It felt strange to be walking down the street in broad daylight, after two nights of creeping around, desperate to avoid detection. But the Doctor and Mishell were both adults, and thus in no appreciable danger, as long as they didn’t cause trouble. The streets were quiet, but unlike the nights, there was activity. People hurried about their business, not looking at each other, trying to avoid detection. The Doctor saw several soldiers, and tried to stifle his anger at the sight of them, strolling around like they owned the place, while the people lived in terror. There were no children to be seen.
Now that her initial emotion was spent, Mishell seemed a little embarrassed around the Doctor. However, she showed no inclination of turning back.
“I assume you have some sort of plan?” she asked him. “Or at least a vague idea?”
“A bit of one, yeah,” he nodded. “Which involves me getting back to my ship. Mishell, do you remember where you found us?”
Mishell thought for a moment.
“Can you get us there?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “Follow me.”
They made their way through the streets. It felt odd to be using the actual streets, instead of darkened alleyways like the ones they’d used to get here. But it made the trip much shorter, and it wasn’t long before he started to recognize landmarks.
“So, you have a spaceship?” Mishell asked.
“I didn’t see a spaceship,” Mishell said skeptically.
“You wouldn’t have. She’s small, and she’s disguised. She doesn’t look like a spaceship.”
“Then what does…she…look like?”
“A blue box,” the Doctor said, unable to completely keep the pride out of his voice. Mishell raised an eyebrow.
“A blue box?” she repeated. Then she shrugged. “Well, I’ve heard stranger things. And you can use your ship to find Rose?”
“Hopefully,” he nodded.
Hopefully, the TARDIS could scan for her mobile, and pick up the signal. That signal would lead them to the general location where Rose was being held. They’d still have to get her out, which could prove difficult, but it was a serious start.
“Here,” Mishell said, as they emerged onto a street. “It was right here.”
“Okay,” the Doctor said, looking around. He and Rose had walked down the street a bit before Mishell had found them, so the TARDIS should be just up ahead.
They came to the top of a rise in the road, both trying to avoid eye contact with anyone. The Doctor immediately recognized the spot where they’d landed. And his hearts stopped.
The TARDIS was gone.
“Oh no,” he whispered, feeling his heartbeats quickening. He couldn’t believe his eyes. “Oh no, oh no…this is bad.” That was an understatement.
“What?” Mishell asked, staring at him. “What is it?”
“She’s gone. The TARDIS…my ship…is gone.”
“What?” she exclaimed. “Are you sure?”
The Doctor shot her a look, and Mishell seemed to realize that this was a foolish question.
“Why would they take your ship?”
“I don’t know…” he said, his mind whirling as he tried to puzzle out what was going on. The TARDIS didn’t look like a time machine, or anything other than a strange wooden box. And what reason would anyone have to take a wooden box?
He closed his eyes, reaching out for the TARDIS with his mind. To his distress, he couldn’t significantly feel her, beyond their constant core bond. That meant she was days away, at least. Sometimes the TARDIS could lead him to her, like a compass, Rose had once put it. But the old girl was unpredictable, to say the least, and he couldn’t get a feel for where she was, beyond a vague indication to the north. That wasn’t really helpful.
Mishell took hold of his arm and pulled him out of the street.
“You’ll attract attention, standing there like that,” she said, and he realized she was right.
“This is ridiculous,” he groaned, shaking his head in disbelief. This day just kept getting worse and worse. Now, not only did he have to find Rose, but the TARDIS as well.
“I thought you said your ship didn’t look like a ship,” Mishell pointed out.
The Doctor couldn’t help but be impressed that she’d remembered that.
“Then why would they take it?”
“I don’t know!” he said.
And it wasn’t as if he could ask anyone. These soldiers were only too willing to take action, at the slightest provocation. They had to keep their heads low.
He thought for a minute.
“It’s probably safe to assume that the soldiers who took the TARDIS are the same ones who took Rose.”
“Maybe not the exact same ones,” Mishell pointed out. “But soldiers from Calyx, yes, I think it’s a safe bet.”
Without even discussing it, they both began to walk down the street again. Remaining in one place for too long risked attracting attention.
“So they might be in the same place?”
Mishell looked skeptical, but didn’t say anything.
The Doctor took a deep breath. He had to hope that they were. And in any case, he had to prioritize. The TARDIS could take care of herself. Once locked, almost nothing could get inside. He burned to think of her in the possession of anyone else, especially these soldiers, but he knew that she was in no immediate danger.
Rose, on the other hand, might be. She was smart, strong, and capable, but these men were armed and dangerous, and he had no way of knowing what they had planned for her. He’d promised her that he would storm the city if she didn’t come back, and he intended to do just that. Though maybe a bit more subtly than “storming,” at least, for the moment. No, he had to go after Rose, and hope that she and the TARDIS were near each other. If not, he reasoned, the two of them could find the TARDIS together, once she was safe.
He was thinking more rationally and calmly, now that the initial emotions stirred up by Dennel’s murder and Rose’s capture had had a little time to cool, though he had to admit that the disappearance of the TARDIS rattled him once again. But reason quickly reasserted itself. Things would be all right. Rose was still alive, she had to be. If they were going to kill her, they’d have done it out in the street, like they had to Dennel. He wasn’t quite sure why they had spared her, but killed Dennel, but he had a feeling Dennel had died doing what he’d promised to do: protecting Rose. The Doctor felt a stab of guilt at misjudging the man. But unfortunately, there was nothing he could do about it now. All he could do was ensure that Dennel’s sacrifice had not been in vain.
