The Tardis appeared in the back of the large theatre on Kanna Prime. Tucked in a back stage room, the blue box sat with a collection of props and set pieces from the theatre’s 100 year history. Only the lack of dust caused it to stand out amongst the hodgepodge of eras, settings and styles tucked in the storage room.
The time lord known as the Doctor stepped out from inside and looked up and down the room. He wore a formal tuxedo, black bow tie, black jacket with tails that was a size too small which he adjusted twice as he looked around the room.
The small antennaed gadget in his hand beeped, and directed his attention back to it. He turned first left, then right, slowly twisting a knob on the side as he did. Somewhere about 10 o’clock from the Tardis doors the doctor stopped, giving the knob a few fine tunes.
“Yes,” he whispered. “Got you.”
The Doctor left the storage room, winding down a longer hall as much in the direction the gadget indicated, all the while adjusting the fine tune of the gain to keep the signal strong inside of the building.
So fixated, he nearly walked into…
The Doctor looked up, stopping suddenly.
“Oh, hello,” the Doctor said.
“You are not supposed to be back here, I should…”
“Yes you should,” the Doctor interrupted. “I’m lost, you see, and while you have some fascinating things back here, I’d much rather be at my seat.”
The doctor slipped his gadget in one pocket as his hands fumbled around in the others. The man eyed the Doctor suspiciously until he produced a small leather bill fold with a small piece of psychic paper in it.
“Ah there it is,” the Doctor said triumphantly, opening it to show the paper to the man. “Somewhere up front, I believe.”
The man took a look for a moment before straightening up and shaking his head.
“No wonder you are lost. This is a good seat, you are up on the balcony. Follow me.” There was still annoyance in his voice as he spoke.
“Thank you Mr., uh.. .what did you say your name was?”
“I didn’t, but it is Dunlap,” he answered, opening a door with a faded “EXIT” sign hanging above.
Dunlap. The Doctor nearly walked into Dunlap.
The two emerged into the lower part of the seating area. The main hall of the theatre was enormous. The inside ceiling stretched nearly five stories above the Doctor’s head. Lavish curtains and ornate carvings decorated nearly every inch of the walls. The seats were large and well padded and the balconies curved out from the wall over hanging the seats below.
“Eh!” Dunlap called to a nearby bellboy. “This one is lost, take him up to box five.”
“Five?! Uh, yes sir.”
“He’ll show you to your place, uh… ” Dunlap motioned over the bellboy and then stopped.
“Doctor,” the Doctor replied, taking Dunlap’s hand, which had not been offered, and shaking it. “And thank you kindly.”
The bellboy led the doctor up a flight a stairs and down a hallway to a dark blue curtain. The bellboy pulled the curtain back revealing the half circled balcony. Most of the seats were full, save one near the front. The Doctor eyed it, as the bellboy gave a silent nod towards it.
“That one?” The Doctor asked, a bit louder than he anticipated.
“Yes!” the bellboy hissed through his teeth before walking off.
“I just wanted to be sure…” the Doctor mumbled as he made his way do the seat. The other members of this box glanced over as he made his way through and the Doctor nodded and smiled at them as he went.
At his seat he stopped to take another look at the theatre. From up here the view of the large theatre was stunning. Below the orchestra was doing final tuning and preparation.
“Down in front!” someone hissed from behind.
“Sorry!” the Doctor whispered, sitting in his seat hastily. The woman next to him, a blonde in an eloquent dark red evening gown, smiled at him as he sat. The Doctor returned the smile. Once situated, he gave her a second glance. She looked familiar. Not that someone as traveled as the Doctor couldn’t run into someone he had met before, it was just unusual.
The velvet curtain was pulled to each side and the orchestra started the prologue music. The Doctor’s attention went back to the stage as the first actors walked out. A woman riding a mechanical horse moved to the center and started to sing. Her voice filled every inch of the theatre as if she were sitting in front of the Doctor, singing softly, not belting out notes to fill the space.
“Oh an opera,” the Doctor whispered. The blonde glanced over. “Always rather enjoyed these,” he said to her.
The opera continued and the Doctor felt himself get engrossed into the story. Bringing together a tale similar to Sleeping Beauty but adding subtext of political intrigue, the opera was quite fascinating. In fact, the Doctor even said so.
