‘The Zondor Robbers’ (Z), Chapter 1

1. Room Service

The creature watched and waited. He knew his time was soon to come. He felt nervous. He wanted to see him after so many years. The creature had been meaning to retrieve his special treasure. If only this man would get here soon. The man who knew everything. So wise. And so fiery. Waiting in the lobby of Rotenhend Hotel 360, the creature did not like the reception he gained when first coming here. But that was not important to him. He had a purpose. A self-fulfilling purpose.

He watched in the dark corners of the lobby, whilst the hotel manager barked away loudly, waiting for the moment of truth to appear. His expectations were not in vain as the sound of the TARDIS materialised within the lobby itself. It whooshed and whined, chugging and grinding as it made a full stop and landed with a thump to accomplish complete materialisation. The creature stared at the box. He hadn’t seen it for such a long time. Would the man inside be accommodating to him now?

Inside the TARDIS, with its engines vibrating and the time column slowing down to a halt, the Doctor pressed buttons and switches as he ascertained where and when he and his companions were. It was at that moment his granddaughter Susan entered. He looked up.

“Ah, Susan!” he greeted. “There you are, my child. I was just about to call for you. We’ve arrived at our destination.”

Susan yawned after having come from her bedroom. She blinked as she focused in the TARDIS control room. She saw her grandfather and her schoolteachers Ian and Barbara.

“Where are we, grandfather?” she yanwed. “I do hope it’s somewhere nice. We deserve a holiday, don’t we?”

“Did you sleep well, Susan?” Barbara enquired.

Susan nodded. “Yes thank you, Barbara. I didn’t sleep long but it was nice.”

“So where are we, Doctor?” Ian asked.

“Patience my dear boy,” the Doctor retorted. “Patience. I shall be able to tell you once I’ve ascertained from these instruments. If only this thing wouldn’t play up so much. Oh dear, dear, dear, dear.”

The Doctor turned to his granddaughter. “What’s the radiation reading, Susan?”

Susan checked the meter at the TARDIS controls.

“Radiation nil. Atmosphere normal. Artificial.”

“Artificial?” the Doctor brightened up. “Hmm. Hmm, I wonder.”

“Is it not safe to go out there?” Barbara asked.

“I gather we’re not on Earth, Doctor.” Ian remarked.

“Oh confound it, dear boy,” the Doctor rebuked. “Where’s your scientific curiosity? Don’t you want to see where we are?”

“I daresay this place we’re at will be very interesting, Doctor,” Ian replied.

“But all the same,” Barbara added, “we do hope you’re trying to take us back to Earth.”

“Yes, yes,” the Doctor said dismissively. “I know my TARDIS isn’t always reliable and I don’t have full control of it. But be rest assured I am trying to get you back home. Now please stop bothering me.”

“It’s alright, Doctor,” Ian smirked. “We’re not complaining.”

“Oh? Aren’t you?” the Doctor asked challengingly.

“No,” Barbara reassured him. “You’ve been taking us to new places and past times on Earth that we’ve rather got used to it.”

“Hmm?”, the Doctor said, uncertain how to respond. “Well, let’s see what on the scanner.”

The Doctor turned a knob and the scanner screen switched on to show a hotel lobby outside. The four of them were amazed.

“Where the blazes have you landed us this time?” Ian asked.

“I don’t know, my dear boy,” the Doctor said, curious. “But I’m certain I’ve seen it somewhere before. Yes! Yes, I’m sure I have.”

“Grandfather, it’s the lobby of a hotel,” Susan said.

“Yes,” the Doctor agreed. “A space hotel.”

“Space hotel?” said a surprised Ian before he chuckled. “That’s something I’d like to see.”

“Well, we’ll be going out shortly, my dear boy,” the Doctor told him. “And there’s no need to get so clever with me.”

The Doctor then had a thought as he remembered something.

“Of course!” he exclaimed. “I know where we are. Yes, this is one of the Rotenhend hotels!”

“Rotenhend hotels?” Barbara enquired.

“Why yes!” Susan realised. “Grandfather, we’ve been to one of them before. Somewhere…in the Yohan System.”

“Yes! Quite right, my child,” the Doctor concurred. “I wonder what sector of space we’re in this time. Let’s go and see, shall we?”

“Oh yes, let’s please!” Susan said happily.

The Doctor activated the door controls and the TARDIS interior doors opened. The Doctor briskly marched out of the console room, followed eagerly by Susan. He called to Ian and Barbara.

“Come on along, you two!” he said impatiently. “Come on; come on!”

Reluctantly, Ian and Barbara began to follow.

“I suppose we have no choice, since we have to keep the Doctor in sight,” Barbara said.

“After you!” Ian obliged.

Barbara smiled as she went out first. Ian took the rear.

