The Hidden Well

by Kalleah [Reviews - 208]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Action/Adventure

Author's Notes:
Rose makes a startling discovery about Jonah, and the Doctor and Emelia deal with the treachery from within Arisbe Project.

Rose and Connor blinked, dumbfounded, at each other after the lights in the lab powered back on.

"That wasn't me," he said, although she had figured that part out already.

"What's happening?" she asked, watching over his shoulder as he tapped out a few commands on the display. The screen shifted to show a three-dimensional map of the building's interior, with a single blinking indicator in the lower right quadrant.

"That's impossible," said Connor, selecting the indicator with his index finger. The display zoomed in and he shook his head in amazement. "There's a tertiary power source in one of the hallways, but there's nothing there. It's just one of the emergency exit points."

Rose felt a questioning tickle at the edge of her mind and opened up to it. Jonah's joy was more palpable than his earlier reassurance, although still at a distance, but she instantly recognized the golden light he relayed to her. "It's the TARDIS." She couldn't resist the grin that welled up from inside, the delight equally hers and Jonah's.

Connor looked up at her. "Sorry?"

"The TARDIS is the power source." She tried to turn the corners down on her smile, to look serious and confident, but couldn't force her face into compliance. "The Doctor's there."

He looked skeptical, but reasoned it out. "I suppose if it's got enough power for time travel, it's got enough power for Arisbe Project."

A thought crossed her mind even as she nodded in response to Connor's statement. How did Jonah know where the TARDIS was?

Jonah's contact instantly deepened into a wave of protest, jarring her perception. Her hearing went somehow askew. She saw Connor's lips move, and a stream of utterly incomprehensible sounds — words? — come from his mouth. He repeated the sounds, but they made no more sense the second time. She blinked as the realization hit her.

Jonah and the TARDIS were working together.

Once she stopped to consider it, she couldn't believe that the possibility hadn't occurred to her sooner. Jonah wasn't the most powerful telepath on Arisbe, after all, and now that he was communicating, he would surely sense the TARDIS. Well, if he thought the ship was in the hallway, then that was good enough for Rose.

Jonah seemed satisfied enough with that response, and the world shifted again, like a filter sliding back into place. Connor said, quite clearly this time, "Rose, are you all right?"

"I'm fine," she said, and laughed. The concerned look on his face deepened. "No, really, I'm fine," she repeated. "It's the TARDIS. Jonah. They're talking."

"Hey, wait a minute!" Connor grabbed Rose's arm as she turned to leave and pulled her away from the door. "What the hell is going on?"

"The TARDIS is telepathic and so is Jonah," she told him. If the TARDIS was providing power for the project, then the Doctor was all right.

Jonah's excitement ebbed at that thought, and Rose's stomach seized up in a knot. He's all right, isn't he? Jonah?

His immediate response, and the ominous buzz of bees, so close she half swatted at them, gave her the answer that she most feared. "Connor? Frances is there. She's got the Doctor and Emelia."

"Shit," Connor said, and turned around so quickly that he almost toppled over. Rose put out a hand to steady him and flinched away from the raw fear written across his face. She knew it mirrored her own.

"Come on," he urged unnecessarily. He threw the door open and broke into a run down the hallway. She was right on his heels.

They sped down identical hallways, all industrial and soulless, off-white paint and tiled floors. Connor stopped and entered an ordinary enough looking office, going directly to the large bureau in the corner and entering a security code in a keypad. The drawer popped open and he snatched out a blaster. "Know how to use this?" he asked Rose.

She shook her head mutely.

"Learn quickly," he said, grabbing another blaster for himself and putting the first one in her hand. "Safety, trigger," he indicated, pointing to different places on the weapon. "Never point it at anything or anyone you don't intend to kill. All right?"

"No," she said. "I couldn't —" Could she? If the Doctor were in danger, would she shoot another living thing to save his life? She had fired into a windscreen once, and killed what had once been a man, when she thought the act would kill her as well.

She thought that she might sick up, but there was no time. Connor was already out the door.

Emelia looked from Frances, still aiming the blaster at her, back to the Doctor. He had laced his fingers together and was resting his hands on his head. His eyes stayed cast down at the floor. Why doesn't he do something? she raged, at the same time unable to think of a single action to take herself that wouldn't result in Frances Wittener blowing a very large hole in her abdomen.

Wilson, who had arrived a few moments after Frances, conferred quietly with his wife, his mouth close to her ear. Her gaze never left Emelia as she listened.

"Search her," she commanded.

Wilson crossed cautiously to stand on Emelia's right, out of the line of fire. His pat-down was perfunctory, his hands lingering unpleasantly in places where she could not possibly have concealed a weapon, but even his careless search found the blaster tucked in the waistband of her trousers. Wilson pulled it out and slid it across the floor to rest at Frances' feet.

"What about him?" asked Frances, gesturing with her chin to the Doctor.

"Didn't have any weapons earlier," Wilson responded sullenly.

"I suppose there's no possible way he could have gotten one after he escaped? Check him again." Wilson cupped Emelia's bottom with one hand and gave her a hard squeeze before crossing over to the Doctor and repeating the process with slightly less fondling. She raged inside, and raged all the more for not having an outlet for her revulsion and anger.

"What, no cheek?" Wilson sneered after he finished his search. "Not so brave this time." He hammered a fist down on the back of the other man's neck. As the Doctor staggered from the impact, Wilson hit him again and knocked him to the ground.

He landed two well-placed, savage kicks before Frances cut him off. "Enough."

Her mouth dry with increasing horror, Emelia watched the Doctor curl into a loose ball on the floor. The cut above his eye had opened back up and released a steady stream of blood down his face. She couldn't assess how badly he had been hurt, but she could see his chest rising and falling more rapidly than she would have liked to see. He hadn't raised a hand to defend himself.

