Vin turned the small plastic rectangle over in his hands again. “And this is a kind’a money?”
Ezra chuckled. “Yes – it’s a credit card. Well - - that’s technically a debit card, but…”
“Tell me the difference.”
“A debit card takes money right from an account—“
“Which I don’t have.”
Ezra chuckled again. “We all have them on Earth. We put a sizeable sum in an account when you began traveling with us. Now – any year after 1990 we land on Earth –“ he tapped the card, “that is as good as curr—uh, money.”
“Like we’ll ever need it,” Vin snorted.
“We do have to eat,” Ezra pointed out. “And if it’s rather imp – uhm…” He paused, trying to form words that wouldn’t get himself shocked.
“If it’s easier t’eat there than come here an’ use the replicators?” Vin supplied.
“Exactly,” Ezra smiled gratefully. He raised his eyes to the ceiling as the ship began to wheeze. “We’re landing.”
“Who’s flyin’ her?” Vin asked as he shoved the card into his jeans and grabbed a denim jacket, flipping an identical jacket to Ezra.
“Buck,” Ezra sighed as he shrugged on the jacket. “Which means there’s no telling when or where we’ll end up!”
They exited the TARDIS and found themselves on a plain with a city in walking distance. Teasing and picking on each other the entire way, they arrived and heard a beautiful, melodious language being spoken.
“Arabic,” Buck whispered. “We’re where?”
Chris walked over to a kiosk and removed a paper. He replaced it with an apologetic smile, then walked back to his friends. “Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,” he reported. “October 13, 1998.”
Vin’s eyes were slightly glazed over. One corner of his mouth was quirked up in a dazed smile.
Nate poked him. “Snap out of it,” he ordered.
“Hm?” Vin’s grin spread. “Sorry – the language sounds like a song…”
“Ah, the benefits of being a Communicator,” Ezra chuckled. “Give him a pretty new language to listen to, and it’s better than a drug high!”
“Shut up,” Vin laughed. “Let’s get something to eat!”
He was feeling discouraged. Granted, his theory that Hellenistic cultures had penetrated further south into the Arabian peninsula then was previously believed was a little fantastic – but it could be true….
If only he had some proof…
He went for a walk to clear his mind. Outside the city, something caught his eye. Squinting against the desert sun, he could not believe his eyes!
The broken Corinthian column jutted out from the sands. It was in pristine condition – its marble façade was almost blindingly white! It looked for all the world as if it had just dropped in to say hello….
“I was right!” he whispered, then began to roar with laughter. “Hellenistic culture! In Saudi Arabia!” He whooped with joy and ran to get help to move the column somewhere he could better study it.
The Seven were just exiting a restaurant when a snatch of conversation caught their ears and had them all being grateful for translators.
“…crazy Sands – he claims to have found a Corinthian column out in the desert!”
“He did, I saw it just a half-hour ago—“
That was all they needed to hear. As one, they bolted for the city limits.
Once they reached the exact place where they’d arrived, all Seven swore with preciseness and great feeling – in a multitude of languages and with Ezra’s translator shocking him twice.
Their TARDIS was gone!
Once the shock wore off, the anger set in. As one, the Seven turned and jogged back to Riyadh. A few moments later, Ezra was sitting in a restaurant jury-rigging a contraption and glaring at Vin.
“What?” Vin finally asked around a mouthful of chocolate pudding.
“How can you think of food at a time like this?”
Vin shrugged. “Why not? The others are findin’ us some way to follow, you’re makin’ a way to track her – this at least is somethin’ I can do…” He poked at it. “Only way this’d be better is if it were blackberry pie.”
“I don’t believe blackberries grow in Saudi Arabia.” Ezra looked up and smiled. “But I could be wrong – I have been before.”
“Takes a big man t’admit when they’re wrong,” Buck chuckled as he walked up. “We’ve got transportation – Chris wants to know if it’s almost ready.”
