For those who might know, this story crosses over with the 1970s TV series The Young Rebels. Not knowing this show will not effect enjoyment of this tale. This tale is rated T - suitable for teens, 13 years and older, with some violence, minor coarse language, and minor suggestive adult themes.
A Polymorphic Counterfeit
The gala was in full swing. Fops and fems in feathers and silk finery filled the elegantly appointed room, their movements as precise as those of a well oiled machine.
But then, the night was young. It would be some time before anyone missed a step or staggered off into the bushes to empty their stomachs of the overly rich food being served in honor of their departing guest; some time before anyone vomited up the heady wine being served or collapsed into a chair, unwilling or unable to go on.
Well, at least for most.
A sly smile crept across the face of the thin man with dark brown hair dressed in a blue and buff uniform who lurked in the shadows; his sturdy figure masked by the pair of heavy drapes that framed a set of doors separating the ballroom from the rest of the house. There was one who was already feeling the night's effect.
Of course, that might have had something to do with what he had been placing in his commanding officer's wine for the last few days.
The bottle rested on the table just to the right of his superior. It had been presented with General Washington's compliments. With the old man's camp so close at hand, his victim had not questioned the gift or the bearer of it. The young major general sat now, one elbow on the table; his dark head resting on a pallid hand. His color was off and his breathing shallow, as though he had just fallen asleep.
The aide de camp's thin upper lip curled with ghoulish delight as he considered the possibilities... But no. He didn't want him dead. Dead, he was no good.
Dying, however, would do quite nicely.
The soldier glanced from side to side to make certain they were alone, and then approached the object of his ambition. He bent down and gently touched the uniformed arm.
For a moment there was no response and he feared those he conspired with had gone too far. Then the young man shifted, groaned, and slowly opened a pair of slightly feverish brown eyes.
"Lieutenant Montgomery?" he asked.
"Your aide, sir. You seemed distressed."
"Non. I am merely...tired." Gripping the chair's arms for support, the young major general rose to his feet. He swayed, but quickly recovered. "Please make my apologies to our host. Je suis fatigue. I believe I will head for my bed."
Montgomery hesitated. "Sir, the lady of the house. You promised her..."
"Oh. Oui. I would be remiss, would I not?" The Frenchman straightened his military coat and forced a smile. "One more dance cannot be the end of me, eh?"
Ever the attentive aide, Rowland Montgomery caught the wine bottle up from the table, poured a glass, and offered it to his charge. "Another one, sir?" As the general started to shake his head, Montgomery added with a friendly smile. "You'd best brace yourself." He leaned in close. "I hear she's as graceful as a cow and just about as attractive."
The glass hung for a moment between them, and then General Lafayette took it and downed it in one gulp.
Watching him go Montgomery couldn't help but chuckle. The dance might not be the end of the Frenchman.
But it might just be the end of the French.
The Doctor's traveling companion, Amy Pond, had another childhood fascination. Other than Romans, that was. The Time Lord knew it was a mistake when he agreed to it, but how could he resist? He had caught the tall, twenty-something redhead for the hundredth time sitting, silent and by herself, staring off into the void like - well, like he usually did - her wide eyes reflecting the black emptiness of space.
Well, space wasn't really empty, not at all. That was just a perception. Something one felt when suddenly realizing one was totally and utterly and completely alone. It didn't matter if it was a billion billion stars in the sky, or a hundred thousand people in the Albert Hall. Without someone to connect to - someone who mattered...
The Time Lord shifted his long bandy legs to a stronger stance, swallowed hard, and then tugged on his bowtie to straighten it, subconsciously hoping to right whatever was wrong with the universe by the same gesture, all the while knowing that nothing could do that until he sorted out what was wrong with it in the first place. Amy's melancholy had almost been a welcome distraction - for him, of course, not for her. It had taken his mind off of the cracks in the universe, the impending silence - whatever that was - and worst of all, the puzzle of Professor River Song.
"That's quite a sigh." Amy's voice held little of its usual bravado, but echoed instead with the truth of the loss she did not remember. "Did you lose your best friend or something?"
"Something," the Doctor muttered in response as he reached for a lever on the Tardis control panel. He flipped it and then turned to her, assessing her from behind an unruly shock of dark brown hair. "We've arrived."
