And now, the next installment in my Highlander/Doctor Who crossover series! This was written largely because a reader commented on how amused they were that Methos ended up becoming a companion at the end of the last story. That wasn’t really intentional on my part; I was fully intending the Doctor to be true to his word and ferry Methos directly to Seacouver, making up for having caused him to miss his flight. But of course it would never be that simple! 😀 So here is what happened instead.
EDIT: From a continuity perspective, I should point out for those just joining us that this features the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann’s version).
If you’re just joining now, here are the first three installments:
THE SHADOW OF THE DALEKS
EPISODE ONE: Prophecy
The wind whispered gently through the silver grasses, sending shimmering ripples across the prairie that rode endlessly on above the Place of Light. The wind whispered also among the standing stones, whistled past the glassy fragments that stuck out of the earth. If anyone had been there to listen, it might have sounded like voices.
A stream wound around the Place of Light, cutting a ravine in the rich soil of the silver grassland. A deep bend in the stream had left a wide, flat space, covered with silt. This is where the Place of Light was. Nothing would grow here, although the water was good to drink, and the soil rich with nutrients. No tallgrass poked up between the translucent fragments embedded deep in the soil. None of the dry prairie brush would blemish the perfect soil. In the wintertime, this would be covered with a thick snowcover, but even the migratory beasts called snoweaters would not touch that snow. Nor would the fat greenbirds of summer roost upon this land. It was inviolate.
Inviolate save for a little boy, who sat motionless in the very center.
Only the Tolloc came to this place, and the boy was a Tolloc boy. Only the Tolloc felt welcome in the Place of Light. And only they knew why no other creature, plant or animal, would ever rest for more than a few minutes in this place. But if anyone ever asked why, the Tolloc would only smile.
“Six years,” shouted Savrek, pounding his fist on the end-table in frustration. “Six years in this godforsaken wilderness, with nothing to show for it!”
Vorna chuckled quietly, but kept her comments to herself as she gazed out the window of her quarters at the endless grasslands of Riga 3. The base was sturdy and kept out the perpetual winds of the flatlands, but the sight of the rippling grasses moved Vorna almost as much as the wind itself.
“I heard that,” said Savrek, not even bothering to keep the accusation out of his voice. He was eighteen years Vorna’s junior, and his impatience amused her. So typical of the young. Vorna didn’t bother to remind herself that she was once like that too, because she hadn’t been. She had always been easygoing, calm, and liable to consider things for a long time before making any major decisions. That was why she had survived on the team for so long. No hasty conclusions.
“So what do you want me to do about it?” she asked, turning to face Savrek.
He frowned, obviously frustrated, but dropped his voice to a reasonable level. “We’ve spent six years cataloging the Tolloc — their culture, their religion, their physiognomy…. We’ve even recorded their average shoe size! And for what? We’re no closer to the project goal.”
“Patience,” said Vorna. “It takes time.”
“Time, nothing! They’ve got more psychic power than a whole city of telepaths. They store data just the way Leader Kallan said they would. But in six years, we’ve come no closer to accessing it….” Finally Savrek gave up and threw his hands in the air. “I….” In one motion, he collapsed suddenly into one of the comfortable chairs with a deep, shuddering sigh.
Vorna sat down next to him. “Look, I know it’s frustrating, Savrek, but these things do take time.” She pressed a button on the end table beside her. A drink materialized on the surface. “Here.” She handed it to Savrek. “Relax. The project was badly designed, I know. But Leader Kallan does things his own way. If we want to accomplish our task, we’re going to have to convince him first. And if you lose your patience, it’s not going to happen.”
Savrek glared at her. “That’s easy for you to say, Vorna. You aren’t expected back at University in eighteen months.”
“I know,” said Vorna. “But you haven’t worked with the customers before. They’re very methodical until they think something’s gone wrong. Do you have any idea what would happen if we make them think we’re deviating from the task plan?”
“Yeah,” said Savrek. “Communicator Tosk made that pretty clear.”
“That’s why we have to do this gently,” said Vorna. “Trust in their system.”