The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan found themselves in the lobby of Rotenhend Hotel 360 once they stepped out of the TARDIS. They looked around seeing the splendour and quality that the hotel had to offer. A relaxing atmosphere ensued from the hazel dimmed lights in the lobby and there was a cool flowery scent.

“Oh this is nice,” Barbara said. “Very soothing. It reminds me of all those hotels I went to where they had exam conferences every year.”

“Yes,” Ian agreed. “That’s what it feels like for me too.”

Ian then saw something that caught his eye.

“Barbara!” he said “Look!”

Taking Barbara by the hand, Ian and she made their way to the nearest window. They saw the view before Susan and the Doctor joined them.

“It’s beautiful!” said Barbara in awe. “All those stars! It’s absolutely beautiful!”

“Yes,” Ian concurred. “And up this close! I never thought I would see a sight like this!”

“Well I’d have to say I’m not surprised, dear boy,” the Doctor said. “By your time, space time was an idea. But in the future we’re in now, the Rotenhend hotels were at the height of any space-travelling guide to go anywhere. This is one of a number of popular venues for resting points for travellers of the stars.”

“You mean to say,” Barbara enquired, “there are lots of hotels like this one…in space?!”

“Grandfather and I always wanted to come to one of these hotels,” Susan told her. “The wonders they have in these places.”

“Your civilisation has advanced further by this point, Chesterton,” the Doctor said. “Earth and its people were far superior in technology. And by the 37th century, men and women had more sophisticated means of travel in the stars. So they can stop here whenever they had a long journey.”

“37th century?!” Ian exclaimed. “You’ve landed us in the 37th century?!”

“Yes, I know,” the Doctor replied. “It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? Your home planet’s about thirty thousand light years away from here. So you can always take a star-bus back there if you want to.”

Ian and Barbara laughed. So did the Doctor, relieved they got the joke.

“I think we’ll settle for our time if it’s all the same to you, Doctor.” Barbara told him.

“And we’d like to stay here and look around the place,” Ian added. “Not wishing to be disrespectful, but I don’t think the public transport of this time can be relied upon.”

“And we’re sure there’s more interesting things to see here.” Barbara said.

“That’s more like it,” the Doctor said happily. “More like it, yes.” He then turned to Susan. “You know Susan, I suspect your schoolteachers are getting to like the idea of travelling with us. Hardly surprising since that time in the junk yard all those years ago in 1963.”

“I know, grandfather,” Susan agreed. “It seems like we’ll have to put up with them for a little longer. Have them stay with us.”

“Now, you’re just trying to wind us up,” Ian retorted good-humouredly. “Don’t even think we’re trying to seem like we’re enjoying ourselves.”

“We have to be on our best behaviour, Susan,” Barbara said. “Since your grandfather sabotaged his ship in order to have his way seeing the Dalek city.”

“Oh nonsense, my dear,” the Doctor rebuked. “I can’t believe you’d think so low of me!”

“Look, shouldn’t we book ourselves a room?” Ian asked. “We’d be chatting here all day and we’d get nowhere.”

“Yes, yes!” the Doctor agreed. “Come along! Let’s hope the hotel staff are friendlier to what we’re used to lately.”

The four time travellers made their way to reception. Hiding behind some crates however, the creature watched carefully. He waited for his time to come.

In the reception area, Gordon Rotenhend barked loudly on the intercom. He was speaking to a customer who was booking a room via a communications link as the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan approached.

“I don’t care if you want to have one week instead of two!” shouted Gordon. “You get no refund! You stay at our hotel and don’t get your money back! And you confirm to us by space-mail!”

The voice at the other end of the intercom didn’t seem to be happy. But Gordon was having none of it.

“And the same to you too!” he retorted. “Moons and mushrooms, I’m a hotel manager! Don’t you know the amount of work and stress I have to put up with?! Of course you don’t! All you guests keep sticking your noses into every corner looking for things to complain about, don’t you?! Goodbye!”

Gordon slammed his fist on the intercom angrily, causing it to explode all over the place. With it smashed, Gordon groaned annoyed.

“Oh great!” he complained. “Now my desk intercom’s smashed! What else could go wrong?!”

A glass vase of flowers fell to the floor and smashed.

“Oh great!” he moaned. “That’s the third vase of flowers I’ve broken this week!”

Ian, Barbara, Susan and the Doctor watched fascinated as the hotel manager cleared up the mess he made.

“What a horrid rude man.” commented Barbara.

“Yes,” Ian agreed. “I doubt we’re going to get much room service out of him.”

“Grandfather,” Susan remarked, “we never met a hotel manager as rude as that in the other hotel we went to.”

“No,” the Doctor agreed. “Obviously the one we met on that occasion was one of the good Rotenhends. This must be his brother. Certainly a dark horse, wouldn’t you say? Hmm!”

“Do we really want to stay at a hotel like this then?” Barbara asked.

“Now, now, my dear!” the Doctor told her off. “Let’s not jump to conclusions or judge by appearances. Let’s just take this one step at a time.”

