"Donna?" The Doctor began quietly and calmly. "You know what I think?"
"No, but I have a feeling you're about to tell me to..." She replied, heaving a martyred sigh.
"I think now would be a really good time to...RUN!"
Shouting the last word, the Doctor grabbed his friend by the hand and fled down the damp, dimly lit concrete tunnel. Behind them came charging a large green, multi-legged worm. With dozens of needle sharp teeth showing from its gaping mouth. It hissed like a snake as its twenty little legs sought to catch up with the two time travelers. The worm suddenly let out a long pig-like squeal.
"What did it just say?" Donna asked. "I couldn't quite make it out."
"Nothing important!" Shouted the Doctor.
"Don't give me that! I heard it mention my name. What did it say?" Donna demanded.
"Well, Donna...it's hard to put it in human terms, but erm—I'm afraid it translates into something rather dirty. About you. The TARDIS doesn't like to translate bad language. If you ask me, I think she's a bit of an old prude, sometimes."
Donna surreptitiously put her free hand behind her back and gave the worm a two-fingered salute. Apparently, that didn't need the TARDIS' translation circuits to get its point across, because the creature let out another infuriated squeal.
"Donna..." The Doctor asked apprehensively, looking at her sideways. "Did you just do something?"
"Er—no." Donna fibbed. "Why?"
"Cos' he just made an very unpleasant comment about your mother. Although, can't say I entirely disagree with him..."
"Oy! Watch it, spaceman!" She scolded, slapping him in the arm.
She heard the creature getting closer. Then Donna thought of something. "Hang on, Doctor. I thought you said these Quirm were supposed to be big on courtesy and etiquette?"
"Yes, yes I did. I also said that the Quirm's are very sensitive creatures. You'll note the use of the word very, Donna. As in very important that you don't upset them by making impolite comments about their tastes in décor. In particular, the bespoke furnishings and modern art in the Lord Mayor's official chambers." The Doctor panted, his long, brown trousered legs and scruffy white booted feet striving to stay one step ahead of the angry creature. It's teeth nearly caught the edge of the Doctor's long coat, flaring out behind him as he ran.
"All I said was, that chair looked like toilet seat. And that the painting looked like someone smeared poo all over the canvas. Next thing I know, the mayor wants to eat me." Donna retorted indignantly. "That's not what I'd call being sensitive. That's...being... blinking... psychotic!" Donna was beginning to huff from the exertion of running..
"Donna. That painting back there? It'is the Quirm's equivalent to a Hockney or a Warhol." The Doctor explained, speaking to her as if they were discussing art over cappuccinos at Costa Coffee, rather than running from a giant worm down some dank sewer. "'Morning Moods' by Egben Flapbagger, is considered a national treasure. It's worth ten million sqadoodles! Oooh, I do love saying that. Sqa-doo-dle. Rolls off the tongue..."
"Ten million what?"
"In earth currency, that's about fifty quid. And you wonder why the mayor got so upset with you?"
"Well, if a politician can't take any criticism..." Donna responded dryly.
They made it back to the TARDIS just in time. Donna was never so glad to see the blue box, with it's windows and "POLICE" sign glowing invitingly in the subdued light of the tunnel. The Doctor, key in hand, unlocked it, and shut the door firmly behind them. Just as the worm slammed into it, sinking its teeth into the wood. The TARDIS rocked slightly as the enormous worm gnashed its teeth on the ship, worrying it like a dog with a bone.
"You're right about one thing, though." The Doctor said, as he trotted over to the main console, Donna following. They both staggered and had to grab on to a hand rail, as the worm gave the TARDIS another angry shake.
"What's that, then?" Donna asked, raising her eyebrows in surprise.
"That chair really did look like a toilet seat." The Doctor grinned up at her, as he bustled about.
Concentrating on the console, his hands busily punched buttons, turned dials and flipped switches.
"We can't take off with that Quirm attached to the ship!' The Doctor shouted.
"Why? What would happen?" Donna shouted back, hanging on to a hand rail for dear life, as the TARDIS shook and vibrated around her. "Will the universe implode or something?"
"What makes you think that?" Came the Doctor's puzzled answer.
