31 Jul 2013

The Problem with Death: Chapter 2 (Caroline)

I looked at the blue box standing in front of me and sighed. This box was full of magic and wonder, but it was also responsible for screwing up my life. Before this all began I was just a simple super market check-out girl, dreaming of a job as an assistant manager. But now…now I was an intergalactic explorer, getting engaged to Victorian gentlemen and fighting killer dogs.

I should be sat at home watching Deal or No Deal I thought to myself.

Danny stepped out of the box, supported by the Doctor and he almost slipped in the wet mud underfoot.

‘Everything okay?’ asked the Doctor.

‘It’s raining,’ I said, already having pulled my hood up. ‘And it’s muddy as well.’

‘It could be England,’ said Danny, groggily.

‘It’s definitely Xanji-For,’ said the Doctor. ‘Smell the air?’

I sniffed up. It smelt of a weird mix of vodka and cucumber. Not an unpleasant smell, but odd at the same time.

‘So where are these gleaming cities we saw on the TARDIS info panel?’ I asked.

‘We must be on the outskirts of City Nazar.’

‘Can’t we just hop back in the box and try and get closer,’ I said, hopefully.

‘Nope,’ said the Doctor, locking his ship up. ‘I don’t want their scientists getting too close to it. They may be quite a shy race and keep themselves to themselves, but you know what happened to the curious cat, don’t you?’

I frowned. ‘The TARDIS isn’t going to kill them, is it?’

The Doctor thought for a moment, realising that what he had said hadn’t made much sense. ‘Come on,’ he said as he helped Danny to trudge through the mud and through the densely packed forest.

Eventually we approached a small hill and, with some difficulty, clambered up it. At one point I slipped and ended up getting mud all over my backside. Danny offered to help clean me up, but I politely declined. I smiled though. Despite all that had happened to him, Danny was still trying to be the ladies man.

Eventually we reached the top of the hill and stared out across the rainy vista in front of us. There appeared to be a wall around a huge, gleaming metal city. Skyscraper’s towered high into the sky and in the centre of the city was a huge, towering building which dominated the skyline.

‘No bus service then?’ I said.

‘Why build a wall around the city?’ pondered the Doctor.

‘To keep people out?’ I suggested.

‘Or keep people in,’ said the Doctor darkly.

Already I had a sense that the Doctor was about to lead us into danger. I wouldn’t say that he went looking for it, but it did tend to follow him around. Usually when we land on a planet the locals tend to see us as being hostile and we end up in all sorts of problems. I suppose the plus point here was that we had Aleena. She was from Xanji-For and would help sway the locals in our favour if need be.

We clambered and slipped and squelched down the other side of the hill until we reached an old, stone path. The path continued for about another mile towards the city wall.

‘Be on your guard,’ said the Doctor ominously.

‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Surely we’re safe. There’s nothing out here.’

As if to punctuate my stupid statement, something whizzed past my ear and almost hit the Doctor in his shoulder.

‘Get down!’ yelled the Doctor, dropping himself and Danny to the ground.

‘What was that?’ I asked, trying to look for any sign of where it had come from.

The Doctor belly crawled over to the wet, muddy ground where he picked up the object that had just almost-killed us.

‘It’s an arrow.’

‘Who’s firing arrows?’ said Danny, trying to work out what was happening around him.

There was another whoosh and another arrow whizzed just past my head.

‘Crap shots,’ I said, somewhat relieved.

‘I don’t think they’re intending on hitting us,’ said the Doctor. He got to his feet and cupped his hands to his mouth. ‘Okay, okay. We’ve got your message. You’re armed and dangerous. Now show yourselves.’

A few seconds after saying that around five or six blue-skinned, hooded figures emerged from the trees that were dotted at various intervals along the hill.

‘Why are you heading towards the city walls?’ came one, young-sounding male voice.

‘We need urgent medical help,’ said the Doctor.

‘You appeared in that blue box. You’re aliens.’

‘We are indeed,’ smiled the Doctor. ‘Can you take us inside?’

The figure looked to another on his left and then back at us. ‘No.’

