by Kathryn A
The Doctor tore off his blindfold and leapt to the boom-box to turn it off. The music -- if music it could be called -- had been pounding noise and very irritating. Who would have thought that Rose would be into Heavy Metal? He'd thought better of her.
He stepped through the door to the inner part of the TARDIS, but he wasn't hurrying this time. Rose wasn't going to try the same trick twice. Instead, she would do the opposite. Which meant that she would be hiding somewhere close to the console room, expecting him to dash off like he had before. He had to admit, though, that the boom-box was a nice touch; he hadn't been able to hear when her footsteps stopped. Still, it wouldn't take long to find her.
Five minutes later, he was scratching his head, figuratively if not literally. He knew what her strategy would have been. But he'd looked in all the nearest rooms. You couldn't get nearer than --
He rolled his eyes and rapped on his head with his fist. "You've got a wooden head, Doctor," he muttered to himself, and turned back to the console room. There was one room that was nearer: the new planetarium. He shook his head. Stupid of them to have tried messing about with the block-transfer computation circuits, they were lucky the whole TARDIS hadn't imploded.
He strolled up to the new door and turned the handle. The door wouldn't move. He pushed harder against it, but it appeared to be thoroughly stuck. He snorted. "That's cheating!" he muttered. Rose had obviously put something against the door to stop him getting in.
He shook his head. It might delay him, but it certainly wouldn't stop him.
Rose was back in the planetarium. She looked behind her -- there was the games room, wood-panelled and cosy. In front of her was the planetarium, stars blazing gloriously above. It wasn't possible. She'd gone in a straight line the whole way -- how could she be back where she started?
Maybe she wasn't back where she started. Maybe it was just an identical room? Of course, it had to be. This was the doorway that normally led from the console room to the planetarium, there was no way that it could lead to a different room altogether. But...
She shut the door behind her, and went to the third arch to the left. It, too, led to a dark passageway. She walked cautiously along it and opened the heavy door at the other end.
When she stepped into the garden, she started running.
The Doctor frowned at his sonic screwdriver. Surely the vibrations at their highest setting should have moved whatever was blocking the door, even if there was a mediaeval-style beam across the other side, and he certainly didn't remember anything like that being there.
"It's just a game, Rose, no need to be so dog-in-the-manger about it," he muttered.
Still, he wasn't going to let that stop him. He'd surprise her by finding another route in. There was sure to be one. He smirked to himself as he went over to the TARDIS console and brought up the internal schematics on the console screen. "You are brilliant, even if I say so myself."
Rose sat in the planetarium, staring at nothing. She had gone through the circuit once more, then twice backwards, before she was convinced of it: she was inside a closed loop, with no way back to the rest of the TARDIS. If she was still inside the TARDIS at all. "This isn't exactly the perfect hiding place that I had in mind," she said to herself. She shook her head. "Enough moping, Rose, do something constructive."
The Doctor would presumably be able to sort this out, if only he knew that something was actually wrong, if only she could get in contact with him. Pity she didn't have her phone on her. It was somewhere in her bedroom, turned off. She'd turned it off years ago, ever since she'd had that last argument with Mickey, so that he wouldn't be able to ring her up and argue with her some more. Note to self: as soon as I'm out of here, turn on phone.
Okay, what do I have? Rose emptied her pockets. Wallet. A credit-stick. A multi-tool with multi-head magnetic screwdriver. A vial of anti-metal virus. Tissues. Comb. A small spiral-bound notebook and pen. Even if I had a sonic screwdriver I don't think that would help. Stone knives and bearskins, as Spock once said. She put the things back in her pockets and looked around. "Okay, what else do I have?"
She stood up and ventured back into the games room. The futuristic pinball machine looked promising, but after she pried off one of the panels she shook her head. Futuristic machine, of course it had futuristic innards. She propped the panel up against its side and looked around. Well, the billiard balls would be good for throwing at ravening alien beasts. Just as well there aren't any here. And I suppose I could use the pool cues for staking vampires -- if vampires exist. Must remember to ask him about that.
Tables, chairs, playing cards, board games and books. Nothing useful came to mind.