“This is quite fascinating,” the Doctor whispered. The woman nodded, seemingly both fixated on the opera and completely distracted at the same time.
“Quite,” she answered.
In the dramatic climax our hero sings of his desperate attempt to forge the castle before the princess is devoured by a huge beast. The castle set slid out on stage with an elaborate dragon-esque monster perched over it. Inside a collection of actors and actresses sang in fear as the beast made several swipes at them.
Inside the Doctor’s coat, his gizmo started making noise.
“Sorry!” the Doctor whispered back, fumbling with his coat to get to the pocket. He pulled out the device and gave the small screen a glance as he turned off the sound. He looked up at the stage, then back to the screen.
“Excuse me,” the woman said as she exited the box. The Doctor followed suit, gadget in one hand, coat in the other.
The Doctor made his way down the hallway, down the stairs, through another door and out onto the main floor of the theatre. It did not escape his attention that the woman from the box above was going in the exact same direction.
As the two made their way up the main aisle, the opera continued. The hero was fighting the creature on the castle walls, the trapped few still below calling for help. The blonde woman moved with more urgency, until she was stopped by two ushers in the main aisle. Her gaze was locked on the dragon.
“Miss, you have to…” the usher was saying as the Doctor reached them.
“I need to get backstage,” she interrupted. “To my dressing room.”
“Miss Zaed,” the usher replied. “So sorry!”
The usher stepped aside and Ms Zaed continued down the aisle.
The usher stepped back into place as the Doctor started to walk with her.
“And where do you think you are going?”
“He’s with me,” Ms Zaed said. She had stopped and turned and was looking at the Doctor. “And he needs to hurry,” she added.
“You heard the lady,” the Doctor commented, swiftly walking after.
On stage the dragon made a huge roar drawing all attention to it. The hero lunged for it and missed, the dragon taking the moment to grab one of the trapped prisoners.
“No!” Ms Zaed said, bringing her hands to her face. The Doctor stopped at her side, the two watching the stage.
In the last second before the dragon was to eat her, the hero stabbed it, causing it to scream and drop the girl back down.
Ms Zaed looked surprised.
“Come on,” she said, grabbing the Doctor’s hand. The two went to the backstage door. Ms Zaed ran her hand over the scanner and the door opened. The two slipped inside.
The backstage hallways lacked all of the finish of the theatre the Doctor had just left. The walls were unpainted and marked up from years of moving sets and actor graffiti. A low tone red color from the gel covered lights filled the hallways.
Ms Zaed lead the way, taking a left as they entered the hallway, towards, the Doctor noted, the stage. A few of the cast passed them walking the other way, and each time Ms Zaed gave them a once over as they passed.
Finally the one she was looking for approached.
“Ramona,” she whispered, grabbing the girl, the girl who had been picked up by the huge monster on stage, in fact, by her arm and stopping her.
“Are you ok?” Ms Zaed asked. The girl gave her a half confused, but mostly agitated look.
“Of course, I told you I could do this role,” Ramona answered. She then pulled her arm free from the grasp of the older woman. “And the show is still going on, Mother.”
Ramona pushed past Ms Zaed and then the Doctor down the hallway. Ms Zaed spent a moment in thought before catching the Doctor looking at her.
“Shall we talk then?” The Doctor said. In his hands was his gadget, and while he remembered to turn the sound off this time, the flashing of the screen still told him what he needed to know. It was still close.
“My dressing room is this way, Mr…”
“I’m the Doctor,” The Doctor finished. “And Ladies first.”
The Doctor stepped to one side, offering her the lead. As he followed down the hallway, part of his mind almost paid attention to where they were going. Mostly, however, it was focused on his gadget, and the tidbits it was picking up.
Inside Ms Zaed’s dressing room the doctor switched off his gadget and slipped it back into his coat pocket. Ms Zaed sat down in her chair near the wall of mirrors, crossing her left leg over her right. After a moment she offered a chair to the Doctor.
“Please sit,” she said, motioning. “And tell me, Doctor, about your little contraption.”
“Oh this?” the Doctor said, pulling the gadget back out before sitting down. He turned it on, fiddled with the two knobs a bit for a moment before turning it back off.
“Just something I dreamed up, really. Helps me find something that doesn’t belong where it is.”
