Time and the Trickster
Chapter Thirty-Two: Secret of the Alhambra: The Alaydens
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who or any of the spinoff material and I gain no income off of this story, just the satisfaction of playing with the characters.
The aliens led the four young women to a small house at the foot of the hill. It was a pleasant local home with windowsill flowers, shutters and some ivy climbing up one side. Judging from a small sign near the door it was a tourist rental property and Rose noted the name with a small sigh: Lobo Feroz rentals or Bad Wolf rentals. She heard Astra chuckle next to her.
"Technically that is the phrase used for the big bad wolf," Astra observed softly. "Not just the words bad wolf."
"Doesn't make me feel better," Rose murmured softly.
They entered the house which was fully furnished and remarkably tidy with nothing personal in sight. The leader of the aliens gestured towards the sofas and reached for a necklace around her neck. Rose sat down and her friends followed suit. Her headache eased as the alien's image stopped flickering. Sharon and Shareen gasped softly and Astra smiled slightly at the alien woman. The other aliens followed suit and resumed their natural shapes before seating themselves around the room.
"I suppose introductions are in order," the female alien said with a touch of nervousness. "I am Professor Andalin El-kartin and the leader of this expedition." She turned and gestured towards a tall male who was watching them all very carefully. "This is … I suppose Major would be the closest rank equivalent Terfirn Yarn-iyti." Andalin pointed to the other two males, "These men are Terfirn's soldiers Regir Ver-kin and Handen Sal-ter." The final alien, a female, stepped forward to stand nervously next to Andalin. "And this is my assistant and student Varlin Mer-tanik."
"Pleasure," Rose greeted with a nod. "I am Rose Tyler, the Star Knight of Earth." Rose pointed to each of her friends in turn. "This is Shareen Bell, Sharon Allen and Astra Wolfe." Her friends all nodded in greeting to the aliens. "Now please explain what brings you to Earth."
"We are from the Alayden Collective which is roughly 2,000 light years from here," Andalin explained. "I supposed the first thing you need to know is that my world operates under the rules of the Shadow Proclamation and the only reason I am speaking with you is that you are clearly an exception to Earth's usual level five status."
"So you don't interfere with less developed planets," Rose acknowledged with a nod. "Yet here you are."
"Indeed," Andalin agreed slowly. "Just over two thousand years ago my people were at the head of a space travelling empire and had highly advanced technology, but a civil war broke out that was followed by a plague. Much of our history, technology and even large aspects of our culture was lost to us. The Alayden Imperium of old had more than twenty planets, but after the plague, only the homeworld and our two colonies within our own star system remained."
Andalin nodded towards Varlin with a small smile. "We have since relearned much of our old technology and have started to explore the universe once again. I am a Professor of … archaeology I believe you would call it and Varlin has worked with me for three years now. We have spent the last two years studying ruins on our former colonial worlds in order to learn what our ancestors knew."
"What does that have to do with Earth?" Shareen asked with a touch of impatience. "I mean that's great and all, but why are you here?"
"Six months ago a survey ship swept past Earth making star charts," Varlin said speaking up for the first time. "It detected the energy signature of one of our ancestors' ships in Europe."
"The information as brought to me," Andalin explained. "Few of our people know ancient technology like me, but only twice before has such a strong signal been found. I at once came to Earth with an escort," she added nodding towards her military companions. "We isolated the energy reading and were able to trace it to the city. I believe the ship is hidden under the Alhambra."
"You said hidden," Rose observed quickly. "You mean it wasn't a crash."
"I don't think so," Andalin admitted nervously. "I think the ship was piloted by those trying to escape the war and the plague. During that period the old Imperial government launched several ships that were meant to serve as 'arcs' for our people and allow them to colonise other worlds."
"But why Earth?" Rose asked with a frown. "People were already here."
"I'm not sure they had a choice," Andalin told her quickly. "I won't know unless I can access the computer and translate the text."
"Translate?" Rose questioned.
