It was nearly dusk when Fitz and Cassidy finally spotted a gleam of the city on the horizon. “I think we’re actually going to make it,” Fitz sighed.
Cassidy glanced over her shoulder and nodded in reply. “Almost there.” She glanced over at Fitz and asked, “How are you doing?”
“I’ll be great as soon as I can get a nights sleep. But until then I’ll be alright,” he answered.
She nodded and turned her attention to the quickly approaching city. “I just hope that they are as helpful as the people of Pruespring think they should be.”
Anji sat on the edge of the cot, gripping the sides as Jap pulled the fragment of a bullet from her shoulder blade.
“I’m sorry about not having anything for the pain,” he told her again as he pulled the last piece free with a gasp of pain from her.
“You’re doing your best. I understand,” she told him as soon as she was sure she could speak without her voice shaking.
“I need to stitch it up and then I’ll be done,” he told her and went to get his needle and thread.
The Doctor passed Jap on his way in from the storage room with an armful of him impromptu tear bombs. Jap noticed how the Doctor still wasn’t using a crutch and how much he was limping. “How is that leg?” he asked him.
“Oh, it’ll be alright. I promise to stay off it as soon as all of this is settled,” the Doctor answered airily.
Jap shook his head as he said, “Somehow I doubt that you will. But please at least start using your crutch again.”
He nodded as he limped on as Jap turned, shaking his head, and continued on to get what he needed for Anji.
“How are you doing, Anji?” The Doctor asked as he paused by her.
“I’ll be alright Doctor,” she replied. There was a moment of silence where she looked at him and couldn’t help but comment, “I have to admit, it is strange to see you in the same cloths as the rest of the population, though.” He was wearing the same denim pants that most of the men wore with a light white cotton shirt on top.
He smiled at her as he said, “Yes, it feels strange, but since I pretty thoroughly rent my usual set, I’ll have to wait till I can get back to the TARDIS for a change.”
With a slight shift he quickly changed the subject, “I need to get these out to the other men,” indicating his bundle of bombs. “I have another idea or two to put into action as well,” he said as he began to drift further away to the door.
“How much time do we have left?” Anji asked.
He thought about it for a moment before saying, “probably about another fifteen minutes.”
“Are you going to be ready?”
“We’re going to have to be, aren’t we?” he said as he turned and limped outside.
Fitz was so relieved when the pulled up in front of the gate to the city. Apparently they felt they had a reason to keep their city well guarded since it seemed to be completely surrounded by a ten-foot wall.
The gate was currently closed. Cassidy went up to it and knocked as she called out, “hello? Please, we need to get in.”
A man poked his head out of a portal a moment later and said, “The gate is closed until morning. You should know that.”
“But we didn’t,” Cassidy argued. “We’re travelers and we don’t know the rules. Please, you have to let us in. There is a gang a ways back that is going to kill us if they catch us!”
“Gang? There are no gangs around here anymore. What kind of fool do you take me for?” the man scowled.
“If there are no gangs then I certainly would like to know who it was that gave me this,” Fitz said as he pointed to his black and blue nose. “And who it was that attacked us and nearly killed a friend of ours,” He said, quickly getting angrier.
“Sir, if this helps,” Cassidy said calmly as she pulled the coin out that Mathis had given her. “We’re not the only ones who have encountered this group. The people back in Purspring sent us on for help. The new gang who go as the Diablos have been terrorizing them for months. Their town leader gave me this as proof that they sent us,” she said as she reached up and showed him the medallion.
The man looked at it closely but did not reach for it. Finally he said, “Wait here, I will see what is to be done with you.” And before either Cassidy or Fitz could say another word he slammed the portal shut.
“Well now what?” Fitz said, turning to Cassidy.
“I guess we wait.”
“Great, we’re here, literally inches away from safety and we have to wait outside while the Diablos continue to approach. Sounds wonderful.”
“Fitz, there’s not much that we can do. Besides, I’m not so sure that the Diablos will even risk coming right up to the gate to get us anyway. It seems that they don’t want their group to be discovered and that is a sure way to prove their existence to the people of Rushwater.”
“I wouldn’t put it past them. They fit their names rather well.”
Fitz slumped against the wall and sat down. Head bowed as he began to take a much needed rest. Cassidy just stood there, watching the distant horizon for signs of the Diablos and waiting for someone to come back and address them.
