Written for the classicdw_fic ficathon, this is a relatively low-angst Gen First Doctor adventure for ionlylurkhere, with (as requested) a very light seasoning of Ian and Barbara shippiness. This story was inspired by autumn leaves.
One, Susan, Ian and Barbara find themselves in an intriguing setting and the Doctor sets out to explore. This was written with the same level of sets, costumes and creatures that One enjoyed, the only difference being the gentle reader's mind must allow that it was somehow filmed in colour.
The Benefits of Being Monochromatic
The grinding wheeze of the TARDIS finally faded away. Inside, the rotor settled down into its niche in the console and the occupants of the battered-looking ship considered the images on the screen above them.
"Well, that's not Earth," Ian said, looking up at the scanner. "Where are we?"
"I'm not sure…" the Doctor muttered, "We seem to be in the outer rim… hm. Yes. Well." He rubbed his forehead.
"Too much of that wine last night?" asked Ian with no sympathy at all.
"What? Don't get cheeky with me. I wasn't even affected by it. I can't say the same about you and Barbara."
"Still, it was a grand festival, wasn't it?" Susan said happily. She gave a little twirl of the bright new dress she still wore. Barbara's nearly matched, the bright array of gold, peach and tropical colours making them stand out against the white TARDIS walls, contrasting nicely with Ian's embroidered brown vest and shirt; a point she'd made on the dance floor the night before.
"Oh yes, yes," the Doctor said, humoring her. He looked back up at the scanner. "It seems safe enough, air is breathable. Almost healthy, really. And the topography is most intriguing, I've never seen anything quite like it."
"I suppose this means we'll have to change to something more practical," Susan said.
Barbara reached out to adjust the colourful yellow and peach flowered headband Susan had purchased to go with her dress. She smiled understandingly; her own hair still had a bright flower clipped behind one ear, though it was a bit rumpled from Ian playing with it during dinner. "Oh, I don't know. I think we should wear our finery as long as we can."
The Doctor looked back at them from where he was now checking the readings. "It's quite uneven, most interestingly furrowed. Hm, yes. If you come, you may have to do a bit of climbing."
"Can't I climb in this, Grandfather?" Susan asked. "I can gather up the skirt, like this."
"No, you can't. You go change." His attention had already been drawn back to his readouts. "Most interesting. I'd like to see this a bit closer."
Susan looked so disappointed Barbara found herself feeling sorry for the girl. She sometimes wished there was a young man in Susan's life; her Grandfather loved her, but he was so often distracted or preoccupied. She really needed someone who could give her the undivided attention and admiration she seemed to crave.
"How about us ladies just stay here for now. I'll fix up your hair for you, Susan."
The girl's face immediately brightened. "Oh, would you?"
"Well, I'm not staying for you to fix up my hair," chuckled Ian. "I'll go with the Doctor."
"Eh?" the Doctor said, opening the doors. "Oh, I see. All right. Come along Chesterton. We'll return soon enough, I should think. Let the girls have their, eh, primping time."
Ian followed the Doctor out, giving Barbara a little wave.
The Doctor stood, holding his lapels and looking around while he sniffed at the air. "The scent is pleasant enough," he observed.
Ian took a sniff. It was a resinous sweet smell, as if someone far off were baking a cake made of wood-chips. The air was clear and quiet. He could see what the Doctor had been so interested in about the landscape; the land was strangely layered, irregular, rounded thick flakes of a spongy brown substance with a pattern of furrows running through them. They picked their way up to the top of the nearest one and found more of the same as far as they could see. Some of the furrows were the size of shallow canyons, others no more than the width of a roadside ditch. At intervals, strange, thick trees rose up with gossamer nets drifting up where one would expect the foliage to be.
Ian almost went back for Barbara, it was exactly the kind of thing he knew she would appreciate, but the Doctor was already striding ahead. He was following one of the furrows and making little hmm noises in his throat. Ian hurried after him.
. . .
Barbara stood near the doorway and looked after them for a moment until Susan plucked at her elbow. "Barbara?"
"Oh, I'm sorry Susan. Let's take a look at your hair, shall we?" She went to fetch a comb, but Susan unaccountably stopped her.
