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


Chapter 3
"Will"
by Daniel Harkin


---


"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.


* * *


"Oh Lord, it's the devil! It's the devil!" Will was apoplectic with fear and he fell to his knees whimpering, taking refuge behind Turlough who looked down disagreeably. Turlough, in turn, had taken refuge behind Verney, who was feeling a dull ache clinging about his knees that usually meant rain was imminent.


       They'd been wandering about pretending they were going in the general direction the others had taken. And then they'd bumped into the lady who now stood before them. Well, lady-ish. There were some disconcerting divergences to the general human form.


       Firstly, her teeth were distinctly different. Two rows of thin, little needles. As she was snarling at them, Verney could see little pearl white points like a series of Hell's Angel studs along her gums, which made him think of sharks. Secondly, there were her eyes; yellow orbs with dark circles. They were owl-wide and she blinked like clockwork. Everything else was human; but he didn't know if the minute differences made her more or less disturbing. Then there were the clothes, of course. She appeared to be encased in a partly plastic, partly rubber shell of tabby-cat colours. This was embossed with brilliant circular designs like celestial symbols.


       At the moment she appeared confounded; confused by something she had never encountered. As the foliage throbbed with pale-green light, he sympathised.


       She raised an ebony finger and he realised the nails were much stronger — and, more pressingly, sharper — than his own. "You," she said. She paused, her mind trying to find a way to express her confusion — she was ahead of him on that score. "What... who... where..." She closed her eyes, sighed, and composed herself. She opened them and had assumed a more prominent look of authority. "What are you? What are you doing here? Where did you come from?" She stared back at them, eyebrow raised.


       Turlough had re-emerged from wherever he'd tried to secret himself. "We might ask you the same question," he said. Although Verney noticed that he still stood between Turlough and the woman.


       The woman considered. "You might," she said, "but are fifteen hundred warriors on their way to add any sort of weight to your authority?"


       "Um," Turlough said.


* * *


"There's a good boy." A beat. "Or girl..." Amethyst eyes stared back and the big green thing gurgled. "Now, I usually get on quite well with cats. I hope you won't be the exception." The Doctor adjusted his body language so that he was on the same level as that of the creature, slowly so as not to alarm it. It cocked its head like a curious sparrow and its eyelids spiralled closed for a moment. "Yes... you're more reptilian than cat, aren't you?" The metre long tail jerked lightly. "Was that a sign of agreement or just you getting your limbs into gear?"


       He glanced down to the clump of ferns and candlebuds below, bright and peaceful like a cluster of squat Christmas trees. "I really should be going now..." he apologised. But the cat warbled and cooed and swung a heavy paw out; the Doctor screwed his eyes shut and tensed. But the paw ruffled through his hair and rubbed the nape of his neck.


       The Doctor grinned. "What a clever thing you are." Half an hour passed in this way and, like a swelling mist, evening came to the forest. But an evening as if lit by a pale-green nebula and amongst an infinity of stars. The game went on, the Doctor would respond with whatever had been done to him. Suddenly, the tiger was no longer there. The Doctor sharply looked around him and saw two purple points in the darkness fixed on him. Then the dark bulk turned and they were gone.


       The Doctor's vision was suddenly snagged by the mangled, flattened pulp on the ground that had once been Joseph Willow and he felt a blossoming sense of sadness and guilt. His mind's eyes was full of memories of flames and a multitude of sweat beads threaded their way down his face. He violently shook his head and slammed the palm of his hand against his forehead. There was something... dangerously seductive about this place. The forest had memories and voices. And lights.


       Light enough for him to get back to the TARDIS. He reached the ground with all the agility and silence of the cat that had preceded him. He slid through the night as if he wasn't there.


* * *


The hiveship was like a bronze thornbush. It looked prickly and sharp. "And is probably just as nasty inside," Tegan said. Monsters came in different shapes and sizes and were generally green, she had decided. These were sort of green — five foot tall crickets, grass and bone coloured with flecks of amber and a cluster of snooker ball eyes above some particularly tangible mandibles.


