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Sleight of Hand (2/10)

Title: Sleight of Hand
Characters: Seven, Ace, Romana, Original
Word Count: 3041
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

Part One


Sleight of Hand



II

The Doctor waited calmly as the guard opened the door to Section 11. The guard then opened the door to a smaller airlock-like room. Jenna peered around the Doctor, looked into the room and gulped. She saw the guard put on radiation protective gear.

"Hey, if I wanted to glow in the dark, I would have painted myself fluorescent!" declared Ace bravely even though she looked scared.

The guard pushed some buttons, slid a card across a scanner, and the door opened. "In you go, then."

The Doctor doffed his hat to the guard and walked calmly inside, but not before smiling confidently at Jenna and winking at Ace.

Jenna took confidence in the Doctor's surety, and followed him inside ignoring the guard and his gun.

Ace followed as well, and, as she passed the Doctor, mumbled, "I hope you know what you're doing professor."

The Doctor turned to the guard. "Thank you...good day!" The guard gave the Doctor a weird look, and shut the door between them. The Doctor then strolled through as if he were entering a classy restaurant for Sunday brunch.

Jenna walked about the room. "So, you say Zeos is littered with these things?"

"Yes...the detritus of a hideous war. Now..." He looked through the little window in the door to make sure the guard had gone, then began to search his jacket pockets.

"Hey! We're about to get nuked!" declared Ace.

"How long can we stay here without long-term effects?" asked Jenna.

The Doctor produced a small bottle of pills. He poured some out, and passed them to the girls. Ace looked at them. "What's this?"

"These will protect you from the radiation for a good two hours or so. After that, if we're still here...these were the last, so then we'll be in trouble."

"Ask a stupid question." Jenna grinned as she took the pills. "Just like a regular doctor doling out pills."

"It shouldn't come to that, though." The Doctor swallowed his own pill. "Well...hopefully..." The Doctor banished a worried frown and started down the hallway. "Yes...sorry I forgot to bring some water... Tea would be nice too..." He shrugged. "Ah well."

Ace swallowed her pills and made a face. "Hey Doctor, next time bring the cherry flavored ones."

Jenna took hers and swallowed quickly. "Hopefully we'll be able to call you in the morning." She smiled at Ace.

"Well, you might, but Ace, awake before noon?" He laughed, grinning wickedly.

"Oh, very funny. So where we going then?"

Jenna began to hum then started to sing. "Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect, and whistle a happy tune, so no one will suspect I'm afraid"

The Doctor began examining the walls. "Now, there must be a way out of here somewhere, there always is...secret passage, ventilation duct, something..." He grinned at Jenna and began to sing along as he walked.

"How about 'Open Sesame'?" Ace asked with a laugh.

"But if this were to prevent radiation from penetrating, wouldn't air vents have defeated the purpose? At least of a size to be any help to us."

"Well...yes...but you never know!"

"Maybe there's a failsafe button somewhere," said Ace. "In case someone they're not trying to kill gets shut in."

The Doctor glanced through an open door as they pass. A few moments later, something dawned on him. He grinned and walked backwards until he was even with the door again. "Now this might be just what we need!"

Jenna backtracked to the Doctor. "What is it?" The Doctor pointed inside the room at what appeared to be an abandoned chemistry lab. "What? Plan to make your own doorway? Use acid to melt the door locks?"

"It would take an extremely strong acid to break down those doors, but I think Ace might be able to come up with something."

Ace looked around the lab, like a kid in a candy store.

"I've heard the stories. I think I'll wait down the hall until you're ready." Jenna backed out of Ace's reach.

The Doctor rolled his eyes, but fondly, and follows Ace inside. "Yes, that might be wise, Jenna."

Ace started pulling out stuff and mixing it together, not really measuring it carefully. "Hey, I haven't blown up one of the labs in the TARDIS in, uh, a while."

The Doctor winced. "Ooh, Ace, shouldn't you use just a bit less..."

