Chapter 1: Return to Earth
The Christmas Poison
Chapter One: Return to Earth
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who or any of the spinoff material and I gain no income off of this story, just the satisfaction of playing with the characters.
AN: Happy Holidays! I’m so glad you found the story okay. This is an interlude episode in the Guardians of the Universe Travels in Time season. I’m finding it easier to remove the Christmas episodes now from the main run just because it’s really hard to schedule where they will fall in the main stories. Hope you enjoy the story.
Rose had no doubts that the TARDIS controlled her phone. Sure, in theory the mobile phone was only linked into the TARDIS translation matrix and used the ship to boost its signal through the time space vortex, but Rose knew that the TARDIS controlled her phone. It was the clock. The clock of her phone shifted to local time wherever they went, alerting her to the proper date and time which she used to aggravate the Doctor from time to time. Yet the calendar didn’t change. The front screen could be telling Rose that it was Hognotch 4 on the planet Horgin IV, but her calendar when opened told her the relative date on Earth.
It made it easy for her keep track of time. Whenever she did a journal entry, she was able to double check the relative date to her and how much time had passed. Given that some of their adventures kept them off the TARDIS for a few local days it was the only way that Rose had any idea of when it was on Earth. She supposed that it didn’t really matter. The TARDIS was her life, but it was nice to keep track of the time her friends and family experienced. The calendar also helped Rose know when she was calling. The TARDIS always called the day that it said the phone was so Rose didn’t have to worry about accidently calling Shireen or her mum in the past.
So when December rolled around, Rose began to hint at the Doctor that she’d like to visit her mum for Christmas. He didn’t respond to anything that first week and Rose let it slide. The second week, he’d distracted her with several stunning nebulas. But by Christmas Eve, Rose put her foot down and glared him into submission.
“Earth,” Rose said. She crossed her arms stubbornly. “Come on, Doctor. Let’s go. I told you I wanted to see my mum for Christmas.”
“Not sure what you want to go back to Earth for,” the Doctor grumbled. None the less, he began setting the controls. “We were just there!”
“No, we were just at the markets of Severius Prime,” Rose said. “Before that, we were chasing a comet for two days. Before that, we were in the jungle on Axtraus, and before that we on Vigiel.”
“But before that we were on Earth!”
“In Sherwood Forest, centuries before I was born. It hardly counts.”
“It was Earth!”
“Yes, fine it was Earth.” Rose rolled her eyes and held on tight to the console as they started to move. “But it’s Christmas time to my mum now and she wants to see me.” The Doctor rolled his eyes and grimaced at the mention of her mum. “I’m just trying to stay connected to people on Earth. And with that incident at Luke’s party I barely had a chance to talk with anyone.”
The Doctor’s expression softened a bit, turning almost guilty. Rose reached out and touch his arm. “Not your fault, but things were just a little chaotic. Luke’s done his first term now at school and I want to have a chat with him about it. You know, godmother stuff. I love traveling, but I just want to see my friends back on Earth for a day or two.”
The Doctor looked down at her, smiling indulgently before he moved to adjust the controls. The TARDIS shuddered for a moment and Rose grabbed onto the railing, moving only to hold down a button at the Doctor’s command. At least, he had given up on trying to find the mallet. Rose was certain that she and the TARDIS could keep it hidden. A moment later, they stopped.
Leaning up, Rose kissed the Doctor’s cheek quickly, both as a thank you and an apology for being so bossy. He grumbled slightly as his cheeks and ears turned pink. Holding back a laugh, Rose headed for the TARDIS door and opened it up. They were in her mum’s garden, right in the center of everything. She noted with a frown that the ground was bare and brown. No snow this year it seemed.
“Rose!” Jackie rushed out of the kitchen, a wide grin on her face. “Oh sweetheart!” Opening her arms, Rose moved forward and hugged her mum tightly. Jackie babbled into her ear, the comforting soundtrack of her childhood, and hugged Rose impossibly tighter. “So good to see you sweetheart!” Jackie pulled back and touched her face. “Thank you for coming home for Christmas.”
“We made it then?” Rose asked. “We haven’t missed it?”
“No, you haven’t missed Christmas.” Jackie’s nose curled up. “Was that a risk? Can’t he fly that blue box of his?”
“Oi!” The Doctor shouted from inside the TARDIS. “Shut the door, Rose, my ears are burning.”
“Well they’re large enough for that,” Jackie muttered.
Shaking her head, Rose turned back to the TARDIS and gave the Doctor a smile. “Are you coming?”
“Bit human out there right now,” the Doctor said. He scowled at Jackie and Rose knew that her mum would be making a face right back. “Got some work to do. Go have fun.”
“See you later then,” Rose said. “Thank you again, Doctor.” She closed the door and shook her head, knowing that someday he’d be a bit more into Christmas.
“Happy Christmas, Mum,” Rose said.
“Happy Christmas, Rose,” Jackie said. “Good thing you came back rather than being stuck with Scrooge there!”
“Christmas is a human holiday,” Rose explained patiently. “Not even all humans celebrate it. He just comes from a different culture with different traditions.” She looked around at the brown garden and sighed. “Is it actually Christmas or-”
“Christmas Eve,” Jackie said. “He got the timing right at least.”
“Let’s not worry about the Doctor,” Rose said. She put her arm around her mum as they walked to the back door. “How are you?”
“I’m alright. Things are nice enough at the flower shop, though the holiday preparation was crazy. I was working full time last week!”
“Did you enjoy it?”
“A bit, but Gita didn’t take the stress well. She was booked for two holiday weddings. Two! Mad woman. Oh, Bev said to tell you hi next time you popped around and I’m visiting cousin Mo for New Years. Unless you’re staying that long.”
“Probably not,” Rose said. “Doctor doesn’t like staying in any one place too long.”
Jackie made a displeased sound, but kept the comment to her. “Oh, I’m taking a cooking course at a nearby school.”
“Told you I’d find something. I rather enjoy it, honestly I didn’t think I would, but there’s some nice ladies there. We have tea on Thursdays after class together.”
“One of them has a son a little older than you, nice young man. Studying to be a surgeon.”
“That’s nice, but no thanks, Mum. No setting me up.”
“Well, if you won’t give Mickey a chance-”
“Mickey’s my friend, almost my brother,” Rose protested. “It would be weird.” She shuddered a little at the idea. “I trust he’s coming over for Christmas?”
“Supposed to be,” Jackie said. “But last I heard, his work was doing something big.” She said the word work like it was foul.
Holding back a smile, Rose followed her mum inside only to blink in surprise. Even the kitchen was decked out for Jackie’s annual Christmas party. The counters were loaded with purchased trays of food, booze, and even a cutting board with more food that Jackie was making. Her mum had clearly been channeling her energy into feeding the neighborhood.
“Staying busy, Mum?”
“Trying to,” Jackie said. She sighed. “It’s been a bit harder lately since Rita Anne passed.” Rose nodded in understanding, glancing towards the spot where the old woman used to sit with her tea. “House is too quiet, but Gita’s over more often. And Rani and Clyde pop by to check on me.” Jackie shook her head. “Honestly, it’s like I’m already the neighborhood old woman! I’m not even forty.”
“Fine, I am, but I’m not helpless.”
“They’re just making sure you aren’t lonely,” Rose said.
“No chance of that.” Jackie hustled Rose over to the table and set her down. “Sarah Jane comes by sometimes. She still has Skye, but she’s missing Luke terribly. And my cooking classes are nice. I’ve been trying to think of what else to do.”
“Well, I’m glad that you’re doing okay. And thanks for being here for Mickey.”
“Of course! He’s family.” Jackie gave her a look and Rose gave her mum a warning look in return. “He’s a good boy. Son I never had.”
“I know having this house to come to means a lot to him,” Rose said.
“Oh? You talk with him?”
“Sometimes,” Rose said. She shrugged a little. “I call Sharon and Shireen more than him, but we check in. How’s his girlfriend Joan?”
“They broke up two weeks ago.”
“Sorry to hear that.” Rose grimaced at the silence and watched her mum return to her party prep. “So have you invited Sharon and Shireen?”
“I did, but they probably won’t bother unless they know you’re coming.”
“I’ll give them a call then,” Rose said quickly.
She slipped away from her mum to make the call. Jackie was keeping a close eye on her and Rose wondered if her mum was worried that she’d run off without a goodbye. Mentally tossing a coin, Rose called Sharon and hoped that she’d have her phone. It was answered a moment later.
“Rose!” Sharon greeted happily.
“Happy Christmas, Sharon!” Rose said.
“Happy Christmas,” her friend replied. “Listen, Rose, are you on Earth?”
“Just arrived, I came to see Mum for the holiday. I was calling to see if you were coming tonight.”
“It depends, it’s been a crazy day.” There was noise in the background. “Rose, is the Doctor here or did he drop you off?”
“He’s here, working on the TARDIS in the yard,” Rose answered. “Why? Is something wrong?”
“Well, there’s a situation that UNIT is making a move to deal with. We were debating bringing you and the Doctor in, but if you’re already here then maybe it is okay.”
“What kind of a situation?”
“Weird technology,” Sharon said. “We weren’t sure if whatever caused this would notice the TARDIS or not, hence the not calling you right away. We’ll be on site in an hour. I know Kate would be happy if you joined us.”
“You’re going? Why?”
“I’m part of the medical team. It’s a factor. I can’t explain everything over the phone, but please come to the ATMOS factory outside of London.” Sharon rattled off the address. “It’s important, Rose. Kate doesn’t think that we have much time.”
“Alright,” Rose said. She looked over at her mum. “We’ll be there.” She ended the call and forced a smile. “Mum, UNIT needs some help, I’ve got to go-”
“You can’t go to work! It’s Christmas!” Jackie frowned at her. “Do you even work for them anymore?”
“Mum,” Rose said gently. “This is important by the sounds of it. UNIT wants to investigate something and I guess they’re using the holiday as a cover or hoping that the factor will be empty. Try not to worry.”
“Try not to worry, she says,” Jackie huffed. “Like you’ve forgotten everything that has happened.”
“Mum,” Rose said gently. “I love you, but if UNIT is looking into it then it might be dangerous. We can’t let dangerous alone on Earth.” Jackie sighed, but nodded her understanding. Stepping forward, Rose hugged her mother tightly and kissed her cheek. “I’ll try to be home tonight for the party. And don’t worry. Sounds like this is probably where Mickey is.”
“Tell him to look after you then!”
She made a quick escape from the kitchen with her mum still grumbling behind her. “Aren’t you going to drive?”
“Uh, maybe,” Rose answered. “I need to check with the Doctor.”
Closing the back door, Rose sighed softly in relief. That could have gone worse. Pocketing her phone, she pulled out her key and unlocked the TARDIS door. She spotted the Doctor’s feet poking out from beneath the console. It hadn’t taken him long to start tinkering.
“Doctor,” Rose said.
“Back already?” He slipped out from under the console. “Got tired of your human holiday a lot faster than I thought you would.”
“UNIT has a situation,” Rose said. “Weird technology, seems to have everyone on edge.”
“Why didn’t they call you?”
“I guess there was concern about us being spotted or something.” Rose shrugged and leaned against the console. “Sounds like trouble, want to check it out?”
The Doctor all but jumped up, grinning broadly. He grabbed the monitor screen and tapped the screen impatiently before crossing his arms. “What’s going on?”
“Somekind of alien technology on Earth,” Rose said. She shifted around next to him. “Didn’t get much on the details, but sounds like UNIT is raiding the place today.”
“Most of the workers should be gone or leaving soon,” Rose replied. “So? Driving or TARDIS?”
The screen beeped and the Doctor looked at it. “Well, that does look interesting. TARDIS just picked something up in the industrial zone outside of London.”
“It’s called ATMOS,” Rose said. “Is that it?”
“Looks like,” the Doctor said. He adjusted the controls. “Can’t get a good reading on it though.” Grinning, he hit another button and flipped a lever. “Let’s take the TARDIS!”
“Just so we’re clear,” Rose said, grabbing onto the console as they started to move. “This doesn’t mean that I’m not still spending time with my mother when this is over!”
Chapter 2: The Workers
The Christmas Poison
Chapter Two: The Workers
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who or any of the spinoff material and I gain no income off of this story, just the satisfaction of playing with the characters.
AN: Happy Christmas! Also, my sixth book The Iron Hammer is now available. If you enjoy my fanfiction, I’d really appreciate you checking out my original fiction.
The TARDIS landed with a soft thump and the Doctor scowled slightly, glaring at the spot where his mallet used to be. Rose ignored the look. She wasn’t giving him the mallet back, not even for Christmas. Besides, it wasn’t in the lovely painting she’d done of the current console room that she was planning to give him later as his gift.
“Are we at the factory?” Rose asked. She moved over to the screen as the Doctor tapped it.
An image of grey warehouses, gravel and paved paths, and UNIT trucks met her sight. Rose nodded. “Yeah, think we’re in the right place.”
“You doubted?” The Doctor huffed.
Rather than replying, Rose leaned up to kiss his cheek quickly before heading to the doorway. She stepped outside with a bit of caution, just in case there was anything dangerous nearby. The TARDIS had parked near a backdoor into one of the buildings and Rose looked around. A moment later, a couple of soldiers came around the corner and froze. They blinked, their eyes locked on the TARDIS and Rose. She smiled and waved as the Doctor stepped out of the blue box.
Then Sharon and Shareen came around the corner behind the soldiers. Both of her friends grinned and slipped past the stunned soldiers. Dashing forward, Rose grinned and was met with beaming smiles by Sharon and Shareen. Her friends hugged her tight, chattering about how much they’d missed her, and Rose returned the sentiment. They stayed that way in a tangle of arms for a long moment before Shareen finally pulled back. She coughed lightly and straightened her white medical jacket, blushing a little. Sharon shook her head fondly and looked past Rose.
“Hello, Doctor,” Sharon greeted. “Sorry to bother you during Christmas.”
“No problem,” the Doctor said. He was actually smiling a little. “Might have saved me from Jackie’s roast or something.”
“Nah,” Sharon said. “She wouldn’t know how to cook alien flesh.”
The Doctor blinked in surprise before laughing. “Now I’m going to have that nightmare, thank you very much.”
“Doctor, you remember Sharon and Shareen,” Rose said. “I hate to say it, but they’re part of UNIT medical now.”
“Right, good to see you.” The Doctor nodded at them both in turn. “So why are we here?”
“Come with us,” Sharon said. “Kate is waiting. Probably best to let her and Malcolm explain.” She took Rose’s hand and tugged. “And sorry about this again, Rose. For what it’s worth, Kate did hesitate to call you in. It hasn’t been that long since you left.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Rose said. “We’ve found plenty of trouble on other worlds in the meantime.”
The mobile command unit was a familiar sight to Rose, though it was connected to a proper building this time. Inside were rows of computers, small makeshift offices, and a wall of screens for communication. Soldiers were positioned around the room, but Kate was at the center of it all with Malcolm next to her, reading something off of a tablet. She was fairly unchanged, though her greying blonde hair was a bit shorter now. Malcolm had a bit more grey in his hair as well and his glasses were new with thicker lenses.
“Ma’am, Rose and the Doctor are here,” Sharon said as they entered.
“Doctor!” Kate greeted. “Rose, good to see you both.” She gave Rose an apologetic smile. “Shareen said you were already home, I’m sorry to pull you away from your family.”
“It’s fine,” Rose said. Grinning at Malcolm, she gave the man a quick hug. “Good to see you, Malcolm.”
“You too,” Malcolm agreed. He pushed his glasses up further. “Thanks for coming.” Then his eyes widened and he thrust out his hand. “Doctor! Always good to see you, sir.”
“Hello, Malcolm,” the Doctor greeted. He shook Malcolm’s hand with only a touch of amusement.
