The day had started much like any other.
Clara had woken up from a night’s sleep that she’d insist was uneventful, and after getting ready for the day, headed down the long, twisting corridors of the TARDIS to the control room. She always felt that the walk took longer than it had the previous day, but whenever she brought it up with the Doctor he just gave her a funny look.
So, today, when she arrived in the console room, she decided not to mention it. She doubted the Doctor would’ve noticed even if she had, though- he was preoccupied doing… something, by the console.
Clara stood there for a couple of moments, then cleared her throat. When he still didn’t look up, she got fed up with not being noticed, and walked over to poke him in the cheek.
That, finally, got his attention and he looked up, surprised. “You’re up early.”
“No, I’m not. This is the same time I normally get up.” Well, probably. It was hard to tell time on a time machine. But she wanted to be right, so she wasn’t going to say that.
He frowned. He probably realised she had no way of telling the time on a time machine. He didn’t point it out either, though. Perhaps he realised that arguing with her was a bit pointless? Instead, he just tutted. “You humans. You sleep half of your lives away.”
She shook her head with a sigh. “Right, right. Us little humans with our little sleep habits. Not like you big, mighty, advanced Time Lords, right?”
“Right.” He agreed.
“So,” She began with an amused smile, “Where’s this big mighty Time Lord taking me today?”
“Are you going to call me that all day?”
“Nah, better not. Don’t want to feed your ego anymore.”
“Good point.” He set aside whatever it was he’d been working on and turned to face her properly, then he opened his mouth to start info-dumping about whatever planet it was he was planning to take her to, but before he could start, there was a knock on the door.
Clara looked over with a raised eyebrow. “Oh? Aren’t we in deep space right now?”
“Yes.” The Doctor didn’t seem as excited as he’d normally be when this sort of thing happened. He was probably annoyed that he’d been interrupted.
After a moment’s further hesitation, the two started towards the door in sync. Reaching it, they looked to each other, then slowly opened the doors. Outside was most certainly not deep space.
It was some futuristic festival, or at least, that’s what it looked like. The place was full of aliens, prancing about, dancing, and generally looking ecstatic. There were stalls on the side of… well, it wouldn’t be quite accurate to call them streets . The place had more of a spaceship-vibe, all metallic and closed in and so, so white.
To Clara’s side, the Doctor groaned. “I can’t stand happy people.”
“I thought you got over your bantering problems?”
He stepped out of the TARDIS and shut the door behind him. He didn’t bother gracing her words with an answer. Clara mentally told him off for being rude, before following in the direction he’d headed in. By the time she caught up, he was antagonising a poor party-goer.
“Why can’t you answer a simple question? What’s wrong with you?”
“Doctor-!” Clara sped up, hoping to reach him before he caused another fight.
“Nothing is wrong with me, my good sir! It is as I said!” Strangely, the man he was interrogating didn’t seem the least bit put out by the Doctor’s attitude. Huh.
“Stop that! Stop being so happy, why are you so happy?”
The man just laughed. “My good sir! What is there to be unhappy about? We have been saved!”
“Saved?” Clara interjected, “What do you mean, saved?”
The man looked at them both curiously, but his smile didn’t drop. “You are aliens to these parts, are you not? Never matter, never matter! You should meet our great saviour yourselves!”
Clara and the Doctor looked at each other again for a moment, then the Doctor finally managed his own smile. “You should have offered sooner.”
The man began to lead them through the corridors, pausing every now and then to greet someone he knew, or to try to initiate small-talk with the Doctor and Clara. Clara humoured him, but every time he turned to the Doctor, he wasn’t given much to bounce back with except for jabs. He didn’t seem to mind.
“What’s gotten into you today?” Clara wondered as they neared their destination- a place that basically looked like a grand palace.
“Nothing.” The Doctor responded, then turned his attention to the building in front of them. “A building within a building? Nice.”
The man confidently walked forwards and pushed the doors open, unsurprisingly revealing a throne room. Clara and the Doctor followed him inside. Unlike the rest of the ship, this room didn’t have the same futuristic feel to it. If anything, it felt old-fashioned, like it had been specifically based off of old Earth throne rooms. Clara thought that was probably unlikely, however.
