A/N: Back at last *cringes* I'm a lousy updater. Always have been. But here's another chapter, and hopefully more to follow!
Thanks to the amazing person who Beta-d this: 'Black'VictorCachat. Go read his stuff! It's awesome!
The Christmas Invasion—of the Titanic?
The center of the box-ship-thing started making that same noise again, that same alarming, wheezing, siren noise it had made the last time. Clara had knelt down to examine the Doctor's head and make sure she hadn't done too much damage.
She bit her lip and looked up at the console when it started. "Hopefully that means it's taking us back. Can I count on that and not some strange alien moon or something?"
The ship didn't respond, but simply continued to make the noise and started to rock about again like last time. Below her (very cold) hand, the Doctor groaned and moved his head slightly, suddenly breathing out a cloud of golden vapor.
Clara's eyes went wide when she saw it and she scooted way back, to avoid getting any of it on her. For all she knew, it could be some kind of toxic gas. It had finally dissipated into the air when a blaring horn, so loud that it practically shook the whole room again, bellowed in her ears.
Out of nowhere, there was a huge "CRASH!" and before Clara's astonished eyes, a huge shape tore through the walls of the metal room, sending chunks of debris flying everywhere. Instinctively, she dove to the floor to keep her head protected from falling bits of wood and metal, but when the pelting stopped, she coughed for breath in the dusty air.
"If I didn't know better I'd think we're being attacked," Clara muttered to herself. She couldn't even make out what the thing was, but it had completely destroyed the outer shell of the box.
Air whistled over her head as it was sucked into space. Bells started ringing in her ears from above, confusing her even more.
Coughing and brushing the dust off her aching body, she scrambled through the wreckage of the now two crashes the ship had gone through and grabbed for a small, round object that had fallen from the thing they'd hit.
"Wha!" she squeaked when she read the letters printed on the side. "Titanic?!" She carefully picked herself up, completely unaware that broken hoses were spraying gas all over her. Frankly, she was too disoriented to care if it was harmful or not. This day had already been too crazy.
Shaking her head in disbelief, she looked again to the round life preserver in her hand to the figure of a ship's bow jutting in through the hull of their own, very different type of vessel. "I think," she moaned to herself, continuing to shake her head as her curls came loose from the ponytail she'd tied them in, "I think I just fell down a rabbit hole!"
"Ahoy there!" came a voice from outside, close to the Titanic, "Looks like we've found ourselves a bit of fancy space junk!"
Clara got her breath just enough to bellow out a reply, though why she did or who she was replying to she honestly had no idea. "Yeah, well," she shouted back, swallowing to get the dust out of her throat, "This 'space junk' has a voice, so if you could get down here and help us out before we suffocate, that would be much appreciated!"
"Is that a little missy?" the voice answered in amusement, clearly surprised that the 'space junk' had an inhabitant.
"One who's gonna get really cross if you call her that again!" she shouted back, trying to keep the tremor out of her throat.
"Ah, very well. Are you humanoid?" came the reply.
"Humanoid!?" Clara exclaimed. "What's that supposed to mean? What else am I, a chimpanzee?"
"A what?" there was a deep laugh. "Don'na worry, Miss, I'm bringing you the life preserver."
She raised an eyebrow and held up the ring she still carried in her hand, looking from it to the blackness of space just visible through the cracks.
With a sigh, she dropped it and turned back to the Doctor, hands on her hips. "What am I gonna do with you?" she asked the unconscious man, who was sprawled ungracefully on the littered floor. "Spaceships that are bigger on the inside are one thing. The Titanic in space is another. Honestly, I'm not sure which is worse…"
Shoulders slumped, she took a seat on the floor beside him.
"If you could speak to me right now," she smiled slightly, running a finger along the edge of his face. "And you were sane, of course—what would you tell me this all means, eh?"
She looked out through the crack, where the hull of the giant ship still loomed ominously above their heads. It felt as though they were being pushed along by it; as if it was still in motion and hadn't stopped upon collision.
