16 February 2007

New Companion, Old Earth - Chapter Two - Part 3

Half an hour later, Saskia walked into the Control Room and found the Doctor poring over one of the screens.
"What's the plan?" she asked.
He looked up and peered over his glasses at her, noticing that she looked brighter than she had earlier. "We-e-e-ell," he said, drawing out the word thoughtfully, before ruffling the back of his head. "I think we need to do two things. We need to take another look at that artefact at the Museum."
"And?" Saskia prompted when he did not immediately continue.
"We need to establish whether your increased telepathic abilities extend to anyone other than me."
"More tests?" Saskia asked, sounding resigned to a positive answer.
"Yes, but this time we'll just be checking to see how near you need to be to someone to feel the shape of their thoughts, if indeed you can do that with anyone else."
"So we're going back to Oxford then?"
"Yeah," the Doctor said, setting the co-ordinates. "Let's go to the Museum first, before they close for the day, and look at the artefact."
Saskia nodded and a few moments later the TARDIS dematerialised in the same alleyway where they had first arrived two days before. They hurried up St Giles and into the Ashmolean Museum, Saskia feeling relieved that she was able to keep up with the Doctor's longer stride. They made their way upstairs to the room where they had first seen the artefact. The Doctor pulled out his Sonic Screwdriver and unlocked the display case. Saskia stood with her back to him, watching the door and blocking him from the view of anyone who entered the room.
"We really need to take this with us," he murmured.
"How can we?" Saskia asked just as quietly. "Someone will notice it's missing."
"I think I know a way." He slipped the device into his inside breast pocket and with his other hand dropped something else into the case, before locking it again.
"Look," he said.
Saskia turned and looked into the case, her eyes widening with surprise. "How did you do that?" she asked disbelievingly.
"Good, isn't it?" the Doctor answered, with a smug grin on his face.
"Impossible," Saskia responded. In the case in front of her lay an exact replica of the device the Doctor had just pocketed.
"Come on. Let's go."
"But how did you do that?" Saskia demanded.
"Not here," the Doctor answered and headed for the door. Saskia followed, half reluctantly, looking back at the display case and wanting a closer look at the replica.
Once they were outside the Museum the Doctor gave her no chance to ask further questions, striding along the pavement so fast, he set his coat flapping.

Back inside the TARDIS, the Doctor fished the original artefact out of his pocket and popped it into a slot in the TARDIS console to scan it. He fished his glasses out of his pocket and put them on, peering at a screen. Saskia stood next to him, also peering at the screen.
"So how did you do it?" she asked, knowing he probably wouldn't be able to resist explaining.
"Oh I just used a little bit of technical trickery from the TARDIS. I created a less complicated chameleon circuit and set it to disguise a harmless bit of space junk as an exact replica. No one will notice the difference unless they examine it very closely."
"And if they do examine it that closely?" Saskia asked.
"Even if they do, they're not very likely to realise I was the one who pulled off the switch. No CCTV cameras around this early in the century."
"True," Saskia acknowledged.
"Right then, whilst the TARDIS is doing her work, let's go and get something to eat."
"Oh. OK," Saskia didn't try to hide her surprise.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow at her tone.
"I thought we'd have instant answers," she said apologetically.
"Not this time, sorry." The Doctor led the way out of the TARDIS again. "So, what do you fancy, food-wise?" he asked.
Saskia shrugged. "No idea. Surprise me."
The Doctor grinned cheerfully and Saskia suddenly wondered if she'd regret not being specific. He led the way back towards the town centre and soon she could smell something intriguing. She stopped and sniffed, and the Doctor grinned again.
"Smell that?" he said.
"What is it?"
"Fish and chips," the Doctor answered happily.
"Oh! It smells good."
"It is! Come on." He grabbed her hand and towed her up the street until they reached the source of the smell.
"Have you got any money?" Saskia asked suddenly.
The Doctor gave her a look of amusement. "Of course. The TARDIS provided some – no electronic cash machines around for me to zap in this period of history."
Saskia started and the Doctor noticed. "What is it?" he asked in concern.
"It's OK," she answered. "It's just that when you mentioned 'electronic cash machines', I got an image of you standing in front of a machine in the wall of a building, and the machine was dispensing banknotes into the air."
The Doctor looked surprised. "That happened a few weeks ago, before I visited your planet. I was here on Earth in the early 21st century." He nodded thoughtfully. "And we're not even holding hands now."
"I think my telepathic powers are strengthening," Saskia said equally thoughtfully.
"We'll have to test them," the Doctor said. "But food first. You need to keep up your strength."