“He’s right, Barbara,” Ian said. “I’ll go and ask if we can book a room.”

The Doctor held Ian back just before he was about to go.

“Gently, my boy,” he told him. “Gently, gently.”

Releasing the Doctor’s hold on him, Ian made his way over to the reception desk whilst Gordon sorted himself out.

“Excuse me?!” Ian asked politely, but Gordon didn’t receive it well when he looked at him.

“Yes?!” Gordon shouted. “Well, what is it?! What do you want?!”

Ian found it hard to find the words at first.

“Yes, yes, alright?!” Gordon roared. “Come on what is it?! Yes, yes, right, well, yes?!!! Yes?!!! Yes?!!! Yes?!!! Well yes?!!!”

“We’d like to make a booking,” requested Ian.

“What?!!!” Gordon shouted.

“I said me and my friends wish to stay for a few nights…”

“Have you booked?!!!”

“No, I was just saying…”

“Have you booked?!!! Have you booked?!!! Just tell me if you’ve booked or not?!!!”

Ian felt he was getting nowhere. It was at this point Barbara came to his rescue as she came up behind him.

“Is there a problem with having us at your hotel?” she asked.

“There’s always a problem!” Gordon replied. “Guests are always a problem at my hotel!”

“Are you full then?”

“No we’re not full!!! Full?!!! Full?!!!! Full?!!!!!!!! No of course we’re not full! What do you think we are?! Idiots?!!!”

Barbara became slightly affronted. Ian just had about enough.

“Now see here…” he began, but Gordon interrupted him.

“One moment, one moment please! I have to find the bookings page on this contraption of ours!”

Gordon looked to the computer screen at his desk as he accessed the necessary information. He eventually turned to Ian.

“Yes? Go ahead! Come on!”

“Oh thank goodness,” Ian replied. “We were wondering…”

“Your name please?!” Gordon interrupted again. “Can I have your name?! Give me your name now!!!”

Ian was about to make an objection before Barbara stepped in.

“He’s Mr. Ian Chesterton. And I’m Miss Barbara Wright.”

Gordon looked at them distastefully. “Oh no! More riff-raff!”

Ian and Barbara were shocked.

“Riff-raff?!” Barbara exclaimed.

“Now listen here,” Ian protested, “we’re not ‘riff-raff’ as you so shrewdly put it!”

Gordon mock-laughed, “Well, you’re doing a very good job appearing like it. With your daft clothes and your disgusting appalling manner.”

The Doctor had been overhearing this conversation and it was at this point he decided to intervene. He and Susan joined Ian and Barbara.

“Now listen here, you ruffian…” the Doctor began.

“You stay out of this, granddad!” Gordon barked. “I’m attending to these two here! Have your turn later!”

“I happen to be with them for your information,” the Doctor told him.

“Oh you are, are you?!” Gordon retorted. “Well, you’re no better than the…”

“Now see here,” the Doctor interrupted. “I will not be spoken to in this manner!”

“And just who are you then?” Gordon asked, bitterly. “Just who do you think you are?!”

“This is my grandfather,” Susan interjected. “How dare you speak to him like this!”

“He’s the Doctor,” Barbara clarified.

Gordon looked at Barbara, surprised. “Doctor?” he asked. “Did you say ‘doctor’?”

“Yes,” Ian said. “She did say ‘doctor’. This is the Doctor!”

Gordon turned back to the old man and became very apologetic.

“My dear Doctor,” he said. “I’m so sorry. I had no idea you were a ‘doctor’.”

“You never asked,” Susan told him.

Gordon shook the Doctor by the hand, welcoming him.

“How good of you to come to our hotel, Doctor?!” Gordon said cheerfully. “I hope you’ll enjoy your stay here! If there’s anything I can do, please don’t hesitate to call.”

The Doctor eyed Gordon suspiciously. “Hmm,” he harrumphed. “Well, since you seem so accommodating all of a sudden, I suppose we have no choice in staying. Though we won’t be staying for long, you understand. Hmm? You understand?”

“Oh by all means stay as long as you want, dear Doctor,” Gordon said. “You…and your charming good friends.”

Gordon looked at Ian, Barbara and Susan, eying them warmly and welcomingly. The three companions were a bit unsure about Gordon.

The Doctor began to introduce them. “This is my granddaughter Susan.”

Gordon took Susan’s hand gently to shake it. “Charmed I’m sure, my dear.”

Susan backed away a bit, standing close to her grandfather who put a reassuring arm around her.

“And these are her schoolteachers,” the Doctor introduced the others. “Mr. Chesterton and Miss Wright.”

Barbara was polite as she greeted, “How do you do?!”

Gordon’s face beamed. “Schoolteachers?! Even better! Welcome! Welcome!!!”

