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Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space: Death of the Astral Queen

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

(After playing Matt’s Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space scenario “Death of the Astral Queen” by James DiBenedetto on Sunday, March 30, at CaesarCon with Adam, Chris, and Steve.)

Mickey Sullivan and Peter Black had appeared in the dying hulk of some spaceship. Mickey tried to scream but it felt like the air was being literally ripped from his lungs. Laser beams tore through the darkness and ripped into the hull of the spacecraft they were in.

“Alert! Alert!” came a voice from all around. “Self-Destruct! Self-Destruct!”

Then it was gone and for a moment, they were back in the hotel room. Mickey had time to take a single breath before the two men vanished again.

* * *

Captain Jack Harkness suddenly appeared in a hotel hallway, then vanished again, and reappeared. He was quite confused for a moment, and then saw a man in a white coat running down the hallway. He realized he’d just time traveled, but not to where he’d intended.

* * *

Mickey took another breath, glad he was able to do so. He looked around and found himself in what looked like a futuristic hotel room. Computer touch screens stood on one wall of the room, all of them filled with some kind of alien writing. He didn’t recognize the shapes, but they went together like lines of script. A makeup stand was there, as well as a bunk on one side. Peter Black lay on the floor and Mickey guessed he’d hit his head.

Mickey took the device from Black’s prone form. He looked at it and realized that before, he could tell, even when it was not activated, that it had power. Green bars had been on a screen on one side. He saw that now the machine was completely dark and without power. He looked over it, hoping there would be some kind of chord that he could plug in to recharge the device, but saw none. He wondered if there was a battery of some kind inside of it.

He picked up Peter Black and put him onto the bunk. Then he went to the door but saw there was no door handle. He listened at the door but didn’t hear anything. He looked over it but didn’t see a control panel. He touched it with his hand but the door didn’t move. He pushed on the solid metal door without success.

“Uh … open,” he said.

Nothing.

Next he tried to slide it to one side. Still nothing.

He looked around and saw no window in the room he was in. The bathroom was somewhat similar to the bathrooms he was familiar with. There were a few personal effects on the counter of what he assumed was a sink. A silver device that looked like a plate on a chain lay on the counter with several alien sigils upon it, some of which might have matched ones on the touch screen in the outer room. He examined the device and realized it was jewelry or a dog tag or something.

He went to the touch screen and when he touched it and moved his hand upward, all of the symbols scrolled up. He noticed that the shapes were changing as they moved up the screen. He continued to slide it up for what felt like a long time and after about five times running his hand across, he recognized the Roman alphabet. The word read “Terran.” He realized that it meant Earthling and pressed it.

Suddenly, the other side of the screen formed words in English. They read: “Welcome aboard the Astral Queen.”

“Great,” Mickey muttered.

A layout of the ship appeared and he saw various rooms were marked: The Skylight Chapel, The Viking Crown Lounge, The Gravity Sports Court. There were five levels of the ship’s decks visible and a little arrow on one side indicated that there were more. At the bottom was a button that was marked “Press here for ‘you are here.’”

He looked around the room for a phone and then went back to the screen. He soon found functions that would allow him to contact hospitality, the excursions desk, and other places on the ship, including the help desk. He continued looking through various screens to see where the ship was. He found a button marked “itinerary” and tapped it. On the screen appeared “Arriving at planet Midnight in 28 hours.”

He’d never heard of planet Midnight.

He scratched his head.

“Greetings passengers!” a male voice came over the intercom. “You can see the Westin Constellation is clearly on the starboard and port sides of the ship right now.”

It was replaced with a female voice.

“Good morning, this is your cruise director speaking,” the voice said. “Don’t miss out on The Space Diamond Spectacular this afternoon in the Alhambra Theater, and don’t forget about those amazing excursions on Midnight!”

The other voice came back on.

“And this is Captain Zeth,” the first voice said once again. “Everyone have a pleasant day aboard the Astral Queen.”

“Okay …” Mickey said.

He used the touch screen to enter Dr. Magnus’ cell phone number in the hopes that he would contact The Doctor.

“Please insert your passenger ID or crew ID card into the slot to be charged for your outside call,” a voice said.

Mickey started to look around the room for an ID and then went back to the counter in the bathroom and grabbed the disk. It was the exact shape of the slot in the wall. He inserted it.

“Good morning, Bella,” the computer’s voice said. “Calling Dr. Magnus Johnson.”

The phone rang several times before it was picked up.

“Hello?” Dr. Johnson said very quietly.

“Magnus!” Mickey said. “Magnus!”

“Don’t yell,” Dr. Johnson whispered.

“It’s Mickey,” Mickey said.

* * *

Captain Jack ran after the man in the white coat.

“Why are we running?” he called to the man.

“There are aliens behind us that want to kill me!” the man replied. Then: “The broom closet!”

He pulled open the door to the broom closet in the hall and jumped inside. He looked at Jack and the man slipped in as well. Then the man in white closed the door.

It was dark in the room.

“Who are you?” the man in white whispered. “Are you part of the mobsters? Are you an alien?”

“No. No.” Jack replied. “What mobsters?”

“The mobsters that are after Peter Black.”

“Why?”

“Because he owes them money.”

“Ah, never a good thing. You should never owe anybody money.”

“Who are you?”

“Captain Jack Harkness.”

“Where did you come from?”

“Down the hall?”

“Why were you chasing me?”

“Because you were running. And apparently there’s aliens out there. Were they good-looking?”

“They had helmets on. And they have things that will disintegrate you.”

“Ah, never a good thing.”

Jack cracked the door and peeked out. He spotted several uniformed men with helmets covering their faces coming down the hallway in a 2x2 formation. He pulled the door shut but noticed that they had headed in different directions, marching.

Just then a ringing came from the other man’s chest. He took out a cell phone and activated it.

“Hello?” he said.

“Magnus!” Mickey said. “Magnus!”

“Don’t yell,” Dr. Johnson whispered.

“It’s Mickey,” Mickey said. “Where are you and when are you?”

“In the broom closet with Captain Jack.”

“How did Captain Jack get with you?”

“I don’t know. He was chasing me.”

“I was not,” Jack whispered.

“Is The Doctor new you?” Mickey asked.

“What?” Dr. Johnson said.

“Is The Doctor near you?”

“I’ll find him.”

“When you find him, tell him I’m on the Astral Queen. I don’t know what year it is … um …”

“Well, I’m sure I could do something with my phone to help you.”

“I’m in Bella’s room.”

“Very good. Very good.”

“I’ll be calling you shortly.”

“So you’re in the future. Are you being chased?”

“No. No. It’s quite lovely here.”

“Are there aliens who want to kill you?”

“No. No. No. But there’s a gravity court and I’ve got the time machine with me and Mr. Black is lying on the bed unconscious.”

“It sounds like I’m in more trouble. A strange man has trapped me in a closet while aliens are trying to kill me.”

“Well, you can trust Captain Jack. I know him. Tell him Mickey’s on the line.”

“Mickey’s on the line?”

“Hello Mickey!” Jack said loudly, then snatched the phone from Dr. Johnson. “Where are you?”

“Well, keep your voice down,” Mickey replied. “If it’s where I just left from, there’s some very bad people trying to get a device and, now that they can’t get it, they’ll probably just dispense of you.”

“Oh.”

“You must find The Doctor. The last I knew he was visiting with Shirley MacLaine.”

“Ooo, Shirley MacLaine.”

“And the Rat Pack. I’m not sure what year it is. I’m guessing far in the future. And … perhaps before everything went down with Bella. The Doctor will know what that means.”

“Okay. As soon as I can, I’ll find him. Hold on a second.”

He handed the phone back to Dr. Johnson and the man put it into his coat pocket. He cracked the door and saw that the hallway was empty.

“I think we’re clear now,” he said to Dr. Johnson.

“I think I’m going to stay here,” Dr. Johnson said.

“Well, we have to go find The Doctor,” Captain Jack said. “He’s with Shirley MacLaine.”

“No,” Dr. Johnson said. “Everybody here thinks I’m a genius.”

“Well … and you’re not?”

“Of course I am.”

“Well, then, we can find The Doctor.”

“Very well then. You lead the way.”

“But I don’t know where Shirley MacLaine would be right now.”

“She’s upstairs. In the penthouse.”

“Oh, that works. Okay.”

“Where else would Shirley MacLaine be?”

“I didn’t know if this was the right building. I just got here. By the way, where is here?”

“Las Vegas.”

“When?”

“1961.”

“Damn, that’s not what I was shooting for.”

“I’ll call you back in a half-hour!” they heard Mickey’s voice come out of Dr. Johnson’s breast pocket.

* * *

The Doctor and Sgt. Major Phillip Wingate, meanwhile, were in the penthouse at Shirley MacLaine’s party. They finally made their way to Miss MacLaine and The Doctor greeted her, touched her arm and giving her a kiss on the cheek.

“Oh! Doctor!” she said. “Doctor! Marvelous! Marvelous! Let me refresh my drink and I’ll take you to my room.”

“That would be wonderful, Miss MacLaine,” The Doctor said. “You know, have you ever thought about psychics.”

