A/N: I'm a member of an 'Emergency!' fan site on Yahoo Groups, and they've got a little challenge going over on their forum right now. The idea is to write something that includes as many E! episode titles within the text as we can possibly make fit. I used to be really obsessed with E!, but I've changed obsessions a lot in the last two years. My current fixation is Doctor Who, and the other E! forum members have been teasing me about it a bit, so I decided to submit this in answer to their challenge. This is for you, guys! And by the way this took me FOR. FREAKIN'. EVER!
Also, for you Doctor Who fans, you don't have to know anything about 'Emergency!' to understand the story. All the titles are in boldface. Every single 'Emergency!' episode title, in order, from Season 1 through Season 6.
And, just in case you're wondering...this is not a crossover. It's pure Doctor Who!
"Right then. Where would you like to go?" The Doctor retrieved his floppy brown fedora from the hat stand that seemed to be the TARDIS's permanent mascot, then bounded over to the console excitedly and fiddled with the controls of his beloved spaceship. He flashed a toothy grin at his companions, then switched on the viewscreen, revealing the black star-studded expanse that people called 'outer space' for lack of a better description. He made a wide, sweeping gesture. "The whole cosmos is at our fingertips."
Sarah Jane glanced at Harry. "Why don't you choose, Harry?" she suggested. "This whole trip is for you, after all."
The young surgeon considered this. He had been kept quite busy during the past week. A sudden outbreak of botulism had unexpectedly seized the crew of the Navy vessel on which he was currently stationed. Harry himself had discovered the source of the whole thing; the chef had been careless with the ingredients he used in preparing the crewmember's meals. Needless to say, the cook's tour with the Navy was abruptly suspended when the whole thing was exposed, and Harry had been commended for his brilliant handling of the incident; there were no deaths caused by the outbreak—all the patients received treatment in time.
Harry was rather exhausted at the end of the week, and the Doctor and Sarah, who happened to be in the same time period working with UNIT on an alien investigation, had offered to take him somewhere for a relaxing vacation. He was reluctant at first, remembering his last time going with them in the TARDIS, but Sarah had convinced him to come along.
"How about America?" Harry suggested. "We could go to California."
"It's the middle of summer." The Doctor replied. "Brushfire season."
"Well this is a time machine, isn't it?" Sarah interjected, a hint of sarcasm lining her voice, "Couldn't we go back or forward a little bit? Say, spring or fall."
"Never mind that." The Doctor waved a hand dismissively. He looked over at Harry. "The whole of space and time, and you choose someplace on earth? I mean I like earth, it's my favorite planet, but have a little imagination, Harry! Wouldn't you like to go out there," he gestured at the viewscreen again. "somewhere?"
Harry shrugged. "Well I suppose so, Doctor, but how am I supposed to choose when I don't even know what's out there?"
The Doctor pondered this for a moment. "What do you know about space then?"
Harry shrugged again. It was a common gesture, Sarah noticed, when he was around the Doctor. Harry was a bright enough fellow—he was a surgeon, after all, and quite a good one at that—but the whole 'space and time' thing always seemed a bit much for him.
"Just what I've seen traveling with you two." He answered frankly. "I don't suppose a used car dealer's wild story about the car he was trying to sell me formerly belonging to a disguised space alien really counts, does it?"
The Doctor looked interested. "Did he say the name of the alien?"
Harry ignored him. "And that blonde nurse's wild tale about all of her former beaus being abducted by aliens doesn't count either." He added. His assistant in the food poisoning case had not been much help.
"Quite honestly I don't really know much of anything about space, Doctor." he surmised. "But as long as it's somewhere peaceful, I don't really mind where we go."
"All right then," The Doctor punched in a set of coordinates and pulled a few levers. "I'll choose." He flashed them another million-watt grin as the TARDIS made its customary vworp-vworp sound. "Get ready for a nice, peaceful vacation, Harry."
"I think it'll do us all some good." Sarah said. She leaned against the console. "I've been getting a little irritated with my work lately."
"Whatever became of that story you were chasing a few days ago?" Harry asked. "Did nothing come of it?"
The young journalist snorted. "False lead. Just some publicity hound trying to get his fifteen minutes of fame." She sighed. "A whole week of chasing leads and one very weird Wednesday afternoon interviewing the locals of a small village, and it all amounted to nothing."
"I'd say we both need this vacation then." Harry said decidedly.
"We've landed." The Doctor announced. Then he gave a sudden "Oh!" and lapsed into silence, a concerned expression on his face.
"What is it, Doctor?" Sarah queried, a little nervous. A concerned Doctor was never a good thing.
"Well I've got something of a dilemma." The Time Lord answered, his voice tinged with worry.
"Don't tell me you don't know where we are." Harry said.
"I know exactly where we are." The Doctor replied indignantly. "We're at the Ridfell Swoop Carnival—the finest amusement park in the galaxy."
"Then what's the problem?" Sarah asked him.
"I can't find my bag of jelly babies." The Doctor answered, bearing a countenance that rather reminded Sarah of a sad puppy.
His companions burst into laughter, partly out of relief, and partly at the forlorn expression on their friend's face.
"I think I've got the solution to your little hang-up, Doctor." Harry said with a grin. He withdrew the small white bag from his blue coat pocket and handed it to the Time Lord. "You gave them to me back at UNIT HQ yesterday, remember?"
Sarah certainly remembered. Harry had begun acting irrational, as was his tendency when his blood sugar got too low. The Doctor, concerned that Harry might experience a blood sugar crash, had given the young surgeon his bag of jelly babies and told him to eat a few of them. They had both been caught up in separate affairs shortly after that, and Harry had not gotten the chance to return the bag until this moment.
"Ah yes, that's right. I remember now. Thank you, Harry." The Doctor stuffed the bag of candy in his pocket, but not before popping one in his mouth. "Now that that little problem is solved," he pulled the red lever on the console, and the TARDIS doors swung open, revealing a bright sunny day overlooking a great assortment of carnival tents. There were kids everywhere, running and laughing and darting in between the various booths. The Doctor grinned. "Shall we proceed?"
He strode out of his beloved spaceship, his multicolored scarf trailing behind him as he called, "C'mon," over his shoulder to his companions.
"Shall we?" Harry smiled and offered an arm to Sarah. She usually resisted his chauvinistic displays, but the cheerful scene outside made her feel relaxed and lighthearted, and more at ease than she had felt in days. She returned his smile and accepted the offered arm, and together the two of them strode out after the Doctor.
They passed by various booths, all set up with games; prizes of all kinds hung from the rafters of each booth. "You! There!" A man from a nearby booth called out to them. He wore a bright red coat and shiny black top hat and looked like he ought to be in show biz rather than running a booth at a carnival "Step right up and play my little game." He waved his black cane at the stack of tin cans which stood next to a sign that read 'Bridgely's Tossing Game.' "Knock over the cans to win a prize. Step right up!" This man must be Bridgely, Sarah figured.
"Well I'm sorry sir, but I'm afraid we don't happen to have any of the local currency—" Harry began.
"Nonsense!" Bridgely responded with a laugh. "Everything is free at the Ridfell Swoop Carnival! How do you not know that?"
"We're strangers here, my friend and I." Sarah explained. "Go on, Harry, have a go at it."
Harry shrugged. "Well, all right." He reached for one of the wooden balls. Bridgely swung his cane in front of Harry. "Wait. Hold out your hands." Harry complied. Bridgely reached into the pocket of his bright red coat and removed a small plastic bottle. He shook it up a little, and then sprayed a clear, clean-smelling mist on the young doctor's hands.
"What's this?" Harry asked.
"Sanitizer." Bridgely responded. "A mere precaution. Strangers can potentially carry diseases and bacteria. Bacteria that one species may be immune to could be deadly to another. We cannot have our wonderful carnival infected with some unknown virus or plague."
"A wise precaution," Harry agreed, rubbing his hands together to let the sanitizer soak in. Then he picked up one of the balls, took aim, and artfully threw it straight at the foremost stack of cans. The six tin cans came crashing down with a spectacular clang.
"Bravo!" Sarah applauded.
"Well done, good sir." Bridgely congratulated him with a hearty smile. "Few do so well on the first try. Pick your prize." He indicated the various stuffed animals above their heads. Harry glanced up. Most were foreign to him; plush toys made in the likeness of various alien animals. There was only one earth animal among them—a brown and tan stuffed owl. "How 'bout that one?" Harry pointed to it.
Bridgely raised his can and poked the indicated prize, jarring it loose; Harry caught it as it dropped down. He turned to Sarah. "For you." He handed her the plush owl.
"You earned it." Sarah attempted to protest.
"It's yours." Harry insisted.
Sarah accepted it with a smile. "Thank you, Harry." She held up the toy and examined it. "I'll call him Owlie."
They continued wandering through the carnival booths for the next hour or so, frequently stopping to try the games that looked especially interesting, with varied success each time. After a while they came to a dart-throwing game. A big wooden board was propped up against the back wall of the booth, with several balloons pinned to it. Sarah picked up a dart. "Yellow." She said.
In one swift motion, she threw the dart. It plunged straight into the only yellow balloon on the board, popping it with a loud 'POW!'
Harry's jaw dropped. Sarah smirked. "You're not the only one with throwing skills, dear Harry." She selected a green stuffed crocodile from the assortment of prizes and handed it to him. "For you."
"Why thank you." Harry laughed. "I'll call him Jaws."
"Where to now?" Sarah asked.
"How about we find some place to eat?" Harry suggested.
"Good idea, I'm starving." Sarah agreed. "Hey," she said suddenly. "Where's the Doctor?" She looked around, realizing for the first time that she hadn't seen a trace of the Time Lord since he had exited the TARDIS ahead of them.
They heard the clip-clop of horses hooves behind them, and a familiar voice said, "Right here."
They turned to see the Doctor astride a dark brown horse. An old man with long grey-black hair rode up beside him on a second horse. He rather resembled a Native American, Sarah thought.
"Where have you been, Doctor?" she asked.
"Oh I've just been sharing a peace pipe with the local chief here, that's all." He eyed their prizes. "Looks like you two have been having fun."
"So have you, apparently." Sarah replied.
"Yes I had quite an interesting conversation with Swift Hawk here—he and his wife are the landlords for the whole carnival. You know most of this place got its influence from 20th Century America?"
"That explains a lot." Harry commented.
"But it seems they've got a problem." The Doctor continued. "Swift Hawk told me all about it and I told him we could help, so we saddled up and came back here to get you two."
"Sure we'd be glad to help." Sarah said. She turned to her comrade. "Sorry about your vacation, Harry."
"Oh no, it's nothing dangerous." The Doctor assured them. "Just a little mystery that needs clearing up, that's all."
