Chapter 18

Everyone but the captain and commander had filed out of the conference room in shocked silence. The captain was still staring at the spot where the Aegis had been, unaware of the Doctor's presence. Until the Doctor cleared his throat loudly.

The captain looked up and his face paled. Taking a step back, he had to look away. Because the Doctor wore an expression which could make even a Dalek quake with fear.

"Now." The Doctor spoke hoarsely, flicking some sweat-soaked hair away from his forehead, "Where's my friend, Donna?"

"I—I'm not sure. The Aegis, he took care of those details."

"Then maybe you'd better find out, Captain." The Doctor said through gritted teeth. "Because I am not losing another friend. Not today. Do you get that?"

"Sir." Commander Pruda stepped forward, frowning at the Doctor. "May I remind you that he is still a prisoner? It is unseemly for you to allow this...this...Time Lord, to tell you what to—"

"The Doctor is not telling me to do anything I wouldn't have already done, Commander." Kruptil snapped. "Now be a good man and go and search the private quarters of the Aegis. See if you can turn up any clues as to the whereabouts of the Doctor's friend. You're the only one I can trust to do a thorough job around here."

"But sir." The commander continued to protest, "The Doctor. Why is he being allowed his freedom?"

Kruptil's eyes hardened. "I believe that I just gave you an order, commander. I expect better from you than that. Now, go. You're dismissed."

"Yes sir, Captain Kruptil." The commander responded bitterly, turning on his heel and leaving—but not before shooting a murderous look at the Doctor. Which was a wasted effort, because the Doctor was ignoring him.

Taking a deep breath, the captain collected himself. Straightening to attention, he nodded.

"I understand that your friend must indeed be very important to you, Doctor. Rest assured, I will personally do whatever I can to assist you. If you'll kindly wait here, we'll send news as soon as we have some. I'll have one of the gops bring you some refreshments, in the meantime. If it helps, I'm sure your friend is still alive. She's the star of the show, they rarely die right away."

Seething with anger, the Doctor turned his dark eyes on the Captain again. Gulping, Captain Kruptil backed out of the room quickly.

After the room had cleared, the Doctor sat down heavily in a chair, still s Not knowing where she was, or what was happening to her, was almost as bad as waiting. It was all his fault she had been taken away. The Doctor wondered how he'd face Wilf and her mum, if he couldn't bring Donna home safely.


To say that Donna was having a bad day, would be an understatement. Right in the middle of cataloging more artifacts, her new boss's secretary, Mrs. Barstow, turned out to be a right old cow.

The glamorous secretary had barged into Donna's little basement cubby hole about lunch time.

"It's time for me and Harold—I mean, Mr. Tarrington-Smythe, to go to lunch." The blond haired, very fit, young secretary told Donna, "You're to keep working until we come back. That should only be a couple of hours. Then you get your half hour lunch. There's a small staff break room on the forth floor, on the opposite end of the building. Oh, I'm sure you'll find it."

The woman looked down and frowned at some dust she spied on Donna's plain brown tweed skirt. Of course, the secretary was wearing the latest fashion, bought from one of London's trendiest shops.

"Oh, and do make sure you are back from lunch on time. It would be a shame to see you lose your job on your first day." Mrs. Barstow said, as she breezed back out the door.

Donna's mum looked up from her knitting as Donna slammed the front door behind her.

"You're home early, sweetheart." She smiled. "Have a good day at the new job, then?"

"What job?" Donna shot back at her, throwing her purse down on the sofa. "I got stuck in the lift coming back from lunch. And they sacked me for being late. Can you believe that? Like it was my fault the lift jammed! And the boss didn't even have the...backbone, to do it himself. I had to get fired by the secretary. The bleeding snooty secretary! Do you know how humiliating that was? Oh, I just knew that place would be too posh for the likes of me."

"Oh dear." Sylvia replied, dropping her knitting in her lap. "I'm so sorry, Donna. But, never mind. You'll find something you like better, I'm sure."

"What's this?" Wilf said, coming into the room. "You lost your job! How could you lose your job? Never mind." He shooed a hand at her. "I don't wanna' know. I just knew you'd make a hash of it. Always larking about. You can fold towels, but you can't catalog a few dusty artifacts? What's wrong with you, Donna? That was a good position. Good money. And you blew it."

"I didn't blow anything. I was trapped inside a lift. How could I possibly know that was going to happen?" Donna shouted at him. "Do you think I planned it? Blew a fuse just to get out of work?"

Wilf shook his head. "Knowing you, anything's possible. You know what I think? I think you need to get out, Donna. Go live rough for a while. On the streets. Then maybe you'll appreciate what you have here. And start toeing the line, get a proper job, earn proper wages."

"Oh no, Dad. You don't mean that." Sylvia said, dropping her knitting and going to her daughter. "Donna, he doesn't mean what he says. He's just upset."

"Oh don't I now?" Wilf roared in anger. "I can't stand the sight of her anymore."

"Oh yeah?" Donna said, trying keep in her tears, "Well, maybe I'm tired of you. Always nagging me, bossing me around. Coming home from the Lion every night, stinking of beer. Spending my wages on card games and buying rounds for your pensioner friends."

"So what if I am? I'm entitled. I worked my whole life." Wilf said defensively.

"I know why you're always at me, granddad. 'Cos you were a failure. What's the best job you ever had, after the war? I'll tell you. Selling newspapers on the street. And you were lucky to have that, from what I've been told. You couldn't even get your own stall."

"Why you..." Wilf raised a hand to Donna.

Suddenly, everyone froze in place. The gray skinned alien with the flashy outfit and scarf appeared as a hologram in the middle of the Noble's lounge. This time his sparkling jumpsuit was a deep shade of teal blue.

"Greetings once again, comrades!" He bowed. "As you know, I'm your presenter, Lahkrow. Yes, it's time for the voting to begin. Get out those tabutrons! We'll tally the votes and be back after these brief public service messages from the office of the Aegis."

Lahkrow returned. Big numbers came to life over the heads of Donna and her family. The "Death" numbers over Wilf and Donna began to climb, while Sylvia's numbers were fairly even between "Live" and "Die."

The presenter dramatically held a hand to his ear. "I've just been given word that the office of the Aegis has tabulated the results of the voting. You, the viewer, have decided the fate of the Noble family. Now, without further ado, back to tonight's episode of, "They're Only Human!"

And just like that, the presenter vanished. Immediately, Donna and her family began moving and speaking, as if nothing at all had happened to them.

"I should've taken my belt to you more, little girl. If you were on fire and I had a hose, I'd wash the car with it, first." Wilf stalked up to Donna, hand still raised.

Donna drew back until she was pressed up against the table next to the sofa. A modern lamp with a thin silver metal base topped with three white balls. As her grandfather was bringing down his hand, Donna instinctively grabbed the lamp.

"Oh no you don't. You ain't hittin' me." She shouted, swinging her arm backwards, ready to aim the lamp at his head.

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