Chapter Five

The Doctor moved away from the console and stood back to look intently at the time rotor. Keeping his eyes on the purple dust, he walked slowly around the console so that he could view it from all angles. It looked to him as if the clouds were starting to break up. His adhoc parameter changes were working, or at least starting to work. He let out an audible sigh of relief. The Doctor was usually confident in his solutions to problems, but on this occasion, he had real doubts. However, it looked as if he should have had more faith in himself, his abilities and moreover, his knowledge and experience of his TARDIS. If he had allowed himself to dwell on this, he would have blamed his all too recent involvement in the demise of Gallifrey for this self-doubt. And he would probably be quite correct to do so. But on this occasion, he didn’t allow himself those thoughts. He had far too many urgent and vital tasks to complete.

The best way to isolate the purple dust from the power supply to the console was to isolate the time rotor from the console. That would mean further cross-connections and substitutions of cabling in the under floor and the disconnection of certain parts of the console itself. Fortunately, the Doctor knew his TARDIS inside and out and knew exactly which parts needed to be adapted appropriately. Or he thought he did…..

Catherine woke to find herself lying on a soft floor, surrounded by a tall, three metre high hedge of some densely planted dark green foliage. It very much resembled a clearing in a forest, although the foliage appeared to have nothing to do with forest plants. If the Doctor had been there, he could have told her that the foliage hedges resembled a type of ornamental camellia plant from Earth, but the Doctor wasn’t there and Catherine was no botanical expert. All she could do was to note the colour and density of the leaves of the plants and the large deep pink petals and golden stamens of the plants’ flowers.

She tried to sit up, only to find the side of her head aching as if she’d been hit with an assembly spanner of some sort. But she knew she hadn’t actually been hit, as a careful exploration of that side of her head revealed. There was no bruising, dried blood or swelling, but she did have a very painful headache.

Catherine’s last memory was of trying to persuade a security guard that she had arrived by accident. Obviously, from her current situation, she had been unsuccessful. She suspected that she must have been drugged somehow and brought to this place. Despite this, she needed to know where she was.

Catherine carefully tried to sit up again, her determination assisting her when her hands couldn’t gain sufficient purchase on the soft floor. She blinked several times to help clear her eyes of the apparent mists in the forefront of her vision. Those ‘mists’ confirmed her suspicion that she had been drugged. Her assumption was that it must have been injected somehow, but the reason and the means of her being drugged could wait until later. It wasn’t really important, relatively speaking. Her main aims were to determine where she was and how she could return to the TARDIS. Despite its attractive appearance, the room was serving as a prison cell at the moment.

The soft floor she was sitting on was a mixture of brown and tan leaves, a bit resembling leaf litter. She picked up a couple of the leaves. Like the purple grass and the dandelions in the room where the TARDIS had landed, they were both thick and artificial. “This must be another themed bedroom,” Catherine thought. “It’s good to know that purple isn’t the sole colour scheme throughout this ship.” Purple really was not one of her favourite colours. She looked up at the ceiling of this room and, to her relief, it did [u]not[/u] have a mirrored ceiling the way the other bedroom did. But, like the other bedroom, there was no sign of a bed as such. There was only a very thick, soft and enticing floor covering.

Despite feeling as if all she wanted was to lie down and go back to sleep, Catherine knew that she needed to take the opportunity to investigate her surrounds in more detail while she could. “I need to find out more before that security officer returns,” she thought. While Catherine somewhat inelegantly levered herself up from her sitting position, she looked around her. She realised that there must be a system of hidden lighting illuminating this room. It appeared to be sourced from behind the hedges, so Catherine carefully picked her way through the leaves towards the nearest hedge…..

The Doctor had cross-connected the cabling in the control board directly beneath the console by the simple medium of unplugging the connector from one port and plugging it into another. Naturally, neither of the ports was actually labelled, but there was no-one around to point that out to him. If there had been someone else there to point it out to him, he would have dismissed it as a mere detail and probably said there was no need as he had all the information necessary in his head. After double-checking that the connections were secure, he reached up to the console room floor level and quickly levered himself back up to normal floor level. This time he wasn’t going to waste time using the steps.

