BBC Audio Book narrated by Paul McGann, released on 7 Sept 1998
Who. Earth and Beyond.
Bounty, by Peter Anghelides.
"Dear Mum and Dad," the Doctor read aloud. "Kidnapped by time-travelling alien, scenery wonderful, back yesterday. Love Sam."
He laughed lightly and handed back the postcard. "You should try the postal service on my planet."
"Oh, sure," said Sam, sitting up on the warm white sand. "We haven't even left this planet yet. Next time perhaps you'll manage to fly us somewhere out of this world. Venus, maybe, or California."
"Oh, no," said the Doctor. "The deal was for just one trip. Next time it's straight back to London."
"Doctor," she wheedled in the same tone she used when her mum wanted her to the dishwasher. "I don't want to go back home. Come on, one more trip round the block. We could go to Mars, or don't you have enough unleaded?"
The Doctor harumphed and turned away. "I suppose I know how you feel", he muttered. "I ran away from home once. But I still had to go home to my own people eventually."
Sam stared across at the Doctor. He was silhouetted against the sparkling water of the Indian Ocean, his wild brown curls flicking about his head in the light distant breezes. He'd told her that his appearance had changed recently. She wondered what he'd looked like with shorter hair.
"If he really travelled the universe", she began, "we should play 'I Never Did.'" She could see he was looking blank. "Me and Melissa play it at school. You tell me something you've never ever done, and if I've already done it, you score a point. If I haven't done it either, I score a point."
"Hmm," said the Doctor, sounding interested.
"Winner gets to choose where we go next." she added quickly.
"Hmm," he said, less convinced. He looked straight at her and she shivered. His amused expression suggested he was teasing her. Behind his sea green eyes she sensed something deeper, something much older.
"I'll start," said Sam, briskly. She held up both hands, palms towards her, fingers outstretched. "Before today, I'd never been to the Seychelles."
The Doctor's grin widened. "Neither had I. That's a point to me, isn't it?" He laughed at her scowl. He held up his hands too, folding one long forefinger towards his palm. " My turn. I've never been a member of Greenpeace."
Sam scowled some more. "Not fair. They won't have application forms on your planet. Okay, er, I've never been to Pluto."
"Lucky guess?" asked the Doctor. "I have." He was studying her reaction.
"Two one." she said, and realised she'd have great difficulty working out what he had done, where he had been. "Yeah, nice one, Samantha." she told herself.
"My turn." said the Doctor. His expression changed. "I've never kissed Danny Watson."
Sam dropped her hands into her lap and gazed at him. "But how could you" The Doctor blinked innocently and folded back another finger. "Three one? Your turn."
Sam stared off into the middle distance. A man with a metal detector was scanning between the two palms which stretched almost horizontal across the beach. He was sweeping methodically across the sand, stooping occasionally to examine a find, discarding it after a brief examination. Sam suddenly said to the Doctor, "I've never killed anyone." There was a long pause. The Doctor stared into the blue sky, utterly still. The light breeze ruffled his hair again, moved the wing collar of his open shirt slightly. Maybe that's what made Sam shiver. She watched him for a while. He had nice cheek bones and his lips were pursed appeallingly. He was a handsome man. Could he really be an alien? Could he kill someone?
"That cloud," he said, pointing. "It looks like a Chukian Ice Ape."
Sam was about to remonstrate with him for avoiding the question when she felt a sharp pain. She gave a little cry. At once the Doctor turned to her. "What is it?" Sam was examining a small dark object that she'd leaned on in the sand. It was about the size of a pocket calculator, but she couldn't decide whether it was plastic or metal. It was surrounded by short dangling wires and seemed to be scorched all across one side. The Doctor took it from her quickly and stared at the object so closely that his nose almost touched it.
"It isn't from this planet."
"Yeah, right," said Sam. "You can tell just like that?
"Of course," he said, as though challenging her to doubt him. "You'd recognise plastic if you found it in sixteenth century France, wouldn't you?" The Doctor rummaged in the pocket of his waistcoat, which lay on the sand beside him. "For example, what do you suppose this is?"
Sam looked at the thing he was holding up. It looked like a little metal spade on a piece of grubby old string. "Isn't that the key to your Tundish?"
"The key to my Tardis," he said wearily, and wiggled the piece of string. "But what's it made of?"
"Well, metal, of course." said Sam. "She took the key and hefted it in her palm, surprised to find it tingled. "Not metal," she said. "Urgh, it feels like it's alive. Okay, it's alien."
