by Jay McIntyre
Arganfi, Radioactive Island-----------------------
Winslow Gambrik was a brave youth, always taking dares from his friends, but even he was thinking twice about this one. It was too late to back out now, of course.
All the elders in Fiorenza, from the Abbot and Baron on down, had advised against going into the area "Where the sun bled," as they put it. The funny old handyman, Todo, had been the most insistent. That, of course, had just been the go-ahead to the delinquents from Rivertown, who commited petty crimes on a regular basis , on the way to becoming criminal adults.
Winslow had stolen a small boat and was rowing out to the strange island. Though he did not know it, it was already too late to go back. Far too late.
A Congressman was visiting Philadelphia. This was not unusual. There were some elements of his constituency that were less than happy with him, also not unusual. What was unusual was their lengths they had gone to rectify this problem. Even that, however, would not normally be enough to involve UNIT. It would have been a problem for the police or the FBI.
But even a Congressman had enough protection to deal with your run of the mill home-grown assasination attempt. Which is why this particular group of disgruntled citizenry had resorted to at least one unorthodox element.
All of this is to say that Chang Lee was not sneaking around a building's roof for fun. He was looking for an assassin ... who had got hold of an alien weapon. But aside from him, the roof was unoccupied.
Lee's stomach clenched. Was their information wrong? Was it all a wild goose chase? Or worse, had they failed to find the right roof? Lee wasn't the only agent prowling the rooftops, but they didn't have enough personnel to cover them all. The Feds and the police were trying to pick up the slack, but even so ...
Then a door creaked. Lee whirled, and sure enough, a man was stepping cautiously out on to the roof. He wasn't a UNIT or FBI agent, or a member of the police. He had thinning sandy hair and anxious brown eyes, and in his hands was something that looked like a child's toy zap gun, but was in fact a Tzun blaster rifle.
The man started; he had seen Lee. Panicking, he jerked the gun up and fired. Lee ducked, and the bright green arc went over his head. He had a moment to reflect that this was the first real laser blast he'd seen. He had training of course, but it was disconcerting to see it in real life, rather than as a special effect.
Then he was moving, leaping forwards and kicking the weapon out of the man's hands. The man stared at him, astonished, until Lee's fist connected with his forehead. He collapsed bonelessly.
Lee looked down at him, shaking his head. Clearly the man had no military training; not even of the rudimentary sort the civilian militias gave. He probably would have missed his target anyway. Even so, you couldn't let alien weaponry fall into the wrong hands.
Lee pulled out a walkie-talkie and spoke into it. "I've got him."
The Doctor was busily dancing around the console when Sam arrived. They had been at rest for the last few days; the TARDIS had travelled to another universe, and so once they had gotten back the Doctor had said the old girl needed some rest. So they had vactioned on a nice planet for a few days, and then been "anchored" in the Vortex, not moving, for some time. But now apparently the Doctor was preparing to start off again.
"Downtime over?" she asked.
He looked up and grinned. "Yes; we're going to pop back to Earth for a bit, and see if I can't convince a friend to come for a visit, if his superiors will allow it. Then we'll be heading for a nice little planet called Arganfi."
She cocked her head to one side, eyes narrowed. "This wouldn't be someone you travelled with while I was at that rally, would it?"
The Doctor shook his head. "Before your time, and he didn't really travel with me. He was involved in that night...that caused the scar."
"Ah." She nodded. "Shall I wake up Fitz?"
"Not yet. Soon."
Arganfi, Radioactive Island-----------------------
Winslow had reached the island. He got out of the boat, and stepped onto the ground. It was hot, and dry. Too dry. He coughed.
He could go back now; he'd been here. But he wanted to see what had happened here, what had caused the...sun bleeding.
He made it perhaps five steps, then stopped. He was weak, dizzy. Nauseous.
Yes, it was definitely time to go, this place was making him sick. He turned around. But before he had gone more than two steps, he dropped to his knees. He retched once, violently. His stomach hurt, his throat hurt, he couldn't think clearly. His vision swam. Why did it hurt so much...?
Earth, UNIT Regional HQ, New York-----------------
Chang Lee was being debriefed in a small office. He was tired. New York and Pennsylvania were in the same time zone, but it had been a long day. This was his least favorite part of the job; the paperwork, the explanations. The Doctor never had to deal with paperwork, he thought ruefully.
There was a rap at the door, and the debriefing officer, a Lieutenant, opened it. General Kramer stood in the doorway. Both Lee and the Lieutenant stood at attention, and saluted.
"At ease," said Kramer. "Have you finished the debriefing, Lieutenant?"
"Just about, sir," he replied.
"Dismissed. I'll finish it."
The Lieutenant saluted, and left. Kramer turned her attention to Lee.
"You did well in Philly."
"Thank you, sir," he said. Inwardly he glowed at the unexpected praise; Kramer wasn't the complimentary type, usually.
"You've proven to be a good field operative. Now you have an opportunity to do some real...field research."
Lee blinked. "Sir?"
"Come with me."
Puzzled, he followed her through a series of corridors to a rarely used supply room. The solid blue shape of the TARDIS sat there, and leaning against it...was the Doctor.
