Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: Eleventh Doctor, River Song, Amy Pond, Rory Williams
Edited by: my indispensable dr_whuh (aka buckaroobob ), who taught me that a tinker's dam is spelled that way.
Summary: It was an extraordinarily ugly piece of art, but it might be a beautiful rescue tool: the Doctor and River save Mum and Dad.
Author's Note: Written for juliet316 for the 2014 fandom_stocking effort. Like me, she's a fan of the Pond family, in its various iterations. I have a weakness for this kind of scenario; it's especially good when someone's rescue is the ultimate goal, so I hope she likes this bit of smoky derring-do.
Disclaimer: As always, all characters are the property of the BBC and their various creators. I own nothing and take no coin; I simply love them.
“There is no reason to panic — absolutely no reason!”
“There is, in fact, a reason to panic, Sweetie. My mother and father are behind that door, in chains. We are on this side of that door — large, heavy, made of wood, so neither of our sonics are worth a tinker’s dam — with Archeva the Inglorious and his hand-picked Bloodguard—”
“That’s such a stupid name, Bloodguard—”
“Shut up! With the Bloodguard one floor down and gaining. Not to mention the catastrophic fire that’s probably going to turn this building into ash within the next few minutes.”
“See, this is why I warned Japanese architects not to go with combustible materials ….”
The Doctor trailed off. River was looking at him with that flat, hard-eyed stare that usually signalled her return to active killer mode. “Sorry.”
She took a long, slow breath in, then let it out. “Noted.” Something in the Doctor relaxed, but not by much.
River was right; it was time to panic. Or better yet, to find a way to free his in-laws and get the hell out of here. Amy and Rory were inside the locked room, probably unconscious and therefore unable to help themselves, thanks to the drug Archeva slipped into their drinks at the banquet. And although most of the palace was as flammable as 17th century Kyoto, this was the King’s chamber, the oldest part of the building, cut into the very rock of the mountain upon which it was built.
He had no keys, no sonic advantage, no upper body strength with which to batter the door down. Both he and River had probably gained numerous hip and shoulder bruises from trying to do just that. So, no, no brute force rescue.
Beyond River, down the ornately decorated hallway, he could hear the clatter of swords being drawn from sheaths and the guttural howls that marked the Bloodguard’s advance. The guards didn’t worry him so much as the low rumble beneath their feet, and the high pitched crackle playing descant to it. The fire in the levels below them was reaching flashover point. It wouldn’t spread fast enough to engulf Archeva’s metal-clad killers, but it had already made getting back to the TARDIS a near-impossibility.
Fire … he stared speculatively at the door. “How long do you suppose it would take this door to burn?”
River, who had been running her hands under a tapestry hung next to the door, presumably looking one more time for secret locks or door tips, turned on her heel to stare at him. “You have got to be kidding me,” she began, then stopped. She went still, and her eyes narrowed in thought.
The Doctor shushed, but fidgeted.
He was about to stop shushing and start talking again when she crowed triumphantly. “It should work”
“What should work?”
River reached into one of the jewel-encrusted pouches on her evening gown’s tool belt and brought out a blasting cap.
“That’s not going to do anything by itself,” the Doctor protested, once he realized what it was. “And why bring blasting caps to a banquet?”
“I didn’t do it deliberately; it’s just that the last time I wore this gown and belt combo was during a job,” she said. “You’re right; it won’t do anything by itself, but remember that intriguingly ugly bust you remarked on earlier tonight?”
The conversational u-turn didn’t throw him, because he’d suddenly grasped what she was thinking. “The one of Archeva’s mother? With the lapis lazuli eyes and the horrible purple-green intaglio?”
River’s smile was vulpine. “Yes.”
His was almost gleeful. “The intaglio filled with purple green anaxis shell ink? Anaxis shells that have a chemical profile unnervingly similar to Nitro 9?”
“Except, of course, that anaxis shells have far more explosive power than Nitro 9, if they’re set off by a smaller explosion. Say, with a blasting cap.”
“That bust was down in the Hall of Royalty,” the Doctor said. “I assume it’s no longer on its plinth?”
“You are oh so right, Sweetie.” She fished about again, this time in the depths of one particularly voluminous pouch. Out came the extremely unattractive bust. The Doctor eyed the pouch speculatively. It was large, but not that large. Or at least, it didn’t look that large on the outside ….