A spark of something - interest, life - entered her eyes. "Really? You mean...really?"
"Yes, really. I'm highly offended. Do you think I would lie?"
Her full lips pouted. "Well, you have been known to stretch the truth a bit - when it suits your fancy."
He held up a long finger. "When necessary, Amy. Only when necessary."
"Which is most of the time.
His grin had been described by various foes from the Sontarans to the Slitheens as dangerous, grim, and vastly self-satisfied.
His friends said much the same thing.
"Of course." The Doctor paused and then asked quietly, "You're sure about this?"
Amy's brown eyes grew distant, almost dreamy. "Aye," she answered, her Scottish burr thickening. "It's been a...dream of mine for a long time." Suddenly she perked up, almost as though sensing she was about to reveal too much. "A girl needs a hero, you know, to set her sights on..."
She had been looking directly at him. She looked away now, averting those wide dark eyes.
"Yes, well..." he responded, and tugged his bowtie again. Her boyfriend Rory had been a hero, giving his life to save the Doctor's own before being swallowed by one of the mysterious cracks in the universe and erased from existence as well as his fiancé's memory. The Doctor fiddled absentmindedly with another switch and then flipped it. A rural scene, hunkered down in winter and dotted with stone fences and small houses, appeared on the Tardis' monitor. His lips quirked with thinly veiled disgust. "How...pastoral. One might even say, quaint."
"You say that likes it's a bad thing," Amy remarked as she came to stand beside him.
Amy turned so her back was to the time ship's console, leaned on it, and fixed him with a stare that rivaled any of his enemies for its ability to make him squirm. "Have you never just stopped, Doctor? Do you never want to take a rest? Do something for yourself and let the universe be hanged?" she asked. "Even a Time Lord needs a break now and then." After a pause Amy shifted closer to him. Cocking her head, she added with an affectionate grin, "Oh yeah, I do seem to remember River mentioning something about a picnic at Asgard."
"When did she tell you that?" he snapped, and then realized snapping was not a way to put Amy Pond off the scent. "Not that it matters..."
"Girls will talk," Amy answered enigmatically as she turned to examine the screen. A horse and cart had entered the scene, bumping its way over a snowy slope toward a small sleepy hamlet below. "You're sure this is the right place?"
He nodded. "New York. Last quarter of the 18th century. We could have gone to France, but well, that can be messy."
"The Revolution, you mean?"
He hoped he wasn't blushing. "Yes. Well, that and other things."
"Other things? Like what?" The redhead straightened her reed thin form. "Don't tell me you snogged Madame de Pompadour or something."
The Doctor's fingers faltered on the next switch that needed pushing. There was something about Amy Pond that both fascinated and frightened - yes, frightened - him. All too often the 'girl who waited' knew too much. Too much.
"How could you know that?" he asked.
Amy looked shocked. Then she snorted and laughed. "You mean you did?"
This time the pull on the bowtie was to loosen it so he could breathe. "No. Well... No, not me. Well, it was me, but not me, if you know what I mean. Another me." The Doctor hesitated and then his green eyes flicked to hers. "Tell me you know what I mean."
She bit back her amusement at his discomfort - badly. "No."
The Doctor threw the switch - perhaps with a little more force than was necessary. Then he spun on his heel and flung his arms wide, even as the door to the Tardis started to open.
"Come on, Pond. Let's see if we can find something exciting to do. Maybe milk a cow or stop a few chickens from crossing the road...
"Or shake hands with a hero?" she asked as she joined him in leaving the vast interior of the time traveling ship behind.
He spun to look at her. "Maybe. Doesn't it bother you, Pond, that the man is French?"
"Why should it?" Her frown, like it had been as a little girl, was endearing. On the occasions where it matured into the woman's scowl, it was actually quite amusing - though he would never let her know that. "Oi! Wait a minute. What are you doing? Accusing me of being English?"
The Doctor pretended to be puzzled. "Oh, that's right. The English hate the French. The Scottish just hate the English. And then, let's see, the French hate both of you." He paused and then asked in his best little boy voice, "Shouldn't that make you like each other? You know, be friends or something?"
Amy stopped dead in the middle of the muddy path that led toward the sleeping village. She turned, came close to him, and pushed one long finger into his chest. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend? If that's how it works in outer space, Doctor, then where does that leave you?"
