"What the hell are you doing?!" Annie yelled, holding on tight to whatever she could grab hold of in the TARDIS. The Doctor looked at her, wide eyed and visibly scared.
"I'm not doing anything! It's the TARDIS, she's flying herself!" he returned, pulling desperately at levers.
"She's what?! How can she do that? She's a box!"
"FOR THE LAST TIME, THE TARDIS IS NOT A BOX!" he shouted over the loud sound of her engines. Annie shot him a look that told him to shut up and he huffed. "Look, this is perfectly normal..." he lied. Annie rolled her eyes, picking up on his fib.
"Sure, that's why you look like you're about to go into battle, unarmed, against an army of three thousand men!" she shouted, cynically. She was cynical a lot, The Doctor had realised as the TARDIS landed abruptly. Annie cursed under her breath so The Doctor wouldn't hear her and straightened her t-shirt.
"I've gone into battle against armies," he told her with a serious face. "Believe me, they're the ones shaking in fear." Annie blinked at him.
"Right. I'll bear that in mind," she smiled awkwardly. They stared at each other for a moment, the air in the TARDIS becoming increasingly uncomfortable. "So," Annie began, breaking the silence and nodding to the door. "Outside?" The Doctor broke into a toothy grin and raised his eyebrows.
"Would you care to accompany me to a possible alien planet, Miss Hunt?" he asked, holding out a hand to her. Annie grinned back.
"Oh I'd be honored, Mr... Box Boy," she laughed and took his extended hand. "Is this safe?" she asked as they walked towards the doors. He shrugged in return.
"Maybe. Maybe not," he replied. She stopped and turned to him, alarmed.
"You mean you don't know?" He smiled a little cheekily.
"Where'd be the fun in that?" he joked and she laughed a little. "Ready?" She nodded and they began walking again.
A new planet. New people - no wait, would they even be classed as people? Oh whatever, Annie didn't care. A new sky. New ground. New everything. She was beside herself with excitement and was trying her hardest not to let out the squeal she was currently suppressing. She squeezed The Doctor's hand in her own and kept her eyes focused forward. Behind those two, small wooden panels was something completely wonderful. They were three steps away.
She couldn't believe she was doing this. Her palms were sweaty and her breathing was getting shallow and erratic.
Nearly there. What would it be like? She imagined fields of orange grass meeting a burning red sky with multicoloured birds flying overhead. Would birds even exist?
She missed a breath. The Doctor extended his free hand, her imagination racing as he wrapped his fingers around the handle. She was imagining a world underwater with people walking around, the size of giants, and fish swimming past with eyes that -
"Oh," she voiced. The Doctor had opened the door to reveal a street. A normal, grey, London street. Never in her life had she been more disappointed and she swore she literally felt her heart drop lower in her chest. She turned to The Doctor, hand on one hip. "You promised me a planet."
"Ah," he replied, flailing awkwardly. "Actually, I promised you the possibility of a planet. I never said that we were -"
"Oh whatever," Annie shook her head. "There must be something special about this crappy street, right? I mean, your box didn't just fly us to -" she stepped out and looked around, eyes landing on a Tube station sign. "Baker Street for nothing," she finished. The Doctor nodded in agreement, following her out.
"Good point, Annie. Also, not a box. But still, good point..." he trailed off as he locked the doors behind him. "So, Baker Street. What's so special about Baker Street?" Annie shrugged and quickly followed The Doctor as he began walking towards an elderly man who was resting against a wall of a building across the road. He was seemingly homeless with his ragged clothes, woolly hat pulled tightly over thinning but dirty hair and a dog sat loyally beside him.
"Good morning, sir!" The Doctor said to the man, a toothy grin on his face. "Now, I was just wondering - and don't call me mad, because this one does it enough - what date is it?" Annie scowled at him for bringing her into this but the old man didn't notice. He sniffed and pulled his coat closer together, which was neither brown nor grey, before answering.
"Date?" he repeated in a thick Scottish accent. "January 4th, 2024." Annie's eyes widened but The Doctor simply smiled some more and patted the man on the shoulder and thanked him before crossing the road again. Annie stared at him.
"What?" he asked, confused.
"2024. That man just said 2024."
"Oh good, your ears still work then." Annie scowled again and hit him on the arm.
