|Doctor Who Missing Internet Adventure #22 - "Verdant Carnage"
by Mary Hyde
"You will not be going anywhere," Mambi said. "Guards, go and bring them back!"
Before the guards could move to respond, flashes of green and black flew past, and everyone was suddenly aware of deep growls coming from all around them. Several gnoorr entered the hut, quickly encircling Mambi and his guards. The guards dropped their weapons in
fear. Tegan and Turlough looked at one another.
"Friends of the Doctor?" Tegan asked.
Turlough shrugged. "Probably. We weren't properly introduced. Come on. We've got to get your grandfather and Will."
Tegan's face became clouded with concern. "How are they?"
Turlough headed towards the cells, not answering. His face was clouded as well, but not with concern. Tegan trotted after as he ducked inside one of the huts. She cried out at the sight of her grandfather, unhurt, and rushed to his side.
"Tegan!" Andrew Verney dragged her down into his embrace and hugged her with a fierce possessiveness.
She stiffened at the unexpectedly close contact. Her grandfather had always been a deeply caring man, but never was he so expressive of his affection. "What's wrong?"
Andrew pulled back and glanced toward the collapsed form on the far side of the hut. "I've done everything I can for him but Will's getting worse."
"Worse?" Tegan frowned. "Why, what's happened to him?"
"Friar Mambi and his people," Turlough answered, crossing to the injured boy in a few quick strides. His expression had grown even darker. "They have some unusual interrogation techniques." Distaste flickered in his eyes as he tugged aside Will's tattered shirt, his long fingers moving with surprising competence as he felt for the injured man's pulse, lifted an eyelid, and traced over the bruised ribs. "He appears to be in shock," he said after a minute's scrutiny, "and likely concussed. Might be some internal injuries too."
"Then how are we going to move him?" Tegan wanted to know.
Turlough turned toward her with that scorn-filled, superior look that she'd come to know — and loathe — so well. "Well, obviously we aren't."
* * *
The organic shuttle slid silently into an orifice in one arm near the base of the spiny-looking Hive. Dim illumination lit the hangar area as Xzai, Ashnai and the Doctor disembarked. Soon they were following the tall red ant through a series of darkened corridors, pausing now and then to avoid the cricket patrols.
Wait." Xzai held up a foreleg, antennae twitching as he smelled/listened. He turned to the Doctor. "Azhnai hazz been here before, but my fellowz may zzee you azzz a threat. I muzt go ahead, to inzure that you will be zafe."
"We'll be here." The Doctor took the black-skinned woman's arm and gently guided her back into a shadowed niche.
Xzai swept his antennae outward in a sort of bow and disappeared into the gloom of the corridor.
The time passed in complete silence, as neither the Doctor nor Ashnai thought it wise to talk. The woman's huge owl-like eyes were wide, her head turning constantly as she sought out her returning friend. Only when his angular figure emerged from the darkness did she relax.
"Thizz way." The ant herded them along quickly. They entered a huge space crowded with rounded transparent cases. "Eggz," Xzai said simply. "Ztolen one by one from our Queen and nurtured with Imperial Tonic in thiz unuzed zection of the zzhip. Zoon theze will hatch azz
zub-queenz." He brushed his antenna affectionately over a few of the eggs and the insects inside squirmed. "Very zoon. We muzzt hope that the Queen doez not commenze her renewal before they are ready.
The Doctor watched as a worker tended to one of the eggs, then crouched down to study the glossy creature within. "I understand," he said after a moment's consideration. "You're going to release them during the Time of Pollination."
"Yezz," Xzai said. "If enough dronez can be diztracted by our zub-queenzz, the Queen will not be renewed and her reign will end. And theze, once pollinated, will continue the Hive."
"An excellent plan," the Doctor congratulated. "No bloodshed. No conflict. You are simply allowing Nature to follow its intended course. I am impressed."
"It is Ba-kai," Ashnai said as if stating the obvious.
"It is indeed!" the Doctor agreed, pointing at her. His blue eyes swept once more around the chamber in admiration, but then he grew somber. "I only wish more people understood and followed it." He rose to his feet. "You and Xzai will need to return to the planet for my companions."
