Moving Forward by LN29 [Reviews - 106] Chapter or Story |
For all you coat enthusiasts, I hope you take note of the fact that the coat has been put in a safe place. Because now that you've all got me thinking about it, now I realize that that darn coat is hard to keep track of sometimes.
Longest chapter so far. They're really varying in length in this story.
The trees began to thin out ahead, and his hearts began to pound. Mishell gripped his arm, giving him a clear signal with her eyes. They’d reached the base.
The Doctor nodded to show he understood, and quickly stashed the sonic away, not wanting anyone to see the light. He took a deep breath to calm himself, and crept forward. Mishell followed, making no more noise than a cat. In fact, she made him feel downright clumsy, and the Doctor was a fairly agile person himself. Together, they crept from tree to tree, trying to keep out of sight. They also tried to keep to spots where the trees and brush were thickest, to give them some cover.
He caught a glimpse of something shining through the trees, something metallic. From what Mishell had been able to tell him about the base, he knew that it was constructed of mostly metal, so he knew that that was what he was seeing.
He’d been expecting soldiers in the woods surrounding the base. After all, this place was clearly important to them. He’d have expected it to be well protected. But the only soldier they’d encountered so far was the one they’d left behind in the woods, and his cuffs wouldn’t unlock for a few hours yet. No, there was no sign of anyone, and that had the Doctor worried. What was their game?
Where was everyone?
Wordlessly, he signaled to Mishell that he needed to get closer. He had to see the base. She nodded, with a signal that clearly indicated that she would be right behind him. Softly, he made his way forward, finally reaching the edge of the forest, and peering around the trees.
It wasn’t the most impressive base he’d ever seen, and once again, he found himself sympathetic towards Frax’s military. If this was the best that they’d been given, no wonder they’d been unable to put up much of a fight. Still, the walls looked sturdy and strong, with very few windows. Several small vessels were parked near the base, along with a few wheeled vehicles. Evidently, Calyx’s soldiers didn’t just use transmats for their transportation, which made sense. Transmats were a crude and unsophisticated form of transportation, especially for large groups. However, these sights weren’t what caused his hearts to sink.
The dozens of soldiers positioned around and on top of the base did that.
Clearly, the soldiers had pulled back, out of the woods, concentrating all of their manpower on preventing an approach of the base.
Wordlessly, he moved back into the shelter of the trees, followed by Mishell.
“Okay,” he whispered, letting out a breath. “Guess we were kidding ourselves if we thought it’d be as easy as just breaking in.”
“There’s no way to get by them,” Mishell agreed grimly.
“What do you think the odds are that those guys are watching every side?” the Doctor inquired. Mishell frowned, and he knew she was thinking the same thing he was.
He pulled out the wristcomp, which he’d finally permanently silenced, not wanting to risk it going off when they were near the base. Despite the fact that these people had requested his surrender, he had a feeling they wouldn’t object to outright capturing him either. With a little sonic manipulation, he managed to pull up a map of the layout of the base. It wasn’t promising.
“Three entrances,” he said, indicating them. “One main, two smaller.”
“Those will be guarded,” Mishell remarked, and he nodded.
“Without a doubt.”
“Are there any back ways?” Mishell asked. “Cellars, or maybe service hatches? Something they might not be guarding so closely?”
There was nothing. The base was solidly fortified. As he’d half-suspected it would be.
It occurred to him that he really didn’t know what he was going to do. But they had to do something.
“Let’s go around the perimeter,” he suggested. “Maybe there’s a break in the security.” She nodded, and together, they began to make their way around the forest surrounding the base. The Doctor couldn’t help but stare at the building in revulsion. Rose was trapped inside there…and he had no way of getting to her. Stepping out in the open would result in his getting shot or captured…in fact, one wrong move would result in the same thing. The forest was concealing their presence, for now, but how long before they were spotted?
As they moved to another side of the building, the Doctor was once again taken aback as he glimpsed something unexpected through the trees. Moving a little closer, he managed to sneak a closer look.
A large spaceship was docked just outside the base. It looked much more complex and advanced than the vessels out front.
“Mishell?” he murmured. “Is that vessel from Calyx?”
She shook her head.
The Doctor’s hearts sank. At least one other offworlder was here. People not affiliated with Calyx or Frax. And, he suspected, those were the people who were connected in some way to his torture. And judging from the vessel, they were far more advanced and powerful than these soldiers. If these people were in any way involved in this situation, it would be harder than ever to get in.
He felt the leaden weight of dread in his hearts, but that feeling was rapidly replaced by determination. Rose was in there, with those people, and she was hurt. He would do what he must to get her out.
They finished their round of the base, and moved a ways off, safely out of earshot of the base.
“Doctor, what are we going to do?” Mishell asked.
The Doctor studied her. She was looking to him with that same confidence that almost everyone looked at him with. A confidence that he would have a plan. That he knew what to do. That he was on top of the situation. It was a bit more tempered in Mishell than it was in most people, but it was still there. She was waiting for his idea. For the inevitable brilliance that she believed would come.
