|Doctor Who Tenth Doctor Internet Adventure #01 - "Sandtrap"
A light afternoon breeze stirred the pines that flanked Marv's Diner as two police cars swiftly pulled up into the small parking lot and the responding officers exited their vehicles. Silence, save for the usual faint sounds of birdsong. After a brief, cautious scan of the area, the officers carefully entered the shattered door of the diner.
Ten minutes later, Pennell was back at his cruiser, reaching for his radio.
"We have a GOA; unable to locate. Scene is secure." He sighed, light blue eyes continuing to scan the surrounding roadside and vegetation. No bodies, no blood, no tracks, nothing other than the splintered window and dented shutter within.
And just a scattering of sand here and there on the black and white checkerboard floor.
* * *
Unlike the others, the Doctor hadn't been quite knocked unconscious by the sudden hard yank as their host's vessel was dragged down into the vortex of sand.
Curled up in a corner, he winced as he felt the yammering mental assault of two vociferous complaints.
It was his TARDIS's distress he felt wailing in his mind, mingling with the panicked cries of--
"Ooh! You poor thing! Wait, one at a time!" Not sure whom he was addressing most with that plea.
His eyes snapped open. The stolen ship that their hosts were tracking was sentient in a way not dissimilar to his TARDIS, and it was convinced that his time ship's very presence was an attack.
"No no no! She's not--" The stolen ship's panic might be the end of them yet, if he couldn't--
The TARDIS knew he was near, was reaching out to him, but the other vessel was too frightened to listen to him, couldn't trust, was lashing out--
Another sharp jerk sent him sliding down a wall, as the RV slid nose-first beneath Isleworth's largest bunker.
* * *
Tina, Dan and Carrie walked as slowly as they dared. Maybe they didn't dare resist openly, not after what they'd seen happen to the cook, Kevin, but they were in no hurry to reach wherever their destination was.
The man with the hat and the nightmare, stalactite smile paced ahead of them, leading the way onto the nearby golf course, while three four-legged creatures were herding them, one to each side and one behind.
The one heading up the rear had used to be Kevin.
"OhGodohGodohGod," Tina moaned, very softly.
Ahead of them, the rotting-mouth man stopped, his head swivelling around to stare at her, and she snapped her mouth shut, jerking to a halt.
Immediately, the creature to her right let out a vicious growl, and the prisoners froze.
Then their captor turned away and started walking again. When their guards lurched towards the trio, they stumbled forward.
Their guide was waiting for them, standing expectantly at the far edge of an especially large sand trap. His smile widened as he beckoned them forward...
* * *
Mek let out heartfelt groan, a hand on her head. Then she raised her gaze to that of her partner.
"Don't start," Sidotti warned. "Don't even."
Mek stared across the cabin. The man called the Doctor was tending to his companion, that human, what was his name?
She hauled herself up off the floor -– thankfully, the ship seemed to be upright again -– and shambled over to the cockpit.
The panels were dark. Dead, powered-down; it didn't matter. "Krug!" Then she glanced up more closely at the view screen. "Ah--!"
Both her partner's and the Doctor's heads snapped up at the undertone in her voice. She was staring in disbelief.
Nothing could be seen on the screen but sand. They appeared to be completely buried in it.
"Jag!" Sidotti hissed to herself, but the way the Doctor's glance darted her way, he'd obviously heard her. She lurched to her feet. This was bad, very bad.
Meklit was still frozen, staring.
"Mek?" No answer.
"Mek, hey? You okay?"
Stupid question. Jag; she was already going bloody catatonic!
The question was quiet. Sidotti glanced over distractedly. *None of your damned business*, she was tempted to snap, but it wasn't as if it weren't bloody obvious at this point. Of all the rotten luck!
"We've got to get out of here," she merely replied.
The Doctor held her gaze a few moments more, then turned his attention back to his companion, who was stirring. "All right, then, Marquez?"
Marquez blinked up at the Doctor. "What the hell happened?"
The Doctor's mouth quirked in a rueful smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Ah... bit of a tumble, I'm afraid. Weeell, we crashed."