"No need to be sarcastic, box man. But... It's 2024," she said a second time. The Doctor stared at her still, not getting it. She sighed. "I'm in the sodding future!"
"Oh yes!" he beamed, slapping her encouragingly on the shoulder. "Hello Annie Hunt, and welcome to the future!"
Annie giggled involuntarily and spun around on the spot, taking in the street. It was a normal street, and Annie had been thoroughly disappointed five minutes ago, but suddenly the grey streets had a silver tinge to them and the promise of a being a whole decade in the future made everything glow slightly.
"The sodding future!" Annie repeated. "Hang on, does that mean I can, you know, find myself?" The Doctor shook his head.
"No. Nope. Definitely not. That could lead to all sorts of mishaps," he warned her. She nodded, not fully understanding but not caring too much. "We can, however, go check some stuff out. 2024, the Olympics is back in London. And blimey are there some new games! Everything is a little, uh, more violent. Blood sports have made a comeback... But there's some good stuff too." Annie raised an eyebrow cynically.
"Yeah? I'm sure that cancels out the blood sports."
"Yeah, maybe not. But the jellyfish racing and scuba-hurdles are brilliant."
"Jellyfish?" The Doctor smiled.
"Oh yes. It's like horse racing, though smaller and with no jockeys. It's great!" Annie perked up at this.
"Sounds fun! We going then?" He nodded.
"And we're lucky, too. 2024. They held the Olympics in January, so we don't have far to travel. The opening ceremony is on the..." he paused and thought. "Something of January."
"The 6th," Annie told him. He looked at her.
"How did you figure that out?"
"I'm just a genius," she said, then laughed and nodded to the window of a newsagents.
"Oh, you cheat. Anyway, that means there's only two days to travel. So we can just pop back into the TARDIS and -"
"No," Annie interrupted. "I mean, why don't we just wait it out? We can stay in the TARDIS, but why don't we live out a couple of days? Please. I'd like to." The Doctor looked at her. This was something new. Nobody had ever wanted to stay before. He was used to living with action, not just a normal, 2024 Earth life. But there was that something about Annie that made her different from other girls, so he found himself saying yes.
"Okay then, Annie Hunt, you have a deal!" He smiled and she smiled with him. "So, what shall we do first?" She looked around. It may be the future, but surely there was still a cafe somewhere?
"I want to eat," she said, and The Doctor agreed.
"Good plan, I'm starving. I haven't eaten since... Actually, I can't remember."
"Well I can, and it was a rubbish piece of toast that day I met you. I could do with pizza or something."
"Pizza... That's the one you eat with a spoon, right?" Annie laughed.
"Are you kidding me? You don't know what pizza is? Wow, you really are an alien!" The Doctor frowned, offended, and Annie rolled her eyes. "Come on, box boy. Time for pizza."
The Doctor and Annie found a Pizza Express conveniently located a few minutes away from the Tube station and sat in the corner sharing a margherita whilst she told him about the first time she had eaten pizza. A song that Annie had never heard before was playing on the radio.
"Was I 7 or 8? Not sure. That's irrelevant. It was my birthday anyway, I think. Or was it my friends? Anyway, we went to a Pizza Hut or something and it was probably the best thing I've ever eaten. Apart from marmite on toast. Or chocolate orange. Wow, I never realised I liked so many types of food!" She laughed and took a drink from the Pepsi that was in front of her. The Doctor took a bite from a slice and grimaced slightly before putting it back down.
"That's pizza?" he questioned. Annie looked almost hurt.
"You are not telling me that you don't like pizza?" she complained. He poked at it with a straw.
"Well, kind of. It's not anything to write home about..." Annie rolled her eyes.
"This is mental. Pizza. How is it possible to dislike pizza?!" The Doctor raised is hands in defense whilst quickly preparing an argument to back his judgment, but was interrupted by a loud and unexpected buzzing sound. Everyone in the restaurant flinched a little and worried faces searched the room for its cause.
"What is that?" Annie asked, hands going instantly to her ears to block out the noise. The Doctor stood, but that was when the noise stopped.
People looked at each other, concerned, before returning to their meals and conversations and The Doctor stayed stood.
"I don't know," she said, pulling out his sonic screwdriver. "It sounded like -"
"Sorry about that, folks!" a voice cut in. It was one of the waiters and he was currently looking very embarrassed. "Just a little interference with the hi-fi system there! Looks like our head chef John left his mobile a little too close to the speakers!" There was a ripple of expected laughter among the customers and he smiled one last apology before returning to collecting glasses. Annie returned to her food, satisfied with the explanation, but The Doctor sat down with a frown on his face.
