I’ve always hated that the alarm sounds every time I break back into prison. Given the Stormcage Containment Facility is the most secure prison in all the known Universe, I started to think of it more like a grand anthem to honor the fact that I had escaped from my cell. Of course, I’d been gone for almost the entire evening, so to discover they hadn’t even noticed that I was gone until now is a little disconcerting. The Warden will not be pleased in the least. All the same, I strolled down the hallway towards my cell, my heart still racing from the adventure I’d just completed. Running with the Doctor was far more exciting than anything else I had ever experienced, and last night’s romp on Easter Island was certainly thrilling in many, many ways.
“Good morning, Miss Pond,” a squirrely man’s voice sounded from around the corner. “I trust we enjoyed ourselves?” The man approached me with his muscled arms wrapped across his chest and a stern grimace stretched across his face.
“Why Captain Nardole,” I answered as coolly as I could over the blazing klaxon, “you should know a lady reveals nothing about her romantic escapades.”
Nardole’s stone face cracked slightly as the tip of his lips curled every so slightly up into a smirk. Nardole was the strongest, most feared guard in all of Stormcage, and every prisoner lucky to find themselves a resident here made it a strict policy to stay as far away from him as possible, or at the very least remain in his good graces. Therefore, I made it my mission to make him my best friend. The results thus far have been mutually beneficial.
Nardole released a hand and ran it through his long, blonde hair. Nardole reminded me of the people from Epsilon Zero Gamma, a remote, uninteresting human colony that prided itself on genetic purity. Almost every EZG was tall and strong with bright blue eyes and long blonde hair. I assumed Nardole must have renounced his home planet and somehow found his way here. Even if he isn’t an EZG, they were all an imposing sight of human genetic perfection, and Captain Nardole was no exception. Mind you, there were plenty of days when I would have given anything to have his long blonde hair instead the outrageous curls my final regeneration had granted me. Given the intense humidity of Stormcage, you can imagine how often I have very bad hair days. “I suppose not, Miss Pond,” Nardole replied, “but I would appreciate the courtesy of prior notice or at the very least leave a note whenever you decide to go on one of your little ‘escapades.’”
“Captain, I thought we had agreed that you would start referring to me as River Song?”
“Only when I’m off duty, Melody Pond. It’s important that when on duty, I and all the other guards here remember the murderer that you truly are. Which reminds me.” He pulled a small data pad from one of his uniform pockets, tapped the screen and the alarm stopped. “The parole panel decided to uphold your current sentence of 12,000 consecutive life sentences. Apparently your argument wasn’t convincing enough this time.”
“A pity,” I sighed, “although it was a long shot at best. I was simply trying to point out that statistically speaking at least 2,000 of the species that might have been saved by the Doctor would have died out naturally over the course of their evolution.” I smirked in spite of myself. True, I was serving 12,000 consecutive life sentences for each planetary species that would have been wiped out if not for the timely intervention of the Time Lord known as the Doctor, the man I have been convicted of killing, but serving 10,000 sentences would still be a bit better.
You heard me right earlier too. I had just returned from an adventure with the Doctor just a few moments ago. I can assure you, he is quite alive. Very, very alive. But in order to conceal his current status as a living being from certain interested parties, I agreed to accept this punishment and live out my days inside this prison. My nights however … well, the Doctor had ways of whisking me away as he pleased. Then we ran, and oh how we ran. With each visit I learned more and more about who he was and all the things he had done in his life. He loved to talk, but not near as much as I loved to listen to him talk. Well, to a point at least.
“Maybe you could attend a university and study planetary evolution to prove them wrong?” Nardole offered.
“Become a professor?” I scoffed. “Well, it’s not the worst idea I’ve ever heard, although evolution is a little dull for me. Maybe something with a few more guns involved.”
Nardole chuckled, a rarity, and extended an arm back down the hall. “After you, Miss Pond.”