"Our ancient language was largely lost," Andalin informed them sadly. "I've been trying to reconstruct it for ten years. But back to the question of a crash, my study of this area's history there is nothing to suggest a ship crashed here two thousand years ago. Romans already occupied the area and would have left some kind of records."
"So you want to find the ship to retrieve ancient technology," Shareen clarified.
"Yes, but it is more complex than that," Andalin insisted. "If that was all we wanted the Shadow Proclamation would never have allowed us to come to Earth." Andalin looked nervous once again. "The actual reason we must find the ship is that the energy being released is that of an ancient fuel cell. We have found many of these and once their protective shell decays they become dangerous."
"How dangerous?" Rose questioned sharply.
"The levels will not harm your kind yet," Andalin assured them with a slight smile. "But the levels are rising and if it is like the other energy cells that have been recovered it will finish corroding the containment shell in three months. We have been trying to locate it for the last three months."
Major Terfirn Yarn-iyti snorted slightly behind Andalin and she sighed. Rose looked over at the Major who shrugged and added, "What she means is that we have been trying to find an access portal for three months. We can tell that the ship is in the hill, but we cannot get to it without harming the structure."
"Which I want to avoid," Andalin insisted with a stern look. "This is a problem we brought to Earth and we shouldn't destroy their great sites."
"Better to destroy this than risk the chemicals of the energy cell getting into Earth's ocean," Terfirn argued. "Need I remind you what those chemicals did to Trideya."
"No," Andalin said softly. "You don't."
"Okay," Rose called holding up a hand. "Let me make sure I've got this. 2,000 years ago a ship from your planet fleeing a civil war and plague landed on Earth and was somehow hidden under al-Sabika hill. The ship's energy cells are breaking down from age and about to release tonic and alien chemicals into the environment in the next three months if it is not found and removed from Earth."
"Correct," Andalin sighed. "We have the means to contain the chemicals and remove them from your planet."
"Do I want to know what happened on Trideya?" Rose asked as she glanced between the two aliens.
"Mass extinction of the native animals," Terfirn replied tightly. "The old starship systems were powerful, but the energy cells were highly toxic and highly radiated. Your people have never detected the ship because none of your equipment is built for picking up such things."
"Alright," Rose said before turning her attention back to Andalin. "Why do you believe there is an access portal to the ship?"
Varlin jumped up and walked into another room. She returned a moment later with a large stack of notes and photographs. Spreading them out on the small coffee table in front of Rose, she laid out the maps of the hill, a map of the Alhambra complex and several photographs.
"These markings," Varlin told Rose as she pointed to a small series of elegant designs that were part of the decorations of the complex. "These are ancient Alayden letters. We don't understand their meaning, but we have found them at all the ruined sites."
Rose blinked at the image and studied the letters, but nothing looked any different even with her translator. "Are you sure they are letters?" Rose questioned.
"Isn't your translator working?" Astra asked as she moved over by Rose.
"No," Rose replied with a shake of her head. "I see only the designs."
"A durmino translator would not know this language," Andalin pointed out calmly.
"Mine has been programmed with a few additional languages," Rose explained casually. She reached for a notebook on the table and a pencil and began drawing the small free standing designs in question without the other decorations. Picking up the other photos, Rose listened with one ear as Astra spoke with Andalin about their findings.
"The question I have is that the Alhambra wasn't build two-thousand years ago," Astra remarked which caught Rose's attention. "So how long do your kind live?"
"Only slightly longer than humans," Varlin answered. "But the reason we think these codes were left for us is that we have found DNA traces of our own kind in this regions humans."
Rose looked up at Varlin. "DNA traces? Your people breed with the humans?"
"Under some kind of disguise no doubt," Andalin confirmed. "But yes it appears that roughly 25% of the locals have a few genes from our planet within their DNA. I'm surprised that we were genetically compatible, but there is no other explanation for the findings."
