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Sleight of Hand (3/10)

Title: Sleight of Hand
Characters: Seven, Ace, Romana, Original
Word Count: 3767
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
Part Two


Sleight of Hand


III

The Doctor fumbled through the compartments of the console. "Aha! I knew it was here somewhere!" He turned on a bright torch and cast the light about the room. "Everyone all right?"

Roderan opened his eyes, for he had them shut tightly after the lights went off. "Oh. I thought we were dead. We are alive, aren't' we?"

Jenna stopped murmuring her prayer. "No bones broken here."

"What about you, Ace?" questioned the Doctor. There was no answer. "Ace?" He cast the light furiously throughout the room. What hadn't been bolted to the floor or wall was strewn about.

Roderan looked around in the dim light of the Doctor's torch. "Where did that girl with the jacket go?"

Jenna joined in the call. "Ace! Could she be unconscious, Doctor? Hit on the head or something?"

Ace crawled into the room from an open door leading into the interior of the TARDIS. "Man, what a rush!" She heard them calling. "Oi, I'm over here!"

The Doctor turned the torch to the sound of her voice. "Ace, are you all right?"

"Fine, if you call getting thrown almost to my room 'fine'."

"You gave us quite a scare," said Jenna.

Ace scowled. "I can take care of myself."

"I didn't mean that you couldn't. Not everything said is against you."

"What happened? What caused this. . .ship of yours to do that, Doctor?" asked Roderan.

Scowling, Ace rubbed her skinned knees." So, what happened, Professor?"

"I'm not exactly sure. Perhaps a collision of sorts, but that is very rare." He turned the torch to the console. "A collision in the vortex can only mean another time machine . . ." He tried to get a reading in the dark.

"A collision? Cool! Hope you have insurance on this thing," declared Ace.

The Doctor looked at her sternly. "There is nothing 'cool' about a collision in the vortex. If anything serious had occurred, we could have been killed or worse."

Roderan looked at him. "What's worse than being killed?"

The Doctor looked at Roderan. "We could have been left drifting here for all eternity."

"Oh. I see." Roderan looked completely out of his depth. "Could it be like that woman's craft, the one I saw Princess Astra being led to?" he asked.

"Quite possibly, though how she got her hands on a ship capable of time travel. . . I don't want to think on it."

"So, what's there to worry about?" questioned Ace. You've said it yourself tons of times that the TARDIS is impenetrable."

"Could this mystery woman be involved with Moriarty? We know he was working with someone of power," commented Jenna.

"The princess didn't look like she was being forced. She appeared to have been going of her own accord."

"All good points," said the Doctor. "Hmm, I wonder why the auxiliary hasn't kicked in." He took a deep breath and switched his approach. "Well, the TARDIS was on the track of this other ship, so perhaps we should see where it's taken us." He checked the console. "Atmosphere is breathable so . . ." He hit the door switch. Nothing happened. Embarrassed, he crossed the console room and began to search a closet. He soon pulled out an old crank. He crossed the room once again. "Excuse me, Roderan," he said as he stepped on the poor man's toes. He felt along the wall beside the door, inserted the crank, and began to turn it.

Ace sat down Indian-style and looked a bit impatient as she watched the Doctor. The doors slowly opened. Roderan was nervous about traveling with these strange people and this unknown world, but her tried not to let it show.

The Doctor stepped out into the near wilderness and took a deep breath. "Ah, wonderful." It was nighttime, night birds were calling, and the sky was alight with unfamiliar stars. Two moons were aglow, casting a pale light on the travelers. They found themselves on the outskirts of a Forest and in the distance; lighted windows are visible from houses in a small town.

Jenna followed the Doctor. "Did you happen to notice the name of this place?"

Ace had picked up her rucksack from where it had landed crammed under the hat stand and followed them. "Looks like we're out in the boonies," she said with a frown.

The Doctor looked at Jenna. "No. The light didn't go that far. I'm sure if we go into town, the kindly villagers will inform us."