Rose moved closer to Kate and looked up onto the screens. “You in charge today?”
“I’m in command of the operation,” Kate said. For a moment she looked proud, but then she looked between them and sighed softly. “Dad’s in Japan for a training exercise. He sends his apologies for not being here for this.” Kate smiled sadly. “And groveled for missing Christmas. I’m afraid that UNIT was happy to take him up on his offer to run training programs though he refuses to take back command.”
“Give him our love,” Rose replied with a smile. “And glad to see a good mind in charge and one I can trust not to stab me in the back.” Rose glanced around. “No Benton then?”
“No, he’s retired again and ran off to York. We can contact him if we need to, but he told me that I’d better not need to and I quote ‘I’m not getting pulled into a vicious cycle like the General of retirement and returning.’ He was quite happy to forget that he’d been retired before and has already been through a cycle.”
Rose laughed. She couldn’t help it. She could hear Benton saying that. “Sounds about right.”
“So what is going on?” the Doctor asked. “I’m assuming you’re not going into the hostile takeover business, Kate.” He stepped closer and eyed the tablet in her hands.
“No, Doctor.” Kate’s shoulders tightened and she shifted to business mode. “Last week, fifty-two people died in identical circumstances, right across the world, in eleven different time zones. Five a.m. in the UK, six a.m. in France, eight a.m. in Moscow, one p.m. in China.”
“You mean they died simultaneously?” the Doctor asked.
“Yes, fifty-two deaths at the exact same moment, worldwide. We received a communication from a freelance reporter just before her own death.”
“How did they die?” Rose asked.
“Inside their cars,” Kate said. “We believe they were all poisoned. Our medical teams, including Sharon, double checked the biopsies. No toxins still in the system limiting our ability to track it.” Kate touched her tablet and the screens brought up a logo that said ATMOS. “The only thing in common about the cars was that they were all fitted with the ATMOS device. Hence, why we’re here at the factory.”
“What’s ATMOS?” The Doctor asked.
“It Stands for Atmospheric Omission System,” Malcolm said. “If installed into a car, it reduces CO2 emissions to zero.”
“Zero?” the Doctor repeated.
“No carbon?” Rose asked. “None at all?”
“No,” Malcolm said. “Granted in the wake of the massive carbon dump via diamonds a few months back-”
“The diamond exchange is still angry about that one,” Kate interjected. “Not even engagement rings are holding the market steady now.”
“Yes, well even after that, the technology has proven very popular,” Malcolm said. “People trying to make sure that greenhouse gas levels don’t get so bad again.” Malcolm pointed at the screens and images of the outside of the factor reappeared. “The problem is that we can’t figure out how the thing works. We’ve been trying for over a month now and then these strange deaths linked to people who were investigating ATMOS.”
“So you think it’s alien,” the Doctor said. He nodded. “I suppose that is your job.”
“This is the main factory,” Kate said. “There are seventeen factories across the globe, but this is the central depot, sending ATMOS to every country on Earth.”
“I think I need to see this ATMOS,” the Doctor said. He was frowning now and looked at Malcolm. “You’ve got one?”
“Right through here,” Malcolm said. He led them out of the main control room into a side lab. “I’m thankful you came, Doctor. We’ve been working on this since before it went on sale.” Malcolm shook his head. “At first, I hoped that maybe it was just someone trying to be helpful, but after the carbon dump it just isn’t as necessary.”
“What do you mean?” Rose asked.
“Well, there’s research going into carbon-based batteries to replace lithium and with renewable energy getting better and better, a device that builds more reliance on cars seems to do more harm than good.”
Malcolm gestured to a small smooth device on the table. “ATMOS can be threaded through any and every make of car.” Malcolm shook his head. “Personally, I hate driving.”
“I remember,” Rose said fondly.
“You bring up a good point,” the Doctor said. He bent over and studied the device. “Reliance on cars… would make humans use up fossil fuels faster, but also there are eight hundred million cars on the planet.”
“I don’t think I like where you’re going with this,” Rose said.
“I don’t like it either,” the Doctor said. “But think about it. With this thing in a car, you could make it a weapon. What could you do with eight hundred million weapons?”
“I don’t want to think about it,” Rose said. She shuddered and looked at the small device. “So… how does it work?”
“Still need to figure that out,” the Doctor said. He leaned closer to it. “Definitely not human technology. I’ll grant you that.”
“We need to know what is going on, Doctor,” Kate said. Her arms were crossed over her chest and she was glaring at the sleek device. “As you said, these things are everywhere.”
“Have you issued any alerts?” Rose asked.
“We considered it, but no,” Kate answered. She shook her head and sighed. “Obviously, we’re concerned, but if it is a weapon then we don’t want to give the aliens in charge reason to trigger it.”
“Christmas is a big travel time,” Rose said.
“Less by car,” Kate said. “And late Christmas Eve… we’re hoping to do this as quietly as possible.”
“Christmas Eve,” the Doctor said thoughtfully.
“Yeah,” Rose groaned. “Something always happens on Christmas.”
A soldier walked into the room and saluted to all of them, his face pale as he tried not to look at the Doctor. In return, the Doctor scowled and pointedly looked back at the device.
“Ma’am, everything is in place.”
“Good,” Kate said. “Give the signal. Focus on moving any remaining staff out and ensure that we get any files and machinery. I want this calm and neat, no reason to frighten anyone.”
Kate tensed as the soldier left and looked back at the Doctor. “Please excuse me, Doctor. We’ll keep you informed if we find anything.”
“Any idea how many workers are inside?” Rose asked.
“No,” Kate said. “Our lookouts didn’t see anyone come in today. The factory is still running, but most likely with the last swing shift before closing tomorrow.”
She sounded confident and Rose relaxed. Being called in on Christmas Eve was an unpleasant time to be called in. There was no doubt that Jackie would grumble about it tonight at her party, but Rose could live with it.
“Our cover story is that we’re investigating a bomb threat,” Kate said. “Something sent by supporters of green energy who think that ATMOS is distracting from the real environmental problems.”
A sharp alarm sounded from outside and Kate turned towards the door. Glancing between Kate and the Doctor, Rose decided that having her eye on UNIT was a good idea. They were a lot better under Kate, but still, there were civilians involved. The chill of the outdoors hit Rose and she tightened her coat around herself.
Soldiers were escorting people in jumpsuits out. There were dozens of them, maybe even a hundred, all marching in a line. Rose looked at Kate only to find surprise and anger on the other woman’s face. The soldiers were herding the workers away from the main building with similar expressions of confusion but were acting professionally.
“Why are there still so many workers?” Kate asked. She was frowning at the building. “It’s four o’clock, Christmas Eve. This place should be all but shut down for the holiday.” She brought up her radio. “All units, be careful with the civilians. Round them up for medical checks peacefully. The cover story now is that we are concerned about possible radiation sickness from the bomb.”
“I don’t understand it,” Kate said. She looked towards Rose. “We picked today despite the fact that everyone would rather be home to avoid frightening the workers.”
“The factory must keep going through the holiday,” the Doctor said. Rose jumped, not realizing that he had followed them. “It happens.”
“Yes, I suppose so,” Kate agreed. “But I don’t like getting civilians involved.”
The Doctor’s shoulders relaxed slightly and he almost smiled. His eyes still darted around between the armed soldiers, but he didn’t say anything. Rose stayed close to his side, brushing her fingers over his hand for a moment in silent reassurance.
“Just make sure that all workers get a medical check and I want Doctor Costello on standby for counseling if needed.” Kate shook her head and glanced towards Rose and the Doctor. “I don’t like it. Something is off here. There are just too many workers for a holiday swing shift.”
“Agreed,” the Doctor said.
“I’ll go and just peek in,” Rose said.
“Be careful,” the Doctor said.
“I will be, you figure out that ATMOS thing,” Rose said.
The UNIT soldiers were happy to take her to where the UNIT medics were checking people over. UNIT had set up the mobile medical bay and pulled out the inflatable sides that always made Rose giggle when she saw them. Still, they did greatly increase the interior size. There were a few people with geiger counters scanning the workers as they came in. Rose didn’t know if this was just for the cover or if they were looking for something else. The first workers were being shown into small curtained off areas for their evaluations. Rose spotted Sharon escorting a man to her station, but hesitated to interrupt.
She lingered in the doorway for a few moments, watching the workers. They were very quiet and still. For the first minute, Rose chalked it up to shock and worry that they’d be late home. But they didn’t start whispering. They just stood calmly under the watch of the UNIT soldiers. Yet, they also weren’t acting fearful of the soldiers. She was about to step closer to one when one of the curtains was harshly pulled back.
“Rose!” Sharon called. “Can you come over here please?”
Rose instantly went to her friend. Looking at Sharon in confusion, she waited for an explanation, but Sharon just nodded at her patient. He was sitting on the edge of the table, holding his shirt up. The man stared ahead blankly. He was barely blinking and there was no emotion on his face. Sharon was holding a stethoscope in her hands and extended it to Rose. She opened her mouth to ask, but Sharon nodded pointedly towards the man. Taking the stethoscope, Rose put it on and gently touched the end to the man’s chest. A rapid heartbeat met her ears. It was steady, but far too fast. Looking at Sharon in alarm, her friend nodded.
“That’s not normal,” Rose said. “Even the Doctor’s double hearts don’t beat that fast.”
“Yeah, let me check with the other doctors.”
Rose nodded and stayed with the man, waiting for him to react. Sharon told him to put his shirt back down and he did. Smiling at him, Rose tried talking with him, but he only gave short answers with no emotion. It was the same for all of the workers. Every single one was in some kind of haze. Sharon and the others stayed calm, but Rose could hear them discussing long-term repercussions of the rapid speed of their hearts.
Returning to Kate, Rose found the leader of UNIT frowning at Doctor Martins, the current medical head.
“You’re sure?” Kate asked.
“Yes, ma’am, all of the workers show the same lack of clarity and accelerated heart rates,” Martins said. “I’d like to have a few brain scanned just to see what is going on.”
“Well, it explains why no one was seen coming in today,” Rose said. “They probably just hire immigrants who don’t have local families to worry and keep them in that haze. They work, sleep, and eat here.”
“We’ll focus on getting them counseling,” Kate said. “And into housing for the time being. Doctor, any thoughts?”
“Low-impact chemical control,” the Doctor said. “It’ll wear off over the next few days if you keep them away from the factory. They were dosed with something.”
“I’m glad to hear that it will wear off,” Martins said. His whole face relaxed with relief. “But I’d like to get them away from here ma’am.”
“Do so, take them to the old UNIT base outside of London for now. That will put some distance between them and the factory,” Kate ordered. “Staff will arrange for better housing as soon as possible.”
“Yes ma’am,” Martins agreed. “I’ll have to send some of the doctors with them.”
“Understood, just make sure that at least five remain on site.” Kate sighed as Martins hurried out and turned to look at the Doctor. “Well, that dispels any doubts about this being for hostile purposes.”
“Most likely, yeah,” the Doctor agreed.
Two UNIT soldiers were finishing the last sweep of the factory complex. Their UNIT uniforms were marked with the names Harris and Gray. The lower levels were lined with sleek metal and were lowly lit. Gray was looking around curiously at the area and then looked down at a small map in his hand.
“We should head back. There's not much down here. Should be just boiler rooms, and generators,” Gray said calmly.
Harris strode forward into a corridor without even looking at Gray. Overhead, the lights flashed on. “Aye, aye. What's this, then?” Harris asked.
There were two workers standing alongside a door at the far end of the corridor. Harris scowled at them, tightening his grip on his firearm as he swaggered forward. “You two. All personnel have been ordered to evacuate. The building's under UNIT control.”
“This area is out of bounds,” one of the workers replied with an expressionless face.
“Excuse me, sunshine?” Harris raised an eyebrow. “I think you'll find we're in charge. We can do this the easy way, or the hard way.”
Then the two workers looked at each other. It was a long odd silence exchange before they stepped aside and one opened the door. “It's open,” the worker said.
“Oh. Come on,” Harris said to Gray, nodding forward.
They walked into a large room and were hit with the stink of chemicals. As the lights came on, a line of vats was revealed alongside strange stretchers. Gray stopped and hung back, but Harris marched forward.
“What the hell?” Harris asked softly. He knelt down to examine the nearest vat.
“Greyhound Sixteen to Trap One. We've found something. Basement corridor, north side, grid thirty-six. Request backup, over.”
“It's like something boiling inside,” Harris said.
“Don’t touch it!” Gray said.
“Come on, Steve. We get first rights on this,” Harris said. “That means promotion.” He was a smiling a little.
“Just leave it alone. Wait for backup.” A sudden bang from inside the vat made Gray twitch. “What was that? The machinery?”
“No,” Harris said. “It came from inside.” There were two bangs from inside the vat. “Is there someone in there? Hello? We've got to get this open.”
“We should wait for the others,” Gray protested.
“Someone could suffocate in there,” Harris said. He began fussing with the vat top while Gray called in for assistance once again. “How do you work this thing? Come on.”
An alarm sounded overhead and the lid was pulled up by the pulley system above to reveal a bubbling green liquid. The stink in the room increased and Gray wrinkled his nose. The two soldiers had only moments to gape at the mixture before a naked body devoid of any features emerged from the liquid. It tried to grab Harris, but he stepped back.
“Identify yourself! Identify!” Gray yelled. “Greyhound Sixteen declaring Absolute emergency, sir. Repeat, Absolute emergency. Over.”
“Can you hear me? Can you understand me? Look at its neck. Looks like an umbilical cord,” Harris said. He took a step forward.
“Well, don't get too close,” Gray said.
“I think it's harmless. I don't even think it's properly alive,” Harris said. The being slipped beneath the surface of the liquid once again. “I think it breathes this stuff, like some kind of embryo.”
“What do you mean, an embryo?”
“Someone's growing a body,” Harris said. He nodded to himself. “A human body.”
“Excellent skills of deduction,” a new voice said behind them.
The two soldiers spun around, their weapons raised. Behind them was a short armoured figure with no neck. Its hand had only three fingers and its face was hidden by a rounded helmet.
“I would rate you above average, soldier,” the alien said to Harris. “Well done. Whereas you, you smell of sweat and fear,” he said to Gray.
“Yeah? Well, we're not the ones who got out of school early, sonny,” Harris sneered. “Now stop playing Humpty Dumpty and tell us who you are.”
“Is that a reference to my height?” The alien asked.
“Short answer, yes.”
“A pity. Words are the weapons of womenfolk. I must judge you unfit.”
“Oh, what you going to do, bite our ankles?” Harris laughed.
The alien brings up the small stick like device in his hand and fires a shot at Harris’ ankles. The other man’s legs collapsed under him, shock filling his face. Gray shook his head, his fear showing on his face.
“I'm warning you!” Gray said.
“A proper soldier gives no warning. Fire. I order you. Fire.” Gray pulled the trigger, but his weapon failed to fire. “The room is contained within a cordolaine signal, exciting the copper surface of the bullet and causing expansion within the barrel, rendering your guns useless. And your radio signals have been blocked.”
Lashing forward, Gray tried to hit the alien with his gun as a club. The alien, however, calmly zapped him. Gray’s legs collapsed under him and the two workers entered the room.
“My legs. I can't feel my legs,” Gray gasped.
“I apologise for disabling you. Death has more honour, but you are needed for the stratagem,” the alien said. “Prepare them for processing. You spoke of promotion. Now you will serve a greater cause.”
“Who are you?” Harris asked.
“Indeed, know your enemy. I am General Staal of the Tenth Sontaran Battle Fleet. Known as Staal the Undefeated.” The being reached up and removed his helmet, revealing the potato-like head of a Sontaran.
“Oh, my God, help us!” Gray shouted to the workers, but they did not react.
