There was the sound of a ship's horn and a prow came crashing into the console room.
The Doctor picked up a life saver that had fallen onto the grating. It said 'Titanic'.
Lilith's eyes widened as they met her father's. "Oh, damn."
The Doctor returned to the console and adjusted the controls. The TARDIS walls glowed as she repaired herself, pushing the ship back outside. Lilith pulled a lever and they materialized inside the ship in a closet.
Outside, people in Edwardian dress were enjoying a champagne buffet. A band was playing a slow version of Jingle Bells. Around the room were golden skinned statues of angels. One moved as the Doctor and Lilith walked past. Lilith flinched.
“They’re not statues,” the Doctor reminded her. “They’re automatons.”
“I know that,” Lilith snapped. “Stupid stone bastards ruined angels for me.” She wandered over to a window and looked out. “Ah, Dad?”
He came over and looked out the window too. They were in space.
“Attention all passengers. The Titanic is now in orbit above Sol Three, also known as Earth. Population: Human. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Christmas.”
Lilith sighed. “I’m going to have to put on a dress, aren’t I?”
“If it makes you feel any better, I’ll be putting on a bowtie.”
They both went back to the TARDIS to change. Lilith put on a knee length TARDIS blue dress and pulled her hair up into a ponytail. The Doctor changed into a black suit and a bowtie. Lilith had to hold back a laugh at seeing the Tenth Doctor in her linear Doctor’s signature accessory.
Back on the Titanic, they walked passed a recording of a bald man with a thin moustache sitting behind a desk. “Max Capricorn Cruise liners. The fastest, the farthest, the best. And I should know because my name is Max.” His gold tooth glinted in the light. The screen returned to the logo, and the lady singer crooned Winter Wonderland.
“Merry Christmas, sir, miss,” the steward said.
They passed a few couples dancing to the music and the Doctor went up to one of the angels. “Evening. Passenger fifty-seven. Terrible memory. Remind me. You would be?”
“Information: Heavenly Host supplying tourist information,” the angel responded.
The Doctor nodded. “Good, so, tell me, because I'm an idiot, where are we from?”
“Information: The Titanic is en route from the planet Sto in the Cassavalian Belt. The purpose of the cruise is to experience primitive cultures.”
“Titanic. Who thought of the name?”
“Information: It was chosen as the most famous vessel of the planet Earth.”
“Did they tell you why it was famous?” Lilith questioned.
“Information: All designations are chosen by Mister Max Capricorn, president of Max-Max-Max…” The Host twitched and its voice pitch rose. The steward noticed and hurried over.
“Ooh, bit of a glitch.” The Doctor frowned.
“It's all right, sir, we can handle this.” The steward waved over two more officers, who switched off the Host before carrying it away. “Software problem, that's all. Leave it with us, sir. Merry Christmas.”
Lilith looked to her right and noticed a man walking into a waitress. She went over to help. “You'll be sorry when it comes off your wages, sweetheart,” the man said. “Staffed by idiots. No wonder Max Capricorn's going down the drain.”
Lilith picked up a few of the pieces of glass. “Cuidado. Here we go.”
“Thank you, miss,” the waitress said. “I can manage.”
“Never said you couldn't. I'm Lilith Smith, by the way.”
“Astrid, miss. Astrid Peth.”
“Nice to meet you, Astrid Peth.” Lilith smiled. “Merry Christmas.”
Astrid smiled back. “Merry Christmas, Miss Smith.”
Lilith made a face. “Oh, none of the ‘miss’ crap. Just Lilith is fine.”
“You enjoying the cruise?” Astrid asked.
“It’s fine, all things considered. Not really my scene, though. Too many stuck up wealthy snobs for my liking. But Dad likes a bit of adventure, so here we are.”
“You’re here with your father?”
“Yep, just the two of us. A friend of our recently left and he got tired of sticking in one place. What about you? You’re a long way from home, being from Sto.”
Astrid picked up the last of the broken glass and stood. “Doesn't feel that different. I spent three years working at the spaceport diner, travelled all the way here and I'm still waiting on tables.”
“No shore leave?”
“We're not allowed.” They moved over to the window with a view of the Earth. “They can't afford the insurance. I just wanted to try it, just once. I used to watch the ships heading out to the stars and I always dreamt of— It sounds daft.”
“You dream of another sky. New sun, new air, new life. There’s a whole universe just teeming with life. Why stand still when so much to see out there?”
“S-so, you travel a lot?”