Finally, the portal was once again opened and a new man, poked his head out. “Rial says you have the seal of Purespring, is this true?” he asked without ceremony.
“Yes it is,” Cassidy said as she once again held out the token to the man.
This time he reached out and took it. He examined it closely before nodding and then took it back inside with him, closing the portal once again.
“Hey, wait!” Cassidy called, suddenly waking up Fitz who had fallen asleep.
“Wha?” he asked groggily.
Suddenly the door began to creek as it slowly opened inward. “Hurry in,” the first man’s voice sounded. “Can’t leave this open all night.”
“Thank you,” Cassidy said as she quickly grabbed her bike and walked it inside. Fitz was a little slower, but he soon followed her into the safety of the city walls.
Just inside the second man stood, waiting for them. He was clothed in dark brown with an even darker brown cloak around his shoulders. He stood as if he knew that he was highly respected and held a certain amount of power. But Cassidy could sense that under the hardened exterior, this man prized himself on his fairness and attention to detail.
“Rial here tells me that you bring news of a new gang,” he said as he continued to eye the medallion. “And I see that you really have been sent here from Purespring. Who did you get this seal from?”
“Mathis,” Cassidy quickly replied.
The man nodded and said, “good answer.” He eyed them a moment more before saying, “Welcome to Rushwater, capital of Ghont. I am Ratha, Lord Protector of the city. Who are you?”
“I’m Fitz and this is Cassidy,” Fitz replied. “We have two other friends who we had to leave back in Purespring. One was nearly killed by the Diablos.”
“I am sorry to hear that,” the man answered. “Believe me, if this claim of yours is substantiated, then we will be taking swift action again this new group. But in the mean time, let me show you were you can stay for the evening. It is late and you will have to make a presentation of your case before the council in the morning.”
Cassidy sighed, “I figured as much, but I fear for our friends if the gang reaches here and is unable to get us, they probably will return to Purespring and possible find them there.”
“There is nothing I can do,” the man said firmly, though they sensed that he was somewhat sorry about the situation. “You may leave the bikes here, Rial will see to them. Follow me please,” He said as he turned and began to walk away. With his back to them he said, “And I’ll try and find a physician to look at your nose, Fitz.”
Cassidy and Fitz exchanged a look before they followed behind the Lord Protector. As usual, nothing could be done easily. “Thanks,” Fitz muttered.
The distant rumble of approaching bikers was just entering earshot when the Doctor determined that anything that he was going to be able to do for the town was now in order. He nodded to the handful of men that were there to take their places. Each one had one of his tear bombs in one hand and some type of weapon in the other. Mostly it was clubs or shovels, but Toller and another young man had the two guns off of the bikers. They all also had slightly dampened bandanas covering their mouth and nose so as the gas wouldn’t affect them like it would the bikers.
Each man got out of sight, hiding behind various boxes or railings, waiting for the bikers to get into the town before beginning their attack. “Now remember, you don’t need to kill them,” the Doctor reminded the men. “That makes you no better then they. The bombs and my little surprise will stun them enough that they shouldn’t be all that hard to incapacitate; and with any luck, Cassidy and Fitz will be returning with help from Rushwater to take care of them in your legal system soon enough.”
Some of the men grumbled about this, but Jap, who now was functioning as town leader with the passing of Mathis, backed the Doctor up on this. “There has been enough killing,” he said. “Anyone who purposefully takes one of these bikers lives will answer to me personally.”
With that, the Doctor and Jap took their places as the rest of the men filed out to find theirs. The rumbling was getting nearer, but it had not yet reached them. As the Doctor neared his location where his own little bag of goodies was stashed, he was surprised to find Anji there waiting for him.
“Anji, I thought we decided that you were going to make sure the women and children are all alright and keep an eye on Julie and her daughter,” he said to her.
“No, you decided that, not me. Besides, I think I would only cause Julie more grief than good, seeing how she still wishes me dead and the other women are perfectly capable to keeping their eyes on her. There are other children there to help Jenna and there are plenty of older men who are far more capable of taking care of everyone than I.”
The Doctor sighed. “I wish you didn’t always have to contradict me when I ask something of you. It is really for your own good that I asked you to go.”
“I know Doctor, but I’m here for your own good,” she replied firmly. “You’re still not in very good shape to be taking these guys on again and you’re going to need all the help you can get.”
