"Lead the way," the Doctor offered happily, waving towards the doors.
I remembered the last time and how sceptical I had been. Now I felt almost calm about the prospect of stumbling out onto an alien world. Which didn't mean I wouldn't be suspecting a monster or plainly an abyss to wait right outside. Some vague thought-cloud in my mind told me I should be weary, afraid even, but the rest of me simply wasn't able to. Even though the Doctor very much seemed like a man to simply throw someone into an unknown danger.
So I opened the door and peeked through the door slit, raising an eyebrow immediately at the sight, before I stepped out, followed by both Time Lords. The last trip with the Doctor had made me expect some weird and curious place, instead we were...
"That's a cargo room," I mumbled, slightly disappointed.
"I think we've landed inside a cupboard." The Doctor chuckled to himself, observing his ship that had squeezed itself between two containers. He eyed the Master and as my gaze followed I saw him rolling his eyes. The Doctor, however, clearly in high spirits, spun around and took the half step towards the only door. "Here we go."
Swiftly, as if it were the most normal thing in the universe, he opened the door with a metal wheel, then started to ramble about bases and kits and human design. I didn't really listen. The octagonal shaped corridor in front of us had all my attention, it and all the weird noises from around, including a computer voice that told us which doors were just opened and closed.
"Is there a storm going on, outside?" I wondered. "Sounds nasty."
"Yeah, might be," the Doctor blabbered on. "Be glad, we're inside. Although the TARDIS' shields would protect us from the worst. Should. Usually does, actually."
"Except for that one visit on Gjerlat, where the acid hail surprised you?" the Master sneered. "And there you were nagging around, just because I blew a hole in the mountain."
"I wouldn't have nagged, would you have looked, before shooting!" the other Time Lord protested. "You buried half a village under rubble!"
The Master just shrugged.
'Open door 17', the computer voice told.
We all stepped into a small room with tables and chairs. It looked plain, simple. Nothing special or telling where we were.
"Oh, it's a sanctuary base," the Doctor concluded happily. "Deep space exploration. We've gone way out."
"What's that noise?" I wanted to know, straining my ears with closed eyes. "Are those the machines keeping the oxygen circulating? Water pipes... ventilation?"
"No, someone's drilling." He glared at the ground, hopping up and down on his heels.
"Welcome to hell," the Master spoke forebodingly.
"Oh, come on, Master! We've had worse trips already."
"You mean, forced excursions with you?" The other Time Lord snorted. "Still, you might find this here interesting. It doesn't translate."
"What?!" the Doctor called out and hopped next to the Master to observe a wall that was smeared with black writing.
The top line actually read 'Welcome to hell', but the writing below was indecipherable. Just a bunch of strange symbols, that looked to me as if someone had plainly nicked them from some videogame. But who am I to judge when it comes to alien languages.
"Hey, Doctor," I chimed in, interrupting his inspection as I remembered something, "You said the TARDIS translates every language."
"Exactly. If that's not working, then it means this writing is old. Very old. Impossibly old. We should find out who's in charge."
"We should find out what the heck is on this planet," the Master added, curiosity glimmering in his eyes. "If the TARDIS' knowledge is exhausted, we might have stumbled upon something powerful."
I tossed a glance at him, barely containing a giggle. Funny how two men could be eager to learn about the same thing, but for such completely different reasons. And I was rather certain the Master wasn't interesting in old stuff, just because to seek knowledge. Quite in opposite to the Doctor. He was still a mystery to me, but it seemed as if he found great joy in exploring the unknown.
Extremely eager indeed, seeing how quickly he wheeled open the next door to hop right through.
"For fricks sake, move, man!" the Master growled as he almost bumped into him.
"Oh! Right. Hello. Sorry. I was just saying, err, nice base," came the Doctor's voice from the other side.
I squeezed myself through the half open door and startled at the sight of dozens of humanoid alien creatures looking straight at us. They wore weird jumpsuits and had tentacles instead of noses and mouths. Their hands held a small sphere that seemed to be connected with them in some way. Suddenly their spheres glowed and all at once started to talk.
