(Part 1 of 2)
This interlude is a story about the Second Doctor that can be read as a stand-alone (though all interludes will tie into the main plot later) that takes place after the events of "The War Games", his final broadcasted serial (excluding multi-Doctor specials) and utilizes the "season 6B" theory.
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The Doctor stepped lightly out of the TARDIS and onto the fresh, green landscape of eighteenth century Scotland. He took a deep breath, and a silly, nervous grin crept onto his face. He just stood there for a moment longer, breathing in the clean morning air, before striding off in a probably random direction.
The Doctor had, after much debate, been granted his freedom by the Time Lords, if it could indeed be called "freedom" under the conditions, or condition, really. The condition stated that he should be allowed to do as he wished and go where he wanted with his TARDIS, so long as he would willingly undertake any mission the Time Lords assigned to him. This would continue until they decided they no longer needed him, at which point his original sentence would promptly be carried out.
He was, of course, far from satisfied with this deal, but it was better than the alternative and so he accepted it readily. Thoughts of escape, of just flying off in the TARDIS to a place where they could never find him, had naturally crossed his mind, but he had accepted that such a feat was impossible. They were everywhere.
The biggest problem was that he had been traveling with companions for so long, it seemed he no longer remembered how to travel alone, and it happened that he was no longer very good at it. After months of persuasion, the Time Lords had granted him permission to retrieve Jamie. They had also "graciously" installed a circuit that allowed him to better control the TARDIS, which was the only real plus to the whole situation.
So there he was, and he felt excited, nervous, and scared all at once. Jamie, of course, would not remember him. He would have to induce the memories, but he would only be able to do so if Jamie decided he wanted him to, and even then, there was always the chance that Jamie would choose not to come travel with him again.
Before he could worry about all that, though, he had to find Jamie.
It turned out that this wasn't too hard. The TARDIS had been programmed to materialize as close to where Jamie was as possible, and roughly a month after he'd been returned, by his time. So the Doctor had only been walking for ten minutes when he came upon a stream and Jamie, perched casually on a large jutting tree root beside it, apparently lost in thought.
The Doctor hadn't realized how very much he'd missed his friend until he saw him. He'd never before been able to become so close to a traveling companion as he had to Jamie, and he seriously doubted he ever would again. Jamie looked exactly the same; hair, clothing, posture, everything. The boy didn't appear to hear his approach, so he placed a careful hand lightly on the boy's shoulder, trying his best not to startle him.
Jamie jumped anyway, and was on his feet in an instant, brandishing a knife.
"Who are ye and wha' do ye want?" he asked, tensed and ready to strike. The Doctor held up his hands to show he had no weapon.
"Jamie, calm down. I'm a friend," he said soothingly.
"How do ye know my name?"
"I told you, I'm a friend." Jamie relaxed a little bit, mollified by the Doctor's non-threatening stance and tone.
"Well, ye dinnae look very mean, I suppose," he admitted. "So who are ye, really? I dinnae think I know ye."
"I'm the Doctor, Jamie. We did know each other. You don't remember me." A strange look flitted across Jamie's face.
"The... Doctor?" he said mostly to himself, as if testing the words out.
"Yes," the Doctor responded, even though it hadn't really been a question directed at him.
"Why wouldn't I remember ye, then?" Jamie asked, relaxing all the way and sitting back down. The Doctor debated with himself for a moment, then gave in and sat next to him.
"It's a very long story, Jamie. But I could help you remember, if you like." Jamie stayed silent for a while, except to throw a couple pebbles into the river and watch the effects.
"How would ye do that? Some kind o' witchcraft?" he finally asked skeptically.
"You would have to trust me." Jamie skeptical look didn't go away and the Doctor began to feel worried again. If Jamie didn't even allow him to help, he would never get the boy back. The thought made him far sadder than he would have expected. Jamie had fallen silent again, staring at the stream. They sat together for several tense minutes, before Jamie looked up. His eyes were wide and confused, and the Doctor felt a wave of sorrow for the boy.
"I... have blanks where I can' remember wha' I did," Jamie said, as though imparting a huge and terrible secret. To him, it probably was. "At first it dinnae feel like anything, but the more time passes, the more I begin t' notice things. I'm different from how I was only a while ago. I can read! I dinnae used t' be able to read, but now I can and I don' remember learning! And sometimes... I dream impossible things. Great silver beasties and white rooms and, and a big blue box. And sometimes, Doctor, there's someone what looks like you do in my dreams."
The Doctor nodded in sympathy and guiltily berated himself for the pleasure he felt upon hearing that Jamie did remember him, even if it was only in the smallest, most insignificant way. The damned Time Lords couldn't even erase memories properly, and this was causing Jamie pain and confusion; it was nothing to feel happy about. There was no one here Jamie could talk to about this. And without a memory block more firmly in place, the dreams would come more and more often, and snatches of memory would begin to return. But all of this would take years, and Jamie wouldn't understand the memories he'd be recovering. Wouldn't recognize them as memories. For someone living in such a primitive time, random flashes of spaceships and aliens would be maddening. But the dissolution of a memory block could not be forced. He'd have to have Jamie's complete consent.
