Chapter One – The Doctor Saves The Town.
"This is how I write stories," says Princess Moon, "in present tense and without author's notes." There is a roud of applause.
"And this is how..! Why hello there, man in a blue box! When did you arrive Mr President of Authors' –"
"No time!" cries the man.
"The town is on fire!" cries the next contestant. Waving from beside the stage, he jumps off and grabs the blue box man's sleeve. "This way, Mr President! I will guide you to safety!"
"Thank you," says the blue box man. "This way! We may end up together tied up in a worble trix of time continuum energy, but I think I can fix it! Here, hold this screwdriver, while we –"
Then they left the hall, followed by several thousand from the audience.
The Princess sat on the stage all by herself. "What a dumb day," she cries. "No one even noticed me and my flowing poetry." Here, she turns to the wall and blew her little white nose on the flowing, hanging scroll. Here, she cries again, dumbly and mutely. "Because I'm not ableist. I'm just quiet dumb not stupid dumb.
"Nor am I deaf!" she cries, aiming her little pink face towards the ceiling, towards the gods of Catswept Moon.
"Hear me, Gods of Cats-Wept Moon, hear me Goddesses of Encyclopedia, and Relatives of those considered Godworthy! My town is on fire! Weep, damn you my gods, Weep your tears from your sprinkler systems and save My Town!" She waits, for a reply.
"Yes, my Princess Moon?"
The God swings down from the sky, the domed head of Cats-Wept, and
the god swings her arm down low, low enough to crook her hand into an encyclopedian shape, worthy enough for a princess to encroach.
The Doctor fiddles with his tie.
The next contestant called Char-lie grabs the pipes and turns the valve clockwise while several hundred people copied him likewise all lined along the corridor. They then all grabbed the flowing water in their cup-like palms and hurried towards the fire.
Several palmfuls later, and the town is still on fire.
"This won't do!" cried the Doctor. He grabs the valve and twists and turns it until it breaks. Water gushes out vertically and horizontally blows out of the joints, blowing out the nuts and bolts until water starts spraying over the people. Several men turn up their collars against the blast.
"This will do!" cries the Doctor, holding up a screwdriver; it glows green and silver. He fiddles with the thermostat – and the water starts to boil in the lower pipes.
It doesn't take long. Several woman run forward wearing hats and start fishing deep down in the pipework. One suchlike woman produces a key from her knickerleg.
"Here –" she cries. She chucks the key over her shoulder, aiming at Charlie.
He raises up from a crouch to catch it, spilling sweet water from his palms to do so.
He spills water over the Doctor in his haste to open a nearby door. It opens into a closet.
Char-lie runs in and grabs a mop-broom-bucket ensemble and assembles it as he staggers out, bent double under the weight.
The Doctor grabs it before it tips over. "How do you work this then, Charley?" He stops fiddling with his telescope, rams it into his pocket, and turns around, coat-tails a-flying.
"The Catswept Gods were last contacted, oh, about two seconds ago," cries the Doctor. "If I'm right, and I'm usually very very right about these matters, the domed sky will part, and there's a forcefield to stop us all wibbling wobbling into space, very weak gravity this planet, you know, if it wasn't for trade with the humans you lot would all still be instinctively sucked back into your shells, that's how you lot survived the last comet trail to connect with your moons, sorry, Satellites of Worship."
Meanwhile, the Princess Moon is crying, "Please-please help me, Gods of Cats-Wept, the town cries in pain for your generosity. Please-please weep upon them."
"We don't Cry, you know," says the God. "It's Humans that have the Tear Ducts of Metaphor."
"But-but we Weep," she cries. "We weep from our little white noses."
"I'm pretty sure that's just phy-lie-va. Only the Humans were most interested in it for their Collection of Alien Biology. Everyone else is very most "Eurrggh"."
The Doctor stares heavenwards.
"Should have been, oh, about two seconds ago!"
Nothing happens apart from the pipework metaphorically intent on soaking the townsfolk not the town. Several woman still fish down in the depth-works, sorting out the evacuees from their shrill children.
phy-lie-va runs down Char-lie's frontal lobes. "Oh no!" he sobs. "The clock! The clock!"
Fire consumes the church and its clock-rocks.
Lava burns over the town and the people still trapped in their underground homes start audibly coughing from the ash-drawn air. Every breath fills the sudden silence as several hundred fire-hunters stop fishing and run towards the lava, instinctively stopping to tuck up into their shells and hover over the slurping lava. Some get lost in the ash, churned up into the landscape like grey, soupy fog.