"And you, Doctor?" Ashnai asked, head tilted in puzzlement at this abrupt change of subject. "What will you do?"
"Me... yes." He stood balanced on his toes as if readying for a fight. "If one of Xzai's co-workers would be so good as to lead me," he requested, "I intend to have a few words with this Queen of yours."
* * *
Malvux screamed again. "You murdered, enzzlaved, and dezztroyed a planet, all zzo you could leave thizz planet and live forever!"
"It had to be done!" the Queen said. "I had to zzurvive!"
"Your zzurvival had a cozzt," Malvux said, and he raised his gun to cover the Queen, "and on behalf of Ba-kai, I am here to enzzure you pay that prizze!"
It was then that the secondary Queen screamed in agony, and slowly began to change its form. Her iridescent exoskeleton shimmered, taking on a golden hue, the multifaceted blue eyes glinting with shades of amber.
Malvux instinctively swung the gun toward the thrashing creature. "What izz wrong...?" he began. But as he turned away, the Queen snapped her mandibles shut over his foreleg and twisted, snapping the limb off at the joint. Malvux shrieked in excruciating pain and collapsed to his belly at her feet.
The Queen retrieved his weapon and pointed it down at the twitching male. Then tenderly, she reached out to stroke the other Queen with her antennae. "Be zztill, my pet," she purre d soothingly. "Zzzhh, my dear zzecond zelf. All izzz azz it zhould be."
The glint of gold faded from the sub-queen's eyes and shell, and she stared up raptly into the Queen's blue eyes. "Yezz, my mizzztrezz."
The Queen shoved the barrel of the gun between Malvux' antennae. "Thizz izz Maluzz, the zpiritz of thoze dronez who have given themzelvez in zervizce to uzz. But without the uze of thizz zub-drone'z body, he haz no zubstanzce of hizz own." Her claw tightened on the trigger. "And zo he izz of no conzzeqenzce to uzzz."
* * *
"We've got to help the Doctor!" Face flushed with fear and frustration, Tegan paced back and forth around the small hut. "But we can't just leave Will here!"
"It really doesn't appear that we have any other choice," Turlough told her in that 'why can't you for once be reasonable' tone of voice.
Tegan had had enough of his callousness. "Like you even care, Turlough!" she snapped. "No skin off your nose, is it?"
Turlough merely crossed his arms and squinted at her like she was a bug. Into this cold silence came a quiet voice. "I will stay with the lad," Andrew announced, pushing to his feet.
"No, you will not!" Tegan grabbed his arm, partially to help him up and partially to force him to listen. "I'm not leaving you here and have something happen to you too!"
"Tegan, my dear, think about what you're saying," the older man said gently. "Will can't be left alone, not in this condition. And the sooner all of this is resolved, the sooner we can get him some decent medical care. Besides, both you and Turlough are used to all of this business."
"Oh sure, I'm *used* to it," she muttered sarcastically under her breath. "Like that's even possible."
"And most likely, I'd only get in the way," Andrew finished, patting her hand. "Really Tegan, it's the best solution."
"Not coming here would have been the best solution!" she stated emphatically. The two men stared at her, one in thinly veiled condescension, the other with worry and understanding. It was her grandfather's concern that finally did her in. Her face twisted into a grimace, and she turned away from them. "Oh, all right!" she fumed, angry that once more she was caving in.
* * *
"Ah, there you are!"
A tall fair-haired figure stood at the doorway to the huge chamber, hands thrust deep into the pockets of his tattered, bloodied coat. Both Jane and the Queen looked up at his greeting, the first sighing in relief.
The Queen, however, buzzed angrily, her faceted cobalt eyes flashing. "Another of the invading alien zzcum!" The gun she held now pointed toward him.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow at her words. "While I've been called far worse things in my lives, there's still no need for rudeness." He stepped further into the room, his eyes sweeping over the stack of eggs. "About ready to hatch, hmm?" Digging out his spectacles, he bent down to inspect the insects within more closely. "And all drones by the look of it," he noted.
"Who are you?" the Queen hissed. She shifted the weapon to her topmost limb and gestured menacingly at him.
"Nobody." The Doctor stuffed the glasses back into an inside pocket and stood up. "Somebody. All depends on your viewpoint, doesn't it?" Ignoring the Queen, he turned his attention to where Jane sat, her arms wrapped around a barely coherent Ben. "How is he?"