He shook them both by the hands. Ian and Barbara were bemused. At that moment, a short, plump, red-haired woman entered reception. She wore a green dress. The woman turned to Gordon.

“Gordon?!” she said. “Have you been insulting these four people?!” She turned to the TARDIS team. “I must apologise! My husband’s usually the type to be rude and unwelcoming.”

Gordon was affronted. “Get lost, woman!” he said bitterly. “I was here first!”

Elizabeth pushed Gordon out of the way. She used the booking screen on the computer as she addressed the TARDIS team.

“Would you like to book some rooms?” she asked. “How many nights do you want?”

Barbara and Ian began to outline the requirements of their stay whilst two more guests entered the lobby. Gordon quickly made his way over to them at the reception desk. They were two men in dark clothes, wearing black shades to cover their eyes.

“Why Lord Melbourne; Lord Thomas!” he greeted warmly. “How good to see you too again?!”

Melbourne and Thomas approached reception, eying Gordon carefully and steadily.

“We had a good day thanks,” Thomas replied. “Making business.”

“Mr. Rotenhend,” Melbourne interjected. “We’d like to ask a favour of you.”

“Oh delighted,” Gordon obliged. “How may I help you?”

Thomas brought out a suitcase and placed it on the reception desk for Gordon to see.

“We have a few valuables we’d like you to keep for us,” Thomas said. “We intend to collect them before we leave.”

“It’s vital we carry out our final business transaction before the end of the day,” Melbourne said. “Can we entrust you to look after these items before tomorrow when we leave.”

“Of course,” Gordon replied. “I’m happy to oblige. I shall lock these up straight away.”

Gordon took the suitcase from the two men, grinning warmly. The two men remained stone-faced.

“We’re going up to our room now,” Thomas said. “We wish not to be disturbed.”

“Send us some coffee to our rooms,” Melbourne commanded. “Black for Thomas; white for me.”

“Absolutely! Naturally! Naturellmon!,” Gordon answered before he laughed nervously. “I shall send a waiter with your two coffees right away!”

At that, Melbourne and Thomas made their way to the turbolifts whilst Gordon turned to his wife who was attending to Barbara and Ian.

“Elizabeth?!” Gordon bellowed. “Put this case in the reception safe, will you?!”

Elizabeth admonished her husband. “I’m dealing with Mr. Chesterton; Miss Wright and her friends, Gordon.”

“Yes, well if you’re too busy,” Gordon grunted. “I’ll attend to it myself!”

Gordon made his way inside the reception office, grunting as he went. The Doctor merely harrumphed. Whilst Barbara and Ian are finished the bookings, Susan took hold of her grandfather’s arm, seeing the concern on his face.

“Grandfather?” she asked. “What’s the matter? Why are you looking so worried?”

“I don’t know, my dear child,” he replied. “I don’t know. But I intend to find out.”

Susan continued to notice the old man looking thoughtful as if he sensed something mysterious was happening in this place.

That evening in the dining room, the four TARDIS travellers were having dinner. They chatted as they commented about their stay at the hotel.

“I really enjoyed that meal,” Barbara said. “So delicious.”

“Yes,” Ian said. “They seem to treat us well. I enjoyed my lamb casserole. And the soup.”

“The rooms are very good too,” Barbara remarked.

“Oh yes! I love my room,” Susan joined in. “The bed sheets are so warm I could smother my face in them for hours on end.”

“A shame that not all the people in this hotel can be warm and friendly,” Ian said. “Like the ones we know.”

“You mean like…” Barbara began.

“Mr. Rotenhend, the hotel manager.” Susan finished.

“Yes,” confirmed Ian. “He certainly didn’t appreciate us when we first came here. Then he changed his attitude when he heard about us being schoolteachers. And when he heard about the Doctor.”

“Seems to me that this Rotenhend person’s thinking of class and aristocracy,” Barbara remarked. “That it’s everything. And we can’t seem to reach his level.”

“That sort of snobbery turns my stomach,” said a disgusted Susan. “Can’t stand people who behave like that.”

“Yes. Prejudice of other people I’m afraid is what makes them rude, Susan,” Ian told her. “And in Mr. Rotenhend’s case, that certainly seems to be the case.”

“Well I intend to enjoy myself even if Mr. Rotenhend won’t let me,” Barbara announced. “There’s a swimming pool; a tennis court; the pictures; an art gallery here.”

“Pick and choose the things you want to do here, Barbara,” Ian told her.

Barbara smiled warmly at Ian.

“And there’s always the simi-suites,” Susan pointed out.

“Simi-suites?” said a puzzled Barbara. “What are they?”

“Oh they’re marvellous,” Susan said. “I tried one when my grandfather and I visited the other Rotenhend hotel. They’re like virtual reality environments. You get to create your own fantasy. You Barbara, being a history teacher, would like to see a recreation of the Peoria speech in 1854 with Abraham Lincoln.”