"I hope they're kindly, anyway," muttered Roderan.

"If they are kindly," said Jenna. "After all, it's night and we're strangers. They could be like the villagers in Dracula."

Roderan gave Jenna a questioning look, but said nothing.

"If that is the case, they won't turn us out." The Doctor strode towards the village. Jenna shrugged and tried to keep pace with the Doctor.

"I think she means they might treat us like vampires, professor, and try to stake us," Ace called after him.

"I guess he knows well enough what he's doing," said Roderan. Ace smiled wickedly, and then laughed. "Too right! Let's go!"

Roderan gave her a worried look at her laughter, hoping she was only joking about the Doctor not knowing what he was doing.

They reached the village, which looked to be from the beginning of the industrial revolution, and found the dirt streets empty. There was a well in the center. There was noise coming from the tavern and that was where the Doctor headed.

The Doctor opened the door to the tavern and all talk stopped as they gazed at the newcomers. A young, blond haired man in a leather jacket with fringe was sitting in the corner. He noticed the group enter and watched them intently. The tavern was very medieval in its decor with wide-open hearths and blazing fires; open timber beams at the ceiling; and stuffed heads of local wildlife.

Roderan looked about. "How. . .old fashioned!"

Ace breathed in at the sight. "Gordon Bennett! Looks like we stepped right into one of those Conan flicks," she whispered.

The Doctor strolled confidently to bar. "Hello, I'm the Doctor and these are my friends, Ace, Jenna, and Roderan."

Jenna nodded her head in greeting then looked at the tap. "A local brew?"

The young man, curious over these newcomers, moved a few tables over to get a better look at them.

The publican puffed himself up with pride. "My very own brew, miss. Quite strong it is, too. You might want a fruit drink instead."

Jenna looked about and didn't see any women in the tavern at all. It was time for a change. "I wouldn't mind giving it a try. Half for starters? To see if I like it."

"You calling us weak?" demanded Ace. She looked over at Jenna. "We can take whatever you've got." She set her rucksack on the chair next to her. She leaned over the bar to get a better look at the brew. "Don't suppose you take quid," she muttered.

"That money you have won't work here. You gotta pay with gilders, man," said a very out-of-place American accent. Ace turned to see the young man who had moved to stand near them.

"Seriously? They wouldn't take these?" Ace held out a small handful of cold coins.

The Doctor was digging through his pockets in search of the proper coinage. From the corner of his eye, he saw what his young companion held in her hand. "Ace, put that away!" he hissed.

The publican glared at the brash young woman. He was unused to such forwardness. "It's an acquired taste. No woman in Sranczak has taken more than two sips."

"Well, we're not most women," Ace said, ignoring the looks her gold was getting.

The young man's eyes widened at the sight of the gold. "Uh, no, but, um, I can exchange a few gilders for that. Going rate is 3 to 1." He smiled.

The Doctor knew the rate must be different, but also knew that Ace had to learn sometime.

"He sounds like a crook," commented Roderan.

"Two to one, take it or leave it." Ace was firm.

"Never mind, I have some guilders here." The Doctor put the money on the counter. The publican, upon seeing the money, poured four drinks.

Jenna picked up the dark, murky brew and took a sip. "Wonderful! Tastes like Guinness."

The young man looked a bit disappointed and Ace frowned and pocketed her money.

Roderan looked closely at the youth. "What's your name, sir? I'm sure I've seen you before."

This comment draws the Doctor's attention. If Roderan thinks he is familiar, he could have been on Zeos!

"I'm Alan Simon. I'm new here too. We've been here about a week now."

Ace picked up her own glass and took a swig, making a face. "What did you put in this? Motor oil?"

"Dude, girl that's some good stuff! I love it myself," Alan told her. "Kinda short on cash now, though."

"Then you can have my mug," Ace told him. "I'll wait for the next pub."

"Thanks, man!" Alan took the pint.