Given Jamie's time period and origins, the Time Lords had probably not expected Jamie to live very long anyway, and so hadn't bothered to secure the mental block properly. Being thrown back into the middle of a war where he was on the losing side did not have good prospects.
They didn't know Jamie. He could survive anything. He wasn't the most intelligent boy, but that was mostly due to technological ignorance as opposed to a lack of cleverness. And he didn't always catch on to the Doctor's complex plans very quickly, resulting in them landing in sticky situations on more than one occasion. He was also brash and tended to rush into a fight before properly considering the situation. But all of these faults he made up for and more with his intensely fierce loyalty. The Doctor had never seen anything like it in all his centuries. Once Jamie had decided someone was his friend, he would willingly and eagerly defend them with his life. He was strong, and a very skilled fighter for his age. It had been necessary, of course, given his childhood. And he fought all the more fiercely when those he loved were being threatened.
Aside from all that, one of Jamie's most prominent strengths was his incredible adaptability. Of course he didn't even come close to understanding any of the things the Doctor showed him, but even though he was curious and inquisitive, he just accepted that things were the way they were. He liked to ask how things worked, but when he couldn't understand he just accepted it. Jamie didn't walk into the TARDIS and say "that's impossible," he said, "how does it work?" In many ways, this demonstrated an intelligence far beyond average. This acceptance made Jamie unusually suited for time travel, despite his primitive background.
But now, here Jamie was, back in his own time and having dreams about places that wouldn't exist yet for centuries, and no one was around to believe him. Even the most adaptable mind would be driven insane.
Jamie was staring inquisitively at him. "Doctor?" he asked.
"Would you allow me to help you?" the Doctor asked him quietly. Jamie nodded.
"It is extremely important that I have your absolute permission to do this, Jamie," the Doctor said softly. Jamie started to look a little worried.
"Will it hurt or what?" he asked, eyes wide.
"Oh dear me, no, nothing like that," the Doctor assured him. "It's just that if you don't trust me completely, it won't work, and we won't get a second chance." Jamie smiled brilliantly at him.
"I don' ken why I trust you, Doctor, but somehow I do." The Doctor was a little bit touched, and offered Jamie a happy smile in return, then brought his hands up to Jamie's temples. The boy flinched away instinctively, then checked himself.
The Doctor closed his eyes and concentrated. He could feel Jamie staring at him, and it was a bit disconcerting. With some effort, he pushed that out of his mind, blocking out everything around him and concentrating on Jamie's thoughts. He searched for the block in Jamie's mind, and found it, like a big, ugly boulder just dropped right in the middle of everything. It hadn't been refined at all, just stuck there uncaringly. Shoving aside his anger, the Doctor set about dissolving it. Since it was so poorly done, it didn't take much effort. He supposed he was lucky in that respect, at least.
When the last of it was gone for good, he opened his eyes to look at the boy. Jamie was still staring at him with the same expression and for a moment, he wondered if he'd done something wrong and began to silently panic. Then Jamie grinned and threw his arms around the Doctor, suddenly speaking very fast.
"Och, I knew it, I knew you'd come back for me, Doctor! I would've never gone and left you otherwise! They made me forget? Why? How? Wha' took you so long t' come for me? It's been a month!" The Doctor laughed, enormously relieved.
"So many questions, Jamie! All in good time, all in good time, I promise. First, will you come traveling with me again? I would be very pleased if you did."
"Are you joking, Doctor? Why would I stay here?" The two of them stood, Jamie not letting go.
"Come with me, then! We should leave right away. I have a lot to explain..."
They headed off towards the TARDIS. Jamie insisted on clinging to the Doctor's arm the whole way, as though he were afraid it was all just another dream. But it's not, the Doctor thought with satisfaction.
The TARDIS materialized with its usual distinctive grinding noise and shaky landing.
"Ah ha!" the Doctor said, clapping his hands together in excited delight. "We've landed!"
"Aye, but where are we, Doctor? It's no' another Cyberman base, is it?" Jamie asked skeptically, his hand resting lightly on the Doctor's shoulder. "I've had just 'bout enough o' those!"
"No, no, of course not, Jamie. I told you, we're here for a break!" The Doctor flipped a switch and the view screen rose, revealing lush green. "There! See? A nice, peaceful forest. Good spot for a picnic!" Jamie didn't look convinced.
"Maybe, but then where exactly are we, eh? I wan' t' know! What planet?" he asked.
"Well, to tell you the truth, I'm not entirely sure. I don't think I've ever been here before. But I'm sure it will be just fine. Now come on, Jamie! No sense in spending any more time in here." He gave Jamie's arm a friendly pat, pulled the door lever, and walked out.
"Och! Doctor, wait!" The Doctor didn't stop. Giving a resigned sigh, Jamie ran out after him.