“Ah.” The Doctor said, causing Clara to look up and see what he was reacting to, and-
“Ah.” She repeated.
Sitting on the throne with a shit-eating grin was Missy.
“It was nice of you to have dropped by!” She called out, not rising from her chair.
Clara glanced to the Doctor nervously. This was, how should she say, not good. The Doctor didn’t seem even the slightest bit nervous, though, so that was comforting. She looked back to Missy with a facade of calm.
“Well, you’re alive.” The Doctor stated, strolling around the room casually, examining the walls, floors and decorations. “I would ask how, but I don’t really care.”
“That hurts me, Doctor.” Missy spoke with exaggerated sadness. “You really don’t care about how your dearest friend survived the death you left her to?”
The Doctor shrugged, still not paying attention to her. “You always survive.” Finally, he spun around to look at her. “So what’s the plan this time?”
“Brainwashing.” Missy replied simply. “I am in total control of everyone on this ship. Anything I say, they’ll do.”
Missy grinned. “That’s for me to know! Now, guards! Be dears and take Miss Oswald to the dungeons.”
“The- the what now?” Clara asked nervously, darting to where the Doctor was in the hope that he’d come up with some kind of plan.
As it turned out, the Doctor didn’t have a plan yet. He looked to Clara and shrugged again.
“I’ll play your little game, Missy. But first, I want your word that you won’t harm Clara.”
Missy sighed over-dramatically. “You and your little pets. But fine, Doctor. She’ll be safe in my care.”
“Thanks. That fills me with confidence.” Clara commented dryly, before being led away by the brainwashed guards.
After Clara was gone, Missy turned to the Doctor with a smile. “Let’s get started.”
Two hours later, Clara was getting bored in the dungeons. It seemed that Missy had been telling the truth about her being safe after all, but she was sure she’d die of boredom if the Doctor didn’t hurry up and do something. Hell, by this point she’d be fine with finding out that Missy had lied- at least it would’ve given her something to do.
Instead, all she had was this small, empty cell that she’d already totally investigated by the time the first hour was up. She’d tried talking to the guards, but after she’d gotten no response after the first dozen tries, she’d decided they must either have left or they were too brainwashed to reply.
Because obviously no one would choose to ignore Clara Oswald of their own free will.
She sat down in the corner and dropped her head back against the wall. “Can you please just hurry up and sort out whatever drama she’s causing? I wanted to see planets, not get stuck in some dreary old cell… again.”
“Are you complaining, Miss Oswald?” A familiar voice spoke up, and Clara jumped to her feet.
“Maybe I wouldn’t be complaining if you didn’t keep leaving me in places like this! Seriously, I’ve lost count of how many times this kind of thing’s happened!”
“Isn’t it part of the fun of adventuring?” The Doctor wondered, working his sonic on the lock and freeing her.
She walked out of the cell and gave him a look. “No. Really, no.”
“If you’re that ungrateful, maybe I should’ve left you here.” The Doctor remarked.
“Please don’t even joke about that. I was stuck in there for two hours!” She groaned, then, “So? Did you sort everything out, or is this the kind of rescue where we have to immediately start legging it?”
“Well. It’s not over, yet.”
“So I haven’t missed the action then. Suppose that’s something, at least. You got a plan?”
“Something like that.” There was a strange look on his face. Then he grabbed Clara’s hand, and began to lead her down the corridor. “I need you to do something for me.”
“Yeah? You gonna start explaining, then?”
They reached a door, and the Doctor pushed it open. There was a machine in the middle of it that was vaguely familiar. It took Clara a few moments, but eventually she placed it.
“Isn’t that one of those miniaturising thingies? From- uh- that thing with Journey Blue?”
“Who?” The Doctor frowned, then shook his head. He’d probably deleted Journey from his brain, Clara realised. “I’m going to need to miniaturise you.”
She frowned. “Just me?”
“Yes. Here, put this on first.” He was pulling some kind of space suit from a hanger, and held it out to her. She took it tentatively, and began to put it on.
“You’re really going to have to start explaining.”
