumped up and ran to the opposite door, "A Host! Move! Come on!"
The pounding continued, dents starting to form in the door as they ran out of the room, following the Doctor. He flashed a door with the sonic and it opened onto the engine rooms, where the only way across was a fallen strut acting like a bridge.
"Is that the only way across?" Rickston's eyes widened.
"On the other hand, it is a way across," the Doctor countered.
"The engines are open!" Astrid gasped, looking over the ledge at the engines.
"Nuclear storm drive. Soon as it stops, the Titanic falls."
"But that thing, it'll never take our weight," Morvin stated.
"You're going last, mate," Rickston remarked.
"It's nitrofine metal," the Professor remarked, as she knelt down by the strut, her hand on it, "It's stronger than it looks."
"All the same, Rickston's right," Morvin sighed, "Me and Foon should…" he stepped forward, onto a weak piece of metal near the edge, and it gave way. He fell, down towards the engines, with a scream.
"Morvin!" Foon screeched.
"I told you!" Rickston pointed, "I told you!"
"Just shut up!" Copper spat at him, "Shut up!"
"Bring him back!" Foon cried hysterically to the Doctor, "Can't you bring him back? Bring him back, Doctor!"
"I'm sorry, I can't," he shook his head.
"You promised me!"
"I know. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"Doctor!" Copper called as there was a bang behind them, "I rather think those things have got our scent."
"I'm not waiting," Rickston decided, starting across the bridge.
"Careful!" the Doctor called, "Take it slowly!"
There was a rumble, jolting the ship, and nearly knocking Rickston off the strut, "Vot help me."
"You're okay. One step at a time. Come on, you can do it."
"They're getting nearer!" Copper reported.
The Professor reached over and snagged the sonic out of the Doctor's hand, turning to the door and flashing it across it before tossing it back to him, "Sealed us in."
"Leaving us trapped, wouldn't you say?" Copper looked at her, alarmed.
"Never say trapped, just inconveniently circumstanced," the Doctor replied. He chanced a glance at the Professor to see no reaction from her.
"I'm okay!" Rickston called as he was halfway across.
"Maybe he's alright," Foon looked at Astrid hopefully, "Maybe…maybe there's a gravity curve down there or something. I don't know. Maybe he's unconscious."
"I'm sorry, Foon," Astrid hugged her, "He's gone."
"What am I going to do without him?" she sobbed.
"Yes!" Rickston cheered as he made it to the other end, "Oh yes! Who's good?"
"Bannakaffalatta, you go next," the Doctor called.
"Bannakaffalatta, small," the alien hopped up and ran across the strut.
The Host pounded on the door, "They've found us!" Copper gasped.
"Astrid, get across right now!"
"What about you?" Astrid looked at him.
"Just do it. Go on," Astrid nodded and started across, "Mr. Copper, we can't wait. Don't argue," Copper followed, "Foon, you've got to get across right now."
"What for?" she wept, "What am I gonna do without him?"
"Doctor!" Rickston shouted, "The door's locked!"
"Just think...what would he want, eh?"
"He don't want nothing, he's dead!" Foon sobbed.
"Doctor, I can't open the door!" Rickston called again, "We need the whirring key thing of yours!"
"We can't leave her!" the Doctor shouted back.
"She'll get us all killed if we can't get out!"
The Doctor sighed looking between them before turning to Foon, "Mrs. van Hoff, we are coming back for you, alright?"
Foon nodded and the Doctor motioned for the Professor to start across the beam. She did so, the metal creaking as she stepped on, followed by him.
"Too many people!" Bannakaffalatta called.
"Oi!" the Doctor snapped, "Don't get spiky with me! Keep going!"
"It's gonna fall!" Astrid gasped.
"It's just settling! Keep going!"
It suddenly became very quiet as the pounding stopped.
"They've stopped…" Astrid remarked.
"Gone away?" Bannakaffalatta wondered.
"Why would they give up?" the Doctor looked at the door.
"They haven't," the Professor replied, he looked at her, "This strategy has failed them, they're looking for another tactic."
"But what?" he shook his head, "Where have they gone? Where are the Host?"
"I'm afraid..." Copper called, looking up, "We forgot the tradition of Christmas…that angels have wings!" he pointed up and they could see the Host gliding down on them from above.
They reached for their halos.