"What now?" asked Wilson.

Emelia didn't want to know.

Rose, at a dead run behind Connor, jerked suddenly to a stop. "Connor, wait!"

He spun around, hopping for a moment as he regained his footing. Her eyes were wide and focused on something beyond him in the hallway. He looked behind him, and saw nothing but the same white walls that surrounded them now. "What is it?"

"Jonah says to wait," she said. She blinked once and then seemed to come back to herself.

"Wait for what?" he asked, bouncing nervously on the balls of his feet.

Her eyebrows knitted together in concentration. "He says the TARDIS wants us to wait."

He frowned. Wait? Reliance on the telepathic communication between a formerly silent six year old boy and a time-traveling alien ship for his instructions was entirely out of his comfort zone. He could accept that the TARDIS was powering Arisbe Project and that Frances had his wife prisoner, but to have Jonah suddenly calling the shots was too much. He settled on the question nearest to his heart for the moment. "Is Emelia all right?"

"Yes," she answered.

He thought she looked as tired and strained as she had on the walk to the emergency shelter earlier in the evening, a stark contrast to her buoyant spirits after the power was restored. He took in a breath. Rose didn't want to wait any more than he did.

Connor shifted his blaster from one hand to the other. "All right. How long?"

The Doctor half-sat, half-slumped against the wall as Frances kept the blaster trained on Emelia. Wilson tugged at the mass of wires connecting the TARDIS to the panel in the wall.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," said the Doctor with a slight cough. He tilted his head slightly so he could look at Wilson. He looked frightful with the dark shadows under his eyes and the smeared trail of blood across his face. Even with that, he seemed oddly serene, at least to Emelia, who was stifling the conflicting urges to fight or flee with every heartbeat.

"Why not?" Frances asked.

"Because there's a lot of power going through those cables." How, she wondered, did he sound so conversational, as if they were all sitting around her front room sharing a bottle of wine? "Wilson," he continued, "you know what happens when a lot of electricity going through a cable suddenly has nowhere to go." He made a buzzing sound through his teeth. "Suddenly, all that electricity goes through the nearest conducting body it can find." He cut his eyes over to Frances and arched one eyebrow. "That would be your husband, by the way."

"How can we shut it off?" she asked.

"You can't," he replied placidly. When she glowered, he continued. "But I can."

Wilson laughed cynically. "And we're supposed to just let you start disconnecting wires?"

"Nope. You're supposed to let me go into my ship and shut down the power source, and then you can disconnect the wires."

Emelia let out a tinny, barking laugh. Was this the beginning of hysteria, she wondered?

"Clearly," said Frances, annoyed, "that's a far better idea. Why don't we give Emelia back her blaster, while we're at it?"

"Bad idea," said the Doctor with a disapproving shake of his head. "She's very unpredictable. No need to settle this with violence. On the other hand, if you'd like to try putting down the gun and having a sensible discussion —"

"Shut up!" snapped Frances, pointing the blaster at him.

He let out an aggrieved sigh and shook his head. "See? That's why weapons aren't the answer. Stops all the open and honest dialogue between the parties. Back on Ramuin Seven —"

Frances fired the blaster into the wall beside the Doctor. A fine spray plumed into the air and left him covered with white dust.

Emelia shook in earnest and tried to cling to the frayed remnants of her self-control. Her mind worked frantically, clouded by the adrenalin in her blood. Frances was unhinged, but surely if she'd wanted to shoot either one of them she would have done it by now. You can't very well ascribe a blaster shot to the head or chest to an accident. But there was no possibility that Frances intended either of them to survive the night, either.

"That's enough," said Frances in a voice heavy with threat. "Or the next hole will be in your head. Understand?"

"Quite," he agreed, shifting around and blowing debris off his lips with a loud puff.

Emelia couldn't fathom what he was doing. He had gone from meek to almost helpful to maddening in the blink of an eye. Why not let Wilson disconnect the wires and fry himself? She sure as hell would have. And why provoke Frances? Her own need for action welled up inside her until she could fairly burst from it. She couldn't wait much longer, letting him play the merry fool.

His eyes flicked over to find hers, then into the hallway beyond the TARDIS, and back to linger respectfully on the ground so quickly that she wasn't sure there was any significance to it.

But then he did it again. She followed his glance, careful not to move anything but her eyes themselves, and them only for a fraction of a second.

There was movement in the distance, where the parallel walls of the sterile hallway seemed to draw together.

She didn't dare look long enough to confirm what she had seen, but she trusted the impression she had enough to recognize what the Doctor was doing. Calm settled over her. He'd seen that flash of movement too, and he was attempting to divert Frances' and Wilson's attention from it.

Oh, she could cause a diversion, all right.

"Why are you doing this, Frances?" she asked with as much hostility as she could put into her words. It wasn't difficult. "Was it money? Land? How much are nine peoples' lives worth on the open market these days?"

Wilson, who was still working feverishly on the connection with the TARDIS, looked over at Frances, who had gone utterly still. Perhaps it wasn't the best idea to remind her that she's killed other people, Emelia thought, but there was no taking back the statement now.

"Why are you so entitled, Emelia Trabane?" Frances challenged in response. Her plump, normally rosy face was flushed a splotchy red with anger and exertion. "What the hell makes you so special? You treat people like they're shit you found on your shoe. Don't act so high and mighty. You're in this for the land and the money just like the rest of us."

"I never killed for it," Emelia retorted. "I worked hard and I paid my dues. I waited in line and I took the worst assignments so I could end up here. I won't apologize for that."

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the Doctor sit up a little straighter against the wall and readied herself for whatever would happen next.