“Just put it on and go inside. It’ll make sense.”
She sighed and did as she was told. Remembering the last time she’d been in one of these machines, she took care not to hold her breath. Outside, the Doctor activated it, and Clara felt the strange sensation of being shrunk take over her body. It wasn’t really pleasant.
When it was done, the Doctor walked over and picked up the tube Clara was in. It was so strange seeing him looking so huge, and it made her feel oddly self conscious. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
“So? What now?” The suit that he’d made her wear had a built-in comms system, so luckily, her could hear her.
“There should be a button by the door. Press it, and the tube will open. I’m going to need you to trust me.”
“Asking me to trust you just makes me more nervous. But, alright.” She walked over and pressed the button, then stepped out onto the Doctor’s open palm.
“What now?” She asked. The Doctor was staring at her strangely. “God, your face is huge.”
The Doctor moved her close to his face, and she reached out to lean on his cheek for stability. “Okay, seriously, can you explain your plan now? ...Or are the comms down? If they are, I’m gonna whack you- when I’m back to normal, I mean. I don’t think whacking you now would really do much.”
The Doctor shut his eyes. “Clara. I’m sorry.”
She didn’t like the sound of that, but before she had the chance to ask what he was apologising for, her scooped her up and began to bring her towards his mouth.
“...Doctor.” She began nervously. He continued to move her closer. “Okay! Okay, very funny, you can stop now--”
Too late. She was in his mouth. Then, he swallowed.
Down, down, down the red lane. We won’t be seeing Clara Oswald again.
Two hours earlier, the Doctor had been left in the throne room with Missy.
“So, go ahead. Explain your plan. But do try to keep it brief- I’d like to not die of boredom by the time you’re finished.”
Missy smirked. Then she rose from her throne and walked towards him. “How would you like the grand tour?”
“I’d really prefer not to, but I don’t think I’m being given a choice here.”
“Correct!” Missy led the way out of the throne room, back into the open corridors. Two burly guards stepped closer to the Doctor, and with an irritated sigh he followed after her.
Missy was skipping down the corridor, weaving between the people merrily, but it wasn’t difficult to keep track of her. The Doctor glanced to the guards tailing him. It shouldn’t be too hard to ditch them and double back to the palace. From there, all he’d have to do would be find where Clara was being kept and work out how to stop Missy’s brainwashing, but…
He looked to the crowds of people now surrounding him. Right. Getting through this many people would be nearly impossible, and even if he did manage it somehow, getting to where she was keeping Clara first certainly wouldn’t happen. For now, the best option was to play along with whatever she had planned, and wait for an opportunity to present itself.
“Oh, do hurry up. If you don’t, I might get bored and decide to kill one of the locals. You wouldn’t want that, now would you?”
The Doctor walked over to where she’d stopped to wait for him with a glare. “It’s funny that you’re the one telling me to hurry up. When are you going to stop stalling and tell me what you’re playing at?”
“All in good time! Don’t you want to see my toys first?” She twirled around and began to walk off again.
For the next hour, she dragged the Doctor around the ship, showing off all of the people she had gathered. There was a mix of species and ages- some tiny babies, and some ancient adults. Not as ancient as they were, of course, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that all of the people here were in danger, and would be until he could find a way to break them out of their brainwashing and deal with Missy.
...Whatever dealing with her meant. He did hope he wouldn’t have to do anything too severe.
It would be nice to have a run-in with her end without her supposed death one of these days. He knew she always survived, but he didn’t think it was any good for his hearts.
Eventually, Missy’s grand tour ended, and she looped around, leading him back to the palace. Back in the throne room, she took her seat once more.
“Now, my Doctor, you’ve seen how many people are here. You’ve seen the stakes. Now, I have a way for you to save them all.”
The Doctor frowned. Interesting.
“This throne contains a machine on it. This is what’s keeping them all in their brainwashed state. One pulse from it, and they’ll regain their free will.”
Missy smiled. “And the pulse will fry the brain of anyone not under my brainwashing.”
