Chapter Thirteen

After getting the others and making sure the TARDIS was secure, the Doctor briefed everyone on who Peri was and what they had found so far. As they stepped out into the corridor, they called Peri's name and the Doctor told her it was him. They moved through the castle but they didn't see anything except webs and webbing everyplace. There was an eerie quiet and so far they hadn't seen any sign of people or dead bodies. The Doctor stopped them after several minutes.

"I don't like this," the Doctor said to his companions.

"Perhaps the spider creature has gone below," Vastra said. "Somewhere dark, yes? Most spiders like the dark?"

"Yes, most likely," the Doctor said nodding. "Unfortunately, I've never been here personally so I don't know the layout of the place. If there is a spider here, it could ambush us."

Older Michelle stepped up to him. She reached into her pocket and brought out a long black device that resembled a handheld video game. She held on to it while she reached into her pocket and pulled out a long black cord with a large suction cord at the end of it. She plugged the end of the cord into the device and walked several paces away from the others. They watched while she affixed the suction cup to the floor and began to fiddle with buttons on the handheld device. The Doctor walked up to her and noticed there was a tiny monitor along with a keypad and some buttons.

"What's this?" he said to her.

"Echo location," Older Michelle said. "It works like sonar. It sends out a sonic pulse through the suction cup and brings back a map of the surrounding area. We could find out how big this place really is."

"Brilliant," the Doctor said as everyone gathered around her to watch. "Where did you get this?"

"You made it," Older Michelle said, glancing at him.

"Really?" the Doctor said, now even more interested in the device.

Older Michelle finished calibrating it and pushed the enter button. They heard a loud staticky noise and the monitor went blank for several moments before a 3D representation of the parts of the castle below them appeared. The Doctor studied it with Older Michelle.

"There's a cavernous area at the very bottom of the castle," Older Michelle said, pointing. "Maybe that's a dungeon?"

"Worth a look," the Doctor said, nodding. "Okay, Jack, River. I want you at the front of the group so you can provide protection while we head down. Vastra, Jenny, Strax and Shana, protect our flank and everyone else stay in between them and keep your eyes open, both around and above. Shelly, stay near me, I want to keep referring to this map."

They headed downwards. River and Jack led the group, their hands resting on the guns in their holsters while they kept their eyes open. They found the stairs and slowly made their way down. The stairs twisted around a central pillar so everyone was cautious in case something was up ahead of them. So far, there was still no sign of anyone, only webbing. When they got to the next level, the Doctor stopped them and had Older Michelle take another quick reading for an updated map. When it was finished, they continued on, the Doctor and John calling out to Peri, telling her who they were so she would come out if she was in hiding.

They kept going down until they reached the bottom level which was indeed a dungeon. Now instead of white marble and stained glass, there was dirt, dankness and jail cells. There were several unlit wooden torches on the walls around them and the Doctor used his sonic to light them as they walked down a narrow corridor filled with jail cells.

"Bit Count Dracula, isn't it?" Grace said while they walked. "I mean, this is another planet and it looks like a medieval dungeon."

"You'd be surprised at how uniform most dungeons are across the universe," Jack said, glancing over his shoulder at her.

"Oh? Expert on dungeons then?" Donna said to him.

"Um…seen my share, yeah," Jack said.

"Doctor, wait, there's something inside this cell," Martha said, pointing to one off to her left. "They look like cocoons."

The Doctor moved to her side. Everyone kept close watch on their surroundings while the Doctor tried the cell door. It creaked open and the Doctor grabbed a flaming torch beside the cell and he, Martha, Grace and John moved inside the stuffy, dank cell. The cocoons were affixed to the walls and a couple of human sized cocoons were lying on the dirt floor. The Doctor held out the torch, illuminating on affixed to the wall. John reached into his pocket and found a penknife. He carefully cut a slit from the top down to where he guessed chin level was and tested the webbing with his fingers, making sure he could grip it without getting stuck. When he found he could pull his fingers back without any trouble, cut another slit horizontally to the first, making a cross. He them peeled back webbing and stepped back when they saw a woman's face. She was pale and emaciated and the Doctor swallowed hard as he stepped forward for a closer look.

"It's not Peri," he said after examining her.

Grace reached into the webbing and found the jugular vein, testing the pulse.

"She's alive," Grace said. "Barely."

"Right, time to cut her out of there then," John said.

He used his penknife and the Doctor used his sonic to cut open the webbing and free the person inside.

"Does the human need assistance?" Strax said as the others stood at the doorway to the cell.

"Yes but we're gonna cut her free first," the Doctor said to him. "And if she's still alive…" he added, glancing at the other cocoons.

"So is this food for the spider?" Martha said while they worked to free the woman. "Spiders do keep their prey paralyzed and alive so they can feed on them."

"Most likely," the Doctor said. "I just hope we're not too late to help her and the other victims."

"Do you think one of them could be Peri then?" Wilf asked him.

"I don't know. If she's here, I hope she's still alive," the Doctor said, glancing back at him.

They finished cutting the woman out of the cocoon and John, Grace and Martha eased her onto the ground. Once she was on the floor of the cell, Grace took the torch from the Doctor and she and Martha worked together to check her vital signs and see what could be done for her while the Doctor and John freed the next person.

"You're right, she's barely alive," Martha said to Grace while she checked her pulse. "I think we need to move her back to the TARDIS med bay as soon as we can."

"Do you see any bite marks though?" Grace said, looking the woman over.

"Not so far," Martha said, moving her long, matted blonde hair back to get a better look at her neck. "If she was subdued without being bitten and paralyzed, she must have been ambused or she put up one hell of a struggle."

"It doesn't look like she struggled though," Grace said. "Her arms are down at her sides and she looks peaceful and there's no bruises or contusions."

"Maybe she was gassed?" Donna offered.

They looked up and noticed everyone except Jack, River and Shana had come inside the cell. Donna was standing by them, studying the woman.

"That could be a possibility as well," Martha said, nodding. "Or use a stun gun like on Star Trek. Perhaps spiders here don't resort to biting."

Grace decided to check the woman's eyes. She carefully pulled up the right lid and gasped. The Doctor heard her gasp and stopped what he was doing.

"What is it? What's wrong?" he said to Grace.

Grace rolled her eyes.

"A little ironic, coming from me. But her eyes aren't human," Grace said.

The Doctor chuckled as he walked over to her.

"Yes, you'd know all about that," he teased as he knelt down.

"Grace held the torch close while the Doctor examined the eyes. They were completely black.

"John, wait a tic on that bloke," he said to John who was still trying to cut a man out of his cocoon.

John stopped and came up behind him. The Doctor examined the eye before he closed it and parted her lips. Grace pulled back the bottom lip and she raised her eyebrow when she saw the woman had fangs.

"Is this normal on this planet?" Grace said to the Doctor.

"Dunno. My guess is no," the Doctor said. "I'm also guessing these cocoons aren't for storage, I think they're changing into something else."

"Doctor, we got company," Jack said.

Everyone turned around and looked at Jack and River. Both of them had their guns drawn and Shana was barking furiously. The Doctor raced to the cell door and groaned when he saw several car sized spiders coming down the dungeon steps, heading straight for them.

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