Lee drew in a breath. It hadn't been that long since he had seen the Doctor last. Less than a year, it had been, since the Doctor visited him during his UNIT training. But even so, he hadn't expected to see him again so soon.
The Doctor grinned. "Hello, Lee."
"Doctor! Good to see you again." Lee shook his hand, and the Doctor pounded him on the back.
"Lee...I don't want to disrupt your UNIT career, but...would you like to take a short trip with me?"
Lee blinked; it was a totally unexpected question "Um...how long?"
"One trip only," said the Doctor, eyeing Kramer, "To one of my more regularly-vistited planets. Then straight back home."
Lee also eyed Kramer, but her expression was unreadable. "Well, if the General permits it..."
Kramer nodded. "We've been discussing it. Thorougly." Lee wasn't sure he wanted to know what *that* conversation had been like.
"One trip? Then let me get a change of uniform, sir." Kramer nodded. Lee saluted, and all but ran from the room.
Kramer turned to face the Doctor. "One trip only, bring him straight back."
The Doctor nodded. "You have my promise, Adrienne."
Lee stepped into the TARDIS and even though he had been in here before, it's vast gothic majesty still impressed him.
Two young people, roughly his age, stood by the console.
"Lee, this is Sam and Fitz. Sam, Fitz, this is Chang Lee."
"Heya, Lee," said the Sam, stepping forward. Lee shook her hand and looked her over. She was an attractive blonde with cool, assesing blue eyes, wearing an Amnesty International t-shirt and blue jeans.
"Hi," said Fitz. He was a little older, a wild tangle of brown hair on his head, calm grey eyes. He wore a black trenchcoat, a green shirt and grey slacks. One eyebrow was sardonically raised. "You've some experience with this madhouse, I hear."
"Some," agreed Lee. Fitz and Sam, looking at him, saw a young asian man with a military crewcut and a UNIT camo uniform.
Lee turned to the Doctor. "So where are we going?"
"A nice little planet called Arganfi," the Doctor replied, heading towards the console. "The occasional thing happens there, but for the most part it's quiet and peaceful."
As the Doctor began his usual dance around the console, all three compaions exchanged a knowing, weary glance.
Arganfi, Radioactive Island-----------------------
For all intents and purposes, Winslow Gambrik was dead. Everything he had been was gone. His body however, was another issue. The radiation had made it swell into something new and unrecognizable. A monstrous, blue-skinned, muscle-bound horror lay in the same prone position it had been in when Winslow had fallen there. Now, it stirred, and slowly raised itself up on its hands, then pushed itself into a standing position. It's eyes were glowing white orbs; so bright, in fact, that streams of light were emanating from them like headlights.
It stood there for a moment, then began walking off the island, into the water, heading for the mainland.
Lee walked down the long corridors, lit occasionally by torches. When he had last been in here, it had mostly been back and forth between the Console and Cloister rooms; since the Doctor had said it would take a while to reach their destination, he was taking the opportunity to see other things.
"It's easy to get lost," a voice advised him. Lee turned to see Sam strolling down the corridor after him.
He shrugged. "I was once told the TARDIS liked me. I don't know what that means, but I don't think I'll get lost."
Sam smiled. "Unlike the Doctor, eh?"
The blue monstrosity was completely underwater now, struggling upstream towards Fiorenza. The dark waters did not trouble it, it could see clearly.
Had it given thought to such higher concepts, it might have wondered why, exactly, it was going this way. Certainly it had no memory of Fiorenza. A homing instinct, perhaps.
It was not really looking at the underwater realm which it traversed. If it had, perhapsit would've been fascinated by the luminescent fish and colorful see anemonies. But it's glowing eyes were fixed firmly forward, the light shining from them illuminating the underwater world through which it trudged.
The TARDIS groaned into reality between to rotting wooden shacks in Rivertown.
The door opened, the Doctor looked out, and frowned. "Oh dear."
"Let me guess, you missed again?" Fitz's sardonic voice floated out after him.
"Oh, we're on the right planet, and in the right town," the Doctor said cheerfully. "Just the wrong part of town is all."
"The rough part?" Chang Lee asked, coming out behind him.
The Doctor turned and raised an eyebrow at Lee. "How do you mean?"
"Oh, come on, Doctor. I've been a UNIT soldier, a cop, and a street gang member. I know the rough side of town when I see it." He surveyed the rotting wooden walls. "Or, if this *isnt* it, I'd hate to see what the rough part *was* like.
"You're a man after my own heart, Lee," said Fitz.
Lee smirked. "Thanks, man."
"Well, let's be going," said the Doctor. He began briskly marching out of the alleyway, until a knife was put to his throat.
The ruffian holding the knife to the Doctor's throat obviously hadn't been acquainted with a bath in some time. "Yer money or yer--" he began, before Chang Lee punched him in the neck. The ruffian gagged, eyes going wide. The blade slipped away from the Doctor's neck, and Lee kicked it out of his hands.
The ruffian abruptly sat down, out of breath. "Nice one," Sam and Fitz muttered simultaneously.
"Indeed, Lee," said the Doctor. "UNIT has trained you well."
"Tnanks, but lets see if we can get outta here without needing to use any more of my training, eh?"
Todo was hobbling down to one of the fisherman's huts in Rivertown, when he saw the Doctor and his companions. The three youths he didnt recognize, but the Doctor...he squinted his eyes. Could it be him? He hobbled towards them, faster.