He was just making casual conversation as she got her drink.

“I’ve never really thought of that,” she said. “I wonder how popular something like that might be. Are people interested in that?”

“One never knows,” The Doctor said. “One never knows.”

The Doctor introduced her to his associate Sgt. Major Wingate.

“Oh, Sergeant Major,” she said.

“He works with a very secret, secret government organization,” The Doctor went on. “Don’t tell anybody.”

She led them to the elevator where they went down to the floor below which seemed consist of two large suites. She took them into her suite, the front room of which was a living area with a bedroom in the back.

“I can show you where it is,” she said of the super secret safe.

“OR!” The Doctor replied. “I can show you where it is!”

“Very well,” she said.

He took out his sonic screwdriver.

“Very nice little device that I find helps me in many, many ways,” he said. “It’s only available in Great Britain at this time, I’m afraid.”

He used the sonic screwdriver and it led him to the safe hidden in the floor. He added a little flare though, going to the spot and then moving away before returning.

“It wouldn’t be right here, now, would it?” he said with a grin.

“Amazing!” she said.

“Yes, yes,” he replied.

He gave her an explanation about sound and light and the like.

“Where does one get a contraption like that?” she asked.

“You know, I got it at a little secondhand shop in Soho,” he said. “I could give you the address if you like.”

“Absolutely!”

She showed him the safe and he asked her to open it, politely looking away. He examined the safe, using the sonic. There was jewelry there.

“These aren’t the actual jewels,” she told him. “More were placed here by some of your colleagues who are detectives.”

“Yes, they’re trying to trap the thief!” he replied.

He pretended to find something microscopic in the safe and tucked it away, claiming it might be a vital clue. He spent a half hour or so examining the safe. Then he thanked her and told her he thought they were well on their way to finding the jewels. He kissed her hand.

“Come on Sergeant,” he said. “We have work to do!”

“Why don’t you come back up to the penthouse with me,” she said.

“Well, Miss MacLaine, I really want to get on the trail of this thief,” he replied.

“I insist,” she said with a smile.

“Well, if you insist! How can I say no to such a lovely, wonderful woman as yourself?”

She leaned over and gave him a little peck on the cheek. When she turned away, he shivered in delight.

They went back up to the penthouse, The Doctor offering Miss MacLaine his arm. When the elevator doors opened to the penthouse once again, they saw that someone was still singing “I’ve Got the World on a String,” the same song that had been sung when they left earlier. However, the voice was different.

They looked up front to see a handsome man singing into the microphone. One arm was around Marilyn Monroe and he held a drink in the other hand. The Doctor recognized the voice: it was Captain Jack Harkness.

“Oh no!” The Doctor said with a sigh and a roll of his eyes.

Captain Jack didn’t notice the men enter the place.

* * *

Using the computer, Mickey was able to learn that the date was May 25, 2505. It was Memorial Day and the ship was located near the Westin Constellation.

He grabbed the ID and walked to the door, which opened with a hiss. He peered out, looking up and down the hallway. There was door about every 20 feet on either side. The hallway was very plain and practical. He saw someone walking away wearing some kind of uniform. It didn’t look like ship’s crew, though it had a naval feel to it. It was a humanoid and of the same relative size as Mickey. The person had a shock of white hair and blue ears.

He ducked back into the room and the door closed. He got onto the computer again and looked for information on the Astral Queen. He found entries for the gravity helipad and gravity sports court, the Promenade, and Alhambra Theater. He started looking over the video of the social areas of the ship.

He pulled up the Promenade screen. There were a variety of aliens and he saw some catkind, humanoid cat people; some people with rough brown tree bark-like skin; some reptile people; and humanish-looking folks as well. In some of the shops, there were people who wore similar outfits to the man he’d seen in the corridor, though they were a different color. Some of the people had shocks of white hair and blue skin while others were green-skinned and looked like Bella. All of the people working were of those two races.

It had been about a half hour so he dialed Magnus’ phone again. It rang several times.

* * *

The Doctor heard a cell phone ringing in 1961.

“Magnus!” he muttered.

He looked around and spotted Dr. Johnson on his cellular phone in full view of everyone. He headed across to the room to the man.

“Hello?” Dr. Johnson said. “Hello?”

* * *

“Magnus! It’s Mickey,” Mickey said. “Have you found The Doctor yet?”

“Yes, he’s right here!” Magnus said.

* * *

“No!” The Doctor said to Dr. Johnson, snatching the phone out of his hands. He deactivated it. “Stop it!”

He glared Magnus.

“You should not be talking on a cell phone in 1961!” he said. “Stop it! Stop! Stop! Stop it!”

“Mickey’s in trouble,” Magnus said.

“What?” The Doctor replied.

“Mickey’s in the future,” the other man said. “Mickey’s in a hotel room in the future.”

“Let me smell your breath.”

“Yes.”

“Have you been drinking?”

“Yes.”

“That explains it.”

“No! He’s in trouble. He’s not here. There was an altercation. We went down to the hotel room, waiting to hear from you where the secret safe would be.”

“Yeah?”

“And there were six giant … people in airman’s suits with visors and helmets and guns and they disintegrated something and said ‘get that.’”

“Disintegrated?”

“And Peter Black was like … tried to get away with it and Mickey knocked him down and then they disappeared. And then they were back! And then they disappeared!”

The Doctor looked at Jack up on the stage.

“Meh,” he said, dismissing the man. Then to Dr. Johnson. “Come on!”

He dragged the man towards the elevator.

* * *

Captain Jack saw The Doctor heading for the elevator.

“Pardon me, Marilyn,” he said to the women. Then he called across the room. “Doctor!”

* * *

“We’re going!” The Doctor said when he heard Jack called his name.

He redoubled his efforts to get through the crowd to the elevator.

“Doctor!” Jack called as he crossed the room. “Mickey’s in trouble! He’s on the Astral Queen!”

“You’re telling me things I know!” The Doctor called back.

“In some Bella’s room!” Jack called.

That stopped The Doctor up short.

“What?” he said. “Come here!”

He continued to head for the elevator. Sgt. Major Wingate was suddenly there at The Doctor’s elbow. The elevator doors opened and the four men went in. The elevator music beeped in the background.

“Explain,” The Doctor said to Captain Jack.

He told him everything that Magnus had told him earlier. The Doctor took out Magnus’ phone and it rang in his hand. He answered it.

“Hello,” he said.

“Doctor!” Mickey’s voice came from the other side. “Doctor?”

“Yes. Mickey? Are you all right?”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s pretty nice here, actually.”

“Well good, do you have the device? It’s nice here too. Do you have the device?”

“I do. I do.”

“And Peter Black?”

“Yes.”

“He’s not causing any problems?”

“He’s out cold.”

“Yes … Doctor Magnus says you’re in the future. Could you tell me when and where, please?”

“It’s approximately May 25, 2505.”

“Mmm hmm.”

“We are near the Westin Constellation.”

“What planet, Mickey?”

“We’re on a cruise ship near the planet Midnight.”

“Oh, I’ve always wanted to go there.”

“Well, now’s your chance.”

“Does the ship have a name?”

“Yes, it’s the Astral Queen, is the ship.”

Astral Queen. That’s good.”

“The time device seems to be depleted. It’s out of juice.”

“Well … Captain Jack is here. Jack Harkness.”

“Yeah, I spoke to him.”

“He … he uh … he said you ran into … what? He said it was some aliens.”

“Some kind of men dressed up in flight suits.”

“Were they Bella’s people?”

“I don’t know. You couldn’t see any features of them. But they demanded the device. They were going to have us open the safe. Once Mr. Black opened the safe, he used that to shield himself from the guns of the aliens. He tried to push us into the room and turn us over to these individuals.”

“Oh.”

“At that point, he made a break for it as I resisted. I ran ahead of him and tried to subdue him and that’s when … things started going crazy.”

“You activated the machine.”

“Yes. And there was a brief instance I was aboard a ship that was self destructing. The one that it sounded like Bella came from.”

“Hmmm. Oh yes, that’s where she escaped from.”

“Not pleasant.”

“We are going to pick up Bella and see if we can find her friends. So, we don’t really need to even deal with the safe anymore, do we?”

“Obviously not.”

“All right. We’ll pick up Bella and we’ll quickly see if we can find her friends.”

“If you want to let Shirley MacLaine know where to find her jewels, that’s up to you at this point.”

“We can always come back and do it …”

“Okay.”

“… in five minutes. Stay where you are. Stay out of trouble, Mickey.”

“Of course.”

“You will stay out of trouble, Mickey?”

“Absolutely. Are you … I assume you’re coming to …”

“Yes, we should be there in … oh … temporal coordinates … relative displacement … um … 47 seconds.”

He rang off the phone. The Doctor told the Sergeant Major about the six men in flight suits with guns, warning him of them. He guessed that Bella came from the same time that Mickey was presently at.

They headed for Bella’s hotel.

* * *

In the stateroom on the Astral Queen, the computer suddenly spoke up.

“Greetings Bella, you have a phone call from … ‘Doctor Magnus,’” it said.

The last voice had been the doctor’s. He pressed the button to answer it.