‘Oh,’ said the Doctor, expecting a little more than that. ‘Why not?’

‘We don’t live in the city. We are Outer-Zoners.’

‘Well if you don’t mind,’ said the Doctor, hauling Danny to his feet, ‘I’d like to get my friend inside City Nazar. He really does need urgent help.’

‘We can’t let you do that,’ came a familiar, female voice from the back of the group.

‘Aleena?’ I heard the Doctor say, a looking surprised.

‘Got it in one,’ said Aleena, as she removed her hood, pushing herself through the rest of them. She was frowning and certainly didn’t look as chirpy as the last time we saw her.

‘Who are they?’ asked the male.

‘Friends,’ said Aleena. ‘Bring them.’

We were marched about two miles through the rain and mud, deep into the forest and past streams and rivers. Two of the blue-skinned men had carried the almost-unconscious Danny and my feet were killing. Aleena hadn’t said another word since she turned and led us away and the Doctor simply watched on in interest.

Eventually we reached a clearing in the trees. All around were ragged tents and make-shift shelters dotted about, and soon a group of about twenty people - men, women and children - started to gather in a circle around us.

‘Okay, people,’ said Aleena, ‘calm down.’

‘Who’s this lot?’ asked a bearded, young man with what looked like a permanent scowl.

‘Some old friends,’ said Aleena, sitting down on a rock, removing her sandals and rubbing the souls of her feet. ‘We found them near the city walls.’

The man looked from Aleena and then back to us and walked across the clearing to the Doctor.

‘You’re the leader, yes?’ asked the man.

The Doctor stared at him. ‘Not exactly. But these two people are under my protection.’

He nodded and extended his hand. ‘My name is Jettel.’

The Doctor shook his hand.

‘And these people are under my protection.’

The two who were carrying Danny put him down on a bit of bracken on the ground and walked away.

‘What is up with him?’ asked Jettel, crouching down beside the now-unconscious Danny.

‘He’s very, very sick and we need to get him to a doctor,’ said the Doctor.

Jettel looked up at the Doctor and smiled. ‘We have doctor’s here.’

‘Do they have the medical equipment to help him?’

‘Unfortunately not,’ said Jettel. ‘We have no technology of any kind.’

‘By choice?’ I asked, wondering why anyone would choose to live out here in the mud.

‘No, my dear,’ said Jettel, taking my hand and shaking it. ‘We were banished from the city. We are what they affectionately refer to as the Outer-Zoners.’

‘Why were you banished?’ asked the Doctor, crouching beside Danny and checking his pulse.

‘Because we spoke up against Ireel.’

I looked confused, unsure if I’d heard the name before, and Aleena spotted this.

‘Ireel is our God.’

‘So you were thrown out for your beliefs?’ I said, shocked that a civilised society would be able to do that.

‘It’s not that we don’t believe,’ said Jettel. ‘It’s that we have demanded proof. And the Council have brought it upon themselves.’

‘How?’ I asked.

‘Constantly telling the entire planet that they had seen Ireel, and then refusing the people when they wanted to see him.’

The Doctor shook his head. ‘I rarely get involved in religious matters,’ he said, clambering to his feet, ‘and so I’d rather we be left out of this.’

‘Not a chance,’ said Aleena, who was now eating what looked like a red banana.

‘Why not?’ asked the Doctor, clearly a little troubled by the change to Aleena’s personality. ‘What’s happened to you?’

‘What do you mean “what’s happened to me”?’ She laughed.

‘You’re nothing like the Aleena I used to know. The Aleena that helped me.’

‘Maybe I’m not,’ she said, finishing off the banana.

‘But we were friends. We helped each other. You helped me when I was close to death.’ The Doctor crossed over to her. ‘And yet you and your friends just shot arrows towards me.’

‘Doctor,’ said Aleena, looking at him with almost-tears in her eyes, ‘that was almost a year ago.’

‘What?’ I said, looking at the shock in the Doctor’s eyes. It had been only a few days for me, Danny and the Doctor. Only a few days since we had left the lighthouse through the time windows and gone back to Thornsby.