Chapter 3: Rattigan Academy
The Christmas Poison
Chapter Three: Rattigan Academy
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who or any of the spinoff material and I gain no income off of this story, just the satisfaction of playing with the characters.
AN: Happy New Year! Stay safe in your celebrations.
Walking over to the Doctor, Rose tried to hide her own frustration. The workers had all been in a haze and it wasn’t fading fast. Even the first to be moved off-site hadn’t been aware of anything unusual. Exploration of the factory had revealed a large cafeteria and sleeping barracks. There were records of hiring, but no records of anyone ever getting sick after their hiring health examination. It all made Rose’s skin crawl.
The Doctor was still poking at the sleek device. Malcolm was talking a mile a minute though the Doctor barely seemed to notice. He did, however, look up when Rose came over and extended a table to him.
“This is the blood readings and vital averages they have so far,” she said. The Doctor took the tablet and scrolled through the information. “Anything that provides a clue?”
“Afraid not,” the Doctor said. “Lot of this stuff is used across the galaxy for a lot of things. Nothing distinct.” Then he paused and frowned at another information line. “What’s this?”
Rose leaned forward. “Chemical results thus far of their clothing.”
“Well…” the Doctor nodded to himself. “That is potentially something.” Then he frowned. “Nothing good.”
“What?” Rose asked.
“Well, that chemical composition matches some clone creation fluids.” He shook his head. “Wouldn’t make sense here though. Those workers are infected humans, not clones.”
“Are you sure?”
“Clones need direction,” the Doctor said. “Clones need an upload feed for information.”
“They’re limited thus far,” Rose said. “Are you sure? If not the workers then why would clones be around?”
“And that, Rose Tyler, is the million pound question.” The Doctor handed her back the tablet and pulled out the sonic screwdriver. The device on the table hummed for a moment, drawing a yelp from Malcolm. “Ionising nano-membrane carbon dioxide converter,” the Doctor said. “Good news is that the thing does what it says on the box. Filters the CO2 at a molecular level.”
“Are you changing the subject?” Rose asked.
“I’m still thinking about it,” the Doctor said. “I’ll keep you informed.” Looking to Malcolm, the Doctor gave him an expectant look.
“Yes,” Malcolm agreed. “We confirmed that, but something about it still seems off.” He shook his head and looked at the monitor. “We haven’t been able to figure out how or where the carbon goes. Surely it has to be stored.”
“Good point,” the Doctor said. He nodded in approval and Malcolm preened. “It’s decades ahead of its time. This technology shouldn’t be on Earth and you’re right about the byproduct. There should be something and yet…” He gestured at the device. “Nothing obvious.” Shaking his head, he crossed his arms over his chest. “So this, this ATMOS thing. Where'd it come from?”
“Oh, it was made by Luke Rattigan,” Malcolm said.
“And who is he?”
“You don’t know?”
“Wouldn’t have asked if I did,” the Doctor said.
“Well… I suppose that says something about his place in history,” Malcolm said. He moved over to the computer and tapped a few buttons. “Just let me pull up the file… and here we are. Child genius. Invented the Fountain Six search engine when he was twelve years old. Millionaire overnight. Now runs the Rattigan Academy. A private school, educating students handpicked from all over the world.” Malcolm scowled slightly and shook his head. “I met him when the investigation started.”
“Didn’t like him. Rude, arrogant, and just… slimy.” Malcolm adjusted his glasses. “I’ve met geniuses, Doctor. I work with some of the best minds around the world, ones who are truly concerned about saving the world. Rattigan’s ATMOS looks good, but I didn’t get the sense that the boy cared about anything but himself. Of course, that’s just my reaction.”
“Don’t underestimate that,” the Doctor said. He studied the photo on screen of the brown-haired young man. “You lot take in more information than you can process so you probably noticed something, even subconsciously, that wasn’t right. Besides, you like Rose, so you’ve got good taste in people.”
Malcolm beamed at him and looked back at the file. “Will you be wanting to meet with him?”
“I think that is a very good idea. Is he at the school or are they out for Christmas?”
“No,” Malcolm said. Then he blinked in surprise. “That’s another strange thing. Rattigan recently canceled the winter break from his school so the students could stay on for some kind of big project.”
“Big project and no winter break for Christmas,” the Doctor said. “Curiouser and curiouser.”
“I’ll arrange transport,” Malcolm said cheerfully. “Just give me a few minutes, Doctor.”
He dashed off and Rose looked down at the small device. “It doesn’t look dangerous,” Rose said. Sighing, she shook her head. “I suppose dangerous things rarely look that way.”
“Well, you don’t.” Raising an eyebrow, Rose looked at the Doctor who grinned. “I’m not wrong.”
“I’m going to take that in the nicest way possible,” Rose said. “Now, if you excuse me, I need to make a phone call.”
The Doctor nodded and Rose stepped outside the room. Her eyes lingered on the ATMOS device nervously. She was very relieved that her mum still didn’t drive, but Jackie did like her taxis. All of them probably had ATMOS already. Still, her mum wouldn’t be leaving the house today, not before a party. Pulling out her phone, Rose hit one of her speed dials and waited impatiently.
“Hello?” Sarah Jane answered a moment later.
“Hi, Sarah Jane, it’s Rose,” she said.
“Rose! Happy Christmas!” Sarah Jane’s voice was bright and happy. “How are you?”
“I’m fine, but there’s something going on,” Rose said.
Sarah Jane sighed. “Of course there is,” she said. “Your mum came over to complain about UNIT calling you in.”
“You’re home then?” Rose asked.
“Yes, I’m home. Luke and Skye are here and Ian and Barbara came down,” Sarah Jane said.
“Great, but Sarah Jane have you installed ATMOS into your car?”
“ATMOS?” Sarah Jane repeated. “No, we’ve gone electric.”
“Good.” Rose sighed in relief. “Look there is something up with the cars so stay home today if you can. We’re not sure what’s up with the cars yet, but be careful.”
“We will be,” Sarah Jane said. “I know Gita has ATMOS so I’ll warn Rani. Oh… I think Luke had ATMOS put into his car. We’ll stay away from it.”
“Thanks, and can you alert the rest of the Club?”
“I’ll tell the kids and we’ll start making calls,” Sarah Jane promised. “Is the Doctor with you?”
“Yes, he’s working on figuring out what the ATMOS does,” Rose said. “We’ll sort it out. Just stay safe until then.”
“We will,” Sarah Jane promised. “And we’ll contact the others, don’t worry.”
“Thank you,” Rose said. “And as for my mum-”
“I’ll ask her over,” Sarah Jane said. “Or send someone over if she’s stubborn about it.”
“This is why you’re my favourite.”
“Sweet lies,” Sarah Jane said. “I know Ace is your favourite.”
Rose felt better as she ended the call. Sarah Jane would make sure to alert the others. They had enough sense to stay out of ATMOS cars. Jo would probably rave about how dangerous and polluting cars were in general in response. Still, it was nice to have Sarah Jane near her mum.
“I alerted Sarah Jane,” Rose said as she walked back into the room. “She’s going to alert the rest of the Club to stay clear of their cars if they have ATMOS.”
“The Club.” The Doctor shook his head. “You people are strange.”
“We’re the strange ones?” Rose raised an eyebrow in amusement. “No, I really don’t think so.” She looked back at the ATMOS device. “Okay, so what’s the plan, Doctor?”
“Wait for UNIT to-”
“Rose,” a familiar voice called. Rose looked up to find Mickey standing in the doorway. He smiled warmly at her. “Hey there, gorgeous.”
“Hey, yourself.” Rose stood up and opened her arms for a hug.
“I’m on duty.”
“And I don’t care.”
Mickey shook his head but stepped forward to give her a tight hug. Rose’s shoulders relaxed a little at seeing him safe and sound.
“How are you?” Rose asked. She smiled softly at Mickey. “About your Gran?”
“I’m okay actually,” Mickey said. “And I was the last time you called me about it.” He nodded and sighed. “She passed peacefully in her sleep, Rose. I can’t ask for more than that. And no, it had nothing to do with Eclipse,” he said. “We’ve been over that and your mum has been more than happy to smot- I mean mother me.”
“Still, first Christmas without her.”
“Which is why I’m grateful that you came home.” He gestured around them. “Though, once again a Christmas with aliens.”
“I was hoping that since I’m not living on Earth anymore that it wouldn’t happen,” Rose said. She shrugged. “Sorry.”
“Nothing for it but to deal with it,” Mickey said. “Come on, I’ve got transport this way, Doctor.” He smiled a little at the Doctor who looked torn between amusement and glaring at Mickey.
“Doctor,” Mickey greeted. “Good to see you again. I’ve been assigned as your UNIT escort.” He gave the Doctor a quick salute. “If you need anything just let me know. If it's against regulations, please ask in a whisper.”
The comment made the Doctor smile and he nodded. “Fair enough.”
“I’ve got a car waiting if you’re ready,” Mickey said. “Rattigan Academy?”
“That’s right.” The Doctor nodded. “Lead the way, I need to see what this genius is about.”
Mickey led them out of the research unit, past a long line of jeeps parked outside a warehouse. The whole place was being turned into a makeshift base. They didn’t stop and headed to the end of the line where a dark SUV was parked.
“Hey, isn’t that my SUV?” Rose asked. She pointed at the familiar dark blue SUV that had the small dent in the passenger door.
“Yeah,” Mickey said. He gave her a sheepish smile. “All the UNIT vehicles were fitted with ATMOS before this whole mess started. They can’t be removed until UNIT can prove something is wrong with this.”
“And you have my old car because?”
“Because you gave Rani the motorcycle,” Mickey said. Rose gave him a look and he laughed. “When we got the alert about ATMOS, I asked Jackie to borrow it. She agreed and I figure it’s better to transport you and the Doctor around in something that isn’t a potential time bomb.”
“When did you ask? Last night?”
“Yesterday afternoon,” Mickey said. He opened the back door and gestured for Rose to climb in. “Are we going?”
“Why do we even need you then?”
“I’m wounded, Rose.”
“You know better than to mess with an estate girl.”
The Doctor wasn’t sure what to make of Mickey Smith. His interactions with the boy had been limited in the past. He used to think that Mickey was in love with Rose, he’d been sure of it, but that seemed to be gone now. Instead, they teased each other like siblings despite the formal military situation. The Doctor was grateful that Mickey had been chosen and felt the tension in his shoulders slowly easing as the pair caught up. Being around a military base was proving to be harder than he’d expected. At least it was UNIT and they had enough scientists and medics around to make him feel a bit better about the whole thing.
“So, Mickey, can you tell us anything more about this Rattigan?” Rose asked.
“Well beyond sharing his name with a Disney villain-” Rose laughed and Mickey grinned in the rearview mirror. “Yeah, thought you’d like that.”
“Great Mouse Detective is excellent,” Rose said.
“It is,” the Doctor agreed. He turned to look at Rose in the back seat and was rewarded with a brilliant smile.
“Oh, we’re watching that when we get home!” Rose said. “I’m sure the TARDIS library has it. She’s got everything.”
The Doctor smiled again at Rose calling the TARDIS home. Maybe bringing her back to Earth wasn’t so dangerous. He reminded himself of what she’d said in Sherwood. She had no plans to leave, but most of them didn’t.
“Well, Rattigan’s school is a bit creepy,” Mickey said. “Not as bad as Horath, at least I don’t think so, but they exercise at dawn every day and have special diets.”
“Special diets?” Rose repeated. “That sounds familiar.”
“Yeah,” Mickey agreed. He glanced at the Doctor. “But I’m pretty sure we aren’t dealing with a repeat of… that.”
“What are you two on about?” the Doctor huffed.
“Timelines,” Rose said. “You’ll find out in your next body.”
They were saved from having to continue the conversation by arriving at the Academy. It was an imposing old manor and a group of about ten older teenagers was jogging around on a track that had been built around the school. A small and slight young man with dark brown hair and an impatient expression was waiting for them.
“I don’t like him,” Rose whispered. “He had to know about those people.”
“We’ll see, Rose,” the Doctor said. Then he climbed out and Rose followed.
The young man didn’t move, just watched them approach. “I suppose you're the Doctor?” Rattigan said to the Doctor. “And Agent Thorn?” He looked at her.
“That’s right,” Rose said. “This is Mickey Smith.” She gestured to her friend who was in parade rest.
“Your commanding officer phoned ahead,” Rattigan said.
“That’s odd,” the Doctor said. “I haven’t got a commanding officer. Do you?” Rattigan didn’t react and the Doctor nodded towards the school. “Nice place you have here. I’m glad to see that education is a priority.”
Rattigan led them through the hallways until the Doctor ducked into a lab. He grabbed Rose’s hand to pulled her in after him. Rose blinked and looked around the lab. At first glance, it seemed fairly normal with a familiar layout, but the items scattered around weren’t right. Some were familiar from her travels and scientific journals, but others didn’t fit at all.
“Oh fantastic,” the Doctor said. “Single molecule fabric.” He picked up the end of a large sheet and rubbed it. “Perfectly thin, Rose, easy to pack into tiny places.” He let the fabric drop and moved on. “Gravity simulators. Terraforming, biospheres, and nano-tech steel construction.” He turned and looked towards Rattigan. “Highly advanced, just what would be expected from a place like this. Do you know, with equipment like this you could colonize another planet?”
Rattigan’s mouth twitched and there was a flash of something in his eyes. “If only that was possible.”
“If only that were possible,” the Doctor corrected. “Conditional clause.”
Something in Rattigan’s posture changed. He almost nodded as he said, “I think you'd better come with me.”
He led them out of the room in a hurry, still talking as they reached what looked like an office. There was a pool and an odd pod in the corner. Narrowing her eyes at it, Rose couldn’t’ shake the sense that it was familiar. It looked a lot like a transport pod.
“You're smarter than the usual UNIT grunts, I'll give you that,” Rattigan said to the Doctor.
“Oh you don’t give them enough credit,” the Doctor said.
“What exactly do you want?” Rattigan said.
“Why did you create ATMOS?” the Doctor asked. It was casual, but his blue eyes had turned to ice. “Out to save the world.”
“Takes a man with vision.”
“Except that the carbon dump a few months back almost reset the greenhouse gases,” the Doctor said. “And now ATMOS means that more people are driving. More cars means more petrol since people can feel good about their ATMOS system and don’t feel the need anymore to go electric. Long term, the ATMOS system could make things worse.”
Rattigan’s face tightened. “Yeah. Well, you see, that's a tautology. You can't say ATMOS system because it stands for Atmospheric Emissions System. So you're just saying Atmospheric Emissions System system.” Rattigan marched closer to the Doctor. “Do you see, Mister Conditional Clause?”
“You were working on this before the carbon dump,” the Doctor said calmly. “And pushed ahead anyway because it isn’t about saving the world. At least… not in the traditional sense.” The Doctor shook his head. “You didn’t create ATMOS on your own Rattigan, that much is clear to me.” His gaze was almost dismissive. “It might be Earth technology, but it’s like finding a mobile phone in the Middle Ages.”
“Unless it’s mine,” Rose said. The Doctor cracked a smile and Rattigan’s eyes were wide with a hint of panic. “Now what about the transmat.”
“Noticed that did you?” the Doctor asked. “Good girl.” He looked back at Rattigan and smiled. “Now, see she’s clever. Right clever. Not arrogant about it. Rose could probably revolutionize the world if she had a mind to and I wasn’t so selfish about keeping her with me.” Then the Doctor turned on his heel and strode to the transmat. “Nothing to say, Rattigan?”
“Leave it alone,” Rattigan said.
The Doctor stepped into the transmat and opened a small panel. “And… here we go! Be back in a tic Rose. Don’t wander off.”
The transmat activated and the Doctor vanished. He reappeared on a dark and sleek bridge of a spaceship. There were dozens of armoured aliens moving from station to station and for a moment they didn’t notice him. He was just about to transmat back when a Sontaran turned towards him.