"Well let's go then." Harry said. Then, to Sarah, "I suppose we'll have to wait a little longer for dinner, then. I'll take you to that restaurant we passed a little ways back after we get this mystery cleared up."
"It's a date." Sarah agreed.
"We could only procure one extra horse." The Doctor motioned to the black steed tethered behind Swift Hawk's own animal. "You two will have to ride together. Do either of you know how to ride a horse?"
"I do." Harry answered. "At least I used to. I suppose I still can."
"I've only ridden a few times." Sarah admitted. "I'll let you sit up front."
"All right then." Harry mounted the horse and offered Sarah a hand. She took hold and climbed up, situating herself behind him in the red leather saddle. On one side of the saddle she found a convenient pouch to stow their prizes. "There you go, Owlie." She laughed, stuffing the owl securely in place next to the crocodile. "Make friends with Jaws here."
Harry looked down at the two plush animals. "I say, old chap, do try to get along with the owl." he admonished the crocodile. "Don't eat him. I suppose a ferocious reptile like yourself would consider owl to be quite a delicacy, but I'm afraid it's simply out of the question. It wouldn't put me in very good standing with my young friend here."
"Indeed it wouldn't." Sarah agreed with mock-seriousness.
"Are you quite through?" The Doctor asked, and his companions looked up to find him watching their exchange with an expression hovering between amusement and impatience.
"Right-o." Harry straightened up and took hold of the reigns, trying to bring some dignity back to the situation. Behind him, Sarah giggled. The Doctor continued to give them an odd look. Swift Hawk looked on impassively.
Harry snapped the reigns. "Giddy-up, um…..I say, Chief Swift Hawk, uh, sir," He glanced at the Indian. "Does this horse have a name?"
"He is called Coal Dust." The chief replied.
"Giddy-up, Coal Dust." Harry snapped the reigns again. The horse trotted forward, and the group set out, with Swift Hawk leading, Harry and Sarah in the middle, and the Doctor bringing up the rear.
"My horse is called Fuzz Lady." The Doctor informed his two comrades. He appeared to take some great amusement at that particular fact.
"Well now that's an odd name for a horse." Harry commented.
"Good name." Swift Hawk said without looking back at them. "Horse belonged to first woman officer of our police force. Named in her honor."
"I suppose that makes sense." Harry consented.
"Was honorable woman." Swift Hawk added. "Did better in academy than any male trainee."
"Personally I've never really thought it was such a good idea, allowing women to be police officers." Harry said. "It's a bit too dangerous."
Before the words had even completely left his mouth, Harry realized the mistake in voicing his opinion and gave a premature flinch, preparing himself for the sharp poke in the ribs he knew his fellow rider was about to deliver.
Sarah did not disappoint. "And just what has danger got to do with it?" she queried in a challenging voice.
"Sorry, old girl." Harry wisely chose to not dig himself any deeper by arguing. "Forget I even said that."
He glanced over his shoulder and saw Sarah regarding him skeptically. "Alright then." She said at last. "You take it back?"
"Good." She nodded triumphantly. "And about that dinner date….."
"I suppose it's off?" Harry grinned sheepishly.
"Depends on whether you say anything else stupid." Sarah gave him a teasing smile.
The Doctor trotted up alongside them. "If you're interested in keeping quiet, try putting something over your mouth." He grinned at Harry. "I've a roll of duct tape to sell you."
"Yes, and a bridge to match, I suppose." Harry muttered. He prudently remained silent for a few moments.
They rode through several city blocks of tents and buildings. Sarah looked around with interest at the numerous booths and shops; they passed places with names like, 'Morley's Musical Mania,''Encanto's Fantastical Museum of Dragons,' 'Monty the Snake Charmer,' and 'Zedley's Zany Clown Town.' Sarah shuddered as they passed that one, where two polished clown statues flanked the brightly colored arched entrance.
Harry glanced back at her. "You all right, old girl?"
"Just a bit chilly, that's all." Sarah lied, pulling her jacket collar up a bit. The mild breeze was actually rather nice. But she wasn't about to admit her secret phobia to the Doctor and Harry. It was silly for a grown-up to be afraid of clowns —after all, she was nearly twenty-four.
Harry seemed satisfied with the answer; the Doctor cast a slightly skeptical glance at Sarah, but did not press the issue. Still, she felt the need to change the subject. "This is quite a carnival, Doctor. Just how big is it?"
"Oh, about ten or twelve square miles, I think." The Doctor replied. "It's like a small city. Quite something isn't it?"
"It certainly is." Harry agreed. "A fellow could get lost in this place. A map would be helpful for navigating these streets."
"We don't need a map." The Doctor said. "We've got the best guide there is. Swift Hawk knows this place like the back of his hand." He lowered his voice to a whisper to avoid being heard by the chief, who was a good distance in front of them. "Legend has it, he once helped a dozen cattle drivers guide their herds through the antique shop district on the other side of town—and not a single dish was broken."
"Legend lie." The chief called out.
The trio exchanged surprised glances.
"Hey how much farther have we got to go?" Sarah asked.
"Oh, not far." The Doctor answered. "Swift Hawk's home is just that way." He pointed up the road.
They continued along the sandy streets until they had left the carnival behind them and found themselves crossing a wide plain. Ahead of them, about a quarter-mile in the distance, sat a little cabin with smoke coming from its chimney. It looked a rather welcoming sight.
"I say, this reminds me of my school days at Oxford." Harry commented. "My flatmates and I used to go out horseback riding in the fields near the campus." He looked back at Sarah and grinned. "One time we decided to have a laugh and ride the horses inside the school. We rode down the hallway, all the way to class, dismounted in the classroom, and walked to our desks like it was nothing. The whole class was absolutely roaring."
"What happened?" Sarah asked, laughing.
"Jolly good sensation we made. The professor was rightly angry with us. Made us return the horses to the stables, and then kept us after class, all four of us, just like we were schoolboys. He made each of us write a thousand word essay on 'the proper behavior and etiquette of an Oxford student', and then told us that since we were so fond of the horses, he would inform the stable manager that four strong, capable young men had graciously volunteered to muck out all the stalls every day for the next month."
At this point in Harry's story even the Doctor was laughing. "Why that doesn't sound like you at all, Harry." He said. "Imagine, Sarah! Our Harry, a jokester!"
"Well it wasn't my idea." Harry insisted. "The other fellows talked me into it. They wanted to impress some young ladies they fancied."
"Ah!" The Doctor exclaimed with a grin. "Of course. How classic. Human fellows are always doing silly things to impress girls. It's like some sort of syndrome among them."
"Oh come on now Doctor," Sarah chided playfully. "Don't tell me that you Gallifreyan blokes don't do the same thing. Be honest now."
"Us Gallifreyan blokes prefer using intellectual challenges to impress one another." The Doctor said, tilting his chin up slightly, a bit of pride lining his voice.
"Meanwhile us earth fellows just let testosterone do all the thinking for us." Harry commented.
"What other sort of trouble did you and your flatmates cause?" Sarah asked him.
"We held a séance one Halloween." Harry replied after some thought. "The girls wanted to see if it really worked, and the fellows just wanted an excuse to sit in a dark room holding hands with the girls."
Sarah's laugh sounded more like a snort. "Well that's typical. What happened then?"
"Well, just as we were asking the spirits to 'make their presence known', something crashed outside and the blokes all screamed louder than any of the girls did."
"That's what you all get for messing about with that sort of thing." The Doctor muttered. "It's all rubbish anyway."
"And besides that, the girls teased us about it for weeks after." Harry added. He was silent for a moment. "Another time we put a cat in the boot of the chancellor's car."
"However did you get into his car in the first place?" Sarah laughed.
"Well," Harry shifted uncomfortably in the saddle. "Er, one of us happened to figure out how to, ah, well….ahem, pick the lock. But that wasn't my idea either." He added hastily.
He grinned. "Another time this jerk across the hall from us tried to rip-off an old woman by selling her his broken down car. My flatmate Eric forged an audit notice and left it on the bloke's windshield."
"Forged?" Sarah raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah….well anyhow it stopped the old woman buying the car and gave that fellow a proper scare. Served him right if you ask me." Harry concluded.
"Well never mind your college exploits then." The Doctor said. "We've arrived." He tugged on the reigns and guided his horse to the hitching post beside the cabin, where they could see the silhouette of Swift Hawk's stallion against the backdrop of the setting sun. It was already tied to the post, and in the dimness they could just make out the image of the chief crossing the yard to his cabin.
Harry and Sarah followed suit, and the three of them dismounted and followed Swift Hawk to the cabin's entrance. Instead of a door, a brightly colored orange and red tapestry hung in the doorframe. Swift Hawk pulled it aside and motioned his three guests through. As they passed him, the chief muttered, "Was two dozen."
The inside of the cabin was beautiful. It was rather like something out of an old movie. The walls were hung with colorful tapestry; strange alien symbols and patterns were interwoven with the traditional Native American style art. It was like nothing they had ever seen before. In one corner of the room sat wooden furniture—chairs, a table, a couch lined with handmade cushions, and a bookshelf filled with old books. Wood burned in a stove nearby. A pleasant aroma filled the air; something was cooking over the fire.
An old gray-haired woman was seated beside the stove. She stood up when they came in. "My wife," Swift Hawk motioned to her. "Sun Bird."
"Welcome back Doctor." Sun Bird smiled. Then, turning to his companions, "And friends of Doctor. Here. Drink." She held out a wooden tray to them; five steaming mugs filled their nostrils with the familiar pleasant aroma of hot tea.
The three guests accepted the offered drinks gratefully. Swift Hawk and Sun Bird took the other two mugs, and the chief gestured to the chairs by the fire. The five of them sat down and Swift Hawk began to explain the matter.
"Strange things happening at Carnival." He began. "Did not seem unusual at first, but frequency of occurrences has increased in past two weeks."
"Doctor said friends could help." Sun Bird added.
"Oh yes, we'd be glad to help." Sarah agreed. "What exactly is going on?"
"Well," The Doctor interjected. "Apparently it all started when the old engine repairman—he keeps all the carnival rides in working order—began to notice some unusual things round his shop."
"Repairman feeds alley cat that lives outside." Swift Hawk added. "Cat disappeared two weeks ago."
Harry shrugged. "Why is that so mysterious? Cats are independent."
"A fool speaks without first listening," Sun Bird rebuked him. "Hear rest of story. Then speak."
Harry blushed sheepishly, and Sarah held her mug up to her lips to hide an amused smile.
"A few months ago, an English visitor arrived at the Carnival." The Doctor explained. "He seemed very interested in it, so Swift Hawk tells me."