"What?" she asked, stealing a slice of pizza from his side of the plate. He flicked his sonic and tapped it gently against his wrist.
"Nothing. It's just..." he trailed off, staring at a small flashing light on the screwdriver. "That doesn't make sense. It wasn't just technical difficulties. Can't have been." Annie put down the pizza with a sigh and sat back.
"Oh, it's all mysteries around you, isn't it, Doctor?"
"I could say the same thing about you," he murmured to himself, hardly audible above the sound of chatter and eating. "All the time," he said a little louder, sliding the screwdriver back into his jacket pocket. "I'm sure this is nothing to worry about though." She smiled and started eating again as The Doctor thought.
He'd lied again, of course this was something to worry about. This was probably why the TARDIS had pulled them here. The mystery behind the buzzing. Forget the Olympics, he told himself sadly. And he was really looking forward to the jellyfish. He took a drink from his glass. So that wasn't interference - there were no mobile phone or WiFi signals, nothing like that in the air that could have caused such a noise. So what was it? He ran a hand through his hair, messing it up further, and Annie smiled.
"You're doing that thing again," she pointed out.
"The hair thing. You do it when you're thinking." The Doctor smiled.
"I have a thing? Ooh, that's new. I don't think I've ever had a thing before. And it must be an obvious thing if you've already picked up on it. Or maybe you're just good at noticing things. You are quite good at things, Annie Hunt." She smiled in return.
"Thank you, Doctor. You're not too bad yourself. So, where next? Anything grand going on in London in 2024 other than the Olympics?"
"Hmm, let me think..." he stared down at the table as he flicked through the factfile of infinite knowledge that was his brain and ran his hand through his hair again without realising. Annie smiled to herself. "Oh! There's a new art style that's just been created. They're bored of cubism and stuff by now, these days it's all about the Predictism art."
"Predictism?" she asked.
"Yes. Half finished masterpieces. It allows the audience to make up their own final piece in their head. Quite fun, actually. There are usually competitions where you finish it how you want then the artist chooses their favourite. I, uh, won a few in my time..." he told her, brushing crumbs that weren't there off of his jeans. Annie rolled her eyes at his boasting.
"Show off. Sounds good to me though!" She stood and shrugged on her jacket. "Hope you brought your best pencil though, box boy, because I'm a hell of an artist." The Doctor smiled and pulled out a HB pencil from his jacket and Annie frowned. "Seriously? Is there anything you don't have in there?" He laughed.
"A way to stop you talking," he replied. She laughed with him and they turned to leave. And they would have left, too. And they would have gone to see the Predictism exhibit. And Annie would have won first prize for finishing David Parry's 'Hunter' painting with a twist. But the interference stopped them. Just as they were about to leave the restaurant, the loud buzzing sound came from nowhere again and The Doctor couldn't resist looking into it.
"No, you don't get it!" The Doctor argued as they stood in the TARDIS with the radio from the restaurant that they had 'acquired'.
"Okay then, explain!" Annie returned. She flopped into her chosen deck chair and listened to The Doctor ramble on.
"The interference. It's not. Well, it is. But it's wrong. It's coming from inside the thing itself. It's not another signal passing by, causing the noise, it's another signal overlaying the first." He looked up from what he was doing to confirm that Annie was with him so far. "Basically, something's inside the radio signals. Or something's getting through anyway." Annie stood.
"Like an alien something?" she asked, excited by the prospect.
"Could be," The Doctor agreed, flicking a switch on the radio. "Or it could just be a broadcasting error. But somehow, I don't think so..."
"So what can we do?" she asked, raring to get going on her first mystery.
"Well, I'm going to try and pinpoint where the signal is coming from. See if I can get a physical location that we can check out. You can be very helpful and lend me your mobile phone." Annie blinked at him and tapped her pockets.
"Yeah, slight problem there. I don't have one." The Doctor froze.
"You don't have one? What? That's not even an option." Annie let out a laugh.
"Oh, right! Use yours then if not having one isn't an option!"