He looked down at the layout on the wristcomp again. There was no way in that didn’t bring them right into the path of soldiers. He should have known that it would come to this.
And deep in his hearts, he realized that a part of him had known, since the broadcast.
“We can’t get in,” the Doctor told Mishell.
“So what’s the plan?”
“There’s no way past those soldiers.” Mentally, he was running through every option available to him, and dismissing each one. “The base is fortified against any sort of underground approach, like a basement or something. They’ve anticipated a sneak attack. They know I have my sonic, and could get through their doors, so they’ve got soldiers everywhere. They’ll be ordered to capture or shoot on sight. They’ll have been warned.”
He’d hoped that this would be easier, but in all honesty, when had anything ever been easy for him? If it had merely been Calyx, if Rose was merely a hostage of the invading army, he might have stood a chance of getting in. But even if Rose hadn’t managed to warn him, he’d have realized something more was going on here than just one hostage. You didn’t expend this many resources to protect one human prisoner.
No, this situation had been carefully arranged to leave him only one option, if he wanted to get to Rose before the deadline.
He closed his eyes, swallowing the fear that rose up in him at the thought of what could happen. Memories tugged at his consciousness, but he forced them back, thinking of Rose instead. Picturing her face. And when he did, his doubts vanished. He had to get her out, had to keep her safe. He’d promised. And when he made a genuine promise, he didn’t break it.
“Doctor?” there was something strange in Mishell’s voice.
He opened his eyes to see her staring at him. He took a deep breath.
Realization crashed over her face in an instant, and her eyes blazed with a startling fire.
“Don’t you dare!” she said fiercely. “Don’t you dare give yourself to them!”
“What else can I do?”
“There has to be something else! There’s always something else.”
They wanted him. Rose was expendable. If he turned himself over, there was a very good chance that they would let her go.
“Doctor!” Mishell looked furious. “You don’t even know if they actually plan to let her go if you do turn yourself over!”
“I’ve got to believe it.”
And more importantly, he had to believe that they meant what they said when they said they would kill her by sundown unless he turned himself over. There was no way to get into that base. The Doctor excelled at beating the odds, at doing the impossible, but sometimes, the impossible was just that. Impossible. And the simple truth was that there was no way to get inside that base before sundown, unless he surrendered himself.
It was true, they might not release Rose even when they had him. But he’d heard the woman’s voice, and he knew that they would definitely kill her if they didn’t get him. Weighing the odds, he knew that by turning himself in, she’d have a chance, which was more than she’d have if he didn’t. He had to take that chance. There was nothing else.
“Mishell, there is no other way.”
“They’ll kill you!” Mishell protested.
The Doctor took a deep breath.
“Maybe. But if they’re anything like last time, then they’ll take a while. I’ll have a chance to escape.”
“Because that worked really well last time!” Mishell snapped.
“And maybe once I’m inside, I can find a way to make this work for me.”
“You don’t believe that,” Mishell accused.
He swallowed hard.
“There’s always a chance.”
“I’ve got to. Rose is in there. The TARDIS is in there. I’ve got no way of helping them from the outside.”
Mishell’s fists were clenched, and she looked like she was torn between shouting and crying.
“Doctor…I’ve lost everyone else…”
The Doctor forced back the surge of sorrow at those words. Instead, he looked her right in the eyes.
“If it were Dennel in there,” he said slowly. “If Paz or Kaye were in there, and you knew that the only chance that they had was to turn yourself in, wouldn’t you do it?”
“They wouldn’t want me to,” Mishell whispered. “Rose wouldn’t want you to.”
“But would you do it?” he asked.
She didn’t reply, and he saw the resignation in her gaze.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “But I’ve got to.”
She nodded slowly.
“Okay,” she whispered.
He knelt down on the ground, pulling off his overcoat and leaving all his belongings in the pockets. There were a lot of things he didn’t want these people to get their hands on, like the psychic paper or the TARDIS key. He knew that they already had Rose’s TARDIS key, but he was fairly certain they hadn’t made the connection between the ordinary looking key, and the time machine secured somewhere in their base. If they had, the TARDIS would have warned him. That was one of the benefits of having the key look so commonplace, no one immediately assumed it was connected to something so important. However, if they saw that he had an identical key, they would immediately get more suspicious.
Mishell knelt beside him, taking her gun out of its holster and laying it down on top of his coat.
“What are you doing?” the Doctor demanded.
“If I walk in there with a weapon, it’s not going to go over very well,” she said calmly.
“No,” the Doctor said firmly. “Absolutely not.”
“I’m coming with you.”
“No!” the Doctor shook his head. She couldn’t do this. He couldn’t let her do this. “Mishell, you are not turning yourself over to them with me!”
“I’m not letting you do this alone!” she said, getting to her feet and crossing her arms stubbornly.
“Yes you are,” the Doctor replied, getting to his own feet. “You’ve done enough.”
“I’m not going to just bring you here and then abandon you when things get dangerous!” Mishell cried. “That’s not who I am.”
