The Xoloans, Part Two
“Have to set coordinates…before I pass out.”
Sluggishly, without ever managing to stand, she brought the navigational computer on line. It wasn’t much help. The screen read “Navigational data not installed.”
“Blast.” She murmured. Her vision became blurry and she sank to the floor. She lay staring up at the ceiling.
“Of all the TARDISes to grab, I get one that was having its navicomp updated.” A jolt of fear passed through her, waking her up a little. “I have no way to set any coordinates at all unless I know them by hearts.”
She pulled herself to a sitting position, with her back against the console stand. “What coordinates have I memorized? Well, there’s Gallefrey, but that will do me no good. No good at all. Something else. Anything else!”
There was one set. She had entered
it time and time again while travelling with the Doctor. She summoned her
remaining strength and hefted herself up again. She then entered the
Her work done, she fell to the floor in a heap. “He…always…had a fixation…with Earth.” She mumbled. “Ghastly…place…ung…mn…”
Then, her torment was at an end for a while. Quite a while.
Lord Robert had just finished his breakfast in the sitting room. As if informed my mystical forces, Dwight walked in as Robert was swallowing the last bite. Lord Robert was a creature of habit, and Dwight could accurately judge how long it would take for him to finish any given meal.
“Will there be anything else, Sir?”
“No, Dwight. I’m quite well fed, thank you.” Robert leaned forward conspiratorially. “I’m just off to take my morning constitutional. Care to tag along?”
“Hmm,” pondered Dwight. “Slogging around in the wet and bitterly cold morning, eh? No thank you, I’ll pass.”
Robert crossed his arms. “Well, it can’t be as bad as all that! Have you been out today?”
“Then how can you possibly know it’s wet and cold.”
Dwight pointed to one of the large bay windows. “If you’ll just look through the window, Sir.”
Robert turned in his chair to look upon the grounds. “Well, I’m looking. It looks to be a marvelous morning. A bit overcast, perhaps. But no snow or anything. Not even a drop of rain. What makes you think it’s so cold and wet?”
“Well, Sir, if you look closer…”
“Just outside, there…”
“You’ll perhaps notice that we
“Got a mouth on him, that one,” grumbled Robert, intentionally loud enough for Dwight to hear.
The phone rang, interrupting Dwight’s otherwise perfect exit. He sighed and walked to the small end-table on which the phone resided.
“You have reached the residence of Lord Robert. This is Dwight. How may I help you?” he listened for a moment. “Very good, Mr. Styler, one moment, please,” He cupped the phone and said “Lord Robert, your money manager.”
Robert frowned. “And here I was about to take my walk! Give it here.”
Dwight handed him the phone. As he
left, he could hear Robert saying “No, no,
Dwight left Robert to his investing. Rounding the corner to the main hall, he nearly walked in to Sally, the downstairs maid.
“Or, Mr. Henderson, there you are, Sir.” She said. Her face was a mask of concern. Of course, for Sally, a misplaced silver spoon was something to send her into shock.
“Yes, what is it, Sally?”
“Well, Sir, I’ve just finished dusting in the trophy room, you see.”
Dwight pulled out his pocket watch and checked the time. “Then you’re ahead of schedule. Excellent work.”
“Thank you, Sir. But there’s been a bit of a problem.”
“Well, I dusted all of the trophy cabinets.”
“Well, I didn’t dust the inside of one of them.”
“Shoddy work, Sally. But we’ll let it slide since you’ve been honest.”
“No, Sir, you don’t understand. It’s locked.”
Dwight rolled his eyes. “So what you’re trying to tell me in your round about way, then, is that you need the key to that cabinet.”
“That’s the thing, Sir. I have the key and it doesn’t work.”
“Ah, so the catastrophe ruining your life is a broken lock, then.”
“Oh, Mr. Henderson, I don’t want to leave it undusted. What if the Master were to see it.”
“Well, I doubt that would be a problem. He couldn’t get in if the lock is broken, yes? Still, let’s have a look.”
The three shade-wearing men watched the grounds from Potter’s Knoll.
Mr. Jones said “He is late, is he not, Mr. Smith.”
“He is, Mr. Jones.”