“We have an intruder.”
“Yes, well, I’m just passing through,” the Doctor said. He hit the button and teleported back to Rattigan’s Academy.
Chapter 4: The ATMOS Device
The Christmas Poison
Chapter Four: The ATMOS Device
Rose had only enough time to blink when the Doctor returned. He rushed out of the transmat and reached for her left hand.
“Run!” He snapped. “Luke, you've got to come with me!”
Luke made no move to run. The Doctor grumbled and reached for the sonic screwdriver, but the transmat flashed. Gasping softly, Rose turned to see what had come down. It was a stocky figure in metallic armor. Rose knew what it was in an instant from the stories of the other companions. The Doctor stopped moving for the door and Mickey pulled his firearm. Rose’s right hand twitched and she braced herself to summon her sword.
“Sontaran!” Rose said. It was a little too loud because the figure stopped and looked towards her.
The Doctor didn’t hesitate. “How did she know that?” the Doctor asked. “That’s what you are, isn’t it. A Sontaran. How did she know that?”
“I order you to surrender in the name of the Unified Intelligence Taskforce,” Mickey said. His voice was even and calm.
“Your firearm isn’t going to help here,” the Doctor said. “Armor has a built-in Cordolaine signal. The copper excitation effect stops the bullets. They won’t even fire.”
“How do you know so much?” the Sontaran demanded. The Doctor just met his gaze and the Sontaran turned towards Luke. “Who is he? Who is she?”
“Her name is Agent Thorn,” Rattigan said. He sounded nervous. “He didn’t give his name.”
“What are you doing?” the Doctor asked. “Is this how Sontarans behave now? Hiding up in their spaceship? Using human teenagers to bring their plans to fruition?” He nodded towards the armor. “Stopping bullets? Where’s the warrior honor?”
“You dishonour me, sir.”
“Then show yourself.”
“I will look into my enemy's eyes!” The Sontaran removed his helmet with his two large fingers and thumb. As he pulled it off, he revealed the squat potato-like face that Rose had been told about.
“Ah…” Mickey breathed. “Okay.”
“And your name?” The Doctor asked.
“General Staal, of the Tenth Sontaran Fleet. Staal the Undefeated.”
“That will be a bit of problem if you’re ever defeated,” the Doctor said. Calmly, the Doctor picked up a racket and ball. Rose frowned slightly in confusion, trying to remember what the other companions had told her about Sontarans.
“Sir?” Mickey asked. Rose noted that he didn’t call him by name.
“Mickey, this is a Sontaran. They are the finest soldiers in the galaxy, dedicated to a life of warfare,” the Doctor explained. He began bouncing the ball on the racket like he didn’t care. “A clone race, grown in batches of millions with only one weakness.”
“Sontarans have no weakness.”
“Oh, everything has a weakness,” the Doctor said. “And yours is a good one all things considered.”
“Aren't you supposed to be clever?” Rattigan hissed. “Only an idiot would provoke him.”
“The back of their head,” Rose said. “The uh… probic vent?”
“Exactly,” the Doctor said. He grinned at her. “Yes, the Sontarans are fed by a probic vent in the back of their neck. That's their weak spot. It means that they always have to face their enemies in battle or else they expose their weakness. They can never turn and run.”
“We stare into the face of death,” Staal said.
Something in the room tensed and Rose’s hand twitched with the urge to summon her sword. The Doctor, however, tossed the ball into the air and smashed it with the racket. It sped forward into the transmat only to bounced back and hit Staal in the back. He grunted in pain, stumbling forward.
The Doctor grabbed her hand as he ran past. There was a whirl of the sonic screwdriver and a hint of ozone behind them. Rose followed him and glanced back to make sure Mickey was following them. The three rushed down the corridors towards the main doors of the academy.
Rattigan dropped down next to Staal, trying to help him to his feet, but Staal shook him off. “Don't touch me. A Sontaran would rather be court-martialed than show pain. I must return.”
Standing up and backing off, Rattigan gestured towards the transmat. “But he broke the teleport.”
“Ha.” Staal laughed and raised his baton. “Primitive sonic trickery.” The end of his baton flashed and the transmat whirled again. “The device is now repaired.”
Rattigan fell into step alongside Staal in the transmat. His shoulders were tense, but his expression was coldly calm as the device activated. A moment later the pair appeared on the bridge of the Sontaran ship. The alien soldiers looked towards Staal.
“Our presence is known,” Staal said, marching forward through the dark bridge with Rattigan following. “Soldiers, we move to a war footing.”
“I see you face battle open skinned, sir,” another Sontaran said to Staal. “Might I share that honour?”
Staal turned to look at the Sontaran who spoke for a moment. “You may.”
“Thank you.” The Sontaran removed his helmet revealing a very similar face. Rattigan looked between them with confusion on his face.
“How do you tell each other apart?” Rattigan asked.
Both Sontarans looked at him with blank faces. “We say the same of humans,” Staal said.
“Tell me, boy. How many ATMOS devices have been installed?” the second Sontaran asked Rattigan.
Rattigan stumbled for a moment but quickly recovered. “They’ve gone worldwide, but only about half.”
“Which means four hundred million cars converted,” Staal said. “A fine arsenal.”
“Is it sufficient to trigger the conversion?” the second Sontaran asked.
“More than enough, yeah,” Rattigan assured them. “And the test signal proved that it works! Fifty-two deaths in the same second. Man, that is just so cool.” His glee radiated off of him even as the Sontarans gave him confused looks.
“Is the temperature significant?”
“No. That, that's just a phrase,” Rattigan explained awkwardly. “But I'll get my people ready, General. Just tell me where and when.”
“Have we infiltrated UNIT?” Staal asked.
There was a moment of hesitation. “There have been difficulties in securing a member with the proper access,” the second Sontaran explained. “Only soldiers are near the clone center thus far.”
“We must have an agent, Commander Skorr,” Staal snapped. “Get to it.”
“Yes, sir.” Skorr nodded and moved to the teleporter. He vanished a moment later.
Rattigan exhaled slowly as the Sontaran vanished. He wasn’t sure what kind of agent they wanted inside UNIT, but he knew that Skorr would get it. They were effective. He moved slowly over to the large window that looked down on Earth. It was so small. Blue and green with hints of browns and greys.
“ATMOS devices operating at one hundred percent efficiency. Orbit now holding at five five six point three, sector two seven zero,” a Sontaran said.
“Continue,” Staal said before moving over to join Rattigan. “War can never come too soon. Take your last look, boy.”
“It was never big enough for me,” Rattigan said. His words were dismissive, but there was a hint of tension in his voice.
“I like your ambition,” Staal said.
“That doctor wasn’t in a UNIT jeep,” Rattigan said. “They probably used it because it didn’t have ATMOS so how do we deal with him?”
“You said you didn't know his name,” Staal said. He looked sideways at Rattigan.
“I don't. He just said doctor. Does that mean something?”
“There is an enemy of the Sontarans known as the Doctor,” Staal said. “A face-changer.”
“Do you mean he's an alien too?” Rattigan asked.
“Legend says that he led the battle in the last great Time War. The finest war in history and we weren't allowed to be a part of it,” Staal explained. “Oh, but this is excellent. The last of the Time Lords will die at the hands of the Sontaran Empire, in the ruins of his precious Earth.”
Rose pulled out her phone as they sped away in her old SUV. Under other circumstances, she would have told metal foot Mickey to be more careful, but she was relieved to have gotten away.
“Stewart,” the crisp voice of Kate greeted.
“Hi Kate,” Rose said. “It’s the Sontarans. We just ran into their general at Rattigan's Academy. UNIT should have files on them.”
“Yes,” Kate agreed. There was some commotion in the background. “Pulling it up now. Oh my, they look-”
“Yeah I know,” Rose said.
“Tell her not to enter the factory!” the Doctor said from the front. “If there are any Sontarans in the factory then UNIT will get slaughtered. We’re on our way back.”
“Kate, the Doctor says to keep UNIT out of the factory. The Sontaran technology is too advanced for human weaponry.”
“Bugger,” Kate said. “Alright, we’ll fall back, but please tell me that you have some kind of plan. We can’t just isolate the factory forever.”
Rose looked at the Doctor. “Do you have a plan?”
“I still need to sort out what ATMOS is,” the Doctor said. “Tell her to set up a car with ATMOS in a secure room for me to work with,” the Doctor said.
Rose relayed the message to Kate who sighed. “Alright, Rose. We’ll get that done and I’ll pull back the troops to the perimeter. Anything else?”
“Uh… keep an eye on the workers,” Rose said. “The Sontarans use cloning technology so I’d isolate any soldiers who were in the factory alone.”
“We had everyone in at least pairs of two,” Kate said. “But message received. Are we sure that the workers aren’t clones?”
“The Doctor seems confident on that,” Rose said. “Just keep them at the old base. Hopefully, they’ll come out of whatever was done to them.”
“Understood. Keep us informed.”
“We will,” Rose promised. “And we’ll be back soon.” She hung up the phone and sighed. “Nothing to do now, but get back to UNIT and hope nothing goes wrong in the meantime.”
“I still don’t get the cloning thing,” Mickey said. “If they can clone… why bother with the workers.”
“Probably easier,” the Doctor said. “Sontarans clone themselves and occasionally agents, but they also have mind control technology. First time I met Sarah Jane Smith, we were transported into the past where a stranded Sontaran was mind controlling scientists from the present to help him repair his ship.”
“In the past?” Mickey asked. “Uh…”
“It was a weird one,” the Doctor said. “Bottom line, they’re happy to work with whatever they’ve got. Earth has a lot of people that no one goes looking for. A lot of those workers might also be homeless. Some drugs and suggestions, special food, and voila they can work 24 hours a day or close to.”
“You humans are endurance machines,” the Doctor said. “But for now, just drive and get us back to UNIT. I have a few thoughts on that ATMOS device.”
Command Skorr was met with the two cloned soldiers in the silent factory. He looked around with a frown of displeasure. There were no human subjects waiting to be cloned.
“Have you not secured additional UNIT agents?”
“UNIT has ordered all troops to fall back from the factory,” the clone of Harris answered blandly. “All personnel are now in the defensive line. Alerts not to enter the factory, not to engage with aliens, and not to go anywhere in groups less than four have been issued.”
“Blast,” Skorr huffed. “UNIT has anticipated our move.” Skorr straightened up and almost smiled. “It is almost a pity that their actions ensure they will not die as soldiers. It would have been more honorable. Still, General Staal will not be pleased.”
Whatever tension there had been at the factory had doubled by the time they got back. At least, all of the workers were gone now and the soldiers were organized in holding patterns behind barricades around the main factory. Everyone was rushing and moving as they pulled up and stopped. Mickey sighed in relief and patted the steering wheel.
“Back safe and sound,” he said. “I’m glad Jackie isn’t one to install every new piece of tech that comes around.”
“No,” Rose agreed. “She isn’t. Not unless it is an improved phone system.”
“True,” Mickey said. “Still, don’t want to think about what would have happened if we’d used an ATMOS car.” He climbed out of the SUV and exhaled deeply. “Remind me to thank your mum.”
“Please don’t give her details,” Rose said. She shivered slightly. “I don’t need you making things worse.”
“She’s trying, Rose.”
“I know.” Rose shook her head and gave Mickey a smile. “Let’s just be honest, we’re two very different people.”
“Usually,” Mickey agreed. He looked at the Doctor. “Thankfully Rose doesn’t slap.”
“No, but she has a sword,” the Doctor said. “Now, where’s that car, Mickey. I need to figure out what we’re dealing with.”
“Of course,” Mickey said. He straightened up, slipping back into full military mode. “One moment, sir.”
Mickey saluted and the Doctor’s expression tightened. As Mickey moved off to speak with an officer, Rose moved closer to the Doctor, standing close enough to him that their arms touched. He relaxed a little and looked around at the defenses. Then he looked up into the sky and shook his head.
“This is odd behavior for Sontarans,” he said. “I don’t like it.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Rose said.
Mickey returned a moment later with Private Ross Jenkins and Rose smiled in greeting. He nodded to her and saluted the Doctor before escorting them to the space UNIT had set up for them. One of the UNIT jeeps was in the center of the small warehouse. There were a few boxes of materials pushed up against the wall, but it still gave the Doctor lots of room to work. Malcolm was just outside the door with some equipment, looking very uneasy.
“Are you sure about this, Doctor?” Malcolm asked. “Everything in the files about the Sontrans is much more straightforward. This doesn’t seem to fit at all.”
“I agree,” the Doctor said. He pulled on his sonic screwdriver and looked inside at the jeep. “But I teleported onto their ship. It’s definitely them and they are in orbit.”
“What else do you need from us?” Malcolm asked.
“Stay out here for the time being,” the Doctor said. Then he looked at Rose. “Any chance you’ll stay outside.”
The Doctor smiled, touched at Rose’s reply and nodded towards the door. They walked into the lit warehouse and Rose looked back to see Malcolm, Mickey, and Ross lingering in the doorway. She wondered where Tosh had gone off to. The Doctor opened the hood of the jeep and pointed the sonic screwdriver at the ATMOS device installed into the engine.
“You tried sonicing it before,” Rose said. “You didn't find anything.”
“Didn’t know what I was looking for,” the Doctor said. “But now I know that it’s based on Sontaran technology-” Whatever else he was going to say was cut off when strange spikes suddenly sprang out of the ATMOS device.
“Defense system?” Rose asked.
“No, this is something else. It’s a temporal pocket, hidden just a second out of sync with real time.”
“That’s serious technology to invest into an invasion,” Rose said. Then she paused. “Is this an invasion or something else?”
Then murky dark orange smoke began to pour out of the device. Rose’s eyes widened and she took a step back, tugging the neck of her sweater over her mouth cautiously. The Doctor pointed the sonic screwdriver at the device again, but the smoke just kept spilling out.
“Doctor, that’s not exhaust,” Rose said.
“Rose!” Mickey called. “Come over here!”
“No, not just exhaust,” the Doctor agreed. “Something more.”
Then Malcolm made a sound of alarm. Rose looked towards him and Malcolm gestured frantically out of the warehouse. “Doctor!”
Grabbing Rose’s hand, the Doctor tugged her towards the doorway. Already the warehouse was starting to fill with the ugly smoke. It tickled his nose as he tried to sort out the chemical composition, but he couldn’t nail it. Then he looked outside. The rows of UNIT jeeps were all giving off the smoke through their exhaust pipes, suddenly running without any drivers. All around them, the soldiers were backing off with looks of confusion.
“They’ve activated the system,” the Doctor said.
Malcolm’s phone beeped and he pulled it out with fumbling hands.
“Doctor,” Malcolm said. “Cars all over the world just started pouring out the gas.”
“Millions of poison dispensers,” Rose whispered. “I hope you have a plan, Doctor.”
Chapter 5: Stalling
The Christmas Poison
Chapter Five: Stalling
AN: And now we move on to my least favourite part of this episode originally. Where was the bloody Science Department? Seriously, where were they? What were they doing?
Nothing stopped the smoke. The Doctor gave up trying to sonic the individual vehicles after only a few times. A couple of the mechanically inclined UNIT soldiers, sadly including Mickey, tried to rip out the devices only to stumble back as the smoke became too thick. More vehicles were being pushed into the warehouses which were sealed behind them. Nothing was working.
Grabbing his arm, Rose pulled the Doctor back from the cars. More soldiers were falling back and Malcolm was gesturing them into the main control room. Smoke filled Rose’s mouth and she coughed. It was sour against her taste buds, exhaust and something else. It lingered even after she coughed. The Doctor looked at her in alarm and Rose tried to smile. Suddenly worried, it was now his turn to pull her into the main control room. Malcolm was inside and already giving instructions on how to best seal the door.