The Doctor had wandered a short distance and was examining the ground with quiet glee. "Look at this, Jamie! The soil has almost exactly the same composition as Earth. How fascinating. I wonder where we are..." Jamie, however, was not interested in the dirt. He stared at the trees.
"Doctor, these trees are green!" he noted.
"Yes, yes, most trees are," the Doctor said dismissively.
"No, I mean, they're ALL green!" Jamie insisted, tugging at the Doctor's jacket.
"What are you-- oh! Oh, yes, that is quite interesting. I see what you mean. The trunks are green as well. And no leaves, as far as I can see. What bizarre trees." Distracted, the Doctor wandered further away, and Jamie reluctantly followed. Shortly, they came up before a huge, greyish wall that shone oddly in the light.
"Fascinating," the Doctor muttered, examining it. Jamie reached out and touched it, then shouted when his hand briefly stuck.
"Och, it's all slimy!" he cried, wiping the goo off his hand on a nearby tree.
"Yes, it's curved strangely also. I wonder what it might be made out of." Before either of them could say anything else, the wall moved. It shifted a little to one side, the whole thing rippling a little, and then moved right in front of them, stopped for a moment, then continued moving in the same stunted motions. Jamie and the Doctor both jumped back with a shout of alarm, instinctively clinging to each other.
"Wha' is that?" Jamie hissed.
"Well, Jamie," the Doctor said as they both recovered from the shock, "I'm beginning to have my suspicions about this place. I think that that--" he nodded at the moving wall, "is a slug."
"Don' be daft! Slugs are wee bitty things," Jamie scoffed.
"Yes, on Earth they certainly are, but we certainly aren't on Earth." Jamie stared at him in horror.
"Ye don' mean, Doctor... these trees... they're actually grass?" The Doctor beamed proudly at him.
"Yes, very good, Jamie! That is exactly what I think!" Jamie considered this for a moment.
"I wonder if I could find a giant apple. I am a wee bit hungry," he said, looking thoughtful.
"I very much doubt it, Jamie. I think we'd best get back to the TARDIS. This probably isn't the best spot for a vacation."
"Aye, alrigh', Doctor," Jamie agreed. They turned back only to find their path blocked by something large, tan, and tree-like.
"What--" was all the Doctor managed before a whirlwind of angry, fanged mushroom descended on them. Jamie shouted and reacted instinctively, pushing the Doctor back while removing a knife from his boot in one smooth movement. He adopted a defensive stance and swung skillfully at the attacking mushroom.
He manage to nick it and the mushroom reared back, letting out a chilling cry of distress. Instead of retreating, however, it lunged back down with even more fervor.
"Run!" Jamie shouted at the Doctor, doing his best to dodge the wild attacks. One massive fang left a gash on his right arm. The Doctor scrambled up and looked around wildly for a way to help. Jamie fought bravely and fiercely, but his knife was far too small and there was no way for him to land a decent blow. He quickly realized it was futile and changed strategies, backing away as much as possible, blocking blows and herding the Doctor away at the same time. When they were finally far enough away, they turn their backs on the monster and made a run for it.
The mushroom had long reach, but it was still stuck in the ground and couldn't follow them. They could hear its roars of anger and distress as they ran, without looking back, in the direction they hoped the TARDIS was.
Jamie noticed the thick ropes on the ground and gave a warning shout a little too late. Their momentum was too great and they couldn't stop in time. Moments later, Jamie and the Doctor were swept up into a primitive net trap, and hung there, swinging gently.
"Doctor," Jamie began slowly, "your shoe is in my face." The Doctor shot him a disgruntled look. "Now what?"
"Well, I suppose we have to wait for whoever set this trap to come let us down," the Doctor said.
"I could just cut us loose," Jamie suggested, holding up his knife.
"No, no, I'd rather like to find out. This is a trap made for something our own size, and that's very curious. Put that away before you hurt somebody!" Jamie pouted at him but obediently stuck the knife back into his boot. The angle was difficult and he had to do a lot of uncomfortable shifting to reach.
It was nearly an hour later by the time anything happened, and Jamie was complaining loudly of cramping joints and pain from the gash in his arm. The Doctor was mildly worried about the wound, but there was nothing he could do about it at the moment. He had long since given up finding a comfortable position, having settled on being amused by Jamie's constant fidgeting and how he had to keep rearranging his kilt or risk flashing the Doctor. Jamie's latest attempt had resulted in the Doctor being partly upside-down, and all the blood was starting to rush to his head. He was getting more and more uncomfortable when suddenly an arrow pierced the supporting rope and they both fell right onto the thankfully soft ground with shouts of surprise.
Upon trying to stand up and disentangle themselves, they quickly discovered that they were still securely trapped inside the net. Jamie wasn't amused, and groaned loudly to show it.
"Who are you?" a voice demanded, and the Doctor looked up to see a short man dressed in animal skins standing over them and waving a spear threateningly.
"Oh, dear me. I am the Doctor and this is Jamie. Do you think perhaps you could let us out of here?" he asked.
"Aye, my legs are cramping terribly!" Jamie added. The man gave them each a rough poke with his spear.