"Alive." Jane fixed a very determined look on the Time Lord. "I think I've had about as much fun as I can take, Doctor. I'd like you to take us all home now."
He smiled at the feisty little schoolteacher. "Soon. Just a few things to wrap up first." And that said, the Doctor swung back toward the Queen.
The injured creature that had been at her feet when he entered had apparently crept away while it had a chance. The furious Queen, eyes and weapon still focused on him, had yet to notice its disappearance.
The smaller Sweezon sub-queen was staring at him as well. Her exoskeleton shimmered, patches of gold skimming across its surface. She turned blue eyes to him and pleaded, "Help me, Doctor!"
Startled realization swept across the Time Lord's features at the mention of his name. He strode toward the much larger Queen, paying no attention to the weapon she held as he pointed at the quivering sub-queen. "Where did you find this...this...?"
"My zzzecond zelf." The Queen stroked an antenna over the bee-like creature. "My zub-queen izz unique. Zpecial. Even her devolution waz realized in a mozzt unuzual manner and plazce."
"Found inside a tall blue box, I'd wager," the Doctor retorted.
"All that I am, zo izz zhe," she buzzed. "Zzhe iz perfect!"
"Oh, I'm sure she is." The Doctor patted the sub-queen's thorax, producing goldish splotches wherever he touch. The huge Queen hissed menacingly and he slowly drew his hand away. "This poor being is exactly what you want it to be. Perfect, as you put it. In fact, that's the only thing he can be. Isn't that correct, Kamelion?"
"Pleazzze!!" The secondary Queen contorted, its forelegs waving feebly. "Rezcue me!"
* * *
It was a standoff.
The great gnoorr were dispersed around the clearing, stretching, yawning and cleaning, their amethyst eyes facing the jungle as they lay sprawled around the hut occupied by the Doctor's companions. Mambi and his armoured warriors ringed them, keeping well out of pouncing distance, with their blossom guns drawn and ready. They waited, the bioluminescent foliage
glinting behind them.
A shadow swept over the land and into the clearing with a whoosh of engines, churning up the dirt. Even before the Sweezon shuttle had landed, Mambi took advantage of the billowing dust and with a terse word of command, sent his warriors to capture the ship.
The shuttle's occupants didn't have a chance.
Except for the gnoorr. The creatures' soporific appearance completely belied their active attention. At the first faint footfall of movement, they rose to slink silently through the dust, the first of them arriving at the shuttle just as one of Mambi's people fired at a disembarking shadow. The dark-skinned warrior was instantly pulled down by three of the green/black
striped cats with a wet runch.
The engines cycled down and the dust started to settle. Ashnai emerged from behind the fleshy edge of the shuttle doorway. Xzai had fallen half-on, half-off the exit ramp. Grabbing the injured ant under the forelimbs, she strained to drag him to safety before her people discovered the gnoorr feasting on their fallen warrior.
At the first sound of an energy weapon discharging, Tegan had cautiously poked her head out of the door. This far from the shuttle, the dust was less disturbed and she could see Ashnai struggling with the body of the much larger Xzai. Glancing around, she chanced a mad dash across the clearing to help the owl-eyed woman get the ant into the hut.
They had just gotten the door shut when the compound erupted in gunfire and snarls.
* * *
"ZZet me free!" The sub-queen shuddered, one foreleg
jerking violently to knock the gun from the Queen's
grasp. It bounced across the organic floor, coming to
rest at the base of the squirming egg pile.
As the Queen automatically moved toward the weapon,
Doctor set his palm between the sub-queen's eyes.
"Kamelion," he announced simply. The figure shimmered,
burnished yellow on iridescent, the Queen's
hold shifting in favor of the Time Lord's stronger
influence. When the miasma solidified, a golden
lay beneath his hand.
An angry buzz warned him that the Queen had seen the
transformation. The Doctor rose to his feet, turning
face the enraged Sweezon and the gun she again pointed
at him. "What have you done?" she hissed, thrusting
muzzle of the weapon against his already
coat. Behind her, Jane gasped in alarm.
