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Doctor Who Missing Internet Adventure #22 - "Verdant Carnage"


Chapter 2
"Tegan"
by Tony Whitt


---


Joseph knelt down and formed a stirrup with his hands. The Doctor stepped into it, and Joseph lifted him up so that the Time Lord was able to wrap his arms around the branch and swing himself up onto it.


       The Doctor stood up on the limb. "Perfect. Just wait there, and I'll be down in... Look out!"


       Joseph Willow turned around just in time to see the creature, which looked like a green-and-black tiger, leaped out of the bushes and slammed into his chest. He fell onto his back and barely had time to scream before the gnoorr's jaws closed on his face and bit off the front half of his head.


* * *


"Hold your fire!" Sarniac barked. She made a sharp cutting motion with her tertiary right arm while her primary and secondary arms trained her weapons on the silvery creature before them. Bad enough that they had opened the door to the odd blue object and found themselves in a space larger than the guardian hiveship's own bridge. But to find the captain of this vessel, and to discover that he, too, was technological...


       And, it seemed, in great distress. The creature had put his hands stiffly to his head — she could tell it was unaccustomed to moving about much — and was now wailing. The sound would have deafened her before the change, but since the devolution now her ears could handle the horrendous noise. Thank the Hive there's something to thank this wretched planet for, she thought.


       "Please, no more!" the creature screamed. "Too many... too many changes! Cannot... cannot assimilate!"


       One of her troopers, sub-drone Harna, moved closer to her. The poor boy's extra arms had grown in at an odd angle, and his grey skin was waxy and pale as he held his guns as steadily as he could. He leaned forward and whispered, "Sir? What's wrong with it?"


       "I wish I knew, sub-drone," she replied. Already her defensive stance was relaxing, and against her better judgement she was feeling pity towards this creature. It was obviously in pain, though she didn't for the life of her know why. She lowered two of her weapons and cleared her throat, horrified to hear the buzz in her voice flattening out even more. "You have landed your craft in a restricted area of the Sweezon protectorate," she stated in her most official voice. "This ecosystem is off-limits to all. Please state your purpose here and then leave. We have no wish to harm you, but we are authorized to use deadly force if you do not follow our orders."


       She attempted to get through the speech as quickly as possible, but the creature before her was making such a racket that she doubted it had heard a word. She motioned her troopers to surround the hexagonal object in the centre of the room and to move in on the creature when it suddenly whirled and looked up at her. Instinctively she raised her weapon. She could see that the creature's features were shaped like those of the enemy, the hideous humans that were encroaching upon Sweezon space by the day. If they had managed to invade here, then the rest of Hive space could already be lost.


       But then the features blurred, and she watched as the creature's humanoid eye changed, turning into a compound blue. Her troopers buzzed amongst themselves in horror as the transformation continued. She could feel her own mouth opening and closing soundlessly as the ship's sole occupant lost its humanoid form and became something far more familiar.


* * *


"Oh, rabbits!" Tegan swore. "We're lost!"


       "I thought you said they were headed this way?" Jane asked, wiping the sweat from her brow. "I don't know about you, but I'd rather not run into one of those... things, whatever they are."


       "Me, neither," Ben said, gripping the sword in his hand that much tighter. He turned and looked sceptically at Tegan. "Are you sure this would a good idea?"


       Tegan considered brazening it out and playing the seasoned time-space traveller who knew far better than these mere Earthlings what was best. But then she realized she was too tired to be bothered. "No," she admitted. "I don't even know why I suggested it. Granddad always did say I was a mouth on legs."


       She caught Ben looking down at the legs in question and gave him a warning frown. He coughed and turned bright red. Jane seemed not to notice. She was instead looking at one of the bioluminescent flowers the Doctor had pointed out from the TARDIS.


       "My goodness, this is fascinating," she said. She put on her spectacles and peered more closely at the gently pulsing vegetation. "I shall have to ask the Doctor what causes this sort of thing. I'll bet it's..."


       Tegan did not immediately notice the silence, as she was peering through the vegetation looking for the Doctor, or better yet, for the way back to the TARDIS. She jumped when Ben lightly put his hand on her shoulder. "Um, I think something's wrong," he said. He pointed at Jane, who was now staring intently into the flower's light. Her face was a mask of horror.


       "Oh, no," Tegan muttered. "What's she gone and done now?" She raised her voice a bit as she approached the older woman, whose cheeks were suddenly awash with tears. "Jane? Are you all right?" But the older woman did not reply — she was too wrapped up in whatever she was seeing in the flower. Tegan couldn't understand it; she hardly would've taken Jane to be the type moved to tears by nature.


