Summary: The Rixxi's planet is quite nice. If you don't count the poison, the cannibals and the rain. Rory loves travelling with the Doctor. Sometimes. Occasionally. Maybe once or twice. Today just isn't one of those days.
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who. The Rixxi are free to a good home.
Sporky beta'd this for me and caught the ridiculous grammar slips that afflicted it. Please go read her stories (after this one?)
This is a five (or so) chapter story with danger, adventure and a helping of h/c. It is set before Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, among the unseen adventures after Amy's Choice. It is complete. The last couple of chapters are awaiting polishing, but it shouldn't take too long.
As always, comments are greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading.
"Welcome to the planet of the Rixxi," the Doctor said as he threw the door of the TARDIS open to dazzling sunlight. "Planet of the most spectacular skyscrapers this side of the Galactic Arm and home to the creators of the best Jetpack ever made. You can rent them for the day and try them out through the subway tunnels."
Amy was at the front and first to look out the open door. She brought her head back in again and said. "Skyscrapers, huh?"
The Doctor poked his head out, then came back in. He checked his wristwatch. "Well, we may be slightly earlier than planned. Or we might be later. I was a bit unclear on the dates when I last visited. The TARDIS chronometer circuits were probably on a self-limiting variance loop. Or it was that girl with the peach milkshake."
"It was complicated."
Rory was the only one who had not seen outside. As the Doctor tried to explain why peach milkshake affected his 'normally excellent local time awareness', Rory stuck his head past the door. He was hit by a tropical heat and the scent of blossom.
The TARDIS was parked atop a small rise in a dense forest. There were small tufty bushes nearby, while further away were the tallest trees he had ever seen. They looked as big as the skyscrapers that he had expected. There were no signs of buildings and the only things flying in the air were birds. Definitely no jetpacks here.
He pulled his head back into the cool of the TARDIS so that they all stood around the door. The Doctor said, "Not much like I remembered."
"Maybe we just landed in a park? Or a sort of green belt rainforest?" Amy suggested.
"No. The Rixxi don't approve of parks or forests. Or didn't approve. Or won't, depending on whether we're late or early. Tall trees don't mix with Jetpacks as a mode of transportation - too many leaves and branches to get caught up on the machinery and cause crashes. So the they built over everything. Or will build. Or are building..." He paused, then said, "Right, stopping that. Annoying myself now. The last time I was here, whether before or after now, the whole planet was covered in one city. No trees, no leaves, nothing that wasn't built by the Rixxi."
"So why is it a forest now?"
"I don't know. Possibly the Rixxi haven't evolved yet. Although that's unlikely. I'm sure we're not that early." He tapped his wristwatch before peering closely at its face. Then he licked his finger and held it into the air. "Something happened that levelled the city so completely that I can't detect a taste of industrial chemicals in the air. Want to find out?"
"Actually, I'm okay," Rory said. He could imagine all kinds of dreadful things that might turn a city the size of a planet into a forest. All out war, raging alien attack, vengeful trees... None of them were things that he really wanted to go looking for. The Doctor seemed disappointed by his lack of adventure.
"We're still going to look around, though," Amy said as she nudged Rory. "It's a planet. I bet it's full of interesting planet stuff."
"I don't count something that could destroy a city as interesting, Amy. What if the trees, you know, come alive, or something?" he trailed off.
"Thata girl, Amy," the Doctor said. "Rory, I promise I'll protect you if the trees come alive. I've got a sonic screwdriver. Come on." He strode out of the door.
"I thought it didn't work on wood?" Rory shouted after him.
The Doctor did not answer. He would probably claim that he could not hear over the sound of the birds, but Rory knew when he was being ignored.
But three hours later, even he had to acknowledge that it was quite a nice planet. There were no deadly robots or scary insects and the trees stayed reassuringly still and woody. Nothing attacked or threatened them. For once, Rory thought that they might get to visit somewhere without having to run for their lives.
It was a beautiful place, like the TV programmes he had seen of the Amazonian Rainforest. The leaves were were vibrant shades of green and blue and the air was full of the steady drone of insects. A group of flying lizards provided a display that would have put a flock of starlings to shame They explored for a while. Amy persuaded Rory to climb a couple of trees like they had done when they were children, and, as always, left him among the lower branches.
When hunger started to niggle, the Doctor reassured them that the peach looking fruits hanging low in the trees were quite safe to eat. "Even considered a delicacy by the Rixxi," he said. "They grew them in greenhouses."
They ate their lunch beside a river teeming with fish. These enjoyed the peach-fruits as much as Rory and Amy and swam around their feet devouring each piece that they dropped into the water.