“Goodness,” Barbara remarked.

“And you Ian, being a science teacher, you can get to see a chemical explosion recreated before your very eyes.” Susan said. She then joked, “Of course, provided you don’t get yourself blown up.”

“Don’t tempt me!” Ian laughed.

“Of course there are various other things you can do with a simi-suite,” Susan told them. “You can have your favourite story come to life or see your favourite film at the cinema in proper live action.”

“Well it certainly sounds like somebody’s idea of making fantasy become reality,” said Barbara. “I don’t approve of that sort of thing really. I like watching television and seeing films, but I’d rather watch that than have a real-live environment created for me for the sake of it.”

“Oh you do get to interact with the other characters in the story as well…” Susan began to point out.

Ian then saw that the Doctor wasn’t in this conversation of theirs. He seemed to be preoccupied.

“Doctor, is something wrong?” Ian asked.

The Doctor didn’t hear Ian at first, but eventually he answered.

“Hmm? My boy? Did you say something?”

Barbara and Susan then noticed the Doctor.

“Are you alright, grandfather?!” Susan asked, concerned.

“Yes of course I’m alright, child!” the Doctor answered. “Why shouldn’t I be?”

“You seem to be preoccupied,” Barbara told him. “You haven’t even touched your food.”

“Yes, yes,” the Doctor said dismissively. “I just…I’m curious about something.”

“What something is it, Doctor?” Ian asked.

“Hmm? Oh it was just…those two men we saw earlier.”

“Which two men, Doctor?” Barbara asked.

“You mean the men in dark suits wearing dark glasses?” Ian queried.

“Yes, those are the ones,” the Doctor answered. “I’m rather worried regarding them.”

“Why what’s wrong, grandfather?” Susan enquired.

“Well didn’t you sense it?” the Doctor asked. “Some strange sensation coming from them! From their presence as they stood in that hallway when we were booking in?”

“No Doctor,” Ian answered, “I daresay I didn’t.”

“My dear?” the Doctor turned to Barbara.

“No I haven’t.” Barbara said.

“I have, grandfather,” Susan told him.

“You have, child?” queried the Doctor.

“Yes! I thought it was just me that sensed it,” said Susan. “I felt a strange sensation in my head. As if someone was calling to me. Someone distant and yet close. A voice of some kind.”

“Yes my dear,” the Doctor brightened. “I sensed something wasn’t right about those two men. About what they were carrying in their possession. About what they represent.”

“You’re just letting your imagination run away with you, Doctor,” Ian remarked.

“Am I, boy?!” the Doctor challenged him. “Hmm?! Am I?!” He paused for breath. “Did you notice one of them handing a suitcase to that ruffian of a hotel manager earlier?”

“No I didn’t,” Ian said. “We were busy with the booking to notice.”

“I noticed, Ian,” Barbara said.

“You did Barbara?”

“Yes! When we were booking our rooms, I looked away for a moment to see the two men and one of them handing something over to Mr. Rotenhend. Mr. Rotenhend asked his wife to put it away in their safe, but she refused.”

“Oh yes she did,” Ian realised. “Doctor, there was a suitcase! I remember now.”

“Had it ever occurred to you what was inside that suitcase, my dear boy?” the Doctor asked. “Hmm? Did it fascinate you at all?”

“Doctor, I’m not one for prying into people’s personal belongings,” Ian said, bemused.

“Pity. Pity,” the Doctor said.

“Is it really that important, Doctor?” Barbara wanted to know.

“The least important things Barbara often leads to the greatest discoveries,” the Doctor answered. “As I’ve often found out. I’d like to know about these two men. Who they are and why they are here.”

“And have a look inside that suitcase of theirs?” Ian added.

“Whatever gave you that idea?!” the Doctor retorted.

“I just know you, Doctor,” Ian said. “You have a crafty mind.”

“Really my boy,” the Doctor admonished. “I never thought you would be like that.”

“Grandfather, you can’t look inside that suitcase of theirs,” Susan told him. “It’d be criminal. It’s like you’ll be stealing something from them…”

“I shall conduct things in my own way, Susan,” the Doctor interjected. “Besides, it may not even come to that.”

“You can’t be sure,” Barbara told him.

“It’s alright,” Ian said reassuringly. “I’ll accompany you, Doctor.”

“I don’t need you to accompany me, dear boy!” the Doctor rebuked.

“You need somebody to cover your back,” Ian told him. “Make sure you don’t get into any trouble. After all, you can’t break into a safe and look out for anyone coming at the same time, can you?”

“Really my boy,” the Doctor retorted. “I never said anything about breaking into a ‘safe’.”

“Well whatever you’re thinking of doing I think you should let me come with you,” Ian advised. “Two heads are better than one at handling this mystery of yours, wouldn’t you say?”

The Doctor eyed Ian suspiciously, seeing the smug reaction he had. Eventually he gave up.