"No, I don't have one. Why would I need one? My ship is a phonebox. That's as mobile as a phone can get. No, you're not allowed to not have one. You're a twenty three year old in the 21st century and you don't have a mobile phone?!" Annie frowned.
"Oh, semantics. Seriously though, you don't have a mobile phone?" Annie shrugged.
"Why is that so hard to believe?"
"It just is. Why don't you have one?" Annie sighed at this as if she'd been asked a million times.
"I don't know, just never wanted one! Never really needed one."
"Really? But how do you, I don't know, arrange to meet with friends? Go for pizza and..." he searched for something else 21st Century-y. "Bowling!" Annie laughed.
"Bowling? Really? I'm twenty two, Doctor, not twelve. Anyway," she continued, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "I don't really have many friends to keep in touch with." The Doctor looked over at her.
"Friends. Not many. Come to think of it, none at all. Not really a people person. I got my books!" She smiled weakly, but The Doctor wasn't having it.
"How can you be a twenty two year old in London and not have a single friend?" She shrugged again in response. "Not even an old school friend or so?"
"Oh, there's loads of them, sure! Had lots of friends at school. Or at least, I think I did..." she trailed off for a moment, lost in her memories. "Doesn't matter though," she said, shaking off the ghosts from her past. "And hey, I have you." The Doctor smiled.
"Yeah, you do. But you messed up this plan, didn't you?" he sighed as she nodded. "Aye well, I'm sure we'll manage with something else!" Annie stood, walked over to the radio and switched it on. It began playing an old Squeeze song and she smiled, turning the volume up.
"Hey, I know this one!" she laughed. The Doctor shook his head.
"No, you knew the original. This is the remix."
As if on cue, the regular beat of Up The Junction was replace with a loud, deep, rattling sound. Annie cringed and quickly turned it back down.
"That," she began, "is music?" The Doctor couldn't help but laugh.
"Hey, you think that's bad you should check out the top 40 in 2036." Annie laughed with him, but they were both interrupted by the now all too familiar buzz of interference. Or not interference, as The Doctor had tried to explain. Suddenly he was animate, jumping around the console, flicking switches and pressing buttons. Annie stood back and let him work. After a few moments, the buzzing died down and The Doctor stopped.
"No!" he exclaimed, turning some dials on the radio.
"What's wrong?" Annie asked. He turned to her, a look of defeat spread across his face.
"It seems that we're not going to be able to get a location from where the extra signal is coming from, because the signal of the radio itself is too strong. Whatever is trying to get through is weak. For now, anyway." He sighed and collapsed against the console, his forehead pressed against the central column with his eyes closed. "What are we supposed to do now?" he muttered. Annie couldn't figure out whether he was talking to her, or the TARDIS or maybe just to himself, but she answered anyway.
"We'll go to the radio place. Maybe they know about this. Maybe they don't. Either way, it can't hurt to go hunting." The Doctor's eyes shot open. He turned to Annie and embraced her unexpectedly, laughing.
"Oh, Annie Hunt you absolute genius!" Annie hugged him back slightly before pushing him away.
"Okay, okay, Doctor! Enough hugging, go fly your box!" The Doctor smiled and turned to the console, and was about to start pushing buttons again until Annie yelled, "Wait!"
"What?" he asked, turning around. She ran to her deck chair and sat down, gripping to the edge for dear life.
"Okay, now you can go." He rolled his eyes at her and she stuck out her tongue before he turned back to the console.
"Okay, Annie," he said, throwing a lever. "Let's go solve us a mystery." She laughed and gripped even tighter and The Doctor continued to run about the console, all the while thinking to himself. They were off to solve a mystery, yes. But the mystery of the interference or the mystery of a certain Miss Annie Hunt?
The TARDIS pretty much crashed rather than landed at the radio station, and there was an awful lot of awkward explaining done when Annie and The Doctor stepped out of the box into a room full of slack-jawed and wide-eyed workers. Most of them didn't buy their circus magician story, but one man that did was George Watt. He wasn't exactly a short man, but was a could couple of inches smaller than both Annie and The Doctor, and his quick acceptance of his lie told The Doctor that he wasn't the brightest of people he'd worked with.
"So, George," Annie said to the man as he took them, as they'd asked, to his boss. "Worked here long?" The Doctor dropped back slightly and let the two talk, paying more attention to Annie than the conversation.
