"What was that voice?" Sarah Jane asked.
"Nothing, not important," said the Doctor dimissively, concentrating on his task.
"It sounded like ... Doctor, did it sound like Howard Da Silva to you?"
The cadre of Bizzelzoids led Harry down a corridor in the captured Batis VIII imperial palace to a large door. Immediately in front of it they came to a halt, and stood there as if waiting for something.
"Are we waiting for something?" Harry asked finally.
The Bizzelzoid rolled his eyes at Harry. "We ain't got any hands, have we? Which person here do yer suppose has to work the doorknob, Einstein?"
Harry opened the door and the Bizzelzoids led him inside.
Sitting on Viceroy Thorst's throne was a corpulent Bizzelzoid of the royal caste, the hair on top of its head in a tuft. The Bizzelzoids trooped Harry right up to him.
"Tellurian," said the large Bizzelzoid, "we need your help."
"What makes you think I'm inclined to lend you lot a hand?" said Harry. "Oh, sorry," he added.
"How much time do we have?" asked Sarah Jane.
"All the time in the universe," said the Doctor, flipping switches and typing commands on the alien keyboard (which looked surprisingly like an Earth keyboard) with fingers flying faster than Sarah Jane could follow, "... as long as we divert course within thirty seconds."
"Are you going to pull it off?"
"That rather depends on how distracted I am during that time," said the Doctor distractedly.
"So if we die a fiery death and Batis VIII is destroyed, it's all my fault?" Sarah Jane snapped. It was, as he'd hoped to goad from her, exactly the tone he'd learned not to listen to, so - as she continued - the view on the forward screen almost instantly ceased to be centered on Batis VIII. The little pink planet wandered toward the lower right corner of the screen and off.
"Have we missed it?" asked Sarah Jane.
"Barely," said the Doctor. "A bit closer and we'd've been trapped in the gravity well."
"Then the emergency's over?"
"Well, almost," said the Doctor. "After all, we're now barrelling out into deep space at near lightspeed."
"Well, why didn't you say that in the first place?" said Harry.
"The VIIIans wouldn't listen to us," said the Bizzelzoid leader, whose name was Woottensnobben. "They just assumed the worst, and attacked us, and called it self defense."
"Well, if two million colony- and war- ships showed up on your doorstep one morning, what would you think?" Harry suggested.
"Can you help us?"
"I don't think I can, but the Doctor probably could - do you know where he is?"
"Your Highness," called the VIIIan admiral Kracak, "the bombship has missed the planet!"
"What?" screamed Viceroy Thorst. People four rooms away from the moonbase control room heard him.
"It's that Doctor," said the base computer. "Told you, I did."
"The planet must be destroyed so that the invaders will leave us alone!!" Thorst jumped up and down waving his fists.
"Why don't you just cut off its nose?" said the base computer.
"What?" said Thorst crossly. "What does that mean?"
"The computer is suggesting," said Kracak carefully, "that such an extreme measure is excessive. Counterproductive, even."
"What, 'cut off its nose' means that? What is that, machine code?"
"If the planet is made useless," Kracak persisted, "it is as useless to us as to the invaders."
Thorst stared at Kracak for a moment, appearing to be considering the wisdom of Kracak's observation. The control room got silent as everyone waited to see what would happen next.
"He hasn't brushed his teeth," Thorst finally said. "Execute him."
"You see?" said the Doctor. "We're almost to the fifth, outermost planet. We're on our way out of the system."
"Fifth?" Sarah Jane said. "Then why is the planet named Batis VIII?"
"The planet was named after the ruling emperor when the Ghylreen Empire colonized the planet."
"Oh. Well, if we could swerve to miss Batis why can't we steer back to it?"
"VIII was the emperor's name. Batis is Ghylreen for 'twenty-three'."
"Why can't we get back there?!"
"Because," said the Doctor, pointing to a readout screen utterly intelligible to Sarah Jane, "the governor that Kracak's men tied into the engines won't let us decrease our speed without blowing up the ship. If we steer back to the planet, we'll only crash into it, as Thorst intended."
"Then what can we do?"
"Well," said the Doctor. "If we can't slow down," said the Doctor. "We could always speed up," he said, grinning at Sarah Jane.
"If the Doctor managed to miss the planet," said Harry, "why isn't the ship coming back?"
He was standing with Fleet Admiral Wortennugget, resplendent in the Bizzelzoid military caste electric-blue spinal feather crest, on the quarterdeck of the Bizzelzoid flagship, which was chasing the VIIIan bombship. "If he and Miss Smith were unwilling passengers," said Wortennugget, "then there will have been a constraining device on the engine speed as well as the navigation controls. It is much easier to construct an irreversible speed governor than course governor."
"Ah." said Harry. That made sense. He supposed. "Then what do we do?"
"If the Doctor puts the ship into a holding pattern," said Wortennugget, "we'd have perhaps a one in five thousand chance, VIII technology being better than ours, of matching speed and getting them off."
"Well, we'd better start then, shouldn't we?"
"That," said Wortennugget, "is the good news."
"Oh?" said Harry. "What is the bad news?"
"Going into a holding pattern also makes them easier to hit, should the VIII viceroy be so immature as to take out the frustration of his plan on the ones who frustrated it. You met him, what do you think?"
