General Lacond surveyed the valley of Kithra below. Sickening pools of red stained large sections of green pastures and softly rolling hillsides. A few clouds floated aimlessly by, dropping occasional raindrops, as if the planet Trivid itself mourned its dead. A smoky haze of fierce struggles and death hung in the air. The bodies of soldiers who had died valiantly serving their general littered the ground. Lacond sighed, shaking her head. 'They should have lived. They all should have survived.'
Lacond bore the heavy burden of leadership with dignity. Her position was one she felt unworthy to have been given, considering her relative youth. The additional physical weight of her cybernetic limbs only seemed to enhance the slight lines just beginning to show in her face. She leaned against her cane, a constant reminder of a never healing wound, a parting gift from one of her first battles with Mijaco Kendra.
Slowly Lacond worked her way down from the outcropping and began to walk amongst the destruction. Kithra had been a paradise once; the one place on Trivid where families spent countless afternoons together, and young lovers came at dawn to watch the dual suns rise. There was actually a time when Lacond enjoyed coming here. No longer. From this point forward, she would always see the explosions as pieces of military equipment instantly turned to useless rubble, always hear the death rattles of soldiers as they breathed their last.
Sadly, in the midst of all this destruction, this had been a battle where she was declared victorious.
Lacond shifted some rubble with her cane. She looked at the disabled personal transport weapons her troops insisted on calling Navipods. They hovered in the air, low to the ground, only large enough to hold one navigator. To Lacond, they always looked like overgrown medicinal capsules covered in mirrors.
'Don't move, General Lacond,' a voice called out from behind. 'I'm placing you under arrest in the name of the Quadrant Leader.'
Lacond turned just enough to catch a glimpse of her would be captor, TeArin Kendra, the youngest son of her strongest enemy, Mijaco Kendra. TeArin's presence sadly reminded her even children were not immune from the terrors of war. 'Where is your father, TeArin? I know he participated in the earlier battle. Was he injured and I just have not heard about it yet?' She remembered holding TeArin when he was a child, back when times on Trivid were peaceful and she and Mijaco were close friends.
TeArin glared disdainfully at his target. 'You are a nuisance to my father and not worthy to face him in battle. He has grown tired of your tediousness, so I am here to take care of the problem. Now, turn and face me or I will be forced to kill you where you stand.'
Lacond unsheathed the blade she kept hidden in her cane, making sure TeArin didn't detect the movement. She knew surprise would be the only element in her favour as she heard TeArin prime his energy weapon. 'Then you will have to kill me,' she replied.
'You have been warned. Today will go down in the history of our planet as a glorious victory for both the Chosen and the Quadrant! Your death will signal the end of the war. Trivid will once again be a haven of peace.'
'Do you really think killing one soldier will end this war? Soldiers have come and gone for years, yet we still fight. Maybe we should learn to work together for the good of Trivid, instead of tearing it apart.' Lacond said with conviction.
TeArin hesitated. 'What are you saying? Do you wish to change your allegiance?'
Lacond looked over her shoulder at the young man. 'How old are you, TeArin?'
'87.' He kept his weapon trained on Lacond, although Lacond could see it begin to waver slightly.
Lacond closed her eyes briefly and sighed, weighing her decision. She knew if he was able, TeArin would kill her, but at the same time, she could not shake the images of the little boy she had watched grow to manhood, and the friendship she once had with TeArin's family. 'I'm 326, TeArin. I watched you grow up. Your father was my mentor. If Mijaco and I have not killed each other, you cannot do it. Fortunately for him, I think you're too young to die.' In one quick motion, she whirled around and sliced through the air with her cane blade, completely severing TeArin's gun hand.
TeArin screamed, grabbing at the bloody wrist. 'You will die this day!' he gasped. He reached down and pried the energy weapon from the disembodied hand lying on the ground. The blood on his remaining hand caused the weapon to slip from his grasp, but not before he was able to fire a shot.
Hearing the weapon buzz, Lacond moved quickly. She avoided a direct hit, but the energy beam still connected with her side. She felt the burn as it penetrated her armour and instinctively knew the injury was serious by the gush of blood. She chose to ignore it, instead wresting the gun from TeArin.