Mr. Johnson added “Humans are not as punctual as we, Mr. Jones. But they are creatures of habit.”
“I agree, Mr. Johnson. We shall wait. He will take his walk eventually.”
“By your command, Mr. Jones,” said Misters Smith and Johnson.
Romana awoke to a white blur.
Focusing her eyes, she looked at the TARDIS floor from her position upon it. Her head ached. Her neck ached, as well. Probably from being in a crumpled position for so long.
She got unsteadily to her feet, leaning on the console for support. Glancing at the readouts, she could not help but notice the time rotor resting peacefully in its cylinder. The TARDIS had materialized.
Flipping some switches, she read a readout declaring her current position to be North of London, on April 19th, 1979 AD.
“What am I doing here?” She had spent so much time in TARDISes in her life that when she saw a console, she tended to use it without thinking. But now, as her senses crept back to her, she was beginning to wonder how she got there.
Then, it all came rushing back. She put her hands over her face. “Oh, bloody hell,” she groaned. “How did I ever come to the conclusion they were going to kill me?” She rolled her eyes. “So, it would seem that in my post-regenerative state, I stole a TARDIS, and came here. The Time Lords will be furious. Best give them time to cool off.”
Naturally, she could simply go back to Gallefrey a year after her departure. She did have a time machine with her, after all. But one of the cardinal rules of the Time Lords was to never, never, travel in time on Gallefrey itself. If you left, you came back the appropriate time later based on how much you had aged in the interim. Gallefrey was the eye of the hurricane of Time Travel. It was the point of order in the chaos. To break those rules would be to discard all the Time Lords held dear.
She opened the view screen. She saw an elegantly furnished trophy room.
“Excellent,” she grumbled. “I’m in someone’s house. I’ll just be on my way…”
For the first time, she noticed a 16th century trophy cabinet in the room. She nodded with understanding. The TARDIS had materialized around it. The chameleon circuit was working properly, so the TARDIS must currently have been disguised as an identical trophy cabinet to the one she had materialized around. All and all, a good job of blending in. While setting coordinates for a more remote locale, she noticed a flashing light on the trouble panel. “Dynomorphic Generator overload. Shut down initiated. Replace Quantum Tube,” declared the readout.
When furiously programming the timeline jumping program in her paranoid haze, she had neglected the limitations of the TARDIS. It was just too much timeline leaping for the generator to handle. It had shut down, and would be useless until Romana could fashion a new part for it.
She thought for a moment. She searched her aching head for her knowledge of quantum tubes and of Earth history. Yes, she could do it. The raw materials for a quantum tube could be found on Earth in this time period.
She made plans in her mind for what materials would be necessary and where she could get them. Also, she considered how to hook up her eventual creation to the dynamorphic generator. While doing this thinking, she had meandered to the master bedroom. It was empty, of course. Like all the walls in the TARDIS, the bedroom walls were covered with indented circular panels.
“Third from the left, I think,” she said, opening one panel in particular. Inside was the spare key for the TARDIS on a long chain. “Yes, that’s where they’re usually kept in this model.” She tried to put it in her pocket, only to discover she had no pockets. She still wore the white pajamas she had worn in the cell.
“First thing: Some better clothes. I’m sure I can find some out there somewhere.” She put the key chain around her neck and returned to the console room.
She reached for the door lever, not noticing two figures in the view screen.
Dwight tried the key again. “Still no luck, I’m afraid.”
“You see, Mr. Henderson,” said Sally. “I doesn’t work!”
“Yes, yes, Sally. Be at ease. You’ve done your best. Continue with your other chores. I’ll see to this.”
“Thank you, Mr. Henderson.” Sally curtsied and shuffled out of the room.
“Now,” said Dwight to the cabinet. “Shall I call a locksmith or an antiques specialist. What am I to do to get you to open up? Perhaps say ‘Open Sesame?’”
Romana opened the door from the inside and stepped out. Closing it, she surveyed the room. To her left were nicely decorated trophy cases. To her right was Dwight.
His arms were crossed and he wore a somewhat peeved expression.
“Hallo!” Romana smiled “Can you
tell me the way to
“Young lady, would you care to explain why your were in Lord Robert’s trophy case?”
She looked at her TARDIS, then back to Dwight. “Ah, um…it’s a bit difficult to explain, really.”