Savrek sighed. “Gently isn’t going to work with Kallan. Not this time. If he screws up one more time, I’m contacting the customers. Let them know that the product won’t be ready on time.”
Vorna shook her head sadly. “Contacting the customers won’t work, Savrek. It’ll only make Kallan angry. And I happen to know you can’t trust the Daleks.”
The pervasive background hum of the TARDIS was really starting to annoy Methos. Perhaps the Doctor found it soothing, but he certainly didn’t. Having missed his plane flight to Seacouver due to the untimely arrival of the Doctor, he was still a little miffed at having to travel by TARDIS rather than by flying the friendly skies.
Not that there was anything wrong with the TARDIS. On the contrary, the transdimensional spacecraft was far more comfortable than an old DC-9. And probably much safer. Nevertheless, Methos felt that there was something fundamentally wrong with entrusting oneself to a semi-sentient time machine that was an artifact of an ancient, alien civilization.
Maybe it was because he was Immortal and was having difficulty adapting to the fact of a technology which was actually older than he was. Or perhaps it was the way the Doctor spoke of the TARDIS, almost as if it were a living creature. Or perhaps it was the peculiar and unshakable feeling that he was being watched. A ghost-like sensation, almost like another Immortal, but not strong enough for him to be sure of it. Methos blamed it on the aggravating background hum.
Whatever his qualms about the TARDIS, it was certainly a beautiful ship, with a level of character one never saw from an aircraft. Not even the ludicrous 747 in the film “Austin Powers” had as much character.
Inside the TARDIS, the very air had an intentional quality to it. It was like walking around inside a computer game, only a game whose graphics would make the animators at Cyan cry for sheer joy. Every dust mote was perfectly placed to give the sense of a moment out of time, a place where one is safe from everything. If it weren’t for the irritating hum, Methos would feel safer here than anywhere else, including holy ground.
Maybe to a Time Lord it *was* holy ground. After all, hadn’t the Doctor called it a state of temporal grace?
Walking through the console room, Methos had to admire the artifice that had gone into this ship. Everything looked old, but in perfect repair. The console itself had the look of a control panel from an H. G. Wells novel, complete with brass knobs and beautifully varnished wood. The Doctor had explained that the entire ship was actually computer generated, via a complicated process known as “block-transfer computation.” Methos did not know what block-transfer computation was, and yet….
…and yet he knew that block-transfer computation was at the keystone of creation, holding open the CVEs, the Charged Vacuum Emboitments, to ward off the heat-death of the universe, which the Master had disrupted on Logopolis, with no idea that it would nearly destroy the Universe before the Doctor could save the day, and that block-transfer computation could be used to generate physical structures and even people but could only be done by a living mind….
Methos shook his head to clear it.
Yesterday, his mind had been possessed by the Master, an evil Time Lord who was without a body. The Master was gone, exorcized completely, but many of his memories remained. Every so often, one of them would bubble to the surface. Methos tried not to think about it, as it seemed to help.
“Would you like some tea?”
The Doctor was calling from the other side of the room, where a small sitting area had been set up. There were two very comfortable-looking wing chairs, a throw rug, a large bookcase with a very odd assortment of books, and a mahogony trolly with a steaming silver tea service sitting on top.
Methos circled the console and crossed over to the sitting area. “One lump or two?” asked the Doctor, holding a steaming cup of darjeeling. Methos smiled. The Doctor dropped in a single block of sugar and handed it to the ancient Immortal, along with a silver teaspoon.
As he sat down in one of the wing chairs, stirring his tea reflectively, he thought about the Doctor. It struck him that this strange spaceship, a cross between H. G. Wells and Lewis Carroll — sort of a “Time Machine Through the Looking Glass” — seemed to match the unassuming Time Lord. Like the Doctor, it was an odd, anachronistic jumble of Edwardian England and the mysterious alien world of Gallifrey. And yet, it seemed to *work*. Methos grinned as he glanced at the Doctor’s odd attire. It had been a hundred years since Methos had dressed like that, and he doubted he could get away with it now. A dark brown velvet coat, a gray silk cravat, a waistcoat, and the long, ruffled hair so popular a century before.