“Right, sorry. Is there enough anaxis shell ink in the design to do it?”
The rumble beneath their feet was turning into a growl and the floor was shaking; smoke curled from previously unnoticed cracks in the floor tile. The clatter of pursuit had abruptly turned to shouts of alarm, then terror. The Bloodguard was no longer a problem, the Doctor realized — the inferno below had ensured that.
“We’ll see,” his wife answered, her voice superficially light. “I’m just glad I decided to bring it along.”
“Were you planning on stealing it?” he asked. He’d pulled down the tapestry, and they had bundled it around the blasting cap and bust — really, it was a horrible piece of art — in an effort to maximize what they hoped would be a large enough blast to get rid of the door, or at least move it off its hinges.
“Yes. It’s so delightfully awful,” she said, without a hint of shame.
He decided larceny was forgivable if it helped free Rory and Amy. “If it’s a big enough blast, we could be injured, you know. There’s no place to take cover and still be close enough to touch off the blasting cap.”
“I know.” Her voice was quite businesslike. “It’s the chance we take to free Mum and Dad.”
His breath caught unexpectedly, as he looked at River. Who this woman loved, she would protect. And so would he. “You go down the hall a bit. My sonic can resonate the blasting cap, and I stand a better chance in a blast than you do.” She started to protest. “No. Don’t argue … please?”
Something in his face must have convinced her. “Do it right, then, my love.” She touched his cheek, then sprinted to the other end of the corridor, the one farthest from the smoke that was now billowing up from the stairwell they’d climbed only minutes before.
He chose a position that was as far as possible from their improvised bomb, silently hoped that Amy and Rory were equally far from the other side of the door, checked the setting, then threw his other arm over his eyes as he activated the screwdriver.
River was right, he decided woozily a few second later, his ears still ringing. There had been plenty of anaxis shell in the bust’s intaglio.
“Doctor! Are you alright?” Her face, her beautiful face, loomed above him, and he realized he was flat on his back. “I’m perfectly fine. Is the door —”
“Shattered. Up you get!” She hauled him to his feet and together they pulled enough of the splintered wood free from the frame to get into the king’s chamber. When they saw Amy and Rory, huddled together beneath the king’s bed, he felt weightless with relief.
“You two sure know how to make an entrance,” Amy giggled. She was still nearly cross-eyed with the drug. She was chained to Rory, who was still unconscious, and when she looked at him, her giggles stopped. “Help me, Doctor,” she said, clearly fighting to think clearly. “Help me get him home to the TARDIS.”
“We will, Mum,” River said, her voice soothing. “Just a minute. Doctor, you see if you can wake dad, and help them up. I’m going to check the far wall.”
By the time the Doctor and Amy had wakened Rory, and helped him stagger to his feet, River had located what she was looking for. “These types always build secret exits from their bedchambers. And they’re not particularly creative about hiding them,” she said, pulling down on the shaft of a false torch that opened the door to their own escape route.
*** *** *** *** ***
When it was all over, and the four of them were in the TARDIS library, recovering, Amy spoke up from the couch where she was once again cuddled beside her husband. “Did anyone survive the fire? Anyone but us?”
“Actually, a lot of people did,” the Doctor replied. “The history of this planet shows that Archeva died, and most of his ministers and the Bloodguard, but other palace inhabitants and guests fled as soon as they realized what was happening. They took the opportunity to get as far from a hated ruler as possible, and it saved their lives. Prisoners who were held further into the mountain dungeons also survived, and were freed by searchers a day or so later.
“The fire marked a turning point on Serrinar. A turn for the better,” he finished up.
“Well that’s good,” Amy said said, resting her head back on Rory’s shoulder.
Rory nodded his agreement, then said, “ I wish I’d seen the bust of Archeva’s mother. You two make it sound like a perfect horror.”
“Given what it allowed us to do,” River said from where she was lounging and looking at her loved ones with undisguised delight, “I’m willing to change my critical assessment, and call it one of the most beautiful pieces of statuary I’ve ever stolen. Don’t you agree, Sweetie?”
The two of them laughed, and the TARDIS hurtled through the Vortex, holding Her family close.