Ok, so ended on a bit of a cliffhanger last chapter, but I'm hoping that wasn't too bad. Now we're really going to get into the story. Thanks for all the feedback so far, guys, and enjoy!
Dobby's Polka-Dotted Sock
Donna was halfway down the corridor and calling out, "River!" when it happened. The whole place jerked violently, sending her crashing into a wall. "Oi!" She barked, both in irritation and sheer surprise, but it didn't let up there. She was thrown about like a ragdoll this way and that, struggling to stumble to her feet or find a grip on something. And judging by the yells coming from the console room, it wasn't just her.
"Dad!" Jenny screamed, and the TARDIS shook even more.
"Here!" A hand was thrust into her line of sight and Donna looked up to see River clinging to the wall. She took her outstretched hand and let the other woman help her up.
"He wanted to get to Earth, but the TARDIS was being picky or something, so he messed with it!" She shouted in order to be heard. Though they were standing barely two feet from each other, the noise all around them was so loud. From the rumbling, groaning, and sparking of the console to a strange sound like wind. She thought it had to be wind, for her hair was whipping about her face, and River's too. But why would there be wind in a spaceship?
"Typical," the blonde woman replied, nodding in the direction of the control room to indicate they should head that way. Donna was in front, inching along and clinging for dear life. They had to stop several times as the ship seeming rolled and flipped, which was frightening. She'd never seen the TARDIS do something like this before.
But when she finally edged back into the console room, she was met with a sight even more shocking and terrible.
Jenny was clinging to the control panel for dear life, her legs either falling upward or slamming back down into the floor as they rolled. But the girl kept turning her head with a stricken look from the controls to the door.
The source of the wind—the door had flown open to reveal what she could only describe as a tunnel in the clouds- clouds that flashed with color and fire that practically roared. And the Doctor was hanging completely out the doors, a tenuous grip on the doorframe the only thing keeping him attached to the ship.
"Jenny, stay where you are!" He was ordering. "It's safer—woah!" The ship did another flip, and when it turned right-side up again one of his hands had come off of the door, leaving him dangling by four fingers and a thumb.
"Doctor!" River charged past her down the stairs and threw herself to the floor in front of the open police box doors. The archeologist seized his free hand, fighting against gravity, wind, and the uncontrollable path the TARDIS was charting to pull him in.
"River, no!" He shouted, as the woman braced herself against the doorframe. "You've got to land us! Never mind me—"
"I will not let you fall into the Vortex!" She yelled back fiercely. "You'd be lost forever!"
"And now we both will be if I do!" He was right; if River lost her balance or he let go of the doorframe with his other hand, he'd pull her out with him for she was holding onto nothing else.
"Then you had better hold on tight, honey!"
Donna looked about, desperate to find something that could get them out of this horrifying situation. The Doctor and River were both in danger of tumbling out of the ship, she was hanging onto a wall, and Jenny was—Jenny!
"Doctor, what do we have to do to land?" She called.
Jenny's eyes widened in realization and she worked to get back to her feet. "Tell me what to do, dad, tell me! I can land her!" Her fingers were already hovering over a button.
"Yes, that one there!" River was craning her neck around in order to see, and it was clear the other Time Lord was struggling to leverage himself back up so that he could as well.
"Ok, now the green switch! Then turn the knob next to it four times—"
"Four to account for the outside passenger, Professor Song, do you want my legs turned into transmatter?!"
"Er, shall it turn it three and a half?" Jenny suggested, understandably becoming nervous and a bit more hesitant under the pressure.
"Oh, just turn it four, it can't hurt!" Donna advised, her arms screaming in pain from being stretched out and having to support her whole weight for so long.
"You've got to stabilize her enough for landing, Jenny, so put the zigzag plotter on full!"
"Er…the zigzag plotter?" The blonde girl repeated uncertainly.
"You don't know where the zigzag plotter is? Your grandmother knows where the zigzag plotter is!" He cried incredulously.
"I don't appreciate you using that tone when you talk about my mother!" River reproached.
"Yes well, I'm sorry, dear, but Amy Pond can't drive!" He snapped.
"I am literally the only thing keeping you alive right now, you realize that?"
"Is this really the time for this?" Donna demanded.
Jenny, who had actually been doing something, carefully shuffled around the console. "Does that mean it's the one by the ketchup and mustard?"
"Yes!" The married pair confirmed.
Jenny pulled, and with an unbearably loud whooshing noise and a great thud, the final stopped. Donna shook her hair out of her face and looked to see that they had emerged out of the cloud tunnel—the Vortex—and were floating in space, stationary. The Doctor was scrambling to get back inside and River hooked her arms around and hauled him up into a desperate kiss that he feverishly returned.
Before she could think to clear her throat or tell them to knock it off or something, they had parted and leapt to their feet, racing to the console. River yanked the monitor over as the Doctor paused to pull his daughter into a tight hug and kiss her forehead. "You were amazing, Jenny!"
"Really? But I messed up," the girl protested, glancing away in shame.
