Chapter Six

 

Mingo opened his eyes.  He closed them quickly and counted to ten before opening them again.  It made no difference.  He was still in some sort of a cell.  For a moment he had thought it was the cave of the Whispering Winds, but that natural prison looked out onto the Kentucky countryside.  This one looked onto bare rock.  As he slowly climbed to his feet, the Cherokee warrior sought to recall the last thing he had seen.  It only took a moment to remember that it had been River Song.  The blonde woman had aided him in overcoming the rabble that had tracked him from the settlement, and then left his side to go and speak to the group’s leader, Jacob Blunt.  Mingo recalled the mountain man reaching out to take the mysterious woman by the wrist and then….  There had been an odd tingling that had risen through his feet and coursed through his body, almost like the aftermath of snake bite.  Then a flash of light –

And then, nothing.

His body felt stiff, so he moved slowly toward the bars.  They were made of metal and had been forged by a master smith as there were no seams and no solder had been employed to fix the crossbars in place.  Taking hold of one, he was surprised to find that the metal was not cool but warm, and touching it made his fingers tingle as his whole body had before.  Mingo released it with a frown and leaned forward, peering through the bars at the long natural corridor beyond.  It was ill-lit, but he thought he could see other cells not too far away.  As he hesitated, wondering whether or not to call out, he heard a hiss.  A second later a woman’s voice called out, “Oi!  Is someone there?  Can you hear me?”  Turning toward the sound, Mingo saw a pale hand waving like a flag caught in a wild wind some ten feet down the corridor.   “Hey, you there!” she tried again.  “Are you deaf?  If you aren’t, you’ve got to hear me.  Please hear me!  And please, please don’t be deaf.”

“I can hear you,” he replied quietly.  “Is it safe to talk?”

“Unless you’re planning on spilling the security protocols for the Queen’s state visit to Kentucky, which won’t be happening for about 200 years anyway, if it ever happens – yeah, I think it’s safe.”

He couldn’t be certain about the accent from so few words, but Mingo thought he recognized it. “You’re British, aren’t you?” he asked.

“Why?  You got a problem with British people?”

“No, I just –”

“Good.  Considering where we are, we don’t need any of that ‘down with the British and yahoo! for America stuff’.  Save it for football.  Yeah, I’m British, but I’m not English.  I’m Scottish.  Though I live in England at the moment.  Well, I did before I met….”  There was a pause where she apparently thought better of what she had been about to say.  “How about you?  Scottish?  English?  American?”

 “All of the above.”

“Oh.  Well, good for you then….”  The young woman finally fell silent.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Amy.  You?”

“Mingo.”

Another pause.  “Mingo?  Wasn’t that the name of the sidekick on that American telly program back in the sixties?”

The Cherokee warrior suddenly felt like Gulliver in Swift’s travels.  He had fallen into a strange land whose customs and words made no sense.  “I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Oh.  Sorry.  Think that was the Lone Ranger anyhow.  What kind of a name is Mingo?”

“What kind of a name is Amy?  It is the one given to me by my mother.”

“Me too.  My Aunt Sharon said my dad didn’t have much to say about it.”

Why did that not surprise him?  Mingo cleared his throat.  “As pleased as I am to make your acquaintance, Amy, I think we both might benefit from concentrating on our current predicament and applying our time and talents to discovering a method of extricating ourselves from it instead of engaging in idle chatter.”

After yet another pause, she asked, “Did you just tell me to shut up?”

“I….”

“Yeah.  You did.  But you know what?  You were real polite about it, so I’ll let it go.  Now, about getting out.  Any ideas?”

I have one,” a confident voice announced.

Mingo squinted in an attempt to penetrate the near Stygian darkness of the corridor, but saw nothing. 

Apparently Amy didn’t need to.  “River!  Boy, am I glad to see you.  Well, not really ‘see’ you since I can’t…really…see you.  Where are you exactly?”