       She reached out to touch Jane on the shoulder, and then the flower had her.


* * *


The Doctor looked down at the twitching remains of Willow's body and the large green and black-striped animal which was tearing into it with gusto. He closed his eyes for a moment and shook his head. The man had not been the best that humanity had to offer, but even he didn't deserve to die like this.


       He opened his eyes and forced himself to look down at the tiger — or whatever it was. The large cat had flopped down on the floor of the rainforest and was contentedly munching away at its human supper. It peered up at him for a moment, and the Doctor noticed how uncatlike its face was. Though it had a mouth more or less shaped like a cat's, the eyes were set far apart, each of them elongated and set almost directly beneath each ear. "Fearful symmetry, indeed," he murmured.


       As the cat returned to its eating, he hurriedly searched his pockets for something to repulse it so that he could escape. He regretted once again the loss of the sonic screwdriver, as he had no doubts that, catlike or no, the big beast probably wouldn't be able to stand a burst of high-pitched noise for very long. Then he remembered that he hadn't transferred all of the contents of his old coat into the new one — or rather, they had yet to transfer themselves — and all he could find were his half-moon spectacles and a piece of string. He looked at the string thoughtfully before putting it back in his pocket.


       Then he heard an extraordinary sound, like the crying of a human baby. He looked down and saw that the tiger was looking up at him. Willow's body was almost totally devoured, but the cat had ceased eating for a moment and had turned its attention to him.


       Baffled, the Doctor kept patting himself down, looking for anything that might help him. When he patted his lapels and touched his celery stalk, the cat's noises grew even louder, and it began dancing around the bottom of the tree back and forth.


       "Good grief," he murmured. "You've already had your meat, and now you want your veggies, is that it?" He took the celery stalk from his lapel and waved it back and forth in the air like someone teasing a dog with a bone. "Well, if that's what it takes," he said. "I just hope there are no Praxis gases in these parts."


       He whistled at the cat, waving the celery back and forth a few more times, and then threw it as far away from the base of the tree as he could. Unfortunately, he had assumed, quite wrongly, that this tiger would act like any Earth-bound tiger and would chase its prize. It didn't. Instead, it shot straight up into the air, just below the branch the Doctor stood on, and caught the celery between its powerful jaws. By the time it hit the ground, the vegetable was gone.


       "Oh, dear," the Doctor said, "you are a fast eater, aren't you?" He began patting his pockets more furiously now, terrified that the tiger would get the bright idea of jumping up and climbing the trunk of the tree in search of more food. Just as he found something promising in his inside pocket, he noticed the cat looking up at him again... and something else. The tiger was now a slightly darker shade of green than it had been before. Any human eye would never have noticed the difference, but his own ability to judge the differences in hues and tones was far more acute.


       "Interesting," he said. "That shouldn't have happened."


       He would have said more, but the tiger suddenly decided it wanted more vegetables. It shook its tail vigorously for a few seconds and then pounced.


* * *


Tegan knew she wasn't much longer for this world.


       The doctors had tried to keep the truth from her, and even her husband seemed to have forgotten how much she valued his honesty. No one had told her just how far advanced the disease was, but she could feel it inside her, taking over every last bit of healthy tissue. Still, she wasn't nearly as frightened or upset as she believed she would be. After all those years of travelling with the Doctor, death was hardly something to be frightened of anymore.


       When she had asked her youngest granddaughter to place the ad in the Times, Adrienne had looked at her as if she'd finally gone senile. But Adrienne was still Adrienne, and she would do whatever her grandmother told her, even if it was something as daft as putting a cryptic ad in the newspaper for a physician to come see her grandmother.


       Tegan tittered at that memory, and then she coughed until she barely had any breath left. Her lungs were in no shape to carry on breathing, and she only hoped she had enough puff to tell him what she needed to when — if — he came.


       Then the door to her room opened, and her doubts vanished.


       He had changed his face again, but she could still tell it was him. He was a bit taller now, with dark brown hair, eyes that weren't quite brown and weren't quite green, and the same aquiline nose all the Doctors she'd ever seen had had. Oddly, he now wore round spectacles, and his outfit was the sort of cross between a cape and an overcoat she'd always associated with Doctor Watson in those old Sherlock Holmes movies. He even had a dark cane with a silver knob. It was an outfit suited to some elderly Victorian gentleman, though he himself seemed barely in his mid-thirties. As he stepped quietly into the room, she caught a glimpse of two young people outside: a tall dark-haired girl with large, curious brown eyes and a deep tan; and a young black man with a shaved head and glasses very similar to those of the man who had just stepped into the room. They peered through the crack in the door with worry and concern on their faces, but the man ignored them and firmly closed the door behind him.


