"The chameleon circuit is fixed," the Doctor said,
"Are you sure, Professor?" Ace said doubtfully. She
looked into the hole in the wall, unintentionally crowding the Doctor.
The Doctor thunked the panel into the wall rather forcefully, and Ace backed up a step, startled. "Of course I'm sure! Have you ever known me to lie?"
Ace grinned. "Yes."
The Doctor was a little taken aback. "Well, there must have been extenuating circumstances." He stepped to the Tardis console and pulled the door lever. One of the panels swung open. "Go and look if you don't believe me." He turned away from Ace, picked up his hat, and put it on his head with an injured expression on his face.
"Oh, ok, don't get huffy." She hurried towards the
"Me? Huffy? Never." She grinned again and stepped outside.
They were parked in a small canyon, beside a cascading waterfall. During the day, it was quite beautiful - the walls shimmered in shades of red, tan and brown. But the sunlight was rapidly fading. She shivered and wished she had put on her jacket, so she turned around to go inside. The Tardis was gone.
She gasped, then looked around. When she couldn't find the Tardis, she started to panic a little, wondering whether something had caused him to leave the planet - people seemed to like to kidnap the Doctor. "Doctor! Doctor! Where are you?"
A door opened in a rock, and the little man stuck his head out. "Do you believe me?"
She sighed with relief. "I believe you!" She looked at the rock. "Brill!...but, seems to me that you could lose your Tardis pretty easily."
The Doctor wagged his finger at her. "Which is why one should always note precisely where one parked." He took an object out of his pocket, unintentionally dropping a few other things, and smiled. "And why you should carry a homing device in one's pocket."
"A homing device? I never saw that before."
The Doctor made a rueful face. "You never needed one before. Probably the last companion I gave one to was Aidric."
Ace took it from him and looked at it. It was round and red and beeped loudly whenever she pointed it at the Tardis. She moved around, listening to the beep. "Still," she said, after she proved to her satisfaction that the device did work, "I kinda liked the police box shape, you know?"
The Doctor seemed to look a little wistful for a second, then looked stern. "The only place that shape was apropos was in England in the Twentieth century. Quite impractical." He disappeared back into the Tardis.
Ace followed him. "You - practical?" she giggled.
"Don't be impertinent."
"Yes, Professor," she smiled, then suddenly yawned.
"I'm going to bed, then. Goodnight, Professor." She started to leave, then looked at him. He was busy punching buttons on the Tardis console. "I said, goodnight!"
"Yes, Ace - Good Night," he said absently. She sighed and disappeared into the Tardis proper.
The Doctor punched one final button. The center of the console started moving up and down with a groan. "On to the moons of Tamtoorana," he said, satisfied, then suddenly yawned. "I think I had better retire, myself." He left the control room.
Melanie looked at the screen. "Glitz, are you sure
those are Zangorn ships?" she asked doubtfully.
The bearded trader glared at her over his shoulder.
"Are Dangorians three-legged?"
"I'm sure I don't know. I never met a Dangorian." She grinned at Glitz.
"You know what I mean," Glitz growled.
She pushed up closer to the screen, trying to get a
better look. Some of her red hair fell into Glitz's face. Glitz sighed. "Will you back off and give a man some room?"
Mel kept her ground. "Not until you rephrase the question," she said dangerously.
"I'm trying to avoid getting captured, and you're worried about semantics?" Glitz yelled. Mel remained silent. "Alright - will you please back off and give a person some room?"
"Sorry," Mel said. "I didn't realize I was in your
way." She retreated to the weapons systems post.
"Like hell you didn't." Glitz said under his breath.
"Are you sure they're dangerous?" Mel asked. Glitz
turned and glared at her. "I know, three-legged Dangorians again." She pushed a few buttons. "Weapons console prepared. But I'm not shooting until they do -after all, we didn't do anything to them!"
A bolt from one of the waiting ships rocked them. "You happy?" Glitz yelled.
She was busy checking shields and firing weapons. "What did you say?" she yelled.
"Oh, never mind," Glitz growled and turned back to his navigating.
Ace, who had been sleeping soundly, was jolted out of
her bed. As she sat on the floor, shaking her head, another jolt came, knocking her sideways. She scrambled out of her bedroom...
...and ran into the Doctor, who was running down the
hall towards the control room. She started laughing. She couldn't help it. "You wear an nightshirt to bed?" she giggled. "And a hat?"
"It's a nightcap, if you please. And you don't see me making fun of the T-shirt and shorts you wear to bed, do you?" Another jolt pushed them sideways. "Anyway, now is not the time to discuss sleepwear." He started running towards the control room, and Ace followed.
"Doctor, are we being shot at?" The Doctor glared at her. "Ok, dumb question."
"The first one was a time dislocation, I think," the
Doctor said, puffing. "But I cannot be certain. I was sound asleep."
"A time dislocation? What are you talking about?" She was running easily, with a practiced stride.
"Like we got pushed sideways into an alternate time-
"Oh. Could that be serious?"
He pushed into the control room. "It could be very
serious. For example, maybe man never got out of the trees on Earth. Would you like it if you couldn't go back to Terra?" He started to work controls and push buttons.
Ace thought a moment. "Actually, I wouldn't mind a
"Well, I would! So be quiet."
