An 8th Doctor, Sam Jones, & Fitz Kriener story
Fitz heard the dolphins cry.
Leaning back on his arms, he casually hitched himself back, pulling his legs up from where they'd been dangling. He got to his feet, and ambled away down the jetty, jamming his hands into his trouser pockets.
They weren't actually dolphins, just this planet's version. Aquatic sentient creatures, the natives had told him, possessing a somewhat similar stream-lined shape, but with a row of frontal eye spots, and several short tentacles instead of fins. The Sechee had originally come from the sky, Lenghi legend claimed, and seldom came into contact with them; naturally, the land dwellers had created a multitude of tales about the beings.
They cried for the lost souls of their dead, the natives said, souls that out of curiosity had ventured out of the sea, onto land and amongst the Lenghi. A sudden chill, a feeling of vague presence, a formerly fretful baby's sudden coo of surprise...all attributed to those wandering spirits.
Fine, Fitz thought. Really sweet. Cute stories. He heard a last, faint melancholy wail behind him, and quickened his steps.
Those things gave him the willies.
He got to the shore end of the jetty and saw Sam there, waiting for him under the trees, half-shaded by the feathery, drooping fronds.
'You heard them,' she said as he stepped off the stone back onto dry land. Not a question.
'What? Oh, those dolphin things? I was thinking.'
She cut effortlessly through the veil he habitually drew around himself. 'I could hear them all the way back here. Well weird... like crying babies. Kind of...spooky.'
It's okay, Fitz - you don't have to pretend with me.
Sometimes he resented her, sometimes he didn't mind. Every so often, he was humiliatingly grateful. Today, he found he barely cared; he just wanted to go. Hop in the TARDIS, get the Doctor to finish whatever arcane discussion he was having with the Head Seer of this small town and go on to the next Event, even though there'd been no war, no invasion, no accusation of being spies, or murderers... in fact, a quiet, safe vacation from the normal Insanity.
They'd been here for several days, however, and nothing had happened, and there was no place to get a decent beer, and the native girls didn't fancy him, and....
Time to move on again. Start afresh. Somewhere where no one knew him.
Every time he went down near the water, he heard those damned things. As if they were "following" him. He wasn't normally this paranoid, but -
Seemed to him as if they came a little closer, every time, white flashes in the water. Tentacles waving. Odd, considering their reputation for shyness.
She'd like them, of course -- made sense - "dolphins" on a planet where the natives, pardon, humanoids, hadn't done their best to exploit the sea and kill off myriad species of sea creatures.
'Go on, then. Bet they're still out there.' Something made him stay and watch, as she walked out onto the jetty, and out to the end. She stood, staring out at the sea, shading her eyes as she did so.
A few minutes later, she made her way back up to where he watched. 'No, they're gone. Not a peep; not a sign of them.'
Fitz shrugged, and turned to go. Might be able to get some pizm, the closest thing to a beer he'd found here, at the local watering hole, though it wasn't very good -- too weak.
'I think they're attracted to you. I always hear them when you're out there.'
He didn't bother looking at her. 'Great. I'm finally getting somewhere with the locals. And I thought I wouldn't get a shag out of this vacation...'
She wrinkled her nose up in her momentary "Ha-Ha So Funny" expression. Fitz started off along the seaside boardwalk, Sam at his side. There was silence for a few moments. Then:
'The villagers have noticed, too. I heard a couple of them talking about you in the tavern.'
Fitz affected even greater disinterest, so she'd be sure to continue.
'They were talking about some legend...some guy who'll shake everything up when he talks with the Sechee.'
Fitz's lower lip curled. 'Let me guess... He comes from the sky...'
'Well... yeah. They said the Sechee "will flock to him", and he'll be given the second message ever sent from the Sechee to the Lenghi. Then he--'
Fitz gave Sam a wide, fake smile -- as fake as this story she was trying to sell him. 'Look, Sam, this is great, really...a first class piece of work. I bet you and Duri had loads of fun setting this up, but there's a bowl of pizm calling my name down at the tavern, and I can't be late.' And off he strode.