“Adequately vague description, Doctor. I would think it would be obvious what was out of place here.”
“Seems you are quite sure. And my gadget agrees.”
“What I don’t understand is why didn’t the monster hurt any of them,” Ms Zaed said, diverting her worried look from the doctor, off to the side.
“Well, I believe Ramona answered that for you,” The Doctor said. Ms Zaed looked back over.
“I believe she said ‘The show is still going on…’ didn’t she? Can’t go off killing cast members before the finale, can you?”
Ms Zaed smiled for the first time since they had run down the stairs to the back stage area. She even let out a short laugh, catching her mouth with her hands.
“Of course, Doctor. Of course. And that gives us at least three more weeks before that happens.”
“Three weeks you say? Well that is a good amount of time.” The Doctor thought for a second, then leaned in to Ms Zaed. “But you know, I was never good at being patient. Too curious, I suppose.”
Outside the two heard the audience’s applause. A mischievous smile found its way onto the Doctor’s face. He stood, extending a hand to Ms Zaed.
“Care to accompany, m’lady, on a high adventure?” The Doctor asked, mostly quoting the opera they had just seen.
“Why of course, m’lord, for honor and glory,” Ms Zaed answered, more precisely quoting the lines.
The Doctor helped her to her feel, and took her by the arm. They walked out of the dressing room, looking left and right. They could still hear the applause from outside.
“Curtain call is almost over,” Ms Zaed commented. “This way, it would be kept back here.”
Down the hallway, past a few stage hands and discarded set pieces, around a corner, and down a bit more, the two found themselves in front of a doored stairwell.
“These stairs lead downstairs to below the stage. Whatever that thing is, that is where they keep it.”
The Doctor turned the handle, but the door was locked.
“Is there a pad or something?” he asked, investigating the walls left and right of the door.
“Not on this one, just an old fashioned key…”
“Which is why you’ve never been down there.” The Doctor added, pulling his sonic screwdriver from his pocket. “Right?” The Doctor pointed the screwdriver at the handle, its oscillatory sound echoing off for a few moments before he stopped. Carefully he turned the handle, the door opening inwards.
“Doctor,” Ms Zaed said. The Doctor stopped and listened. The applause had stopped.
“We must hurry then,” he said, slipping into the stairwell, pulling Ms Zaed behind him. She closed the door as they started to descend the stairs.
The lights were a bit darker in this area of the theatre, but the red glow still provided enough visibility for the two to make it down the stairs without too much difficulty. Instead it was the sounds from below, sounds no doubt muffled by the door and thick stage above that caused the two to hesitate as they went.
The Doctor looked upwards at Ms Zaed, placing one finger over his lips. She agreed and he continued. Below there was brighter light visible coming from the room off to once side at the bottom.
The door at the bottom was not locked, and the Doctor opened it but a few inches so the two of them could peer inside.
“Oh my,” Ms Zaed whispered.
The Doctor nodded in agreement.
Inside of the room the dragon like beast was pulling against a series of ropes that held it into place. Some ropes were tied down, other being pulled by men or assistant androids. Only a handful of phrases made it to the Doctor through the moans of the creature.
“…taking longer than…”
“…hungry beast, ain’t it…”
“…is it going to be like…”
“…not paid enough…”
The Doctor pulled his gadget from his pocket, staring at the small screen a few moments.
“Yes,” he mumbled, “yes, there you are. You are what I am looking for. You don’t belong here.”
“Don’t belong, Doctor?” Ms Zaed whispered incredulously. “Cannot you simply look at it and see that? It doesn’t belong in a theatre, I’m not even sure it belongs on this planet.”
“It isn’t the ‘where’ I am so worried about, Ms Zaed, as the ‘when’.” The Doctor gave one last look over the gadget before switching it off and stuffing it back in his pocket. “Ok, now,” he started as he turned and stood, “we need to…”
“Need to what?” Ms Zaed asked as she too turned around.
On the stairs stood Dunlap. Beside him were two of the bellboys. Each was holding a firearm of some sort.
“Are you lost again, Doctor?” Dunlap asked.
“Quite, actually. If Ms Zaed hadn’t found me, I’d be down here like the Phantom of the Opera. But no need for an armed escort, we will show ourselves out…”
The Doctor took Ms Zaed’s arm again and motioned towards the stairs. None of the three men on the stairwell moved, however.