“Perhaps he won you in some sort of competition?”
“Yes, that’s it.”
“I don’t think so,” Dwight glared.
“No, I shouldn’t think you would.” Romana said, edging away.
Dwight followed her. “Were you locked in there?”
“Yes, that’s it,” she said. “Locked in. Could you direct me to some proper clothes?”
“Madam, your presence here is quite obviously because you are dating a member of the staff.”
Romana paused, then rallied. She hung her head low, saying. “Yes, you’ve got me. I am.”
Dwight shook his head. “I don’t
care what the staff does with their free time, nor what kind of cabinet they
choose to do it in. But they can not do it here at the mansion, do you
understand? Now, who is it you were here with? Was it
It would have been easiest for
Romana to confirm that she was with “
Dwight rolled his eyes. “Very well. Just get your clothes and leave.”
“Would you believe I don’t know where they are?”
Dwight sighed heavily. “It is a rather big house, I admit. Do you remember what the room you left them in looked like.”
“Not as such, no.”
“Very well,” said Dwight, obviously frustrated. “Follow me and we’ll see if one of the maids is your size.” He walked to a coat rack and pulled off two men’s overcoats. “The servant’s quarters are detached from the main mansion. It’s a bit cold out. Here.” He shoved the overcoat at her.
She put it on, while Dwight did the same. It was far too large, but quite warm, and she was grateful to have something other than pajamas to wear.
“Follow me…uh…I didn’t catch your name.”
“Dwight. A pleasure,” his sarcasm suggested that there was no pleasure involved. But he was obviously softening. There was only so much blame you could heap on the girl. But he intended to find out who her paramour was and give him a tongue-lashing he would not soon forget. “Come along.”
Dwight led her out of the house. The chilly morning air hit her like a wall, and she pulled the coat tight around her shoulders. It would be a short walk to the servants quarters, she could see the detached structure just ahead of them.
She examined Dwight. He was tall, perhaps 50 years old, but rugged and strong like a man who had worked hard all his life. He seemed a fair man. More interested in helping a lady than extracting the truth from her.
About half way to the servants quarters, Romana and Dwight were intercepted by Robert. He came around the corner of the manor, and there was no time to evade him. It was the last thing Dwight wanted. Certainly, Robert was Dwight’s good friend, but the last thing he wanted was to have Robert know the minor details of the staff. It was Dwight’s job to deal with these issues, and Robert never could simply ignore the staff like a good noble should. He always wanted to get his hands dirty on everything.
“I say, Dwight! Who’s your lady friend?”
Dwight blanched. “Uh, this is Romana. Romana, may I present Robert, Lord of Haverfield?”
Romana curtsied and extended her hand which Robert kissed.
Dwight was visibly relieved to see Romana knew proper decorum.
“What brings you to the manor?” Robert asked with a smile.
“Her car broke down,” Dwight said quickly.
“Yes,” said Romana. “That’s fairly accurate.”
“Oh,” said Robert, “Well, have it brought round to the chauffeur. He could probably fix it for you. And you wouldn’t have to pay any price-gouging mechanic.”
“I doubt your chauffeur has a spare quantum tube,” said Romana.
Robert was momentarily taken aback. “What? Ah. Some sort of science fiction reference, I suppose. I don’t get it. Not much in to that sort of movie. Anyway, have it brought round. It would be my pleasure.”
“Thank you,” said Romana.
Robert just noticed something. “I say. Are you wearing pajamas under that?”
“She had to sleep in her car, milord.” Dwight said.
“Weren’t you cold?”
“The pajamas are quite warm,” Romana said, impressed with Dwight’s off-the-cuff lying ability.
Robert looked at her TARDIS key. “Interesting necklace.”
Romana held it up. “This old thing? Well, thank you.”
Robert pondered for a moment, then
snapped out of it. “Heavens me! Where are my manners? You must not have been
able to eat breakfast. I insist you make use of my cook.
“Oh, that won’t be necessary,”
said Dwight. “I believe she already has made use of
“Actually, I am a bit peckish,” said Romana with a smile. Robert seemed a pleasant sort, and she was going to have to either have access to the house again, or explain why she wants to haul off what he thinks is his trophy cabinet. Either way, it would be wise to be polite to the owner.
