“Riiibsyyy!” Ramona cried as she came up from the water, coughing and choking. She couldn’t swim without floaties, all she knew was a dog-paddle and the boots were pulling her down. Panicked, she kicked and the largest ones came off, floating to the top beside her as she thrashed and scrabbled at the slippery side.
There was a second splash as Ribsy, whining, jumped in after her.
K-9 rolled back and forth for a moment in uncertainty. “Swimming is recommended activity.”
“I can’t swiiiiim!” Ramona bubbled, crying now as she grabbed at Ribsy, nearly dunking him in his confused attempt at helping her.
K-9’s lights blinked briefly as he digested this bit of data and quickly rolled to the wall where his antennae extended to punch a red-buttoned control. There was a huge slurping sound as multiple drain filters whirred opened simultaneously, rapidly sucking the water from the pool.
Ribsy, with Ramona clinging to him paddled desperately, whining as the two of them were tossed and whirled around, the eddies taking them, then pulling them up against the nearest grated drain on the pool’s side. Screeching, spitting and gasping, they slid down with the level of the water until they suddenly found themselves sitting on the bottom of the pool. The sound of a dozen giant soda-straws hitting the bottom of a soda-glass slurped to a stop around them. Ramona coughed, still clinging to handfuls of wet dog and looked around in astonishment. The water was now no deeper than a baby’s wading pool.
Up above them, a small metal dog surveyed the results. “Danger averted,” he informed them and moved his tail encouragingly.
Ramona looked around the pool, noting the discarded boots now at the far end where they’d come to rest against another drain. She stood up, dripping, and wiped an arm across her nose. Ribsy clambered back to all fours and shook himself, spattering her with more water and wet dog hair.
She looked up at the robotic dog. “I’m wanna get out,” she said.
“Suggest climbing ladder,” K-9 obliged, rolling over to the item in question. It reached nearly to the bottom. Hooking a hand into Ribsy’s collar, Ramona sloshed over to it. She could just reach the bottom rung, but that was all.
“I can’t reach!” she said, “An’ Ribsy can’t climb ladders.” Her lip trembled as she tried not to cry. Now that the excitement was past, she was feeling shaken and desperately missed her mother and Beezus. She put her face down into Ribsy’s wet fur and sniffled, trying to be brave.
“Help required. Will fetch the Doctor-Master,” K-9 suddenly informed her and he rolled away.
“Well now, what have we here?” a large voice asked them, echoing around the empty pool. The little girl down below lifted her head from where he’d been leaning it on the dog and pushed her wet hair back from her face. The large man, the Doctor, was looking down at them from above. He grinned widely. “Gone for a bit of a swim?” Swinging down over the edge, he rapidly descended the metal ladder and stooped towards her, holding out a hand. “Well, come on then. I’ll lift you up.”
Ramona nodded and sloshed towards him, still sniffling slightly. He was surprisingly comforting and gentle for a big, loud stranger and as he boosted her up on his shoulders, she found she liked his squashy scarf and the smell of his big boingy hair. Reaching up, she took the ladder and climbed the small distance still remaining after his boost; he was a very tall big Doctor.
Turning around, she watched as he quickly tucked the bedraggled Ribsy under one arm and half-ran up the ladder, mutt in hand, releasing him over the edge where he promptly braced his feet and shook, shook again and waved the wet banner of his tail.
The Doctor reached down to pat him and to smooth the damp ears. “There you go, old boy.” He looked back at the empty pool. “Well, let’s see what we can do about getting you dry.” Striding across to a glassed in tiny room on the side, he pulled a little lever and popped open the door, then turned to Ramona. “In you go!” he said cheerily. “It’s a drying chamber. If you like, I can have it clean your clothes at the same time.”
The girl nodded, trying to act casual, as if this were something she had done a hundred times before, though her eyes were too wide to complete the act. Still, she slowly stepped inside. The room was nothing but a little smooth bench to sit on and lots of little nozzles and holes all over the walls and ceiling and even the floor. The door closed, but since it was glass this didn’t particularly bother her. She got up on the bench and dangled her feet curiously.
There was a whoosh and gentle warm air began blowing all around her and over her clothing. It smelled like flowers, fruity bubblegum and floor cleaner, all things she liked. She grinned back at the Doctor’s grin through the glass and then stood up on the bench. “More!” she called out to him as loud as she could. “More!” His grin widened even further and he did something with a knob. The wind increased, sending her hair waving and streaming, first to one side and then to the other, then straight up. Ramona laughed and danced about, waving her arms, her hair waving above her and the buttons on her overalls buzzing in the vibration. This was way better than towels.
By the time the wind died down, she was warm, dry and greatly cheered up. The Doctor opened the glass door. “How did you like that?”
She ran out and hugged his leg briefly in a burst of youthful enthusiasm. “Let’s put Ribsy in there!”
Ribsy, however, had been watching these proceedings with a growing level of consternation. His ears didn’t like all the whooshing and humming going on and the smells that came out when the door was opened reminded him of when Henry was getting ready to give him a bath. By the time the tall man and the noisy girl turned towards him, he had already decided that he wasn’t about to let them get him into that little room.
He ran. The TARDIS gave a little vibration.
The Doctor shook his head as he watched the dog scud out of the room, tail low, his attention more on the faint flicker there had been in the lights. Ramona was already running after the wayward creature. “K-9?”
“Go keep an eye on them again, will you? You’ll keep things well in hand, I’m sure. I need to check on our progress.” He strode back out into the hallway and off to the console room, leaving the small tin dog to scoot along after the stowaways.
“This unit does not come equipped with hands.”