“Yes, Mickey, what’s the exact date, please?” The Doctor said.

“May 25, 2505.”

“What time is it?”

“It’s 13:00.”

“Thank you!”

The call was disconnected.

* * *

They arrived at Bella’s hotel room and knocked on the door. She answered and The Doctor asked her the time and date she’d left.

“It’s been a few weeks,” she said.

“Do you remember the date?” The Doctor asked. “Just the day?”

She gave him a date in Henedrelli and The Doctor recognized it as the same date that Mickey had found himself in. He tried to convince her to come with them in the TARDIS, noting that they could provide her with some healthy Henedrelli food or at least something that would be nutritious for her. He told her he could take her somewhere where she would be safer than on earth in the 1960s. He said they were heading for the Astral Queen. She noted that she was excited about the prospect of being on board the TARDIS but she wanted to stay on the time capsule until the situation on the Astral Queen was resolved. The Doctor agreed.

They headed off to the TARDIS and soon arrived at the time capsule. The Doctor took Bella into the craft, taking two rights and a left after the swimming pool and through the roundabout to find the medicine and the food she would need to restore her health. Then he returned to the control room and set the coordinates for the time and date and location where The Doctor thought Mickey would be. He aimed for 47 seconds after he’d talked to Mickey on the phone.

The time rotor rose and fell and, after a short time, the ship materialized. The view screen showed a beautifully and majestically curved ship flying through space.

I missed? The Doctor thought.

He wondered how he was getting an outside view of the ship if they were aboard and thought they might be plugged into an in-house channel and they were seeing a movie of it. Then he realized they were outside of the ship.

Immediately, alarms started to sound on the console.

“Whoops!” The Doctor said. “Missed!”

He looked over the controls. On one of the panels was the equivalent of a radar screen. A large object was in the center of it. On the very edges on either side of the very large objects were two large groups of smaller objects. Two fleets were coming in from opposite directions. He did some calculations and guessed it would be two to two and a half hours before the two fleets arrived.

That’s plenty, he thought.

He took out Dr. Magnus’ cell phone and called Mickey again.

“Mickey?” he said.

“Yes?” the man replied.

“Yes. What room are you in?”

“Eleven on the fifth deck.”

The Doctor hung up and then manipulated the controls.

* * *

Mickey was looking at the computer view screen when he heard the sound of the TARDIS’ engines. Then he was shoved up against the screen as the time capsule appeared in the room, almost filling it. The screen started scrolling quickly through the languages and making strange noises as his face pressed up against it.

* * *

On the view screen, The Doctor could see little except for the back of Mickey’s head.

“This doesn’t look familiar,” The Doctor said. “Let’s take a look outside and we’ll see where we are.”

“Could you give me some room, please?” Mickey’s voice came through the monitor.

The Doctor opened the doors to the TARDIS and stepped out.

“Mickey!” he called as he stepped out into the now-cramped room. “Where are you?”

He peeked into the bathroom.

“What a bathroom!” he said. “Oh! They’ve got sonic tweezers!”

“I’m right here …” Mickey said.

The Doctor looked around the corner of the TARDIS and saw Mickey splayed up against the computer screen.

“Why are you there?” he asked.

“Well, I was enjoying the screen until you abruptly barged in,” Mickey said.

“Well skooch out, skooch out!”

Mickey got out from between the TARDIS and the wall. The Doctor started rattling off trivia about the Astral Queen and her style of cruise-starship. He seemed very impressed by the vessel. He listed off the length and width.

“And it usually has about 100,000 passengers …” he said.

He stopped talking.

Then he slid over in front of the screen. He activated the voice commands for the computer and slipped back out.

“Computer, how many life forms aboard the Astral Queen, please?” The Doctor asked.

“Ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred eighty one,” the computer answered.

He took out the sonic screwdriver and pointed it at the computer screen. The screen went crazy for a moment and then started to show various information that should only have been accessed by the upper-level crew of the ship, including radar. He started talking to the computer to find out everything he could about the Astral Queen.

“Greetings passengers!” a voice came over the speakers. “Remember, don’t miss a ride on the new Sapphire Princess Line on Midnight. Recently open and available for purchase at the excursion desk.”

“That’s what I want to go on someday,” The Doctor said.

“And hello, this is Captain Zeth,” another voice spoke up. “Once again, we are going through the Westin Constellation. You may notice that it is getting closer on either side in the distance but it is beautiful. Make sure that you enjoy the view now. We will eventually close both the port and starboard windows later this afternoon. There may be a meteor shower.”

A ship plan came up on the screen and the ship’s radar was picking up both of the approaching fleets. The Doctor noticed that on Deck Three was a large area that appeared to be empty. Every other place on the ship was either numbered or had a name. The entirety of the large area on Deck Three was blank. It went down through Deck Four as well. All the hallways around it were marked as “Crew Only.”

Mickey, meanwhile, was looking through the room to see if there were any uniforms or any indication that Bella was part of the crew.

More searching of the computer revealed a file that noted the Kailan/Henedrelli Technology Taskforce. The Doctor remembered that the Kailan and the Henedrelli were two alien races that had been warring against each other for hundreds of years. The Henedrelli had served under the Sontarans; The Kailans had served under the Rutans. The Henedrelli and Kailan had been at war because the two greater alien races had been at war. It looked like they the Henedrelli and Kailan had found a way to try to get out from under the proverbial thumbs of the two greater races by combining vacation cruises where their two races would mix together on a ship, become familiar with each other, and also allow their scientists and engineers join forces together in mutual exploration and experimentation.

The ship was a diplomatic vessel mixed with a super-secret scientific workshop.

However, even though it was done diplomatically, the two races obviously still didn’t trust each other because, as they brought together their respective scientists, they had also shielded the ship with 50,000 of their own people. That meant that one side or the other wouldn’t show up and blow up the ship, because their own citizens were acting as shields.

“It’s about friendship and love … and also super science,” The Doctor said, trying to convince himself as much as anyone else.

“It’s also about hostages and shielding themselves,” Captain Jack pointed out.

“Oh,” The Doctor said.

“It might be the Rutans and the others’ ships coming in,” Sgt. Major Wingate said. “If they figured out they’re trying to make peace.”

The Doctor pulled up the ship’s radar and asked for details on the approaching vessels. The blips to the starboard were made up of thousands of Sontaran ships. The Doctor quickly told them who was coming, explaining that the Sontarans were a race of belligerent and militaristic clones from the planet Sontar. The Rutans were a race of amorphous, shape-shifting blobs that had fought the Sontarans for millennia. They killed the person they shape-shifted into to get their memories, though they didn’t get their personality or emotions.

“And I’m guessing this is the Rutan fleet,” The Doctor said, looking at the radar screen. “And I win that bet.”

He did not sound pleased. The fleet to the port consisted of thousands of Rutan ships.

“Why, it was my idea,” Sgt. Major Wingate said.

“What?” The Doctor replied. “Very well, sergeant. Whatever.”

He pulled a random coin out of his pocket and tossed them to the man.

There was a knock at the door and they all looked at each other. Mickey walked over to the door with Bella’s ID as The Doctor shut down the screen. The door opened with a hiss. A green-skinned Henedrelli man stood there.

“Who are you!?!” he said. Then he pointed a finger at the TARDIS. “What is that!?! Where’s Bella?”

“Um …” Mickey said.

Captain Jack and The Doctor strode towards the man, hands outstretched.

“Hello!” Captain Jack said first. “I’m Captain Jack Harkness! Nice to meet you!”

“Hello,” the Henedrelli seemed a little put off. “I’m To-Me-Ro-Mo-Na-La-So-Ka-Po-Da. You can call me Tommy.”

“Ah yes, come in!” The Doctor said, escorting the man into the room. “Come in!”

“Tommy, get out of here!” Bella’s voice came from the open door to the TARDIS.

Tommy ran into the TARDIS, followed quickly by the rest. The Henedrelli stopped at the threshold and looked at the control room with his mouth open. The room was larger than the entire exterior of the TARDIS, of course, and even larger than Bella’s stateroom.

“What the hell is going on here, Bella?” he said.

“It’s quite all right, Tommy,” The Doctor said. “Transdimensional physics!”

He started to rattle off the scientific basis for the construction of the TARDIS. Tommy ignored him.

“What has happened to you?” he asked Bella. “Is this why you didn’t report to the research facility this morning?”

“You know what’s coming!” she replied. “I had no choice! It only works for one!”

“No! We could have found a way!”

“A way to what?” Captain Jack asked.

The Henedrelli turned to him.

“To get us all out of here!” he said.

“Well, that’s what we’re here for, young man,” The Doctor said. “We’re going to save everyone on this ship. We’re going to possibly save the ship as well. And maybe, if we time it right, we’re going to destroy the Sontaran and the Rutan fleets.”

Tommy just looked at the man.

“I’m The Doctor, by the way!” The Doctor said, grabbing his hand and shaking it.

“That’s a very noble idea, to try to save everyone,” Tommy replied. “But if we can get the device back from Bella, as long as it’s still working properly, we can probably get our entire team off the ship, and that’s important because we are the inventors of this technology that will help get us out from underneath these two empires!”

