Then the face of a man appeared through the haze of static. He was lean, wiry, with scruffy brown hair and deep-set brown eyes. His brown suit was torn with globs of dried blood in places. He kept his head down as he spoke into the small microphone and tapped on the camera into which he was speaking. A blue mist streamed through the ventilation system on the wall behind him and out into the room.
"This is a distress call. We need immediate medical and possibly military help at base 24601 Theta Zed. Repeat. Immediate---" He coughed, thick and wet, and left a splatter of blood across the screen. With a panic, he wiped it away. Then, he took a deep breath and looked straight at the camera.
"This is a distress call. There is a hostile nanogene contagion on this base. Use extreme caution when approaching." He shook his head. "I haven't got much time before I'm infected. Well, probably already infected at this point. Too many injuries." The laugh the man gave was dark and humorless. "The point is, we need help. I need help. I can't stop this alone."
And, from the dark look in the man's eyes, it was apparent that he was alone, now.
"My name is the Doctor. I need immediate assistance at Sanctuary Base 24601 Theta Zed. I need the nanogene code---"
From off camera, there was the sound of a shuffled footstep, and then the distinctive click of a shotgun being set.
The Doctor looked away from the camera to something directly behind it.
He breathed. "I was wondering when you'd show up."
And with that, the camera went dead with a blaze of static.
The most exciting part of traveling with the Doctor was the initial arrival. Even Mickey, who had long since come to the conclusion that the Doctor and Rose's giddiness was part of some elaborate (and frankly, disgusting) mating dance, couldn't help the slight bounce in his step as they exited the TARDIS doors.
"This isn't the beaches of Sanploon," Rose said, petulantly, readjusting the bright sunflower she'd tucked into her hair. It was the place she'd requested, after that unpleasant waiting for five and a half hours on a dark and scary spaceship of a week before.
"No," the Doctor agreed. "It certainly isn't." The Doctor had vanished into the TARDIS for most of that week, only emerging around teatime and then vanishing again. When he finally came back to the console room ready to travel again, he seemed like he'd come to some sort of a conclusion, though the conclusion had left him looking a little older and a little sadder.
Wherever they had landed was dark and lit dimly with red emergency lights along the long corridors. Mickey worried that they had once again found an abandoned spaceship, but the walls were distinctly stone and the place had a sort of underground feel. The Doctor said it was the gravitational pull that felt different, but Mickey was certain he was making up 98% of everything he said, anyway. It was strange, though. The way Mickey saw it, the stone looked ancient and crumbling, but the computer terminals plugged into the wall were completely futuristic and beyond anything that Mickey had gaped over in Geek Monthly magazine.
The Doctor bounded over to a computer terminal and slipped on his brainy specs. With a little flair, he spun the sonic screwdriver from his pocket and began going over the monitor, trying to bring life to the dead equipment.
"Can never take me anywhere sunny, can you?" Rose asked, tucking herself next to the Doctor's arm as he fiddled about with the computer.
"In that sundress, you're like a burst of sunshine anyway," Mickey said from where he stood off in a corner. He was trying to be suave, but it wasn't very easy from his position on one end of the room while Rose stood with the Doctor.
She took a step aside and fanned out the sides of her skirt, showing off the sunflower design. "I think we could use a little sunshine."
"Didn't realize he'd take you shopping whenever you wanted," Mickey said.
"He doesn't," Rose replied with a little petulant pout. "But I did find it in the wardrobe of the TARDIS. Better than any shopping mall."
"There's a wardrobe?" Mickey asked. "Like, with clothes and stuff?"
"That's generally what a wardrobe is for," the Doctor tossed over his shoulder.
Mickey snorted. "Would've been nice to know that a week ago. Been wandering around in this getup since I got on board." Mickey gestured to his jeans and Nintendo t-shirt which had long since needed a good washing.