"Not too long," he replied. His voice had a shaky quality to it that gave off the impression that he was a nervous man. He smiled and picked at the skin on his left thumb as he spoke. "About a month or two? I used to work in television, but it turns out my tech skills were more accustomed to the radio life. What about you? What do you do?"
"I, uh, I'm a librarian," she told him. He let out a low whistle.
"A librarian, huh? Impressive. Not many of those around these days. Books are getting rarer and rarer." Annie nodded in response, pretending to understand, but inside her she felt like someone had punched her in the stomach. Only a decade in the future and books were already becoming obsolete? How horrible. They walked the rest of the way in an awkward silence, George breaking it only once to activate the lift.
The Doctor thanked George for taking them this far when they reached the sleek black door of his boss' office, and he took his leave with a slight bow.
"Sorry, don't know why I just did that," he said, cursing himself. "I better be off." Annie nodded, feeling as awkward as she looked, and watched the man almost run back down the corridor.
"Strange man," The Doctor said, knocking on the door.
"Never mind that!" Annie exclaimed. "They don't have books anymore?!"
"Oh don't worry, they come back around. You lot are just going through a phase of downloads and ebooks and the like. Good ol' paperbacks will reign supreme, I promise." Annie let out a sigh of relief.
"Thank God. Because for a moment there I -" She was interrupted by the door opening. A tall woman stood before them, straight black hair and bright red lipstick.
"May I help you?" she asked. She had an air of authority about her that put on Annie on edge and she shifted uncomfortably. The Doctor didn't seem to notice.
"Oh I hope so!" he replied, barging into the room. Annie followed, avoiding eye contact with the woman. "I have a few issues I want to discuss."
"And you are...?"
"Oh, yes, sorry!" He pulled a badge out of his jeans pocket. "Minister of technology, er, radio department. Checking up on, er, a few bugs we've encountered." The woman crossed her arms over her chest and looked closely at the badge. She frowned, the corners of her lips turning further down than they naturally sat anyway, and breathed sharply through her nose.
"Bugs? I think you have the wrong radio station," she replied curtly. The Doctor stuffed his badge back in his pocket and shook his head.
"No, I don't think we do Miss...?"
"Ms," she corrected. "Ms Storm." The Doctor flashed her a warm, reassuring smile, but she didn't bridle.
"Ms Storm, we don't mean to bother you it's just -"
"Well you are bothering me," she interrupted. The Doctor backed down a little and Annie took over.
"And we're very sorry about that. We just need to ask you a few questions, that's all. We'll only take up a small percentage of your very important time." The Doctor shot her a warning look, picking up on the slight tone of sarcasm in her voice, but Ms Storm didn't seem to notice. She stared at Annie a little while, taking in her appearance before replying with a sharp nod and directing them to two chairs that were placed in front of her desk.
"You have five minutes, no more," she told them as she took her seat - a significantly comfier chair behind the desk. Annie sat across from her. The Doctor didn't. Instead, he paced the width of her office and spoke as he walked.
"I was in a restaurant today," he began. "Nice restaurant. Good staff. Not great food, but then again I don't like pizza and it was Pizza Express. Anyway, I was sat there relaxing, and listening to your radio show." Storm smiled to herself and leaned forward.
"Please, go on," she insisted. The Doctor continued pacing.
"Well, you were playing a song. Not sure what song and it wasn't really my cup of tea, but that's irrelevant. What is relevant, however, is the interference." He stopped and turned to Storm just in time to see a look of panic wash across her face before disappearing quickly under her rock hard exterior. The Doctor smiled. "Oh look. You know what I'm talking about." She shifted uncomfortably where she sat and rearranged the pencils that lay scattered on her desk.
"I can promise you I don't have a -"
"Oh, drop it, Storm. I saw the look on your face. One mention of interference and you looked like a rabbit in the proverbial headlights. Seriously, as a bad guy, you're pretty rubbish." This gained a smile from Storm.
"Pretty rubbish? You say that now. But I can't be that rubbish seeing as I took your friend about three minutes ago and you're yet to notice." The Doctor's eyes went instantly to the chair where Annie was sat. Or, more correctly, the chair where Annie had been sat. Now it was empty, and Storm let out a laugh.
"Put her back," he demanded, marching to her desk. "She's only here because I was curious, so put her back." Storm shrugged.
"Can't. Once they've been taken, they've been taken." She sat back in her chair.
