The only light that filtered into these underground cells was the harsh neon of the overhead lamps. Reflected off the hospital-sea-foam-green walls, they gave everything a sickly blue tint, even the Doctor’s already sickly blue suit. Not that Martha’d ever tell him so.
Stockton marched dourly at the head of the little group through the maze of hallways, stopping at a door deep inside the building where he had to swipe an electronic key card and show his ID to a guard on the other side to get them in. The guard also inspected the visitor’s passes hanging from various articles of clothing before stepping aside to let them through.
Even with the Doctor’s stubbornness, Ducky’s warnings and Gibbs’ threats, the Admiral hadn’t given in easily. He’d finally agreed to allow five of the group to see the captured alien, but no more. Of course, choosing four of the five had been easy: the Doctor, Gibbs, Martha and Abby were going because not one of them would hear of anything else. Gibbs wanted at least one of his field agents on the makeshift team, but Stockton put his foot down on Ziva and McGee was a little too eager, so DiNozzo got the spot by default.
Stockton and the security guard finally came to a stop outside a cell about ten doors down on the left side of this last corridor. “Lieutenant Taylor is being held in an infirmary facility in another wing, but for this, without knowing what we were dealing with we weren’t going to take any risks.” Surprisingly, he didn’t sound defensive, just very matter-of-fact. Whatever anyone else may have thought about the situation, Admiral Stockton’s sleep sure didn’t seem disturbed by it.
He nodded to the guard, who unbolted the heavy door and then swung it slowly open. The sight that met their eyes on the other side made everyone except the Doctor and Gibbs gasp. Gibbs just raised his eyebrows.
“That’s…that’s an alien,” DiNozzo stated unnecessarily, looking more than a little shell-shocked.
“Just as I thought,” the Doctor said darkly. “It’s a hipocra.”
The hipocra was lying on the floor, its silvery skin glowing weakly. At the sound of a voice it could understand, it lifted its head–or at least Martha thought it was its head–and made a soft, miserable noise.
“Oh my God, it’s sick!” she exclaimed, stepping into the cell.
The Doctor turned furious eyes to Stockton. “Sick? It’s starving! Is this how you treat all your prisoners?”
“I’d like to know how we were supposed to feed it,” Stockton answered. “For all we know, it’s photosynthetic, like some sort of plant.”
“In which case shutting it away from the sun would be doubly cruel. Regardless, you might try starting with a little water,” the Doctor answered hotly.
“We did,” was the bland answer. “It didn’t touch it.”
“Well, yes, supposing you were trapped on an alien planet, surrounded by creatures who’d shot you down, unprovoked, and then locked you up?” the Doctor pointed out. “You might not trust the water at first either.”
By now, Martha was kneeling beside the hipocra, her hand pressed against what might have passed for a forehead. It was difficult to tell for sure. “I can’t…Doctor, do you know what’s normal body temperature for a hipocra? I think it’s got a fever, but I can’t be sure…”
The Doctor moved to her side, still fuming under his breath: “‘First do no harm.’ This entire species built their culture around those words, and yet what’s the first thing you humans do upon contact? Harm.”
He laid his own cooler hand where hers had been a moment before and gave a curt nod. “You’re right, definitely feverish.” Then he looked at her with a small, proud smile. “You, Martha Jones, might just get the chance to heal the universe yet.”
Martha returned the smile, basking in the praise if only for a moment. “We’ve got to cool it down,” she decided. “It won’t do what really needs done, but it ought to help…”
“Right,” the Doctor agreed. He stood up again. “I’m taking this hipocra with me. And I’m going to give you something in exchange: a warning. If this being really had been hostile, as you supposed? Right now you’d be dealing with a great deal worse than one misplaced admiral. This violates every code of interspecies conduct, not just the Shadow Proclamation, and there are species out there who won’t give two figs that Earth hasn’t signed any of them. For some, this would be considered an act of war.”
Stockton stepped forward. “I’m sorry, Doctor, I can’t let you do that. This creature is in the custody of the United States Navy–”
“Which really can’t afford another Guantanamo Bay on its hands right now,” Abby interrupted. “Especially not one that will piss off the rest of the universe, not just the rest of the world.”
“She’s got a point, Admiral,” Gibbs drawled in a tone of voice that said he knew he had Stockton cornered. His eyes were blue fire. “What are you going to do to stop us, lock us up too? I don’t think Director Shepard would take too kindly to that. Or UNIT.”
“Not to mention how on Earth would Officer David explain to her superiors at Mossad why the NCIS team she was liason to has suddenly ceased to exist,” DiNozzo added, wincing dramatically. “They might start asking uncomfortable questions, like why they weren’t told, or why their agent was specifically excluded from this little hunting party.”
By now, the four of them had moved to create a living wall between Stockton and the cell. Martha stayed beside the hipocra but kept an eye on the proceedings in the doorway.
“We’re going,” the Doctor stated in a tone that brooked no objections. “I suggest you get out of our way.”