A soft tearing sound came from the midst of the egg
and the Queen spun around, the Time Lord instantly
dismissed as unimportant. "Workerzz!" Her wings
twitched with nervous anticipation as the first pale
drone emerged from his shell. Soon the pile was
with insect attendants, feeding, fanning and otherwise
assisting the newborn Sweezi males. The drones could
not even be seen under the mass of workers.
"Devolution!" the Queen cried. Her wings hummed
as again and again she rose a few feet into the air
then retouched down. "What matter the lozz of my
zzecond zelf when zoon *I* will be renewed!"
"That will never happen!" The sub-drone Malvux
unexpectedly appeared before her, beaten and faded,
ichor dripping from his broken forelimb.
"Zhattered drone, you have no body of your own," the
Queen taunted. "You cannot ztop me, Maluzz."
"Perhapz *I* have no form, dying Queen." The
sub-drone's eyes shimmered softly and he drew in a
fluting breath. "You have done great harm to thiz
Hive." The voice was different now, restrained and
subservient. "And to thiz planet and all itz
inhabitantzz. Thiz izz why I and otherz have worked
end your zycle of renewal. It comez at too high a
Mother? Then this creature before her was not the
Malus, but Malvux himself. She drew on her authority
over the Hive and snapped, "I am your Queen,
"I dare, my Queen, only becauze you have dizrupted the
natural order." Malvux's truncated arm twitched
awkwardly at his side. "Ba-kai demandz payment,
balance. And at firzt, my Father wazz driven only by
thoughtzz of revenge. But by zurrendering myzzelf to
him, he now knowz *everything*. And he approvez,
Mother! My Father and I will enzhure that *you* will
not be renewed."
And to her startled dismay, the much smaller cricket
guard lunged at the Great Queen!
* * *
Within the hidden hatchery, the soft sound - like a
fingernail piercing a thin sheet of plastic - heralded
the hatching of the first sub-queen.
The popping and tearing continued, the leathery
eggshells bursting under the onslaught of juvenile
mandibles. Pale, slime-covered, almost
bodies slithered from each case, the newborn Sweezi
panting from their exertions as they lay upon the
organic floor. Workers swarmed around them,
regurgitating a nutrient-rich pulp into their crops.
Their strength restored, the sub-queens began to twist
and stretch. Gossamer membranes separated from the wet
surface of their backs, serum pumping through the
delicate veins as they extended to full apian wings.
Their soft white skin hazed and thickened as the
of Devolution took over completely. Within minutes,
glittering exoskeletons had hardened. The workers
away as the newborns at last opened their faceted
Amidst a glorious roar of buzzing and clicking, the
monarchy of sub-queens leapt eagerly into the air,
soaring aloft toward their Time of Pollination.
* * *
Tegan knelt down beside Will, adjusting the shallow
that the boy's feet were propped upon. A
sheen coated his face and she wiped the sweat away
a scrap of bandaging material.
"How is he?"
To her surprise, it was Turlough. "Why do *you*...?"
Tegan bit back her retort as the sharp-faced young man
slid down the wall to sit beside her. "He's about the
same. I'm worried about the bruising around his
"So am I." Her astonishment must have shown on her
face, because his eyes hardened slightly. "Do you
really think I want him or Xzai to die?"
Tegan turned to gaze across the hut to where Ashnai
cradling the huge angular head of the still
ant in her lap. "Honestly, Turlough," she admitted,
didn't think you cared one way or the other."
"Not like you, Tegan," he said softly, "who cares too
The young woman drew in a rough breath. "And what's
wrong with caring about someone?" she wanted to know.
Turlough studied her for a long moment before
"More often than not," he told her with a defeated
smirk, "you get hurt."
Tegan stared, then suddenly turned her face away.
"Yeah," she agreed. "You do."
They sat together for several minutes in subdued
silence. Then Tegan sighed and leaned her head
the wall. "We're stuck here, aren't we?"
Turlough nodded. "Until the fighting dies down and
recovers, at the very least."
"Can't you fly the shuttle?"
He glanced at her, then scowled down at the floor.
not that familiar with organic-based technology."
Tegan followed his gaze. "Oh well, it was worth a
He shrugged. Then his head shot up, a puzzled frown
creasing his face. "Listen."
