From wall to wall, the warehouse was stacked with cardboard boxes, arranged in the flawless grid that made things easiest for the machines that delivered or removed stock. Only in one place was the neat ordering disturbed. Close to the centre of the vast chamber, a roughly bowl-shaped area had been cleared, the boxes that had occupied the space scattered higgledy-piggledy across the tops of the neat stacks.
Standing at the bottom of the cleared area, Samantha Briggs crouched down, and lifted the first box of the next layer.
"One hundred and sixty-six." She straightened up and handed it to Jamie, who was standing a few tiers higher in their artificial crater. "These are getting heavier, aren't they? Or is it just me?"
"It's just you," Jamie said. "Have you got to the floor yet?"
Samantha pushed her sweat-soaked hair out of her eyes.
"Yeah," she said, and knelt down by the hole she'd just made. "Hang on, I think maybe I can reach it if I move this one."
She bent down further. There was the sound of cardboard being dragged across concrete, and then she stood up, a look of weary triumph on her face and a key clutched firmly in her right hand.
"Got it," she said. "Is there somewhere safe you can keep it? I'm not risking it falling out of my pocket again."
"Aye, in my sporran."
"Here you go, then." She passed him the key that she'd gone to such lengths to recover.
"Hang on. This is for our room at the hotel. I thought it was the TARDIS key you'd lost."
Samantha looked baffled. "No, I've got that one on a chain round my neck. What difference does it make, anyway?"
"Well, we're not going back to the hotel, are we? The Doctor said to meet him at the TARDIS."
"We're not..." Samantha took a deep breath as the realisation sunk in. They'd wasted untold amounts of time and effort in search of a key they'd never need again — and the worst of it was, she had nobody to blame but herself. "You mean I've got all mucky and sweaty and wasted my time shifting one hundred and sixty-six sodding boxes—"
She delivered an infuriated kick to the nearest box. If she'd hoped it would relieve her feelings by bursting and scattering its contents, she was sadly mistaken. Instead, her shoe went through the cardboard and caught on something inside; knocked off balance, she swayed, staggered and would have fallen had Jamie not caught her in the nick of time.
"Jamie," she said, looking up at him. "If you ever breathe a word about this— to anyone— you'll be sleeping on the floor for a month. Got that?"