Hermione turned around and gasped.
A large circular room curved away in front of her, much larger than the small box would allow. It was beautiful, in a dusty, organic sort of way. She would have said steampunk, but it looked too worn and practical. Coral beams branched upward to support a domed ceiling with a quiet dignity. Cables hung from the ceiling, converging on the center. The floor was a metal grate through which she could see hints of complex machinery and a staircase leading down to lower levels.
But the center was what fascinated her. It was a curved, six-sided control panel, with a column in the center that stretched upwards to the ceiling. The controls looked complex, with all sorts of buttons and levers that had no clear meaning. A monitor sat on one side, adorned with sticky notes that had odd, circular symbols.
She moved into the center of the room, peering at the controls. The console was backlit with a soft green light, illuminating more of the symbols etched into the glass. They were like nothing she had ever seen before. The whole console looked like it had been thrown together from old spare parts, but somehow it all fit smoothly together.
Hermione turned around to see the Doctor leaning against one of the coral beams, beaming at Hermione’s delight. He was clearly proud of this place, whatever it was. Rose stood next to him, grinning almost as widely as he was.
“It’s the TARDIS” he said. “Stands for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space.”
“What does all this stuff do?" Hermione asked eagerly. "Why disguise it as a police box, of all things? And how did you get it?”
The Doctor looked disappointed. “Aren’t you going to say it’s bigger on the inside?”
“Well, isn’t it just an Undetectable Extension Charm?” Hermione asked. But the more she thought about it, the more that didn’t make sense. If the Doctor and Rose were wizards, why hadn’t they used magic before? The gadget the Doctor had used to disable the fire alarm sure didn’t look like a wand. Why use that instead?
“No,” the Doctor said. “It’s trans-dimensional engineering. This is my ship. She can travel anywhere in space and time. The police box is because of the chameleon circuit. It changes shape to blend in.”
"A police box doesn't exactly blend in," Hermione told him.
"Yeah, well, it's been stuck like this for a while now. I've grown fond of it." the Doctor said, patting the railing.
"But this is incredible!" Hermione said "How does it work?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“I bet I could,” she pressed. “I’m quite well-read in theoretical magic.”
“It’s not magic,” said the Doctor, “It’s my spaceship.”
“So you’re not a wizard?” Hermione said, confused.
Comprehension dawned on the Doctor’s face. “No, not like you’re talking about.”
“All right,” Hermione said, sitting down on one of the chairs by the console and taking a deep breath. “Okay. Do you happen to know any wizards?”
“Nope,” the Doctor said. “There aren’t any. Not here.”
“Sure there are,” Hermione said, starting to feel frustrated.
“No, there aren’t. This universe doesn’t have magic. Not your sort, anyway.”
“But then how can I do magic?” Hermione challenged.
“Try a spell,” the Doctor urged, taking out his odd device.
Hermione folded her arms. “And what are you going to do with that?”
“It’s just his sonic screwdriver,” said Rose. “I’m pretty sure it does everything. Open doors, hack computers, scan things. Except wood, for some reason it doesn’t work on that.”
“Now go on, show us something,” the Doctor urged. “I’m just going to scan you with it, figure out what’s going on.”
“Fine,” Hermione said. She glanced around for something to use, not wanting to break anything, but the room was rather bare. She noticed Rose was wearing a bracelet. That would do.
“Accio Bracelet,” she said. It zoomed into her open hand.
Rose looked amazed. “Now that’s something I never thought I’d see,” she muttered.
Hermione returned the bracelet to Rose along with a quick apology. The Doctor finished scanning Hermione and stowed the sonic screwdriver back in his coat pocket.
“Well, it's a bit hard to tell because your wand’s made of wood,” he said, “but it looks like it brings energy from your universe through the crack to make the spell happen in this universe.”
“That does make sense,” Hermione said. But she still didn’t trust them. “How do I know you’re not lying to me? Amel and Garen said they wanted to help, and I ended up with a gun to my back.”
“Look,” Rose said, stepping forward. “We really are just travelers – or at least the Doctor is. I’m just a shop girl from London. He saved my life when we first met. Now he’s taking me around the universe, showing me the sights.”
“But then why would you bother investigating random ‘disturbances?’” Hermione said, unconvinced.
“I’m curious,” the Doctor said. “Always have been. Got me in a fair bit of trouble over the years too.”
“Finding trouble is pretty much his MO,” Rose agreed.
“We’re not armed,” the Doctor continued. “If we do anything you don’t like, you’ve got your wand. Plus, we just saved you from a bunch of security police. Give us a bit of credit.”
Hermione considered him and Rose. The situation wasn’t like with Amel and Garen. Those two had given her exactly what she had wanted, and in return she’d played right into their hands. Rose and this Doctor were different – they didn’t claim to be affiliated with anyone, and she hadn’t seen them contact anybody. Maybe they were just travelers. Her gut said to trust them. She took a deep breath and made the decision.
“All right, I’ll trust you." For now.
The Doctor flashed a grin. “Well, now that we’ve got that sorted, what I want to know is what brought you here. Travel between universes isn’t exactly easy.”
Hermione explained about the crack, how it kept growing, how it had swallowed her colleagues and how she’d volunteered to come here and find them. A question occurred to her.
“So you said you picked up me coming through the crack back in Cardiff, but how did you find me here?”
“Oh, anyone who’s crossed between universes radiates Void stuff – little particles from the Void between universes,” said the Doctor. “Tracking it’s easy. We just landed a little late.”
Hermione then related all that had happened after she came through the crack, up until Garen and Amel’s betrayal.
“And you know the rest,” she said. “But Garen and Amel – they said they had been keeping watch on the crack and no one had come out. They said my people were probably lost in the Void, that the surges pulled them out of my universe but not into this one. Is it true?”
The Doctor frowned. “They might have been lying. I don’t know who they are or why they’re so interested in you. And I don’t like not knowing. Which is why” – he grinned and rushed over to the console – “I think it’s time to pay them a little visit, don’t you?”
He started pressing buttons and flipping switches. “I’m scanning for alien ships in the atmosphere….aha! Locking on, get ready.”
A spark of hope blossomed in Hermione’s chest as the Doctor’s words sank in. Why should she trust anything Garen and Amel had said? Maybe Henry, Liza, and Sylvia were still alive.
Rose laid a hand on Hermione’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. If they’re out there, we’ll find them.”
The Doctor flipped one last switch. A wheezing, groaning sound filled the air. The TARDIS shook, showers of sparks exploding from the console. Hermione and Rose were flung back against the railing. Hermione held on for dear life.
“Is it supposed to be doing that?” she yelled.
The Doctor hands were flying over the controls again. “They’ve got some advanced shielding – if I can just adjust the harmonic resonators…got it.”
The room steadied and a solid thunk announced their arrival.