"No!" cries Charlie, reaching out. "My husband!"
The small crowd around the Doctor turn round. "Husband? Surely you jest, Char-lie?"
Charlie opens all palms to his throat. "My wife," he coughs, "my wife."
"Better," says the next person to the Doctor. "We won't tell."
"I would," says the furthest person to the Doctor. "We may not have a town, nor a church, but we still have our magistrate down in the pipework, and we are a town without disasters!"
"Disasters?" queries the Doctor. "This town is a disaster! No proper fire-fighters until four hundred years from now! It takes seven more earthquakes and one more towering volcano before you lot even consider moving! There's an underground burrow, about, oh you lot find it after trading with the Vorax and maybe after a Dalek or two invasions, you hibernate with cryogenics and survive the next era alongside the Humans and the Alliance, etcetera, etcetera, and –"
A crash from the pipework signals that it's about to fall over, over several hundred trying fire-fighters and evacuee-haulers.
The furthest person from the Doctor grabs the sobbing Charlie, and shoves him and his wavering cry-pulse complete with phy-lie-va into the fleeing rescuers.
"Take that, Char-lie-with-husband-and-against-our-moon-church. Die in the pipework water-battle for we want no one like you."
"Hear we," cries another also offended. "Our town may burn but we are still vigilant against the disasters of mutated nature, when like nurtures like, instead of –"
Princess Moon was deep in offensive battle with her Gods.
More had joined the Woman God with the encyclopedian crook and were fiercely heating the domed sky, forcing the heat from the lava into every nook and cranny to displace it.
Little by little, they argued, the lava would die itself out, and go back to ravaging the torn surface of their vortex planet.
Meanwhile it would take several generations to rebuild the town, contact the Humans and diminish their stock of plutonium again to buy a better construction out of their Alien Eco Flat-pack Villages.
Already, the Gods had contacted the ageing NASA on Jupiter and were asking for advice on waking up the A.I. Helper App that was modelled on their first survivor, in shell, found stuck to a human generation spaceship, like one of their pond-snails.
Unfortunately, she-it had not survived the volcano, nor the vortex, that had transported her that far out in space, but how she had survived stuck to a human space vessel for nine weeks without them noticing her, no one on Catswept World had known. Luckily, the human scientists had reconstructed her in A.I. land, and even had knew what her last meal had been, how she preferred to swing her phy-lie-va over her shoulder when she was happy yet terrified to leave her building when asked to leave by the magistrates, because the human scientists had vocalised her brainwaves. They had reconstructed her walking or slimeing forwards, and planted her on their town when the humans discovered them via space satellites, space telescopes, and every else that humans used to spy on aliens back in the old days.
They had even reconstructed the blue box that had frequented them so much inside their human history.
Which is why Princess Moon wasn't arguing so vehemently as she should. The thought had been nuzzling her for some time. The President of Authors' Notes didn't quite exist, she thinks. It's only a meta-work concept, she remembers. But that little white business square of such important authorship had quite turned her phy-lie-va.
"I –" she began, with so much tremble that the Gods fell silent and turned as one to listen to her.
"The blue box," she musters, spitting out phy-lie-va. "It's here!" She points.
The Gods turn. "Yes," they say as one. "It's the Doctor. He's here!"
"Quick," cries one god. "Tell NASA immediately!"
"It's Torchwood, isn't it?" queries one.
"No, it's definitely NASA that lives on in old age on Jupiter. Talk to the Helper App."
"Hello!" bings the Helper App. "Please state the nature of your national emergency.
"Is it One: Volcano? Is it Two: Earthquake? Is it Three: Darleks? Is it Four: Cyberm—?"
"It's Zero: The Doctor!" cries Princess Moon of Catswept Road, Herb-Bright Ness, Settle Pont.
"Not quite," warns the Woman God removing the encyclopedian crook from her hand and instead warming up the App Receiver Radio with a plug.
Another plug in, and she talks. "Press One, Five and Nine. We've done this before, haven't we, people?"
"Yeah," cries another God. "Five for Fire and Nine for Doctor."
"Is it Eight: Vorax? Is it Nine: The Doctor and His Blue Box? Is it Ten: –"
The Doctor wades through the underwater stream, pushing gently aside townsfolk and children.