Mickey started coughing as soon as Tommy had mentioned the device working properly.

“You okay Mickey?” Captain Jack asked.

“A very noble cause,” The Doctor said quietly. “A very noble cause. There are also 100,000 civilians, people who are acting as hostages and acting as shields and acting in the best hopes of both your planets on board this vessel. I am not going to stand by and watch 100,000 people simply snuff up and die.”

“Very well, but do you know if you can make this happen, because I know−” Tommy started to say.

“I do! I’m The Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet of Gallifrey in the Constellation of Kasterborous and I WILL save these people!”

The Henedrelli looked at him for a moment.

“Very well, Doctor,” he said. Then he turned to Bella. “But damn well you know, if this doesn’t work, it was your meddling that did this.”

“Who knows about the research base?” The Doctor said to him. “Does the captain of this vessel?”

“He knows there’s a research facility,” Tommy answered.

“Very well.”

“But, are you aware of our situation?”

The Doctor rattled off that the Sontarans were to one side of them, the Rutans were to the other, both races were planning to destroy the ship, and they’d lost their hyperdrives. He noted that most of the researchers and almost the entire engineering crew had also been taken.

Tommy told them that they had hidden the time travel project and didn’t allow it to be taken when the others had been. He hoped that he could somehow keep the peace between the Kailan and the Henedrelli, even though it had been the Henedrelli who had taken so much from the ship already and doomed everyone on board. His thought was that it wouldn’t happen.

“That was when Bella decided she was more important than the rest of us,” he said.

“In the same way that you’re saying your research team is more important than the rest of the people on the ship?” The Doctor replied.

“And we are,” Tommy said.

The Doctor frowned.

“That remains to be seen,” he said.

They returned to the stateroom and The Doctor brought up the Henedrelli computer once again, showing all of the secret information that no one should have been able to get to.

“How is that working?” Tommy said.

“Oh, I fixed it,” The Doctor said.

“With what?” Tommy replied.

“He’s good at fixing things,” Captain Jack said.

“He’s The Doctor,” Mickey said. “He’s a Time Lord.”

“How do you think the Sontarans and the Rutans got information about this ship?” The Doctor asked.

“I don’t even know why they’re heading this way,” Tommy said. “We only have a few things left on this ship that could be valuable.”

“Such as?” The Doctor asked.

“Well, we now, again, have this time travel backpack,” Tommy said. “I assume you brought it.”

“I assume …” The Doctor said to Mickey.

Mickey went around the side of the TARDIS and brought it back. Tommy looked at it and frowned.

“It’s broken,” he said. “It’s broken. It’s not working. You’ve used up the taranium!”

Taranium was a mineral that was used when a spark was created to enter the time vortex. The heart of the TARDIS was taranium and it was very, very rare. It was probably one of the most valuable elements in the universe.

“We have some, but without the taranium that was in there, I don’t think we can build a machine that will get our team off here,” Tommy went on. “My plan is hopeless.”

“Brave heart Tegan,” The Doctor said. “I mean Tommy.”

“Buck up, little soldier,” Captain Jack said. “We’ve been in worse situations.”

“We have?” The Doctor said, suddenly turning to him. “You’ve been in a situation with a Rutan Fleet on one side and a Sontaran Fleet on the other, with 10,000 ships on each side?”

“Well, no, but there was the Orion with the six husbands who walked in on us and … never mind,” Captain Jack replied.

“I will never mind,” The Doctor said dryly.

“Ew,” Mickey said.

“Where are you going to go, Tommy?” The Doctor said to the man. “We have a few minutes. Where are you going to go with your time machine if it worked?”

“We could go to Midnight and get help,” Tommy said. “We could go back to our own planet.”

“Ah, yes yes,” The Doctor said.

“Someplace that’s not in between this,” Tommy said, gesturing at the radar screen.

“Yes,” The Doctor said. “So, even just a working hyperdrive would be, if it’s fast enough.”

“We don’t have the parts. They took all the replacement parts.”

“Hmm.”

“Could we find the parts to repair the hyperdrive in the TARDIS?” Captain Jack asked.

“It would take hours to scavenge them and then even longer to make repairs,” The Doctor said.

He turned back to Tommy.

“You said there were a couple of things that were valuable,” he said. “Besides the time machines and the taranium, what was the other thing?”

“Us,” Tommy said.

“Ah,” The Doctor replied.

“What if we can make the Rutans and the Centauri …” Mickey said.

“Sontarans,” The Doctor corrected him.

“Sontarans,” Mickey went on. “What if we could make them forget about us. I don’t want to start an interstellar war, but …”

“They’ve been fighting for millennia.”

“Those two races have.”

“Yes,” Captain Jack said.

“So how hard would it be to make their focus not on the ship but on each other?” Mickey said.

“Oh, they’ll attack each other once they destroy the ship,” The Doctor said. “We might even be destroyed in the crossfire. This might even be a massive coincidence that the two fleets are coming to destroy each other and we just happen to be in the middle. Unlikely! Unlikely. But, once they destroy this ship, I’m fairly certain they will start fighting each other. If we could present them with a more tempting target …”

He went back to the computer and looked over the ships schematics. There were only about a half dozen working escape pods.

“Does the ship have any weapons whatsoever?” Mickey asked Tommy. “That haven’t been stripped?”

Tommy noted that they had some handguns but there were no large weapons. Sgt. Major Wingate suggested somehow turning the escape pods into some kind of mines, but they all realized there were simply too few to do anything with them.

“Doctor, what if we convince the fleets that the other fleet didn’t exist?” Captain Jack said.

The Doctor looked at him.

“Well, if they’re coming here to destroy you,” he pointed at Tommy. “Then they won’t care.”

“But if we make them think everything disappeared?” Captain Jack said.

“If we made …” The Doctor said.

“The ship and the other fleet. So essentially they’re flying towards nothing anymore. No target.”

“That would require jamming radar or creating a massive cloaking device. It might be possible to create a cloaking device that just covers this ship.”

“What about if we had one side start the fight prematurely?” Mickey said.

“We’re still in the middle,” Captain Jack said.

“Would it help if the rest of my research team was with us?” Tommy asked.

“I can’t see that it would hurt,” The Doctor said.

“Or we could go to them,” Captain Jack said.

“Perhaps you should take us to this Research Area X,” The Doctor said.

“Well, I’ll take you to my quarters,” Tommy said.

“Fair enough,” The Doctor said. “Although if you do have any technology in the research area, it might aid us aid you.”

“Very well. We’ll meet with the rest of my team first.”

“Fair enough.”

The Doctor went to the TARDIS and called in, asking if Bella was going to stay within.

“No,” Tommy said. “You’re going to need to come with us. The rest of the team is concerned about you.”

She exited the TARDIS and The Doctor closed the door.

“Should we put the device in the TARDIS?” Mickey asked. “Or are we taking that with us?”

“We’ll take it with us,” The Doctor said.

Sgt. Major Wingate handcuffed Peter Black.

“Let’s bring him with us,” The Doctor said, looking at the unconscious man. “Let’s take him with us. I’d like to talk to Mr. Black when he wakes up.”

“He’s going to be out for a while, sir,” Sgt. Major Wingate said. “I think he just needs to sleep it off.”

“Bring him along,” The Doctor said. “Bring him along. We’ve got to get him somewhere after all this is over.”

The Doctor noted to Mickey that Mr. Black was a magician, and perhaps he could make the ship disappear. Though he was not a very good magician, there was no harm in asking.

Tommy looked at the soldier when he picked up the sleeping Black. The Doctor made an excuse that the man liked to sleep that way, which was very unusual. He also asked Tommy if they had any smelling salts and the man told him he’d look in their medical bays.

They exited Bella’s room and went down to the opposite end of the hall. On the way, The Doctor took Mickey aside for a moment and gestured at the Henedrelli time travel device.

“It’s a sign of good faith even though the device doesn’t work,” he said to the man.

Tommy led them through a door to another large suite. There were four more individuals there. Three were men and women with light blue skin and white hair: the Kailans. One other female had green skin and belonged to Bella’s people: the Henedrelli.

“She was here,” Tommy said to them. “She has friends.”

He turned to each of them in turn.

“This is Wingate,” he said. “The Doctor.”

“I’m The Doctor!” The Doctor said, going around and shaking all of the aliens’ hands.

“Mickey,” Mickey said.

“Mickey,” Tommy repeated.

“Captain Jack!” Captain Jack said, following The Doctor around and shaking hands.

“Captain Jack,” Tommy said.

The Doctor was asking each of them a quick, frivolous question, mainly to make sure there were no Rutan spies among them. He didn’t detect any of them acting in a non-Henedrelli or non-Kailan-like manner, however.

“We have the pack,” Tommy said to the rest of them. “But the taraniums been consumed.”

The rest of the team let out disappointed sighs.

“But The Doctor thinks he can save us, still,” Tommy went on.

“I don’t,” The Doctor said. All of their eyes opened wide. “I know I can save you.”

He looked them over.

“How were you planning on getting your team out?” he asked. “The pack only works for one person.”