"Arm yourselves!" the Professor shouted, grabbing a pipe and pulling out her blaster, "All of you!"
They quickly did as she said, grabbing pipes and bits of metal to defend themselves as the Host threw their halos at them. They batted them away, the Professor smashing them back expertly with one hand while firing with another. One halo managed to graze the Doctor's arm but the Host that threw it didn't last long after the Professor turned her blaster on it.
"I can't!" Astrid gasped, falling to her knees.
"Bannakaffalatta stop!" the little alien shouted, throwing down his pipe, "Bannakaffalatta proud! Bannakaffalatta cyborg!" he lifted his shirt and discharged an energy ring out, disabling the Host. Those remaining fell from the air, towards the engines, with only one falling onto the strut behind the Doctor.
"Electromagnetic pulse took out the robotics," the Professor commented, lowering her pipe.
"Oh, Bannakaffalatta, that was brilliant!" the Doctor looked over but Bannakaffalatta fell backwards.
"He's used all his power!" Astrid called as she fell to her knees beside him, checking on him.
"Did good?" Bannakaffalatta looked up at her.
"You saved our lives."
"We can recharge you, get you to a power point and just plug you in!"
"No, but...you gotta get me that drink, remember?"
"Pretty girl," he breathed before his eyes fell closed and he died. Astrid moved to button up his shirt when Mr. Copper reached for his mechanics.
"I'm sorry," he told her, "Forgive me."
"Leave him alone!" Astrid glared.
"It's the EMP transmitter. He…he'd want us to use it…" he removed it gently, "I used to sell these things. They'd always give me a bed for the night in the cyborg caravans. They're good people. But if we can recharge it, we can reuse it as a weapon against the rest of the Host. Bannakaffalatta might have saved us all."
"Do you think?" Rickston scoffed, "Try telling him that!" he pointed behind them and they turned to see the Host behind the Doctor had gotten up.
"Use the EMP!"
"It's dead!" Copper shouted.
"It's gotta have emergency…" Astrid fiddled with it, trying to find a way to start it up.
The Doctor just turned and confronted the Host, "No, no, no. Hold on. Override loophole security protocol...10! 666! Oh. 21, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Um, I dunno, 42!"
"Override loophole security protocol one!" the Professor ordered, not willing to wait and see how many more numbers the Doctor could come up with and unable to aim her blaster with the Doctor in the way.
Instantly the Host moved to a passive position, "Information: state request."
"Good..." he nodded his thanks to the Professor before turning back to the Host, "Right. You've been ordered to kill the survivors, but why?"
"Information: no witnesses."
"But this ship's gonna fall on the Earth and kill everyone. The human race have nothing to do with the Titanic so that contravenes your orders, yes?"
"But why do you want to destroy the Earth?"
"Information: it is the plan."
"Protocol only grants three questions," the Professor told him.
"The three questions have been used," the Host agreed.
He turned to her, "Well, you could have warned me!"
"Information: now you will die."
He moved to attack and the Professor raised her blaster, ready to shove the Doctor down, when suddenly a lasso was thrown over the Host's head and tightened around his body, Foon behind him.
"You're coming with me!" Foon shouted, closing her eyes and jumping off the side of the strut, taking the Host with her.
"No!" the Doctor shouted as they watched her fall, helpless. He swallowed hard and stood up, "No more."
The group ran into another set of maintenance halls when the Doctor turned to them, "Right. Get up to Reception One. Once you're there, Mr. Copper, you've got staff access to the computer. Try and find a way of transmitting an SOS. Astrid, you're in charge of this…" he held out the EMP, "Once powered up, it'll take out Hosts within fifty yards but then it needs sixty seconds to recharge. Got it? Rickston, take this," he tossed him the sonic, "I've preset it. Just hold down that button. It'll open doors. Do not lose it! You got that? Now go and open the next door. Go on! Go!"
"Alright!" Rickston ran off to the doors.
The Doctor pulled a first aid kit off the wall and handed it to Copper, who still had a cut on his head and one on his leg, "Mr. Copper, I need you fighting fit. Astrid, where's the power point?"
"Under the comms.," she replied, leading him to one.
"When it's ready, that blue light comes on there," he explained, showing her how to charge it up.
"You're talking as if you're not coming with us."
"There's something down on Deck 31. We're gonna find out what it is."