“I’m okay,” Rose said. She shuddered and shook her head. “That’s…. really disgusting.”
“Yeah,” the Doctor agreed. His face was filled with relief and he tucked a strand of loose blonde hair behind her ear. “Jeopardy Friendly.”
“Sorry, but I have to breathe.” Rose glanced towards the door and frowned. “We all do.”
“Doctor,” Kate called. Her eyes were on the screens across the room. “ATMOS has activated everywhere, all across the globe. So far, no one has been able to stop it.”
“The devices have been gathering the exhaust and are mixing it with other chemicals,” the Doctor said darkly. “Even disconnecting the cars won’t do much.” He shook his head. “Release an alert, tell people to stay inside and seal up their homes as best they can.”
“Hell of a Christmas,” Kate said. “Let’s hope most people are to their destinations.”
Rose’s stomach turned. Christmas, a lot of people would be driving somewhere to visit friends or family. She wondered how many of her mum’s guests had already shown up. The control room was a rush of noise as messages were sent out. The Doctor’s gaze was locked on the screens as more and more red dots were added, giving the impression that blood was covering the map. Rose recognized that it was worst in the cities. Thankfully, there were whole sections of countryside that were all but empty.
“Doctor, is it poison? Are the Sontrans trying to choke us?” Kate asked, turning back to the Doctor.
“It’s an odd play for them,” the Doctor said darkly. “I need to know what the gas is,” the Doctor said. His jaw was tight and he was glaring at everything except Rose. “It’s important. It isn’t just exhaust so what else could the Sontarans put in it.”
“Any thoughts about what they want?” Kate asked.
“No.” The Doctor almost growled. “This is strange for them. It’s all wrong for them. I don’t know what to make of it.”
“What about the TARDIS?” Rose asked. “She has atmosphere scanners.”
“It’ll take too long. By the time the gas is thick enough for a detailed breakdown-”
“Then let’s skip the detailed breakdown and start with some basics,” Rose said. “Many even knowing some of the chemicals will help you figure it out.”
“I should take the TARDIS up to the ship,” the Doctor said. “Confront them up there.”
“Doctor, don’t,” Rose said softly. “They like a fight. You go directly to them and they’ll just start shooting you.”
“You know they will. They’re behaving oddly, you said so yourself,” Rose said. “Which means that they are after something specific.”
“I might find out up there.”
“You might not.” Rose shook her head as her chest tightened. “This is a long game. Helping Rattigan make these things and getting them across Earth… they have a purpose.”
“To kill us?” Kate asked. “Doctor, I need to know what to prepare for.”
“No,” the Doctor said. “Rose is right, this is something else. If they wanted to kill you, they would have just used their weapons. They want something else?”
“Would the Shadow Proclamation be able to help?” Kate asked. She looked at Rose. “Or the Durmino Empire?”
“Maybe,” Rose said. “Doctor, I’m going to make some calls, you work on the gas and don’t sneak up to the ship without me.”
“Alright,” the Doctor agreed. Then he looked at Kate. “Do not launch missiles at them, Kate, they will bounce off the ship. Yes, their technology and shields are that good. And who knows how the missiles will react to the gas, best not to risk it.”
“I’ll pass that on,” Kate agreed. “But, Doctor, the Security Council will need to know something soon.”
“For now, have everyone stay indoors as much as they can.”
Rose slipped into one of the small back rooms. Two soldiers nodded and left the break room to give her some privacy. In the corner of her eye, she saw Mickey stand next to the doorway, guarding the entrance to where she was, but still keeping an eye on the Doctor. It was reassuring. Rose pulled out her phone and quickly called Spock.
“Rose,” Spock greeted. “It is pleasant to hear your voice.”
“Hi, Spock,” Rose replied. “I won’t waste time, the gas, have you got any readings on it yet?”
“Carbon dioxide and nitrogen are the primary chemicals present,” Spock answered. “Understandable as the devices have been linked to the car exhaust system. “I have managed to isolate samples of phosphatidylcholine additionally.”
“Phosphatidylcholine?” Rose frowned.
“They are a class of phospholipids. They are a major component of biological membranes,” Spock said. “I am unsure if this is a byproduct or something more. I have yet to analyse the whole of the gas content. I will keep you informed.”
“Thanks,” Rose said. She ended the call. “Biological membranes?”
“What was that?” Mickey asked from the doorway.
“Nothing… just feeling like I should have taken more biology classes,” Rose said.
Shaking her head, she went back out into the main area to rejoin the Doctor. Malcolm and Tosh both looked distressed under Kate’s stern gaze. The Doctor’s arms were crossed over his chest and he looked ready to growl at someone.
“We’re only having some luck even identifying the gas,” Malcolm said. “Let alone how to stop it at this point, ma’am,” Malcolm said. Kate didn’t look happy with the news. Her brow furrowed and she crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m not sure what to do if even the Doctor doesn’t know what it is?”
“Hey now!” Rose clapped her hands together, drawing the attention of the scientists. “This isn’t helping. The Doctor is working on a solution so we need to work on one as well.”
“The technology is-” Malcolm started to say.
“Advanced and weird,” Rose said. “But come on! This is the UNIT UK Science Division, some of the cleverest minds in this part of the world and we still have our communications to other science divisions. We can’t stop the gas just yet, but let’s figure out what we can do.”
“What are you thinking, Rose?” Tosh asked, speaking up for the first time.
“The gas is a chemical mixture. It has to react with some things,” Rose said. “I just got off the phone with Spock and he’s working on analyzing the gas too.”
“So far all we’ve got is exhaust,” Malcolm said.
“Yes, but Spock has detected phosphatidylcholine,” Rose said. She said the unfamiliar words carefully and watched as Malcolm’s frown deepened. “Not sure how that worked, but let’s see if we can figure out some of those reactions and contain the chemicals.”
“You want a chemical sink,” Tosh said with understanding. “Something to draw it out of the air.”
“As best we can,” Rose agreed. “Now, we’ve got some information to help us get started. Focus on household chemical goods: cleaners, shampoos, cooking stuff, and anything else that people might have at home. If we can figure out a few reactions, maybe we can at least slow this down, save a few lives and buy the Time Lord more time.”
“Ma’am?” Malcolm asked, looking to Kate.
“You’ve got your orders,” Kate said. She nodded to Rose. “Get to it and keep me informed.”
“I’ll work on the devices,” the Doctor said. He looked towards the screens. “Rose, sooner or later I’ll have to talk to the Sontarans.”
“Yeah, but for now they don’t know you’re here,” Rose said. “Rattigan doesn’t know who you are, that gives us an element of surprise.”
“Maybe,” the Doctor said. He didn’t sound convinced. Then he smiled and nodded towards Malcolm and Tosh. “Good thought with the chemical sink. With the phosphatidylcholine you should be able to do something through the nitrogen might be more of an issue.”
“We’ll do what we can. You do what you can.”
“And don’t go up to that ship without me.”
Everything was a mess. They’d gathered up every bottle of shampoo, body wash, and conditioner from both the UNIT showers and the factory. Bottles of cleaning supplies, mechanical supplies, and bowls had been scattered about in the mobile lab space. Two men had been sent out to a nearby store to buy up as much as they could. The gas wasn’t too thick here, but according to the men, an orange haze was covering the city.
“Do you think any this will work?” Tosh asked.
Rose kept squeezing the soap bottle to pour it into the bowl. “I’m not sure,” she said. “But if we can manage even one or two combinations then we can slow down the effects.”
Her phone rang off and on as the companions called to check in. It wasn’t very helpful, but it reassured Rose that all of them were safe. Jo was in the best position, being in a small base camp in the rainforests. She had yet to see even a hint of anything dangerous and wouldn’t have known it not for Ace’s alert. Sadly, two of her grandchildren were out of cell range and she was in a state over worrying about them.
They kept trying different formulas, using the gas hood to expose their mixtures to the gas. It was both ridiculous and a little fun. Soldiers kept stopping in to check on progress and Rose figured they were feeling an itch. The Sontarans were on the loose, probably in the factory, and they were stuck waiting behind defenses. An itch was developing at the back of her own mind, a desire to do more and a sense of anticipation. The Sontarans wouldn’t wait forever. She lost track of time, falling into a haze of taking notes and mixing strange things together.
A squeal from Tosh made Rose look up sharply. The other woman was standing in front of the chemical lab hood with an excited expression. Crossing the room, Rose looked down into the protected area to see the blue mixture turning a sickly brown color. It looked horrible, but it was a change. Tosh was excitedly tapping at the atmospheric readings and Rose smiled.
“It’s working,” she said. Hugging Tosh, Rose grinned. “It’s working. Which one was this?”
“This was the dish soap, salt, and a few other things,” Tosh said. “It isn’t the easiest to make, but…”
“It’s a start,” Rose said. “Go and tell Malcolm. I’ll keep working on what I’ve got.”
Tosh rushed out and Rose heard the excited voices in the hallway. Holding back a sigh of relief, Rose reminded herself that it wasn’t a full solution. But enough people could make it and put it outside or keep some in their homes. It would at least help. She itched to do more but reminded herself that the Doctor really could manage a few hours without her.
Commander Skorr straightened as his communication beeped with a message from the mothership. Beside him, the two human clones were still and silent, awaiting their orders. Skorr glared at them but dutifully answered the comm.
“What is the delay?”
“UNIT has withdrawn from the factory,” Skorr replied. “We remain unable to reach any humans with high clearance.”
“Unacceptable!” Staal snapped. “The launch of nuclear missiles would be disruptive to the plan.”
“I apologize, General. Should we leave the factory, UNIT will open fire and draw attention to the clones. We will be unable to secure an appropriate agent.”
Staal made a sound of anger. Skorr was grateful that the human said nothing and was likely no longer onboard.
“We do know the location of the Time Lord’s TARDIS,” Skorr said. “The operative may be able to reach it.”
“Then do so!” Staal ordered. “We will monitor UNIT. Be ready to take advantage of any openings.”
“Yes, sir. We will begin moving to the TARDIS!”
They decided to have Tosh do the presentation. Rose wasn’t willing to appear on TV and Malcolm’s accent was a bit thick. Tosh’s hand quivered a little and she avoided looking at the camera, but she slowly explained the mixture of shampoo and cleaners and which chemicals to look for on the label.
“If you have these at home, start mixing,” Tosh said. “Don’t open your doors or windows. Use it to help keep your air clear. If you’re at work, start digging out everything you can find. If you’re in a market, start mixing as much as you can. The more of these there are around the world the longer we have to fix this.” Tosh swallowed. “Keep watching. Our teams around the world are working on finding more mixtures that can help. We’ll update you with every new mixture we find.”
The camera cut and Tosh’s shoulders slumped in relief. Malcolm gave her a wide grin and a hug before pulling Rose over and cheering about ‘his clever girls.’ Rose shook her head fondly and noted the relief on Tosh’s face that it was over.
UNIT Japan came up with the next solution. One of their advisors did the local broadcast and the formula was sent around the world through local news stations. UNIT Canada followed in under an hour with a third mixture and the three were quickly being shared around the world via news stations, radio, and social media. Rose braced herself for the Sontarans to cut the communication, but she supposed that it wouldn’t strike them as a real threat. It was stalling. She knew it, the Sontarans and UNIT knew it, and people around the world knew it. But the last thing you ever wanted to give the Doctor was time.
“Rose?” Malcolm asked softly. “You alright?”
“Restless,” Rose said. “Why aren’t the Sontarans doing anything? They have to know we’re here. Rattigan would have informed them.”
“We have the factory fairly well sealed up,” Malcolm said. He sounded worried now too. “Maybe fighting us isn’t a part of their plan.”
“But they’re Sontarans,” Rose said. “That’s what they do. The absence of it is like… I don’t know.” She shook her head. “Look. We’ve got some solutions, I’m going to go and check in with the Doctor.”
Malcolm managed a small smile and nodded. “Alright, I’ve already got troops putting the formula Tosh made in bowls around the complex. It’ll help a little.”
“And if we can get everyone making one then maybe we’ll be okay,” Rose said. The words helped, but her worries weren’t so easy to push away. “It’s almost been an hour now.”
“First deaths are being reported in major cities,” Malcolm said. His tone was soft. “Let’s hope that the formulas can put stop to that.”
Shaking her head, Rose told herself to breathe. Anger wouldn’t help anything. She gave Malcolm a weak smile. “I’m going to check in with the Doctor.”
He nodded in understanding, giving her a soft smile before turning back to his computer. Rose left the science wing, stepping outside where she was quickly handed a gas mask. Breathing through the material, Rose followed a soldier back to the main control base and was quickly let inside. She handed off the gas mask and headed back to the room where the ATMOS device was being kept. Thankfully, as a product that hadn’t been plugged into a car, it wasn’t a danger. The Doctor was looming over it still.
“Any luck?” the Doctor asked. He was glaring at the ATMOS device and looking at plans for the factory in front of him.
“Yes actually,” Rose said. “Three formulas are now in circulations. We don’t know how long they’ll last yet, but it’ll help a little. What about you?”
“Went to the TARDIS awhile ago. Got some readings, but the chemical levels keep changing. Whatever they are trying to make is still a work in progress.”
“So what might the Sontarans be trying to make?” Rose asked.
“I’m not sure.” The Doctor looked at her. “Rose, it’s time to talk to them. The chemical sinks will help and you’ve lit a fire under UNIT, but we still have to deal with the Sontarans.”
“Right,” Rose agreed. “Let’s go then.”
“Doctor,” Kate called as she walked into the room. “The Security Council needs a word.”
“Not now, Kate.”
“Yes, now,” Kate said. “They’re getting scared and talking about launching missiles.” Kate shook her head. “I’ve delayed then as much as I can.”
“I’m not the most diplomatic sort this time around,” the Doctor grumbled.
“Well give me something,” Kate said impatiently. “They want a strike and a few other branches are in favor of it.”
The Doctor grumbled again but nodded. “Rose, I’ll meet you at the TARDIS.”
“Try to play nice,” Rose said. She almost smiled as the Doctor rolled his eyes. Heading for the doorway, she accepted the gas mask once again and waited for the doors to open.
Chapter 6: Teleported
The Christmas Poison
Chapter Six: Teleported
The sky was turning to a hazy sickly orange. In the distance, it was even worse as all the cars in London dumped out their poison supplies. The mask protected Rose’s face and helped her breath clean if sweaty air. Yet, the poison almost felt like it was burning against her exposed skin. She knew it really wasn’t, they’d determined that much at least, but the air was too heavy and wrong.
She walked towards the TARDIS, needing a moment to get her bearings. Another group of people was moving towards her and Rose stopped as she recognized Sharon and Shireen under their masks which wasn’t the easiest feat. Their UNIT guards were walking alongside them, the three men flanking them protectively.
“Yeah, it’s me,” she replied. Her voice was a touch distorted. “You’re still here?”
“Other doctors went with the workers, we’ve been trying to determine the medical effects of the gas,” Sharon said.
“Well, Sharon has been,” Shireen said. “I’m on duty to help anyone that starts to panic.”
“Where are you going?”
“TARDIS,” Rose said. “I’m going to see if the scanners can provide anything useful at this point. Want to come along?”
Her friends looked at each other and then nodded. Shireen turned to their guards and said, “You can wait here. We’ll be fine.”
“No one is supposed to go anywhere alone,” one of the guards protested through his gas mask.
“They’ll be three of us and one of us is Agent Thorn,” Sharon said. Rose could hear her rolling her eyes. “We won’t be long, but with our medical knowledge, we might be able to help. Shireen may be a psychologist, but that required medical school too.”
