The Host led the two Gallifreyans down to deck thirty-one. Lilith kept her eyes fixed ahead and her jaw clenched shut. The Doctor looked around. “Wow. Now that is what you call a fixer upper. Come on then, Host with the most, this ultimate authority of yours. Who is it?”
A Host opened a pair of doors.
“Oh, that's clever. That's an omnistate impact chamber. Indestructible. You can survive anything in there. Sit through a supernova. Or a shipwreck. Only one person can have the power and the money to hide themselves on board like this and I should know, because—”
A large device with small wheels rolled out. There was a head attached to the machinery. “My name is Max.” His gold tooth glinted.
Lilith frowned. “It really does that.”
“Who the hell is this?”
The Doctor stood up straight. “I'm the Doctor and this is Lilith Smith. Hello.”
“Information: Stowaways,” one of the Host said.
“Kill him,” Max ordered.
“Oh, no, no, no. Wait, but you can't. Not now. Come on, Max. You've given me so much good material like, how to get ahead in business.” The Doctor grinned. “See? Head? Head in business? No?”
Lilith groaned. “Dad, don’t.”
“Oh, ho, ho, the office joker. I like a funny man. No one's been funny with me for years,” Max said.
The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck. “I can't think why.”
“A hundred and seventy six years of running the company have taken their toll.”
“Yeah but, nice wheels.” He nodded to the machinery.
“No, a life support system, in a society that despises cyborgs. I've had to hide away for years, running the company by hologram,” the head spat. “Host, situation report.”
“Information: Titanic is still in orbit.”
“We should have crashed by now. What's gone wrong? The engines are still running! They should have stopped!”
“When they do, the Earth’ll be toast. I don't understand. What's the Earth got to do with it?” Lilith demanded.
“This interview is terminated.” Max turned around and started to roll away.
“No. No, no, no, no, no. Hold on, hold on, hold on.” The Doctor ran in front of him. “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. I can work it out. It's like a task. I'm your apprentice. Just watch me. So, business is failing and you wreck the ship so that makes things even worse. Oh, yes! No. Yes. The business isn't failing, it's failed. Past tense.”
“My own board voted me out. Stabbed me in the back.”
“If you had a back,” Lilith muttered.
The Doctor shot her a look. “So, you scupper the ship, wipe out any survivors just in case anyone's rumbled you and the board find their shares halved in value. Oh, but that's not enough. No. Because if a Max Capricorn ship hits the Earth, it destroys an entire planet. Outrage back home. Scandal! The business is wiped out.”
“And the whole board thrown in jail for mass murder.”
“While you sit there, safe inside the impact chamber,” the Doctor finished.
“I have men waiting to retrieve me from the ruins and enough off-world accounts to retire me to the beaches of Penhaxico Two, where the ladies, so I'm told, are very fond of metal.”
“That’s disgusting,” Lilith hissed. “Two thousand people on this ship, six billion underneath us, all of them slaughtered, and why? Because Max Capricorn is a freaking loser.”
“I never lose!” Max growled.
“Oh, please. You can't even sink the Titanic!” she sneered.
“Oh, but I can, Miss Smith. I can cancel the engines from here.”
“You can't do this!” the Doctor insisted.
“Host, hold them.” Two Host grabbed the Doctor’s arms and two grabbed Lilith’s. “Not so clever now, Doctor. A shame we couldn't work together. You're rather good. All that banter yet not a word wasted. Time for me to retire. The Titanic is falling. The sky will burn. Let the Christmas inferno commence! Oh. Oh, Host. Kill them.”
“Mister Capricorn!” Astrid shouted from a forklift. “I resign.” She drove towards Capricorn.
“Astrid, don't!” Lilith yelled, struggling against the robot’s hold.
She got the forks under Capricorn's life support and the two machines battled each other. A Host threw its halo, which glanced off Astrid's cab.
“He's cut the brake line!”
Astrid and Lilith looked at each other before the former lifted Capricorn completely off the ground and powered them both forward through the guard rail, to fall into the engines.
“Astrid!” Lilith screamed. The Host released them, but the Doctor held Lilith back from running to the edge to watch Astrid fall. She struggled against he grip, but he held her fast.
“Titanic falling. Voyage terminated. Voyage terminated.”
“Lilith, we need to get to the bridge,” the Doctor said in her ear. Lilith shook herself and messed with her vortex manipulator.
“I-It should’ve powered up enough for a short jump.” She put the Doctor’s hand on the tech and pressed the button.
“Ah, Midshipman Frame. At last,” the Doctor clapped his hands when they appeared on the bridge.
“Er, but, but the Host…” the midshipman stammered.
“Controller dead, they divert to the next highest authority, and that's him,” Lilith said, dully, jabbing her thumb at the Doctor at the ship’s controls.
“There's nothing we can do. There's no power. The ship's going to fall.”
The computer was no help. “Titanic falling.”
“What's your first name?” the Doctor asked.
The Doctor stared at him. “You're kidding me.”
“That's something else I've always wanted to say. Allons-y, Alonso!” The Doctor spun the ship's wheel. Alarms sounded as they entered the upper atmosphere, and then stared to burn on entry. Once into the cloud layer, the Doctor turned on a scanner with his foot to see that their impact area was in west Central London. He grabbed the comms. “Oh. Hello, yes. Could you get me Buckingham Palace? Listen to me. Security code seven, seven, one. Now get out of there!”
“Engines active. Engines active.”
The Doctor pulled back on the wheel, trying to get the ship’s nose up. Lilith had a feeling that they only missed the palace by mere feet.
When the ship evened out, they all whooped with joy, Lilith gently hugging Alonso, mindful of the wound on his chest. “You used the heat of re-entry to fire up the secondary storm drive!”
