|Doctor Who Companion Internet Adventure #05 - "Point of Destruction"
"Rein of Fire"
by Tony Whitt
Liz realized in that moment what Murclan was suggesting. Back at the church, she had nearly been forced to give up part of her consciousness and become the Coordinator of the H'Rongi. Now she was being asked to do so willingly — and there was no indication of any threat should she turn the offer down.
She looked again at Firedemon and Rogue, forcing down her dismissive reaction of their names, and stared into their eyes. She knew little about them, apart from the fact that they sounded British and looked like typical college dropouts. How they ever got here was a mystery — neither of them looked like they had 2p between them, and the cost of the plane tickets to get here must have drained what little resources they had. And yet they looked like they were having the time of their lives, despite being hosts to a pair of wormlike alien beings.
Had she ever been that young? she wondered. Had she ever had that much fun? Yes, of course she had. Nearly a decade ago, with the Doctor. She hadn't realized she missed it so much.
Keller caught the changing expressions on her face and suddenly did something she would never have expected from the man: he understood what she was thinking.
"Miss Shaw, I don't think you realize the implications of what you're contemplating," he said aloud. "This part of the planet is about to turn into a war zone between two alien factions — and you look about ready to join sides. Now, my organization has experience with these sorts of situations and resources that we can use to help. If we can just keep this situation from escalating any further--" he broke off and glared at Firedemon and Rogue "--and keep as many people from getting any further involved than they have to... "
Before she could respond, the miniature radio on his hip bleeped at him. Firedemon and Rogue both jumped and then smiled. Liz heard Firedemon murmur, "Cool, man, very Star Trek."
"Yes?" Keller snapped, keeping his eyes on Liz and Murclan. Neither moved, and Murclan only smiled sadly.
"We've got trouble, sir," the voice on the other end crackled. "A dragon, I repeat, a dragon has just burst out of the ground northeast of the church, and it's headed your way. I repeat, it is headed in your direction."
Keller frowned. "Have the laser teams converge on this position. We'll try to hold them off here." He snapped the radio shut angrily. "So much for not letting the situation escalate," he growled.
"Laser teams?" Liz demanded. "Just what on Earth did you intend to use THOSE for? And how much heavy artillery is sitting out there in the woods, anyway?" Damn the man! she thought. He was turning out to be as bad as the Brigadier.
"Miss Shaw, I have orders to resolve this situation in any way I can. Those orders included destroying Eagleton and everything in it if we couldn't come to a peaceful resolution and if the situation threatened the rest of the population. There's a dragon out there, and in my experience, dragons mean trouble." Liz was just about to ask him how extensive his experience of dragons really was when he added, "We can do this together, or we can do this with you in custody, and uncompromised by an alien agenda. It's up to you."
Liz was about to explode at the man when she was interrupted again, this time by Murclan clearing his throat. "There might be a third option, my friends. But in order for it to work, we will need the help and cooperation of everyone here. And I think we can ensure that you will remain 'uncompromised,' Mr. Keller... "
* * *
The Silurian war dragon soared high into the sky, brimming with happiness at being free once again. In the relatively brief time she had been imprisoned — the previous hibernation, began by its original masters, had been far, far longer — she had vowed revenge against the mammalian creatures who had tricked her. The surprise she felt when she discovered that other mammals — with powers like those of her original masters — had released her was almost as great as her joy.
For a brief moment, she allowed herself the luxury of feeling the coolness of the air brushing over her scales and filling her long-disused lungs. But then she remembered her mission for the new masters, and the images of the other mammals she had been ordered to kill, and flew in a straight line over the treetops.
Just before she reached her destination, a flash of light and sharp pain caught her along one wing, and she howled in anger and surprise. But the damage was minimal — the Silurians had designed their weapons to last, and last they did. The dragon turned her sharp eyes towards the ground, switched to infrared, and peered through the foliage, allowing her heightened senses to find her attackers.
There — surrounding the destination point was a group of mammalian forms, aiming some sort of metal rod in her direction. Biomechanical computers in the dragon's brain accessed long-buried records and found a match. Laser weapons, a technology which the mammals had not possessed before.
Just as before, their weapons were still far too primitive. The dragon saw another two of the rods coming to bear on her, their tips glowing brilliantly in the darkness. They could not have provided an easier target.
The dragon opened her mouth, and a trail of fire consumed a large portion of the forest and every human being within it.