“Here,” the blonde woman who had trailed him earlier said as she suddenly appeared.  It was almost as if River had stepped through the cavern wall.  She was dressed the way Mingo remembered, in breeches with boots, and her now stained and tattered yellow waistcoat and blouse.  The curious weapon he had seen hanging from her belt was in her hand.  She turned toward him and smiled.  “Do you consider yourself a progressive thinker, Mingo?” she asked.  “Perhaps even a visionary?”

“I’m not certain what you are asking, Madame Song.”

“Call me ‘River’.”  The blonde glanced both ways, as if ascertaining that she had neither been followed nor discovered.  “Let’s put it this way – you can handle a woman wearing pants, but can you handle…this?”  River raised the odd weapon and pointed it straight at him.  Her smile widened as he took a step back, and then she laughed as she shifted it slightly to the left and depressed the trigger.  Instead of a lead ball, a needle thin beam of light shot out of the end of the gun.  Like a heated knife, she used it to slice through the metal bars as if they were butter.  As the severed bars struck the ground with a hearty clank, River blew on the end of the pistol, locked it on the belt, and said, “No time for questions now.  Amy, you’re next.  Mingo, keep watch for our hosts.  Mingo?”

He swallowed hard, fighting the native within him as it rose up shrieking with fear.  The Englishman was there to curtail it; the one trained in science and botany and electricity and weaponry at Oxford.  Kerr Murray assured him that there had to be a more rational explanation for what he had just seen than the one the Cherokee was insisting on – that this woman was some kind of a witch. 

“Oh, but I am,” River laughed as if she had read his mind even as the beam of light shot out again to free Amy.  “Just ask the Doctor when we find him.”

The Scottish woman appeared from out of the darkness.  She was long and lean and fiery-haired as Rebecca.  “Do you know where he is?” Amy asked.

“Our hosts let a few things slip while they were interrogating me,” the blonde woman answered.  “I know the area to search for the Tardis.  And you know that if we -”

“Find the blue box, we’ll find the madman who flies it,” the redhead finished with a grin.

“Oh dear,” River said, turning to look at Mingo, “I am afraid we have confused our guest.”

Amy’s hands went to her hips as she really looked at him for the first time.  “Well, what’s good enough for the goose….  Hey, Mister I-talk-like-I-belong-in-the-House-of-Lords, how come you look like an Indian?”

He shrugged.  “Because I am an Indian.”

“Oh.  Well.  That….clears that up.”

“Quiet, you two!  We’re not safe yet.”  River shifted into the shadows and pointed along the corridor.  “This is the way they brought me in.  I think I can remember the route to the surface.”

“How did you get away?” Amy asked.  “That mountain of green goo said you were being held….”

“Yes.  In the main chamber.  They had you there earlier.  Do you remember?”  At Amy’s negative shake, River made a clucking nose.  “Oh well.  When they were taking me back to my cell, I overpowered the guard and here I am.  I don’t think they consider us too important.  We’re just here to draw the Doctor.”  They had reached a corner.  River shushed them and ordered them to flatten themselves against the wall.  They waited as a pulsing green glow approached, came abreast them, and then slowly faded down another branch of the tunnel.  “Okay.  Now.  Let’s move.”

“River.”  Amy caught the other woman’s arm.  “What did they do to the Doctor?  I mean, I only saw a little.  What do they want?  And who are ‘they’?”

“Not now.  Wait until we get to the surface.” 

They had arrived at the entrance to the cavern.  River hesitated just within the opening.  She turned and looked at him.  “I don’t see any guards.  Do you?”

Mingo was doing his best to keep up – mentally that was.  This talk of the ‘Doctor’ meant nothing to him.  Obviously it was someone they both cared about, and someone whom the two women had lost.  There was definitely more to River Song that she was saying and he had to wonder, now even more than before, what it was she wanted with him.  

He leapt to the other side of the cave opening and looked.  “No.  No one.  I find that odd.”

“Busy below,” River snapped.  “Or maybe just showing a little hubris.  Nothing ticks the gods off more than prideful mortals.  So maybe they’re letting us escape.”  She flashed him a smile and then added with a wink, “Last one to the blue box gets no supper!”