“We’re working on a second one and we think we’re able to combine them and with two fuel sources, we’d be able to get about a half a dozen people out,” Tommy said.

“Ah,” The Doctor said. “Interesting.”

“There’s a theory that more than one person can travel with the pack.”

“Interesting. Fascinating. Fascinating stuff. Are you using the quantum-hydro-dynamic theory of time or are you using the vortex-matrix theory of time?”

“Or the wibbly wobbly timey wimey theory?” Captain Jack quipped.

Tommy talked to the Doctor about the theories they were using with the time travel pack. The Doctor found the theories, which were sound, fascinating for a race as young as the Henedrelli. He began telling them about another race that had discovered certain theories early in their history.

“What do we know about planet Midnight?” Mickey asked, interrupted The Doctor’s endless story. “Do we know anything that’s on there that could help us with this? Are there any bases?”

“It’s a resort planet,” The Doctor said.

“Resort.”

“Yes.”

“Owned by?”

The Doctor explained that the radiation on the planet was intense and required protective shielding and the like at all times. Most life forms exposed to the radiation unprotected were consumed within moments.

“What kind of resort place is that?” Mickey asked, shocked.

“They have the most beautiful crystal waterfalls,” Captain Jack said.

“Humans built it,” The Doctor said as if that explained everything. “Because it’s there. They did a good job. At least so I’ve heard. I’ve never been there.”

“Okay,” Mickey said.

“Again, ladies and gentlemen,” a female voice came over the speakers. “This is your cruise director and we want to make sure that you are very well entertained. We will be closing the lounges on the most starboard and port sides of the ship within the hour. Please finish your drinks and enjoy your entertainment. And please move into the promenade and the other lounges that are available on the inner areas of the ship. We will also be closing the sports court and the gravity helipad because we need to clean them. Also, we will be cleaning all of the lounges and that’s why we’ll be closing all of the windows because we would hate for you to see all the workers outside the ship cleaning … the windows. Thank you! This is your cruise director.”

“And this is Captain Zeth,” the male voice came on. “I hope you’re all enjoying this wonderful cruise. Everything is fine and I look forward to having dinner with you tonight in our majestic dining room.”

The Doctor looked at Tommy and then gestured at the speaker.

“I take it this is so it doesn’t create a panic when the ships come in?” he said.

“Yes,” Tommy replied. “The captain is not oblivious. The captain knows he has no help. The minute we lost our hyperdrive, the Henedrelli had decided they weren’t going to help us.”

“The captain, is he Kailan or Henedrelli?” The Doctor asked.

“He is Kailan. But the Kailan government is in deliberation right now as to how they will handle the situation.”

“Deliberation. Politics! Bloody politics!”

He looked at Peter Black, still unconscious on the bed.

“Illusion and misdirection might be our best bet here,” The Doctor said.

“I forgot,” Tommy said. “I’ll go get it now.”

“You know,” Mickey said. “He is from−”

Sgt. Major Wingate stepped over the Black and slapped him soundly in the face. The other man grunted.

“Wake up, lad,” Sgt. Major Wingate said. “Wake up.”

“Sgt. Major, I didn’t know you had the touch!” The Doctor said.

“Don’t shoot me!” Peter Black, his eyes still shut, wailed. “Don’t shoot me!”

“Mr. Black, it’s me,” The Doctor said. “It’s The Doctor.”

“Oh God, it’s the worst,” Peter Black said. “Oh.”

“He’s from 1961,” Mickey said.

“Yes?” The Doctor replied. “What about it?”

“You’ll find out,” Mickey said.

Peter Black opened up his eyes, looked around at the aliens, and promptly fainted away again.

“Other than Bella, he’s never seen an alien before,” Mickey said.

“Shall I take another whack at it?” Sgt. Major Wingate said.

The Doctor sighed.

“You Earthlings,” he said. “You’re so … domestic.”

Sgt. Major Wingate slapped Peter Black soundly again.

“No!” The Doctor said. “Don’t! Oh.”

Peter Black seemed to come round again.

“Oh,” he said. “I had the most horrible nightmare.”

“Don’t open your eyes,” The Doctor quickly said.

“I was on some kind of slab and there were aliens all around me,” Peter Black went on.

He didn’t open his eyes, however.

“Mr. Black, do you recognize my voice?” The Doctor asked.

“They were going to kill me,” Peter Black went on.

“Do you recognize my voice, Mr. Black?” The Doctor asked again.

“Yes.”

“Okay. Everything you know about aliens is incorrect. They’re happy, friendly people who want to be your friends. Think about it.”

“Think of Bella!” Mickey said.

“Relax, Mr. Black,” The Doctor went on. “Bella’s right here. Remember Bella?”

“Yes,” Peter Black replied.

“Remember how you helped save Bella’s life?” The Doctor went on. “You took her from the wreckage. Remember?”

“Yes.”

“You remember that? You helped save Bella’s life. Now, think, having helped save Bella’s life, would her allies want to hurt you?”

“No.”

“There you are. See? Deep breath. Deep cleansing breath. Now, the next part might be a little harder. Brace yourself. Are you ready? We’re in the year 2505.”

“Of course we are.”

“Aboard a spacecraft. A cruise ship of the stars, if you would.”

“Mm-hmm.”

“And if you look out, to your left, you’ll see a porthole, if you wish to look, and you’ll be able to see some constellations that no man of your century has ever seen, will never see in this exact position. If you so desire, to your left, Mr. Black.”

Peter Black carefully looked out and then vomited on the floor.

“That’s gorgeous,” he said, still staring out at the stars there.

“Indeed,” The Doctor said. “But we have a little trouble. There’s some trouble happening, Mr. Black you understand?”

“We can get back to 1961?” Black asked.

“We can get back to 1961,” The Doctor assured him. “I can get us back to 1961. This cruise ship has … you helped Bella out of the goodness of your heart, when you first found her. She was injured, she was in a terrible condition. She would have died without your help, most likely.”

“Yeah.”

“There are 100,000 people on board this ship. It is a massive cruise ship. They are members of two separate races who are trying to come together in order to save their worlds. But unfortunately, if we don’t help them, they will all die. All 100,000 of them will die, minus possibly a handful, probably not even that.”

He took a deep breath before he went on.

“You’re a magician, Mr. Black,” he said. “You’ve made illusions that made things seem to disappear; you misdirected your audience so that they were looking at your left hand when what was happening was in your right hand. We need an illusion that would allow us to make a very large object disappear, but you can’t limit yourself to the imagination of a man from 1961. You’ve got to think as if you were a wizard … Merlin … and had powers beyond the ken of men. How would you misdirect the eyes of thousands of your enemies in order to save the lives of 100,000 living beings? If you could think of a way, it would be helpful. If you cannot, I understand. It is a lot of pressure for a stage magician.”

Peter Black took a deep breath and got to his feet. He went to a nearby wall and leaned his arm against it, pressing his head into the crook of that arm.

“As long as another alien crash lands near my apartment and I can save her and she randomly has a device that will save all these people, I could help you,” he said. “I am a joke. I am not a magician. I’m a man of cheap tricks and I am a con artist with words.”

He turned to them.

“I’ve said it,” he said. “I’m a fraud.”

“Well, maybe what we need is a fraud right now,” The Doctor said. “Have you thought of that, Mr. Black?”

“I’ll try and think,” he said.

“That’s all I ask,” The Doctor said.

“What kinds of cons did you do?” Sgt. Major Wingate said.

“I will tell people I’m going to be someplace after they pay me to do something,” Peter Black said. “I’ll just make sure it’s not the place I’ll actually be.”

“Is there a way we could make them believe the ship is empty?” Mickey said.

“It’s just as easy to make it invisible,” The Doctor said. “Any kind of jamming field, their sensors will pick up as a jamming field.”

“What if we didn’t jam it so much as redirect it?” Captain Jack asked.

“Again, that’s a cloaking field,” The Doctor said.

“Smoke and mirrors,” Captain Jack went on.

“Yes, smoke and mirrors is what we need,” The Doctor replied. “Con jobs are what we need to misdirect each of the enemy fleets that hate each other, to want to get to each other rather than bother with us.”

“Sir, I have an idea,” Sgt. Major Wingate said.

“Yes?”

“What if we set off a false self destruct? Pretend we’re blowing the ship up but we’re not. So maybe if they get readings that we’re blowing the ship up, they fight each other because the ship’s going to blow up anyways.”

The Doctor looked at Tommy.

“But the Sontarans and the Rutans just want to blow up the ship anyway, don’t they?” he said.

“They may know what’s on here,” Tommy replied.

Peter Black held up his hand.

“Their pursuit towards our ship happened after our hyperdrive and a lot of our technology and records were taken,” Tommy went on. “I don’t know what happened to that technology. I don’t know what happened to those records.”

“So, there might not be a spy so much as intercepted information,” The Doctor said. “But how would both fleets find out, though?”

He looked at Peter Black.

“Mr. Black, would you like to say something?” he asked.

“I think Tommy helped me a little bit here,” Black said. “So, there’s something they want that’s on the ship?”

The Doctor pointed at the time travel device and then at Tommy and the other researchers.

