06 March 2007

The Desert of Einfuhlung - Chapter 3, Part 2

The Doctor followed her back out of the Museum, where they discovered that the rain had stopped, as Saskia had predicted.
"By the way, I think you should have this." The Doctor held out his hand. On his palm lay a silver key.
Saskia looked at the key, then up at the Doctor. "Why?"
"Because you might need to get into the TARDIS when I'm not around, and I'm not 100% certain she'll let you in without me, even though she likes you."
"Oh." Saskia took the ordinary-looking key from the Doctor's hand, with a slight feeling of disbelief, even unreality. "Thank you," she said and pocketed it.
The Doctor gave her one of his dazzling grins. "No problem. Come on, let's go and find our disgruntled young friend." He strode off up the street, past the TARDIS and out onto the main road. Saskia caught up with him and pointed along the street. "The Academy is that one," she said.
The Doctor saw an eight storey building that managed to look imposing despite being surrounded by far newer buildings.
"It doesn't look very big," the Doctor commented.
"It's bigger on the inside," Saskia answered with a grin to rival the Doctor's.
"Really?" he asked, wide-eyed.
"Not really," she answered. "Although it does have two floors underground. It just covers a lot more ground behind that rather narrow frontage. "
"I'm disappointed it's not bigger on the inside," he said.
They walked swiftly up the street and reached the building Saskia had indicated. The Doctor followed her up the steps to the wide entrance doors, where she entered a number on the keypad. She walked over to a computer terminal on the wall and pressed some buttons, which displayed a class schedule.
"Hmm. It doesn't look like he's teaching today, so let's try his office."
The Doctor followed Saskia over to the lift. "Which floor is he on?"
"The fifth. If he's not in his office, we'll try the library."
"You – ah – can't pick out his mind, then?" the Doctor asked hesitantly.
"Not with so many people here," Saskia answered. "If it was early or late in the day and there were fewer people around, I could have done it as soon as we walked in. But there are probably around 3000 people in here now."
The Doctor nodded. "OK."

The lift chimed and they stepped out into a quiet corridor lined with office doors. "This way," Saskia said and set off. The Doctor followed her slowly; he had a strange niggling feeling that someone was trying to send him a message telepathically. He frowned, trying to pinpoint its source. He shook his head as if to shake off the feeling.
"Doctor, are you OK?" Saskia asked, looking at him anxiously. Since they had been linked telepathically so often in the last few days Saskia could pick up his thoughts and feelings more clearly than anyone else's amidst the cacophony of the 3000 people in the area.
He nodded, then tugged at his ear. "Yeah, I just had the feeling someone was trying to give me a message," he answered.
"Who was it?"
"I've no idea," the Doctor answered. "I couldn't make that out. Come on, let's see if your friend's in, shall we?"
"He's in," Saskia answered, then knocked on the door.
"Come in," answered a husky voice.
Saskia frowned slightly, but pushed open the door and went into Jeff's office, the Doctor close behind. They both blinked a little in the gloom. Jeff hadn't bothered to turn on the lights and the window was curtained. They squinted at the figure who was in the corner of the room. Saskia turned and reached for the light switch.
"Don't, please," Jeff said, his voice still husky.
"Jeff?" Saskia stepped forward a few paces, then stopped abruptly. She swore softly under her breath as she caught sight of his face.
The Doctor brushed past her and knelt down beside Jeff's chair. "Put that light on," he said, nodding at the desk lamp, as he pulled out his Sonic Screwdriver.
Saskia clicked the light on and winced when she saw the bruising and lacerations on Jeff's face and neck.
"Who did this?" the Doctor demanded harshly as he used his Sonic Screwdriver to scan Jeff's face and neck.
"I don't know," Jeff answered. "I couldn't see them clearly. They were wearing hoods and scarves over their faces." He gasped as the Doctor gently touched his right cheekbone.
"I think that's cracked," he said. "We should get him into the TARDIS. I can heal his injuries quickly with her help."
"Can you walk?" Saskia asked, suddenly noticing way Jeff was sprawled in the chair.
"No," he answered. "They broke my left ankle and my right knee."
"What are we going to do?" Saskia asked the Doctor.
"I'm going to go and fetch the TARDIS here. It's quicker than trying to carry him between us. Once he's healed and rested, we can talk to him." The Doctor got to his feet. "Stay with him, I won't be long."
Saskia hesitated then nodded.
"I'll be back as soon as I can, I promise." The Doctor clasped her hands in his own, then hurried out.