"Yes, it doesn’t smell too nice, does it?" the Doctor said, looking back and crinkling his nose. "Should get you something else to wear. Maybe a room to stay in, the hallway can't be comfortable. And a haircut."
Rose grinned. "The Doctor knows the best stylist off of Santriago---" She faltered. "Santriago---?"
"Five," the Doctor added, absently.
"Yeah, big hair over there would know a stylist," Mickey replied, crossing his arms.
"Oi!" the Doctor barked.
"Look in the mirror. All big and pomp, looking good wherever you end up."
Rose's yellow high heels clicked against the metal grating as she walked a little way into the corridor. "Where did we end up?" she asked.
"Sanctuary base, probably," the Doctor said, smacking the monitor he was working on with the back of his hand.
"Is that another space ship?" Mickey asked.
"No, I did say we were underground," the Doctor countered.
"Yeah, but you know you're makin' everything you say up," Mickey said.
"Boys," Rose interjected. "Can we skip the domestics?"
Mickey and the Doctor looked at each other awkwardly, then made faces and looked away.
"Can you smell that?" Rose asked. "Here, over here? It smells...I don't know, funny."
The Doctor slipped off his spectacles and hopped over to where she stood. He inhaled deeply, twisting up his face like he was tasting a fine wine. Mickey sniffed the air, too, but all he could smell was the mustiness of the room they were in.
"Recycled air, you think?" Mickey asked.
"Maybe," the Doctor replied. "But Rose is right, there's something else."
"What is it?" Rose asked.
"I don't know," the Doctor replied. "But we're not going to find out here. Come on."
And with that, he half-walked, half-skipped down the corridor. Rose followed at the same pace, with Mickey bringing up the rear.
As they walked away, the light on the computer monitor flicked on.
Now processing. Non-processed life forms detected. Initializing experiment 11411. Initializing...
The red lights in the room around the TARDIS flicked from red to blue and pulsated, as though beating color and light through a giant, inhuman heart.
Most of the rooms the trio had encountered were much like the one where they'd left the TARDIS. Stone walls, broken down computers, and an eerie red emergency light that did nothing for the ambiance of the base.
The Doctor picked up a pamphlet off of one of the stone tables. "At last," he said. "Sanctuary Base 24601 Theta Zed, ready for habitation. I said it was a sanctuary base!"
Rose took the pamphlet from the Doctor. It reminded her of every pamphlet she'd ever seen for flats and homes in her neighborhood. Except this one was for a complex located deep within an uninhabitable planet, only accessible by teleport. And TARDIS, of course. The stone structure was part of the base's "Classic charm qualities", allowing the occupants to "feel" the world above them.
Smiling families in bright purple jumpsuits with the words Awake Industries scrawled across them grinned up at her. For Active Lifestyles!
"When the Earth got too full to fit people on the surface, terraforming became necessary on other planets. And for ones where terraforming was impossible, sanctuary bases became homes." The Doctor enthused. "That's you brilliant little humans, finding ways to put yourselves everywhere in the universe."
"Not the brilliant humans bit," Mickey groaned, catching up with them. "Can you give it a rest?"
"Don't worry, Mickey me boy, I don't think all of you lot are brilliant." The Doctor gave Mickey a very pointed look over the rim of his glasses.
Rose sighed and butted in before they could bicker again. "The question is, though, if this is a human habitation base, where are all the people?"
From the corridor from where they just came, there was a very quiet hum, and the sound of someone speaking. Rose opened her mouth to mention it, but Mickey and the Doctor had quieted instantly, listening too. The hallway they'd just come from glowed a dark blue for thirty seconds, then went back to red.
"Did you see that?" Rose asked.
Before either man could speak, the lights in the room changed. A serene female voice intoned over invisible speakers.
"Breathe deep in the blue. Breathe. Deep."
And while Rose immediately thought to hold her breath against whatever might be in the blue light, she found that she'd subconsciously started to breathe more deeply with the changing color. The scent she'd picked up earlier was stronger now, something sharp and citrusy on the air.