       She felt as though she were in two separate worlds all at once; like someone trapped coming out of a looking glass as a butterfly preserved in a jar. And she didn't quite like her mind leaping from Alice in Wonderland to butterfly collectors like that. Jane was in awe, however. "Oh this is fantastic! All the smells and colours! It's the stuff you don't even dream about."


       "It gets pretty ordinary, believe you me. No matter how exotic the place is, someone's always ready to stick a gun in your face and lock you up for some murder you've just happened or something." Jane was not to disheartened, however. As they were lead along a fleshy appendage that had coalesced from the hiveship, she was looking around her at the intricate culture exhibited for her like a honeycomb cross section.

       Tegan noticed that the big crickets were just one race of insect like things that worked in this hive thing, although they were clearly in charge. There were molluscs with pseudo-appendages, there were beetles and bluebottles; a managerie of creepy crawlies. She shuddered at the thought of touching one or, worse, being touched by one.


       "Would it be too much trouble for you to tell us *where* you're taking us?"


       The one that had said its name was Malvux, and that they should address him as sir, turned to Tegan. Tegan was unsettled by the sharp, deliberate movements of the creatures. It reminded her of clockwork toys and robots; not creatures with body language and other identifiable human signals that even your average bug-eyed monster had. It was like trying to converse with Cybermen. "You present an anomaly for us. We will present you to the hiveship's Little Mother and await her instructions."


       "Wonderful."


       Jane leaned forward. "Why do each of you have those gold badges with those designs on."


       "They're tokens. They denote station. If that sweezi is killed it puts the price to which the hive must be compensated."


       Malvux then appeared to check her/him/itself, as if it had been too chatty. Perhaps they weren't so humanless after all.


       "Why are we your enemy?"


       "You are an alien race, you have contaminated a Protected Area."


       "Then why don't you just kill us?"


       "You're strange." There was a sudden, higher intonation, an almost childlike exclamation that he didn't understand. "You have complicated matters, we did not know more than one type of vertebrate community existed. We have to alter our strategies."


       "But I thought you said this was a protected area, not a warzone."


       "This isn't a war. This is our rightful land and we refuse to allow it to be contaminated."


       "What does he mean contaminated?" Wolsey leant in close to Tegan. He was a matter-of-fact sort of man, this kind of thing must be a real shock to his system. The Malus he could probably get over, but she didn't think he'd cope with this. Especially not on a regular basis.


       "I don't know. Sounds like a bunch of jumped up, little Hitlers we've just bumped into here."


       "But if we contaminated the place, what do you think they're going to do with us?" Jane hissed.


       "Let's not think about that right now."


       "Does this happen to you all the time?" Wolsey asked.


       "All the time. Don't worry, the Doctor usually turns up with something."


       "Oh, well that's alright then," Jane said, punctuating her sarcasm by shifting her cardigan.


       "As I said, usually."


* * *


The community comprised of three enormous huts; circular concrete constructs with thatched domes atop. The area had been defoliated for space to be available and surrounding the community were piles of black-dead plants and smooth, de-skinned trunks. The organisation appeared simple, one hut for civilians, one for military and one for what must have been religious practises. One smelt of food, one of blood and sweat, the last incense.


       Will, not to put too fine a point on it, appeared to be emptying the contents of his bowels. Verney was keeping close to Turlough and they were exchanging glances every now and then about possible escape routes and plans. Turlough was actively considering Will's uses as an expendable distraction. He hadn't met this species before and the foliage was unlike anything he'd seen before. Images of home kept pouncing on him as he thought of leaves as strong as wood and big enough to stand on. He thought of....


       But there was something in the air here. Something in the trees. Faintly he could hear it whispering, he looked to Verney who looked as if he were in pain and at that dunce brain whimpering beside him — no, neither of them could hear it. There was something in the ground, and there wasn't anything that scared him more than something in the ground.


       They were led by the warriors, threatened by sophisticated looking spears and rose bud shaped ray guns. It looked as though the girls ruled over the boys here and it seemed to make perfect sense that instead of shooting with phalluses they were celebrating their-


       "Friar Mabmi, identify the origin of these things. You may use.... moderate methods of acquisition but leave at least two of them alive. They may be useful."