The Doctor didn't reply. He had moved down the beach to a pool of seawater which filled a scooped patch of black rock near the shoreline. He wiped the sand-covered artefact with a dampened handkerchief.
"So what is that, then?" asked Sam.
The Doctor clicked his tongue irritably. "I don't recognise all alien artefacts instantaneously, you know."
"My hero has feet of clay," said Sam. She looked down at the Doctor's bare feet and studied his long, pale toes in the sand for a moment. As she did, she spotted another small alien object, like a TV remote control. She stooped to pick it up. The blow that came next wasn't particularly hard, but it took Sam off guard and she sprawled in the sand. She rolled over. It was the man with the metal detector who must have run silently across the beach while they were talking. Sam spat out grains of sand and wiped her mouth with the back of one hand. "Oi!" she cried, as she struggled back up. "What's your game?" She could feel the Doctor holding her firmly by the upper arms.
"Sam, Sam," he was saying quietly. "Perhaps you shouldn't annoy him."
"Or what?" she snapped, shrugging him off. "He'll punk me with his metal detector?" She glared furiously at the newcomer, trying to stare him down, wanting him to blink first. When he did, Sam took an involuntary step backwards into the Doctor. The man's eyelids had blinked sideways. Sam looked more closely, The man seemed to be wearing the comfortable faded colours of the handful of tourists they'd seen earlier, but Sam couldn't focus properly on his battered sun hat, his pale blue and white striped tee shirt, his patchwork trousers. It was a freaky feeling, like staring at a magic eye puzzle and not deciphering the hidden image. One thing did seem clear, though. He wasn't holding a metal detector.
"That's a gun." she said. "It's an alien gun."
"Very good," murmured the Doctor. "You're really getting the hang of this."
"Stay where you are," said the metal detector man. Sam couldn't place the accent. North London, maybe? It was too bizarre. She didn't have time to speculate further. Metal detector man lunged forward, snatching at the artefact she'd plucked from the sand. Sam felt herself pushed aside and knew the Doctor must have shoved her away as he lashed out at the gunman with his bare foot. Sam watched the alien's weapon spin lazily in the warm air before it dropped into the nearby rock pool with a sploop sound. Metal detector man half moved after it, but changed his mind. With a snarl of rage he threw himself at the Doctor, who fell backwards into the soft sand. Sam moved to help him, but metal detector man was already running away across the sand, towards the line of palms at the top of the beach.
The Doctor stood, and brushed sand from his serge trousers. "You know," he said, "there was something odd about him."
Sam snorted. "What, apart from the fact that he was shoving an alien gun up our nostrils?"
"Perhaps he just wanted to get his property back," said the Doctor.
"Well, he snatched your Tardis key while he was at it." said Sam. "I hope you had a spare."
The Doctor's jaw dropped. "That was the spare." He glared around him. "Shoes," he muttered. "Shoes, shoes, shoes. Ah ha! " He spotted his scuffed grey slip-ons, snatched them up and started off over the sand.
"Wait for me," said Sam, moving after him.
The Doctor turned around and brought her to a halt. For a moment she thought he was agreeing, then he pulled one of her hands from her side and pressed something into it. "Stay here. Watch this. Back soon.. And at this, he hurried off after the disappearing alien. Sam stared at the damp object in her hand. It was the first of the alien artefacts that she had found.
The Doctor found the bicycles where he and Sam had abandoned them at the top of the beach. He was soon skittering along the dirt track road after metal detector man. The road curved upwards, growing steadily steeper. Ahead, the Doctor could see a thin man jogging up hill, braided ropes of hair jostling over his dark shoulders. At first he thought it was a Seychellois main until the figure turned his head.
"Splay nosed," said the Doctor to himself as he pedalled on. "And brachycephalic. What should that remind me of?"
Around the next bend he came upon a group of islanders carrying boxes of ripe fruit down the steep hill. They seemed unmoved by the sight of a strange alien. The Doctor looked at the creature again and was surprised to see it shimmering, like a heat haze on the hot road surface. Now it did look like a Seychellois. And instead of alien equipment in its hand, it was carrying a simple fishing rod.
"Of course!" said the Doctor. "I should have guessed. It's a Rhiptogan."
The islanders came past him, nudging each other and laughing at the strange wild-haired figure on a bicycle. The Rhiptogan had paused briefly, looking back at the sound of laughter.