“Is there any way we can use that to our advantage?” Black said. “As a bargaining chip?”

“Why do they even want it?” The Doctor said. “This technology is …”

“You’re developing it to establish relations with one another, right?” Mickey asked Tommy.

“Yes,” Tommy said.

“Your end goal in making this device was so you could be out from underneath their thumbs?”

“Correct.”

“So if they have that, they have leverage over you again.”

“Yes.”

“The Sontarans do have limited time travel abilities at this time,” The Doctor said. “But it is limited.”

The Doctor and Captain Jack looked at each other. They both suddenly realized that though the Henedrelli/Kailan device was not better than the Sontaran time travel technology of the time, which could move entire ships and crew, the Henedrelli/Kailan device was miniaturized and was more compact.

“They want the device intact,” The Doctor said.

He told them what he had realized.

“What about the Rutans?” Sgt. Major Wingate said.

“The Rutans don’t have time travel technology,” The Doctor said. “They’re going to want the device too because that would be a coup for them. They could reverse engineer it.”

“Plus keep their adversaries from getting it as well,” Mickey said.

“You said you have another one of these devices, Tommy?” The Doctor said.

“We have a prototype that we’re still working on,” Tommy said.

“How large?”

“Another backpack.”

“Still working on?” Mickey said. “This fleet is supposed to be here in an hour? An hour and a half?”

“I’m thinking, sir, if we give them each a backpack, once they get the backpacks, what’s to keep them from blowing up the ship anyway?” Sgt. Major Wingate said.

“Oh nothing,” The Doctor said. “They will destroy the ship. There’s no doubt about that. They will kill everyone on board, destroy the ship, either side will, they’re both monstrous, awful, horrible. Anyway, yes. We do have a bargaining chip. We have two bargaining chips. Neither of which can be allowed to fall into their hands.”

He thought for a moment.

“It’s quite exciting, isn’t it?” he said to Mickey with a grin.

Mickey groaned lightly.

“Let’s see,” The Doctor said.

“Tell them to fight it out and whomever wins, we’ll give them the items,” Sgt. Major Wingate said. “They’re not going to destroy it if they’re after the items.”

“What if each side thinks we’re giving the other the device?” Mickey said. “They might try to stop the transaction from happening and therefore worry more about that. It would be tough to pull off.”

“If we offer up the things to the winner and let them fight it out, and while they’re fighting it out try to get away,” Sgt. Major Wingate said.

“They could always catch up to us with no hyperdrive,” Mickey pointed out.

“I’m hoping the fight goes on long enough to get away,” Sgt. Major Wingate said.

“Can we open a communication with the fleets?” The Doctor asked Tommy.

“Yes,” the Henedrelli replied.

“Can you do it from here?”

“No.”

“You … could,” Captain Jack said to The Doctor.

“Well, I could probably do it from here,” The Doctor said. “Let me take a look and see if I can fix your device.”

He used the sonic screwdriver on the computer touch screen that was in the room. A moment later, the display changed to same as it had been set in Bella’s room. Then he turned to Tommy.

“Do you mind if I talk to them?” he asked.

“Do you … do you know what you’re going to say?” Mickey asked him.

“Are you going to save us?” Tommy doubtfully said to The Doctor. “This is going to help?”

“Yes,” The Doctor said.

“Well, then yes,” Tommy said.

“It can’t make things worse, can it?” The Doctor said with a smile. Then seriously: “Trust me, it can’t.”

“I hate when he says that,” Captain Jack said.

The Doctor used the computer to reach a regular Sontaran frequency.

“Sontaran fleet!” he said. “I would like to speak to your command general.”

The visual suddenly showed a dark compartment with a terribly ugly creature upon it. The thing had grayish-brown skin and the head was shaped something like a potato. It had nasty, piggy little eyes and a wide mouth.

“Who wants to speak to the general?” the Sontaran replied.

“Hello!” The Doctor said. “You’re the general? General …?”

“Who are you?” the Sontaran replied.

“I’m The Doctor, general,” The Doctor said. “And I’m here to negotiate for the possibility−”

“I will put you through to General Shull!” the Sontaran said.

He pounded on the controls ahead of him. The screen flashed but the view looked exactly the same.

“This is General Shull!” the Sontaran said.

“Ah, General Shull, how … interesting to meet you!” The Doctor said. “I’m The Doctor. I’m here to negotiate−”

“The Doctor?” General Shull said.

“Yes. Yes, General Shull. Shrull? Shrawl? I’m here to negotiate for this−”

“Pull up all records on The Doctor!”

“Oh oh, I can help you with that!”

The Sontaran just looked at him.

“Do you want me to keep talking or do you want to wait for the records?” The Doctor said.

“Go ahead,” General Shull grunted.

“Thank you. I need to negotiate for not destroying the Astral Queen.”

“Very well, let’s hear what you have to offer.”

“Well, we know what you’re after and we know why you’re after it. And we are willing to give up the device … if you won’t destroy the Astral Queen and let us go.”

“The lives on the Astral Queen are insignificant. We will obtain the device.”

“Or we could destroy it in such a way that you won’t even be able to pull from the shattered, broken, burnt shell of the device anything that’s useful. Or we could go talk to the Rutans! I think we’ll do that.”

He pressed a button on the screen and the Sontaran disappeared. He next dialed up the Rutans using one of their more common frequencies.

A thing appeared on the screen. It looked like some kind of amorphous jellyfish with strange tentacles hanging off of various parts of it. The background wherein the thing seemed to hang held a strange, sickly green glow. Peter Black blanched at the sight.

“Who are you!?!” the Rutan demanded.

“Hello, I’m The Doctor,” The Doctor said. “You probably haven’t heard of me. I haven’t really dealt much with Rutans. Shape-shifters. It’s always hard to deal. You don’t know who you’re talking to … anyway, sorry, sorry.”

“This is a restricted frequency!” the Rutan said. “You should not be able to be on this!”

“Ah, but I need to talk to the underlord of your fleet,” The Doctor said.

“Who are you again?”

“Oh yes! I’m The Doctor. I’m negotiating for the Astral Queen. We’re also negotiating with the Sontarans.”

“I will put the Underlord Plr’Vosh’no through.”

The screen again flashed but didn’t really seem to change.

“Welcome, Doctor!” Underlord Plr’Vosh’no said.

“Ah, Underlord Plr’Vosh’no,” The Doctor said. “Very, very nice to meet you. We know what you’re looking for on the Astral Queen. We’re trying to negotiate a way that we can save the ship.”

“What do you propose?”

“We might be willing to trade you what you’re looking for, for simply your word that you’ll leave us alone.”

“I don’t know that that would work out to our objectives. We must let the Kailans know that this kind of insubordination cannot be tolerated.”

“Ah, that complicates things a lot.”

He tsked.

“Well, it was nice talking to you,” he finally said. “I’m sure that we’ll be in touch.”

“Wait!” Underlord Plr’Vosh’no said.

“Yes?”

“We have scanned the ship. We have found that there are two devices on board.”

“Ah. Perhaps yes. Perhaps three.”

“How many devices do you have? We have only discovered two with our scans but it is heavily guarded.”

“Oh, yes, of course. Well, you see I’m not a military man, I’m just a negotiator, diplomat, that kind of thing. We do have three time travel devices on board.”

He grinned, as if he thought he was being very, very clever while being very vague. He said their third engine was powerful enough to move something large, and then gave the exact dimensions of the Astral Queen. He grinned as if he didn’t think the Rutans would figure it out, knowing full well that they would. It implied that the third device was powerful enough to move the Astral Queen through time and space.

“You’re saying you’ve turned the entire Astral Queen into a time device!” Underlord Plr’Vosh’no said.

“No no! No no no!” The Doctor said frantically. “I did not say that! I didn’t say that! I … no! I did not say that! Did I say that? Did I say that? No no no no no! That’s entirely not what I mean. I don’t mean that. I did not mean that. I really don’t mean that. I don’t. I don’t mean that! Anyway, I’m sorry−”

“We must have the ship!” Underlord Plr’Vosh’no said.

The screen went blank.

“They must have the ship,” The Doctor said. “Intact.”

“Right,” Mickey replied. “Good play.”

“Now, let’s see how good our Sontaran friends are with cracking code,” The Doctor said.

“They’re probably intercepting the communications,” Mickey said.

The Doctor pressed a few buttons to establish communication with the Sontarans again. The screen went directly to what The Doctor hoped was General Shull.

“Ah, General Shull, how lovely to see you again!” The Doctor said.

“Doctor! It’s only been moments! What else do you have to say to me?” General Shull said.

“Nothing, General Shull,” The Doctor said. “The Rutans are very interested in the deal that we’ve offered them. So, I think we’re going to go that way. If that’s all right with you. We don’t mean any offense.”

“We would destroy the ship and everyone on it.”

“Yes.”

“Before we would let them have anything from that ship. Regardless of the deal you’ve made, you have killed hundreds … 100,000 … lives.”

“You’d also have destroyed the device,” Mickey said.

“We have time travel,” General Shull said. “We will discover it. This would only have sped up our progress.”

“It might have sped up your progress quite a bit more,” The Doctor said.

