Two To Make Peace

by Kathryn A

Chapter 2

Why do I keep on having these bright ideas? Miles wondered as he crawled through the service tunnel. It gave him uncomfortable flashbacks to the time he'd crawled through the ducting on Aslund station. Though at least this time he didn't have Gregor to worry about. No, just lizard things, and the Doctor. Now there was an unknown quantity. Sharp, yes, and knew too much about the wrong things, but... You are supposed to be a good judge of character, Miles, he thought to himself. It's a bit late to be second-guessing now.

"How's it going?" the Doctor's voice said in Miles' ears. They'd managed to cannibalise communicators from two of the spacesuits in the lifeboat. Miles's was tied on with string from the Doctor's amazingly capacious pockets.

"Nearly there," Miles said softly. "Only about twenty metres to go."

Miles continued to inch along until he reached the panel he was aiming for. Fortunately it wasn't that difficult to get it undone. He eased the access open, and pushed the grate further along the tunnel. He didn't want to drop it with a clang in the storage hold and alert the guards. He peered through the hole. The light was dim, but he could still see. The panel was in the ceiling, unfortunately. Fortunately, the storage hold was actually used for storing things, so he could probably clamber down the piles of boxes -- so long as he didn't knock anything over. Yes, that looked like a possible route, there. He looked around the room, trying to spot the Doctor's "tall blue box". It was dim enough that he couldn't be entirely sure of the colours of anything, but... ah, not so much a box as something like a miniature building, with tiny glass windows. Yes. "I can see it," Miles said. "You didn't mention it had windows."

"They're decorative," the Doctor said.

Decorative? What's that supposed to mean? "I'm about to leave the duct," Miles whispered. He pulled himself out of the hole awkwardly, and then scrambled down. When he reached the floor, he stood, breathing quietly hoping he hadn't made too much noise. Then he picked his way through the boxes and shelves to the front of the storage hold, where the Doctor's eccentric "equipment box" was. The Doctor had been rather vague as to where his promised transmitter was, though Miles supposed that it wouldn't be hard to search through something that was only twice his height and no wider than his outstretched arms.

Miles crept to the front of the "Police Box". There was writing on it, looked to be some form of Betan. Was the Doctor from Beta? He didn't have the right accent, though. Miles pulled the key that the Doctor had given him from the chain around his neck, and put it to the old-fashioned lock. Who would use something so archaic nowadays? Well, besides Barrayarans. For a moment, he wondered if it was the right key, but it turned in the lock surprisingly easily. He pushed one door open. Yellow light streamed out, bright in the dimness. Miles blinked. And then blinked again. The door opened into an area which was much bigger than it ought to be. Was it an illusion? A hologram? Miles stepped inside, stretched out his arms and touched the glowing coral-like walls. "Yuri's toenails!" he swore.

"Ah, you're inside the TARDIS, then," the Doctor's voice came through his earpiece, with a tinge of amusement.

"TARDIS?" Miles said sharply.

"Time And Relative Dimension In Space," the Doctor said. "It's my ship."

Definitely not from Beta. "Your ship," Miles said dryly.

"Well, I didn't think you'd believe me," the Doctor said.

Miles looked around at the extraordinary interior. The walls curved like a room in a tower; a tower made by millions of industrious coral polyps with a penchant for hexagons. Branched pillars held up the ceiling. The metal mesh of the floor contrasted with the organic feel of the walls. And in the centre of the room, like some industrial-tech mushroom impaled by a column of glass, was what Miles took to be a set of controls. "Ah, you might have been correct there," he said.

He stepped up to the console, and realised that he didn't recognise anything. Well, obviously he recognised that they were controls, what with switches and dials and levers -- in a style which seemed to match the archaism of the door lock -- but he couldn't figure what any of them were for. Especially since none of them appeared to have labels. "So where's the transmitter?"

"Don't touch anything!" the Doctor snapped.

Miles jumped and put his hands behind his back. "Fine. Not touching anything."