       "Indeed, Leader Bakeem." Turlough, Verney and Will were thrown about what way and which until they were in a cold, hollow room that smelt like an empty attic and was the colour of ash. The lights flickered, paused, flickered, paused and then rebounded flooding the room with unecclesiastical light as revealing as a scalpel with an accompanying thrum like a dull headache. Friar Mabmi stood in front of them as warriors, in armour beautifully embroidered with brooches and motifs, fixed them firmly to chairs, which were in turn firmly fixed to the floor which looked to be pretty firm itself. "Now then," the Friar looked apologetic as he clasped his hands and was decidedly unthreatening. "I'm going to ask you a question or two. You will have to answer or we will have to ascertain the facts through... erm, trial and error. Scientifically, let's say." He paused again and looked at them, eyebrows raised. "Shall we begin?"


       "It won't do much good," said Verney to nobody, "I think I'm less competent of those facts than you are."


       Mabmi choose to ignore him. "What are you?"


       "What do you mean *what* are we?" Verney winced a little at Turlough's agressive tone and sneer. True, the sneer looked as if it was an innate feature of his face, but his manner wasn't going to be to their advantage. "They're... we're human."


       "Human? What do you mean, 'man-like'?"


       Verney tried to chip in. "I think we're getting our wires crossed. Our species is homo sapien, similar to yours, except we're not from around here."


       "Then where are you from?"


       "Not here, obviously." Verney wished he could kick Turlough.


       "This community is not very well equipped. If we have to procure the information we need from you scientifically, then I feel I must inform you the methods used will be somewhat... crude."


       "Turlough, I think it would be better if we at least *tried* to make an effort to co-operate."


       "But we've got nothing to say. What information could they possibly need?"


       "What do you think we on Earth would do if we bumped into a completely alien species."


       Mabmi raised a querulous eyebrow. "Pardon me, gentlemen," he said just as Turlough was about to say something to Verney. "Do you mean to say you are made of earth and clay? Do you come from underground?"


       Turlough snorted. "No, we're from a different planet... planets entirely. One day we just fell — plop — onto your planet."


       "From the stars? Our people came from the stars. But how did you travel here?"


       "Um, well..." Verney faltered.


       Turlough wasn't about to let the old arse tell all about the TARDIS. "It just sort of happens to us."


       "Happens?"


       "Well there are four different ways."


       "The first?"


       "Uh well... we climb through holes in the world. We climb through them and when we look up to the sky we realise we don't recognise the stars anymore."


       "Feasible, perhaps you are a race with a particular affinity with dimensional portholes or such like. But not very likely. Continue."


       "Ah... we climb through mirrors."


       "I beg your--"


       "There's no point in questioning it, it just happens. Smoke and mirrors and bang, we're somewhere else."


       Mabmi sounded tired. "Very well," he sighed, "that's two. The third?"


       Turlough faltered. "Giant grasshoppers," Verney interposed. Mabmi looked a little shocked. "Machines like giant grasshoppers that are launched by mighty explosions, we hitch rides on them when we find them."


       "Indeed. That is three ludicrous methods. Are you going to surprise me with the fourth?"


       "Witchcraft!" Turlough had forgotten about Will, ever since he'd taken to rocking quietly to himself.


       "Magic?" Mabmi scoffed. "How could you be able to perform magic?"


       "We're cursed. Voices in the dark, they make people worse — angry. But the voices they change the world; it runs like wet paint in rain and then we're somewhere new. Somewhere strange. Somewhere bad."


       Mabmi stared at them. "I think we may have to resort to scalpel and dreaming rod."


       "Dreamin-" but Mabmi and the warriors had gone. Turlough grunted again. Verney turned to him.


       "What do we do now?"


       "Wait. Then we try and escape."


       "Has anyone told how temperamental you are, Turlough? You're like a vicious toddler, sometimes."


       "I try."


* * *


There are rooms inside trees. Rooms of sounds. Rooms of thoughts. Rooms of pictures. Rooms of smells. Slowly as fluid passes through the trees these sounds and thoughts and pictures and smells become connected and the trees have memories. And as the fluids pass between trees the memories become voices.


