"So you were traveling with the Doctor and Mel before he regenerated?" Ace asked, leaning forward with interest.
Sarmoti nodded energetically, her hair bouncing up and down. "Yup yup! We had lots of fun, didn’t we, Doctor?"
The dark-haired man muttered something unintelligible, poking around under the TARDIS’ console.
"And what was he like?" Ace continued.
Sarmoti opened her mouth, but abruptly there was a concussion of sound and a small cloud of smoke puffing up around the console. The Doctor emerged, coughing and waving his hat around to clear the air.
"Come on now," he announced calmly. "We’ve landed."
* * *
"What’s this?" The blue-haired girl stared at the object in amazement. It was long and thin, the length of it covered in black fabric except for the end, which was hard and bright red and curved. She reached out a tentative hand and experimentally touched the long stick.
Sarmoti yelped and leaped backward, ignoring Ace’s laugh, as the stick exploded! The loose fabric unfolded loudly and suddenly it wasn’t a stick anymore, but some kind of a big mushroom!
The Doctor sighed and snatched up the object. "Leave my brolly alone, Sarmoti," he told the girl.
Sarmoti blinked, bewildered.
* * *
"We make such a good team!" Ace crowed as they sailed in for a landing next to the TARDIS.
The Doctor poked his head out of the doors. "And where’ve you two been off to?" he demanded suspiciously.
"We were blowing things up!" Sarmoti announced proudly, reverting to human form.
"Ace!" The Doctor stepped out of his vessel to glare disapprovingly.
"Don’t you worry, Professor. It wasn’t anything big. Right, Sarmoti?"
"Well, not very big." Laughing, the two scooted past the scowling man and disappeared inside.
"I knew it was a mistake taking the both of them," sighed the Doctor.
* * *
"Oh . . . hi." Sarmoti giggled nervously, ducking her head. The tip of her tail was twitching. She had never felt so shy before!
The sleek, young black dragon didn’t seem to mind. "Good greetings. Are you Sarmoti? The one that came with the humans? The one that spoke to the Council of change?"
She nodded eagerly. He didn’t look mocking or disgusted; he looked interested! "I’ve been traveling with a wonderful person who’s showed me marvels all over the universe! I wanted to come back and share that with my people. Who’re you?"
Her eyes widened. "Charn? The son of. . . ."
* * *
"It’s Nitro-9," Ace explained, yanking the can out of her rucksac. She and Sarmoti ducked as another burst of gunfire peppered the rocks they crouched behind.
The blue dragon cocked her head. "What’s it do?"
"It blows stuff up." The human grinned.
Sarmoti’s eyes lit like Christmas lights. "I can do that too! Watch!" When the gunfire paused, the dragon poked her head up from the rocks. Ace covered her face as a giant rush of flames burst out toward their adversaries. There were frightened screams heard.
Ace blinked white spots from her eyes as it ended. "Wicked!" she exclaimed.
* * *
"Pay attention," began the Doctor. "You need to be careful, because the ion leak from the TARDIS may have caused mutations in the local fauna."
It took five minutes for them to be separated.
"Bet the Professor’s gonna be mad," Ace commented, leaping a branch.
"Ace, why do you call him Professor?" Sarmoti wanted to know.
She shrugged. "It’s a play on words. Doctor. Professor. Besides, he’s kinda teaching me. Professor, get it?"
Sarmoti nodded. "That’s neat! Do you think he could teach me too?"
Ace glanced back. "I think he tries."
"Really? He should try harder. I never noticed!"
* * *
The black dragon was, if the Doctor remembered correctly, even bigger and uglier than before. Uglier meant in temperament, not appearance. The way he was sneering did nothing to settle the nerves. (A sneering dragon was not a settling sight, under any circumstances.)
"And because you have been traveling with these insects, you believe you disserve to return?" the ebony mammoth scorned.
Sarmoti stood tall. "No, I’ve come back so others like me can leave too! The Council shouldn’t control us! If anyone wants to come with us, we’ll go together!"
The Doctor actually blanched. This wasn’t what they rehearsed!
* * *
Sarmoti stared. She had been traveling with the Doctor for a long, long, long time—by her reckoning, anyway—but these guys had to be the strangest-looking she had ever met.
"Hello!" she proclaimed cheerfully.
"EX-TER-MIN-ATE! EX-TER-MIN-ATE! YOU – WILL – BE – EX-TER-MIN-A-TED!"
While the Doctor and Ace dove for cover, Sarmoti was considerably confused. Mostly because she didn’t know what the word "exterminated" meant.
"Sarmoti, get down here!" The Doctor yanked her down next to him.
When the strange creatures started firing their gun-things, Sarmoti’s confusion was cleared up for the most part. "Ooooohhhh. I get it! They’re real mean, right?"
* * *
"Doctor, can we land soon? It’s so cramped in here!" whined the blue-haired girl.
"‘Cramped!? Did you just say it’s cramped in here?" The small man seemed to be taking it personally.
"I want to go stretch my wings!"
At that moment, Ace ran into the Control Room. "Your turn!" she announced excitedly.
"Yay!" Complaints forgotten, she dashed out of the room, followed by Ace. They were giggling like schoolgirls.
The Time Lord didn’t look up from his readings as they left, but allowed himself a quiet chuckle and thought, Maybe it wasn’t a mistake taking the both of them.
* * *
Ace’s jaw dropped. "You want to stay? But those Council gits hate you! They’ll make your life miserable!"
The dragon’s purple wings fluttered. This was the only time Ace had ever known Sarmoti to look serious. "This is my home, Ace. I want to fight to make things right here. And . . . I won’t have to fight alone." She ducked her head, smiling.
"Oh." Ace suddenly grinned too. "Good luck, then."
"Goodbye, Doctor. Thank you for showing me the stuff worth fighting for."
"My pleasure, Sarmoti." He managed to sound fairly sincere as the dragon spread her wings and soared away.
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