However, a moment later he regretted that. “Damn!” the Doctor exclaimed, as he landed back on the console room floor. In his haste, he had dropped the cables he had held in his right hand. They slipped back down into the under floor with a clatter as the connectors hit against the TARDIS superstructure. The Doctor jumped back down into the under floor space and pulled hard at the cabling until he dislodged it from where it had caught against the framework. This time he was more careful and climbed back up the steps into the console room, holding the cabling more securely in his hand.

Before he began work on the console itself, he kicked the floor access panel back into place. He didn’t relish the thought of tripping and falling down the opening into the under floor while he was busy working on sensitive connections in the console.

Dismantling connections in the console itself could be tricky, as the Doctor was well aware. He needed to make sure that he didn’t cut the power to the console completely, but also that he didn’t electrocute himself in the process. The words of an old Earth song sprang to his mind; ‘a fine line between pleasure and pain’. He couldn’t remember where he had heard the words, or when, but it was certainly an appropriate warning.

As he placed the cabling on the console, he reached down to feel along under the edge of the part of the console directly in front of where he was standing. The Doctor was trying to locate a small lever which, when pulled forward the right amount, would give him manual override of the power supply to the console. It took a bit of effort to find it as it had been an extremely long time since he had last used it. But eventually he did find it and pulled it slightly towards him. He knew if he pulled it too far that he could potentially damage the TARDIS, but instinctively he pulled it to exactly the right level. The Doctor grinned. He [u]definitely[/u] knew his TARDIS…..

Catherine reached the nearest hedge very quickly, despite taking great care where she walked. The discomfort of her headache and the general ‘fuzziness’ that she was feeling from being drugged were not alleviated at all by the movement. However, her instinctive curiosity to discover more about this room – and the logical need to find a means to escape this confinement – overcame the physical drawbacks she was suffering from. The Doctor would have recognised her spirited nature coming to her aid here, but she had never been aware of her strength of spirit and he wasn’t there to point it out to her, always assuming that he would actually choose to do so if he were!

Her first thought was to reach through the hedge and determine how far the wall was actually behind the hedge. Sensibly, she restrained that impulse and tested the leaves of the hedge to check that there were no edges or surfaces on the leaves that were sharp enough to cause her injury. After all, she had no means to bind any wounds and she didn’t relish the thought of trying to make do with these, presumably, artificial leaves or the artificial leaf litter on the floor as bandages.

She reached out her hands and carefully felt the surfaces and edges of the leaves and twigs immediately in front of her. They weren’t soft to the touch of her sensitive fingertips, but neither were they hard. Both the leaves and twigs were smooth, despite them feeling decidedly spongy when she squeezed them gently. Their edges were rounded and slightly damp to the touch. Catherine was puzzled by the damp feeling of the leaves on what she now knew were definitely artificial plants. She could see no obvious reason for the moisture to be part of the plants. But much as she would have liked to look for its source, her priority [u]had[/u] to be looking for a means of escape. Her search for the source of the illumination for the room would have to wait until later.

Catherine had ascertained that the hedge was only one plant deep, so reaching through it shouldn’t be that difficult a task. She was right. It wasn’t. What she hadn’t expected was the feel of the wall behind the hedge. It had a surface that felt nearly furry and [u]most definitely[/u] clammy. Catherine was strongly reminded of a type of moss or maybe lichen that she remembered seeing in a rainforest on some planet that she had visited as part of her work.

Still, clammy lichen and damp leaves were not going to help her find an exit from this room. She was becoming increasingly frustrated. There was no obvious doorway that she could see here…..

The TARDIS console normally provided the Doctor with the connections that he needed at any particular time. An oblong port here, a circular switch there, it always seemed to know what he wanted almost as soon as he did. It was because the TARDIS had a specific isomorphic telepathic connection to the Doctor that this happened. The Doctor, like any other Time Lord with his own time capsule, took this for granted. At least he did until now. Without the automatic power supply generated by the TARDIS Eye of Harmony, the TARDIS connection with the Doctor had disappeared. Manual override provided no such connection.

The Doctor knew that manual override was risky, but he needed to sever the power supply from the TARDIS Eye of Harmony to the time rotor and the parts of the console that directly connected to it so that he could isolate the time rotor from the console and curb the purple dust. Unfortunately, this meant about eighty percent of the console’s functions, including the isomorphic telepathic ones, would not be available to him.