"Hey, come on Professor--that's a thick door. You never see the cooks on TV measuring stuff out." She added something else to the beaker. "They just kinda know after a while."

The Doctor nodded hesitantly, starting to look a little worried. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. "Well, I do trust your judgment, Ace. I think," he added under his breath.

"Just about done."

"All right, I'll be waiting with Jenna." The Doctor headed out before his nerves were completely shot.

Jenna walked around in hallway, finding it dreary and somewhat ominous. How could they live down here? She saw the Doctor leaving room. "Couldn't take it?"

"Nonsense! Ace knows what she's doing. I just...wanted to make sure you were ok, that's all."

"I think it would be best if we try a door in the opposite direction from where our escort left us. It might take them longer to reach us that way."

"Yes...good point."

"And I appreciate the thought, Doctor," she said with a grin.

Back in the lab, there was a lump of pastel green stuff at the bottom of the container. "Better than school plasticine," said Ace with a grin. She took the green putty over to the door, packed it along one of the seams, and then stuck two copper wires in it. She unraveled the wires as she retreated into the lab. "Oi, get back in here you lot. Unless you fancy getting blown up!"

The Doctor hurried back to the lab followed by Jenna. "We're ready, Ace? So soon?"

"Oh yeah, gelignite takes less time to make than nitro 9." She attached the wires to some kind of battery. "Ready?"

The Doctor nodded. "Ready." As I'll ever be...

"As I'll ever be," said Jenna not bothering to hide her opinion of Ace's abilities.

Ace flipped a wall switch, and the battery sparked as the electricity traveled up the wire. BOOOM! The plastique ignited and the door went flying. Ace grinned. "Ace!"

The Doctor sighed with relief.

"Whoa! Nice one, Ace. Let's get moving before someone tries to lock us up again."

"Now, we have to hurry! They'll know where we are all too soon!" The Doctor set off on a run with both Ace and Jenna following. He held onto his hat with one hand, his brolly with the other, as he tore down the hallways, back towards the inhabited areas of Zeos. Jenna hoped the Doctor knew where he was going.

"Hey, why are we going back this way?" questioned Ace. "They've already tried to do us in once!"

"We're going back to the TARDIS. We've upset someone here. I don't think stealth is an option any longer." He swung around another corner.

"And you'll think we'll make it past Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum?"

"Too right. "Maybe they'll be so surprised they'll fall over." That picture brought a smile to Ace's face.

"Well...I'll build that bridge when we come to the river!" called the Doctor over his shoulder.

Sirens started going off and a synthesized voice came over the loudspeakers. "WARNING, RADIATION LEAKAGE FROM SECTION 11!"

"Well, if they didn't know we were out before, they do now," commented Jenna.

"CONTAINMENT BREACH ON SECTION 11!"

The Doctor noticed a bulkhead starting to come down ahead of them. "Oh no. Hurry!" He dove under the bulkhead, losing his hat in the process.

Ace ran and slid underneath.

Jenna dove underneath the closing door à là Indiana Jones. She stood and laughed. "Always wanted to do that."

"You alright?" Ace asked her.

"Yep. Fine."

The Doctor reached through the decreasing space for his hat, barely getting his hand back in time.

Officer Faraden rounded the corner behind them to check on the breach, and stopped when he noticed them. "Hey! Halt right there! Stop or I'll fire!" He pulled his gun.

The Doctor looked up at Faraden and groaned. He stood and slowly dusted himself off, and put his hands over his head.

Jenna raised her hands. "Now, are you Dee or Dum?"

"Definitely Dum," the Doctor muttered to Ace.

"Well, well. So, we meet again. I thought I put you in Section 11. You must be the one who caused the breach!"

"Well, it didn't work, so I guess you'll have to let us go then, yeah?"

"Yeah, you no longer have a Section 11 for a lock-up."

Faraden turned to the Doctor. "Don't you go getting smart with me, little man! You are going to wish you had stayed in section 11. Move!"

"Faraden...might I be so bold as to ask just why your superiors want us dead?" asked the Doctor. "This isn't a very nice way to treat diplomatic guests."

