Close to the edge were two female figures. The first was seated, her eyes closed and the lines of her angular face all pointing downwards. The second, a thin girl with a torn blue shirt, was standing, eyes wide open, watching the haze as it flickered in places, boiling at the edges.
She swallowed, her mouth as dry as the day she'd died.
"It's time." her thin, ghostly voice was barely audible, but her companion's eyes opened, and then narrowed.
They'd been here a long time, waiting.
Waiting for her return.
Xan watched Max wash his hands. In other circumstances this was an act that might be considered romantic or tender. But Max had been scrubbing his palms for the better part of half an hour. In her minds eye she could see a delirious young man nearly drowning in a lake, obssessively trying to reach a wall that wasn’t there
“What’s the problem love?”
“That damn fossil, its left orange goo all over me and I can’t get it off.” Xan stepped up behind him, nuzzling his neck.
“Let me see.” She purred. On inspection, she couldn’t find anything there at all, save for the raw marks of the scrubbing Max had given his hands. “looks ok to me love.”
“I thought you had better senses than I did, look at me, I’m covered in the stuff!” Max snapped. He turned back to the sink and ran the water again.
Xantist stepped away, her head lowered. Chewing her lip she ran for the console room.
Max didn’t notice her leave.
Lily was sat on the brass rail that surrounded the console swinging her legs. She watched as the Doctor fussed around the coordinate panel. The location tumbler was spinning at a phenomenal rate. The timelord thumped the polished wood of the console but for once it made no difference.
When the inner door banged open to Xantist’s entrance Lily glanced over. Much to the Doctor’s surprise the tumbler stopped spinning at the same time. He pulled a can of oil from his pocket and squirted at the display as Xan tried to tell him what had happened.
“Might be something to do with facing the shards of the HOST. Its probably brought things to the surface that he’d tried to bury. He’s a strong lad, he can cope.”
“You didn’t see him on Siabar Doctor.” Xan replied in tears.
“I’ll go talk to him if you like.” Lily interrupted brightly, rolling herself backwards over the rail to vault athletically to the console room floor. The Doctor frowned then smiled.
“now theres an idea. Lily can go and talk to him and we can have a nice cup of tea, how does sound?”
“I can do what?” called a voice from the doorway. The Doctor looked between the two identical Lily’s before him.
“alright, Lily and Ichigo can go and talk to him, but if he’s as fragile as Xan thinks he is, it’d probably be better if you went as yourself Ichigo.”
The Ichigo lily shook her head until the familiar sunset chestnut spilled out over her gradually broadening shoulders. The multicoulored dress became a blouse and the difference between her and lily’s yellow dress was obvious.
“what are we doing?” asked Lily bemused.
At precisely that point the venerable timeship lurched sideways from under them with the sort of groan one would normally associate with pirate galleons. The Doctor, already far more used to such an event than he’d care to admit to, grabbed Xan in one hand and a support beam of the console in the other. Lily and Ichi werent so lucky, they ended up in a tangle of limbs that made Lily blush, over in the study.
As they tried to recover the ship lurched in the opposite direction. This time Lily and Ichigo were prepared.
As they levelled out again Max barrelled through the inner doors, towel over his shoulder, and ran for the console, arriving at the same time as the Doctor did. While the timelord stabbed at switches on the navigational panel Max opened the holographic viewscreen. Outside was open space, a nebulae of green matter and a vortex of orange light that had no buisiness in this universe at all.
“Doctor!” Xan shouted but the timelord had already seen. He ran around the console in a blaze of green velvet.
“how did it find us so fast?”
“if it has temporal capablilities it could have taken millenia to predict where best to interrupt our route right now. Everybody hold on!”
the field was perfectly ordinary. I had green grass, dark earth, even the occasionaly sheep. That placed it on Earth, sometime before the biological weapons programme.
In fact it was New Zealand, a small holding of outstanding simplicity. The year was 1973. one of the sheep stopped for a moment and looked up. It sensed something wrong and let those around it know. A sreeching tearing noise filled the field and the sheep collectively ran for it.
With a crashing crunch a Police Public Call Box appeared above the field. It hung for an instant before gravity reminded it which way was down.
Luckily for those inside it landed doors up and Max Kowarth struggled out, dragging Xantist after him. he made sure she was ok on the grass before he turned back to help the Doctor ease Lily into his arms. Ichigo clambered out on her own and the timelord followed.
“as emergency landings go that could have been a lot worse.”
“you’ve wrecked your jacket again” Ichi pointed to where the green velvet sleeve was torn at the seam.
“whats a coat in the grand scheme of things?” he smiled, pushing a hand through his chestnut locks. “how are the girls?”
“your stunt flying gave them a pretty bad knock.” Max snapped. “we can’t keep running from that thing Doctor. We have to solve this problem once and for all.”
