by Duncan Johnson
'Well, Mina, what do you think?' The Doctor threw his arms wide and beamed. 'Magnificent, isn't it?'
'I'm not sure that's quite the word I would have used, Doctor,' Mina admitted. 'It's very crowded.'
'Crowded?' the Doctor repeated. 'Well, yes, I suppose it is. But then what do you expect? This is Neopolis 5, the largest shopping centre in the galaxy. And this is the holiday season, after all.'
'Quite,' Mina remarked.
The Doctor frowned.
'You don't sound convinced.'
'I'm just a little surprised that all of these people celebrate Christmas,' Mina explained. 'I can understand the humans, but most of these creatures aren't human and I have a little trouble accepting they all accept Christianity.'
'Christmas isn't the only festival celebrated at this time of year, Mina,' the Doctor chided her. 'There's Hanukkah on your planet, for starters. The Origarchs of Assidius 8 celebrate the return of their sun god Ra'ch. Then there's Jub-Jub Day for the Musquips of Terraka Prime. And the Antigons? Well, they'll just use any excuse for a party. You know, I rather like them.'
'Doctor,' Mina replied, shaking her head in disbelief, 'I'm never entirely sure how much of what you tell me is true and how much you've just invented on the spot.'
The Doctor grinned and tapped her on the nose.
'Ah, now that would be telling,' he said.
A flying taxi zoomed over head and a little blue alien with three eyes waved at them from the back seat. The Doctor waved back.
'What a nice little girl,' he remarked. 'So, as I was saying, it's the holiday season and in our case that means Christmas. And can you tell me what that means, Mina?'
'It's another excuse for you to be patronising,' Mina suggested archly.
'Mina, I'm hurt,' the Doctor complained. 'And no. What it means is presents and trust me, on Neopolis 5 you can find whatever present you're looking for. The place is the size of a moon, after all.'
'So what you're saying is that you want me to go and buy you a Christmas present,' Mina said.
The Doctor nodded enthusiastically.
'And I'll go and buy you one,' he replied. 'Isn't that what Christmas is all about? You've got you're key to the TARDIS, haven't you? Good, good. In that case, I'll meet you back here when I'm done. Toodle-pip.'
With a smile and a wave, the Doctor dashed off and was soon swallowed up by the crowd.
'Oh, Doctor,' Mina muttered to herself. 'I just know this is going to end in tears.'
Still, she mused, she might as well look around while she was here. The first thing to do was to see if she could find a map.
* * *
The Doctor stood with his head bowed and his hands behind his back as the moving walkway carried him along. He was in a transparent tube, high above the ground, that formed a bridge between buildings. Many more such bridges criss-crossed the street as far as the eye could see. Not that the Doctor was looking. He was deep in thought.
'Well this was one of your better ideas, wasn't it, Doctor,' he scolded himself. 'It's all very well coming all this way to get presents, but it would help if you had some idea of what to buy. Now come on, Doctor, think. You've been travelling with Mina for some time, now. You must have noticed what she likes. Doctor?'
'Are you all right?' someone gurgled.
The Doctor looked down. A pink blancmange with a dozen appendages was standing beside him.
'I'm fine,' the Doctor said, crouching down so that he could look the creature in what passed for its eyes. 'Why do you ask?'
The blancmange shrugged, a movement that caused its whole body to tremble.
'You seemed upset,' it gurgled, 'and you were talking to yourself.'
'Ah yes, the first sign of madness,' the Doctor agreed. 'But where else can you expect to get a decent conversation, hm? Anyway, I'm only trying to work out what to get my friend. What are you hoping for for Christmas? Or is it - now let me see - Gluargwin on your planet?'
'I'm getting a Gluargwamon,' the blancmange gurgled confidently.
'Really?' the Doctor said, trying not to show his ignorance. 'And what will you do with one of those when you've got it?'
'Fight, silly,' the blancmange gurgled. 'The Gluargwamon's got a mega blaster cannon and a special lightning strike attack.'