"What if you meet a Host?" the Professor just held up her blaster, "Oh…" she laughed a bit, "Seems like you two do this kind of thing all the time."
"Not by choice," the Doctor sighed, "All we do is travel. That's what we are, just a travelers. Imagine it. No tax, no bills, no boss, just the open sky."
"I'm sort of...unemployed now and I was thinking the blue box is kinda small, but I could kinda squeeze in. Like a stowaway."
"It's not always safe."
"I've got no one back on Sto, no family, just me. So what do you think? Can I come with you?"
The Doctor looked up at the Professor for some indication on her feelings on the subject but she stood there, just as stoic as ever, so he took that as her not disagreeing and nodded, "Yeah," the ship lurched and the Doctor ran over to the comms., "Mr. Frame, you still with us?"
"It's the engines, sir!" he called, "Final phase. There's nothing more I can do. We've got only eight minutes left!"
"Don't worry, we'll get there."
"The Bridge is sealed off!"
"Yeah, yeah, working on it. We'll get there, Mr. Frame, somehow," the EMP lit up, "All charged up? Mr. Copper, look after her. Astrid, look after him. Rickston, um...look after yourself. And we'll see you again, promise."
He turned to leave, the Professor running behind him before Astrid could even call out after them. They ran back and into a small kitchen, only to find themselves face to face with a Host. The Professor whipped out her blaster and fired at it, destroying it when three more Host appeared behind them.
She rounded on them about to fire when the Doctor put his hand up to stop her, "Wait, wait, wait, wait!" he called both to her and the Host, "Security protocol one! Do you hear me? One! One!" the Host stopped and the Professor lowered her blaster, eyeing them, ready, "Okay, that gives me three questions. Three questions to save my life, am I right?"
"No, that wasn't one of them. I didn't mean it. That's not fair. Can I start again?"
"No, no! No, no, no. That wasn't one either. Blimey could this…"
The Professor quickly darted forward and put her hand over his mouth, "One question left," she warned him before looking at the Host. He nodded, pulling her hand off his mouth.
"One question, right," he took a breath, "So, you've been given orders to kill the survivors but survivors must therefore be passengers or staff, but not us. We're not passengers. We're not staff. Go on, scan us. You must have bio records. No such persons on board. We don't exist therefore...you can't kill us. Therefore, we're stowaways and stowaways should be arrested and taken to the nearest figure of authority. And I reckon the nearest figure of authority is on Deck 31. Final question: am I right?"
"Brilliant," he smiled, "Take us to your leader!" he looked at the Professor who remained impassive, "I've always wanted to say that."
They were escorted onto Deck 31 by the Host, the place littered with structural damage and small fires.
"Now that is what you call a fixer-upper," he joked to the Professor but received nothing. He swallowed and turned back to the Host, "Come on then, Host with the most, this ultimate authority of yours, who is it?" two doors slid open behind them and they turned around, "Oh, that's clever."
"Omnistate impact chamber," the Professor remarked, "Indestructible."
He nodded, "You can survive anything in that, eh?" they watched as a small vehicle started to wheel out, "Sit through a supernova or a shipwreck. Only one person can have the power and the money to hide themselves onboard like this and I should know, 'cos..." the vehicle pulled out to reveal a giant life-support system with Max Capricorn's head on top.
"My name is Max," he grinned, his tooth glinting.
"It really does that?"
"Who the hell are they?"
"I'm the Doctor and this is the Professor. Hello!"
"Kill them," Max ordered.
"Oh, no, no!" the Doctor shouted, both to Max and the Professor who had lifted her blaster at Capricorn. He reached out and grabbed the Professor's arm, shoving it down before turning back to Capricorn, "Wait, but you can't. Not now. Come on, Max...you've given me so much good material like...how to get ahead in business. See 'head?' 'Head in business?' No?"
"Oh, ho, ho, the office joker. I like a funny man. No one's been funny with me for years."
"I can't think why."
"176 years of running the company have taken their toll."
"Yeah, but...nice wheels."
"No, a life-support system in a society that despises cyborgs. I've had to hide away for years. Running the company by hologram. Host, situation report."
"Information: Titanic is still in orbit."
"Let me see…" he wheeled forward, the Doctor and Professor stepping out of his way, "We should have crashed by now. What's gone wrong?" he looked down at the engines and glared, "The engines are still running! They should have stopped!"
