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The Planet of Darkness

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Chapter One
Clara sloshed tea from her mug into a thermos and tried to ignore the drops spilling on the counter and the sleep she still hadn’t wiped from her eye. Usually by this time she was sitting at her desk watching the morning announcements with her students, but today just wasn’t one of those days. Could she really be blamed for setting the alarm for P.M. instead of A.M.?

Perhaps.

But could she really get in trouble for making such a silly little mistake?

Perhaps.

“Keys; tea; makeup...makeup!”

She set her thermos back on the counter and dashed to a mirror. She and Danny had had a nice date last night. They’d made dinner together, and watched telly, and then goofed around with some lipstick and eyeliner. Unfortunately, they’d lost track of time, he’d run home after eleven, and she’d passed out on her bed without washing her face.

“Bloody hell, why are some days so difficult?”

As she scrubbed her already irritated skin, she hazarded a glance to the clock. Her heart skipped a beat.

It crossed her mind to call out of work, but really she’d already done that way too often lately. She couldn’t afford to lose her job and she definitely couldn’t afford an investigation into her whereabouts. The authorities probably wouldn’t appreciate the fact that she ran into a police box to escape her problems and travel with her alien friend.

Frustrated tears blinked into her eyes as she slipped on her shoes. “Traffic sucks right now...the Tube is always packed…”

She threw a swear word at her shoe as the strap came loose. She fixed it, grabbed her purse and her tea, and started for the door.

“Finally.”

A wind picked up inside her flat, throwing papers onto the floor. Clara shut her eyes and groaned. “Not now!”

She backed up a few paces as the TARDIS materialized in front of her. It was blocking the door completely. Clara set down her tea and her purse and put her hands on her hips. If this wasn’t bloody well important….

“Clara! You’re all ready; good. Except you forgot some of your makeup, just there.”

He pointed at her eyes. She threw up a defensive hand, barely withholding herself from smacking his arm away. She let out a slow breath.

“Doctor, now is really not a good time…”

“There’s always a good time in the TARDIS.”

He had that boyish grin that made this regeneration, even with its gray hair, appear to be so much younger than the last. Clara couldn’t help but feel a little smile tug at the corners of her lips. An idea struck her, one that almost always struck on days like these.

“Hey, Doctor…”

He was eyeing her dishevelled flat, with its tea stains and thrown pillows (Clara had misplaced her keys at one point in all the commotion), but he turned back abruptly at the sound of her voice.

“Can you help me get to school on time?”

He opened the TARDIS doors and gave her a smug look. “Of course I can. But there’s a thing I want to show you first.”

Clara paused, her purse slung over one shoulder and thermos in her hand. “A...thing?”

The Doctor ushered her inside and closed the door behind them. “Just a before-school field trip. Won’t take long. It’s very, er, fleek.”

Clara set down her things, and then quirked an eyebrow at him. “What was that last word?”

“Fleek. That’s what the kids are saying these days, right?”

Clara chuckled, feeling the remainder of that nervous energy dissipate. “Enjoyed your time as caretaker, did you?”

The Doctor pulled down and lever and shrugged. “There were certainly perks.”

He flashed her a smile and jumped to the other side of the console, where he punched numbers into a keypad. Clara followed, eyeing the screen with mounting excitement.

“So where are we going?”

The TARDIS engines started, groaning.

“The planet Noctem 5. Humans won’t discover it for a long time; always sending probes in the wrong direction.”

He walked around the console and cranked another lever. Clara leaned her elbows beside the controls.

“‘Noctem’; that’s something to do with night, right?” Clara asked.

“Quite.” The Doctor smiled at the rhyme. “Nicknamed ‘The Planet of Darkness’. The planet’s atmosphere absorbs almost all of the light from the nearest star, so it looks like constant night. There are almost no colors other than gray and black on the entire planet. Even in the sky.”

Clara made a face. “That’s a bit bleak, isn’t it?”

The Doctor held up a finger. “I did say ‘almost’ no other colors. The atmosphere also doesn’t absorb blue light.”

Clara smirked. “Black and blue planet. Hopefully not how we’ll end up.”

The Doctor’s mouth fell agape. “Would I ever put you in danger, Clara?”

Clara twiddled her thumbs. “Not intentionally. I’m just saying...you remember that last place we visited.”

He rolled his eyes. “They were babies, Clara.”

“Baby kangaroos! They kicked me in the shin a dozen times.”

The Doctor paced around the console and dropped the brake. “They weren’t really kangaroos.”

Clara nodded. “Alien kangaroos.”

The Doctor sighed with a smile and led her to the door. “Ready?” He asked.

Her lips turned up into a smile. “Always.”