He didn't have to look into the void. The emptiness was something he had carried with him every day of his over nine hundred years.
Jeremy Larkin glanced at each of the faces at the table. From Isak and Henry's long countenances, anyone might have surmised someone had died. But then, he knew his looked much the same. They all felt the same terrible sense of loss.
Major General Lafayette was going home.
The Frenchman's own country was at war and Lafayette felt compelled, by both duty and his honor, to return to France and his king. At General Washington's request the Congress had thanked him profusely for what he had done, and granted him a leave of absence. But they all knew. They knew 'leave' would most likely turn into 'left' and he would be gone, never to be seen again. The ocean was vast. War raged on both sides of it. Though the arrival of the French navy had turned the tide for the moment, blockades were expected. Ports would be closed. Armadas would line the coast. Anyone crazy enough to attempt to return would probably be killed.
No, in all likelihood, this was goodbye.
They were sitting in a pub, just outside of New York, drowning their sorrow in ale. The next evening they and the Marquis were due to take the road via Fishkill to Albany and beyond, to Boston. It had been a long hard trip from Chester to this place, but they had insisted on making the journey with him. Lafayette was the leader of the Yankee Doodle Society, even if the folklore growing up about them named that leader as him. Lafayette had become the heart of their organization and, with his leadership, transformed it from a group of youthful insurgents into an effective military machine. They would go on without him. Still, it wouldn't be the same.
"He didn't look well," Henry remarked quietly as he took a final sip and then signaled to the barmaid to take his glass and refill it. "I find myself somewhat concerned about him."
"Who is that?" Jeremy asked.
"The General," the apothecary answered without turning back.
The black man beside him shook his head. "Too much wine and too many women insisting on a dance, if you ask me," Isak said with a smile. "He's just worn out."
"I don't know." Henry nodded his thanks as the barmaid delivered a fresh ale. "I think he is ill."
"Truly?" Jeremy shifted back in his seat. He tried to recall the last time he had seen the general - which had been two days before. It was true the Frenchman was being wined and dined to the maximum degree. And he had appeared pale - even distracted, perhaps - the last time he had seen him. Still, Lafayette had to feel it as well, the sense of loss and finality. "Do you not think him simply tired?"
The apothecary's auburn head shook. "I admit we are all tired," he began, "but there is something more. I may not be a doctor, but I sense..." Henry paused. He leaned forward and lowered his voice. "Don't you feel it? Something is amiss."
"Amiss? Amiss with what?" Isak demanded.
Jeremy and the black man exchanged a glance. Perhaps it wasn't only the general who was tired. Now that he looked at him, Henry was rather paler than usual and his hands seemed to be shaking. "You should go back to the inn, Henry. Get some rest," he suggested softly. "Tomorrow will be a long day of preparation..."
Henry rose from his seat so quickly that he upset his glass. High color tinged his round face. "You two may laugh now and think me daft, but I tell you, something is wrong. There is a feeling in the air, like that of an oncoming storm..."
At that moment the door to the tavern opened and a chill wind, along with a tall woman and even taller man blew in. Jeremy stared at them, and for just a moment there seemed to be something odd about the way they both moved and dressed. Then, somehow, everything appeared normal - including the man's curiously cut twill coat and odd blue cravat. His companion was lovely, flame-haired and slender as a young willow tree. Her clothing - a thick coat, blouse, and skirt, with some sort of skintight breeches and boots underneath - was curious. Most of the skirt seemed to be missing and her long legs were fully revealed. Still, within several heartbeats, he couldn't remember jus why that was curious.
"Oh, good, Amy, look," the man in twill remarked as he clapped his hands together, his voice dripping with sarcasm, "we can toss back an ale and then play a round of darts before looking for those imperiled chickens. What could be more exciting?"
A very large, very burly man who was standing before the impugned dart board, needle-thin missiles in his hairy paws, turned toward the opened door. "You got something against darts?"
"Oh, no, no, no. No." The newcomer dismissed the notion with a wave of one pale hand. The movement was almost fey, but Jeremy had a sense that was just for show. "I can think of nothing more exciting than standing in one place for hours on end employing little projectiles to pierce holes in a piece of cork. Mind you, there was that time with the Silurian where a bit of pocked cork might have come in handy..."