'Of course,' the Doctor murmured. 'Whatever happened to the days when you could please a child with an orange and a handful of nuts in an old sock?'
He stepped off of the walkway, waving a half-heated goodbye to the blancmange as he did so. He was now walking along a corridor, but it was tall enough for cars and busses to fly overhead. Shop windows flanked him on either side, proudly displaying their wears. A drone buzzed passed his ear trailing a banner advertising some product or other. More adverts were being played through the speakers implanted in the walls.
'However do humans manage to cope with so much sensory input?' the Doctor wondered. He decided that the simplest thing to do was to block it all out and to concentrate on his objective.
What could he get Mina? A dress, maybe. Something in blue. That would match her eyes. But what was the fashion these days. The Doctor hardly kept himself abreast of such things. Did he really want to risk buying something that might be gasp last season?
'Okay, not a dress,' he mused. 'A book, maybe. But then she's got all of the TARDIS library to trawl through already. What do you get for the girl who has everything? Hey, watch it!'
This last was directed to a man-sized millipede that had just collided with him.
'Most terribly sorry, sir,' the millipede mumbled before scuttling on its way.
'I should think so too,' the Doctor complained. 'Watch where you're going next time.'
He frowned. Something was wrong, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. He stuffed his hands in his pockets. The Doctor didnt usually carry money about with him, but today, for obvious reasons, he had made an exception. And now his wallet was missing.
'Stop, thief!' he shouted, sprinting in the direction the millipede had taken.
His long legs ate up the ground, but his progress was impeded by shoppers of all shapes, sizes and colours, trying to move in the opposite direction.
'Excuse me,' the Doctor cried. 'Coming through.'
He cast his eyes about vainly in an attempt to spot the millipede, but it was completely obscured by the crowd. Then the breath was knocked from the Doctor's body as he collided with something that felt like a brick wall. He fell to his knees, gasping for air.
'Hey, what's your game,' the wall growled.
The Doctor looked up. The person addressing him looked like a sentient pile of molten lava.
'I'm sorry,' the Doctor apologised. 'I really should learn to look where I'm going. Won't happen again.'
'Damn straight it won't,' the lava person rumbled.
'Absolutely correct,' the Doctor agreed hurriedly. 'Now, much as I'd love to stay and chat, I rally must be going.'
'You're not going anywhere,' the lave person growled and it clenched one of it's large hands into a fist.
'Oh dear,' said the Doctor.
* * *
Mina was lost. It only made sense that a place of this size would be properly sign-posted, which only confirmed her theory that this place had not been built by anybody with any sense. As soon as she had realised that she was lost, Mina had tried to retrace her steps back to the TARDIS. Now she was thoroughly disorientated. Not to mention no closer to working out what to buy the Doctor. All of the gifts she had seemed so far just seemed so tacky. The Doctor was a man who would appreciate a present of historical significance, but where was she going to find such a thing here?
'Erm, excuse me,' a young man said.
Mina turned. The man had red hair and freckles and he was as thin as a rake. His glasses had slipped down his nose and he used his left index finger to push them back up. As he did so, Mina noticed that the glasses were held together by sellotape.
'It is you, isn't it?' the young man said, beaming.
'I'm sorry,' Mina said. 'Are you addressing me?'
'Oh wow!' The young man raised his hands to his face. 'Oh they'll never believe me back home. Gloria Arbuckle just spoke to me.'
'Young man, I've really no idea what you're talking about,' Mina said.
'I just can't believe it's really you,' the young man gushed. 'Gloria Arbuckle. Captain Max Krueger of the Starcruiser Intrepid.'
'I think you must have mistaken me for someone else,' Mina told him. 'I am Mrs Wilhemina Harker.'
'Oh I get it,' the young man said, nodding sagely. 'You're undercover because you don't want anyone to know it's you. Well they won't hear it from me Miss Arbuckle. I promise.'
'I'm not this Gloria Arbuckle,' Mina insisted, 'whoever she may be.'
'I understand absolutely, 'Mrs Harker',' the young man said with a wink. 'My names Stuart Kyle and I'm your biggest fan.'
