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Sleight of Hand (1/10)

Title: Sleight of Hand
Characters: Seven, Ace, Romana, Original
Word Count: 5213
Rating: PG
Summary: The Doctor, Ace and Jenna continue to search for the Key to Time
FollowsCuriouser and Curiouser
Notes: OK, this is yet another story version of a sim done by "Dr Who & Co". This follows "Curiouser and Curiouser". This one is a bit long, but you can blame the same folks : ) Enjoy!. This was first posted on FFN on 3/26/02




Sleight of Hand




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lady Romanadvoratrelundar was sitting quietly in a library with several piles of books on the table around her. She took a book off one pile and flipped through it. She then put down the book and walked over to a librarian sitting at a desk. Romana set her book down a bit too loudly on the librarian's desk, causing the poor woman to jump a bit. "Shhh!" She put a finger to her lips. "Now, what can I do for you?"

**********************************************************8

Morgaine Sunkiller, Dominatrix of the Nine Worlds stalked about the room. "He will not be triumphant this time!"

The other woman in the room sat confidently in one of the chairs, an aura of power emanated from her. "Just settle down. We have more important things to deal with. Like collecting more of those crystals. Now we should try to capture that witch he was traveling with. She can almost certainly lead us to more of those things."

"Yes. We dare not face the Doctor. This one, she is dangerous as well, but more easily conquered. Now," she said as she approached her crystal ball, "let us find her." The crystal revealed an image of Romana in the library. "Yes...there she is."

Vivien Fay hovered over Morgaine's shoulder, looking at the ball. "Yes, that's her. Romana."

Morgaine sneered at the image as Romana spoke with the librarian. "Could you point me in the direction of Ancient civilizations and impact on Terran life?"

The librarian looked up at her a bit aggravated, but pointed up the stairs.

"Yes. Let us remove her from the game."

There was a vworping sound as the TARDIS materialized in the form of a bookcase. As the women conspired, a bound and gagged Moriarty dragged himself toward the inner door. Morgaine looked over at him and he froze, trying to smile innocently behind the gag. "Leave the worm," said Vivien. "We have more important fish to catch." She edged out of the TARDIS "Now, where is she?"

Romana climbed the stairs and walked through the shadowy shelves of the upstairs, the librarian walking a little ways behind her to shelve some books. Romana ran her fingers along the spines in search for the right title.

Morgaine stepped out and spotted Romana. "There."

Romana pulled a book off the shelf and flipped through the pages. "The very thing. Just what I was looking for."

Morgaine strode regally over to Romana. "That makes two of us then. You will come with us."

"You-!"

Vivien stopped her from saying anything more by clapping a hand over her mouth. She then grabbed her arms from behind and pushed her toward the TARDIS. "Now that wasn't so hard, was it?"

"No. Perhaps I overestimated her."

"Or perhaps you just had the right partner." She smiled and shoved Romana into the TARDIS. Morgaine followed, an indulgent smile on her face. Vivien shut the door when they were all inside and the bookshelf vanished with the TARDIS wheezing and groaning sound.

Just as it disappeared, the librarian pushed her cart loaded with books into that aisle. She put her hands up to her ears. She took one down from her ear long enough to put it to her lips for a very loud "Ssssshhhhh!"

*****************************************************************

Jenna looked about at her surroundings. "Is everything this . . . dull?"

Holmes smiled. "Yes, just about. Usually picks up when the Doctor's around, though. At least that's how the stories go." He strode down the hall. "You'll be all right with him?"

"Yeah, I think so. He seems to like me. Ace reminds me of friends I had at that age."

"I guess you would be of an age if she hadn't traveled with the Doctor." He stopped and faced her. "I know you'll be fine with him as long as you pay attention to what's going on around you."

"Such concern," Jenna said with a smile. "Yes, I know. That whole thing in London was a good introduction as to what traveling with him can be like."

"I hate just leaving you like this. Somehow I feel I should take you back to Glasgow."