“Excellent. To the parlor once she’s got some decent cloths, then, Dwight.”
Dwight eyed Romana. “Yes, milord.”
The three on Potter’s hill watched the scene play out with binoculars.
“Mr. Smith,” said Mr. Jones, “we have been stymied.”
“Indeed, Mr. Jones,” said Mr. Smith. “The Lord was not alone.”
“We have patience, Mr. Jones,” said Mr. Johnson.
“I do not think patience is a virtue in this case, Mr. Jones,” said Mr. Smith.
“I agree,” said Mr. Jones.
Romana perused through the maids’ personal clothing until she found a set she liked. She tried it on, and it fit well enough. She checked her profile in the mirror. The ankle-length dress accentuated her figure quite well. She was still amazed to have this figure at all. It had been centuries since she had been anything of note to look at.
She made no fuss over shoes. Years of experience in the field had taught her not to try to be fashionable with shoes. She chose knee-high work boots. Not trendy. Possibly sexy to those with a certain bend. But most importantly, comfortable and easy to run in.
She came out of the maid’s room with flourish. “Ta-daa.”
“Lovely,” said Dwight. “Shall we?”
She accompanied Dwight back to the manor. On the way, he said “Please mention nothing of your real reason for being here. I don’t want anyone in trouble with Lord Robert. In trouble with me is sufficient.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll say nothing about why I’m really here,” said Romana.
Breakfast was wonderful. Romana
was famished. She hadn’t eaten since before she regenerated. Her new teeth were
not the rotted, festering things of an old lady, but the new, perfect teeth of
the young. The food tasted better, somehow. Either her taste buds were more
Dwight attended to her while the Lord sat at the other end of the table.
“All mine, yes,” Robert said. “The land has been in the family since the Tudor reign, you know. Been here twenty years myself.”
“You didn’t grow up here?” Asked Romana between mouthfuls.
“Oh, no, no. My mother lived in
“Well,” said Romana, sipping some orange juice. “up until recently, I was a civil servant of sorts. Now I’m a bit of a traveler.”
“Where are you headed?”
“Probably home, eventually.”
“And where’s that?”
“Fairly far off.”
“Lord Robert! Look out!” Dwight yelled.
Three men appeared out of thin air behind Robert. Each wore shades. Each held a large silver gun, the likes of which Dwight had never seen before.
The leader reached up to his shades. “Greetings, Lord Robert,” he said in a monotone. He took off his shades to reveal his eyes.
These were not the eyes of a human. They were black. Not just the irises, but the entire eye. There were no reflections of any kind off his eyes. They were simply two spots on his face light did not escape from.
Dwight scurried around the table, positioning himself between Robert and the assailants. “What is your purpose here? By God! What is wrong with your eyes!?”
“Silence,” said Mr. Jones. Without changing his facial expression at all, he shot Dwight in the chest. He crumpled to the floor.
“Dwight!” Robert dropped to his knees to try to help Dwight.
“Worry more for yourself, Lord Robert,” said Mr. Jones, shooting the elderly Lord, as well. Robert fell atop Dwight’s prone body.
Romana stood bolt upright. She had no chance to run, hide, or even comment before she was shot as well.
The three attackers looked down at their victims emotionlessly.
“They will wake within an hour, Mr. Jones,” said Mr. Johnson.
“They we may leave,” said Mr. Jones.
Romana awoke first. Being not only a Time Lady, but also one with a fresh new body gave her a heartier constitution than one would assume by looking at her.
She had a splitting headache, the after-effects of the stunner used on her. This was mildly frustrating, because she had just gotten over her post-regenerative-slept-on-the-floor headache.
“Class 14 wave-based stunner.” She said, rubbing her head. In her time, she had been shot, stunned, hit on the head, fallen from great heights, and generally knocked about in a variety of ways. Usually, she awoke tied to a chair, strapped to a table, or attached to some sort of experiment. This time, she was simply in the same place she had fallen.
She quickly surveyed the room. The attackers had gone, leaving the three of them unconscious. “What was that about?” She wondered aloud.
She crawled over to Dwight, who was beginning to rouse.
