Author's Note: ARGH! Finals! How I miss the days early in my college career where the end of the year was reserved for Frisbee and drunken Twister. I barely got this done XP Also, they are two cameos (at least in my head) of relatively famous people in this chapter. I 'm sure you'll be able to guess who...
The Doctor stepped out of the TARDIS and took a deep breath, his nose wrinkling slightly at the smell. It was hot. Not hot in a 'Hey, want to go to the beach' sort of way, but the kind of heat better suited for slow cooking a roast, the kind that sapped away all of someone's energy and gave them heat stroke in the shade.
The TARDIS was parked on the outer stretches of a wooden boom town. A dusty road meandered through the center, fenced in on both sides by a series of interconnecting porches, forming a raised walkway. People walked slowly, trying to preserve their energy, hiding from the beating sun beneath the porches' roofs. A sluggish breeze kicked up mud, but did nothing to relieve the heat, simply churning up the air with dirt to sting a passerby's eyes.
It was, to say the least, thoroughly unpleasant.
That didn't stop Dad from wearing his delighted grin.
Jenny stepped out of the blue box behind him, looking around with a great deal less enthusiasm.
"Marvelous," he declared.
"That wasn't really the word I was thinking of," Jenny answered, squinting her eyes against the bright sun. "Where are we?"
"Well, you said that you wanted to learn about Earth. Britain is important, of course, but there's no denying that America is one of the most influential countries in history." He glanced around and started down a sidewalk. "America is big, you see, much bigger than little Britain. I mean, it's an island versus half of an entire continent. And powerful. It probably provides half of the United Nations muscle. Or at least it will. For a bit. Then they'll have the second civil war. The first was bad enough, North versus South, all because the South didn't want to follow certain laws the North was passing. The second war was nasty though, split the country in two for a while. The United States of North-East America and the United States of North-West America. A little ridiculous, all in all, but it pretty much took them out of the equation for about a hundred years. They finally reunited, probably after they realized how stupid it was to have a donkey or an elephant on your flag, and joined the space race. Second one of that too, several of the big countries trying to be the first to establish a colony off world. America joined late but managed to win. They have a habit of doing that in races. Even sent the first ship outside of the solar system. Well, okay, second ship, but they first ship that was supposed to. China had a ship that got knocked off course, but everyone on board died of starvation, so that one generally isn't counted.
"But what's really important about America is influence. Even in thousands of years, long after Earth has been abandoned and the country is no more, you'll still be able to see what they did. If you want to get to know humans, you have to get to know their biggest influences. And America is definitely one of the biggest."
"And America is like this?" Jenny asked, still looking thoroughly unimpressed.
"Well, no, of course not. America is very different depending where and when you are, but this here, this is the spirit of the America. We are in," he raised his hands dramatically, "the Wild West."
"The Wild West. America will eventually go from the eastern shore to the western shore, but they didn't start that way. They expanded westward, using nothing but the grit of their teeth and the dreams of a better life. That's why they have so much influence, you know. They had such dreams and the determination to make those dreams come true. And the willingness to take it by any means necessary, including committing several atrocities that I would stop if they weren't fixed points in time. But it's probably best to focus on the good stuff." He grinned at her. "So, what do you think?"
"There's poop on the ground."
"Okay, not exactly the reaction I was hoping for. There aren't many motor vehicles around here, except for a couple of trains, so horses are the primary source of transportation. And, well, they are animals."
"There's a lot of poop on the ground," she said, nodding toward the dirt road.
He glanced over his shoulder. "Oh. Yes, well, probably a cattle drive. It was one of their primary sources of income, raise a bunch of cows off west and drive them back east. Cows tend to be rather rude animals. Okay, I suppose that these cows probably aren't, they're just animals. But they descendents, well, okay, their descendents, descendents, descendents, descendents, descendents, descendents, descendents, descendents, descendents, descendents, descendents, descendents, descendents," he caught Jenny's gaze and coughed. "Anyway, yes, they certainly be rather boorish. And loud. Always going on about how strong they are and how shiny their horns are. And their curd. Well, okay, they might not talk a lot about that last one. I think that bull in particular had some brain damage. Ran into a wall back when he was a professional bull fighter. Still an ongoing sport, I might add. Not quite as vicious, though." He looked around. "Look, a saloon." He gave her a childish grin. "Want to go in?"
"It's across the street."
"It's across the street," Jenny repeated with exasperation. "I just got these clothes, I don't want to ruin them."
