Cursing under her breath, The Woman threw some switches and half the displays on the control panels moved from green to amber. There was a noticeable change to the background noise in the cockpit as the ship powered down. 

“TYPE 5 TUG, YOU ARE NOT TRANSMITTING YOUR TRANSPONDER CODE. IDENTIFY YOURSELF.”

She flicked another switch on the panel in front of her, and sat back. 

INCOMING MESSAGE now appeared on the screen. “Yes?” The Woman said, sighing. 

“Colonel Artelisa?” a woman’s voice said. “We… the navy has been under orders for months to find you! Are you in any danger?”

Tegan and Nyssa looked at each other, stunned.

“No.”

“Colonel, I’m Captain Hilco. Please stand by, we’ll bring your ship on board. Do you require medical assistance?”

“Yes… Yes!” shouted Tegan. “There’s a very sick man aboard and we need immediate assistance!” 

“I’m sorry – was that one of your crew?” Hilco said.

“Yes… She’s one of my crew…  And she’s right. Have an emergency medical team ready to take him directly to the ship’s hospital.”

“Yes Ma’am! …Lieutenant – signal the ME – prep to receive casualties, and send a trauma team to Docking Bay 1! …We’ll have you aboard in a few minutes. Welcome home, Colonel!”

Tegan cheered and grabbed Nyssa into a tight hug, jumping up and down as much as the cramped space would allow. 

Redoc’s head appeared in the hatchway. “What did I miss?”

*

Javit and Fidox walked into the council chamber, walking down the steps to the bottom of the circular hall. Standing next to the holographic display where Paracletus usually appeared – which now displayed a hologram of the entire planet – was the Doctor’s Tardis. 

“We’ve tried all forms of communication,” Fidox said, gingerly descending towards it, “but have had no response. We can’t break in, and the structure is completely impervious to any cutting technology we possess.” 

“Well, of course it is!” said Javit. “From the fact that it is still here, we can assume that the Time Lord is either dead or still on the planet somewhere. If he had returned to the capsule I think it safe to assume he would have left, after being captive for nearly two days… don’t you think, old man?”

Fidox leaned heavily against the central dais, panting. “There is absolutely no point getting annoyed with me. So what are we going to do now?”

“At some point he will have to come back here. Have you forgotten that we know he can’t  die? He will come back again in his future – our past. So whatever happens, he will survive and he will be coming back to reclaim his time capsule, as otherwise he will be unable to leave here and eventually return.”

“That’s right,” the old man sighed. “I had forgotten, but then I have plenty of excuses, don’t you think? But,” he continued in a whisper, “what’s Paracletus’ excuse?”

“All the more reason we need the Doctor to help us, sooner rather than later,” said Javit. 

*

The companions, led by Artelisa, stepped out of the cargo hatch of the space tug into the docking bay. Tegan couldn’t believe that a space this size, like the inside of a cathedral, could be inside a space ship. Redoc was carrying the Doctor as if he was child, and was the last to  step out onto the deck. Facing them was a line of marines in armoured space suits, weapons levelled. Artelisa sighed and waved her hand, and the line as one lowered their rifles and stood at parade rest. Another  officer stepped forward. Taller and more robustly built than Artelisa, she had the same long black hair but tied back. She walked up to Artelisa and saluted. “Welcome aboard Colonel. I’m Captain Hilco. Your companions – the insectoid?”

“The insectoid is a doctor – he’ll accompany the injured man to the hospital and will be able to brief your MO. Get it done.”

The captain nodded and waved her arm. The medical team ran up to Redoc with a floating gurney onto which he gently placed the Doctor . Without another word, the team ran to the nearest hatchway, Redoc keeping pace at the Doctor’s side. Tegan and Nyssa went to follow, but Artelisa extended her arm in front of them. “Best to leave it to the medical team. You would only get in their way, and Redoc seems like a very competent physician.”

Nyssa and Tegan looked at each other and nodded. She was probably right – and at the moment they were becoming increasingly interested in this particular turn of events, and so were inclined to stick with Artelisa to see if they could find out exactly what was going on.  

“We have assigned staterooms for yourself and your companions, Ma’am,” the Captain said, leading the way to the hatch. “We’d obviously like to debrief you but this can wait, and besides, we would strictly need someone of equal or senior rank to yourself. We can run a full maintenance cycle on your ship, if that is required.”

“Yes please Captain, see to it. For the time being, please show us to our quarters. I think we could all do with a little time to relax before we get on with… our mission.”