And the Doctor, a 1,000 year old alien who frequently commented that the 20th Century was his favorite, nevertheless managed to look perfectly normal and at ease in a velvet frock coat. Similarily, the TARDIS could be dusty and even deeply worn, but there was still enough cognitive dissonance upon seeing it to know that the patina of age that lay on every control was purely for the look of the thing.
“You seem interested in the TARDIS,” said the Doctor.
Methos shrugged. “It’s a beautiful machine. I don’t understand half of it, but it is beautiful.” He stared at the console. The Time Rotor scraped its way together and apart in the center, hypnotically. It gave the curious impression that it was much farther away than it actually was. Perhaps it had to do with its strange power source, the Eye of Harmony. Methos knew nothing about the Eye of Harmony, except….
…except that it was a black hole captured by Rassilon, one of the first of the Time Lords, and placed beneath the Panopticon on Gallifrey to power all the TARDISes and all of Gallifrey itself, balanced out in a perfect mathematical equation which once sucked the Master into it only for him to escape in the body of Edward Chevalier, an Immortal who owned a nightclub in Bloomington, Minnesota….
Methos shook his head violently to clear the memory. The last thing he wanted to do was to think about the events of the past week.
“Are you all right, Methos?” asked the Doctor, concerned.
Methos smiled. “Terri was right.”
“You worry too much.”
The Doctor nodded. “I know. I can’t help it.” He was grinning, stirring his tea like nothing could ever be the matter. Methos shook his head, amused. –Get the Doctor to admit that he worries too much, and watch him become the picture of calm.
A soft, clear bell rang through the console room and the rotor slid gently to a halt. The Doctor’s face lit up. In a single motion, he rose from his chair and bounded up to the console. Methos followed. “Are we there yet?” he asked impishly.
The Doctor studied the settings on the console. “Seacouver, 1997 Anno Domini, half past three in the afternoon, exactly as ordered.” He looked up, grinning disarmingly. “Did you think I’d miss?”
The wind whistled through the Place of Light. The little boy sitting at its center had his eyes closed, seeing inward rather than outward. His name was Iktha.
Iktha had been chosen of all the Tolloc, chosen to receive the prophecy. Every autumn, there came a prophecy. And every autumn, the prophecy said only to wait. Time had been passing, passing the Tolloc by, while they stood motionless, unmoved by it, unchanged by it, the same as they had been the day they were born.
But this year might be different. The strangers who called themselves Finders were here, had been here for six years, living in their peculiar castle of shining surfaces and asking the Tolloc very silly questions. Iktha smiled as he opened his eyes, gazing up into the sky, waiting to receive the prophecy. It felt as though this year it might finally be Time. Time for Time to stop passing the Tolloc by.
And the vision began.
It began as it had always begun, with the shared memory of all the Tolloc, the memory of their beginning, the beginning of all things, the beginning of the inescapable Now that encircled their people.
It began with fire and light, a blazing glory falling from the heavens, falling screaming onto the Tolloc world. The fire fell from the sky and landed in the Place of Light, digging its way into the ground in many small pieces, each impact making the sound of a dozen thunderclaps. Giant seeds were borne down with the fire, and when silence had returned, the seeds germinated. They split open, bearing one Tolloc apiece into the world, all void of memory or knowledge. It was the beginning of time, and the end of their ignorance.
As the newborn Tolloc stood blinking beneath the sun, the Deliverer came. He gave himself for them, falling to the ground in a whirlwind of brilliantly shining power, expanding out like a blossoming flower that joined the Tolloc together. With wind and light, the knowledge came as well.
Iktha saw all of this. And then the vision changed. Iktha knew that it was Time.
The silent call went out, shrieking silently across the silver grasslands, as Iktha awaited the rest of the vision.
Far away, deep in the shining steel castle of the Finders, a Tolloc woman named Nala woke from her captive slumber. She had heard the call of the Tolloc, heard the call of Iktha. And she knew that it was finally Time. Time for Time to stop passing the Tolloc by.