"Wait!" called the Doctor. "I only want my key back."
But the Rhiptogan had already started to run. The Doctor stood up on the bike pedals and gave chase. The road flattened as they reached the village clearing between the tall palms. A small group of Seychellois were stepping out into the long cool shadow thrown across the street by a church's tall white bell tower. The Rhiptogan shimmered and slipped into the growing crowd.
"You can't hide," the Doctor shouted, skidding his bicycle to a halt. "You can't fool me as easily as you can humans."
There was a blur of movement beyond the congregation at the corner of the church. He hopped off his bike and wheeled it swiftly between the islanders. Several nuns in white habits were emerging from an arched door in the side of the church. Three of them were whispering to each other. Two more smiled at him as they sat down on a sunny bench. To their right was a battered Seychelles Mini Moke, its black fabric roof half rolled back and its rear seats full of decorating equipment. At the wheel of this vehicle was another nun, staring straight ahead through the grimy windshield. She was panting. The Doctor grinned and stepped forward, at which point the nun gave him a furious look, gunned the engine and accelerated toward him, her wimple flapping in the rush of air. The Doctor threw himself to one side and the Rhiptogan swerved past him onto the winding road. He leapt to his feet, scattering nuns like frightened geese, and scrabbling his way back towards the bicycle. It lay in a tangled mess by the roadside, its wheels buckled and useless where the Mini Moke had driven over them. The Mini Moke disappeared down the steep road in a cloud of red dust. Through its open metal frame, he could see the Rhiptogan driver's rope-like hair flapping in the slipstream. The Doctor stood at the roadside, arms akimbo, and stared helplessly into the blue sky. Behind him the church congregation buzzed with amazement. But he could also hear the drone of an engine returning. He peered through the dense foliage beyond the road, and saw the grimy yellow shape of the Mini Moke swerving through. The Doctor remembered how he and Sam had pushed their bicycles up to the village earlier that day. The hillside was so steep that the road had to wind up in in long, almost parallel, stretches, so if he cut through the foliage in a more or less straight line, his path would intersect with the road at three or four points. Maybe he could reach the Mini Moke and recover his key before the Rhiptogan reached the Tardis further down the hill.
He dived into the undergrowth, feeling thorny plants snatch at his legs. Tall grass and low tree branches whipped across his line of vision, and he half ran, half slide down the sharp incline. The sandy road surface suddenly appeared ahead, and he sprang out onto the dirt track, skidded straight across it and plunged back into the trees. The engine noise faded. Through a clearing, the Doctor could see grey tarmac where the road joined the island's main thoroughfare. Briefly blinded by the sun, he pushed through a large spider's web that stretched between two tree trunks. It's sticky strands clung to his cheek. The spider dropped onto his right shoulder. It's body was the size of his hand, and it's legs clung tentatively across his neck. He twisted into the roadway, flicking at the creature with his left hand. It dropped off him and scuttled out of view. The Doctor fell heavily onto the tarmac just as the Mini Moke screamed past. The oily smell of exhaust filled his nostrils, his white shirt sleeves were spotted with blood from his plunge through the razor sharp leaves. He spun round to watch the Mini Moke approaching the next turn, two hundred metres from where he was lying in the road. Ahead was the Tardis, half covered by a drooping Takamaka tree. The Rhiptogan was slowing down as it approached. The Doctor staggered to his feet, desperate to prevent the alien from getting there first, but the Mini Moke accelerated, swerved into the bend and roared past. The Doctor stumbled over to the Tardis and leaned heavily on its warm blue surface. The Rhiptogan had not tried to enter it, perhaps unaware of its purpose. But the Doctor still had to recover the key or he would never get back in. And then, returning Sam to London would be the least of his problems.
Sam examined the alien artefact. She's moved into the shade of two storm-damaged palm trees, because it was early afternoon and blondes burn badly. The artefact had started bleeping shortly after this, and the further she'd shuffled up the beach, the more the bleeping intensified. After some experimentation, her Babylon Five training told her it must be a tracer, so she carried on past the line of spindly palms until she found a furrow of torn foliage with fresh growth all through it. Some two hundred metres in she found the entrance to a dark cave, surrounded by odd pale leaves. Much of the flora in the Seychelles seemed strange to her. She stepped through it carefully. When her bare legs brushed against the nodding flowerheads, she felt a slight stinging sensation, so she covered her legs, put on her deck shoes, and continued warily into the cave. She paused to let her eyes adjust. Ahead of her was a metal door, part buried in sand and foliage. She was reaching for what looked like the handle when she heard a rustling sound from behind her. As she turned, she saw the alien. It was there only for a second, blinking at her with reptilian in its flat grey saucer face, thick black ropes of hair hanging down the sides of its head. When she blinked in disbelief, she saw instead a bare-chested Seychellois man, like someone she'd seen painting on the beach earlier.