Dad surged across the street with enthusiasm. Jenny looked at the piles laying on the ground and the mud swirling in lazy tornados then down at her rather stylish outfit (no matter what her father said about it). With a long suffering sigh, she started picking her way after him. The sun was torturous and she almost got killed by some sort of horse drawn wagon. By the time she had reached the other side, Dad had disappeared behind a swinging gate thing in the doorway. She pressed her way through them.
Every eye in the saloon was on her. In all honesty, part of the reason she had chosen her outfit was its power to draw attention. She had already spent one life, albeit a rather short one, being soldier girl. It was finally time to let loose a bit and have fun. Besides, it was funny to see him scramble when the boys looked.
This time, however, it made her a bit uncomfortable. The surrounding crowd of men wasn't really what she had in mind when she thought about attracting attention. They were dirty and scarred and smelly. And old. Really old. Maybe not Dad old, but still old.
She hurried over to Dad, who was talking animatedly with a man standing behind the counter.
"You want a drink or not?" the man asked shortly, cutting him off.
"Well, okay, I suppose," Dad said, sounding slightly offended. "How about a whisky?"
The man looked at Jenny pointedly.
"What's whisky?" she asked Dad quietly.
"A drink," he answered her. "You're probably too young for it."
"Am not," she protested immediately.
Dad studied her for a moment. "Alright, two whiskies."
The man delivered placed two small, none to clean glasses on the counter. He filled them with an amber liquid from a dark bottle. Dad grabbed one, Jenny, feeling slightly suspicious, grabbed the other. He raised it to her before tipping in back and emptying it in one gulp. She did the same.
And immediately dissolved into coughing so hard that it drove her to her knees. It tasted vile and burned the entire way down.
"You okay?" Dad asked.
"Yes," she lied, trying to stifle another cough.
"Want another one?"
She shook her head.
"Good. You're too young for it."
She didn't dignify that with an answer.
"To be honest, I've never been much of a whisky man. I used to drink wine, not lately though. I have to admit though, that was pretty good. A second, please."
The floor was dirty. It bothered Jenny, because she was sitting on it, her back braced against the counter. It was comfortable, though.
"You sure you're okay?"
"The room is spinning," she informed him.
There was an amused snort from above. "I never figured you were that much of a lightweight."
"I'm not a lightweight," she protested weakly. "I'm way heavy."
"This coming from a girl who kept thinking I was saying she was fat."
"I'm not fat. Heavy, completely different."
"You're laughing at," it took her a moment to find correct word, "me."
"Yes, I am."
"That's not nice."
Jenny tried focusing her attention on a nearby stool, except it kept moving slightly. Every time she tried, it seemed to slide to one side.
"You ain't from around here," an unfamiliar voice said nearby. At least, that's what she though it said. She was having trouble keeping track of things and she had never heard an accent like it before. It was low and seemed to drag in strange places.
"No, we're not," Dad answered.
"You a Englishman?"
"No, not really. A bit farther away, but I've certainly spent enough time there."
"What brings a gentleman like you all the way out here?"
Jenny redoubled her efforts to focus on the voice. Even with everything being as… fuzzy as they were being, she could recognize the contempt and challenge in the strangers tone. Dad, of course, kept talking obliviously.
"Hardly a gentleman. Well, okay, maybe technically, in some parts, at some points. Besides the point, really. I'm just visiting."
"Visiting? Ain't no vacation spot."
"Vacation? You know, I don't know if I've really ever taken one of those before. I mean, I've tried, but they usually end up involving running and screaming. And bleeding. And explosions. And there was this one time with a dragon."
"You trying to be funny?"
"In this case, actually, no. It wasn't really a dragon, but I'm at a loss of what else to call a flying, fire breathing lizard that tries to eat you."
"You stole its ham," Jenny managed weakly.
"Your lady friend seems to be having a bit of trouble."
"My daughter thought she was old enough to try alcohol. Apparently, she was wrong."
The stranger laughed. "Your daughter? Really?" There were several clunks of heavy boots as he walked over, and Jenny was suddenly treated to a sight of the speaker. He was ugly. At least, she though he was. It was hard to tell with the way he kept swaying. She suddenly realized her nose had stopped working, which was probably a good thing. He grabbed her elbow and pulled her to her feet. "Tell me, how much the Englishman paying you to call him 'Daddy'?"
"Paying?" Jenny asked, frowning slightly.