Afterwards they decided to make an effort to find out what had happened, or would happen to the Rixxi. It was a half-hearted attempt at best. Even the Doctor did not seem to want to expend too much energy on a search. They found some rubble under a knot of vines that might have come from a building, but equally may have been an unusual rock formation. There were twisted bars at the top of one of the tall trees, but it was impossible to tell if they were metal or just a different kind of wood from the forest floor.
Finally, Amy gave up and tugged Rory down to enjoy the heat of the afternoon sun. The Doctor scowled at them as they leaned back against a tree. "Well, it's a nice planet. Except it's so boring," he said.
Rory said, "Boring is all right. I like this."
"Really. You like this? You might as well live your life asleep."
Amy came to Rory's defence. "But sometimes it's nice not to threaten stuff, or run away, or watch people die, or be terrified all the time or..."
Rory added, "Or be covered in mud, or wet, or have to run away from monsters, or fight with sticks or..."
"Or be knocked unconscious, or have to fight for our lives, or be thrown around the TARDIS or..."
"All right. Point taken." The Doctor threw himself down onto the ground beside them and stuck his hands behind his head.
They sat in silence for a little while. Perhaps ten minutes, which must have been some kind of record for the Doctor, Rory thought.
When it became too much, he said, "The Rixxi were exciting. You'd have liked them, Amy. Not the most environmentally conscious, obviously, and pretty appalling custodians of the planet, but exciting. They did everything fast. Jetpacks, motor scooters, hydroplaning. They used to organise hunts when one Rixxi would hide somewhere in the city and the rest, maybe hundreds of them, would hunt him down. Like a planet wide hide and seek."
"Sounds like fun," Amy said.
"Sounds dangerous," said Rory.
"Oh yes, it was dangerous. And fun. I think it was a throw-back to how they used to hunt their food. Lots of people use hunting as a ceremonial behaviour. Although there are some interesting variations. The Loris of Reuben Nine used to have a hunt like that game with the Mars Bars and the dice."
"I love that game!" Amy said. "When we were little we played that game at Jeff's party. Rory..."
"I don't think he needs to hear this story," Rory said.
"Sure he does..." Amy started, but was interrupted.
If it had not been for the terrible screeching that now filled the forest, Rory might have been glad that the Doctor had not got to hear the rest of that story.
The Doctor was first to react. He jumped up and said. "Now that sounds like the Rixxi! A lot of Rixxi. About time for them to show up and explain what's happened to their planet." The noise modulated to a higher note. His face dropped. "Oh, dear."
"Oh dear what?" Amy demanded.
"Oh dear. Hunting. Like we are the deer, and they might be hunting. I never explained properly about the hunting, did I?"
"No!" Amy and Rory said in unison.
"No time now. I think we should run..."
And without hesitation, he turned away from the noise and into the undergrowth. Amy and Rory were right behind him.
Running, Rory thought. Now there was something familiar. He would have sighed if he could have spared the breath.
There was no obvious path for them to follow, but the Doctor seemed to have an unfailing sense of the easiest way. He pushed through vines and jumped over little streams into clearings where they could pick up speed. Even where the way seemed to be blocked by a wall of leaves, he aimed at a point where the branches were thinnest. They made good progress.
Despite that, the noise grew louder.
Rory ran as closely behind as he could, but he had not spent hundreds of years perfecting running away into an art. His feet found the uneven ground and he splashed into the water until his trainers were soaking. Every branch the Doctor pushed out of the way seemed to wait until Rory arrived to whip back. His arms were probably a mass of scratches and his eyes were watering from the twigs that caught him across the forehead.
In the end, though, it was not the branches that were their undoing, but the roots on the forest floor.
One minute Amy was in front of him, the next she was on the ground in a heap.
Rory was concentrating on not losing an eye and could not stop in time. He landed on top of her. In the tangle of limbs, Amy said. "Ow. Rory, get off!"
He apologised as he pulled himself up as quickly as he could. The Doctor was beside them too and offered Amy a hand. She managed to stand, then fell down again as her ankle buckled under her weight.
"Ow," she said again as she clutched her leg. Her face was very pale.
The Doctor had the sonic screwdriver out and pointed at the injured ankle. He frowned as he looked at the result, then he inspected Amy's face closely.
"Okay," he said. "You can't walk on that ankle and we can't stay here waiting for the Rixxi with their spears. So, a plan..."
"They have spears?" Amy asked.
"You have a plan?" Rory said at the same time.