"We must feed!"
"Not on us!" the Master growled and shoved me right back behind him, when I tried to squeeze past.
"We must feed! We must feed!"
They started to repeat those words over and over again, slowly stepping closer.
"Wait, wait," the Doctor called, raising his hands, "I'm sure we can talk about this!"
"Ohhh, listen to you!" the Master sneered and grabbed the nearest chair. "You're always all words!"
As the creatures trod closer he simply whacked the furniture over the nearest head, sending the alien limply to the ground. The others stopped, still repeating their phrase though. One of them shook its globe and blinked.
"You," it said. "If you are hungry."
"Sorry?" the Doctor replied dumbfounded.
Finally I overcame my frozen state and stepped next to him, glaring at the lifeless body on the ground and the Master, who still held the chair, ready to strike again. Weirdly enough, the aliens didn't even seem to realize what he had done and simply stood there. The one from before spoke up again.
"We apologise. Electromagnetics have interfered with speech systems. Would you like some refreshment?"
"Are those machines?" I asked curiously, baffled by their indifferent behaviour.
'Open door 18,' the computer voiced. And in stepped a bunch of people, who seemed as dumbfounded as we were.
A dark haired woman stepped towards the knocked out alien, while an older guy rushed towards us, casting a quick glance at the Master, before he halted right in front of the Doctor and pressed a button on a device on his wrist. Obviously a communicator.
"Captain, you're not going to believe this," he spoke, eyes wide in wonderment. "We've got people. Out of nowhere. I mean, real people. I mean three living people, just standing here right in front of me."
A male voice from the communicator answered, "Don't be stupid, that's impossible."
"I suggest telling them that," the older guy responded and lowered his hand.
"Jefferson," the dark haired woman interrupted. "That Ood here is dead."
The other creatures didn't even wince at the news, nor did they move or speak again. The older guy, Jefferson, didn't seem impressed by that and hurled around to the Master. "Why the heck did you do that? Put that chair away!"
The Time Lord gave the man a dark look, but sat the furniture to the ground. "You stupid pets attacked us," he growled, "It's every person's right to defend themselves."
"Yeah, but it's just an Ood!" Jefferson exclaimed.
"It could be a Florks and I still wouldn't care," the Master grumbled.
"Wait. You don't know what an Ood is?" the man exclaimed. "And how did you get here anyway? Do you even know where you are? "
"Nope, no idea," the Doctor replied and grinned. "More fun that way."
All talk was interrupted by the whole base suddenly shaking. An earthquake? Through the speakers of the room a female voice told something about point five. In an instant the old man ran to the doors, followed by his comrades. Only the Ood didn't move at all, as if they didn't even notice what was going on.
They seemed as baffled as I was, my body automatically going into freeze mode again. And then there was a hand slipping into mine and tugging at it, forcing me to stumble forwards."Move, stupid!" the Master snarled.
I did. What else was there to do? I didn't want to stay behind, not alone and also not with those aliens. Whatever they might be. We ran through another one of those narrow corridors, everything around us shaking. Through the next door we entered another room, bigger than the last one and with a large console in its middle. A bunch of people stood around it, each of them glaring at us as if we were ghosts.
Jefferson closed the door while the shaking ceased.
"People, look at that! Real people," a young woman remarked.
"Yeah, that's us, hooray!" the Doctor chimed, hands buried in his pant pockets.
Somehow I fought the urge to hide, uncomfortable with the sudden attention. Social anxiety is a wild and persistent beast. And while I had tamed it to a huge degree, it still tore at its chains from time to time. Especially in such sudden situations like these. My pulse quickened and I felt a little shaky. The other hand vanished from mine, leaving me suddenly bare and without a hold.
"The Doctor, nice to meet you," the Time Lord introduced. "This is the Master, don't ask. And the little one is Lucy."
