The pillar of flame barely missed the Doctor's blond head by inches. Albert could no longer see Addie in the cloud of greenish-black smoke that dropped down over them! The Doctor, though, kept to his full height, not so much daring the hiding monster to spit more fire at him, as making sure the two twelve-year-olds could at least still see him.
If not each other.
Albert and Addie no longer seemed quite so very alone, suddenly now the Doctor was around. He'd even saved Rudolph! Up until tonight, they hadn't known there even were people in the world who didn't want to hurt them.
The smoke had a funny, coppery smell to it, like melting pennies might smell, Addie supposed, reaching around as calmly as she could to find Albert's hand.
'There was no call for that!' the Doctor insisted loudly, finally ducking quickly behind the collapse of a carriage. He gave the two children a quick look, making it clear he hadn't lost sight of them in the smoke, either.
The carriage, Albert thought, made for meager cover, made of wood as it was....
'Obviously not a mature beast,' the Doctor muttered. Not going to respond to the voice of reason!
If that was a baby, Albert hated to see a fully-grown one! Except, there was such a creature nearby, at the bottom of the collapse...
Nyssa of Traken's ears threatened to hurt.
Earth babies never seemed to stop crying.
Nyssa found herself caring for one of them while the Doctor investigated the strange sightings of lizard-like creatures outside of the TARDIS. The child's mouth and lungs made for an interesting concert of of squeals and squawks indeed.
Oh, but really, she chastised herself, other than in comparison to Trakenite infants, this little one really wasn't that loud.
Babies, back on Traken, back when there was such as place as Traken...
Now, as always, Nyssa could not help from freezing her face in place to keep from breaking into tears at just the thought of her lost world, a whole Union of inhabited stars gone. Back on Traken, babies cried only in specific ways. I'm hungry. I'm lonely. My cloth needs changing. And, even then, not nearly so much as Earth babies.
'My, who's the noisy one?' Nyssa finally had no choice but to pick up the Terran infant again.
The medscanner beeped at them, and the baby laughed. Nyssa couldn't help smiling, even allowing a little chuckle of her own. As she hadn't actually handled many babies on Traken, this afternoon was proving full of surprises. Giving this little boy a bath had been both an effort and a joy for both of them.
The medscanner now offered up the biggest one of all.
"Oh, dear." Nyssa checked the results on the baby's health, which included a DNA check.
The machine had been hidden in the wall just beyond the TARDIS console room for who knew how long, and though Nyssa thought she'd brought it back to full operating specs on what the Doctor had speciously called a "rainy afternoon" in the Ship, he'd never quite gotten around to checking her work on the unfamiliar, and as always, hodge-podge technology.
The Doctor wasn't going to like this....
'Nor does it make a lot of sense to me,' Nyssa conceded to her small charge.
She took the baby back into the console room.
Still no sign of the Doctor on the visual scanner, yet again locked by some kind of fluid link malfunction onto a single angle of the outside scene. Really, all of this ancient circuitry, wires and cables in the main console must be for something!! And yet the scanner controls did not seem to have primitive back-ups to the constantly malfunctioning Time Lord linkages.
'You are just a bundle of trouble, aren't you?' Nyssa cooed softly to the baby.
A few hours earlier, The TARDIS alarms had screamed much louder than any infant as the Ship had tried to materialize for this landing. Earth again, of course.
The Doctor had blanched. 'It shouldn't be possible!' He'd exclaimed.
Nyssa always felt a little dense so constantly and consistently asking, 'What is it, Doctor?" But sometimes, the obvious just came out of a soul.
The life signs scanner had come abruptly to life, along with an outside proximity scanner. Nyssa had seldom seen the former work, and this was the first time she'd heard about the latter, and related systems, existence, and all set to automatic.
'A human life sign-- directly under where the TARDIS is materializing!!'
Trying to keep a panicked look off his face, the Doctor had managed to reset the TARDIS landing by three meters.
'Done it!' He'd exclaimed. 'And by a baby's breath, too!'
Opening the door, they'd found a baby on the street. A human infant, crying most uncomfortably.
Beyond, a gaping hole, and the body of a dead amphibian that had no place on the planet Earth, along with the copper-tinted smell of freshly ignited wood.
