My dragon was waiting already when I got back to the terrarium, having its small fingers pressed against the glass, together with the snout. When I entered it let out a tiny squeak.
"Hey there, Gary," I greeted. The dragon took a step back and shook the small head. "What? Not a good name? No, I didn't think so either. But look… I don't even know what gender you are." I squatted down in front of the glass, tapping against it with a smile. "Or if you even have one."
The dragon sat on its hind legs, almost mimicking my own posture. It's eyes were glued to me expectantly.
"Alright, alright. But don't you tell the Doctor, yeah?"
It let out a happy squeak and jumped against the glass, waiting impatiently for me to get out a tin foil pack with a slice of bacon in it. It was cut in several thin stripes, which I let down in the terrarium, only to see them vanish with astonishing speed.
"You're far too small to even store so much bacon, you know that, Susi?"
The dragon sneezed and glared at me, then bumped its nose against the glass.
"Right… I didn't like it either. How do you even chew that? You have no teeth."
Which didn't bother the little one at all. The next stripe vanished.
"How about Kuro? It means black in Japanese."
It didn't react.
"I know. Boring. What about Shade? No?"
The last stripe was gone and I watched the fletchling lick its hands, the tongue darting over snout and nostrils. I actually had discovered the hands only after I had smuggled in the first piece of meat. It had looked as if the thin, wingless arms ended in a hook. But at closer inspection I saw that it could spread those into three separate fingers.
After it had licked itself pristine, bending like a cat, it started to look at me again, head slightly tilted and feeling so… needing.
"Huh? What's that?" I muttered and reached a hand inside so the fletchling could happily wrap itself around my fingers. "Did I imagine or did you communicate?"
The dragon nibbled at my finger and nuzzled its head against my palm. A small pang of happiness was left inside of me and, again, I wasn't sure if it was my own or not.
"Your mom was telepathic too," I told it. "I bet you will develop an ability."
It played with my hands and eventually rolled together to a small ball, tail wrapped around a finger. Now I felt a short emotion of warmth and comfort and was almost sure it couldn't be my own.
While it slept, I watched some episodes of a TV show on my laptop, wearing headphones. But I could never completely tear my eyes away from the little creature. My hands were quite small and still it had enough space to sleep there, looking weird with the long arms that wore no wings yet.
Psychic abilities. What would I give to have those. Sure, there were hints of it, as the Doctor had mentioned. My uncanny ability to sense others' emotions or detect if they were lying without knowing how or why. But both of those skills seemed rather useless.
They didn't help with the Master and the fact that he didn't ask to continue the practice. He came to the library every so often, starting to ask the weirdest questions about humans. He wanted to know why so many preferred to eat in company, or how it came that they needed so much sleep. Once he played some music from a different planet and made me tell him what it made me feel. I never learned whether or not my answers were satisfying or telling him anything at all.
And like that almost a week passed.
"We're going in tonight," said the Doctor. "From every place we visited I took scans and everywhere I found super tiny traces of some alien substance. And you remember the guy with the cat flap?"
"Yup, I do. Do you think something comes in at night and… feeds on their fat or something?"
"Might be… yeah." He ran a hand through his hair, leaving it standing up in several directions. "And then there's the thing with missing people. Just get erased from the records, but of course, people still remember. Not many cases, honestly. Probably two, maximum three I can directly link to the pills."
"So… sometimes something does go wrong," I concluded.
"Maybe." The Doctor glared at the console screen, specs high up on his nose. "I'm honestly not sure. But I want to check them anyway, see if they do something illegal."
"Illegal?" I arched a brow. "Sounds like there is some kind of space police. And it sounds as if Adipose might do something that's actually allowed."
Chuckling, the Doctor turned to me, a toothy grin on his face. "Both are correct. Somewhat. There is something called the Shadow Proclamation and they made rules so we can all live together relatively peacefully."
"Wow. So, something like the Federation from Star Trek. Fancy."
"Yeah, innit?" He almost radiated joy with his words. "Aliens are allowed some activity on other planets. As long as they don't harm the inhabitants or interfere with their development in any way. There's a huuuuuge list. Reeeeaaally huge, believe me."
I nodded, able to imagine all too good how many rules and cases it might need to have something like that work out.
"So… we sneak in and see what they are up to when no one watches?" I concluded.
"That's the plan! If you want to come along that is."
"Uh… yeah, guess so." I shrugged, trying to hide how anxious the thought alone made me feel.