"When they do, the Earth gets roasted," the Doctor frowned, "I don't understand. What's the Earth got to do with it?"
"This interview is terminated."
"No, no, no, no, no, no! Hold on! Hold on! Hold on! Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait! I can work it out. It's like a task. I'm your apprentice. Just watch me. So...business is failing and you wreck the ship so that makes things even worse. Oh yes! No. Yes. The business isn't failing, it's failed. Past tense."
"My own board voted me out. Stabbed me in the back."
"If you had a back. So...you scupper the ship, wipe out any survivors in case anyone's rumbled you and the board find their shares halved in value. Oh, but that's not enough. No, 'cos if a Max Capricorn ship hits the Earth, it destroys an entire planet. Outrage back home. Scandal! The business is wiped out."
"And...the whole board thrown in jail for mass murder."
"While you sit there, safe inside the impact chamber."
"I have men waiting to retrieve me from the ruins and enough off-world accounts to retire me to the beaches of Pentaxico Two where the ladies, so I'm told, are very fond of...metal."
"So that's the plan," the Doctor glared, indignant, "A retirement plan. 2,000 on this ship, 6 billion underneath us, all of them slaughtered. And why? Because Max Capricorn is a loser."
"I never lose."
"You can't even sink the Titanic."
"Oh, but I can, Doctor. I can cancel the engines from here," alarms started to sound as the engines went offline.
"You can't do this!"
"Host, hold him, the girl too!" two Host grabbed them by the arms pulling them back. The Professor struggled slightly, testing the strength of the Host, but the grip was too tight, the Host too strong for her to twist out of, "Not so clever now, Doctor. A shame we couldn't work together. You're rather good. All that banter yet not a word wasted. Time for me to retire. The Titanic is falling. The sky will burn. Let the Christmas inferno commence. Oh! Oh, Host! Kill them."
One of the Host removed its halo and prepared to strike, the Professor unable to use her blaster as her hands were held behind her back when…
"Mr. Capricorn!" Astrid shouted. They looked over to see her sitting in a forklift, "I resign," she started it up and rushed at him.
"Astrid, don't!" the Doctor shouted. Astrid lifted the front of Capricorn's life support just enough that the tires had no purchase. His rear tires whirled as they came to a standoff. A Host turned and threw its halo at Astrid but missed, hitting something else, "He's cut the break line!" Astrid looked over at them a moment, before raising the fork higher, lifting Capricorn fully off the ground and flooring it to the edge, "Astrid!"
It was too late.
As they ran to the edge they could only see Astrid falling towards the engine.
The Doctor and Professor walked to the Host, each Host taking a hold of them and flying upwards, gaining speed with their fists raised till they broke through the floor of the Bridge, scaring poor Frame.
"Deadlock broken," the computer announced.
"Ah, Midshipman Frame at last!" the Doctor grinned as they stepped out of the wreck.
"Uh, but…but the Host!" he pointed.
"Divert to the next highest authority upon death of the controller," the Professor stated as she headed to the control panel, the Doctor following.
"And that's me," he grinned.
"There's nothing we can do," Frame told them, "There's no power. The ship's gonna fall."
The Doctor moved over to the wheel when the Professor pulled him back, "You are not qualified to pilot this vessel."
"We don't have time to arg…"
"I'm trained in handling over 2,700 forms of transportation," she cut in, "You can barely pilot the TARDIS."
He very nearly smiled at that, that last bit was the first non-statistical, informational, irritated, or morbidly logical thing she had said. But then he realized…she had just dissed his piloting abilities and pouted. She simply turned to the wheel as he shook his head, now was not the time, "What's your first name?" he turned to Frame.
"Alonzo," he replied.
"You're kidding me!" he gaped.
"That's something else I've always wanted to say. Allons-y Alonzo!" the Professor turned the wheel sharply, nearly knocking them off their feet, "Whoa!"
They grabbed onto what they could to keep balance as the Professor flew the ship straight towards the Earth, the area around them starting to burn on entry.
An alarm went off and the Doctor rushed over to see the estimated impact zone and sighed, picking up a comm., "Hello, yes, um...could you get me Buckingham Palace?" there was silence a moment, "Listen to me! Security Code 771! Now get out of there!"
Frame watched in horror as Buckingham Palace loomed closer and closer until…
"Engine active. Engine active."