"Calm. Breathe deep in the blue. Breathe. Deep."
And, as quickly as it had changed, the lights went back to red. Mickey shuddered. The Doctor's eyes narrowed at the red lights.
"What the hell was that?" Rose demanded. She didn't feel any different, but the brief incident left her unnerved. "That smell---"
"Something in the oxygen system?" the Doctor theorized. "Maybe a chemical meant to calm the people here?"
"Like sedatives on a prison ship?" Mickey asked.
The Doctor gave him a surprised look. "That's very good, Mickey."
"You don't have to look so surprised, you know," Mickey said. "I watched a lot of Twilight Zone when I was a kid."
"But most prison sedatives would leave us feeling, well, sedate," the Doctor said, heading down the corridor where the blue light continued. "At least somewhat."
"Yeah, I don't feel any different," Rose agreed, following. "Maybe the sedatives have run out over the years?"
"I'm feeling different," Mickey said. "I'm feeling like we shouldn't be following that creepy blue light and should go back to the TARDIS."
The Doctor spun around and continued to walk with a grin on his face. "Where's your sense of adventure, Mickey? Great big sanctuary base with an even bigger mystery? And we've just met our first person here! A computer with a mission. Telling us to breathe in blue. Come on!"
If the Doctor had expected something exciting at the end of the hallway, he was in for a disappointment. The first locked door appeared in a medical bay with rows of memory disks and nanogenes filed up along the wall in neat glowing boxes. The Doctor examined a few of the nanogenes, then turned to the memory disks.
"I think if we find anything, it'll be in here." The Doctor plucked a random memory diskette out of the files and slipped it into the terminal on the computer nearest him. The screen that he couldn't get to rouse suddenly blinked to life, and a tall, dark-haired woman with almond-shaped blue eyes smiled at them.
"Sanctuary Base 24601 Theta Zed progress log, medical division," she said. Her voice was calm and serene, even though it was peppered with a thick Welsh accent. The Doctor recognized the voice immediately as the same one from the intercom.
"This is Dr. Geretta Rice, chief of medical operations. The health of the citizens on 24601 Theta Zed is exemplary. The nanogenes in the air have been programmed to keep them healthy and active, and the regular blue treatments have kept their sanity at .00787 below Alpha."
Rose was disgusted. "They measure their inhabitant's sanity here?" she asked.
"What's a point-Alpha?" Mickey inquired. "No unit of measurement in any book I've ever read."
"Comic book," the Doctor said, absently.
"It's a unit of sleep deprivation," the Doctor said. "In the military."
"But that's not what she means here," Rose said. "Right?"
Mickey piped in. "Wait a minute. So these nanogenes are all in the air, right? Keeping the people healthy? So where are they? The people?"
The Doctor stepped back to the nanogene drawer. "These are set to a high level of aggression. Targeting any health degeneration, I imagine. Thought I felt a bit queasy when I arrived. Probably doesn't recognize my cardiovascular system and can't quite figure out how to fix it."
"Aggressive nanogenes?" Rose's voice was distinctly worried. "Not going to have another problem with Mummy, are we?"
"No, not that sort of aggressive," the Doctor said. "These have been programmed to protect humans from any illnesses the planet might toss out. As for me, my body's strong enough to keep them at bay. Likely a good deal of them have gone dormant, what with the lack of people."
The Doctor's fingers flitted over the next set of diskettes, but the most recent were missing. Where would they have gone? Even if they hadn't been written, the empty blocks would've been left here, wouldn't they?
"Doctor," Rose caught his attention. The monitor remained on even after he removed the diskette, and a dark blue light in the center blinked ominously on and off, like a warning signal. Dozens of little nanogene canisters lit up simultaneously.
"What does that mean?" Mickey demanded.
Before the Doctor could answer, something that sounded very like a scream sounded from down the corridor from which they had just come. The Doctor immediately ran towards the sound, only to stop and slowly back away.
