I mean absolutely no disrespect to Finland, Finnish customs or the Finnish people! Please don't throw me in the fjord.
"DEEEATH!" the toothless old bastard yowled at his kneeling prisoners. The crowd cheered, shaking the rafters of their pre-fab Viking Longhouse. Sergeant John Benton would have glared defiance but blood was dripping into his eyes. He turned to a handy shoulder, the Doctor's, to wipe them clear as his own hands were tied so tightly his toenails were aching.
"Pardon," he mumbled after the fact and blinked.
"Not at all," the Doctor graciously said. He was bleeding, too. His long, curling hair was matted with it and it formed a stiff screen all around his face. The sergeant still disapproved of its sheer length.
"Deathity death, death!" the nutter jabbered. All over the gloomy structure energy weapons were set on 'stun' and bright bolts were enthusiastically fired into the ceiling. Dust and unconscious insects drifted down.
"You will be unharmed if you surrender to the authorities of New Finland immediately," the Doctor repeated for the umpteenth time. "They will destroy your compound otherwise."
He was ignored. The Militia of the Burning Renewal were drunk on their moment that had finally arrived. Children were taken away to bunkers and the armory was opened. Men and women scuttled back and forth, armed and excited.
Benton could hear the Doctor sigh and then he heard, "Oh, look! That's a Blue Crawler from Tarbis."
Benton glanced down at the cobalt arachnid that was twitching next to his knee. "Er. Pretty color."
"Its bite can kill a thousand humans."
Benton scootched away from it. "Please focus, Doctor."
The second-in-command raised her arms for silence. "The government is coming?" she asked the prisoners and she struck a melodramatic listening pose.
Benton rolled his eyes and fed her the line she wanted. "Yes, they're coming."
She jerked upright. "Let them come!" Cheer. "We're prepared!" Cheer. "We're strong!" Cheer.
"Woooo..." the Doctor joined in and Benton laughed. That went over well.
Number Two waited until they crawled back into a kneeling position. "The Bannik will now decide how you are to be killed." Benton wondered if the Militia were all so stupid as to execute two perfect bargaining chips. She waved the people quiet again as she turned to the old man who eagerly stepped forward. The Doctor and Benton couldn't help letting out identical grunts of disgust at the display. Yes, they were just that stupid. Or just that ready to get their rebellion started. "O Bannik! Wise One! How shall it be done?"
"Don't say by Boola Boola," Benton muttered and was rewarded with a punch to the back of his head. The extra pain was just a drop in the bucket and he shook it off.
The Bannik thought for a moment and then he brightened. "Aufguss!"
The verdict was met with enthusiasm and the crowd started to chant it. "AUFGUSS! AUFGUSS! AUFGUSS!"
"Are they joking?" the Doctor asked.
"What?" Benton asked, "What does that mean?"
"It means," one of his guards answered as he pulled Benton to his feet, "That you are to be baked with heat. Then choked with steam! Then," he grinned at them, "The last bit of life in you will be beaten out with burning Vasta!" He pointed to the hearth where some associates of his were settling large birch logs over hot coals.
"It means," the Doctor said and Benton was surprised to hear amusement in his voice, "That we're going to be sauna-ed to death."
"Isn't it amazing how some harmless traditions evolve into..." He was interrupted by the guard cutting the tight cords around their arms and hands. Benton took advantage of the sudden freedom and swung a numb fist. He missed by a mile and the crowd waded in. They were doing more damage to each other than they did to Benton in their eagerness but the Doctor grabbed his friend's arm. "Don't fight!" he ordered. "Sergeant...John, don't resist now. There's too many of them."
"But..." the soldier gasped, his head ringing.
"Not now. Wait. Trust me." A half-dozen laser rifles were aimed at him and, reluctantly, Benton stopped struggling. Their guards converged on them in earnest. They began to rip off the prisoners' clothes. Benton snapped to full alertness. Their clothes?! Strips of Benton's khaki mingled with the ruins of the Doctor's silk and velvet on the floor. Benton sent a glare at the alien but the Doctor gazed up at him imploringly. "Well, it IS a sauna. Wait. Please."
Benton was an infinitely patient man (With the Doctor you had to be. Even this affable article was turning out to be maddening.) but he couldn't resist a deep sigh. Then he noticed with much satisfaction that the Doctor's guards were disgruntled. They were trying to buffet the slight man back and forth but he had set his feet and they might as well be taking whacks at a stone-cold pillar. Hulking as they were, they were nowhere near as strong as the Time Lord. After the guards threw a few covert and embarrassed glances around the room, they went back to attacking his clothes instead. He offered them the most extreme of insults by helpfully holding his arms out while they tore and cut his shirt and pants off. Benton admired his gall. Then, directly after, he felt a strong wave of shame. When presented with this version of the ever-changing alien Benton and the other UNIT soldiers had unanimously agreed among themselves that they would definitely not be taking him down t' pub.