"I don't..." Tegan began.
"No, he's right," Andrew agreed from his spot near the
doorway. "The growls, the shooting - they've
And instead, slowly filling the silence, rose a
relentless growing thrum.
* * *
Above the surface of the planet Salasiad, a swarm of
dark figures emerged from the top and bottom of the
bristly Sweezon Hive, making their descent toward the
"Stop!" From his position behind the fighting, Friar
Mambi dropped to his knees, overcome with fear. "The
bugs have emerged!" he shrieked. "The conflagration
come again! We must begin the chants!" At the
command, his warriors tentatively pulled away from the
But the gnoorr no longer advanced toward them to
Solemn purple eyes filled with preternatural
the tigers dropped onto their haunches and watched as
the men retreated.
First Tegan, then her grandfather and finally Turlough
stepped out of the 'prison' hut, staring in shock and
disgust at the mayhem the short battle had produced.
the space surrounding them, one of the emerald-colored
cubs, several humanoid bodies in various stages of
eaten, and the tiger the Doctor had briefly referenced
as Old Chipped-Tooth lay unmoving in the dirt.
It was plain that only the clearing's large expanse of
naked ground had prevented the forest itself from
ignited by the men's energy weapons. Their hut was
untouched, but two of the larger huts had caught fire.
With the noise from the battle gone, several people
peeped out, then emerged from the building to beat
frenetically at the blaze with dripping wet mats.
Unexpectedly, against the fierce humming of the Sweezi
and the crackling flames licking at the community, the
mighty green-and-black cats gave forth a great
* * *
Malvux lay sprawled upon the Chamber floor, serum
leaking from his punctured abdomen. In addition to
truncated upper arm, a lower limb had been ripped away
completely. And the stump of his right antenna
back and forth, still moving as though drawing
sensations from the environment.
But all that was as nothing! The Great Queen, Mother
the Sweezon, now would not - could not - be renewed!
had managed to thoroughly shred one of her wings and
bitten through a thickened support filament in the
other. She would never leave the ground again! And
without the Time of Pollination and the drones'
malappropriated life essences, the Queen would soon
Some base instinct kept urging him to go to his
to do all in his power to ensure her survival. But
these reflexes were subdued by the comforting presence
of his Father and by the knowledge that the Hive could
now rise out of its stagnation. "We have done it,"
Malvux whispered as he lay collapsed at Kamelion's
"All izz... az it waz! Az... it... zhould beee...."
The buzz of his voice faded.
The golden android bent, his expressionless face
appearing somehow sad and solemn, and lifted the
cricket's limp body easily into his arms. Climbing
the shattered egg cases, he settled the dead Sweezon
onto the throne at its pinnacle. From where she lay
collapsed upon the floor, too weak and wounded to
the Queen hissed at his impudence.
Her hissing was drowned out by the whirl and wind of
chitinous wings, as the Sweezon Court returned. The
Doctor had been inspecting Ben's bite, but at the
of insect bodies both he and Jane stood up to gaze in
awe at the pageantry.
Three of the sub-queens had managed to mate before
exhaustion overtook them and now their exoskeletons'
glowed with a queenly gold, while their chosen drones
had attained the Consort's metallic blue. Workers
rushed forward as they landed, regurgitating
for them. The remainder of sub-queens and drones
followed, dropping to any open area of the floor they
As the workers finished with the Sweezon royalty, they
spread out to tend to those who had not mated.
as the food they received revived them, these
began to further devolve into crickets, spiders,
mollusks and ants.
The largest of the three Queens mounted the hill of
cases and advanced toward the throne. Delicate
swept once across Kamelion, who had remained atop the
pile. Her attention turned from him abruptly, almost a
dismissal. Instead, her long tongue unfurled to taste
the still form that lay upon the surface, flicking
the body for several long moments. Then she
up with a golden badge in her foreclaw, facing her
and her subjects. "Thizz one wazz Malvux, our loyal
zervant. And he wazz Maluzzz, our Father. But above
all, he wazz Ba-kai! Let hizz name be told to each
newborn! Let hizz zcent be remembered for azz long az
there izz a Hive!"