“It is ready,” Ezra grinned and held up the device. It began to flash. “Yes, it’s reading the TARDIS…”
Vin leaned over. “It’s close by…” He looked up. “You got us a good horse?”
“Better,” Buck chuckled. “You are about to ride the best in 20th century transportation – an SUV!”
“Let’s go, then!” Ezra chuckled as he stood up. “The chase is on!”
Vin’s first ride on wheels left much to be desired. When the two large vehicles pulled up, Vin was a sickly green colour and looked decidedly ill.
They piled out and Ezra frowned. “It was here – and now it’s…” The frown deepened. “…Rapidly rising into the air?”
“Yeah,” Chris sighed. “That would make sense.”
“Why?” Ezra asked.
Chris pointed behind him. Ezra turned and read the flowing Arabic script. “Aw, hell!” he swore. “We’re at an airport!”
Ezra looked across the airplane aisle at Vin, who was sound asleep with his long hair fanned out across the purple pillow. “I don’t understand.”
Chris looked over at him. “What don’t you understand?”
“He got ill riding in the SUV, but being thousands of feet in the air is having absolutely no effect on him!”
Chris chuckled. “I don’t think it was the SUV as much as it was Buck’s driving!”
Ezra chuckled, his eyes flicking to the dozing mustachioed Gallifreyan. “I’ll be glad when we land and find the TARDIS.”
“We all will,” Chris said, leaning back and closing his eyes. “So where is the TARDIS thief heading?”
“Los Angeles,” Ezra sighed. “We’ll be hard-pressed to find it there. It’s such a large city in 1998….” He shook his head. “Misspoke again – finding it will not be the problem – reaching it will be!”
Chris smiled. “We’ll cross that hurdle when we get to it.”
Sands smiled at the Corinthian column standing patiently at the end of the stage. He petted the polished marble and checked his watch.
Five more hours and he would break his discovery to the world.
Absolutely delighted with himself, Sands left the auditorium.
One hour later, the plane that carried the Seven touched down.
Five hours and twenty minutes passed, and then Sands stepped up to the microphone. He tapped the microphone, which made a sound like a cat whose tail was rocked on, and smiled.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the press. My name is Alexei Sands. I have contended for a number of years that Hellenistic culture in antiquity had penetrated further into the Arabian Peninsula than was previously believed.”
“Amazing,” Ezra laughed for the tenth time as he petted the elegant neck of his horse. “Where did these magnificent beasts come from?”
Buck scowled down at his swayback mule and muttered under his breath, “A glue factory, maybe.”
“Los Angeles is the ‘hub’ of celluloid pictures,” Chris informed him, then winced at Buck’s roared, “They’re called movies!”
“Movies,” Chris corrected himself. “Anyway, I convinced the animal handlers we were acting in one, and we needed the horses for a scene.”
“Brilliant,” Ezra breathed as they rode, following the signal toward the TARDIS. “We’re close!”
Buck let out a frustrated groan as his mule made a short detour to pull a frond from a palm tree. “Good!” he roared. “Then I can part ways with this stupid --- WHOA!” he gasped as the mule took off at a run, easily catching up with the others.
The laughter lasted until Ezra pulled up outside an auditorium. “She’s in there!”
“This chase is about over,” Chris sighed in relief.
The question period was going on longer than Sands had expected. His feet had gotten so sweaty that eventually he’d stepped from his sandals and now stood barefoot as the session went on and on.
He defended himself against accusations he’d planted the column. He explained over and over how it had just seemed to be sitting there.
Nobody onstage or in the audience saw the seven figures that slid onto the stage and vanished one by one into the column.
Sands was interrupted mid-sentence by a loud wheezing noise from the column. He turned and looked at it, only to stand there with his mouth hanging wide open as the column slowly became transparent and then dissolved into thin air.
The silence that followed was so thick that the several tiny ‘thunk’s as pens and PDA styluses clattered to the floor were as loud as gunshots.
Slowly, Sands turned back to the microphone. “Please,” he whispered, and it picked up clearly. “Please do not ask me what just happened here. I have no earthly idea.”
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