"Holmes, it was my choice to travel with the Doctor. After being with you, I don't think I could go back there even if I wanted to."

"You're right. It's just that I've kind of gotten used to you being around."

"At least you know I'm not dead--or worse." Knowing he wouldn't be overly emotional, she quickly hugged him before turning away and leaving.

Holmes was stunned by the hug, never having experienced such an attachment to anyone before. He shook his head. "Attached? Nonsense, Holmes. She's just an acquaintance. A mere human." Why didn't he believe it?

************************************************************************

In the office of the Lord High President of Gallifrey, Romana was looking at the computer screen in front of her. "Now that can't be right. I was sure I sent a message about that." She frowned then sighed. "I suppose I'll have to walk over there." As she stood, she felt a sharp pain in her chest. Dizzy, she sat back down, doubled over in her chair. Hearing a knock on the door, she tried her best to straighten up. "Come in."

One of the Chancellery Guards entered and noticed her expression. "Something wrong, Madam President?"

"No. No. Just...banged my knee. Did you need something?"

The guard looked dubious, but stood to attention. "You have a visitor, my lady."

"Please show them in."

Tired of waiting, the Doctor was already hallway through the door and raised his hat with a grin. "Hello, Romana!"

Romana blinked. "Doctor?"

"Were you expecting someone else?"

"Well, I wasn't expecting anyone, so technically, no. I'm just surprised to see you here." Romana noticed the guard was still there, waiting to be dismissed. "That will be all, thank you." The guard nodded and left. When he had gone, she looked back to the Doctor. "Just before you arrived, I had the strangest feeling. I think something's happened to my first self."

The Doctor looked disturbed. "What makes you say that?"

"It was this sensation I had."

"Can you describe it?"

"Like I was experiencing some kind of temporal ripple, only it wasn't me. It was right here. A stabbing pain," she said, indicating her hearts.

"This could be very bad."

"What do you think is going on, Doctor?"

"I'm not sure...but I think it has something to do with the Key to Time. Someone, I'm not sure who, is trying to assemble it once again. And you know what that would mean.

Romana nodded, looking concerned. "The Black Guardian never gives up, does he?"

"If your other self is in trouble...I don't think there's anything we can do for her just yet."

"Yes. If they are tied together, finding the Key will probably solve the puzzle."

"Exactly. Five of the segments were dispersed at random when we were finished with them, but the sixth..."

"Princess Astra."

"Is still on Atrios. That's where I must go. And I thought, perhaps you'd like a little time away from this stuffy old Capitol?"

"Oh really, Doctor. It's not that bad."

The Doctor smiled fondly at her. "Well, perhaps not. And it's in good hands."

Romana smiled at the compliment. "Well, I suppose I could use a brief holiday."

"Splendid! We can leave as soon as you're ready!" he said on his way out the door.

Romana entered a few things on her keypad before following him. Her assistant was just outside the door. "I'm going to be gone for a while. Please cancel all of my appointments today, and deliver this to the Matrix Keeper." She handed him a data crystal. She then noticed the Doctor standing by a young woman. She must be his new assistant or traveling companion.

The Doctor put an arm around her. "Romana, this is my friend Ace, who of course, you already know. Ace, this is Romana...the second Romana."

"Hi. Again, I guess."

After wandering the halls, Jenna finally spotted Ace's jacket and headed for it. She took a few deep breaths to relax. "Hi, guys." Her burr had become more noticeable.

"Ahh...and here's the last of our fellowship! Jenna, may I introduce you to Romana. Again."

Romana nodded to both of them.

"Um, hi. What number are you?"

The Doctor tried to hide a grin.

"I'm the second one. We can't all regenerate as often as the Doctor." She smiled at him politely. He pointedly ignored her comment.

Ace turned to Jenna. "You alright?"

"Yeah. I left Holmes near the CIA offices." She sniffed. "Why?"

"He'll be all right. Come on, all of you...to the TARDIS. And then I'll make us some tea."