The Doctor had handed Nyssa the heavily-smudged infant and ordered her to stay behind and keep the little boy safe.
There really hadn't been all that much choice in the matter.
'You're warm and dry, now, little one,' Nyssa murmured softly to the baby. 'And the fog has lifted. Maybe just one quick peek outside, to see if the Doctor is nearby... We won't step an actual foot.'
The Doctor kicked around with his foot for his fallen hat. He'd grabbed it out with him as it had seemed like rain.
He could always rely on this planet, he couldn't deny, one of his very favorites, often even his very, very favorite...! To always be in danger, if not at the hands of its own quibbling sentient species, then from visitors from other places.
Maranka Amphibian eggs hatching in White Chapel, 1897. Far too many hungry, desperate humans around here.
And the Doctor had made a mistake, assuming the dead animal had a mate, and not just a hatchling. Or, nasty thought, a whole clutch.
'Must be getting old,' he mumbled to himself. ' And I felt so young, after this regeneration. Miscounting the mother's scales, of all the foolish things!'
Only one amphibian seem to have hatched, if there were a clutch, a kind of guardian function, entirely instinctive, in this hostile environment.
The flames of the baby were as much cries out to the missing mother as much as anything else. Unfortunately, the mother Maranka lay dead a few hundred yards away, at the bottom of a section of sewer collapsed by its weight and the force of its arrival. Nothing ever fell to ground on this planet gently, it seemed... other than the TARDIS.
And today, even the old girl's arrival had been a bit rocky.
The Doctor made a makeshift torch, hoping to attract the baby Maranka's attention. The small fire alone would not be enough to keep the baby's focus, but if he could just slip back to the TARDIS, and instruct Nyssa on using the external searchlight function...
Between the torch, and the top light, together they should be able to communicate to the amphibian that the TARDIS shell was a place of safety. A good, old-fashioned rook on which to rest, and keep its vigil.
He began the Rigelian semaphore he'd learned from that old space trader, the one who'd taught the Doctor the recorder while Susan had been recovering from that Qwarzidian bee sting.
It only took one hand to wield the torch, allowing the Doctor to wave the children together and back a little farther the Ship.
'The animal inside the house is only scared, you see, children! But it is bigger than either of you, so stay in the shadows! I'm going to lure it out, and perch it on my blue box! Then we'll see about getting you both to a place of safety.'
The Doctor didn't say he didn't know where to find such a place, in these troubled times... He just knew these two rough waifs deserved any chance he could find for them.
Movement in the house!!
Then the beast was out of the burning tenement, like a burst of it's own flame!
The Doctor reached as quickly as he could with the TARDIS key for the lock, trying to keep his movements of the torch from becoming frantic in his haste.
The door opened first, and the Doctor stumbled, nearly dropping his torch.
'Doctor!' Nyssa called.
The dropping torch, and the light from the console room caught the amphibian's attention a little too well!
It's full bulk sailed past the Doctor and into the Ship!
Nyssa ducked, protecting the baby with her body, and dropped to the side, toward the far wall. The animal diving in through the TARDIS doors was twice her size! It mewled as much as the baby, and smelled faintly of fire and smoke, with a far greater atmosphere of that copper aspect she'd smelled earlier.
A fire-breathing, amphibious dragon... oh my!
The Doctor shifted his knee away from the finally dropped torch, having no time to set himself on fire accidentally...
He had to get into the TARDIS and protect Nyssa and that baby!
'Oy! Got you!' The cold and clammy hand grabbed at the Doctor's jacket collar, and snapped him backwards like an over-extended rubber band. 'We know what to do with those who set fires in our neighborhood!'
'Please! This is all a misunderstanding,' the Doctor tried to call out, but he got drowned out by another voice yelling, 'Look at the sick toff! All dressed for sport in the 'Chapel!'
"Get 'im back to the hall! He's got a trial coming!'
Oh no... Nyssa! This was no time for the obvious human mob mentality!
Moments earlier, Addie huddled alone in the darkness. This was horrible! She'd never been separated from Albert before! Oh, even worse than Rudolph being taken! No, not really, but just as bad!!
'The flames are spouting off this way!'
'Where's the fire brigade?'
'Fire brigade? That's a laugh, in this neighborhood, less'n half a whole street is burnin' down!'
Oh, no. Not them. What a bad time for the Citizens League!