"Ok, ok!" The Doctor pushed a button, and the viewscreen came on. They were in the midst of a swarm of needle-like ships that were firing on another odd-looking spaceship not too far away...
"The Nosferatu II!" Ace yelled.
"So it is," the Doctor said, surprised. "Why would they be firing on us..." He thought for a second. "Oh. The Chameleon circuit."
"We look like..?" Ace gestured at the surround ships.
"Yes, well..." He started working on the board, avoiding the "I-told-you-so" glare. "Let's get to the right side of the conflict, shall we?" He was just about ready to push the last button when a blast pushed him forward into the console. Sparks flew. Ace was jolted sideways onto the
floor, just losing consciousness when she saw the Doctor slump to the floor, looking like he was dead. She reached out towards him, grabbed his arm, then blacked out. The console started moving.
She gained consciousness slowly, gradually becoming
aware that someone was leaning over her. That someone smiled and placed another cold washcloth on her forehead. "Melanie," Ace said. She tried to sit up.
Mel pushed her back down. "Don't try."
Ace sat up again, despite the throbbing in her head.
"We made it."
Mel frowned and looked to her side. Ace slowly turned her head. Glitz was frowning at Mel.
"Glitz," Ace said.
"Ace," he acknowledged.
"I'm here, so the Tardis is obviously here -what are you frowning about?"
Mel sat down on the bed beside her. "Ace, we found the Tardis aboard after we escaped...you knew about the battle we were having with the Zangorians, didn't you?"
"Is that what they are?" Ace asked. Melanie nodded.
"So the Tardis is back to the old police box shape, huh?"
Mel looked at her, confused, then evidently decided to pass over the comment. "We found you two in the Tardis, but we couldn't find the Doctor."
"There was only the two of us," Ace said, looking at Mel strangely.
"There was?" Mel frowned at Glitz. "Then what happened to the Doctor, Ace?"
"What do you mean? He was there with me. I saw him
"But we only found a woman in a nightshirt," Mel said, then she clapped her hand to her mouth and looked at the opposite bed.
"The Doctor had a nightshirt...what woman?" She followed Mel's gaze to the opposite bed.
"Holy Cats," Glitz said.
"Regeneration," Mel said. "He regenerated again!"
The woman stirred. "I regenerated again?" she said, her
eyes still closed. The voice was a pleasant alto. She rubbed a hand over her face. "Wait a minute. Something's not right."
"I should say not," Glitz said.
Mel moved to the opposite bed and felt the woman's
wrist. "Two hearts," she said. "Who are you?"
"Mel - must we go through this again?"
Mel smiled ruefully at the astonished faces of Glitz and Ace. "That's the Doctor."
The Doctor opened her eyes and sat up. "Of course I'm the Doctor. Who did you think I was?" She caught sight of her arms, then she looked down at herself. The change was obvious - even though she had regenerated into a small woman. She touched her chest, then fingered her curley brown hair. "Fascinating," she said. "Mel, could I have a mirror?"
Wordlessly, Mel handed him a mirror. She studied herself. "Hmmm...the nose is a bit too small, but not a bad change." He handed the mirror back to Mel.
"Cor! I don't believe you!" Ace exploded.
"What don't you believe, Ace? Would you rather I faint?" The Doctor shook her head, smiling. "I've looked into too many new faces."
"And this one isn't a bad looker, Doctor...ow!" Glitz glared at Mel, who had just kicked his shin.
"Have you ever...um...switched genders before, Doctor?" Mel asked. "You do seem a bit nonchalant about this."
"No," said the Doctor, frowning. "In fact, I've only heard it happen a couple of times before. In all cases... Ace, were you touching me in any way?"
Ace blushed. "I think I had grabbed your arm...you
mean, because I was touching you...it's all my fault?"
The Doctor got up and strode around the room. "Fault? What do you mean, fault? You all seem to think this is some sort of catastrophe! Trust me - it isn't." She grinned at them, then looked down at herself. "I do think I need a change of clothes, though. A new persona deserves a new set
of clothes, don't you think?"
"Indubitably," Mel said dryly. "I'll take you to the Tardis."
Ace looked down at her sleepwear - a t-shirt and shorts. "I'll come with you."
"Me, too," the big bearded man said, staring at the
Mel looked at Glitz. "Don't you think you better keep watch for the Dangorians?"
"Zangorns," he corrected automatically, then looked at her. "You did that deliberately!"
"Just wanted to make sure you were paying attention," Mel grinned.
"Oh, all right," he grumbled. "I'll go back to the
bridge." He left, still muttering.
"Come on, you guys." Ace and the Doctor followed Mel down the hall.
"As I remember," the Doctor mused, "The Zangorns are a relatively peaceful people."
"Oh...?" Mel said. "But Glitz told me..." Her face
started to cloud up, and she stopped dead. "I think I better have a talk with that man."
"They didn't seem very peaceful to me," Ace said. "Are you sure, Doctor?"
The Doctor gave Mel a sharp look. "They're relatively peaceful... but rather possessive. What have you two been doing, Mel?"
"Me?" Mel sputtered. "You know I wouldn't steal anything!"
The Doctor smiled. "I know you wouldn't." They rounded a corner, and she caught sight of the Tardis. "Oh, dear."
