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Chapter 21

River was furiously dialing in coordinates, not really caring where she was sending them, as long as she could avoid continuing her conversation with Rain. In fact, she didn't even glance at the scanner to check their location until a massive jolt threw all of them to the ground.

She grabbed onto the console, attempting to hoist herself to her feet amid shouts of, "What was that?" and, "Did you turn the stabilizers on?" River rolled her eyes at this last comment, made by the Doctor. He hadn't even known there were stabilizers until she'd shown him. Even so, they were in fact on, which could mean any number of things, but considering how close to the edge of the universe they now were, she had her guesses.

As if to confirm these suspicions, the TARDIS began to slow down, all of the lights turning off. The Doctor turned to River, his eyes wide. "What have you done?"

"I . . . " But before she could answer, an even bigger jolt hit them, and they all landed back on the floor.

The Doctor sat up, groaning. "I think we've landed."

"Well where are we?" Rain asked, trying not to panic.

"I'm . . . not entirely sure," the Doctor answered, walking over to the door. He opened it just a crack, peeked out, and then shut it quickly. "On second thought, I might know. Now everyone, just take a deep breath, because this next news might be a little shocking. We seem to have landed on a planet outside the universe."

River was immediately alert. "Oh yeah, you told me about the last time that happened. So now what? Are we going to have to rescue the TARDIS or something?"

He walked over to where she stood, sonicking the console. After looking at the readings, he said, "No, I don't think so. The matrix is still there, but traveling outside the universe takes a lot of power, so she's probably drained for a while."

Jet, who was struggling slightly to keep up, asked, "So . . . now what?"

"Well," the Doctor said, clapping his hands together, "it seems we have a bit of free time on our hands, so I say we should explore! Oh, and don't worry; the gravity and air are all relatively Earth normal."

"Relatively?" River asked, raising an eyebrow.

He just waved a dismissive hand. "It'll be fine as long as we don't stay for too long."

This seemed to be good enough for everyone else, so they all shrugged and exited the TARDIS. The entire planet looked as if it was covered in craggy mountains. Just in case, the Doctor sonicked the ground. "It's okay," he called. "The planet isn't alive."

That statement didn't make Jet any less confused. "Um . . . good to know. I guess."

It didn't take them too much hiking to reach the top of the mountain they had landed on. Granted, it was one of the shorter mountains, but the view was still nice. There was even some grass and a tiny spring up there.

The Doctor was the last one to reach the top, and when he did, he was practically panting. River looked at him in confusion. "The man whose job is basically running for his life can't handle one tiny mountain?"

"It was a steep incline!" he blurted between breaths.

The other three laughed, and then sat down on the soft grass, listening to the sound of the trickling stream nearby.

All of a sudden, something caught Rain's eye. At first, she had thought it was a person, but the Doctor hadn't said anything about this planet being inhabited.

Jet placed a hand on her shoulder, sensing her confusion. "Something wrong?"

She looked back at him. "No, I just thought I saw a person for a second, but it was probably just the rocks." Just to be sure, she looked back. It was gone.

Rain gasped, causing Jet's attention to focus on where she was looking. "What is it?"

"I thought it was rocks. But . . . rocks can't just disappear."

At this statement, both the Doctor and River were alert. He now began to question her. "Tell me exactly what you saw."

"Okay," she replied shakily. "Well, I looked over, and at first glance, I thought I saw a person. When I looked closer, though, I could tell it was rock. But the next time I looked at it, it was gone." She sighed. "It's probably nothing."

Now the Doctor and River exchanged terrified glances. "You don't think . . .?" River asked.

"Yes, yes, I do," he answered.

"But you . . . . And they . . . ."

"But we're outside the universe now." This caused River's eyes to widen in fear.

Jet, however, was getting annoyed. "Will someone please just tell us what is going on?"

The Doctor gulped, ignoring him and focusing on Rain again. "Now this is very important. When you were looking at the rocks, did they move?"

"No."

The Doctor and River jumped to their feet and immediately began scanning the area, the Doctor with his sonic and River with her communicator. "No life signs, of course," River called, "but there are a few things coming toward us."

"How long do we have?" shouted the Doctor urgently.

"About ten minutes."

"What is going on?" Jet yelled.

The Doctor motioned for them to follow him. "Now is not the best time to explain."

He stood his ground. "Well I'm not going anywhere until you tell me."

"Humans!" the Doctor said, throwing his hands up in exasperation. "Long story short: we're being hunted by living stone angels, happy? Now come on!" At this, Jet decided to stop asking questions and follow him.

The four of them ran to the path that they had taken up. Now the Doctor wished that the TARDIS could have at least crashed at the top of the mountain. About halfway down, though, River, who was leading the group, stopped dead in her tracks.

"River, what is it?" the Doctor asked urgently.

"Are there any other paths up the mountain?" Somehow, she managed to keep her voice steady.

"What, why?"

"Just answer!" she snapped back.

"Uh, not that I know of, no," he answered as he checked the elapsed time on his watch. Three minutes had gone by. He waited for River to explain her question, but when she didn't, he decided to ask anyway. "Why?"

Slowly, she lowered her communicator—which had been up to scan for movement—and turned to the Doctor. "Because I think this exit's blocked."

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