The young fisherman had dropped anchor about 10 miles from fiorenza, and was in the process of settling down with his hook and line.
Suddenly, a blue muscular hand broke the water, and pulled him under.
"Doctor!" Todo exclaimed. "Is it you?"
"Truly, Todo," the Doctor agreed, smiling. "You've met my disparate regenerations before."
"Yes I...I have, but you're so young!"
"I've been young before, as you know."
"Doctor," Sam interrupted, "Who is this guy?"
"This is Todo the Custodian," said the Doctor. "The Custodians keep the citizens of this world from learning too much too fast." He turned again to Todo "How goes it with you, old friend?"
"Well enough. One of the young ruffians is missing from Rivertown, but otherwise all is well. Come! Let us show your friends the city."
5 miles from town, a blue head crested the water, white eyes illuminating it's environs. Seeing nothing of interest, it went below again.
Before Sam had joined the Doctor, she had been to a ren-fest or two, and her time on Ha'olam had been similar in some ways, with the Habitat's natural orientation. But unlike either of those, Fiorenza was a true mideval town, though with hints of a higher level technological past peeking through now again; a past that Todo and his ilk were charged with keeping buried.
Fitz was both more and less comfortable than Sam. More, because the quaint charm of the place relaxed him, less because he missed the technology more.
Chang Lee, for his part, was just amazed to be with the Doctor again, doing strange and fantastic things.
"The tensions between the Baron and the Abbot have been on the rise, lately," said Todo in a worried tone. "They will not, of course, act directly against one another, but nevertheless their secret moves of opposition are becoming stronger and stronger."
The Doctor smiled. "I am confident that there will be no open warfare."
"No indeed," agreed Todo, "But how many will die behind the scenes?"
The Doctor sighed. "Power always corrupts, even those of good intent. Nevertheless, all we can do is help to keep it quiet, as you do with technology."
"Would technological advancement be so terrible?" Lee asked.
"It's better for the environment this way," said Sam.
"These people seem happy enough," said Fitz.
"And besides, our ancestors destroyed themselves with this technology." added Todo.
"Technology is a form of power," the Doctor agreed. "Look what it did to my people."
"But you haven't tried to shut down science on Earth, Doctor." Fitz pointed out.
"Earth is a special case, as you know," said the Doctor. "But come, let us enjoy the city."
The Doctor and Sam went with Todo, whilst Fitz and Chang Lee paired off.
Todo, The Doctor, Sam-----------------------------
"How long can we expect your company for this time, Doctor?" Todo enquired.
"Oh, a few days. Just showing my friends the sights."
"It's great," enthused Sam. "Haven't had this much fun in a long time."
Todo frowned. "Surely, you're lives are exciting enough?"
"Exciting, yes," said the Doctor.
"Fun, no," finished Sam.
"There's that being in constant mortal peril," the Doctor elaborated.
Todo looked bewildered. "Do you always finish each other's sentences like that?"
"Only on very good days," grinned Sam.
Fitz and Chang Lee--------------------------------
Fitz and Lee were swapping war stories, as they wandered towards the Baron's castle.
"The Master," said Fitz, "Wow. Never ran into him Sounds like a good thing. I've had my mind messed with by others, though." A shadow crossed his face.
"Yeah, well, you've actually had the opportunity to travel with him. Really *travel*." Lee sighed wistfully. "I've enjoyed the life I bought with his gold, but sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't have been better to go with him."
"We've been back to San Fran, and once Sam and the Doc went there before my time, too."
"Yeah?" Lee asked. He would have asked more, but just then they heard the whinnying of a horse close at hand. Too close. They whirled, to see a black horse bearing down on them! They leaped each to one side, as the horse thundered through. More followed. It was the Baron's soldiers, and they were clearly on to something.
Fitz and Lee looked at eachother. "I hope the Doctor isn't in trouble *already*," Fitz muttered.
Lee sighed. They chased after the horsemen.
The Doctor, Sam, and Todo-------------------------
They heard the thunder of horsemen's hooves.
Todo frowned. "Such a large patrol? So early in the day? Doesn't make sense..."
The horsemen thundered past.
"Perhaps we should follow them?" asked Sam, worried.
"Yes, but what about Fitz and Lee?" The Doctor pondered.
His question was answered as the young men in question came panting after the horses.
"Something's got them stirred up, for sure," said Lee.
The Doctor came to a decision. "Sam, Fitz, stay with Todo. Lee, with me!" They dashed after the horsemen.
It's head broke the surface, not far from Rivertown. It's eyes glowed with anticipation, but something told it to wait, to rest. Not yet.
It sunk below the water again.
Sam, Fitz, and Todo-------------------------
"Shall we find you young people quarters for the evening, then?" asked Todo.
Sam and Fitz exchanged a look; were they *that* obvious?
"Erm, it's a little early, surely?" Fitz managed.
"Oh yes. Just so you'll know where you can stay. Rooms for the Doctor and the other young man as well. The Abbot has housed him before, as has the Count. This way."