Ace laughed. "It's just your old police box, Doctor!" Mel looked confused. "He had fixed the chameleon circuit just before we got blasted."
The Doctor touched the Tardis. "And the blast must've damaged it again - so it took on the most familiar shape." She sighed. "Oh, well." She opened the door and walked in, looked around, and opened the door to the chameleon circuit. It looked blackened. "Oh, dear." She poked around at it, then closed it with a slam. "Well, nothing I can do about it now."
She disappeared into the Tardis proper, and the two
followed her, almost running. After a jig here, a jog there, and a short stop in Ace's room so Ace could change clothes, Ace and Mel found themselves in the wardrobe room, where the
Doctor was wistfully fingering a big, rusty-red greatcoat and a long scarf. "Too big," she said, and dove further back into the wardrobe. A long white dress flew back at them, and Ace deftly caught it. "What do you think?" said a voice
behind a couple of racks.
Mel grinned. "I'm sorry, Doctor - I just can't see you in a dress."
Ace shivered. "No!"
"So? Well, let me look further."
A leather bikini flew over the racks. Mel caught it and looked at it in disbelief. "Are you kidding?"
"Not a good choice, huh?"
"For one thing, you'd get too cold."
"Hey, Doctor," Ace yelled. "Can I have it?" Mel looked at her with her eyebrows raised. "I'd wear under my other clothes," she said, somewhat defensively.
"Sure - why not?" the Doctor yelled.
"Honestly - you two." Mel pursed her lips and strode up to the wardrobe. After a bit of searching, she found a dark grey pair of slacks, a long sleeved white oxford shirt, a pair of short black pumps, a long necklace with a question mark on it, and the appropriate underwear. She dodged another set of outrageous clothes, then yelled, "Here you are, Doctor!"
The Doctor emerged out from behind a wardrobe and stared at the wardrobe with a bit of dismay. "Isn't that a bit...uh...dull, Mel? Here - I know what I can add." She poked into the wardrobe and pulled out a bright violet vest with rows of white question marks on it, and a deerstalker hat, which she promptly put on her head.
Mel sighed and Ace grinned. "If you insist, Doctor." The ship shook, and the three fell into a rack of clothes.
"I think the faster I dress, the better it would be," the Doctor observed, but Mel was already out the door, followed by Ace.
She slipped the nightshirt off, jammed the pants and the shoes on, and slipped the shirt and vest and necklace on while running down the hall, then belatedly remembered to button the shirt and tuck it in. Another blast hit the ship. "Oh, bother," she said, and slipped. She lurched into a closet door, which opened at her touch. Something fell out at her, and she picked it up and looked at it with great interest. Then she jammed it into her pocket, and continued to the bridge a little more slowly, thinking.
Glitz was at navigational controls, Mel was at weapons systems, and Ace was pacing back and forth between the two of them. "Glitz," the Doctor said.
"Not now, Doctor!" Glitz said, frantically working
controls. The screen was full of Zangorian ships, falling further and further back as the Nosferatu gained acceleration. Glitz leaned back and sighed.
Mel looked up. "Out of weapons range - oh, hi, Doctor."
The Doctor pulled a large ring out of her pocket. "Glitz...what are you doing with the crown jewels of the Zangorians?"
Glitz looked at him. "What?" he said, looking puzzled.
The Doctor shoved the ring in his face. "This."
Glitz took it. "I don't remember having this."
"Oh, c'mon, Glitz...what have you been dealing in now?" She leaned forward into his face. He leaned back.
"Nothing!" he squawked. "Honest!"
"He hasn't," Mel confirmed, puzzled. "I've kept good watch of him."
The Doctor took the ring back and threw it at Mel.
"Well, then...what is this?"
She looked at it and smiled. "Oh, this! This is part of a set we got in trade from the Figmations." The Doctor looked at her. "It was an honest trade," she protested.
The Doctor sighed. "The problem is that the Figmations are sworn enemies of the Zangorians."
"Oh," Mel said. "Oh!" She looked at Glitz, who blushed and looked away. "Glitz?...Glitz, look at me!"
He looked back with an innocent look on his face. "What, Mel? Is there something wrong?"
"How long have you known about these jewels?"
Glitz didn't answer.
"Long enough," the Doctor said.
"I didn't steal them," Glitz protested.
"But you could have returned them," accused Ace, who had been following the conversation with great interest.
"What! And lose all my profit!" Glitz squawked.
"There are more important things than profit," the
Doctor said, pushing her hat back.
"Like what! A man's gotta live."
"That's the point isn't it?" The Doctor turned to Mel. "Mel, haven't you taught him a thing?"
Mel looked disgusted. "Apparently not."
The Doctor turned back to Glitz. "Like honesty.
Kindness. Charity." She pointed at the ring. "Like not dealing in stolen goods."
Glitz snorted. "Kindness and charity don't fill the
"You're in no danger of starving to death, Glitz," Ace giggled.
Glitz looked down at his paunch, then rolled his eyes to heaven. "I'm heading back to the Zangorns. Surely they can't torture me any more than a gaggle of women!" He turned his back to the rest petulantly. "Females!"
"Short memory, hasn't he?" the Doctor said. Mel sighed. "Ok, put this through your head. Did it ever occur to you that you may make a better profit if you deal honestly?"
