Good ol' Captain Smaarg

by Pab [Reviews - 4]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • Action/Adventure

Author's Notes:
As Edmund Blackadder once said, "This is the stickiest situation since Sticky the stick insect got stuck on a sticky bun."

“I’m sure the Doctor won’t be long with the Master,” said Colonel Vaark. “As for you... Peri, is it? I’m sure Captain Smaarg here will show you around, won’t you, captain?”

Captain Smaarg restrained himself from a reptilian hiss of distaste and instead bowed politely. He was merely third in command of this base built especially to imprison the Master, prior to his execution. He had been in post only three days — it was his fourth abrupt transfer in the past year — but he had already memorised the layout.

“Good,” said the Doctor, taking off his white Panama hat, rolling it up and putting it in an inside pocket. “I won’t be long, Peri. But it’s his final wish, apparently and, well... we do go back a long way. Shame it’s come to this.” He leaned close to her and whispered, “Perhaps I can persuade them to commute the sentence. Don’t worry, Peri, these reptiles may have sharp pointy teeth, but they won’t bite you.”

Captain Smaarg heard the remark and wondered why anyone should think he would bite them. Not only was it against regulations, it was indecent. He finished checking the extensive paperwork he had required the Doctor to complete, and when he looked up he noted that the colonel and the visitors seemed rather irritated.

“All done?” said the Doctor querulously. “Have I missed out any more questions or ticked another wrong box?”

“No, finally it is correct,” said Smaarg, picking up a folder to house the paperwork.

“I’m surprised you still use paper,” said the Doctor.

“I agree,” said Vaark. “Damned load of — ”

“Paper cannot be hacked,” said Smaarg, “and can be easily accessed, regardless of technological developments or power outages.”

He kept them waiting ten minutes longer while he ensured everything was properly stamped, cross-referenced and filed. All regulations met, the Doctor went off, huffing and puffing, with Colonel Vaark grumbling alongside him. Then Smaarg, despite mammals being rather repulsive, showed Peri around with as much decency as he could muster. The thought of creatures that actually suckled their young struck him as embarrassing and unnecessary. Why couldn’t everyone be a reptile? Not only that, but mammals shed water from their skin, as this one was doing now. Most off-putting.

“Sure is hot in here,” said Peri, wiping her brow.

“I apologise,” said Smaarg stiffly. “The temperature is perhaps... not appropriate for mammals.”

“Well, I guess the Master got more than he bargained for when he tried to steal your molecule bomb. Now he’s to be dissolved in acid?”

“Correct,” hissed Smaarg. “It is merciful. And we have granted him his last request, to see your husband.”

“The Doctor’s not my husband,” said Peri. “We just kinda... travel together.”

Smaarg’s nostrils flared with shock. Not married? And travelling together, unchaperoned? He could not stifle a disapproving growl, but did his best to convert it into a tickly cough.
Aliens had such appalling ways, mammals particularly so. However, he perked up as he spent the next thirty minutes boring his guest with statistics about the flow of water needed to heat the complex and various other technicalities. He then sought to impress her for another fifteen minutes with the system he had devised for easy data retrieval from the different departmental indexes. All too soon it was lunchtime; so he thought he had better invite her to join him for a cage of live rats (today’s speciality). But just in time he realised that rats were mammals and quickly changed the subject.

Meanwhile, the Doctor was waiting while the door to the condemned cell was unlocked. With a swish it slid open and there was the Master, nonchalantly lying on his bunk, arms folded.

“Doctor!” he exclaimed. “I knew you’d come. Predictable to the end — your end, that is; not mine.”

The Doctor felt a heavy blow to the back of his head. He was barely aware of falling to the floor. The next thing he knew, there were voices far off. One was a reptilian growl, the other the Master’s. Trying to focus, he made out the figures of the Master and Colonel Vaark. But the Master was wearing his, the Doctor’s clothes: the long jacket with its stick of celery, the striped trousers, the cricket pullover. He was about to protest, but then realised that the Master was giving Vaark an hypnotic command.

“The prisoner must be executed at once. Do you understand? At once!”

“The prisoner must be executed at once,” intoned Vaark.

The Doctor realised he was wearing the Master’s prison garb. He pushed himself to his feet, but was still dizzy.

“Ah, you’re awake,” said the Master. “Well, my dear fellow, I’m so sorry it’s come to this. The colonel tells me you’re to be executed at once. All your own fault, you know. As for me...” He held up the TARDIS key. “I’ll be long gone, never to be found.”