It wasn't only that I wanted to prove something to the Master. I had to prove this to myself. That I wasn't completely useless, that I could overcome my fears. I had beaten most of my social anxiety already, had faced the devil and a dragon. And an evil Time Lord.
This was fine.
Like that stupid picture of a cartoon dog drinking tea in a burning house - fine.
Humans had always scared me a lot more than any other danger. Because they were unpredictable and followed no logical patterns. One day they would smile at you and be your friend, only to lash out the next day, hurting and abandoning you for no apparent reason. They are out to hurt and to damage and they love to do it in subtle ways so you feel safe until it's too late.
Maybe, after all, that was why I liked the Master. He never hid how bad he was. It was a plain and simple fact that he wouldn't even want to hide. Sure, his actions oftentimes confused me quite a bit, but overall I knew what I was facing.
We got in through a back door which the Doctor simply soniced open. A flash of psychic paper here and there carried us past the few security people we came by. And then we waited in an unoccupied room until the building got noisy and busy, followed by eerily quiet. Everyone had left for the day, no phones were ringing anymore. Only the buzzing on neon tubes above our heads filled the silence.
The Doctor led the way, although he also had no idea where exactly to go. We slipped into several rooms, storages, offices and whatnot, the Doctor scanning everything he deemed interesting. He was probably searching for a laboratory or maybe documents about how those pills were made.
We climbed more and more stairs, sometimes hiding from patrolling security. Once I got grabbed right in time to be drawn behind a wall, heart pounding too fast. How strangely fast one was able to get used to constant fear, I thought at that moment. It became almost something like routine to sneak and hide and be scared of being detected.
The Doctor eventuell followed a signal he detected and led us up more stairs and eventually outside and into a window cleaner's cradle. I gulped, carefully stepping inside the thing and hoped it wouldn't break. With his sonic, the Doctor got the thing to move and also to pause when we reached the right window.
There were people inside. Luckily in an angle that would make us hard to see. Only if they would turn and specifically look in our direction. There were several guards, a dark skinned woman bound to a chair and also the blond lady with the big glasses from the presentation.
I could barely make out what they were saying, but they definitely were interrogating the bound girl. The Doctor seemed to have trouble hearing, too, judging by how he produced a stethoscope from his infinite pockets and pressed the end to the window. It looked silly and was also ironic, considering the name he used. Meanwhile I searched the room for anything interesting, anything that might tell me what was going on.
The bound woman was struggling here and there, but couldn't get free. The blond woman talked and talked. I made out something about human fat and children and eventually she turned to a desk to open a drawer and pick out a… small white creature.
I gaped at the little thing, the wide opened eyes, the small mouth with a single tooth in it. The alien was just a block of white stuff with short arms and feet. Completely adorable and roughly the size of a chihuahua.
Those couldn't be some kind of threat, could they?
I looked around to see if there were more of those and my eyes landed on a door on the opposite end of the room. Or rather, the round glass window in it.
A red haired woman stood there, glaring at us with wide eyes. When she saw that I was aware of her, she raised a hand, mouthed something I couldn't make out and pointed at the Doctor in a poking gesture. I blinked, surprised and nudged the Time Lord, nodding to the woman.
Again I got surprised. His mouth fell open and he mouthed something to the woman, who answered with what looked as if she called out his name. The two of them gestured back and forth, obviously bewildered and happy at the same time.
"Are we interrupting you?" asked the blond woman all of a sudden and lour enough for us to hear.
Our heads simultaneously shot in her direction, shocked that she had seen us.
"Run!" screamed the Doctor and stretched out his sonic to lock the door the red head was behind, so the guards couldn't follow her. "Crap, crap, crap. I need to get her before they do."
"You know her?"
The cradle slid upwards again, way faster than before, making me dizzy. When it reached the roof the Doctor jumped outside, not waiting for me to catch up, which forced me to stop thinking and just blindly follow him down a narrow staircase. I almost ran past the woman as she approached, not noticing me, but instead running up to the Doctor to hug him tightly.
"Oh my god, I don't believe it," she called out. "You've even got the same suit! Don't you ever change?"
The Doctor gently pushed her away. "Yeah, thanks, Donna. Not right now."
I heard heavy footsteps from the roof behind us and after a quick look we all ran down, as fast as we could. We ended in a dark wing of the building, sneaking through empty offices.
"I thought," muttered Donna, excited and still trying to be relatively quiet, "how do you find the Doctor? And then I just thought, look for trouble and then he'll turn up."