What must've been hundreds of people came lumbering down the corridor. Their clothes were torn, their skin was pale and sickly, and their eyes glowed a dark, terrifying red.
"Let me guess," Mickey said. "This is the part where we start running, yeah?"
"Yeah, I think you're right about that," the Doctor replied.
He turned to the locked door and gave the lock a wave with the sonic screwdriver. It clicked open and the trio ran out, stopping only long enough to lock the door behind them. The creatures behind them banged against the door, each punch the equivalent of a small sledgehammer. The Doctor examined the bulges made by the creatures' fists.
Bang. Bang. Slam. Bang.
"What the hell are those things?" Mickey barked. "They look like zombies or something!"
"Don't be stupid, Mickey," Rose snapped. "There're no such things as zombies." She looked over at the Doctor. "Are there?"
"Oh, right. Stupid Mickey unless the Doctor says they're real," Mickey said.
"Shut up you two, I'm trying to concentrate." The Doctor flipped open a panel by the wall and tried to access the monitor from before. He woke it up once, couldn't be too hard to do it again, right?
"But they weren't there before," Rose said. "We walked all the way down that corridor and there was nobody. Nobody!"
"Maybe they were outside," Mickey suggested.
"They can't even work this door, Mickey, what makes you think they're gonna come in from the outside?" Rose snapped.
The Doctor looked down at the blinking panel. His eyes widened in alarm. The red lights in the corridor blinked to blue and the calm voice began again.
"Breathe in the blue."
"I really hate that thing," Mickey said.
"You're about to really hate it," the Doctor said. "I think it's what's waking up the people here. Without that sedative dose, they're waking up."
"But there aren't any people here!" Rose repeated. "Remember?"
"Not according to these scanners." The Doctor nodded, then pointed the light of the sonic down at their feet. Underneath the metal grating were hundreds of creatures, each with bright red eyes that were slowly blinking awake.
"And again," the Doctor broke into a run across the metal grating, his two companions at his heels. There was a clatter of metal against metal as the grates went flying up behind them, creatures leaping to life.
Rose's shoe caught in the grating as they ran, and she fell forwards, scraping her knee and skinning her hand. The Doctor and Mickey turned back swiftly, but not fast enough to stop one of the creatures from grabbing her leg and taking a bite out of her calf. Rose screamed, and then kicked out, planting her high heel in its eye socket.
The Doctor wrapped an arm around Rose's shoulder and Mickey threw a few well-placed kicks at the scrambling creatures as they ran. Another doorway, another quick open with the sonic.
This room led to a laboratory with a solid stone floor and not a creature in sight. Once the door behind them was secure, Mickey and Rose slid to the ground, panting for breath.
"I really hope those weren't zombies," Mickey said in between gulps of air. "Cause if they are, Rose is infected."
"Don't be stupid," the Doctor snapped. "No such thing as zombies. Those are...well, they're something that I haven't sorted out yet but will so quit panicking."
"Quit panicking?" Mickey squealed. "Did you miss the bit where a huge chunk was chomped out of Rose's leg?"
"It's my leg, Mickey, and I'm not panicking," Rose said, though her voice was quivering.
The Doctor leaned down to check Rose's wound. It was deep, but the nanogenes in the air were doing their job and healing it quickly. The little machines knitted up the torn flesh like glue binding paper. Rose bit her lip to keep from crying out.
"What happened to them?" she asked the Doctor. "Those things? They were the people who lived here, weren't they?"
The Doctor moved back to his feet, satisfied that Rose's wound was going to heal correctly. "Looked like. They all had the same jumpsuits from the pamphlet. Something had to have happened to them."
"Ya think?" Mickey got to his feet and followed the Doctor as he walked through the laboratory while Rose waited behind, healing. Tiny bodies sat suspended in jars and test tubes all around the room, along with white and blue gas clouds suspended in jars.
