[Part 4 of a Doctor Who/Steam Powered Giraffe crossover for pandoraslittleblackbox ]
Fact: Stairs are easier to go down than they are to go up.
Fact: Tae had been fine with the push-ups, but tended to slack on the burpees and jumping jacks.
Fact: Tae was now deeply regretting this.
She could no longer see the bottom of the enormous, spiral staircase. But she couldn’t yet see where the top was. It was a very easy thing, sitting and catching her breath with only a floating lantern for company, to begin imagining that she had not only died and gone to hell, but that her hell was to endlessly climb a staircase that went on forever.
Tae knew that she’d already been gone far too long for Ops’ comfort. She also knew that the Admiral would be looking for any sign at all that anyone was alive. Which was why Tae, when resting, spasmodically knocked her own heartbeat onto the massive bannister with a handy lump of metal.
With any luck, Ops could hear it, somehow.
Down in the garage/survival shelter, busy repairing Hatchworth at all possible speed, the Doctor grinned.
“Now that’s a good beat. Clever girl, Tae…”
“Care-ful of the vor-tex,” cautioned Hatchworth.
“I know. I’ve made sure I’m temporarily vortex-proof. Aaaaaannnnnd *that* should have you next to good as new. How’s it feel?”
“Ship-shape and Bris-tol fash-ion,” Hatchworth smiled.
“I thought he w-w-w-w-was Hatchworth-shaped…”
“Not now, Rabbit…” The Doctor reattached the chassis plates and ushered Hatchworth off the bench. "All right, The Spine. Up you pop. Hatchmeister, I shall be needing that vortex. Let’s hurry.“
If he knew soldiers like he thought he knew soldiers…
"Admiral! We have a signal.”
“From where?” Admiral Jamisson lifted her fingers from the ‘go’ button.
“From… the Labyrinth… It’s weak, but it’s a definite pattern.” Bixby put it on the speakers.
A heartbeat. A human heartbeat. “Tae’s still alive,” she breathed. “Do we have any data?”
“The signal stops every twenty minutes,” reported the comms officer. “And in another twenty minutes, it starts up again. Stronger. I’m tempted to guess that she’s on her way back up.”
Admiral Jamisson put the cover back over the 'go’ button. Her entire army were waiting, but they had been waiting for months. They could wait a few minutes longer. “Try sending down a comms probe. See if we can get a report. We need to know what’s going on.”
Thirteen more steps. Twelve. Ten. “Don’t stop yet,” she panted. “Ten more. Then rest.”
Nine. Eight. Seven.
Was she hallucinating, or was there a light coming towards her?
Tae was ready to bet on hallucinations. She already had bubbling spots swarming in her field of vision. All sorts of interesting colours.
Well. Except for puce.
Six. Five. Four.
What divine being ever decided that humans could hallucinate puce?
The light was coming closer. Whirring.
Three. Two. One.
Tae landed butt-first on the next step up and gulped at her water while tapping her heartbeat on the bannister anew. She was sweating in places that she was certain had never had pores.
“When I geddup there,” she panted. “I’m gonna ask th’ boss… for all'a th’ ice cream…”
“You may have earned it, Lieutenant,” said the voice of God. Or the nearest equivalent, Admiral Jamisson. “What’s happening? How are you alive?”
“Th’ Guardian… *Is*… th’ treasure.” Tae gulped more water. “She w’s… protectin'er fam'ly. Gotta… calloff… th'troops.”
Admiral Jamisson did not get her rank by believing the first thing she heard. “Stand by. A medical drone will be coming down with supplies for you.”
Tae leaned back on the stairs. An uncomfortable way to rest, but she needed it all the same. “Glad t’ hear it… Admiral…”
“And in the meantime, I’d like a full report on the events since we lost contact.”
Down in the garage, another probe came to see him and the robots as he was busy repairing Rabbit.
“Ah, Good day, Admiral. I would like to give you a *proper* scalding for sending soldiers to do your diplomatic work. Soldiers are rotten at diplomacy, people like you teach them to shoot first. As you can see, your force for good is under repairs. I have one or two more things. Three, possibly. Maybe four. I have a few more things to fix up down here and then we will. See! What. Happens. Next.” He finished his current work with a flourish and seized the probe. “Remember when I asked how the force for good would be judging you? This lot have seen plenty of wars and they do not like them. Not one bit. But they *will* stop your war, oh yes. They’ll stop it good and hard.” He pushed the probe away. “Consider that your only warning. Now go away, you’re distracting me.”
The medical probe had helped immensely. She’d almost reached the top.
Then there were lights. Bright, blue lights that filled the entire space enough to hurt her eyes. A rising whir and clunks as machinery came to life.
Tae wanted to swear when she saw the elevator rising to greet her. Seven figures were inside. Six of them, dressed neatly in black.
“Step lively, Tae,” scolded the Doctor. “We have an army to stop.”
“Already stopped 'em,” she managed, catching her breath. “I thought they were only three…”
“Well… repairing Walter Robotics robots… bit like eating potato chips. Can’t stop at one. And, face it, I’m brilliant. So!” He clapped his hands. “Rabbit. The Spine,” he gestured at each of them as he said their names, “Hatchworth. The Jon. Upgrade and Bebop. I scaled him down so he can actually look after the rest while you’re waiting on getting Walter Girls in. Assembled gentlebots, meet Lieutenant Taeril… *Walter*.” He bounced on the balls of his feet. “You all are going to stop a war.”
“Me? But… I’m not– I can’t…”
“Nonsense,” soothed the Doctor. “You still have the blood of inventors, tinkerers and innovators in you. Who else could have thought of using Walter Manor itself as a means to let the Admiral know we were all alive and well? Clever girl,” he ruffled her hair, “you are going to go far indeed. Use what you have to solve the problem at hand! And what you have now are six. Very clever. Very advanced. Robot pacifists! Who better to halt a war in its tracks?”
“But I’m not–”
“Yes you are,” said Rabbit. “Y-you’re very much so! And we-we’re gonna prove it.”
“Together!” The rest of the robots cheered.
All Tae was certain of was that the Admiral was going to go *spare*.
[AN: Yes, I ended it up in the air. Consider in a springboard for a whole bunch of DW/SPG AU head cannons and have fun. Share and enjoy.]