"Your father's right," River disagreed, "you saved us all. But Doctor, look at this." He went around to consult the monitor screen with her, and Donna descended the stairs at last, coming to a stop next to Jenny.
"They're both right, you know," she told the youngest Time Lord, "I mean face it, we'd still be stuck in the Vortex if it weren't for you. Flying a TARDIS has got to be hard, but you did the best you could. You're brilliant."
"Thanks, Donna. But you were the one that gave me the idea. I was standing right there that whole time while dad was—I was just so scared. I still have dreams every night that this isn't real, or it is and something takes him away again."
Donna opened her arms and embraced the girl. "It's ok, Jenny. I do, too, sometimes. Like, I'll dream that I'm at home and temping day in and day out, going for coffee with Nerys of all people, and never even thinking there's anything wrong with that. I dream I can't even remember this, like I've forgotten it all again. But then I wake up and you're all here."
"Yes, all here and still stuck," the Doctor grumbled, and Donna released Jenny to place a hand on her hip.
"What do you mean 'stuck'?" She questioned.
He sighed, running a hand through his floppy bangs in frustration. "I mean we're on the complete opposite side of the galaxy. The TARDIS won't take us to Earth. But why?"
"Is it really the TARDIS, dad?"
"I don't know," he replied with gritted teeth, and she could tell he was annoyed at himself for not having all the answers.
"We could always try changing the coordinates slightly," River suggested, already working the controls. "Pick a different location or a different year, just to see if it's just this specific destination or an even bigger problem."
"I suppose we could give it a try," he reasoned. "First, let's head back to Venice. I'm sure the Old Girl's got a live chicken in here somewhere." He left the room, presumably on the hunt for poultry.
"He just needs a minute to think," River explained. "He's got loads of theories, I'm sure, but we'll have to test them out one by one."
"Are you worried, River? Something's keeping us from getting to Amy and Rory," Donna commented. She knew the curly-haired woman had both a sense of respect for and a need to protect her parents. She for one was growing more than a bit nervous. As long as they couldn't land in the Ponds' yard, she was fairly certain they wouldn't be able to land in hers. How long had it been since she stopped in on her mother and granddad?
"We can't afford to panic, Donna," was all that the professor offered. "Not yet."
"I'm sure they're alright," Jenny attempted to reassure them both, and she did appreciate the effort. It still didn't keep her from hoping that they fixed this soon.
Kate sighed, looking around the table at the people gathered to hear her decision. Each had their reasons for being on edge, and she understood that, but there were reasons why working with an emotionally charged group was a bad idea.
"So, I've been informed that the ship has not moved or altered form in any way over the night and that no attempt at communication has been made from within. Still, the force field remains active and will block any attempt to dismantle the ship. Therefore, I have reviewed everything that has been said and have made my choice on who will make up the task force sent inside. Please be aware I picked each person carefully, and it still weighs heavily on my mind." She made eye contact with each of them, wanting to be sure they all understood.
"Very well, let's begin. First, taking point will be Captain Harkness." Two seats to her left the American grinned, giving her a quick salute. "He will lead the team and his word will be final unless I state otherwise. In spite of your abilities, Captain, I trust you will act with care as your fellow team members will be disadvantaged if they have to stand guard over your body while in combat."
"Read you loud and clear, Kate," the man replied, and though his tone was cheery, his eyes were serious, indicating he would do as she asked.
"As Technical Head I would have Mickey Smith, due to his qualifications, familiarity with working with the Captain, and ability to remain calm under pressure." The other man nodded, accepting the position. Beside him, his wife tensed and Kate steeled herself. This was where things would get difficult.
"There for both backup and to act as medic, I have chosen Dr. Jones—"
"Kate, please!" Mickey objected immediately, while Martha said at the same time,
"Thank you, director, I accept."
"Martha, you can't!" He turned to his spouse now, both shocked and angry.
"And why not, Mr. Smith?" The woman questioned. "I've been in plenty of dangerous situations before, with and without you."
"Yeah, but things are different now, what with Mandy and Michelle. We can't both put our lives on the line!"
"And what happens if you die in there and I could have stopped it?" The female doctor argued. "If it's really so risky, I'm not letting you leave them without a father!"
"I agree, cause I think it's a bad idea that either of them go, let alone both," Jack interjected. "They've got young kids, Kate!"
"So do plenty other members of this organization, Captain, but the fact remains that they are the two most qualified for the job," she stated firmly. "If I send in people who are less experienced and fail, and as a result that ship starts doing damage to the Earth at large, then I have failed as a director. Now, I am merely requesting that these two accept the task. I would hope that they can come to an agreement together!"
Everyone was silent for a long moment as the Smith-Jones pair looked at each other, speaking in a language that only they knew through gestures and eyes.
Mickey sighed in defeat at last, saying, "We understand, Director Stewart, and we both accept."
Jack was frowning, but Amy Williams offered her own opinion. "It's probably for the best, Mickey. You and Martha are a great team, and you'll look out for each other. I know I feel safest when Rory's around." Her husband took her hand that was resting on the table.