"English?" Sarah queried. "From earth. So this is the future then?"
"Yes, the very distant future—for you anyway." The Doctor replied. "When humans finally got out of their own solar system. Only took them a few millennia." He added with a bit of sarcasm. "Anyway, the visitor was a heavyweight boxing champ back on earth. He wanted Swift Hawk to allow him to open up a boxing arena at the Ridfell Swoop. Swift Hawk wouldn't hear of it. Said it was too violent a thing for his carnival."
"Stranger became angry." Swift Hawk added. "Said violent words. Empty words, I thought. Did nothing at first. Then cat disappeared. Other animals vanished soon after." Here the chief cast a glance at Harry. "That is why cat's disappearance is a mystery." Harry looked down at his mug and pretended to be interested in examining his tea. Sarah had to stifle a giggle.
"Our own guard dog, Snakebite, went missing two days ago." Swift Hawk continued. "Is good guard dog. Never leaves property unless I take him to carnival with me, as I did two days ago. He vanished then."
"So that's when you suspected something was wrong." Sarah concluded.
"Yes." Swift Hawk said. "Other strange things followed. Doctor?"
"Encanto hired the visitor to work at his museum." The Doctor supplied.
"The dragon museum? That place we passed on the way over here?" Harry asked a little hesitantly, glancing sidelong at their hosts, half afraid they would find reason to rebuke him again. They said nothing.
"That's right." The Doctor said. "Well done Harry. Very observant."
Harry smiled. The Doctor turned to the Chief and his wife. "You really mustn't be too hard on my friend here." He told them. "You see he's rather new to this whole travelling thing. It can be a bit overwhelming. That's why he speaks without thinking sometimes."
The Indian couple nodded. They offered no apology to Harry, but both of them smiled at him, and he knew they were on good terms.
"Anyways," The Doctor continued. "Rodren—that's the visitor's name—worked as the janitor at Encanto's. He swept up the floors at night after closing time. He did his work well, but he always seemed to be sulking and brooding while he went about his work, so Encanto told Swift Hawk. But he was efficient, and Encanto soon saw fit to promote him to assistant manager. Quite a step up from janitor. A good salary increase, too. But Rodren turned the promotion down, a very odd and unexpected move from someone as ambitious as him. Even more unusual, he came in and quit the next day. His explanation was rather unconvincing—something about how working nights was giving him insomnia. No one has seen much of him since he quit, and the animals started disappearing just after."
"Why doesn't someone go round to his flat—or wherever he's staying—and check up on things?" Harry suggested.
"Well that's the thing." The Doctor said. "No one actually knows where he's staying."
"Some have seen him recently." Swift Hawk added. "A few tried to follow him. Lost him among tents."
"Like he was purposely trying to avoid being followed?" Sarah mused.
"Exactly." The Doctor said. "Swift Hawk suspects that all these things are connected somehow."
"So how can we help then?" Sarah asked.
"We need your journalist instincts." The Doctor placed a hand on her shoulder and grinned. "If anyone knows how to investigate unusual things, it's you, Sarah."
"Well first thing I think we should talk to Encanto." She suggested.
"Excellent idea!" The Doctor exclaimed.
"Tomorrow." Sun Bird said.
"Mm, what's that?" The Time Lord glanced at the old woman.
"Is late." Sun Bird said. "Sun has set. Quite cold now. Doctor and friends stay here tonight. Investigate tomorrow."
"That's very gracious of you." The Doctor said gratefully. "Thank you both."
The Indian couple provided their guests with a hot meal that night, which Harry and Sarah admitted was better than any restaurant meal could have been. Afterwards Swift Hawk went out and put the horses in the barn, then he returned, and he and Sun Bird retired to their room for the night, leaving the Doctor and his companions in the living room with earth-style sleeping bags to use, as the furniture wasn't the most accommodating.
The three of them sat together by the fire late that night, drinking hot cocoa that Sun Bird had provided for them.
"I say, this is quite nice." Harry said, unbuttoning his light blue shirt and draping it across the back of one of the wooden chairs. He sat down on the sleeping bag next to Sarah and propped his elbows on his knees, holding his mug in both hands. His silver necklace, usually concealed underneath his clothing, was clearly visible against his white undershirt. Sarah recalled that it was a medic-alert necklace—as a diabetic, Harry thought it a good idea to wear one.
"We've got a fire," the young surgeon continued. "And hot chocolate, and sleeping bags. We're set."
"Oh yes." Sarah agreed with a laugh, drawing her sleeping bag up over her knees and sipping her cocoa. "It's just like being a kid and having a sleepover. Or going camping."
"Yes, it's wonderful, isn't it?" The Doctor added, moving forward a bit to sit in between them. He picked up the ends of his long scarf and draped them around his companions' shoulders. They remained like this for several moments, sipping their cocoa and watching the dancing orange and yellow shapes of the crackling fire. They sat in silence, simply glad for one another's company.
Soon the fire began to go out, and the three friends separated a bit to make room to lie down.
Sarah yawned and stretched. "Tomorrow is going to be interesting." she commented, lying back against her sleeping bag on her elbows and regarding her two comrades. "Certainly more interesting than any of the stories I've been covering lately."
Harry gave her a questioning look. "Such as?"
Sarah reached up to the chair beside her, where she'd placed her purse. She retrieved a small notebook from the light green bag and flipped through it.
"Nothing all that interesting." She muttered absently, scanning her scribbled notes. "Not by comparison anyway. Something about some new inheritance tax law being passed—stops gold-diggers taking advantage of the elderly, or so its supporters claim." She flipped to another page. "Something here about a school's new zero tolerance policy for cheating, and the promise the headmaster made about how the rule will improve performance. Something about how body language affects an employer's opinions of potential candidates….." She stopped and looked up at her friends. "You know it all seems so mundane and ordinary compared to all these strange planets and weird places you take us, Doctor."
"Well, life on earth can be an adventure, too." The Doctor replied offhandedly, staring out the window with a distracted expression. "It's quite an amazing planet. Even on earth there are still so many things beyond human understanding." He mumbled, his mind clearly elsewhere. Sarah wasn't surprised. That was normal for him.
He snapped back to reality. "I think it's time we were all going to sleep." he said decidedly. "We've got a lot to do tomorrow."
"Agreed." Harry spoke up; he laid back and pulled the sleeping bag up over his shoulders. "You're right Sarah, this is just like a sleepover." he commented.
"The only thing missing is our stuffed animals, eh Harry?" Sarah said with a teasing grin. "It's too bad we didn't think to bring them in with us."
"Well fortunately one of us has some foresight." The Doctor taunted them good-naturedly. He reached inside his coat and withdrew the plush owl and crocodile. "I grabbed them on our way in. Here." He tossed the stuffed animals to their respective owners. Sarah had no idea how the Doctor had managed to hide the two prizes in his coat without them being noticeable. Maybe his pockets were bigger on the inside.
"Well what about you then, Doctor?" she asked him.
"Yes it seems you're the odd man out now." Harry added with a laugh.
"What?" The Doctor glanced back and forth between them. "What do you mean?"
"You're the only one who hasn't got a stuffed animal to cuddle." Sarah teased the Time Lord.
"I've got my scarf." The Doctor retorted. He lay down and gathered up the knit garment, holding it close to his chest like a child might hold a blanket, inciting giggles from his comrades. "Good night." He muttered, closing his eyes.
"Good night, Doctor." Harry and Sarah responded simultaneously, still giggling. Then they too closed their eyes and before long, all three weary travelers were sound asleep, and the only noise to be heard was the sound of crickets chirping outside the cabin.
"Wake up! Wake up!" Sarah felt someone shaking her shoulders. She opened one eye. Morning sunlight streamed through the windows. The Doctor was crouched beside her. "C'mon!" he said eagerly. "Both of you, get up!"
Sarah glanced over at Harry; he was sitting up already, propped on one elbow, running a hand through his sleep-tossed curls. From the looks of it he wasn't very appreciative of the Time Lord's early morning enthusiasm either.
"You hold him down, I'll strangle him with his scarf?" Harry suggested.
"That would require getting up." Sarah flopped back onto her pillow.
"No, none of that!" The Doctor shook her by the shoulders again. "C'mon you two. Sun Bird's fixed breakfast for us."
The thought of breakfast roused them quickly enough. The Doctor smirked. "That's more like it. Now, after we eat, we'll head out to go talk to Encanto."
A delicious breakfast awaited them. Eggs, toast, sausage, bacon, biscuits and gravy all freshly prepared and piping hot greeted them at the table. As the five people sat down to eat, the Doctor turned to the chief. "You know, Swift Hawk," he said. "It was actually rather by mistake we ended up here."
"You told us you knew where we were." Harry said, looking up from his meal. "Didn't you intend to come here?"
"Of course I did." The Doctor assured him, munching a piece of toast as he spoke. "I knew where we were, just not when. The TARDIS must've got it wrong. Some sort of computer error. It brought us to a different time."
"Hey Doctor?" Sarah offered him a challenging smile. "Why is it that every time something goes wrong, men always blame the machine?"
"What a thing to say!" The Doctor feigned indignance.
"It's true." Sarah insisted.
"Child speaks wisdom." Sun Bird spoke up, and then resumed eating in silence.
"Anyhow," the Doctor continued, giving Sarah a mock-glare. "Somehow we ended up farther in the future than I had thought." He looked at Swift Hawk again. "You see I was actually trying to get to an earlier point in time. I knew your ancestor, Brave Eagle."
"I know." Swift Hawk replied. "Have heard stories of one called Doctor since I was papoose." The chief looked at Harry and Sarah. "Your friend fought The Great Inferno alongside my great-grandfather." He told them. "Carnival would have burned down were it not for Doctor."
"Oh you mustn't give me all the credit." The Doctor insisted. "Brave Eagle had more to do with stopping that fire than I did. It was him found the culprits too."
"Culprits? It was deliberate?" Sarah asked.
"Well not exactly." The Doctor clarified. "Two small boys were messin' around with a box of matches right near a tent. It was during the dry season when there was no moisture in the tent material to keep it safe…" he left the sentence hanging.
"And whoosh, the whole thing went up?" Harry finished.
"Exactly." The Time Lord nodded emphatically. "And the boys' parents were the biggest fools ever. They refused to take any sort of responsibility. They insisted their children were 'only trying to be creative' and that 'that sort of thing should be encouraged'." Sarah could see the Doctor was beginning to get worked up. "Never mind safety!" he continued. "So long as their children got to do as they pleased, nothing else was important!"
"Is past now." Swift Hawk said calmly. "That family left this planet long time ago. Caused no more trouble."