"You wanted to go with them, didn't you?"
"I was just being silly, wasn't I?" Susan looked up at her, her dark eyes apologetic, then gave Barbara a sudden smile. "Come on, let's catch up to them!"
"Can you climb in a dress after all?" Barbara smiled back.
"Of course! And I know you can too. Grandfather can be so old-fashioned sometimes. Let's go!" Susan pulled at her hand persuasively and gave another teasing pout. "I've got my key, the TARDIS will be safe enough."
Barbara smiled and smoothed the girl's hair down where it was starting to poke up around the headband. "All right. They can't be far."
. . .
Ian followed the Doctor down into a wide, shallow furrow and waited as he chipped a bit of the wall off to look at more closely. Fishing in his pocket, he extracted a pair of glasses, perching them on his nose to peer at it more closely.
"Fascinating," he said happily, sniffing at it then crumbling it with his fingers. He brushed the bits off fastidiously. "One would almost conclude that it were, eh, grown."
"Grown?" asked Ian.
"Look at these layers," he said, tapping the wall. "It resembles sponges, or mosses rather than mineral formations. More like tree bark than rock."
"Tree bark?" Ian smiled. "Whoever heard of a planet made of tree bark?"
The Doctor considered him over the top of his glasses. "Never jump to rash conclusions, my boy. Who said this entire planet was made of tree bark? Nonsense! It wouldn't be possible."
"But you said it was…"
"I said these walls seem to be made of an organic material that resembles what we know as tree bark. Not that the entire planet was composed of it." He took off the glasses and tucked them back into his pocket. "Made of tree bark, pfah! Don't know where you get these notions." He went back to following the path created by the floor of the furrow, mumbling something about instability, growth variables and density.
Ian paused to break off a bit of a ridge himself. It did look a lot like tree bark, just very, very big tree bark. He looked up at the diaphanous trees waving above them and wondered what they'd got themselves into this time. What if there were the equivalents of very, very large woodpeckers?
"Doctor!" he called, realizing he'd lost sight of the old man. He trotted ahead, pocketing the bit of ridge wall to show to Barbara later. At least with these furrows it shouldn't be too hard to find one another. Just follow it and…
He slowed, frowning. Coming around the slight bend there was a long, fairly straight stretch and there was no sign of the Doctor anywhere along it. He glanced up either side as he went, doubtful that he would've climbed if he had another option. Even sprinting, he shouldn't have been able to get that far ahead that fast, and while he'd certainly known the elderly eccentric to obtain a fairly rollicking gait under duress, he'd never been a sprinter. Where had he gone?
Moving ahead more carefully he tried calling out again. "Doctor? Doctor! Where are you?"
There was no answer.
Ian stopped, unsure what to do. If there was something dangerous enough that it had captured the Doctor that quickly and completely, maybe he should be getting back to the TARDIS. The last thing he needed was for the girls to be coming out and being taken too.
"Doctor!" he called again. He checked around the next bend and peered up into the trees above, lest something had dropped a net. There was no sign of him, no sign of a struggle, no sound. He grit his teeth and headed back to their ship at a run.
Finding his way back was easy enough, sliding down the small incline to the waiting blue box. But then the door was not only closed, it was locked. Ian knocked on the door, backed up to where he knew the scanner would easily catch his image and waved his arms. "Barbara! Susan! Open the door! It's an emergency!"
There was no response. "Barbara! Susan!" he called again and again, alternating between beating on the door and waving. He finally dropped his arms to his side. Something was wrong here as well. He looked at the ground around the doorway, now wishing he'd paid more attention to where he'd put his feet. There was no way of telling in the scuffles if the girls had come out, but… there!
He ran over to the tiny bit of colour, standing out against the muted deep browns, creams and reds of the landscape. A brilliant yellow flower, fashioned from silk; it was one of the flowers from Susan's headband. Ian almost crushed the tiny flower in his hand. They'd left the TARDIS then, both of them he was sure. There was no way Barbara would've let Susan go off alone. Was this entire day to be nothing but a disaster? Where had they gone?
He had to find them. All of them.