Jeremy's ears perked up at the next words, spoken by the man's companion who apparently was Scottish. "Doctor, let's not offend the natives on our first night here."
Doctor. Just what Henry needed.
Oblivious, the man went on. "Mind you, the game was a bit more exciting back in the old days when soldiers tossed short arrows at the bottom of a cask. Of course, the arrows were usually short as they had been broken off while being hauled out of some poor gent's body and there was no other earthly use left for them." The stranger rubbed his hands together as though warming to his tale. "I remember one time, when I was visiting good old King Henry II, that I had to warn him about emptying the cask first or else he'd - "
Faster than thought the burly man crossed the room. He took the stranger by his odd cravat and pulled him close until they were nearly nose to nose.
"I say," the man in twill remarked, wincing. "Anyone have a breath mint?"
Both Jeremy and Isak had risen to their feet. Though nearly of a height, the burly man clearly outweighed his victim by several stone and seemed to have every intention of harming him.
"I'll give you a warning, you crumpet stuffer," he growled.
That evoked not a response of fear, but one of puzzlement from the man. "Why does everyone always assume I am British? Is it the tweed?"
Jeremy met Isak's glance and nodded. It was evident the tavern keeper did not mean to intervene. In fact, the look on the old man's face seemed to indicate he thought the newcomer deserved whatever he got. It was up to the two of them.
Or maybe not.
"Oi! Goliath!" a woman's voice called out. "You stuff it where the sun doesn't shine!"
Suddenly, Jeremy knew what those long legs were for. The woman brought the heel of one black boot down on the burly man's foot and then indelicately applied her knee to his most private parts.
As the man crumbled her companion stumbled back freed from his attacker's grasp, but instead of praise, he scolded, "Really, Amelia. I can't take you anywhere."
Glancing at Isak again and seeing his look, Jeremy knew they had drawn the same conclusion. The stranger was mad. The girl wasn't far behind. And, obviously, the pair needed someone to look out for them. He took a deep breath and started toward them, only to be held back by a hand gripping his arm. It was Henry.
The apothecary was pale as a ghost.
"Henry, what is it? What..."
"The storm is coming," his friend breathed.
And then collapsed.
Jeremy paused outside the door to the room at the inn he shared with Henry and Isak. Reluctantly, he had left the indisposed apothecary in the care of the strangers while he and Isak had gone on to a prearranged meeting with one of Lafayette's aides. There were some preparations to be made for the morrow - where to meet and when - and it had been thought wise not to commit to them until the very last minute. Though the general was returning to France, there would be plenty of Loyalists in the colony of New York who would be more than happy to make certain he never caught his ship.
They would be happy to see that he caught his death instead.
He had left Isak to keep guard downstairs, Henry's unease having affected him, and only just now returned to the corridor outside their room. Jeremy paused before the closed door, puzzled by what he heard. There was a sort of curious whistling...no, warbling...or something in-between coming from inside. It was like nothing he had ever heard before. Frowning, he leaned in and pressed his ear to the door.
Just as it opened.
"I say, didn't your mother tell you it's not polite to listen at keyholes?" The stranger glanced at him, but then concentrated his attention on the door. "Hmmm. Wood. I suppose all the doors in this..." The green eyes flicked to him and then back. They were tinged with mild disdain. "...in this oh-so-modern establishment are wood. Eh?" He pounded the door. "Good old wood. Good old solid wood."
"Why, sir," Jeremy asked, puzzled, "what else would they be made of?'
"What else? Well, now, there's a good question. What else? Any tuberous roots of the gargantuan variety in the area? Always makes a nice entry once you've eaten your way through." The man paused. For a second he appeared dismayed, and then he seemed to realize Jeremy was experiencing much the same thing - with a healthy dose of utter and complete disbelief tossed in. "Oh. Sorry. I've spent the better part of my life in..." His eyes narrowed as if he was working out a particularly hard sum. "...deepest darkest Africa. No one likes wood there - 'cept the bugs."
"Your lady wife called you 'Doctor'."
"Right on that. I'm the Doctor," the man proclaimed. "Wrong on the other count."
"She's not my lady wife." His lips curled in an affectionate smile. "In fact, Amy's not even a lady."