TeArin met not the cold eyes of a killer, but Lacond's compassionate expression. Her breathing became more laboured as the pain increased, but it didn't stop her from saying, 'Neither one of us will die today. Go back to your mother, TeArin. Do not attempt to join your father in battle again until you are old enough to deal with the consequences.'
Lacond could almost see the wheels in TeArin's mind turning. He was still alive. He could not believe Lacond took the hit from his energy weapon and was still standing, giving him orders. She watched his eyes lose focus, then refocus and knew his own loss of blood must be weakening him. The only option she had left him was to retreat.
Lacond leaned heavily against her cane as TeArin scuttled back across the valley. Once she was sure he was out of sight, she collapsed from pain, her wound bleeding profusely.
The cathedral-like room was almost completely dark, except for the eerie glow of a view screen. A royally clad figure hovered over the view screen as the confrontation between Lacond and TeArin unfolded. The figure watched as Lacond collapsed, then turned to a servant standing by the door. 'This will never do. Tell General Mijaco that I wish to see him.'
The servant bowed. 'As you command, Leader Likaria.'
At dusk, the wind whistled through the trees in the cemetery, the dampness of the day wrapping everything in a thick, grey fog. A slender, petite young woman with wavy brown hair stepped forward out from under a nearby tree and ran her hand tenderly across one of the headstones. 'Happy birthday, Mother,' she whispered. She didn't see a second shadow standing just out of sight.
Susan softly and reverently read the simple inscription. 'Elizabeth Sullivan, wife, mother, friend.' She sighed deeply and slowly. As a throat cleared behind her, Susan jumped.
Harry Sullivan came up and put his hands on Susan's shoulders, 'I'm sorry, sweetheart. Didn't mean to startle you.'
Susan turned around and looked at her father. Gone was the seemingly unflappable, stiff upper lip, sometimes distant, military man, and in his place was the forever old-fashioned, soft, caring man standing before her. 'That's okay, Dad. I was a bit lost in thought.'
'How long have you been out here?' Harry asked, concerned about his daughter.
Susan shrugged, 'I don't know. I lost track of time.'
Harry reached up and touched Susan's face. 'You're freezing. Here.' He shrugged out of his trench coat and wrapped it around Susan's shoulders.
Susan looked up at him and smiled. 'So, when did you get home from your trip?'
'Just got back. Thought I'd drop by here for a moment.' Harry looked sadly at the tombstone. 'I'll never forget her, you know. She was amazing, so understanding, given all life threw at her.'
Susan looked from the tombstone to her father and back again, then sighed. 'I wish I remembered her.'
Harry nodded. 'Me too, Sue. Your upbringing was never what could be termed traditional.'
Susan laughed slightly. 'You could say that again. If you had to go out of town, I'd stay with Sarah. You guys used to take turns taking me on holiday to the strangest places. Nope, definitely not traditional, but you two did the best job you could. I'd like to think I turned out okay.'
Harry wrapped Susan in a warm hug. 'You turned out great! Thank you, Sue, it really means a lot.' He looked down once more at the headstone before turning back to his daughter. 'Why don't I give you a ride back to Sarah's so you can pick up your stuff and we can go home?' Then another thought struck him. 'When is Sarah leaving on her vacation? Is her 'friend' going with her?'
Susan looked over at her father, and couldn't help noticing the slight twinge he got whenever he talked about Sarah's dating life. Jealousy perhaps? She dismissed that as unlikely at best. 'Well, that's the thing. They were going to leave this weekend but he had to cancel, something about some documentary type programme he was producing. Sarah wasn't very forthcoming on the details; I think she's pretty much given him the boot. The thing I've noticed the most about Sarah, no one is ever good enough for her. It's like she's waiting for something, but I can't put my finger on what it is. Right now though, she's on deadline for some story she's working on. She probably doesn't even know what time of day it is.'