The Doctor slipped back on the brainy specs and waved the sonic over the blue gas jars.
"Is that those aggressive nanowhatsits?" Mickey asked.
"Nanogenes," the Doctor corrected. "And no. No, this looks like a psychotropic drug. There isn't any left in the atmosphere, but my guess is this is what they were pumping into the air during the blue-outs. A sedative that also stimulates certain neurocenters in the brain. The question is which ones?" The Doctor hopped away from the jar and ran over to a bank of computers.
"No, the question is 'why'," Mickey countered, following him. "Duh."
The Doctor stopped and spun around. "Did you just say 'duh' to me?"
"Yeah, cause you said the wrong question," Mickey said, crossing his arms.
"You're getting far too impudent for your own good," the Doctor said, though the little smile on his lips suggested he approved. He liked his companions tough, and while he was initially worried about having Mickey the Idiot on board, he was doing quite well.
"Right, then, Mickey the Idiot," the Doctor began, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "Why would they need to stimulate and calm the brain?"
"You can't do both. Maybe that's why they're ending up all whacked-out back there?" Mickey suggested. "Couldn't take the constant stimulative-ness?"
"Stimuli," the Doctor corrected.
The Doctor shook his head. "No, no, that wouldn't be enough to cause the aggressive behavior. Stimulation is a regular waking experience, and when you're dreaming..."
Mickey pointed, his eyes big and wide as though a lightbulb had gone on right above his head. "Wait a mo'. Calmness and stimu---stim---that other thing. You get both when you're sleeping."
"Without them, you can't dream. Can't dream, you go mad," the Doctor agreed, though he couldn't see where Mickey was going with this.
Mickey nodded emphatically. "And that woman on the screen said the nanogenes were keeping everybody active. And measuring their sleep deprivation! What if they were keepin' 'em active all the time. Only rest they got was when the blue stuff came 'round?"
The Doctor grinned, catching on. "And when the chemical stopped going into the atmosphere every five minutes, the people reverted to their most out of control and aggressive." His face fell. "The gestation period for those nanogenes can't be more than a few minutes. Passing through injuries."
"Like a zombie."
"They're not zombies, Mickey."
"Yeah, whatever. What's your point?"
"Rose has been healing with those nanogenes for about ten minutes now."
As if on cue, there was a loud crash as the test tubes went flying across the laboratory and Rose, still in her bright yellow dress, came stumbling towards them. The sunflower in her hair was askew, and under the fringe of her bangs her normally dark brown eyes were glowing bright red.
"No, Rose." The Doctor took a step towards her and she growled viciously at him. He swallowed down the sudden surge of emotion that welled up within him. Rose. He promised to protect her.
"Get that chemical!" Mickey said, gesturing to the tube. Mickey, right. The Doctor had forgotten the other man was there.
"It's the only active one left! It's only a fix!" the Doctor shouted back, taking a few steps away from the growling Rose.
"Then there's nothing we can do for her here, we'll take it with us," Mickey said, for once the stable and calm one. "Doctor!"
Rose lumbered towards them, and the Doctor couldn't do anything to help her. Trapped in an overly active and aggressive mind until...until they could fix it. He grabbed the tube and darted after his companion. Behind them, the thing that had taken over Rose howled in anger.
It seemed like miles before the Doctor and Mickey found another area of the base that didn't have sleeping zombie inhabitants underneath the grates. And while the Doctor thought calling the infected humans "zombies" was nothing short of insulting, he had to admit that the phrase was pretty catchy.
"We can't stay here for long," the Doctor said, stepping away from the door after he soniced it sealed. "We have to get back to the TARDIS so I can analyze this properly."
"The TARDIS is all the way back there," Mickey shouted. "Through all them things! Those things and the thing that's taken over Rose's body! We can't go back---"
The Doctor wasn't having it. "Yes, I know it is. But we have to figure out a way through, which is why we have to think and not panic!"