The Doctor got them all moving down the hallway, and turned to Ace. "So, Ace...what do you think of my home?"

"Well, it's kinda...dreary looking. This part of it anyway."

"That's what I thought. So dull. It was easy to spot you." Jenna smiled at Ace.

"Yes, some of it...but you haven't seen Prydon Academy yet! Some time, when we have more time... I think you could quite get to like Gallifrey. And Gallifrey could certainly learn a thing or two from you." He turned to his former companion and grinned. "Right, Romana?"

"I'm not sure Gallifrey is ready for Ace. Someone with a little life in them, they wouldn't know what to do."

"All the more reason!"

"I know I received some strange looks in Victorian London when I tried to go into business for myself."

"If it's so great, why did you leave?"

Well...I was young...."

"Yeah, well, I don't want to learn to like Gallifrey. Let's just go." She picked up her pace back to the TARDIS.

The Doctor sighed. "Yes, I suppose we should. Much to do. And I'm not finished learning from you myself, yet." He ushered the others into the TARDIS, closed the door, and, in a moment, it was gone.

*************************************************************************

Merak sat at his desk, staring numbly at the hologram of Princess Astra on his desk. Suddenly, a familiar noise--but one he hadn't heard for almost six years--broke the silence. Slowly, the TARDIS appeared in a corner of the room.

The door opened and Ace stuck her head out. Jenna followed close behind Ace. "Well?"

"It's some bloke at a desk."

Confused, Merak looked at the two women. "Who are you? Where's the Doctor? And Lady Romana?"

Jenna nudged Ace out of the way. "Hi, I'm Jenna. This is Ace." She held out hand.

Merak stood uncertainly and held out his hand. "Um, yes, hello. I'm Merak. Prince Consort Merak." He shook Jenna's hand.

"Oh, you know the Doctor already?" asked Ace. She called back to the open TARDIS door. "Hey, Professor, he's a friend of yours I think." She heard Merak's introduction. "Prince, eh? Wicked."

"He did mention he'd been here before," said Jenna.

Ace saw the hologram and studied it intently. "Oh, hang on, I know her!"

"Wow, she looks just like Romana!" Jenna saw the resemblance immediately.

"Maybe they're long-lost twins or something," Ace remarked with a grin.

The Doctor stepped out of the TARDIS. "Ah, Merak! How nice to see you again!

"Pardon me, but do I know you, sir?" Merak asked of the strange man that stepped from the TARDIS.

"Merak, it's me, the Doctor!"

"Professor, look!" Ace pointed to the hologram.

Merak felt a headache beginning and blamed it on all these strangers talking at once. And there was no way this strange little man could be the same Doctor who had saved Atrios six years ago. "No, no. That's my wife, Princess..." His voice trailed off as Romana stepped out of the TARDIS.

Romana stepped out of the TARDIS. "Oh yes, I think that you know him quite well."

"Doctor, you've found her!" Merak was overcome with excitement.

The Doctor looked back at Romana, and realized what Merak was thinking. "No, no, Merak. This is Romana!"

"What do you mean, 'found her'?" questioned Romana.

"But, Doctor...surely..."

Jenna looked at Merak. "Perhaps you had better sit down. Do you want something to drink?"

Merak sank back into his chair, and put his head in his hands. "Could everyone please sit down, and be quiet a moment? I don't understand any of this!"

Jenna looked about and found a pitcher of water and a glass. She poured a glass and forced it into his hand. "Here."

Merak murmured his thanks, took one sip, and set the glass down again. "Who are you all? And if she's not my Astra, then where is she?"

The Doctor gestured for everyone else to sit down and be quiet. Jenna looked at the Doctor questioningly but complied choosing a spot near Merak should she be needed. Ace perched on the edge of a chair. "Merak, I'm sorry about the confusion. And the chaos. Some of my friends here can be a little...loud, at times." He gave Ace and Jenna a cross between a reproving glare and a fond smile.

