'You have got to be kidding me,' Donna breathed.
'Why would I be kidding you?' the Doctor asked, 'Personally I think it's a brilliant plan myself.'
'You think that crawling through a ventilation shaft is a brilliant idea?!' Donna exclaimed, 'It's the oldest cliché in the book!'
They had both left the TARDIS with K9 and made their way to the prison cells where Donna had previously been held. Finding two Movellans guarding the door, they moved back the way they came, until they came to the ventilation shaft leading to the prison cells. The Doctor saw the shaft as the idea of a genius. Donna saw it as the idea of an idiot. 'I mean', she continued, 'the idea's been used hundreds of times!'
'One million, two thousand, eight hundred and seven times to be exact, Mistress Donna,' K9 confirmed.
'Exactly my point,' Donna finished, before realising what K9 had said and asking him 'How many?!'
'Which is why it's the perfect plan,' said the Doctor, 'because it's so obvious the Movellans will disregard the idea and try to think of a better plan we would come up with!'
'Yeeaahh!' Donna said slowly, unconvinced and confused by the Doctor's logic.
'K9, can you cut through the grill over the vent?' the Doctor asked.
'Affirmative Master,' replied the robot dog, extracting his laser and starting to cut through the grill. Donna looked at K9 and remembered when every one of the Doctor's Children of Time had gathered around the TARDIS console and brought the Earth home, with the help of K9 who was on the planet at that point. She remembered the joy of the time, and then she remembered the terrible moment when the Doctor had to take her home. Everything that she was, gone in a moment.
Donna sighed. She couldn't go back to how things were before. She had a husband and a life back on Earth and she certainly couldn't travel with an earlier version of the Doctor, not without creating a time paradox. But all the same, she would miss her travels in the TARDIS. She looked at the Doctor, who was clearly enjoying himself immensely. He didn't seem to have any of the heartache he would endure in the future and he seemed more alive for it. Donna had to struggle to keep herself from crying, thinking about all that the Doctor had now, that he would lose so much of in the future. He wouldn't even know that in the end, she still remembered him.
Her thoughts were abruptly interrupted as K9 finished cutting through the grill, which fell with a clang on the floor, making her jump slightly. 'The way is clear master,' reported the metal dog.
'Good boy K9!' congratulated the Doctor, who then turned to Donna, 'Right Donna, I need you and K9 to get the scientists out through this shaft and take them to the teleport that the Movellans used to get you here. K9 will be able to operate the teleport and send them back to their respective time zones.'
'Hold on a minute, Martian boy,' Donna interrupted, 'why don't we just get them into the TARDIS, it'll be safer there for them.'
'Firstly,' said the Doctor in a 'trying to be authoritative' tone of voice, 'I am not from Mars, as you already know. And secondly, we were lucky that the Movellans haven't discovered the TARDIS before now, but I'd imagine they'd have found her by now. I think it would be wiser if we acted a bit more cautiously from now on, don't you?'
'Oi, no need to patronise me, spaceman,' replied Donna sharply, 'But what are you going to do in the meantime?'
'Head to the power room,' explained the Doctor, 'I've going to try and use the equipment there to immobilise the Movellans.'
'All right Doctor,' said Donna, 'Just be careful, all right?'
'I'm always careful,' said the Doctor, before adding, 'Well, most of the time anyway.' He then started dashing down the corridor towards the power room.
'Oh all right,' sighed Donna, before turning to K9 and asking, 'Do you want to go through first, or shall I?'
The Doctor moved cautiously down the corridor, careful not to be spotted by any guards. He hadn't told Donna this for fear of further incredulous looks from her, but he had no idea where the power room actually was and he also needed a layout of the generator's workings. So before he could go any further, he first needed to find a computer terminal to get the information he needed, which would make stopping the Movellans much easier.
He hoped that Donna and K9 were having better luck at their end. It seemed strange that he was so willing to trust Donna when he barely knew her at all, yet somehow she had managed to win his absolute confidence in her. Whether it was the fact that she had his mind in her brain or she had a trusting face, he could not tell. She certainly seemed quite capable of standing up for herself and she seemed absolutely delighted to see him. She and his future self must get on fairly well.
A thought suddenly crossed the Doctor's mind. If his future incarnation had indeed wiped Donna's memories and returned her home, then that meant he did not remember the events happening now. But why? And why didn't the distress signal sent by Donna's subconscious reach that incarnation's TARDIS instead of his?
Putting the questions aside for the moment, the Doctor eventually found a communications screen set in the wall further down the corridor. Quietly crossing over to it, the Doctor got out his Sonic Screwdriver and pressing it against the screen, he began to remove the metal seals keeping the screen in place. In less then a minute, the seals were removed and the screen swung open like a door, showing the electronics inside, connected to the rest of the ship.
The Doctor worked quickly to reconfigure the electronic connections, so that the screen could now connect to the main computer, enabling him to hack into it. Once this was done, the Doctor swung the screen shut and began to browse through the ship's data logs, which were now shown on the communications screen. He soon found the schematics of the power generators and he breathed a sigh of relief, satisfied that his plan had a chance of working. The screen also showed the location of the power room, two levels below, with an anti-gravity platform nearby to move between the levels.
The Doctor was just starting to bend down to look closer at the screen, when an energy bolt surged right across where his head was a moment ago. Spinning around, he saw two Movellans marching towards him, firing laser beams at him. "So much for stealth,' grumbled the Doctor, before he started to dash down the corridor, with the Movellans pursuing him.
Sev and a trooper were guarding the prison cell when she became aware of a strange banging noise in the ventilation system behind her. Suspicions raised, she moved to the nearby ventilation opening and saw that the grill had been cut open. Realising at once what had happened, Sev picked up the grill covering and forced it back into place, before moving to the controls for the flow of hot air through the shaft. She began to raise the heat level to maximum…
'Whoever said that ventilation shafts are the easiest way of getting around!' grumbled Donna as she crawled behind K9 towards the hatch leading into the prison cell. It was one of the most uncomfortable experiences she had the misfortune to endure. The shaft was cramped, generally noisy from the echoes of her moving down the shaft, and she was getting bruises all over her legs and hands. And to top it all off, it now seemed to getting hotter in the shaft, making her sweat buckets!
K9's ears suddenly started spinning frantically. 'Danger Mistress Donna! Temperature rapidly increasing!'
'You don't say!' gasped Donna, now really feeling the heat, 'Come on, let's keep going or we'll boil!'
They moved desperately down the shaft, which kept getting hotter by the second. The metal floor of the shaft was beginning to get red hot and Donna had to wrap the ends of her sleeves around her hands to stop them getting burnt. Finally they reached the opening leading into the prison cell and K9 extended his laser to cut through the grill. But he didn't start cutting!
'Come on Robo Dog, what are you waiting for?' Donna exclaimed, getting weaker from the heat.
'Laser circuits have overheated', explained K9, 'This unit has insufficient power!'
Donna's heart sank. If K9 couldn't cut through the grill, then they had no way of escape. They were going to die here, trapped in the shaft.
'I knew this was a useless idea!' Donna gasped, before everything went black.