Rose smiled beneath her mask. She suddenly had the suspicion that her friends were finding the UNIT guards irritating. The men slowly stood down, still looking uneasy and Rose nodded for her friends to follow her to the TARDIS. The blue box was waiting for them between the two warehouses where they’d landed it. Rose noted with a frown that there was less security around it then she’d been expecting. Then again, all of the soldiers except for guards were at the barriers.
“Have you talked to Jackie?” Shareen asked.
“No, but I talked to Sarah Jane,” Rose said. “She was going to spread a warning about ATMOS and you know that my mum doesn’t really drive. What about your families?”
“I checked in about half an hour ago,” Sharon said. “They were fine and were sealed up inside. They’re lucky since my mum has so many indoor plants. Maybe that will help.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Rose said. “My mum’s got a bunch at this point too.”
“Jackie Tyler, green thumb,” Shareen chuckled. “No one saw that coming.”
Pulling out her key, Rose unlocked the door of the TARDIS and pushed it open quickly. The three women rushed inside and Rose all but slammed the doors behind them. There was a slight hissing sound as she pulled off her mask and Rose smiled as the TARDIS’ air took on a hint of rose smell.
“Well, I think her filtration system is working,” Rose said. She walking up towards the console as the TARDIS beeped in response. “Thanks, Beautiful.”
Sharon and Shireen, still lingering by the door, finally took off their gas masks. They both took deep breaths and smiled fondly at her talking to the TARDIS. Shareen and Sharon looked around the TARDIS calmly as they walked inside. Thankfully, the air inside was clean and fresh. Sharon leaned against the railing in relief and inhaled deeply. Rose smiled and moved over the monitor, gently tapping it.
“So, how is everything?” Shareen asked, watching as Rose adjusted the TARDIS monitor.
“Uh, not sure yet, she’s still bringing up the information. Give me a tick.”
“With the Doctor I mean?”
“Good,” Rose said. She didn’t look at her friends.
“Rose?” Sharon pushed. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, nothing really, but sometimes I just… miss him. It’s silly. He’s right next to me, but I miss the intimacy of being able to kiss him and show more affection,” Rose admitted.
Sharon made a soft sound and reached over to hug her. “Sorry, honey.”
“Yeah,” Shareen agreed. She leaned her head on Rose’s shoulder. “You’ll get there.”
“We’ve seen the proof of that,” Sharon agreed. “Your future kids are around enough for that.”
“I know,” Rose said. “It just creeps up on me sometimes.”
“Fair enough,” Shareen said. She paused for a long moment. “How is he doing?”
“There… there are good days and harder days,” Rose said. “But… I don’t think he’s had any truly bad days for awhile. Even on the harder days, he tinkers and will eat banana bread so I really do think he’s doing a bit better.”
“Glad to hear it,” Shareen said. She was smiling softly at Rose. ‘What about you?”
“I’m okay,” Rose said. “Like I said, sometimes I just find myself missing him which seems silly.”
“It isn’t,” Sharon assured her. “It really isn’t Rose.”
“We’re always here if you need to talk,” Shareen added. “Just use your superphone.”
Rose laughed. “I already call you every other day basically. You know more about my life than anymore save the Doctor.” The console beeped. “And the TARDIS of course.” The screen changed and Rose leaned forward. “Okay, that’s something.”
“So what does the screen say?” Sharon asked.
“Looks like the gas levels are holding,” Rose said. “They aren’t dropping, but they aren’t rising anymore. The sinks around the world are holding it at bay.” A sigh of relief escaped her. “That at least validates the past hour of work.”
“Those sinks won’t last forever,” Sharon said. “Sooner or later people will run out of supplies. Or if the sun is blocked out too long, we’ll lose crops across the world. Last thing we need is a global famine.”
“I hadn’t thought about that,” Rose admitted. “You’re right that even if we don’t choke, it’ll affect the ecosystem. But what is the stuff made of? Come on, Beautiful, help us out. You’re part of the adventure and I need those lovely atmosphere tools to work.”
The screen began listing chemicals and percentages. Leaning forward, Rose bit her lip and read them off silently to herself. Most were familiar, but there were a few elements listed that Rose had never heard of before. No wonder the UNIT systems were having trouble pinning it down, there were at least three unknown elements helping to form the various compounds.
“That’s all Greek to me,” Shireen said.
“Some of it is to me as well,” Rose said. “But according to the TARDIS, this is a more stable formula than before.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“Bad because their plan is proceeding,” Rose said. “Good because I can let the Doctor know and maybe it will help him.”
Then suddenly, the TARDIS shook lightly forcing Rose to grab onto the railing. It was over in a minute, but nothing in the TARDIS had activated. Sharon and Shireen looked at her with a hint of worry, but no panic. At least they knew they were safe in the TARDIS.
“Rose?” Sharon asked.
“I’m not sure,” Rose said. “I think… I think we’ve moved. Maybe a transmat, that’s technology that the Sontarans have.”
“But how? Can they just lock onto the TARDIS?” Shireen asked.
“Some of them must have gotten through the barrier,” Rose said. She bit her lower lip, suddenly worried about Mickey.
“Or clones,” Sharon said. Both of her friends looked at her. “The Doctor said that the Sontarans use clones right? Maybe they cloned someone.”
“That… could work,” Shireen agreed.
“Maybe, but not the real issue,” Rose said.
She tapped the TARDIS screen and the small screen split in half. On the right side, the image of what was outside the ship came up. They were on the ship alright. Outside was the bridge, full of Sontarans who were moving between stations. Behind her, Sharon and Shireen both gasped softly. Looking at the Sontarans on the screen, Rose felt a flash of fear and annoyance at the same time.
“Oh my god, we’re on their ship!” Sharon squeaked. “Rose?”
“Relax,” Rose said. “We’re in the TARDIS, safest place to be right now. Nothing they have can get through those doors.”
“Positive.” Rose pulled out her phone. “Hopefully Mickey has his phone.” She paused and blinked. “Are they allowed their phones on duty?”
“Mickey is,” Shareen said. “In case you call or he needs to call you.”
“UNIT likes those of us who have you on speed dial,” Sharon said. “Apparently it works better than the old beacon they used to have to use.”
“Good to know,” Rose said.
Mickey Smith watched the Doctor poke at the ATMOS device and look at the screen. Frustration and tension weighed on the alien’s shoulders, but it gave Mickey a chance to properly study the Doctor. He didn’t get it. Not really. Then again, it was hard to him to reconcile the Doctor that the girls sometimes whispered about, that Rose had told him about with the one in the UNIT files. The old flame he used to carry for Rose burned a little with a hint of jealousy, but Mickey was pleased to note that it was mostly gone. He was moving forward with his life just fine despite Rose Tyler only being a friend.
Still, the man or whatever he should think of the Doctor as was a strange thing. Mickey knew that the Doctor had come to help him once because Rose had called. It was clear that he cared about her deeply despite part of Mickey worrying that Rose was just another companion. While he didn’t have access to the Doctor’s whole file, he knew enough about the Companion’s Club to know that the Doctor liked having an entourage. It was messy and while he respected the hell out of the man, he still worried a little.
“Any luck?” he asked.
“No,” the Doctor said. “UNIT can’t identify ten percent of the gas and the key has got to be there. Carbon is useful for a lot of things.” Straightening up, the Doctor grumbled. “And I just cleaned your atmosphere.”
“Thanks for that.” Mickey glanced towards the door, debating with himself how to proceed. “How is Rose doing?”
“She calls you lot all the time, you should know.” The Doctor rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, I hear from her frequently, but Rose… she doesn’t always share what going on. A while ago she was pretty sad about something, I just want to know that she’s okay.”
The Doctor stopped moving around the table and looked up at him. Those icy blue eyes bored into Mickey, but after boot camp, he didn’t flinch at the aggressive attention. Then the Doctor nodded.
“We had a bad day, really bad for her, but she’s okay. We look after each other… though she looks after me more than I look after her.”
Mickey relaxed, the knot in his chest easing a little. “That sounds like Rose.”
His phone rang and the Doctor returned his attention to the ATMOS device. Pulling out his phone, Mickey checked the caller ID. It was Rose and he quickly answered the call.
“Hey gorgeous,” Mickey greeted. “Where are you girls?”
“Up on the Sontaran ship,” Rose answered.
“What? How?” His tone must have been alarmed because the Doctor looked up sharply.
“In the TARDIS, it was teleported,” Rose said. “Sharon and Shireen are with me.”
“Yeah, we’re fine,” Rose said. “This could work to our advantage, being on the Sontaran ship. I need to speak with the Doctor. Promise, we’ll chat at dinner. You are coming over right?”
“Your mother would probably kill me if I didn’t.” The Doctor was looking at Mickey with irritation. “Doctor,” Mickey said. “Phone’s for you.”
The Doctor all but snatched the phone. “Rose?”
“Doctor, the Sontarans took the TARDIS,” Rose said.
“We were in the TARDIS to check the gas levels and now we’re on the Sontaran ship,” Rose said. “They don’t know we’re in here, but they have your ship.”
The Doctor said something that the TARDIS didn’t translate. It almost made Rose laugh. He normally only said those things when the TARDIS shocked him or he dropped a part on his foot.
“You’re alright?” the Doctor asked. “No one is hurt?”
“No, we’re fine,” Rose said. “Look while I’ve got you on the line, let me tell you what the TARDIS detected on Earth before the screen resets, you know I’m not the best at the controls yet.”
‘Hush, Doctor,” Rose said. Then she rambled off the different chemicals, pronouncing the alien ones the best she could. “There's carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides at 89 percent. Those weird ones make up the other 11%.”
“And the gas level?”
“Holding at sixty-two percent by the last scan,” Rose said. “UNIT estimated that deaths would occur quickly at 80% so the chemical sinks have bought time. Does the chemical composition help?”
“Yes,” the Doctor said. “I’m getting some ideas.”
“Good,” Rose said. “And UNIT? How are things do there?”
“Oh humans are starting to panic, but the chemical sinks seem to be helping, giving the illusion of control.” She could hear the frown in his voice. “But Kate’s keeping things from going nuclear. Those alien chemicals would have a strong reaction to nukes, cause the whole thing to go up.”
“Expect the fallout would be terrible,” Rose said.
Rose was about to say more, but then movement on the screen caught her attention. Rattigan had just teleported up onto the ship, his shoulders slumped over. “Hold on, Doctor,” Rose said. “Rattigan just showed up on the bridge.”
Sharon and Shareen started to say something, but Rose tapped the video side of the screen. It expanded over the whole screen and Rose focused her attention on what was happening outside. Rattigan moved forward towards the main Sontaran, the one they’d met down at his academy, who had yet to replace his helmet.
“Sorry to report, sir, I've failed. They wouldn't come,” Rattigan said. Anger and frustration filled his voice. “The students, they didn't have the imagination to believe.”
“That rat,” Sharon hissed.
Staal didn’t seem frustrated, instead, he said. “A pity. We've lost our target practice.”
“What do you mean?” Rattigan asked.
“God he’s a fool,” Rose snarled.
“Upon arrival on board this ship, your students would have been shot down,” Staal said. “Perhaps they were more clever then you thought.”
“You promised,” Rattigan protested. There was only shock in his voice, no anger. The disappointment almost made Rose feel sorry for him as the story began to come together.
“There was no Planetfall. Castor Thirty Six, indeed. We only needed you for installation of the ATMOS system.” Staal sounded close to laughing.
“No, but I'm on your side. I did everything you wanted.” Rattigan’s anger was returning. He backed up onto the teleport pad. “And it's not ATMOS system. That's a tautology. It's just ATMOS.”
“Execute him,” Staal ordered. It was too late, Rattigan teleported away. “A coward's retreat. Now close all teleport links to Earth. Isolate them as they perish.”
“Bugger,” Rose huffed. She brought the phone back up to her ear. “Doctor they just closed off the teleport links. I thing Rattigan was helping them in exchange to transport to Caster Thirty-Six. Sounded like his school was supposed to be a training ground.”
“That explains a lot,” the Doctor said. “Alright, Rose, stay in the TARDIS. I’ll get them to move the TARDIS away from the bridge so you can move around.”
“How are you going to do that?” Rose asked. “Wait, I probably don’t want to know.”
“For the one who wouldn’t let me go up to the ship you’re being very judgmental.”
“It wasn’t my plan to go up to the ship,” Rose said. Then she sighed. “But fine, do what you need to do. Just keep me in the loop.”
“Will do. Don’t leave the ship until I call you back,” the Doctor said. He paused. “And you might want to find my mallet. Sontaran probic vents are easier with blunt objects.”
“Fine, but you’re not getting the mallet back,” Rose said.
Her light-hearted tone helped the Doctor relax. Rose was fine. She was in the TARDIS and safe from the Sontarans. Though he needed her to leave the ship which was a sour note in his mouth. Still, first he had to make the Sontarans move it. Pocketing Mickey’s phone, he strode past the young man and back to the control room.
“Right then,” she said, catching Kate’s attention. “Time to give the Sontarans a call.”
“What?” Kate asked. “Why? What’s happened?”
“They have the TARDIS,” the Doctor said. His voice was tight, almost a growl and he noted that Kate was staying a few steps away. “And Rose.”
“And Shireen and Sharon,” Mickey added.
“Rose will protect them,” the Doctor said. He exhaled slowly and told himself that Rose could handle it. “They can’t get into the TARDIS.”
“That’s a relief. Any chance Rose knows how to fly it?” Kate asked.
The Doctor gave her an odd look. “No. But I have a plan. Step one is call the Sontarans and get them to move the TARDIS away from the bridge. If Rose can move around up there that will open some new options for us.” He glanced at the screens recording the gas levels and nodded to himself.
“Doctor, do you know what is going on?” Kate asked.
“Yeah,” he answered. “Rose and the TARDIS gave me the missing pieces I needed.”
The Doctor pointed the sonic screwdriver at the screens. It wasn’t difficult to tap into the Sontaran frequency and UNIT had cameras in the room for their own communications. An image of the Sontaran bridge appeared and they turned quickly to face him. One of them had its helmet off and the Doctor assumed it was the leader. Crossing his arms over his chest, he mentally prepared himself for the conversation which was not going to be fun. Kate huffed at him, channeling her father as he didn’t explain what he was going to do. It almost made him smile.
Chapter 7: Aboard the Sontaran Ship
The Christmas Poison
Chapter Seven: Aboard the Sontaran Ship
The Doctor squared his shoulders and stared right at the cameras that were now linked to the Sontaran ship. “This is the Doctor.”
Staal almost smiled at the sight of him. That didn’t bode well. “Doctor, breathing your last?”
“Not exactly,” the Doctor replied. “You must know that the gas levels are holding stable.”
“Delaying tactics will not save the planet,” Staal huffed.
“Which leads me to my question: when did the Sontarans become cowards?”
“Doctor, you impugn my honour,” Staal snapped onscreen.
“You do that just fine yourself, Staal. Really, poison gas? That’s the weapon of a coward and you know it.” Kate gave him a warning look. “You could blast this planet to dust or invade and take it in mere hours. Instead, you’ve worked with a human traitor and you’re waiting for Earth to die from above. When did you lose your stomach for war?”
“I have not, Doctor!”
“So there’s something else,” the Doctor said. “Something about the gas and Earth.” He nodded to himself. “You need it for a plan.”
“A general would be unwise to reveal his strategy to the opposing forces,” Staal said.
“I have been trying to stay calm,” the Doctor growled. “I have been trying to stay in control while you lot play with my favorite planet, but I’m running out of patience and mercy.” He was aware of Kate moving back from him. There was a jolt of guilt, he should scare her, but a bigger part didn’t care. “Leave now. This is your only warning.”
“The Sontarans are not intimidated by your threats, Doctor.”
“That’s a lie,” the Doctor said. It almost made him laugh. “I’ve stopped you lot again and again and again. You’re afraid of me. You’re right to be.”