“Nice try, Doctor. On other circumstances, I’d offer you an audition.”
Dunlap motioned to the room behind the two with his gun. Ms Zaed and the Doctor glanced at each other before turning and walking through the door.
The creature had been mostly subdued by the time the five entered the room. One man stood at the head of the room directing the others in tying down the final lines.
“You, on the left, pull more than that!”
“Hey, hold that a bit longer, its going to yank…”
“Charles?” Ms Zaed said, looking at the man. He was still in costume and the Doctor recognized him as the Prince, male lead from the opera.
“You were…” the Doctor started, walking towards the man, “fantastic! I’ve seen some operas in my time,” the Doctor took the confused actor by the hand and started to shake it, “but your performance was simply amazing. When you road in to fight the…” the Doctor motioned to the creature with his free hand, “uh, monster. You had me on the edge of my seat. And singing and fighting at the same time? Brilliant!”
The actor raised one eyebrow at the Doctor before pulling his hand away.
“Dunlap, who is this? And what is she doing here?”
“The Doctor, I’m the Doctor. And Ms Zaed was giving me a tour of this fantastic theatre.”
“I thought you said you were lost,” Dunlap said.
“Oh, yes, yes, I was lost. But when Ms Zaed found me she offered to show me around.”
“Nice try, Doctor.” Dunlap said, then spoke over his shoulder to one of the bellboys. “Get that device from his pocket, I want to see it.”
One of the bellboys approached the Doctor, who half heartedly raised his hands. The boy started for the left pocket.
“Other pocket,” the doctor said. The boy looked up at him, the Doctor nodded. The boy reached into the left pocket anyway, but it was empty.
The boy frustratedly thrust his hands into the right pocket pulling out the Doctor’s gadget and displaying it to Dunlap. Dunlap motioned for the boy to bring it to him and the boy complied.
“And what is this?” Charles asked, joining Dunlap. The bellboys corralled Ms Zaed and the Doctor back together.
“Oh, just a device to watch the telly,” the Doctor said, or at least tried to say. The word “telly” came out awkwardly. “TV,” he corrected. “Moving pictures and such.”
This accent was still not growing on him.
Ms Zaed looked up at him.
“Sorry,” he mumbled to her. “My mouth is still kind of new.”
“Interesting programs you have on here, Doctor,” Dunlap said. “Seems they point you right here, right to our Noga.”
“Noga?” the Doctor said, turning to look at it. “Of course! I know I recognized it before. So, my friend. What are you doing here?”
“Putting on the greatest stage production in the history of theatre, Doctor,” Dunlap answered.
“Oh, not you, good man. Your Noga. He is a bit far from home.” The Doctor looked at Charles and Dunlap. “But you two don’t care about that, now do you?”
“What should we do with them?” Charles asked. “There are still many shows left to do.”
“And we can’t have them blabbing this to just anyone,” Dunlap added.
“Charles,” Ms Zaed spoke firmly but quietly. The actor turned to her. With one clean motion she backhanded him across his face.
“My daughter is out there with that thing. Your daughter is out there. Will you feed this thing with your own child?”
“If that is what it takes for the glory, then yes!” Charles said, his face turning red asymmetrically.
A curt smile formed on Dunlap’s face.
“I think Carmen here has just given us our solution, Charles.”
“Carmen?” the Doctor interjected. “Carmen Zaed! But of course! I knew I recognized you from somewhere. You are a brilliant soprano. You’re quite popular you know…”
“Popular? Ms Zaed hasn’t seen the stage in almost five years. I am sure her public has all but forgotten about her.” Charles replied.
“Right,” the Doctor thought for a moment. “Right, right, I remember now. Yes, sorry. You will be quite popular, Ms Zaed. Of that I am certain.”
“If you two are through now…” Dunlap commented. “Charles did you not say the beast was too hungry to last until closing night?”
“Yes, several of the handlers believe so… Wait, are you suggesting…?”
“That dinner just delivered itself? Quite, Charles. Quite.” Dunlap turned to the two bellboys. “Bind them.”
The two bellboys under the watchful eye of Dunlap’s pistol, grabbed extra line nearby and tied both Ms Zaed’s and the Doctor’s hands together behind their backs.
