Dave tugged nervously at the door of the TARDIS trying futilely to open it. As usual, securely locked. Ever since the Doctor had gone missing, about four hours earlier, both he and Maria had been attempting to figure out what to do next. It had only taken them about twenty minutes to narrow down their options, either look for him or wait for him to come back, but after that neither one could agree upon which of the two was correct.
On one hand Maria, who was the more sensible of the two, was in favor of waiting because they did not know the land around them or what fate might befall them if they ventured forward. This, of course, was met by resistance from her companion who debated the issue with a lot of meaningless words that narrowed down to him calling his friend a coward.
Maria glared at the boy. She could not believe that he was being so naive. "Look," she said in a quite hostile voice, "we can't just go running off. We don't even know where to start."
The boy's face hardened from frustration. He knew he was wrong and he hated it. "Stupid thing?" He yelled, giving the TARDIS a hard kick to the side.
Maria, who had just taken a moment to look for any clue of the Doctor's whereabouts, stood up from the tuft of grass that she had been stewing over. "What are you doing?" she asked as calmly as she could.
Dave turned around, leaned up against the TARDIS, and issued out a second quick kick with the heel of his foot. "I'm trying to get back inside." He said angrily. "I thought I might be able to think better if I could lie down somewhere."
"There's plenty of grass." Remarked the girl.
Her companion shook his head. He looked just a pouting child who had been forced to eat his vegetables. "It's not the same." He whined. "Can't we just pick a direction and go?"
Maria shot an unpleasant glare in Dave's direction. She wondered why he could be so intelligent about some things and so idiotic about others. She remembered he had once told her that he had a chance to go on to university but he turned it down in favor of "seeing the stars." That, of course, translated into his becoming a janitor on a star freighter. And now he was stuck traveling with her and the Doctor. "I suppose we could scout out a little ways for clues." She said at last, after a lengthy pause
Suddenly, the boy's face lit up. "It's about time!" he said sarcastically, "I hate doing nothing."
The young lady waved her arm around, calling her friend to her side. "To be honest," she confessed when he had joined her, "I hate doing nothing too."
And with that, the two companions set out away from the TARDIS in search of any sign of the Doctor. They moved out slowly, scanning the ground for any minor detail, a smashed tuft of grass, a footprint, anything.
That is why when Dave happened to spy a small, brightly colored flower his mind drifted away. It was the most beautiful plants that he had ever seen. Unlike most plants that he had known the petals of this flower were an amalgamation of pinks, reds, blues, greens, and a plethora of others all swirling around into beautiful shapes and designs. It gave him an idea.
"Hey what's this?" the boy called, pulling his friend over to a large tree where the plant was rooted.
Maria swept herself off excitedly toward the bloom hoping that they had found what they were looking for and that they were at least a little closer to finding the Doctor. When she saw that this was not the case, however, her mind immediately flew into a rage.
She wanted to yell at the boy for not focusing on the task at hand. She wanted to ask him if he actually cared about the Doctor. She wanted to but something prevented her. The swirls of color on the flower seemed to call out as if they were trying to hypnotize her. She too had never seen such a blossom. It was extraordinary. So much so that the only response she could come up with was a resounding, "Wow."
Dave smiled smugly. His idea was taking shape. With luck, in the next few moments he would be able to say things that he did not think he could ever say and even if his companion did not share his sentiments he would, at last, be free of the anguish of his secret.
Slyly, he gazed back and forth from the flower to Maria's face, studying each carefully. "Hey, I've got an idea." He said, reaching for the plant. "This would look really good if we -"
"NO!" a young lady screamed from a short distance away, frightening both Dave and Maria into the trees. "That's a Udijis plant!"
"What the-?" Maria cried in half a panic.
"A Udijis plant." Explained the stranger, gently picking up a stick from the forest floor. Carefully she prodded the flower near its top. Suddenly, a large stinger leapt out with lightning speed and cut a deep gash into the branch.
Dave blinked in amazement. "Uh, thanks." He said in somewhat stunned tone. "That could have taken my hand off."
"Your welcome." The young lady smiled, shooting the young boy a charming yet almost seductive look.
