Lily led them to a corner booth. From Xan’s memory of the area it would have been on the stoop of Bakula’s in the real world. Hunched in its shadows sat a bulky figure, eyes glowing faintly in the shadows. When it spoke its voice was a deep baritone that suggested tectonic shifts.
“You will be the Doctor that Ms Lily has been promising? I was expecting something a little less...” the pause was just long enough to stop the doctor from adding his own suggestions “ephemeral.”
“Orson Welles would be proud of your tribute Mr...?”
“Nickel” the voice rumbled in reply the Dr beamed at him and waved Xan to a seat, throwing his feet up onto the table between them.
“Let me guess, psychotropic oxidants in the air, named after a mineral and the sudden arrival of a concentration of Tralousinium – you’re transitionites yes?”
“You are familiar with my people?”
“Well, just a passing revolution or two... what are you doing on Earth?”
“Trying to leave... we were a scout party, the three of us. Then Zinc found the Tralousinium. He killed copper and set off this... this madness” Nickel waved around himself at the ballroom. The Doctor swung his legs around so that he could lean over the table and poke at the mobster suited alien with a slim forefinger.
“And what’s stopping you from leaving?” he asked shrewdly. Lily coughed and pointed behind the alien. Xan stood up to see what she meant and saw a selection of pipes and tubing leading from the man’s back into the fabric of the seat.
“You are part of this word? A prisoner?” Xan asked. The alien shook its head, causing a wrenching noise behind it.
“More than that, Zinc is using me as a generator; everything you see around you is projected from his mental control of me.”
“That all sounds needlessly complex to me.” The time lord sighed “so all we need to do is knock you out and then everything’s hunky dory again?”
“Actually I already tried that” Lily admitted sheepishly. “We need to put both of them out of action to break whatever hold they have over us.”
“Timing eh?” the Dr smiled. “Alright, what do you have in mind? I could disrupt the local resonance field with...” his search in his pockets failed to return with the sonic screwdriver and he frowned at the pen torch that was in its place. “Ah”
“Actually we already have a plan to get Zinc out of the picture, we just need a little help in the execution” came Max’s voice from behind them. Xan turned to her husband with a smile and saw him wink at her as he moved around them.
“You’re poisoning him?” Xan asked as he came close enough
“How did you know...? “
“I saw you put something in a drink when we arrived”
He grinned at her “did I tell you today that I love you?”
“You can keep on telling me if you like, just do it after the explanation”
“Oh right, well it’s actually an aphrodisiac...”
“I’m not sure I like this plan...” Xan started
“Trust me, it’s a simple plan, they always work.” Max grinned again and Xan rolled her eyes.
“All we do is get zinc back here to Nickel then the doctor can try and disrupt the link between them.”
“I note you’ve already decided that I’ll help” the doctor muttered darkly but if Max heard he didn’t comment.
“Here’s what you need to do” Nickel rumbled.
“I still think its exploitation” Xan whispered hoarsely
“Shush he’s coming over!” lily complained back and knelt down.
Zinc swaggered around the party, confident in his control of the primitives. One of them swept towards him with a tray, proffering a cocktail. He took it silently, brushing off the bearded man without a thought. The cocktail was sweet against his senses and he rolled it happily into his system, following it with a puff from the cigar he had taken a fancy to.
That was when he noticed the redhead in the corner booth. He couldn’t think he’d seen her before, but with her head dropped back and the panting she was making he had defiantly taken an interest in her now.
Her legs were up on the table in front of her and stocking thighs barely concealed a bobbing blue fringe between them.
Something stirred in Zinc and he concentrated on this new sensation for a few moments. To the minions around him it no doubt looked as though he was simply enjoying the show.
The redhead gave an exaggerated sigh and rolled to one side contentedly. The blue fringe, with its bob of blonde hair stood and licked its lips, turning to face the corpulent mobster.
“Enjoying the show?” the girl asked teasingly
“What did you just do?”
“Gave her what she wanted...” the girl giggled and stepped over to him, stroking his lapels happily. “I’ll show you if there’s somewhere a little more private we can go”
Zinc jerked his thumb at the door across the room with a sign reading ‘office’
Xan peeked out under her eyelids as the alien took Lily across the room. Her performance must have been good enough to fool the creature. Now she just hoped that Lily could keep the thing occupied long enough. A weight settled beside her and she looked up at the Doctor. His face had lost its usual open charm and was clouded with his thoughts.
Xan sat up and poked at his ribs. “You don’t like this either do you?”
“Let’s just say it’s not how I’d do it.”
“These trasitionites, why are they doing all this? If they only came here for a mineral”
“Tralousinium isn’t native to earth. They must have followed it here or have been responsible its arrival in the first place. I don’t think it’s by chance that zinc disguises himself as a crook. As a race they are a form of psychic sponge.”