       Shh. Listen to the night.


       The Doctor bounded into the square patch where a blue box should have been. "Oh dear," he declared and jammed his hands into his pockets, one finger twiddling the piece of string. "I wonder..."


       There was a rustle in the leaves. These happen everyday, winds and animals and insects pass through the foliage. Noise is to be expected. But this was a concerted effort. Twin amethyst points emerged from the darkness, behind them was a dark bulk and a flash which unsettled leaves and ferns behind it: tail and teeth and eyes in the dark.


       And this was followed by another set of eyes.


       And another.


       Another.


       The Doctor resignedly spun around, confirming there was no possibility of escape. "Ah," he said. He turned back to an usually familiar set of purple eyes. "Ah," he said again. A patter or two ruffled the leaves and soon the rain was coming down so strong that the world was hissing about the Doctor like frying bacon.


       "Ah."


* * *


Will had given up rocking backwards and forwards. Turlough and the old turnip were talking about how to get out of this deadworld prison. There wasn't any colour here, the air tasted like stone and stuck in his throat. Your words echoed and returned, trying to fill to emptiness left by the lifelessness.


       Black-skinned devils and demons were. Black with fangs and claws. They'd been captured by Lucifer and his troopers, although he'd expected it to be hotter in Hell. What was worse, fighting or this? He didn't know, but he wanted the Doctor to be here. He was fair-haired and had eyes like divine wisdom. He lived in a magical Pandora box like that group of players did a story about before the fighting came. He fought Malus like he was an angel. Yes, the Doctor was definitely an angel. Is that how God worked then? Was he safe from the musket balls and pikes; the yells and sweat? Where families were torn asunder like a biblical curse was on the world? Were the rivers going to run red?


       He was safe from that, but then he was here now. Why did God do this? Why the wars and Malus; then the Doctor; then this again? He searched back through the things he'd done and tried to find things that he'd done wrong. That would make the Doctor and God leave him to this. What had he done? What had he done?


       Was this a test then? Or was God judging him. He was confused. Some said there was a mist place you went to and there God but you on scales your bad half one side, your good the other. Whichever side was the heaviest determined whether you went up past the stars or down through the ground. Where was this place now? Which sphere of existence? Was he deeper or further out? Was he in purgatory? Where?


* * *


[Prose translation of a segment of poetry from the Holy Chronicle of the Community]

And the starmen fell that day. We were not to know. We were not to know. The starmen fell that day. And we did something terrible. We were not to know. We were not to know. The starmen fell that day. We bruised them and we bit them. We spilt there blood on the sacred ground. But we were not to know. We were not to know.


* * *


"We don't have the time to let them take us through their silly games. Our community is dying. We scrape at dry mud and eat the few worms we find. Find out. Now."


       Mabmi looked into Bakeem's eyes and saw pain. He closed his eyes and nodded. "Which one?"


       "One of the young ones. Elders are more valued and we may be able to demand a higher price."


* * *


They were making Will look into a plant. The light was bright, brilliant and had something more. Not just like the light of the cell that threw you open; this light tore into you and let you see yourself. He saw...


       Men in red firing in rank; kneeling, stooping, standing. The air thick and his cheeks burning; sweat like needles over his face, scalp and back. He knew he was looking for someone. He knew that this person meant so much; more than pikes and musket balls and cannon shots. He wanted to hold this person close and devour the smell of her skin. His face was caught in a grimace that was on the brink of tears. His breath was a cold, sharp cut in his lungs.


       He spun and every direction appeared the same. She was so far away. He felt as though he were drowning. People pushing him deeper and he unable to know which way the surface and air was. Gulping; the water heavy, invisible hooks clawing at his clothes and dragging him deeper. A brief pain in his abdomen was forgotten until a bloodstain blossomed on his shirt like rose petals uncurling. An ugly ache, immediate and distant all at once. He slammed down to his knees and the surface seemed too far away. Besides, it felt peaceful drifting with the sediment.


       He screamed, globules of saliva flying from his lips. His mouth so wide the corners felt like they were splitting.


       Blood hit the earth that day.


---
To be continued...



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