"Ow! Well! There was certainly no need for that!" the Doctor protested indignantly, earning himself another poke.
"Now you stop that, y' hear?" Jamie tried to defend him. The man ignored them both and instead whistled shrilly. A group of about five men, each carrying some sort of primitive weapon, stepped out from where they had been hiding. Two of them threaded a large pole through the net and lifted it. Carrying Jamie and the Doctor, the whole group made their way deeper into the forest of grass. Jamie started screaming irately, but the Doctor just sighed in resignation and grabbed Jamie's ankles so the boy wouldn't accidentally kick him in the face.
It didn't take long for them to reach a reasonably small area filled with quaint huts with thatched roofs. Jamie and the Doctor were dropped roughly onto the ground.
"My word!" the Doctor cried, dismayed by their rough treatment. Jamie, apparently fed up, brought out his knife and deftly sliced the ropes. They disentangled themselves and stood, only to find themselves surrounded by short men, each with a large, dangerous-looking spear pointed at them. Jamie waved his knife around, but the Doctor slapped his wrist.
"Put that thing away, Jamie! They'll think we mean them harm!" he admonished.
"Well, they certainly mean us harm!" Jamie protested, but did as he was told regardless.
"Now, you don't know that yet. We should talk to them first."
The circle of men surrounding them parted and a tall woman stepped through. She was much more ornately dressed than any of the other people they had seen so far, and the deference with which the men treated her marked her clearly as the leader. She frowned at them.
"Who let you out of the net?" she asked. Her speech was heavily accented, drawing most of her vowels out much longer than necessary.
"No one--" Jamie began angrily, but the Doctor placed a hand on his shoulder to stop him and he quieted, but adopted a defensive pose, ready to strike at any unfriendly motions.
"We mean no harm. We just came here for a visit," the Doctor told the woman. "We were just leaving when we quite accidentally sprung your trap."
"You have strange garments. Explain."
"Yes, well, we're not from here, you see," the Doctor said. "We arrived quite by mistake. If you would kindly allow us to return to our ship, we can be out of here and you won't have to bother with us!"
"You will not leave! You are the cause of all... this, yes?" she said, waving her arms to indicate their surroundings.
"Err... I'm not sure what you mean," the Doctor said, perplexed.
"These mushrooms! They have become hostile and we have already lost three to their hunger."
"Oh! Oh, yes! I mean, no, no, we certainly had nothing to do with them. We were attacked by one before we landed in your trap! Jamie was injured, look." He grabbed Jamie's arm and displayed the wound.
"Doctor!" Jamie protested and yanked his arm back.
"So you are not their allies?" the woman asked skeptically.
"No, of course not!" As if they had never been under suspicion at all, the woman broke into a huge, toothy grin and her whole stance relaxed. The men around them also relaxed, lowering their weapons.
"I am glad! My name is Kapila, and I am the chief of this village," she said warmly.
"I am the Doctor and this is Jamie," the Doctor said, relieved. "If there is something unnatural occurring here, I would like very much to help. If you would care to fill me in?"
"Of course! We can talk just over there." She pointed towards a hut that was slightly larger than the rest.
"Splendid! Jamie here needs to get his arm patched up, though. Is there someone here who could help him with that while we talk?"
"Doctor! I wan' t' stay with you!" Jamie objected. The Doctor waved an arm dismissively.
"No, Jamie, you need to get that looked at. You don't want it to become infected." He pulled the boy a little closer and whispered in his ear. "Also, you can use this opportunity to explore the area and talk to the villagers."
"Aye, alright," Jamie grumbled.
"Wonderful!" The Doctor turned back to Kapila. "Shall we?"
Jamie had gotten his arm bandaged by a kind young woman and was now exploring the village. Thankfully, the gash hadn't been as bad as it looked or felt, and it would probably heal up nicely. In the meantime, Jamie was ravenous.
He hadn't eaten anything all day, and it was really starting to get to him. Because of this, his exploration of the village had less to do with gathering information and more to do with finding something to eat. A quick overview of the area convinced him that he wasn't going to find anything he would be allowed to eat in the village, and his best bet would be to look in the surrounding forest area. Vowing not to wander too far lest he get lost, he strode out into the forest of giant grass.
In the short amount of time he was searching, he mostly just found more massive grass. He definitely didn't find anything he'd consider potentially edible. Something, however, found him. Jamie found himself cornered by three tall, humanoid figures clad from head to toe in bright red leather, all holding vicious-looking whips. He didn't even manage a shout of alarm, much less an attempt at defending himself, before he was clubbed over the head and instantly knocked unconscious.
"So," said the Doctor, "tell me all about it. When did this... fanged fungi first start appearing?"
"Only about six moons ago. At first they were few and we could deal with them by simply avoiding them. But now they are many and we fear to even leave the village area! It is only a matter of time before one grows too close to us and attacks us in our home."
