“I am getting a huge headache,” Rose complained as she tested the restraints holding her to the Doctor.
They were sitting back to back in a cell on the Zhaleen ship. The walls were a coruscating ripple of pearlescent color, like oil on water, the floor didn’t look any more solid, although it felt like cold and hard like marble under her bum.
She twisted her wrists and the cartilaginous armcuffs tighten over her forearms hardening like bone until she stopped squirming, then they softened back into a more comfortable hold.
“It’s no use struggling," the Doctor said behind her, "the bands are keyed into our nervous systems. The tenser we are, the tenser they are. Just relax.”
“How am I supposed to relax? We’ve been arrested and thrown in an alien cell, the Tardis has been impounded, and the walls are giving me a migraine!”
“It’s not the walls. It’s the dimensional resistances.”
Rose sighed and tipped her head back, resting it against his with a clunk. “You’re as bad as your older self,” she grumbled, closing her eyes. It didn’t help.
“Nice to know some things never change.”
“So what are dimensional resistances? And why are they making me feel seasick?”
“You’re used to the flow of contiguous time. A single coherent timestream. The Zhleyzeen are creatures of transtemporal time. The time in here isn't running at a single rate, It’s meant to mimic the Interstices, several different layers of time, all running at slightly different speeds, all at slightly different relative positions.”
“I take it back, you’re worse than my Doctor.”
He chuckled. “I simply mean that, in here, you exist in several different temporal locations, right now, a minute ago, a few seconds from now.” His hands jigged, jarring hers, as if he was unconsciously trying to gesture to make his point. “That’s what’s making you ill. Think of it as laminated time, many different layers - all stuck together.”
“Well, if this was anything like what they were feeling in the Tardis, no wonder they were pissed.”
He twisted the armbands slowly and slid his cool hand into hers. “Don’t worry, I’ll think of something.”
“That’s what scares me.”
She sat up straight and scootched her hips back against his, their hands in the small of her back.
“So, we know they can move like lightning. I didn’t even see them move before they grabbed us.”
“That’s my fault, I’m afraid. Whatever I was trying to do must have set up a countertime field in the Tardis, it was enough like their transtime to allow them to break free.”
“But, you were just using the coordinate scanners, weren’t you? How...?”
“My other self,” he explained.
“Oh. So, we know these cuff things aren’t coming off.” She gave them an irritated yank. He grunted. “And we know they’re coming back for us. How about the sonic screwdriver? They didn’t take it from you.”
“It doesn't work in here.”
“Right. So. We know they’re coming back. We know they’re going to try to suck the Artron energy out of you and who knows what they’re going to do with me. Does that about sum it up?”
“Yes. You’re very good at this.”
“So, what, are you just going to sit there?” she groused, bumping him with her shoulder.
“I thought it would be rude to interrupt.” He took her hand he was holding and slid it sideways, out from between their bodies, their arms slid out of the cartilage cuffs as if they were made of marshmallows.
He let go of her hand and twisted around and stood up, his other forearm still locked to hers with the remainder of the restraint bands. He pulled her up.
“How did you do that?”
She looked at him blankly.
“Pressure points. I said the bands were keyed to our nerve impulses. I just blocked the impulses.”
“That’s why my hand’s numb?”
He grinned, shaking out his own hand. “Now. To get out of here.” He walked over to the door, tugging her along behind him. The door was just a fainter oval of the swirling surface.
“I thought you said the sonic screwdriver doesn’t work?”
“It doesn’t. Do you trust me?” He looked at her with those uncanny blue eyes, his head tilted, the soft curls hanging around his lean hard face.
She sighed. He was so gorgeous. “I always have.”
He smiled. “Good. Don’t let your hand touch the wall.”
And he stepped into the wall.
Disbelieving, she held her arm down, perpendicular to the opalescent wall, still connected to the Doctor on the other side by the armcuff. She watched his shadow - like looking through an eggshell. He took two steps over to the oval door, tugging her along. It opened and she fell through into his grasp.
She looked at at him standing there grinning. She stood up, twisted and kicked the wall. “Ow!” She stubbed her toe, it was as solid as rock.
“How did you do that?! No, tell me later, run!”
Two Zhaleen, metallic purple under their glass, had turned the curve of the corridor behind them.
Clasping bound hands, they ran.
“How did you walk through the wall?” she asked as the curve of the corridor hid them from their pursuers.