“Now to that scaffolding over there,” Dunlap ordered.
“Isn’t this a bit much?” the Doctor asked.
“I agree, Dunlap, silence them yes, but this?” Charles said.
“You have an understudy, Charles. I would advise you to keep your mouth shut as well,” Dunlap countered.
“Surely you don’t want to lose someone like Carmen Zaed,” the Doctor continued. “Let her go. After all it was my gadget that got her in trouble.”
“Noble sentiment, Doctor. Noble indeed. And an interesting point. I am not sure the Noga can eat both of you in one sitting. Perhaps Ms Zaed will be better off saved for later.”
“Well that is a start,” the Doctor mumbled.
“Tie them both to the scaffolding,” Dunlap ordered.
“But you just said…” the Doctor started.
“I know, Doctor. But I will let the hungry Noga decide how much he will eat. Tie them up!”
The bellboys ran the ends of the rope around the metal scaffolding at one end of the room, binding the two near each other.
“I’ll not be a part of this,” Charles said, heading for the door.
“But you are, Charles. You are a big part of this.”
“Charles, you keep Ramona safe, you hear me?” Carmen called out. “You keep my daughter safe. Your daughter.”
Charles looked at her a moment, then the Doctor before turning and heading out of the room and up the stairs.
Dunlap walked back over to the Doctor, putting the gadget back into the left pocket.
“Right, it goes in the right pocket.”
“Of course, Doctor,” he said, putting it in the left pocket. “I hope it lead you to what you were looking for.”
Dunlap turned and left the room, followed by the two bellboys. As the door closed behind them, the ropes gave away holding the Noga down.
At first the beast shook them off. Its growl was strained and weak, but a growl non-the-less. It stretched upwards, filling the space nearly to the ceiling.
“They are starving you, aren’t they boy?” the Doctor said, looking up.
“Doctor, you sound more concerned for that thing than for us,” Ms Zaed said. Her stare fixated on the creature.
“Of course, Ms Zaed. It is the one out of place, held prisoner. Though I suppose I should be worried about us as well.”
The beast yelled again, looking around the room.
“Carmen Zaed,” the Doctor mumbled, he too fixated on the creature. “If these are to be my last moments, I was wondering if I could ask a favor?”
“A favor, Doctor?”
“One of your songs is one of my favorites. It is an old earth song you sing. Could you, now, sing it for me?”
The creature saw the two people and growled again. There was an energy and volume returning to it. Drugged, the doctor realized. And now they were wearing off.
“Please, Ms Zaed. Sing for me. You have the voice of an angel, and it would be an honor for it to be the last I hear.”
The creature started to move, its legs wobbled and it fell. Slowly picked itself back up.
“I know it, Doctor, the song you want to hear. I’m not sure how you heard it yet, I have only just started practicing.”
She looked at the Doctor, who smiled and looked back.
“But of course, Doctor, I’ll sing it.”
The creature started closer as Carmen Zaed started her song. Softer at first, but it was not three lines before she raised her voice to full volume and filled the entire room. She closed her eyes as she did. She no longer wanted to watch the approach of the Noga.
As the song neared its end, she heard the Doctor whisper: “Don’t stop.”
Still singing the final verse she opened her eyes. The Noga was laying down in front of them, its long head resting on its paws, eyes staring right at Ms Zaed.
“Just keep singing, Ms Zaed,” the Doctor spoke softly. She nodded and started the song over.
Behind him, the Doctor was nearly out of his bonds. A few lines into the second singing and his hands slipped free. Carefully he pulled the gadget out of his pocket and turned it on.
“There, there big guy,” the doctor said, turning some knobs and watching the screen. “This will help.”
A small beam of light emitted from the gadget, and the Noga’s head recoiled a small bit.
“Just a bit, just a bit,” the Doctor said, making one final adjustment. Then in a flash of light, the Noga shrunk to the size of a large dog. It growled, but the sound was higher pitched, almost bark like.
“Sit!” the Doctor ordered and the Noga did so. “Good boy.”
“Doctor? What just happened?” Ms Zaed asked as the Doctor loosened her bonds.
“Well I think it is obvious that Dunlap doesn’t have any sailors working for him.”
“No, to the Noga, Doctor, what did you do?”