"Excuse," he said in a soft voice. "Car(?) tu parler?" Then he blinked at her, and she saw behind his eyes. She fell back against the door, feeling her legs stinging again.
"Sorry," she said, cautiously. "Didn't mean to trespass."
"Oh, you speak English," said the islander in the same quiet tone. Sam straightened a little. "You too, mate. And that's harder to believe. You've gone and blown your cover, haven't you."
The creature's outline shimmered like an image in water. The flat-faced alien was suddenly standing in his place again. "I didn't want to alarm you," he said, his voice curiously unchanged. "I won't hurt you. I mean, do I look like an assassin?"
Sam surprised herself by laughing. "How would I know?" She dusted her hand on her tee-shirt then held it out. "My name's Sam."
The alien considered her out-stretched arm warily. "I am Ladeeth. I mean you no harm."
"I bet you say that to all the girls," said Sam.
The Doctor slumped into the seat, offering the plump Seychelles woman his apologies when he dropped small pieces of earth and torn leaves into her washing basket. She said nothing, merely adjusting a large white sun hat and staring past him through the window. The single decker bus wound cautiously down the hill. After a short while, the Doctor spotted the Mini Moke by the roadside. He jumped up, startling the passengers nearby. "Arrête ici, s'il vous plaît," he called to the driver. He waved his fingers at the plump woman in apology. "Bonne après-midi," he said, and skidded down to the exit doors as the bus juddered to a halt.
The Mini Moke was parked carelessly outside a simple Seychelles dwelling. The building was all weathered white-painted planks, and the open windows overlooked a beach of stark black rocks. One of the rusting corrugated sheets on its roof had a jagged hole at the side. The Doctor climbed slowly up the worn stone steps at the front. He crept over the veranda and cautiously stepped into the single main room. The Rhiptogan had its back to him, and was crouched over a metre wide cube of dull metal. The alien was in its natural form, the leathery grey skin and heavy knotted hair plainly visible. Bright afternoon sunlight flooded into the room through a gaping hole in the ceiling where the cube must have smashed through the roof. The cube was stuck at an angle in the splintered wooden floor boards, and it was filled with flickering technology. The Doctor felt a rush of relief when he saw a simple wooden table holding a small pile of alien equipment. He stepped quietly to the table to recover the Tardis key, but as he reached out he nudged a cylindrical object which rolled slowly across the table towards the Rhiptogan. The Doctor clutched at it but succeeded only in scattering the other objects over the table. Several tumbled over the edge and onto the floor boards with a tinkling crash. The Rhiptogan spun round at once, its shape blurring through several possible disguises. It veered towards the Doctor, who staggered back against the crazed plasterwork of the nearest wall.
"Ah, hello," he stuttered. "I er, merely wanted to recover my key. I'm sorry if I alarmed you."
The alien stared wildly, its eyes flashing with mixed fear and anger. "You are Ruduses creature. You want to kill me."
"No," insisted the Doctor. "My friend found some of your property from the beach."
The Rhiptogan was brandishing some kind of repair tool with a very sharp end to it. "Keep away from the navicom."
"I'm sorry if I alarmed you," said the Doctor. "Perhaps I can help you complete your repairs?"
The Rhiptogan stepped closer, and the Doctor winced as it trod on a fallen component with a crunching sound. "Oh dear. Sorry about that, too."
Abruptly, the Rhiptogan backed away, staring past the Doctor. The Doctor turned to see a broad figure in a large white sun hat standing in the doorway. It was the woman from the bus, her basket of washing tucked under one plump arm.
"Don't be alarmed, madam," said the Doctor, moving to her side. But the woman flicked out her free hand at him, and this small gesture was enough to slam him into the far wall. He sank down, dazed, flakes of plaster falling onto his shoulders.
"Ruduse," said the Rhiptogan to the woman, plainly terrified. "I knew it."