Taketo and Mirsaj, two of Lacond's closest companions, struggled to pull Lacond's heavy body towards a concealed cave that could serve as a convenient hiding place. After every few yards, they stopped and surveyed the area to make sure they weren't being watched or followed. 'Why do we have to keep her hidden? There's got to be a medic at camp able to help us with this. We should just use her Navipod and take her back to camp,' Mirsaj insisted.
'What? And have the whole faction go into a panic because she's been injured? I don't think so. As for the Navipod, she's not conscious, how is she supposed to control her Pod?' Taketo contradicted.
'Those new limbs of hers do it for her.'
Taketo shook her head at the young man's innocence, 'Mirsaj, Navipod technology is designed to run on electrochemical stimuli. Lacond's unit is even more advanced. The impulses from her brain are simply enhanced by the cybernetic limbs. She still has to be aware of what she's doing.'
The two friends began to relax only after they had pulled Lacond into one of the secluded caves at the edge of the valley. Taketo pulled a small mechanical device out of a leather satchel slung over her shoulder. She placed the device on Lacond's stomach and moved Lacond's hands to cover it. 'I can't turn it on for you, Lacond,' she said aloud. 'You'll have to do that yourself.'
Lacond's eyes fluttered open. 'Where?' was all she was able to get out before Taketo's features swam into view. She could feel the device in her hands. She struggled for a moment before gaining enough strength to twist the knob and turn on the device. It emitted a high-pitched squeal and a surge of energy left Lacond's body and went into the device. The look of pain on her face finally eased. 'Thank you,' she said softly before drifting off to sleep.
Mirsaj jumped as the device squealed. After Lacond relaxed, Mirsaj looked at Taketo. 'What is that thing?'
Taketo shrugged. 'I'm not sure. It was some sort of device the Doctor gave her. He said it would help eliminate all the bad energy from her body. I'm hoping it'll make her sleep long enough for me to get that wound sealed up. Once she's strong enough, we'll get her back to camp. If she's gone much longer, the troops will start to get worried.'
Taketo started to peel Lacond's armour away from her side. She could see the blood oozing out of the deep wound. She turned to Mirsaj. 'This is going to take some time. Go to camp; get together several runners and grab the Navipods left at the battle site. Bring back anything else that seems useful. Weapons, ammunition, anything. We're going to need everything we can get our hands on.'
Mirsaj started to head out, then turned around to face Taketo. 'If your and Lacond's precious Doctor were here, he'd be able to help us win this war. Then we wouldn't have to face the prospect of serving the Quadrant.'
Taketo stared at the young man in front of her. 'Mirsaj, if the Doctor had gotten what he wanted the last time he was here, he would have taken Lacond with him. Then she wouldn't be here and we would already be serving the Quadrant. Now, you have your orders.'
Mirsaj bowed, turned and left without another word. Taketo looked back at the sleeping form of Lacond and sighed softly. 'I was supposed to be watching out for you.' Standing up, she walked across to the cave entrance and picked up a small silver case. She took the case over to a rock near where Lacond was lying, opening it to reveal several bandages and a small compass-like device.
Taketo took a cloth and began to clean the blood from Lacond's wound. Lacond opened her eyes and sat bolt upright. 'Enough, Taketo.'
Taketo jumped back at Lacond's sudden movement. 'You shouldn't be awake yet. Your body hasn't had time to recover.'
'No matter,' Lacond said simply. 'I don't have time to lie around.'
'Lacond, what about your injury?'
'It will heal. I have to find a way to get a message to the Doctor. My soldiers are slaughtered in every battle. I must find some sort of resolution to this. He remembers what life on Trivid was like. There are very few of us left from the original families, and yet it was the legacy of the Doctor that inspired my father to organize our resistance. He might have the answer, or at least some guidance as to which direction we should take. I'm running out of ideas, and we're running out of Cyryllium; I need fresh input.'
Taketo smiled. 'I thought you might feel that way.' She held up the compass-like device. 'The Doctor gave this to me. He was afraid that something like this might happen. He said it would take you somewhere safe until you could get help the help you needed.'
Lacond stared at Taketo. 'I will not leave Trivid. I won't desert my troops or my friends.'
