“God, it stinks,” Rose complained. “You all right?”
“Yeah, I'm laughing,” Danny said sarcastically. “Which way do we go?”
“Just go straight ahead. Keep going till I say so,” Zach answered.
Jefferson shut the entrance behind him just as they could hear the Ood break through door 25. The group crawled off on their hands and knees.
“Not your best angle, Danny,” Rose commented.
“Oi, stop it!”
“I don't know,” Toby said, “it could be worse.”
“Get your eyes off my ass, Toby, or I will shoot you,” Lilith warned.
“Straight on until you find junction seven point one. Keep breathing. I'm feeding you air. I've got you.”
When they reached the said junction point, they all stopped crawling. “We're at seven point one, sir,” Danny told Zach.
“Okay, I've got you. I'm just aerating the next section.”
Lilith could vaguely hear everyone arguing, but the pounding in her head suddenly became excruciating. She clutched her ears for a moment before it faded back to a dull ache.
The Doctor was trying to contact her and it freaking hurt.
“I've got to oxygenate the next section,” Zach was saying. “Now, keep calm or it's going to feel worse.” A loud bang echoed through the tunnels. “The junction in Habitation Five's been opened. It must be the Ood. They're in the tunnels!”
“Well, open the gate!”
“I've got to get the air in!”
“Just open it! Sir.”
“Where are they?” Rose asked. “Are they close?
“I don't know. I can't tell. I can't see them. The computer doesn't register Ood as proper life forms.”
“Whose idea was that?”
Lilith snorted. “Probably the people who enslaved them.” Danny shot her a look. “Right, not the best time to be debating ethics.”
“Open the gate!”
The gate slid up behind Danny and they hurried through. “Danny, turn left. Immediate left.”
“The Ood, sir. Can't you trap them? Cut off the air?” Jefferson wondered.
“Not without cutting off yours. Danny, turn right. Go right! Go fast, Dan. They're going to catch up.”
Jefferson stopped crawling. “I'll maintain defensive position.”
“You can't stop!” Rose protested.
“Miss Tyler, that's my job. You've got your task; now see to it.”
“Rose, the quicker we can get to Ood Habitation, the quicker we can back to the Doctor,” Lilith said, gently.
Jefferson braced himself on the sides of the tunnel as the other four kept crawling. The sound of gunfire cut through the thin air.
“Eight point two. Open eight point two. Zach!” Danny shouted. “Open eight point two!”
“I've got to aerate it!” Zach said.
“Open it now!” Danny started pounding on the gate.
“Cut it out, Danny Boy. You’re not helping,” Lilith snapped.
“Zach, get it open!” Toby shouted.
The pain peaked as the Doctor tried to telepathically reach out for Lilith again and she let out a strangled yelp.
“Lil, are you okay?” Rose asked.
“The Doctor,” Lilith ground out, “something’s wrong. He’s in trouble."
Zach’s voice crackled over the comm. “Report Officer John Maynard Jefferson PKD deceased with honors. 43 K two point one.”
“Zach, we're at the final junction, nine point two,” Danny said. "And, er, if my respects could be on record. He saved our lives.”
“Noted. Opening nine point two.”
An Ood was waiting on the other side.
Lilith swore in Gallifreyan.
“Lower nine point two!” Rose cried. “Hurry, Zach!”
“We can't go back! The gang point's sealed off. We're stuck!”
Rose looked up, then pushed open a floor grating as the Ood struggled with the gate. “Come on! Up!” Lilith climbed up behind Rose, followed by Danny. “Come on! Toby, come on!”
“Help me! Oh my God. Help me!”
Rose and Danny pulled Toby out of the tunnel just as a nearby door opened. Ood marched down the hall towards them.
Lilith pulled out her blaster and shot the first to Ood. “Open the damn door!” she yelled at Danny and shot another one.
“Lilith, come on!” Rose grabbed her wrist when Danny got the door open, but Lilith pulled away, shooting another Ood.
“Get to Ood Habitation and fry their brains, Tyler,” Lilith ordered.
Rose hesitated. “We already lost Mister Jefferson, I won’t lose you!”
Lilith blasted the next Ood to enter the hallway. “Sonic blaster doesn’t run out of ammo. Now go!”
Rose ran, leaving the door open behind her. Lilith backed away slowly and shot every Ood to walk through the door. “I just hope it doesn’t run out of battery,” she muttered to herself.
Out of nowhere, the Ood started to collapse. Danny must’ve succeeded. Lilith sprinted down the hall and made her way to the drilling area. She quickly caught up with Rose, Danny, and Toby. When they got to the control room, Rose ran straight to the comm. “Doctor, are you there? Doctor, Ida can you hear me?”
“The comms are still down,” Zach said. “I can patch them through the central desk and boost the signal. Just give me a minute.” He typed furiously on the console in front of the monitor.
“Doctor, are you there? Doctor, Ida can you hear me? Are you there, Doctor?”