Sam watched him go, a speculative look on her face. Then she smiled and set off in the opposite direction.
'What did he say?'
'Oh, he didn't believe it, of course. Told you he wouldn't.'
Duri smiled as she rose to her feet, shaking pina shells off her light blue shift. She fetched the carafe of serdilo from the nearby table and sat back down, cross-legged, across from the bowl of pina berries and her new friend.
'It doesn't matter whether he believes or not. His destiny will find him.' Sam smiled back, even as she suppressed a momentary inner shiver. Fitz a "prophet"? Unthinkable. All said, she had been teasing him earlier. Mostly.
The people around him had finally started to notice his existence - and it had to be due to this stupid story Sam and her native friend had cooked up. Just because they were as bored as he was from the enforced peace of the last few days...
Fitz hunkered over his bowl of pizm and tried to ignore the fact that the two old men in the corner booth were most definitely watching him. Not outright, but checking him out every so often, their voices a soft, indistinguishable murmur.
Even the barkeep, an attractive young Lenghi woman with a waist length mane of black hair, had smiled at him as she'd deposited the bowl in front of him. The other day, she hadn't had the time of day for him when he'd tried to chat her up with his "I'm a Mysterious Time & Space Traveler, Baby" speech.
'How much?' he asked as she passed by. When she glanced over, he raised one of the native coins in a desultory fashion. 'For the drink.' Her smile broadened. 'For you, nothing, Gejunt. Please accept it with our compliments.'
Fitz blinked after her as she moved on to the next booth. 'Right; that's it-' he muttered, surging to his feet. 'I have had enough--'
The tavern patrons swivelled around to watch. Fitz froze, half-out of the booth, his brain performing a rapid reality check.
'Enough of this pizm,' he said more clearly, sitting back down. 'I'd quite like to try...' His gaze roved over the row of mysterious, jewel-toned bottles, and he pointed. 'That one over there.'
'Of course.' The barkeep brought it round to his booth. 'This is... also on the house?' Fitz asked casually.
'But of course, Gejunt. If there's anything else we can do for you, please let us know.' She was gone again, with that smile just for him.
"Gejunt"...that word again. The name of the guy from the legend the Doctor had mentioned-
Story. Story; stupid folktale.
Certainly not him. But he'd have no problem riding this wave as far as it'd go. Fitz stared after the barkeep, idly wondering exactly how far that offer of service extended...
Fitz exited the tavern, unsteady on his feet. Distantly aware of this, he straightened himself with an effort and sauntered across the street. People were watching. Had to pull himself together...Gejunt...had his public to think of...gzzzt...
Several Lenghi loitering nearby glanced at each other, then began to follow Fitz as he lurched down the main path. By pure coincidence, he was heading towards the docks.
Someone walking by outside Dura's house paused and stuck his head in the open window. 'It's time,' he said, simply. 'He goes.'
Dura rose gracefully from her knees. 'I shall also witness.' Not even glancing at Sam, she walked to the door and out.
Sam blinked after her for a few moments before she scrambled to her feet. Witness? He? She darted out the door after them.
Outside, groups of three and four villagers were drifting down the lane. Heading for the docks.
Fitz ambled out onto the longest dock, hands in pockets. The cool sea breeze felt good on his flushed face. The bottom of his oxfords scraped and slid along the wooden planks as he made his way to the very end.
The sun shone; the wind tickled his ear, making his hair flutter; a seabird wailed as it soared by...
Fitz blinked blearily. Empty space. There was no bird...this planet had no gulls.
He looked down. The water churned wildly, frothing about the dock's support poles. It was thrashing with pale white tentacles. He felt a tug and swayed, though nothing was touching him. The things down there wanted him. Wanted him...to...
Gathering in his breath in a belated whoop of horror, Fitz jerked backwards, intending to move back, get back, away from that place--
So of course he lost his drink-addled balance and fell in.
Sam arrived just in time to see Fitz tumble off the dock.