The Doctor beamed. “Unsinkable, that's me!”
“We made it!” Alonso said.
“Not all of us.” Lilith sighed, closing her eyes. The Doctor squeezed her hand. Her vortex manipulator beeped and her eyes snapped open. “Teleport! She was wearing a teleport bracelet!” She raced to Reception and snatched the sonic from Slade. “Mr. Copper, the teleports, have they got emergency settings?” Lilith demanded.
“I don't know. They should have.”
“She fell, Mr. Copper. She fell. What's the emergency code?”
“Er, let me see.”
“What the hell are you doing?” Alonso asked.
Lilith fixed the setting on the sonic screwdriver. “We can bring her back.” She buzzed the sonic at the teleports, trying desperately to fix the machinery.
“If a passenger has an accident on shore leave and they're still wearing their teleport, their molecules are automatically suspended and held in stasis,” Mr. Copper explained. “So of we can just trigger the shift.”
An image of Astrid appeared. “I'm falling.”
“Only halfway there,” Lilith muttered. “Come on.”
“I keep falling.”
“Feed back the molecule grid. Boost it with the restoration matrix. No, no, no, no, no!” she shouted when something sparked. “Need more phase containment.”
“Lilith,” the Doctor said, gently.
“No! If I can just link up the surface suspension.”
“Lilith, she's gone.”
“I just need to override the safety. I can do this. I can do it.”
“Lilith, let her go.”
She spun on him, eyes blazing and wet. “Help me! You’re the Doctor, you can do anything!”
“Stop me falling,” Astrid’s voice whispered.
The Doctor put his hand on Lilith’s shoulder. “There's not enough left. The system was too badly damaged. She's just atoms, Lilith. An echo with the ghost of consciousness. She's stardust.”
“Astrid Peth, citizen of Sto,” Lilith breathed, approaching the image. “The woman who looked at the stars and dreamt of travelling. There's an old tradition.” She kissed Astrid. “Now you can travel forever.”
She pointed sonic screwdriver at a window, which opened. Astrid dissolved into specks of light. “You're not falling, Astrid, you're flying.”
She fell into the Doctor’s open arms, crying.
Half an hour later, Lilith was reduced to staring out the window while the Doctor talked to Mr. Copper. “The engines have stabilized. We're holding steady till we get help, and I've sent the SOS,” Alonso told them. “A rescue ship should be here within twenty minutes. And they're digging out the records on Max Capricorn. It should be quite a story.”
“They'll want to talk to all of us, I suppose,” Mr. Copper said.
“I'd have thought so, yeah.”
“I think one or two inconvenient truths might come to light. Still, it's my own fault, and ten years in jail is better than dying.”
Slade went up to the Doctor. “Doctor, I never said thank you. The funny thing is, I said Max Capricorn was falling apart. Just before the crash, I sold all my shares, transferred them to his rivals. It's made me rich. What do you think of that?”
The Doctor had to physically hold Lilith back from lunging at the man to wrap her hands around his throat. “Just let me sock him in the face, please Dad.”
“Of all the people to survive, he's not the one you would have chosen, is he?” Mr. Copper sighed. “But if you could choose, if you decide who lives and who dies, that would make you a monster.”
The Doctor handed Lilith and teleport bracelet and put one on himself. “Mister Copper, I think you deserve one of these.”
Alonso saluted just before they disappeared and reappeared a few yards from the TARDIS. It was snowing.
“So, Great Britain is part of Europey, and just across the British Channel, you've got Great France and Great Germany.” Mr. Copper said.
“No, no, it's just, it's just France and Germany. Only Britain is Great,” the Doctor corrected him.
“Oh, and they're all at war with the continent of Ham Erica.”
“No. Well, not yet. Er, could argue that one. There she is!" he cheered, spotting the TARDIS. "Survive anything.”
“You know, between you and me, I don't even thing this snow is real. I think it's the ballast from the Titanic's salvage entering the atmosphere.”
“Ash from the Sycoraxic ship, Christmas 2006,” Lilith said.
The Doctor shrugged. “Yeah. One of these days it might snow for real.”
“So, I, I suppose you'll be off.”
Lilith nodded. “The open sky.”
“And what about me?” Mr. Copper asked.
“We travel alone. It's best that way.” The Doctor put his arm around Lilith; she leaned into him.
“What am I supposed to do?”
The Doctor held out his hand. “Give me that credit card.”
“It's just petty cash. Spending money,” the old man said, dismissively. “It's all done by computer. I didn't really know the currency, so I thought a million might cover it.”
Lilith’s jaw dropped. “A million? Pounds?”
“That enough for trinkets?”
“Mister Copper, a million pounds is worth fifty million credits.”
He blinked. “How much?”
“Fifty million and fifty six credits.” She reiterated.
Mr. Copper lit up. “I've got money.”
“Yes, you have,” the Doctor said.
“Oh my word. Oh my Vot! Oh my goodness me. Yee ha!”
“It's all yours. Planet Earth. Now, that's a retirement plan. But just you be careful, though.”
“I will, I will. Oh, I will!” he assured him.
“No interfering. I don't want any trouble. Just, just have a nice life.”
“But I can have a house. A proper house, with a garden, and a door, and. Oh, Doctor, I will make you proud. And I can have a kitchen with chairs, and windows, and plates, and…” Mr. Copper almost literally skipped away.
“Er, where are you going?” the Doctor asked.
He laughed. “Well, I've no idea.”
“No,” the Doctor looked down at Lilith, “me neither.”
She smiled at him. “Merry Christmas.”
Lilith threw open the door and ran over to the console. “Hey, Dad!” She grinned and pulled the dematerialization lever. “Allons-y!”