Jenna looked at Ace and mouthed "Loud?" Ace rolled her eyes in response.

"I am the Doctor you knew, I've merely regenerated, as has Romana."

Slowly, Merak gathered his wits. He sat back in his chair, and took a deep breath. "All right, assuming you're telling the truth, that still doesn't explain why she," he pointed to Romana, "looks just like my Astra."

"I thought rather highly of Princess Astra, though the Doctor did get quite upset at my regeneration." The Doctor frowned good-naturedly at her. They had much better things to argue about these days.

"Ah. I see...at least I think so. She'll probably take it as a compliment."

"Yes. Where is the Princess, anyway, Merak? We came here to see her...well, to see both of you, of course."

"That's just it, Doctor! She's gone! You must help me find her!" In his desperation, he has to believe that these people are the Doctor and Romana, and that they can help him.

"You poor man!" Jenna tried to console him.

"Course we will, right Professor?" She looked at him, feeling bad for Merak.

"Yes, absolutely! What exactly has happened, Merak? Where has she gone, what happened?"

"I...I'm just not sure, Doctor. She left...about a month ago...on a diplomatic mission to Zeos."

"Zeos? You mean the Zeons have turned up? You're not at war again, I hope?"

"Where exactly is Zeos?" Jenna asked aside to Romana

"It's their twin planet, not far away at all, really."

"Oh, yes, Doctor. They were in some sort of cryogenic sleep deep beneath the surface. They woke up again not long after you and Romana left us. And no, we're not at war again. We've been helping each other to rebuild, but that's not to say it's been easy. There are terrorist factions, groups on both our worlds, causing a lot of trouble, trying to make us fight again, 'exterminate our enemies' and all that rot."

"Maybe they want to ransom her out then," commented Ace.

Merak continued. "Astra...the Princess was meeting with the Zeon leaders, trying to work out a new way of dealing with the terrorists. Then, about a week ago, she just...vanished. No one...none of her aides, and none of the Zeons, saw where she went. She stepped away from the conference for a few moments...and vanished."

"Do you think these Zeons have her?" asked Jenna.

"What do they want, do you know?" questioned Ace.

"I...I'm just not sure. The Zeon authorities have been looking for her, and I sent an investigative party of our own, of course. But no one has found the slightest clue, and no one has come forth to take credit for her kidnapping."

"Who would want to take her?" demanded Romana.

Merak struggled to think, though his worry is overwhelming him again. "I...I just don't know. Any of the terrorist groups could have, I suppose...but why haven't they said anything yet, made some sort of demand?"

"Especially as she is a princess, they know a ransom could easily be had or perhaps and exchange of some sort," Jenna mused aloud.

"But how could she have just vanished? Was anyone with her at all?" asked Romana.

"She was at a conference, surrounded by her aides, as well as the Zeon leaders and their staff. However, she stepped away...to use the powder room, I suppose...and just disappeared! I should be on Zeos now, looking for her myself, but..."

Determined, Ace spoke for them. "We'll find her for you." She turned to the Doctor, waiting for him to agree.

"Of course we will!" the Doctor agreed.

"But if the trail is a month old, what can we do?"

The Doctor answered Jenna but glanced at Merak, trying to restore his confidence. "Oh, I have my ways! We'll find her, all right."

"It seems I can't escape a mystery," she grinned.

"In the meantime, Romana, what if you remained here, and allowed everyone to think that Astra had returned somehow? It might draw out our kidnappers...or at least confuse them."

Romana nodded in agreement. "She's probably still on Zeos. I'm sure if they tried to smuggle her off-planet it would have been noticed."

Merak smiled bravely, trying to find his sense of humor despite what happened to Astra. "Well, this has certainly confused me, so..."

"That's the spirit, Merak! Just try not to worry!" The Doctor smiled confidently.

"Well, that's said easily enough..."

Jenna smiled at Merak. "If anyone can fix this . . . Chin up and all that." She looked at the Doctor. "So where will we be going? Zeos?"

