Creatures at an Exposition
Author: Metaldog

Chapter 7
Burn Out

-=Chapter Seven=-

"What are they doing on the ceiling?"  I asked, terrified that one of the huge, glowing green globules would fall on us.

"Mating, I think.  I've never seen it done like this before, though."

There were five of the blobs hanging from the high ceiling in the otherwise dark room.  One was in the center, while the other four, smaller blobs were stationed in each of the corners.  Sparks of electricity flowed between them sporadically, but I soon discerned a rhythm.  As the rhythm quickened, though, the sparks grew larger, until large arcs of wild current were filling the air that separated them.  I was reminded of a Tesla coil, and once again wondered where that enigmatic inventor had wandered off to.

As I watched, the four smaller blobs grew larger, then each one split in two.  The new blobs positioned themselves into a new pattern, with each blob the same distance from each other.

"Very interesting," I said.  "Parthenogenesis?  Or does the one in the center contribute DNA?"

"Parthenogenesis.  That's a big word for a lorry driver."  He turned around completely in his chair, so I knew that he hadn't been glued down like I was.  Or was I?

"I looked it up recently." As I spoke, I felt the 'glue' that was holding me to my seat and discovered that it was dried mud, from when I fell by the canal.  "There was something that happened in a sci-fi show, and I was trying to understand how a clone of a person could be played by a different actor, so that I could, well, try to help explain it to the guys on my internet forum.  I forget the rest of the details, though."

The Doctor snorted.  "It was probably more like petri-dish parthenogenesis, if there is such a thing."

"Hey,"  I responded, defensively, "it's sci-fi!  Anything can happen so long as the technobabble sounds good!"  He started laughing, but he was trying to hold it in.

"Aw, c'mon, it sounded like a reasonable explanation to me."  I whined.  "So what if it wasn't really parthenogenesis!"

"It's..." he held his sides, "It's not that!  That actually happened to me once!  Well, not really, but..." he laughed even harder.

Well, then I started to laugh.  And the fact that I was laughing as well seemed to free the Doctor from whatever constraint he had placed upon himself.  We both roared in laughter, tears streaming from our faces, rolling on the floor.  We slapped each other on the back (and boy, did he ever slap hard!) and gave each other one of those 'half-hugs' that men give other men.  I noticed that we had rolled close to the door, and that it was ajar.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" the voice suddenly rang out from above.  It was that same, strange, bubbly voice that I had heard from the Obama look-alike back in my own time.

"We're laughing!" the Doctor replied, still laughing.  I was done laughing, though.  I took one crawling step towards the door.

"WHAT IS LAUGHING?" asked the alien.

"Oh, you wouldn't understand," he said, wiping the tears from his face.

"'We laugh because it hurts'," I said.  The Doctor looked at me, quizzically.  "Heinlein.  Stranger in a Strange Land."  I explained.  He nodded, knowingly.  It kind of made sense that he would have read something like that.  I moved slightly closer to the door.

"YOU ARE CORRECT.  I DO NOT UNDERSTAND LAUGHING."

"Well, here's something I don't understand," the Doctor said, popping to his feet.  "Why are Rutans trying to take over the States, of all places?"

"WHAT DO YOU KNOW OF US, HUMAN?"

"Oh, I know a lot about Rutans," he said, as he gestured towards the door.  I quietly slipped through it.  Through the doorway, I could hear him continue, "In fact, right now, one of my other selves is killing a Rutan, on the other side of this world.  It wasn't easy, if I recall correctly."

"YOU SPEAK IN RIDDLES, HUMAN."

"Oh, please stop calling me that.  It's considered one of the worst insults amongst my people."
I moved further into the house we had found ourselves in, and the Doctor's voice became less audible.  It was pitch black, except for the faint green glow emanating from the closet behind me, and I kicked a chair leg.  Then I kicked a table at the same time I bumped into its corner with my crotch.  I choked back the temporary pain as I made some assumptions: I was in the Dining Room of whatever house we were in.  We were probably very near the Exposition, so if I could find a window, I could probably let in some light.

"TIME LORD?!?!?!??!?" I heard the Rutan yell, apparently surprised.  I walked towards where I believed an outer wall to be, waving my hands in front of me.  Within moments, my hands touched curtains.  I drew them back and took in the spectacle of the Exposition grounds lit up for the night.  It was breathtaking.

"TIME LORD!?!?!??!?!" The Rutan cried again, snapping me back to reality.  I had to open the window.  My hands moved all around the window frame, but I couldn't find a latch.  How the heck did they open windows in 1901?  Well, I knew one way.  I picked up the chair I had kicked earlier, and flung it at the window.  The chair shattered, but the thick glass didn't even crack.  Suddenly, the door to the closet flung wide open, and the Doctor ran past me.

"Come ON!" he yelled to me.  "Allonz Y!  Vamanos!  Git along little doggie!"  He kept yelling, as he bounded towards the stairs, and up them.  A green glow filled the room, accompanied by the sound of electrical sparks.  I ran after him.