Lilith grinned. “All the time. Just for fun. Well, that's the plan. Never quite works out the way we plan, though."
“Must be rich.”
“We haven't got a penny. Stowaways,” she whispered, conspiratorially.
Astrid’s eyes widened. “Kidding.”
“How did you get on board?”
“Accident.” Lilith shrugged. “We've got this, sort of, ship thing. Dad was just rebuilding her and left the defenses down, the idiot. We bumped into the Titanic and here we are. It’s a party, he thought, so why not?”
“I should report you,” Astrid said.
“Go on then.” Lilith smirked.
The waitress winked. “I'll get you a drink on the house.”
Over at another table, the Doctor had joined a couple wearing purple cowboy outfits. She walked over and stood behind his chair. “Uber rich snobs giving you a hard time?” she asked.
“We're not good enough for that lot,” the man said. “They think we should be in steerage.”
“Well, can't have that, can we?” With his back towards the people, the Doctor aimed his sonic screwdriver at the champagne bottle in the bucket on their table. The cork popped out, spraying their expensive clothes with alcohol.
“Did you do that?” the woman asked.
The Doctor smiled. “Maybe.”
“Oh, we like you.”
“We do,” The man agreed. “I'm Morvin Van Hoff. This is my good woman, Foon.” They shook the Doctor’s hand.
“Foon. Hello, I'm the Doctor and this is my daughter, Lilith.”
“Oh, I'm going to need a doctor, time I've finished with that buffet," Foon said. “Have a buffalo wing. They must be enormous, these buffalo. So many wings.”
“Actually, buffalo don’t—”
The loudspeaker cut off Lilith. “Attention please. Shore leave tickets Red Six Seven now activated. Red Six Seven.”
“Red Six Seven, that's us. Are you Red Six Seven?”
The Doctor shrugged. “Might as well be.”
“Come on, then. We're going to Earth.”
A man in a tweed suit was holding up a sign. “Red Six Seven. Red Six Seven. This way, fast as you can.”
Astrid came over. “I got you that drink.”
Lilith grinned. “And I got you a gift. This way.” She pulled the waitress over to stand next to the Doctor. He handed them each a teleport bracelet.
“I'll get the sack,” Astrid protested.
Lilith nudged her. “Oh, come on. Brand new sky.”
“To repeat,” man in tweed announced, “I am Mister Copper, the ship's historian, and I shall be taking you to old London town in the country of UK, ruled over by good King Wenceslas. Now, human beings worship the great god Santa, a creature with fearsome claws, and his wife Mary. And every Christmas Eve, the people of UK go to war with the country of Turkey. They then eat the Turkey people for Christmas dinner like savages.”
Lilith had to bite her fist to keep from bursting into laughter.
“Excuse me. Sorry, sorry, but, er, where did you get all this from?” the Doctor asked.
“Well, I have a first class degree in Earthonomics,” Mr. Copper said. “Now, stand by.”
A little, spikey red alien ran up. “And me! And me! Red Six Seven.”
“Well, take a bracelet, please, sir."
The Doctor frowned. “But, er, hold on, hold on. What was your name?”
“Bannakaffalatta,” the alien said.
“Okay, Bannakaffalatta. But it's Christmas Eve down there. Late night shopping, tons of people. He's like a talking conker.”
“Dad! Rude!” Lilith chided.
“No offence, but you'll cause a riot because the streets are going to be packed with shoppers and parties and—”
Lilith blinked and, next thing she knew, the group was in the middle of a shopping street. An utterly empty shopping street.
“Now, spending money. I have a credit card in Earth currency if you want to buy trinkets, or stockings, or the local delicacy, which is known as beef. But don't stray too far; it could be dangerous. Any day now they start boxing.”
Lilith couldn’t hold it in anymore and doubled over laughing.
“It should be full. It should be busy,” the Doctor protested. “Something's wrong.”
“Without a doubt,” Lilith agreed. “But that was the freaking best explanation of Christmas I have ever heard! Rassilon, I’m telling that to Nyx and Jamie when they’re older.”
“It's beautiful!” Astrid breathed.
“Really? Do you think so? It's just a street. The pyramids are beautiful, and New Zealand.”
Lilith elbowed the Doctor in the side.
“But it's a different planet. I'm standing on a different planet. There's concrete and shops. Alien shops. Real alien shops! Look, no stars in the sky. And it smells. It stinks! Oh, this is amazing.” Astrid beamed at Lilith. “Thank you!”
“Anytime, amiga. Now let's figure out what’s wrong with London, shall we?”