The Doctor and Lee--------------------------------
They jogged after the cavalry at a respectful distance, not wanting to attract attention to themselves. The Doctor, of course, had more than a millenium's worth of experience of running through the corridors, and Lee had his UNIT training. So neither of them were winded when the horsemen found what they were looking for.
A relatively young woman was sobbing at the edge of the river, and there was no mystery as to why; a bloody corpse was floating in the water, horribly dismembered.
Floating beneath the piers of Rivertown, it twitched, as it *felt* something, something it could not describe, with senses it could not explain ...
... and in the Abbey, the young monk inhabited by Co'soruc also twiched. Somewhere nearby, on this backwater planet, his safety had been compromised. Somehow, a Horror had been spawned.
The Doctor and Lee-------------------------------
The Doctor narrowed his eyes at the remains of the fisherman floating in the river.
"Who could've done such a thing?" Lee hissed.
"And how did the Baron's men find out about it so quickly?" The Doctor muttered. "Come, let us get back."
"You're not going to do anything?"
"Whatever did this, Lee, will seek more victims in Fiorenza. And perhaps as important, the Baron knew about this far earlier than he was should have been able to. We must get back to Sam and Fitz."
Todo, Sam, and Fitz-------------------------------
The Abbot had granted Todo's request to let Sam and Fitz stay in the Abbey with a distracted wave of his hand. Sam and Fitz were relieved to have that settled so quickly.
"We should find out where the Doctor and Lee went," said Fitz.
Todo nodded. "We shall go to find them."
Co'soruc's host staggered along the halls of the abbey, almost blinded by the terror he felt. He had noted the boy and girl with Todo, and knew they could help, or knew someone else who did.
The Doctor and Lee-------------------------------
They stumbled through the forested hills by the river, so as not to be noticed by the patrol. They came out to the north of Fiorenza, the sun shining down on the city.
"What's the plan, anyways?" Lee asked.
"Find the others and comare notes. There's more to this than meets the eye.
They returned to town without incident, and found the others. They were about to speak when a new voice chimed in. "Excuse me."
They all turned, to see a monk from the Abbey looking at them pensively. "I beleive I can help you."
"How so?" asked the Doctor.
By way of an answer, the monk's eyes turned black, and something flowed out of them, over to the Doctor... and into him.
The others moved to help the Doctor, but a new voice stopped them. "No," croaked the monk. "Co'soruc will not harm him.":
"What?" Fitz asked. Before the monk could answer, Co'soruc flowed out of the Doctor, back to the monk.
"Oh dear," said the Doctor. Things are even worse than I feared."
"No time for an explenation, I take it," said Sam.
The Doctor waved his hands agitatedly. "Very quickly. Co'soruc had fled his own people and found sanctuary here. It hides amongst willing hosts. And he sensed...a predator on his species. He calls it the Horror. It will feed and feed and feed, until it finds him."
"And that's what killed the fisherman!" Lee exclaimed.
"So let's get after it!" said Sam.
"Not all of us. There's still the question of how the Baron found out so soon. That's Todo's department. Sam, Fitz, go with him. Lee, Co'soruc and I will deal with the Horror."
"There's no point in arguing against splitting up, I take it," said Fitz drily.
"None. Let's go!"
The Doctor, Co'soruc, and Lee----------------------------------------
"Where would this creature hide during the daylight hours?" The Doctor asked.
"Darkest place possible," Co'soruc replied. "They like darkness. And until it's time to strike, solitude. Ruined buildings perhaps? No, wait...where was the first body found?"
"By the river," Lee supplied.
"Probably hiding in river by waterfront, then," said Co'soruc. "Come out at night, with whole city laid out before it. Will want to eat me, but will happily eat citizenry until then."
"How encouraging," Lee muttered drily.
"Come on," said the Doctor, and led them toward the waterfront.
Todo, Sam and Fitz------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"We shall confront the Baron directly," said Todo.
"Is that wise?" asked Fitz.
"He owes me more than a few favors."
"But if he is tapping technology, he might not think he's able to tell," Sam pointed out.
"Perhaps not. You have a better plan?"
Sam shook her head. "We're strangers here."
"Then let us see what he has to say."
The Doctor, Co'soruc, and Lee-----------------------
They arrived at the Waterfront in Rivertown, not far from where the TARDIS was parked.
'Doctor, do you have a plan?' Lee asked.
These things prefer the darkness,' said the Doctor. 'So they're at a disadvantage in sunlight, correct?'
'Then let's get it's attention.' The Doctor removed his sonic screwdriver from a pocket and held it aloft, pressing it's trigger. Lee and Co'soruc looked at eachother uneasily as the water of the river began to boil...
Todo, Sam, and Fitz-----------------------------
They came to the gates of the castle.
"I demand to see the Baron.' Todo said.
'Demand?' said the guard. 'The village handyman is in no position to demand anything from my Lord.'
'The man who saved the life of your lord's daughter most definitely is.'
The guard hesitated a moment, then said 'The Baron is busy, but I will tell him you are here.'
The Doctor, Co'soruc, and Lee-----------------
The thing's head broke the surface.