The Professor pulled back on the wheel, sending the Doctor and Frame falling backwards as the ship just barely missed the building, soaring over it and back towards the stars.
The Doctor started to laugh, seeing them out of danger.
Frame ran over to a bell and started ringing it, "Whoo hoo!"
"Whoo hoo hoo!" the Doctor had to agree.
Frame sat on the floor of the Bridge, the Professor deftly stitching up the wound on his stomach, seemingly unperturbed by the blood on her hands and the flinching of the patient every time she stuck him. She reached into a small first aid kit and pulled out scissors, cutting off the last of the string.
"How did you do it?" he asked her, still in shock that they had survived.
"Used the heat of reentry to fire up the secondary storm drive," she replied.
"Unsinkable, that's us," the Doctor laughed, joining them.
"We made it," Frame breathed.
"Not all of us," he sighed, before realizing, "Teleport!" he jumped up, "She was wearing a teleport bracelet!"
He ran out of the room followed by the Professor, Frame struggling to keep up as they ran back to reception.
"Rickston!" the Doctor called, "Sonic!" Rickston tossed it to him, "Mr. Copper, the teleports, have they got emergency settings?"
"I don't know," he shook his head, "They should have."
"She fell, Mr. Copper. She fell. What's the emergency code?"
"Uh, let me see..."
"What the hell are you doing?" Frame gasped, catching up.
"We can bring her back!" the Doctor cheered, kneeling by the teleport and getting to work.
"If a passenger has an accident on shore leave and they're still wearing their teleport," Copper explained to Frame, "Their molecules are automatically suspended and held in stasis so that we can just trigger the shift."
"There!" he called, standing up and turning around as a glowing, transparent Astrid appeared.
"I'm falling…" she breathed, her voice distant, echoing.
"Only halfway there. Come on," he turned back to the teleport, adjusting it.
"I keep falling."
"Feed back the molecule grid, boost it with the restoration matrix…" it sparked, "No, no, no, no! Need more phase containment."
"Doctor…" Copper began.
"No! If I can just link up the surface suspension..."
"Doctor, she's gone."
"I just need to override the safety. I can do it."
"Doctor, let her go."
The Doctor stood up, looking at Astrid, before kicking the teleport in frustration, "I can do anything!"
"Stop me falling…" Astrid called.
The Doctor put his hands in his hair before looking at the Professor, "Professor! Can you fix it?"
She stepped over and crouched before the controls, looking at them intently for a moment, "There's not enough left. The system was too badly damaged. It would take three hours to fix this, she has barely 15 minutes before she falls apart. She's just atoms," she stood up and looked at him.
He looked down sadly, swallowing hard, and walked over to stand before Astrid, "Astrid Peth...citizen of Sto...the woman who looked at the stars and dreamt of travelling," he held up the sonic, "Now you can travel forever…" he turned it on and she turned into motes of light, "You're not falling, Astrid, you're flying."
The lights flew out the window, leaving the five standing there, watching.
"The engines have stabilized," Frame reported as he walked back into reception, "We're holding steady till we get help and I've sent the SOS. A rescue ship should be here within twenty minutes. And they're digging out the records of Max Capricorn. It should be quite a story."
"They'll want to talk to all of us, I suppose," Copper sighed.
"I'd have thought so, yeah."
Copper nodded sadly and walked over to where the Doctor and Professor were standing by the teleport. The Doctor leaning against it, staring ahead, lost in thought, as the Professor stood beside him stiffly, in the 'at ease' position, her face as blank as it had been throughout it all.
"I think, uh, one or two inconvenient truths might come to light," Copper remarked, "Still, it's my own fault, and then years in jail is better than dying."
"I never said...thank you," Rickston walked over to them, hugging the Doctor, not wanting to touch the girl with the gun, "The funny thing is...I said Max Capricorn was falling apart. Just before the crash, I sold all my shares, transferred them to his rivals. It's made me rich. What do you think of that?" the Doctor just looked at him, disgusted, till the man's vone rang and he turned away, "Salvain? Those shares, I want them triple-bonded and locked."
"Of all the people to survive, he's not the one you would have chosen, is he?" Copper watched the man walk off, "But if you could choose, if you decide who lives and who dies..." he shrugged, "That would make you a monster."