“Oh very well,” the Doctor sighed. “If you must. Thank you, dear Chesterton.”

“That’s quite alright, Doctor,” said a smug Ian. “Happy to oblige.”

“Oh dear, dear, dear,” tutted the Doctor. “You are insufferable, young man.”

“What shall we do then?” Barbara asked, indicating her and Susan.

“Oh you can enjoy yourselves whilst we’re away, you know,” Ian suggested. “Try to blend in. Keep everyone distracted whilst we go off and solve our mystery.”

“Yes, we can do that, Barbara,” Susan said eagerly. “We can relax in the swimming pool section and watch to see if anything else strange going on.”

“Oh well, I suppose it’s worth a try,” Barbara said. “I won’t be able to relax but…”

“Yes and whilst we’re at it,” the Doctor interrupted, “we’d all better make sure we look out for each other. Anything can happen whilst we remain in this hotel. So it’s very important we don’t lose sight of each other and make sure we don’t wander off on our own. Is that understood?”

“Perfectly clear, Doctor,” Ian said.

“Yes Doctor, we understand,” Barbara added.

“Susan? Susan, my dear?” the Doctor asked his granddaughter.

“Oh yes, grandfather,” Susan answered. “I understand.”

“Good; good,” the Doctor said warmly. “Well now, the sooner we’re ready to go the sooner we get started.”

The Doctor then eyed the meal he was having. He looked at it disapprovingly, touching the place before becoming immensely shocked.

“Dear, dear, dear,” he remarked. “This meal of mine’s getting stone cold. What a disgrace these waiters are!” The Doctor then called, “Waiter! Waiter! What kind of service do you call this?! Hmm?!”

A waiter hurriedly came over to attend to the Doctor.

Later that evening, Ian and the Doctor entered the lobby. The Doctor was eager to approach the reception area before Ian stopped him.

“Just remember Doctor,” Ian said. “We check first to see if anybody’s there at reception. If there’s anybody there, we wait. If there isn’t, we go ahead.”

“Yes, yes, alright dear boy,” the Doctor said irritably. “But I’m determined to find out what’s in that suitcase of theirs. Alright?”

“Yes alright,” Ian replied. “Come on then. Let’s check reception.”

With that, the Doctor and Ian made their way forward.

But Ian and the Doctor did see someone at reception. They hid behind a wall to avoid being seen.

“What is it? Who’s there, Doctor?” Ian asked.

“That rude man of a hotel manager,” the Doctor replied.

“Mr. Rotenhend?”

“And those two men in business suits. The ones I was suspicious about. Let’s listen in and hear what they say, dear boy.”

They listened in as Melbourne and Thomas made their demands to Gordon Rotenhend at reception.

“We require a simi-suite, Mr. Rotenhend,” Melbourne demanded.

“Immediately if you don’t mind,” Thomas added.

“Absolutely!” Gordon replied. “Of course! Why not? I’ll put a simi-suite with you immediately.”

Gordon accessed the computer terminal at his desk, looking up for bookings with the simi-suites.

“We wish not to be disturbed if you’d be so kind, Mr.Rotenhend,” Melbourne said.

“We have…business matters to attend to in there,” Thomas explained. “All hush-hush you see.”

Mr. Rotenhend gave them a knowing look.

“I perfectly understand your lordships,” Gordon said. “I shall see to it that nobody disturbs you in your simi-suite during the time you’re in there.”

Melbourne and Thomas outlined the necessary requirements for their time in the simi-suite to Gordon, whilst Ian and the Doctor continued eavesdropping.

“What do you think they’re up to, Doctor?” Ian asked.

“I don’t know, my dear boy,” the Doctor replied. “But I intend to find out.”

“You’re not going to find out about the suitcase?”

“One thing at a time, Chesterton. We must know what these two scoundrels are up to. We’ll attend to the suitcase later on.”

Eventually at reception, Gordon finished the booking process regarding Melbourne and Thomas’ simi-suite.

“Well, your lordships,” Gordon began. “You have simi-suite #2. It’s on Level 59, where all the other simi-suites are. Hope you enjoy your time in it.”

“Thank you Mr. Rotenhend,” said Melbourne.

“We much appreciate it,” Thomas added.

Melbourne then called out, “Hey! Bruce!”

The Doctor and Ian watched as they saw a clunking android make its way over to Melbourne and Thomas. It had a droopy face.

“I didn’t get much sleep last night,” the android Bruce said drearily.

“Don’t tell us how you feel, you obstinate tin bag!” Melbourne bitterly told him. “Just come with us! Understand?”

“We’re off to simi-suite #2,” Thomas said. “That is where we’ll conduct our business.”

“I won’t enjoy myself you know,” Bruce said.

“We’re not asking you to enjoy yourself,” Melbourne said bitterly. “Nobody’s asking you to do anything. Just come with us and stop being stupidly miserable.”