Marquez closed his eyes again. "I'd kind of noticed that."
"Uh-uh-uh!" the Doctor clucked. "No falling asleep on me."
"I wasn't," Marquez grumbled, eyelids fluttering. "Just resting..."
"Come on; up we get. No concussions allowed today."
Marquez groused but let the Doctor help him up. Turning to glance around the dishevelled cabin, he saw that the two cops — he blinked — um, the aliens — alien cops--
The blue woman was talking to the red Indian, talking low but intently. "Mek, come on, don't go offline on me. We're almost there, hey? Come on — remember the job?"
"Jag it!" The blue woman hissed. Didn't need a translation to know what *that* meant. Spinning around, she reached for a panel on the wall next to the small side hatch.
"What are you— wait! I wouldn't..."
A faint, grinding judder, and the outer hatch shivered open a few inches--
--and sand began to pour into the cabin.
Sidotti swore again, reversing her previous action, but it was too late. The door continued to slide open.
"...let the sand in." The Doctor tilted his head to regard her, and she stared unrepentantly back.
"It's just sand. She needs some fresh air, and we," the word pointedly didn't include the Doctor and Marquez, "need to see where we are."
"Just... sand," the Doctor repeated thoughtfully. "Just the sand which just swallowed us, that seems to be swallowing people lately, did you know you quite remind me of a bounty hunter I know? Perhaps you know him; fellow called Morok?"
"Never heard of him. Now, look; you two stay here, and we'll go do a recce..."
"Hrrm?" The Time Lord glanced over and his eyes widened at what Marquez was pointing at. "Oh, dear."
The sand was moving, but not sliding naturally. It was... creeping.
They stared. Well, three of them stared; Meklit was still fixated on the sand on the view screen.
The dim emergency lighting was throwing sinister shadows over the Doctor's face. "It's alive. It's part of the Great Dune. And you just invited it in."
* * *
Sidotti glanced around the cabin and pointed. "Up there — our secondary emergency hatch."
They eased it open the tiniest bit... and nothing happened. A little more, then more...
A blue head popped out of the open hatch, staring around in hopeful astonishment. "We're not completely buried!"
"Right," the Doctor said briskly. "Now we just have to..." He faltered with a speculative glance at the immobile Meklit.
"Leave that to me," Sidotti said smoothly. While the Doctor and Marquez prepared themselves for the short climb to the hatchway, the blue bounty hunter marched over to her partner, not deigning to watch the stealthily creeping layer of sand which was moving slowly across the RV's cabin floor.
Leaning close to her colleague's ear, she whispered a string of words, then reached over and pinched her upper arm, hard.
There was an indrawn gasp, then an outraged shriek. Marquez glanced over in time to see the red-skinned bounty hunter reel back, then draw back an arm and punch her partner--
Well, not quite. Sidotti twisted her head to the side a fraction, and the other woman's blow never quite landed. There was a momentary scuffle, then a quick exchange of fiercely whispered words. A pause, then they broke apart, and Meklit finally turned away from the view screen, wincing.
"Excellent! Shall we be off?"
Meklit gave him a narrow look as she stalked forward, which he responded to with an entirely inappropriate manic grin.
Up they went, and out they clambered, to stand on the RV's roof.
The Doctor was the second-to-last to emerge from the hatch. When he saw what was waiting for them outside, his face fell. "Oh."
True, they weren't completely buried, but they were completely surrounded. All around them stretched a large cavern — large enough for several small ships — with undulating golden waves of "sand" that lapped around the trapped RV.
As they stared around, their eyes were all suddenly drawn to a figure, which rose from the sand pool before them, forming into a sand-encrusted humanoid shape. No hat, no eyes, no hair, but a large, grinning mouth, which contained far too many splintered teeth.
"Ah! This would be our host, then!"
The figure said nothing, just beckoned to them. Come. Follow me. It turned away, and as it slowly walked, the sand melted away on either side of its steps, forming a clear pathway, utterly clear, down to the stone of the cavern they now realized they were in.
The four of them glanced dubiously at one another.
"I'm not going down there."
