Sparks flew and curses turned the air blue as the noise grew.
“Turn it off! TURN IT OFF!” bellowed the mechanic from under the console.
The man leaned over and slammed his palm over a switch. Almost instantly the noise died and the sparks faded down.
“Aaah, hell!” rang into the control room, followed by a THUMP! as a fist slammed into the console’s innards.
Vin Tanner leaned casually over the console and couldn’t resist teasing, “Got problems, Ez?”
“No,” Ezra Standish growled as he slid out from under the console. “I have no problems. The TARDIS, however…”
Vin grinned at him. In an act of pure impishness, he’d matched Ezra’s ‘work clothes’ precisely – both of them in jeans and blue button-down shirts. “What’s wrong with her this time?”
Ezra glared at him and started to rattle off a string of technical words. Before he got two of them out, however, his head jerked to the side and a gritty hand flew to his neck.
Instantly Vin was at his side. “That damn translator! Are you okay?” When Ezra didn’t immediately answer, Vin raised his voice. “NATE!”
Nate Jackson, the gendermorph medic, came barreling in. “What happened?” she demanded, racing to Ezra’s other side.
Ezra shook his head. “I am….quite all right….Miss Jackson. I merely…forgot….that I am burdened…with a translator!”
Vin nodded. “And he was tryin’ to tell me exactly what was wrong with the TARDIS.”
“You mean other’n the fact Ezra stole a malfunctioning one to begin with?” Buck Wilmington quipped as he walked in, ex-Leftenant Chris Larabee right behind him.
Ezra shot him an acid look. “I told you from the beginning that it was not a perfect one – which was why I could proc—steal it so easily!”
“Besides,” Chris smiled at him. “It gives you a near-constant occupation.”
“That’s right,” JD Dunne, ex-prince, walked in from another door, Josiah Sanchez on his heels. “Least you’re never bored, Ez!”
Josiah handed Ezra a handkerchief. “No, just dirty.”
With a sigh, Ezra moved to the mirror on the wall and cleaned himself up.
Vin moved to his side. “We need to stop and get you some parts?”
“When do we ever not?” Ezra sighed in frustration.
Chris nodded. “All right—what do we need this time?”
“Carbinium.” A quirk of the translator was that if it was the name of something, Ezra could pronounce it without pain.
Vin frowned. “Carbinium? Sounds like my rifle.” At Ezra’s blink, he smiled. “One of my guns was a Spencer carbine.”
“Do you have it?” Chris asked, and Vin shook his head.
“Left it back in m’wagon.”
Nate frowned, leaning on the console. “Does it have a more common name?”
“If it does, I don’t know it,” Ezra sighed.
Nate nodded. “How do I run a search for it?”
“Here, I’ll do it.” Vin moved to her side.
Chris blinked and moved to Ezra’s side, gasping as the human from the 19th century – the one with the literary difficulties – began to skillfully manipulate technology from Chris, Buck and Ezra’s homeworld. “Whoa…” he whispered.
Ezra beamed proudly. “He has a very quick mind and an incredible memory. Once he learns a word or a process, it’s up there for good. Since we often team up repairing the TARDIS, teaching him the processes of flying her was merely a natural part of our studies.”
“Got it, I think.” Vin frowned at Ezra. “C’mere, take a look at this.”
Ezra walked over. “Earth… the land called Greece…”
“Land us there, then,” Chris ordered. “Let’s get what we need and get out fast as we can.”
The others agreed, and Ezra landed the TARDIS. He then pointed toward a small closet. “In there are some tracers. Bring me one and let me calib—set it so it’ll pick up the carbinium.”
Vin did as he was bid and got the boxes. Ezra calibrated them and passed them out. Nate passed out the keys – they all wore the communication chokers constantly now – and they left the TARDIS.
“Oh, no,” Chris groaned.
“Ooh, my!” Nate chuckled.
“Nice goin’, Ez,” Vin laughed and the others chuckled – all but Chris.
Chris looked positively murderous as the dark-skinned man in a tunic prostrated himself, clinging to Chris’s ankles and begging “Zeus” not to strike him dead.
“So much for slippin’ away unnoticed, eh, cowboy?” Vin quipped, and chuckled as the murderous look turned to him.
Rolling his eyes, Chris crouched down and grabbed the man’s arm, pulling him to his feet. “Will you stop that? We are not going to hurt you!”
The man’s eyes scanned over the others, and then a startled grin broke out over his face. “It….cannot be!”
The Seven looked at each other, and then Nate let out a startled yelp as a pair of powerful arms wound around her, pulling her very close. His face buried in her hair and his voice was a delighted whisper. “Eurydice…my sweet Eurydice! You’ve come back to me!”