“Dwight? Are you hurt?”
He winced. “I think not.” He felt no compulsion to rise just yet. “Lord Robert? Is he all right?”
Romana moved to where Robert lay on the floor. “He’s a bit older. He’ll be slow to wake, but he should be OK.” She put her fingers on his throat. “He’ll be…” she paused.
Dwight sat up so quickly a wash of dizziness swept over him. “Is he all right!?” His voice was laced with urgency and concern.
Romana shook herself out of whatever trance had captivated her. “Yes, yes. He’ll be fine. Sorry.” She stood.
Dwight stood, as well. “Shouldn’t we do something for him?”
“He’ll wake in a while. He’s a bit old. It will take longer for it to wear off.” said Romana, absently. She thoughtfully pinched her chin and began to pace.
Dwight was not wild about the idea of leaving Robert on the floor, but he and Romana had been OK, so there was no reason to assume otherwise with the Lord. Plus, if they tried to move him, they could injure him any number of ways. “Who or what were those people? Friends of yours?”
Romana ignored him and continued pacing.
“Romana? Do you know those people? Who are they?”
Romana interrupted her thought process. “What? Oh. Aliens. Xoloans, To be specific.”
“Ah. That would explain their eyes,” he mused.
Romana continued her pacing. “My question is what are they doing here?”
Dwight looked around the room. “That would be my question, too. They didn’t kill us and nothing’s missing. What are they, exactly?”
“The Xoloans are the masters of space,” Romana explained. “That’s not to say they rule the universe or anything. They’re just very good at manipulating space. Their race evolved in a black hole.”
“How does one manipulate space?”
“That would be best asked to a Xoloan, I suspect.”
“Very pithy, Madam. I meant in what ways can space be manipulated?”
“It can be made larger. Or smaller. It can be created, removed, bent, or twisted back on itself. They can do all of it.”
“They look remarkably human,” said Dwight, highly skeptical of Romana’s “alien” theory.
“They certainly do not. But, they can manipulate space to appear human.”
“Why not the eyes, then?”
“Well, if they did that, they wouldn’t be able to see, would they?”
“No, I suppose not,” Dwight said, checking on Robert. Still no movement. “And how do you know all this?”
Romana smiled and grabbed him by the shoulders. “Because I’m an alien, too!”
“Naturally,” said Dwight.
“You don’t believe me.”
“Not in the slightest bit, no.”
She grabbed his hand and held it to her chest, just to the left of center. A couple of inches higher and it would have been extremely awkward. As it was, it was merely very awkward.
“Feel the heartbeat?”
“Seems normal,” Dwight said, trying to withdraw his hand.
Romana moved his hand to the other side of her chest. “How about that one?”
“That one is normal, too.” He paused. Suddenly, he pulled his hand back quite fast.
Romana leaned forward, her hands girlishly clasped behind her back. “Beginning to dawn on you, is it? All at once, now, so I don’t have to go through it bit by bit: I am a Time Lady from the planet Gallefrey. I have a vehicle capable of travelling through time and space. I have scientific knowledge millennia ahead of your Earth technology, I know of races and cultures you couldn’t possibly understand. I have two hearts, as you’ve noticed. I’m over five hundred years old, no, I won’t tell you who wins the next World Cup, and I did not get intimate with your cook.”
Dwight blinked. “OK.”
“Want me to cover any of that again?”
“No, I think I understand. I believe you.”
“It is a bit much.”
“No. I’ve got it.”
Romana seemed a little disappointed. “Nothing confused you, there?”
“No. What are the Xoloans doing here and why are they interested in Lord Robert?”
Romana raised her brow. “You and I are going to get along just fine.”
Robert groaned on the floor.
Dwight curtly looked to Robert and back. “Best not to bother the Lord with your nature. Even if we do have to tell them about the Xoloans.”
“As you like.”
Once Robert awoke, he was too groggy to communicate. Romana and Dwight, each with one of the Lord’s arms over their shoulders, helped him in to bed. Dwight was deeply concerned for his master, but Romana assured him that Robert would be all right after some rest. They left him to his sleep.
“Now,” said Romana, quietly closing Robert’s bedroom door behind them. “We need to find out what the Xoloans are up to.”