'You're what?' Mina asked.
'I bet you get that all the time, though,' Stuart admitted. 'It must be really annoying having all these fans coming up to you all the time. But but I just had to say something. You're such an idol of mine and it's such an honour to finally meet you at last. And I'm not one of those sad fans who confuse you with the character you play and think that somehow Starshock 5000 was real and not just a television show. I know Gloria Arbuckle is more than just a one-part performer. I've been to all of the plays you've been in. My mum takes me.'
'Really,' Mina said. 'Stuart, there's something I have to tell you.'
'Oh no, I've really screwed up, haven't I?' Stuart said, tugging at his hair in distress. 'I've gone and upset you and that's the last thing I wanted. I'll go. You can just forget I was ever here.'
'No, Stuart, you haven't upset me,' Mina assured him. 'It's just that '
'You're here making a movie and I'm getting in the way,' Stuart suggested. 'That's it, isn't it? This is your big comeback.'
'No, that isn't it,' Mina replied. 'I'm here to do some shopping.'
'Me too,' Stuart responded eagerly. 'I'm looking for something for my mum.'
A thought occurred to Mina.
'Stuart, do you know your way around this place?'
'Sure,' Stuart said. 'Mum takes us here all the time. Did you know they had the Starshock 5000 convention here once? Silly me, of course you do. You weren't at that one, though. Actually, I don't think you've been at any of them.'
'No, I haven't,' Mina agreed. 'Stuart, if it's not too much trouble, would you mind showing me around?'
'No trouble at all, Miss Arbuckle. Sorry, I mean Mrs Harker,' Stuart said. 'Before we go, would you mind signing my autograph book. Yours is the only signature I've got left to get.'
* * *
'Someone needs a lesson in manners,' the lava person rumbled. 'I'm going to give you a lesson you won't soon forget.'
He pulled back his arm.
'Can't we just talk about this like sensible people?' the Doctor asked.
The lave person roared. Then there was a high-pitched crackle and his eyes rolled back in their sockets and he collapsed to the ground.
The Doctor jumped up to examine him.
'Ow, that's hot,' he complained, stuffing his burnt fingers into his mouth.
'Don't worry about him,' a voice purred. 'He's just stunned. It's more than he deserved, but the authorities frown on lethal force around here.'
'And who might you be?' the Doctor asked, eyeing the woman with the gun suspiciously.
'You mean you don't recognise me,' the woman asked.
'I doubt I would even without the hat, scarf and dark glasses,' the Doctor admitted. 'What is all that get-up in aid of? Are you supposed to be somebody famous.'
The woman removed her glasses.
'I am Gloria Arbuckle,' she said.
The Doctor's mouth fell open.
'My, my,' he said when he was able to speak, 'it really is quite uncanny.'
'Not that I don't appreciate the attention,' Gloria said, 'but is it really necessary to stare quite so much?'
'I'm sorry,' the Doctor said. 'It's just that you remind me of someone else. The resemblance is remarkable.'
'Let me guess,' Gloria remarked with disdain, 'you're another one of those crazed Starshock fans.'
'Sorry to disappoint you,' the Doctor replied. 'While I have been described as crazed on numerous occasions I've never even heard of Starshock. Is it a band?'
'Neopolis Security,' a voice boomed. 'Stay exactly where you are.'
'I wasn't aware we were going anywhere,' the Doctor commented.
'I think you had all better come with me to answer a few questions,' the Neopolis Security Officer said.
'Really, officer, are you sure that will be necessary,' Gloria said. 'Don't you know who I am?'
'No,' replied the officer, 'I don't.'
'Why, I'm Gloria Arbuckle,' Gloria explained, 'star of Starshock 5000.'
'And is that supposed to mean something to me?' the officer asked.
* * *
'But what I want to know,' Stuart was saying, 'is how you really defeated the Ergons in Episode Seventeen. I mean, I know you said all that stuff about their pheromone receptors, but all of that is contradicted by Episode thirty-three, so what really happened?'