The Doctor was pushed back onto his bunk by a guard he’d only just noticed. But his head was clearing. He noticed the electronic lock on the door and noted that the bunk had a spring base.

“It won’t work,” he said. “Peri will know at once what’s happened. So will the other guards, the ones you haven’t been able to hypnotise.”

The Master shook his head. “Still up to your old tricks, eh? You scoundrel!” He took a metal spoon from his pocket, then cried, “What are you doing? No! Stop! Stop!”

Then with reckless violence, the Master plunged the end of the spoon into his own abdomen. The reptiles reacted to this as though pre-programmed. One cried, “The prisoner has attacked his visitor!”

“Get him to sick bay!” yelled the colonel. “Secure the prisoner! Lock the cell.”

They rushed the Master out. Before the Doctor could react, he found himself locked in. The Master’s escape plan was now obvious. Once he got to the TARDIS, he would escape forever. The Doctor would be executed in his place: plunged into a tank of acid within the hour. He had to act at once, buy time, figure something out. Hastily, he pulled the mattress off the bunk. As he had hoped, the springs were old and pulverised by many years of wear. Energised by the prospect of death, he began trying to unbend one of the springs, prior to snapping a length of it off.

At that same moment, Captain Smaarg had politely asked his guest to wait a moment, while he corrected some punctuation errors on a notice that someone had just put up.

“So, Peri,” he said, putting the pen back in his breast pocket. “You don’t want the worms or the assorted insects. Perhaps you would prefer something plant-based for lunch instead?”

But then the emergency klaxon sounded. It was deafening and Peri put her hands to her ears. “What’s that?” she cried.

Smaarg received a datagram on his wristcom: bring the visitor to the sickbay at once. Fending off her panicky questions by reminding her that he had insufficient data, he led Peri quickly to sickbay, where she continued to demonstrate unnecessary emotion in a typically mammalian way. But Smaarg could see why she was disconcerted. There was a man lying on the bed, dressed in the clothes of the man she had come with; but he was not the same man.

“Explanation?” said Smaarg, addressing a guard, one of those who had been in charge of the Master.

“He was attacked by the prisoner, who had a concealed weapon — a spoon, the handle of which had been sharpened. He stabbed the visitor and then...” He held out a claw to indicate the Doctor. “The visitor collapsed... and changed his appearance.”

“Incredible,” said Smaarg. “We can regrow a severed limb, but this alien has completely transformed himself?”

“And is unharmed, Captain. The wound has gone.”

“He’s regenerated,” said Peri. “I never saw him do it yet, but I’ve heard that Time Lords... Doctor?”

The Doctor has raised himself up on his elbows. He was shorter than before. Long, auburn locks flowed back from his forehead; his eyes were blue, his nose bulbous and his teeth crooked. In a moment, he had swung himself to his feet.

“Oo, these trousers are tight,” he said, slapping his paunch. “But I mustn’t delay. Come on, my dear, let’s get back to the TARDIS, so I can change clothes and leave this place for good.”

“What about the Master?” said Peri. “What’ll happen to him?”

“Oh, the sooner he gets dissolved, the better,” said the Doctor, waving a dismissive hand. “Come on, let’s go.”

“Wait,” said Smaarg. “There are procedures, formalities. A lot of paperwork. Such an investigation is my responsibility. I will need to get to the bottom of everything, every little detail.” He rubbed his claws together in satisfaction. Questions, details, lots and lots of paperwork... his eyes glowed with pleasure. “It will take several days,” he said.

“Oh, I think not, Smaarg.”

Smaarg turned and saw Colonel Vaark, who had just entered. “We can let them go on their way,” said the colonel. “The prisoner is to be executed anyway. In fact, I’ve decided to bring the execution forward. Do it at once.”

“Good idea,” said the Doctor. “Come on, my dear, let’s get away from here at once. Now... Remind me. Where’s the TARDIS?”

“An hour’s walk onto the moors!” exclaimed Peri with some annoyance. “Anyhow, I thought you always knew where the TARDIS was,” she said, leading him out. “Regeneration scrambles you up a bit, eh?”

“Exactly, my dear,” said the Doctor. “And... what’s your name again?”

General Vaark was about to leave too, but, with a disapproving cough, Smaarg caught his attention and said, “Pardon me, sir, but we can’t bring the execution forward. There is no allowance for such a move in the regulations.”

“Never mind the regulations, Smaarg. I’ve already given the order.”