Next to the newsstand was a billboard for The Examiner, headline - London Deserted. The proprietor had a Union Flag behind him. He was a vaguely familiar looking old man.
“Hello, there. Sorry, obvious question, but where's everybody gone?” the Doctor asked.
“Oh ho, scared!” the man replied.
“Right. Yes. Of course.”
Lilith rolled her eyes. “Scared of what?”
The man frowned. “Where've you been living? London at Christmas? Not safe, is it?”
She cocked her head to the side. “Why not?”
“Well, it's them, up above. Look, Christmas before last we had that big bloody spaceship, everyone standing on a roof. And then last year, that Christmas Star electrocuting all over the place, draining the Thames.”
‘You drained the Thames?’
‘There were Racnoss!’
“This place is amazing,” Astrid marveled.
“And this year, Lord knows what,” the man continued. “So, everybody's scarpered. Gone to the country. All except me and Her Majesty.” He pointed at the small TV where a reporter was standing in front of Buckingham Palace.
“Her Majesty the Queen has confirmed that she'll be staying in Buckingham Palace throughout the festive season to show the people of London, and the world, that there's nothing to fear.”
“God bless her. We stand vigil.”
“Well, between you and me, I think her Majesty's got it right. Far as I know, this year, nothing to worry about,” the Doctor said. Then, they were back on the Titanic. “I was in mid-sentence!”
Mr. Copper went around, collecting the bracelets. “Yes, I'm sorry about that. A bit of a problem.”
Astrid hid behind the Doctor as a steward came over. “Apologies, ladies and gentlemen, and Bannakaffalatta. We seem to have suffered a slight power fluctuation. If you'd like to return to the festivities. And on behalf of Max Capricorn Cruise liners, free drinks will be provided.”
“That was the best,” the waitress whispered to Lilith. “The best!” She hugged her and went back to work.
“What sort of power fluctuation?” the Doctor asked the steward.
“Nothing to worry about, sir,” the steward said, stiffly and walked off.
Lilith looked up at her father. “Investigation time?”
The Doctor put on his specs and used the sonic screwdriver to unfasten a picture frame and got at the electronics behind it. He changed the image to ship's status. The shields were off-line.
Lilith looked out of the nearby porthole to see three fireballs heading their way. “Meteors? Well, that can’t be good.”
The Doctor pressed a button on the frame. “Is that the bridge? I need to talk to the Captain. You've got a meteoroid storm coming in west zero by north two.”
“Who is this?” the person on the bridge asked.
“Never mind that, your shields are down. Check your scanners, Captain. You've got meteoroids coming in and now shielding.”
“You have no authorization. You will clear the comms at once.”
“Yeah? Just look starboard!” the Doctor said, stubbornly.
Lilith backed away as two men grabbed the Doctor’s arms “If you could come with me, sir.”
The Doctor rolled his eyes and Lilith followed when the men started to escort him off deck. “You've got a rock storm heading for this ship and the shields are down,” he insisted. He pulled away from the escorts and took the microphone stand from the singer. “Everyone, listen to me! This is an emergency! Get to the lifeb—”
A Host put its hand over the Doctor's mouth. Lilith instinctively reached for her blaster, but she was wearing a dress. It was back in the TARDIS. She ran over and tried to pry the mechanical angel off of the Doctor, but was grabbed by an officer instead. “Let go of me, you dimwitted twit! Look out the windows!”
The two of them were dragged away.
“Sir, I can vouch for them!” Astrid said to the Chief Steward.
“Look, Steward, he's just had a bit too much to drink,” Morvin protested.
“Oxygen membrane holding. Oxygen membrane holding,” said a computerized voice that reminded Lilith terribly of Platform One.
Sun filter rising. Sun filter rising.
“The shields are down! We are going to get hit!” the Doctor continued to insist.
One of the obnoxious rich men joined the group as they were ushered down a hallway. “Oi! Steward! I'm telling you, the shields are down!”
“Listen to him. Listen to him!”
There was a loud crash and the whole ship shook, throwing everyone to the floor. An explosion sent the Doctor, Lilith, and Astrid flying, and then everything went quiet.
“It's all right, sweetheart,” Morvin assured his whimpering wife.
The Doctor shushed him. “It's stopping. Lilith, you all right?"
Astrid nodded. “I think so.”
“Titanic,” Lilith muttered. “Terrible name for a ship. Either that or your suit is really unlucky, Dad.”