“Yes Ma’am!” said the Captain. “Please follow me.”

The ship’s corridors looked a little more spartan and functional, more like what Tegan imagined the inside of a submarine would look like. The crew wore one-piece uniforms, covered in utility pockets. They all appeared to be human; they looked like any other group of humans she had ever seen, but the black hair and blue eyes were common to them all. A cage elevator took them up so many decks that she lost count. They stepped out onto a deck that resembled the others, though the corridors looked a little wider. The Captain showed them to a room that was a little more luxurious than she expected. There were two recognisable bunk beds though with no pillows, a seating area with a table, a display screen, a wc and shower in a separate room (Tegan actually sighed with relief when she saw how familiar they were), a food and drink dispenser and at the touch of a control, part of the wall slid back to reveal a window. 

“I hope that is all to your satisfaction, ladies,” the Captain said. “If you require anything else, please ask the crewman outside your door. You are not prisoners, but our guests, but please be aware that this is a working military ship, and so we would request that you remain inside your quarters unless accompanied – for your own safety. Your companions, once they return from the hospital, will be quartered in the adjoining stateroom.”

“Thank-you so much!” said Tegan. “There is one thing, if you could arrange it? Its just that we’ve been in these clothes…”

“Of course!” the Captain said. “I’ll arrange for some clothing to be brought for you. We should be able to find something to suit you…  Colonel?”

“Let’s go,” Artelisa said, expressionless, and both officers stepped out into the corridor, the door sliding shut behind them. 

“Well that was a bloody stoke of luck and no mistake!” said Tegan, sitting down. “Just in the nick of time!” 

Nyssa went to look out of the window, her look of disquiet reflected back at her.

“Yes it was… wasn’t it…?” she said.

*

Redoc had been in a military medical facility before as a junior doctor, working with refugees from a particularly nasty war, nevertheless even he was surprised to see a medical facility this size on a battleship.

A relatively old human male, his black hair receding and turning grey at the temples, greeted them as they pushed the Doctor’s gurney into a treatment bay. He looked at the readouts, then turned to Redoc.

“I’m Commander Timwu, the chief medical officer,” he said, bowing to Redoc, who reciprocated. “You’ve been treating the patient, Doctor…? Can you tell me what happened?”

“Of course, Doctor. Please call me Redoc. The patient is also called the Doctor and is a young, male Galifreyan, recently travelled through a dimension door, as did we all. He reacted very badly and I gave him a simple sedative from an emergency medical pack.”

“Hmm… I don’t know anything about his physiology, but I have seen symptoms like this before with species who have similar intolerance to dimensional shift or hyperdrive jumps. We have a hypo- dimensional chamber on board. We’ll try him in there and see if he improves.”

An orderly pushed the gurney off to the very rear of the compartment, through two sets of doors. Here was a transparent-walled chamber, 20 metres by 10, with four human-sized bunks and other facilities inside.  The orderly wheeled the Doctor in, stepped out and closed and bolted the door. Timwu stepped up to an adjoining control console, and the lights in the chamber came on. The transparent walls began to glow dull orange. 

“Are you familiar with this technology Doctor?” Timwu said to Redoc, as he glanced about, trying to take it all in. 

“I’ve heard of such facilities, but I’ve never seen one in use. Please go on,” he replied.

“What we try to do is to create a uni-dimensional space, isolated from any other influences, whether they be gravitational, time-based or other such factors, and then we will slowly dial the field down again until the patient acclimatises to their own reality. You are very fortunate – this ship is one of only ten in the entire fleet with such a chamber on board.” 

Redoc could see with his multi-faceted eyes shifting patterns of colour across the chamber walls, which seemed to intensify and pulse, and as Timwu continued to manipulate the controls, the colours began to vary less and less rapidly until he could perceive a standing wave of colour. 

Inside the chamber, the Doctor stirred, rolling onto his back and looking at the ceiling. I’m alive!  He thought. He ran his hands over his face and through his hair, pulling a strand of blond hair forward so that he could see it. Good! Not lost another regeneration! He sat up and swung his legs to the side, and regretted it. A wave of dizzy nausea passed over him, and he closed his eyes until it passed. 

“Doctor?” it was Redoc’s voice, coming over some kind of communication equipment. 

“Hello? Yes? Where are we, Redoc?”

“How are you feeling? Any better?”

“Yes I am… but still not quite… where are we?” The Doctor stood up unsteadily, leaning on the bed until his balance stabilised. 

