Part 3: Skypigs

by Soldeed [Reviews - 17]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Action/Adventure

The Doctor and Jeff hauled on the rope, hearing the painful creak of the overhead branch as it was dragged down towards them. Anna deftly wrapped the rope's end about an iron peg and hammered it deep into the ground with a few well placed blows with a mallet. They released the rope, and stood back warily while it was stretched taut by the branch's elasticity. It held, the peg shifting in the earth until Anna gave it one more bash and it disappeared almost completely under the ground.

"That's good," said the Doctor. "Now, Jeff and I will finish up here. Anna, you go out onto the hillside, wait for the Skypig to appear, then lead it back towards us."

Anna drew back incredulously.

"What?" she burst out, her voice high-pitched in disgust. "Why me?"

He blinked, looking genuinely surprised that this was an issue.

"Because that's how we do it. Jeff does the strenuous mechanical stuff, you do the running, shouting and hitting people, and I stand about giving instructions."

"That's when you're a frail old man! You can do your own damn running and shouting now."

The Doctor seemed ready to argue, but just shook his head in annoyance.

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder as they say. I'd forgotten how difficult you used to be. Fine. If I get killed it'll be your fault." He turned and set off towards the open land beyond the woods, looking back to deliver his parting shot. "And if that thing's not ready by the time I get back I shall be most upset."

Alone once more, the Doctor walked out onto the grassy hillside and pushed his hands into his pockets unhappily. The rain was still monotonously pouring down, the hazy moonlight through the clouds barely enough to allow him to discern the vague outline of the surrounding landscape. Only the flickering torches along the walls of the fort in the distance provided a clear visual reference point. He looked up at the sky.

"Come on, little piggy," he muttered. "Don't keep me waiting. I'm not getting any more lonely and defenceless."

He stood there till he was soaked to the skin, his sodden hair plastered over his forehead, scanning the horizon. He began to fidget worriedly.

"Please don't let me go back there and let Anna tell me she told me so. I'm... woah!"

Out of nowhere, in a flare of red fire the Skypig was soaring overhead. Startled, the Doctor toppled over backwards in the mud, and watched wide-eyed as its bulbous black metal form glided inexorably uphill towards where the light of his companions' flashlights were visible through the foliage.

"Fascinating! I mean... oh no!"

He jumped up and tore off in pursuit of the machine, bellowing at the top of his lungs:

"Jeff! Anna! Skypig!"

Drifting in the wind, the pig hardly seemed to be moving, but covered the ground at deceptive speed and outpaced him easily. He had barely reached the treeline when the mechanical monster vomited flame down into the woods and the glow of the flashlights was consumed in a storm of livid orange. The Doctor halted, grasping the branch of a tree for support, his pale, drawn face illuminated by the firelight.

"No. Not like this. This isn't the way it happened."

He ran on, while the Skypig began its long, slow turning circle. He was almost upon the blackened, scorched clearing, the flames dying under the weight of the rain, that he heard the voice:

"Doctor! This way."

"Jeff?" He skidded to a halt and looked at the young man with a kind of resentment. "What are you doing here, alive?"

Jeff pointed.

"We threw the torches over there when we heard you shouting about the Skypig. I thought perhaps they were what was attracting it."

The Doctor looked past him at Anna, a fresh torch in her hand.

"Sound thinking. Right, it's coming back. Let's execute my brilliant plan."

They hastened back to the makeshift construction of wood and rope outside the Tardis.

"Anna, get ready with that machete."

"What machete?"

"You didn't bring the machete?"

"You never said anything about a machete."

"Go and get a machete."

"It's all right," the Doctor confided to Jeff as she stormed off back inside the Tardis. "I'm just messing with her. We don't need a machete. Here goes."

He glanced up at the fast approaching red light in the sky.

"Lucky these things are so easy to see coming. If there's any part of your body not already crossed, cross it now."

He kicked the tip of the iron peg, and it sprang clear of the ground, wrenched clear by the whiplash action of the tree branch rebounding back into its natural position. The harpoon, wedged into the cleft where the branch split, was catapulted into the sky, its rope streaming out behind it.

"Yes!" Jeff punched the air triumphantly as the missile struck the Skypig's balloon with a hollow slap. The whole contraption seemed to stagger in midair, the harpoon dangling by its barbs from the ragged hole in the material.

"Don't let it get away!" ordered the Doctor. "Grab the rope. Anna, stop messing about in there and give us a hand."

The two men seized the rope as it slithered across the ground and threatened to be whisked away and be lost in the wounded Skypig's escape. A second later Anna rushed up and joined them, dragging down with clenched teeth.

"I think it's coming loose!" exclaimed Jeff as something perceptibly slipped in the harpoon's grip.

"That's the idea," said the Doctor, leaning back and digging his heels into the mud against the Skypig's forward traction. "Did I not mention? We're not trying to to pull it down to earth. The point of this exercise is to rip the largest possible hole in its balloon." He gave the rope another wrench. "Then it'll just make its way down to us of its own accord."

Anna swung her feet up in the air, putting her full weight on the rope, hung for a moment then thudded down to earth. All three of them felt the steel hooks tearing clear of the balloon.

"That's it! It's coming!"

As one, they stared up, directly above their heads, and bolted in opposite directions. The harpoon smacked down to the ground and stuck, quivering, in the undergrowth where they had been standing an instant before.

"All right," said the Doctor from a safe distance. "A slight kink in the plan, there."

The Skypig was visibly limping now, the balloon crumpling around the three foot gash torn in its flank. The thrusters at its rear glowed red and pushed it forward, but when it heeled over to the side, losing height all the while, it only succeeded in moving round in a spiral. The Doctor and his two companions watched the last of the air escape from the balloon, and the Skypig plummetted into a nosedive, crashing face first into the ground not twenty yards from the Tardis door.