Taketo stood up so she could stare down at Lacond. 'It's suicide if you stay. As we were coming to look for you, one of our messengers informed us that TeArin is missing. He was last seen heading in your direction. Mijaco's camp already suspects you of killing him. If it is true, killing you will now be the Quadrant and Mijaco's number one priority. Where would the resistance stand without your guiding influence?'
'I did not kill the boy. That would not make the situation any better. Mijaco was my teacher, the man I trained under. I could not kill his son in cold blood.' Lacond seized her cane and pulled herself up to full stature, towering over Taketo by more than six inches. 'If I leave Trivid, Taketo, what then? Mijaco and his troops will still come after you full force. Anyone who aligns with me makes an enemy out of Mijaco. This battalion took a brutal beating this time. We might not last much longer.'
'Then go, get the help we require,' Taketo insisted. 'You only want the Doctor's opinion on this? I think maybe the Doctor himself should come here and get his hands a little dirty, then he'll know what we're up against. You know how long we've been fighting this war. There's no end in sight.'
Lacond hobbled the length of the cave and back before exhausting herself and slumping against the nearby cave wall, her head hanging heavily. 'You're right, of course.' She noticed the blood again running down her side, and gingerly touched the tender wound. Wincing, she reached her other hand out for the device still cradled in Taketo's hand. 'Give me the device. You have full authority until I return.'
'Lacond, what about your wound?'
Lacond used her cane to lift up one of the cloths from the cave floor, then wiped her bloody hand on it. She absently tossed the cloth to the ground and painfully resealed the armour around the wound. She pulled herself back to her full height and began to limp towards the mouth of the cave. Each step inflicted more pain, making her use her cane to support even more of her weight. 'Right now, that's the least of my worries.'
The Doctor looked around the cluttered console room. His cream-coloured fedora seemed to float on top of the time rotor, and his ever present brolly with the red question mark handle hung next to his paisley scarf on a hat stand situated by the door. In a recent change to this secondary room with its darker, more wooden atmosphere, he had unearthed several pieces of machinery and various other space junk that had accumulated over the years. There was a red overstuffed chair in one corner, and the Doctor pondered settling down with a relaxing book and cup of tea. As he headed towards the inner door, one of the pieces of machinery rolled across the room and attached itself to the console.
'Morning, Doctor,' it said in a voice that exactly matched the Doctor's own Scottish lilt.
The Doctor turned and looked at the machinery. 'Who are you?'
'What am I would probably be a more accurate question, Doctor.'
The Doctor waited for a moment, before realizing the machine wasn't going to answer him unless he changed the phrasing of his question. 'All right. What are you, and how do you know who I am?'
'You need a holiday, Doctor,' the machine replied, but didn't answer either of his questions.
The Doctor was fascinated, yet annoyed in the same moment. 'So you've attached yourself to the voice memory circuits of my TARDIS. Clever. Now, would you please tell me what you want?'
'Tut, tut, Doctor. Don't you remember? You asked me to come here. You requested more information about the different holiday packages we offered. I'm from Galactic Traveller's Quarterly. Let me tell you, we had an absolute bugger of a time tracking you down, what with your giving only "TARDIS in space" as an address.'
The Doctor nodded. 'Space junk mail. Figures.'
'I beg to differ, Doctor. I am not junk mail. I was a request. Now, if you will let me get on with my job, I'll tell you about our holiday packages.'
'Great, junk mail with an attitude,' the Doctor mumbled. Realizing this might take a while; he sank into the overstuffed chair.
'Don't think I didn't hear that,' the junk mail replied. 'Now, as I was saying, Doctor, you need a holiday. How would you like to go to Metebelis Three?'
'No,' the Doctor replied quickly.
'Ah, well what about Florana?'
The Doctor grimaced. 'No, definitely not.'
The junk mail tried again. 'How about Mesedri Prime?'
'Never heard of it.'