"If you follow my directions precisely, we can set up the TARDIS to home in on the signal from my sonic screwdriver," the Doctor said. "Make a mistake and--"

"It'll explode?"

"Oh, nothing so simple as that," the Doctor said grimly. "On the other hand, nothing might happen," he said brightly.

"What a brilliant motivator," Miles said sarcastically.

"Oh, I have my moments."

Then followed twenty minutes of directions. "Now, that's the helmic regulator, requires a delicate touch... Turn the dial until it's at the half-way mark... Flip the first switch up, that's the one on the left..."

"Okay, now when the indicator on the screen shows 572--" the Doctor said.

"I can't see any numbers on the screen, just geometric shapes," Miles interrupted.

"Ah," the Doctor said. "Yes, used to be in English, but the Hindu-Arabic numeral system is so limited."

Who the heck has a numeric system that's based on geometric shapes? Well, who builds ships that are bigger on the inside than on the outside? Miles shoved that thought in the too-hard basket and concentrated on what the Doctor was saying.

"Okay," the Doctor continued, "look for three symbols on the screen. They're all framed by a double-lined hexagon, and inside there are hexagons and--"

"Circles with bites taken out of them," Miles said.

"Yes, right," the Doctor said. "Now, the symbol for five has got a large circle at the bottom, and five hexagons curving to the left."

"A large circle with three other circles inside it?"

"No, that's two, if it's the one with three hexagons in a straight line, then two hexagons slightly to the left, but going in the same direction. Five has three hexagons in a line, and then two hexagons at more of an angle, and the circle has got two small circles inside it."

"Two? I can only see one."

"Well, the second one is inside one of the bites."

"Ah, okay, got it."

"Seven is easy, it's got four hexagons, a circle, and another hexagon."

"Right. Adjusting... now."

"Good. Now see that switch just to the right? Flip it down -- and hold on tight!"

"Are you sure this is going to work?"

"Of course it'll work! And if it doesn't, kick the console."

"How very reassuring," Miles said dryly. He flicked the switch. The whole room began to shudder. The light in the column glowed and moved up and down, and a noise like a giant bellows erupted around him. Miles held on for dear life. After a minute, the noise stopped, and then started up again, and then stopped, with a sort of thud.

"Doctor?" Miles said. What the hell just happened?

"Admiral Naismith!" the Doctor said.

The voice came from behind him. Miles whirled. The Doctor was stepping through the door, grinning.

"How did you get here?"

"But I didn't," the Doctor said. "You got here. In the TARDIS. Speaking of which, we'd better get elsewhere before the Galyari notice--"

An alarm blared outside.

"Which they appear to have done already," the Doctor said. He pulled a lever and the doors closed with a snap. Then he leaped around the console like a hyperactive organ maestro, doing in seconds what Miles had done in painstaking minutes. The room shook, groaned, wheezed. The lights in the column began moving again.

"Where are we going?"

"Where would you like to go?" the Doctor asked. "Your flagship? That's where I'd want to go if I were you."

Miles blinked. "You can do that?" Appear anywhere. Out of thin air. What kind of a weapon that would make. Destroy the balance of power. Dangerous. Very, very dangerous. "Who are you?" Miles asked. "Where are you from?"

The Doctor sighed. "From a dead world. I'm not a threat." He threaded a hand through his hair. "Well, except to those who need threatening. Like the Galyari. Wanna play 'good cop, bad cop'?"

"And which one would you be?"

"Bad cop," the Doctor said. "The Galyari really don't like me."

"What did you do to them?"

"Ah..." The Doctor ticked off the points on his fingers. "Threw them off the world they were invading, destroyed their race-memory egg-thingie, blustered a bit -- well, a lot, really -- and gave their hatchlings nightmares. Still do, probably. I'm kind of their equivalent to the bogeyman."

"If you're not a good boy, Baba Yaga will come and take you away?"

"They call me the Sandman, but yes." The Doctor rubbed his ear. "It's kind of a difficult reputation to live down."