“Alright then,” Bruce said drearily. “I’ll come along.”

“Thank you Bruce,” said Thomas. “Off to simi-suite #2 we go!”

Bruce grudgingly followed Melbourne and Thomas as they made their way to simi-suite #2. After seeing them go, the Doctor and Ian followed after them past the reception desk. They were stopped by Gordon Rotenhend who saw them.

“Ah! Doctor! Mr. Chesterton!” he called. “How delighted to see you again!”

“Don’t bother us, dear man!” the Doctor retorted. “We’ve urgent business to attend to!”

“But I was wondering if we could chat sometime,” Gordon offered. “I so rarely get the chance to talk to someone superior, sophisticated and knowledgeable…”

“Don’t waste my time with bandying words, my dear man!” the Doctor interrupted. “We’re off to…simi-sweet #2 or whatever you call it!”

“Simi-suite #2, Doctor,” Ian corrected.

“Uh, I’m afraid you can’t go to a simi-suite, Doctor!” Gordon told him. “Not without booking one for a specified time. I can take down the details for you…”

“Oh I can’t be bothered about that sort of nonsense!” the Doctor said dismissively.

“Doctor, perhaps we should,” Ian suggested. “After all, we should do this delicately…”

“It’s two men I want to see, Chesterton!” the Doctor retorted. “And I’m going to see to it that they’re stopped! They must be stopped!”

“Do you know Lord Melbourne and Lord Thomas, Doctor?” Gordon asked.

“No I do not!” the Doctor replied. “Now please stop pestering me with these questions…”

“I can’t let you in that simi-suite they’re in,” Gordon said abjectly. “They specifically stated they weren’t to be disturbed.”

“Rubbish!” the Doctor retorted. “Rubbish! I shall do what I like! Come on, Chesterfield!”

“Chesterton!” Ian corrected again.

At that point, Gordon pulled out a laser pistol. He aimed it at the Doctor and Ian, who stopped in their tracks.

“Stop!!!” Gordon bellowed. “Stop right where you are!!!”

“What do you think you’re doing?!” Ian protested.

“If you go any further to that simi-suite of Lord Melbourne and Lord Thomas,” Gordon bellowed, “I shall shoot you on the spot!!!!”

“You can’t do this!” Ian protested further. “You can’t! Put that gun away, Mr. Rotenhend!”

“I warned you!!!” Gordon bellowed. “You hear?!!! I warned you!!!”

“And I warn you, sir!” the Doctor said defiantly. “I warn you!”

“No!!!” Gordon bit back. “I warn you!!! Now get over here before…”

The Doctor stared directly and intensely at Gordon Rotenhend before knocking him on the head with his walking stick. Gordon grunted as he collapsed to the floor and fell unconscious.

Ian became astonished and flabbergasted. “Doctor!” he began.

“Don’t worry, my dear boy,” the Doctor reassured him. “I merely knocked him out for a bit. I made sure I didn’t severely injure him.”

“How long will he be like that?” Ian asked.

“I don’t know,” the Doctor replied. “Now come along. Let’s find this simi-suite where the two men and their funny robot went.”

With that, Ian and the Doctor headed for simi-suite #2. Gordon remained on the floor, sleeping soundly away.

On Level 59 of the hotel, the Doctor and Ian come out of the turbolift. They made their way down the corridor of entrances leading into simi-suites. They arrived at the door labelled ‘Simi-Suite 2’.

“Well Doctor, what do we do?” Ian asked. “Break the lock and smash our way in?”

“Oh come, come, my boy!” the Doctor admonished. “Let’s approach this with a little tact. Besides, you can’t break these doors now. Not with a crowbar. They’re magnetically sealed. Nothing can get in or out. Just as Melbourne and Thomas requested.”

“Not if Mr. Rotenhend’s already set it up with a magnetic seal,” Ian suggested. “That trick of yours to knock him out may have prevented him doing so earlier.”

Ian approached the door to the simi-suite, unable to find the lock. He felt his way around the door to try and open it.

“There’s no doorknob to open it,” Ian said. “Unless there’s a keypad to raise your hand over it. Like when we were on Skaro.”

Ian then saw the keypad on the right of the door. He raised his hand over it. Still nothing worked.

“It’s not working,” Ian said. “I don’t think any of these doors work.”

The Doctor laughed under his breath as he found the whole thing all too amusing. Ian wasn’t amused.

“Well give me a hand here, will you?” Ian insisted.

“You can’t open a door by the touch of your hand, young man,” the Doctor told him. “Its voice-activated. You use your voice to command the door to be open.”

“How do you know that?”

“I told you. I’ve been to one of these places before. Just wanted to see if you could work it out for yourself. You failed miserably.”

The Doctor laughed away amused anyway.

“Well I’m glad to see you’re pleased I made a fool of myself,” Ian said, annoyed.