The woman's form shimmered and reformed in the grey-blue shape of a female Rhiptogan. "That's right, Lirpa. You've nowhere to hide." Her basket of washing transformed into a heavy sharp-edged machete. "Now, tell me where to find your accomplice." She scanned the room. "Where is Ladeeth?"
Lirpa had backed away from Ruduse, trying to hide the metal box. "I won't let you harm him."
Ruduse slapped the repair tool out of his grasp. "Bad choice. Perhaps I'll kill you."
Lirpa shrank back. "That thought had crossed my mind."
"It didn't have a long journey, then." snapped Ruduse.
"Your mind is filled with thoughts of death." whimpered Lirpa.
Ruduse shook her long braids of black hair, and the Doctor realised she was laughing. "And money. There's a handsome price on Ladeeth's ugly head, dead or alive. You're just small change, Lirpa. Help me, and I'll forget about you." Ruduse angled the knife close to his face. She nodded at the metal cube beside them. "I'll even leave you this pitiful collection of junk. I see you've recovered the navicom, but not the tracer."
The Doctor groaned and got to his feet. "Actually, I may be able to help. I think my friend found your tracer. So if you'll just put down the unpleasant knife."
"Shut up!" barked Ruduse suddenly, swivelling her arm to point the blade at the Doctor.
Lirpa lunged forward at Ruduse, who struggled to pull the knife round. They collided with the navicom cube, which toppled over noisily. Sparks fizzed and spluttered from it. Lirpa seized Ruduse and was able to throw her to one side, kicking the knife towards the Doctor. He picked it up as though it were alive and threw it in one looping arc out of the open window. Across the room from him, the two Rhiptogans were fighting savagely. Beside them the navicom cube started to burn with a fierce orange flame. The Doctor crawled across the floor to pick up a rusty red bucket full of sand, a primitive fire extinguisher placed there by the house's original occupants. Ruduse landed a vicious crack on Lirpa's head and sent him careering against the rear wall of the house. Ruduse swept in with another fierce blow, spinning Lirpa against the window frame. With a short cry, Lirpa fell through the open space. There was a short pause, followed by a series of agonised, inhuman screams. The Doctor scurried across the room, taking the bucket of sand as he went. He peered out onto the beach and stared in horror. Lirpa had fallen backwards into a rock pool and was thrashing about as though it was electrified. He screamed horribly, steam pouring from his body. The sea water in the pool was changing to a murky grey sludge. The Doctor felt a sharp blow as Ruduse shoved him in the small of the back. He tumbled out of the window, and the bucket spun away onto the rocks with a dull clang. Ruduse's shadow fell over the Doctor where he lay on the beach. The Rhiptogan had walked around the house and was now standing cautiously behind the pool where Lirpa had died. Lirpa's whole torso seemed to have dissolved, and his pale yellow bones pricked the murky surface of the water. Only his head lay free of the pool, the dead face frozen in an agonised grimace. Ruduse seized the knotted braids on the corpse and with a savage jerk, pulled the head clean away. She loomed over the Doctor then waved her fingers at him. "Bonne après-midi." she said, and went back round the house. Smoke and flames curled out of the open window. The Doctor heard the Mini Moke's engine revving as it raced away up the hill.
"Bloody hell," Sam told herself, "it's another spaceship. First a police box and now this. Where's your disposable camera when you really need it?"
Ladeeth had seemed pleased to show her around, like some reptilian estate agent. Here's the main bedroom, here's the downstairs cloakroom, this is the intergalactic flight deck, the kids'll love it. With a little prompting, he had also explained how the ship got there. He and his fellow Rhiptogan, who was called Lirpa, had fled from their enemies and tried to hide on Earth. Since Rhiptogans die in salt water, who'd think of hunting for them on a planet where two thirds of the surface was poisonous to them? But a hunter called Ruduse had pursued them, knowing that she could earn bounty money by capturing them dead or alive. In the chase, Ladeeth and Lirpa crash-landed their escape shuttle several weeks ago, since when they'd been in hiding, trying to repair it and to recover the parts that got lost in the crash. "Tricky," explained Ladeeth. He moved a switch on the control panel and the main entrance hatch slid down. "Some of the pieces wash up on the beach and that's not always safe for us."
"Suit DIY enthusiast," said Sam, looking around the flight deck at the scorched controls. They seemed to blur before her eyes, and she felt giddy. "I need to sit down. My legs are killing me." Her arms felt heavy and nerveless, like she'd been sleeping on them. "You say you're not a killer. What makes you think I'm not?"