"Of course." The Doctor said quietly. "Fortunately no one was killed in the fire," He told his companions. "But the Ridfell Swoop was never quite the same. It took decades to undo all the damage that fire caused."
"Doctor helped plant new seeds, to replace plants lost to flames." Swift Hawk added.
"Yes, and—" The Doctor struck a theatrical pose. "How green was my thumb!"
"'Valley', Doctor." Sarah corrected him, supplying the original word.
"Well it was 'thumb' in my case." The Doctor replied. "I must have planted a few hundred seeds that week. But all the hard hours spent planting paid off apparently; I hear they sprouted quite nicely. I must be quite a good gardener. At least I was." He added after a moment's thought. "I've regenerated since then. For all I know I might be a terrible gardener now. I don't seem to know much about feeding plants."
"Oh I don't know." Sarah mused, a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. "The Krinoid apparently thought you'd make a pretty good meal."
"That's not what I meant."
As the Doctor and Swift Hawk continued talking about Brave Eagle and the fire, Harry leaned over to Sarah. "Krinoid?" he whispered.
"Evil alien plant that tried to eat us." she replied casually.
"When did that happen?" Harry asked incredulously.
"A few weeks ago, I think." Sarah said. "Bit hard to keep track of time when you're bouncing all through it. But you should have seen the size of that Krinoid!"
"I'm rather glad I didn't." Harry said emphatically.
"Well it was quite frightening." Sarah admitted. "But afterwards the Doctor and I went to a diner and ordered salads for lunch. We thought it was appropriate poetic justice."
"I never saw the beat of you two." Harry shook his head. "It's like you both enjoy all this danger. Don't you ever have any safe adventures?"
"Well that's what this is, isn't it?" Sarah challenged.
"That remains to be seen." Harry munched on a piece of bacon. "I mean something really safe."
"He took me to a rock concert in the year 2056." Sarah said.
"Rock?" Harry looked a little disgusted. "You mean that stuff's still popular in the future?"
"Well it's a little different from the rock music in our time." Sarah said. "Oh, and the Doctor got us in for free."
"How'd he manage that?"
"Volunteered us to be part of the floor brigade."
"Basically just crowd control." Sarah explained through a mouthful of scrambled eggs. "It was quite fun actually. We got to wear bright orange vests and stand right next to the stage and shake hands with the band members. Free concessions, too."
"Right then." The Doctor's sudden statement interrupted their whispered conversation. He stood and gestured to everyone's empty plates. "I think we've all finished eating. Shall we be on our way then?"
Swift Hawk also stood. "I will go saddle horses." He disappeared out the door. Sun Bird set to work clearing the table and washing the dishes. Harry moved to help her. Sarah was impressed—her comrade usually considered such things to be 'woman's work'. Maybe I'm influencing him. She thought. He's finally joining the rest of the 20th Century.
"It's quite a coincidence." The Doctor moved to stand next to her.
"Swift Hawk's propinquity to my old friend. I didn't realize it until I saw Brave Eagle's picture hanging on the wall." He gestured to the photograph on the far wall of the living room. "It makes sense now that I think about it though. Brave Eagle was chief last time I was here. The title is passed on from generation to generation."
A crash sounded behind them. They turned to see a sheepish Harry holding a dishcloth in one hand. The shattered remains of a plate lay on the floor at his feet. It had apparently slipped from his hands while he was trying to dry it. "Sorry." He apologized to Sun Bird.
"Was accident." The old woman assured him. "Not important. You help. Thought counts." She smiled at him and handed him a broom.
"Have you ever considered an electric dishwasher?" Harry suggested as he swept up the broken pieces. "One of the best inventions of the 20th Century."
"Not as good." Sun Bird insisted. "Wash and dry by hand is better. Builds character."
"But there's always a chance of dropping a dish that way." Harry argued. He motioned to the shards on the floor.
"Then you sweep pieces up." Sun Bird responded. "Builds more character."
"You win." Harry conceded.
Swift Hawk reappeared. "Horses ready. Come."
Harry quickly swept up the remaining shards, then handed the broom back to Sun Bird and rushed to join his comrades. The three visitors followed Swift Hawk to the hitching post. They all mounted up and began their short journey back to the carnival. Swift Hawk and the Doctor led the way this time, talking about the carnival's great history. Harry and Sarah rode behind them on Coal Dust, making their own conversation.
"I heard Metropolitan Magazine is going to be covering a big new movie pretty soon." Harry said.
Sarah nodded. "The screenwriter and director both came into Percy's office the other day to offer him the chance to cover the production. He was ecstatic. It's quite a big deal, to have a big story just handed over like that."
"Are you going to get in on it too?"
Sarah shrugged. "It depends on whether the Doctor has something more interesting for us to do. Maybe I'll fix it so I can work on it next time he's back on earth in that time period. Time travel makes for very flexible schedules, you know. Then again," she mused. "The story may turn out to be nothing more than rumors and celebrity gossip, in which case I don't really want to get involved."
"You know Sarah, I've a nagging suspicion that you're beginning to lose interest in anything related to earth." Harry said bluntly, looking over his shoulder at his young friend.
"Not exactly." Sarah averted her gaze. "Oh, just the trivial things. The Doctor has shown me there's so much more to life than all those little things we humans get so caught up in—oof!" This reaction came as a response to Coal Dust stopping suddenly. "What did you do, Harry?"
"Nothing." The surgeon insisted. He snapped the reigns. "Come on, Coal Dust!" The horse refused to move. Harry snapped the reigns again, a little harder. "Come on. Giddy-up!" The black steed snorted and twitched his ears and remained firmly rooted to his spot.
"Having trouble back there?" The Doctor called back to them, sporting an impish grin.
"Not at all." Harry said. He grunted and dug his knees into the horse's sides. "Just a little—umph—communication gaffe between me and—mph—Coal Dust here, that's all. Come on now Coal Dust, giddy-up!" The horse did not budge.
"I think he's winning." The Doctor observed. Then, glancing down at the rocks strewn about the path in front of his companions, he added, "Ah, Harry, I think you'll be in for rather an unpleasant surprise if you keep going."
"Eh, what's that Doctor?"
Harry looked. There, partially concealed among the rocks, a rattlesnake was poised, watching them. It shook its tail menacingly.
"No wonder Coal Dust wouldn't move." Sarah whispered.
Swift Hawk quietly slipped off his horse with a speed and grace that Sarah would not have expected from someone his age. He picked up one of the yellow-brown rocks from off the ground and silently approached the rattlesnake from behind. In one swift movement he threw the stone straight at the dangerous reptile's head. The snake was dead before it even knew what had hit it.
The chief took his gnarled wooden cane and used it to lift the rattlesnake and toss it out of Coal Dust's path. The horse emitted what sounded like a relieved snort and set off again with his two riders. Swift Hawk walked alongside them back to his own horse.
"Always pay attention to signals horse gives." The old Indian admonished Harry, mounting his own steed. The group set off again. "Horse knows things. Senses things. Watch. Listen."
Harry nodded respectfully. "I do deserve a rebuke for that." He said quietly. "I've been around horses enough to know that sort of thing." He looked back at Sarah. "I put us both in danger just now, trying to make Coal Dust move."
"It wasn't your fault." Sarah reassured him. "You only rode horses around a university campus. Not as many dangers there as there are on a wide open plain. Those horses wouldn't have anything to be scared of, so of course you wouldn't recognize danger signals. Besides," she added with a laugh. "I think Coal Dust has our best interests at heart. He'll look out for us."
Harry smiled at her. "Thanks, Sarah."
"Have you any more horse stories to tell me, then?" Sarah asked, trying to lighten the mood.
"I took my first date, Daisy, to a horse race when I was sixteen." Harry said after a moment's reflection. "We weren't old enough to gamble, of course, but we made bets with each other. Loser had to buy the snacks. I bet on a horse named Over the Rainbow. Daisy's pick was a horse called Whistlestop. Care to guess who won?"
"Those places really overcharge for concessions. I nearly went broke just buying hotdogs and crisps."
"Hey!" The Doctor's whispered exclamation caught their attention. He and Swift Hawk had both stopped suddenly. "Look there!" He pointed. "But quietly." He added. "Don't frighten them off."
Harry pulled Coal Dust to a halt, then he and Sarah turned to look. A flock of strange creatures was gathered a few yards away on the crest of a hill. Their build was like that of goats or large cats—somewhere in between, Sarah decided. They had medium-length necks and blunt oval shaped heads with no discernible features—their eyes, nose, mouth and ears were all quite small. Short blue fur covered their entire bodies.
"What are they?" Sarah whispered.
"Draffas." The Doctor replied. "A migrating species. It's quite rare to see them. They usually move quicker than the eye can see. And they scare easily. They can run on for days without food or water. But occasionally they stop to graze or breed. Breeding time is the most dangerous for them—it's when they're the most vulnerable."
"Poachers come from offworld during this time." Swift Hawk added sadly. "Hunt Draffas for food and fur. Take some as slaves to other planets."
"Yes they're quite popular in the foreign trade market in this particular region of the galaxy." The Doctor said. "Well, it's more of a black market now. The capture and trade of Draffas was made illegal centuries ago when their numbers started to decrease. Even more so when people realized that they're somewhat sentient."
"How can a being be somewhat sentient?" Harry asked, confused.
"Their intelligence doesn't quite match that of humans." The Doctor explained. "But they've enough brains and common sense to be considered sentient nonetheless. It rather like the way most Time Lords view humans—they consider you intelligent enough in your own right, but not on the same plane with them."
"Do you feel that way?" Harry asked him pointedly.
"Well I don't think you humans are as intelligent as us at your point in time." The Doctor replied. "But I think you could be sometime in the far future."
Sarah was still staring at the remarkable creatures out on the plain. "Doctor?" she whispered. "Would a camera bug them, do you think? I'd like to get a picture of them."
"The flash might scare them." The Doctor replied. "If you can do it without the flash…."
"I can." Sarah said. She quietly reached inside her purse and pulled out her camera. When she looked back up at the hill a second later, the creatures were gone. A faint cloud of dust was all that remained of their presence.
Sarah looked at the Doctor with disappointment. He shrugged. "That's the Draffas for you." He said. "Here one moment, gone the next. Shall we go on?"
The little party proceeded onward towards the carnival. Within moments they had once again reached the sprawling outdoor amusement center from which they had departed the previous evening.
"The people here are quite interested in those Draffas." The Doctor told his companions. "The firehouse four blocks down from here has a statue on their front lawn of a Draffa wearing a helmet and turnout coat."
"Well that's certainly a nice change from plastic flamingos." Harry quipped. "A lot more details to be found in a statue, too."