‘It’s true,’ said Jettel, crossing over to Aleena and putting an arm around her.

She turned to him and smiled.

‘Aleena has been with us for many months now.’

‘I returned to Xanji-For. The council took me in for questioning and I spoke out of line. The next thing I knew I had been banished.’

‘And you met these people?’ questioned the Doctor.

‘That’s right.’

‘So why the hostile reception towards me? What have I done?’

‘I thought you may have come back to help me like I helped you. I thought you would have come back and helped to make the President understand why we should be allowed to have our own beliefs.’

‘I don’t interfere with a persons beliefs,’ said the Doctor.

‘But you interfere with everything else,’ said Aleena. ‘You forget that I’ve watched you throughout all of your incarnations. I remember what happened on Mars and Trenzalore and how you took Ivy Coldstone away with you. I’ve seen it all. Yet you won’t help me?’

The Doctor looked as though someone had just picked out his most painful memories and made them even more painful. ‘I didn’t say I wouldn’t help you,’ he said, ‘but I can’t force your council into showing you your God.’

Jettel looked at Aleena and then back to the Doctor. ‘All over our planet there are groups of us, banished like this. There are some reports that on the other side of the world those that don’t believe in Ireel are executed.’

The Doctor shook his head. ‘It sounds like your planet needs to realise that other people have differing opinions. But part of the problem is you.’

‘Why?’ asked Aleena. ‘Surely we should challenge things.’

‘Not to such extremes though,’ said the Doctor. ‘Just because you don’t believe, it doesn’t mean that you can shout it out to the world. Just quietly get along with your own belief system. Every single person in this universe is entitled to their own beliefs.’ The Doctor shook his head. ‘Anyway, I said I wouldn’t get involved in your belief’s or religion anyway.’

‘But you will help us? You will talk to the council?’ asked Jettel.

‘If you’ll help me to get Danny into the city, then I’ll have a word and see if your two factions can come to a compromise.’

I watched the Doctor and Jettel have a conversation with each other on the other side of the clearing. This was one step towards helping Danny, and if it meant that the Doctor had to fight for these people’s beliefs, then I was all for it. I just wanted Danny better.

Aleena came up to me and put a hand on my shoulder. ‘How you doing?’

‘I’m good,’ I said. I lied a little. I still wasn’t that good, but things were starting to feel a little better.

‘Found any answers to yourself yet?’ asked Aleena.

‘No,’ I said, ‘but I’m sure after we’ve helped Danny that we’ll be able get some answers for myself.’

Aleena nodded. ‘Make sure he helps you. Don’t let him skirt around the issue. He’s very secretive, you know?’

‘In what way?’

‘The Doctor lets information out a bit at a time so as not to confuse people. He never tells you the whole story. Not in one go, anyway.’

I looked at the Doctor. Surely he wouldn’t hide things from me. Why would he? Having said that, since they left Thornsby he had been a little quiet with me. I just took it to be concern at what was happening to Danny.

Soon Jettel and the Doctor returned to us. They appeared to have settled on something.

‘It has been agreed,’ said Jettel. ‘Aleena will accompany the Doctor and Danny to City Nazar and Caroline shall remain with us.’

I was a little frustrated with this. ‘Why me?’

‘Because I want someone to stay with these people. Talk to them. And I’d rather you be out of the action.’

‘That still doesn’t make any sense,’ I said.

‘The Xanji-For don’t like outsiders,’ said the Doctor. ‘There’s a good chance we won’t be coming back from this.’

I was shocked. The Doctor looked stern and serious. He meant it.

‘I’d rather not get you killed as well.’

‘But, Doctor-’

‘No,’ said the Doctor. ‘You stay here and stay safe. I’ll get Danny some help and then maybe we can leave.’ He turned to Jettel and Aleena. ‘I do need some help with something else, by the way.’

Jettel nodded.

‘I need to make a slight excursion to my TARDIS.’

‘Why?’ asked Aleena.

‘Because I need to wake up Matthew Cole.’

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