'Stuart,' Mina replied, peering into the shop windows as they passed, 'I really have no idea what you're talking about.'
'Of course not,' Stuart agreed hastily. 'Stupid of me really. I can't expect you to remember plots from stories you did seven years ago.'
'No, Stuart,' Mina explained, 'I don't know what you're talking about because I am not this Gloria Arbuckle person. How many times do I have to tell you.'
'Oh, now you're just pulling my leg,' Stuart told her. 'Come on, I've got to show you something.'
The young man grabbed hold of Mina's arm and dragged her into the bookshop.
'Ah, here it is,' he said, picking up a somewhat tatty large-format paperback. 'The Official Companion to Starshock 5000. And there you are: Captain Max Krueger.'
Mina stared at the photograph. The figure in the picture was wearing a frightfully immodest figure-hugging red outfit and she had blonde hair that fell down below her shoulders, but the face that looked out of the picture at her was undoubtedly Mina's own.
She did not know what to say.
Fortunately, she was spared further embarrassment by the arrival of two red-brown, bipedal warthog-type creatures. One pointed a gun at her while the other picked her up and flung her over his shoulder. Mina beat against his back with her fists, but his hide was tough as leather.
'Let me go,' she shouted.
'Gloria Arbuckle,' the warthog with the gun said, 'you are now a prisoner of the Trogwhar Alliance.'
'But I'm not Gloria Arbuckle,' Mina complained.
The two warthogs laughed.
* * *
'This is unbelievable,' Gloria Arbuckle protested. She was sitting in the pack of a Neopolis Security Flyer handcuffed to the Doctor. The had wanted to handcuff the lava creature - whose name, it transpired, was Ivan - to them as well, but the guards did not have any restraints large enough.
'Oh I don't know,' the Doctor replied. 'This all has a certain cosy familiarity.'
'Get locked up a lot, do you?' Gloria sneered.
'Occupational hazard,' the Doctor replied.
'Well, this may all be fun and games to you, whoever you are '
'I'm the Doctor,' the Doctor offered helpfully.
'Whatever,' Gloria drawled. 'Some of us, however, have appointments to keep.'
'Ah yes, of course, you're an actress, aren't you?' the Doctor remarked. 'So what is it? A TV show? A motion picture? Celebrity Big Brother?'
'None of your damn business,' Gloria snapped.
'Well pardon me for asking,' the Doctor said, 'but I've got to do something to pass the time.'
'Have no fear, puny humans,' Ivan rumbled. 'We will be out of here soon.'
'And you know this how?' Gloria asked.
An explosion rocked the flyer.
'You had to ask,' the Doctor complained.
'We're going down,' the flyer's pilot shouted.
'Everybody brace for impact,' the Doctor told his companions.
Then the flyer struck the ground and there was a moment of blackness.
When the Doctor's head cleared, he could see stony fists tearing a hole in the side of the flyer. Another lava creature stuck his head through the hole.
'Ivan, hurry,' it rumbled. 'The transport is waiting.'
'Sven, it is good to see you,' Ivan growled. 'Bring the puny humans as well. I have unfinished business with them.'
'I don't like the sound of that at all,' the Doctor muttered and Sven grabbed a handful of the Doctor's velvet coat and yanked him outside. 'I hope Mina's having better luck with her shopping.'
* * *
'How many more times do I have to say it?' Mina demanded. 'I am not Gloria Arbuckle. My name is Wilhemina Harker and I am a teacher. I'd never even heard of this Starshock 5000 until today.'
'It's no good, Miss Arbuckle,' Stuart told her. 'They're never going to believe you.'
'They certainly will not if you are not helping me,' Mina muttered.
Mina and Stuart were buckled in the passenger seats of a battered vessel in one of the hangar bays of Neopolis 5. The buckles were locked and neither Mina nor Stuart could pry them open.
'There is no point in lying to us, Miss Arbuckle,' the closest warthog said. 'Now please sit still until we are ready to make our announcement.'
'What announcement?' Mina asked. 'Would someone please be kind enough to tell me what is going on here? I think that is the least to ask given the indignity currently being heaped upon us.'
