The Doctor wiggled his backside and lined up his shot very carefully. With a well measured tap he sent the ball rolling. And completely missed the cup.
"Hah!" Amy said, and licked her pencil, she wrote down his score with a flourish. "My turn!"
She grabbed her putter from where it leaned against a cheap plastic statue of an angel and flagrantly tapped her ball into the hole, it had been practically sitting on the rim anyway. "Par for me!" she said cheerily.
The Doctor pulled a grumpy face and glared down at the ground. "Yes, well, I'm used to playing on real grass, not this astroturffy stuff," he said, scuffing his boot on the thin prickly green carpet that lined the putt-putt lane.
"Break time!" Rory called as he and River wended their way through the convoluted courses of the miniature golf course. He held up a cardboard tray that held three drinks. River, beside him, held up a tray stuffed with chips and hot dogs.
"Food!" the Doctor exclaimed, throwing his putter to the side of the aisle. "That's what I need. Carbohydrates. I'm just off my game because I'm hungry."
"Excuses, excuses," Amy said as she filled out the rest of the score card and tucked it in her pocket. She followed the Doctor, Rory and River over to a picnic table set out under a trio of palm trees. They were visiting a miniature golf course in 1950's Florida. The air was balmy, the sky was clear, the beach beside the golf course was teeming with holidaymakers, and the golf course itself was beyond tacky.
But it was fun.
She plumped down beside the Doctor and reached for the drinks and chips Rory was handing out. River was loading her hotdog with sauerkraut and mustard, the Doctor was loading his hotdog with, Amy stopped and stared, practically everything; onions, relish, sauerkraut, mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, peppers... Ugh!
"You're not really going to eat that?" she asked. He turned to look at her with his mouth full, his lips and cheeks smeared with red, white and green.
"Of course you are," she grimaced. She turned to Rory who handed her a cup of Coke and a handful of napkins.
"No vinegar for the chips, I'm afraid," he said, as he sat down across from her.
"What?" Amy said, accepting a hot dog with mustard from River. She turned to the Doctor. "And I thought America was supposed to be civilized," she said.
The Doctor gulped down his mouthful. "Try the ketchup," he said. "Or better yet, the cheese sauce!" He dipped one of his chips in River's nachos and ate it with relish.
"Oi!" River pulled her nachos to herself. "You keep your chips out of my nachos!"
"Ah, ah, ah!" the Doctor waggled another fry at her. "Share and share alike, Doctor Song."
"Not nachos," she said firmly, hoarding them close.
Amy had no intention of stealing any, the cheese was smothered in jalapeno peppers. Amy had made the mistake of trying River's chili one time, and almost burned out the lining of her stomach.
The wind soughed past, ruffling the checkered paper lining their chips baskets. They settled in, devouring the hot dogs, and slurping their icy Cokes down to the dregs.
Amy sat back, replete. She surveyed her family. All of them, except the Doctor, were wearing checkered shirts and blue jeans. River had a scarf around her head, holding back her curls, and another scarf tied around her waist, somehow making the plebeian clothing look positively elegant.
River and Rory were discussing a possible trip to Disney World later, the Doctor was sneaking one of River's nachos. River reached back and smacked his hand without looking.
He ate the nacho anyway. Amy grinned. This had been one of their more successful family outings.
She felt something bump under her foot. Surprised she leaned back and looked under the table. A small hump of ground was pushing up under her foot. Like a gopher burrowing. She pulled her foot away and a small gray head popped up out of the ground. Big eyes, big ears, thick gray skin as wrinkled as a walnut. Humanoid.
The head was as big as a cantaloupe, it looked at her foot, followed it up her leg and its catslit eyes dilated with surprise when it saw her looking at it. It "eeped," and dove back into the ground, digging frantically with large clawed hands.
"Doctor," Amy said, very casually. "There's a gremlin under the table."
"What?" Rory said, eyes going wide. Everyone twisted and looked under the table. Amy pointed at the hole with the toe of her shoe.
River was holding a small derringer in one hand, there was no telling where she'd had it holstered.
The Doctor dropped to all fours and crawled under the table, he stuck his face down into the hole. He turned to peer in with one eye, then pulled out the sonic and flashed the light down into the ground.
There was a shrill "EEEK!" and dirt fountained up into his face. There was the sound of desperate scrabbling from underground, it sounded like there was more than one.
The Doctor wiped the dirt out of his face and turned to look at River. "Did you catch that?" he asked.
She nodded. "Hydroxi from the sound of it."
"And such language!" the Doctor said, as he climbed out from under the table.
Suddenly a golf ball shot straight up from a hole in the miniature golf course, soared high and arced over to land with a splat on their table, flipping the last of River's nachos onto the nearby lawn.
"Gotta be juveniles," the Doctor said. "They know Earth is an interdicted planet. We better find them before they cause any trouble."
"What," Rory asked with emphasis, "are Hydroxi?"
"You know the old saying, 'gremlins get into everything?'" River asked. He nodded. "Let's just say, they've visited here before."
Just then they heard a shriek and the sound of running bodies from the golf course, they looked up just in time to see the miniature windmill shiver, tilt to the side, and collapse, completely disassembled, the windmill rolled away, bouncing over the edged golfing aisles.
"Right!" the Doctor said. "Spread out, look for signs of burrows, especially near any kind of structure. There's probably more than one of them, they tend to travel in groups."
"So how do we catch them?" Rory asked.
"Thump them on the head," the Doctor answered.
"What?" Amy asked. "Since when do we go in for violence?"
"It's the only way," the Doctor said. "They've got a skull like reinforced concrete. And they're resistant to electricity and staser fire. So that gun of yours won't work, River." She'd already nodded and stuffed it into her pocket.