The publican could not believe what he was hearing. Despite her apparent money, he couldn't wait for this uncouth woman to leave. "It's made with all local ingredients. I have never heard of this 'motor oil'."

"Yeah, and I'll bet tar and peat were among the 'ingredients'," Ace mumbled.

Jenna drank down her half-pint. "You don't bottle the stuff, do you? I'd love to take some with us."

Roderan whispered to the Doctor, "I think this is the man that was with the woman who escorted the princess into that craft!"

The Doctor looked at Roderan. "Really now?" He faced Alan. "This is rather off the beaten path, isn't it.... Alan?"

"Yeah. My friend and me sort of, um, broke down and have been here since. Seems this is redneckville out here."

"Have you ever been to Zeos, Alan?"

A look of surprise shot across Alan's face, but he tried to conceal it. "Uh, I don't' think so. Never heard of the place."

Jenna looked at Alan in a new light: that of a possible kidnapper. She could see the man was lying.

Alan could see that they didn't believe him. "Ooohhh crap," he sighed.

"Pity," continued the Doctor. "It's a wonderful planet. Open fields, clear skies. . . ."

Jenna looked at the Doctor. What is he up to?

"Roderan here says he saw you on Zeos not too long ago, relatively speaking," the Doctor told him.

"So, where are you really from?" Ace demanded.

"I gotta go. I've got to . . .see a guy about . . . something." Alan started to get up.

"Leaving us already?" questioned Ace. "But we just got here." She motioned to the publican for another round.

Jenna stuck out her leg in Alan's path and he tripped over her foot. "Oh, I'm so sorry." She attempted to help, but only succeeded in spilling her beer on him.

"Hey! That was cold, man! If you weren't a girl I'd..."

"You'd what?" demanded Ace.

Unable to say anything coherent, Alan simply groaned. "Arrgh!" and wiped a hand across his face to rid himself of the beer.

The Doctor, though amused at the incident, didn't want it to escalate. "I think that's enough."

Jenna lifted her drink. "A toast to new acquaintances."

"At least that was a better use for that sludge," said Ace.

The publican came over with a tray of drinks and handed Alan a towel. "No fights. I just had the place fixed up from the last time."

Alan used the towel and wiped himself off. "Fine. "Come with me, if you want to. Trav'll probably be better at explaining than me." He left, not looking to see whether the group was following or not.

Roderan smirked at Alan's wet dishevelment as he left. "Um, shouldn't we follow him?"

"Well, what are we waiting for? Come on!" Ace snatched up her rucksack and dashed after Alan. Roderan followed.

The Doctor paid the publican for the second round then followed Alan, curious to learn who this 'Trav' was. Jenna downed her second drink and headed out after them.

Alan walked briskly, shivering in the night air because of his beer bath, and headed into a small woody area behind the tavern. Where could he be going behind the tavern? There's no other buildings thought Jenna as she and the others followed.

Ace easily caught up with him. "So then, you know where the Princess is, don't you?"

"Yeah I know where she is."

"Where, then?" questioned Roderan.

The Doctor listened patiently while his companions asked the questions.

"Somewhere safe, probably," commented Ace with a frown. "As if we hadn't heard that before."

Alan stopped at a storage shed. "You can't be serious, unless. . . ." Jenna let the thought go.

"I hope she has the doors open." Alan checked the rickety wooden door. It opened. "Good it's open. Come on in, but don't freak out on me, OK?"

"I haven't freaked out in, oh, an hour. I should be good," said Jenna with a smile.

"We've seen a lot more than you think," said Ace. She entered and looked around. "Figures. Looks almost like yours, Professor," she shouted back to the Doctor.

The Doctor remained quiet as he crossed the threshold, not the least bit surprised to find himself inside another TARDIS. "A newer model, however. Quite nice, if you like things flashy." He examined the console, noting the differences.

Alan led them into a spacious room with roundels similar to the Doctor's interior, except the console rotor had blue facets and blinked. "Where the heck is she? Trav!" he shouted.