Time to leave this place. Time to go home. Time to prepare for the end of Today and the beginning of Tomorrow. Time for her to unlock the lost centuries of hidden knowledge.
Time to tell her people the truth about the Finders.
Without a sound, Nala left her pallet in the laboratory. One of the hideous creatures who shared the room with her made a soft, squeaking noise. After a moment of thought, she picked the helpless invertebrate up, wrapped it in a shining thermal blanket, and left.
The alarm rang, echoing down the steel corridors of the Finder complex. Vorna and Savrek ran down one of them, following the dimishing sound of footsteps.
“Bet you’re not bored anymore, Savrek,” said Vorna, fumbling to load the tranquilizer gun as she ran.
“Maybe not,” said Savrek, “but chasing down runners isn’t exactly my idea of fun. Those Tolloc can run a lot faster than we can. What’d this one do?”
“Stole one of the augmented specimens.”
“Hell of a thing to steal. Any idea why she might have done it?”
Vorna didn’t answer. She was concentrating on running.
Ahead of them, Nala was doing the same.
Iktha’s mind opened beneath the unblinking heavens, grasping for the hidden knowledge that would come. He reached up through the upper levels of consciousness and into the forgotten part, the nameless void of lost memory, hidden knowledge, and instinct. For most Tolloc, it was forbidden to do this. But Iktha was permitted. It would take Nala to dispense the wisdom he would find, and she was still held in the Finder’s hospitality. But for now that was not important. She could wait. The visions could not.
Nala’s heart beat fast as she ran down the brushed steel corridors of the Finder’s castle, the dead bundle in her arms clutched close to her chest. She had spent the last two seasons here, in captivity, talking with the Finders and letting them poke and prod her as they searched for the answer to a question which she did not understand.
Apart from the prodding, their hospitality had been generous enough, and they had told her more then they had thought. Especially the strange man whom they all called Leader. Kallan was his name. Nala had a strange feeling whenever he came to visit, a strange feeling that he was important. But it was not time to waste energy thinking of him. Now it was time to go home, back to the Tolloc village, time to tell her elders what she knew. Time for her to do her job.
She paused a moment to catch her breath. As she stilled herself, she could hear two Finders running after her. She smiled. They were not as strong as a Tolloc and could not catch her by running. But they had weapons that fired tiny stingers, which could put a Tolloc to sleep for many hours. So Nala started running again. The Finders would not catch her; she was sure of that.
The bundle in her arms moved. Nala stopped again. Surely it was dead? The strange, spineless creature had seemed nearly dead when she had scooped it up in the lab and wrapped it in the shimmering thermal blanket. But it was nevertheless moving, so Nala smacked the bundle hard against the steel wall of the corridor and ran on. She had to bring the dead creature to the village. If nothing else, she could make moccasins from its tough hide.
The bundle moved again. This time, Nala did not notice.
The scream echoed down the corridor, reverberating past the two Finders sent to catch Nala. They stopped in their tracks while the echoes faded into silence.
“What do you suppose….” began Vorna, swinging her tranquilizer dartgun forward.
The scream came again, then suddenly was cut off.
“It’s the mutant,” said Savrek, his jaw set firmly. “Has to be.”
Vorna frowned. “Wonderful.”
They stood in silence for a few seconds. There was no further sound from the Tolloc woman they were pursuing.
“It definitely got her,” said Savrek.
There was an uncomfortable silence between them. “Well, let’s go clean up after it, then,” Vorna said finally. With that, they set off down the corridor.
“I hate to say it, Doctor, but I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” Methos frowned irritably as he gazed at the endless silver grasslands around the TARDIS. It was much colder than a Seacouver summer, and the air tasted of autumn.
The Doctor locked the door behind him, not looking up at their surroundings. “Nonsense, Methos, I’m sure….” And he trailed off as he saw the silvery wash of grass running all the way to the horizon.
Methos laughed hollowly at the alien prairie. “On second thoughts, it does look a bit like Kansas.”
The Doctor shook his head, completely missing Methos’ bitter humor. “No. I don’t know where we are, but I’m sure it isn’t Earth.” Frowning, the Time Lord bent down to examine a waving stalk of grass. “Interesting,” he said, plucking a seed for closer inspection.
