Vin raised his head from his book and reached up, slapping his hand on the bottom of the top bunk. “Hey!”
He was rewarded a moment later by the appearance of an upside-down, rather disheveled auburn head. Emerald green eyes blinked sleepily. “You are supposed to be asleep.”
“Couldn’t sleep. Thought I’d read a little.”
A gilded grin exploded over Ezra’s inverted face before it withdrew. A moment later, Ezra climbed down the ladder and sat beside Vin. “That’s excellent! What book’s caught your attention tonight?”
Vin held it up. The words A Night To Remember shone out at Ezra.
His eyes widened. “You do realise the Titanic happened over thirty years after you joined us.”
“Yup. Grippin’ tale, But that wasn’t why I woke ya.”
“Why did you wake me, then?” Ezra tried to glare, but an involuntary yawn ruined the effect.
Ezra frowned at Vin. “Come again?”
“There’s a storm comin’.”
Ezra burst into laughter. “Vin, the TARDIS has an internal environ-- GAH!” His hand flew to his neck as he was shocked by his translator.
Once the explosion of pain had passed, Vin said calmly, “I know the ship’s inside weather’s constant. But I’m tellin’ ya, there’s a storm comin’.”
Skepticism clouded Ezra’s tone as he replied gently, “Vin – we are still in the Timestream! How can you feel a storm here?”
He shrugged. “I dunno. But I feel it – a storm’s comin’.”
Ezra drew in a deep breath. “Oh, very well. Let’s change and go to the control room. If something is going on, we’ll get a better idea of what it is.”
Vin nodded. Laying the book aside, he moved to the closet and flung an outfit at Ezra.
Grumbling, Ezra pulled on the outfit. “Why do you insist on dressing me like a pedes—UUHH!” He grabbed at his neck again.
“Because we don’t know what we’re going to face – and you need to be dressed practically.” Vin grinned as he pulled on an identical outfit.
Ezra snorted. “I think you just like dressing us iden—alike!” he amended before he could be shocked.
Vin’s only reply as they walked to the control room was a grin.
They walked into the room just as the TARDIS began a by-now familiar wheezing. The other five arrived as it stopped. “We’ve landed, then,” Chris pronounced.
“Yes, we’ve landed.” Ezra checked the dials. “A planet named Aeolean IV in the ….hm.”
Vin looked over his shoulder and brought the palm of his hand sharply down on the console. Ezra chuckled as the numbers unstuck themselves. “In the year 2703 by the Earth calendar.” He grinned at Vin. “I see we have our next repair job lined up!”
“I reckon so!” Vin laughed. He keyed the door and the Seven stepped out of the Corinthian column into a lush jumble –
And a blinding rainstorm.
Ezra looked over at Vin, who was grinning from ear to ear. “Told ya storm was a’comin’!”
Squinting in the downpour, JD frowned deeply. “What world did you say this was?”
“Aeolean IV,” Chris informed him. “Why?”
JD frowned at Josiah. “That’s familiar…”
“It should be,” Josiah nodded. “The royal family was taught the history of the colonizations,” he explained to the others.
“I know this world name…” JD pushed his sodden hair out of his eyes. “But it’s just not coming…”
When all eyes had turned to Josiah again, he smiled and shook his head. “I am not royal blood,” he said, spreading his hands. “I’m as much in the dark as you are.”
“Speaking of in the dark,” Chris said with a squint through the rain and canopy. “It’ll be dark soon. What say we go inside for the night and explore in the morning?”
Buck started to argue that it was the middle of their night, but a yawn surprised him.
Nathan chuckled. “And once again, we adapt to our environment! It’s night here soon, so---“
“Though we’ve just awoken,” Josiah finished, “we need more sleep!”
Thus decided, the travelers went back into the TARDIS and locked the doors. They then settled in for a peaceful sleep.
As the night wore on, figures made their way thought he rain to he Corinthian column. Slowly, they lowered it onto its side and pulled it to a cluster of buildings, where they left it prone in the entrance hallway.
Vin woke to a soft weight pinning down the right side of his body and the feeling of warm breath on his neck. Still half in his dream, he smiled. “Mmm…nice way t’wake up.”
“M-hm…” an equally sleepy voice purred in his ear. “Soft…warm….”
Vin’s eyes snapped open as a feeling of absolute horror crept into his belly. He turned his head to see a nearly-asleep Ezra curled up against him. “Ez?” He nudged his roommate. “What’re you doin’ in my bed?”
Ezra raised his head, sleepy eyes going huge with horror. “What are you doing in my bed?”
Vin rolled onto his hands and knees. “Shit! Ez, we’re on the floor!”
Looking around, Ezra scrambled to his feet. “No – we’re on the wall! The TARDIS has been turned on her side!”
Swiftly changing, the pair raced to the control room to find the column was, indeed, laying on its side! The control console jutted comically from one wall, lights blinking a good six to fifteen feet off of the new floor.
“Well,” Ezra sighed, “this is a fine kettle of fish!”
