"Not this bit again?" said Ace.
Underfuhrer Stunk of the Sontaran Space Navy led his squad through the interminable corridors of the renegade Time Lord's TARDIS.
"Be very careful," he said to them. "The Time Lords are the most devious and treacherous when not on their guard and able to give their full attention to it. The security devices they design are, simply to amuse themselves, labyrinthine as ... as this labyrinth."
Sontarans aren't very good at metaphors.
"It's not just a ball point pen, Ace," said the Doctor, checking readings and flipping switches on the interior status board of the TARDIS console.
"Oh, of course not," said Ace. "What is it really, a CVE generator with vacuum attachments, so you can send anyone you want into another dimension?"
The Doctor paused to glower. "If that's all you wanted to do with it, you might as well use the Safety Pin of Rassilon. No," he said, turning back to the console, "what's going on is just the latest Sontaran attempt to steal the time-travel technology of Gallifrey to use in their war with the Rutans."
"They want to go back and keep the war from happening?"
"No. They want to loop back and do it again over and over."
"All right, what's the Ball Point Pen of Rassilon do?"
"No time to explain now," said the Doctor, flipping one last switch with a flourish. "I've tied all major systems directly to this console, and secured it with a password. The Sontarans can't do any damage to the TARDIS now. We have to get the Ball Point Pen of Rassilon before they do!" He grabbed his hat and umbrella from the hatstand and headed for the interior door.
"Where'd you leave it?" Ace asked, following him.
"I don't remember," said the Doctor without breaking stride.
Tromping through the halls of the TARDIS, Sub-underfuhrer Stomp suddenly realized that all he or any of the squad knew about their objective was that it was called the Ball Point Pen of Rassilon and that it was a powerful time-travel device. "Sir," he said to Stunk, "request that you review the intelligence on our objective with us."
"It is called the Ball Point Pen of Rassilon," said Stunk. "It is a powerful time-travel device."
After waiting fruitlessly for several moments for his commander to go on, Stomp debated with himself whether to ask for confirmation that they didn't even know what it looked like. But since Stunk would certainly have given a description if any were known, the question was redundant. Moreover, asking it could be interpreted as a slight to the intelligence section. The intelligence section would hear about it of course, and Stomp would find himself volunteered for a one-man espionage mission deep inside Rutan territory.
Stomp said nothing.
They started their search in the wardrobe. Ace asked the Doctor, "What does it look like?"
Going through the pockets of the clothes on the racks, the Doctor rolled his eyes. "It looks like a ball point pen. I thought they were universal."
Ace rolled her eyes. "Well, what color is it? Has it a pocket clip? Is it a clicker or a capper? Is there a friendly advertising slogan on it, like, 'Bring your time capsule repairs to Razzy's, for good work at fair prices'?" While she spoke she too searched pockets, turning up many items that didn't remotely resemble ball point pens.
"I don't know where you get your irreverence," said the Doctor, tossing a set of Prydonian robes aside onto the floor. "Dark blue. Silver pocket clip, silver band around the middle. Clicker. No legend on it."
"Hasn't everything Rassilon ever did become a legend?"
"You know what I mean." The Doctor finished rifling an awful patchwork frock coat that he vaguely remembered wearing perhaps once, and threw it at the rack in pique. "Blast! You can't ever find a pen when you want one!"
"Sir," said Stomp, "Footsoldier Spike is missing."
Stunk spun around and surveyed the squad. Spike was indeed missing. "When was he last seen?"
"In the room with all the vegetation."
"Sir," said one of the footsoldiers hesitantly.
"Yes, Scrap," said Stunk, "what is it?"
"Spike was in formation behind me, sir. I thought I heard him say something while we were in that room, but now that I think again, it wasn't a Sontaran voice."
"What did you hear said?"
"'This time I'll have my snack.'"