Faraden was walking behind them, his gun aimed at their backs. "It's not my place to know why, only to obey orders."

"Yeah! If we don't get back, they're gonna send someone looking for us," added Ace.

"Come now...aren't you even the slightest bit curious?"

Jenna tried to catch Ace's eye, then looked back at Faraden's gun hoping she'd understand.

Faraden stopped. "Halt."

Ace halted, as did the Doctor, one foot still in the air, like a child playing freeze tag. Jenna stopped close to Faraden and wavered as if faint.

Faraden approached the Doctor. "Yes, I'm curious, but more to the point, I've no choice. It's my place to take orders. I can be curious all I want, but that still won't give me answers. It didn't used to be like this here."

"But come on. Do we look like we've done something to deserve being stuck in a radiation chamber?" questioned Ace.

Jenna swore in her head that Faraden messed the plan. She tried to get close again.

"Honestly, no, you don't, but still...orders are orders."

"Well, at least you are curious. Not just an automaton, doing whatever they tell you...right or wrong."

"If I don't follow orders...well, they may think I'm expendable. So, move," he added not so cockily as before.

Jenna fell back in a fake faint on Faraden. He reached out to catch her and the gun went flying out of his hand. He slowly lowered her to the ground. "Are you all -- Ah!" He fell to the floor unconscious.

"Sorry!" said the Doctor after clubbing the guard with his brolly. Ace kicked the gun as far away as she could.

Jenna opened one eye. "Did it work?"

"Evidently."

Jenna looked at Faraden. "Guess it did. I was aiming on getting his gun, but this works. I mastered that in 1890's London. Never failed."

The Doctor shook his head clear. "Come on, we've got to keep moving." He started once more down the hall towards the TARDIS, Ace close at his heels. With a last look at Faraden, Jenna followed.

The Doctor turned a corner only to find they were no longer alone. He strolled forward, boldly whistling. He doffed his hat his hat at a random lady. "Come along, girls. You'll be late for class!"

"Class? What...oh right. Class." Ace followed his lead.

"Yes, that class!"

"Do I have to?"

"Oh, you have to all right!"

As they walked along, Jenna took in how pale and gaunt these people were. Were they even allowed on the surface? She heard the Doctor and Ace's conversation and knew she had better join in. "Yes, Professor," she said with a grin at Ace.

"Oh but Professor!"

"No arguments, young lady!"

Ace put on a fake sulk as they walked through the crowd. As she looked around, the sulk turns to sadness. "Are they gonna make it?"

Jenna asked, "Doctor, will they ever be able to reclaim the surface?"

The Doctor sighed. "There isn't much of a surface left, I'm afraid. Perhaps there might be a new one, someday, but not in the near future."

A youth in his early 20s had found the TARDIS and stood in front of it, staring at it in puzzlement. "This looks like what Princess Astra entered once, but it was different a bit," he said to himself. He walked around it.

Jenna noticed him. "Look, an admirer."

The youth turned and faced the three strangers as they approached. "Is this box yours?"

The Doctor frowned. "Yes...can I help you?" Ace stood behind him, arms crossed, watching the boy suspiciously.

"I was just noticing how much it reminds me of a box I saw our Princess go away in."

"Your princess? I was under the impression that only Atrios had a royal family, that your people were ruled by the military junta."

"I'm Technician Roderan. I'm from Atrios."

"Ah."

"So what are you doing here then? I thought you didn't get along with them. Your planets I mean."

"I'm simply helping with the repairs."

"From what I've heard, it's about time they got along," commented Jenna.

The Doctor looked about. "You know, perhaps this isn't the place to talk." He dug in his pocket for the TARDIS key, opened the door and waved them all inside, still watching the corridor carefully. Roderan and Jenna followed and Ace looked around again before entering.

Roderan was totally surprised by the TARDIS interior, but didn't say anything. "Anyway," he continued as if nothing was strange--or tried to.