“Oh come now my dear boy,” the Doctor teased. “I can’t reveal too many secrets all at once.”

It was at that moment the simi-suite doors opened. They stood back once this happened. They were astonished and confused. A moment’s silence ensued whilst the doors were fully open. Nothing happened.

“Was that you Doctor?” Ian asked.

“I never said anything of the sort, young man.” he replied.

“Hello?!” Ian called into the simi-suite. “Anyone in here?! Hello?!”

No response. Ian became worried.

“You know Chesterton my dear boy,” the Doctor began, “I’ve got the slightest suspicion that we’ve been expected inside that room.”

“Well I hope it’s only a suspicion, Doctor,” Ian remarked. “Who would be expecting us?”

“The two men in suits perhaps,” the Doctor suggested. “I wonder.”

Another moment’s silence ensued. Eventually, the Doctor and Ian entered the simi-suite. The doors slowly closed behind them.

Inside the simi-suite, the Doctor and Ian were completely bewildered. They found themselves in a Dickensian London-like setting. They saw various people going about their business. Horses pulled carriages on muddy roads; marketplaces streamed customers and birds flew everywhere. It was night-time.

“Doctor?” Ian began, curious. “Is it my imagination or are we…?”

“No Chesterton,” the Doctor interjected. “it’s not your imagination. I see it myself. Yes, I see it too.”

“We’re in London,” Ian stated. “But it looks like something out of a Charles Dickens novel.”

“Definitely Victorian,” the Doctor remarked. “Definitely grimy and smelly. I can smell the river Thames from here. Oh good gracious! They make it all too realistic and authentic.”

“Have we travelled back in time, Doctor? Are these…simi-suites time machines or something?”

“Oh no, dear boy!” the Doctor told him. “Susan told you at dinner. People around this time can create any life scenario they want in this room with the use of computers. Whether it’s Ancient Egypt; Roman times; Greek legends or the far, far future. These are substitutes for people who haven’t got a time machine.”

“You mean to say…this is all done by computers,” Ian realised.

“Yes! Yes my boy, yes!” the Doctor confirmed. “People of this society are too dependent on computers. Which I find most disgraceful. I’m not one for computers.”

The Doctor harrumphed at this point.

“I don’t understand any of this,” Ian stated.

“No, no. I didn’t expect you would, dear boy,” the Doctor remarked. “But anyway, we can’t ponder on it now. We have two busy bodies to attend to. Now where are they I wonder. They can’t have gone far.”

They began to look around and search for them.

Meanwhile, Barbara and Susan enjoyed the luxuries of the space hotel. They were now in the swimming pool area on Level #7. Both were in bathing suits. Susan was getting ready to take a swim whilst Barbara lay on a deckchair.

“Are you sure you won’t come for a swim, Barbara?” Susan asked. “The water’s lovely!”

“No I’ll be alright, Susan.” Barbara answered. “You go ahead. I’d just rather lie it out here.”

Eventually, Susan dived into the pool to have her swim. Barbara lay back in her deckchair, twiddling her toes. A few minutes later, a fairly elegant man in his sixties came by nonchalantly, spotting Barbara in her deck chair. He made his way over to greet her.

“Good evening!” he greeted.

 Barbara woke up startled as she turned to look at the man.

“Oh err…good evening,” she said.

“Oh I do beg your pardon, my dear,” the man apologised. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“That’s quite alright,” Barbara reassured him. “I wasn’t really sleeping. Only drifting away.”

“Allow me to introduce myself,” the man said. “I’m Admiral Jonathan Brown. At your service.”

“Very nice to meet you, Admiral,” Barbara replied. “I’m Barbara. Miss Barbara Wright.”

“Don’t think we’ve met before,” the Admiral remarked. “You’re new to this hotel.”

“Why yes,” Barbara said. “We only just arrived today, my friends and I.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” the Admiral said. “Welcome to Zondor.”

“Zondor? Is that where we are?”

“Why yes? Did you not know?”

“No, I’m afraid not,” Barbara admitted. “As I said, we only just arrived.”

“Ah, then you haven’t heard about the Zondor robbers,” the Admiral commented.

“The Zondor robbers? Who are they?” Barbara asked.

“Oh they’re a nasty bunch of thugs, dear Miss Wright,” he told her. “There are two of them. But they manage to steal so much within a day. You’d better watch out they don’t steal any of your jewellery. Believe me, the Zondor robbers are a menace.”

“Err…thank you Admiral,” said a confused Barbara. “I shall bear that in mind.” Just then a thought occurred to her. She asked the Admiral, “Does anyone know what they look like? These…Zondor robbers.”

“No one can say,” the Admiral answered. “They appear in all guises. Though they’re very shifty, I have gathered that.”

“I see.”

Barbara wondered how the Doctor and Ian were getting on. She hoped they weren’t in any danger or trouble.

© Tim Bradley, 2020

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