"Oh yes it's a very beautiful statue." The Doctor agreed. "One of the firemen made it himself. Ah here we are!" He brought his horse to a halt. "Encanto's Fantastical Museum of Dragons!" He alighted and headed toward the entrance, glancing back over his shoulder as he went. "Are you coming?"
Sarah had not moved from the saddle. She was sitting still, staring sidelong at the building right next to the dragon museum. It was the clown place. Harry had stopped Coal Dust right in front of it. One of the statues was close enough to reach out and touch. A frightful memory surfaced—the clown puppet that used to hang in her bedroom when she was a child. That night….the thunderstorm…..she knew she saw it move! And here she was, nearly twenty years later and she still had not conquered her fear of clowns.
"Sarah!" she snapped back to reality and tore her gaze from the statue to see Harry standing on the ground beside the horse, regarding her with a concerned expression. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, of course." She dismounted with as much nonchalance as she could muster and briskly walked into Encanto's museum. Harry stared after her, still concerned. He'd never seen her freeze up like that before. Well, whatever was wrong, she wasn't likely to tell him. With a resigned shake of his head, he followed his friends inside.
The interior of the museum was spectacular! The entrance led to the center room, which opened into several exhibits and hallways. Through one doorway, the visitors caught a glimpse of a room full of giant dragon skeletons—much like the dinosaur exhibits in earth museums. Through another doorway they saw a hallway lined with dragon paintings. Near that entranceway, a rectangular object leaned against a wall, covered with a white sheet.
Harry wandered over to it and lifted a corner of the sheet. Underneath was a beautiful painting that depicted a procession of mythological creatures and fairytale type beings. At the far left of the canvas, leading the whole parade, was a proud-looking dragon with glittering emerald green scales. It was the most amazing painting Harry had ever seen. The colors and depth astounded him.
"A most extraordinary piece, isn't it?" A voice from the other side of the room startled Harry. He turned and saw a tall, slim youngish man approaching the group. The man wore shiny black boots, white pants, and a velvet green thigh-length coat over a white dress shirt and black vest. A black silk top hat with a dark green band completed the ensemble. In his right hand he carried a black cane with a decorative green jewel at the top. "Welcome to my museum!" he said to the newcomers; his voice had a slight Italian-sounding accent. "I am Encanto!"
Upon seeing him, Harry dropped the sheet back over the painting and stood up straight. "It's all right my friend." Encanto said. "There is nothing secret about the painting. It is only covered to protect it from damage."
Harry pulled the sheet up again. "It's brilliant." he said.
"Indeed it is." Encanto came to stand beside him and stared fondly at the art piece. "I am very fortunate to have gotten it. It fell into my hands quite by chance. Only a month ago I was at a social gathering—that's the high society word for party, you know." He said with a laugh.
"There was a prestigious art critic at the bash that night." Encanto continued. "He had heard of my museum and he knew I was searching for this piece. He told me that the current owner was a friend of his, and that he would put in a good word for me. Next thing I knew, the owner contacted me, offering to sell the painting for a quite reasonable price. And here it is! It came only yesterday. I'm having a special place in the gallery prepared for it." His dark brown eyes shone with delight.
At this point the Doctor spoke up. "Much as I'd love to hear about all of that, Encanto, I'm afraid we're not here as tourists. We came on more official business. Regarding Rodren. Your former employee."
Encanto's countenance quickly changed from excited to serious. "Rodren left here two weeks ago, for no apparent reason, after turning down a promotion. He claimed working nights gave him insomnia. It was a very unusual excuse, because the transition from janitor to assistant manager would have changed his hours. It's a day job. But he just quit out of nowhere. Next thing we know, animals start disappearing— and not just strays either. People's pets turned up missing. The Ridfell Swoop is not a mysterious place. When two unusual things happen at once, it is a fair bet that they are somehow related."
"So you suspect Rodren has done something with the animals?" Harry inquired.
Encanto nodded. "It seems likely."
"The real question," Sarah said contemplatively. "Is what would Rodren want with those animals? If he's taken them, there's got to be a reason." She paced across the room, thinking. "Hey," She turned on her heel to face the Doctor. "You said Rodren was a former boxing champ, right?"
"Yes," The Doctor said.
Harry looked puzzled. "What has that got to do with it?"
"It might have a lot to do with it." Sarah looked thoughtful. "Encanto, when you hired Rodren, did he provide any sort of records or forms?"
"Yes, all employees have to fill out identification forms." Encanto said. "Come with me. I'll show you. My office is just through here." He headed down the hallway that led through the art gallery. They followed after him.
Harry lagged behind a bit, taking time to look at some of the paintings as he went. One particularly interesting piece caught his attention. It depicted a group of firefighters battling a blaze. A small blue dragon—it was about the size of a donkey—stood amongst them, bravely facing the burning building.
Swift Hawk appeared at Harry's shoulder. "Small dragon breed was special," said the old Indian, who had remained silent up until this point. "Breed was called the Smoke Eater Dragon. High tolerance for smoke and heat. Assisted Fire Department long time ago. Went in ahead of firemen to search burning buildings. Helped save many lives."
"You said all that in past tense." Harry observed. "Are dragons extinct now?"
Swift Hawk nodded solemnly. "Hunted to extinction."
"Like the Draffas are in danger of being."
"Yes. Draffas descended from dragons." Swift Hawk said. "Have mix of reptile and mammal ancestry."
"Harry!" The Doctor called out from further down the hall. "Do stop kidding around back there and catch up with us."
"Friend shows interest in planet's history, Doctor." Swift Hawk called back. "I was explaining something to him."
The Doctor grinned sheepishly. "Sorry."
"Come." Swift Hawk said to Harry. "We will join them."
They headed down the hallway to rejoin the others, who had assembled in Encanto's office, a little room off to the left of the corridor of paintings.
Encanto opened a filing cabinet and rifled through a few folders. He pulled out one marked 'Rodren' and handed it to Sarah. "I don't know what you expect to find in there." He told her.
"Just a hunch." She replied.
While Sarah read over Rodren's records, Encanto turned to the Doctor. "Would you like to see a magic trick?" he asked the Time Lord. He reached up to the Doctor's ear. "Ah ah!" The Doctor caught Encanto's wrist and held it up. "The coin is visible between your fingers." He indicated Encanto's clenched fist. "You've got to be slicker about it than that."
Encanto sighed. "Prestidigitation is not my strong suit." He brightened. "But I'm quite good at games."
"Are you now?" The Doctor sounded interested.
"Yes," The museum owner waved a hand, indicating the checkerboard on a small table nearby. In one corner of the room there sat an assembled chessboard on top of a pile of boxes.
"Rodren and I played checkers every night during his break." Encanto told them. "I usually won. He got quite annoyed with losing. I told him time and time again that it didn't matter. 'It's not about whether you win or lose, Rodren,' I told him. 'It's how you play the game.' And he was quite good, too. He just couldn't beat me, but then very few people can do that." A bit of pride crept into Encanto's voice.
Then he frowned "But that seemed not to matter to Rodren. Winning was all he cared about. He was very tenacious. He always wanted to be one step ahead of everyone else. He went about his work with the same tenacity though, and I admired that, but he always seemed a little irritated. He sulked a lot. I supposed it was because he wanted a better job than sweeping floors. So I offered him the job as assistant manager. He turned it down flat, and then quit. You know all of that already."
At this point Encanto stopped and looked at the Doctor square on. "You've probably heard only negative things about Rodren, and I won't deny any of them, but let me tell you, he's not completely bad."
"No one is completely bad." The Doctor said.
"He worked here for about three months." Encanto continued. "And he and I became friends. He could be quite amiable towards me, except when he lost at checkers. Even then he wasn't exactly rude to me. He was never very nice to other people though. But he had unusual moments of compassion. He stopped me from killing a certain unwelcome guest that had been stealing food," Encanto motioned to a small hole in the baseboards, "by suggesting that we set a bit of food by the hole each day so that the mouse could have something to eat without breaking into the pantry and ruining all our food. He was quite fond of that mouse. He could get it to crawl right into his hand."
Encanto looked at his guests pointedly. "I'm quite concerned about Rodren's disappearance. He's hardly been seen at all these last two weeks. I do hope you can find him and clear all this up."
The Doctor looked over at his young companion. "Sarah?"
"I may have found something." She said. "Encanto, do you have a back-up copy of this?" she waved the piece of paper in her hand.
"I can make one." Encanto took the paper and placed it in a copy machine by his desk. He pressed a few buttons and the machine spewed out a duplicate of the form.
Sarah picked it up. "Thank you Encanto, for your help." She turned to her comrades. "C'mon," She exited the office and headed back the way they had just come.
"Where are we going?" Harry called after her.
"I've an idea about where to find Rodren." She shouted, already halfway down the corridor.
Harry and the Doctor exchanged curious glances, then shrugged and followed after her.
They caught up with Sarah in the lobby. The three of them exited the building together. Swift Hawk followed just behind them.
"Are you coming, Swift Hawk?" The Doctor asked.
"Have business to take care of here." Swift Hawk answered, mounting his horse. "Report just came in." he motioned to a walkie talkie attached to his belt. The three visitors hadn't noticed it before. Then again, it wasn't exactly something most people would expect an Indian chief to have. "Circus three blocks away has problem. 905-Wild."
"What's that?" Harry asked.
"It's a code." Sarah supplied. "It means 'wild animal loose and threatening'."
Swift Hawk nodded. "Tiger broke out of cage. Must go and help. Will meet you back at cabin later." With that, he tugged the reins and started off.
"All right now, old girl." Harry turned to Sarah. "What's this theory of yours? Where are we going?"
"Like I said, it's just a hunch, but we'll find out soon enough whether I'm right." Sarah mounted Coal Dust and took the reins. She motioned for Harry to get on behind her.
"I'd rather know what I'm getting into—" Harry started to protest, glancing back at the Doctor for support.
"Never argue with a journalist's hunch." The Doctor pushed him forward.
Harry gave a resigned sigh and climbed up into the saddle behind Sarah. The Doctor got on his horse and they all set off, with Sarah leading the way.
"You know Sarah, I'm really not much for this whole 'enigmatic' thing." Harry said, annoyed. Sarah glanced back at him with a slight smirk. She was clearly enjoying being one step ahead of him.
The Doctor seemed unconcerned. "Harry, did I ever tell you about the time I was on a crashing jetliner?" he said offhandedly, pulling up next to Coal Dust to ride alongside his companions.
"It was two-thousand-something I think." The Doctor continued, obviously not the least bit worried about the fact that they were headed towards an unknown destination with only Sarah's hunch to go on. "The plane was hijacked by aliens who wanted—well I don't remember exactly what they wanted, but it involved a plane. They killed the pilot and copilot, only to realize that they didn't actually know how to fly 'that blasted earth contraption,' as they put it. I had very little to do with the rescue part, as it happened. It was the stewardess saved the day. Turns out she had pilot training and was able to land the plane safely. While she was doing that I talked the aliens out of their scheme and all was well."