Saskia nodded and followed him into the fish and chip shop. As they were waiting in the queue, Saskia suddenly grasped the Doctor's arm.
"What's wrong?" he asked, looking at her in concern, then glanced in the direction in which she minutely jerked her head. There was a young man standing a few paces behind them, positively leering at Saskia. The Doctor's expression hardened and he glowered down at the boy, whose own expression turned to one of surprise, then fear, before he darted out of the shop. The Doctor patted Saskia's hand, which was still clutching his arm.
"He's gone. Are you OK?" he asked.
Saskia nodded, then slid her hand down his arm to clasp his hand.
"I could hear his thoughts," she said, speaking into the Doctor's mind.
"I take it they were unpleasant?" asked the Doctor.
"He was quite sickening," she answered, with a mental shudder.
A voice broke into their silent conversation. "Who's next?"
The Doctor stepped up to the counter and placed their order. Saskia released her grip on his hand, feeling embarrassed by her reaction as well as what she'd read in the boy's mind.
"Come on," the Doctor said as they left the shop. "Let's go back to the TARDIS and eat this." He slipped his free hand through Saskia's arm as they headed back out of the town centre, neither of them speaking as they considered what had just happened.

Once inside the TARDIS they took off their overcoats, then settled on the Control Room bench to eat and talk.
"When did you realise you could hear what that boy was thinking?" asked the Doctor as he unwrapped his portion of chips, his feet propped up on the edge of the console.
"As soon as he came into the shop," Saskia answered. "At first he was just thinking about what he was going to eat, just like the couple who were in front of us."
"So when all three of them were a foot or two away?"
Saskia nodded, her mouth full of hot chips.
"I wonder how far away someone would need to be before you couldn't hear their thoughts?"
"I don't know, but I think we should find out," Saskia answered, abruptly.
"Then we shall. Let's eat first, then we'll have a walk around the town and see what we can establish."
They ate in silence for several minutes before the Doctor spoke again.
"Do you want to talk about what that boy was thinking about?" he asked gently.
Saskia blushed. "It was crude –" she paused, then added, "and sexual."
"I guessed that much," the Doctor answered. "The look on his face was a big clue."
"He was imaging what might do to me, if he had the chance and it wasn't very – " she paused again, feeling silly, "respectful."
"I'm sorry," the Doctor said.
Saskia looked up in surprise. "Why are you sorry?" she asked. "You weren't thinking it."
"No, but I brought you here, and I got you involved in this. I'm the one who exposed you to a telepathic being who's been seriously messing with your head," the Doctor answered, annoyance and frustration in his tone.
"And I'm the one who volunteered," Saskia answered snappishly. "You offered to take me back home and I said I'd stay with you."
"Yes, but you didn't know what you were signing up for," argued the Doctor.
"Well I knew it wasn't going to be a tea-party!" Saskia voice rose in annoyance, then she stood up abruptly. "You don't have to mollycoddle me!" she shouted, then stormed out of the Console Room, leaving the Doctor staring after her in astonishment.
"Well that could have gone better," he remarked ruefully to the TARDIS, who hummed back at him. He patted the console. "I know, old girl. I think that beastie might be heading back this way. I'd better go and find her."

He set off down the corridor, pausing to put his chip wrapper in the recycling unit in the kitchen, then looked for Saskia in her room. She wasn't there, so he went on to the library, guessing she might have gone there for the comfort of a familiar environment.
Saskia looked up from the chair in which she was huddled as the Doctor came in and knelt beside the chair. He took both her hands in his own and looked up at her face. Her eyes were full of tears, although she wasn't yet crying.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I don't intend to mollycoddle you, but since we've arrived on this rock, you've had your mind attacked and broken several bones. If I had been a bit more cautious, you might have been spared both those things."
Saskia swallowed. "I shouldn't have shouted at you," she said huskily.
"We-e-e-ell, you're not the first of my Companions to shout at me," the Doctor answered. "At least you didn't slap me like Donna, or Rose's mum!"
Saskia made a noise that was half a sob and half a laugh. "I wanted to," she said. "I wanted to thump you." She did start crying then. "Doctor, what's happening to me?"
The Doctor reached out and pulled her into a hug, patting her back as if she was a small child. "It's that beastie," he told her. "I think it's heading back our way, and the closer it gets to you, the stronger the effects of its emotions on you." He sat back a little and put a finger under her chin, lifting her face to his. "That's not your rage you're feeling, it's the beastie's. Try to remember that."
Saskia swallowed and nodded. The Doctor pulled out his handkerchief and dried her eyes and face gently.
"I think we'll leave doing any more tests until the morning," he said. "The last two days have been exhausting and demanding. Why don't you go and get some sleep?"
"I don't know if I can sleep," Saskia answered.
"Do you want me to come and sit with you for while?"
She nodded again.
"Come on then," The Doctor stood up, then pulled her out of the chair. They went back to her room.
"You get settled," he said, pausing outside the door to her room. "I'm just going to fetch something."

A few minutes later he knocked on her door.
"Come in."
Saskia was sitting up in bed, wearing her blue checked pyjamas. She looked puzzled at the sight of the book that the Doctor was carrying as he crossed the room and say in the chair beside her bed.
"Are you going to read me a bedtime story?" she asked.
"Sort of," he answered with a smile.
"Oh!" Saskia didn't know if he expected her to be amused by his answer. "Very well," she said, lying down and closing her eyes. The next moment she started and opened her eyes again when the Doctor took her left hand in his right one.
"It's OK," he assured her. "Just close your eyes and listen. I'm going to give you some images to accompany the words." He squeezed her fingers gently and she obediently closed her eyes again.

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