The crowd cheered as the last of the invading soldiers fled up the loading ramp into the hulk of a spaceship. Once the metal walkway rose into the hull and sealed with a resounding clunk, the ship rose into the air with surprising grace, then streaked away.
Saplasin, the tall, tow-headed mayor of the city, ran up to the Doctor, who was pushing through the crowd toward the large warehouse on the west side of the square. “You did it!” he breathed, eyes shining with gratitude. “They’re gone! We’re saved!”
“Yes, yes,” the Doctor snapped without looking back, “but it will all be for nought if I can’t stop that bomb!”
“Bomb?” screamed the Mayor. The word spread like wildfire through the crowd turning the jubilant atmosphere to instant panic. The Doctor could no longer push people out of his path, even resorting to thwacking them with his umbrella to no avail. He spun on the appalled man.
“Now see what you’ve done?” he thundered. “Precious seconds ticking away, and it won’t just take out the building. It’ll destroy the whole province!”
Horrified, the mayor threw himself against the wall of people. “Out of the way!” he cried. “Get out of the way! Let the Doctor through.”
“There’s not enough time,” the Doctor murmured numbly, though he continued to follow Saplasin down the path he opened. “Any moment now, that thing will -“
The crowd threw itself to the ground as one, then looked up, a hundred pairs of eyes blinking in confusion. It hadn’t been a particularly loud boom, certainly not one to level the countryside, or, apparently, even a town square. There wasn’t even any debris falling over them. The only thing they were certain of was that the sound had come from the warehouse.
“Well,” Saplasin mused, “that wasn’t so bad, as bombs go.”
“No, it wasn’t, was it?” The Doctor leapt to his feet, tipped his hat, which had been knocked off when he dove to the ground, into the air with his foot and flipped it onto his head, and stormed off to the warehouse.
The Doctor stopped abruptly the moment he stepped foot inside the building, and Saplasin bowled right into his back, apologizing profusely as he grabbed the smaller man to steady him. The Doctor shushed him and strode to his companion, who had been fussing over a large stainless steel cylinder twice her size sitting in the centre of the vacant chamber.
“Ace,” he hissed. “What are you doing?”
“Don’t worry, Professor,” she replied with a self-satisfied grin. “It’s safe. I disarmed it.”
“You disarmed it.” he repeated carefully.
“You disarmed a bomb… with a bomb.”
“Nitro-9!” she beamed. “Of course, I don’t carry the stuff anymore, like you ordered, but I guess I missed one when I cleaned out my rucksack.”
“Handy, that,” he glowered. “And just how do you disarm a bomb with a bomb?”
“Oh, that. Well, you said it was a standard nuclear bomb, which means you got to start the chain reaction. Nitro-9 can’t do that or break through the shell,” and she rapped her knuckles on the thick steel casing, “but I figured it would destroy the arming device.” She bent down and picked up a fragment of plastic at her feet. “See?”
“But you could have killed us all!” spluttered Saplasin.
“Which would have happened if she’d done nothing,” spat the Doctor. “Good work, Ace. I will keep your ingenious bomb-disarming method in mind. And perhaps I shall have to rethink my moratorium on Nitro-9.” He held up a finger as Ace drew in a quick breath to celebrate. “Perhaps. For now, let us remove this device to the TARDIS. Saplasin here has a lot of work to do to get his town back to normal,”
“Yes,” Saplasin said with a bow. “We owe you a debt of gratitude, Doctor, Ace.”