"Oh, I know. Medieval chivalry and all that, alive and well two centuries later in the American colonies. Give it another two hundred years and you'll realize I'm right. Call Amy a lady and she'll deck you." The stranger paused. "I pity the poor shop keep who tries to talk her into a pair of panniers. Did I mention she'd gone shopping?" He stopped at Jeremy's look. "Is there a problem?"
Jeremy drew himself up to his full height, which topped the stranger by perhaps an inch. "Sir, I hate to ask, but as you are attending to my friend, might I ask what your medical credentials are?"
"Medical credentials?" The man frowned and then began fishing in his pockets, producing first a ball of twine and then a large slingshot, and finally a leather wallet lined with paper. He handed it over with a nonchalant shrug. "If I must. You people are always so suspicious."
Jeremy took it and read, "The Royal College of Surgeons. Queen's college of Medicine. Maulana Azad Medical College?"
"Lovely place, Delhi. Good old Ferozshah Tughlaq. That man knew how to make a curry to die for..." The Doctor paused. "I'm babbling again, aren't I?"
So Henry was in good - if indisputably odd hands. Jeremy allowed himself a small margin of relief. That freed him up to do what he had to do. He glanced at his friend where he lay quiescent on the bed. The apothecary's skin was far too pallid for his liking, and Henry's breathing seemed shallow. Jeremy turned back to the stranger.
"Henry?" he asked.
"No. The Doctor. I thought I made that clear." The man scowled, and then followed his gaze. "Oh, your friend. He didn't introduce himself. But then again, neither did I. At least not formally. I'm the Doctor."
"I understood that. Might I ask, Doctor who?"
The stranger laughed and snapped his fingers in a roll. "I knew you were going to say that. Just the 'Doctor'. "
Jeremy hesitated, staring at the man. Obviously, he had something to hide. Perhaps because he was British. No doubt about it, he would have to be careful around this one until he figured him out. Turning his attention back to his sick friend, Jeremy approached the bed.
"How is he?' he asked as he drew to a halt beside it.
"About two steps away from death's door." The Doctor stopped at Jeremy's look. "Sorry. Never had much of a bedside manner. Did I shock you?"
"A bit." Shaken, Jeremy asked. "Is he dying then?"
"Well, you see he's been infected with a virulent viral strain that comes just short of being a failure as a virus. If it failed completely, your friend would be dead." The Doctor met Jeremy's concerned gaze. "Hip hooray for the virus!"
"You are mad," Jeremy breathed.
"No. No. Listen. The purpose of a virus is to live off its host. If it kills the host, it has failed to fulfill its natural function. If it kills, it dies." The man's long face fell as a distant look entered his green eyes. "And this virus doesn't want to die. Oh no, it wants to live."
"You sound as if you have seen it before."
The Doctor nodded and the distance in those unusual eyes grew until it seemed to encompass all of time and space. "A long, long time ago. The strain was slightly different, but I know it. It has wiped out civilizations."
"Small pox, then. Or Yellow Fever?" But no, Henry was too quiet. Too at peace. Jeremy had seen the effects of both and knew the way they devastated a man.
"You won't have heard of it."
"Something from Delhi, then, or somewhere similar?"
The stranger nodded. "Somewhere...similar."
Jeremy started to take a seat on the bed beside his friend, then hesitated. "Is it contagious?"
"At this point there is no danger. They're only dangerous if they die and become...well... But if he survives -"
The Doctor moved to his side and stood staring down at Henry's sleeping form. "If he survives, there are great odds he will be a carrier. The creature will live in his blood. Then, I'll have to be careful. We'll all have to be very careful."
Jeremy had taken a seat on the bed. He glanced up at the odd man. "Creature?"
"Virus." The Doctor shrugged it off. "Physician-speak, you know. Anthropomorphic view of disease. Show the enemy no mercy and all that. Look. It's moving into the next phase."
Henry had started to whimper and a groan escaped his lips. Jeremy held his hand and he felt the apothecary's temperature rise. He squeezed his friend's fingers to assure him that he was there, and then turned to the Doctor and asked, his voice rough with concern, "Is there a cure?"
"The blood of the one infected may provide it if we're lucky. But there is a problem," the enigma in twill replied.
"It will only work if he dies."