'He can't swim! He'll drown!' she shouted, lurching forward, about to charge down past the score of villagers watching from the shore's edge, some of whom were surely about to do the same--
And was jerked back as someone grabbed her arms. 'Let go!' she yelped. 'What...?'
It was the man who'd called Dura out. The expression on his face was of calm determination. 'This is his destiny,' he told her simply. 'You must not interfere.'
'The hell it is!' she snapped, and jerked her arms free...
...Jerked her arms and grunted in pain as his grip tightened. Recalling ancient self-defence classes, she tried to rake her trainers down his instep, but the soft rubber edge scraped uselessly over him.
Oh, that was effective. Meanwhile, Fitz was--
Fitz was gone. There was no sign of him; no thrashing in the water to indicate he was still alive.
'You just let him drown!' she cried. He'd been in the tavern, hadn't he? 'He was probably drunk! You have to help him!'
'Help him what? He was to go to the sechee; they called him.'
Sam stared at him. 'I thought you said he was the Gejunt! That the Gejunt would talk to the sechee; bring you all an important message!'
'Yes. He is doing that.'
The man merely looked at her.
No matter what she did, she couldn't shake his equanimity. Around them, the murmuring villagers were interested in Fitz's departure, but seemingly unconcerned about his fate. Sam glanced over. Dura was staring along with the rest.
Where was the Doctor?
'He sleeps.' Sam glanced wildly over. She'd not spoken aloud, had she? 'Sleeps?'
'In the head Seer's house. He will awaken later.'
When all this was over, Sam realised. They'd drugged him or something to keep him from interfering. And now, they'd let Fitz drown.
For his part, Fitz felt nothing.
That was because he'd fainted the moment he'd hit the water, the excited sechee jerking back out of the way, then closing upon him with multi armed efficiency.
Someone slapped a green wrok bladder over the gaping mouth, shutting out the water and leaching a small but barely adequate supply of oxygen into the Envoy's respiratory system. Pairing up in an honour guard, the rest wrapped their limbs around his arms and legs, then swiftly towed him away, down into the depths, leaving barely a ripple in their formerly noisy wake.
Sam stood forlornly at the dock's edge, her arms wrapped around herself in the chilly afternoon sea breeze. Kendit, Dura's friend, had finally let her go once it was obvious that the sechee had departed with their prize.
A few of the villagers stood near her, also gazing out at the serene blue-green water. She half-fancied that they were there just in case she tried to jump in and follow Fitz's kidnappers. She'd actually considered doing just that for one rage-filled moment, but almost as immediately had known that she'd accomplish nothing that way. Except herself drowning.
No, Fitz's only hope was the good will of his captors. There wasn't a damned thing she could do, except wait here like-- Wait. There was one thing. Sam turned, brushed by her companions, and marched back up the dock and up the banking steps. Within a minute or so, she was out of sight among the trees.
The villagers stayed where they were. Witnessing.
Sam marched through the Head Seer's house, her face grim. None of the people moving about the building had tried to accost her, though she hadn't really expected that anyway. The head Seer belonged to the village; all in the village could walk in any time they felt a need for a consultation.
She found the Doctor in one of the innermost rooms.
Someone had at least had the courtesy to arrange his prone form on one of the thin sleeping mats the Lenghi favoured. Sam glanced to the side of the small tray table nearby, noting the still-damp dark stain in the blond wood of the flooring. She thought of a fallen cup, a slumping Time Lord. Someone had removed the offending pot of serdilo.
Sam stood brooding, staring down disapprovingly at her friend's serenity, and let out a sighhh of frustration.
He stirred, his eyes slitting open a barest fraction. 'Oh, it's you,' he mumbled, rolling to one side, then slowly sitting up.
'Do you know what's happened?' she asked sternly.
'Yes,' he said, his right hand adjusting his left-hand cufflink. His gaze never left her eyes, an either disconcerting or provocative tendency of his. Depending on how you looked at it.
'Did you know before it happened? Before we came here?'