Maria gasped. The stranger's look sent a wave of anger through her whole body. She did not know why but she suddenly felt as though she was about to lose something precious. For an instant she had an inkling of it and it made her happier than she had ever been before. No worries, no concerns, just pure love.
But it was only fleeting. The next second found her back to her usual self and she was suspicious about something. Dave could sense it too. He had worked with her long enough to know that she was about to make some sort of accusation. He wanted to stop her right there and then but he knew it would be a useless effort. "Now what?" He asked in a voice that sounded very irritated.
Maria smiled evilly. "I was just wondering who this is and how she happened upon us just in time, that's all."
The stranger bowed politely. , "I am called Vee," she began I was just on my way to see my friend when I heard voices. I followed them and when I saw that you were strangers here I had to see what you were up to."
"There you go." Dave broke in. "She was curious about us."
It was not good enough for Maria. Although she could not place it something about this person just did not seem right to her. "How convenient for us," she said cynically, "that you arrived at just in the nick time."
Again the stranger smiled. "It was my pleasure." She said patting Dave on the shoulder.
All of a sudden the boy's eyebrows popped up. Something had just occurred to him. "Hey, didn't you say that you were going to see a friend?"
The girl nodded affirmatively. "Yes!" She said, nearly jumping off her feet. "We just met the other day but we're getting really close I think. His name is -"
"Excuse me!" Maria butted in. "What difference does that make?"
Dave shook his head in disappointment. "And here I thought you were supposed to be the smart one." It was not the brightest thing to say and under any other circumstances Maria would have probably slapped the back of his head but, being in the company of a stranger, she thought she should act a little more civilized than usual. That being the case, she shot a dark glare toward her companion, nearly making him flinch.
"I was just going to say," the boy continued ever so cautiously, "that she might be looking for that guy we found."
The strange girl's eyes shifted uneasily, giving Maria yet another piece of evidence to add to her conspiracy theory. Any normal person, she thought, would immediately yell out or at least question what was going on. This girl, however, did neither. She simply stood silently, moving her eyes back and forth between her and her companion. "What did your friend look like?" She asked as innocently as she could.
The other girl instantly dropped her head and took a big breath. "Ok." She began. "I'll tell you the truth." Gently, she placed her hands on Maria and Dave's shoulders and closed her eyes as if she was concentrating hard on what she wanted to say. Suddenly, both of the friends began to feel faint. Something was wrong. All of the energy in their bodies seemed to be drifting away. They reached up to try to free themselves from their attacker's grasp but it was too late, they were paralyzed. A moment later, they were unconscience.
It was some time later when they finally opened their eyes once again only to find themselves in what appeared to be some sort of cell. At least, that is what it looked like to them. It was obvious that they were underground inside of a small dug out section in the wall.
Even more peculiar was the fact that it seemed to have been constructed around them while they were both knocked out. There was no door at all. The bars that separated them from the outside world, while fashioned out of wood, were sturdy and unwavering and since there was no other perceivable way in or out it was clear that it had been put up and secured around them after they were placed inside.
The only convenient thing about the whole situation was that it was not completely dark. . A torch had been placed on the wall outside of the cell and even though it only gave off a very dim light it was enough to see by.
"What happened?" Dave asked incoherently as he slowly pulled himself up to a sitting position next to the wall. There was no answer. "Maria?" he called, twisting around.
She was still unconscious, lying face down on the dirt floor. Immediately, the boy swung the rest of his body around and moved her onto her back. As soon as he had done so a great deal of air burst from her lips signifying that she was still alive.
"Maria?" Dave called again, shaking her gently by the arm. Once again, she pushed out a big puff of air and now she began to stir.
"Dave?" She asked, fluttering her eyes open and looking around. "Where are we? What happened?
"I don't know." The boy answered. "But I think we're going to be here for a while."
Slowly, the young girl drew herself upward so that she could get a better look at her surroundings. Unfortunately, it was quite obvious that her comrade was not over reacting. There was absolutely, no way out, at least, not from inside.
So, with a great deal of effort she set her hands firmly on the ground and pushed herself up onto her feet. At the same time a tidal wave of blood rushed upward into her brain, setting her extremely off balance. This, however, only lasted a moment and when she had regained herself she made her way to the bars of her cage and peered out.