The Sweezi began to open and close their mandibles,
creating a harsh raspy squeaking that reminded Jane of
fingernails on a chalkboard. Wincing, she hunched down
as if that would protect her from the sound, and
both ears with her hands.
The Doctor gazed on at the spectacle, unaffected by
noise. "They're paying him a great honor for all he's
done. The Malus, I'd think, would be pleased."
The movement of their jaws slowed and stopped. But as
the noise died away, a furious hissing could be heard.
"Trea-zzon!" the old Queen accused. "Treach-er-y!"
The Sweezi buzzed and clicked angrily among themselves
at her words. "Great Mother!" a cricket guard called
over the noise. "What zhould we do with thizzz?" Her
weapon pointed down at the seething mangled figure.
The trio of Queens consulted, and then the smallest
spoke. "While zhe wazz our mother, zhe wazz alzo
for much zzuffering, both here in thizz Hive and on
planet below. We owe her no blezzing but that of a
zzwift death. Zzee to it!"
With a roar, the Sweezi raised the limp body from the
floor. The old Queen was passed,
mandible-to-foreleg-to-antenna, from one Sweezon to
another. Then without ceremony, she was shoved
one of the squishy openings in the Hive's wall. No
even watched as she fell to her death in the
Lands' of the Salasiad tropical rain forest.
* * *
Into the stunned silence of the Community, the TARDIS
rematerialized beside Xzai's small shuttle. After a
moment, the Doctor exited and immediately turned to
stare up into the sky. The dark green and brown of an
immense Sweezon shuttle came toward them, and after a
few minutes, landed beside the blue box. Several
cricket quards and two of the ant-like Sweezi, one
one black, descended the ramp.
Mambi stepped forward to meet them, but to his
consternation, the ants marched toward the quiescent
gnoorr instead. "I am Znga," the red ant announced to
the pride at large. "Our Mother egztendz an
for you to vizzit our Hive. She wizhez to honor and
thank you herzelf for the great zacrifizez you have
for all of uzzz."
Amber-Eyes yawned, then dragged himself to his feet.
sniffed first one ant, then the other, and with
huge yawn that showed his sharp canines, the great
walked up the ramp into their ship, his green and
striped tail swishing the air. Moments later,
Tweedledum, the remaining cub, bounced forward and
licked the red ant across the abdomen. The young
skittered backward, shaking his head repeatedly as
though the Sweezon tasted bad, before dashing up into
the shuttle as well.
The entourage then moved to Mambi, who had been joined
by Bakeem. The black ant bowed to the Leader and the
Friar. "I am Vbram, Ambazzador for the Zweezon
I am zent to egzprezz our Mother'z dizmay over the
that hazz been done to thizz community in the name of
the Hive. Much of thizz occurred becuaze of our old
queen'z hatred of other razzez. But that time izz now
"Then it wasn't the power of our chanting that kept
fires away?" Bakeem glanced sharply at Mambi. The
was suddenly and unaccountably ashamed that he had so
vehemently insisted that they all take part in the
"I know nothing of chanting," Vbram said. "But the
of the Ba-kai izz one of balanze. The Great and
Mother of the Zweezon would zzee amendz made and our
peoplez at peaze. Will you allow uzz to dizduzz theze
thingz with you?"
An angry scowl passed across Bakeem's face and she
opened her mouth. "We'd be delighted," Mambi said
suddenly. She spun toward him in shock. "We are all
tired of the conflict between our peoples," he
emphasized, more to the Leader than to the
ants. "And there are better things in life than
fighting. Like eating."
"Ah, yezzz, the dezztruction of your cropz." The two
ants' antennaes swept over and around one another.
"Thizz too iz zomething that will now zeaze."
"It was you?" Outraged, Bakeem stepped closer to the
ambassadors. The cricket guards' weapons immediately
slid toward her and the few gnoorr not on the shuttle
rumbled ominously. Behind her, her own warriors
nervously shifted caught between the tigers and
Slowly, they lowered and re-sheathed their own guns.
The ants waved their soldiers back. "The Zweezon will
make amendz for our old Queen'z miztakez, if you will
Mambi stepped in front of the woman. "We will."
"Who made you Leader, Friar?" Bakeem snapped.