Though why it should, when on the outside it was nothing more than a little blue box, Clara didn't know.
"Am I dreamin'?" she kept on talking, because the sound of her own voice—somebody's voice—made things seem more tolerable. "Am I mad? Oh, there's a good one, maybe I'm madder than you are! Maybe I'm the mad one, and you're just as confused about me as I am of you! Or maybe—" she paused just slightly, the smile dropping from her face, "Maybe this is all real. And I'm never gonna get home, or see my family again." She sniffed once, though her eyes were dry. Truth be told, she was a bit excited to see what would happen next.
"Right then, Clara, how depressing can you get?" she scolded herself, standing up just as there was a sharp sound of someone knocking on metal. "Who's there?" she frowned, turning toward the hole.
"Your rescue team!" the same man who'd spoken before said cheerfully, only this time from just outside. "Now, I'm sure you must have another way in, Missy-miss, but I'm not saying that I can't find it…"
"Oh, right!" she jumped up and ran to the door. "Wait. Isn't that outer space out there? I can't just open the door—I'll get sucked out."
"Well, it's your ship," the voice replied. "Shouldn't it have an atmospheric shielding?"
Clara thought back to when she'd opened the door earlier and almost gotten thrown out into space. She'd been fine. The air had been a little cold, but no more than one would expect. "Oh, yea," she gave a weak laugh. "Forgot about that—atmospheric shielding. Collision anxiety and all. Oh, and it's not my ship, in case he stole it or something," she added the last part, more to herself.
Holding her breath, she jerked open the door. The beautiful scene outside was now littered with glittering space junk, but was still beautiful enough to make her sigh involuntarily. Just like last time, although there seemed to be nothing between her and the endless vacuum, she could still breathe normally. "Door's open!" she called up.
She screamed when a large, brown creature covered in scales, with big white tusks and scaly clothing, suddenly dropped into the doorframe. "Rescue's arrived for the Missy!" he exclaimed, grinning with a wide array of sharp-looking teeth. His expression instantly changed to a frown. "What? Did someone put a human mask on my uniform again?"
Clara gasped, backing quickly to the console and leaning against it, eyes wide as she looked him over. "What—what are you?" she managed. If it was a dream, he had to be a cross between Pumbaa and the Queen of Hearts, but neither quite fit the extremely alive little hog-person standing before her.
"Uh," said the very confused creature, still standing in the door, "Are you asking…how I survive the exposure of space? Because that's the usual reaction I get when I meet people outside…"
"Look," she apologized, almost in tears, "I don't know if this makes any sense or not, but I'm a human—I'm just a human girl from planet Earth, right over there—and I don't know what's happened to me today, but I'm pretty sure it's not something that normally happens to humans, and I don't have the slightest idea who you are!"
His large, tooth-filled jaw dropped. "You're a—human?" he said slowly, almost in wonder. "You—you are! Look at the clothes! Too sloppy to be less than genuine!" he took a step into the ship and Clara immediately took another step back. "You're one of the children Professor Copper always talks about! Well, I never thought little old me would ever get to see one!" he added with a large grin of delight that showed all his teeth.
"Professor what?" she replied breathlessly.
"Ha, ha!" he laughed a great, belly laugh, showing even more teeth. "You're a native!" he exclaimed in delighted tones. "A real Earth-child. A human, didn't you say?"
"Y—yes," she stuttered cautiously.
"And—oh, what about that poor man over there?" he gestured to the Doctor, noticing him for the first time. "Your husband, I'm assuming?"
Her cheeks flushed. "Oh, no. No, no, no. He's—honestly, I have no idea who he is. Or what's wrong with him for that matter. I don't think—" awkwardly, she took a good long stare at the brown creature before saying, "I'm—honestly not even sure if he's human, either."
"Oh, probably not, else you couldn't have gotten out here," the creature said offhandedly. "But don't worry, Missy, we'll find what's wrong with him. Here!" he triumphantly held up a large, plastic-looking thing that appeared to be shrunken. "Little Earth-Missy's transportation into Paradise. You've heard of plastic, have you?"