"Why're you always thinkin' I'm panicking? I'm not panicking!"
The two men glared at each other for a moment, then turned back to the room they had entered. It was an office, though unlike the stone décor of the rest of the sanctuary base, this room was adorned with a dark wood paneling and ornately-framed documents along every wall.
"Dr. Geretta Rice," Mickey read. "Isn't that the woman---"
"From the diskette before, yeah," the Doctor agreed. He rifled through the papers on her desk. There were some medical charts, a few newspapers, and then, at the bottom of the stack, several missing diskettes.
"Brilliant," the Doctor said with a little whoop of delight. "Figure out the last piece of this puzzle, then save everyone on this base."
"What if the last piece is that it can't be undone?" Mickey asked.
The Doctor glared at him. "Pessimistic much?" And with that, he slipped the diskette onto the desk's computer. It whirred to life, then fizzed into nothing. The Doctor blinked at it, then at Mickey, then reached over and bopped the monitor with his fist. It whirred back to life.
"Final entry," he told Mickey.
"So what's it doing here?" Mickey asked.
"That's what we're trying to find out, so sit down and shut up."
The woman from before stepped into view on the screen. Her eyes were red-rimmed and her hair was dirty and disheveled.
"It failed," she said to the screen. "The experiment is a failure. We should've seen this coming."
"Experiment?" the Doctor voiced, but the woman on the screen ignored him.
"We were going to make them better. Let them stay awake all of the time, be productive all of the time. Twenty-four useful hours of every day. Just like Gran would say." There was a crash from somewhere on the back of the screen. "But the serotonin levels for the people on board made them aggressive. Violent, but not towards each other. They don't need food or even air in this state. They're like the walking dead."
Mickey slapped the Doctor's arm. "Zombies! Like I said!"
"Yes, yes, you're very clever. Shut up."
"It seems to pass from wound to wound, through the nanogenes," Dr. Geretta Rice said. "Changing the person, infecting them. The nanogene codes back on Serbia 3 can undo the damage, but that would mean admitting to what we've done. Admitting to what's happened, to what we planned---"
There was a crash off-screen, and with a scream from Geretta Rice, the picture went dead.
"The map says there's an armory. I should get a gun."
"You're not getting a gun."
"Every zombie movie survival book says you need a shotgun."
"And who're you going to blast with that shotgun, Mickey? Rose?"
That made the young man go silent, at least.
Mickey was given a simple task. Climb through the ductwork, get back to the TARDIS and send out a signal to Serbia 3. The Doctor, on the other hand, was to try to reconstitute the blue serotonin gases, institute them into the air system and try to calm the populous, give Mickey a chance to get back uninjured. Injury was bad. Very bad.
A simple enough task for the Doctor, except the aggressive nanogenes were trying to un-write his Time Lord cardiovascular and nervous systems. He managed to control them well enough, but the longer they ran and the more tired he got, the weaker his defenses were. And, really, while working with Mickey wasn't so bad, he didn't want the younger man seeing him in this state. Mickey had already seen the Doctor post-regeneration, and he wasn't too keen on having to lean on him again.
He was the Doctor. He had to be the strong one. Part and partial to the whole "Last of the Time Lords" business.
He stumbled down the hallway towards another medical bay, holding the tube of blue gas under his arm. It was getting harder to breathe. His lungs were being broken down, the little machines trying to make them smaller and rewrite the oxygen flow. He stopped before the main air duct, only to find his hands shook too much to operate the sonic and unlock the system.
The Doctor closed his eyes and concentrated, forcing them out of his veins. Just for a little longer. He thought about the last time he felt truly healthy and took a deep breath of air. New New York, he thought. That was a perfect day, for all the terrible things that happened later.
And when the Doctor opened his eyes, Rose was there. In her yellow sunflower dress, her hair mussed and askew like she'd been running. It was almost like seeing her on New Earth, except her eyes were dark, glowing red.