Amy Pond was in heaven, or at least its eighteenth century equivalent. Never one to take the easy road, as a little girl she had developed a consuming passion for the invaders and enemies of the United Kingdom. Did she idolize the Celts, or want to dress up as Boadicea for Halloween parties? No. She loved the romance of the men and women who had boldly challenged the most powerful empire on the face of the Earth, and that included the Yanks and, even worse, the occasional Frenchman.
Or worse yet, a Frenchman who longed to be a Yank.
Amy smiled at the shop keep - a kind old lady with a mop of lamb's wool hair and a cute little cap perched on top - and then turned back to look at herself in the mirror. The Doctor had supplied her with some counterfeit currency before they left the Tardis and she was using it to kit herself out in the latest fashions, come all the way - or so the sheep hair lady had told her - from London! She didn't have to dress the part. The Tardis, it seemed, or her Raggedy Doctor must have done something to the people they met, as no one ever questioned the way they were attired, no matter what century they landed in. She just wanted to. It was like Christmas and all the other holidays rolled into one, and the elegant fabrics and layers of silk, ribbons, and handmade fabric flowers made her feel, well - as LizTen would have put it - like the 'bloody Queen'.
"Might I suggest, milady, a visit to the wigmaker next door as a compliment to your ensemble?" The woman paused and then added as delicately as possible, "Or if not, perhaps powder for your hair?"
Did she detect a note of ginger prejudice there?
Whirling on the woman so quickly she almost sent the poor old sheep lady scattering, Amy locked her fists on her now padded hips and demanded, "Oi! You got something against orange hair?"
"Oh, no, milady," the woman replied, her eyes diverted. "It is just that there are those who think it a sign of..."
"Of what? Being a brazen hussy?"
The shop keep's watery eyes flicked to her. From her disapproving look, it was obvious that was a given. "No, milady. Of...an unstable and unsettled mind."
Amy pursed her lips. "And what do they make of dark brown hair?" she quipped, thinking of her madcap traveling partner. "No, don't answer that. Doesn't matter. When they made the Doctor they broke the mold." She turned back to survey her image. She was wearing a spectacular apricot colored open gown with a sacque back and pale ivory petticoats underneath. Amy grinned again, wondering it the Time Lord knew how to appreciate a beautiful woman if she wasn't wearing half of the Tardis' inner gears and wires wrapped around her neck as an ornament. "Or maybe he just broke it all on his own," she ended in a mutter.
"Your young man? He's a physician?"
Amy could see the pound signs adding up in the woman's weak blue eyes. "My young man?" Amy laughed at the image that conjured up. But then the Doctor was, in so many ways, just a lost little boy. Why not? "Aye, my young man, the Doctor." The redhead cocked her head, swished her hips and watched as the pale pink-orange fabric stretched tightly over a pair of basket panniers scintillated in the late afternoon light. "You know, these wouldn't make too shabby a weapon in a pinch."
At that the sheep lady bleated and retreated into the front of the shop just as the bell on the door jangled, indicating another customer had come in.
Curious, Amy followed.
Standing in the shop, close by the door, were an elegantly attired woman and a young girl. Both were blonde, and while the woman's hair was fashionably powdered to near white, the girl's spiraling curls fell in a golden wave down the back of her dark blue dress. They were obviously persons of some status and just as obviously strangers to the shop keep. The woman, Mistress Waters, had moved from sheep to deer and was busy fawning over them, directing the older of the pair toward a dazzling display of scintillating paste jewels.
The younger turned toward Amy, a puzzled look on her pale perfect face.
"Hello," Amy remarked, wriggling her fingers. "What's your name?"
Oddly, the girl's blue eyes were the exact color of her dress, as though part of the same dye lot. Their color was as intense as her stare. "What's yours?" she countered.
"Amy." A heartbeat. "And you are?"
"I want to go home. I don't like it here."
Amy hesitated. A different tact then. "Where's home?"
Something was wrong. Amy didn't know what, but she was growing more and more uncomfortable in the girl's presence. It was silly. She was just a little girl in a brilliant blue gown and little painted slippers with a great hulk of a bow nestled in the upswept part of her golden blonde hair. But with each second that passed Amy's sense of unease grew. She nearly jumped out of her skin and her apricot silks a second later when a voice spoke quite close by her ear.
"Thomasin, how many times have I told you not to associate with the natives?"