To Lee, it looked like a giant blue monster. In UNIT he had dealt with alien technology before, even the stray crash-landing, but had never faced a hostile alien since The Master, and the Master had at least looked human. He had read about some of the more inimical species, like the Sontarans, but even so, to be confronted by the reality was more terrifying than he could have imagined. Co'soruc saw his people's nightmares in the flesh, and quailed. But he steeled himself. As something of a deviant of his own kind, he had a core of steel; and what's more, he had known about this, and asked for help. He could hardly back out now. The Doctor saw what he had seen many times in his long years; a monster that needed to be defeated. While concerned, he felt no real fear. This was daily business for him.
The thing opened its maw, and let out a shattering roar!
Todo, Sam, and Fitz-------------------------
The guard came back. 'The Baron will see you now.'
But as they were being lead to the Baron's suite, he charged out to meet them, wide eyed and pale. Todo looked him squarely in the eye. 'What is it?' he asked, just a hint of accusation in his voice.
The Baron did not notice it. 'It's a monter!' he almost shouted. 'Get the men, it must be fought!'
The Doctor, Co'soruc, and Lee----------------
The Doctor backed away as the monstrosity smashed through the pier and scrabbled onto dry land. Water dripped from it's massive frame. It snarled at the Doctor, but then, almost as if by some compulsion, turned to face Co'soruc.
'It senses me!' he cried.
Lee pulled out his UNIT-issued .38 revolver, and fired three closely spaced shots. The sound was like a whipcrack. Fortunately for Lee, the usual UNIT cliche didn't hold; the thing wasn't bulletproof. It was, however, thick-skinned enough to prevent any serious damage. But the bullets hurt it, and made it angrier.
Normally the Doctor wouldn't approve of firearms, especially in such an anachronistic place. But under the circumstances, he didn't criticize Lee. 'We need to lead it out of the town!' he shouted.
Unfortunately, none of them, not even Co'soruc, had anticipated the breadth of this thing's abilities. It's glowing white eyes brightened further still, and a blast of pure-white energy shot towards Lee.
Todo, Sam, and Fitz--------------------
For the first time in his life, Todo reached out and put a restraining hand on the Baron's arms. 'Send your troops; but you're needed here.'
Fitz and Sam eyed eachother uneasily; they should be getting back to the Doctor and helping him, he would undoubtedly be facing this menace. But Lee should be able to look after him, and besides, Todo needed their support.
The Baron looked at Todo for a long moment, then broke off his grip. 'You forget yourself, handyman!'
'You seem to be forgetting that you found out about this far sooner than you should have been able to,' Fitz said coldly.
'Yeah, what are you hiding?' Sam challeneged.
The Baron looked from one to the other, then back into Todo's unwavering stare. He sighed, and his shoulders slumped in deafeat. He motioned to the guard that had brought them. 'Send the troops, let Captain Cort lead them,' he said. 'Full attack.' The guard nodded and bolted down the hallway.
Baron DeZors looked over them again, and sighed. 'Come with me, I'll show you.'
The Doctor, Co'soruc, and Lee-----------------------
Lee dropped flat and the bolt passed over him. It struck one of the rotting wooden buildings of Rivertown, which disintigrated. There were screams, as people noticed the monstrosity for the first time and began to run.
'Come on!' the Doctor shouted. 'Lead it away!'
Together, the three of them began running towards the edge of town. People scattered like quail. The monster kept it's attention fixed on the trio as it lumbered after them.
The Doctor raised his sonic screwdriver again, but a near miss from the monster blasted it out of his hand.
Todo, Sam, and Fitz--------------------------
They entered one of the Baron's lavishly furnished private chambers. Fitz's eyes were immediately drawn to the glowing globe on the table. It wasn't a crystal ball; more like a television that had been shaped by one.
'Where...' Todo began, a little out of breath. 'Where did you get this?'
'Through a contact with a fellow who told me he had known the Shadowmaster spy who came to me some time ago,' The Baron said quietly.
Todo nodded. 'The Heretic,' he said. 'I should have known.'
'I don't understand how it's running,' said Sam. 'I don't see a power supply, and how can it see anything? There's no cameras working on this planet, or sattelites orbiting it.'
'What?' Todo asked.
'Don't ask,' said Fitz wearily.
But then their attention was drawn to seeing The Doctor, Lee, and Co'soruc within the globe, running for their very lives.
The Doctor, Co'soruc, and Lee -------------------
The Doctor flexed his hand as they continued to run. It was numb, tingling. He didn't have time to cobble toegther a device to deal with this, and besides which Fiorenza was in no state to deal with such anachronisms anyway.
'Keep firing Lee! Try to take out it's eyes!'
Lee aimed more carefully, and took out it's left eye. The thing howled, and halted. It's right eye brightened, but his last bullet took that one out too. Now blind and without it's major offensive power, it lumbered towards them. The Doctor knew it still had more than enough brute strength to kill them. There was no time to handle this delicately. Certainly not for Co'soruc, Lee, or Co'soruc's host; and even had they been safe, he didn't want to lose this regeneration yet.
'Co'soruc,' he said quietly. 'This is going to hurt, but we've no time to do it any other way. Take my hand.'
Co'soruc did, and both of them seemed to freeze motionless as the monster loomed over them.
Todo, Sam, and Fitz---------------------------
'No!' Sam screamed at the globe.
'The soldiers will never reach him in time!' cried Fitz.
'We cannot help him from here, either,' agreed Todo sadly. 'But we still have a duty to perform.'