“Hello Doctor!” an unfamiliar male voice. “I’m Doctor Timwu. You’re in the hypo-dimensional chamber aboard the Centauran Imperial Navy ship, Swift Vengeance.”

“Ah… good thinking, Doctors! You’ve probably saved my life… for the time being at least. This will keep me stabilised for a while but I really need to get back to my Tardis… my own ship… as soon as possible.”

“Well, I’m happy with your progress for now,” said Timwu, “but I think we do need to keep you in there for the next few hours just to make sure you are stable. Then I’ll talk to the Captain and see if we can transport you to your ship. Is it in orbit?”

“I’m afraid it isn’t – it’s on the surface,” the Doctor replied, finding a tap and cup and pouring himself some water. “And I really mustn’t stay in here for too long. I’ll become dependent on the dimensional field and… I won’t be able to leave at all… ever”

*

Nyssa managed to operate the food dispenser and after some trial and error, they managed to find something that they both found palatable, if not recognisable. The door beeped, and a young rating stepped in carrying a bundle of neatly folded clothes. 

“Here is the clothing your requested,” she said, placing them on a bunk. “You might find them a bit big at first, but within a short time they will fit to your size automatically. If you require anything else please use the intercom by the door – the guard will answer.” With a curt bow, she turned on her heel and out the door, which hissed shut behind her.

“Great!” said Tegan. “Beach clothes aren’t the thing aboard a navy ship no matter where or when you are!” She got up and took the top set of clothes, which comprised khaki underwear, a pair of soft slip on boots, and a khaki jumpsuit. Tegan took it by the shoulders and shook it out. It seemed to be comically too big. “One side fits all, eh!” she said. She turned it around and found some lettering on the back that she couldn’t read. “I wonder what that says…” she said, showing it to Nyssa. 

“You have to concentrate,” said Nyssa, her blue eyes narrowing as she stared at the writing. “It’s no good, I can’t read it either. Perhaps the Tardis is too far away for the telepathic link to work. Why don’t you try again?”

Tegan now held the jumpsuit up in front of her and concentrated. After a few seconds, the writing formed into letters. “P…O…W… oh my god!”

“What does it mean, Tegan?” said Nyssa. “Pow? Is that a bad word?”

Tegan dropped the jumpsuit on the floor. “We have to get out of here, Nyssa. Right now.”

Tegan understood all right, but even the Tardis was incapable of translating a concept of which Nyssa of Traken had absolutely no knowledge.

*

On the deck above, Artelisa had just changed into a fresh uniform when a rating came in, took her folded clothes and said that he would take them away to be cleaned. But as soon as he stepped out of the door, the Captain and two armed marines stepped in. 

“Colonel Artelisa, you are hereby placed under arrest on the charges of desertion, planning and performing an act of interplanetary terrorism, and the use of bio-genetic or nano weapons. You will be confined to these quarters until we reach the naval base at Vail. As soon as possible a general court martial will be convened. Do you understand these charges, Ma’am?”

“What is the basis of the terrorism charges?” she replied, completely without expression. 

“Chara identified you and notified the navy, which is why we are here. They did say that they were willing to overlook your attacks on the planet as no-one had been harmed, and on the condition that we took you out of orbit as soon as possible and you were never to return. However, the navy cannot overlook such egregious acts contrary to the uniform code, not to mention interplanetary treaties.”

“What about my companions?” Artelisa said, sitting on a desk chair.

“We received two messages about them that were somewhat contradictory. Planetary control asked that they be taken back to the nearest orbital station for onward transportation back to the surface. The Governing Council asked that we fly them directly to the central government complex in Chara City. We’ve asked for clarification, and so we’re just waiting for them to decide. They will be unharmed. We were informed that rather than being companions or crew, they were in fact hostages and the Time Lord has been trying for the past day to correct the damage you caused.”

“Very well. You may leave me then, Captain.”

“Very good Colonel. One last thing – please do not try and escape. We would like to keep you here in comfort, rather than the brig. You ship has been disabled by the way, and security officers are currently scanning and searching it for evidence.”

With that, the Captain saluted, and stepped out through the door, followed by the marines. The door hissed shut and locked with a metallic thunk. 

*

“I thought it was too good to be true!” said Tegan, pacing up and down. Nyssa was drying her hair on a towel, or at least it seemed to be a towel. She had changed into the clothes, regardless of the message on the back, as they were clean and fresh, and now, she thought looking at herself in a mirror, fitted her perfectly. 

“You should have a shower,” said Nyssa, still rubbing her hair. “You’ll feel better.”

