16 February 2007

New Companion, Old Earth - Chapter Two - Part 1

Saskia's mind moved up from the black depths of unconsciousness like a deep-sea diver rising towards the surface. She could see a blue-green light and became aware of a voice that sounded exhausted, yet infinitely patient. She struggled a moment to put a name to the voice.
"Doctor - ?"
"Saskia." There was a note of anxious relief in his voice.
"Where - ?"
"You're in the TARDIS. You're safe now." There was a note of reassurance this time, although Saskia could still hear tension and worry in the Doctor's voice.
"What happened?"
"What do you remember?"
"Horses – riding – falling – black." Somehow she couldn't manage a full sentence, and that was more worrying right now, than knowing what had happened.
"It's OK. Don't force it. You were riding out into the country with me. Something spooked your horse and he bolted. You were thrown off and injured."
Suddenly she realised the dull thudding she could feel was in her body. "Hurt?" she asked, dreading the answer, but needing to know.
"You broke both your legs and fractured your collarbone," the Doctor told her.
Saskia realised she was crying, then felt the Doctor's cool fingers wiping away her tears.
"It's OK. You're healing," he told her. "The TARDIS and I fixed you up."
She suddenly realised that the Doctor had been talking to her telepathically, his hands either side of her head, two fingers behind her ear and two in front.
"What - ?"
"You've been unconscious for several hours. Whatever spooked your horse was in your head. I've been fighting it, trying to bring you back to me."
She remembered a roaring, raging voice.
"Yes," said the Doctor, answering her thought. "Whatever was causing that fluttering you could sense yesterday is malicious and very, very angry. But when we find it, I am going to make it very, very sorry for hurting you." There was a menacing note in the Doctor's voice now, one she'd heard before, when he was dealing with the Rovians.
Slowly and carefully she opened her eyes and looked up into the Doctor's face. He looked utterly exhausted. His face was so pale his freckles were more obvious than usual. There were dark shadows under his eyes, his hair was a mess, and his lips were pursed in anger.
"Hello," he said, gently, aloud, as he moved his hands from her head.
She reached out feebly with one hand and he caught it in his own, squeezing her fingers gently.
"Doctor." To her ears, Saskia's voice sounded hoarse and husky, almost as if she'd spent hours shouting.
"I'm here," he said. "You need to sleep, to finish healing. I'm going to give you something to help you sleep. You'll feel better in a while."
"Water?" she asked.
He reached across to a nearby trolley and picked up a glass of water. He let go of her hand and put his arm around her shoulders, supporting her so that she could sip the water.
"Yes thank you."
He put the glass down again, one handed, before lowering her back onto the pillows. "I'm going to give you that shot now. Sleep well."
He pushed a needle into her arm and Saskia's eyes closed again. He leant forward and momentarily rested his forehead against Saskia's forehead. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt this exhausted or mentally wiped out. He took Saskia's hand in his own, then leaned back in his chair, knowing that he also needed to rest, if not sleep, at least for a while. The TARDIS would let him know if Saskia's health changed in any way.

When Saskia woke again, several hours later, she felt a bit better. Her body wasn't aching quite so much and her head felt clearer.
She realised that the Doctor was sitting beside her bed, holding her hand. For some reason, this embarrassed her more than the realisation that she wasn't dressed in her usual clothes, and that the Doctor must have undressed her at some point.
"Hello," she answered and struggled to sit up. The Doctor sprang up and lifted her shoulders, pushing another pillow behind her.
"How do you feel?" he asked, and Saskia could tell he was trying to sound cheerful.
"Battered, stiff and exhausted," she answered.
"What can you remember?"
"We were riding out into the countryside. You had detected a concentration of energy that was being transmitted to that alien artefact we saw at the Museum. My horse was – " she paused uncertainly for a moment, "spooked and bolted. Presumably I was thrown off."
The Doctor nodded. "Except your horse wasn't spooked so much as attacked. As were you."
"Attacked?" asked Saskia in disbelief. "How?"
"Whatever or whomever was transmitting that homing signal sensed you coming, and it smashed your empathic bond with the horse, causing him to bolt. I think you lost consciousness from that attack before you were thrown off, which is why you don't remember it. You were thrown against a dry stone wall, and you were lucky you only broke your legs and fractured your collarbone. If the wall had been any higher, you'd have cracked your skull."
Saskia looked at him in horror, then burst into tears, which horrified her even more. The Doctor leant over, putting an arm around her shoulders. She turned her head and sobbed into his shoulder for several minutes, whilst the Doctor made soothing noises and the TARDIS hummed comfortingly.