A woman who looked to be in her mid-thirties and was dressed in a black shirt and jeans entered from an interior hallway. "Hey, Alan! Oh, you brought some friends. I wish you wouldn't do that. I hate using the memory eraser."

"Oh, no! No one's touching my memory!" declared Ace. "You can just keep your mind altering machines to yourself."

"Sorry.. I was only joking. I seem to have a penchant for dark humor this time around."

Jenna walked over to the Doctor. "So, another Time Lord. How many of you guys are there tramping about the universe?"

The Doctor smiled. "Quite a few actually. You're lucky to have met only one truly nasty one so far."

"Consider yourself lucky you haven't met that Master creep yet," Ace told Jenna.

The Doctor looked at Trav. "And what time around is it for you?"

"First regeneration. It was a killer. I've not been this incarnation long.. I still don't' know if what I'm wearing is right for me. Hmm..." Her voice trailed off.

"Yes, that was hard. Believe me, they don't always get easier." The Doctor sighed. "I remember the first time. My companions refused to believe I was the same man. They tried to trip me up, which was rather annoying."

"She only changed a few days ago. Scared me to death. Oh, yeah. Um, Trav, these are, ah, some guys I met at the Tavern. They say they know about what we did on Zeos."

"He says you know where the Princess is," Ace added.

"Maybe something in paisley. Yeah, that would be good. What? The Princess?"

"Astra," supplied Jenna.

"And maybe corduroy pants . . ." Trav was lost in thought again.

"Yes, you have left the two planets on the verge of another war," the Doctor informed her.

"Can you forget about your wardrobe for now? You look fine," Jenna told her.

"Yes, yes, yes. I suppose you're Atriosian security come to take me to justice for kidnapping your princess?"

"Us? Security? Not bloody likely."

"I think she's still rattled from her change," Alan told them. "I know I am."

"No. We only want to know where our princess is so there will be no war!" Roderan said.

"Only Roderan is from Atrios," said the Doctor. "However Merak has asked for our help."

"They tried to have us overdosed with radiation before we managed to get out of there. The Zeons, that is," said Ace to emphasize the point.

"Princess Astra... Astra... Yes! I took her to protect her!"

"To protect her from what?" the Doctor wanted to know.

"Yeah, from what?" Ace echoed.

Trav pressed her hands to the sides of her head. "Come on, Trav. Think straight for a second."

"She's been like this since her change," said Alan. "It comes and goes."

"I know the feeling," murmured the Doctor. "Concentrate. There had to be a reason. Was she in danger from her own people? From Zeos?"

"If you can't tell us, maybe the Princess can," said Ace.

"It was something big. Something... something... Arcanus!" She turned to the Doctor. "Arcanus he's whom I tried to protect her from." What Ace said about Astra finally registered. She shook her head. "Oh, she's not here. I put her somewhere safe."

"You talk as if she is a thing. 'Put her somewhere safe'. There is never anyplace that is safe for long."

"Who's Arcanus?" asked Jenna.

Ace looked at the Doctor. "Anyone you know?"

"Arcanus is my nemesis," Trav informed them. "We have been enemies since the Arcalian Academy."

"Kind of like Moriarty to Holmes then, right?" asked Ace.

"Please, I've had enough of Moriarty," pleaded Jenna.

"No, no, no, Theta, I didn't. Theta. ." Trav laughed. "I wonder why I called you that."

The Doctor looked at her closely. "Trav? I can't believe you've only regenerated once. You left before me."

"Wonderful. Old Home Week," muttered Jenna.

"Oh so you are Theta. Cool." She grinned. "Yeah, I only just left a couple of centuries ago my time."

The Doctor smiled warmly. "You do look wonderful."

"Why thank you!" She blushed a bit, then realised they were straying from the real issue at hand.

Jenna rolled her eyes. "What about Astra?"

"About that girl . . .what planet did we drop her off at?"