“I am NOT putting that thing on!” said Tegan. “I wonder what has happened to the Doctor… or Artelisa.  Do you think she put them up to it?”

“I don’t think so,” said Nyssa, putting the towel back in the bathroom. I’m sure she would be as surprised as you were. Anyway, these are probably the only clothes they have for non-crew members. There is no war in this part of the galaxy at the moment. At least that I’m aware of.”

The door buzzer beeped and Redoc ducked into the room. Tegan immediately hugged the massive insect – which he reciprocated awkwardly with his forelimbs. 

“Redoc!” said Nyssa. “How’s the Doctor?”

“He’s fine, well at least, he’s much improved,” said Redoc, as Tegan released him and stood back. “He’s in a…” he paused and looked at Tegan, “a special room, which…” 

“What, like a zero room?” said Tegan, folding her arms.

“Well… Yes, very much so!” if it was possible for an eight foot insect to look surprised, Redoc was doing it. “But he really needs to get back to the Tardis, he says. And the guards told me that they intend to take us back to the surface as soon as they receive further orders.”

“Have you seen Artelisa?” asked Nyssa. 

“No. They didn’t mention her. But I don’t think she will be coming with us. Anyway, I can see you’re freshened up, so I’m going next door to do the same. Be seeing you!” Redoc rapped on the door with a knuckle, and ducked out again. 

“I can’t believe it…” said Tegan softly, shaking her head.

“What? That you hugged him?” said Nyssa. “Neither can I!”

*

Javit materialised on the executive transmat pad at Welcome Station 3, accompanied by a junior clerk. He was dressed formally, as technically this was a diplomatic mission to the Centauran ship – or at least, that’s how he had explained it to Paracletus. What he really wanted to do was to talk to the Doctor without the AI listening in. 

A human technician was operating the transmat at this end, not Paracletus or any automatic system that could be considered a part or function of him. 

“Council Leader,” the woman said, checking a screen. “The battleship has moved into range now, we’re just linking the pads and testing the connection… there! We’re ready for you now if you’d like to step back onto the pad.”

“Have they confirmed that they will be running their decontamination protocols at maximum?” Javit asked, wiping some sweat from his brow with his sleeve.

“Yes sir. Everything is ready as arranged.”

“Very well.” Javit and his secretary stepped back onto the pad, and materialised aboard the Swift Vengeance. The steel-walled room was smaller that they one they had just left, darker and more utilitarian. An honour guard of two armed marines stood to attention, and a young male officer saluted before introducing himself.

“I’m Lieutenant Thax. The Centauran Imperial Navy would like to thank you for finding our missing officer and notifying us so quickly.”

“Quite,” said Javit, stepping off the pad. “Can we see the Doctor now?”

“Um, you wouldn’t like a tour of the ship?” Thax said, disappointedly. 

“No, that’s quite all right. We have a very busy day ahead of us,  so if you wouldn’t mind…”

“Of course. Please follow me,” said Thax, opening the door and stepping into the corridor. 

*

The Doctor paced in the small room, his hands clasped behind his back. It wasn’t really big enough for pacing but there was no chair in the room and he had done all the lying down he wanted to do today. He occasionally stopped, shook his head, then turned on the spot. His equilibrium had returned but there was still a nagging headache to warn him that all was still not well and the current situation was dependent entirely on this room and the energy field that surrounded it. 

Though the walls were transparent from the outside, once the negative energy field was active, to the inmate they  were completely opaque, matt white. It had also been sometime since anyone had spoken to him over the intercom. In fact, thinking about it – he had no idea how much time had passed. This was a symptom of the condition that effected him and an effect of the room he was in. And to not have a sense of the passage of time was extremely disconcerting. 

Suddenly the walls went transparent. The Doctor felt like he was falling – and he was, to the floor, but then continued to feel as if he were falling. He closed his eyes from reflex, but this made the sensation worse and so grimacing, forced himself to open them again, his stomach churning. Just the door hissed open, and a strong hand grabbed him by the upper arm and hauled him to his feet. 

“Get up. You’re coming with me,” said Artelisa. The Doctor noticed the heavy blaster pistol she was holding in her other hand – and that, for the moment at least, she wasn’t pointing it at him. 

Author, photographer and trade union activist. Lived in Japan for 5 years, now working at Cambridge University. Written for Big Finish/BBC Enterprises - Doctor Who and Robin Hood. Two books currently available on Amazon - see my non-fiction on Medium. All content ©Michael Abberton 2020

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