Creatures at an Exposition
Author: Metaldog

Chapter 6
Seeking out the Rutans

-=Chapter Six=-

"So you know who those aliens are?"  I asked, as we walked rapidly through the crowds at the Pan-American Exposition.  "The Rutans?  Tell me about them."

"The Rutan Host.  They like the cold, and they like electricity.  Which explains why they like Buffalo, especially in 1901."  the Doctor strode on, never seeming to tire.

"The City of Lights," I said, looking around at the various buildings.  The sun shone brightly on the hundreds of light bulbs that decorated the buildings.  "We're going to have to come back at night, so we can see this all lit up.  But it isn't very cold out."

"No, you're right.  It's too hot for Rutans.  We'll definitely have to wait until nightfall before they come out, which means that right now they're hiding somewhere nice and cold.  We just have to find them."

"So, back to the subject at hand..."

"The Rutans?"

"No.  Food."  We were passing by a stand where a man was cooking up hamburgers.  A sign advertised them as "The Original Hamburg Sandwiches," and my mouth was watering.

The Doctor turned up his nose.  "I don't eat meat."

"So get a veggieburger.  C'mon, I'll break my Baden Gulden and buy lunch for us both."

He sighed.  "They haven't invented the veggieburger yet.  They haven't invented cheeseburgers yet, either, so don't get any ideas about new suggestions for the menu.  And you don't want to spend that coin."

"Aw, c'mon Doc!  I'm starving over here.  I haven't eaten since breakfast yesterday!"

"There's food on the TARDIS, you know."

"Your fridge contains exactly two packets of ketchup and one overripe banana with a greasy black peel.  And an empty milk bottle."

The Doctor looked shocked.  "I'm out of milk?  Oh, dear, that won't do at all."  He changed direction and began walking quickly in a new direction.

"Where are we going now?" I asked.

"To find a cow."

---

Somehow I ended up volunteering to carry the bucket of warm milk back to the TARDIS.  The Doctor carried a bushel of fresh vegetables.  I still wasn't sure how he managed to connive the handlers at the animal exhibit to let us have the milk for free, but I was pretty sure that he had simply stolen the vegetables while nobody was looking.  Still, it had been a learning experience, as I had never milked a cow before.  It was easier than I had expected, but my back ached, and the weight of the bucket wasn't helping much.  I soon fell behind the faster-walking Gallifreyan.

Then I heard it.  The sound of a razor on a guitar string.  The sound of the TARDIS.  I looked ahead and saw the Doctor break into a run, vegetables flying out of the bushel with every leaping bound.  Soon he had nothing more than an empty bushel, which he discarded.  In the distance I could see the TARDIS vanishing.  And then it was gone.

Gone.

It took a second to sink in.  Our only way out of this smelly century had just vanished into thin air.  My only way home.  I sat down, next to the milk bucket.  Gone.  I would never see my wife and daughter again.  I would never watch television again, or surf the internet, or eat Buffalo wings.  I would never again know the simple pleasure of driving down a highway with the radio blaring.  The TARDIS was gone.

The Doctor came and sat beside me.  He looked even more despondent than I felt.  "It's gone." he said, simply.  "Gone, gone, gone."

A song by Franz Ferdinand decided to pop into my head.  "You're never going home, like Ulysses, woo-oo-ooh..." I sang, absent-mindedly.

"Well, we might as well drink the milk."  He grabbed the bucket and lifted it to his lips.  Streams of milkfat poured down his cheeks as he greedily chugged the warm liquid.

"It's hot out.  I'm going to get some water, instead."  I staggered to my feet.

"Good luck with that," the Doctor said, "The water isn't as clean as you're used to, in the 21st Century."

"I don't care, so long as it's cold."

The Doctor put down the bucket and sat upright.  "Cold water!  Of course!"  He had a milk moustache that covered half of his face, and he wiped it away with his sleeve.  "Let's go catch some Rutans!"

I crawled to my feet, dusted myself off, and looked at him incredulously.  "They just stole the TARDIS, and you still want to go after them?"

He jumped to his feet.  "Now, more than ever!  Come on!"  He took off at a run, heading towards the canal that circled the Exposition grounds.  I groaned and ran after him.

---

"So how many alien species are there, anyways?" I asked, as we walked along the canal, peering into the water.

"Within a dozen light-years of Earth?"  He placed his finger on his pursed lips.  "At least a dozen... dozen."

"A dozen?"

"A dozen dozen.  A gross."

"A hundred and forty-four?"

"Yep, about that.  Give or take a dozen."

"A dozen dozen, give or take a dozen."

"Sounds like a lot, dozen it?"  He gave me a grin that looked so monstrously huge, I thought he was about to bite my head off.

"Don't do that," I said.

"What?"  He smiled even wider, if that was possible.

"Don't smile like that.  You give me the creeps."