"Yes, we'll start on Zeos. Come along, Ace, Jenna." He started back to the TARDIS. Jenna and Ace followed.

Merak waved as they entered the TARDIS. Once they were inside, he turned to Romana. "I should be going with them. I should be doing something to help her."

"I know it's difficult, but right now the best thing you can do is keep everything running smoothly here," answered Romana.

Merak looked a little less than convinced, but nodded and smiled as the TARDIS disappeared.

*********************************************************************

With a mighty vworp, the TARDIS appeared at the end of a long, empty corridor on Zeos. The Doctor stepped out, and turned to wait for the girls. Ace was first, followed closely by Jenna. "And you said they were nearly wiped out after a nuclear war only 6 years ago?" Jenna was asking.

"Yeah, but Merak said they're helping rebuild, right?"

"Yes, indeed. A war exacerbated by the Black Guardian."

"Who's that?"

"The Black Guardian? Only one of the most powerful-and evil-beings in the universe. The personification of darkness and chaos.

"Can I assume there is also a White Guardian?" asked Jenna.

"Yes, there certainly is. A truly gentle soul...the Guardian of Light and Order. He sent Romana and I to find the Key to Time in the first place. And in the process of finding the final segment, we also managed to bring the war here to a halt."

"Do you think the Black Guardian is the one after the Key this time?"

"Oh, it's highly likely. He was never one to give up easily. But even so...he can't act directly. In the past, he's always worked through various mortal agents."

"Bit of chaos is all right though," commented Ace.

"A bit, certainly. But if the Black Guardian were to have his way, the universe would be nothing but chaos."

"Could that be where Moriarty comes in?" asked Jenna.

"Oh, Moriarty is certainly an agent. But somehow, I doubt he's the only one..."

"He's got a lot of them. Dad's Army, eh?"

The Doctor grinned. "Something like that, Ace."

Ace looked around. "Where's everyone?"

"Maybe we've landed in an isolated area. One where they haven't settled yet," said Jenna.

"The Zeons faired better than the people of Atrios...they spent most of the war deep underground, and let a computer do their fighting for them. Even so, their population was decimated."

Jenna looked at ground and saw that it was still dusty. "Guess they haven't rejuvenated the housekeeper yet."

"We should be nearing one of the inhabited areas now, though." The Doctor turned a corner. The corridor ahead was lined with several doors, and there was a guard standing outside the one at the far end. "Ah! Here we are!" He strode cheerfully up to the sentry, raising his hat politely. "Hello. My young friends and I are here to see the General."

Jenna hung back and watched, still amazed at how the Doctor breezed into potentially dangerous situations.

The sentry raised his gun. "Halt right there. Who are you?"

Ace looked at Jenna. "Well, we managed to go for," she checked her watch, "six minutes and 42 seconds without being arrested. A new record."

Jenna grinned. "Well we aren't imprisoned yet. How long will it take for him to talk us out of it?"

"He can do that pretty fast actually. We got out of Windsor Castle all right"

"I'm the Doctor, and these are my friends Ace and Jenna."

Ace smiled. "Hi."

"Hello," said Jenna.

The Sentry looked a bit bored. "The general isn't expecting anyone by those names."

"We were sent by Prince Consort Merak, of Atrios to investigate the disappearance of Princess Astra." Jenna attempted to look official and confident.

The sentry sighed. "Wait here." He went into the office.

The Doctor turned and grinned confidently at Ace and Jenna.

They heard arguing from inside the office. "Sir, they say they know of Princess Astra and they were sent by-."

Ace rolled her eyes and opened the door. The Doctor raised his hat. "So sorry to interrupt. . ."

The sentry turned, surprised at the three barging in. "You should be waiting outside! The general is a busy man!"

Ace looked at the General. "Doing what? Breathing?"

"By the looks of him, I'd say eating," commented Jenna under her breath.

A lieutenant glared at the newcomers. "We were signing orders, woman." He turned to the sentry. "Get them out of here!"