Despite the fear of being caught, I had to smile at her words. It was so horribly true, after all.
"So I looked everywhere," she went on in the same hushed voice, "You name it. UFOs, sightings, crop circles, sea monsters. I looked, I found them all. Like that stuff about the bees disappearing, I thought, I bet he's connected. Because the thing is, Doctor, I believe it all now. You opened my eyes. All those amazing things out there, I believe them all. Well, apart from that replica of the Titanic flying over Buckingham Palace on Christmas Day. I mean, that's got to be a hoax."
The Doctor stopped dead in his tracks, eyeing the red head with a raised brow. "What do you mean, the bees are disappearing?"
I tugged at his arm to get him moving again. "Don't just stop," I grumbled. "They could still catch us."
"It's what it says on the internet. Well, on the same site, there was all these conspiracy theories about Adipose Industries and I thought, let's take a look."
Now it was on me to toss her a bewildered glance and the Doctor chuckled. "Alright, alright. You two definitely have the upper hand in this time period."
"Shush!" I made, raising my hand to stop them both, then pointed at the door in front of us. "There are steps."
Everyone fell silent and we rushed to hide behind the door, pressed tightly against the wall in the hopes, whoever was coming wouldn't notice us in the darkness. Seconds ticked by, painfully slow, my heart again beating wildly in my throat. Eventually the door opened and in stepped only a single person, swallowed immediately by the darkness. I held my breath, hoping they would just walk by.
But they stopped, tilted their head and then turned in our direction.
"Don't harm us!" Donna called. "My mom knows I'm here, she'll call the cops on you lot, just you know!"
I let out a breath and sacked against the wall, convinced I would die of a heart attack any moment now. I would kick him. I would definitely kick him. Later.
"Donna, it's okay," said the Doctor. "He's with us. But… what the heck are you doing here, Master?"
The other Time Lord played with a pen in his fingers and gave us all a wide grin. "Was bored. And I overheard your talk about going here."
"We're in the middle of a run!"
"Did you just call that bloke Master?" asked Donna.
"Pst, I hear more steps!" the Doctor shushed her and gestured for the Master to close the door.
He did and watched with a cocked head how the Doctor soniced the lock shut. "I thought you lost your screwdriver."
"What? No, of course not. Why would you think that?"
The Master held out the pen he was playing with. "Found that in one of the rooms."
The Doctor took the pen, glaring at it in disbelief. "A sonic pen. How's there sonic pen?"
"Shut up," growled the Master and tugged at the other one's arm. "They're coming. Let's run."
He was right. The steps clearly came in our direction. As silently as possible we hushed back to where we had come from, hoping to get through the office room unnoticed. But the hope was in vain. Halfway through the room the lights flared to live above our heads, blinding me for a moment.
I stumbled to a halt, seeing the others did the same. There were people in front of us, weapons raised and people approaching from behind, not less armed. The blond woman stepped out from between them, regarding our little group with a haughty look.
"Well then, at last," she says.
Promptly the Doctor shot straight, wearing an impossibly confident look as he spoke. "Nice to meet you, I'm the Doctor."
"And his little gang? What are you here for? Stealing my secret?"
"Certainly not his gang," snorted the Master, his eyes firmly glued to the woman just to make her uneasy.
Which didn't seem to work. We were trapped, I realised. The Master couldn't hypnotise her without everyone else noticing and all ways were blocked. Panic started to rise as they continued speaking, making my head dizzy. Frantically I searched for a gap or anything at all where I could flee to. I was small enough… maybe…
"Matron Cofelia of the Five Straighten Classabindi Nursery Fleet. Intergalactic Class," answered the blond to a question I had missed.
"A wet nurse, using humans as surrogates," mumbles the Doctor, dumbfounded. "Seeding a level five planet is against galactic law."
"Oh, leave her be," drawled the Master with a dismissive hand gesture. "Those little things are probably twice as intelligent as those apes here anyway."
"Oi, take that back, martian!" shouted Donna. "Wait, are you an alien too?"
The Master shot her a grin that meant no good.
How could they all be so calm in a situation like that? They would shoot us. The Master turned his head to me, barely raising an eyebrow. I begged him with my eyes to do something. All the Doctor did was talk and that wouldn't save us for sure.
"Oh, I found this sonic pen," said the Doctor. "I'm sure it's yours. Sleek."
"Definitely sleek," agreed Donna.