---

"So... back to the Rutans."  I was starting to get tired.  We had walked nearly halfway around the Exposition, following the canal.  Boats went by, packed with festival-goers.  Children trailed their fingers in the water.  Lovers kissed.  Boatmen scowled at us for walking.  I wondered why we didn't take a boat.

"Rutans, Rutans, Rutans.  Nasty blobby things.  Green."

"Green?"

"And glowy!  Rather disturbing, actually.  Very hard to kill, too.  And extremely dangerous.  The last time I encountered one on Earth... everybody died."  He stopped in his tracks, a very sad look on his face.  But then just as suddenly he burst into a laugh, "But then Leela saved the day, didn't she?  Shot him full of holes with a cannon full of Jelly Babies!"  He reached in his pocket and withdrew a small paper bag filled with the candies.  He carefully selected one and smiled at me.  "Jelly Babies burn very hot.  Lots of calories."  He bit the Jelly Baby's head off, in a very crocodile-like manner.  I wondered if his race had evolved from lizards.  I wondered if he was even a mammal.

"Tell me about your race, Doctor."

He looked at me, steel in his eyes.  "What do you want to know?" he asked.  I could tell that he wasn't going to volunteer any information.

"Time Lords.  Seems like a funny name, to me.  Like a name that somebody made up.  What are you really called?"

"Gallifreyan.  But not all Gallifreyans are Time Lords.  Were, I mean.  Not all were Time Lords."  The sad look was back, only sadder and more profound.

"So where is your planet, Gallifrey?  Is it near Earth?  Is it one of the dozen dozen?"

"No.  It's... It's nowhere."

"Nowhere?"

"It used to be near the center of this galaxy.  Mutter's Spiral, that's what it's called.  Not the Milky Way.  Although I like Milky Way; it's a much better name.  My grandfather was on the naming committee, though, and he wanted to name it after his wife, my grandmother."

"Well that would have been funny.  If the Galaxy was named after your grandmother."  I started to chuckle.

"It was," he said, dead-pan serious.  "My grandmother's name was Mutter."

---

Somewhere along the western side of the Exposition grounds, behind the Indian Village, we found what we were looking for.  Electrical lines hung overhead from telegraph poles, crossing the canal.  The sun was starting to get low in the sky, and in its reddish glow we could clearly see a shiny object attached to the wires near the pole.

"Alright, c'mon, give me a boost," he said.  "Big guy like you, should be able to throw me halfway up there."

I took him up on the challenge.  With his right foot in my hand, I waited until I saw his left foot leave the ground.  Then I heaved with all of my might, hoping to send the Doctor skywards.  As I fell backwards into the mud, I heard a splash.

"Argh!  Blarg!"  The Doctor flailed and splashed in the middle of the canal.  "I can't swim!"

"What do you mean, you can't swim?  Hang on, I'm coming!"  I picked myself up and walked to the edge of the canal.  I transferred everything from my pants pockets to my coat pockets, then took off my coat.  Then I set about un-tying my boots.

"You know, I'm drowning out here." the Doctor said, indignantly.  He was somehow staying afloat, though, despite his claim to be unable to swim.

"Yeah, sure you are.  Can your feet touch bottom?"

He dipped a bit into the water, then bounced up with a smile.  "Yep!"

"Yeah, I thought so.  Hang on, I'll come help you out."

"Wait," he said.  "My feet just touched something other than bottom."  He suddenly looked very scared, "Matt!  Get out of here!  Go!"

One boot was still tied; the other was on my foot, but the laces hung loose.  I grabbed my coat with one hand and reached out to the Doctor with the other.  I could see something glowing green beneath the water.  "Come on, Doc!  Grab my hand!"

The Doctor lunged for my hand, and floundered in the water.  He started dog-paddling furtively, and quickly reached the side of the canal.  As he grasped my hand, he thanked me, and I started to haul him out of the water.  Then I noticed the green glow right beside him.  Something that looked like a flimsy tentacle rose above the water's surface, and touched the Doctor.  I felt an electric current pass through us as I lost consciousness.

---

I awoke in a chair.  It wasn't a very comfortable chair, and I was stuck to it.  It was like I had sat in a puddle of glue.  I was in a smallish room with green walls... no, wait, it was just green light.  I was in a smallish room facing a wall that was illuminated with a faint green light.

"You awake back there?"  I heard the Doctor's voice behind me.

"Yeah.  I've been glued to the chair."  I patted my coat pockets; everything seemed to be there.  My boot was still untied.  I had a splitting headache but seemed otherwise unhurt.  "You know, these aliens must not have a high opinion of me."

"Why do you say that?" the Doctor asked.

"They glued my pants to the chair.  Just my pants."

"Well, don't tell them that."

"Who?"

"The Rutans.  Above us."

I looked up.

 

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