"Oh, come on, man; where's your sense of adventure?"
"Up there with the open air."
Glancing behind her, Meklit noticed something. "Not sure we have a choice."
The others looked round to see the sand flowing steadily and rather more quickly up over the edge of the RV's roof behind them.
Their decision made for them, they swiftly climbed down the side ladder to the now cleared area that formed the start of the pathway.
Ahead of them, that jagged smile grew as the figure paused to check their progress. Come on; come on.
* * *
"So what is this 'Great Dune' thing, anyway?"
Sidotti glanced askance at the uniformed human. "We told you — a collective sentience."
"Yeah, but what does that mean?"
The Doctor looked over approvingly. "Every unit of the whole is... connected. Linked. One giant mind. Think of... the best metaphor would be your Earth social insects. Ants or bees."
Marquez stared. "A... bee hive? And what's this 'your Earth insects'?"
"Yes, 'Doctor'... where did you say you were from?"
"Oh, here and there. I told you I get around."
Marquez shook his head. All he knew was that this thing had eaten them... and it seemed to be sand.
"Sand isn't alive," he muttered, but the Doctor had heard him.
"In this case I'd say it's more like a silicon host 'circuit' for the intelligence."
"What does it want?" Marquez muttered, swaying a little. The Doctor held out a hand to steady him if need be.
"We're about to find out."
They had reached the far end of the cavern and were about to enter a new one. Stepping carefully through, they found themselves in an even larger cave, strewn with less sand, laid in ripples and small drifts. Carefully stepping round the piles, the four made their way over to where the figure of sand stood awaiting them.
And several other figures as well. There were three dog or bear-like creatures, pacing near three figures that were clinging to each other. One was familiar to Marquez.
"Tina!" he exclaimed, as she came into view.
"Raulo?! What are you doing here?"
He smiled sadly. "Sand ate us."
She had perhaps the faintest ghost of a smile on her face, pinched and shocked though it was. "Same here."
"But why?" the Doctor started forward, demanding answers. "And why did you steal this ship?"
The two bounty hunters stared at their companion. "This ship?"
He gave them a quick shake of negation. "Not yours — cosy though it is. The one we're in now."
Marquez blinked. "This is a ship? It's just a cave."
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "Just a cave? Do you always just go with the most obvious reality that you see in front of you?"
Marquez simply stared at his companion gingerly.
"Right; never mind," the Doctor concluded, shaking his head. He turned his attention back to the figure that had led them there. "Tell me. Why."
The figure of sand's splintery maw opened, and an eerie, faint keen emerged...
The rest of them flinched from the unexpectedness of it, but Meklit actually cringed, then clamped her hands over hear ears. The Doctor spared her a quick glance of apology, then leaned forward as if drinking in all of the thin screeching their captor was emitting.
A few moments later, mercifully, the noise stopped.
Unfortunately, the Doctor's face had grown thunderous.
His voice, when he spoke, was disturbingly quiet.
"Oh, I think the Shadow Proclamation would have something to say about that... But even more importantly, I do."
The figure tilted its head at him.
"You mean to say you've never heard of me? I'm the Doctor."
One moment, the Doctor was glaring at the sand-figure, the on-lookers to this confrontation spread out around them; the next instant, sand was surging up to and around the four humans' legs, creeping up and up in a thick coating. Within moments, panicked cries began to ring out.
"Stop it!" the Doctor hissed fiercely. "You will not use them that way!"
The figure's head tilted again, in that grotesque parody of smugness. But I am.
"Doctor," Sidotti said quickly, neither she nor Meklit coated but keenly aware that they might be next, "what is it telling you?"
"That it intends to turn Earth into a new home for the Great Dune; that since we know of its plans, we'll never leave this ship alive; and that we should be gratified that it's found a use for us... it says we contain just enough of certain trace elements to allow it to use the lot of us to repair the ship that it escaped here in."
His glare sharpened. "In fact, it seems to think itself to be very clever, indeed."
The grin grew, widened, and the rest of the living sand came surging in, headed for the Doctor, Sidotti and Meklit.
To be continued...
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