The Doctor nodded reluctantly as he crouched down slowly and slightly painfully beside her. “You’re right Anji,” he admitted. “You can stay, but please don’t take any unnecessary risks, alright?”
Anji smiled, “You know me,” she said.
“Exactly,” he sighed.
“Fitz, you better get some sleep. Tomorrow might be a long day,” Cassidy as she walked by Fitz examining his tender nose in the mirror. The physician had arrived and set it but couldn’t do much else.
“Easy for you to say,” he grumbled. “You don’t have a nose that feels like it’s the size of a basketball and on fire.” He turned from the mirror and looked at the bed across the room. “You should sleep too,” he said. “You may be an alien that doesn’t need as much sleep but if I’m mistaken you haven’t slept in three days and you said that you need to get about eight hours in that time.”
“Preferably, but I can go longer if need be,” she answered.
“Well you don’t need to. We’re fine in here; there’s no need to keep watch or anything. You can take the bed, I can sleep on the floor.”
“Don’t be silly, Fitz. I’m fine. You can have the bed. If I do feel I need to sleep, I can sleep anywhere. This chair is quite comfy.”
Fitz rubbed the back of his neck looking a little uncomfortable as he said, “I really should let you have the bed,”
“Earth and that silly concept of chivalry,” she grumbled. “Fitz, really, I’m fine. Just go to sleep, alright?”
Too tired to put up any more of an argument, Fitz sighed and crossed over to the bed. No sooner had he laid down and pulled the pillow under his head than Cassidy heard him lightly snoring.
The Doctor was fiddling with his sonic screwdriver in the failing light of day as the rumbling of bikes drew ever nearer. “What are you doing?” Anji asked him.
“I’ve laid several lines of a certain mixture of elements, mostly magnesium, as well as a few others, in the dirt that I plan on exciting with specific sonic waves from the screwdriver to create a rather dazzling flash. With any luck, it will help to further disorient them,” he explained rapidly.
“Uh-huh,” Anji replied, suddenly wishing that she hadn’t asked. She gripped the wooden plank that she had for her piece of weaponry.
They waited in tense silence as the rumbling grew to an all out roar as the bikes flowed into town. The Doctor turned and peered through the cracks of the boxes he and Anji were hiding behind, screwdriver at the ready over what looked like a small pile of slightly discolored dirt.
Finally, just before he pressed the screwdriver into the powered, he whispered to Anji, “close your eyes,” as he turned his head slightly and closed his own. She did as she was told and no sooner had she done so than she was nearly dazzled by a flash of light from the other side of her eyelids. She was glad that he had told her to close them or she felt she would have been nearly blinded. As it was, when she opened them again, she was seeing spots.
With the flash, came a sharp popping sound with a cry of alarm and pain from the bikers who were now just on the other side of the boxes. Several bikes swerved, trying to avoid the flash and wound up running into each other. One man was so shocked he fell off of his vehicle.
Immediately following the blinding flash, light bundles of smoke came hissing out from windows and from behind boxes and barrels, flying at bikers. Another flash further obscured their vision as they began to cough and choke on the harsh fumes. Tears from the light and the smoke further blinded them.
As soon as they were almost completely enveloped in the smoke, the townsmen left their places of hiding, yelling their fury at their persecutors as they wielded the weapons that they had. The Doctor got up as quickly as his injured leg would allow and began to circle towards the back of the pack of men.
Anji watched as he moved to pull the cord that loosely held a stack of earth filled barrels to the top of the roof. Jap had already pulled his down, preventing the men from going any further into the town and away from the smoke. It was a hoped that with both sides blocked, they would contain the bikers much more easily and perhaps they would wind up knocking out each other in the close quarters.
As the Doctor neared the cord, his back was turned completely to the fighting that was now taking place. Anji saw one of the bikers emerge from the smoke, his arm covering his nose and mouth as he coughed up the caustic air. He spotted the Doctor and used his free arm to bring up and aim his gun at the Time Lord’s back.
“Doctor!” Anji called a warning as she took a step out from behind the boxes and raised up the wood that she held. Not knowing of another way to reach the man in time, she pulled back and threw the stick as hard as she could, knocking the man in the side of the head, dropping him to the ground.