Had he not been a reptile, Smaarg would have gone pale. “Never mind the regulations?” he said in disbelief. “Never mind the.... Colonel! Under the Penal Code, Section 28, paragraph 103, subsection 56(a), I must protest!”

The Colonel stared at him, then growled, “I bet you know the whole blasted thing by heart, don’t you, Smaarg?”

Drawing himself to his full height and with supremely pompous dignity, Smaarg replied, “I’m proud to say, sir, that I do.”

“Well, we’re putting them aside after this vicious attack. The execution goes ahead at once.”

“In that case, sir,” rejoined Smaarg, “you leave me with no choice but to fill in Form 456(f), parts C and D!”

Vaark halted and considered. He hadn’t the faintest idea what Form 456(f) was, let alone parts C and D, but he didn’t like the sound of it. Smaarg was certainly living up to the reputation that had had him transferred so many times. Damn and blast Central Command for sending him here. Perhaps it would be easier to postpone the... His mind clouded and he couldn’t complete the thought. Instead, he felt a compulsion to carry out the execution at once.

“Fill in whatever damned form you want to, Smaarg. I’m in charge here and the acid tank is already being filled. As for you, it’s lunchtime. Go and eat — and stay out of the way!”

Smaarg bowed stiffly and, on his way to the canteen picked up Form 456(f). His whole life seemed nothing but ensuring paperwork was properly filled in and regulations were followed. Not to mention correcting grammar, spelling and punctuation,. OK, he quite enjoyed it, but what thanks did he get? As he sat crunching through his cage of live rats — as always, he had a table to himself — he felt relieved that at least the mammals had gone. That female with her infant-nourishing protuberances — very embarrassing. It was bad enough that a husband these days was expected to be present when his wife was due to lay her first clutch of eggs. That was next month and he was dreading it. Pushing a rat’s tail into the side of his mouth, he consoled himself with the thought that at least he wasn’t a fish, like the Swerry of Oceana II. Husbands there had to fertilise the eggs AFTER they’d been laid. He shuddered.

The klaxon sounded again. Smaarg checked his wristcom: there was an alert in the death block. Rising to his feet, he ran out of the canteen. But then his wristcom beeped. He stopped and checked the message. It said, SMAARG: DO NOT GO TO EXECUTION CHAMBER. VAARK. Smaarg stood there, perplexed. What had gone wrong? Almost an hour had passed since he last saw Vaark, so the execution should have taken place by now. Then he recalled that the regulations required all senior officers to attend an emergency in the death block, unless engaged in certain listed activities. Eating wasn’t on the list; therefore, he would breach the regulations if he didn’t go. Without a moment’s pause, Smaarg resumed his run to the execution chamber.

He got there just as the guards had overpowered the prisoner. They were dragging him out of the cell, but he was hidden from Smaarg’s sight in the midst of them. Colonel Vaark was supervising them.

“Quickly!” he bellowed. “Get him into the cage and get it lowered into the acid at once!”

“What happened?” Smaarg asked one of the guards standing nearby.

“The prisoner fused the lock somehow. We couldn’t get the door open. We’ve had a hell of a job, I can tell you, sir, trying to get him out of there.”

“Well, this is also going to require a thorough investigation,” said Smaarg. “Each guard must fill in a detailed account on Form 956, in triplicate, to be on my desk first thing in...”

He stopped abruptly. He could scarcely believe his eyes. The guards had just shut the prisoner into the cage and Smaarg could finally see him. Striding forward, he shouted, “Stop! Stop at once!”

The guards froze. Vaark turned, scowled, and said, “Oh blast, it’s you again! Now look here, Smaarg, I told you not to attend.”

“Another violation of regulations, colonel. I must advise you, that I am making a list of all these irregularities, as required by paragraph 87, subsection E, of the Military Regulations Regulations, open brackets — Penal Settlements — close brackets, fifth revision, in the year 1569.” Noting with satisfaction that this had shut the colonel up — and Smaarg certainly wasn’t intimidated by the look of fury and contempt on his face — he added, “That is not the correct prisoner in the cage.”

“At last, someone with eyes!” exclaimed the prisoner. “I’ve been trying to tell – ”

“Shut up!” shouted Vaark. “As you should know, Smaarg, these creatures are able to change their appearance. The fact that he has done so has no relevance to the sentence.”

