They ran down the white hallway side by side, floppy hair and curly hair, sonic blaster and sonic screwdriver. "Whoop!" the Doctor skidded to a halt and backtracked.

"Sweetie, now's not the time!" River said, sounding slightly out of breath. He waved a hand at her and yanked open an almost invisible maintenance hatch that blended seamlessly into the white corridor wall.

He hunkered down behind the hatch, pulling the control panel off the electronics inside. "Just keep them off me for a few seconds," he said, clamping his sonic screwdriver in his mouth and starting to cross connect the wires.

"Do my best, Sweetie." River fired at the Alorean that dashed out beyond the far cross corridor. He ducked back with a yelp.

Aloreans were a tall, lithe race, humanoid, with skin so black it shone with purple highlights. Their eyes were tawny gold. Alora was a planet with three suns, she and the Doctor had spent a lovely afternoon there once, getting tanned a quick, crispy brown. Most of the Aloreans were lovely people.

This lot were bounty hunters.

And, unfortunately, both she and the Doctor had enough large bounties on their heads to make them very, very persistent.

A spray of needle fire whistled down the spaceship corridor. River dived behind the maintenance hatch, practically shoving the Doctor into the electronic innards. Needles peppered the front of the hatch, and sliced into the corridor walls.

She heard a sound like a tin can hitting the floor. She popped up, saw the gas canister rolling toward them. "Oh, I don't think so." She quickly thumbed a setting on her squareness gun and shot it over the hatch. The can rebounded off the repulsor beam and skittered back down the corridor, trailing blue gas. It bumped over the bulkhead seam and exploded, filling the cross corridor with a cloud of blue neurotoxin.

"There!" The Doctor soniced down a last connection and the bulkhead door zipped down, sealing the bounty hunters, and the gas, on the other side. He popped up over the barrier, hair mashed and glasses askew. He grinned. "That should hold them."

There was the whir of exhaust fans, and the squealing ratchet of the manual override trying to force the doors open. By the sound of it, it was being given plenty of encouragement.

"Or not." He frowned. He turned to find River calmly reloading her gun. "Okay," he ran a hand through his hair, they seemed to have been running for hours, even he was starting to find it tiresome. "Now that we have a moment, all we need to do is program your vortex manipulator for the Tardis. We..."

"Can't do it, honey," River interrupted him, reshuffling some of the ammunition in her belt, for easier access.

"Why not?" he said.

She waved her gun at the walls. "The ship is reinforced with dwarf star alloy. It plays hell with my vortex manipulator."

"Ah. Well. We wouldn't want you to be bouncing off the infrastructure," he said, grimacing.

"That wouldn't be my preferred scenario, no," she said.

The ship, as far as they'd been able to determine, was mostly empty, and in pristine condition, perfect salvage for a crew looking for some quick cash. It was also huge.

The Doctor looked down the endless, straight, white corridor. Other than the maintenance hatch, there wasn't any cover. "Like shooting fish in a bottle," the Doctor said.

"Barrel," River corrected him.


"Nothing." She cocked her head at him. "What are you thinking, Sweetie?"

He turned to her, eyes aglow. "How are you at spacial geometry?"

She smiled smugly. "I'm excellent." The screech of the bulkhead starting to give way rasped across their nerves, drawing their attention to the far door, blue smoke started to seep through the crack at the bottom.

"All right," he eyed the door and grabbed her wrist. He started typing in coordinates. "If we can't go back to the Tardis directly, we'll just have to use the corridors. The trick is not to get shot."

"I'd sort of worked that out, Sweetie." While he fiddled with her manipulator, River pulled a small black disk out of her belt. She pressed the center and it started blinking. She knelt down, one hand still in his grip, and slid the disk down the corridor like a hockey puck.

It slid smoothly under the small gap below the rising door. There was a blast and brilliant white light lashed out under the door. There were Alorean curses and fumbling and the sounds of bodies falling.

"What was that?" the Doctor asked.

"Just shedding a little light on the situation," River said. She stood and took his arm. "Shall we?"

There was louder cursing and a bang as something was rammed against the bulkhead. Suddenly the door exploded. The shockwave knocked them back a few feet, and the bottom of the reinforced bulkhead ruptured outward, warping upward in an arc, forming a shallow tunnel, an Alorean belly-crawled into the hole, rifle muzzle pointed at them, his golden eyes contracted to pinpricks and streaming tears. He cursed at them and fired.

"Really, how rude!" the Doctor said, affronted, standing straighter, hand reaching for his bowtie.

A weighted net spun out toward them, strands crackling with energy. River slapped the vortex manipulator, they disappeared in a crack of lightning. The net passed through the smoke of their passage.