'Very well,' the warthog sighed. 'My name is Sveet and my colleague with the gun is Mr Skort. We are from the Trogwhar Alliance.'
'I take it that is supposed to mean something to me,' Mina replied, 'but I must confess my ignorance, Mr Sveet.'
'The Trogwhar are the rightful inhabitants of the moon Denari 7,' Sveet explained, 'but the moon is currently in the hands of the vile Matreshes. We of the Trogwhar Alliance campaign ceaselessly to get back that which is rightfully ours.'
'Rightfully yours?' Stuart mocked. 'The Galactic Federation granted Denari 7 to the Matreshes as part of the Orion Treaty. The Trogwhars already have Denaris 1 through 6. And as for you're campaigning, you're nothing more than terrorists.'
'You're very well informed,' Mina said.
'The Trogwhar/Matresh conflict was allegorised in episodes five, thirteen and twenty-eight of Starshock,' Stuart admitted.
'Denari 7 should be ours,' Sveet responded, nostrils flaring. 'And it will be ours now that we have Miss Arbuckle here as our hostage.'
'I wouldn't be so sure of that,' Mina muttered. 'What do you plan to do with me?'
'Nothing,' Sveet replied, 'as long as the Galactic Federation accedes to our demands.'
'And if they don't?'
'Then we kill you, of course,' he said.
* * *
The Doctor and Gloria Arbuckle had been driven away in an unmarked black flyer. It had landed on a platform jutting out from the wall of a bakery and the pair of them had been escorted to a utilitarian grey office situated above the bakery itself. The smells of fresh baking were making the Doctor quite peckish.
'Jelly Baby?' he offered Gloria as he reached into his pocket for the bag.
'What?' Gloria asked.
'Jelly Baby,' the Doctor repeated. 'Sweet. Confectionery. Ah. It would appear we won't be eating after all. Whoever took my wallet appears to have made off with my Jelly Babies as well.'
'How unfortunate,' Gloria remarked.
'How long do you think they'll keep us waiting before the interrogation starts?' the Doctor asked. 'What do you reckon we'll get? Good cop, bad cop? Lights in the eyes? Thumbscrews?'
'You're enjoying this, aren't you?' Gloria said.
'Everyone should have a hobby,' the Doctor responded.
'What you need is to get a life,' Gloria shot back. 'The least they could have done is remove these handcuffs.'
'Oh I'll have those off in a jiffy,' the Doctor assured her. 'A quick blast from my sonic screwdriver and ah.'
'This sonic screwdriver,' Gloria began, 'it wouldn't have been in your pocket, would it?'
'It might have been,' the Doctor confessed.
'The same pocket that got picked?'
The Doctor nodded.
The office door opened.
'Please accept my apologies for keeping you waiting,' a lava person said. He was shorter than the other lava creatures they had met, shorter even than the Doctor. He was smoking a cigar.
'No apologies necessary,' the Doctor assured him.
'Speak for yourself,' Gloria interrupted. 'Don't you know who I am?'
The lava person looked her up and down.
'Not a clue, lady,' he told her.
The lava person sat down.
'I'm Gogol,' he said. 'I run this little operation.'
'And what a wonderful little operation it is,' the Doctor remarked.
'Thank you,' Gogol said. 'Now, would you mind telling me who you two are?'
'I'm the Doctor and this is my companion Miss Arbuckle.'
'You wish,' Gloria muttered.
'You know Ivan wants you dead, don't you, Doctor?' Gogol said.
'I had noticed,' the Doctor replied.
'Well,' Gogol began, 'you've got five minutes to convince me not to hand you over to him. Better talk fast, doc.'
* * *
'How on Earth did I get involved in this,' Stuart whined. 'Mum's going to kill me.'
'I rather think that's the least of our problems, Stuart,' Mina remarked. 'I just wish I could think of something to do.'
'Quiet,' Sveet snapped. 'We are about to broadcast our demands to the Galactic Federation headquarters on Io.'