“What do you propose, Doctor?” General Shull said.

“Well, the Rutans are coming to take the ship,” The Doctor said. “They like it. They think it’s kind of nice. I think they need more cruises, you know what I mean? Lighten up. Go swimming and that kind of thing. They want the ship now, and not because of the third … I mean the two time travel devices that we have on−”

“A third time travel device?”

“No no no. We do not have a third time travel device. Not technically.”

“Do not lie to me! I’m a general of the Sontaran Empire!”

“Well−”

“I have led armies and fleets into battle! All for the Empire! I will not be lied to!”

“Very well. I apologize. I apologize. We do have a third time travel device on board.”

He seemed to try to downplay it, noting that it was only big enough to move a vessel of certain dimensions. The dimensions he gave were identical to the dimensions of the Astral Queen.

“No larger than that,” The Doctor finished. “But the Rutans decided that they must have it and they said they are going to get it. ‘We will take the ship and will take the large time travel device. And blow the Sontarans, they look like froggy little frogs with runny noses,’ something like that. I’m sorry, I don’t mean any offense.”

“I’m lucky I have no emotion,” General Shull said. “And that all of my men are clones so that I don’t have to develop emotion.”

“It is a good thing,” The Doctor said offhandedly.

“I will also not be lied to by an insignificant speck as yourself,” General Shull said.

“Oh.”

“If you had a machine that could move the Astral Queen out of our way through time and space, you obviously would have already done it.”

“Possibly.”

“There’s no reason to think you wouldn’t.”

“Isn’t there?”

“I know you are lying to me, Doctor.”

“Ah.”

“We will board you within the hour.”

The screen went blank.

“Good luck,” The Doctor said to the blank screen.

He looked at them.

“Well, I think I might have made things a little worse,” he said.

He pressed buttons to contact the Rutans once again. The horrible Underlord appeared on the screen.

“Doctor!” Underlord Plr’Vosh’no said.

“Ah yes,” The Doctor said. “I have come on behalf of the Henedrelli and the Kailan to beg for our lives, to save us from the vicious Sontarans who intend to destroy this ship entirely out from under us. We throw ourselves upon the benevolent mercy of the Rutan fleet. They say they’re destroying the ship within the hour.”

“Our plan is to board you within the hour as well.”

“They say they will be boarding as well. He could be … boardy. Very boardy.”

“Very well.”

“But I don’t think they intend to take this ship intact.”

“How Sontaran of them.”

“Indeed. You should have heard what else they said about you.”

“We will board the ship and secure it and then send the rest of the fleet on.”

“Very well. If I could beg for your indulgence in the possibly of NOT killing everyone on board, I would be most appreciative.”

“If they’re useful.”

“Oh, I’m sure, I’m sure. Thank you. Thank you. Sorry. Sorry for calling. Sorry.”

He rang off.

“Right, we’ve got an hour,” he said. “Mr. Black, if you have any input on a con game, I’m sure you would have handled that much better than I did.”

“What if we can make the ship look like it is capable of time travel?” Mickey said. “But, like the backpack, its power source is just depleted. Therefore that’s why we couldn’t move the ship for the Sontarans?”

“Oooo,” The Doctor said.

“Could we make it flicker?” Sgt. Major Wingate said. “Make the ship flicker.”

“Oh yes, we could,” The Doctor said. “We can make it look … oh yes.”

“Like we drop all the power out of everything?” Mickey said.

“We won’t have to do that,” The Doctor said. “We just have to rev up the TARDIS and drop the TARDIS shields long enough for them to pick up the temporal energy coming off the TARDIS. There’s more than enough power in the TARDIS. It’ll make it look like we have some kind of third time device that can move the ship. Like you said, we can make it flicker as if we’ve not quite got it working yet. That’s a very good idea.”

He left the stateroom, running back down the long hall to Bella’s room. He used the sonic screwdriver to get into her cabin and entered the TARDIS. He made a fake start and then lowered the shields for just a moment, long enough, hopefully, to bleed enough temporal energy out for the Sontarans to pick up the temporal energy on their sensors.

Once it was done, he left the TARDIS and headed back for the other stateroom.

* * *

The screen in Tommy’s stateroom suddenly blinked.

“This is General Shull!” the Sontaran’s recorded voice said. “This is General Shull! This is General Shull!”

Mickey pressed the screen to accept the call. The general’s face appeared on the screen.

“Yes, General Shull!” he said. “What can we do for you?”

“Yes!” General Shull said. “Little girl! I’m General Shull of the Sontaran Empire.”

“You’re who?” Captain Jack said.

“General Shull of the Sontaran Empire.”

“Darn it!” Captain Jack said. “I told you we didn’t go far enough forward.”

“How many little girls do you have on this ship?”

“I didn’t think you guys were interested in girls.”

“We’re not interested in girls.”

“Then why do you want to know?”

“Just surprised.”

“Captain Jack, this is not really the time,” Mickey said quietly.

“Anyway!” General Shull said. “We’re off the topic! We’ve seen evidence of your time machine.”

“Evidence? Oh. You mean the one that we could use to simply disappear if we had the technology to do so.”

“Yes!”

“But we don’t have such technology.”

“Don’t LIE little girl!”

“No, no, we don’t have any technology like that,” Captain Jack said. “You’re sensors are obviously off.”

“Will you tell that other little girl to shut up? I want to know if we can have the ship.”

“Well, you know, like The Doctor already told you, the Rutans already offered us a pretty good deal for such technologies,” Mickey said. “So, I would hate to go back on my word to the Rutans.”

The door opened and The Doctor entered the room, whistling.

“Hail the Underlord Plr’Vosh’no!” General Shull said over his shoulder.

“Wait, you’ve got the Rutans on the line?” The Doctor said, confused that a Sontaran was on the screen.

The picture split top and bottom.

“This is the Underlord Plr’Vosh’no!” The Rutan that appeared on the split screen said.

“Underlord Plr’Vosh’no,” General Shull said. “I know that our races have had our differences and that my race finds yours simply disgusting, but we both want what’s on that ship. If we blow it up, neither one of us will be able to use it destroy the other one and die a glorious death in battle!”

“I understand what you’re saying, General Shull,” Underlord Plr’Vosh’no said. “What do you offer as a solution to the stalemate over this technology?”

“Wrestling!” The Doctor said. “How about a wrestling match?”

The aliens ignored him.

“I say we move our fleets away from this region,” General Shull said. “We know that, at their top speed, they cannot reach Midnight for another 28 hours. If we’re not able to destroy a thousand ships of the others’ fleets, then neither one of us deserve this ship. We would not be honorable soldiers. But I know I can destroy your ships, all 1,000 of your ships, before they reach Midnight, and I can seize the Astral Queen.”

“Very well,” Underlord Plr’Vosh’no said. “Pick your battleground!”

General Shull gave coordinates of a location that they could meet. Both The Doctor and Captain Jack realized that they’d picked a place in the middle of nowhere where the two bullies could go at it. Whichever of the fleets survived could return to take the Astral Queen.

“I will destroy you, disgusting jellyfish creatures!” General Shull then said.

“Prepare to go to hyperdrive, to activate your hyperdrives, General Shull,” Underlord Plr’Vosh’no said.

“I see that you have activated your hyperdrives and are prepared to jump to the location,” General Shull replied. “Very well! I will see you there. And may you die a glorious … no, an embarrassing death!”

The Doctor went to the computer. Without interfering with the call in anyway, he brought up a sub-screen that showed the ship’s radar. The Rutan fleet vanished, leaving the Sontaran fleet, which then disappeared a moment later. The Doctor very carefully closed the calls without another word.

“Well, we bought ourselves a little time,” he said. “That’s going to give us at least a few hours while they wipe each other out.” He smiled. “They might wipe each other out.”

He asked Tommy who was in charge of the ship for the government. The Henedrelli told him that no one really had the ear of the government. He also pointed out that the government sent the military force that stripped the ship of its hyperdrive in the first place. He said the scientists were standing up for what was right, not necessarily what the original cause had been.

The Doctor asked Captain Jack and Sgt. Major Wingate how long they thought the battle might last. The two men conferred. When Sgt. Major Wingate asked how far away the battle zone was, the Doctor pulled up star charts on the computer screen. They found that it was a three to four hour hyperdrive jump to the place where the battle would take place. He joined in on the discussion and they guessed that they probably had longer that it would take them to reach Midnight. According to the math, between the maneuvering, repairs on ships to keep them in the battle, and the hatred the races felt towards each other, they might never return.

Mickey suggested taking the backpacks to Midnight in case they did return. The Doctor pointed out that if the aliens returned to the Astral Queen and found them gone, they would blow up the ship and kill everyone.

They discussed how to get the Astral Queen more quickly to Midnight. There was also talk of getting ships from Midnight but that probably wouldn’t be any quicker than if they went to Midnight itself. Mickey brought up using the TARDIS to push the ship more quickly. The Doctor pointed out that the micro-meteorite shields on the vessel might not be able to compensate for them going faster at sublight velocities as the ship was already at full speed.

Tommy noted that they still had raw taranium. He said they had several pounds of the material, which was an immense amount.