So saying, he picked up the globe and threw it into the wall, where it smashed into a million fragments.
The Doctor, Co'soruc, and Lee---------------------
'Contact,' the Doctor whispered. His own telepathic abilities combined with those of Co'soruc to reach out and strike the monstrosity.
It halted, then reeled back. Staggering, it continued to advance, more slowly.
Desperate, Lee shoulder-charged it. It was like running into a tree. He bounced away, his arm almost broken. The creature swayed a little, then resumed it's advance.
The Doctor strained; Co'soruc whimpered. The beast stopped in it's tracks, and grunted wordlessly.
They heard the thundering hooves of the Baron's horsemen.
Todo, Sam, and Fitz-------------------------
Sam turned, weeping, and buried her face in Fitz's chest. He in turn, held her and glared coldly at the Baron. Todo was likewise fixing the Baron with a steely stare.
'You are more than a mere handyman,' the Baron ventured, weakly.
'And you are meddling with things you have no business meddling with,' Todo retored. 'Are there any more?'
The Baron shook his head.
'Then I'll keep quiet the secret of your indiscretion, if you'll do likewise.'
Wordlessly, the Baron nodded. Then he said, 'How long has the Abbot known about my advantage?'
Todo started, then grinned without humor. 'He doesn't know; it's not him I work for.'
Again the Baron nodded.
Todo picked up the remains of the ball. 'The Doctor will need to see this.'
'The Doctor's dead,' Sam mumbled into Fitz's chest.
'Oh come on now, Sammidge,' Fitz said gently. 'Have a little more faith than that.'
'Indeed. Let us go to him.' Todo said.
The Baron's horsemen charged over the hill. Captain Cort took in the scene of the giant blue beast standing in front of the frozen Doctor and Co'soruc, and gave the relevant orders. Arrows began to pelt the the monster's back, doing very little damage. But aside from a few grunts, it did not react. So the horsemen dismounted and laid into it with their swords. It did not begin to react until it was far too late. The Doctor broke contact with the dying creature, and staggered backward. Co'soruc collapsed, shivering.
"Is it dead?" Lee asked. "It will be soon," the Doctor answered grimly.
A few minutes later, Todo, Sam and Fitz came running down the hill. Sam embraced the Doctor, Fitz shook Lee's hand, and Todo stared at the remains of the blue beast. Todo shook himself and walked over to the Doctor. "You need to see this," he said, proffering the remains of the glass ball. "It was the Baron's eye in the sky."
The Doctor started, then took the shards and examined them closely.
About three hours later, after Todo and the others had compared notes wih him and Lee, the Doctor finished picking through the shattered remnants. He sat for a few minutes in thought, then went a ways down the strand and picked up his sonic screwdriver. Blasted and burnt, it was useless. But then, he didn't need it to analyze the "crystal ball"
It had been a Tzun Holosphere.
Which meant one of their Stormblades was in orbit, right now.
He came back to the others. 'Co' soruc, I'll need to talk to you later, about that...beast. Go back to the Abbey for now. Sam, Fitz, Lee, Todo, with me. We've got to talk to the Baron. Things are much more complicated then I thought.'
Todo's eyes narrowed. 'The Baron lied to us?'
'No, I rather think this "Heretic" you told me about lied to him. But we'll need all the details.' He glanced skyward, nervously. We may have very little time.'
The Baron was broken and exhaused. Barely looking up from his hands, he told the Doctor and Todo what little he knew of the Heretic, and from where he had gotten the Holosphere.
'One thing is certain,' mused Todo. 'It has nothing to do with whatever he was trying to do the last time he raided Fiorenza.'
The Doctor nodded. With Lee, Sam and Fitz in tow, they went to the place the Baron had directed them. It was a barren and deserted area, north of the city. The Baron clearly had not reconigzed the Heretic from his "shadowmaster" personae. The Heretic had no doubt taken pains to conceal his appearance.
The dusty plain held a few more articles of Tzun technology, but none of them worked. The Doctor frowned, thoughtfully. 'All this stuff is old; there's no evidence of a Tzun presence here,' the Doctor said. 'I wonder....' he trailed off, staring into space, then came to a decision. 'Todo, stay here and see that this stuff is destroyed.' Todo nodded.
'Lee, Fitz, Sam, with me. We're going to make a short hop in the TARDIS, into Orbit around the planet.'
'You think these Tzun are still here?' asked Lee.
'Let's just say I'm keeping an open mind.'
The TARDIS groaned into reality above Arganfi, far far above the small town of Fiorenza. The Doctor turned on the vast ceiling hologram. His mouth tightened down; sure enough, a Tzun Stormblade was in orbit.
'Wow,' Lee whispered.
'Buck Rogers eat your heart out,' Fitz agreed.
'It looks like a sword,' said Sam.
The Doctor nodded absently, checking the instruments. 'Odd..their power level is far lower than it should be...perhaps..' He worked the controls again, and the TARDIS faded out of reality, making a short hop abord the ship.
When next the Doctor activated the hologram, they were presented with the unpleasant picture of the corpse of a S'Raph Tzun.
'So they're dead, long dead by the look of that poor fellow,' said the Doctor. 'But...what killed them?'