“You are alone, Doctor. The human weapons cannot harm us.”
“So the Sontarans really have become cowards.”
“Cowards?” Staal snapped. “We have fought the Rutan for fifty-thousand years! We sought to join the greatest war-”
“Don’t talk about the Time War,” the Doctor warned. “You don’t want to make me burn you. The Time War is over. I ended it and if you think that I won’t end this then you very mistaken.” The Doctor glared at the screen, noting with pleasure that Staal looked a touch uneasy. “Leave now, you will not win this confrontation.”
“But you lack your ship, your tools, and your tricks, Doctor. Behold we are the first Sontarans in history to capture a Tardis,” Staal said. “You would be wise not to threaten us!” The camera shifted and the blue box was revealed to be sitting in a corner of the bridge.
The Doctor laughed and pulled out his sonic screwdriver. “You’re an idiot showing the TARDIS to me, Staal.” He pointed the sonic screwdriver towards the screen. “I’ve got the remote control.”
“Cease transmission!” Staal snapped.
The screens went black and Kate took a soft step towards him. “Dare I ask what you were trying to achieve?”
“They’ll move the TARDIS off the bridge now,” the Doctor said. “Rose will be able to move around.”
“The Enterprise is near Mars,” Kate said. “They’re testing the engines and probe releasing on the Martian surface.” Shaking her head, she looked at the screens. “Should I call it back?”
“No,” the Doctor said. “Nothing on the Enterprise can stand up against the Sontaran weapons. You bring something else into the solar system that can fight them and Earth will just get caught in the middle of the firefight.”
“I was afraid you’d say that,” Kate said. “I’m all for us working on our own problems, but I wouldn’t mind the Durmino Empire sweeping in right now.”
“The last thing you need is a firefight right above Earth,” the Doctor said. “And the Sontarans will not stand down for the Durmino Empire. Even the Shadow Proclamation can’t do much with them. Usually, the universe just relies on the Rutans and Sontarans keeping each other busy.”
“I’m keeping our men away from the factory,” Kate said. “But if they got the TARDIS then they must have some way to move around without us knowing.”
“Or you’re looking for the wrong thing,” the Doctor said. He frowned thoughtfully. “Just hold position, Kate, and have everyone stay in groups. It’s likely that the Sontarans have cloned at least a few of your men.”
“Clones…” Kate’s frown deepened and her eyes swept around the room. “How can we tell them apart?”
“They’ll smell different,” the Doctor said. “Like clone feed… the TARDIS’ report… those elements make up Bosteen and Probic five. Clone feed.” Shaking his head, he smiled. “So that’s it. Well… I can sort that.”
“Doctor?” Kate blinked at him. “Do you know what they’re doing?”
“Yes,” he answered in a low voice. “But there could be clones nearby. Do you trust me, Kate?”
“I do,” she answered without hesitation.
“Good, I need you keep people calm. Keep your men out of the factory. They’ll never make it through the Sontaran defenses.”
“I don’t like just sitting here, Doctor,” Kate said.
“Your science department bought me time and has kept people from dying,” the Doctor reminded her. “That’s not just sitting here. Science leads, Kate, let it.” He touched her shoulder and smiled. “And let me finish this.” Turning to look at Mickey, he grinned. “And you, come on. Time to jump back in that SUV.”
“Where are we going?”
“Back to Rattigan's. That little worm has something I need.”
Mickey thankfully didn’t ask and Kate nodded in a mixture of resignation and aggravation. At the mention of Rattigan, his expression darkened and the Doctor knew he wasn’t the only one at risk of yelling at the teenager. What kind of fool helps the Sontarans and expects them to honour their agreement? Pulling on the gas mask again, the Doctor just hoped that they’d be able to drive to the Academy without any trouble. It took a few minutes to find the SUV in the thick haze of orange. They piled in and took off, rushing away from the makeshift base.
A few miles out the smoke began to clear as they left the lines of UNIT jeeps behind. The Doctor opened the window to let the last of the smoke in the car escape and pulled off his gas mask. In the distance, a thick cloud hung over London making him frown.
“So, do you know what all this is?” Mickey asked after pulling off his own gas mask.
“It’s clone feed,” the Doctor said.
“Alright, the name provides some information, but not enough,” Mickey said.”
“The Sontarans are clones, all of them, and they’ve been at war a long time. The Rutans must have destroyed a clone world because now they are trying to remake Earth’s atmosphere so they can clone here.”
“Bugger,” Mickey huffed. “Really? They couldn’t find some other planet. What about Mars?”
“No, Mars is a bad idea. Sooner or later the Ice Warriors will want it back,” the Doctor said. “Anyway this new atmosphere will kill humans, leaving all your carbon behind which they can use to jump-start the cloning process.”
“Can I just say, gross,” Mickey said. He glanced at the Doctor. “Maybe you should check on the girls.”
The Doctor looked at Mickey, but nodded in agreement, pulling out the phone. He quickly found Rose in the speed dial and pushed down the jolt of jealousy. Mickey was just a friend to Rose. Almost like her brother, he told himself. They’d never been involved, he had no reason to be jealous of the ape. And it wasn’t like he had any claim on Rose. His stomach tightened as he waited for an answer.
“Hello,” Rose greeted. She sounded calm. That was good.
“Rose, you alright?” the Doctor asked.
“Yeah, we’re fine. We just had some tea while we were waiting,” she said. Almost too calm then, he decided. Did nothing throw her off? “What do you need me to do?”
“Got the mallet?”
“Yes, but I will be hiding it again. Or maybe giving it to Sharon and Shireen as a trophy,” Rose said. “So, what do you need me to do?”
“I need you to go out of the TARDIS and reopen the Sontaran teleport link,” the Doctor said. “I’m on my way to Rattigan’s Academy with Mickey.”
“Why are you going back there?” Rose asked.
“There is a link to the ship in Rattigan’s office,” the Doctor reminded her. “The factory is too well protected to access that link and it isn’t worth the risk.”
“I assume you need to the link to get the TARDIS down from here?”
“Something like that.”
“Doctor, answer the question,” Rose said. Her voice was sharp and stern. “What are you planning?”
“Rose… I don’t want to talk about it over the phone,” the Doctor said. “The Sontarans might be listening.”
“Fine, what do you need from us? How do I reopen the link? Please keep in mind that this is my first time on a Sontaran ship,” Rose said.
The Doctor was proud of how calm she sounded. He stayed on the line impatiently. There was a heavy thump and he smiled, knowing that a Sontaran had been taken down. A few silent moments later there was another thump. Mickey kept glancing worriedly at him.
“She’s fine so far,” the Doctor said.
Mickey nodded and looked ahead. Rattigan Academy loomed in the distance and as they approached, the Doctor noticed that a group of young people in uniforms were jogging down the road. To his surprise, he recognized them as Rattigan’s students. Apparently, they’d just up and abandoned him. Not really a shock.
“Okay,” Rose said. “Three Sontarans down. I have more freedom of movement now. What am I looking for exactly?”
“A circular panel on the wall,” the Doctor explained. “It has a symbol that looks like a T with a horizontal line through it on the front.”
Up on the ship, Rose nodded her understanding and relayed the information to Sharon and Shireen. They crept through the hallways as quietly as they could while Rose tried to remember the way back to the TARDIS. Sharon and Shireen stayed close behind her as they peeked around a corner. Another Sontaran was standing guard with its back to them. Rose signaled the others to stay back and slowly crept forward. Her heart raced as she carefully stepped on the smooth floors, very grateful that she had sneakers on. In her left hand, she was still carrying her mobile phone.
The Sontaran didn’t move and Rose brought up the mallet. With a grimace of sympathy, she swung it forward and struck the probic vent. It crumpled to the floor just as the first two had and Rose let out a sigh of relief. Behind her, Sharon and Shireen let out matching sighs of relief.
“Rose, the panel,” Shireen said. She pointed near the fallen Sontaran to panel that matched the Doctor’s description.
“Found the panel.”
“Good, now flip the switches,” the Doctor said. “It’s similar to a fuse box.”
“Right.” Rose quickly opened the panel, it wasn’t even locked.
“How do I get the TARDIS back to Earth?” Rose asked. “Rattigan’s pod is too small for it.”
“The ship will be fine,” the Doctor said. “I can teleport it down.”
“Doctor, that brat is insane. I’d rather have the TARDIS there when I arrive,” Rose said. “Just in case.”
“Alright,” the Doctor said. She could hear him rolling his eyes. “You still need to activate the switches. There will be another panel nearby that has coordinates in it. You’ll need to adjust them all to match Rattigan’s pod since we don’t know which one will align to the TARDIS.”
“Okay, I’m looking at the panel,” Rose said.
“Rattigan’s should be labeled as they’ve been using it a lot.”
It wasn’t completely clear how it all worked, but the one consistent transmat point was labeled as Rattigan Academy. Rose hummed thoughtfully. She would have thought the Sontarans would put something insulting down. Still, it provided the coordinates that she needed. Rose pulled out the sonic pen and began unlocking the different settings so she could reprogram them.
“There’s no windows,” Sharon said as Rose worked. She rubbed her arms nervously. “I hope everyone is okay.”
“The chemical sinks were working,” Shireen reminded her. “Levels haven’t reached a fatal point yet.”
“Yeah, but people have got to be panicking. It’s Christmas and this happened. People are traveling and their cars start trying to kill them… god, all the children must be so scared.” She looked at Rose and asked, “Did you talk to your Mum?”
“No,” Rose admitted. “I should, but I don’t want to scare her. I’m not sure how to stop this yet, but I have faith that the Doctor will figure it out.”
“The issue isn’t just stopping the release of more gas,” Sharon said. “We also need a way to get rid of it. Even if it isn’t at fatal levels for humans yet, its got to be hurting smaller animals and affecting the vegetation. If it hangs around too long then there will be side effects as it spreads to farms.”
“He’ll sort it,” Rose said firmly. Her fingers kept moving across the different controls, synching all of it up. “I really hope that I’m not about to teleport down a division with us.”
“It’ll be fine,” Shireen said. She smiled at both of her friends. “He really does know his stuff,” Shireen said. She watched Rose carefully enter the sequence of numbers. “I mean, knowing what all this looks like and how it works.”
“He’s a very intelligent man,” Rose said with a smile. “Plus he’s been around a while.” She entered the last number and tensed, waiting for something to light up or explode. Nothing did. “Okay, that’s all of them.”
“How do we trigger it?” Shireen asked. “We can’t activate it from inside the TARDIS. Or can we?”
“No,” Rose said. “You two go back to the TARDIS, I’ll send you down and follow.”
“Are you sure?” Sharon asked. They were both frowning at her.
“I’ll be fine. Do you remember the way back?”
“Yes,” Shireen said. “If you’re sure?”
Rose smiled at her friends who flinched slightly and exchanged looks. Nonetheless they nodded.
“We’ll text you once we’re back inside,” Sharon said.
“Good, here, take the mallet just in case,” Rose said. She handed it over and brought her phone to her ear. “Okay, Doctor, we’re getting this show on the road.”
“I’m almost back to Rattigan’s Academy,” the Doctor said.
“Alright, I’ll see you there,” Rose said and she finally ended the call.
A text came through a moment later and Rose sighed softly in relief. Sharon and Shireen were secure in the TARDIS, hopefully not putting the mallet back on the hook. She flipped the last switch and pulled out the sonic pen again. There was a whirl and Rose held her breath. She really really hoped that she’d gotten the TARDIS down okay. Then her phone beeped with another text. It was Sharon and they were on Earth. Rose activated the other points on the panel. The third one made her skin tingle and the world went bright for a split second.
She was in Rattigan’s office, in that weird pod thing. Rattigan was at the desk, his hands shaking and his eyes wide. His eyes were wide and Rose took a careful step forward. The TARDIS was a few feet away and she could see Sharon and Shireen peeking out.
Lashing forward, Rose snatched the gun from Rattigan’s hands. With deft fingers, she removed the magazine and flicked the chambered bullet out of the weapon, tossing the pieces away. They slid across the floor while Rattigan gaped at her. Behind her, the doors of the TARDIS opened with a soft creak.
“Are there Sontarans here?” Rose asked. “And do not try to lie to me. You’re on my list you little worm!”
“No,” Rattigan gasped. “They tricked me, it wasn’t my fault!”
“It was your fault,” Rose said. “And don’t you dare pretend otherwise. I was on that ship, I heard you. Oh, Rattigan, so clever that he can’t see an obvious trap and is willing to trade his planet.”
“They deserved to die!” Rattigan shouted. “They laughed at me! They laughed at all the clever ones! I was trying to build a better world!”
“You can’t build anything, especially not on a foundation of bones. Now you are going to sit down and shut it or I’m going to start breaking some bones.”
“She will,” Sharon said. Her arms were crossed across her chest. “Rose Tyler doesn’t get angry often, but when she does you’d best stay out of her way.”
“There’s trouble,” the Doctor said.
Rose turned sharply and grinned as the Doctor strode into the room with Mickey right behind him. His soft smile for her quickly fell away and he walked over to check the teleport.
“Alright,” he said. “This will work.”
“What will work?” Mickey asked.
The Doctor didn’t answer him. Instead, he turned on his heel and strode out of the room. Rose blinked at the action and stared after the Doctor for a moment. Then she went after him, wondering just what was going through his head.
Chapter 8: Christmas Cheer
The Christmas Poison
Chapter Eight: Christmas Cheer
AN: Finally done! Wow, this took longer than I thought it would. I figured I’d churn it out in good order, but life got really crazy. Thank you all for hanging on through this holiday special. Next week, we will return to Travels in Time and Space! I debated how to end this a lot so I hope you enjoy the changes I made.
The Doctor swooped into the room full of Rattigan’s various science experiments and machines. Rose’s eyes scanned it again, wondering what the Doctor was after and how much of it had come from the Sontarans to help keep up their play of helping him. Rattigan had thankfully not come after them. At least not yet. The Doctor grabbed a mid-sized device that looked like a shell and launch system. She couldn’t remember what he had called it earlier. Turning it over, the Doctor inspected the device and Rose stopped in front of the table. He pulled out the sonic screwdriver and opened a small side panel to expose some tubing and wires.
“Doctor?” Rose asked. “What are you doing?”
“Making it useful,” the Doctor answered gruffly. He coiled up the long thin tubing in one hand even as he picked up a long metal cylinder.
The door opened again and Rose turned to find her friends and Rattigan entering the room. Rattigan was handcuffed behind his back and glaring up at Shareen and Sharon as they ‘escorted’ him. Rose blinked in surprise at finding them in this position.
“Uh… where did you get handcuffs?” Rose asked. “Unless I don’t want to know.”
“Oh, I had some in case one of the patients became unruly,” Sharon said. She shrugged. “Obviously that didn’t happen.” Glaring at Rattigan, she added, “I wonder why that was?” For a moment, Rose feared that her friend was going to kick Rattigan.
“We didn’t hurt them,” Rattigan protested.
“That remains to be seen,” Sharon said. “With how fast their hearts were running, I’m concerned about long-term damage. I’d say we’d make you pay for any future treatment, but your company isn’t going to survive this.
“Sharon,” Mickey said with a hint of warning. “Don’t.”
“Thank you,” Rattigan said. He nodded at Mickey though he was still sneering a bit.
“Oh, I just don’t want her to get into trouble for assaulting you,” Mickey said. “She’s medical. I, on the other hand, am a UNIT grunt and Kate will look the other way if I give you a black eye.”
That shut Rattigan up and Rose smiled at Mickey. Her old friend winked at her in response. Shareen and Sharon’s phones beeped and they exchanged a look. Sharon kept hold of Rattigan while Shareen pulled out her phone. The message made her gasp in alarm and her frown deepen.
“Doctor,” Sharon said. “UNIT scanners are reporting that the gas is thickening. The sinks won’t be able to stop it.”