"Would you go against the will of the Community?"
asked. He could only watch as Bakeem turned on her
and stomped away toward the warrior's hut. Sighing,
Friar turned back, to continue talking with Vbram and
Znga of their combined futures.
The Doctor, finally certain that discussions would
out, grinned with delight at the sight of Tegan,
Turlough and Andrew. He bounded across the clearing.
"Ben and Jane are still in the TARDIS, um,
recuperating," he told them, shaking each person's
Then he looked around. "Where's Will?" His face fell
at the scowls and grimaces on their faces.
"In there." Tegan gestured over her shoulder. "With
Xzai and Ashnai."
Pushing through the doorway, the Doctor took in two
crumpled shapes on either side of the hut.
The larger mass shifted, and Ashani raised her head in
alarm. Seeing whom it was, she sighed with relief and
relaxed. "The flight?"
"Successful," the Doctor said. "Everything's back to
the way it should be." He bent over the fallen
she held, but the woman shook her head.
"He woke a few minutes ago. Xzai is only sleeping
Ashnai inclined her head toward the other figure.
"That one, however, I think is badly hurt."
By now, all of his companions had crowded into the
and the Doctor had to slide around and between them to
get to Will. He quickly assessed the boy's injuries.
"Turlough! Help me carry him into the TARDIS. And as
for the rest of you? I think it's time we said our
goodbyes to Salasiad."
* * *
Blue-clad dervish swathed in multi-hued eddies, the TARDIS spun within the energetic embrace of the Vortex. Inside, the Doctor had halfhearted stepped once more into the role of physician. He'd given Will Chandler an injection 'to speed things along', then counseled the young man about the need to rest in order to recover from the severe beating he'd received. The Time Lord had also checked over Ben, deciding the man's body was doing an admirable job on its own of clearing his system of the spider's neurotoxin. Several days passed, the
usual hum of the time ship nearly lost amid the buzz of human activity and conversation.
Jane had spent much of that time fussing over Ben and finally in exasperation, the big farmer had requested that she "leave me in peace, woman!" He'd immediately apologized, but his words still stung. Worse still, she knew the man was right; she was being irrationally
overprotective. The little schoolteacher tromped over to the console in a huff. "About the Malus, Doctor," she said without preamble. "You told us that he was evil."
"Ye-es," he allowed, punching in coordinates for seventeenth-century Earth. "Well, I did sense a great evil about him. I just didn't realize that it was an evil that had been done *to* him, not so much by him. He was simply desperate to get home and make things right." At their continued measured stares, he added, "Oh come now, all of you! Surely a man can be wrong
once or twice in his lives!"
"Once or twice!" Tegan scoffed under her breath. "Right, Doc!" She raised her head to find the Time Lord regarding her, a poorly hidden expression of hurt on his face. Caught outright, she flashed him an abashed look, but didn't go so far as to apologize.
After a round of goodbyes, handshakes and hugs, a still-bruised-looking Will departed, darting toward the dubious safety of the church as musket fire sounded from the fields around him.
"Does Will even stand a chance out there?" Tegan
wondered, watching the carnage via the monitor.
Turlough snorted. "I doubt it. He'd have been better
off to just die on Salasiad instead of this." He
gestured toward the screen.
"Now, Turlough," the Doctor chastened, reaching to the
controls and shutting down the image. "With the Malus
gone, Will has a fighting chance." He cleared his
throat at his unfortunate choice of words. "Ah, I expect all
of you understand what I meant. But that is really
beside the point. The truth is that if a man is
destined to die, it's best that it occur in his own
place and time."
"I'll have to keep that in mind, Doctor," Turlough
said with mock sincerity, leaning back against the
roundeled walls, arms crossed over his thin chest. He gazed at
the time rotor, rising and falling as the TARDIS
returned them to late twentieth-century Earth.
The faint image of a beautiful, as-yet-unknown woman
suddenly rose before his inner eyes - the same woman
he'd seen during Mambi's torture session. He knew she
would one day be his wife, the mother of his children,
and the memory of watching her die tugged painfully at
his heart. But the intense love and fierce courage in
her eyes as she'd looked at him for the last time was
suddenly, unexpectedly, something that he longed for.
"As hard as it may be," he promised himself, "I'll
make certain that I get home."
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