       He moved to the bedside and sat down. She noticed he was wearing black leather gloves, which he was now taking off. Then gently, very gently, he took her liver-spotted hand in his and pressed it. "I'm sorry I was late, my dear," he said, his voice soft and slightly nasal, with a far more clipped and upper crust accent than she remembered. Despite the fact that he'd never called her "my dear" in her life, and despite the accent that reminded her of that old Star Trek series with the balding captain, the emotion in his voice was genuine. "I only just got your message. We've had a tad bit of trouble steering the TARDIS; I'm sure you remember what that's like." He smiled, a thin closed-mouth smile, and she realized he was really upset.


       Would her Doctor have shown this much emotion? Yes, probably. She missed him, even if he was sitting right here.


       "I remember a lot," she said, her voice barely a whisper. "I also remember how badly I behaved when I left." She tried to squeeze his hand, but she simply didn't have the strength. "Can you forgive me, Doctor?"


       He smiled again and gently squeezed her hand as if he had felt her attempt. "There was never anything to forgive, Tegan," he said. "You had a life to live, and I'd kept you from it for too long as it was. I should be the one to apologize, though. That business with the Daleks was far worse than anything else we'd seen."


       "Not... that bad," she replied. It was taking more effort to talk, and even breathing was a chore now. "We saw... much worse than that. Don't... don't apologize. I don't regret it now."


       She felt a curious drowsiness washing over her, and she barely noticed as the Doctor leaned forward and checked first one eye, then the other. Then he sat back and sighed. "I'm glad, my dear," he replied. "I've missed it. It's been a long time."


       She felt her eyes starting to flutter shut, but she was determined to focus on his face for as long as she could before going to sleep. His features were starting to blur, though, and instead of the dark-haired, serious-looking man who had walked in, she could see a more youthful man with fair hair and shining blue eyes. He smiled at her again, and this time it was the smile she remembered.


       "It's all right, Tegan," she heard a more familiar voice say. "Go to sleep. I'll stay with you."


       Although she never shut her eyes, her vision slowly went black. The last thing she felt was his hand disengaging from hers, and his fingers gently closing her eyelids.


* * *


Tegan opened her eyes and screamed louder than she ever had before.


       She tried to leap up from the hospital bed, but a pair of strong hands gripped her shoulders, and a face she only barely recognized swam into her view. "Tegan, it's all right! You're safe!"


       She blinked the tears out of her eyes and stared at the man talking to her. She realized she wasn't in a hospital bed at all but laying on some decidedly damp grass in the middle of an alien rainforest. She looked past Ben and saw Jane standing at his shoulder, looking down at her. The older woman's eyes were red and puffy, as if she'd been crying. That's right, Tegan thought, she had been crying. She ran her hand over her own cheek and felt tears there, as well. That's funny, she thought. What was I crying about.?


       Then a flash of the memory came back to her, and she felt her stomach drop. "Oh, no," she whispered.


       Jane knelt down beside her and took one of her hands. "You saw it, too? Oh, God, I was hoping I was hallucinating, but... That was too real for a hallucination."


       Tegan tried to answer, but the memory was fading even as if she tried to bring it back before her eyes. Admittedly, she wasn't trying that hard: it wasn't the sort of thing she wanted to keep with her. "Yes," she replied, "but I don't remember it that clearly now. Was it...?"


       Jane smiled and new tears sprang to her eyes. "Yes, yes, it was. I think it was that flower. I don't remember mine, now, either, thank

       God. But it had to have been."


       "What the hell are you two on about?" Ben asked. He looked back and forth between the two women as if he'd walked in on the end of a joke and they wouldn't tell him what led up to the punchline. "What did you see?"


       All three of them jumped as a voice behind them spoke. It sounded like a human voice overlaid with insect buzzing. "They witnessed their own deaths," it said. "And since you're all of the enemy species, no doubt those deaths will be quite soon."


       They all turned and looked at the newcomer. Even Ben, burly and manly though he was, screamed.


* * *


And deep within the TARDIS, the something that had responded to the unusual stimuli coming in from outside began to move....


---
To be continued...



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