She waited for any further comments, and when none came, continued, "Taking the rear and being charged primarily with protecting the medic," she stressed these words and met Mickey's gaze in order to bolster his confidence in this decision, "Will be 2nd Lt. Jenkins."
"Yes ma'am," the young man agreed, easily the least stressful out of the group.
"Are we all clear on this?" She inquired, making one last check. "Good. Now I suggest we prepare." She led the way out of the conference room and into what she liked to think of as a modernized, more effective, and ultimately more useful armory.
"Each of you will be armed, whatever weapon you can use most accurately will suffice. You will also have an earpiece, which will allow you to communicate with each other if you get separated, and to communicate with us throughout the entire mission, provided that the energy field does not interfere with the frequency. I have been assured that it will not."
An assistant began passing out the earpieces and helping the four to put them in place. She then grabbed one of four packs hanging on the wall. "These contain extra supplies and equipment. Some nonperishable food is included, which I recommend you ration." They each nodded and she began handing off the packs. "They have been personalized as to what I believe you would require. Extra ammunition and pieces, a medical kit, a laptop should you require a secondary system, so on and so forth."
Each of them equipped and ready, the group moved outside.
"Kate," Mickey quickened his pace to come up next to her. "Listen, I'm not backing out, but I just want to know—Mandy and Michelle, I want to be sure they'll be ok while we're gone. Francine has to work, too."
"We could watch them when she's busy," Rory Williams offered, having walked up to join them. "And that way they could check in with you, if they can."
Mickey smiled gratefully. "Thanks, mate."
"It's no problem, really."
"Director Stewart!" They were halfway between the base and the ship when a rather familiar journalist came running forward.
"Miss Smith," she greeted the family friend, both glad and yet amused that the older woman was addressing her formally in front of her men. She wasn't big on pride and titles, but she knew the importance of respect in the chain of command. "I assume you want a statement from UNIT."
"You are correct," the brunette affirmed. "I think it would be best, seeing as I am the only reporter that's been allowed through your organization's barricade."
She had to smirk at that. Such loyal people she had working for her. "We have yet to identify the origins of the crashed object, but are sending in team in to investigate. The public has no need to be alarmed; we are confident the issue will be resolved shortly."
By the determined expressions on the faces of the task force, she could tell they felt the same. Sarah Jane took in the sight of the four wearing packs and earpieces, and her eyes widened. "Do be careful, all of you!"
"Thanks, Sarah Jane," Jack replied with a smile.
"We'll be listening in, you know. Making sure you're alright," she could hear Amy saying to Martha and Gregory behind her.
"Thank you, ma'am," the soldier responded, the warmth in his tone being what really indicated the friendship they shared.
"Let us know if…well," Martha finished somewhat lamely, and Kate couldn't help the same feeling of uncertainty and disappointment coming over her from yesterday.
She'd never met him, but she'd heard so many stories from her father…where was the Doctor? Was she doing something wrong?
They finally stopped a short distance from the unknown craft, where a ladder had already been placed for the four to reach the rip in the ship's side. They turned to face her one final time, standing in a line, and she observed them each. Calm, silent, confident, and ready.
"This is off the record," she noted to the journalist, who nodded. "You know the objective of this mission: find the command center for this ship and shut it down, then locate the fastest possible exit. No detours or exploration is necessary; leave that for the dismantling team. This is a matter of security, not investigation." It pained her to say it, curious as she was and wanting to enrich UNIT's knowledge of alien technology. But the safety of these four—and the planet—rested on her shoulders. "Are we clear?"
"Yes, ma'am!" All four responded promptly.
"Very well, we'll return immediately to base. Once you have entered the ship, do not go on for another ten minutes or until we make first contact. If you hear nothing from us after ten minutes, assume communication is impossible."
The Captain started up the ladder, climbing swiftly to the top and staring down. "It's not too much of a drop, but we could use some rope." He pulled a line out of his pack, tying it securely around the ladder. Then swinging both legs over, the immortal man went hand-over-hand down the rope and into the darkness. Mickey followed quickly after, then Martha, and lastly Gregory. The solider stopped at the top, took his own mental measurements, and began untying the rope.
"You'll be needing that, sir, and I can make the jump." The soldier carefully lowered himself in until he was hanging on to either side of the tear. Then he dropped. She had to assume that the energy field absorbed most sound as well, as they did not hear him make impact with any type of floor.
"To the base," she ordered, and the remaining three nodded, turning back the way they came. All were anxious to test the connection to the earpieces, though she wondered if any were as anxious as her. This was her mission; if anything went wrong, if she had made the wrong decision…it was her fault.
She hoped the conspicuous absence of a certain Time Lord was not a sign.
Stopping there for the chapter. Next chapter we'll finally get a look inside the mysterious craft! Also, the TARDIS Team will be trying to figure out just what is wrong with their own ship. Thanks so much for reading, and please review!