The Doctor frowned. Well, that was fine. He’d prefer to avoid it, but if the worst came to the worst, he could always regenerate- and, anyway, with his telepathic control, he was sure he could put up some sort of shielding for himself. But what about Clara? There was always the TARDIS. Convincing her to go back without him would be difficult, but not impossi-
“Don’t think about storing your pet in the TARDIS. You’ll have a hard job finding where I’ve hidden it.”
...Right. Of course. Of course she’d have planned for this.
“Why?” He finally asked, frustrated, “Why are you doing this?”
“To win a bet.”
That caught him off guard. “...What?”
“A bet. Someone bet me. Bet me that I couldn’t make you make an impossible choice- so here it is. You can save all of the people I have here, or you can save yourself and little Clara.”
...No. He wouldn’t accept this. There was another solution, another way out. He just had to think of it. Think, think, think. How to save everyone here and Clara? Clara, Clara… hm. What was that Missy had just said? ‘Little’ Clara?
...There had been a miniaturisation machine in one of those rooms.
The Doctor swallowed.
“Then give me the floor. It’s hardly a fair bet if you don’t let me work freely.”
Missy smiled and stood. “Go ahead then, poppet. I’ll be off having some tea in the other room if you need me.”
As she spoke, she left. The Doctor waited a moment to ensure she was really gone, and then headed off in the direction Clara had been taken.
The Doctor brought Clara up to his face. She was so tiny, fitting neatly into the palm of his hand. Of course, she had always been small, but this was… something else. He wasn’t sure how he was supposed to feel about this, and decided to put it under ‘things to think about later’. Then he thought about it for another moment, and decided he’d prefer not to.
He really didn’t want to do this. He’d been put in a lot of situations where he’d had to do ridiculous things in the past, but this was on another level, and what made this worse than a lot of the others, was that he couldn’t tell her about it.
If he told Clara what he was about to do, he was sure she wouldn’t let him.
But this was the only way. If she was inside him, his telepathic shielding should work on her, and with the suit on, she wouldn’t be harmed by being in him in any way. It would just be a bit unpleasant for a while.
This was the only way to save her and all of the people on this ship. He just hoped that eventually she’d be able to understand that.
“Clara. I’m sorry.” He said, then forced his hand to move.
He brought her to his mouth, making himself ignore her protests, and swallowed. He could feel her go down and, frankly, it made him feel a bit sick. He just kept repeating to himself that this was the only way.
After taking a moment to get over what he’d just done, he left the room, trying his hardest not to run. He could hear her complaints over the comms, and he didn’t have to try too hard to imagine what this was like for her.
Sending out the pulse on Missy’s machine turned out to be simple. The guards standing at the edge of the room faltered for a moment, then looked around, blinking in confusion, with no recollection of how they’d ended up there.
“You’re welcome.” The Doctor said as he left the room.
Now that there were no hoards of brainwashed happy people, it became easy to find the TARDIS. Entering her, he could feel her amused bewilderment at his and Clara’s predicament.
“Don’t say a word.” He threatened, setting the co-ordinates for a high tech hospital. Or, ‘space hospital’, as Clara would probably insist.
Stepping outside, he felt more humiliated than he’d ever been before in his life as he explained that his friend was currently being digested. The nurse’s look of pity mixed with disgust as she said, “Oh, another one.” only made matters worse.
He’d picked this system for a reason. Thanks to a complex artificial reality program gone wrong, there ended up being many instances of something similar to this. He’d read a few articles about it once and considered looking into it, but had never gotten around to it. He decided that after this mess, he was going to put that off even longer. Certainly, if he ever did look into it, he wouldn’t be bringing Clara with him.
All that it took to reverse what he’d done was a simple matter extractor and enlargement beam. Then, Clara Oswald was stood in front of him, looking a bit worse for wear and extremely angry, but very much alive and unharmed. And that was what mattered.
“What the hell did you do that for!” She marched over and raised her fist to whack him in the arm.
“Please don’t. You’re a mess.” He spoke cooly, but that only proved to make her more angry.
One of the nurses saved him from Clara’s rage, calmly stepping towards her, “Ma’am, let’s get you cleaned up.”
The nurse led Clara away and the Doctor leant back, resting his head on the wall behind him.
He didn’t ever want to think about this mess again.