They continued onward. Sarah seemed focused on the task ahead. Meanwhile Harry had to put up with the Doctor's incessant chatter; he talked about anything and everything that popped into his head, jumping from one topic to the next without pause.
They passed a fire station. The Doctor looked delighted "That reminds me of the time I went to a firemen's charity picnic in '74. Or maybe it was '75. They had the most outrageous sort of games. They had a 1930's rig they had restored. Used it for one of their contests—how many people could the old engine cram into its four seats. I think the total was twenty-one. Say did I ever tell you about the time I rigged a Prime Minister's election?"
Harry sighed. "That's all very interesting Doctor, but what has it got to do with any of this?"
"Do?" The Doctor sounded defensive. "Do? Why it's got nothing to do with it. I'm just recounting adventures. What's wrong with that? You and Sarah did that all yesterday."
"That was different." Harry argued. "We were just travelling then. Now we're actually….it's just….aren't you worried, Doctor?"
"Worried? About what?"
"Well suppose that whatever it is that's waiting for us at wherever it is we're going is dangerous?"
The Doctor considered this for a moment. "Sarah? What can we expect to find? Do you think it will be dangerous?"
Sarah shrugged. "That depends on how Rodren reacts to being found out."
"Found out?" Harry cocked an eyebrow. "For what?"
"You're about to see." Sarah pulled on the reins and Coal Dust slowed. She maneuvered the horse behind a brick building; the Doctor followed suit. Sarah dismounted and peered around the corner at an alley that seemed to be a dead end. A grafittied fence closed off the far end of the alley.
Her comrades appeared behind her. "What are we looking for?" The Doctor asked in a hushed voice.
"Do you have any scanning equipment?" she whispered back.
"Anything to scan for life signs."
The Doctor pulled a small red device from his pocket and handed it to her. "Push the gold button on the side." he instructed. Sarah examined the device. The inspection revealed two buttons on the side, one black and one gold. She pushed the gold button and let out a surprised yelp, nearly dropping the device in the process.
The Doctor looked surprised, then amused. "Sorry, black button. Gold activates the joy buzzer feature. I always get those mixed up."
Harry tapped the Doctor on the shoulder. "Who has a scanner with a built-in joy buzzer?"
Sarah pushed the black button. The device whirred and a little blue light blinked. The Doctor hovered over her shoulder. "That means life signs." He whispered. "And quite a lot of them at that." He studied the blinking pattern. "And not all human either."
"The missing animals?" Harry suggested.
"Possibly." The Doctor said.
"More than that," Sarah said. "It's extremely likely. C'mon." She started forward to examine the fence.
"C'mon Harry," the Doctor glanced back at his friend. "We should go with her."
"Well someone's gotta keep her out of trouble." Harry agreed.
"I'm coming too." They heard a voice behind them. They turned, startled. Encanto stood behind them. "I followed the horses' tracks." He said, approaching them. "Whatever Rodren's got into, I want to help sort the whole thing out."
The Doctor and Harry exchanged glances. "All right." The Doctor agreed.
"Hey Doctor, I've found something!" Sarah's quiet exclamation came from around the corner.
The three men rounded the corner and saw Sarah examining the fence. "It's a gate, Doctor." She blinked in surprise. "Encanto. Decided to join us, did you? I should warn you, you're not going to like what we find."
Encanto nodded. "I figured that."
Sarah turned back to the fence again. "It's a gate. Look, the handle's just here."
"So what's on the other side?" Harry asked, moving to stand beside her.
"The solution to this whole mystery." Sarah tried the handle. It was locked. "So much for the front door approach."
"Why don't we try the indirect method?" The Doctor piped up. His companions looked over at him. He grinned and pointed upward.
Harry glanced up. "Climb over the fence?"
The Doctor shrugged. "Why not?" He leaped up and caught hold of the top of the fence, swinging over and disappearing behind the wooden barrier, his scarf trailing after him. They heard a thump as he landed on the other side. "C'mon!" he called.
"Why not just use the sonic screwdriver?" Harry asked.
"Doesn't work on wood!" The Doctor called back over the fence. "Now c'mon!"
Sarah climbed over after next, followed by Encanto. Harry sighed, then shrugged and clambered up after them. On the other side of the fence, they found themselves in another alleyway, surrounded on two sides by red brick buildings, with the fence at their backs and another fence about ten yards further down.
"Doctor look there!" Sarah pointed to the building to their right. There at the foot of the stone steps a man lay, unconscious. His khaki trousers and white button-down shirt were rumpled and stained with the same dusty brown dirt that covered the streets of the whole Carnival town.
Harry knelt down beside the man and examined him.
The Doctor glanced at Encanto. "Do you know this man?"
The museum owner shook his head. "No, I recognize his face. I've seen him around town, but I don't know him personally. I think he may be one of the circus performers."
Harry stood and returned to his comrades. "He's alive," he reported. "Pulse is fast. About 140. I need to take his BP." He reached into one of the Doctor's coat pockets and pulled out a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff.
The Doctor raised his eyebrows.
Harry allowed himself a moment of smugness at having actually managed to surprise the Time Lord. "You're not the only one who finds it useful to stash things in your pockets, Doctor."
He went back to the unconscious man and fastened the cuff round the man's left arm. He pumped it up and pressed the stethoscope end to the man's arm, listening as he slowly released the pressure. "Blood pressure 165 over 100." He removed the stethoscope from his ears and draped it round his neck. "He's got some bruises here. Looks like he may have been attacked."
The Doctor turned to Encanto with a serious face. "Could Rodren have done this?"
Encanto looked equally concerned. "I've never known him to be violent, even when he was having one of those days. Which was most days for him. But with everything that's been going on lately, I don't know what to think."
"Well we can ask this fellow himself in just a minute." Harry interjected. "He's starting to come round."
The injured man groaned and opened his eyes. He sat up slowly and ran a hand through his dark brown hair. He blinked in surprise at seeing four people standing round him. "Wha-?"
Harry put a hand on his shoulder. "Now just take it easy. Can you tell us what happened to you?"
The man looked up the steps, which led to a grey door. "In there." He said. "I found out….I was going to leave….to go tell Swift Hawk…..and then…..the two guards, they attacked me." He stood up.
"Easy." Harry admonished again.
"I'm all right." The man insisted, his voice gaining back strength. "After all, Elridge The Lighter-Than-Air Man has taken worse falls than that!"
"You're Elridge?" Encanto asked in surprise. "I've heard of you. You're that trapeze artist from the circus, aren't you?"
Elridge nodded. "Yes, and you're Encanto. The man with the missing employee. He's in there." He nodded back to the building with the grey door. "But you won't like what you find."
"That's the same thing she told me." Encanto glanced at Sarah. "What's going on here?" Unable to stand it any longer, he pushed past the others and climbed the few steps to the door. He tried the handle and found it locked.
The Doctor pulled his sonic screwdriver from his pocket and held it up to the lock. Nothing happened. "Must be a wooden lock. Ah well. With a simple adjustment….." He fiddled with the screwdriver for a moment, then held it close to the handle again. A tiny flame flared up from the tool and the Doctor began to cut through the surrounding wood. "…it turns into a miniature sonic lance." The last bit melted away and the handle fell to the ground. The door swung open easily, and the four of them stepped into the mysterious building. Elridge elected to remain outside.
They entered into a room with medium light, all of which came from lightbulbs strung from the ceiling; there were no visible windows. A few feet from the entrance, a row of boxes was stacked at least twelve feet high, making it impossible to see the rest of the room.
A cacophony of noises emanated from the other side of the boxes. There was cheering, yelling, shouted orders, and various squawks, screeches, barks, and meows.
"I think we've found the missing animals." Harry whispered.
"Yes but what are they all doing—" the Doctor stopped mid-sentence and looked at Sarah in surprise. She nodded solemnly.
"What?" Encanto and Harry asked simultaneously, both impatient to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Before the Doctor or Sarah could answer, a loudspeaker crackled to life. "Would player number Eight Jay Seven Tee Vee Two Ex Nine please come to the front to claim your prize? Repeating….player number Eight Jay Seven Tee Vee Two Ex Nine, your prize is waiting at the front."
"That's Rodren's voice!" Encanto's whispered explanation was a combination of surprise, relief, and anger. He glanced back and forth between the Doctor and Sarah. "Don't tell me this is—?"
They nodded. "I'm afraid so." Sarah said.
"C'mon." The Doctor headed down to where the row of boxes ended. "Let's have a look, shall we?" He stepped out from behind the boxes with Harry and Sarah beside him. He motioned for Encanto to hang back. The young man remained behind the cardboard barrier; peering around the side, he beheld the scene with amazement and shock.
It was a wide room, built like an auditorium, with hard grey floors and a high-raftered ceiling. Bleachers surrounded a wide circular sand-filled arena in the middle of the room. Cages containing the missing animals lined the walls.
Dozens of people, mostly rough-looking men, sat in the bleachers or stood at the edges of the arena. Those waiting to enter the ring had animals attached to crude leashes—ropes or chains just barely kept the snarling creatures from attacking each other. At the far end of the ring, the four intruders saw a well-dressed man with straight, smooth, chestnut-colored hair and dark brown eyes. He was standing on an upraised platform, microphone in hand.
It was Rodren.
"It's a fighting ring!" Harry whispered to the Doctor. "He's running underground animal fights!"
Encanto was too stunned to be angry.
"Yes," The Doctor murmured grimly. "Encanto, you stay back for a moment. Harry, Sarah, come with me."
He led them into the complex. They approached the arena cautiously. "Smile," the Doctor said to his companions. "We're on camera." He pointed to the surveillance camera on the wall nearby. It swiveled, following them as they drew closer to the ring.
Spotting them, Rodren leaped down from his pedestal and trotted over to meet them. "Welcome, newcomers." He gave them a cordial smile and extended his hand.
The Doctor scowled. He chose to keep communications short and to the point. He did not take the offered hand. "You've some explaining to do, Rodren."
Rodren looked surprised. "You evidently know my name." he said. "Might I ask who you are?"
"I'm called the Doctor." The Time Lord replied flatly. "These are my friends, Harry and Sarah." He nodded to each of them in turn.
Rodren raised his eyebrows. "Tell me, Doctor, just how did you get in the back way? That door was locked."
"Never mind that." The Doctor replied coldly. "How about you tell us what you're doing taking these animals and making them fight to the death—I presume that is what you're doing?"