The house--using the term very loosely--they were in was small and had only one room, though it was divided into two by a deep red sheet that hung from the ceiling. Despite its small size and quaint outer appearance, the inside was filled with cloths and pillows and tapestries, all in bold red, purple, and gold hues. All in all, it rather reminded the Doctor of a fancy bordello. The sophisticated embroidery and stitchwork led him to believe that perhaps these people were significantly more advanced than they first appeared, at least in certain aspects. He admired a particularly nice tapestry that contained images that would not have been out of place in the Kama Sutra with detached curiosity, his mind racing to come up with the right questions to ask to reveal a clue about the stupid mushrooms.
"Are the people in this village the only ones? Or are there other villages?" he asked.
"No, there are many like us. We used to have a grand trading community! But now this evil has cut us off. We can no longer get enough food. If the beasts do not kill us, starvation certainly will."
"Oh dear, oh dear," the Doctor muttered, pacing and wringing his hands. Kapila watched him with an almost eerie calm.
"Sit, Doctor," she said, patting the plush, exquisitely embroidered pillow next to her. "It will do you no good to wear yourself out."
"Yes, yes, of course," he relented, sitting with very little natural grace.
"Did they just... spring up?" he asked, feeling a little at a loss.
"We have never actually seen one appear, so we do not know how they do it. They seem to sprout overnight."
"And there are no... normal mushrooms around?"
"We think the beasts have been feeding on them, for there are none left where they were once plentiful. They used to be our main source of food, and along with our cloths, our main trading material."
"That's strange," the Doctor mused. "You seem to have been hit in the very area where it will do you the most damage. Now, I can't be sure, but this sounds to me like a plot. I would guess there is someone behind all this."
"Oh, it all began near the old castle ruins!" Kapila said, the thought coming to her suddenly. "There was some strange activity there in the weeks before all this began. I sent some scouts, but they did not return. Often my scouts are gone for weeks at a time, so I did not consider it until now, with the recent events."
"But this is splendid! If we can get to the castle and stop the source, we can stop the mushrooms! Can you take me there, by any chance?" Kapila's face fell.
"It is too far. We cannot fight the beasts, and we cannot leave the village undefended lest violence comes to us." The Doctor stood and started to pace again, frustrated.
Jamie awoke in what was unmistakably a cell. It was filthy and dark and cold, and Jamie was lying in the middle of it. He sat up slowly and gingerly felt the back of his head. It hurt, but not too badly considering the circumstances.
He took a few minutes to check himself over and assess the surroundings. Aside from his bruised head and the gash on his arm, he was uninjured. Whoever had kidnapped him hadn't bothered to remove the knife hidden in his boot. Presumably, they hadn't known it was there and hadn't found it. The cell walls were made of stone and looked pretty secure, but the door itself was rusted metal and had a large, conventional lock. One that had a keyhole on both sides.
Raising his eyebrow at this, he pulled the trusty knife out of his boot and deftly picked the lock. He was by no means an expert, but this lock was suspiciously easy to pick. He suspected that the cells weren't often occupied, and therefore there was no reason to keep care of them. The door swung open with a loud squeal as the rusty hinges made themselves known. Jamie froze.
When several minutes had passed and there was nothing to indicate anyone had heard, Jamie tucked the knife back where it belonged and crept carefully out.
The room just outside the cell was large and musty, with an old wooden table in the center and not much else. There was a thick layer of dust covering everything. There were two other cells that Jamie could see, their doors wide open. One of them looked permanently rusted that way.
There was also a heavy-set wooden door that looked as though it led out of the room. Jamie tried it. It wasn't locked, so he pulled it open and stepped silently out, body tensed to defend against any attack, should one occur. None did, so he stepped further. He was in a corridor made of the same old stone as the jail room. There were no windows, and that combined with the musty, damp smell told Jamie that he was underground. The corridor was, however, dimly lit with a few low-burning torches. He considered taking one with him, but decided against it on the basis that the area seemed sufficiently lit and he didn't want to have to carry it.
Jamie moved on. There were a few more heavy doors along the corridor. Most of them looked long since rusted shut, but there were two or three that looked as though they had recently been forced open for use. He cautiously opened one of them and peered inside.
It was unmistakably a laboratory. There were long tables littered with beakers, papers, burners, and other, unidentified objects. Although it had clearly been in use far more recently than the rest of the area, it looked as though it had been several weeks at least since anyone had been in it. There was a faint odor that suggested something organic had been decaying in there for a while. Jamie shut the door and tried another. Again, a recently disused laboratory.
Jamie shut that door too and continued to the end of the corridor. He opened the door there and was greeted with an ancient, crumbling stone staircase. The walls here too were lined minimally with burning torches. Shrugging, he carefully made his way upward, struggling to see where he stepped in the dim lighting. One wrong step onto a bit of crumbling rock could mean slipping and falling, most likely not fatally but certainly loudly. He had no desire to alert whoever resided here to his presence, seeing as they had already demonstrated hostile intentions.
He'd gotten the shrewd idea that whoever had kidnapped him had something to do with the unnaturally antagonistic mushrooms. It wasn’t hard to figure out, especially after traveling for so long with the Doctor.