The Doctor spun around just in time to see the man fall and his gun roll from his hand. He glanced back at Anji and saw she gripping her recently injured shoulder. “You all right?” he called to her.
She nodded as she said tightly, “Fine, now hurry up!”
He did just that and spun around, grabbing the rope in his hands and giving a swift tug. The barrels rolled down from the roof and crashed to the ground, cutting off the would be escape route of the bikers.
Anji watched as the Doctor now turned and went right for the now thick wall of smoke in the middle of the street. She didn’t have a clue what he thought he was doing as he plunged into the fray. It only took a moment for her to loose sight of him. She wanted to follow him in but her lack of weapon and the throbbing from her shoulder suggested to her that it would be far better to her remain on the sidelines for this.
Where she gripped her shoulder, she could feel warm liquid seeping from between the now torn stitches that Jap had so carefully put in less than a half hour ago. She began to wonder if it had been such a great idea to go throwing something with that arm like that, but she hadn’t even thought about it when it happened.
She watched tensely for any sign of the Doctor. Occasionally she would spot flashes of men in the swirling smoke. She was rather impressed that none of the bikers beside the one that she had taken out had bothered pulling their guns. Even now that the smoke was beginning to dissipate and they were able to see each other, they still didn’t seem to reach for their firearms.
It was then that she saw the Doctor stumble out from the smoke, one arm gripping a bundle of something to his chest, the other clutching his throat as he alternately coughed and gasped for air. He hadn’t yet cleared the caustic fumes when he collapsed on the side of the road.
Anji, forgetting about her injury, ran over to him, grabbing onto his shoulders and lifting him slightly from the ground. She saw that he was clutching what appeared to be nearly the biker’s entire assortment of guns. It was so strange to see the Doctor in possession of any firearm that she nearly dropped him. Then she realized that that was the reason he had plunged into the group. He had put his slight of hand to the test in the blinding smoke and removed the guns from the enemies, evening up the field.
But he hadn’t had the damp bandana to breath through like the others from the town. It was his idea for them to do so, and he didn’t even follow his own advice.
“Doctor!” she called to him as she rolled him over. He was still coughing as he reached out the arm that wasn’t holding onto the weapons to Anji. She grabbed it and threw his arm over her shoulders, pulling him up as best she could. He was working with her, but the violent hacking that racked his body stole most of his breath and energy away.
She wound up half helping, half dragging him further away from the fighting, right into the closest building, which happened to be Mathis’ house, and closed the door behind them.
By now she had inhaled some of the gas and was coughing a little herself as she propped him up against the wall. She watched him as he seemed to finish expelling all of the offensive air from his lungs and began to breath again, albeit, raggedly.
“That was pretty stupid of you to walk into a wall of smoke without anything to breath through,” she scolded him.
He nodded weakly, as he rasped, “I keep forgetting that I don’t have my repertory bypass anymore.”
Anji sighed as she leaned against the opposite wall. She was suddenly feeling rather dizzy from all of the excitement. But that didn’t quite feel right; she had been through far more stressful situations and hadn’t felt like this before.
She looked over at the Doctor who was leaning his head back, eyes closed as he caught his breath. All she could think about was closing her eyes as well. She leaned back a little more, ignoring the pain in her shoulder as she pressed it against the wall. But something about where it rested didn’t feel right. It was almost as if the wall was damp and a little sticky, but she didn’t really want to think about that right now.
Suddenly she felt arms grabbing her away from the wall as the Doctor’s agitated voice distantly sounded beside her, “Anji! Why didn’t you tell me you ripped your stitches?!”
She felt his hands pressing on her shoulder as he pulled her head up to his chest. She could feel the dampness that had soaked through her shirt as her fingers brushed against a puddle of liquid on the floor as the Doctor lifted her up.
She tried to protest that she was fine when she heard him wheeze slightly as he forced his still irritated lungs to work a bit harder while he carried her out of the house, but she couldn’t find the energy to do so.
The sounds of fighting had subsided and the smoke had almost completely cleared by now. “Jap!” she heard the Doctor calling as he walked quickly towards the physician’s house.
Anji began to drift further away as she felt her body changing hands. There was rumbling of talking over her as she continued to move quickly, but the bouncing and the rhythmic movements were lulling her to sleep. Slowly everything began to dim and the sounds became more and more muffled until she finally completely disconnected from the world.