'But you're Gloria Arbuckle,' Stuart whispered. 'You're Captain Max Krueger. You always have a plan.'
'I keep telling you, I'm not ' Mina began. 'Wait a moment. What would Captain Krueger do in a situation like this?'
'Let me think,' Stuart said, screwing his face up. 'In Episode Twelve, you were being held hostage by the Ishdaks, much like this. But you outsmarted them because, when they were sending a message to their commander on the planet Caylee, you adjusted the communicator so the message was also picked up by the crew of the Starcruiser Intrepid.'
'Of course,' Mina murmured. 'Stuart, is there any way we can adjust the, er, transmitter here so that it could be received by my friends?'
'I think so,' Stuart said.
'You think so?' Mina repeated.
'No, I'm sure I could do it,' Stuart confirmed with greater confidence, 'but I'd need to get close to it and we're still tied to our chairs.'
Mina's eyes rolled back in her head and she began to cough and splutter. Her body convulsed, violently tugging at her restraints.
'Help, help!' Stuart shouted. 'I think she's having some kind of fit!'
Skort and Sveet rushed over and Skort tried to hold Mina down while she continued to writhe, thrusting her arms and legs in all directions. Eventually, she calmed down.
'Thank you,' she said softly. 'Could I trouble you for a glass of water?'
'Skort, see to Miss Arbuckle's needs,' Sveet commanded. 'I must go and make some final adjustments.'
'Are you all right?' Stuart asked Mina when the Trogwhars had gone.
'Perfectly,' she replied. Then she held up the key she had lifted from Skort.
'Wow, you're good,' Stuart said as Mina unlocked his restraints.
'That's as maybe,' she told him, 'but now it's your turn.'
* * *
'And then she says, 'But you said it was a blue Assidian',' the Doctor concluded.
Gogol laughed heartily.
'You're good, Doc,' he said. 'I kinda like you.'
'Thank you,' the Doctor said.
'In fact, I'm tempted just to give the dame to Ivan and keep you around,' Gogol continued.
'Now wait a minute,' both Gloria and the Doctor said in unison.
There was a knock on the door.
'Yeah, what is it?' Gogol snapped.
Sven stepped into the office.
'Sorry, boss,' he rumbled, 'but there's something on TV you should see. It's about the broad.'
'Well what are you waiting for, you imbecile?' Gogol demanded. 'Turn on the damn set.'
The picture resolved to show a warthog-like alien standing on the bridge of a spaceship.
' and if the Galactic Federation turn Denari 7 over to the Trogwhar Alliance within the next nine glargs we will have no choice but to kill Gloria Arbuckle,' Sveet was saying.
'Who's that in the background?' Gogol asked. 'She looks kinda familiar.'
'That's me, you idiot,' Gloria snapped, 'only I would never wear my hair like that.'
'She's prettier than you, too,' Gogol commented.
'Hmmph,' Gloria exploded.
'That's Mina,' the Doctor announced. 'Oh dear. Just for once it would be nice to go somewhere where she could avoid getting into trouble.'
'What trouble, Doctor,' Gloria said. 'The Galactic Federation are bound to give these Trogwhar people what they want as soon as they realise my life is in danger.'
'You're assuming they even know who you are, sister,' Gogol told her. 'No one else seems to.'
'We have to get Mina out of there,' the Doctor declared.
'Right with you, Doc,' Gogol agreed.
The Doctor stared at him.
'Not that I'm not grateful, Gogol,' he said, 'but why are you helping me. I thought you didn't trust us.'
'I don't,' Gogol admitted with a shrug, 'but we have a nice family-run operation here. The security forces leave us alone so long as Ivan doesn't do anything stupid and all's right with the world. Course, part of that is not letting some young upstarts think they can get away with what they like on my patch. These guys need to be taught a lesson, so let's just say that your aims and mind just happen to coincide. For now.'
'Well in that case,' the Doctor began, 'I appreciate any help you can give. Is there any way to find out where they are?'
'Sven?' Gogol prompted.
'Already done, boss,' Sven replied. 'They're in Hanger Thirteen.'