I wondered, at this time, just why it is that when people in horror movies are confronted with a monster, they run someplace from which they can not escape?  I remembered so many movies I had watched when I wanted to yell at the characters, "Why are you running upstairs?"  But I didn't yell that at the Doctor.  I just followed him.

---

We kept running up stairs until we had reached the third level of the house.  The Doctor collapsed, out of breath.  I tried to keep my feet as I listened to my heart pound.

"Why..." I started to ask, "Why are we..." but I was too winded to finish my sentence.

"Why are we upstairs?" he asked.  "It's hot up here."

It took me a moment to realize that those were not two incongruous sentences.  The heat from the day had warmed the upper floors of the house quite well, and it would be a while before it dissipated.  "But," I took a deep breath, "what happens later?  When it cools down up here?"

The Doctor looked at me and smiled.  "Then we really start having fun!"

---

The battery on my cell-phone was dead again.  Not that it mattered; I doubted that I could get a signal in 1901.  The Doctor was off in a bedroom, breaking stuff, while I stood guard at the top of the stairs.  I could hear the Rutans down below us, slithering about and crackling with electricity, but so far they hadn't attempted to climb the stairs.

"Here, hold this."  The Doctor returned to the landing, offering me a chair leg with a piece of bedspread wrapped tightly around it.  He held another one in his other hand.

"What do I do with this?" I asked.

"Light it.  You still have your lighter, I presume?  I noticed that you haven't had a cigarette in a while.  Good for you."  He beamed.

"Well, Doctor, I threw all of my cigarettes on that fire in the freezer, remember?"  I lit the makeshift torches, and we stood side-by-side at the top of the stairs.

"Ah, yes, sorry about that.  But it's for the best, you know."

"Yeah, I know, I know.  I was actually planning on quitting in a couple of weeks."

"In a couple of weeks?"

"Yeah, on my Fortieth birthday."  I smiled, self-consciously.  "Starting to get old."

"Naaaah, Forty isn't old!"  He gave me a playful punch on the shoulder.  It hurt, but I didn't show it.

"Old enough to finally quit smoking.  I thought it would be easy.  Of course, I didn't expect to get run into a bunch of electric boogers from outer space."

"Yes, well, about that," he burnished his torch like a weapon, "it's time we wiped them off the face of the Earth.  Get it?  Wiped?"  He smiled again, and wiggled his faint eyebrows.

"Yeah, we'll show 'em they can't pick on us!"  I smiled back, with fake enthusiasm.

The smile vanished from the Doctor's face.  "I don't get it."

"Pick?  Boogers?"

"Nope.  Nada.  Zilch."  He looked at me, blankly, then turned away to face the stairs.

"Never mind.  So what's the plan?  Burn the house down with the Rutans inside?"

He turned, smiled, and pointed at me.  "Had you going!  Pick!  That's hilarious!"  He doubled over with fake laughter, then suddenly stood upright.  "That's a terrible idea.  Burn the house down?  Are you crazy?"

"Well, they call me Mad Matt."

"I thought they called you Metal"

"They call me a lot of things."

He pointed at me.  "You..." he paused, "You go first.  Just wave your torch around and don't get electrocuted."

I looked down the stairs, my heart in my throat.  I could feel it thumping with fear and adrenaline.  "Me?  First?"  I croaked, my mouth suddenly dry.

"Just kidding.  I'll go first."  He bounded down the stairs, whooping, "RuuuuuTANS!  Come out and play!"

I tightened my grip on the sputtering torch, and followed him... slowly.

---

The Doctor was waiting for me at the second floor landing.  There was no sign of the Rutans, yet.  By the light of my torch, I could see something on the floor of a room, the door to which had been left ajar.  It looked black and shiny, with strangely shaped lumps.

"Look, Doctor, in there!"  I whispered, and gestured towards the room.

He stepped to the door of the room.  "Oh, dear.  Oh dear oh dear oh dear."

"What is it?"

"The former occupant of the house, I'd wager.  Or what's left of him.  They took him apart."

"Ew."  I grunted, with disgust.  "Why?"

"Rutan metamorphological technique requires a detailed analysis of the race they intend to impersonate.  Once they figure out the basics, it's an easy matter to change faces and voices to impersonate individuals.  But they're probably using this poor fellow's face to blend in with the crowd."

"Very observant, Doctor."  the voice came from behind me.  I spun around, and there at the top of the stairs stood the fake Theodore Roosevelt.  "Yes, we know who you are.  Our scout sent us a detailed report, before we felt it die.  We have felt the deaths of many Rutan today."

I held my torch in front of me, and stepped back away from it.  It turned towards me.

"And who are you?"  the Rutan asked, stepping closer.

"Me?  I'm just a delivery man.  Got a package for ya."  I remembered a move from fencing class, twenty years forgotten.  My feet moved quickly beneath me, and I leapt through the air towards him, my torch held out before me like my old epee.  The flaming end struck him in the chest, which instantly melted away to reveal glowing, green flesh.  It screamed in pain, and fell backwards down the stairs.  I teetered on the edge, and would have followed it if the Doctor hadn't grabbed my coat.