“and how would suggest we go about that, we have no idea where its going to be, or when, and it can be somewhere we arent before we get there.”
“but we do know where it will be, that planet full of woodlice, those cave paintings had to be about the host, and then that fossil. What more eveidence do you need?”
“max, max, max. its not that simple.”
“nothing ever is where your concerned is it.”
“this isnt like you Max.” The Doctor replied quietly, concern shadowing his eyes.
“oh, so now you reckon I’m to blame is that it?”
“only it seems to be following me doesn’t it. Do you think its some sort of vendetta? Maybe you should just leave me here to wait for the thing.”
“guys, that’s not going to take very long!” Ichi yelled. At the far end of the field an orange mist was forming.
“that’s not good.” the doctor admitted. Give me a couple of seconds to reboot the interior a little.” He called as he dived back towards the TARDIS.
“to hell with that. Ichi, get the girls inside.”
“like I can lift them!”
“you’re a shape shifter, turn yourself into a forklift if you have to, just get them in there!”
“and what are you gonna do?”
Max cast about him before scooping down with a grin. “when in doubt, bung a rock at it”
As blasted plains go it was once more perfectly ordinary. On Earths calender it would 1489. here on Memnet time had ceased to have to have a meaning when all the life that could have measured it vanished from the planets surface.
The TARDIS arrived in the shadow of a twisted shell of a tower.
Inside the Doctor held Max’s wrist to stop him from rushing back outside.
It had been a narow escape in New Zealand. The HOST was an insubstansial creature. A cloud of Orange swirling energy. Chucking rocks at it wasn’t trerribly successful.
“the whole reason its trying to come to this universe is to find itself a new body.”
“and there was I thinking it was just after me.”
“perhaps you’re a bonus?” ichi giggled
“it does seem odd” xan remarked “that it should be spending its time chasing you.”
“perhaps” Lily remarked “we’ve got something it wants.”
“the TARDIS?” Ichi asked
“it invaded Gallifrey already, cant be that.” Max refuted
“but this TARDIS is a little special.” The Doctor mused “but no, I don’t think it’s the ship. If it were she’d have been plucked from the vortex. The HOST is being very careful. It must be something it wants in one piece.”
“well that’s a comfort.” Ichi sniped.
“can’t be you, like the TARDIS you have acess to the Vortex, if it wanted you it could pluck you free at any time.”
“and would it really be you or Max, surely it could have taken you. You know. Last time?”
Xan tried not to mentione the events of Faro and Miko’s death but there was no point in denying the possibility.
“you realise what your saying?” Max whispered. Everyone turned to look at Xan and Lily.
“listen theres no point trying to out think it, even my phenomenal powers of perception can’t begin to come close to a creature composed of the mental energy of an entire alternate universe.”
“so why’s it called the host?” Ichigo asked bemusedly.
“Horrible Orange Swirly Thing. We’ve got no idea what it really wants to be called.” “Its not exactly a sparkling conversationalist.” Max muttered.
“can you smell something?” Lily interrupted.
“The doors!” Max yelled as he ran. The heavy wooden frame decked in circles was smoking, streams of orange light bursting through in patches. Lily ran after him, helping him haul up the carpet to block the doorway as much as he could.
The Doctor worked the controls furiously trying to dematerialse without bringing the HOST energy with them.
Max screamed in pain as a beam of energy seared the skin of his right hand. Lily moved to look at him and was caught by a second beam, collapsing to the ground without a word.
The mighty engines of the TARDIS ground into life, whirring and screaming faster than ever as theDoctor over ran them in a desperate gamble.
England, Earth, 2005. in the enternity of coincidence that is the Time/ space vortex even a time lord can appear to be in the same place twice. The park sits amongst the trees at the end of the high street. Either side is a block of stone that once, in the dim and distant past, were the base supports for a railway bridge.
When the railways went, so did the bridge. The local kids sit on the stones at night and litter the place with broken glass and cigarette stubs.
This morning the stones were joined by a pair of Police Boxes. If you were passing by you might be forgiven for thinking that they were some sort of art project. Especially as one of them was a bit chunkier than the other.
The slimmer one was battered, the glass in the doors buckled a little as though subjected to intense heat. It still smoked slightly.
A small child sat in its pushchair watching the box as its mother shouted into her mobile phone. To the childs bemusement the police box doors opened and a collection of oddly dressed people tumbled out. The child clapped its amusement at the trick.
One of them, a girl in a yellow dress, started running for the high street. The others gave chase, only to stop short when the girl took off.
The child started laughing. It reminded him of the xmen cartoons his brother watched. When the people had dissappeared from site the child swiftly forgot about them again.
Until it heard the explosion…