“Er, everyone. Ladies and gentlemen, Bannakaffalatta. I must apologize on behalf of Max Capricorn Cruise liners. We seem to have had a small collision,” the steward said.
“Small?” Morvin scoffed.
“Do you know how much I paid for my ticket?” the rich man demanded.
“If I could have silence, ladies, gentlemen. Please. Quiet! Thank you. I'm sure Max Capricorn Cruise liners will be able to reimburse you for any inconvenience, but first I would point out that we're very much alive.”
“Doctor.” Astrid waved the Doctor over to where Mr. Copper was sitting. He had a cut on his head.
“She is, after all, a fine, sturdy ship. If you could all stay here while I ascertain the exact nature of the situation.” The Chief Steward went to a nearby hatch.
“Don't open it!” Lilith shouted.
But it was too late. The Chief Steward was sucked out into space. Everybody hung on to the nearest fixed object while the Doctor soniced a control panel that was flashing Vacuum Breach. It changed to Oxygen Shield.
“Oxygen shield stabilized.”
“Everyone all right?” the Doctor asked. “Lilith?”
“Astrid? Foon? Morvin? Mister Copper? Bannakaffalatta? You, what was your name?”
“Rickston Slade,” the man answered.
“You all right?”
“No thanks to that idiot.”
Astrid gaped at him. “The steward just died.”
“Then he's a dead idiot.”
“All right, calm down,” the Doctor said. “Just stay still, all of you. Hold on.”
“What happened? How come the shields were down?” Astrid wondered.
“Considering our lives,” Lilith grumbled, “I don't think it was an accident.” They looked out of the hatchway and the hole in the side of the ship to the floating debris and bodies. Lilith gritted her teeth. “How many dead?”
The Doctor put a hand on her shoulder. “We're alive. Just focus on that. I will get you out of here, Astrid. I promise. Now, if we can get to Reception, we've got a spaceship tucked away. We can all get on board and—”
“Dad,” Lilith said, pointing out the hole.
“What is it? What's wrong?” asked Astrid.
“That's our ship over there,” the Doctor sighed. “That little blue box.”
She frowned. “That's a spaceship?”
“Oi, don't knock it!” he snapped.
“It's a bit small.”
“A bit distant. Trouble is, once it's set adrift, it's programmed to lock onto the nearest center of gravity, and that would be the Earth.”
Lilith shrugged. “No problem. I’ll just go get her and land her in Reception.” She messed with her vortex manipulator, and then swore in Gallifreyan.
“The damn thing hasn’t been reliable since 1969,” she growled. “Must’ve knocked it too hard in that explosion. We’re stuck.”
The Doctor made a face, and then went over to a communicator. “Deck twenty-two to the bridge. Deck twenty-two to the bridge. Is there anyone there?”
A crackle of static, then, “This is the bridge.”
“Oh hello, sailor. Good to hear you. What's the situation up there?” the Doctor asked.
“We've got air. The oxygen field is holding, but the Captain, he's dead. He did it. I watched while he took down the shields. There was nothing I could do. I tried. I did try.”
“All right. Just stay calm. Tell me your name. What's your name?”
“Nice to meet you, sir. What's the state of the engines?”
“They're, er, Hold on.” The midshipman shouted in pain.
The Doctor frowned. “Have you been injured?”
“I'm all right. Oh, my Vot. They're cycling down.”
“That's a nuclear storm drive, yes?” the Doctor questioned.
“The moment they're gone we lose orbit.”
Lilith’s eyes widened. “Rassilon, the Earth.”
“If we hit the planet, the nuclear storm explodes and wipes out life on Earth. Midshipman, I need you to fire up the engine containment field and feed it back into the core.”
“This is never going to work,” the midshipman said.
“Trust me, it'll keep the engines going until I can get to the bridge.”
Everyone started talking at once.
“Hey, shut it!” Lilith shouted. They went quiet.
“Okay,” the Doctor said. “First things first. One. We are going to climb through this ship. B, no, two, we're going to reach the bridge. Three, or C, we're going to save the Titanic. And, coming in a very low four, or D, or that little IV in brackets they use in footnotes, why. Right then, follow me.”
“Hang on a minute. Who put you in charge and who the hell are you anyway?” Slade demanded.
Lilith had to restrain herself from face palming as she saw the Doctor’s eyes narrow.
“I'm the Doctor. I'm a Time Lord. I'm from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I'm nine hundred and three years old and I'm the man who's going to save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?”
Slade blinked. “No.”
“In that case, allons-y!”