The remaining twenty percent of the console’s functions worked from a type of battery backup system – ensuring that emergency power, life support and other emergency functions such as emergency dematerialisation and manual operation and override were always available. This twenty percent could be recharged from the main TARDIS power supply or, like the auxiliary power stored in the TARDIS powerhouse, via energy generated from the remnants of a rift in time. The Doctor always preferred to use the remnants from a rift in time as it was free of any remote possibility of contamination from the main supply. However, predicting when and where one would be available could be a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack sometimes.

The Doctor looked carefully all round the surface of the console trying to find a connection port suitable for his bypass cabling. He couldn’t see one, so he closed his eyes and reached out his hands to [u]feel[/u] for the connection both with his hands and his mind. There was a suitable connection right on the edge of the console about his arm’s length away to his left. He held his hand over it, opened his eyes and quickly connected the cable into the connection port. The time rotor bypass connection had been made…..

Catherine returned to the clearing in the centre of the room to take a more general look around. This time, she remained standing while she looked so she had a different perspective on the room as a whole. She was convinced that there had to be a door of some sort. It was possible that the entrance was via transmat, but as her head began to clear a bit more, she started to methodically compare [u]this[/u] room with the one where the TARDIS had materialised.

She couldn’t remember seeing a physical doorway in [u]that[/u] room. But her instinct for the out of place, although a bit shaky at the moment due to the effects of the drug, was starting to recover as the drug was wearing off. Catherine could well imagine that this bedroom, like the other bedroom, had a concealed transmat entry and exit point. Logically, she knew that there must be a backup strategy in case of transmat failure or interference. Instinctively, she knew that there [u]was[/u] another means of exit from this room and that it was physical. That meant a door of some sort. But, where was it?

Catherine slowly turned around through a full circle without sighting the doorway. She realised that, like the transmat point, it must be concealed or at least camouflaged. But that didn’t stop her feeling frustrated with the whole process. If she had had anything appropriate to hand she would probably have thrown it at the wall to relieve her frustration.

But she didn’t have anything appropriate. Instead, she pulled out the TARDIS key from where it hung on its long pendant chain underneath her blouse. Keeping the chain around her neck, she held the key up and looked at it sitting in the palm of her hand for a moment before saying aloud in her frustration, “Doctor, what would [u]you[/u] do if you were in this situation?” She sighed and kicked herself mentally, being exceedingly glad that the Doctor couldn’t hear her or see her talking to the TARDIS key. Still feeling very tired, Catherine sat down on the soft leaf-littered floor and concealed the TARDIS key pendant back inside her blouse. In practically no time at all, she promptly fell asleep…..

The Doctor moved around the console to where the device that registered the coordinates of the earlier telepathic communication was still online. His aim was to remove the sonic screwdriver from where he had left it connected to the communications port in the bracket holding the pseudo-mobile telephone device. But another group of alphanumeric characters was showing on the device’s pseudo-mobile telephone screen. “Yes!” he enthusiastically shouted out loud, as he realised what they were. Another set of coordinates for telepathic communication [u]had[/u] been registered. Again the Doctor downloaded the coordinates to the sonic screwdriver.

As the last download into the sonic screwdriver was completed, the Doctor quickly initiated the option for correlation of the coordinates on the screen of the pseudo-mobile telephone device. Again he waited for the location triangulation to complete. The resultant location was a fair distance from the last coordinate location, but the Doctor was sure it was still within the confines of the ship. “Catherine’s TARDIS key,” he thought. “The connection just [u]has[/u] to be coming from her TARDIS key.”

The Doctor looked up at the darkened time rotor with its purple dust for a moment. He pursed his lips defiantly and looked down at the console as he extracted the sonic screwdriver from the communications port. As he placed the sonic screwdriver back in the inside pocket of his battered leather jacket, the Doctor had a steely, determined look in his normally twinkling blue eyes. “It may not be immediate, but I [u]am[/u] coming to get you, Catherine,” the Doctor murmured, in a voice so definite it sounded like a promise. And the Doctor never intentionally broke his promises.

Which was just as well, because since he had manually overridden the main power supply to the console, the TARDIS could receive telepathic signals from Catherine’s TARDIS key, but could [u]not[/u] provide her with any assistance. It needed the automatic power supply connection to the console to be restored before that could happen…..

(* To be continued….. *)