"So maybe a few families protected the secret about the ship," Shareen suggested with a grin. "And hid clues in the Alhambra. Just in case they ever needed to flee Earth or wanted to try and use it."
"The problem is that the Alhambra has been damaged," Andalin reminded them. "Much of the reconstruction is based off of drawings over the years so I cannot be certain of anything that I find in the structure."
Rose leaned back against the sofa and studied the seemingly random little symbols on the page in front of her. The TARDIS translation circuits didn't recognise the symbols as letters despite Andalin's belief that they were. Maybe the reconstruction was too flawed or letters were missing. Maybe they weren't letters at all, but some kind of code. The TARDIS wouldn't be able to translate that.
"I'll call the Doctor," Rose announced as she reached for her phone. What she didn't see as she pulled the mobile out was the look of panic on Astra's face. Shareen snatched the phone from her hand and smiled sweetly at Rose.
"Give us a moment," Shareen said to Andalin. "We need to have a word with Rose."
Rose blinked at the sudden shift in the room's mood but nodded. Standing up, she followed Shareen towards the front door. Sharon and Astra quickly followed her into the small entry wall.
"What is it?" Rose asked her friends. "Why don't you want me to call the Doctor? The TARDIS could probably get us to the ship in just a few minutes."
"Well one you'd expose your boyfriend to the A- uh Alaydens which might not be a good thing," Sharon pointed out.
"Plus this is a girl's holiday," Shareen added eagerly. "Let's try to take care of this ourselves. We've got a few days to explore the secret of the Alhambra, help the aliens and boost Earth's reputation. That's part of what you want isn't it."
"Are you sure?" Rose asked with a confused look. "I don't want to ruin the trip. You three can go on and explore Granda and I'll take care of this"
"Rose honey," Shareen all but cooed. "If this kind of thing really bothered us we wouldn't be your girlfriends."
Rose looked over at Astra who nodded in agreement. She smiled warmly at her friends. "I don't know why you put up with me, but thanks."
"You're never dull," Sharon chuckled. "Don't worry so much Rose."
"It'll be a different way to explore Spain," Astra added with a grin. "Solving an old alien puzzle at one of Earth's great architectural achievements sounds fantastic!"
"Alright," Rose said slowly. "I guess I'll tell Andalin that we're in." She gave her friends one more look before she turned and walked back into the main room.
Astra sighed in relief and turned to Shareen and Sharon. "Thanks," she breathed.
"What was with that panicked expression for earlier?" Sharon asked.
"Well if Rose called the Doctor the call would probably go to him in the time period he's dating her."
"Before you're born," Shareen realised. "Ah, I can see why that might be a problem."
"Yes," Astra confirmed. "And while I can hide from him when his timeline doesn't line up with mine prolonged contact would make it all but impossible for me to stay hidden."
Shareen nodded with understanding and Sharon smiled. "That could have been really entertaining though." When Astra and Shareen gave her a look she just laughed and shrugged, "Come on it would have been. He already knows that Rose will be coming back and I'm pretty sure that they get married, but confronting the Doctor with a kid would be funny."
"Especially since Rose said it wasn't possible for her to get pregnant by the Doctor when I asked her about protection," Sharon said with a look at Astra. "I assume you were engineered."
"Not exactly," Astra replied uncomfortably. "Look please don't ask me about that. I don't want to lie. And I don't want to think about it."
"Uh okay," Shareen said with a shrug before looking at Sharon. "You seriously asked Rose about that."
"I'm a medical student," Sharon defended. "I'm allowed to be concerned about possible consequences from one of my best friends sleeping with an alien."
"And let's please change the subject," Astra begged quickly as she shuddered.
"Right," Shareen laughed. "Let's go help Rose protect our home planet." Then she paused and looked at Astra, "Earth is your home planet right?"
"Officially," Astra answered with a shrug. "I was supposed to be born here, but I was actually born on an asteroid called Demon's Run." Astra nodded towards the doorway. "Come on, let's go help Rose."