Teaser: “Honour Bound”
THE DOCTOR bounded forth through the TARDIS doors. A few seconds later the more cautious figure of John Riddell appeared open-mouthed in the doorway, gesturing behind him.
“But how did the TARDIS just change like that, Doctor?” he asked, dumbfounded. “First you, and now… this. It’s incredible!”
“Yes!” exclaimed the Doctor enthusiastically. “She was so badly damaged that she simply followed my lead and regenerated herself into a brand new architectural configuration. Beautiful, isn’t she! Quite unlike, I must say, wherever her new randomiser circuit has brought us.”
His comparative disappointment was self-evident as he twirled on the spot and gestured around at their new surroundings, his crisp, cream linen suit cutting a sharp contrast against the dark, gritty background of the corridor in which they found themselves. It was gloomy, but the duo could just about make out metallic walls, ceiling, and deck plates, all of them grim and rather the worse for wear.
“Evidently we’ve landed inside some kind of workaday spaceship,” the Doctor observed before addressing his gleaming new TARDIS directly. “And one whose sense of décor isn’t a patch on yours, old girl.” He then raised his voice to cry out to no one in particular in the darkness: “Clearly you don’t have a decent interior designer on board!”
“Doctor!” Riddell scolded his new Time Lord companion in a whispered shout as he stepped out of the TARDIS, carefully pulled the door shut behind him, and glanced around nervously. “Are you utterly unfamiliar with the notions of caution and stealth?”
Undeterred, the Doctor beamed back at Riddell. “Apparently so, my dear fellow. See—we’re learning about the new me all the time!”
With a flourish, the rejuvenated Time Lord then took a closer look at their surroundings, quickly locating a control panel next to a doorway a short walk down the corridor from where the TARDIS had materialised. “And here’s another case in point,” he added gleefully as he activated the panel with his gleaming new sonic screwdriver without a moment’s hesitation.
A door panel slid open and the Doctor stepped forward into a large room, Riddell quickly at his side. In the chamber in which they now found themselves were around a dozen sizable glass tanks. Each tank was tubular, fifteen or so feet in length, fashioned from heavy glass, and mounted upright to the walls. They were giving off a significant amount of light such that the entire chamber was lit with an eerie green glow. Given the tanks’ size, composition, and aura, from first glance they wouldn’t have looked out of place in an aquarium.
“Fascinating,” exclaimed the Doctor as he dashed over to examine one of the tanks up close. Now he could see that each of the glass capsules was filled with a luminescent green substance. “There’s something vaguely familiar about all this,” he added, “although I can’t quite put my finger on it.”
With that he removed his panama hat with one hand and slapped the side of his head hard with the other. “Come on, Doctor, wake up.”
He turned and offered a slightly embarrassed grin to Riddell, as he set the hat back on his head. “New brain’s taking a while to set post-regeneration,” he sought to explain, before contemplating further, half to himself. “An aquatic people, by all accounts. The Hath, perhaps? Ah… maybe the Great Otterman Empire. That’s Ott-er-man, you understand, John. The Giant Otter People of Lutrina Four: a gregarious bunch, all toothy grins and endless pool parties. They make the best fish supper you’ll ever eat.”
Riddell was doing his best to ignore the Doctor’s oblique asides and was more concerned with identifying precisely where they were, and what sort of welcome they might expect as stowaways on this strange craft. He noticed gloopy bubbles occasionally rising from the base of the tanks. “Look, Doctor,” he gestured. “That’s not water in those tanks. What is it?”
The Doctor’s attention was refocused, and he peered closer. “I wonder,” he mused, making a quick sweep with his sonic. As he checked the readings, suddenly his countenance darkened. “Oh. Oh dear.”
“What is it?” asked Riddell, alert, on edge, and with that familiar sinking feeling he so often seemed to get at moments such as these when travelling with the Time Lord.
“Sezerfine concentrate,” revealed the Doctor. “It’s an amniotic fluid that supports biogenetic growth.” Riddell was none the wiser, so he continued, “In a word—well, two words—clone feed. John, we have to get back to the TARDIS right this minute. Run!”