"You're just a human," replied Ladeeth.
Sam rubbed her bleary eyes. "You're very chatty for a guy on the run. I could tell Tomorrow's World all about you."
Ladeeth smiled sadly. "You won't be able to tell anyone about this."
Sam tried to sit up but she felt too heavy and tired. "Censorship, mind control, bribery?" she mumbled. Her voice was slurred, just like after the Coal Hill disco, that one and only drinking binge when she was sixteen.
"You're dying." said Ladeeth quietly. He pointed to her legs and Sam was shocked to see that her skin was covered in white lumps. Ladeeth now activated a screen which showed the shuttle entrance. "You've been poisoned by those Rhiptogan Adeekee plants outside. They are this ship's natural defence shield from local fauna. I'm sorry." He turned away, working at another panel of controls.
Sam felt her heart pumping furiously. No, that would speed up the effect. Damn it. How long, she wanted to ask, and how could he be so cold, so emotionless, so inhuman? Her anger flared. No, stay calm, stay calm. There was movement on the screen. Her heart pumped wildly again. It was the Doctor, picking his way cautiously through the undergrowth. She had to stop him, to warn him. Sam lifted her lead weight arm and reached for the switch that Ladeeth had used earlier. Her fingers spasmed, so she thumped the switch with the heel of her hand. There was a metallic clang from nearby as the hatch opened. Sam bellowed a warning to the Doctor about the stinging plants, her voice hoarse with the effort.
"You little fool," hissed Ladeeth, lurching to his feet. But he knew it was too late. "That's what a killer looks like."
Sam followed his terrified gaze to the doorway, where the Doctor's familiar figure was brushing idly at the lapel of his long green velvet coat. Sam was relieved to see he was wearing his slip-on shoes and grey serge trousers. She felt stronger, and got carefully to her feet.
"Did you touch the plants outside? They're poisonous, Doctor. "
"Adeekee blooms," said the newcomer, calmly. "I know." He blinked at her and brought his other hand forward. It was clutching the bloody severed head of a Rhiptogan.
Ladeeth choked back a sob. "That's no Doctor. It is Ruduse."
Sam thought her eyes were blurring again. The newcomer reformed into a tall female Rhiptogan dressed in a dark grey tunic. In her waistband was a large wooden-handled machete. To Sam it looked like a knife she'd seen slicing effortlessly through a whole coconut in a TV ad for chocolate. She shuddered as Ruduse slid the heavy weapon from her belt.
"I thought it would be more difficult to get in," said Ruduse. "You really are a careless cretin, Ladeeth. Valuable, of course, but still a cretin."
Ruduse dropped the head, which struck the floor with a dull thud. She weighed the heavy knife easily in her hand, preparing to strike. Ladeeth suddenly seized Sam and pulled her back against him as a shield. She struggled feebly, but his grip tightened across her neck and her skin stung like a raw wound. Ruduse laughed, then her face hardened and she lunged towards them. Ladeeth shifted left, dragging Sam with him. The machete swung down behind them, slicing through the flimsy flight control panel with a shearing sound. Ladeeth shoved Sam like a dead weight again Ruduse's outstretched arm. Sam and Ruduse tumbled to the floor, the big knife skittering across the flight deck. Ladeeth sprang for the exit, but Ruduse seized Sam bodily and hurled her at him like a rag doll. He caught Sam and pushed her aside to make his escape, but Ruduse was faster, throwing a savage backhand blow at Ladeeth which connected with his head. He smashed into the control panel and dropped to the floor, where he lay, broken and still. Sam lay crumpled beside him, looking up. Ruduse had recovered the knife, and swung to cover her and Ladeeth. Sam's vision smeared as the exertion and the poison took effect. The machete seemed enormous now.
"Oh, have I missed the floor show?" said a querulous voice from the doorway. "I had hoped to arrive before the knife thrower came on."
Sam turned in surprise. The Doctor was standing in the doorway, his ragged shirt a patchwork of dirt and bloodstains. A rusty red bucket swung in his grip, water slopping over the side.
"Drop the knife," he snapped at Ruduse, "and let Sam go, or I'll drench you with salt water. Terribly bad for the Rhiptogan complexion, I've discovered." He raised the bucket in both hands. "I want you to take your blood feud far away from this planet."