The TARDIS door opened, and the four of them stepped out, dressed in silvery suits and helmets; the TARDIS version of biohazard suits.
'As I thought,' came the Doctor's muffled voice. 'Plague.'
'That's why we're wearing these things?' asked Sam.
The Doctor nodded absently, then knelt by a pure-blood Tzun's remains, looking at the greenish polyps at the joints. 'The Tzun were in the habit of conquering other races for a reason; they wanted--needed, new DNA to strengthen their own. Apprently this group arrived too late, and a fatal virus broke out amongst them.'
'Doctor, something's confusing me,' said Lee.
'Well, you say the Tzun Confederacy was wiped out by the Veltrochni in the 2100s, right?'
'But Arganfi is a human colony, further in the future than that.'
The Doctor shook his head. 'I never said Arganfi was a future colony. As it happens, they evolved similarly to the humans you're familar with.'
Lee snorted. 'Oh come on.'
'Lee,' the Doctor reminded him gently. 'Time Lords look human too. And I personally was involved, two incarnations ago, in the creation of a human planet, population included, independent from Earth centuries before humans achieved space travel.'
'Not this one?' asked Fitz.
The Doctor shook his head. 'No, that was another arm of the Galaxy entirely.'
'Well anyway, what do we do? We can't let this Heretic person keep utilizing the technology,' said Sam.
'He probably can't anyway, but it's best to remove the temptation to do so, and make Todo's job easier,' the Doctor agreed. 'Hmm...self destruct? No, would be keyed to the Tzun. Of course, I could rig something with my toolkit...but no, there's an easier way.'
He led them to the bridge, and tinkered with the navigation controls for several moments. Then he turned and said. 'Back to the TARDIS, quickly!'
Even as they ran, Sam asked 'Why?'
'Because I've set the Stormblade's coordinates for Arganfi's sun.'
Without further discussion, they piled into the TARDIS, and dematerialized.
Less than five minutes later, the Stormblade got close enough to the star for the terullian hull to vaporize.
'That's it then,' said Fitz.
'Not quite,' said the Doctor. 'Lee, I'll need your help with Co'soruc.'
Lee blinked. 'Co'soruc? Why?'
'Let's just say he hasn't told us everything about that monster.'
The Doctor slipped into a very small room in the abbey, one of the monk's quarters, Lee with him. They had put Sam and Fitz to bed, assuring them that all would be resolved. They had been worried, but trusting.
The monk that Co'soruc was inhabiting was awake, waiting for them.
'Co'soruc,' said the Doctor, 'When you ... communicated with me, I learned rather more than I think you wanted me to.'
Co'soruc said nothing, nearly waiting.
'I know that one of your previous hosts were unwilling. Further, I think I can work out why that creature was formed.'
Co'soruc sighed. 'I can't help what I am, Doctor.'
'No,' the Doctor agreed. 'But you could've tread a little more carefully before you arrived on this planet. And Co'soruc...your people know you're here.'
Co'soruc froze. 'Impossible.'
The Doctor rolled his eyes. 'Did you honestly think a predator on your species just happened to mutate here? Your people knew you came here, and when they found the recent nuclear blast, they seeded it with the genome of what you call The Horror, waiting for some poor fool to blunder in and be transformed. Sure enough, someone did. It was their way of taking you out.'
Co'soruc exhaled slowly. 'Then maybe they think I'm dead now, and will leave me be.'
'You're missing the point,' the Doctor said, genuinely angry. 'People have died because of you, Co'soruc. You can't stay here. Another creature might be spawned, or a probe might be sent to investigate the results.'
'Doctor,' Co'soruc said as carefully as he could, 'Are you trying to tell me people have never died because of your actions?'
'No,' the Doctor agreed. 'I'm trying to tell you that hiding while people die is not acceptable. I don't hide, I fight the good fight. You don't.'
Co'soruc thought about challening the Doctor's right to accuse him, but then, he had no ground to stand on himself, did he? 'So what do you want me to do?'
'First, leave your host. You will accompany Lee and myself back to the TARDIS. We will put you in a safe room, and when we are ready to leave here, I will take you to a time and place where your people will never find you.'
'Good,' said Co'soruc, releived.
'And,' the Doctor continued, 'Where you will not be able to inhabit anyone.'
'But ... that will kill me!'
The Doctor shook his head. 'No...there are places in the Universe that can accomodate your natural form. I know several of them. Besides,' he added sadly. 'The alternative is...far less pleasant.'
And at that, Lee, born to hard life, raised by street gangs, then trained by police, then trained by UNIT, stepped forward. Co'soruc looked at him for about five seconds. He knew the Doctor didn't want to destroy him. But he also knew that he would, if there was no other option. And Lee would help him accomplish that.
'When I entered you,' Co'soruc said, 'I found I couldn't just slip into the background of your mind and hide. It has something to do with your physiology.'
'I know,' the Doctor agreed. 'That's the other reason I brought Lee along.'
Co'soruc turned to Lee, who tensed and swallowed, but held his ground. Co'soruc nodded slowly, then his black inky form started leaking out of the monk, slowly it trailed across the floor and sank into Lee.
Both the monk and Lee staggered. The Doctor turned to the monk. 'Don't tell anyone about this.'
'I wouldn't,' the monk manged weakly, 'No one would beleive me anyway.'