The Doctor looked at Copper a moment before sighing, "Mr. Copper..." he turned and took three teleport bracelets, "I think you deserve one of these," he handed the man the bracelet as well as the Professor, all three of them slipping it on.
Frame looked over, saluting them, before they disappeared.
The Doctor, Professor, and Copper were walking across an open area in the falling snow towards the TARDIS that was standing just on the other side.
"So, Great Britain is part of, uh, Europee and just across the British Channel you've got Great France and Great Germany…" Copper began slowly.
"No, no, it's just…it's just France and Germany," the Doctor corrected, "Only Britain is Great."
"Oh, and they're all at war with the continent of Ham-erica?"
"No, well...not yet, uh...could argue that one," he smiled, reaching the TARDIS, "There she is," he patted her, "Survive anything," he smiled, eyeing the Professor as well, "Like you."
"You know, between you and me," Copper continued, "I don't even think this snow is real. I think this is the ballast from the Titanic's salvage entering the atmosphere."
The Doctor looked up, "Yeah. One of these days it might snow for real."
"So, I…I suppose you'll be off."
"The open sky."
"And, uh, what about me?"
"We travel alone. It's best that way."
"What…what am I supposed to do?"
"Give me that credit card."
"Well, it's just petty cash, spending money," he handed it over, "It's all done by computer. I…I didn't really know the currency so I thought a million might cover it."
"A million? Pounds?"
"That enough for trinkets?"
"Mr. Copper, a million pounds is worth 50 million credits."
"50 million and 56," the Professor stated.
"I…I've got money?" Copper gaped.
The Doctor smiled, "Yes, you have," he handed him the card back.
"Oh my word. Oh my Vot! Oh my goodness me! I…ya ha!"
"It's all yours, planet Earth. Now that's a retirement plan. But just you be careful, though."
"I will. I will. Oh, I will."
"No interfering. We don't want any trouble. Just...just have a nice life."
"But I can have a house, a proper house, with a garden, and…and a door, and...oh, Doctor, I will made you proud," he hugged him, even hugging the Professor though she stiffened and made no move to return it, he hardly noticed, "And…and I can have a kitchen with chairs, and windows, and lace..." he skipped off, laughing.
"Um, where are you going?" the Doctor called.
"Why, I have no idea!"
"No, me neither," he replied, unlocking the doors.
"But, Doctor...I won't forget her."
The Doctor nodded and watched as Copper skipped into the night. He looked over at the Professor as well, tentatively reaching out to take her hand. He felt her stiffen but she made no move to pull back or avoid him this time. If he were honest with himself, it hurt to see her so closed off, even with him, but...he'd learned from the Lazarus experience not to try and change her unless she wanted to change first. He had no right to try and make her like her old self. They were always different when they regenerated and it was up to them to change the things they didn't like. So...until then...he would just be there for her, get to know her again.
He smiled, nodding to himself as he patted the corner of the door frame and glanced at her, tugging her inside and closed the door, the TARDIS disappearing moments later.
A/N: Poor, poor Donna. That's all I'm going to say about Partners in Crime...
And, important note (for those who have read Reunion and Recuperation), I'm actually debating whether or not to continue my attempts to update every day. I never thought this was possible in the world of FF but...I'm worried I may be updating too quickly. I know it's really hard to review such long chapters especialy if I post them every day and I'd hoped to be able to reach 75 reviews by the end of Recuperation and then try for 100 for this story...but I haven't made it. So I'm concerned that it's because I'm just updating too quickly to gain a following. As soon as you see this story you'd have to go back and read the other two and by the time that happens I've probably already posted like 4 more chapters of this one...it's hard to keep up, I know. But it's also hard to get over 150 visitors to a chapter on the day it's posted but only 3-5 reviews, that's like...3 percent of readers reviewing. To those of you who do review and have reviewed almost every chapter, I love you guys so much. Some of you have written in reviews that you look forward to seeing the new chapter alert for my stories, it's the same for me when I see the review alerts. I look forward to seeing what you all think and I really do take all of them into consideration, any suggestions or comments, I revise each chapter before I post it to try and add or remove or work on what you guys mention, so never feel like I'm not reading and loving each and every one.
If you guys want me to update more slowly, like, every other day or something, just let me know. I'm going to post every day till the Sontaran Stratagem and let you know whether I continue that pattern or not.