The building he was in was gigantic and made entirely of cold, crumbling stone. It looked to Jamie like the inside of a medieval-style castle. Once he was no longer in the lower levels, the rooms were much better lit with sunlight that streamed through high, thin windows, but it wasn't a warm or pleasant light. It was a light that cast shadows, a light that was never quite bright enough to see into corners clearly. It wasn't exactly sinister, as such, but it was far from welcoming.
The hallways on the ground floor were much larger and the ceilings in certain areas rose higher than any Jamie had ever seen. Signs of use were far more prominent, but there was very little furniture. The skin of some animal Jamie didn't recognize graced the floor of one room as a rug, and here and there would be a small table or a mirror. In one room there was a bed frame, but there had quite clearly not been a mattress in it for ages.
Instinct told Jamie to move upwards. There was another story above him, and he felt he had to find a way of getting there. Yet despite opening door after door after door, he still had found no stairs. He also had not found an exit, and even if he had been able to escape he did not know the way back to the Doctor. It would do no good for him to get lost.
Jamie was becoming seriously frustrated. The castle was so big and everything looked so similar that he had lost track of where he had and hadn't been. He was sure he was opening some doors he had opened before. He'd just given up and plopped down to pout when he spotted something bright red out of the corner of his eye.
Jumping quickly and quietly to his feet, Jamie crept towards the source of the color. It turned out to be exactly what he expected: one of those same strange creatures who had kidnapped him. The leather-clad... thing moved with a lurching gait, as though it did not have complete control over its basic motor functions. Jamie followed silently several meters behind it, hoping it would lead him somewhere helpful.
It did. It led him to a stairwell, the door to which was located in a heavily shadowed corner. Jamie had completely missed it.
There was a gargoyle above the door. It looked massively out of place, despite the fact that it was technically an ugly stone sculpture inside an ugly stone building. What little Jamie actually knew about gargoyles told him that they were supposed to be on the outside of buildings and had something to do with rainwater. He supposed that maybe this one served a different purpose. After all, he wasn't on Earth.
Jamie waited until the sound of the creature's footsteps was a suitable distance away, then opened the door and started up the stairs after it, moving as quietly as he could. They were long and winding, and there were once again no windows. Jamie had to feel with his hands a couple times to make sure he wasn't going to step anywhere unfortunate.
At the top of the stairs was yet another corridor. He saw the distinctive red disappear around a corner and hurried after it. He rushed around the corner without thinking to look first, scared of losing the creature and being lost again. He very nearly skidded directly into the creature he had been following.
"You will come with us," the creature monotoned.
"Gah!" Jamie shouted in surprise.
"You will come with us," the creature monotoned again.
"I will no-- Who's ‘us?’" Jamie asked, backing up slowly and reaching for his boot. He backed right into something hard that he knew wasn't a wall, because there hadn't been a wall there less than a minute ago. The red leather creature that appeared behind him grabbed his wrists in a grip that could easily become bone shattering at a moment's notice. Jamie froze.
"You will come with us," they intoned together.
The Doctor was still pacing when one of the villagers brought them news that Jamie had been kidnapped by a group of men in red leather.
“Oh no, oh no!” the Doctor said in response. “He always wanders off. Did they take him in the direction of the castle?”
The villager was so distraught he didn’t respond. Kapila drew the young man aside and waved some incense under his nose. The smoke seemed to calm him down, and she whispered a few words in his ear. The boy nodded, swaying back and forth as though in a trance, and whispered something back. Kapila nodded and patted him on the back.
“Good man,” she whispered as he left the tent. “He lost his sister to the mushrooms a moon ago,” she explained. “He says that your companion was indeed taken in the direction of the castle, though he did not linger long to watch, nor did he follow.” She sighed. “I never thought I’d say this, so mischievous a child he was, but he has lost all his curiosity, and it is a terrible thing to behold.”
The Doctor nodded, sharing her feelings, when a thought struck him. “You said you were traders, you pride yourselves on communication and knowledge. Surely curiosity plays a great role in your society?”
Kapila nodded, “Yes, of course, I didn’t mean to imply it did not.”
“And the mushrooms were a notable event! Did your explorers keep records of where they could be found?”
“Why, yes. We handed out maps so people would not wander into them by accident. Unfortunately, their rate of growth has long exceeded our ability to keep our records up-to-date.”
“May I see them?”
Kapila dug through the stacks of pillows to withdraw a massive sheet of papyrus-like paper that measured about one and a half by two meters. On it, the locations of the mushrooms were marked in colored ink, with different shades and hues marking the dates they sprang up. The Doctor could see Kapila’s curiosity was piqued, for she could not see why this information would interest him.
“We already established the mushrooms came from the castle,” Kapila said.
“Hmm, most interesting. Why yes, my dear Kapila, the mushrooms did come from the castle, but look, here at the outskirts, the numbers are small for a very long time before suddenly, their population exploded and they covered the remaining distance between the castle and your village.”
“Their growth is exponential, of course, even with some deaths.”
“Mushrooms have disappeared or died?”
