The Doctor beamed as he looked around the little market. Jack whistled. "Looks like someone is celebrating," he said.
The Doctor nodded. "Yep. We just landed in the sesquecentennial of the Mice on Chemra."
"Sesqu--what?" Jack asked.
"Sesquecentennial," the Doctor chided. "One hundred and fifty years ruling the planet."
"That's quite the rule."
The Doctor frowned and cocked his head to the side. "Not really--that's a blip, an atom of a grain, really. I once knew this family--they had been the ruling dynasty for near a millennium. Can you imagine? That's--"
"The Mice could only hope to rule that long," someone said to their left.
They both turned as one to the three foot being in a cloak. The face was shadowed by the hood and its hands were hidden inside the sleeves. The voice was high, but that was all they could tell about it. "I'm guessing you were waiting for us?" the Doctor asked.
The head lifted, but the shadow remained. "We were told that you would receive our message."
Jack frowned. "Hey, now, doc, you don't have to lie about where we're going. I'm up for a good ol' adventure any time."
The Doctor shook his head. "I didn't get a message."
"You must have," the figure said. "Why else are you here?"
"Oh, that's nice," the Doctor said. "I can't go anywhere just for fun--everyone expects that I'm up to something or that I'm here to save the day."
Jack frowned and put his hand on the Doctor's arm. It was kind of true, but the little being didn't need to hear that rant. "Sorry about him. Bad day. You know how it goes. So, why did you contact him?"
The being was silent, almost studious, and if Jack would have to guess, he'd think that the being was measuring the Doctor up. "Do you want to help?" the being asked finally.
The Doctor sighed and put his hands in his pockets. "Yeah. I will."
"Are you sure?" the being asked. "We need absolute sincerity."
The Doctor smiled almost manically. "Whatever it is, I'm up for it."
The being was silent a moment more before he nodded. "Good. Follow me."
They were led through winding streets and back alleys until they arrived at a small, grey building. Yet for it's lack of decoration or ornamentation, Jack sensed that this was building of importance. The being knocked on a back door with a white, furried hand--a member of the ruling family?--and after a short whispered conversation, the group entered the building. Inside, the walls were painted a light blue and carpeted with a simple white rug. Guards stood at attention--some mice and some looking like what Jack remembered rats looking like. If this wasn't the royal palace, it was just as important he decided.
The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "I assume that the actual living rooms are below ground?"
Their guided nodded. "Indeed." He (she?) removed his hood--a mouse. "If you'll follow me, you'll find out why we were waiting for you."
More long winding paths, this time of hallways instead of streets. The color schemed changed from the blue and white to green and tan. The further down they went, the fewer guards they passed, but looked tougher, better trained. Eventually, after it felt as though they were several feet under ground, they came to an unmarked door. It was plain, made out of simple wood. It didn't look special, but Jack decided that that must be something unique to the family, preferring the simple over ornate.
Another knock and another hushed conversation and they were ushered inside. A bed was the main feature of the room, but it was surrounded by medical equipment. Their guide stepped forward. "Ma'am, I've brought him. He came as you wanted."
The mouse on the bed took a slow, uneven breath. "Yes. Very good, Meeka. Doctor, come here and talk with me."
The Doctor slowly walked forward, putting his glasses on. He looked at the machines around the mouse--the queen?--and sat in the chair by the bed. "You called for me?"
The mouse nodded. "I am Neeark, Queen of this realm. My family has ruled for many years and our people are happy. We have an excellent justice system. We recently sentenced a murderer--one who killed in front of witness who could not deny what happened. Yet the murdered had a brother who felt wronged by the sentence."
"So he tried to assassinate you?" the Doctor asked quietly.
Neeark nodded. "Yes. A dart--poisoned. One our doctors and healers cannot cure. But you--you are The Doctor, yes?"
The Doctor took a deep breath and sat back. "Of a sort. You're hoping I can find the cure?"
Neeark inclined her head. "Yes. Please."
Jack unloaded the herbs that the Doctor had asked him to bring from the Tardis. The guards would not let the Doctor leave before a cure had been found--which made Jack hope that something could be found as he suspected that they would facing another execution if he didn't--so Jack had gone to get the supplies. He set his coat on an empty chair and pulled another up to be on hand for any help.
The Doctor looked at him out of the corner of his eye. "I'm sorry."
Jack raised an eyebrow. "For what?"
"Seems like we can't go anywhere anymore without running into something or someone," the Doctor said. "I thought this time why not something simple? It's been peaceful here on this planet for several millennium, no matter the ruling family. And oh, the honey market! The bees here are sentient in their own way, you know. There's a little path through their home you can walk through and taste the different honeys and discuss where it came from, how it was made. I once had a lovely conversation about how pollen from two specific flowers can produce one of the universe's most potent aphrodisiacs."
Jack chuckled. "Sounds like my kind of honey."
The Doctor's face flushed. "Jack--"
"With you, of course," Jack promised. "We'll have to check it out before we leave." He looked over the various chemicals heating up in front of the Doctor. "Um, we will be able to, right?"
The Doctor nodded, beaming. "Oh, yes! If this had been anything else, I'd have a challenge. But thanks to the Tardis and her lovely gardens, we can synthesize something."
"It won't change history or anything, right?" Jack asked.
The Doctor waved his hand. "Tried that, you know. Doesn't work. If this was going to change history, we'd know it. No, this is fine. It's a simple cure, really. They'll be in contact with the species of the planet the cure grows on in a few decades anyway."
Jack watched as herbs dissolved and recombined into something not unlike tea. Or a potion. Either or. They all looked the same in the end and Jack knew it--he'd drank enough of them. "Any thing else we should see before we leave?"
"The bakeries," the Doctor said. "They have these pastries that change taste as you eat them. Marvelous items--the bakers start with one layer of one flavor and build up. In the past, there were competitions to see who could make the best combinations, the worst, the highest." He turned to a waiting aid and handed over a glass vial. "Here, that should do the trick. She'll be as right as rain in a few days."
Walking through the Honey Market, hand in hand, eating the flavor changing pastries--Cheertir as they were called--Jack smiled. "Turned out all right in the end, right?"
The Doctor nodded. "It did." He stopped at a stall and lifted one of the glass jars. He asked the seller, "Is this what I think it is?"
The seller, a bee half the size of the mice, buzzed. The Doctor beamed. "I'll take one." He winked at Jack. "Ready for a long night, Captain?"