'That's why we're advertising,' the junk mail replied snottily. 'Now, if I may continue?' The Doctor simply nodded. 'Let our blue breezes blow away your sorrows. Let our pink oceans wash away your cares. Take day trips to the outer planets and meet some of the most colourful life in the universe. Be it alone or in a group, our eager staff will cater to your every whim.' Then in a softer, faster voice, it added, 'Mendi Enterprises is a family owned and operated business serving the planet of Mesedri Prime for fifteen...'
The room suddenly exploded with flashes of bright light and blaring warning sirens. The Doctor jumped out of his seat, kicking the junk mail and sending it clattering across the room in the process, and ran over to the console. He frantically scanned over several gauges and dials before finding the right button to press. As the noises and flashes started to subside, he stared at the slowing time rotor and uttered one word. 'Lacond.'
Lacond held the Doctor's device tightly as she watched the air shimmer around her and the surroundings begin to change. As the ground solidified underneath her, she realized she was no longer on Trivid. The air smelled cleaner, with no traces of the stench of a long, drawn-out war. She even thought she heard birds singing. It had been years since she remembered hearing any birds on Trivid.
She took in her surroundings, then suddenly felt very dizzy. She reached out with her cane, but was startled when it didn't touch the ground. She vaguely remembered seeing two people in the distance as everything went dark and her body went limp.
The Doctor circled the console, taking readings, recalibrating instruments, the junk mail now forgotten. 'She should have come here,' he muttered aloud. He had left a molecular transmitter on Trivid during his last visit there. In theory, the transmitter was powered by the TARDIS itself and should have deposited anyone using it right in the heart of the TARDIS. Apparently it hadn't worked quite as the Doctor had anticipated. 'Where, oh where…'
The Doctor took a couple more readings from one of the supposed controls of the transmitter. The whole of the TARDIS shifted and the Doctor was thrown across the room. As he pulled himself up off the floor, the Doctor shook his head. 'Wrong, wrong, wrong,' he fussed, rolling his r's in frustration more with each repetition of the word.
The sirens began to wail again as a second fluctuation shook through the TARDIS. 'She's moved again.' The Doctor shook his head and stared at the dial in front of him. 'Earth? That can't be right. Why Earth?' He walked around the console and entered the coordinates that last came up on the transmitter reading. 'Where she stops, nobody knows.'
Harry stared out the window, watching it rain. There were many times over the years when he'd watched the rain, but this was different. So many things had happened so quickly. For a start, this wasn't even his house. Sometimes this didn't even feel like his life.
Things had been going so smoothly until the previous day. 'She knows, Harry.' Sarah's words echoed in his mind. Harry frowned. A sixteen-year-old secret now exposed to the one he'd tried so desperately to protect. To Harry, it seemed as if someone had planted dynamite in the middle of his life and detonated it.
So he sat by the window at Sarah's house and watched it rain. All while he waited for the Doctor to arrive.
'I am detecting Artron particles, Master Sullivan,' K9 intoned as he rolled into the room.
Harry still wasn't sure how to take Sarah's vaguely dog-shaped robotic computer. 'Er, good dog.'
Harry sighed audibly as the groaning, wheezing sound of the TARDIS materialising in Sarah's living room echoed around him. Unfortunately, he watched it materialise on her Persian rug. Harry only shook his head. 'Sarah's not going to like that, eh, K9?'
'Negative, Master Sullivan.'
The door opened quickly, but instead of the expected tall Doctor with curly, brown hair and broad grin, a smallish man with short, wavy brown hair emerged. He crossed over to Harry quickly and with a smile, shook his hand. 'Harry Sullivan, how very good to see you after all this time.' He looked down at the robot dog. 'And K9, what are you doing here?' He leaned in towards Harry and whispered. 'Harry, this isn't your house.'
When Harry finally found his voice, it was clipped, barely polite. 'No, it isn't. It's Sarah's house. Where have you been, Doctor? Dear Lord, anything could have happened to them by now!'
'Harry, I've never seen you so upset before.'
Harry glared at the shorter man. 'Of course I'm upset! You've never misplaced my daughter before! And just so you know, Sarah's going to be pretty ticked when she finds out you've parked the TARDIS on her Persian rug!'