“I’m not asking you to abandon me,” the Doctor said. “You brought me here, you saved my life. But you can’t go with me.”
“And how exactly to do you plan to stop me?” she demanded. “Do you have more handcuffs?”
The Doctor tried to calm himself down. He knew that she was stubborn, but at the same time, he couldn’t let her walk into this. He knew the odds, and he was not putting anyone else in danger. He knew better than anyone what these people were capable enough. It was going to be hard enough to negotiate Rose’s release. Two hostages would only complicate matters.
“I need you out here,” he said.
“I have just as much right to be in there as you do!” she said, glaring.
“It’s not about rights!” the Doctor told her. “Mishell, listen to me. I know what you’re thinking, and I know how you react. But I also know that you can be logical. And you have to listen to me now.”
Reluctantly, she met his gaze.
“I’m not trying to push you aside, or saying that you don’t have a right to be in there. But I am about to walk into an extremely volatile situation, with one of my friends being held hostage. If you go in there with me, you’ll be giving them a second hostage, which will make it doubly hard for me to secure a release. They want me, so for the moment, my life is fairly safe. But they place no value on your life. I know what these people are capable of, Mishell. For all we know, they might shoot you on sight. I will not risk that. I promised Paz that I would take care of you. If anything happened to you, I would never forgive myself.”
There was a flicker of hesitation in her eyes, and he pressed his advantage.
“I appreciate what you’re offering. I know that sounds clichéd, but I honestly do. Knowing that you are willing to sacrifice yourself for me is…” he shook his head, unable to think of a good word for it. He didn’t deserve this kind of loyalty, especially after knowing her for so short a time. “Incredible. But I need you out here.”
“I can’t just sit out here wringing my hands, hoping that you walk out again!” Mishell said furiously. “This is just as much my fight as yours now!”
“I know,” he said gently. He put his hands on her shoulders. “But I need you to do this for me. I need you to stay out here. Rose could be injured. And she doesn’t know these woods. When they release her, she’s going to need your help getting back.”
“But what about you?!” Mishell demanded.
“I’ll be better able to find an advantage if I’m not keeping track of two people,” he said frankly. “If you honestly want to help me, staying out here is the best thing you can do.”
He didn’t look away, tried desperately to communicate his emotion through his eyes, as Rose told him he was so good at doing.
“Please, Mishell, I’m begging you. Let me do this alone.”
Her eyes were wide and upset, but he saw his reasoning slowly penetrating her emotional reaction. After what felt like a lifetime, she nodded slowly.
“Okay,” she whispered.
The Doctor rolled his coat up into a bundle and stuck it under a nearby rock.
“I’ll hide this here,” he told Mishell. “You and Rose can come back for it.”
“We’ll come back for it,” Mishell corrected him. But even she didn’t sound as convinced as usual.
The Doctor merely nodded and held up the sonic, the only possession he hadn’t stashed with his coat yet. Raising it above his head, he met Mishell’s determined but frightened gaze.
“Ready for this?” he asked. She closed her eyes, and the Doctor felt terrible for her. He knew that it took courage to walk into a dangerous situation, but it took even more to be the one left behind. She was going to need that courage now. But she nodded firmly.
“Let’s do it.”
The Doctor took one deep breath of his own, trying to calm his pounding hearts, and held down the button, activating the sonic. The tip flared blue, and the familiar buzz rang out.
The setting he had it on would broadcast a clear signal visible to anyone with a scanner. And if these people knew anything about the Doctor, they would know what a signal from a sonic device meant.
The Doctor was announcing his presence.
He kept the signal going for a long time, long enough, he hoped, for it to be detected, and for any orders to be relayed to the soldiers. Then he placed the sonic with the rest of his belongings and got to his feet.
“I’m coming with you as far as I can,” Mishell told him.
“Okay,” the Doctor agreed, not bothering to protest.
Together, they walked back through the trees.
Mishell took a shaky breath and looked at him seriously.
“Doctor, tell me something honestly.”
“All right,” he agreed.
“What are the chances of both you and Rose walking out of there today, alive and free?”
He closed his eyes for a moment, thinking of Rose and drawing strength from that. He had to do this, if there was even a chance of saving her.
“Almost zero,” he admitted, surprised to find he could barely get the words out. “But,” he added, for both of their benefits, “I’ve faced worse odds.”
Mishell bit her lip and nodded.
Then, all in a rush, she flung her arms around him, hugging him tightly. He returned the embrace, and then pulled away.
“It’s time,” he said.
“Yep,” Mishell agreed, resolve overcoming any emotion. “Go on, Doctor. Go get your girl.”
“She’s not ‘my girl,’” he protested automatically.
Mishell rolled her eyes.
“Spare me,” she said. “You’re not fooling anyone. Except maybe her. And yourself.”
She let go of him and moved back, disappearing among the brush, leaving him alone.
The Doctor took one deep breath, and felt the TARDIS lending him strength and courage. With that, he straightened, held out both hands to show he wasn’t armed, and stepped out into the open.
No turning back now.
He just hoped he wasn’t making the biggest mistake of his life.