It all amounted to very little. The torchlight, while lighting up one side of the outer room, illuminated only solid rock. The other side was shaded in almost total darkness. This, Maria presumed to be the exit. It was a moot point, however, since there was no foreseeable way out of the cell.
"Any luck?" Dave asked, stumbling to his feet and making his way over to his friend.
Maria shook her head in disappointment. "None." She answered, gesturing toward the darkened corner. "But if there is a way out, it's over there."
The boy nodded with sympathetic anguish. They were, for all accounts, stuck. There was nothing they could do but wait and hope that an opportunity or an idea would appear. At least, it would give him a chance for something else.
Thoughtfully, he turned his head and stared directly at his friend. She did not even notice him. Her mind was too busy running rampant with scenarios to free them should a guard appear. Dave did not mind at all. In fact, it made it all the easier for him.
When they had first arrived, the Doctor had mentioned something about going back to Earth, which had made Maria, react uncharacteristically hysterical. Ever since then, Dave could not help but wonder why and now was as good a time as any to ask.
In all reality it was simple question. More over, it was a question that Maria would most likely have been willing, albeit begrudgingly, to discuss. The only problem was that her cellmate, even if his intentions were good, was about as subtle as a freight train. Some people would have begun with, "There is something I've been meaning to ask you," or "I'm kind of worried about you," he, on the other hand, went for broke and blurted it all out at once.
"So, what's wrong with Earth?" He asked, as calmly as if he were asking if she would like a piece of pie.
The response was not at all what he expected. "What?" She gasped in amazement. She knew exactly what he was asking but it blew her mind that he could be so insensitive about it. A moment before he had been very astute and looking for a way out and now, all of a sudden, it seemed like he was one star short of a solar system.
Dave, seeing the exasperated expression on his friend's face, decided to tone down his tactics a bit. After all, it was obvious that he had done something wrong even if he did not know exactly what it was. "I was just wondering," he said, more gently this time, "What about Earth made you so upset before. It's not like you to get that upset over anything."
Maria's face lit up in understanding. Despite his rudeness, her companion was simply wondering about her. Maybe he cared about her even more than she thought he did. "Oh, I'd rather not talk about it." She said, smiling.
Now Dave was sure that something was wrong. Maria's tone had never sounded so unusual. It was down right timid, and Maria was never timid. For a moment, he decided that it would be best to drop the subject right there. Anything that would make her act like this had to be serious and if he pushed her to tell him it would just make things worse.
Unfortunately, it was not that easy. Somewhere, in the pit of his heart, the young boy ached for her and although he never thought of himself as the best person to give advice he wanted to help. He had to do something "It must be bad." He said, nervously placing a warm hand on her shoulder. If you change your mind and want to talk, let me know."
The young lady's mouth stretched into a slightly crooked smile. "Thanks." She said thoughtfully. It was not easy for her to say anything at all but she had to say something. After all, he was her friend even she did not want to admit it sometimes. Deliberately, she turned, shuffled over to the rock wall, and planted herself on the ground.
That was when it hit her. There was no one else. Dave, despite his childlessness at times, was her only friend in the universe. The only other candidate was the Doctor and she had not known him for very long at all. Who else could she turn to for solace?
"Dave." She said, still in a low voice. "Maybe I should tell you." She patted the ground next her with one hand. "Sit down."
The boy, in a mixture of confusion, solemness, and excitement, complied. He did so while trying his best not to look as though he had no emotion at all because he had no idea which one was the most appropriate. "Are you sure?" He asked, setting a hand on her shoulder. "I mean, I don't want you to do anything you don't want to do."
"I want to." Came a sharp and sudden reply. It was the sort of response that was nearly customary for the young girl. "I trust you more than anyone else."
Dave smiled. It was good to hear her back to normal if even for a second. "Thanks." Responded the other. He did not really know what else to say.
Maria nodded. She had not actually heard him but she did not much care. Her mind was focused elsewhere. Specifically, she was thinking of Earth. "It was," she began, "about three years ago. My father met this woman, Illia Stauss. And a year after that they got married."
"You didn't think they should have?" Her companion interjected solemnly.