"You just dropped her off?" The Doctor couldn't believe it. "I know of one other who is after her, well, after the ---"

Ace took a seat on the floor and waited impatiently for a little action. "Sounds like we should file a report for missing princesses or something."

"Yes, but with a couple of trusted friends." Suddenly her eyes clear as memory returned. "Amanos! She's on Amanos!"

Ace looked at her through narrowed eyes. "You sure about that?"

"We should head there right away. Who knows how soon Moriarty will find her trail," said the Doctor.

"I guess it's a bad idea to rescue and relocate when you've got post regen syndrome."

"Duh," commented Alan.

"But the TARDIS?" questioned Jenna.

Trav looked at her. "Which TARDIS? Theta's or ours? Ours can't travel yet, but I've been working on it in my clearer times, which are getting more frequent."

"Oh, it should be fine by now." The Doctor looked pointedly at Trav. "We suffered a collision in the vortex. You wouldn't' know anything about that, would you?"

"I assume you were who we ran into in the vortex?"

"Then you'd be the blokes who rammed into us. You'd better have a good solicitor," declared Ace.

"Um.. can we please go to Amanos and get the Princess, please?" asked Roderan.

"We suffered a slight power drainage, but it should be fixed now," the Doctor said.

"All right, I suppose we'll take yours. I remember the coordinates, thank goodness."

"Care to share just in case your . . . lucidity leaves you?" asked the Doctor.

Jenna headed for the door. "Shall we go?"

"Right behind you!" declared Ace as she stood and followed.

"May I ask you to wait for me a little longer? I just have to get out of these clothes." As she headed through the interior door to the wardrobe, she told the Doctor a string of coordinates.

Ace stuck her head back in through the open door. "Professor, you comin'?"

The Doctor filed the coordinates in his head. "We're at the edge of the forest. Can't miss it." He followed Ace, Jenna, and Roderan.

"I'm goin' with them," called Alan. "I'll see you later, Trav." He exited the TARDIS.

Trav yelled from down the hall. "Ok, just watch out for Arcanus. He's everywhere these days it seems."

They traveled out of the village and up the rise to the edge of the forest and the TARDIS.

"You sure she's right in the head, Professor?"

"She seems to be a bit.. off kilter," added Roderan.

"Regenerations can do that. This last time, I suffered amnesia. One time I even tried to-- Well, that's not important now."

"She's fine," Alan informed them. "When I first met her, she was sort of dark and mysterious, but she was nice on the inside. "Her heart was good. However, she won't tell me too much about herself, where she comes from. I know she's a Time Lord, Lady, or whatever but that's about it. And this Arcanus seems to rile her up every time he's mentioned."

The Doctor took out the TARDIS key and inserted it in the lock. "When you leave someplace because you're bored, or what have you, do you feel a need to share? To tell everyone where you come from?" Even as he was speaking to Alan, he cast a glance at Ace.

Alan shrugged. "I dunno. I guess not. I come from Florida, USA originally. Bradenton 2001.

"I almost went to Florida once. Palm Beach," murmured Jenna. "I'm from Edinburgh, 1990, by the way."

Ace remained quiet, trying not to think of home.

"Before the Lich came, I used to walk on the beaches all the time," Alan continued.

"The Lich?" questioned Jenna.

The Doctor looked at Alan. "Don't say anything." Alan nodded.

The Doctor entered the TARDIS to be welcomed by the familiar hum of power and lights. Alan followed. "They didn't change much between 40 and 45 models did they?"

"A few modifications. I think they took away the personality of them."

The others soon joined them inside. "Right. Now where is that Trav woman?" asked Roderan.

Trav chose that very moment to walk in. She was wearing a paisley shirt that dated back to the early 1970's and a pair of grey corduroy trousers with black shoes. "That Trav Woman is right here! Let's rock and roll!"

Alan winced at Trav's "Rock and Roll" statement. "Geez."

"Marvelous!" The Doctor programmed the coordinates from Trav. "Off we go!"

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