“Yes, we’ve seen their mangled bases where they once were, as though they had been torn apart; we could only assume that scavengers got to them after they died.”
“But see, the rate of growth of the mushrooms at the outskirts is significantly less than exponential. They weren’t dying of their own accord; something was keeping their population in check!”
“You don’t mean?”
“A predator-prey model much better explains this growth than unlimited population expansion. These mushrooms can be destroyed! We must find out how!”
“No, Doctor, we can’t. You’re proposing we journey to the fringes of the mushroom growth, but that means we must go through the heart of their territory.”
“Well, not quite. Would you be willing to brave a journey through the mysterious with me?”
Kapila looked doubtful. “I will go and aid you however I can. You are our only hope.”
“I’m sorry, my dear, but I’m afraid you don’t have the hair to pull off that phrase. Now we must go!” The Doctor clapped his hands together in apparent excitement and rushed out of the house.
“But Doctor, where are we going?” Kapila called after him. Sighing, she hiked up her dress and ran after him.
Although the circumstances of their journey to the village had been haphazard at best, the Doctor soon found his way back to the TARDIS. It became clear that the giant mushroom they’d fled had not sprung up between them and the TARDIS, but rather, in the confusing environment of the giant blades of grass, they had gone the wrong way. He’d always been curious what it would be like to be an ant; now he knew, and he felt it to be quite an overrated experience.
“Come on in!” the Doctor exclaimed as he entered the TARDIS.
“In there? But it’s small. It is inappropriate for two of the opposite gender to occupy such a small space.”
“Really, Kapila? With the tapestries you have up in your home, you think this is inappropriate? Well, do not fear! Take a look!”
Kapila gasped as she peered into the TARDIS. “It’s bigger on the inside!”
“Yes, yes, everyone seems to think that.” The Doctor shut the door and ran up to the console. “Now hold on. Things may get a little bumpy.”
He reset the coordinates and made sure they would be traveling in space only. Then he slammed down a lever, and the TARDIS began to rock.
“Oh my!” Kapila gasped as she lost her footing. The Doctor caught her, but another sway of the TARDIS sent them both onto the console. “Oh my, Doctor!” she said again. “Now I’m certain that is an inappropriate place to put your hands.”
The Doctor showed her both his hands. “What are you talking about?”
Kapila glanced down. “Oh, never mind.” She quickly clambered off the console. The TARDIS stopped shaking soon afterward, and the Doctor bounded to the door. Kapila followed. “Where are we?”
The Doctor opened the doors. “The edge of the mushroom field!”
The Doctor leapt back, arms outstretched to keep Kapila from moving past him, as a giant mushroom bore down on the entrance. “Don’t worry, we’re quite safe in here.”
Everything went dark. Then the ship began groaning as slime seeped in through the open doorway. The two of them backed away as gill folds began pushing through the entrance, dilating spores all over the interior of the TARDIS. They heard a whistling sound, like air being forced through a tiny hole, and then the entire floor slanted as the mushroom lifted the TARDIS up in an attempt to force it down its gullet.
Kapila screamed as they went sliding toward the door. The Doctor grabbed a lever on the console with one hand and her arm with his other. He grunted, the force of stopping her driving all the air from his lungs. They hung there, panting, as the floor tilted at a steeper and steeper angle. With his hands occupied, there was nothing he could do, and there was no way to turn on the TARDIS’ drive.
“Doctor!” Kapila cried. “The spores!”
The Doctor looked over and saw the spores setting out tendrils that seemed to melt their way into the floor and walls. His attention was diverted when he and Kapila suddenly dropped another inch toward the mushroom’s stomach. The lever was slipping.
The sleeve of Kapila’s dress tore from his grip, and she began falling. She screamed, but she managed to get a firm grip about his leg. The impact caused the lever to slip a little further.
The Doctor glanced at her, trying to see if there was a way he could swing Kapila to safety before she fell any further. That was when he noticed the tendrils were beginning to sprout mushrooms of their own. As though he were watching a time-lapse film, folds and folds of cells began growing and twisting over themselves and spreading until they expanded into fully-formed mushrooms about thirty centimeters tall. Then the growth stopped.
“Oh, that’s not too bad,” he said. They were, in fact, rather cute-looking little mushrooms, insofar as inanimate fungi could be considered cute. The fact that they were possibly fanged did little to worry him, as they were all too far from them to do any harm. “They’re wee bitty things,” he added, quite proud that he could pass for Scottish if he ever met any of Jamie’s clan members.
“I don’t like them!” Kapila said, trying to pull herself up his leg.
“Look, they’re quite harmless,” he reassured her. All at once, flaps on their heads snapped open, revealing shiny black eyes, and the mushrooms opened their mouths to snap and snarl in their direction. Their little fangs gleamed under the TARDIS’ lights as drool oozed out of their mouths. “Well, they’re far away, at least. They can’t get us.” Kapila moaned. Tiny pops, like suction cups being pulled off of glass, sounded as tendrils began detaching from their anchor points. One of the mushrooms flopped from the ceiling onto the floor with a soft squishing sound and rolled around a little before righting itself with little suckers on its base. Then it began bouncing toward them. The Doctor sighed. “Oh dear, me and my big mouth.”