Static. Then, “He's gone.”
Rose face fell. “What do you mean, he's gone?”
“He fell into the pit. And I don't know how deep it is. Miles and miles and miles.”
“But what do you mean, he fell?” she asked, quietly.
“I couldn't stop him. He said your name.”
Zach took the comm unit from Rose, who stumbled back. Lilith pulled her into a hug. “It’s gonna be okay,” the Time Lady whispered to her friend.
Rose sniffed. “How? He’s gone. God, Lil, he’s gone and I never…”
“Hey,” Lilith held her at arm’s length, “give me a few hours and I can fix my vortex manipulator enough to get me to the TARDIS. I can go get that useless lump of yours and we’ll all go home.”
“Five and a half hours.” Rose laughed weakly. “Always wait five and a half hours.”
Lilith chuckled. “First thing we’re doing, by the way, is going to Chicago and I’m getting us Starbucks.”
“Danny, Toby, close down the feed links,” Zach ordered. “Get the retrotropes online, then get to the rocket and strap yourselves in. We're leaving.”
“I'm not going,” Rose said.
“Neither am I,” Lilith agreed.
Zach glanced back at them. “Rose, Lilith, there's space for you.”
“No, we’re going to wait for the Doctor. Just like he waited for us.”
“I'm sorry,” he said gently, “but he's dead.”
“You’re wrong!” Lilith hissed. “I’d know if he was really dead!”
Rose’s eyes were watering. “You don't know him. 'Cause he's not. I'm telling you, he's not. And even if he was, how could I leave him all on his own, all the way down there? No, I'm going to stay.”
Zach looked at her with pity. “Then I apologize for this. Danny, Toby? Make them secure.”
Toby grabbed Rose and Danny grabbed Lilith. “Let go of me, you greasy haired creep!” Lilith shouted.
“No, no. No! No! No! Let me go!” screamed Rose as she struggled. “Get off me! I'm not leaving!”
Zach injected Rose with a sedative, and she passed out. He turned to Lilith who spat in his face. “Try me, bastard.” She ripped her hand out of Danny’s grip and slammed on the button on her vortex manipulator, praying to whatever benevolent deity was listening that it would work.
In a flash of light, Lilith disappeared and reappeared just outside the TARDIS. “Huh, guess we didn’t need to wait that long, after all. Thank Rassilon.” She breathed. “You okay, Old Girl?”
‘I will be fine, Dear One.’ The TARDIS assured her.
“Now, where are we?” she asked.
‘My Thief is just over there.’ Lilith squinted through the darkness. ‘Be silent when he converses with the Beast, Dear One.’ The TARDIS warned her. ‘You must let the Thief speak on his own.’ She nodded and stepped forward.
It was dark as night. Even with her Gallifreyan night vision, it was near impossible to see. Lilith scanned the area looking for some sign of the Doctor. She saw him laying face down a few feet away. “Doctor!” she cried and ran to him.
Rolling him onto his back, she saw that the glass on his helmet was broken. “Doctor, are you okay? Wake up! Can you hear me?”
The Doctor gasped and scrambled to his feet. “I’m breathing,” he realized and took his helmet off. “Air cushion to support the fall. You can breath down here, Ida,” he said into the comm. “Can you hear me, Ida?"
Lilith crossed her arms and waited. “Ahem.”
He looked at her, eyes wide. “Lilith? How did you get down here?”
She held up her wrist, showing him her vortex manipulator. “Apparently, if you hit it hard enough, it works.”
A rumbling sound reached their ears and they both looked up. “The rocket.”
“They’ve got Rose,” Lilith sighed. She looked up at the Doctor. “We’ll get to her, don’t worry.”
The Doctor said nothing. He just shined his flashlight on the walls, revealing cave paintings. “The history of some big battle,” he mused. “Man against Beast. I don't know if you're getting this, Ida. Hope so. Anyway, they defeated the Beast and imprisoned it.”
The light shined over the image of two urns. Lilith turned and noted that there were two golden urns sitting on marble pedestals. She tapped the Doctor and pointed them out.
“Or maybe that's the key...” he continued, touching one of the urns. Both of the gold objects started to glow. “Or the gate, or the bars.”
A growling sound came from the darkness that was starting to fade away. An impossibly big horned creature woke and stared at Lilith and the Doctor. It was chained to the wall by its horns and limbs.
Lilith swore in Gallifreyan.
“I accept that you exist. I don't have to accept what you are, but you're physical existence, I'll give you that,” the Doctor said. The Beast snarled. “But I don't understand. I was expected down here. I was given a safe landing and air. You need me for something. What for?”
The Beast tried to lunge forward, but was stopped by the chains.
“Have I got to, I don't know, beg an audience? Or is there a ritual? Some sort of incantation or summons or spell? All these things I don't believe in, are they real? Speak to me! Tell me!” the Doctor demanded, but the Beast just snarled again.