The Doctor grinned a bit at Roderan's reaction. "Yes?" he prompted.

Jenna flopped into a chair she had moved into the console room. "Were you sent or did you volunteer?"

"I was sent from Atrios as a technician. I worked on Atrios as an assistant to the technical staff. This is my first real tech job, you see."

"Roderan, how long have you been here? Were you on Zeos when Astra and her entourage arrived last month?" asked the Doctor.

"It's supposed to have been kept secret, but I was accidentally where I didn't need to be."

"What did you see?" questioned Jenna.

"Yes, I saw her entourage bring her here, but she didn't leave with them."

"That's why we're here, a diplomatic mission."

"It's strange, but the Princess, a woman, and a man about my age left with her in a small box... about the size of this one. Well the size of this one on the outside."

"Could it have been you?" Ace asked the Doctor. "An earlier you? Or a later one?" she added quietly after a pause.

Jenna turned to the Doctor. "Why would someone what to make their TARDIS look like yours unless they wanted you to follow---or frame you?"

"Yes, yes...any idea where they went?"

"I've not told anyone what I've seen. It seems that everyone has been led to believe that she left with her entourage. I've no idea where they went. The woman seemed to be in a hurry to get her in the box. She didn't look forced, but it looked urgent. So I don't think the Princess was in any danger from them."

"At least, any that she was aware of," said Jenna.

"What did this other woman look like?" Ace asked him.

"Yes, can you describe the man and the woman, Roderan?"

"Sort of average height, I suppose. Dark hair. That was all I could really tell from that distance. Her friend, the boy, had long blonde hair and was wearing a curious jacket with fringe on it."

"Hmm...I'm afraid they don't sound familiar. But perhaps..." He went over to the console and began tapping keys and throwing switches.

Roderan looked at the console. Do you think one of these could find another one of it's kind?"

"Well, it's possible..." said the Doctor a little distracted.

Roderan heard the sound of dematerialization. "I recognize that sound! It's the same as when... Wait, you're taking me with you?"

"Guess so," Ace mumbled.

"Of course. You're the only one who's seen the people that took Astra," Jenna told him.

"It's better than that place, innit?" said Ace, to the point. "They tried to kill us for looking. Hate to see what they'd do to you for actually seeing."

"Ah! Yes! The TARDIS has the scent!" The Doctor clapped his hands together happily.

Roderan started examining the switches and buttons. "This is so amazing. I'm a technician, and I've not seen such... technology!"

"Oi, don't touch, Techie."

Roderan looked up at Ace. "Oh, sorry."

The Doctor suddenly realized what Roderan said earlier. Hmm... Oh, yes. Sorry. I know I should have asked, but we didn't have much time. The trace is faint as it is. "And something is very wrong on Zeos. Not the place to be just now."

"You think I'd be.. killed for seeing? I didn't mean to... I only arrived late to fix a faulty wiring problem."

"They definitely want this secret kept at all costs. You're unquestionably much safer this way."

The Doctor put a hand on Roderan's shoulder. "It's all right. We'll sort this out. Everything will be just..." He was cut off as the TARDIS shuddered violently and he was thrown against the console.

"What's wrong with this thing?" questioned Roderan.

Ace stumbled but struggled back to the Doctor. "Professor! You alright?"

The Doctor picked himself up and began madly tapping buttons and twisting dials. "Oh no. Everyone hold on to something! We're being dragged off course, into a...I just don't know yet!" His eyes were wide with genuine fear.

Ace and Roderan grabbed onto the edge of the console. "I got away from being killed on Zeos, and now I'm going to get killed anyway here!"

"You're not gonna die! The Professor'll fix it!" Ace declared.

Jenna fell from chair and slid across the floor to grab the base of the console.

"It might be a little late for that. Jenna, Ace, Roderan. I'm sorry!"

"What?" Ace and Roderan declared together.

"What's going on?" Ace demanded.

Under her breath, Jenna began to pray. "Ave Maria gracia plena..."

There was a massive thunderclap, a flash of light then darkness and silence.

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