'No,' he replied without a moment's hesitation. He was used to such interrogations. 'I knew of the legend, but not that Fitz would be taken for this "Gejunt". I thought Renghue was kidding when he told me that he was virtually certain Fitz was the one. Though now that I've had time to consider it, it does rather make sense...' His voice trailed off, his hand still fiddling. His gaze shifted to a point past Sam's left shoulder.
He twitched and refocused on her. 'Sorry... still drifting a bit. I saw them, taking him. While I slept.'
Sam decided not to pursue that particular comment. 'Why does it make sense?'
'It? Oh, choosing Fitz. Foreign to this planet as he is, he ironically makes a better messenger carrier for the sechee - he carries none of the preconceptions of the Lenghi, none of their specific perceptual cul-de-sacs that might get in the way of the message. With Fitz, what you tell is what you'll get delivered.'
'Well, they'll probably not going to get anything - he must have drowned by now!'
He looked surprised for a moment. 'Oh, no, no, no! They'll take the best care of him. Remember...he's their messenger carrier.'
Mollified, Sam relaxed a bit. She pointed to the fading stain. 'Drugged you, did they? Thought you were more immune to that sort of thing.'
He looked momentarily humble. 'There is the odd molecule that can still slip by the defences,' he explained. 'They got lucky..."
'Luck favours the prepared mind.' The voice was behind them, and mildly self-satisfied. 'I knew of your imminent arrival, Doctor, and was able to prepare a suitable soporific.'
'I see.' The Doctor grinned up at the Head Seer. 'Your hospitality, Renghue, is, as always, unparalleled.' The Seer grinned back. 'But,' and here the Doctor grew serious, 'why did you assume I'd interfere?'
Did you have to-?
The Seer also sobered. 'For the same reason that your friend here tried to stop the Gejunt's departure - you would not have been able to help yourself,' he said quietly.
'I... see.' The Doctor leaned back, arms locked, hands outspread behind him. 'What's next to do, then?' he asked.
The Head Seer's reply was matter-of-fact. 'We wait.'
Fitz came to and found himself lying on his back upon a pile of salty, dried sea-moss in a light-dappled cave.
He blinked, pushed himself up on his elbows, then reached to yank off the green bladder hanging from his face. 'Gaahh! What!' he yelped, flicking his hand desperately to get the sticky green material off his hand. It finally flew off, and he stared around wildly. The last thing he remembered was...
Falling towards those things. No wonder he'd blacked out. Sitting up, he looked more closely around his shelter. A small cave, one way in - by the water-filled entrance, from which shifting, reflected sparks of sunlight shimmered on the ceiling. The moss he was lying on was a clear approximation of a bed. Someone must've rescued him, and left him in here while they went for help...
Right. Well, he'd just wait here, then. Best not to move, else they'd not know where to find him.
Fitz flopped back down again, and put a hand to his throbbing head. What he got for tying one on so early in the day - he'd thought he'd seen a bunch of those sechee in the water and fallen in.
His eyes closed, he was luxuriating in his enforced indolence with just the touch of self-pity thrown in due to his aching head, when he heard a squeak. Almost like a small child's squeeze-toy.
Fitz's eyes flew open, and he went tense as a wooden plank.
Another small squeal and a gentle splashing sound. He shifted uneasily upon the crackling moss, still staring upwards, still afraid to look.
The next mewl, definitely coming from the cave's entrance, sent him scrambling madly backwards, over the sea-cave's surface to its back wall, where he sat pulling his knees up to produce as compact a Fitz as possible. Staring out at the cave's entrance, he saw a flash of white, the suggestion of movement, and huddled closer to the stone surface behind him.
Who do you think brought you here? The "voice" was amused.
Not in his ear. His mind. Intrigued, Fitz pushed back his fear enough to peer out across the cave at the water lapping at its edge, where something pale was moving. Abruptly, it heaved itself up and out of the water and began to hump its way over the cave floor towards him.
Fitz closed his eyes again. 'Nnngghhh!' he commented.