Glitz looked back, then stared. "Well?" the Doctor
said. Glitz just pointed. The Doctor turned around. A group of tall, skinny biped - things -were pointing their lasers at the group. They had three constantly moving eyes with a large eyebrow ridge, no nose, a tiny mouth, three fingers on each of their four hands, and dusky grey skin. "Oh, hello," the Doctor said. "Where did you come from?" She quickly slipped the ring in a pocket.
Mel turned to Glitz. "I thought you said we outran
"So? I made a mistake. A man's gotta right..."
Mel grimaced. "Spare me."
One of the creatures spoke in whistling voice into a
voder. "Where is the Doctor?" the voder said in a clipped British accent.
"Who?" the Doctor said. Mel and Ace glanced at her.
"The Doctor. His ship was traced to these coordinates."
"What ship?" Mel said.
"The ship in the hallway. We are told that it is called
The Doctor laughed. "A whole ship contained in one
hallway? Don't be ridiculous."
One of the creatures grabbed Mel and held a weapon to her head. "You will produce the Doctor or we will eliminate this being."
"Do not try to trick us. We have a picture." The creature who spoke pulled a picture out a fold of clothing. It was a lousy holo of the Doctor in his last regeneration.
"Oh, dear," the Doctor said.
Glitz had been getting increasingly nervous. "Did it ever occur to you that your picture may be out of date?"
"Out of date?" asked the head creature, puzzled.
He glanced at the others, and his resolve seemed to
firm. "Certainly. After all, time lords regenerate." The creatures looked puzzled. "They change their looks regularly." He glanced at the Doctor.
"Glitz!" gasped Ace.
"We were not told any of this."
"Next time, check your sources." His shoulders went
back, and he ignored the glares of the other three. "I am the Doctor."
Mel's mouth dropped open.
"Can you prove that?"
"You want to capture me, and you want me to provide you proof?" said Glitz, disgusted. "Ok, here's your proof -the Doctor is a male, is he not?"
"Yes. Although there seems to be little difference
between the male and female of your species."
"Oh, really," said Glitz, and he looked confounded for a second, then he shook it off. "I am the only male here. You may search the ship and not find another male." He hesitated. "Let the female go."
The Doctor stepped forward and looked at Glitz. "I
can't let you do this, Glitz." She sighed. "This man is lying. I am the Doctor."
"Don't listen to her," Glitz said quickly. "She's
trying to save me. Her name is...Sarah Glitz. She's one of my companions." He glared at the Doctor. "And rather outspoken, at that."
A second group joined the first, and the leader consulted with them, occasionally glancing at the group. Mel looked as if she was going to kick her captor in the knee, but the Doctor shook his head. Glitz ignored the Doctor's attempts to get his attention.
The leader turned to face Glitz. "It seems there are no others aboard. You must be the Doctor."
Glitz looked smug. "Of course I am. Who did you think I was?"
"Perhaps Sabbalom Glitz?" the Doctor suggested.
"Very funny," Glitz said.
Before the Doctor could protest further, the creature pushed Mel into her arms, grabbed Glitz, and marched out of the control room. Ace ran to the control room door and opened it. "They're gone! They disappeared!"
"They had a Tardis."
"The Zangorns?" Mel said incredulously.
"They weren't Zangorns. Glitz was right. We did outrun them."
"Then who were they?" Ace said.
"Someone wanting to find the Doctor." She pushed her deerstalker back, which had fallen over her forehead, and strode out of the control room. "If you're going to rescue Glitz, we're wasting time. Two can play this game."
The two ran to catch up with her. "Where are you going?" Ace asked.
"The Tardis," Mel said.
"And I would suggest you grab the Zangorn jewels on the way by."
"Let the Zangorns have 'em!" Mel said.
"Do you want the Nosferatu back?"
"Well...yes," Mel admitted.
"They're less likely to blow up the ship if they can't find the jewels."
Mel veered towards the closet. "I catch your meaning." She stuffed the contents in a bag, then ran to catch up with the other two. She got in just as the Tardis door was closing.
Inside, the Doctor was frantically working controls and muttering to herself. Ace and Mel were reduced to standing in a corner while she flew around the console. "That Glitz!" Mel muttered. "That man! He'll con you with a straight face, then he goes and does something like this!"
"Like what?" Ace asked.
"Like being noble!"
"Rather misplaced nobility," the Doctor commented,
standing back and watching the controls as the Tardis started moving. "He may have been able to convince those poor misguided souls, but he'll never delude their master."
"Doctor...are you suggesting...?" Mel asked.
"The Master? Yes. It has all the slimy, underhanded techniques - for example, not trying to capture me himself, but sending poor dupes in, just in case." She flipped another control. "He wasn't even in his own Tardis - he just had a dummy switch so his puppets could get back when
they accomplished their mission."
"How do you know he wasn't in his Tardis?" Ace asked.
"Because he would've been right back to pick me up once he realized they captured Glitz."
Ace had a rueful look. "Right."
The Doctor stood back. "Well, then - I suggest we all take a nap." She yawned. "I, for one, could use the sleep. Regeneration takes a lot out of a person."
"Nap!" Mel exploded. "At a time like this?"
"Especially at a time like this. It may be hours or
days before we catch up with the Master."