Rodren's smile remained fixed in place, but his eyes turned cold.
"Well you see Doctor, it's just business." He explained casually. "Come, let us move away from all this noise so we can talk."
He began to walk towards the row of boxes. "It all started with this building." He raised his hands, gesturing round the whole large room. "When I came to this Carnival, the old owner offered to sell it to me for a reasonable price. To buy or not to buy, that was the question! You look like a learned man, Doctor. You no doubt know Shakespeare?"
"Quite well. Do continue." The Doctor's face was set like flint. Harry and Sarah knew him well enough to see that he was fairly seething inwardly, and he was doing his best to keep a lid on his anger.
"Well I had a little money," Rodren went on. "So I took a gamble and bought the place. Then I approached that Chief Hawk-Fellow or whatever his name is and proposed the idea of setting up a boxing arena here. He turned me down before I could even show him the building. That, of course turned out to be rather a good thing, as I don't especially want him to know what we have here now."
"Obviously." The Doctor muttered.
"He was a fool to refuse the offer." Rodren said. "The Carnival's residents are more than just these peaceful, innocent people that you see in all the promotional ads. The Ridfell Swoop has her fair share of ruffians and lower class people, just like any other society. Those types of people would be right at home in the kind of environment I wanted to create."
"What? Kill or be killed?" The Doctor shot back.
"It wouldn't have been like that with people." Rodren replied. "Animals are different. Kill or be killed is their rule, not ours. As a general rule, they won't stop fighting until one of them is dead. There are exceptions, though."
"Most of them wouldn't start fighting in the first place if you didn't force them to." Harry interjected.
"In any case," Rodren continued. "Chief What's-His-Name shot down my plans before they ever got anywhere. So I was left with a big empty building in a rough part of town and no good way to use it. Then a few local boys approached me and told me they'd like to help me establish an underground fighting ring. We got to talking about it, and it was decided that animals would be better fighters than people, given that what we wanted to do wasn't exactly legal."
"Well that's putting it mildly, but I'm afraid you've lost me." The Doctor still looked unimpressed.
"People are vengeful." Rodren explained. "A disgruntled fighter might've ratted us out after a bad loss. With animals, there's no danger of that. They can't talk."
"Not to mention the losers are dead at the end of the fight." Sarah put in, glowering at him.
"Some of them." Rodren willfully ignored the death-glares his three visitors were sending his way. "Some of them actually survive the fights. Anyway, we set about putting things in motion. We built the bleachers. We spread the word among the lower class. I quit my job at Encanto's. Kind of a shame, too. We were actually becoming friends."
"I'm amazed a man like you would even care about friends." Harry said.
"I'm not a heartless man." Rodren replied calmly. "Merely an ambitious one."
He turned to face the arena. "We're not strictly a fighting establishment, either." He explained. "We have other forms of entertainment that these people enjoy. You see over there?" he pointed to an area beyond the ring. At the far end of the room, several blue training mats covered part of the floor. A few young women in tight leotards were practicing what looked like provocative gymnastic routines. "You see the girl on the balance beam there? She's the opening act for our nightly show. Care to guess what she does?"
"No." The Doctor turned back to Rodren. "We're not here for a tour, and we're not here to listen to your excuses. We came to find you—and the missing animals. Chief Swift Hawk asked our help in the affair."
"Did he?" Rodren didn't look surprised. "I should have suspected his involvement. Meddlesome fellow."
"He has a right to meddle." Sarah pointed out. "It's his Carnival."
"Who asked you?" Rodren cast her an insolent glance.
"I think you'll find that Sarah here is a very strong proponent of meddling." Harry put in.
"Rodren, as of this moment, your underground fighting ring is being shut down." The Doctor said firmly.
"And what authority do you have?" Rodren bristled. "These animals are ours. They were all strays."
"No they weren't!" Sarah protested. "Most of them belong to the residents of the carnival."
Rodren looked stunned. "What?"
"Don't play the fool, Rodren." The Doctor growled.
"I'm not." He insisted. "I had no idea. I sent my men out to collect the animals. Strays! I told them strays! There are plenty to be found! The never told me they were stealing people's pets!"
"And I suppose you're going to tell us that you also didn't know that your guards attacked Elridge the trapeze artist and left him unconscious outside." Harry said.
Rodren's eyes widened. "What?"
"You really didn't know?" Sarah looked skeptical.
"I didn't even know Elridge was here," Rodren insisted. "And I certainly didn't give orders for my men to attack him."
"So you're the man in charge here," The Doctor said. "and you expect us to believe that you don't know what your people are doing half the time?"
"I can't keep track of everything." Rodren protested. "Of course I didn't know. Believe me."
"I believe you." A voice broke in from behind them.
Rodren turned abruptly toward the row of boxes upon hearing the familiar voice. Encanto had emerged from behind the boxes and was standing in the open, facing his former employee and friend. He looked sad. "Why, Rodren? Why did you do it? Even if you thought those animals were strays, how could you do this?"
"Encanto, I-I…" Rodren stammered, seemingly ashamed that his friend had discovered his dark secret. "It-it was business."
Encanto didn't look angry. Only disappointed. "You were brilliant, Rodren. You could have gone above and beyond … nearly did, too. I wanted to make you assistant manager, and eventually the co-owner of the museum. 'Encanto and Rodren's Fantastical Museum of Dragons'! You didn't need all of this," he waved his hand in a sweeping gesture around the room. "You could have made it big the right way, the honest way."
He took a few steps forward. "Why did you do it? What was it all for?"
Rodren's insolence and self-assurance dissolved under his friend's rebuke. "I missed my fighting days." He said lamely. "Missed the action. The adrenaline of it all. I've been trapped on this planet for two years—ever since a tourist-freighter I was on crashed here. I tried to save enough money to buy passage back to earth, but it was slow going. I finally came to the Ridfell Swoop because I heard all about the 'endless opportunities' here. But it wasn't much better than anywhere else when it came right down to it. Then some jerk came along and swindled me into buying this place. He insisted I could turn it into a real money maker somehow. I wanted to get home as soon as I could, so I took him up on it. The animal fighting ring seemed a good way to make money and get back into the action all at the same time."
He stared at the ground, looking almost ashamed. "When you offered me the promotion, I realized that with the salary increase, I could easily save up for passage back to earth. But by that point I had become so worked up over the idea of getting back into the fighting business, and I realized that if I took the promotion, I wouldn't need the fighting ring. So I panicked and quit before I had the time to think it over and change my mind. I was sorry for it right away. I was really grateful for all you had done for me. I didn't want to leave the museum."
"But your greed got the best of you." The Doctor's tone still sounded severe, but his face had softened a bit.
Rodren nodded. "I suppose it did. And my lust for my fighting days. It all came together in all of this."
"What I want to know," Sarah spoke up. "Is what exactly are you doing to all these animals to make them aggressive? Most of them are just house pets."
"We starve them." Rodren admitted shamefacedly. "They eat nothing for two days before a fight. The great crash diet, we call it. Works, too. By the time they go in the ring, they're so hungry and so angry that they'll attack anything that moves."
"But how could you do something like that?" Encanto asked. "How could you stoop so low?"
Rodren sighed. "Greed, missing my fighting days….all the things I mentioned a moment ago."
"But you can change, Rodren." Encanto pleaded. "You can shut this place down and end all of this."
Rodren looked around the room at his gruesome handiwork. "I'm too far in now. Even if I try to shut it down, I'll still go to prison for what I've done. The tycoons who funded and built this Carnival generations ago had a strict non-violence policy, and I've violated it in the worst way. And I've stolen too, apparently."
"We can talk to Swift Hawk," Encanto insisted. "see if we can get your sentence reduced. We'll even tell him that you didn't know the animals were being stolen. You'll still have to pay for what you've done—return all the animals you can. As for those who were killed…well I'm sure we can work something out."
"The nuisance that is my conscience convicts me." Rodren muttered.
"A conscience is not a nuisance, Rodren." The Doctor told him firmly. "It's the one thing that sets you humans apart from heartless creatures such as the Daleks and the Cybermen. You had doubts about this business. Without a conscience, you wouldn't have. Nor would you have fallen under conviction when confronted by your friend here. Now," he said, smiling for the first time since they had entered the establishment. "Let's see what we can do about fixing all of this, shall we?"
Rodren took a step back. "If I go up there and tell all these fellows that we're closing down, we'll have a riot on our hands."
"Just tell them you're closing for the day." The Doctor instructed him. "When they return tomorrow, the doors will be locked and the building empty."
"And they'll come after me."
"We'll take care of all of that." Encanto pushed him toward the ring. "Just go."
Rodren reentered the arena and climbed the few steps to the platform. He took his microphone in hand. "Attention! Attention! Due to some unforeseen circumstances, our facilities will be closing early today. The game schedule has changed. All remaining fights are postponed. Betting stations are not available as of this moment. If you have already won and have not collected your prize, please take your ticket to the nearest station and do so immediately, or it will become null and void. Thank you." He switched off the mic and glanced down at the Doctor, who stood on the ground beside the platform. "I had to add that last part, or else we would have a riot to deal with."
Rodren's announcement was met with some grumbling, but the spectators and participants complied with relatively little resistance. They began to file out of the bleachers and the arena. In moments, the whole building was nearly empty. A few stragglers stayed to collect their prizes, but soon even they had trickled out.
Only the five of them remained now—The Doctor, Harry, Sarah, Encanto, and Rodren.
And the animals.
"What are we going to do about all of them?" Harry waved a hand toward all the cages.
"My friends, we are the unlikely heirs of a great undertaking." The Doctor said dramatically.
"Right, now let's see what we can do about it." Sarah's face took on a contemplative look.
She was silent for several moments. "I've got it!" she exclaimed suddenly. "We can hold a 'lost and found' day. All the people whose pets went missing can come to it and claim them."
"That's a wonderful idea, Sarah!" The Doctor grinned. "Of course we'll need a good place to hold the event."
"How about the lobby of my museum?" Encanto suggested eagerly. "It's the perfect size for it!"
"Wonderful!" The Doctor said. "We can make a big celebration of it."
"We could have refreshments." Harry suggested.
"How about a barbecue?" Sarah added.
"Brilliant!" The Time Lord clapped them both on the shoulders. "A barbecue would be perfect! It's that time of year, after all. Perfect weather for it."
"There's just one thing you're all forgetting." Rodren said quietly. They all turned, staring at him expectantly.
"There will be several people who will be quite disappointed when they can't find their pets among the 'lost and found'. Not all of the animals survived the fights."
The group grew somber.
"How many?" The Doctor asked.
Rodren pulled a sheet of paper from his pocket and unfolded it. "Most times, if an animal was killed, it was because it wasn't a fair fight." He explained as he examined the list. "I suspect my men rigged the fights sometimes."