The sentry grabbed the Doctor by the shoulder and began to propel him out of the room. Ace was angered by his treatment. "Hey you! Get your hands off him!" She clenched her hands into fists and prepared to fight if necessary.

The Doctor dragged his feet, and called back over the sentry's shoulder. "We're here about Princess Astra!"

"Stand down, Canden," said the General. "I'll take care of it. Back to your post." He turned to the lieutenant. "It's all right."

The sentry, Canden, stood down. "Yes sir." He saluted and left the room.

The lieutenant sat down and mumbled. "And what would that woman have to do with us?"

"Astra is a head of state. Obviously, she would have had top-level security. You must have had some part in that, or at least some understanding of it." Jenna was sure that would get them talking.

"You seen her?" questioned Ace.

"Yes, we did have an Astra under our care..." mused the general. "And she did vanish without a trace."

"'An' Astra? How many are there?" questioned Jenna.

"She was last scene on your planet, gentlemen," said the Doctor. "She stepped away from a diplomatic reception, and somehow vanished from right under your very noses. I'm sure it was terribly embarrassing for all of you, to lose her like that. Which is why you'll do everything you can to help us find her."

The lieutenant rose to his feet. "We had nothing to do with it! General, I will not stand here and have outsiders accuse us..."

"Oh, hush you," said Ace. "We're not sayin' you lot did it. We just want help finding her."

Jenna attempted to placate the soldiers. "We are not here to accuse . . . not yet anyway. We merely need information."

"As my companions have said, we aren't accusing you of anything. However, she was last seen on your world, and I had assumed that your security department might be able to help us in our search. Perhaps I overestimated you..."

"Nothing of the sort, General. She probably used a personal transporter," said the lieutenant.

"The last we saw of Astra, she left the planet in an escorted ship. She never returned. We thought she might, but . . ."

"Escorted by who?" demanded Ace.

"Her entourage," replied the general.

"Her guards and one of our officials who was stepping in as ambassador," clarified the lieutenant.

Jenna looked at the Doctor. Merak didn't say anything about a ship.

It seemed the Doctor was thinking the same. "A ship?" he questioned with a puzzled frown. "Did she say where she was going, or why?"

"She said she was going to the outer planets. She didn't say why."

"General, her entourage has already returned to Atrios. They claim to have last scene the Princess at a diplomatic reception here on Zeos."

"Well she did attend a reception here, but she was escorted out. By what she called her entourage," the general confirmed.

"He wasn't fakin' us out though," said Ace. "He really doesn't know where she is." She faced the Doctor. "Could they have all been hypnotized or something? Her guards, I mean."

The Doctor's eyes narrowed and he nodded slowly at the General. "Well, it appears I need to speak with the Princess's entourage again. Give them a chance to...revise their statements."

"Very well," said the general. "Come with me, gentleman--and ladies."

"Can we see the room where the reception was held? Where she was last seen?" questioned Jenna.

"No, no, that won't be necessary," the Doctor said to her. He turned back to the general. "So sorry to have troubled you." He raised his hat. "Good day." He turned to leave, ushering Jenna and Ace out of the door in a hurry while attempting to make it look like he was in no hurry at all.

The general sat back down, looked at the retreating figures a bit strangely, then shrugged. The lieutenant looking a bit resigned and war- weary, sat back down and straightened up the papers on the desk.

"But Professor, shouldn't we look for clues?" questioned Ace once they were outside. "We could have just rung them up from Atrios."

Jenna also questioned the Doctor. "Why didn't you want to see the room?"

Softly, so only Ace and Jenna could hear, the Doctor said, "We've already heard all we need to. The General was lying."

"How do you know?" Ace asked quietly.

"Oh...it's all in the details, as I'm sure Holmes has pointed out, Jenna. Those men spoke just a little too quickly, and they weren't blinking enough. They were hiding something, of that I have no doubt."

"Of course. 'You look but you do not see'."