“On the contrary, colonel: two points. Firstly, before an execution takes place, the prisoner’s identity must be verified — the Penal Code, Chapter 8, paragraph 6, subsection (a). If the prisoner has changed his appearance, then I’m afraid the whole process of verification must begin again from scratch.”

“What!” bellowed Vaark, his eyes ablaze with rage. “You can’t be serious. No, I won’t allow it!”

Joining his claws with something near to piety, Smaarg replied, “You have no authority to abrogate the regulations, colonel. None of us has. They come from above — the Joint Chiefs of Staff. My second point: this prisoner looks exactly like that Doctor fellow who visited with Peri. To my mind, an extra reason for verifying his identity.”

The colonel hesitated. Then he pulled out his pistol and levelled it at Smaarg’s head. “The execution will continue,” he said.

Smaarg was unmoved. “I must advise you, colonel – ”

“I know! I know!” cried Vaark. “Shooting you is against the blasted regulations. Well, I don’t care! I’ve wanted to do it since the second you arrived here and began correcting my syntax, you blasted paper-pushing, jumped up, anally-retentive, supercilious prig! I’ve only wanted an excuse!”

A huge cheer went up from all the guards.

“Hardly jumped up,” replied Smaarg coolly. “I hold the rank of captain and am in charge of administration. And the correct syntax is, ‘I’ve wanted only an excuse.’ Now,” he continued quickly, “before you pull that trigger, might I ask you to notice the acid fumes. Unpleasant, aren’t they? Kill me and you will be the next to be lowered into the vat. After all the correct procedures and protocols, naturally. Put the gun back in its holster and I’ll file only a level four remonstrance.”

Snarling, the colonel extended his arm. The barrel of the gun was just inches from Smaarg’s snout.

“Do it, colonel!” shouted a guard. This made some of the others join in the encouragement.

Then came the prisoner’s voice. “Colonel! You have been ordered to execute only me, not Smaarg. Remember, colonel. Think back. Who was it gave you the order? Who hypnotised you?”

Vaark’s arm wavered. He became confused, he was trying to think. “It was... it was... the Master.”

“Yes, the Master. And where is the Master now, colonel?”

Vaark lowered his gun and shook his head to clear his mind. “The Master... is to be executed.”

“Clear your head, colonel! Breathe in these fumes! The Master has escaped.”

“Just as I was beginning to suspect!” declared Smaarg. “Release the prisoner at once. He is not the Master.”

But nobody moved.

“They’re all hypnotised, Smaarg,” yelled the Doctor. All except you.”

“The execution must go ahead,” said Vaark, making an effort to recover himself. “The Master has ordered it.”

And then Smaarg struck. With a powerful swipe, he knocked the gun from the colonel’s claws and pulled out his own pistol before anyone could move.

“Right,” he said, “I’ve heard enough to initiate Emergency Protocol Alpha, as allowed for in Appendix 2 of the Emergency Provisions, open brackets — military and ancillary establishments — close brackets, Act, promulgated in the year 1598. As such, and in line with my responsibilities under Section 5 of –”

“Oh, for crying out loud, Smaarg!” wailed Vaark. “We surrender! Unbuckle your holsters, everybody! Just please spare us any more blasted regulations!”


“Thank you, Smaarg,” said the Doctor. “You saved my life.”

“Yet you appear to be still perturbed, Doctor.”

The Doctor bowed his head. “Sorry. But things are pretty bleak. Two hours have gone by since the Master escaped. Plenty of time to reach the TARDIS. He’ll be gone now and there’s no way of following him. Peri is probably dead. And I’m marooned here forever. I’ll never see the TARDIS again.”

Smaarg sat beside the Doctor on one of the benches in the prison’s reception area. “Is there any refreshment I can order for you?” he asked. “I can recommend the guinea pigs.”

“Nothing, thank you,” said the Doctor despondently. “Is there any way off this planet?”

“There is a cruiser that travels every week to the planet Oceana II, then onwards to another planet called Masx. You can get a connection from there to several other worlds.”

“Then that’s what I’ll have to do... Why are you drawing your pistol?”

Smaarg stood up as three guards suddenly entered the reception area.

“You broke regulations, Doctor,” said Smaarg. “You landed your TARDIS in a non-designated area. The Alien Guest Reception Regulations are clear on the matter. Paragraph 2.”

“Oh,” said the Doctor bitterly. “So it’s back inside a cell, is it?”

“No, just a fine. Two ounces of platinum.”

“Then why the weapons?”