"Uh, yeah," she replied, upon finding her voice. "My earrings are made of plastic."
He gave her a look of pure astonishment. "What are earrings?" he asked, apparently fascinated.
Clara felt awkward. A space alien, twice as advanced as she was, no doubt, since he actually knew about her kind when she'd never heard the faintest hint of his, and he didn't know what earrings were? She fiddled with them on both sides, pulling off the little plastic-beaded red jewelry. "They're like this," she replied, holding them out for him to see.
He came closer, eyes asking her permission first, as though he were approaching some ancient treasure. She bit her lip and nodded, determined not to let her fear get the best of her.
"Well, now," he shook his head in amazement, examining the beads, "That is just beautiful, I'll say! I've never seen such things before! They look a little funny in your ears, though…it makes you look a little like a March-roadent."
He stepped back, snorting through his long nose. "A March-roadent," he repeated casually. "They have things like—well, I guess you know what seaweed is? Coming out their ears. You look a little like that."
Clara wrinkled her nose at the idea. "Right then," she groaned, "I look like a March-roadent. And you look like a warthog. I guess I won't wear these anymore!" She promptly pocketed the earrings as the creature laughed and turned to tap a few buttons on the plastic thing. It looked like an inflatable—something.
Amazingly, as soon as he finished messing with it, it started to expand, like he'd turned on the vacuum pump for an airbed. Clara raised her eyebrows as the object started to take on a rounded cube shape, with an entrance latch on one side and several small gadgets attached to the outside. It looked like a toy, like a play house for the kids at her school, and most definitely NOT a lifeboat.
"Before I get in that—thing," she addressed the creature, "Would you mind telling me your name?"
He turned around and grinned at her through those teeth—those teeth. They really did look like a warthog's. "Grumple," he answered in his rumbling voice. "That's my name. I service the Titanic, since my species can survive in open space under any amount of pressure. And what's yours, Little Miss?"
"Not 'little Miss'!" she exclaimed hotly. "I'm Clara. Clara Oswin."
"Pleasure to rescue you, Clara Oswin," he grinned back, bowing at the waist.
"Pleasure to escape with you. Now, can we get a move on, or are we just going to stand here chatting while the air runs out?"
"And now, if you would just step into the hold, I'm sure I can carry your mysterious friend inside as well, and you'll be all set to head back to the Titanic," the warthog continued, as though she hadn't snapped at him at all.
A small look of concern crossed her face. "But what if I'm not from the Titanic?"
Grumple shook his head dismissively. "Then you'll be teleported down to the surface like usual. We have guests that do it all the time, to explore the planet Earth," he added, noting her surprised look.
"Guess I shouldn't be surprised," she muttered to herself, clambering into the plastic lifeboat. "Aliens, space travel, a box that's bigger on the inside? Why shouldn't there be teleports?"
Grumple only laughed, and moments later, he was instructing her to help him move the Doctor inside. Clara was growing increasingly concerned about the unconscious man. He still hadn't moved at all, and she actually checked his pulse again to make sure he was still alive. It was unnaturally fast, she noted. Nearly, well, twice the pace of a normal human's.
"Now," Grumple spoke from the outside, "I'm about to lower you into space. Don't worry, Miss Clara, the pressure lack won't harm you inside there. Just don't get out until I come for you, because then we'll be inside the airlock. I'll be right behind you as we do our little spacewalk. And if he wakes up, just keep him calm and tell him he's inside a life preserver."
"How can this flimsy thing protect us from space?" she was worried.
"Oh, you just try and rip into it, Missy!" he laughed. "My own tusks couldn't puncture it, or they would've long ago. Here we go!"
"That was sure a comfort," she called out sarcastically as he sealed them in, and proceeded to drag them through the doorway, over the edge—
And out into zero gravity!