"Yes, they have spears. They're hunting. And yes, I have a plan. You wait here. Hide behind the trees. I'll lead them away."
"That's not a plan!"
"I admit I've had better plans, but I don't hear either of you with better ideas. No? So, Rory, stay here with Amy and keep her safe. I'll be back soon."
Without another word, he picked her up under the elbows and shoved her into a thick area of branches. Then he pushed Rory in after her. For the second time in as many minutes he landed on top of her in a tangle of arms, legs and branches.
The tree sprang back across the opening, then the Doctor poked his head back through to look at them. A couple of leaves had lodged in his hair. "Now, for goodness sake, don't move. Don't make a sound. And wait here. Don't come after me. Be back soon."
Then he was gone and all that they could see was dark green leaves.
Amy looked rebellious and crossed her arms.
Rory muttered to himself, "I have a bad feeling about this."
Seconds later the keening became louder than they could bear. Rory stuffed his fingers into his ears and neither of them moved. He found himself holding his breath and praying that the dense leaves would screen them from their pursuers.
Then the Rixxi reached them. The noise was incredible. Pounding feet added to the howling screams. Branches broke from the trees and the ground vibrated. The smell of sweat and earth filled the air.
They could see nothing until Amy leaned forward so she could lift some of the leaves close to the ground. Rory put out his hand to stop her, but she shook him off.
They could only see bare feet as the ran past. Rory's impression was of taut muscles and tattoos to the knee. A few spears dangled a foot from the ground at their owner's backs. The tips were dark and functional. They looked ideal for killing things and chopping them up to eat them.
Even Amy seemed disinclined to take a closer look. So they satisfied themselves by just looking at the running feet.
Rory shifted his weight a little and brushed against Amy's leg. She gasped.
They both froze. One of the Rixxi seemed to have heard as it stopped so close to the trees that Rory could see the hairs on its feet. The tattoos around the leg were black and circular in a tribal sort of pattern. Something struck him as unusual, but in the terror of the moment he could not think what it was. He expected the Rixxi to bend down any minute and see them staring out of the trees. His imagination supplied the rest; spears, torture and death.
Another pair of feet stopped. There was a howling conversation between the two. Rory did not hear any words. Perhaps that meant that the language was too primitive for the TARDIS to translate. It sounded like the apes in the zoo at feeding time. Whatever was communicated seemed to be understood, though. The two Rixxi moved off just as quickly as their fellows. Rory took the first breath he had in a long time.
Then, at last, the forest was silent.
That was an hour ago.
"So, what are we supposed to do?" Amy asked for the hundredth time.
"The Doctor said we should stay here," Rory replied. Again.
"We can't just stay here. Something must have happened and we can't wait here."
"But he said we should."
"Rory! This is the Doctor we're talking about. Do you think he expects us to do what we're told?"
"Yes," Rory said reasonably. "If we go wandering off , he'll never know where to find us."
Amy crossed her arms angrily. "Rory Williams. If the Doctor could have come back to find us, he would be back by now. He's not. So we have to go find him and rescue him."
She crawled out of the trees and he followed reluctantly. It required a visible effort for her to haul herself up to stand on one leg, even with the support of a tree.
"You're not going anywhere like that," he said.
"Shut up. Am to."
"You can't stand."
"I am standing."
Rory stared at her until she put her foot on the ground. She stayed upright and smirked at him.
"And the tree?" Rory asked.
With rather more caution she took her hand off the tree. She wobbled, and fell onto the ground with a thump.
"See, I told you. You're not going walking anywhere on that ankle, let alone rescuing someone."
She rubbed the swollen joint around the bruise. "I thought you said it was only sprained."
"Yes. I think it's sprained. But it's a significant soft tissue injury and you cannot go walking on it."
She glared at him.
He should just pick Amy up and get back to the TARDIS as quickly as they could. He was not a hero or an adventurer. He was not even all that brave. He was just plain, ordinary Rory from Leadworth. Crazy rescue missions were the Doctor's speciality.
He knew he was going to regret this. He had not started and he regretted it already. What would the Doctor say? Tally-ho, or something like that. "Okay. I'll be back in a minute."
"What are you doing?"
"Going to get the Doctor. Then we're going to get the TARDIS and we are getting off this planet."
It was a mark of how painful her ankle was that she did not argue. Her face was very pale as he helped her back into the safety of the trees. It was a good thing he did. It was starting to rain.
"But you don't know where he is," she said when she was hunched down among the leaves.
"He was being followed by warriors with spears. They can't be hard to find. And it's the Doctor. I'm sure they're all having a nice cup of tea."