"They can be a little overzealous."
"A little?" Sarah Jane stared at Kate. "I was doing fine until your soldiers trooped in and scared everyone."
"Oh, really?" Kate raised her eyebrows. "It didn't look like fine to me."
Sarah Jane bristled at the implied insult. "You could have asked first, at least."
"Oh, yes, next time I'll ask if you're happy to be eaten alive before I send the troops in to save you."
Sarah Jane folded her arms and looked away.
Kate sighed. "I'm sorry. It's been a trying day."
"You could say that." Mainly because they were now locked in a cell. On a spaceship. That had just lifted off from Earth.
"Can we call a truce?" Kate sounded uncertain. "We're more likely to be able to get out of here if we work together."
When Sarah Jane faced Kate she looked hopeful. And worried. Sarah Jane could understand the worry, given their position. "All right. We'll agree to disagree about the troops. For now." They could discuss it again, once they were safely back on Earth.
Kate nodded. "All right. How are you at breaking out of cells?"
"They didn't search me." Sarah Jane pulled her sonic lipstick out of her trouser pocket with a grin and a flourish. If only things were that easy. "But there's not much use in breaking out - we'll still be stuck on this ship."
"I have something that can help with that." Kate pulled something out of her pocket. It was the size of a golf ball, but a dull grey colour. It had a line around its equator, presumably where it it fit together. "They didn't search me either." At Sarah Jane's questioning look she added, "It's a stun grenade. Should stun everything in a mile radius that isn't human. Or cats, possibly."
Sarah Jane eyed it dubiously. "Are you sure?"
"I trust Osgood."
Despite her words Kate didn't look very sure, but in the absence of any better plan Sarah Jane nodded.
They positioned themselves by the door and waited while Sarah Jane scanned the area with her watch. There were no guards, so she nodded at Kate, who nodded back.
In one movement, Sarah Jane unscrewed her sonic lipstick and unlocked the door. Kate pulled the door open just far enough to throw her grenade through. They both put their fingers to their ears out of instinct, but they didn't hear anything anyway. Their only indication that the stun grenade had gone off was the way the ship shook slightly.
Kate peered out and looked both ways. "All clear." She opened the door further and strode out into the corridor.
Sarah Jane followed her, not putting her sonic lipstick away just yet.
Down the corridor there was an Calgane on the ground. Kate bent to check him; Sarah Jane kept an eye out for any more that might be about.
"He's out," Kate concluded, "but not dead. We should go quickly. I don't know how long the stun will take to wear off." She pulled the Calgane's weapon from its holster and checked it before moving off.
"I don't want to kill them." Sarah Jane fell into step with Kate, but was looking at the gun.
"They don't know that." She glanced over at Sarah Jane. "Which way to the bridge, do you think?"
Sarah Jane let the gun question go in the face of bigger problems. "When we were dragged in here, I saw some of the Calgani head in the opposite direction," she said after a moment's thought. "My bet is that's the where the bridge is."
"So that's where we'll go."
First they had to retrace their steps back to the entrance to the ship, so then they could follow the path the Calgani not dealing with their prisoners had taken. A map would have been useful, but there didn't seem to be one forthcoming. The only upside was that any Calgani they found on the way was unconscious. Kate didn't take any more guns and neither did she ask if Sarah Jane wanted one.
They found the bridge more by luck than judgement. Every corridor had the same white floor, walls and ceiling, with nothing to distinguish it from any other corridor. Fortunately, Sarah Jane had always been good with mazes. She concentrated on remembering their path, but it meant they travelled in silence.
It was a relief once they reached the bridge. At least here there was something to do, other than walking through endless corridors. There hadn't been any lifts or ladders, just gently sloping floors. The room had consoles around it, most of them facing the front, where there was a black space that presumably became a viewscreen. Many of the consoles had Calgani draped over them, but some Calgani were just slumped in their chairs. At least none of them woke at Sarah Jane and Kate's entrance.
Kate chose the console closest to the front of the room, whereas Sarah Jane went for the nearest to the door. Neither console reacted to their touch. Sarah Jane picked up one of the Calgane's arms and placed its hand on the console. This time the screen lit up. But it only showed symbols, which could mean anything. She looked up to see Kate was doing the same thing.