“Agreed,” said Dwight. “Are they a nasty sort?”
“They shot us. Is that nasty enough for you?”
“I mean is their whole race bent on universal domination or anything?”
“No. On the whole, they’re civilized, law-abiding members of the galactic community. These three, if indeed there are only three, must be criminals or outcasts of some kind. Very dangerous. Much more dangerous than an evil race like Daleks or Cybermen.”
“Who?” Asked Dwight.
“I don’t have time to explain them. Let it suffice to say that criminals have no boundaries, while a large and organized evil presence will have some sort of command structure and bureaucracy to deal with.”
“So if their countrymen knew what they were up to…?”
“They’d put them on trial, yes.”
“Well, let their government know, and have them pluck their renegades out of here.”
“If only it were that simple. But, like your people, the Xoloans won’t go to some other jurisdiction to arrest people. They are really very respectful of other worlds’ sovereignty. No, we shall have to deal with them ourselves.”
“First, we find out what they’re up to.”
“Well, we’ll just have to see.”
“Nothing like a firm plan, milady.”
Romana strode meaningfully down the hall. “Come on.”
Dwight followed in her wake. “Where are we going?”
“To my TARDIS. I need to test a theory.”
Dwight furrowed his brow, half walking, half running to keep up. “What is a TARDIS?”
“It’s my ship.”
Romana stopped at an intersection of halls. “Er…where is my TARDIS, anyway?”
“Madam, how in the world should I know?”
“It’s where you found me. In the trophy room. The cabinet I came out of.”
“The cab-“ Dwight stopped himself. If he could accept that she was a time travelling alien with two hearts, it was not too much of a leap to accept that she came to Earth in a trophy cabinet. “This way,” he led her down the hall.
Stevens had chauffeured for Lord Robert for the past ten years. It was a quiet, simple life, where the most complicated thing he ever had to do was perform routine maintenance on the cars.
Robert did not really need a chauffeur, as he rarely left the grounds. But some things are done just for the sake or tradition, and Lords did not drive themselves. So, Stevens found himself with a lot of spare time. He used it up be helping out the rest of the staff. On this morning, he drove toward town to pick up some things for the cook.
As the car passed a certain line, the part past the line ceased to exist. Stevens could not believe his eyes. He slammed on the brakes, but to no avail. The car passed the line with Stevens in it, and disappeared.
Dwight waited with some interest while Romana opened the trophy cabinet. Stepping in, she said “Come on, then.”
He watched her disappear into the darkness of the cabinet, but did not move. “What? You want me to get in there with you?”
She poked her head out. “Yes, I need your help.”
“Won’t it be a bit…cozy?”
“Trust me,” she smiled, disappearing once again into the TARDIS.
Dwight shrugged and walked in. He paused and looked all around him while Romana worked at the console.
Romana’s eye had been caught by a blinking light and she was reading one of the screens. "“Hmm. There’s a spatial disturbance in the area. Obviously the Xoloans, but I can’t get a fix on where it is.”
Dwight recovered from his surprise. “Um…I have a question.”
Romana glanced up from her screen briefly. “Why it’s bigger on the inside?”
“No, you’ve already told me about how space can be made bigger. I’m sure this is some variant on that. What I want to know is why you’re here on Earth.”
“Well, any number of philosophers could address that question. But the short answer is a long story. I’ll tell you later. Suffice it to say I’m here and not going anywhere until I can repair my ship.”
“Well, I’d be happy to help, except I don’t know the first thing about what you need done.”
She rounded the console and read some more readouts. “Well, I had hoped to locate the Xoloans with my sensors, but they’re all hinky for some reason. The TARDIS keeps telling me there’s a spatial disturbance, but can’t pinpoint where. Quite frustrating, really.”
“What can I do?”
Romana pointed to the hall leading out of the console room. “Down the hall, third door on the left, you’ll find a blue console with lots of buttons. Bring it here.”
That seemed to be the end of what she had to say, so Dwight strode out of the room. Following her directions, he walked down the white multi-circled hall and entered the equipment room. Inside were a dozen or so pieces of scientific equipment. Each one was a rolling console, each sealed in some sort of clear plastic. There were several blue ones. At first he was afraid he would not pick the right one, but on closer examination, only one had a disproportionate number of buttons.