“They’re moving up their schedule,” the Doctor said. He was twisting wires together now. “Rose brought the TARDIS back and deadlocked their teleport system. They know they only have so much time before I come up there.”
“So then what are you doing?” Shareen asked urgently. “Doctor, people are going to start dying soon!”
“We need to destroy that gas,” the Doctor said impatiently. “Caesofine gas is volatile, which is why they haven’t been willing to use their weapons on Earth. Not even to kill me. They can’t risk sparking off the gas.”
“So the key is to burn the atmosphere,” Mickey said slowly. “The gas will burn off? Just like that?”
“Well, not completely, there’ll be some extra carbon for you lot to deal with,” the Doctor said. “Not too bad.”
“Won’t that cause everything else to burn?” Mickey asked. “Buildings, people, animals.”
“No, the layer of gas I’m focusing on is in the upper atmosphere. Once I burn that off, the rest will equalize in the atmosphere. You’ll barely be able to detect it.”
“What is the gas?” Sharon asked. “What’s it for?”
“It’s clone feed. They need the gas in order to turn Earth into a clone breeding planet.” The Doctor turned his head enough to glare down at Rattigan. “All the while, the rat was here preparing for a little trip of his own.”
“They promised me a new world,” Rattigan said.
“So he’s got equipment for terraforming,” The Doctor said. “Including this,” he snapped. The Doctor closed the small side panel and twisted the tall metal cylinder. Small orange lights appeared along the cylinder and there was a faint hum from the device. “An atmospheric converter.” Rattigan’s eyes widened, almost hopefully. Rose held back a sneer. The urge to hit the teenager hadn’t faded away. The Doctor picked up the device and moved past them for the door. “Outside, now.”
He moved faster than them, his long legs carrying him quickly out to the main foyer of the grand building and then out the door and down the stairs. Rose stopped and gasped at the thick cloud that enveloped London ahead of them. It had turned from an orange color to a thick grey that was shifting towards black. All signs of the city were gone. There wasn’t even a hint of the skyscrapers.
“Oh god,” Shareen whispered. “It looks…”
“It’s not too late,” Rose said. She looked back at the Doctor. He had set down the device, the cone shape pointing up and was holding the control in his hand.
“Here we go,” the Doctor said. He pressed the button.
A ball of fire erupted from the top of the tube, blasting up into the air as all of them watched with baited breath. The thick clouds swirled as it vanished above them, shifting like a vortex had formed. For a moment, there was no sign of a change and Rose swallowed fearfully. But then, the fireball exploded. A round ball of fire erupted in the sky above them with a deafening crash that seemed to shake the world.
The sky burst into flame. Though she was expecting it, Rose gasped in shock and alarm. At her side, the Doctor breathed out a sigh of relief as the wave of fire rushed across their view. There was a moment, a long moment, as the flames lingered in the atmosphere, but then blue sky appeared in the wake of the fire. A cheer erupted from Sharon and Shareen behind her.
“Oh, brilliant, Doctor!” Sharon cheered.
“He’s a genius,” Rattigan said. He sounded shocked and started to move closer. Mickey grabbed his shoulder and held him still.
Rose started to smile, but then she looked at the Doctor who was glaring up into the sky. It reminded her that the Sontarans were still up there and not likely to just accept defeat. Then the Doctor grabbed the device and ran back into the Academy building. Rose dashed after him, suddenly very worried about what was going to come next. Sharon, Shareen, and even Rattigan were cheering behind them.
The Doctor headed straight for Rattigan’s office, carrying the device in his hands with the long cylinder on his shoulder. Rose was right behind him as he came to a stop next to the transport pod. Worry filled her chest as a horrible suspicion of what came next began to form.
“Doctor?” Rose asked. The purple light of the transport pod was shining off of his leather jacket. “What are you doing?”
“I’m going up,” the Doctor said. “Sontarans are never defeated, Rose.” He wasn’t meeting her eyes as he stepped into the pod.
“But you can’t,” Rose said. “They’ll kill you.”
“Rose, I’m going to go up and give them a chance.”
“No,” Rose said. “You’re not.”
“They won’t take it, Doctor,” Rose said. She shook her head and grabbed his arm, pulling him away from the pod. He only allowed her to pull him a few steps away. “You know that. Sontarans won’t surrender.”
“I can’t just execute them.”
“Then put them on the coms,” Rose said. “But….” She trailed off and hesitated before finishing her thought. “Doctor, last time you had to throw a switch, you couldn’t,” she said softly. “And if you go up there and can’t do it then the plan will fail and they’ll kill you.” Her grip tightened. “I won’t let you take that risk so either you send it up with a warning or I go up in your place.” She barely held herself together. “I can flip the switch… or push the button.”
“No!” His blue eyes were wide with alarm. “Rose, no, that would kill-”
“Exactly,” Rose said. “That’s exactly how I feel about you suggesting something like that.”
Their eyes met and Rose did her best to keep her fear and panic at bay, instead hoping that he could see how serious she was. There was hesitation in his blue eyes. The earlier anger was receding and he suddenly seemed to be at a loss.
“Please,” Rose begged. “You’ve done what you can.” Her grip softened and she gave him a soft smile. “I value your life more.” The Doctor’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he slowly nodded. She could see the conflict in his eyes and wondered if she’d regret asking this of him later. Rose doubted it. Giving him another soft smile, she leaned up and kissed his cheek. “I will always value your life more. Maybe I’m selfish, but its true. Please, don’t.”
She felt a little guilty. Rose understood why he wanted to, why he felt he had to, but she also knew what the result would be. Staal and all the others would gladly die if they thought they could take the Doctor with them. Yet that guilt wasn’t enough. He would move past this, but she would always value his life more. Maybe it was selfish, but she was an imperfect human.
“Alright,” the Doctor said. His voice was low and soft. “Alright.”
He put the device into the transport pod and exhaled as he stepped back. The sonic screwdriver whirled and the Doctor braced himself. Static suddenly surrounded them and the Doctor grimaced in distaste.
“Attention, Sontarans,” he said. “I am prepared to destroy your ship in order to end the threat to Earth. Leave Earth and the Sontaran High Command never needs to know what happened here.”
Staal’s voice echoed through the room. “Your stratagem would be wise if Sontarans feared death, but we do not. Will you not even face us, Doctor?”
Rose’s grip on the Doctor’s arm tightened. The sonic screwdriver in his hand shuddered and Rose eyed the teleport and the device. It would only take a moment to activate it on a delay and send it up.
“I have an atmospheric converter and your teleport systems are deadlocked open,” the Doctor said.
“And we have weapons trained on this miserable planet,” Staal said. “So do it, Doctor! We will not miss this moment due to weak fear!”
The Doctor didn’t move. Rose saw his muscles tense. His eyes widened and the Doctor stopped breathing. The sonic screwdriver was still primed and ready, but the Doctor didn’t move. Rose reached over and put her hand over his around the sonic screwdriver. Her fingers instantly found the small grove that activated everything. The atmospheric converter hummed and the orange lights appeared again. Reached forward, Rose tapped the buttons on the teleporter without fully letting go of the Doctor. There was a beep and the purple lights of the teleported flashed. The atmospheric converter vanished and Rose released a slow breath.
“That’s it then,” the Doctor said softly. There was bang from outside, no cheers in response, and Rose turned to hug the Doctor.
“I’m sorry,” Rose whispered. “But I can’t lose you.”
The Doctor’s grip on her tightened. He didn’t seem angry though Rose braced herself for it. Over his shoulder, she watched Sharon, Shareen, and Rattigan linger in the doorway. Rattigan was watching the Doctor with odd fascination. It made her protective instincts flare to life and she glared at him. Ducking his head, Rattigan shifted behind Sharon, almost hiding from her. The Doctor let go of her and stepped back.
“What’s going to happen to me?” Rattigan asked. His gaze was lowered and he looked defeated. Rose wasn’t sure if him living through this was good or not. His future was uncertain. “Let me guess, a cell a hundred stories underground.”
“I’m grateful that certain people never found you,” Rose muttered. She didn’t like to imagine Luke Rattigan teamed up with Eclipse or Van Statten. “There is a process in place to deal with crimes concerning aliens.” She shook her head. “You helped murder people and planned genocide… yeah, you’ll probably spend years in a cell.”
“That’s a waste, the things I could do.”
“Well if you behave yourself maybe they’ll let you have some materials to keep working,” Rose said. “But don’t try anything Rattigan. I know you think that you’re the cleverest on Earth, but you aren’t.”
Rattigan glared at her but didn’t lash out. She had no idea what was going through his head and just wanted UNIT to arrive. Above her, the sun was shining down on them. As crazy as the day had been, the crisis was past. Christmas was still on and as many lives as could be saved had been.
“I just wanted a fresh start,” Rattigan said. “It wasn’t about hurting people.”
“It was about getting away from them,” Rose said.
“They tricked me.”
“You still made a deal to hand over your planet,” Rose said. “That isn’t going away. Billions of lives that you were ready to throw out like rubbish just so you could have things your way.”
“You’ll receive a trial,” Mickey said. He sounded so much calmer than Rose felt. Nodding towards the TARDIS, Mickey caught Rose’s eye. “I’ll get him out of here. The Security Council will be eager to wrap this up.” Mickey began to lead Rattigan away, but the thin young man tugged away just enough to turn and look at the Doctor.
“What are you?” Rattigan asked the Doctor. “The Sontarans said a lot of things about you.”
“You shouldn’t believe everything you hear,” the Doctor said.
“But you’re not human,” Rattigan said. A little smile appeared on his face. “Figures, only person smarter than me isn’t human.”
“Rattigan, you are an idiot,” the Doctor snapped. He glared at the young man who flinched back. “Intelligent yes, good at putting patterns together, but completely lacking in any sort of wisdom or usefulness.” He gestured at the school and sky. “If anyone remembers you, which they won’t, you’ll be a lunatic, a fanatic, and a would-be alien puppet. As much as you insult them, those people at UNIT delayed that gas and saved lives. Those people have a spaceship that patrols the solar system.”
“So… what are you?” Rattigan asked. “I need to know. I need to understand.”
The Doctor almost smiled. “Get used to disappointment.”
Rattigan looked confused, but Rose smiled. The Doctor would be alright. Sighing in relief, she put her head on his shoulder as Mickey dragged Rattigan away. Sharon and Shareen moved forward and Rose left the Doctor’s side just long enough to accept hugs from each of them.
“Will I see you later?” Rose asked.
“Hopefully,” Shareen said. Smiling warmly at Rose, she laughed a little. “Some of us still work for UNIT and have to help with clean up. But we’ll try to come by tonight.”
“Love you,” Rose said. She gave each one more hug. “Happy Christmas.”
She watched them leave with Mickey and Rattigan. Yet, she didn’t feel worried. Rattigan was walking like a broken man. Maybe he was. Maybe she should have a little more compassion for him, but the rat had killed people. That was what had gotten UNIT’s attention.
“So…” Rose said slowly. “Want to celebrate Christmas by raiding Rattigan’s science lab.”
“Just to check and make sure that there’s no more Sontaran technology lying around,” Rose said quickly. The Doctor was starting to smile. “Of course,” Rose added.
“Of course,” the Doctor said. “Then I suppose you’ll want to see your mum.”
“You’re correct, but hey, it’ll give you something other than the TARDIS to tinker with,” Rose said.
“I do not tinker-”
“Oh yes, you do!” Rose laughed as she headed for the doorway. “First one there, gets dibs!”
The TARDIS materialized smoothly in the garden of the Tyler Bannerman Road home. Smiling at the Doctor, Rose leaned up to kiss his cheek in thanks before heading for the doorway. He said nothing, but grumbled a little under his breath, probably just because he felt it was expected of him. Stepping outside, Rose looked up into the dark sky. The last rays of the sun were vanishing and the cold of winter was settling in all around her. Still, she could hear laughing and talking spilling out of her mother’s house. Even the near end of the world hadn’t stopped Jackie Tyler.
“Rose!” her mum shouted. Jackie came running out the back door, lines of mascara running down her face. Smiling, Rose stepped away from the TARDIS and opened her arms to let her mu hug her. “Rose! You’re alright!”
“I’m fine, Mum,” Rose said as her mother tried to smother her. “I’m fine!”
“The sky was on fire!”
“I know,” Rose said. She nodded and smiled at her mother. “I know, that was part of getting rid of the gas.”
“Sky on fire! For all, we knew it was the end of the world!”
“Mum, it’s fine. I promise.” Rose nodded back towards the TARDIS. “The Doctor had things well in hand.” She wasn’t going to share that she’d ended up on the Sontaran ship. “Me, him, Mickey, Sharon, and Shareen are all fine.” Looking pointedly towards the house, Rose added, “And it sounds like the party is in full swing.”
“It’s Christmas and the world almost ended… again, we needed something! Besides, it's mostly the neighborhood,” Jackie said. “Most people won’t drive right now. Not until we know that those ATMOS things are dealt with.”
“Fair enough. Oh and on that topic, thanks for loaning the SUV to Mickey.”
“Should probably just give it to him since I don’t drive and you’re never here,” Jackie said.
“Fine, fine.” Jacki looked at the TARDIS and her nose curled up. “You might as well invite that alien of yours in. It is Christmas, I suppose and those Chestertons were visiting Sarah Jane so he’s got friends here.”
With that, Jackie headed back towards the house. She paused once to look at Rose. “You are coming, right?”
“I’ll be right in,” Rose said. “Just going to pass on your invitation.”
Jackie headed inside and Rose shook her head fondly. Turning back to the TARDIS, Rose pulled out her key and unlocked the door. The Doctor was already under the console, despite having a few new things from Rattigan’s academy.
“That was fast. Done already?”
“Mum invited you in for Christmas,” Rose said. She leaned against the doorway and watched the Doctor’s long legs as he worked on the console. “Almost graciously.”
“Thanks, but that’s not my thing,” the Doctor said.
“Okay then,” Rose said. She walked over to him and gently tapped his boot. “Thank you, Doctor. You were brilliant today.”
“You did half the work.”
“Yeah, but you listened to me.” Rose swallowed. “Thank you, for not going up there.”
“Wouldn’t have been a big deal,” the Doctor said. “You were back on Earth. Safe and sound.”
“You know that’s not what it's about,” Rose said. Her temper was flaring, but she viciously shoved her anger to the side. “I worry about you, Doctor. This Old Girl and I care about you. A lot of people on Earth care about you.”
“Suppose so,” the Doctor said. His voice was a touch gruffer. “And I suppose that I’ve got future meetings with you to worry about. Can’t cause a paradox.”
“You are ridiculous,” Rose laughed. Shaking her head, she tapped his boot with hers again. “Well, despite the strangeness of the day… Mum’s party is still on. Apparently she’s been taking cooking classes so its even pretty good food this year. I’ve left the kitchen door unlocked if you want to poke your head in.” Rose started towards the back door and then paused again. “And I’ll leave the door ajar. I’m sure that the Chestertons and the Smiths will want to say hello.”
“Stop trying to make me social,” the Doctor grumbled, but Rose could hear a pleased note in his voice.
“I’m the one that has to go and suffer through watching my Mum in the usual conga line. I wonder if the police will even bother coming by this year… probably not. I bet there are a lot of parties in the city that will be much more out of control than Mum’s.” Licking her lips, Rose hesitated. “Well, you’re welcome to join us. I’ll be home in a bit.” She headed for the doorway.
There was a sharp inhale under the console at her choice of words, but he didn’t say anything about it. “Have fun then. Happy Christmas, Rose,” the Doctor said.
Rose turned around. He’d come out from under the console and was smiling at her as a soft blush stained his cheeks. Grinning in return, Rose met his gaze and said, “Happy Christmas, Doctor.”