The Tardis center stopped moving with a groan. The
Doctor slumped. "Or, then again, it could be minutes." She pushed her deerstalker back with a sigh and flipped the control for the screen. "Well, then - let's see where we are, eh?"
The screen came on with a view of a rock wall. With a sound of annoyance, the Doctor flicked another switch. Another rock wall showed on the screen. She flicked the switch again and got another view of a rock wall.
Ace laughed, and even Mel grinned. "Can we get out,
Doctor?" Ace asked with a grin.
In return, the Doctor growled and flicked the switch
again. This time the screen showed a small rock canyon.
"We go that way," the Doctor said with satisfaction.
Ace and Mel looked at each other and rolled their eyes. The Doctor opened the door. "Well, let's go, then."
"Hold a minute," Mel said. "If we're hiking, I have to change my clothes." She looked at the picture. "It looks hot out there."
"I have to get my backpack," Ace added. "And you should really change your shoes."
The Doctor looked down at her pumps and grimaced. "Oh. Yes."
A few minutes later, they collected back in the control room. The Doctor had on a pair of white sneakers with neon laces.
Mel grimaced at the shoes. "Couldn't you find
The Doctor deliberately ignored the criticism. "More practical? No. My hiking boots wouldn't fit."
"I like the laces," Ace protested. Mel sighed.
The Doctor reopened the door. "Are we going to rescue Glitz, or are we going to stand around and discuss fashion?" She walked out the door.
"That man!" Mel exploded.
Ace grinned at her. "Don't you mean 'woman'?"
Mel blushed. "Oh. Yeah. But she's just the same as he ever was."
"Yeah," Ace said. "Here, let's go before she gets into trouble."
They walked gingerly down the canyon for a few minutes.
"Ace," the Doctor said, "Give me your homing device."
Ace pulled it out of her pocket and gave it to the
Doctor. "Doctor - I thought you said that was the Tardis homing device," Ace said with a puzzled look. "Are we lost already?"
"My dear girl!" the Doctor said, glaring at her. "I
don't believe I ever said that the homing device was exclusive on one Tardis." She played with it. "As a matter of fact, it will also locate other Tardises in the general vicinity." She looked at it. "Unfortunately, it seems to indicate the other Tardis is up and to the right." She regarded the rock wall, which was about 30 feet tall, with less than generous outcroppings. "Well, here we go." She started climbing.
Ace followed eagerly, but Mel looked at it with some
consternation. "Another cliff to climb. Seems like we're always climbing something, Doctor," she muttered. With a sigh, she started up.
The Doctor reached the top of the cliff and stopped,
peering over the edge. Ace, who was concentrating on her handholds, almost grabbed one of the Doctor's ankles, then realized her mistake and shifted to the right. "Mel," she called down. "Watch where you're going."
"Who ever heard of stopping at the top of a cliff?" Mel grumbled. By that time, Ace was staring over the edge and had fallen quiet. Grumbling, Mel went to the Doctor's right, looked over the edge, and pursed her lips.
"May we climb over the edge?" the Doctor said to the
creatures pointing lasers at them.
The head creature gestured at them. With a sigh, they pulled themselves over the edge. They sat for a moment, resting, then the creature motioned a couple of the others forward.
"Hey! Hands off! I can walk myself, you know?" Ace
exclaimed as one of the creatures tried to grab her arm. She got up, and with a groan, Mel did, too. The Doctor remained sitting.
"Doctor," Mel whispered. "Don't you think you better get up?"
"I think I want to be properly introduced to our captors before I do any such thing," the Doctor said. "Who are you, anyway?"
The head creature spoke into his voder. "This is unimportant."
"This is very important, if I am to help you."
"Help? Us? We do not need help."
"Ah, but I think you do! And I am not moving one inch until you tell me the name of your race." She waited a moment, looked at their skinny arms critically, then said, "You shall have to carry me, and I don't think you can."
They looked at each other uncertainly. Finally, they seemed to come to some sort of decision, and the head creature said, "We are the Canamla. My name is Wens."
True to her word, the Doctor got up. "Well, Wens, that is all I wanted to know." Ace and Mel looked strangely at her, and Wens looked rather confused.
"You look to be a trustworthy sort, Wens," the Doctor said as they walked along. "Tell me, how did you get mixed up with the Master?"
"The...Master?" Wens said.
"Wears black, has black hair and black hair across
here," the Doctor said, indicating her chin. "Generally nasty disposition. Enjoys shrinking people."
Wens again looked at the other Canamla. "You are talking about a male?"
"It is true our Savior wears black, but our Savior is
The Doctor looked taken aback. "Oh." Ace couldn't
help but grin.
"Perhaps the Rani?" Mel suggested. "Remember, she
kidnapped us this way the last time - you know, when you regenerated last?"
"Huh?" Ace said.
"Don't grunt," the Doctor said. "Before your time."
She considered a moment. "Possible...but it doesn't feel like her. I don't know why I think that way, but..."
"Women's intuition?" Mel grinned.
"There's no such thing," the Doctor grumbled. "Well, this is all idle speculation, anyway. Let's talk about the weather."
Ace looked up at the red sky and snorted. "The weather, Doctor?"
"Well, then, let's be quiet." They walked quiet for a ways, then the Doctor broke her own injunction. "Wens, you mentioned that this woman was your Savior. What did she do?"