Smaarg was looking at a video feed on his wristcom. He stood up and aimed his pistol at the main doors. “Here’s why,” he said.

The buzzer sounded, the door was opened — and in walked the Master and Peri.

“Some blasted fool...” began the Master, but his voice trailed away when he saw the Doctor was still alive. Then his eyes rested on Smaarg. He groaned. “Not you!” he said.

“So,” said Smaarg, “that’s what you were trying to do when I interviewed you yesterday. You tried to hypnotise me.”

“Hypnotise you!” growled the Master. “You can’t hypnotise a mind so infernally dull, so absolutely lacklustre, so positively lifeless as yours! I might as well have tried to hypnotise a plank of wood. What have you done to the TARDIS? I can’t get in!”

Smaarg said, “It landed in an undesignated area, so, in accordance with the Alien Guest Reception Regulations, paragraph 3, I had its door sealed with a resin only we can dissolve. After payment of the appropriate fine, that is.”

“And after Peri has been released from hypnosis,” said the Doctor, jumping to his feet.

The Master gave a cynical chuckle. “If you want Peri back, you’d better just let me leave. One word from me will destroy her mind forever. Dissolve the resin, Smaarg, or Peri will be a mindless zombie for the rest of her life.”

Smaarg took a step forward and aimed his pistol at the Master. He said, “I’m afraid that the Regulations Pertaining to Hostage-taking Within the Secure Estate forbid any negotiation. Release her or I’ll shoot you dead, as allowed under the same regulations. Chapter 6, paragraphs 3 and 4, if you’re interested.”

“I’m not. Now, you’ll notice I have no weapons,” said the Master, opening his jacket. “Tell me, Smaarg, you tedious dullard, will you really shoot me down in cold blood?”

“How else?” said Smaarg. “I’m a reptile. Additionally, if I believe that killing you will free Peri, then under the Care of Visiting Aliens Regulations, Chapter ¬–”

“All right!” exclaimed the Master. “Spare us, please!” He clicked his fingers and Peri’s glazed look evaporated.

“Doctor!” she cried. “But I... I...”

“It’s a long story,” said the Doctor. He put his hand on Smaarg’s shoulder. “But all I can say is, Good ol’ Captain Smaarg!”

“Thank you,” said Smaarg. “It is pleasant to be appreciated at last. You may at times be exasperated by my punctiliousness, but chide me not. If it were not for the regulations, the Master would have succeeded in his diabolical design and you would be dead. Guards, take the prisoner back to the condemned cell.”

Protesting loudly, the Master was hauled off.

“Will he be executed at once?” asked the Doctor.

“Oh no,” said Smaarg. “The investigations and the ensuing paperwork, together with the review meetings and final report, will all have to be completed first. Could take months.”

“As for the fine,” said the Doctor, “my platinum is in the TARDIS; so if you could just dissolve the resin for me, I’ll be able to get the platinum and pay you there and then.”

“I’m sorry, Doctor,” said Smaarg. “The fine has to be paid before the resin is dissolved. Regulation 5(b) of the Fines and Penalties Code is quite clear on the matter.”

The Doctor sighed impatiently. “Is there no way round it?”

“Yes,” said Smaarg. “You can appeal to Colonel Vaark. He then has seven days to consider it.”

“Seven days!” thundered the Doctor.

“Indeed,” said Smaarg. “But first, you have to fill in Form 209(c), explaining why you landed in an undesignated area, any mitigating circumstances, with a complete inventory of everything in your vessel – ”

“What!” cried the Doctor.

“Everything in your vessel,” said Smaarg. “Your purpose in coming here, the duration of your stay, everyone you have spoken to, including any who may vouch for your character, and your destination when you finally leave.”

“But that will take ages!” exclaimed Peri.

“Indeed,” said Smaarg. “That is why the form runs to eighty-one pages. But don’t worry, you can add extra pages, so long as they are properly referenced and on the correct paper. Well, if you want to get it finished today, I’d start now if I were you. The office closes at five.”

The Doctor, his expression grim, said, “I don’t have a pen.”

“That’s all right,” said Smaarg. “I can lend you one. I have several.”

“I bet you do,” huffed the Doctor.

Smaarg took a pen from his breast pocket. “But as it’s a government pen, you’ll first have to fill in Form T45(a).”

“I can’t,” said the Doctor through clenched teeth. “I don’t have a pen.”

“Oh,” said Smaarg, putting back the pen. “That is unfortunate.”

“There’s a pen in the TARDIS,” said Peri....