The Doctor smiled at Jenna. "Precisely!"

"I did notice that they talked about a ship which Merak overlooked...or didn't know about."

The Doctor reached an intersection and paused, looking each way. "Well, it's obvious the Zeon authorities will be no help. So..."

"We get to investigate on our own," Jenna grinned.

*******************************************************************

Back in the office, the lieutenant spoke to the general. "Those outsiders had no right to barge in like that, sir. You hired me on to be a consultant, but I don't know how you can deal with the constant interruptions."

"Lieutenant, order Rankar and Faraden to find them and take them to Section 11."

"Section 11, but that's reserved only for...."

"Make it quick and painless."

"Yes, sir."

The general sat back in his chair. "Why did they have to come here," he sighed.

The lieutenant spoke into the intercom. "Rankar, we have a code 14. There are three intruders who should be escorted to section 11." There was a garbled response. "Yes, immediately. And, yes, I said section 11."

*****************************************************************

You know, Jenna," said the Doctor thoughtfully, "I think you've hit on the crucial question right now."

"I did?"

"Yes. Was there really a ship? In which case, Astra will no longer be on Zeos. Or was that merely part of their poor attempt at a cover story?"

"Cover. It'd be hard for us to track a single ship if they've got them always coming and going."

"She could have been taken to a room. That would explain her entourage. And once they had gone, she was taken away. I guess the general got his times mixed up."

"Yes, but the General would certainly have known whether or not her entire entourage disappeared, or merely the princess herself."

"True," said Jenna. "The story of a ship is a good one because, as Ace said, it would be hard to track as I doubt they keep clear records at this point."

"Wait one moment!" Ace almost slammed into the Doctor when he came to a sudden stop. "If it really is the Black Guardian pulling the strings once again..." He began muttering to himself, wheeled around, and hurried back towards the TARDIS.

Ace spun around and followed him. "Professor! What's going on?"

Jenna paused and listened. "I think I hear footsteps." She hurried after Ace and the Doctor.

Ace heard them too, coming in their direction. She ran. Jenna ran as well. "I think the General found us a nuisance!"

The Doctor paused again and listened. "Quick, down here!" He dashed down a side corridor at random.

Ace followed with Jenna at her heels. "Wish I had my gun," the latter muttered.

Faraden called to his partner. "I see them!" He yelled at the travelers. "Stop!" He ran after them, his gun drawn.

"Ace, Jenna, I think we might be in trouble..."

"Real bad this time?"

The Doctor skidded to a halt and stared at the large man with the even larger gun up ahead. "Yes...you might say that."

Jenna slowly put up her hands. The Doctor and Ace did likewise.

The Doctor grinned nervously. "Gentlemen, I'm sure we can discuss this reasonably, perhaps over a cup of tea?" He looked hopefully from one soldier to the other.

"I know a wonderful little tea shop back in Glasgow. We could go pick some up..." Jenna's voice drifted off.

Faraden held a gun to Doctor's nose. "You're coming with us."

Rankar approached and closed the gap. "Hope you've got a plan B Professor," said Ace. "Can't get out that way now."

The Doctor glanced from Ace, back down the barrel of Faraden's gun and gulped.

Faraden looked to Rankar. "We've got them. Now we take them to section 11,"

Ace turned to Faraden. "What's that?"

Faraden's only answer was motioning with the gun. "This way. Move."

Jenna offered up a little prayer for help as she did as Faraden said and wondered why she didn't chose to go home when she had the chance. The Doctor simply nodded and Ace moved, her hands still in the air.

Quietly, the Doctor spoke to his companions. "I could be wrong, of course, but it's probably one of the heavily irradiated areas left over from the war."

"Gee, Doctor, you know all the hot spots," commented Jenna.

"They're gonna fry us?" Ace asked, trying to hide her fear.

"It looks that way, yes..."

Faraden and Rankar, escorted them to a large metal door marked "Section 11" with many Warning and Hazard stickers on it. . .

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