Eventually she sat up again and the Doctor handed her his handkerchief, although he kept hold of her left hand still.
"It's OK," he said softly. "You're in shock. The last 24 hours have been really traumatic."
"Twenty-four hours? How long was I unconscious."
"Too long for my liking," The Doctor answered vaguely.
"How did we get to the TARDIS?" asked Saskia, puzzled.
"Ah well, I have my previous self to thank for that trick. He set up a program, a sort of remote control option for the TARDIS."
"I remember," Saskia said. "You used it to send Rose back to Earth from Satellite 5 when the Daleks were attacking."
The Doctor nodded. "I decided to modify it so I could also call the TARDIS to me from a separate location, as well as sending her to another location without me being on board. The program controls are stored in my Sonic Screwdriver, so I just called her here and brought you into the medical bay for immediate treatment. We healed your legs and collarbone, although you'll be a bit stiff for a day or two, especially your right shoulder. Setting your bones and speeding up the healing process didn't take very long, but as soon as your pain began to subside, your mind came under attack again. I thought I was going to lose you, after we'd just patched you up."
The Doctor scowled at the memory before continuing. "I would have lost you without the TARDIS. If I'd had to take you to a hospital instead of being able to call the TARDIS to me." He reached out his free hand and patted the wall beside him, and the TARDIS hummed in a friendly tone.

"Can I get up?" Saskia asked after a moment, trying not to sound as if she was pleading, before realising that the Doctor would know how she felt, no matter what tone of voice she used, since he was still holding her hand.
"Yes you can get up, for a few hours at least. You'll probably feel a bit wobbly for a while though – you certainly need to eat." The Doctor paused, then said as casually as possible. "I'm afraid I'll have to help you to get dressed whilst your shoulder is still healing."
"Oh." Saskia looked away and did her best to block her emotions from the Doctor, although she felt sure he knew how embarrassed she was feeling at needing his help.
"As a Companion, I'm even more of a liability than an ordinary human," she said angrily. "If you didn't have an empath with you, none of this would have happened."
The Doctor reached out and turned her face back to his, his eyes seeming darker as they looked into hers. "And if I hadn't had you on board, I would never have known I should be looking for an empathic alien with a vicious streak. Who knows what it might be planning, or have already set in motion? But at least we know it's out there, and we'll find a way to stop it. We will find it and stop it," he told her emphatically. "It's not your fault you were injured, it's mine. I should have been taking better care of you."
"I can take care of myself," Saskia snapped back, then stopped abruptly, realising that she was snapping at the person who had saved her life twice now. Even worse was the realisation of how angry she was feeling, uncharacteristically angry.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly. "I don't know what's got into me."
The Doctor rubbed a finger across her cheek. "I do. Not exactly, not yet. But whatever that alien beastie was that was in your head, it left an echo of its rage behind it." He smiled at her. "I know you can take care of yourself, but having aliens attacking you is still a fairly new experience for you. I should have been more careful of your inexperience in that regard since I knew that our beastie uses telepathy. That device we found should have served as a warning. I won't be that careless next time we go hunting for it."
Saskia nodded, feeling too ashamed of her outburst to speak.
"You wanted to get up," the Doctor said. "Let's get you dressed and we'll take a picnic outside."
"Outside?" Saskia asked in surprise as she swung her legs over the side of the bed.
"Yes," the Doctor answered. "It's a lovely February day again out there. We can sit on the grass and eat. The sunshine will do you good."

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