'Unlucky for them,' Gogol said, grinding his hands together.
* * *
'Is that the ship? Gogol asked.
The lava creatures had crept into the hanger as quietly as their rocky bodies allowed. The Doctor and Gloria trailed behind them. The hanger was dark and unwelcoming and it stank (as Gloria felt the need to remind everyone every few minutes).
'That's the one, boss,' Sven replied.
'Good,' Gogol growled, levelling his rifle. 'On my signal, boys '
'No,' the Doctor snapped. 'No guns.'
'What's the matter, Doc?' Gogol asked. 'A dirty job calls for dirty methods.'
'No guns,' the Doctor repeated forcefully. 'Not if there's another way.'
'What other way?' Gogol asked.
'Let me go in there and talk to them,' the Doctor suggested.
'Talk to them?' Gogol mocked.
'At least let me try,' the Doctor pleaded. 'Give me ten minutes. If I'm not out my then you get to do it your way. Deal?'
Gogol shook his head.
'Oh very well. You've got yourself a deal, Doc,' Gogol said, 'but only because I like your jokes.'
'You're a gentleman, Mr Gogol,' the Doctor replied. He started to offer Gogol his hand, then remembered how hot his skin was.
'Just don't make me regret this,' Gogol warned.
'I won't. Come on, Gloria,' the Doctor said, tugging on the handcuffs that still bound him to the actress. 'And do try to be quiet.'
The Doctor and Gloria hurried across the hanger and crouched down by the hatchway of the cargo ship.
'Can I borrow a hairpin?' the Doctor asked Gloria.
'Never mind, I can get it myself.'
Gloria cried out in pain as the Doctor yanked a pin from her hair then proceeded to attack the lock on the hatch with it. A few moments later, the hatch swung open.
'Eureka,' the Doctor declared.
'Doctor,' Gloria asked, 'how come you could do that to the hatch, but you can't unlock these handcuffs?'
'I'll explain later,' the Doctor replied, starting inside. 'Coming?'
Reluctantly, Gloria followed.
'Ow!' she cried as she stumbled over something just inside the hatch.
'Shh!' the Doctor scolded her, then added more sympathetically, 'what's wrong?'
'There's something down there,' Gloria whispered back.
'Really? Let me see,' the Doctor crouched down, dragging Gloria with him. He picked up the piece of equipment. 'Now this is interesting. Do you know what this is, Gloria?'
'Not a clue,' Gloria replied. 'And, to be honest, I don't really care. I just want to get back in time for my appointment.'
'Suit yourself,' the Doctor said, pocketing the item. 'And what was your appointment again? Oh yes, none of my business.'
'That's right,' Gloria retorted as the pair of them resumed their progress into the ship.
'Mina!' the Doctor cried as he stepped onto the bridge. 'How good to see you again.'
'Likewise, Doctor,' Mina replied.
'Stay exactly where you are,' Sveet said, levelling a gun at the Doctor and Gloria.
'Well, Mina,' the Doctor said, raising his hands, 'arent you going to introduce me to our hosts?'
'Doctor,' Mina said, 'I'd like you to meet Skort and Sveet.'
'Not quite how I would have described the,' the Doctor replied, 'but to each his own. I'm the Doctor and this is Miss Gloria Arbuckle. Perhaps you've heard of her?'
'About time somebody had,' Gloria muttered.
'But that is impossible,' Sveet said. 'This is Gloria Arbuckle.'
'No, I'm Mina Harker,' Mina explained, 'as I have been trying to tell you ever since we arrived.'
'You kidnapped the wrong person,' the Doctor told the Trogwhars.
'We kidnapped the wrong person?' Skort repeated.
'No matter,' Sveet said. 'Now we have the real Gloria Arbuckle and our plan can go ahead as planned.'
'I don't think so,' The Doctor said, shaking his heard. 'The Galactic Federation is hardly going to hand over an entire moon in exchange for the life of someone it's never heard of.'
'What do you mean, Doctor,' Sveet said. 'Gloria Arbuckle is a star.'