They reappeared at the end of the passageway, a hundred feet farther on. The bulkhead screamed upward in its tracks, Alorean bounty hunters, tears streaming, bodies jerking from the neurotoxin, armed, angry, and really looking forward to their bonus, streamed out.

Needle guns, net guns, gas grenades, and gel restraints fired at them, black feet thundered along the white corridor, war cries usually reserved for battle reverberated off the walls.

"Next jump?" the Doctor asked, looking frantically left and right along the cross corridor.

"Left!" River calculated and slapped in the coordinates. They disappeared with a Crack! And reappeared thirty feet down at the next intersection as the Aloreans rounded the last corner. They jumped again.






"Where the hell's the Tardis, Sweetie?" River yelled as more Aloreans emerged from the stalls.

Crack! Corridor. "I'm sure I left it right..." River coldcocked an Alorean who had the misfortune to step out from behind the corner. He was eating a sandwich. Lettuce flew everywhere.

"Really River..." the Doctor scowled at her, and knelt down to check if the unconscious hunter was okay. River rolled her eyes and rifled through her belt pouch until she found her computer. She worked it one handed, the other hand, with her vortex manipulator, still gripped around the Doctor's forearm.

She pulled up a scan of the ship.

They were inside a puzzle ball. Layers and layers of concentric circles, all pierced through with cross corridors and lift shafts. Two blinking pink lights showed their location. Groupings of purple lights were converging on them. There were nearly sixty of them, spread around them in all directions. No wonder they'd had such a hard time evading them.

One lone blue light pulsed on the other side of the ship, farther down, right next to the docking port. "Well that's convenient," she said in a rather snide voice.

"What is?" the Doctor said, looking up from his patient, satisfied the man was merely unconscious, with a bloody nose.

"They've taken the Tardis to their ship," she said in a contentious tone that had the Doctor's finger coming up and wagging at her. "Now River..."

She programmed in a route to the docking port.

Whispers from around the corner warned them just as a tongue of flame belched out from the cross corridor beyond them. The Doctor yelped. River activated the manipulator.


"Yow!" The Doctor batted at his hair and slapped a hand at his burning bow tie. The concentrated flame had missed him by inches, leaving his cheek red. He stared down in dismay as his bowtie crumpled to ash under his hand.

"Oh, there was no call for that," he said mournfully. He stared at River, she had escaped the flames, but her eyes fired where she stared at his disintegrated bow tie.

She lifted fiery eyes to his. He started to lift that admonishing finger again, but stopped, and curled it down again. And started to grin. She started to grin back.

There was a reason they had bounties on their heads.

With a giggle, and a lipsticky kiss, they disappeared.

It took them 43 jumps to get back to the Tardis. They'd followed the corridors, one after the other.

It was amazing what you could find in corridors. Fire suppression systems. Sprinklers. Automatic doors. Public address speakers. Lighting systems. Framed paintings. Carnivorous potted plants...

It's amazing what two people with a couple of screwdrivers and a bit of imagination could do.

With a Crack! they appeared at the door to the docking bay, and the Alorean's ship beyond.

There were yips, and yelps, and curses, and the occasional burst of machine gun fire behind them. There was the whiff of fire suppression foam, and the stink of burnt insulation.

There were a lot of curses.

The Doctor soniced open the bay door, and they walked casually onto the Alorean ship. They passed the Tardis in the small hold. The ship was well designed, beautifully ergonomic, and elegant in black flowing marbleite and tasteful artworks.

On the bridge the Doctor sealed off the ship, and sent a message to the Alorean space agency. River detached the empty hunter/cruiser from the globe of the larger vessel, standing them off a short, but maddeningly unbridgeable, distance. She locked the controls off and gave the Doctor an evil smile.

"I'm hungry," the Doctor said, leaning a hip on the silently blinking control board. River's stomach grumbled in answer. He laughed and offered her his arm. "If I remember rightly," he said, "Alorean's make a very delicious spicy spaghetti."

The Doctor sat back in the Alorean's elegant mess hall, replete. River sopped up the last of her spaghetti sauce with a piece of hearty black bread.

The ship hummed quietly, efficiently, around them.

The Doctor leaned back and plopped his feet up on the table, hands behind his head. "Why do people find us so irritating?" he asked aloud, mystified.

River grinned and drank the last of her Alorean soda. "I've no idea, Sweetie. People can be so rude. All we came for was this."

She pulled a huge chunk of rose quartz crystal from her hip pouch. It was diamond cut in the shape of a heart.

"The primary drive crystal." She laid it on the table and pushed it over to him. It gleamed pink and shining on the black tabletop.

She leaned over, a sultry look on her face, and a smile on her kissable lips.

"Happy Valentine's Day, Sweetie."

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