"We were dying of a disease that attacked the breathing sacs. Our Savior appeared in one of our hospitals, and administered an antidote. She saved many of our people."
"And, in gratitude, you decided to serve her."
"No. She asked us to do one task for her."
"Fetch the Doctor."
"She gave you those guns, didn't she?"
Wens looked at his. "Yes. We do not have the technology to fashion one of these."
"I see." The Doctor lapsed into thought, after a warning look at the other two. "Why, then, did you bother to come after us? You fetched the Doctor, your onus was finished."
"We were told that you were creatures capable of great violence, and, as such, were a great threat to us."
"Me?" the Doctor snorted. "Why, I'm the most peaceful ma...uh, woman in the universe."
Mel and Ace looked at each other and smiled at the
gender lapse, and at her comment. "Peaceful," Ace said.
"Well, violent things may happen around me, but I always attempt peace."
Wens looked at the three. "You don't seem to be creatures of violence."
"He don't know me very well, do he?" Ace grinned.
"You're only violent before breakfast...and before
lunch...and before dinner. As a matter of fact, you do like violence, don't you?" the Doctor said, and one of the Canamlans laughed. "Oh, you do have a sense of humor. We may end up to be good friends after all, eh?"
"As may be," Wens said. "We still must take you to our Savior. Since you are the same race, she will know what to do with you."
The Doctor sighed. "I doubt it. Well, then, lead on."
They walked on in silence. Mel found herself getting depressed at the scenery - the scenery seemed to be rocks, rocks, and more rocks, relieved by very sparse plants that looked somewhat like cactus. She looked at the Canamlans. Maybe that was why they looked so dry - there seemed to be very little water here.
They rounded a ridge, and the two companions gasped. A huge city nestled in the valley, made up almost entirely of some sort of sandstone. The towers stretched up towards the sky, looking like deranged minarets. There didn't seem to be much activity in the streets.
"Looks a little like the city of the Thals," the Doctor commented.
"The Thals?" Ace asked. "I know...before my time."
Mel patted her arm. "Before mine, too."
"On Skaros. My original was there. Anyway, it's
unimportant," the Doctor said. "There's no parallel between the two worlds."
They walked into the city. Ace found herself itching to get into the nitro-nine in her backpack, but, looking at the Canamlans, she was certain she would be shot before she tried. Still, it was a pleasant thought, and it made her feel a little less anxious.
A large Canamla passed them, looking at them nervously. "What's the matter with that one?" Mel asked, gazing after him bemusedly.
Wens sighed - at least it sounded like a sigh. "That is one of our breeder males. He's almost to term, and he's afraid for his baby."
"Breeder males?" Mel exclaimed, startled.
"Certainly. We have seed males, breeder males, and
females." Wens looked at her sideways. "Doesn't your species have those?"
"Um...no," Mel stuttered. She noticed the Doctor looking highly amused.
"What're you?" Ace asked. Mel glared at her, afraid she might've made a gaffe.
"I am a female," Wens said, surprised. "Is it not
"You have a hard time telling the difference between the male and the female of the humanoid species, don't you?" The Doctor stated.
"Yes." Wens thought a minute. "I see your point." Her gun point dropped a moment. The Doctor reached out and nudged it back up. Wens looked slightly embarrassed.
"Doctor!" Ace protested.
"The Canamlans are our friends," the Doctor responded. "I don't want them to get in trouble."
"But...it's not their fight. They're still working off a debt." She looked at them in thought.
The Canamlans led them to a large building in the center of the town. The cooler air in the shelter of the building felt good to the three after the scorching hot air of the outside. They stopped a minute to wipe off their forehead, then Wens steered them towards a staircase.
"No elevators?" Mel asked.
"What are elevators?" Wens said. Mel sighed.
They went up six flights of stairs, then down a corridor and into a large room filled with stone chairs and a stone table. Some sculptures lined the walls. Mel noticed a large, bearded man looking out the window.
"Glitz!" she yelled, and she ran to join him.
"Ah. You're here at last," said a female voice.
Mel stopped short, startled. Glitz turned to face Mel, a look of regret on his face. "I'm sorry, Mel," he said. "I tried to rescue you. But somehow she," he pointed to the side, "knew I wasn't the Doctor."
The Doctor turned to face the voice, stared a moment, then broke out laughing. "There is nothing funny about this, Doctor," the black-clad woman said, annoyed. Mel and Ace stared at the Doctor.
It took a moment for the Doctor to stop laughing. "On the contrary," she grinned. "The situation is highly amusing."
Mel looked at the woman. She was rather ordinary looking, really, despite the short, luxurious black hair. Mel shrugged and looked at Ace, who looked back at her with a puzzled look, then she looked at Glitz, who had a strange expression on his face.
"Why, don't you recognize this woman?" the Doctor said, noticing Mel and Ace. "It is the Master - or should I say the Mistress?"
"Very funny, Doctor." The Master scowled at them.
"You know, you shouldn't frown. Very unattractive on a
young woman like you."
Her frown deepened. She gestured to the Canamlans, who reluctantly moved closer to the trio. The Doctor glanced at them. "I know you won't hurt us. You need us too much."
The Master winced and waved the Canamlans back. "Unfortunately, true," she said.