Sarah Jane put her sonic lipstick away and tried her phone. They were well beyond Earth's orbit, but a bit of alien tech had improved the signal strength. But even with that, they were still out of range. She closed her eyes for a moment. It was all very well taking over the ship, but it wouldn't help them when they reached their destination. Or when the Calgani woke up, unless Kate had any more of those grenades in her pockets.
Whether or not Kate did was a question for another time. But it turned out she had something else. She pulled what looked like a large smartphone from her inside jacket pocket and held it over the console. Sarah Jane put her phone away and went to peer over Kate's shoulder.
"Universal translator?" she asked.
Kate shook her head. "I wish. No, it's a scanner. It's looking at the connections in this console, so I can make a guess as to which control does what."
Sarah Jane could only hope Kate was good at guessing. She'd seen a few spaceships herself, but never needed to know how to fly one. Or even the minutiae of how they worked. Without a manual written in English she wasn't going to be much help.
"All right," Kate said after a few minutes. "This should turn us round." She lowered the scanner and used the Calgane's hand to touch a symbol that looked like a drowning man, then turned a dial round to purple.
It didn't feel like anything was happening, but one of the pictures looked like it could be a radar and that seemed to show they were changing direction, slowly shifting over to the right. Sarah Jane never could remember which was port and which was starboard. "Can you turn the viewscreen on?" she asked.
Kate frowned at her scanner. "Not from this console. I think."
Sarah Jane left her to the driving and tried all the consoles with an Calgane hand nearby. She didn't dare try pressing anything, but she was hoping for something that might be obvious. Nothing had a symbol similar in shape to a viewscreen, or even just an on/off switch. Randomly touching things could just lead to trouble, so she had to wait until Kate worked her way around the consoles with her scanner.
"This either turns the screen on," Kate said, standing at one of the consoles around the side of the bridge. "Or it turns the gravity off." She glanced over at Sarah Jane. "Might want to hold on."
Sarah Jane gripped the back of a chair. And when Kate pressed the symbol that looked like a person in a wheelchair on their back, she felt her stomach lurch. Followed by her feet leaving the floor. She held on tighter. A moment later, she was back on solid ground and taking deep breaths, so as not to be sick.
"Sorry," Kate said, not looking at all bothered by the experience. "I think I've got it this time."
Sarah Jane didn't ask what Kate thought might happen if she didn't have it. Fortunately, she didn't get to find out, because the screen came on, showing them a view of the Earth, which was gradually getting bigger.
They both breathed sighs of relief.
Kate stepped closer to Sarah Jane. "Beautiful isn't it?"
Sarah Jane nodded. "Always my favourite planet."
Kate smiled. "I just wanted to keep you safe," she said softly. Sarah Jane glanced over, but Kate was still looking at the screen. "I know you get yourself out of situations all the time, but one day your luck will fail."
Sarah Jane wanted to refute that, but Kate glanced over and Sarah Jane could see the concern on her face. "I'm used to looking after myself," she said instead. It came out a little more defensive than she intended and Kate turned away. "But I don't hate that someone's looking out for me," she went on. "Like a guardian angel."
Kate turned back to look at Sarah Jane, a small smile on her face. "A guardian angel with backup. When you need it."
"If I need it," Sarah Jane corrected.
Kate reached out for Sarah Jane's hand. "Can you forgive me if I worry about your safety?"
Sarah Jane was erring on the side of forgiving, and asking Kate when she'd been in zero gravity before, when out of the corner of her eye she saw Earth on the screen getting a lot bigger. "First, I think we need to land this thing."
Kate frowned and hurried back to the forward console, with Sarah Jane right behind her. Sarah Jane kept quiet while Kate concentrated. "I can slow it down," Kate concluded, and touched a control with the Calgane. "But landing is too complex. I'm just not sure. I think I can get us into a gradually lowering orbit, but that'll be noticed. And we need to slow down a lot. I'm not sure how slow I can get when gravity is going to be working against us." She looked over at Sarah Jane, worry on her face.
"We're not dead yet." Sarah Jane tried her phone again, and this time Mr Smith answered.
"Sarah Jane, your signal appears to be coming from a spaceship headed directly to Earth."