The Doctor nodded, and lead a still-shaky Lee back to the TARDIS.
It was a dusty, rarely used corridor in the TARDIS, that Lee had not seen during his exlporation of it with the Master, so long ago. The Doctor opened a door, revealing a small grey room.
'Leave him,' he said to Co'soruc. Co'soruc slithered out of Lee, into the little room. 'You won't be able to leave this room until I allow you,' the Doctor said to Co'soruc's true form. 'You'll understand if I don't entirely trust you.'
Co'soruc could not speak in his natural form, but the black mass sagged to the floor of the gray enclosure. The Doctor closed and locked the door, which was, of course, far more complicated than it appeared.
'When do we leave?' Lee managed blearily.
'Tomorrow,' the Doctor replied. 'We deserve a peaceful day on the town after this, you most of all.' He supported Lee as they headed back for the console room, and then to the abbey, to join Sam and Fitz.
If Co'soruc had been human, he would've been weeping. Sam woke to bright sunlight streaming through the window of her little room in the Abbey.
She smiled and sat up.
They had given her and Fitz seperate rooms, which was fine. They'd have plenty of oppurtinity in the TARDIS later anyway. She got up and began to dress.
There was a knock at the door. 'Come in,' she called.
The Doctor poked his head in. 'Aren't you awake yet, sleepyhead?' he teased.
She grinned, reached out, and tweaked his nose. 'Just,' she said. Then she sobered.
'Did you and Lee ... take care of things last night?'
The Doctor nodded. 'Indeed. And today we're going to have the proper holiday I promised all of you when we came here.'
She grinned, took his hand, and bounced out the door.
Fitz and Lee walked along the marketplace, talking quietly. Sam and the Doctor were ahead
of them. Sam's clear laughter floated back to them periodically.
Lee was still a little wobbly. 'You gonna be okay, mate?' Fitz asked him.
Lee nodded. 'Eventually. Takes some getting used to.'
Fitz clapped him on the shoulder. 'That's what it's like with the Doctor.'
Lee nodded. 'Yeah, at the time, I thought the whole business with the Master was exceptional. Now I realize it's normal. I...I like the Doctor, really, but there are times when I'm glad I didn't travel with him--'
'Aside from this, you mean,' Fitz interjected.
'Aside from this, yeah. UNIT is tough enough.'
The Doctor had led them to a small, open-air restaraunt, little more than tables gathered
round a great blazing fire. Their food was cooking over that fire, smelling delicious.
Or at least Fitz and Lee's meals were; the Doctor and Sam were on their usual vegetarian
The Doctor had excused himself for a bit and was chatting quietly with old Todo, so the three companions had a chance to compare notes.
Sam had not yet heard Lee's tale of his experience with the Doctor's regeneration, and the Master. She listened with fascination. 'Right before I joined him,' she marveled.
'Right before. Had you stayed...'
'Yeah, well, it's just as well. I'm glad of the life he gave me with that gold. And truth be told...I don't think I could do this regularly.'
Fitz looked sober. 'I had a time when I opted out,' he said, 'And Sam had a time when she was seperated from him. We both knnow we'll leave him one day. But it's fab. Not something you give up easily. Besides, you're UNIT now. You're halfway there already. Maybe one day...'
'Maybe one day,' Lee agreed.
'The Baron will keep quiet?' the Doctor asked Todo in a low voice.
Todo nodded. 'He knows more now than he should, but learning that has frightened him into caution and silence. It was...an experience for him.'
' "More things in heaven and earth..." ' the Doctor mused. 'Right. We'll be leaving tonight then.'
'What about the dark creature, Co...cosur....'
'Co'soruc. I'm seeing to him.'
Todo nodded, knowing not to ask more, and shook his old friend's hand. 'Come back soon, Doctor, whatever face you wear.'
After lunch, they went back down to the docks of Rivertown, standing in a row in the sunlight.
'It's so amazing,' whispered Lee. An alien world...like and yet unlike Earth.'
The Doctor nodded. 'And one more yet to see for you Lee; we've got to drop Co'soruc off.
The TARDIS materialized on a glaring white surface. The glow was almost blinding, to human eyes. The door opened, and Lee squinted out into it.
'Where?' he asked.
'Call it Makuras,' said the Doctor. 'That isn't right, but it's as close as you can pronounce it.'
Co'soruc's dark form seeped out of the TARDIS, onto the surface. It seemed to feed on the light coming from the ground, savoring it.
The Doctor spoke to Co'soruc in his own language, a seething, burbling noise. Co'soruc responded in kind, and rose into a round, bulbous shape. The Doctor smiled. He and Lee stepped back, and the TARDIS door closed. Then it faded away with it's usual grinding noise, and Co'soruc slipped away into the light of his new home.
The TARDIS ground into reality in a corner of UNIT's New York HQ, less than a day after it had left. General Kramer started, then stood to attention.
The door opened, and Lee stepped out. Behind him, the Doctor, Sam and Fitz waved at Kramer.
'Bye, Lee!' Sam and Fitz chorused. The Doctor smiled gently, and closed the TARDIS doors.
After the TARDIS had left again, Kramer said. 'Well?'
Lee drew in a breath, and began to tell his story.