Meanwhile, Methos was sputtering, astonished. “Not Earth? Then where the bloody hell are we?” The mild apprehension he’d felt about travelling with the Doctor was threatening to blossom into unadulterated panic. And Methos made a rule of never panicking.
The Doctor didn’t seem to notice. He stood, still examining the grass seed he’d picked. “Fascinating,” he said. “This seed is clearly meant to survive an extended winter. Notice the thick shell?”
“That’s very nice, Doctor,” said Methos, somewhat sharper than he’d intended.
The Doctor dropped the seed and sighed. He stared off at the horizon. “It seems that Quickening did more damage to the TARDIS than I’d thought. Most likely, her destination setting is still malfunctioning. I suppose I really ought to have tested it before we left Minnesota, but it’s too late to worry about that now.” He turned and looked the old Immortal in the eye. “I am truly sorry, Methos. I’ll do my best to repair the damage, and then we’ll be off.”
“Any idea how long it’ll take?” asked Methos.
The Doctor shrugged. “Thirty minutes. A day. Three weeks.” He smiled apologetically at Methos. “I don’t know. We may be spending some time on this planet, I’m afraid.”
“Wonderful,” said Methos. A sharper, colder breeze suddenly whipped through the air, slicing between the two of them. Methos shivered; he was wearing his summer coat, and it was hardly warm enough for this sort of weather. He glanced sidelong at the Doctor, wondering how it was the strange alien could wear a light velvet coat in this weather and not mind in the least.
The Doctor noticed Methos shivering. “Come inside. We’ll get you something warm to wear.”
Savrek got to the fallen Tolloc first. The mutant had wrapped a tentacle around her neck, strangling the air out of her, apparently letting go when it had seemed that she was dead. The Tolloc were survivors; it would take more to kill this woman than the mutant probably realized. It was still partly wrapped in a mylar blanket, clutched firmly in the woman’s right hand. But why did she take it with her? From what he’d seen, Savrek had gathered that the Tolloc were afraid of the mutants. Not that he blamed them.
Vorna caught up. She stopped at his side and bent down to examine the Tolloc woman more closely. “Subject 8, Nala, Librarian of the Tolloc.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” said Savrek. “I thought our current captive was a clerical type. They usually don’t run like the hunters do.”
“No,” said Vorna, frowning. “That’s what’s so odd. Until today, she was content to sit with us and answer our questions. What happened to change her mind?”
The mutant made a strange, gurgling noise. Both Finders knew that the homicidal little blob wasn’t long for the world. They couldn’t live for long without a life support system, and this one had used up all its energy throttling Nala.
“And why did she steal the mutant?” asked Savrek.
Vorna shrugged. “We’ll find out, I suppose.” Carefully, she unwrapped the mutant from Nala’s neck. It seemed too weak to struggle, but there was no point taking chances. “I’ll take the mutant, you take Nala.”
“And we’ll take them to Fixer Martin. Before we can question Nala, she’s going to need a doctor.”
The wind was picking up, making the Place of Light sing as air whistled through the shards of shining metal. Iktha inhaled sharply through his nose as he touched the shared knowledge of the Tolloc legends and remembered the beginning of things. So long ago…..
And then the prophesy started.
“Shadow walker in a dark coat, safe in a place out of time.
Old man with a young face, standing beside the other.
They have come to the world of the Tolloc.
They have come to the end of our time.”
Iktha inhaled, then exhaled slowly, his eyes now open but unseeing.
“Death comes to the Tolloc.
Death comes to the Finders.
The Time is upon us,
the Time of knowledge and wisdom
when the memories awaken and the Tolloc decide.”
Fire and light had ended the Empty Time, the time before the Tolloc had come to be. Fire and light had brought them here, and fire and light had given them knowledge. In the end, fire and light would close the Tolloc Time. Time would move again, they would remember themselves, and nothing would ever be the same.
The vision ended.
Iktha’s head slowly tipped forward until his chin rested on his chest. Exhausted, he slept.