“Always the gentleman, Captain.” I walked slowly until we reached the open doorway of my cell. A bright lightning flash from my window lit the hallway. It rained almost constantly on Stormcage, so lightning was as much a source of illumination as the light globes. After a while, you learned to ignore the flashes and the thunder. I focused on the memory of the previous evening, running with the Doctor in and amongst those massive stone heads as lasers and explosions went off all around us. It took me a moment to recognize a new alarm was coming from Nardole’s data pad. “What’s that?” I asked.
Nardole scanned the pad as he instinctively unbuttoned the clasp over the laser pistol at his side. “Unauthorized vessel coming in. Looks like a shuttle of some kind. Shouldn’t be a problem for the spacedock guards.”
“Then why are you worrying about your gun?” I asked slyly, wrapping a hand around a bar on my cell door. He just grunted as he continued to monitor the situation.
I’ve always liked to think I have a good nose for trouble. It goes back to the days when I was growing up with my parents on Earth. Yes, I went to school at the same time as my mother, Amy. It’s a long story. Anyway, I always looked for new ways to get into trouble. It was just more exciting to live that way, although it drove Amy crazy. I lost count of the number of times she had to bail me out of jail or pick me up from the director’s office at our school. Over the years I learned to hone my instincts in order to detect any opportunity to get into trouble. So I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that shuttle was nothing but trouble.
“You have something to do with this?” Nardole asked.
“I’m innocent, I assure you.”
“Tell that to the 12,000 species you helped kill off.”
“No need to be rude,” I replied a little annoyed at the reminder and looked over his shoulder at the video. The shuttle gently settled down onto the landing pad. The hard rain continued to fall onto the shuttle, the pad and the dozen armed guards positioned in a semi-circle between the ship and the entrance. “It’s human design,” I offered. “Meant for only a few passengers. Looks like it’s seen some action too.” The shuttle spat out a small burst of steam from a venting port, and a landing ramp began to lower slowly. The guards lifted their rifles up towards the opening. “Oh how exciting, and the day has just started!”
“Shut up,” Nardole spat as he adjusted the pad so I could see a little better. His eyes were fixed on the unfolding scene.
When the landing ramp came to a stop, I heard one of the prison guards through the pad’s speakers demand the pilot identify himself. I watched as a humanoid figure slowly descended the ramp. The pilot was wearing black combat boots and green trousers, but the waist and torso were covered by light armor, strong enough to repel most solid projectiles and blades. As soon as the upper torso became visible, the curves of the armor plates made the pilot unquestioningly …
“A woman!” Nardole spat in surprise. “Now that’s brash. I can think of a number of inmates that would love to get their hands on her.”
“Yes,” I said coolly, focusing all my attention on her, trying to make out as many details as I could. Whoever this woman was, she meant business. I know because it’s exactly who I would have carried myself if I were in her position. Never let them see you fear, the Doctor once told me. He was right.
“Unidentified pilot,” I heard a man’s voice boom from the speakers on the landing pad. It was none other than the dulcet tone of the Warden of Stormcage, Prendit Tarsus. To say that Warden Tarsus hated me was a bit of an understatement, given my casual disappearances that he was powerless to prevent. He was almost always cross anyways, and the small fangs on either side of his blue mouth looked ready to bite into anyone who upset him. He was a bureaucrat through and through, but he was still more than a match for any inmate. Even still, he was smart enough to keep a distance from this new intruder. “You have five seconds to identify yourself or I will order my men to fire.”
The pilot reached up and slowly removed her helmet. She was clearly a human, and her long, blonde hair fell down across her shoulders and back.
“Oh no,” I gasped, taking a step back into my cell.
“What? You know her?”
“Three seconds,” Tarsus’ voice boomed.
I nodded as my heart began to race again, this time not in excitement but in terror. “You’re going to need more guards.”
“Who is she?”
“One second,” Tarsus demanded.
The woman dropped her helmet to the ground and slowly raised her hands up in the air over her head. The quirky smile that formed on her face only confirmed my worst fears. “She is the deadliest woman in all the galaxy,” I muttered, “and she’s here to kill me.”