"Rose," the Doctor said, cautiously, taking a step towards her. Was she still in there? There were few humans as emotionally strong as Rose (or as jeopardy-friendly, but that wasn't the point). Maybe if he could talk her through it she could break the chemically enhanced rage.
She snarled as he approached. It was low and inhuman and made the Doctor's stomach twist as he heard it. Her eyes were empty, with inhuman rage coursing through her.
"Rose, listen to me," he said. "Your name is Rose Tyler. You're more than a primitive, you're far more than just a monster. Please listen to me, Rose. You need to concentrate and you should be able to break the infection."
He took another step towards her. Her eyebrows knitted together in confusion and, just for a moment, she looked like the Rose Tyler he knew. He thought he might be getting through to her, just a little bit.
Then, the growls behind her broke his concentration. Dozens of them, all with the same glowing eyes. The Doctor involuntarily took a step back, and that was all Rose needed to lunge at him. Her strength was multiplied from the infection, and he felt his arms bruise under her grip as she snarled and growled.
The hoard threw him back, tugging and scratching, knocking him into the dirty walls and throwing the blue canister aside. The Doctor scrambled and grabbed it back, before throwing it with all his might against the main air duct controls. There was a hiss and a screech, and then the mist began pouring out through the vents.
"Breathe in the blue!" the Doctor cried. The hoard, one by one, collapsed onto the floor. A temporary solution, but it would be enough to get Mickey to safety. Ten minutes at most, but Mickey was resourceful. He'd get to the TARDIS.
There was a crash down the hallway. Radio communication room. Someone wasn't unconscious.
The Doctor leaned down and struggled to pick up Rose. He was too weak, the new injuries making the nanogenes work twice as hard. He propped her up against the vent where the calming agent was the strongest. She'd be safe here.
"I'll be back," he promised.
With that, he headed to the small room. It was tiny, littered with communications equipment, datadisks, and wires leading off and out of the ground, probably to antennae on the planet's surface. The Doctor shut the door behind himself, locking the people out in the corridor. A steady stream of blue mist flowed through the large ducts along the ceiling, but it wouldn't last much longer, then they'd try to attack.
The Doctor propped himself up in a chair and fiddled with a camera control. If nothing else, it would be a place to send a distress signal. In case it was too late.
"This is a distress call. We need immediate medical and possibly military help at base 24601 Theta Zed. Repeat. Immediate---" He coughed, and felt a wet lump of blood escape his mouth, splattering against the camera lens. He was dying. If they couldn't send the signal, then he would die, and soon.
He took a breath. "This is a distress call. There is a hostile nanogene contagion on this base. Use extreme caution when approaching." He shook his head. "I haven't got much time before I'm infected. Well, probably already infected at this point. The point is, we need help. I need help. I can't stop this alone."
Rose was gone. Mickey was gone. He was trapped in a room with nothing but computers and a fading blue mist.
"My name is the Doctor. I need immediate assistance at Sanctuary Base 24601 Theta Zed. I need the nanogene code---"
He felt the click of the shotgun before he heard it. He sighed. "I was wondering when you'd show up."
Standing before the Doctor was a tall, thin woman in a lab coat, holding a shotgun.
"Dr. Geretta Rice, I presume?" the Doctor asked.
The tall woman straightened. "You know who I am?" she demanded. Her voice was cold and sharp like the overcompressed air shooting through the hallways.
"I know what you've done," the Doctor replied. "The things you did to the people here. The social experimentation."
"We were making them better!" she cried back. "We only wanted to help them!"
There was a low moan from the creatures outside. The Doctor started at the noise, but Geretta Rice stood calm and still. She'd been here for so very long now, the Doctor imagined. She knew what those poor people sounded like. She was numb to it.
"And instead you drove them mad," the Doctor said. He struggled to get to his feet, but fell back into the chair. He coughed again, feeling his hearts weakening under the strain of the nanogenes. If he hadn't sustained those injuries before, he imagined the effects wouldn't have been so severe. But that was hardly the point. He had, and without that second heart, he wasn't sure if he'd regenerate.