They grabbed the Doctor, and carried him off on their rough hands and jostling shoulders.
'Nyssa! You have to let me get to Nyssa!' But no one wanted to listen to the blond man. The Doctor.
The TARDIS door had swung closed. The creature looked a bit dazed by the console room's bright overhead lights.
The amphibian's bulk was between Nyssa and the door control.
Should she try to reach the other door, at the back of the console room, or would movement startle the creature into some more violent action?
So many angry faces, pale as too clean-sheets under grime as dark as the inside of an industrial chimney.
'Toffs. We should kill every one of 'em that comes down here. This parcel o' land may be like hell, but it's our hell.'
Far, far too many murmurs of agreement. The Doctor already had a rock in the pit of his stomach for Nyssa, and that baby, too. He had no time to worry about himself! 'Please! You must listen to me! My friend is in danger!
'I did not start that house fire!'
'We saw the torch in your hand!'
More than enough to get me hanged, the Doctor realized. Oh, Nyssa! I'm so sorry!
'No!' Albert screamed. 'You have to listen to us! There was a monster! The Doctor locked it in his tall blue box! He was protecting us!' Albert screamed at the top of his lungs. You can go see its mother! It's at the bottom of the big hole!'
'He hand the torch in his hand!'
Mob mentalities. So single minded, unfortunately.
'Wait! ' Said a surprisingly calm voice. For some reason, the Doctor thought his name was Aberline. 'We know there's no monster in that hole. How could there be? But something caused the collapse! So let's send a fast runner to look, anyway. Let's have all our facts, ladies and gents!"
'Ah, I''ll go,' grumbled a teenager. 'I'm a fast runner.'
"Please! I have to save Nyssa!' Too early in Earth history to be called a broken record, thought the Doctor, near frantically, but he had to make them listen somehow!
A big, burly man shoved smelly whiskers into the Doctor's face. "Yer gonna tell me why you set that fire. And then I'm gonna burn you in your turn.'
The amphibian looked about ready to turn restless. Anyway, it's hot breath wasn't doing Nyssa's lungs any good, so it had to be bad for the baby.
She began to edge along the console room wall, away from the doors, and up one side. So far, the animal took no notice. The interior lighting still fascinated it.
The baby snuffled, and let out just the first hint of a wah! just as Nyssa got to the back wall. The head of the amphibian came up, double eyelids blinking. It mewled, and mawed Hungrily. Slowly, easily, Nyssa pushed back up to her feet.
The creature's breath didn't seem to be getting any hotter, so Nyssa concerned herself more with whether or not the beast looked ready to spring as she slid her back along the roundels. The neck of the creature tensed, and cradling the baby, Nyssa dove through the half open door at the back of the console room.
'But you can't hurt the Doctor! He's a good man!'
One who had to bite the inside of his own cheek to keep back the words, Well, Time Lord, actually, but close enough!!
'He saved us!! The dragons were already here! They lan-- came here-- right before him!'
Oh, lovely, smart children!
'We swears by it!'
'Shut those two kids up!'
'But he saved our baby!'
'Your baby?' The Doctor had thought Albert and Addie were siblings. Looking at them, now, he realized he'd based that assumption on their ages of twelve or so. Foolish, Doctor. Two mistakes. Twelve. Children, but not so absolutely young. Not on these mean streets.
'Someone stole our only basket, not knowing Rudolph was in there,' Albert kept yelling to be heard! 'When they found him inside, they kept runnin' off with the basket, but they ... They left him in the street! Rudolph!'
Aberline was beside the Doctor, now, murmuring, "We shift through the crowd, slowly, and when we're clear, I'll have to arrest you, sir...'
The teenager was back.
'A fast runner, indeed.' The Doctor said.
'Th-there is a monster!'
The animal hit the corner of the door. Nyssa landed on her back, keeping her head up and off the floor. Still cradling the baby, she kicked at the door, knocking it hard into the amphibian's nose.
The dragon started to cry.
The whole crowd marched back to the decimated building, Aberline, Albert, and Addie forming a protective circle around the Doctor.
'Still no real fire brigade,' murmured Addie.
Several of the people in the crowd were staring down the hole, and making shocked and surprised noises. 'There is a dragon down there!'