"Well," said Harry, "all the more reason to get busy, eh?"
"I may not have made it entirely clear," droned Wortennugget further, "that the entire scenario is dependent on the Doctor putting the ship into a holding pattern."
"What, hasn't he?"
"As opposed," Wortennugget continued, "to, for instance, maintaining a course that will take the ship out of the system entirely."
"He wouldn't do that. Would he?"
"Target passing the fifth planet's orbit now," reported a Bizzelzoid at a sensor console.
"Fifth?" Harry said. "Then why is the planet called -"
"Speed up?" Sarah Jane cried, as the Doctor went back to the controls and began typing furiously again. "What will that accomplish?"
"If I can tack against the solar winds correctly ..."
"He's not turning back?" Harry flabbergasted.
Wortennugget nodded sagely. "He's speeding up."
"... this!" finished the Doctor. With a sudden shudder the ship seemed to pass out of normal spacetime and into the Time Vortex itself.
"What was that thing?" Harry asked when it had been and gone.
"He's just gone into a wormhole," said Wortennugget.
Since there seemed to be nothing else to do, Wortennugget launched into part one of his three-class lecture on the physics of wormholes from his days as navigation instructor at the Bizzelzoid Space Navy Academy.
Sarah Jane stared bugeyed at the rainbow-colored tunnel special effect on the bombship's main viewscreen. "What is that?!"
"Wormhole," said the Doctor.
"Like on STAR TREK?"
"Yes, but hopefully more technically accurate."
"Did you do that on purpose, or should I start panicking now?"
"Is this a good thing or a bad thing?!"
"Both," said the Doctor. "If I've calculated correctly, we'll be in the wormhole three minutes subjectively to us, but long enough subjectively to the engines - which are mounted outside the ship's internal relativity damper - that they'll run dry of warp fuel. When they shut down we should drop out of wormhole space right next to the Bizzelzoid ship that appeared to be chasing us, and if they're so inclined they can rescue us."
"What's the bad part?" asked Sarah Jane, hoping it was a rhetorical question.
"The shielding on Thorst's antimatter bomb will start degenerating when the engines give out. If I've calculated correctly, we'll only have thirty seconds to be rescued before the bomb goes off."
Harry stared at Wortennugget for some twenty seconds after the lecture was finished before it permeated his consciousness that the Admiral was done. "So how do we follow them?"
Wortennugget debated internally whether he would respond with part two of the lecture, which exposited on the answer to that question. But his throat was sore. "We can't."
"Then how do we know where they'll turn up?"
"Well, that rather depends on your Doctor. Is he clever enough to have done this on purpose, and to bring the bombship in somewhere that'll do him some good? Or shall he have trod on the accelerator by accident?"
Harry struggled with his reply for another twenty seconds. "Can I choose 'all of the above'?"
Just then another wormhole popped into existence, off the flagship's port bow, just long enough to expel the VIIIan bombship before it disappeared again. Wortennugget leant over his flag console and punched in some commands with his nose. (Harry noted that the keyboard looked a lot like an Earth keyboard.) Then he straightened back up into Bizzelzoid at-ease.
"Shouldn't we get a shuttle and go rescue the Doctor and Sarah Jane?" Harry asked.
"We could do that," Wortennugget allowed.
"Is there a reason we're not?"
Wortennugget shrugged. "I just thought it'd be quicker to transmat them aboard," he said as the Doctor and Sarah Jane were escorted onto the quarterdeck from the transmat room.
"Admiral," said the Doctor without preamble, "I suggest you move off from the VIIIan bombship."
"Why is that, Doctor?" Wortennugget asked.
As if in answer, which it was, the Bizzelzoid flagship rocked in the characteristic manner of starships subject to shockwaves in space where theoretically there's no medium to propogate shock waves. This was a relatively mild one; no one even lost their footing.
"That was relatively mild," said the Doctor. "I didn't even lose my footing."
"You don't become an admiral of the Bizzelzoid space navy," said Wortennugget, "by dallying within transmat range of antimatter bombs any longer than necessary."
"You are the very model," grinned the Doctor.
"Doctor," said Harry, "good show surviving the bombship and all that, but do you suppose you could listen to the important thing you were rescued to be told?"
"I think I could see my way clear," said the Doctor.
"Doctor," said Wortennugget, "we are not invaders here."
"Oh? What are you then?"
"We're running from invaders. We're refugees from our stellar systems."
"You're refugees?" Sarah Jane repeated. "Then who are you running from?"
The Bizzelzoid flagship rocked again. This was not a mild one. Instead of merely hiccupping, the artificial gravity rolled forty five degrees along its y axis. The floor relieved one wall of duty and the main viewscreen assumed the responsibilities of the floor. There was general confusion of the contents of the room, including but not limited to the time travelers and the Bizzelzoid crew, added to by the sparking of several consoles. Then there was another jolt ... the quarterdeck collected itself feverishly ... and there was silence.
In a corner of the room, the Bizzelzoid flag began to wriggle. Then it wrapped itself into a ball and rolled across the room. Then it jumped up and down once or twice, and put out two tasseled ends of multicolored scarf. It rolled across the room again, and unwound itself.
"They're heeere," said the Doctor.
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