Disclaimer: Not mine.
Chapter 7 – Alternation: After three months, the team was fully settled. Cole and Paula had decided not to move in together, but they both had toiletries and fresh clothing at each other's apartments, and they didn't bother to keep their relationship a secret. Meanwhile, Caleb and Maggie were acting, in Paula's opinion, like a pair of schoolkids with a crush. She couldn't decide if it was amusing or irritating. Right now, when Caleb was standing just a little too close as Maggie tinkered with her newest computer idea, it was amusing.
"I don't think staring at them is going to make them move any faster," Cole murmured in her ear, coming up from behind.
"No, but they're fun to watch. And I could… Well, I won't, but I may see about tracking down Cupid."
"Don't do that, for God's sake."
"Because, if you have even the slightest bit of your sisters' luck, we'll be dealing with widespread lovesickness. The whole damn city will fall in love because you wanted to play matchmaker."
Paula laughed. "Sounds like a bad novel, but you might have a point there."
"A very trashy romance novel," he agreed.
"I think Caleb has over-educated you in pop culture."
"Considering I've had the theme songs from every movie and TV show he's made me watch playing through my head for three months, I'd have to agree."
"Damn. Tell him to lay off."
"Tried that. He didn't listen."
"So throw an energy ball at him! A small one, mind, one that'll just sting."
"Weren't you the one who decreed that we're not to use our powers against each other? Something about fostering trust between teammates?"
"Eh, it sounds like you're being subjected to psychological torture. It's self-defense."
He laughed and was about to respond when they were interrupted by the phone ringing. Paula grabbed it and said, "Hello?"
"OK… Someone turn on the news."
Maggie did so, and they stared at the footage on the screen, even as the anchor's voice came over the TV's speakers. "So far, no one has been able to confirm if this supposed 'lizard-man' is someone pulling a prank or something a little bit more odd, but those who live in Boston's South Side are advised to watch yourselves, because it seems whoever's in the costume, he's dangerous."
Paula hung up the phone. "That was Dan. He claims that the 'lizard-man' attacked someone – with claws."
"So, not a costume then," Caleb commented as he grabbed his bag. Cole grabbed the keys from their hook on the wall and went to go start the black SUV that Paula had finally bought – he'd gotten a new license, so he was allowed to drive again. Paula swung her own bag onto her shoulders and glanced back at Maggie.
"You'll keep track of things on this end?" she asked.
"I'll be hacking local security cameras before you're out of the parking lot," the brunette said cheerfully, turning to her monitors with relish. Paula shook her head and followed Caleb out the door.
"So, do we have a game plan?" Caleb wanted to know as they drove to where the lizard-man had last been seen.
"Probably the usual grab-and-question," Cole said. He meant their usual method of dealing with an alien visit; apprehending the newcomer, finding out their business, and acting accordingly. "Unless there's any objections?" he added, glancing at Paula, who had been staring out of the window, her eyes unfocused.
"Hmm? Oh, no. Sorry, I was trying to remember if I'd ever heard about any aliens matching this description when I was with the Doctor. I couldn't."
"Well, try to stay in the moment and not go off thinking about the past, all right?" Cole said.
"Sure thing, Qui-Gon," Paula muttered. The best way to get back at Cole these days was to make a pop culture reference. He always cringed. Caleb's use of sense bombardment tactics to get Cole – and to a lesser extent Maggie – up to date on pop culture was an effective strategy, but it had side effects. Generally, Paula found them amusing, though it occurred to her that if they dealt with laser guns anytime soon, it could be a problem. Note to self, tell Caleb enough is enough.
They got out of the car and Paula reached out with her mind, hoping to sense the alien, but she got nothing. She shook her head at the two men, both of whom were giving her hopeful looks. Cole scowled. "It just couldn't be easy, could it?"
"Of course not," Caleb said. "They don't like us Up There, remember?"
"Somehow I doubt the Elders are involved in this, Cal," Paula pointed out dryly, rolling her eyes. "The celestial assholes are too haughty to bother with the likes of us."
"Not to interrupt the Elder hate-fest, but what's that?" Cole pointed to what appeared to be a flash of light ahead of them, behind a building.
"No clue, but let's find out," Paula said. They walked over, and found themselves looking at a… window in the air, for lack of a better description. "What the hell?" she muttered.
"OK, anyone who's ever seen something like this before, raise your hand," Caleb quipped. Paula's hand whipped out and delivered a hard smack to the back of his head.
"Cut the smart remarks, marine," she said flatly. "No, none of us have seen anything like this before – or at least, I don't think so. Cole?"
"No, but I'm thinking, what's on the other side?"
They could see what it looked like over there; it appeared to be a jungle. But Paula knew that wasn't what he'd meant.
"Best guess?" she said ruefully. "Another reality. Which means…"
"What?" Cole said.
"The alien technically isn't an alien," Caleb said with a frown. "Strictly speaking, if that's an alternate Earth and Lizard-Boy's from there, he's as much an Earthling as we are."
"Does that change anything?" the former demon wanted to know.
"Eh, no," Paula said, "it's just technicalities. But… the fact that this is here, and wide open, is a problem. It's not the Rift, I don't know what it is, but we've got to figure out some way to close it."
"Great," Cole said. "Do we know how?"
"No," Caleb said.
"Well, that's just fantastic, isn't it?"
Paula scowled. "Shut up, Cole."
Knowing that the lizard-man had likely come from another reality did not make tracking him down any easier. Paula had no idea what his mind should feel like, so she was reduced to simply seeking out non-human minds. Which was very little help, because thanks to the small Rift, Boston had its fair share of alien citizens who did their best to blend in. That didn't even take into account the magical citizens of the area. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack of pins.
Caleb and Cole were not being very patient about it either. She knew that they were irritated by how long this was taking – so was she – but it wasn't as though they could anything about it. Her telepathy was useful, not bloody omniscient. That was something non-telepaths never seemed to properly understand. At the moment, Paula didn't feel like explaining it again, so she just ignored the boys' grumbles and concentrated on trying to find the lizard-man. At least she would know if the consciousness she felt was from another reality – though that didn't necessarily mean it would be her target. But she could tell when a being was from another reality, thanks to the…
Her breath caught in her throat. There was a song in the back of her mind, a haunting, beautiful song. But that was impossible. The TARDIS couldn't be here, not now, could it? And even if it was… It felt wrong, somehow. It took a minute for her to figure out why. This TARDIS was younger than the one she knew. It belonged to an earlier version of the Doctor. Which meant it would be a good idea to avoid it.
But it was too late. What she hadn't realized when she was too focused on the song in her head was that the TARDIS' distinctive whirring could clearly be heard from where they were, and that Cole and Caleb had already gone to investigate. "Oh, damn," she muttered as she ran after them. She turned the corner just as the TARDIS' form solidified and the door opened. An attractive man in a blue suit with messy brown hair and dark eyes stepped out. From descriptions, Paula was almost certain that this was the Tenth Doctor.
Bloody hell, she thought. This day just went to the dogs. How am I supposed to play this one?
A/N: Hey, I'm not dead! Next chapter: The not-quite-alien incursion is settled, but Paula finds to her discomfort that it's not just the Doctor's looks that change.