< /TR>


Chapter Three

There was a look on the Doctor’s face that Tara found disturbingly familiar. She had seen it before on Buffy, that mixture of anger and determination; but something colder ran beneath the Doctor’s expression, and Tara wondered uneasily if he knew how close he was to the edge.

The Doctor didn’t seem to have anyone to save him from himself. Well, except for her, but Tara wasn’t sure if she could fill the great big gaping hole in his heart.
They gained the top of the hill, and Tara leaned against him as she tried to catch her breath. Below them was a small village, with little wooden houses perched on large, flat-bottomed hulls.

And every single one of them was in flames.

“Who did this?” he said flatly as flames licked the air. “Who would do this? The Amin Aberans are a peaceful people; they wouldn’t hurt a fly. There hasn’t been a war here in…well, forever.”

Tara looked at him, struggling for the right words to say. “Maybe we should see if they need any help?” she suggested.

The Doctor smiled fiercely. “Yes, let’s go help them,” he agreed. “I’m very good at helping.” Tara stumbled down the hill after him, trying to keep up with his long gait, and wondered what kind of help the Doctor had in mind.

The heat of the flames blazed on her face and the Doctor pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it to her. “Here,” he said, as he steered them closer to the fire. “Put that over your mouth.”

Tara did what she was told as she tried to make sense of the chaos. She could make a out a few silhouettes darting between the burning buildings and assumed they were the villagers, even if they looked a bit odd and shambling.

The Doctor kept going, seemingly unaffected by the flames and smoke, and maybe he wasn’t. Tara had first assumed the Doctor was a demon, one of the more amiable kind, but she now suspected his origins were a bit more…. extraterrestrial.

“Doctor,” she ventured, pulling the handkerchief from her face. “What are we going to do?”

The Doctor’s chin jutted out as he hopped onto the balls of his feet, his eyebrows rising as he glared through the smoke. “We’re going to find out who did this and stop them,” he said. “This way.”

Tara couldn’t make out a thing through the smoke but she assumed he knew where he was going. Sure enough, she eventually made out a small group of huddled villagers standing at the edge of the conflagration. The Doctor made a beeline for them and Tara followed. “Who’s in charge here?” he demanded.

“I am Nirda, the village mayor,” one of the villagers said gruffly, stepping forward. “Who are you?”

Tara eyed him; he was short, barely reaching five foot, and covered in a light grey fur with deep, purple markings along his shoulders and arms. His face was humanoid, with large, catlike eyes. Long, pointy teeth protruded from his mouth. Peaceful looking wasn’t the term she’d have picked, but she trusted the Doctor had his facts straight.

“Who, me?” the Doctor said, smiling disarmingly. “I’m the Doctor. What happened here?”

The crowd muttered, and Tara felt a moment of unease as Nirda’s eyes slid away. “It is no business of yours, stranger, be on your way,” he muttered.

The Doctor’s eyebrows shot up. “That’s a bit rude, isn’t it,” he said. “Since when did the Abera Aminan’s shun strangers?” The muttering in the crowd grew louder, and Tara shifted closer to the Doctor as he rolled on his feet, waiting for an answer. “Well, speak up!” he said, raising his voice when it became obvious no one was about to talk. “I haven’t got all day…well, I have, but that’s beside the point – hey, you!”

He pointed, pinning a villager who was trying to drift away. “Who, me?” he asked tremulously, wilting under his glare.

“No, the other Minosian who’s trying to sneak off into the shadows,” the Doctor snapped. “Of course you. What’s your name?”

“Leave the boy alone,” Nirda snapped. “He’s done you no harm.”

“I never said he did,” the Doctor said, surprise colouring his voice. “Did I say he had?” Tara realised that the last question was directed at her, and she shook her head. The Doctor nodded, satisfied. “Good, glad that’s cleared up, then,” he chirped.

Tara suppressed to urge to giggle at the confounded look on Nirda’s face as the Doctor grinned, shoved his hands in his pockets, and sidestepped around him. “So, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted.” he drawled, throwing a significant look at the mayor before homing in on the boy. “What’s your name?”

“S-s-siron,” the boy said.

“Pleased to meet you, Siron,” the Doctor said, his tone gentling. “Now, can you tell me what happened here?”

The boy shook his head uneasily and took a step back. “Can’t,” he said, “Not allowed to.”

Ah, it’s like that, is it?” the Doctor said ominously. “Well, nothing for it, I suppose… come on, Tara. Time to go.”

“We’ re leaving?” Tara asked, puzzled.

“No point hanging around where we’re not wanted, is there?” the Doctor said cheerily.


“Yes, yes, I know, I promised you dinner. Sorry about that,” the Doctor said. “But you see how it is. Best leave them to it; they’ve obviously decided to die without a fight. Sad really, this was such a lovely world.” The crowd began to murmur angrily, and Tara suddenly realised what he was trying to do.

“Yes, I suppose you’re right.” she sighed. “Pity, I was really looking forward to trying the local food, but I guess there won’t be much cooking here from now on. Oh well, let’s go.”

The Doctor’s lips twitched, but he managed to keep a straight face as she held her head up, strolled passed Nirda, and joined him. “How did I do?” she muttered out of the side of her mouth.

“You were brilliant,” he said under his breath, as he flashed a toothy smile at the Minosians and hooked his arm through hers. “Well, nice meeting you,” he said aloud. “Have a nice death!”

They had barely walked ten yards before Nirda’s voice called after them. “Wait! Stop!”

The Doctor winked. “Reverse psychology, works every time,” he said softly, before looking over his shoulder. “Yes, did you say something?”

The Minosian shifted unhappily on his feet, his mind obviously at war with itself. “We need help,” he admitted eventually.

“But of course you do,” the Doctor said simply. “Why else would I be here? Tell me what happened.”

Once more, the crowd muttered, and Tara wondered if they were about to end up at square one again. Whatever had happened to these people, it had shaken them badly. Eventually, however, another of the villagers stepped forward. “It was a demon,” he said. “A demon did this.”

“Ah, how interesting,” the Doctor said, after a moment’s pause. “And where would we find this Demon?”