The young girl shook her head. "Actually," she said, "I thought it was a great idea." Just then, her lower lip began, ever so slightly to quiver. "They were," she continued in a cracking voice, "perfect for each other." It was obvious that she was struggling to keep from bursting into an all out bawl.
Tenderly, Dave reached down and took hold of his friend's hand to give her comfort. Normally, he would not have dared to try such a thing for fear that she would scold him for it but under the circumstances he did not see the harm. Besides, she was like a completely different person. Once again this girl, who had seemingly been a pillar of granite, was beginning to crumble. "Are you going to be alright?" the boy asked.
Maria took a deep breath and nodded again. "I will be." She choked. "I suppose think I'm silly for breaking up like this."
"No way." Dave answered. "I've just never seen you this upset before. Not even when you saw that dead guard outside our quarters on the freighter.
"That's because," the girl continued, "He wasn't my father." Here she paused for a moment to collect her thoughts for what she was about to reveal next had never been told anyone before. She was not even sure why she was telling Dave. The only conclusion that she could come up with was that no one else had ever asked. Deep within her she actually wanted to tell someone but the whole prospect was extremely frightening. Every time she had even considered talking about it something stopped her as if the truth were a bomb waiting to take out anyone that was in range. But Dave was different. He seemed to be a more caring than anyone that she had ever known before and because of that she trusted him.
"You see," the girl finally continued through a cracking voice, "Illia was not as perfect for father as I thought. She only wanted access to father's money and when he found out..." Once again, Maria stopped short. The memories were coming too fast now and with them all the past emotions that went with them. Quickly, she turned her head to conceal the single tear that had formed in the corner of her eye.
It was not necessary, though. Dave knew what was going on. He just did not know what to do about it. The whole thing seemed too big for anyone to solve. He wanted to say something; anything that would make it seem all right but nothing came to mind. All he could do was squeeze his friend's hand a little harder.
Stealthy, Maria whisked the tear away and turned back toward her companion. She knew what she wanted to say but the rush of feeling in her nearly choked her into silence. But, she had to say it. If she kept quiet she felt like she would simply burst into a thousand pieces like a balloon. There was only one thing for it; she would have to put all her strength together into this one last sentence. She swallowed hard and took a deep breath. Then, with everything she had left she blurted it out.
"She killed him!" The young girl yelled. At the very same moment a flood of tears exploded from within her and she threw herself at Dave and sobbed wildly.
The young boy said nothing. He simply held her close and stared off into space. For as long as he knew her she had never once mentioned anything about this. He could only imagine what sort of pain she had felt for so long not saying a word.
It was a sight to be pitied. All Maria could do for a long time was to hold onto her friend and weep for her father. "I couldn't even go his funeral." She finally whispered after a great sniff. "She was the head of the police. I...I had to get away, so I joined up on the freighter. They didn't even ask my age."
"It's ok," Dave replied, hoping that he could say something that would not upset her more. "At least, you're all right now."
The young lady looked up. Now, more than ever, a flood of tears covered her lamented face. So much so that it gleamed brightly in the dim flare light. "Maybe," she said, "but there is no one out there anymore who loves me.
Suddenly, the boy's eyes perked up. Here was an opportunity, not to take advantage of Maria's situation but finally express some feelings of his own, feelings that he had kept hidden for a long time as well for fear that they would not be accepted. But now he did not care. He could not simply go on letting his best friend think that she alone. "I...I," he stuttered. But he knew he could not delay. Just as Maria had gathered up her strength before he did the same and in one quick phrase he launched his words. "I love you."
The girl stared back in wonderment. In one supreme swoop she stopped mourning. Yet another feeling was intruding on her now, a feeling of joy. It was all a jumble and she almost felt guilty but she could not help it. All she could do was smile. "I love you too." She whispered. "I have for a long time but I didn't think you -"
"Me too." The boy interrupted. "And I'm sorry...I should have waited for a better time."
Maria shook her head. "Your timing was perfect." She said staring into the boy's eyes.
Dave stared right back. They could see in each other the pain and joy that had manifested its self in each other, both were elated and saddened by it. Slowly, almost as if they were of one mind, the two friends moved closer to each other until they were almost nose-to-nose and then they moved forward still. Finally, their lips touched and they knew that things would never be the same again.