'Once, maybe,' the Doctor clarified, 'though I have my doubts about that.'
'Tell them what you're doing on Neopolis 5, Gloria,' the Doctor prompted. 'Tell them about the appointment that you're so desperate to keep. It's not a movie or a TV appearance, is it?'
'No, it isn't,' Gloria conceded. 'I'm here to open a supermarket.'
'What?' Skort and Sveet grunted in unison.
'I haven't had a proper job since Starshock was cancelled,' Gloria said. 'This is the best my agent could find for me.'
'That's terrible,' Stuart said. 'You're meant for better than that.'
'Why thank you, honey,' Gloria replied. 'That's so sweet.'
'The point is,' the Doctor continued, 'that your plan has failed.'
'In that case,' Sveet said, 'we must resort to Plan B!'
There was a long pause.
'And that is?' Gloria finally prompted.
'We have planted a bomb with which we shall blow up half of Neopolis 5,' Sveet explained.
'Presumably not the half were standing on,' Gloria remarked.
'Doctor,' Mina said, 'if they had this bomb all along, why did they kidnap me in the first place?'
'I've never been able to understand the workings of the criminal mind,' the Doctor replied sombrely.
'After this demonstration, the Galactic Federation will be able to ignore the Trogwhar Alliance no longer,' Sveet rented.
'If you say so,' the Doctor agreed.
'You dare to mock us?' Sveet said angrily.
'Probably,' the Doctor replied. 'Go on, explode your bomb if it will make you feel better.'
'Doctor!' Mina cried.
'Go on,' the Doctor repeated, 'I dare you.'
'As you wish,' Sveet replied. 'Mr Skort, detonate the device.'
Skort crossed to the console and pressed the big red button.
'Is something supposed to happen?' Gloria asked.
'I do not understand,' Sveet said. 'Why has the bomb not exploded?'
'It might have something to do with this,' the Doctor said, holding up the piece of equipment he had pocketed earlier. 'I believe this is the detonator for your bomb. It's not going to work without it.'
'Ah,' Sveet said.
'Oops,' Skort added.
'You know, you two don't really seem cut out to be terrorists,' the Doctor remarked. 'Have you ever considered a change of career?'
'But we need to get Denari 7 back, Doctor,' Sveet insisted.
'But why?' the Doctor asked. 'Why is that moon more important than the other six?'
'Well, um, it's because, ah '
'Go on,' the Doctor said.
'The TV reception is better on Denari 7,' Sveet explained. 'It's the only moon on which we can watch Starshock 5000.'
'It's our favourite,' Skort added, looking at Gloria. 'We're you're biggest fans.'
Stuart stood up.
'I thought I was '
'Not now, Stuart,' Mina said, dragging him back into his seat.
'You mean all of this was about a television programme?' the Doctor asked incredulously.
'Not just any television programme,' Sveet replied.
'Starshock is the greatest television programme ever made,' Stuart added.
'The young human speaks the truth,' Skort confirmed.
'Haven't you people ever heard of vid-discs?' Gloria asked. 'I'm sure my agent could do you a good deal. And, if you're really interested, I'm sure we could discuss convention appearances. For a small fee.'
'We are indeed very interested,' Sveet said.
'Would you mind signing my autograph book, Miss Arbuckle?' Skort asked.
I think we can leave the situation in your capable hands, Gloria,' the Doctor said, beaming. 'It was a pleasure.'
'Yeah, well the pleasure was all yours,' Gloria replied. 'And what about these handcuffs?'
The Doctor waved at her. With the hand that had formally been cuffed.
'Doctor!' Gloria snapped, but he was already outside.
'All's well that ends well,' the Doctor remarked as he and Mina walked out of the hanger and back into the shopping centre proper.
'A job well done, I think, Doctor,' Mina agreed.
'I hardly think so,' the Doctor corrected her. 'We still have presents to buy.'
'Please don't remind me,' Mina sighed.
The Doctor grinned and dived back into the throng.
'I think the adventure's just beginning,' he called back to her.