“You won't talk. Or you can't talk. Oh, hold on, wait a minute, just let me. Oh! No. Yes! No. Think it through.” He frowned. “You spoke before. I heard your voice. An intelligent voice. No, more than that. Brilliant. But, looking at you now, all I can see… is the Beast. The animal. Just the body. You're just the body, the physical form. What's happened to your mind, hmm? Where's it gone? Where's that intelligence?”
It hit Lilith at the same time the Doctor figured it out. “Oh, no.”
The rocket. Toby was still possessed.
Lilith desperately tried to reach out to Rose mentally. Nothing. Something about the pit interfered with any telepathic communication. The Doctor turned his attention back to the Beast.
“You were imprisoned, long time ago. Before the universe, after, sideways, in between, doesn't matter. The prison is perfect. It's absolute, it's eternal. Oh, yes! Open the prison, the gravity field collapses! This planet falls into the black hole! You escape, you die. Brilliant! But that's just the body. The body is trapped, that's all. The devil is an idea. In all those civilizations, just an idea. But an idea is hard to kill. An idea could escape. The mind, the mind of the great Beast. The mind can escape.”
The Doctor’s eyes went wide. “Oh, but that's it! You didn't give me air, your jailers did! They set this up all those years ago! They need me alive, because if you're escaping, then I've got to stop you. If I destroy your prison, your body is destroyed. Your mind with it.”
The Doctor raised a rock to smash one of the urns, and then drops it again. “But then you're clever enough to use this whole system against me. If I destroy this planet, I destroy the gravity field. The rocket. The rocket loses protection and falls into the black hole. I have to sacrifice Rose.”
Lilith’s heart stopped. The Valiant Child who will die in battle so very soon.
No, Rose doesn’t die. Rose can’t die.
“So, that's the trap. Or the test, or the final judgment, I don't know. But if I kill you, I kill her.” Lilith could see the conflict in her father’s eyes and it broke her heart. The Beast seemed to laugh. “Except,” the Doctor said, putting his hands behind his back in smart-ass lecture mode, “that implies in this big grand scheme of gods and devils that she's just a victim. But I've seen a lot of this universe. I've seen fake gods and bad gods and demi-gods and would-be gods, and out of all that, out of that whole pantheon, if I believe in one thing… just one thing, I believe in her!”
He smashed both urns. “This is your freedom! Free to die! You're going into that black hole and I'm riding with you!” The Doctor pulled Lilith into a tight hug. ‘I’m sorry, Lilith. I’m so sorry,’ he whispered into her mind.
‘I forgive you. I love you.’
The entire planet shook as it was being pulled towards the black hole. Lilith and the Doctor were thrown against something hard. And wooden. The Doctor laughed with glee. “Oh, yes!”
The two of them launched themselves into the ship and dashed to the console. Pulling levers and pushing buttons, they went up to the entrance to the pit to get Ida, then materialized in mid-space. Lilith flicked a switch, drawing the nearby rocket towards the TARDIS.
The Doctor set up contact with the rocket. “Sorry about the hijack, Captain. This is the good ship TARDIS,” he said. “Now, first thing's first. Have you got a Rose Tyler on board?”
“I'm here! It's me!” Rose shouted. “Oh my God. Where are you?”
“Lilith and I are just towing you home. Gravity schmavity. Our people practically invented black holes.”
“The actually did, you know,” Lilith said. “In a couple of minutes, we'll be nice and safe. Oh, and Captain? How about we do a swap? Say, if you give us Rose Tyler, we'll give you Ida Scott?”
“She's alive!” Zach cheered.
“Yeah!” the Doctor confirmed with a grin. “Bit of oxygen starvation, but she should be all right.” He paused and sobered. “I couldn't save the Ood. I only had time for one trip. They went down with the planet.”
The console beeped. “Entering clear space,” Lilith declared. “End of the line. Mission closed.”
A few minutes later, Rose ran into the TARDIS and threw herself into the Doctor’s arms. The Doctor squeezed her tightly, lifting her off the ground.
Lilith made a gagging noise as he put Rose down and kissed her. “Get a room!” She went over to the console. “Zach? We'll be off, now. Have a good trip home.”
The Doctor joined her. “And the next time you get curious about something. Oh, what's the point? You'll just go blundering in. The human race.”
“But Doctor, what did you find down there? That creature, what was it?”
“I don't know. Never did decipher that writing. But that's good. Day I know everything? Might as well stop.” He smiled at Lilith.
‘Cause that’s gonna happen,’ Lilith thought back.
“What do you think it was, really?” Rose asked.
Lilith bit her lip and waited for him to respond. “I think we beat it. That's good enough for me.”
“It said I was going to die in battle.”
“Then it lied,” the Doctor said, seriously. “Right, onwards, upwards. Ida? See you again, maybe.”
“I hope so.”
“And thanks, boys!” Rose called.
“Hang on though, you never really said. You three, who are you?”
Lilith grinned at her companions. “Oh,” she answered, “we’re the stuff of legends.”