'Here now!' cried the burly and bearded man. 'That doesn't mean he didn't start the fire!'
'Well, then,' insisted Aberline, 'maybe we should see if the second such monster isn't locked away in this man's magician's cabinet, on the street, here! The boy was right about the first one!' The Doctor could hear that tone of authority hiding a great deal of shock.
"I'll open my magician's box right up,' the Doctor agreed amiably, shooting the key into the lock and himself through the door.
'Nyssa!' he called desperately, absently kicking the door closed right in Aberline's face.
Apologies later, if possible!
The Maranka amphibian had a muzzle over it's snout, and Nyssa was scratching it behind one ear while bouncing the human baby in her other arm.
'Easier than androids, Doctor.'
'That's one of my knee guards!' The Doctor complained about Nyssa's makeshift muzzle.
'Oh, well,' he admitted a little grudgingly, 'every baby needs a pacifer.'
'That's what I thought.'
Nyssa held the human infant a little higher.
'Doctor, this baby we found on the street... The medscanner tied into the TARDIS library after a DNA scan. This child is the High Governor that starts the Third Great Human Empire on the colony world of Phista in two thousand years time!'
The Doctor had experienced enough surprises today that he didn't let this one faze him. He quickly reviewed the history tape. Nyssa had been repairing sub-systems again. He didn't know how to tell her she just had no knack for fluid links or neutron flow stabilization. 'Wish I had the time to check the physical books in the real library...' he muttered.
"Ah. So he is. Rudolph the Giver. Parents Albert and Adeline Milford, grandparents unknown due to a destructive ion storm nearly decimating the planet. Except the parents are outside the TARDIS, right now.' The Doctor pointed them out to Nyssa on the scanner.
'Those children are this baby's parents! Doctor, that's barbaric!'
'Yes, it is,' the Doctor agreed. 'But, someday, Nyssa, I'm going to have to show you what parts of the Traken Union looked like, thousands of years before you were born...'
Nyssa expected the Doctor to dive head first into the mystery of baby Rudolph, but he surprised her by shaking his head pragmatically.
'Time and the universe call on us for a service today, Nyssa. Likely best just to answer that call, and see about taking baby Rudolph and his two fine, young parents to where history now tells us they belong.'
But first, Nyssa was certain the Doctor checked the TARDIS data banks for recursive traps, set long ago by the Master, and hiding all this time like computer viruses. The coincidence was all a bit familiar.
Just the thought of that monster gave Nyssa angry shivers! But no such trap turned out to be in place.
It took several hours, but eventually the crowd outside the TARDIS dispersed fully. Nyssa was able to go out and and gather the baby's two young parents while the Doctor searched out three more amphibian eggs, cooling them with a device he'd rigged up while they'd waited for the crowd, in order to keep the eggs from hatching prematurely.
Some Terran man named Aberline had burned the body of the mother. The Doctor saw to the destruction of her bones with a kind of Venusian vinegar.
Nyssa spent the next few wonderful days while the Doctor tried to reach Phista at the right moment in history playing with their three young charges, teaching the two youthful parents any of the games she'd found aboard Ship.
Too soon, The Doctor and Nyssa had to leave Albert, Addie, and Rudolph to the mercy of their real place in time.
'My parents and I met our benefactor after the ion storm, and all the fires,' the Giver told the assembled throngs of eighteen million on the date of his ninety-fifth birthday.
'I was a baby, you see, and all I remember is his blond hair, and the freshness of his face. But I know he saved us, and gave my parents the strength to raise me to be the man I am today...'
The speech went on. Peri Brown had heard lots like it, in her travels with the Doctor, and this was, admittedly, one of the better ones. But the Doctor himself kept distracting her. At first, he'd been beaming like a proud godfather, a nth degree cheshire cat, and apparently with good reason, clutching like a 1930's politician at the lapels of his many-colored coat. Benefactor, indeed. Peri'd be hearing about this for months! Now, though, he kept glancing off to the side, at a pretty, brown-haired woman who looked totally human, except Miss Brown couldn't be sure if she were a youthful forty or really youthful four-hundred, somehow.
Peri thought about asking the Doctor who the lady was... making a joke about old girlfriends, old companions, even a long-lost daughter-figure...
But for some reason, Peri figured, this time, he just wasn't going to tell her...