The Doctor staggered over to the monitor screen, which began flashing the intricate geometric circles which was traditional old high Galifreyan script. Reading it, he continued, "I mean, technically we could go into flight, but it would send the Quirm's Lord Mayor spinning off into the time vortex. Very messy business. Though to be quite honest, I don't think anyone would even notice he was gone. According to the Daily Sticky-Note, he's a notorious jobsworth. Still, I suppose someone might miss him. Wouldn't want to spark off an intergalactic incident, would we?"
"Yeah. I...suppose." Donna nodded, though her face showed that she really wasn't sure what he was on about. She had that face a lot, since she met the Doctor. "But, what are you going to do? We can't just stay here in some outer space sewer forever!"
"I'm going to do... this!" Giving her a proud, boyish grin, the Doctor reached over with a flourish and flipped a switch.
The control room lights dimmed briefly, as the Quirm gave a high pitched squeal. The shaking stopped, and on the monitor screen, they could see it running away back towards its office.
"Ooh, dear! I'm afraid the Lord Mayor just said something terribly rude again. I'm so sorry about that." The Doctor murmured apologetically, giving the console an affectionate pat.
"No problem. Didn't understand a word." Donna said, standing behind him now. "I've probably heard worse down to the pub on football night."
"I was talking to the TARDIS, Donna."
"Oh. OK." She nodded, as if she knew that all along. "So how did you get rid of him?"
"I just...what? WHAT! You're not supposed to do that...Whoa!"
The Doctor didn't get to finish his sentence, as the TARDIS' central column abruptly lit up, it's green glow making the Doctor's face look sickly. With a sudden grating noise the transparent column began to rhythmically wheeze up and down. The ship gave a great lurch, causing Donna to fall against the Doctor's back, and the Doctor to fall down on his bum, sending Donna sprawling on her back across the metal grating of the control deck.
"She's in flight!" An astonished Doctor gasped, as he heaved himself up off the floor and jumped to the controls. Running his fingers through his already disheveled hair, he stared at the console in disbelief. "What's she playing at?"
"Yes, Doctor. I did sort of notice that. From down here. On the floor." Donna said sarcastically.
"Sorry, Donna." He apologized, helping her up off the floor. "You alright?"
"Cheers. I'm fine, yeah. What's going on?"
"Dunno'. We seem to be going backwards in time, though." The Doctor shrugged.
"So where's the ship taking us?" She peered suspiciously at the TARDIS console.
"I haven't the foggiest." The Doctor said wryly, as he dashed about the console. As suddenly as it started, the central column ground to a halt, and the TARDIS landed with a final thump. "But," he grinned, looking up at her, "I've a feeling we're about to find out."
The TARDIS door creaked open and the Doctor stepped cautiously outside. Donna followed. All the Doctor would tell her was that they seemed to have landed in a desert environment. She'd done a quick change from her jumper and jeans, to a light blue cotton blouse and some khaki coloured trousers. The Doctor's only concession to the weather was to leave the long coat behind.
It was pitch dark and quite chilly. They were in some sort of large tent. Donna hadn't expected that. Shivering and rubbing her arms, she decided that the Doctor may have gotten things a bit wrong again. Knowing him, they'd probably landed in Atilla the Hun's private tent out on the barren steppes somewhere.
Sniffing, Donna noted that there was a strange smell of roasting meat in the air. But not like any meat that was familiar to her. The Doctor was frowning, his expression suddenly wary. That wasn't a good sign. She watched as he reached into his suit pocket and pulled out a small, powerful torch. The light's narrow beam penetrated every corner of the tent, as the Doctor waved it around. OK, Donna admitted, not Canada then. Not unless they were doing some sort of remake of Lawrence of Arabia. Then the torch's beam landed on something piled on the floor beside an overturned desk and chair. To her, it appeared at first like nothing more than a discarded pile of rags. Then Donna realized what she was looking at.
"Oh my God!" she gasped, putting her hand to her mouth.
"Don't look, Donna." The Doctor said softly, as he gently but firmly turned her away from the grisly sight.
It was what was left of a man. Now merely a heap of charred flesh and bones. The corpse looked as if it had once been wearing a long robe and head scarf. Only the fabric was ripped to shreds, where it hadn't been completely burned away. Further along were two more burnt and mangled bodies, their blackened skeletal fingers still clutching enormous curved swords.