I startled at hearing my name, my pulsing shooting up even higher as everyone stared at me for a moment. Somehow I managed to smile. The same fake smile I had studied in so well people couldn't tell it apart from a real one.
They all spoke at once, one guy stepping closer, babbling something about hallucinations. Another man with dreadlocks scolded him.
"Whoever you are," he continued, "just hold on... tight."
"Alright!" The Doctor beamed all over his face as if this were the greatest adventure of his lifetime. "What's happening there, mind me asking?"
"Impact in 3... 2... 1..." the dark skinned man instead told.
I had no time to find a good halt, wanted to grab the door wheel, but already the quake shook us wildly. Someone caught me, wrapped one arm around my torso and pulled me back.
Two times the ground shook beneath our feet, the second time a lot longer and more violent than the first. Fires started to burst out of some machines, electric sparks flew through the room, all while an ear piercing alarm shrilled through the air.
Eventually, though, it stopped and people rushed about to extinguish the fires, voices called out, telling they were okay. I took a deep breath and tried to straightened up, then realized the arm that still held me and glanced up to see it belonged to the Master.
The whole situation was way too sudden for my taste. I had no idea how to react and my mind had no time to adjust. Still, my body stopped shaking, my pulse calmed. But then I remembered how the Master had treated me, after I had woken up, how he had pushed me away as if I were something disgusting.
"Let go," I demanded, brows narrowing.
He cast a look down so dark as if it were my fault that he held me. His arm vanished and he left me standing there, moving around the console to inspect everything.
"What's this planet called, anyway?" the Doctor asked, meanwhile.
"Now, don't be stupid," one of the women scolded with raised brows. "It hasn't got a name. How could it have a name?" She paused and looked at our clueless faces. "You really don't know, do you?"
I shook my head and the Doctor went "Nope!", popping the 'p'.
The Master scowled at the holographic display. As I stepped next to him I saw a bunch of red blinking things on it.
"Hey, I'm Zach by the way, acting Captain," he introduced himself with a short smile, his attention however not really with us. "Damn... The surface caved in. Alright... I deflected it onto storage five through eight. We've lost them completely." He looked up and searched the room. "Toby, go and check the rocket link."
"That's not my department," a skinny, blond man grumbled.
"Just do as I say, yeah?"
"Five to eight... wasn't that..." the Master mumbled into his beard, his look getting darker by the second. "Hey, human," he addressed the Captain and pointed at the screen. "Wasn't that near habitation area six?"
The man raised an eyebrow, but nodded. "Yeah... that was among it. Why."
"What?!" the Doctor called out, having overheard it all. "No, no, no, no! That can't be! Storages, right? Bit of a cupboard in size?"
His face grew paler by the second and he was about to run straight outside, but got grabbed by the arm by one of the armed guys. "Hey! No running around our base until we at least know who-"
"But my ship was in there! My TARDIS! It's all we've got. Literally!"
The older of the two women trod towards him and lay a hand on his arm. "Is that how you came here? What sort of ship was that?"
"Yes... yes. Hard to explain. It just sort of... appears." It seemed as if he was close to tears by now. "It can't be gone. We have to get it back somehow. You've got robot drills heading the same way..."
"We can't divert the drilling," Zach said firmly. "We've only got the resources to drill one central shaft down to the power source, and that's it. No diversions, no distractions, no exceptions. Your machine is lost. All I can do is offer you a lift if we ever get to leave this place, and that is the end of it."
It was obvious that he wouldn't allow for any argument. The mood palpably dropped, even the room seemed to get colder as a heavy silence lay itself upon us like a heavy blanket. Could we really be trapped here? The possibility... no, fact, refused to sink in with me. And I barely got the time to think about it all too much.
A low chuckle made us all look in one direction and it took everyone a good second to realize what we saw.
"Oh, I really think you can make an exception here," the Master told, matter-of-factly and with an almost sarcastic smile as he pointed a stolen rifle at the Captain.