The Ball Point Pen of Rassilon wasn't in the wardrobe. Ace was less surprised that the Sontarans hadn't surprised them while they were in there than that they had gotten through the whole room in less than a year. Before she was done going through the Doctor's pockets she'd found a vending machine packet of stick pretzels with a "sell by" date of 2 March 2134, a miniature set of dentures (not the wind-up kind), a keychain fob made out of a rifle cartridge with the inscription "TO COL HB FROM CORP OR KOREA 1952", a dirty butter knife, thirty pieces of silver, a 45 RPM Led Zeppplin phonograph single (A: Thank You, B: Ramble On), an electronic book of Max Quordpleen one-liners, a Slim-Fast can half full of American pennies, a rolled-up pair of leg warmers, a mouse that she took for dead until it woke up and ran off, a medieval scroll in Latin with pornographic illustrations in the margins stamped "PROPERTY OF VATICAN LIBRARY", a thumbnail study of Da Vinci's "The Last Supper", a set of guitar strings, several unopened envelopes containing replacement UNIT i.d.s, a collection of Dalek limericks, a caricature of a jowly heavy-eyebrowed man in Gallifreyan robes, an invoice from someone named Drax for "services rendered", a used home pregnancy test (negative), a rolled-up banner of the sort displayed at sports events that read "LUKE 17:21", and thirteen real ball point pens which didn't write.
"Where did you last see it?" asked Ace, hating herself. That's what her mother always said.
"Where did I last see it?" murmured the Doctor. "When did I last see it?" murmured the Doctor. "What was I doing? I wanted to write something down ..."
"It writes too?"
"Hush, I'm concentrating. ... I was with someone. I was with ... Fermi? No, Fermat ... He was dictating. The pen I was using ran out. I pulled out the Ball Point Pen of Rassilon and accidentally sent the sheet of paper into my future. He said we'd finish later, and we never did."
"But what did you do with Rassilon's pen?!"
The Doctor snapped his fingers. "I put it into my recorder!"
The Sontarans came to a large room done over mostly in tiles. Stunk held up one hand and went forward. He approached a large indentation in the floor, about ten meters by fifty, filled with water. Stunk walked toward it. Stunk walked up to it. Stunk walked into it.
"How clever of the Time Lords," Stomp said, "to disguise a pit filled with water as a swimming pool."
"Their deviousness knows no bounds," said Stunk. "Help me out."
"If you were recording," asked Ace, chasing the Doctor down the TARDIS corridors, "why did you have to write it down too?"
"Not a voice recorder, Ace!" The Doctor hung a right into what Ace presumed, from the noise he generated with his entry, to be the music room. She turned into the doorway to see him struggling noisily over a floor clogged with percussion instruments long spilled by temporal turbulence, toward a rack of woodwinds. Ace won a bet with herself that he'd grab the most beat-up looking one.
"This," said the Doctor, over the clashes and clangs as he made his way back to the doorway, "is a recorder." It looked like a wooden flute, except built to hold forward instead of sideways. "I used to be quite good, if I remember correctly."
"Wicked!" said Ace. "Hey, think you could do duets with that one starship captain we know? The starchy one?"
At the threshold of the music room the Doctor held the recorder upright. The Ball Point Pen of Rassilon slid out of it.
"Now what do we do?" asked Ace.
"We have to find somewhere safe to keep this, before the Sontarans get their hands on it."
"How did I know you were going to say that? But how?"
The Doctor grinned slowly. "I have a plan ..."
"What, just like that?" But Ace was grinning back.
The Sontarans turned a corner and found themselves back in the console room. The Time Lord and the Tellurian were standing there, as if they were waiting.
"We've been waiting for you," said the Time Lord.
"Give us the Ball Point Pen of Rassilon, Dok-tor," said Stunk, "or we'll kill you where you stand."
"What, this?" The Doctor held the Pen up with two fingers.
"Don't move, arright?" Ace held up a Gargan laser blaster and trained it on the Pen.
"You can't shoot us with those leaky energy beams of yours," said the Doctor, "not without blasting the Pen too."
"Move off," crowed Ace, "or do you want me to destroy it myself?"
"You would not destroy it, Dok-tor," said Stunk. "You are bluffing. You have nowhere to go."
"I don't?" said the Doctor. "With a powerful time-travel device in my hand?" He adjusted the silver band around the middle of the Pen, and clicked the end.
After a moment he clicked it again.
"Any time, all right, Professor?" Ace said sotto voce.
"We have a problem, Ace," whispered the Doctor.
"The Pen isn't working?"
"Isn't that always the way?"
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