Come, Envoy. There is something you must see.
Fitz swallowed hard, and opened one eye the barest slit. It was right in front of him, tentacles waving, oh, Go--
Actually, it wasn't that bad. Compared to the other creatures he'd seen during his travels with the Doctor. Creepy, but could be worse. Much worse.
'W-why are you talking to me?' he managed to say.
The words he "heard" carried an air of bemusement. That's what civilized beings do, isn't it? You are the Envoy; we must tell you what it is we do now. And why.
Fitz's mind whirled from combined hangover and stress. 'Right. Okay, right. You...just want to...tell me something, and then I can go?'
You must tell the Land-dwellers, the Lenghi, what we tell you now. That is the task for which we have chosen you.
'Why me?' It popped out before he could stop it.
You are a journeyer, as are we. You will understand.
Ironic; they'd have got much better help from the Doctor, or even Sam. Yet they'd managed to choose gadabout Fitz--
Yes; your companions... They mean well, but they would interfere, and we have no time for that now. We need a message carried, not "help".
The laugh burst out of Fitz quite spontaneously. 'You got that right,' he chuckled, his head bobbing up and down. He looked at the sechee waiting before him, now just another alien being who wanted to talk.
'All right... What's this message of yours, then?'
Several hours later, the head Seer gave them the head's up. Fitz was on his way back. Sam didn't even bother asking how he knew that; she just hoofed it along with everyone else down to the docks where the entire village seemed to be gathering.
The Doctor was already there, looking like a kid at a fun fair. 'Exciting, eh, Sam? History in the making!'
'Looks like it,' she said, trying to find a suitable spot from which to see. She finally settled upon sitting upon the jetty's edge, straining to see if anything was breaking the shimmering water's surface. If Fitz were there...and all right...
The Doctor settled down nearby. He sent a sympathetic glance her way. 'He'll be fine, Sam. You'll see.' Confident as always.
I'll believe it when I see it, she thought, and leaned forward as the mutterings of the villagers grew excited. There, just at the mouth of the small harbor, a flash of white--
Fitz, as she would tell him later, rose dramatically from the water much closer to shore - it could have been Hollywood-scripted - and stood, water streaming off him. The few strands of water-weed clinging to him somehow added to the effect.
He stood, coughing hoarsely a few times, as the water behind him churned - several somethings were heading back out to sea. Then he stumbled forward the rest of the way to the shore.
Sam and the Doctor were already in the shallows, wading towards him, heedless of their wet clothing. Behind them, excited villagers were calling and talking to each other.
Renghue, also mindful of effect, chose that moment to slowly descend the banking steps, the villagers perched there scooching out of his way as he walked down to the beach's edge and calmly awaited the Gejunt's approach.
Fitz had somewhat recovered by the time Sam and the Doctor reached him. 'I'm okay,' he said, waving them aside. 'I have something I have to tell the Seer.' They flanked him as he splashed through the last few metres of water.
For his part, Renghue played his role to perfection. 'What message do you bring us, Gejunt?' he said, clearly and loudly. The chatter around them died down instantly.
Fitz walked up to the Seer, leaned close, and conducted a short, murmured conversation. Sam, not near enough to hear, saw the Seer's eyebrows move up and down. He looked mildly nonplussed. Not upset, but bemused.
He asked Fitz a few more questions, then shrugged and turned to face the villagers. Adopting an orator's stance, he proclaimed: 'Our brothers the sechee are leaving this world. They bid us farewell, and wish us luck in our own endeavours.' Around him, the Lenghi's voices rose in a murmur of surprise.
Renghue wasn't done yet. Raising his arms, he said, 'They bid us to look now at the sea if we would witness their departure.' Pointing, he directed their attention out to the seacaps rolling just beyond the small harbour.
All heads turned to watch. People began to gasp and point as the sea's surface began to glow with a golden light, as if the sun, now dipping below the horizon and staining the western sky pink, had changed its mind and was rising again here at the harbour's mouth.