Nate blinked and tried to push him away. “N-now hold on…My name’s Nate! I don’t know this Eurydice…” She glared over his shoulder at Buck, Vin, and JD falling over each other laughing. “You’re not helpin’!”
Josiah sighed. “She’s right, brothers. You’re not helping.” He walked over and gently pulled Nate out of the man’s embrace. “You all right, sister?”
“Now that I can breathe, yes!” She panted, holding her stomach. “That was unexpected and unappreciated!”
The man shook his head. “When it comes to you, my sweet Eurydice, I fear my good sense flees!”
“Nate scowled at him. “It needs to return! Who are you, anyway?”
He blinked at her, his smile fading. “…Orpheus… your husband!”
And Nate began to sadly smile. “Orpheus… I am not Eurydice. My name is Natalie.”
He gestured at her. “…but you look….you sound….even your scent…”
Vin stepped forward. “Orpheus – what happened to Eurydice?”
“Hades took her – two months ago.” His eyes never left Nate’s face.
“Hades?” JD whispered.
“God of the dead,” Ezra whispered back. “He’s saying she died.”
Nate frowned. “What did she die of?”
“The fever… oh, but you’re back….” He caressed her cheek. Hades knew how deeply I missed you – and you’ve been returned to me!”
She caught his hand. “Orpheus … please… I am not your Eurydice. Please listen – my name is Natalie.”
Orpheus shook his head, gripping her hands. “No…no, you’ve come back to me!” There was an almost strident note to his voice, as if he were trying to convince himself of that fact.
“No,” Nate said gently. “I’m Natalie. I—and my friends – are just here to find parts to repair our vehicle. I am not Eurydice. I am not your wife.”
For a long moment, Orpheus studied her eyes. Then, convinced by the absolute sincerity there, he heaved a great sigh and released her hands. “My… my apologies, Lady Natalie. I… I fear my grieving has made me a bit…mad.”
Nate shook her head. “No. Mad would be not accepting the truth. And you finally did.”
He nodded. “Yes, Lady Natalie. You… are not my Eurydice. But then – why did you arrive with these gods?”
“GODS?!” The Seven roared and – to a person – collapsed into hysterical laughter.
Orpheus blinked at them. “….but….you cannot be mere men! No-not the way you appeared from thin air!”
That set them off again, and Chris gasped out, “We’re men, Orpheus! We just have a… different means – of traveling!”
Orpheus nodded slowly, and then took a deep breath. “Very well…what can I help you find?”
Vin frowned. “You’re awful eager t’help us now – y’know she’ll be gone faster—“
“Vin!” Nate hissed.
Orpheus squeezed her arm. “It’s …. It’s all right. Yes, I want to help you. You look like my Eurydice, but you are not her. This is… too painful…to deal with.”
Nate nodded. “I understand.”
Ezra pointed toward a small hill. “What is inside that hill, Orpheus?”
The man frowned. “Merely dirt…some minerals…”
Ezra was grinning. “And a tremendous concentration of carbinium!”
Buck grinned at Chris. “Hey, easy for once!”
“Too easy,” Chris growled.
“Anybody ever tell you you’ve got a suspicious mind, stud?” Buck sighed, his smile fading.
Chris glared at him. “You know as well as I do that the High Council is capable of anything.”
“What are you suggesting?” Buck asked, suddenly wary.
“I mean, it wouldn’t be unlike the High Council to booby-trap the—“
His words were cut off by a growl as Ezra and Vin walked closer to the hill.
“Which one of you made that sound?” Chris called.
“Neither,” Ezra shot back, backing up.
“That came from the hill!” JD gasped.
Orpheus nodded. “None has been able to get near it or stay for long. It’s rumoured Cerebrus makes his stay there!”
Vin turned to face Ezra. “Cerebrus?”
“Three-headed dog that guarded the underworld,” Ezra explained.
“Well, something is guardin’ that hill!” Vin growled.
“And we have to get past it – whatever it is – to get the carbinium,” Ezra sighed in frustration.
“Strength hasn’t succeeded, nor has numbers," Orpheus explained. "Even stealth has --" His eyes widened. "There is one thing my countrymen haven't tried."
“Orpheus?” Josiah asked. “Why’ve you been trying so hard to get to the hill if there’s nothing there but dirt and minerals?”
Orpheus smiled at him. “One of those minerals is gold. I’ll be right back!”
Ezra’s eyes lit up. “Gold?”
“Down, boy,” Vin chuckled. “We’re here for the carbinium.”
“Well, yes, Vin, but – gold! If we could only take a few ounces back with us –“
He turned to Vin. “This time it isn’t what you think! The self-powering fuel cells – with just a few ounces of gold added to them, their effic—“ his head jerked to the side and he let out a small cry. Licking his lips, he tried again. “….they can do more work – better work!”
