Part Seven — Waiting Things
They waited for a blessedly quiet four hours before they saw their captors again.
The lead interrogator stood just outside their cell door, taking in the positions they had declined to move from when they heard the aliens enter the corridor.
Rose leant against Jack, who sat behind her, both of them adjacent to the Doctor, who had remained curled up in the center of the cell. His fingers still rested lightly against Rose’s pulse.
“Show me how to enter your ship,” the alien ordered without preamble.
“No,” Jack growled.
“So be it,” the alien replied. He watched his three prisoners for a moment, before he again spoke to Jack. “Tell the girl to squeeze his broken wrist.”
“What!?” Jack shouted. “No! God, no!”
The alien leaned against the bars, staring down at Jack menacingly.
“I want her to hurt him.”
“No!” Jack repeated.
“You could always just let me into your ship,” the alien reminded him.
“No no no no!” Jack shouted.
“What is it, Jack?” Rose asked in English, frightened at his tone of voice. She tried to keep her arm still so as not to pass her fear on to the Doctor.
“That is your choice. If you do not choose, I will simply kill one of them and then ask you again. Shall I shoot the girl, or the telepath?” the alien gloated.
Jack shuddered, and nodded in defeat. He couldn’t give up the TARDIS yet, and he couldn’t risk calling the alien’s bluff.
“Rose, honey,” he whispered to her. “I’m so sorry. We can’t give in yet and we have to do what he says or he’ll kill one of us. Rose, he… he wants you to hurt the Doctor.”
Her eyes went wide with horrified shock. “I can’t!” she cried, still somehow managing to hold her arm still.
“You have to,” Jack replied urgently as the alien at the cell door took a gun off one of the guards and pointed it through the bars towards them. “Rose, you have to. Touch… touch his broken wrist.”
Rose gave a small hiccupping sob, and tentatively moved her free hand to cover the Doctor’s right wrist.
He reacted instantaneously, taking in a sharp breath and clamping his left hand down across her pulse. The look on his face spoke volumes. He’d let himself trust again, almost believed that the small, soft hands had been Rose’s. This, obviously, was his punishment for being so gullible. He knew better than to try to move his broken wrist, but he could and did tighten his left hand into a vice grip in an act of instinctive revenge.
Rose cried out, unconsciously tightening her hands in reaction as the Doctor nearly snapped the delicate bones in her own wrist.
Her other hand closed convulsively around his broken wrist and he screamed. It was a short but agonized howl of pain.
She instantly let go, as did he, and she pulled away, crawling over Jack to get as far away as she could. She came to a rest against the side wall of the cell, sobbing.
The Doctor quieted instantly, and curled tighter around his shattered wrist. It had developed angry bruises over the hours that had passed, and was beginning to swell.
“Are you happy now, you bastard?” Jack shouted at their jailer.
“Hmmm. Appeased for now, I suppose. I shall return later to ask you again,” he replied, before leading the contingent of guards away. His echoing laughter followed him down the corridor.
The door clanged shut, and they were alone once more.
Jack gently laid a hand on the Doctor’s shoulder, carefully keeping his coat away from him, but the Doctor cringed and curled up even tighter. Jack tried Rose’s earlier tactic of offering his pulse, but the drugged Time Lord was having none of it. They’d finally succeeded in training him to mistrust any and every touch.
Knowing that he could only cause the Doctor more pain by continuing, Jack slowly backed away and joined Rose. Her he could touch, her he could hold and comfort.
She held him in return, and they sat there as time dragged inexorably on. They cradled her phone between them, watching as the minutes and hours slowly passed.
Rose’s wrist began to swell slightly, and they spent a few minutes determining that it was only badly bruised and not actually broken. Then they returned to staring at the time display on the phone. It was easier than staring uselessly at the tight ball of misery the Doctor had curled himself into.
Rose contemplated calling someone.. her mum, or Mickey, or anyone… but she couldn’t think what she would say, and Jack reminded her that they did not want to give their captors an excuse to take the phone.
It was the longest they’d been left alone since the beginning. When the five hour mark passed, Rose asked if they’d waited long enough.
Jack weighed their options. The Doctor’s two days technically had another hour to go.
“If he doesn’t come back after another hour, I’ll start shouting. If he does… we should try to stall until the hour is up. I don’t want to cut it ten minutes short and botch everything,” Jack told her.
She nodded her agreement silently.
The last hour passed what felt like the slowest of them all despite an intellectual knowledge that time was still constant. When the last digit rolled over on the phone’s display, Rose clicked it shut with finality and slid it back into her pocket.
They shared a determined look, and Jack took a deep breath. Rose leaned over and kissed his cheek.
“For luck,” she whispered, and then she got up and moved closer to the Doctor. She didn’t try to touch him.
Jack stood, taking another deep breath and readying himself to play his role. It was time to get out of this hell hole.
“Hey!” he shouted in the trade lingo, banging his fists on the bars. “Hey, somebody! Please!”