Vin nodded. “Help me wake the others so we can get to the bottom of this!”
They woke the others, and eyes goggled as the sideways configuration of the control panel became apparent.
“What could cause this?” Natalie gasped.
“We’re on our side,” Ezra informed her. “And would it be rude of me to suggest you shift?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Depends on why you’re suggestin’ it.”
“Because,” Ezra said gently, “we don’t know yet what we’re facing. I was thinking your stronger male form might be—“
Natalie grinned at him. “I understand and in that case, it’s hardly rude at all.” The last five words were spoken by Nathan.
Vin clambered up the column and activated the viewscreen. “Wow…” he mused.
“That is a lot of rain!” JD hissed.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Chris said, stunned. “Even the wildest downpours don’t stay that strong for this long…”
JD looked at Josiah. “…I remember!”
“Oh?” Josiah asked.
The former prince nodded. “It’s a planet that is alive – we were told it weeps when it’s not well or not happy.”
Buck’s eyes widened. “The rain is it weeping, then?”
“That would be my guess,” JD shrugged.
Chris looked up at Vin. “What say we find out why it’s weeping?”
“And fix it?” Vin asked.
“If we can,” was the immediate response.
Ezra held up a hand. “Might I offer another suggestion?”
“Go ahead,” Vin grinned at him.
Smiling ruefully, Ezra gestured at the sideways column Vin was gracefully sitting atop. “Might I suggest we find a way first of all to set the TARDIS upright?”
He looked baffled at the tension-relieving laughter that remark caused.
Leaving the TARDIS was a matter of clambering up the sheer surface of what was once the flood and climbing out of what was now the top. Josiah, the strongest and broadest of them, consented to be used as a human stepladder.
When Josiah was alone, two pairs of hands reached into the TARDIS to pull him up. Grunting with effort, Josiah scaled the sheer wall and emerged into Buck and Nathan’s arms.
For a moment, they all just stood there and stared at the downed TARDIS. Chris broke the silence. “Anybody got any ideas?”
All eyes shifted toward Ezra and Vin. They looked at each other then back at them. “What?” Vin finally demanded.
“Well?” Buck shot back, spreading his hands. “You two are the closes to engineers we’ve got!”
“I’m a mech-tech,” Ezra growled. “And I never expected it to go beyond a hobby!”
“Not the job you chose for yourself, huh?” Vin grinned.
“Not by a long shot,” Ezra sighed.
“Me either. Thought I’d be a gunfighter and bounty hunter all my life.” Vin’s grin grew. “But hell, Ez – you can’t tell me you don’t enjoy gettin’ your hands dirty!”
Ezra glared at him, but found he’d started to chuckle. “Just don’t tell my mother.”
That sent everyone to chuckling, especially Chris and Buck – who’d had dealings with the Gallifreyan conwoman before!
“So,” Vin sighed. “How do we get this thing upright again?
“Well…” Ezra mused, running a thumb along hi lower lip. “In this gravity, the TARDIS’s empiri—“ he gasped and grabbed at his throat.
Vin supported him till the firestorm of pain passed, then glared at him. “All right – the TARDIS’s what?”
Ezra licked his lips. “Her weight….she only weighs about four hundred pounds in this gravity.”
Chris grinned to hear that. “Then let’s get ropes around her and pull her upright!”
And that’s just what they did. Everyone cracked up as it came completely upright and rainwater spilled out of the open door, soaking Ezra’s shoes.
The two mechanics went back inside to see if the jarring of the sideways laying and then the rain coming in the open door had done the TARDIS any damage.
“So now what?” JD asked as they waited in the downpour.
“We find out who moved the TARDIS,” Chris said evenly. “And why. When we find that out, then I’ll bet you plenty we’ll find why the planet’s weeping.”
Ezra and Vin joined them a moment later, pronouncing the TARDIS fit. They set off.
They hadn’t gone very far before they found their way blocked – by natives carrying spears.
Chris stepped forward, spreading his hands. “Hello,” he said, forcing a smile. “We mean you no harm.”
Several words came from a native, then the Seven’s translators kicked in. “---will serve the Goddess! Your blood will stop her tears!”
JD sighed. “Oh, brother!”
Josiah stepped forward. “And how will our blood solve this?”
He was ignored. “Move!”
Buck caught Chris’s wrist as it crept toward the guns. He shook his head, mouthing ‘not yet’.
They were herded toward what looked like a temple. Their guns were still in their holsters when they were locked in.
“Amazing,” Ezra whispered. “They appear to have no idea we’re armed!”
Vin nodded. “Amazin’, like you said!”
Josiah seemed lost in thought. As a young native passed by, suddenly he called out, “Excuse me! Could you answer a few questions for me?”
“Questions?” the youth asked.
“Yes – are all travelers sacrificed to this….goddess?”
“No…only when she weeps. When nobody comes, we are.”
“Ah.” Josiah frowned. Not quite the clear answer he’d expected. “Your companion out there said blood eased the tears.”