"Let go of my daughter's arm," Dad said quietly. His voice had dropped into it low, serious tone. The stranger picked up on it and his grip tightened.
"You really don't want to annoy me," Dad continued.
The stranger laughed again. "I bet I can pay better than him," he said to her. "Better in bed, too."
"What?" Jenny floundered.
"I gotta admit, never seen a whoring outfit like this before. I think I like it."
Things clicked sluggishly in her head, and she let out a snort of disgust. "I'm not a whore," she said, trying to tug her arm free and failing.
Dad stood up, turning to face the man full on, his eyes glinting dangerously. It was odd, the entire room was still swaying, but he was standing perfectly still. "I am not going to repeat myself. Let go."
Jenny didn't even register the movement before the stranger's gun was already rising.
"Baldwin!" a new voice snapped from the entrance.
Baldwin froze, his arm half raised. "Sherriff," he said, with an innocent tone of voice.
The Sherriff brown coat swayed as he approached. He was, by far, more pleasant to look than Baldwin. "I believe we've had a talk about you starting fights in my saloon."
"Ain't your saloon, Sherriff."
"My town, my saloon. Man says she his daughter, then she's his daughter. So let go."
Baldwin snorted. "Ain't no way any self respecting man would let his daughter out dressed like this."
"Trust me, I've tried," Dad said, his voice still dark. "She seems to have inherited my stubborn streak."
"Sides, he's too young to be her pa," Baldwin continued.
"Doesn't matter," the Sherriff cut him off. "Let go and ride out of town."
"You can't do that. I'm a law abiding citizen."
"The day you're a law abiding citizen is the day my granny rises from the grave. Leave."
Baldwin shifted his eyes from Jenny, Dad, and the Sherriff. Finally, he let out a grunt and released her. Her knees promptly decided to go flying in to different directions, but Dad managed to grab her before she hit the ground. He helped her into a stool as Baldwin stormed out.
"He brings up a good point," the Sherriff said, approaching the counter. "You two are a bit close in age to be father and daughter."
Jenny managed to prop herself up with her elbows. The saloon was still fuzzy, if not quite moving anymore. A slow pounding was building behind her temple.
"I'm older than I look," Dad assured him, his voice returning to its usual lightheartedness.
"Here." The Sherriff handed her a metal container. "Water will help." She drank it eagerly. The Sherriff returned his gaze to Dad. "As poor as it was, welcome Mister-" He paused.
"Yes, hello," Dad said with a grinned, extending a hand. "I'm the Doctor."
"There a name to go with that?"
"That is my name."
The Sherriff's eyes narrowed slightly. "I have myself a theory about men who don't use their real names, Doctor. I hope I didn't just make my life harder for no reason."
"I mean no harm, promise."
"I'm gonna hold you to that, Doctor," the Sherriff answered, taking Dad's hand. "I'm Joe Malcolms. Am I to assume that blue box on the outskirts of town is yours?"
"Yes." Dad gave him an impressed look. "I'm surprised you noticed it."
"I'm the Sherriff. I know every building in my town, so I ain't going to miss a new shed popping up, especially painted that color."
"None the less, it's very impressive."
The gate swung open again. "Sherriff," a hassled looking man said. "Father O'Boyle is reporting some vandals up at the church."
Jenny handed the water back to him as he sighed. "Just one day, I'd like to be able to relax. It'd be best, Doctor, if you didn't start anymore fights."
"Cross my heart."
Things still seemed off, but for the most part, Jenny found herself back to normal. She glanced at the glasses in front of Dad. "You had six of them?"
"How are you not on the floor?"
"Alcohol isn't that hard to metabolize if you know what you're doing."
"You mean we can avoid feeling like that?"
"Sure. What, you didn't like it?"
She shook her head.
The man behind the counter suddenly put a parcel down on the counter, causing Jenny to jump slightly.
"What's this?" Dad asked.
"I was told to give this to a Doctor with a blue box," the man answered with a grunt. "Figured that was you."
The man shrugged and walked off.
"I never get post," Dad said, the childish grin back on his face and his eyes full of curiosity. He tore off the paper to reveal an old leather bound book. The cover was blank and it was kept shut by a small belt with a dull brass buckle. Tucked between the belt and front cover and a folded piece of paper.
Dad pulled it out and flipped it open. The smiled dropped off of his face and was replaced by a scowl.
"What's it say?" Jenny asked.