JD’s eyes widened. “So it’s not personal greed this time?”
Vin studied Ezra’s face. “Y’know, JD? I don’t think it is.” He clapped a hand on Ezra’s shoulder and grinned. “Let’s see ‘bout gettin’ you some carbinium – and some gold.”
Ezra grinned at him and the Seven moved to the small cave set in the hill. “Cerebrus, hm?” Ezra mused. “I wonder if there really is something in there.”
“The way Orpheus was talking, I’d say that’s a safe bet,” Vin sighed. “Wonder what he had in mind?”
As if on cue, Orpheus returned with a lyre in his hands. “We haven’t tried charming it with music,” he said.
“How do we get it out?” Ezra asked, turning his back to the entrance. His eyes widened as his hair was ruffled by hot, fetid breath. Whirling, he let out a sharp cry and staggered back.
It was as large as JD. Vaguely doglike in shape, three heads dripped clear foam from three mouths as six eyes scanned the eight people.
“Holy shit!” Buck roared. “It’s a Xrithian hound!”
Orpheus began to play, and the animal’s attention was focused on him. Vin hit Ezra on the arm, and the pair edged toward the cave mouth.
“I told you!” Chris roared, drawing his guns. “Booby-trapped!”
“Is it rabid?” JD asked, eyeing the foam.
“Nah,” Buck reassured him. “Xrithian hounds foam all the time. Now if’n the foam was yellow, we’d have to worry!”
“It’s working!” Josiah laughed. “The hound’s focused on the music! Keep playing, Orpheus! And hurry, brothers!”
Minutes that seemed like ages ticked by as Orpheus played. At last, Ezra and Vin appeared at the cave mouth. Both were tying the mouths of small sacks, which each draped around his neck.
“Got it?” Buck called.
“The carbinium!” Ezra called back.
“And a tiny bit of gold!” Vin finished as both of them made their cautious way back to their friends.
Once they were safe, Orpheus’s fingers stilled on the lyre strings.
The Xrithian hound blinked, shook its head, and let out a bellow that nearly deafened them all!
Before anyone could blink, it charged Orpheus.
Laser pistols and projectile weapons fired from six directions. A trio of knives found their mark from Nate. With a mighty groan, the Xrithian hound collapsed.
Nate ran to Orpheus’s side. “Are you all right?” she gasped.
He checked himself over. “I seem to be…thank you….” He picked up his mangled instrument. “My poor lyre will never be the same, though….”
Chris walked over and prodded the hound’s corpse. “Lookin’ for somethin’?” Vin asked.
“No,” Chris growled, rising up with a black disc in his hand. “Found something.”
“What is that?” Vin asked.
“A tracking device. Gallifreyan made.” He shot a look at Buck. “From the High Council – it bears their mark.” Chris threw the disc into the air and immolated it with one laser shot.
“It’s over?” Orpheus asked.
Ezra nodded. “Your countrymen can now mine that hill in peace.”
The party walked back to the TARDIS and made their goodbyes. Orpheus caught Nate’s hands again. “I shall miss you.”
She smiled. “I’m sorry I ain’t her.”
He managed a small smile in return. “At least to you, I was able to say a proper good-bye.” He lowered his head and his lips closed over hers. When he broke the kiss, he whispered, “Goodbye, Lady Natalie.”
Nate nodded and headed into the TARDIS. The doors closed behind her.
A moment later, the Corinthian column let out a series of asthmatic noises and faded from sight.
Orpheus let out a cry. “She was my Eurydice! They were gods! They… they faded away!”
“Where’s Nate?” Chris asked as he walked into the control room.
“Still brushing his teeth, last I saw him,” Josiah chuckled.
Chris smiled, shaking his head in fond humour. Natalie had become Nathan seconds after the door had closed, and had retreated to his room.
“Yeah,” JD put in, grinning. “He was muttering something about bein’ thoroughly humiliated, and how the next place we land he’s stayin’ Nathan.”
Laughter rang out, and then Chris turned to the control column. “Well?”
Ezra and Vin both grinned at him. “The carbinium is working like a dream!” Ezra laughed.
“We got enough to last awhile!” Vin grinned. “And that gold’s done just what Ezra said it would!”
“Good!” Chris nodded. “Now maybe you two can focus on why she rattles so bad on takeoff and landing!” He thumped the column in emphasis.
The panel next to JD erupted in a shower of sparks, making the youngest of the travelers yelp and jump back.
“Or maybe not,” Chris sighed as the two ersatz mechanics went to work on the latest malfunction to befall the TARDIS.
“At least they’re never bored,” Buck quipped with a grin
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