"Yes, a very useful technology. You can't stop bullets with it, though."
At her words the guards all around us raised their guns. I stiffened, shamelessly grabbing the Master's hand. He tugged me to his side, but made no move otherwise, just sending me a short mental nod towards the Doctor.
"No, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on. One more thing, before dying," he blabbered. "Do you know what happens if you hold two identical sonic devices against each other?"
Foster raised both brows. "No."
And suddenly there was a triumphant grin on his face as he held both devices together. "Nor me. Let's find out."
An ear shattering wave shot through the room, nauseating and deafening. Immediately I felt sick and doubled over, would have fallen hadn't the Master held me in place and then tore at my hand to get me moving. It felt as if my head would burst, as if my stomach wanted nothing more than to empty itself. I heard Donna shout something, was vaguely aware of my legs moving and saw everyone around us was equally affected by the sound wave as I was. Or maybe not as much.
We ran past the guards, who had dropped their weapons, holding their hands over their ears, teeth gritted. Only the Time Lords seemed relatively unaffected, Donna looked surprisingly fine, too. Only for me it seemed to be as bad, maybe because of my oversensitive senses.
Somehow we got away, somehow we were still alive. Somehow I was aware of how we stumbled into a tiny room, barely big enough to hold us four.
"Well, that's one solution. Hide in a cupboard. I like it," mumbled Donna. "Well, not as much with him here." She pointed at the Master. "You, Mister, really have to work on your manners."
The Master shot her a menacing grin. "I have enough of those not to kick you out. Yet."
I took a few deep breaths, my body slowly calming down from the madness from before. The room truly wasn't big at all. We barely fit in there and the Doctor didn't make it better by tinkering with a machine in the back.
"You look older," remarked Donna. Her voice sounded a little concerned.
"Thanks?" The Doctor scowled at her for a second, sonic between his teeth.
I wondered where and how they might have met before and how much time might have passed for each of them afterwards. Absently I noted that my hand was empty now, the Master still by my side, but busy studying a few tiny displays on the wall.
"Well," continued Donna, "at least you're no longer on your own. That's something." She beamed at me, reaching a hand out. "Hey, Donna Noble. Nice to meet you two boys."
I took the hand and had to grin. "I'm Lucy, hey."
Her eyes widened. "But that's a girl's name, isn't… you're? Oh my god, you're a girl, I'm so sorry."
I giggled at her reaction. "It's okay. Happens a lot."
"Crap, crap, crap," muttered the Doctor, irritated.
A crackling sound came from some speaker, "Inducer activated."
"What's it doing now?" Donna asked with widened eyes.
The Master snickered, watching the other man fumbling frantically with the machine. "She's started the program."
"What program? And Why's that funny?" Her irritation was very well audible.
"Those cute little creatures she breeds," the Master explains, grinning. "I know that species. They transmit a genetic signal that then gets boosted and adjusted by tebelastrian waves to modulate the conversion of foreign fat cells into the respective DNA strands of their species. Which is how they breed, by the way. But in an emergency situation, the signal can be altered to speed up the birthing process. Meaning they start to convert everything they can get into new children. Bone, tissue, blood, you name it."
"Is that what happened to poor Stacy?" Donna looked devastated. She turned to the Doctor. "Do something! They have one million customers. If they all…"
"Yes! Yes, I know, Donna," snapped the Doctor. He ran a hand over his face and blinked at her. "Sorry. Sorry. I just don't see how I can fix this. If I still had the capsule with me, maybe. Didn't think it would get important. Stupid me."
"You mean the gold trinket?" Donna rummaged around in her pockets and produced one of the golden capsules I had nicked from the sales woman.
The Doctor halted all his movements and glared at the small object, his eyes widening in sudden joy.
"Brilliant!" he exclaimed, snatched the pill and screwed it open to plug it into a socket of the machine. "This contains a primary signal. If I can switch it off, the fat goes back to being just fat."
"How boring," mumbled the Master and I glanced up at him, inwardly cursing him for having stolen my own pendant.
"And what is wrong with you?" Donna glowered at the Master with a dark look. "One million lives are at stake. We have to protect them!"
He sneered at her, a cruel glint in his eyes. "I don't have to do anything for your pitiful race of ape brains. There," he stabbed a finger in the Doctor's direction. "He's the stars' forsaken all time hero. Not me."
I chuckled at his reaction, but all banter got interrupted as the computer voice told something new, something that made even the Doctor pale.