The Doctor crossed her arms. "And why should I help
you? What have you done for me lately?" She counted on her fingers. "You kidnapped my friends, you kidnapped me, you've tried to have me killed...shall I go on?"
"I know what I've tried to do," the Master growled.
"Why did you help the Canamlans?" the Doctor said,
changing tack. She looked at the Master's face. "Oh. I see." The Doctor leaned back and templed her fingers, grinning. "It seems the Master is a bit embarrassed."
Ace laughed. "She didn't want to go out in public
looking like that?"
"So she found a backwater planet, did them a service, and asked a favor." The Canamlans stirred in the background.
"You have an annoying streak of hitting the nail on the head," the Master grumbled. One of the Canamlans started to protest. "I helped you, didn't I?" she said, turning towards them.
"So what's wrong with being female?" Mel said, annoyed.
"The Master has always been a bit vain about his appearance..." The Doctor started.
"Unlike you," the Master interjected.
"...I suppose she misses his beard."
"Are you quite finished, Doctor?"
"Should I be?" The Doctor said calmly.
"This," and the Master looked at herself, "was not the result of a regeneration."
"Oh...?" The Doctor looked at her, puzzled. "But..."
The Master strode across the room. "I was in my Tardis,
minding my own business..."
"I doubt that!" snorted Ace.
The Master glared at her. "...when I blacked out. When I got up, I looked like...this!" She glowered at the four.
"Are you sure you weren't doing anything?"
"Have you looked at your chromosomal structure, Doctor?" "No. I haven't had time...as you know."
"I would suggest you do so."
The Doctor snorted. "My laboratory is back in the
Tardis. You know that, also."
"Then you'll have to trust me."
"Trust!" The Doctor got up and strode around the room. "You know how much trust I put in you."
The Master shrugged. "Nonetheless. It seems we have a common enemy."
The Doctor looked thoughtful. "The Rani. Just as the kidnapping had your slimy imprint in it, this problem has hers."
"Didn't I tell you, Doctor?" Mel crowed.
"That's what I thought," the Master said, ignoring Mel.
"Then I didn't cause..." started Ace.
"Did I ever say so?" sighed the Doctor. She regarded the Master. "I suppose we must go after her. I seem to be fine - even though one never knows with the Rani."
"You are not fine, Doctor," the Master said, absentmindedly twirling her hair. "Neither am I. She also took away our ability to regenerate."
"Oh." The Doctor put her head on her fist. "I suppose we can't have that, can we? Just when I was having fun. Still," she said, getting up. "I would appreciate the opportunity to check your findings independently."
The Master smiled. "Still don't trust me, do you?"
"Do you trust me?"
"Ah. Well." The Master opened the door to her Tardis.
It looked like one of the sculptures along the wall. "Shall we take the short route?"
"No, thanks. I'll walk. Perhaps Wens can join me?"
"Who?" The Master looked puzzled. "Ah, well, if you
wish. But your companions stay here."
"What?" Ace said.
"Now wait a minute..." Glitz started.
The Doctor held up her hands. "Quiet. I expected as much." She turned to the Master. "Would you mind if I brought the Tardis back here?"
"If you must." She motioned to the Canamlans. "The one named Wens is to escort the Doctor back to hi...her Tardis."
"Yes," Wens said. Mel glared at her. "I am not certain of what side I am on, but she did help us in our time of need."
"Quite right, Wens." The Doctor winked at the group and walked out of the door.
Ace was getting rather bored. She had looked out of the
window at least two dozen times - the view stayed the same, dry and boring - the Master seemed to stay content glowering in a corner, and Mel and Glitz were arguing about the Zangorn jewels. She considered playing mumblety-peg, but she supposed the Canamlans would get the wrong idea. She yawned and laid her head down and the table.
Glitz was just saying, "Alright, alright! We'll return them, if it makes you happy!", then they heard the familiar screeching of the Tardis.
The Doctor popped out the door, followed by a bemused Wens. "The Master, for once, is correct."
"Thank you so very much for the vote of confidence,
Doctor," the Master said.
The Doctor ignored her. "However, the Rani stopped one step short of the...condition...being irreversable," she said loudly. "I ran my chromosomes through the ritaplit Forbusher, and they're already changing back...albeit slowly at the moment."
The Master frowned. "But..."
"But, nothing," the Doctor said quickly. "It seems I must join forces with you."
Mel looked at Ace and Glitz. "Doctor..." Mel said
"The enemy of your enemy is your friend, eh, Doctor," the Master said.
"More like sticking with the Devil I know."
The Master shrugged. "Depends on what Devil you're
thinking of. Well, shall we go? Separate Tardises, of course."
The Doctor shrugged. "I'm not going anywhere."
The Master gaped. "But you said..."
"Why should we go anyplace when the Rani is right here?" Wens pointed at one of the Canamlans. The Canamlan looked left, right, shrugged, and poked at something around her beltline. The image shimmered and went out. Mel gasped.
The arrogant-looking woman stepped forward. She was
carrying an odd-looking gun. "Of course I'm here. Did you think I would miss observing my own experiments?"
"Actually, I'm surprised you're dabbling in something so trivial," the Doctor said drily. "You usually experiment in disasters along the cosmic scale."