"This way!" he cries. "We just may have once chance to stop up the lava flow and stop the volcano from, well, doing what volcanoes are renown for doing – erupting!"
"Terrible town this," he continues. "Hardly mentioned in the history books, although I do remember a Clarence, well, similar in tones and so much. Like the wavering pulse-changes between Charlie and Char-lie. Meanwhile, it looks like this water channel is about to flow uphill, but trick of the light and all that."
The Doctor turns like he has a companion listening intense. But he encounters no one apart from the sobbing Charlie and several women, and two men with their collars turned up.
"Which way to change the heat control?" one man insists.
"Yeah? And to change the ash monitor down? I couldn't see a thing on towns level."
The closest woman to the Doctor swung her phy-lie-va over her shoulder. "I should be in the lead," she huffs.
"Yeah? Because you're descended from she-it who met-dead the first humans?"
"No," says Char-lie. "Because her love is still alive and she drums the fastest to get back to-to-to h-him." Charlie breaks down in weeping phy-lie-va.
"There, there, Char-lie." Pats a sympathetic woman. "You'll find a wife one day like everyone else, not that liver-phy-lie-vaed man you mistakened for a true love."
"Mistook," said the Doctor, absent-mindedly "You know, most humans adore homosexuality by the twenty-fifth century. It's so absurdly twenty-first century quaint! It was the last century that they had to fight for their rights. In most alien cultures for example, it takes only a few random examples for most people to ignore it. Some don't even bother to write it down. Most people don't know this, but homosexuality is a fantastic mutation that occurs in all carbon-based life! Gives a little bit of zing to bisexuality, if you know what I mean. Even asexuality, meaning plants and so on, not celibates. Earth, the human birth-world has more common sexuality arising in animals than anywhere else in the universe! Most people know that from trivia quiz-shows, but you lot haven't got round to mass telecommunications yet, let alone importing them from humans. Next time you contact them, you'd – oh, wait –"
Duely, two woman and one man waited.
"Like we wait for Gods?" one of them asked.
"What was all that about?" huffed Char-lie. "The rest of it? You're not the fabled Helper Human-Based App, are you?"
"Yeah, like what's homosexuality? You mentioned that word the most?"
The Doctor sighed. "Sometimes, I find noun-frequent languages the worst, just next to Verb Hyphen Adjective Cross-Fingers and magic-based Emotion Signals; but not as bad as phy-lie-va Hyphen Flying-Drool Finger-Cross. Homosexuality –" he turns "– is when people like Char-lie here are allowed to like people or any person who is the same gender as him! Same gender! Same sex! Or same genitals! It gets complicated when you add in gender-swapping genitals generation by generation, or alien sex drives without love."
The Doctor sniffs. "I need a companion. They're so much better at explaining this stuff to other aliens. Usually all they have to do is sweat and whiff, and the Tardis translates it automatically. And I am not –" The Doctor stops off, about to say 'the Human Helper App', but he is wise and stays mum.
"Well, I didn't understand a word of that," says one woman, turning to one man with his collar still tucked up.
"I'll reset his default settings," volunteers the man. He rolls his sleeves up, indicating that he means business. He grabs the Doctor by the throat, and rams his phy-lie-va-coated frontal lobes into his face.
He lets the Doctor go a minute later. The Doctor topples over and splashes into the water channel. A moment later, the Doctor surfaces, spluttering, for the air is becoming stale with the taste of volcanic ash.
"He-you-it breathe?" queries the technician.
"What?" cries the woman. She has turned towards the entrance, and inhales the air.
"The Helper App! It sputters and breathes!"
Meanwhile, the Doctor has high-tailed it up the water channel, purling his way through the stream. He shakes his hand.
"No!" cries Charlie. He buries his face in his palms. "I thought, it was, he – he is my salvation. I've accompanied the Human Helper App to switch off the volcano. My name will be in history, and my family will not go dishonoured due to my disaster shame. I hope, I hope that my love, he is still yet breathing above the lava and under the ash-filled air. I hope that Clarence may not notice him and me together in memory and that he is wise enough to hold a wife close from next door, so that she may not be spotted as the companion she is to all the townsmen."
"Charley!" cries the Doctor from upstream. "Follow me!"
Char-lie straightens, and after a look of horror from his townsfolk, he hurries upstream, following the Doctor, who may be his salvation, after all.