“Doctor, I don’t think it can move,” Martha interjected ruefully. “At the least I doubt it can walk.”
Gibbs looked at Tony. “DiNozzo? Gurney.”
He nodded. “On it, Boss.”
The guard stepped in front of him. “Sir, I can’t let you do that.”
“Actually, you don’t need to. I have a better idea.” Abby pulled from her pocket a specimen jar containing the nanite sample she’d taken from the inside of the LeSabre. “Thought this might come in handy. Can I borrow your cell phone?”
Blinking puzzled eyes, DiNozzo pulled his phone out of his pocket and passed it over. “What do you need it for?”
Abby grinned, glancing back at Martha. “I need to send a very important text message.”
The next time Abby asked to borrow his phone, Tony decided, he was saying no. Better than that, he was turning tail and running away.
As the blue faded from his vision to reveal completely new surroundings, he doubled over, retching. When his stomach finally decided it didn’t want to give up its contents quite yet after all, he demanded, “What…the hell…was that?”
“Matter transport,” the Doctor answered briskly. With no further explanation, he strode over to the locked door of the warehouse they’d been dumped outside and pulled something out of his pocket that looked like a penlight on overdrive. He pointed it at the door, and much to Tony’s shock the lock unfastened itself like something out of a movie. It was a testament to the depth of his astonishment, though, that he couldn’t think of a single specific movie to use as an example.
He settled for a bewildered, “How did you…?”
“No time. We’ve got to get this one–” he nodded at the alien (hell, Tony was still getting used to that idea) that Gibbs was carrying. “–back to its people before it’s too late to save it.”
“So you’ve got, what, some sort of space ship parked in here?” Tony asked incredulously.
The Doctor gave him a cold look. “Something like that, yeah.” He then disappeared inside, Martha and Gibbs following with the creature while Tony just gaped at their retreating backs.
“What exactly did I do to piss him off?”
Abby gave him a sympathetic smile. “It’s not you,” she reassured him. “The Doctor just tends to get…protective of his traveling companions.” When he just stared blankly at her, she offered a grin and a clarification. “You hit on Martha.”
His mouth formed a silent ‘Oh’ of realization as the two of them finally followed the others into the warehouse.
Of course, the situation took on a whole new level of absurdity when he noticed that the Doctor was standing at the door of what looked like a big blue phone booth with the words “police box” over the door, turning a key in the lock. “So what’s with the phone booth and where’s the space ship?”
Abby chuckled. “That’s it. That’s our transportation.”
“What? No…” DiNozzo looked at her skeptically. “Come on, Abby. What is this, Bill and Ted’s Alien Adventure?”
She snorted. “I’ll have you know the Doctor has had the TARDIS since way before Keanu Reeves was even born. Although…” she added as the Doctor got the door open and disappeared inside, “I do wonder sometimes about the guy who wrote those movies. I mean, he had to get the idea from somewhere.”
She stepped inside the phone booth, but Tony stopped dead on the threshold. “Whoah. It’s…that’s…”
“Go on, say it: ‘It’s bigger on the inside,'” the Doctor said impatiently. “But do be quick about it; time’s a’wasting.”
Tony ignored him. “Gibbs, are you seeing this?”
Gibbs looked around him, appearing remarkably unimpressed. “DiNozzo, we were transported here by blue Jell-O and I’m carrying something I didn’t believe existed yesterday. Did you miss the part where we left reality behind a long time ago?”
Abby reached out, grabbed Tony’s hand and pulled him all the way inside, shutting the door behind him. “Besides, stand there staring like that and you’re liable to get left behind.”
“Where should I put this one?” Gibbs asked.
“Take it to the infirmary,” the Doctor directed, gesturing vaguely at a door on the other side of the cavernous room. “Straight through that door, third corridor on the right, turn left, go about ten metres, turn right, another left at the second turn you come to and it should be the eighth door on the left. Provided it hasn’t moved again.”
Good God–there was more to this place?
“I feel so awful calling something so beautiful an it,” Martha fretted, looking at the alien.
The thing spoke again: this time, much to Tony’s shock, in perfect English. “It’s all right. None of your gender pronouns seem to translate so I can only assume they don’t apply. Under such a circumstance, a gender neutral pronoun would seem to be the most…honest choice.”
“How…?” Tony whispered.
“It’s the TARDIS. It gets inside your head, acts kind of like a universal translator,” Abby explained, also in a whisper.
Martha was still speaking to the hipocra. “Still, you must have a name.”
The alien let loose with a string of syllables as unintelligible and unpronounceable as Darryl Hannah’s mermaid name in Splash. Martha’s face fell. “Oh…I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can say that. Would you mind terribly if we called you something else?”
The hipocra tilted its…was that its head? “What else?”
“Madison,” Tony blurted out before anyone else could come up with a suggestion.
Martha looked at him with amusement in her eyes, clearly getting the joke. “Madison. I think I like that.” She turned back to the alien with a question in her eyes.
It nodded–or some approximation of it–weakly. “It is acceptable.”