Sam struggled to her feet, watching him cautiously. "Doctor," she croaked, "could you kill them? Is that why you ran away from your own people?" She couldn't disguise her disappointment. "It's cold-blooded murder."
The Doctor now looked away from Ruduse. "Well, they are reptiles, Sam."
She choked back a sob. "Not quite my point." she said. But when she stared into his eyes, she was surprised to see him roll them despairingly.
"Sam." he said in a warning tone.
Ruduse's flat grey face split in a wide grin. She brandished the machete. "Go ahead, Doctor. Your stupid friend is right. You can't do it, can you."
The Doctor bent his arms and threw the bucket forward. Sam yelled in horror. Water sluiced low across the floor and Ruduse leapt backwards out of the way. The Doctor set the half empty bucket down on the floor, stepped into the spreading patch of sea water and dragged Sam towards the exit. "Get outside to safety, Sam." He stooped to examine the crumpled form of Ladeeth. "I'm afraid this one's injuries are quite severe."
His words were choke off by Ruduse, who had clambered over the control console to avoid the sea water. She grabbed the Doctor by the hair, pulling his head back and leaving his neck bare. The knife glittered in her other hand. "Don't worry about Ladeeth, Doctor," sneered Ruduse. "Dead or alive, the bounty's the same. And are you also a runaway? Perhaps there's a bounty on your head too?"
The Doctor struggled in Ruduse's fierce grip as the knife approached his neck. Sam seized the fire bucket and flung the remaining water past them and into the smashed shuttle controls. A fierce crackle of power bloomed into a flash of sparks and flame. Ruduse roared and leapt aside, the knife falling from her grasp. The Doctor pried himself free. Sam looked back as the Doctor was bundling her through the exit. Ruduse tried to follow them but gave a sudden howl of pain. The heavy knife had fallen beside the crumpled form of Ladeeth, who summoned up enough strength to take it and plunge it into Ruduse's foot. The female Rhiptogan slumped to the ground, where her outstretched hand splashed into the pool of water. The skin immediately fizzed and burned, and Ruduse screamed again. Ladeeth painfully dragged himself to his knees, ready to plunge the knife into Ruduse as the flames licked higher on the console behind them. They vanished from Sam's view as the Doctor dragged her through the undergrowth and away from the shuttle. They had barely thrown themselves onto the beach before the shuttle exploded with a dull thump.
When Sam opened her eyes, cool salt water was lapping around her. The Doctor had carried her into the sea in his arms.
"That should ease the urticaria on your skin", he said, as he waded back onto the beach. "Now, we must hurry to the Tardis for some proper treatment."
A purple Volkswagen Beetle stood incongruously on the sand.
"You've brought your own transport?" Sam asked, weakly.
"I drove it here from the Tardis when I worked out where Ruduse would be heading," smiled the Doctor. "I'm afraid it's much smaller inside than it appears from the outside.
Later that day, Sam wriggled deeper into her canvas deck chair and re-read her postcard in the fading sunset. The card showed a view of Silhouette Island, the sea azure, the sky brochure blue. On the reverse, alongside her message, was her parent's address in blobby black biro. Sam folded the postcard in half and stuffed it back into her pocket.
"Come on, Sam, it's your turn." said the Doctor.
Sam closed her eyes. "I've never churned up a beach in a VW," she said.
The Doctor gave an apologetic cough. Sam could hear his deck chair creak as he sat up to look at the deep ruts in the sand. "Four points apiece," he said. "Now, the decider, and it's my turn." He cleared his throat theatrically. "I've never destroyed an alien spaceship with a bucket of sea water."
Sam took a deep breath of the warm evening air, then exhaled slowly. She opened her eyes, stood up and stretched. "You win," she said. "London here we come."
The Doctor was clumsily folding up his deck chair. "Yes, I get to choose your next destination."
When Sam looked at him, he was smiling. It was the kind of smile, she thought, that people might have when they finally made a difficult decision.
The Doctor had become entangled in the deck chair. He fumbled around in his waistcoat pocket, muttering under his breath, "It was here a moment ago. Ah, yes." He pulled out a piece of long piece of thick looped wool. Attached to the end, shining in the remaining sunlight, was a silvery metal shape. "Another spare key," he said, and held it out to her. Sam studied it briefly before she reached out to take it. "I understand you've never visited Pluto," said the Doctor as he extricated himself from the deck chair and started off across the sand towards the Tardis. "Well, there's no time like the future, is there?"
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