She strode into the garden, and made a beeline for the garden shed. It was locked with a padlock, but that didn't stop her for long. She pushed the door open and breathed in the musty smell of fertilizer, mulch, pesticides and mildew. There were shelves along the walls with labelled containers, and heavy-looking sacks on the lowest shelves. One side had a bench with pots and a rack of smaller tools such as hammers, small forks, trowels and secateurs. In one corner was a wheelbarrow, some spades, a garden fork, a mallet, and a mattock.
Rose smiled as an idea came to her.
The Doctor frowned. He could find no trace of the planetarium on the schematics. Not even the expected connecting door between it and the console room. Could it be that it wasn't connected at all? Surely not. On the other hand, it had been jury-rigged. He'd already thought they'd been very lucky when they'd made it -- what if the luck had run out? What if the room no longer existed? That would certainly explain why he couldn't get inside.
But if Rose had been inside when it had vanished...
No, he wouldn't accept that. There had to be some other explanation.
As he was pondering the possibilities, he could feel a vibration beneath his feet, and a sound, that wasn't part of the usual noises that the TARDIS made. A thudding, thumping sound. Regular, but not quite. Thud, thud, thud, thud... thud... thud... thud, thud, thud. Repeated. It took him a moment to realize what it was: SOS in Morse code; a distress call.
"She's alive!" He smiled. "And still got a clever head on her shoulders. Good girl!" He tapped the console absently. "Now, how to send a signal back..."
Rose paused in her exertions, and put the mallet on the ground. She'd been thudding on the door frame of the planetarium for a few minutes, hoping that the sound, or maybe just the vibration, would somehow get through to the rest of the TARDIS, that the Doctor would hear her. But how would she know if he had? Would he be able to do the same at his end, or could he do something else?
She leaned against the wall and sighed. Then she heard it, a faint, tinny sort of sound, a regular beat. She took out her notebook and started writing down the beats. Then she sighed. "I may know SOS, but Morse was before my time, Doctor." She snorted. "Yeah, you probably knew him personally."
She started tapping out a much simpler code, one tap for each letter: A, one tap; B, two taps; C, three taps... The other tapping stopped. When she'd gotten to G, the tapping started again, this time using the letter-counting code she'd initiated.
She spelled out the beats, writing them down in her notebook. O-S-E-S-T-A-T-U-S, and a pause. Then it started again, ROSESTATUS. Rose, status.
She smiled, and picked up the mallet.
The Doctor heard the thumping again, but this time it was neither SOS nor the alphabet. "Yes!" He'd gotten through. He put down the pot he'd been banging, and decoded the message: CLOSED LOOP NO EXIT DO NOT FOLLOW BE TRAPPED ACK. It repeated again, and then silence.
ACK, he sent. SIZE OF LOOP, he added.
THREE ROOM TWO HALLWAY.
Obviously it was an error in the block-transfer computation circuits which had disconnected the area Rose was in. But he didn't know what alterations they had made, and if he proceeded blindly, he could end up making the rooms vanish, with Rose inside them. He needed more data.
HOLD ON, he sent. Then he dashed out of the console room to get the instruments he would need.
Rose banged on the wall of the games room with the mallet, spelling out "GAMES". She had been going around the loop at the Doctor's direction, banging out the name of where she was at each point in the circuit. She didn't know how that was helping, but presumably it was.
She stepped back into the planetarium, and sat down next to the door. Ten minutes of silence, but that didn't bother her. She knew how to wait. She'd waited seven years, ten minutes was nothing.
Suddenly there was a wheezing, groaning sound, and the door wavered and warped, and then grew steady, looking exactly the same as it had before. She stood up and stepped towards it. Had that meant what she thought it meant?
The door banged open and the Doctor burst through, grinning like a loon. "Fixed it!" He suddenly sobered and touched her shoulders. "I'm glad you're still here." He took her hand and pulled her back into the console room.
"So," he said, "where would you like to go?"
The request was "(Dr. Who) Nine and Rose play (play?) hide-and-seek in the TARDIS".
Thanks to Jonathan Burns for brainstorming yet again. Thanks to Judith P. for beta-reading.