As he wheeled it in to the console room, he found Romana under the console, with one of the panels open and her body half inside. Upon hearing him enter, she wriggled out, holding a glass tube with complicated looking electronics inside. She pushed her hair out of her eyes with her free hand. “Ah you’ve got it. Excellent.”
“What is it?” Dwight asked, looking at the plastic-wrapped technological eyesore.
“A Gyronic Manipulator. Used mostly for dampening Gyronic fields for experiments. But, it will do the trick. We’ve got to get that to Lord Robert and use it on him.”
“Pardon me, but I’m not sure I like the idea of someone using anything with ‘manipulator’ in its name on Lord Robert.”
Romana stood, wiping dust off her dress. “It won’t hurt him, but it will get rid of what I think is around him. Out Xoloan friends appeared right in the room. They didn’t have to look around for us. My guess is that they’ve put a small spatial disturbance around Lord Robert. Not you or me because they referred to him by name and shot him first. Roll it over.”
Dwight realized the last comment was an instruction and rolled the console to Romana.
She unceremoniously ripped the plastic wrapping off. “New TARDIS, you see. Well, used, but cleaned up. All the equipment is sealed at first.” She activated the console and watched it go through its self-check.
It beeped and Romana smiled widely. “Wonderful. Works perfectly.”
“How does having a small spatial disturbance on Lord Robert help the Xoloans?”
“Well there’s a tiny bit of extra space around him that leads back to one of them. At least, that’s my theory. So, as long as that’s there, if it is there, they’ll know where he is. Understand?”
“Even knowing all the tricks Xoloans can do, how did you formulate that theory?”
“It’s how Xoloans keep track of where their children are. It’s an innate ability.”
“I see,” said Dwight, pushing the console toward the exit. “Well, let’s get it off him, then.”
“Yes, lets,” Romana said, following.
“What’s that thing in your hand?”
“This? Oh, just a broken Quantum Tube. It a device that-“
“Never mind,” interrupted Dwight.
The three Xoloans stood on their hill watching the mansion.
“Is the bubble complete?” Asked Mr. Jones.
“It is,” said Mr. Johnson, glancing at the equipment he had set up.
“Then we need merely observe. Mr. Smith?”
“Where is Lord Robert?”
“He is asleep in his room. Presumably the others moved him there.”
“Your fix on him is still in order?”
“In perfect order, Mr. Jones.”
“Excellent. Now we wait.”
“By your command,” his subordinates said together.
Romana and Dwight wheeled the Gyronic Manipulator through the venerable halls of the mansion. Upon reaching Lord Robert’s room, they pushed it to his bed.
“Right,” said Romana. “This should be close enough.”
“What happens now, then?” asked Dwight, looking at his resting master.
“This,” Romana flicked a switch on the Manipulator. The Lord began to glow blue.
On the hill, Mr. Smith fell to his knees clutching his head and screamed. Mr. Jones and Mr. Johnson looked at him passively.
Smith thrashed around on the ground for several seconds, then stopped all motion other than a heavy panting. He shakily stood up and dusted himself off. “Mr.-“ he stammered and tried again. “Mr. Jones. My connection with Lord Robert has been broken.”
Mr. Jones furrowed his brow. “This is a complication. How can the connection have been broken, Mr. Smith?”
“Some-“ Mr. Smith coughed and sputtered, then regained his composure. “Some sort of Gyronic manipulation, perhaps.”
“This is definitely a complication. Mr. Johnson, am I correct in presuming that we can not enter the bubble without breaching it?”
“That is correct, Mr. Jones,” Johnson replied.
“Then we shall have to wait and see,” Jones concluded. “If they can dissolve the bubble, they will have to use technology far in advance of what is available on this planet, and will have to use it on the edge of the effect. That technology, if present, could only come from that which we seek. Furthermore, since they would have to use it on the edge, we will be able to observe them. We shall wait and watch.”
“By your command, Mr. Jones,” said Johnson.
“By your…nngh…command…Mr. Jones…” wheezed Mr. Smith.
The blue field around Lord Robert faded away.
Romana switched the Manipulator off. “There, then. All safe and sound.”
“That’s it, then?” said Dwight.