She rolled her eyes. "That's because I am on a spaceship headed to Earth. And we don't know how to land. Tell me you have a manual for Calgani spaceships."
There was a moment before Mr Smith answered. "I am sorry, Sarah Jane. I have not encountered this species before. I will keep looking."
"All right." It had been a long shot. "Then we need you to scramble every radar on Earth, before they spot us."
"That will take some time."
Kate had been listening and now she pulled out a walkie talkie. "Greyhound Leader to Trap One."
A man's voice answered. "Kate! Where are you?"
"On an alien spaceship, about to crash into Earth. Do you have us on radar?"
A pause and then, "We do. You are coming in very fast."
"Yes." Kate sounded tetchy. "I'm relying on you to do something about it."
"Right. We're on it."
"I hope that we includes Osgood," Kate said to herself, putting her radio away.
"What are they going to do?" Sarah Jane wondered.
"Use their imaginations. Pull a rabbit out of a hat." Kate reached over to the controls, adjusting their speed again. Then she looked over to Sarah Jane and smiled. "What they do every day."
Sarah Jane smiled back. But she was edgy, hating the wait. She paced around the bridge, checking the Calgani were still unconscious and asking Mr Smith for progress updates more often than he would have liked.
"We've got something." It was a young woman who had contacted Kate. "We're going to give you a parachute."
"A parachute?" Kate sounded unsure. "It's not only me on this ship."
"No, I mean attach a parachute to the ship. It'll slow it down. If we get it right you'll land in the Atlantic Ocean. We have a navy ship nearby who will come and get you."
"Okay." Kate still didn't sound completely reassured, though. "I think a few people will notice. I can't tell how high up we are, but we'll be on a few radars by now."
Sarah Jane hoped Mr Smith was taking out the ones most likely to be able to see them, but it was hard to tell and he was refusing claiming he was too busy to answer any more questions.
There was a pause from the woman and then, "Don't worry about that. Josh is putting out a cover story now."
"Any chance you can tell me what that is?"
"Of course. As soon as we think of it."
Sarah Jane bit her lip to keep from laughing, as Kate rolled her eyes.
Kate ended up sitting on the Calgane's lap and putting her scanner on the console so she could concentrate on keeping them in a low orbit.
Sarah Jane wished she could be more useful than just moral support. But when she put a hand on Kate's shoulder, Kate smiled at her briefly.
It wasn't long before a regular beep was accompanied by a light flashing on a console behind them. Sarah Jane went over. "A proximity alarm," she concluded. Probably. Hopefully.
It was followed by UNIT updating Kate on their progress on fitting the parachute. Again, there was no way to tell it was working just by feel. But UNIT announced it was attached, then Kate confirmed they were slowing from the readings on her console.
"We should head upwards." Kate stood, picking up her scanner. "I can't do anything else from here."
Sarah Jane nodded and they ran through the ship, always going upwards. When they ran out of any corridors that sloped up, they concluded they were as high as they could get. However, there was no way to tell where they were in relation to UNIT or the navy, and how they were going to get into the ship.
However, they could hear the sounds of people walking around: the Calgani waking up. Sarah Jane and Kate shared a look, before Kate got back on the radio. "Josh, we need one of Osgood's stun grenades in here, now."
For once, Sarah Jane appreciated the military tendency to follow orders. A Calgane came around the corner, the ship shook and then the Calgane fell.
Sarah Jane breathed a sigh of relief, her heartbeat far too fast.
Kate grabbed her hand. "Let's find that grenade."
A dash around a corner and into what looked like an canteen, then they were greeted by the sound of a chainsaw. When it stopped it was followed by a man sticking his head upside down through the hole. "Glad to see you're safe, ma'am." He smiled. He must be Josh, judging by the voice.
Kate smiled back. "Get some troops in here, before this ship sinks."
He nodded. "We'll lower a rope ladder, so you can climb out."
When he vanished Kate turned to Sarah Jane. "We're safe."
Sarah Jane threw her arms around Kate, laughing in relief. The next thing she knew they were kissing, holding each other close, Kate pushing Sarah Jane against the wall. They didn't notice the appearance of the rope ladder until someone called Kate's name. When they broke apart they laughed again.