"Touche'!" he exclaimed, as I watched my torch fall down the stairs.  The Rutans scattered from the flame.  I couldn't tell which one had been impersonating Roosevelt any more; they all looked alike.  The torch landed under a window, beneath the edge of the long drapes.  It only took a few seconds before they were ablaze.

"Oops," I said.

---

We ran down the stairs as fast as we could, gravity helping more than a little as we stumbled over each others' feet.  I reached the front door first, and threw it open.  A man was standing there.  He reached out towards me, his eyes and mouth glowing green.  Suddenly, a torch flew past my head, singeing my beard, and struck the Rutan in the face.  We scampered out the door and ran down the street.  I looked back to see the house start to fill with flame.

"Doctor!  What do we do now?"

"Keep... on... running!"  He was way ahead of me now, and I forced myself to run faster.

"Where?" I asked, as soon as I started to close the gap.

"I don't know!"  He changed direction suddenly, and I slipped on the wet cobblestones, twisting my ankle.  The fire was starting to draw onlookers, and I could hear a bell ringing in the distance.  The Fire Brigade was on its way.

"Doctor!  Come back!"  I sat in the street, holding my ankle.

"Oh, do you need a doctor?"  A young woman scurried to my side.  She was astonishingly pretty, and was dressed in a very formal outfit.

"Leave him be, Mary," a man in a tuxedo chided her.  "He's clearly a vagabond, judging by his attire."

"Oy!  That's my friend!"  The Doctor said, as he appeared behind the man.

"Another one!  Perhaps they had something to do with this fire?"  The man confronted the Doctor.  "Well, answer me, or you'll answer to the police!"

"Oh, Roswell!  Leave them alone!" the young lady entreated.  "They haven't done anything!"

"Oh, I think we'll be lettin' the Judge be the judge o' tha'." someone with a thick, Irish accent said.  I turned to see a man in an old-fashioned police uniform walking towards us, spinning a billy club idly in his hands.  He looked like one of those Keystone cops that used to chase Buster Keaton around in those old movies.  I almost burst out laughing at the walking stereotype.

"Constable!  You must listen to me!"  The Doctor stepped between the officer and me.  "Everybody in this city is in danger.  There are dangerous aliens afoot.  Well, not afoot, a-tendril, but... but you don't believe me, do you?"

"Dangerrrrous aliens, ye say?" The officer stepped closer to the Doctor, menacingly. "Aye, that there be. An' I'll be arrestin' both o' ye dangerrrrous aliens, forthwith. Now if ye'd be so kind as ta come with me quietly, I shan't be needin' ta knock yer brains in, shall I?"

The Doctor turned to run, but the officer moved more quickly than I thought he could, and brought his club down on the back of the Doctor's head.  Not satisfied with the results, he bashed the Doctor two more times, until the Doctor lay down, unconscious.  Then the police officer turned towards me, smacking his billy club into the palm of his hand.  I raised my hands in surrender.

"Smart man," he said.  Then he hit me on the head anyways.  I saw stars.

---

When I regained my senses, we were sitting on a small bench in a tiny room, with a primitive-looking pair of handcuffs joining our wrists.  The Doctor was still unconscious, but he was muttering under his breath.  I figured that might have been what roused me.

"It's simple, Brigadier, I'll just reverse the polarity.... hmmmm..."

"Doctor!  Wake up!"

"Neutron Flow!  What?"  He suddenly sat upright.

"You okay?"

"Yes, fine.  You?"  He seemed chipper.

"You seem chipper."

"Well, a good nap does wonders for the mind and body.  Now then, where were we?"  he attempted to stand up, but then realized that our handcuffs were bolted to the bench.  "Oh, yes. Oh!"  he started to giggle.  "Do you know where we are?"

I looked around.  The room was about four feet by four feet, and approximately square.  A small amount of light entered the box from a line of windows above our heads.

"We're in a Police Box!" he exploded.  "Oh, this is priceless!  A Police Box!"  He slapped his knee in joy.

"Wait... they had Police Boxes in Buffalo?  I didn't know that."

The officer banged on the wall from the outside. "Ye'll be shuttin up in thar. Just waitin' fer the wagon to come for ye. An' I'll have ye know that the fire is out, an' the judge'll be wantin' to talk to ye aboot the dead body we found up on the second floor. Bloody animals. What kind o' person kin do tha' to anoth' human bein'?"

"It wasn't a human who killed that man," the Doctor spoke, seriously. "It was an alien from another world. And if you don't let us out of here, everybody on this planet will surely die."

"Aye, tell it to the judge. Not tha' he'd believe ye." I heard the officer walk away from the box.

"Well, there goes Plan A.  What's Plan B?" I said.

"There is no Plan B.  Let's skip straight to C, shall we?"

"Well then what's Plan C?"

The Doctor pulled his sonic screwdriver from his pocket, and smiled that toothy smile.

 

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