The voice was low-pitched and thick with disdain. Amy pivoted and was confronted by another face of perfection. The woman, most likely the girl's mother, was dressed all in green and, again, her eyes seemed to be cut from the same cloth as far as color. No blemish marred her skin, no mole or freckle, and it and her powdered hair both had an unnatural sheen, as though they had been stroked with starlight.
"I apologize for my child," the woman began. "She is very young and prone to speak when she should hold her tongue." A quick jerk of the girl's hand emphasized the next words. "Come now, we are going." The emerald green eyes flicked to Amy's face. "We have what we came for."
"And what is that?" Amy asked boldly.
The woman's smile was entirely unpleasant. "Information," she replied, and was gone.
Amy paid her bill with her fake money and then headed out of the shop and into the street. The light was failing and darkness just about to fall. The Doctor had warned her that a woman traveling alone in this century would be not only a target, but an object of scorn. He had explained that the only kind of woman who walked the streets alone at night was not the kind a man took home to his mother. When she pressed him further, the Time Lord had actually blushed! Chuckling to herself as she pulled her cloak tightly about the neck of her newly purchased gown, Amy wondered once again if the Doctor had ever been a family man. There had been that moment on Starship UK when he had talked about children, and she had had the distinct impression that he knew what it was to raise one. And then there was River... She had to be the Doctor's future wife. No one else talked to the Time Lord like River Song did, not even her.
And that was saying a lot!
"Mistress, have you lost your way?" a man's voice inquired, startling her.
Amy turned in a circle but saw no one. "Who's there?" she demanded. "Show yourself!"
"There is nothing to fear, Mistress. I thought, perhaps, you were in distress. Where is your escort?"
The redhead stepped back as a man emerged from the darkness masking the entry to the alley that ran beside the dress shop. Seeing him, she stifled a small squeal of joy behind one gloved hand. He was wearing a blue and buff coat - the uniform of the Continental Army! It was the first such she had seen, and the first real proof that they were where the Doctor said they were instead of in some kind of quasi-eighteenth century on some odd planet in the middle of the ninety-first century or something.
"Don't have an escort," she replied. "Don't need one."
"Oh, but mistress, I beg to differ." He was a handsome one, with dark brown hair the color of the Doctor's and one of those sturdy forms that promised well-trained muscles able to deliver whatever was needed. As she stared, he doffed his tricorn hat and made a bow before announcing, "Lieutenant Rowland Montgomery, army of General Washington, and aide-de-camp to Major General Lafayette."
The second squeal was not suppressed. "Lafayette? Then he is here?"
"Aye, mistress. Though bound to leave tomorrow for Albany."
Amy's face fell. "Leave? I'd hoped to... Well..."
"Would you like to meet him?"
An inner alarm went off, but Amy ignored it much as she had the ones announcing class was starting when she was back in school. "Aye." She hesitated and then asked, "But why would he want to meet the likes of me?"
"A beauty of the Hebrides? Pale as a misty morning, and yet fiery as the sun at noon? I happen to know that combination is one of the general's favorites."
Amy's smile peaked and then emptied into a valley. Did this man think that she was... Was he out to procure the Marquis a... Well, a different kind of companion for the night? "Say, now, you don't think that I... I mean, I'm not that kind of girl."
She stared at his blank face, wondering if he was having her on. "You know," she insisted, wide eyed. "That kind."
For a second Lieutenant Montgomery remained nonplussed. Then he got it. "Oh, no. The Marquis is happily married. He is here in this city to meet his admirers. What better one to end the day with than a beauty of the Isles?"
She shouldn't. The Doctor would kill her. Still, wasn't this what she had come here for?
"Well, maybe just for a minute."
Lieutenant Montgomery beamed. "And then, may I escort you to your lodgings?"
She took the arm he offered. "You may," she answered, feeling even more like a queen. "Take me to your leader, Jeeves."
The man made no reply, but tucked her arm under his and together the two of them headed off down the street.
A minute later two forms stepped out of the alley, both female, the one a younger version of the other. The smaller of the two, clothed in blue, looked up at the elder one dressed in green and asked, "Now can we feed, mother?"
The older woman nodded even as she raised a slender wrist to her too-perfect lips and pressed a hidden switch on the silver and paste diamond bracelet she wore.
"Contact has been made," she said into it.