In any case, if they’d wanted Rose dead, they wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of wasting their time with transmatting her. Which meant that she was alive.
Which meant that he would save her.
“Mishell, where would they have taken her?” he asked anxiously. Mishell glanced at him. “Rose, I mean.”
“She could be anywhere…”
“But they must have a place…some place they take them. A base, of some sort.” He saw doubt and skepticism in her eyes. “Come on, Mishell, you know this planet. You must have heard something! You must have some idea of where they might be based.”
“I’m not exactly an expert on the layout of my entire planet!” Mishell said, crossing her arms, though she didn’t stop walking.
“You’re the one who wanted to come along, because you know this place better than I do,” he reminded her.
“I came along,” she said fiercely, “because you’d get yourself killed if you tried to do this alone.”
“It’s true, and you know it.”
He let out a sigh of exasperation, but at the same time, couldn’t suppress a bit of admiration for her. She wasn’t the type to let herself be pushed around, even by him. She had courage, and could think on her feet. Despite his frustration at the entire situation, and his fear of leading anyone else into a dangerous situation, he knew in his hearts that having her along would be an asset.
“Please,” he asked, softening his tone. “Please, Mishell, give me something.”
Her eyes grew distant as she stared off into the distance, clearly lost in thought. He waited anxiously, but also not wanting to push her.
“There’s an old base,” she said slowly, a light dawning in her eyes. “About three days’ walk from here. It was one of Frax’s few military bases, but,” her face darkened, but she only shrugged, “not anymore.”
“You think the soldiers might have made their base there?” He’d lowered his voice now, not wanting to risk being overheard. She followed suit.
“There were rumors,” she said. “Only whispers, and everyone had a different story, different wild tales to tell. And I didn’t have the opportunity to hear much, before we went underground, but I remember hearing something about prisoners being taken to the base.”
It wasn’t as much as the Doctor would have hoped for, but he was nothing if not optimistic. He’d grasped at thinner straws before, and come out on top. It was a chance, and at the moment, it was the best lead they had.
“Do you know how to get there?” he asked. She stopped and stared at him.
“I…know the general direction,” she said. “It’s isolated. In a forest.”
Strategically, not the best place for a military base, the Doctor thought, but then again, Frax’s military evidently hadn’t been very strong at all.
“To be honest, walking through the forest will be safer than going through cities,” she added.
The Doctor studied her.
“It’s going to be dangerous.”
“Don’t start that again,” she rolled her eyes.
“No, I really mean it, Mishell.”
He took her arm and pulled her off into a side street, where there was less chance of them being seen or overheard.
“This is the unknown. This is…beyond dangerous. We're chasing shadows, at best. This base will be swarming with soldiers, we don’t even know if she’s actually there, and I have no plan for how to get her out.”
Mishell broke eye contact, staring at the ground by their feet.
“And…” he almost didn’t say it, but the words slipped out. “People tend to get hurt around me.”
She looked up again, meeting his gaze.
“Me too,” she whispered, almost inaudibly.
Again, that pain that no one her age should ever have to know. He put a hand on her shoulder.
“I can’t ask you to take that risk for me.”
“You need me,” she said. There was something in her face that pleaded for the truth, and he couldn’t deny it to her.
“I won’t lie to you. You’d help. A lot. But this isn’t your fight, and I can, and will, do this alone.”
For a long time, she didn’t speak. Then she nodded resolutely.
“I’m in if you are,” she said. There was a note of finality in her voice that he knew meant this was the end of the discussion.
“I’m in,” he said, and she actually smiled at him.
Then she got serious again.
“But before we go,” she said, “I have a question for you.” She seemed to think about this. “Actually, I’ve got a lot of questions for you.” The Doctor didn’t doubt it, and he had some questions of his own, for her. “But those can wait until we’re on the move. However, this one can’t.”
In an instant, she looked far older than her years, and her thin face was set in determination. Her eyes once more held a challenge.
“You show up, out of nowhere, and we haven’t the first idea who you are. You’re a complete stranger. Both of you are. Travelers from offworld. You turn up, and our lives get turned upside down again. Now I’m not saying that this is your fault,” she added hastily, before he could speak. “Any of it. But you seem to bring chaos with you, whether you mean to or not.” She crossed her arms. “Everything’s gone wrong, and there you are, standing there, beyond certain that you can save her. That you can do the impossible, what all of us have failed to do. You speak with authority beyond your appearance. You look like a civilian, but you have the eyes of a soldier. And you told us you could save her. And you made us believe you.”
She shook her head, actually laughing a little.
“I believe you! Don’t know why. I haven’t the first reason to trust you, other than the fact that you haven’t killed me. But I’ve seen you with her, and I’ve heard you speak, and I trust you. She trusted you, and so do I. For some reason.”
She took a step forward, so they were eye to eye.
“I’m risking my life for you. For both of you. You and Rose. Because I believe you. So I am going to ask you a question, Doctor, and I want an honest answer. A completely honest answer.”
“All right,” the Doctor said quietly.
“Can you do it? Can you save her?”
He didn’t hesitate, didn’t falter for a moment.
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