"Taken? Taken where, taken by who? Oh come on, you've already got her, the least you can do is be less vague about things!" He was angry now, and he had to grit his teeth to try and control himself. Storm looked at him, then looked down at her desk before standing.
"Okay. You have a fair point. I might as well tell you, seeing as there's no way to get her back. And anyway, seeing the look on your face will be priceless." She walked around the desk to where he was stood and smiled. "Oh, but I should have taken you," she muttered, stroking the side of his face. The Doctor stood still, resisting the urge to flinch. "You're much prettier. No? Don't think so? Well, at least narcissism isn't one of your qualities. I admire that. Not all of us are that lucky."
"Get to the point, Storm," he said, almost warning her. She sighed.
"Oh, you're no fun. Anyway, you're little friend is just atoms in the air by now. We took her. For the Greater Good."
"The greater good? What greater good?"
"The main cause. The first being. The one thing that's going to conquer all evil in the world. The Greater Good has ruled us all since... Well, forever." The Doctor scoffed.
"'Conquer all evil'? And how is kidnapping innocent girls you've never met going to help do that?!"
"It wants them. It takes those that don't make sense. The ones with different ideas, the ones from far away. And Annie seemed so... ripe. So the Good took her. And not just girls. We've been taking people for years, and nobody's ever noticed. But you..." she looked him up and down. "What made you so suspicious about the interference? Everyone else has just passed it off for what it sounds like. What we want people to think it is. We've tried to control them, but -"
"Them?" The Doctor repeated. "What do you mean, 'them'? It's just a signal. It's -" he paused, realisation washing over him. "Oh. Ohhhh. That's good. The interference - you aren't doing that. That's a side effect of your ridiculous plan. The interference... it's not just a signal overlapping. It's a whole other thing, trying to overwrite your system. It's not just an annoyance, Storm..." he smirked, walked around her desk and sat in her seat. Storm visibly cringed. "It's a cry for help." She gritted her teeth and stared down at The Doctor, not allowing herself to talk in case she gave anything else away. He raised an eyebrow at her. "The silent treatment? Really? You think that's going to help you?" Storm didn't say a word. The Doctor sighed. "Oh, well, if you're not going to tell me anything I guess I'll just have to leave and accept that I'll never Annie back." He stood, straightened her pencils for her and walked to the door. Storm let out a small but audible sigh of relief, causing The Doctor to turn on his heels. "You really thought it was going to be that easy?" He smirked again and pulled out his sonic. Pointing it over his shoulder, he sealed the door.
"Oh. That was unexpected," Storm admitted.
"That's what being a good guy is all about. Catching the bad guy off guard, no matter how terrible they are at being a bad guy," he said, sauntering over to where Storm was stood. She let out a shaky laugh.
"Terrible at it? Are you forgetting I still have your friend?"
"Yes, but you don't, do you? You said she was atoms by now. But we both know that's not quite true. What atoms do you know that can form a cry for help? No, I think these people are alive. And fairly close, going by the energy signals I got from your tech boy downstairs." Storm's eyes widened. "Oh, so he's in on this, is he? George-y boy?" She shook her head quickly in response.
"Not exactly. He is. But he doesn't know it," she told him. The Doctor didn't speak, his silence being her cue to continue. She sighed in defeat and slumped in a chair, prepared to tell The Doctor everything. "Fine. We transferred him when we saw how good he was at hiding signals under other signals. And how clever he was. He managed to set up teleport beams in the radios, so we could take people. Not that he knows about it, of course. He just thinks he's enhancing out sound and taking part in some friendly rivalry with other radio stations, when actually he's calming down the... the cries. Well, we call them the Storms." She sat back, evidently proud of this.
"Named them after yourself, did you?" She blinked in response.
"I did mention the narcissism thing. Anyway, it was working for a while. But then the Good got more desperate. He told me that something new was coming - something old and foreign but new and oh so acquainted with this world. He said he needed to rid the world of the thinkers quickly before it arrived - the ones with bright ideas and the ones that were different - so the thinkers didn't try and change the way of things. That's all the Greater Good wants to do," she explained. "It just wants to preserve the old order of things." The Doctor stood in front of her chair, listening intently. 'Something old and foreign but new and acquainted with this world'? That had to be about him. And the old order of things? Wasn't that what he had tried to do once? He sighed and sat across from her.