“I told you. Laminated time. The wall existed there in three different times. I didn’t. I simply walked around them. It’s a handy meditation technique. You just let time flow through you, until you can feel when to move.”
"You know, it would be easier to run without these." She gestured to the bony plate that bound them together from elbow to wrist. "Why don’t you just numb this hand and take the cuffs off?”
“Because keeping you attached to me is the only thing keeping you functioning in this environment. You think you have a headache now. It’s nothing compared to what would happen to you in here without me to anchor you.”
He ducked into a cross corridor, dragging her behind him. "The Tardis is this way."
“Well, that didn’t work.” Jack dusted himself off.
“Something must have happened, some factor we’re not aware of. Reversing it should have worked. Flipsides will usually right themselves with a little help.”
“So what do you think has happened?”
“I don’t know, I can’t remember.”
“Is Rose safe?”
The Doctor gave him an aggravated look. “She’s with me, Jack.”
“That’s what I mean.”
Rose stayed hidden in the bubble, kneeling. The Doctor crouched over her, his green velvet coat partially surrounding her as they watched the searching Zhaleen through the opalescent walls, their glass outline giving them an oddly sparkling shadow.
Two purples, a red, and a metallic green scoured the hallways beyond their hidey hole, getting closer. Another indistinct Zhaleen appeared at the far end of the hall and yelled something to them. They all ran out after him.
Rose breathed a sigh of relief.
The Doctor eased back from around her, he’d been using his ability to manipulate his own timefield to cloak her from the aliens.
“I’ve been meaning to ask, “ Rose said, “what’s with the different colors? I mean, they’re pretty, but do they mean anything?”
He shrugged. “It’s just their version of uniforms. They’re naturally a wide range of silvery colors, from pewter to steel. They use the colors like you would clothes, or insignia.”
“But how do they get it under that glass coating? I thought it was part of them, like skin.”
“It is, they use chromatic filters to change the colors.” He saw her look. “They bend the lightrays to emit certain frequencies of color. Purple for guards, silver for administration, green for engineering, etc. Actually, I’m surprised he didn’t find us.” He opened the maintenance access hatch. They crawled out.
“And watch out for red,” she muttered.
Fortunately there was no red Zhaleen standing outside to grab them.
“So, which way to the Tardis now?”
“Up here.” He pointed down, at an angle, locked his legs and jumped through another oval hatch. They slid, upright, down a long spiral ramp, Rose stifled a scream and braced herself against him, still attached to him by one arm.
The interior of the Zhaleen ship was all pale shimmering opalescence, laid out in curves and spirals. The corridors all curved, the doorways were oval, the stairs were spiral ramps, and even the walls had a tendency to swirl. It was beautiful, like being trapped in a pearl, but it was no wonder it was giving her a headache.
And it was the very devil to sneak around in. There were no corners to hide behind. No warning before someone emerged into the hallway in front of them. They ran, and dodged, and backtracked. At other times they walked brazenly past open doors and occasionally it seemed like some of the Zhaleen couldn’t even see them properly. (She supposed that was something the Doctor was doing, like that cloaking trick.)
But it didn’t work all the time. Especially when they were come upon unexpectedly. The Doctor kept telling her the Tardis was just ahead, he could feel it. But apparently the weird topography of the ship was throwing him off, or it was the weird time energy in here that was messing with his senses, because the further they went, the less they seemed to get anywhere. They were going around in circles. Like a hound on a confused scent.
“What we need is a map.” Rose said as she kept pace with him. He had a long, ground eating stride, but fortunately he was shorter than her Doctor, she could just about keep up.
“That would certainly be useful. I don’t understand it. It feels like the Tardis should be right here.”
He turned through a low doorway, they hadn’t seen any Zhaleen in quite some time. This room was filled with them.
A metallic yellow Zhaleen jumped forward and grabbed her. Four other identical Zhaleen grabbed the Doctor. Two grabbed each of them and pulled them apart, stretching them between their bound arms. A red Zhaleen, obviously called, came running in through the far oval door, from what looked like a huge hangar space on the other side. Rose just glimpsed the straight blue edge of the Tardis beyond.
The Zhaleen held out a slim device and sliced it through the bands holding her to the Doctor.
“No!” the Doctor yelled, reaching toward her. The world fractured into sickening chaos, her head split with pain, her eyes teared up until everything multiplied into flowing liquid prisms and her stomach heaved.
Her mind tried to black out.