“They absorb psychic power?”She reasoned. The doctor smiled
“Well not exactly, more that they re a sponge that has psychic powers. They name themselves after metals, mostly they’re composed of calcium, strictly that is a metal by human standards but it’s an image thing I think.” He tailed off before turning to face her”sponges are a colonial creature, and the psychic link between these transitionites must replicate that mass nature... killing one of their own... hmm”
“You think they’re mad don’t you”
“I’m not sure what to think. The sooner we get this sorted out the better”
Zinc watched the girl lean back against the hard wood of the office desk. Her flesh was pale against the clothes and furnishings. She reached for the desk lamp and put it out, leaving only the night sky through the windows to pick out her movements as she began to dance.
She beckoned him close with a tease of her tongue against her lips.
He reached for her, the fabric of her dress coarse against his fingers.
The dress slipped from her shoulders to the floor, the moonlight softening the edges of her shoulders as he reached for her. Her nipples were hard against his chest as he moved a hand down her back to the lace of her knickers. "I've got a surprise for you." she whispered softly in his ear and pulled away.
He blinked at her as a male voice behind him said "Surprise!"
The weight of something over his head smashed him to the ground. Just before he passed out for good he saw the bearded face of the waiter step towards the girl and kiss her cheek.
The Doctor and Xan joined Max as he hauled Zinc from the office and across the dance floor. They had known the plan had succeeded when everyone in the room had fallen silent and stopped where they were. Without Zinc’s direct control over them they were stunned.
It took a matter of moments to lift the unconscious alien onto the seat next to his fellow traveller. Nickel turned towards him with a look that Xan might have confused with lust.
“Why haven’t you turned off the illusion?” Max demanded.
“Because he can’t” The Doctor supplied “can you? This is all so you can get your hands on the Tralousinium”
“Oh more than that Doctor” Nickel growled and reached for zinc.
The flash that occurred when the two aliens met stunned those around them. When max’s eyes adjusted enough he found him back on the street of Lies. The populace who had been transfixed stood around them, their clothes back to normal but their minds didn’t seem to have made the journey with them. Where Nickel and Zinc had stood now there was a single being. It was bulky but still dressed in its white and blue pinstripe. It had a thick cigar in its mouth and as Max watched it raised a Tommy gun from behind its ample back.
“They’ve combined!” the doctor yelled, Max watched him scrabble in his pocket and pull out the restored sonic screwdriver. The steady whine of the device had a notably perplexing affect on the alien. “We need to keep it still while I try and find a way to send it home...”
Max glanced around him and spotted that the former barman was now dressed as a sheriff. He ran over and hunted around the man’s belt for handcuffs.
There was a yell as Max turned back to the creature. Despite the Sonic the thing had reached out and grabbed hold of Xan’s tail. He saw the Doctor frantically adjusting the sonic, saw lily run forward and get swept to the ground with a swing of the Tommy gun.
Xan looked for her husband as she heard him yell a single word across the street.
She saw him drop the handcuffs and reach back for the Officer’s belt.
With a click she saw him raise the man’s pistol and flinched at the look in his eyes. The Tommy gun swung into her vision as her captor recognised the threat. She ducked as low as she could with the creature’s grip on her.
Lily scrabbled backwards as the shot rang around the street. She saw the flash of the muzzle and the jerk of the alien’s body. The Tommy gun dropped to the street without a sound, vanishing before it could settle. The creature itself rocked backward for a moment then exploded into a shower of purple worms. The Doctor made an inarticulate sound and ran forward trying to catch as many of the worms as he could in the range of his sonic screwdriver.
“That’s not what I meant about keeping them still!” he complained.”
Max had run to Xan’s side in the time it took Lily to have a brainwave. She ran for the open store front at Bakula’s, grabbing one of the empty bins that had held the fishing bait and dragging it into the street. When Max saw what she was doing he ran to take it from her and ordered her to find a spade.
Around them the townsfolk staggered and came too as though emerging from a comatose state. Xan wrapped her tail about her waist and gently led many of them to the curb.
Max was hefting the bucket of glistening worms on his back while the Doctor gently guided them back towards the TARDIS.
“Why didn’t you just offer them a lift earlier?” he grumbled.
“Take a dangerously psychic substance aboard the TARDIS? Imagine the mess it would make of the telepathic circuits” the screwdriver changed tone slightly “it’s difficult enough to keep them quiet in this semi larval stage you seem to have invented. Just think about the cold turkey you’ve forced them into”
“I’ve forced them into!?!”
“Well I didn’t shoot them during an important chrysalis stage”
“As important as this discussion clearly is, ought we really to leave the town in shock?” Xantist queried.
“There’s not much we can do for them and we really need to move the transitionite away from them, they won’t recover properly while it has mental energy to draw from them.”
Xan frowned at the Doctor’s back but Lily took her hand.
“I’d rather be away from here too. The place still doesn’t feel right”
“All we’ve done is taken away the source of the problem, we’ve not cured the land... whatever this thing has already done it’s too far gone to be undone isn’t it.” Xan frowned. “Taking that creature off world won’t help the wildlife here will it.”
“I don’t know Xan but it’s worth a try, now would you be so good as to open the doors?” the time lord nodded at the TARDIS and Xan reluctantly let them in.
Moments later the Blue police box shuddered on an unseen breeze and with a roar of its ancient engines it faded from site. In the silence that followed a single bee buzzed happily across the clearing