"Look, Storm..." he began.
"Alyson, please. I think we should probably be on first name terms now," she said. She looked defeated and disheveled.
"Okay, Alyson. I'm The Doctor. And I just want my friend back. I just want all those people back. This Greater Good, whatever it is, isn't the one you should be listening to. How long have you been taking its orders, eh? How long?"
"About... I don't know. Twelve, maybe thirteen years?"
"And what have you achieved?"
"I don't... I mean..." she searched for something - anything - but nothing came. She looked up at The Doctor, her eyes full of regret. She was half the woman she was twenty minutes ago, and she seemed shorter somehow now too. Her clothes seemed too big and she'd completely lost her air of authority. "Nothing. Twelve years of my life. It came to me, one night, when I was alone. I was only sixteen. So impressionable. It told me of a future, one that had to be stopped. And that sacrifices had to be made. That was twelve years ago. And now, nothing. Just a cellar full of people." The Doctor shifted slightly at the mention of the basement, but Storm didn't seem to notice that she'd just given away the location - she was too lost in her memories and was drowning in guilt.
"Look," he began, taking one of her hands in his and pulling her up from the depths of nostalgia. "I'm going to walk away from this. You can too. No more kidnapping. No more Greater Good. This whole thing... it's not right. I'm not even sure what this Greater Good is. And I've been about a bit. So I'll find out. I'll stop it. And you can have your life back." He stood, and pulled her up with him. "How about it, Alyson Storm? An ordinary, human life? I hear the Olympics this year are going to be great." Alyson looked to the ground, taking everything in. A life. A real, normal life. Without the whispers of Good. Just a normal life. She looked up at him and gave a small smile.
"Okay, Doctor. A real, normal, life."
It only took The Doctor ten minutes or so to gain access to the cellar. When he'd called Alyson Storm a terrible bad guy earlier, he hadn't realised how right he'd been. I mean, she had her victims locked in the underground of her workplace. Hardly Consulting Criminal standard work, here. He broke into her weak security system in a matter of minutes and entered the cellar to reveal something a little more villainy. A room full of time-locked cages. So the people inside didn't age, and had no idea how long they'd been trapped there. He opened every cell carefully, releasing a decades worth of kidnapped civilians, until he came to the most recent. Annie Hunt, sat in the corner of her time-locked cell, drawing the TARDIS on the floor with a rock. He opened the glass door to her cell and smiled.
"Taxi for Miss Annie Hunt?" he joked. She looked up from her drawing, and smiled back at him.
"Oh, yes please!" she replied. She stood and ran to him, hugging the man. He staggered back a little, but hugged her back just as tight once he'd regained his footing. They stayed in the embrace for a while before Annie wriggled away. "So what happened? Where are we? What happened with Storm?" The Doctor nodded to the door and they both exited.
"Still in the radio building. Alyson Storm was working for something called the Greater Good that took people that were different. That were clever and interesting and possibly going to change the world." The Doctor looked at Annie. "So I don't know what it wanted with you." Annie hit him playfully on the arm.
"Sorry; couldn't resist. Anyway, we had a chat. I convinced her that the Greater Good was a load of rubbish and we just walked away. A surprisingly easy defeat to be honest."
"Pretty rubbish, to be honest," Annie corrected as they found the TARDIS.
"Well, in all fairness, she was a pretty rubbish villain," he countered, unlocking the doors. Annie rushed in like a child coming home from a long day at school and took her favourite seat.
"And the Greater Good? You defeated it, yeah? It was all dramatic and cool?" The Doctor shifted uncomfortably and walked to the console, pretending he hadn't heard her. "Doctor."
"Well, not exactly. I don't really know what it is," he admitted. Annie made a face that told him she wasn't impressed. "But that's always another mystery for next time!" he continued, and Annie nodded in agreement.
"So the TARDIS took us here because of the Greater Good thing that we need to figure out? Good. I'm starting to like this box. And what about the interference? What was that?"
"Cries for help," he told her. She gasped.
"That's horrible!" she exclaimed.
"Just think, you might have been one of them." Annie shook her head.
"Nope. I never cry. Not in any sense of the word. Never have. Never will." She crossed her arms across her chest in defiance and The Doctor chuckled.
"You're a strange one, Annie Hunt," he told her. Then a little quieter and to himself, "I just wish I could figure out why."