The Doctor was also concerned that Mickey being on the ship when it was blowing up was a fixed point in time. It had already happened. Mickey wondered if he was on one of the battleships in the Sontaran or Rutan fleet, but The Doctor doubted it. He feared that it might create a paradox if the Astral Queen was not destroyed. Mickey noted that he thought it was Bella’s room, but blasted apart. That sounded, to The Doctor, like a fixed point in time.

Captain Jack pointed out that in the 26th century, the Sontarans did not have vortex generators. The Doctor also knew that sometime in the 26th century, the Henedrelli and the Kailan came out from under the yoke of the Sontarans and the Rutans. He thought sure the Astral Queen would have to be destroyed. It didn’t mean that anyone had to be on it.

“Except Mickey’s got to show up there for a few scant seconds before he moves on through,” The Doctor said.

“I’ve already done that,” Mickey said. “I don’t need to do it again.”

“I know,” The Doctor said. “Yes, exactly. And you will do it again, but you’ve already done it, too.”

“I understand,” Mickey said.

The Doctor noted that they had to get the ship to Midnight, offload the passengers and crew, get the scientists and their devices as well as the taranium away, and then get the ship back to deep space, heading towards Midnight at a slower pace, so that whatever remnants of the fleet were out there could find it and destroy it. Mickey reminded him of the self destruct.

There was some talk of creating fake time travel devices to fool any survivors of the Rutan and Sontaran fleets into thinking the real devices were still aboard. Mickey thought that, since the self-destruct had been activated, they could tell any remnants of the fleets that they were not going to give up the devices, then blow up the ship themselves.

There was some talk of finishing the two devices and then using them to evacuate everyone from the ship. They soon realized there were too many people aboard to get everyone off in less time that it would take them to get to Midnight at their present speed. The Doctor and Tommy started to do the math. Then Peter Black interjected that he’d only used the time device about two dozen times before it didn’t work anymore.

The Doctor noted that the TARDIS could be used as a way to get everyone off if need be.

Tommy asked if there was any way to take the two time travel backpacks and turn them into an engine. The Doctor looked at the man and smiled. He thought it could be done. He looked at Captain Jack.

“Do you think it could be done?” he asked.

“I think so,” Captain Jack replied.

The Doctor smiled again.

“We’ll need some tools and we’ll need access to the engine room,” he said.

“We’ll have to somehow patch it into the shields as well to make sure they are bringing everything,” Captain Jack said.

“Yes, yes,” The Doctor said. “That wouldn’t be too hard actually. We’d be forming our own hyperspace bubble …”

He did some math in his head and smiled again.

“Yes,” he said. “We can do it. We’ll need your help.”

That last was to the scientists.

Tommy noted that they were going to have to convince the captain that they hadn’t just handed over the ship.

“Oh, I think I could convince him,” The Doctor said. “Could I go talk to him? I like captains. They wear these snazzy uniforms and they usually have brass buttons … does he have brass buttons? Or gold?”

Then he looked at Captain Jack.

“Most captains,” he said.

Tommy contacted the ship’s captain on the computer screen.

The screen cleared and a Kailan appeared. He was, indeed, wearing a snazzy uniform.

“Yes, Tommy?” he said. “Who are your friends?”

“Yes, Captain,” The Doctor said. “Here’s my identification.”

He held up his psychic paper.

“Ah, yes,” Captain Zeth said. “The Galactic Cruise International Inspector. Welcome aboard.”

“Thank you,” The Doctor said. “I need to inspect your engine room and we are desperately in need … we desperately want to try to get all of your people off. We’ve scared off the Sontarans and the Rutans, bunch of big bullies anyway, stand up to ‘em and they just run away, but we would like to get you to Midnight as quickly as possible in order to ensure the safety of you and your crew. And your passengers especially.”

“I will have some of my crew join you and they will brief me on how I will maintain course and what I need to do.”

They all got to work.

* * *

Mickey soon found himself more in the way than a help and was shooed away by both The Doctor and Captain Jack. He headed up to the casino and enjoyed himself for several hours, drinking and playing various games of chance.

* * *

At one point, Sgt. Major Wingate was clearing cables in a regular passenger area. A woman walked up to him and put a lei over his shoulders. He looked at the alien woman and then got back to work.

* * *

After three hours, they had the devices together in a tandem and connected to the main drives of the ship. They had a few troubles. At one point there was an explosion and black smoke. The power all over the ship flickered but The Doctor was not ready to give up.

* * *

When the lights flickered, Mickey thought he might want to go help out after all. He put down the dice and headed back to help the rest.

* * *

The radar was still cleared of Rutans and Sontarans when they tested the makeshift hyperdrive. They were able to get to Midnight safely, but it still took four and a half hours to get the passengers disembarked safely on Midnight.

The Doctor questioned Mickey while the passengers disembarked, asking if he saw any planets nearby when he was in the dying Astral Queen. Mickey didn’t remember seeing any large planets, though that didn’t mean there wasn’t one somewhere.

Once the passengers disembarked, they reloaded the time travel devices with taranium. The Doctor calculated where the ship would be if they had not been able to get to midnight via their makeshift hyperdrive. They jumped to the place, turned the ship around, and set it on course back towards midnight. Then he moved the TARDIS to the bridge and loaded both of the backpack devices and the store of taranium onto the TARDIS.

The Doctor’s plan was for Captain Jack to talk to the Sontarans and the Rutans when they returned, telling them that everyone one board had committed ritual suicide rather than face the dishonor of being touched by the Sontarans or the Rutans.

“But you’re a good liar, right?” The Doctor asked him.

“You’re going to expect me to kill myself as part of this, aren’t you?” Captain Jack said.

“No no no no. Not at all. Can you?”

Jack looked at him.

“No no no. No, I’m not going to expect you to kill yourself.”

He looked at the man.

“Here’s the script,” he said. “When they call. And they’re going to call first because both sides want these backpacks. And actually they want the giant ‘we can move the whole vessel’ device. Here’s the script. ‘We’ve already destroyed the big one so it doesn’t fall into your hands. Everyone on board has committed ritual suicide so they aren’t filthed by your touch. And now we’re going to destroy the other time machines. Bugger off.’ We take the two others into the TARDIS where the TARDIS’ shields will make it look like they’ve stopped putting out any kind of a temporal field. They blow up the ship out of rage. What few people are here are evacuated via the TARDIS back to Midnight. Then we drop them off with their technology and wish them the best of luck. That’s just my idea. Mickey gets to show up and about die. And we’ve maintained the timeline and not created a paradox. And rescued everybody.”

“I think that sounds fine,” Mickey said. “Ritual suicide. That would be such a huge lie, though.”

“Well, he’s a good liar,” The Doctor said. “He’s been lying to women all his life. Men too. Strange, tentacled things as well, I’m sure.”

There was some talk of a riot or blowing the airlocks. Captain Jack pointed out that the suicide angle was something that he could change when he talked to them, if it came down to that. Sgt. Major Wingate also pointed out that they might only scan for the time travel devices. In the end, it was decided to figure it out as the moment arrived.

Mickey suggested that whichever fleet returned, they tell them another fleet of the other race had already boarded them and taken the time travel devices. Then the aliens would blow up the ship in anger. They figured they could use the original plan as a backup plan in case both Sontarans and Rutans showed up.

Then they all gathered on the bridge. There were a few crewmen, the captain, and the researchers. When they revealed their plan to the captain, he was very agreeable. He believed in the ship’s mission of peace more than the honor of going down with ship. He noted that he would be the last one into the TARDIS, though.

“Fair enough,” The Doctor said.

They waited for some time for either certain doom or certain success. It was only a short time later when several ship signatures appeared on the radar. They came in very, very quickly, and surrounded the ship. Captain Zeth looked at The Doctor and they both looked out and recognized the saucer shape of the ships.

“Get inside the TARDIS now!” The Doctor said. “Everyone inside the TARDIS!”

The view screen lit up and a dalek appeared upon it.

“This is a fixed point in time, Doctor!” the creature screamed. “We have you this time! EXTERMINATE!”

“Oh no!” The Doctor said, putting his hands dramatically to his face.

He switched off the view screen.

“In the TARDIS!” he said. “In the TARDIS!”

They ran into the TARDIS as laser blasts tore into the Astral Queen. The Doctor was standing in the door and Captain Zeth had almost reached it when the glass at the front of the bridge shattered in one of the blasts. Captain Zeth slipped and fell, starting to slide toward the infinity of space. The Doctor reached out and grabbed the lapel of his snazzy jacket, falling back through the door and dragging the man with him. The TARDIS door slammed behind them.

The Doctor leapt up and ran to the consol, flinging switches and pushing buttons. Sparks flew out of the console and the engines roared to life. In moments, they were in the temporal vortex.

“That was unexpected!” The Doctor said.

The view screen snapped on and showed Mickey appear in a stateroom near one of the huge rents in the side of the ship. He tried to scream, then tore at his throat before he, Peter Black, and the device vanished once again.

They dropped off the crew of the now destroyed Astral Queen back to Midnight. Tommy requested that he, his researchers, and the devices be taken to a neutral planet.

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