“Oh! I simply shrunk him for the time being. Can’t very well take him anywhere at his normal size. This is a much more travel friendly version.” The Doctor turned to the Noga, “And you, you want to go home, don’t you?”
The Noga ran around in a few circles before sitting back where it was.
“You were right, almost Ms Zaed. Noga aren’t from this planet… now. They are from this planet a few million years ago. Still not sure where this one came from, but don’t worry, I’ll take him home.”
“You will do no such thing,” a voice said. The Doctor turned and Dunlap had returned, as had his pistol.
“You again?” the Doctor said. The Noga started to growl at Dunlap. “Hey now,” the Doctor said to the Noga, “behave.”
The Noga sat again, but did not relax.
“I am not sure what your contraption did to my Noga, Doctor, but I do expect you to reverse it. We have a show to put on.”
“Yes, yes, your show where someone will die on closing night?”
“Not just anyone, dear Doctor, but the star himself.”
“Charles?!” Ms Zaed asked.
“Why of course! What better finale than the tragedy of the hero losing, the girl held forever in a castle with a dragon.”
“I can think of a few reasons…”
Everyone’s attention went back to the door. Charles stood there, a pistol in his hand. The two bellboys were lying dead on the floor behind him.
“It was just business, Charles,” Dunlap said as he started to turn.
“Don’t move, Dunlap.”
“It seems that you two have some things to discuss,” the Doctor said. “Why don’t Ms Zaed and I step out and leave you two some privacy.”
But “privacy” came out wrong, leaving the Doctor to distort his mouth with bad taste as it did.
“I think talks are over, Doctor,” Charles said.
Dunlap spun and fired, Charles fired, and the Doctor dove into Ms Zaed all at the same time. Dunlap and Charles hit each other, each falling lifeless to the floor.
“Well, that was a bit…” the Doctor started.
“Theatrical?” Ms Zaed said from below him.
“Yes, quite, quite,” he replied, a smile on his face.
The Doctor helped her to her feet. The two slipped out the door and started up the stairs.
“Come on boy!” The Doctor called out, and the Noga started off after them.
Upstairs, the Doctor grabbed the nearest backstage person he saw.
“You, there has been an accident, we need the police immediately.”
“Yes sir,” the girl said and ran off. The stage manager showed up a few minutes later and after a short brief from the Doctor got help to section the area off.
“Ms Zaed, are you going to be ok?” The Doctor asked, looking at her.
The two looked over as Ramona came running down the hallway. She threw her arms unceremoniously around her mother’s neck.
“I heard father tried to kill you!”
“It’s ok, we are ok…” Ms Zaed said, looking up at the Doctor. He smiled back.
“You get back on that stage, Ms Zaed,” the Doctor said. “Your voice needs to be heard.”
“I will Doctor. And what of you? Will you come to my performance?”
“I would be honored,” the Doctor replied, giving a slight bow. “But for now, I have to get a certain Noga home, don’t I?”
The Noga sat up at the Doctor’s voice.
“Come on boy, off we go.”
Inside the Tardis the Doctor and the Noga stood around the center controls. The Doctor had undone his bowtie and unceremoniously pulled part of his shirt out. A recording of Carmen Zaed’s songs filled the space.
“I must get a new tuxedo,” he mumbled. “This one is made for an entirely different sort of me.”
The Noga mostly ignored the Doctor; its head stretched upwards listening.
“She is wonderful, isn’t she? In a few years she’ll become the most famous soprano of the time. Some would say of all time, but, well, we still have a bit of that to go, I rather think.”
A flip of a few switches, a dial here and there and the Tardis started up.
“Ok, boy, time to return you to your own time.”
A few moments later the Tardis rematerialized on Kanna Prime several million years prior to the moment it left.
The Doctor pulled his gadget from his pocket and went to the front door.
“Alright, out you go so I can put you back… to… normal?”
The sight outside stopped the Doctor, and the Noga for that matter, in their tracks. The planet at this point in its history was teeming with life of all sorts, very reminiscent to Earth’s dinosaur periods.
But that was not the view from the Tardis door. The planet was not one of wild life, of dangerous creatures, marvelous plants and nature. Instead it was covered as far as the Doctor could see with technology. Metal buildings, armed guards, transport vehicles, even aircraft were all seen in just a few moments.
“What’s this?” the doctor asked. The Noga had no answer.