Chapter 5: Exploring Possibilities
"Let's go over the objectives again," Gia said. "Assuming that we get out
of here, we need to neutralise the crew--"
"That's what, about fifteen people?" Samantha said.
Emmi nodded. "I think so."
"Bring us out of shuntspace," Gia continued, "send a distress signal, and
get our recall discs back. Agreed?"
"Put like that, it sounds quite formidable," Victoria said.
"It'd be easier if it was monsters," Samantha said. "You're allowed to kill
monsters. The Doctor's not gonna be pleased if we murder everyone on board."
"Depends which Doctor you ask," Jamie said. "But that's a fair point."
"Maybe if we made things so bad we didn't have any choice except to kill
"Cool," Victoria said.
Samantha looked surprised. "Thanks."
"I didn't intend that as a compliment."
"What d'you mean, cool isn't a compliment? 'Course it is."
"It isn't where I come from. I meant..." Victoria thought briefly. "Cold-
hearted, I suppose."
"And I'm not familiar with any of this technology," Gia said. "It's
centuries ahead of my time."
"Welcome to my world," Jamie said.
"Do you happen to have any tips for what to do in this situation?"
Jamie shrugged. "The way I see it, whatever year you're in, most stuff
breaks if you hit it hard enough."
Before the discussion could continue, the door was thrown open. The man
standing there was the third officer from before, accompanied by two armed
men of his own.
"Miss Sheffield," he said. "Come with us."
Slowly, fearfully, Emmi rose to her feet.
"The rest of you, stay put. If you cooperate you won't be harmed."
"You leave her alone!" Samantha shouted, jumping to her feet. The man aimed
his weapon and fired; she staggered back, tripped over Isobel, and collapsed
in an untidy heap.
"Sam!" Jamie hurried over to her. "Sam, are you hurt?"
Samantha sat up cautiously. "I don't think he hit me."
"That was a warning." The man now had Emmi tightly by the arm. "The next one
He dragged her out. Once more, the door shut with a heavy click. The group
listened until the sound of retreating footsteps died away.
"They've not left a guard," Jamie said. "That's all to the good."
"We're still no closer to beating them," Isobel said. "If we couldn't
handle him, why would we do any better with the rest?"
"He was on his guard. We need to catch them unawares." Jamie got to his
feet. "Anyway, we cannae spend all day in here talking about what we're going
tae do. Let's get them. Gia, you said you could get this watch tae do
"I did." Gia joined him by the door. "Let's see..."
She touched a stud on the watch. A solid beam of red light sprang out,
hitting the surface of the door with a puff of oily smoke.
"Right a bit," she muttered, aiming Jamie's arm as if it had been a cutting
tool. "Down... Got you."
The lock sparked and flickered under the onslaught. The other occupants of
the room crouched down, trying to avoid the clouds of smoke.
"That's it," Gia eventually said. "It's out of power. Jamie, see what you
"Right." Jamie aimed a kick at the area where Gia had been cutting. With a
crack, the lock gave way, and the door opened. Somewhere in the distance,
alarms started to sound.
"Split up, everyone," he said. "Victoria, you're with me."
He turned to the right, and dashed down the corridor. Gia and Isobel
turned to the left. Samantha, perhaps a little shaken by her close encounter
with the officer, went more slowly, trying to get a handle on the layout of
the place. What she needed was a gun or something; even if she wasn't prepared
to shoot people in cold blood, it would make any bluff she tried a lot more
The first door she opened led into a room full of bunk beds, whose
occupants appeared to have been woken by the alarm and were in the process of
dressing. For a second, she stared at them, and they at her; then, as they
rushed towards her, she slammed the door. There was a red panel on the frame
marked LOCK, which she whacked with the flat of her hand. Almost at once,
there were thuds and crashing noises on the far side. It seemed likely that
they'd break it down in fairly short order -- or, of course, they could call
for help from their colleagues. Still, it was something.
The next door she came to was already locked. Not giving herself time to
think, Samantha pressed the panel, dived through the door, and closed it
"Sam!" Zoe's voice said from behind her. "What are you doing here?" As
Samantha turned, she added "And what in Space have you done to my sailor
"Mercy!" Victoria gazed at the seemingly endless network of pipes. "Whatever
is this place?"
"I'd say it was an oxygen room," Jamie said. "It keeps the air fresh. See
all those tubes? Yon green slime's algae. When you shine a light on it, it
turns all the wee carbon dioxides in the air into oxygens."
Victoria looked at him as if he'd grown a second head. "How in the world do
you know that, Jamie?"
Jamie attempted a modest smile. "Zoe explained it to me when I was on her
"So if it stopped working, no-one would be able to breathe. That isn't very
useful. I like being able to breathe."
"Aye, I like you being able to breathe as well," Jamie said. "Especially
in yon uniform. You should wear things like that more often."
"Really, Jamie!" Victoria tried her best frown. "What I mean is, it wouldn't
do any good to turn it off."
"I think we should try anyway," Jamie said. "Because what'll those fellows
do if they think someone's fiddling wi' the air?"
"They'll try to stop us. They'd have to."
"Exactly. And that means they're not chasing after the others." He looked
around. "We need a hammer or something."
Victoria pointed at a control panel. "Then we'd better try doing something
with that. I think smashing the pipes would be a terrible idea. Even if we
could get at them" -- she gestured at the inch-thick transparent blast shield
separating them from the delicate plumbing -- "you'd get broken glass
She pressed various buttons on the panel at random. Nothing seemed to
"That'll never work," Jamie said. "Stand back and I'll try this."
Victoria turned, to see that he was now holding a hefty wrench.
"Where did you get that?" she asked.
"It was in yon cupboard." He indicated a cabinet on the wall. "Now, let's
see what it can do."
Victoria hastily moved away from the panel. Jamie brought the spanner down
on it with all his strength. It smashed through the surface, and embedded
itself in the circuitry with a crunch. The remaining parts of the panel
flickered, and went out. Alarms began to sound once more.
"That'll take them a bit of time to mend," Jamie said. "Now we'd better
make ourselves scarce."
Victoria looked out of the door by which they'd entered, and ducked back
in. "I can hear people coming," she said. "We can't go that way."
"This way, then," Jamie said, diving through the door on the opposite side.
The cargo bay looked just as it had before.
"I don't see why we're down here again," Isobel said. "Emmi can't be here.
You don't seriously think she's in that box, do you?"
Gia, bent over one of the plastic shipping crates, shook her head. "No."
"Then why are we--"
The crate gave a soft, despairing hiss, and fell open. Isobel looked at
the pile of broken devices and shattered circuits thus revealed.
"Gia, what is all that?" she asked.
"Rubbish," Gia said. "At least, by the standards of this time. As far as
I'm concerned, it's sophisticated technology from centuries in the future."
She pulled out a mesh bag, which was filled with broken hemispheres. "Now,
if only I had the faintest idea what any of this stuff was for."
"Gia, we're wasting time--"
"Your attention," Captain Tseng's voice filled the air. "All those who
boarded this ship in Miss Sheffield's company. Proceed at once to the cargo
bay where you will be disarmed. Any further attempt to sabotage this vessel
or endanger the lives of its crew will be met with deadly force. Message
Isobel grabbed Gia by the arm. "If they want us to go here and be disarmed
there'll be people coming to do the disarming. We've got to get out before
"Just a moment." Gia rummaged in the crate, and pulled out a large box,
decorated in bright, child-friendly colours. "'My first photonics kit.'" She
opened the box, and peered in. "At least I can recognise what some of these
things are. It'll have to do."
She snapped the box closed, picked it up, and hurried after Isobel to the