Benton now resolved to take the Doctor, cravat and all, to a dozen pubs when they got back to Earth. A friend was a friend, after all. It's not as if he wore a monocle. Or anything at all now.
A weapon prodded him in the back and the two were led outside into the snow. The chill brought goosebumps to Benton's skin but it felt very good on all his forming contusions. Being free of the smoke and the smell of unwashed everything was grand, too. They trudged through a copse of birch trees and across a small field. Benton saw movement in the trees. The Militia were digging in and Benton spared a thought for the soldiers who were going to face this maniacal group. He pitied the families, on both sides, who would be affected by the outcome. What a waste. His bare feet began to go a little numb from the cold but before he could worry about his toes dropping off the crowd reached its destination. It was a large, low dome of stone with a ring of some sort of transparent material circling the top. Benton recognized it as an observation window. The crowd surrounded the structure and began to jostle each other for an unobstructed view.
Benton realized the bulk of the place was underground as they were led down steep steps that had been dug into the earth. A heavy metal door with an old-fashioned grip handle was unlocked and he and the Doctor were thrust through. It slammed shut behind them. The place was empty save for a hearth of large stones in a pit in the middle of the floor and what looked to be ornate water pipes jutting out of the wall at odd intervals. The whole place was, oddly, clean. Benton heard "We have to wait for the Bannik!" coming from someone outside and the horde groaned with disappointment.
The Doctor looked up at them, at all the noses pressed against the transparency, at the many fingers that were making obscene gestures at him, and passed his judgment. "Charming."
Benton snorted with laughter and agreed. "Doomsday nutters are always fun. To be fair, though, there's no TV here. What else have they got to do?"
Flames suddenly appeared in the central pit and the Big Sleep Sauna was filled with flickering red light and dark shadows. "Television would only give them ideas," the Doctor said and wandered over to the pit to inspect the heating stones. "Bless the BBC."
Benton watched him and idly wondered what it was like to be him. Must be an interesting life. Doubtful it was an easy one, though. One day you're the big, beloved hero and the next day your mates don't want to be seen with you. Benton looked down at his feet.
The Doctor suddenly turned as if he'd been called and smiled. "That's all right, Sergeant. I don't care for the smoke in pubs and the stifling social mores of your time dictate that..." Benton's shame and embarrassment only increased. A friend was a friend, damn it. The Doctor stuttered to a halt. "Er. Anyway. It should take that old coot about twenty minutes to get here. So...would you say that negotiations have broken down?"
"Oh, indubitably, sir."
"Well, then." The Doctor darted his hand into the fire to snatch out a hearth rock. He knelt and brought it down on the hard floor. Benton was surprised to see it shatter like glass. "Shrapnel Flint from Morsus II," the Doctor observed. "Heat it up, pour cold water on it and watch it explode into a thousand stone needles that go flying all over the room, ouchie, ouch, ow, ouch."
"Because being heated, steamed and pounded to death isn't enough," Benton drawled. "Let's check the place for pecking ducks."
"Scorpions, adders, whoopie cushions." The Doctor approached with a large flake of flint that was sharp enough to shave a billy goat with. "Hold this." Benton took the small thing and wondered what the Doctor's intentions were. A single, crude arrowhead wasn't much in the way of assets but the Time Lord had always come through before. Benton looked down at him expectantly. "They won't blast their way in because all evidence points to this place being sacred," he indicated the pristine walls, "But they will try to force their way in or kill us outright to stop us, Bannik or no Bannik." He led Benton over to the door. The place was heating up well and the sergeant, at least, was beginning to sweat. The Doctor set his back against the steel and grasped the simple handle with his left hand. "Ready?"
"Oh! Telling you the plan might be helpful!"
"Sorry," the Doctor said, shaking his head sadly. "Sometimes my brain skips along too fast or I forget or I look at a person and I get distracted by their probabilities." His voice became a little wispy and his face smoothed into a dreamy, rather pretty, blankness as he scanned Benton's face.
"Well, that's different."
"The plan!" Benton yelped.
"OH! Sorry!" The alien rubbed his eyes. "I have a stun bomb embedded in my leg." Through his surprise and relief, Benton became aware of some frantic scrambling around the observation window. Listening are they? He hoped the Doctor had an earful to give them. His friend smiled and obliged Benton's unspoken thought. "The booooomb is organic so their scanners missed it when they searched us. Cut it out and set it off while I..." There was a tremendous THUD! against the door and the handle began to turn. The Doctor clamped it tight in his hand and dug in his heels. "While I hold this shut. See? The bomb will stun everyone harmlessly, including us, and then the New Finland government can come in and sweep everyone up without bloodshed."
"Sounds good," Benton said and then felt stupid. It's not as if he had a better option. He gripped the sharp flint lightly, not wanting to crack the thin stone. "Where do I cut?"