Clara held her breath and froze in place as the ground dropped out from beneath her, barely holding back a tiny scream. When they didn't fall, but floated, and her hair started moving upward and waving around in strands in front of her face, she finally released the air she was holding back in her lungs.
She was flying! Flying through space! Well, technically she was still in the lifeboat and couldn't see anything beyond the bright yellow, plastic walls, but it didn't matter. They were free of gravity and floating around, with nothing to hold them down!
Unable to believe her own senses, she laughed with joy as she rolled over in the air, letting go of the Doctor's hand, which she just realized she'd been holding onto as tight as she could manage.
"Enjoy it, Clara," she told herself. "It's only for a few minutes. Enjoy it while it lasts!"
She forgot that she was dreaming, and did somersaults and dives in the tiny enclosure, playing with her hair and making spit bubbles like a child, then laughing as they floated away like tiny beads.
All too soon, she heard creaking noises and the clatter of metal doors as they were dragged into someplace that had artificial light, for there was a lot of it shining through in places through the plastic. Clara braced herself for the inevitable fall, but fortunately, they were close to the ground and only fell a few inches before hitting the hard ground.
Grumple opened the life preserver and helped her out.
"Well, that wasn't as bad as I expected!" she exclaimed brightly, stepping out into the gigantic alien ship.
Clara didn't really want to leave the Doctor, especially after the ship's medical staff informed her that they weren't really sure what species of alien he was (although, to her dismay, he really wasn't a human after all), neither were they sure exactly what was wrong with him.
She gave them as many details about the accident as she could (slightly modifying the part about her knocking him out again, of course) and they left to make some medical deductions amongst themselves.
It was a bit strange having a green doctor, covered in spines, prodding at both her and the unconscious Doctor, remarking over and over again at how 'exciting it was to get an up-close examination of a real human!', and a little awkward, as well.
It seemed that on board, she was an instant celebrity. They'd gotten quickly whisked away from her new friend Grumple, who she'd grown rather fond of in such a short time, and were now in a totally different part of the ship, one with large, expansive, and comfortable rooms lining the enormous and richly-decorated hallways. It was the living quarters for—believe it or not—second-class guests.
Clara found herself surrounded with admirers and alien technology, and, well—aliens! There were fat aliens and thin aliens, blue and orange and red and purple aliens, aliens with spots, aliens with missing facial features, aliens that somewhat resembled humans and aliens that resembled dark blobs of facial hair, enough aliens that she was about ready to write the next Dr. Seuss book.
It quite took her breath away, and she couldn't quite manage to communicate that she and the Doctor were NOT married, and had only just met, so could they please have separate rooms?
But when the richly-dressed alien ladies finally shushed each other from pestering her with questions, about anything from the Queen and those 'quaint little shoes' to horses and 'gracious, how could such a darling be from a species that eats its own kind?' and 'surely she must be one of the Turkeys—the poor thing, we've rescued her!'
When they finally excused themselves to take part in other festivities, Clara found that the room itself (big enough to be a house, probably) was large enough to be quite comfortable for the two of them.
She had no idea where to begin looking for a place to sit down, since there were so many beds and chairs and cushions and comfy-looking places she honestly couldn't make up her mind.
"This isn't so bad," she said aloud, plopping down on a huge, down-covered cushion that supported her weight, just enough to make it comfortable for sleeping on. "All things considered, I'm on an alien spaceship, and I haven't panicked yet!"
She reached up and grabbed a large knit throw with the most complicated pattern on it she'd ever seen, snuggling up in it to get nice and warm. Lazily, she let a hand fall over the edge of the cushion, as she looked back across the room to where the Doctor still lay, pale and quiet, draped over a king-sized bed and propped up with pillows that fit to his head.
She sighed. She would feel so bad if she had hurt him permanently—then again, she probably wouldn't do anything differently. Her request for separate rooms had not been met, but theirs was large enough she didn't have as much of a problem with it as she'd expected.
If only she knew how to get home, this adventure would become so much nicer.
Perhaps even the adventure of a lifetime.