Refilling her lungs with combustible oxygen, the dragon scanned the area for any more attackers. Satisfied that all of her enemies had been destroyed, she circled the spot, waiting for her prey to come out of their hiding place below ground. She was patient enough to wait, but she had had quite enough of the ground for one millennium, thank you very much.
Several minutes passed as the dragon wheeled in the sky, flitting through the dense smoke created by the fire now burning out of control below. Then she felt a curious tug on her mind, similar to that from her new masters. She focused her vision on the destination point and saw that several mammalian forms had emerged from underground and were staring up at her. She could feel their mental commands countermanding her previous instructions, and she hovered as she awaited her new orders.
* * *
"So far, so good," Liz/the Coordinator murmured, focusing all the alpha waves now available to her on the dragon. The human part of her could not help but be fascinated — it was a beautiful creature, as well as a remarkable piece of bioengineering. The H'Rongi part of her was linking into the creature's memories, and she felt a sharp stab of atavistic fear as she recognized its creators.
She found herself flashing briefly back to the moment when she was attacked by a similar creature in a barn, a moment as vivid now as it was then. Then the H'Rongi part calmed her, leaving her only with the apprehension that there could be more of these creatures hidden all over the world, waiting for orders from their dead masters.
What were the implications, then, if the usurpers succeeded?
The H'Rongi part of her gently persuaded her to put these thoughts aside and concentrate on the task at hand. The usurpers would soon realize that their control of the dragon had been disrupted, and they had to pool their powers now to fight back. There was also the little matter of the forest fire burning hotly around them, and the fact that the winds would soon spread it towards the town.
She turned and looked at the group around her. To her right, Keller nodded grimly, his eyes alight with the H'Rongi intelligence he had finally consented to host. Murclan had promised that if they hosted the H'Rongi just long enough to avert the present catastrophe, they would be able to pass them on to new, willing hosts and retain their individuality. Murclan's thoughts merged with her own as he retained the last remnants of the link he had maintained for fifty years, and she now saw the truth of this promise.
To her left, Firedemon and Rogue stared up at the dragon in open wonder, even as they helped to temporarily reprogram its mind. Newton eyed her cautiously as he called for Agency firefighting teams on his radio, and the other MIB commandos seemed uncertain as to whether to train their guns on her or on the dragon. Two of the other MIB agents, however — Hughes, Phillips, their names came to her over the link — watched her carefully, waiting for the moment when she would form her plan.
And as yet, she had none. Some Coordinator she was turning out to be. How did she ever let herself be talked into this... Talked into this, tricked into this... She had a sudden flash of inspiration.
As the Agency firefighting teams arrived, Liz found herself speaking aloud, her excitement too vast for the link to contain it. "Murclan, I need to know the entire legend about our friend up there."
They moved quickly towards one of the newly arrived vans under the watchful eye of the dragon, and as they did so, Murclan told her everything.
The commandos who loaded themselves beside her in the back of the van gave her an odd look as she started to laugh aloud.
* * *
The Planner/Mortimer, Josiah/Keith, and the Coordinator/Alison all felt it as one.
//Our control has been disrupted!// the Coordinator cried, and its mental voice was tinged with Alison's all too human disappointment and anger. //We must concentrate our power and take it back from the so-called 'True' ones! The Saviour must destroy them and lead us to others of its kind!//
Alison felt the group's will strengthening her resolve. The many Eagleton residents and tourists who were joined with the H'Rongi reached out for their Saviour with mental hands.
//The Saviour must listen to us,// she added, feeling the power building behind the words and knowing they had to succeed before the hosts started losing their individuality. //The Saviour will help us take this entire world as our new home!//
A burst of concentrated will flashed outward at the speed of thought.
* * *
As the van tore through the underbrush ahead of the advancing fires, Liz and the other hosts convulsed with shock. The reins of the dragon were torn away from them again.
"Bugger!" Liz swore, popping out of the link for a moment. She found that it was becoming increasingly harder to do that, and she wondered for a moment if Murclan's promise would hold true. She spared him a glance and saw that he was already weakening. Having given up the Coordinator, he was quickly losing his link to it, and its power to sustain his aging body was fading just as rapidly.
"We'll have to make another attempt to retake the dragon before Murclan... before we lose Murclan's help completely," she finished weakly. She preferred to voice the half-truth rather than face the whole truth in the link: he was dying before their eyes.
She looked over at Firedemon and Rogue and the two linked MIBs — all of them stared at her with wide eyes, waiting for her to give them the answer. Even Keller looked positively deferential, a sure sign that his individuality was melting away.