"Where's he going?" Jeff asked, sounding puzzled as well as exhausted.
"He'll be back shortly," she said. She knelt down in the spot the Doctor had just vacated and took Jeff's hands in her own. "Can you show me what happened to you?" she asked.
He looked at her, frowning. "Show you?"
"I'll try." He closed his eyes and Saskia did the same, reaching into his mind and concentrating. She tried not to think about how easy this had become in the last few days. She saw Jeff unlocking his office door and caught a glimpse of the clock on his desk before two dark figures sprang at him from the corridor, knocking him into the room. Both were tall, powerfully-built men, who wore dark clothes, including hooded tops. And as Jeff had said, they had dark coloured scarves wound across their faces. Saskia caught a brief glimpse of blue eyes, but no more than that as they set about beating Jeff in a systematic manner. She winced when she heard the crack of his bones, and swallowed her revulsion when one of them lashed out at Jeff's face with a riding crop, lacerating his cheek and no doubt cracking it in the process, if the Doctor's diagnosis was correct.
She felt certain that whoever these men were, they weren't native Empathians. Jeff's recollection stopped abruptly and she realised they'd knocked him out. She opened her eyes and saw that he looked faint now. She glanced at the clock on his desk. The Doctor had been gone at least ten minutes, hopefully he would be back shortly. She wondered if the TARDIS would fit into the corridor outside. She glanced at the clock again, beginning to feel nervous about the situation.
"Come on Doctor," she muttered under breath. "Hurry up, please." She strained her ears for the familiar noise of the TARDIS dematerialising nearby, but could only hear Jeff's raspy breathing.

She closed her eyes and centred herself, then reached out for the Doctor's mind. She opened her eyes in panic as she discovered she couldn't sense the Doctor at all, but she could sense the TARDIS still down by the Museum.
She stood up and keyed in a number on Jeff's videophone. A young woman answered and Saskia requested emergency medical assistance.
"Please state the nature of the medical emergency," the young woman said impassively.
"Someone has been badly injured," Saskia responded. "He's got broken bones, bruising, lacerations, and I suspect at least one fractured rib."
"I'm sending a team immediately," the operator said. "Please state your location."
"Office 555, the fifth floor of the Academy." Saskia glanced at the clock again. The Doctor had been gone at least twenty minutes now, but where was he?
"Someone will be with you shortly," the operator said, then terminated the call. Moments later Saskia heard the sound of sirens overhead. She glanced down at Jeff and saw he'd blacked out. She wondered what she should do. If she went with Jeff, would she risk losing the chance of tracing the Doctor's whereabouts? On the other hand, she felt guilty at the thought of abandoning Jeff when he was in such a state, and she suspected it was her fault.
The sound of running footsteps distracted her and she hurried to the door.
"In here," she called to the two paramedics who were hurrying down the corridor.
They pushed past her into the room and began examining Jeff in an efficient manner. They quickly strapped him onto a stretcher, and the older of the two women began to wheel it out of the office, whilst the younger woman approached Saskia. "Are you coming with us" she asked.
"No. I need to go and tell his boss what's happened. I'll come to the hospital as soon as I can," Saskia answered.
"He'll be in the trauma unit, when you do arrive," the paramedic told her.