The lever chose that exact moment to give away. The Doctor’s fingers slipped, and the two of them screamed. Kapila clung to him tighter than she had yet, but that did little for them as they slid directly toward the doorway with nothing to stop their fall. The little mushroom snapped at them as they swept past. As they fell closer and closer to the giant mushroom’s throat, the Doctor could see its sharp fangs trying to work their way through the TARDIS’ hull.
Then, there was another lengthy screech of metal against metal as the mushroom snapped about its base, trying to work the TARDIS into its stomach. The action came none too soon as he and Kapila were about to fall through the egress when the TARDIS shook and tilted in the other direction, throwing them clear to the opposite end of the room. The mushroom shook again, this time tossing the Doctor, Kapila, and the baby mushrooms onto the ceiling.
Kapila screamed as one of the mushrooms closed its fangs on her hair. The Doctor hit it. For a moment, there was just more slime as the mushroom’s soft membrane gave way under the impulse of his fist, but then it dislodged and went flying across the room. The Doctor felt a sharp sting as another one bit down on his foot. He shook his foot, slamming it against the floor and squishing it. It exploded in a burst of mucus.
The TARDIS re-oriented itself again, and they slid along the ceiling to crash against one of the side walls. Kapila screamed and covered her face as one of the mushrooms slammed into the wall right above her head.
“EEEEEEEG!” it cried as it splattered into several chunks of ooze.
“Look on the bright side,” the Doctor said, wiping slime off his face. “At least no more spores are coming in.”
Another groan, and they struck the opposite wall. This time the Doctor landed on several of the fungi, which was quite a disturbing experience, although he had to admit that it cushioned the fall quite well and at this rate, the problem of their infestation would take care of itself.
The remaining mushrooms began closing in on them, clearly realizing this might be their last chance to get at their prey. The Doctor kicked at them as they approached, sending them in every direction to explode as they struck various pieces of equipment.
“I feel like I’m Mario,” he muttered.
“What?” Kapila asked, between wild kicks.
“Never mind, just remind me to thank Nintendo one day,” the Doctor said. Then the half-formed idea struck him. “Oh, of course!”
He jumped into the nearby corridor, then promptly fell back out as the TARDIS flipped over yet again. “Oh my giddy aunt!” he exclaimed as several more mushrooms exploded about him.
“Hurry up!” Kapila told him.
“Right, right, of course.” He scrambled back onto his feet as quickly as he could, given that he was trying to find his footing amidst an inch of slime. He charged into the nearest storage room and started tossing plungers into the main control room. “Stick these onto the floor! There should be enough slime that nothing will dislodge them!”
Kapila began following his instructions, and soon, they were pulling themselves amidst a forest of plungers, largely immune to the giant mushroom’s capricious motions. The Doctor spared a moment to pat the TARDIS’ console. “Good job,” he said, proud that it had withstood swallowing for so long. The mushroom was clearly having trouble with its meal, as rumbling moans were filling the air, the mushroom’s lamellae breaking down under the strain of its strenuous activity.
“HYEEEEK!” a baby mushroom told him, popping out from behind a row of toilet plungers. It latched itself onto his arm.
“Oh my, oh dear!” the Doctor cried, shaking his arm wildly. The mushroom refused to let go, and he could feel its fangs sinking in deeper and deeper until a plunger appeared out of nowhere and latched onto the mushroom right above its eyeline. It swiveled its eyes up to peer at the rubber encasing its head and had one moment to issue a loud squeal before Kapila pulled it off him. She whirled the plunger in the air once, then twice, and all the time, the mushroom kept screaming, “YAAAAIEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeEEEEEEEeeeeeeeEEE
“How are we going to get out of here?” she asked him.
At that moment, they heard a, “HAAAAAAAAIIIIYAAAAAAAAAAAAIEEEEEEEEEEEE!” a thousand times louder than any sound the miniature mushrooms had made. Then there was a sickening GLURP and the TARDIS lurched. The Doctor and Kapila clung to each other as there came one jarring crash after another and the TARDIS spun over and over on its side. Then there was a splash and water flooded the control room. Kapila screamed as the force of the incoming wave pulled them apart. The Doctor breast-stroked toward the console, fighting the current as the water level rose higher and higher. Finally, he reached the controls and activated the engines. Bubbles gurgled from his mouth as he sighed in relief at the familiar vworp, vworp of the TARDIS, and the water began to roar back out through the door when they rematerialized back where they’d been attacked by the giant mushroom.
To Interlude: Part 2
Back to Chapter 3: Part 2
Summary: The Second Doctor retrieves Jamie after he is temporarily reprieved from his sentence following the events of "The War Games". In the middle of their journeys, they decide to visit a restful planet where they can have some peace and quiet. Naturally, they land amidst a world of giant fanged mushrooms and religiously fanatical slugs.