He looked over the list carefully. "Twelve have been killed." He folded the paper and slipped it back into his pocket. "I can only hope that some of them were strays. I dread having to tell the owners that I'm responsible for their pets' deaths."
Encanto put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "We'll try to help explain things."
"Do you think it's a good idea for him to even be there, at the lost and found event?" Sarah asked. "Suppose someone becomes violent towards him when they find out their pet is dead?"
Encanto considered. "The Carnival residents are traditionally non-violent. It's been our policy for generations, as Rodren mentioned." he said. "In any case, we'll arrange to hold his hearing before the lost and found day. According to the Carnival's rules of order, the people must abide by whatever punishment the court decides upon; they're not allowed to try to impose their own idea of justice."
"Doesn't matter." Rodren said dejectedly. "It won't change how they feel about me. They'll still think I'm slime. And they'll be right, too."
"Congratulations." The Doctor said flatly. "You've passed the exam to get into 'The Down-and-Out School of Self-Pity.' Now get your act together and fix things instead of grumbling."
"C'mon." Encanto headed toward the door. "Let's go back to the museum and we can talk everything over in more detail."
"What about all the animals?" Harry asked.
"I'll make some calls and arrange for transport to have them brought back." Encanto called over his shoulder.
They followed him back outside and found Elridge gone. The gate at the far end of the alleyway was open. "I suppose he went home." Harry commented.
They returned to where they had left the horses. They found three horses at the hitching post—Fuzz Lady, Coal Dust, and a white one they didn't recognize.
The Doctor looked at Encanto. "Yours, I presume?"
"Mine actually." Rodren spoke up. "His name is Captain Hook, after my favorite storybook character." He turned to Encanto. "I'm surprised you brought him instead of Draco."
"I knew we'd find you." Encanto said. "Thought you might want to see Hook again. After two weeks, I supposed you missed him."
"You'd trust me near an animal after what you saw in there?"
"I trust that you're a man who learns from his mistakes." Encanto replied. He smiled. "Now get on and let's go."
Rodren returned the smile and mounted his beloved horse, stroking the animal's mane affectionately. Hook twitched his ears appreciatively. Encanto climbed on behind him. The others got on their respective horses and they all started back to the museum.
As they rode, they passed an electronics shop. "Those look like the computers we've got back on earth." Harry observed, nodding to the machines in the display window. "I thought this was the future. Aren't computers more advanced now?"
"This Carnival is based on earth in our time, remember Harry?" Sarah said from behind him. The Doctor, riding alongside them, noted with amusement that she had elected to ride with the surgeon, as before. Harry held the reins and Sarah sat behind him, arms round his waist for balance. They looked rather cute, the Time Lord thought.
He almost said so, then he thought the better of it and commented on the computers instead. "Yes, only they have their own operating system here. They don't have to deal with that computer terror that is Microsoft."
Harry and Sarah looked at him quizzically. "Microsoft?" Harry asked.
"Ah yes, that hasn't come about just yet in your timeline, has it? Shouldn't be too long now."
He was silent for a moment. "Say, Harry? On the way over here, did I ever get the chance to tell you about that time I got arrested for trying to bring a bit of Christmas cheer to a small town?"
His companions exchanged curious glances. "Ah, no I don't think you mentioned that….." Harry said.
The Time Lord flashed his trademark toothy smile.
"You're just dying for us to ask you about it, aren't you?" Sarah looked over at him and rolled her eyes.
"All right, well if you insist, I suppose I must tell you!" The Doctor gave her an impish grin. "I was in California one December, when I spotted a sign that read 'Welcome to Santa Rosa County', and I just couldn't resist painting over the word 'Rosa' with the word 'Claus'…."
Sarah dropped her head forward onto Harry's shoulder in mock exasperation. "Really, Doctor? Really?"
"And those tricky American police officers…..they hide their squad cars in the brush and wait for troublemakers."
"Got busted, did you?" Sarah laughed.
"Not for long." The Doctor shrugged. "He took me to the police station. It didn't take much to get out of the handcuffs. My good friend Houdini taught me a few tricks…I slipped out while the officer was filling out all the paperwork about my arrest. Fortunately the TARDIS was nearby."
He looked thoughtful. "Funny thing." he mused. "I'm never allowed to go back to California. A pity. I had some loose ends to tie up in Los Angeles."
"Ah so that's it, is it?" Harry exclaimed with a laugh. "That's why you were evasive yesterday when we asked why you wouldn't take us to California."
The Doctor looked away sheepishly. He glanced over at Encanto and Rodren; they were regarding the trio with rather strange expressions.
Harry and Sarah noticed, too.
"This is normal for him." Harry explained.
Sarah nodded her agreement. "Yes he goes off on tangents sometimes."
The Doctor looked hurt. He gave his friends a mock pouty-face.
"It's best to stop him before he gets started." Sarah continued with a grin.
"Yeah," Harry added. "You know what they say: 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure'."
"Speaking of cures," The Doctor said cheerfully. "Let me tell you about the time I visited an entire planet that was experiencing an insanity epidemic. It was quite something. Almost every single person on the planet experienced a nervous breakdown….."
His companions' laughter echoed down the streets.
"I say, what a wonderful turnout we're having." Harry commented to Sarah.
It was two days later. After parting company with Encanto and Rodren at the museum, the Doctor, Harry, and Sarah had returned to the cabin and told Swift Hawk the whole story. The Indian chief agreed to attend Rodren's hearing—Sun Bird had some close family ties with the town lawmakers, and they were able to schedule the hearing for the very next day.
Rodren pleaded guilty to running an illegal animal fighting ring. He pleaded not guilty to the charges of stealing animals, arguing that he was told by his confederates—who were all quickly caught and imprisoned once he provided their names—that the animals were strays. Encanto backed the claim, testifying as a character witness for his friend.
"The bottom line is this." The judge had told him. "You did some stupid stuff and you're gonna pay for it. You won't be charged with the theft of the animals, and you won't go to prison. I think your punishment will be better served if you spend your daily life in contact with the people you've hurt."
Rodren was assigned fifty hours community service, to be served over a six-month period, after which he was free to leave and return to earth, if he so desired.
He was to be present at the lost and found day, and he had to provide a personal apology to everyone whose pets had been killed in one of the fights.
The event went off without a hitch. All the animal cages were put inside, in the lobby of Encanto's museum. Everything else was outside, in the square in front of the museum. People came to find their pets, and stayed to enjoy themselves. A lot of people showed up to help with the setup. The firehouse quintet from the nearby station offered to provide the music. The owner of 'The Boat and Sport Outdoor Shop' a few blocks down loaned out a grill for the barbecue.
Rodren shined through the whole day. He went beyond the parameters of his sentence, offering not only apologies to the owners of the pets that had been killed, but also offering to pay—out of his own pocket—to buy them new pets from the Ridfell Swoop Animal Shelter. "It won't replace what you've lost," he said. "and it won't undo what I've done, but the offer is open."
Of the twelve animals killed, only five were not strays. Four of the owners took Rodren up on his offer. The fifth one said she wanted to wait awhile, and then she would consider it. Three of the owners told Rodren they forgave him. The other two made no such move to do so, but neither did they treat him coldly when he offered his apologies to them.
Sarah watched the whole thing from the hitching post a few yards away, amazed by the spirit of good will that emanated from the people of the Carnival. Here they were, not only accepting a foreigner into their community, but forgiving him for the hurtful things he had done to them. She leaned against the hitching post, and decided that she hoped earth could be like this someday.
Harry approached her. He had traded his usual blue and tan ensemble for an outfit more appropriate to a barbecue—he wore a blue and green striped polo, white cargo shorts, and green boating shoes. He looked good, Sarah thought as he came toward her, carrying two glasses of lemonade. He handed her one of them and commented about the turnout.
Sarah accepted the glass and took a sip, nodding as she swallowed the cold liquid. "I'm really glad it's all worked out so well."
Harry moved to stand beside her, mimicking her position. They stood watching the people move about all around them. The early evening sun cast a yellow-orange glow over the whole scene.
"What of Rodren there?" Harry gestured to the man in question.
"He's going off by himself for a while after this." Sarah said. "He's going to spend a few days in isolation out on the plains. Says he wants to get out of the limelight and think some things through on his own. After that he's got to complete his community service sentence. Encanto offered him back his old janitor job at the museum. Says he'll let Rodren work his way up again. Still wants to make him assistant manager eventually, if Rodren decides to stick around after his six month sentence is up."
"Do you think he will?" Harry asked her.
"I'm rather inclined to think so." Sarah said. "Encanto's a good friend to him, and I think Rodren is starting to realize that. And he's still got a chance to go upward and onward here."
The Doctor walked up to them just then, hands full with three plates of food that he just barely had balanced, and a soda bottle, which was open; he held the cap between his fingers.
"Sorry I took so long." he said. "An old woman heard someone call me 'Doctor' and insisted that she needed medical treatment. Absolutely nothing wrong with her. She was just a hypochondri-cap this for me, will you, Harry?" he interrupted himself. "I don't want it to go flat." He shifted his load a bit so that Harry could reach the soda bottle. Harry plucked the cap from between the Doctor's fingers and twisted it back onto the bottle.
"She was just a hypochondriac." The Doctor finished. "Thank you Harry." He handed off two of the plates to his comrades and joined them against the hitching post, his own plate in one hand, the now-capped soda bottle in the other.
"Just a little mystery that needed clearing up, that's what you said, Doctor." Harry teased his friend. He picked up a barbecued chicken leg from his plate. "I'd say this was much more than that. Still, I'm glad everything worked out in the end. And it's still been a nice break from everyday life."
"Not exactly a proper vacation, though." The Doctor observed. "I tell you what. When we leave the Ridfell Swoop tomorrow, I'll take the two of you to the planet Gavlin. It's all bustling cities and sparkling beaches. You'll love it."
"Sounds like a plan." Sarah said. Harry—his mouth full of chicken—nodded his agreement.
The three friends ate together in comfortable silence. After a while, Harry spoke up.
"Y'know, Sarah," he said thoughtfully. "There's one thing I still don't understand."
"What was it on that application form that clued you in to where we could find Rodren?"
Sarah gave his arm a playful shove. "Harry, you're at a carnival. There are performers galore here. Ask any of them and they'll tell you, magicians never reveal their secrets."
She gave him a secretive smile, and walked away, now-empty plate in hand, searching for the nearest trash can.
The Doctor and Harry exchanged questioning glances.
"Well there goes the rest of my evening's enjoyment." Harry said with a laugh. "Now I'm gonna be wondering about it all night long."