Even worse, if Mickey didn't send it out, then the only hope left was the distress signal. And there was almost no chance of that bringing a rescue. Oh, Jackie. She'd never know. The Doctor promised he'd take care of Rose. Now it was too late.
"I did what I had to," Geretta Rice countered. "For them."
"But you didn't take the drugs yourself?" the Doctor demanded. "Just let them be your guinea pigs. Just let my friends be your guinea pigs!"
"Every experiment needs a control!" she replied. "If I had known---"
"Then let me help them," the Doctor said, forcing his voice to be calm. "Let me call the authorities."
"Do you know what they do to inhabitant-experimentation violators?" Geretta Rice asked. "A lifetime of servitude. Indentured servitude. They put you on transport forever!"
"And you think that's worth the lives of everyone on this base?" the Doctor snapped.
"That's not it!" she cried.
"You were their doctor. You know the experiment was a failure. If I can get that beacon sent out, we can get help here. We can save the people on this base. We can save my friends. Just please."
For a moment, the Doctor thought she might relent. Her expression went calm, her grip on the shotgun relaxed. He thought something of the doctor he saw in the first clips was still in her. But then she hardened, and her grip tightened. Apparently, the Doctor wouldn't need the nanogenes to finish him off.
"I'm sorry," she said. Her finger squeezed on the trigger and the Doctor slammed his eyes shut in time to hear the blast of a shotgun.
Two seconds passed. Three. Four. The Doctor opened his eyes and looked up. Geretta Rice lay face down in a pool of blood. Her back was a mass of tiny shotgun blast holes. And standing not more than five feet away was Mickey Smith, gun still smoking.
He looked pale and he was shaking even as he held the weapon. The Doctor struggled to his feet and limped over to the other man.
"I got out the beacon, but I had to check on you. Climbed through the ducts. Found the armory first, like I said. I didn't think, when it happened," he said. "She was gonna shoot you, I had to---"
"It's all right," the Doctor said, curling his hand over the end of the warm shotgun. Mickey slumped down against the wall, nodding slowly, his eyes still on the dead woman on the floor.
The Doctor slid next to him and put his hand on Mickey's shoulder. "It's over, Mickey. It's over."
When Rose awoke, she was in a white hospital bed. Around her were dozens of other identical beds full of thin, undernourished people. Thin, but alive. She looked over to her side. On one side was Mickey, sleeping curled up on a chair. To the other was the Doctor, reading The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide. An IV tube was attached to his arm underneath his suit jacket, but he seemed oblivious to it as he read.
He was holding her hand. Rose gave it a squeeze. He looked up over his glasses and smiled.
"How're you feeling?" he asked.
"Like I died," she admitted.
"Very nearly did," the Doctor said with a small nod. "But Mickey sent out the signal to the nearby base, got the nanogene code sent through. Cured everyone, they're just here for nutrients, nanogene restructuring. Making sure they'll be well."
"And the people who started this?" Rose asked.
The Doctor looked up to Mickey, and then shook his head. "They won't be doing this again."
Rose turned her head to look at their sleeping companion. It was strange, but he looked different, to Rose. Like he'd grown up somehow. Even the way he drooled on the chair looked different.
"We'll stay here another day, 'til you're rested up, then Mickey Mick over there wanted to go to the movies, sometime in the 1930's," the Doctor said. "Not a zombie movie was the only requirement, I think."
"And you're indulging him?" Rose asked with a little smile. "Sure you're not affected by those nanogenes?"
"He could use the break," the Doctor said, and there was something strange in the way he said it. Something very serious.
Rose nodded. "Will this sort of thing happen again?" she asked. "To another habitat?"
The Doctor smiled again. "Not as long as we're around."
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 6,210 YA RLY
Special thanks to galeforcehero for beta.