Saskia nodded mechanically and watched them go. "Sorry Jeff," she whispered as she hurried out of the room, and ran down the corridor. She ignored the lift and raced down the five flights of stairs to the ground floor. By the time she ran out into the street she could hear the air ambulance heading towards the hospital which was on the outskirts of the city. She sprinted along the street, ignoring the looks of surprise from passers-by. She practically flew down the side street where the TARDIS was parked, and skidded to a stop at the doors. She dragged the key out of her pocket, grateful that the Doctor had given it to her this morning. She dived through the door and over to the Console. The TARDIS hummed an anxious note at her.
"Where is he?" she asked, flicking switches and pressing buttons beside the scanner. The screen swirled green for a few seconds before the picture settled.
Saskia looked at it in disbelief. "In a flier? Where's he going?" She thought for a few moments, then she saw Jackson in the background. "Eupatoria," she whispered in dismay. The TARDIS hummed again and Saskia realised she was trying to convey something to her. She put both palms flat on the Console, closed her eyes and reached out to the heart of the TARDIS. She remained quite still, communing with the TARDIS for a few minutes and saw that the Doctor had been ambushed by the same two thugs who had attacked Jeff. They had knocked the Doctor out and carried him off. But who they were or why they had kidnapped him the TARDIS could not tell Saskia.
She scowled, eyes closed still. There didn't seem to be any point in going to see Jeff at the hospital. He'd probably be in the trauma unit for a few hours at least, and in the meantime, anything could be happening to the Doctor. She wondered what was the quickest way to get to Eupatoria. She could hire a flier and a pilot, but it would take her time to find someone who knew where the Lost City was located, and then another two or three hours to fly down there.

Suddenly the TARDIS' background hum changed and the next moment Saskia felt the floor lurch under her feet. Her eyes snapped open and she looked up at the Time Rotor, rising and falling inside its transparent column.
"No," she whispered in disbelief. But there could be no doubt about it. The TARDIS was flying without the Doctor. She closed her gaping mouth with a snap, then closed her eyes again, reaching out for the TARDIS once more. She wondered how it was possible for anyone other than a Time Lord, other than the Doctor himself, to fly the TARDIS. She knew from the Doctor that Rose had had to break into the heart of the TARDIS and look into the Vortex in order to get the TARDIS back to Satellite 5 to rescue the Doctor from the Daleks. That was why he had regenerated into his current persona.
The answer she got from the TARDIS made Saskia feel weak. Her increased telepathic powers, combined with her strong empathic link to the Doctor and to the TARDIS, were enough for her to recognise Saskia as a pilot. She wondered what the Doctor would make of this information, if she ever got the chance to tell him. She knew he was rather jealous of the TARDIS. Right now, though, there was no point in worrying about his reaction until she'd found him.

She opened her eyes as the TARDIS dematerialised with a gentle bump. She immediately checked the scanner and found herself gazing at an astonishing view. Sand dunes, around two to three hundred feet in height, rose haphazardly ahead of the TARDIS. Each dune was a slightly different shape, but they all had an impossibly steep south face where the sand fell away below the summit of the dune in an unbroken wall. On either side of the steep southern face there stretched sharp-edged ridges that swept downwards in sinuous curves. Behind were alternating troughs and ridges that became smaller and more complex the further away they got from the face of the dune. The lower slopes at the back of the dunes were firm, rising and falling in gentler, undulating trenches and troughs. The colours were a positive rainbow: cream and orange, silver and gold, grey and yellow, white and deep red, or pink and dark brown.
Saskia simply stood and stared for a few minutes, mesmerised by the way the wind was shifting across the dunes, separating the lighter grains, which were always a different colour, from the heavier ones.
The TARDIS hummed softly and she pulled her gaze from the scanner, pressing her hands flat against the Console again. Together they searched for their Doctor, and finally the TARDIS located a spot where he seemed to be, but neither of them could sense him clearly.
There was nothing for it, Saskia knew, she would have to go and look for him herself. She hurried off to the wardrobe area to find some clothing that was suitable for travelling across a desert.

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