There was another scream from the golf course. The miniature Eiffel Tower swayed and fell. The manager was running around trying to restore order. People were scrambling away as humped tunnels ran all over the course.
"It's just gophers, ladies and gentlemen!" the manager yelled out over a squeeling megaphone. "Nothing to be afraid of."
Just then a gremlin popped his head up out of the ground and blew a raspberry at a family of six who were standing on the sidelines. They shrieked and ran.
"It's the Gremlins meets the Brady Bunch," Rory said.
"Come on," Amy said repressively. She ran and grabbed her golf putter. A gremlin popped up beside her ankle, she took a swipe at it, its eyes flared wide and it ducked out of sight.
The fake Oriental bridge over the duck pond started shivering. "Rory! The bridge!" River yelled, pointing with her own putter. Rory turned and saw the five year old girl standing on the bridge over the Koi pond. Her eyes were wide and terrified as the arch beneath her trembled.
Rory dashed and threw himself over the bridge, tackling the girl and rolling with her, protecting her head, clearing the end of the bridge just as it cracked and tumbled into the water.
Her frantic parents ran up, full of thanks as he handed the sobbing little girl into their arms. He stood up, dusted off his jeans and got a resolute look on his face. "All right. That's enough of that!" He picked up an orange handled putter that had been discarded and looked around for a target.
The Doctor was following one mounded tunnel with the sonic screwdriver, running, half hunched over. River was following another, from the other side of the course, both tunnels converged under the feet of the plastic, mechanical dinosaur on the deluxe course.
The dinosaur roared out its pre-recorded sound, swiped its head down to block the putted balls, then reared back and tore its way out of its feet and charged after the Doctor. He yelped and whirled away, running, as the dinosaur's head swiped down at him. The whole thing galloped along, rocking back and forth, the chortling sounds of laughing gremlins coming from inside.
"How's it doing that?!" Amy yelled from where she was herding a family of golfers out through the turnstiles at the entrance gate.
The dinosaur galloped by, with River in hot pursuit. "Hydroxi are really good with mechanics!" River yelled back, just as she pulled up alongside and rammed the dinosaur off its feet. It toppled with a crash, and two gremlins gamboled out of its hollow legs, running drunkenly, dizzy.
They were about the size of cats, or small dogs Amy noticed, as she raced forward and bonked one on the head with her putter. It bounced like a rubber doll, then toppled over on its side, and started snoring.
River flipped her own snoring gremlin over next to it, using the blade of her putter.
"So now what do we do with them?" Amy asked.
The Doctor ran over, all legs and elbows, shaking a can of whipped cream he'd stolen from the snack bar. He knelt down and squirted white foam into each little gray mouth. Even in their sleep the gremlins swallowed and licked their lips with happy sounds.
"Oh, that's mean," River said as the Doctor stood up and twirled the can of whipped cream like a cowboy with a gun.
"What?" Amy asked, eyebrows scrunched, not understanding.
"Hydroxi get drunk on sugar," River explained. "A shot that big will put them out all day, and they'll wake up with a massive hangover."
"Serves them right," Amy said. "They were being a headache."
The Doctor grunted in agreement. Amy stared at him. He shrugged. "A baby one got loose in the Tardis one time," the Doctor explained. "I don't think Sexy's ever forgiven me."
"Little help over here!" Rory yelled.
They turned from beside the snack bar to see Rory hanging by his underpants from the tip of Neptune's spear, on the small peninsula in the center of the Koi pond. There were three Hydroxi dancing around the base of the bronze statue.
They were just out of reach of Rory's irritated swings with his club.
"Ah, yes," the Doctor said, scratching the back of his neck. "They're also stronger than they look."
River just shook her head. "Coming, Dad!"
"How many of these things are there?" Amy groused. The gremlins had taken to taunting them, popping up out of the golf holes in the course, ripping the astroturf, and popping back down when the Doctor and the others tried to thump them. Amy felt like she was playing an especially large arcade game.
They'd clustered around the thickest part of the golf course, where the most holes were, and the little aliens were chittering and giggling as they popped up and down.
"They must be having some sort of high school reunion," River said, only half facetiously. She pinged a gremlin with a golfball from 20 feet away.
The Doctor laid about him with his purple club, tie askew, hair wild. Even he was sweating. The gremlins had dismantled the snack bar ten minutes ago, and the turnstiles leading into the golf course were a pile of spare parts. They were the only people left, everyone else had fled. Although the Doctor could hear sirens in the distance.
"Where is Ace with a can of nitro nine when you need her?" he muttered as he stomped on a humped tunnel and watched as the irritating creature burrowed its way around his foot.
"Oh, if that's all you want," River said. She pulled out something that looked like a grenade, flipped the top, and dropped it down the nearest hole.
"River, no!" the Doctor yelled. He crouched down and stuck his fingers in his ears. Amy and Rory turned to stare.
There was an almighty "Whumph!" from underground, bouncing them all gently on their feet. Smoke shot up out of every hole on the golf course.
Coughing, gasping Hydroxi stumbled out of their tunnels, tears running down their cheeks. River, Amy and Rory ran around administering thumps and whip cream with equal fervor.
In the end they had two burlap bags full of snoring Hydroxi. The Tardis had refused to open the doors until River had agreed to go inside and get a portable containment sphere for them.
She came back outside and they shook the snoring gray tangle of aliens into the impenetrable forcefield. "The Tardis found their ship, parked out there in the bay." River said as she locked off the containment controls. "We can materialize around it and take the whole lot home in no time. I'm driving." she said, shooting the Doctor a look. He just shrugged.
"So much for miniature golf," Rory said, looking out over the devastation.
"Oh, I don't know," the Doctor said, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "For us, this seems pretty much par for the course."
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