On the plus side, the usurpers would be facing the same problem soon. The original hosts would be dying off, leaving the new human hosts to rely on themselves. But then again, they had the preserved essence of Josiah on their side, and she now knew just how much strength that essence possessed.
Something exploded against the side of the van, and she jerked away from the wall as it turned red hot. "Everyone, bail out!" she yelled. The MIB commandos near the doors threw them open, and a wall of heat burst into the tiny space. As soon as it evaporated, Liz grabbed Murclan, launched them both through the opening, and landed safely by using a Venusian throw recovery that the Doctor had taught her. She lowered the old man as gently as she could to the ground. His breathing came in ragged gasps as the smoke from the fire filled the air.
She looked behind her to see the flaming van careening into the woods as everyone jumped out of it, to varying degrees of success. The other hosts made it, but she winced as she saw Rogue land on one arm. The sound of a bone breaking somehow carried over the crackling of the fire, and the girl wailed in pain. Then the van hit a tree and exploded into a plume of fire.
* * *
Above, the dragon bellowed her triumph over the mammals. Her former allegiance to them completely forgotten, she swooped downwards and started setting individual targets alight from a distance. She was enjoying herself — it had been a long time.
* * *
To Liz's horror, the dragon began using controlled bursts of fire to envelop the surviving commandos. Some had turned to train their weapons on the creature, and they were amongst the first to go up in pillars of flame.
//Victor!// she called hurriedly. She couldn't bring herself to use his preferred nom de plume, even to save her life. The man had run to Rogue's side and was helping her staunch the bleeding from her ruined arm, but he looked up at Liz and nodded.
//We're going to try to bring the dragon back under control,// she called to the rest of the group. //Victor, I need you to work on this.// She sent him all the information that Murclan had given her. //Stay out of the link until I call for you. The rest of you, concentrate!//
//Miss Shaw, wait!// came his human sounding reply. //You can't succeed without me in the link!//
//We can't succeed at all unless we have a Plan B!// she sent back, turning her head to look at the monster swooping down at them. //You're the Planner, damn it — start planning!//
She broke her ties with him and pulled the other hosts into the link. She then coordinated their mental energies with an ease which made her human side feel far from at ease. As the dragon swept low enough in the sky that she could see its catlike eyes, she focused the energies and REACHED...
* * *
The Coordinator/Alison bit back a curse as control of the dragon was wrested from them once again. She glanced at the Planner/Mortimer and frowned — he was showing signs of stress as Lorraine's joint link with him faded out. Had she retained any of her human curiosity at that point, Allison might have looked over at the woman's dying form. But the Coordinator was far too caught up in the moment to allow for such things.
The Coordinator did allow her one look, of course. Alison looked over at Josiah/Keith and smiled. He was their foundation. He was the one who most wanted the H'Rongi to stay, even after they had preserved him far beyond his mortal lifespan. She could feel Josiah's pride through the link: they had named a town after him. A town. It had survived 150 years longer than he'd ever expected, and some last shred of his preserved humanity wanted that town to survive. And for that, it needed the H'Rongi. He was their strength, their reason for going on.
//Keith,// the Coordinator called, using Alison's mental voice. //Link with the Planner and lend him your strength. We must defeat Murclan's team now. We are too close to losing the battle.//
Keith flashed her a beautiful grin — Allison remembered in that moment that she'd always been fond of his smile. Then he linked with Mortimer, and they reached out again.
None of them took notice of the smoke filling the air, or the fact that the Eagleton volunteer fire department had been called out by the free humans.
* * *
Liz gasped as the other H'Rongi forcefully pulled the dragon out of their control yet again The creature had been hovering for a few seconds above their heads, but now it once more began to send fireballs after the surviving troopers. She subliminally felt Victor working out bits of his plan for stopping the carnage with this or that host, and she smiled grimly. They had to get it right this time, or there would be no stopping it. She coughed and dropped herself flat on the grass, under the level of the billowing smoke. Above, she could barely make out the scales of the dragon in the firelight and it swooped and danced in the smouldering air.
//One more time — REACH!// she shouted. She imagined she was back at one of those silly tug-of-war matches she'd done as an undergrad, and the dragon was the rope. She and the other hosts heaved with all their strength, but there was something stronger at the other end now, something keeping them from getting control back.
It's not working, the human side of her mind shouted. It's not working!
In the sky above, the dragon, confused by its shifting instructions and bored with its play, circled around and prepared to dive for the final blow.
* * *
And all around the town of Eagleton, the out of control fires grew nearer with each passing second.
To be concluded...
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