The Rani shrugged. "Even I need some amusement every once in a while. I was introducing a new form of virus among these," she gestured at the Canamlans, who looked extremely displeased, "when I happened to notice the Master travelling by. So I took one of my hobby projects and tried it out on him. I think he's much improved, don't you?" The Master growled and came toward her. She leveled the gun at her, and she stopped. "This is a miniature version of what I used on you. Would you like a double dose?" The Master backed off, and the Rani regarded the Doctor. "Whereas I don't think anything can improve your appearance. Back in the clown phase?" She gestured at the Doctor's clothing.
"What I don't quite understand," the Doctor said, "is why you came after me."
"I didn't," she shrugged. "I set the controls for all Gallifreyans in the general area. I didn't see you until a couple of seconds later." She smiled. "Not that I regret it."
"Well, that blows the time displacement theory." The Doctor thought a moment. "Wait a moment. I was in the general area of the Nosferatu II. If the Master was there, also...?" She turned towards the Master.
"Well," the Master said uncomfortably, "how do you think the Zangorns knew where to find their crown jewels?"
"See why I don't want to deal in stolen goods?" Mel
Glitz flinched. "How was I supposed to know?"
"Quite possible the change isn't permanent," the Rani shrugged. "I was just playing around with the idea. It would have been permanent had I wanted it to be. However..." She quickly pressed a button on the gun, then fired at Ace, Glitz and Mel. The three collapsed. "...it does work on non-Gallifreyans." She quickly pressed another button, then trained it on the Doctor.
However, Wens had moved up behind her while she was
maneuvering. With a quick chop of her hand, she slapped the Rani's wrist down, and the gun skidded across the floor. "Well done, Wens," the Doctor exclaimed as she picked it up, examined it, and trained it on the Rani. "Now, if you could train some of your more conventional weapons on the Rani...?"
"Of course," Wens said with what seemed to be satisfaction.
The Doctor turned her attention towards the trio, who were still unconscious. "Well, Rani, it seems to work on humans, too." She gazed without too much surprise on their shifting forms.
The Rani shrugged. "I told you it would."
Glitz was the first one to sit up. Looking down on her rotund form, she turned red and said, "Oh, no." She glared up at the Doctor. "You better not be kidding when you said this wasn't permanent."
Ace fingered his light beard. "Brill!" he exclaimed, sitting up.
Mel still had long red hair, but he, too, had a beard. "I must look like an apostle," he grumbled.
"You look better than I do," Glitz growled.
The other two looked at Glitz with amazement and started giggling. "It's not funny!" Glitz glared at Mel.
"What was this about protecting the women?" Mel giggled.
"Oh, never mind," Glitz turned away.
"No, really," Mel said. "I think I better protect you!"
"Hit a man when he's down," Glitz mumbled.
"Don't you mean a woman?" Ace teased.
"Glitz," the Doctor said, amused. "The effect should wear off in a couple of hours."
"But, you, Doctor..." Mel protested.
"You're human. I'm a Time Lord." She shrugged. "The
chromosomes are different. It will take my body longer to readjust back to the form I had before."
"How long?" Ace asked.
"A couple of days. A couple of decades. What difference does it make?" the Doctor said nonchalantly. The Master moaned.
"Why are they making such a fuss?" the Rani demanded. "What difference does it make to them whether they're male or female?"
"Yes," the Doctor said spitefully. "And what difference does it make to them whether they're vegetable or animal matter?"
"For that matter, yes," the Rani said, puzzled. "After all, they'ld live a lot longer as a tree than they would as a human. They'ld be much happier."
"We've had this argument before," the Doctor mumbled. She motioned for the Canamlans to clear away, and they obeyed with haste. He then shot the Rani with the gun.
The Rani went down. Her form misted for a minute, then clearly masculine features started forming. After the mist cleared away, he opened his eyes, looked down, then smiled and shrugged. "I repeat - what difference does it make?"
The Doctor frowned. "Humph. I thought she was a bit more vain than that. Ah, well." He turned towards Wens.
"Since you've heard from her own lips that she was reponsible for your plagues, I'm sure you can think of something to do to her."
The Canamlan smiled and herded the Rani out of the door. "I...think I'll be going, too," the Master said nervously to the two men standing in front of her Tardis.
"Trying to sneak out again, eh, Master?" The Doctor
said. "Oh, let him go."
"But he...uh...she was..." Mel protested.
"He's not going to get anywhere near the Zangorns in his present condition, are you?"
The Master grimaced. "No."
"Let her go." Ace and Mel reluctantly moved away. The Master dashed in and his Tardis disappeared.
"Time for us to go, too. I think we need to give some jewels back to the Zangorns, don't you, Glitz?"
"When I'm looking like this?" Glitz squeaked.
"Oh, honestly, Glitz. Like the Rani said, what difference does it make?" She grinned. "Besides, what better time? The Zangorns are looking for a big, bearded man."
Glitz stroked her beardless chin and managed a wan
smile. "Perhaps you're right."
"And we're excluded again?" Mel protested.
"No, of course not! We're going to have to be there to keep Glitz from accepting the bounty award."
"Award...?" Glitz looked stricken.
"Which you are not going to take, right, Glitz?" Mel took the gun from the Doctor and leveled it at the big woman.
"You can't get a reward and do a good deed, both."
"Well, if you put it that way..." Glitz whimpered.
The men and the woman laughed as they piled into the