The murmurs turned to astonishment and awe as dozens and dozens of golden, glowing spheres broke the water's surface and slowly rose into the air.
Sam stared. Each sphere looked about big enough to hold a sechee. 'D'you mean...' she muttered, her voice trailing off as she gazed at the drifting globes of light.
The Doctor, as transfixed as the rest, glanced over at Fitz, who was grinning. 'They weren't kidding when they said they'd be putting on a show!' the Gejunt laughed to himself. Suddenly realising that his friends were staring at him, he blinked. 'Eh? Oh, yes, that's them all right. They each have their own little... Well, I guess we'd call it a "personal ship". Of sorts.'
They returned to watching. As the first wave of spheres rose, still more emerged from the sea, a seemingly never-ending progression - it must have gone on for at least a quarter hour, Sam estimated. Like lost balloons, the spheres rose slowly up into the sky, smaller and smaller, then tiny specks, then - gone.
Finally, no more globes emerged from the water, which had faded to dark grey in the deepening twilight. The last wave of rising spheres dwindled into the tiniest of dots in the evening sky and winked out of sight.
A collective siiiigh rose from the Lenghi. The mood was quiet, subdued. Each was, Sam supposed, fixing what they'd just seen firmly into their memories, so that they could recount what they'd seen to those who would come later. New village lore for the next generation.
'Well, that's that,' Renghue said, leaning upon his staff. 'A bit of a shame, though I can't say I really blame them.' When the Doctor raised a curious brow, he elaborated.
'Apparently, we were something of a "bad influence" - luring and distracting their wandering souls as we did.' When Fitz opened his mouth, looking perturbed, the Seer waved a hand. 'Oh, I know that wasn't what you said, but I can hear between the words.'
'They said they'd been going to leave anyway,' Fitz muttered.
'But it was a problem, wasn't it? I don't doubt that they told you all about it.' When Fitz looked away after a few moments, he nodded, satisfied. 'As I said... nothing to be done. We'll just have to get by without them.'
'But I thought they never had anything to do with you...' Sam said, bemused.
'Never came to shore. There's more than one way to interact with an intelligent being, you know.'
Sam thought about how Renghue had somehow known that Fitz had been on his way back, and said no more.
Fitz sat in the place of honour, next to the head Seer at the hastily-prepared but quite adequate feast that had been thrown together in celebration of the fulfilment of the Gejunt's task. Several torches flared and sparked, and contented voices murmured and occasionally raised themselves in laughter.
This Gejunt gig had, Fitz reflected, fuzzy with pizm, been one of his better "roles" - he'd finally got some of the perks he'd always craved. And respect.
The whole thing had been coincidence, of course. The sechee had chosen the first off-worlder who'd come along - his particular genius had been to play along with the whole thing. Of course, no one else could have done it as well as he had - not even Sam, nor the Doctor - too earnest, too helpful.
As if she'd sensed she was being thought about, Sam turned her attention to Fitz, from the next seat over. 'So, Fitz... How does it feel to be a living legend?' she teased.
'Not bad, not bad. You should try it some time.' Sitting back luxuriously, he folded his hands behind his head, playing it to the hilt as she theatrically rolled her eyes. Their old game, trotted out for those occasional truly relaxed moments. He sensed the Doctor smiling benignly at them from the seat on other side of their host. Even that paternalism didn't annoy him as it could at times.
After all they'd gone through, they'd earned this respite. Forgetting his earlier impatience, Fitz found himself considering talking the Doctor into postponing their departure for a few days yet...
Something whispered past one of his ears, a tickling, giggling breeze, and he twitched, sitting upright.
The evening air was still, and warm. And the Lenghi were bothered by very few insects.
Fitz shrugged, put it out of his mind, and held up his cup for yet another refill of pizm. Something Sam had once told him, from some movie from her time, resurfaced in his mind, and he grinned.
Sam stared, then snickered helplessly, as a very happy Fitz raised his bowl in an impromptu toast. 'Party on, dudes!'
And you too, sechee, wherever you are, he added silently.