He nodded. “Blood goes into the ground. The tears stop. When she hungers for blood again, she weeps.” The youth walked on.
Josiah frowned deeply. “Blood-soaked ground…stops the rain?”
Nathan blinked at him. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking – what if he’s telling the truth?” He turned toward JD. “You said the planet weeps.”
He nodded. “Yes, when something was wrong with it – some disruption in the biosystem. The planet isn’t sentient, but it’s living.”
Nathan’s eyes went wide. “Like when you step on a snake and it shows pain and anger.”
“Exactly,” Josiah said. “What if he’s telling the literal truth? What if there is something in human blood that aids the planet?”
Silence fell for a moment, then Chris asked, “Okay, what is in human blood?”
“Cells,” Buck said. “Platelets…plasma…”
“No,” Ezra shot out. “None of that would help the soil – but iron and trace minerals would!”
“I think you’ve got it,” Josiah said with a tight smile. Now – how do we get that into the soil -- and keep our blood in our veins?”
There was a pregnant pause while that question was thoroughly pondered. Suddenly Buck’s head snapped up. “The TARDIS!”
Chris looked at his oldest friend as if he’d lost his mind. “Yes, Buck, that’s how we got here…” He rolled his eyes, shaking his head.
Buck glared at him. “I mean it – I’m serious! Can we use the TARDIS to put the iron and trace minerals in the soil?”
Now Chris was frowning at him. “You mean like a blood transfusion? To a planet?”
“Yes, that’s exactly what I mean!”
“Buck,” Chris erupted, “of all the hare-brained—“
“We can do it,” Ezra’s soft voice interrupted. When all eyes were on him, he added, “We can dump our iron and mineral stores directly into the soil. It would take some time….”
Vin looked at him. “But wouldn’t we have to get more, then?”
“Sure,” Ezra began to smile. “But there’s a vert—“ he broke off before he could be shocked and considered his words. “There’s an asteroid in this system that’s loaded with those minerals!”
JD frowned. “So why don’t we just bring the asteroid down?”
“It’s too big,” Ezra explained. “The impact would destroy the planet’s population. If it were smaller, however, that would be a good idea.”
JD smiled slightly.
Vin grinned at Ezra. “Is it too big for one of the TARDIS’s pocket dimensions?”
“Not one bit,” Ezra grinned back at him. Seeing the non-mechanical five start frowning, Ezra sighed. “We can tuck the asteroid into a pocket dimension – a storage area in the TARDIS – and use it up at our leisure. Nobody lives on it and it’s quite barren – just a hunk of space rock.”
That eased their minds, till Nathan frowned. “Well, that’s all well and good – but how can you do that stuck in here?”
Chris grinned. “That’s the easiest part.” He drew his laser pistol. “We break outta here.”
The firefight was brief but spectacular. The Seven pelted their way inside the TARDIS and the door shut right as arrows reached it.
“WHOO-EE!” Buck laughed as he picked up the one arrow that had landed harmlessly inside. “I’d say they’re a mite testy!”
Incredulous laughter burst out, then all attention turned to the frantically working mechanics.
Silence reigned for a few moments, then Ezra nodded. “Here we go, then!” He threw a lever.
The familiar wheezing rattle of the TARDIS’s take-off sounded – but instead of fading away, the Corinthian column merely rose into the air.
On Ezra’s order, Vin threw a sequence of switches and powerful reversed-polarity tractor beams pounded the soil. The ground shook as iron and mineral dust were forced into it.
The effects were immediate. The TARDIS followed the planet’s rotation, moving along its surface and pouring in the nutrients. In its wake, the sky began to clear.
The living planet sensed it was being healed – and stopped crying in pain.
“There,” Ezra sighed as Vin shut off the feed. “We’re done. Get us out of here!”
“With pleasure,” Vin growled as he guided the TARDIS back into the time-stream, coming out right by the asteroid they’d picked out.
As it was harvested into the pocket dimension, Chris asked, “Won’t they keep sacrificing? It was almost a religious rite to them…”
Ezra shrugged. “I doubt it. There’s no more need – that planet won’t have that particular defi--shit!” He grabbed his throat as he was shocked.
Vin sighed. “Try again, Ez.”
Ezra rode it out, then licked his lips. “There’s enough in the soil now to last till their industrial age – and till they learn to produce synthetic nutrients. When the planet weeps now – it won’t be for that problem.”
“And the cosmic heroes save another world!” Buck proclaimed, puffing out his chest.
Chris hit his shoulder. “Stop it. They won’t even remember us.”
“Chris is right,” Josiah nodded. “Culture memory is fickle at best. At most, we’ll be a footnote in history.”
From the holy scriptures of Aeolean. The Book of Seven, Chapter Seven, verse 4-7:
“And from above, came seven angels,
Disguised as men.
Though they were cruelly slated for slaughter,
Their chariot arose to the sky.
They poured their souls down to the goddess –
Wiping her tears with their very lives.
Spent, they faded from sight.
On healing our goddess, they perished forever.”
Return to The Realm