Fairly quickly, as if he’d been expecting Jack to break after his last torment, the head interrogator appeared at the door into the corridor. He approached the cell slowly, the usual compliment of guards trailing behind him.
“Can I help you?” he asked mildly when he reached the bars.
“Please… I can’t… I’ll show you how to get into the ship. Just… please don’t hurt him any more!” Jack spoke brokenly.
“Ah, finally. I must admit, you’ve put up a good showing. But now you see the futility of it all, don’t you?” the alien said, almost kindly.
Inwardly sickened, Jack replied, “Yes, yes… please, I’ll show you…”
The alien considered him for a moment.
“Please…” Jack whispered.
He nodded then, motioning for the guards to open the cell. They pulled Jack out and started to unceremoniously drag him down the corridor.
“Wait!” Jack shouted desperately. “How do I know you aren’t going to hurt or kill them as soon as I show you how to get in? Keep us together and stop hurting us or I’ll show you nothing!”
It was their captor’s turn to weigh his options. He’d invested many hours of effort into breaking this trio of prisoners, he wanted to see results sooner rather than later. He decided to take the risk.
Nodding in agreement, he ordered his guards to bring the others as well, with the stipulation that the girl would be the one to support and lead the telepath. It would keep them busy and discourage them from trying to run.
So Rose stood, accepting the Doctor’s weight against her as the guards pulled him up and draped his uninjured arm over her shoulders. She reached an arm around his waist to steady him, and thus they made their way, surrounded by guards, following Jack and the head interrogator.
They finally got to see what was on the other side of the door. It was a small room, with another door across from the one they entered through, and the most welcome sight in the universe sitting parked against the back wall.
The TARDIS, in all her glory, waiting for their return. A small table sat next to her, holding the sonic screwdriver and Jack’s blaster.
They filed into the room, Rose and the Doctor stopping where the guards directed and Jack heading directly for the TARDIS.
“I’m sorry, old girl,” he whispered to her, still playing the defeated prisoner.
“Show me,” the head interrogator demanded.
Slowly, reluctantly, Jack pulled at the string that held his TARDIS key conveniently around his neck but hidden beneath his shirt. He lifted it over his head, and then held the key in his hand.
“It’s a key. Just a simple, mechanical key,” he said.
“Then why were we unable to pick the lock?” their captor demanded to know.
“The technology is incredibly advanced. The lock is mechanical, but only an authorized key will trigger it. It won’t engage for any other key or lock pick, even a perfect copy,” Jack explained.
The alien held his hand out for the key, and Jack handed it over to him as if it was the hardest thing he’d ever done.
Then he stepped back, his shoulders slumped, the picture of defeat.
Secure in his mastery of the situation and reveling in his triumph, the head interrogator pushed the key into the lock on the TARDIS door and turned it with a satisfied twist.
Several things proceeded to occur simultaneously.
Rose pressed her head into the Doctor’s shoulder and used her free hand to cover her still exposed ear, squeezing her eyes shut.
The Doctor staggered as the motion triggered another wave of pain. He had no way to know what was going on, and could only hope that the relocation and the person who felt so familiar as she supported him meant that their plan was working. He could only trust that his companions had estimated the two days correctly, since he had long since lost the thread of time.
Jack also squeezed his eyes shut, turning away from the TARDIS and covering his ears.
Recognizing the intruder at her door, the TARDIS exploded.
Not literally, though it seemed like it to the others in the room. The light atop her rectangular form flared painfully bright, and an agonizingly loud siren wailed forth from some hidden speaker system. It was, as the Doctor had promised, the equivalent of a powerful flash-bang.
It overwhelmed the guards instantly, sending them crashing to the floor, writhing in pain as their senses were overloaded.
The head interrogator, his hand still on the key in the door, jerked as the TARDIS gleefully sent crippling electrical pulses down his arm. Then he, too, collapsed to the floor.
Slightly stunned, but ready for action, Rose immediately began helping the Doctor towards the TARDIS. Jack jumped over the crumpled form of their tormentor to snatch the sonic screwdriver and his blaster off of the table and stow them in his pockets. Then he went back to the TARDIS to retrieve his key and open the door.
Knowing that bringing his coat near to the Doctor would cause a time-wasting bad reaction, he instead spent the few moments it took them to cross the room on the very satisfying activity of gifting the barely conscious alien at his feet with a few bruises to remember them by.
Rose also spared him a kick as she passed him.
Then they were all in the familiar safety of the TARDIS console room, and Jack gratefully locked the door behind them.
Rose and the Doctor wound up stumbling to a seat on the ramp up from the doorway. The Doctor automatically returned to his protective, curled up position.
Jack went to the console, setting up the dematerialization sequence and instructing the TARDIS to float in a holding pattern in the vortex. The TARDIS was unusually gentle as she followed his commands.
They’d done it. They’d escaped.
And now, Jack thought as he looked back down at Rose and the Doctor, came the really hard part.
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