"Here," the Doctor touched a spot on his inner thigh.
Benton was aghast. "There?!"
Boola Boola it was, then. Benton knelt in front of the Doctor, ignoring the Little Doctor as best he could, and prodded the spot. "I don't feel it."
"It's attached to the bone."
"Good god! That deep? What about the femoral artery?"
"It would be a serious consideration, of course, if I had one."
Benton saw his muscles strain with the effort of keeping the door shut and very quickly got over his squeamishness. Keeping in mind that the Doctor would heal he started to slice. Dark orange-red blood welled from the gash and poured down Benton's forearms. "Sorry! Sorry, Doctor." He stabbed deeper, slashed through muscle...
...fought back a real dizzy spell...
...then he gritted his teeth and dug deeper. Drip, drip, drip. He was kneeling in a pool of blood now. This was so far removed from the combat first-aid he knew. This was horrible. This was going to haunt him. This...his probing fingers found the bone and, there, a large lump. Another slice. The Doctor grunted in pain. "Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!" Benton could just get his fingers around the lump. It moved away.
Beady black eyes stared accusingly at him through the blood.
Benton didn't scream like a little girl. He didn't faint either. He let out an "UUUURRRRRRGGHH!" of horror and disgust that was so deep and visceral that only an elephant could have heard it. And the Doctor, of course.
"I said it was organic!"
"YOU DIDN'T SAY IT WAS ALIIIIVE!"
"I didn't? Oh, well. Quickly, John!" Benton steeled himself, caught the loathsome thing and pulled it off the Doctor's bone with a horrid scraping sound.
"The Bannik demands you stop what you're doing!"
There was a creak and the door opened an inch. Benton looked up at the Doctor's face. He was pale now and trembling from the effort.
He looked like Benton felt. He held up the thing so the Doctor could see its barbed legs waving in the air. "And just how do I set this off?"
"Smash it on the floor."
There was a combined WHAP! and squeak! and then there was a blessed nothing.
"What'll you have, soldier?"
"I would kill everyone in this room for one cold beer."
"Coming up. And, ah, what'll your sister be wanting?"
"I'll have a Ginger Fizz."
"Of course you will."
They were served quickly, the Doctor's drink had a pink paper umbrella in it. Benton put some money on the counter while the Doctor dug around in the pocket of his new frock coat. He then held out his hand towards the innkeeper. "Here's your tip." The fool took whatever it was.
While the man ran screaming into the street, Benton downed his beer in one slow, grateful draw. The Doctor sipped his drink with no less pleasure. Tell no one, but he liked the paper umbrella. He enjoyed the way the little thing actually worked and he opened and closed it with a smile on his face. Finally, Benton put his empty glass down with a sigh.
"Are you all right now, Sergeant?" The Doctor pocketed his new toy, took Benton's empty glass and stretched across the counter. He managed to put another pint in. The other customers watched this with interest but no one interfered with either man. They had a strange air of being...non-interferable. Not to even mention what had happened to the barkeep. Best to stay low.
Benton took the free drink with a smile. "I'm fine. You had the worst of it."
"Yes," the Doctor agreed, modestly. "But what you did wasn't the worst. The absolute worst happened when the Finnish doctors put the damn thing on my leg so it could burrow its way in." Benton shuddered and the two men raised a toast to each other. Then they toasted New Finland. Then they toasted the organic construct that gave its manufactured existence so an entire terrorist militia could be arrested. They drank to a job well done. They even drank to the television industry. Long live the BBC.
Then the Doctor put his glass on the bar with a decisive thunk. "Come with me."
"All right. Where?" Benton asked, eating a peanut.
Benton was surprised. "Do you mean...?" He jerked a thumb at the roof.
"Yes," the Doctor matched the gesture. "It was an an accident you went with me to New Finland, and that was miserable, I grant you, but I want you to give it another try." Benton breathed in deep. Good lord. The Doctor continued, "You would be an enormous help to me. My mind, well, sometimes I lose track as you saw. I need a sensible friend. And it's not all bloody horror out there, you know."
"It's not?" Benton's experience was made up almost completely of marauding invaders who were shooting at him. Shooting, stabbing, hypnotizing. Was that really all there was out there? He finished his beer.
"There's a world called Florana..."
"I want to tell the Brigadier I'm off first," Benton said. The Doctor blinked and then he grinned from ear to ear. Benton was shocked to realize that, just like that, he had agreed to go. It was probably the easiest conquest the old alien had ever made. But look at him! Velvet. Silk. Long hair. A brain with a hiccup. A cravat! Deep in his heart Benton knew that the Doctor needed him more than UNIT did right now. It was the right thing to do. "How on Earth will he explain my being gone though?"
"Tell him that, if anyone asks, he's to say you ran off to become a used car salesman."
"Who'd believe that?!" Benton laughed.
(Author Admission: I stole Benton's drink order from Homer Simpson.)
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