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Interlude in Cafe-Space

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Interlude in Cafe-Space

It was a cafe of some kind. Romana categorised it as 20th century earth-type and wondered if the universes conspired with the Doctor's interest in the planet. It was shrouded in dust, with a faint musty smell. Long-deserted, Romana thought.

Two figures sat at one of the tables, motionless and still. At first Romana thought they were life-size dolls. The woman's right hand reached across the table and was entwined in the man's left. She bent close to examine them and realised the forms were biological. Although neither moved, nor breathed, the bodies were suffering no decay. They were held in some kind of stasis. Romana closed her eyes and sniffed, trying to feel the stasis field in the atmosphere but she could not. Whatever held them this way it wasn't a technology she was familiar with. Possibly they held themselves in stasis. It was theoretically possible.

She was disturbed by the sound of motors behind her. It seemed that K9 had followed her through the arch and into this universe.

"This is not N-space, mistress," intoned K9.

Romana was surprised. The room certainly looked like Earth, an N-space planet. However she had to admit that her arch was still only a prototype. There had been no guarantee it would lock onto the right universe from it's position in the Tharil's great hall.

"It's not E-space though. If it's not E-space or N-space where is it?" she asked.

"Insufficient data, mistress."

She needed to gather data and fast. The energy requirements on the arch meant it wouldn't hold for long and she would need more information for her next attempt. She stood up and looked around her, scanning the cafe for clues. Then she saw the stars out of the window. She crossed the room and gazed out into the void beyond.

"I'm in an Earth cafe," she mused. "A small, cheap Earth cafe." She rapped a Formica table top to make her point. "In the middle of the vortex of some unknown universe. A large universe by the look of things."

"Negative mistress. Space is compacted. This universe is small."

"Small?"

"Like the Gateway, mistress."

Romana formed her mouth into a silent `Oh'. A pocket universe with two silent inhabitants. Space beyond the room folded and compacted upon itself to give an illusion of distance that wasn't there. She turned to examine the figures once more, bending down to stare into the woman's eyes. Her reasoning told her this universe was a prison.

"I think they've put themselves into this state."

"That is possible, mistress. Though unlikely."

"Well once you've eliminated the impossible..." she grinned to herself. "I wonder how I can wake them up."

"Is that wise, mistress?"

"Almost certainly not." She grinned again. She was feeling Doctorish today and that made her light-hearted. "I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and I dislike prisons."

"Question. How will you wake them?"

"In Earth fairy stories it's traditional to wake someone with a kiss."

"Mistress?"

Romana glanced between the two figures, the intertwined fingers and the carefully neutral expressions on their faces. Then she pressed one finger of each hand to their lips, and crossed her hands over, transferring the kisses. She felt the ghosts of breath.

"Touching us would have been sufficient, you know." The man said drily.

"Hush Steel," said the woman with a smile. Romana watched as she lifted her own fingers to her lips as if to relive the faint memory of the kiss.

Romana straightened up and gestured to the arch. "I have a universe at my disposal. Medium-sized and not the one this cafe came from but better than here, I should think."

Steel frowned at the arch. "That rip in time could collapse at any instant."

"Negative," interrupted K9, "controlled arch collapse will occur in three minutes, fifty four seconds."

Romana suspected her smile was a little smug. "It appears we don't have much time. Are you two coming or not?"