“That’s it,” Romana confirmed. “The only bad part is that he’ll sleep for a few more hours, yet, now.”
“What!?” Dwight snapped, taking a threatening step toward her, “Do you mean that hurt him in some way?”
Romana put her hands up in supplication. “Not at all. It’s just the discharging alpha waves of the process. They induce sleep. Save your energy for the next task.”
Dwight calmed some. “What’s that?”
“I want you to help me find something.”
“I don’t know. But I will when I see it. It’ll be somewhere in the mansion, I suspect. Come along.“
No sooner had Romana and Dwight entered the hall than they were approached by a haggard and hysterical Stevens.
“Mr. Henderson,” Stevens stammered, “It were awful, it were!”
“Who is this?” Romana asked.
“Stevens, the driver,” Dwight answered. Then, to Stevens, “Pull yourself together, man. What’s happened?”
“I were drivin’ to town to do some shoppin’ fer the Cook, when I found meself on the North side o’ the Manor, Sir.”
“Make some sense, man. The town is South of here.”
“Aye, and that it is, Sir, and that’s where I were a’drivin, but then I were in the North field.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense!”
“Wait a moment,” Romana interjected. “Do you mean to say you were driving South on the south end of the Manor grounds, then you suddenly found yourself at the North end of the grounds?”
“Aye, milady. That’s the God’s honest truth, it is.”
Romana put a finger on her lips. “Dwight, this is very serious. Come with me.” She strode down the hall. “You, too, Stevens. I need you to show me where it happened.”
Dwight and Stevens trailed behind her like flotsam.
“But which where, milady,” Stevens asked, miserably. “I were in two different wheres.”
“The south one will do.”
“What about the thing you wanted to find that you don’t know what it is?”
“All in good time, Dwight. This is far, far more important.”
Dwight, Stevens and Romana strode quickly down the road.
“It were right up there that it happened,” Stevens pointed. “Right by that milestone up there.”
About 300 feet ahead was a trapezoidal rock denoting the distance to the town. Romana squinted at it. “Stevens, you must show me exactly where it happened.”
“Well,” said Stevens, “like I said, I were just passing the milestone,” he walked forward, “when I just plain disappeared-“ he punctuated the sentence fragment by disappearing.
“Stevens!” Dwight yelled.
Romana put a hand on his shoulder. “Not to worry. I’m sure he’s in the north field. A bit flummoxed, perhaps, but physically well.” She walked up to where Stevens had most recently vanished and squatted, looking at the dirt. “Interesting. Much closer then where he had remembered.”
Dwight walked to her, careful to stay behind her. “Old Stevens’ memory isn’t what it used to be, I’m afraid.”
“I think not,” said Romana, pinching some dirt and rolling it in her fingers. “I think the bubble is getting smaller.”
She stood, dusting her hands. “Yes. We are in a spatial bubble. A collapsing spatial bubble, to be precise. Probably centered on the manor. That would explain the strange readings I got in the TARDIS. It’s fairly hard to pinpoint a spatial anomaly when you’re in it. The ‘north field’ as you call it: is it about as far from the manor as we are?”
“Yes, but on the other side, of course. What is a spatial-“
“Well, that tears it, then. It’s centered on the manor.”
“Yes, fine. Centered on the manor. But what on Earth is a spatial-“
“A spatial bubble is a bubble of space. Our Xoloan friends have created a little separate space for us to be stuck in. If we try to leave the bubble, we just end up on the other side. You see? Like a pocket universe.”
“Sounds complex,” Dwight noted.
“Not really,” Romana said. “Quite simple, actually. And not a problem unless it’s getting smaller.”
“Such as the one we’re in is?”
“Yes. Quite. Come along,” She walked back toward the manor. “We have to find that thing I mentioned before.”
Dwight followed. This restless woman was really giving him his exercise. “That’s suddenly a priority again?”
“Well, if we don’t find it, I won’t be able to stop the bubble collapsing.”
“And what if it does collapse?”
“We’d collapse right along with it. Sort of. In essence, we’d be in a zero-sized universe. It would be uncomfortably cramped for us if it weren’t for the fact that we would all be dead.”
“How long do we have?”
“No more than an hour, I should say.”