Mingo watched as the blonde sprinted into the open and headed for a stand of trees about one hundred feet off.  Amy flashed a grin as if immensely enjoying herself, and then followed.  The Cherokee warrior hesitated, uncertain of the wisdom of following either of them.  “Supper I can do without,” he muttered under his breath, “what I need is sanity.”

A moment later Mingo ran after the two women – doubtful he would find such a thing in their company.

 

***

 

In the trees beside of the cave opening, a lone figure stood keeping watch.  He noted with interest the departure of the two women.  The one impersonating River Song he was familiar with.  He recognized the Rutan clone as one of his own.  The man withdrew into the shadows as she passed, fearful that his red coat would draw her attention to his presence.  Major Aubrey Blundell waited until the Scottish woman had passed as well, and waited still as the man his original knew as both Kerr Murray and Caramingo followed in her wake.   Then Blundell stepped out into the waning light.  Glancing up, he noted more than half of the day was gone; the bloated sun was just beginning its descent toward the western horizon and it would soon be dark.  The cloned British soldier shifted uneasily.  He was expected at Field marshal Stonn’s camp by nightfall.  The Sontaran had called a war council, and with Stonn there were no excuses.  The Sontaran was – to say the least – not a happy…alien.  In his arrogance Stonn had expected to retake the wounded Time Lord with a minimum of effort and in very little time.  Blundell adjusted the heavy coat on his shoulders and then tugged it sharply, putting all to rights.  One would have thought Stonn would have learned by now.  He had encountered the Doctor twice before, and anyone who had encountered the Doctor knew the Time Lord had a knack for escaping inescapable traps and impossible situations.  It was sheer pride and arrogance that had landed the Sontaran soldier in the predicament he was in.  He had listened in on Stonn’s last transmission to the Sontaran War Wheel hovering in the skies above their heads – invisible – just within the Earth’s atmosphere.  His superiors had been less ‘happy’ then he.  How was it they had put it during this planet’s 21st century?  Three strikes and the Sontaran warrior was out.  A sly smile twisted the clone’s lip.  Since Stonn had spoken to his commander, the stout alien had been rather preoccupied.

Which could only help Blundell achieve his own goal.

Pausing just outside the darkened cave mouth that bit into the green hillside, Blundell waited.  It would take a moment for the Rutans’ sensors to detect, scan, and identify him.  He counted to thirty as they did and then announced to the hidden speakers, “Major Aubrey Blundell, here to see the Rutan Ranee.”  He waited again, impatiently this time.  Streaks of crimson, ochre, and a deep umber crept across the Kentucky bluegrass toward his booted feet.  The day was fading quickly.  If he didn’t return soon, Stonn would grow suspicious.  Well, more suspicious than he already was.  Blundell shifted his feet, as if seeking some sort of balance on the precarious path he had chosen.  He hadn’t meant to draw attention to himself at the Boone cabin.  His choice to give the Doctor a second chance to escape could have cost him his newly created life.  Quicker than the beat of his replicated human heart, Stonn could have killed him and replaced him.  Fortunately, the experience he had gained in his short time ‘alive’ was valuable to the Sontaran soldier and so, his indiscretion had been overlooked.  Or better, tolerated.  Still, the clock, so to speak, was ticking.  If the Doctor was found and his conditioning completed, Stonn would have little use for anyone or anything he considered…incompetent.

A prickling sensation all over his nearly six foot form – something like a thousand cat’s whiskers brushing the skin – told him he had been cleared.  As the force field shut off, Blundell strode into the cave following the path that would take him straight to the Rutan Sovereign’s chamber.  He knew the way.  He’d been here twice before.  Once for initial contact and instructions, and the second time to report on his progress – just as he was doing now.  Trouble was, he had made little progress.  Still, the Doctor had been in the Boone’s cabin, he was sure of it.  Now he was afoot in the forest.  Injured as the Time Lord was, it was only a matter of time before he was recaptured.  And then….

And then?

Well, a lot depended on the interview he was about to have, didn’t it?

As he entered the chamber, Blundell moved toward the great crevice that split the cave wall.  Even as he did, the hellish green light that filled it spilled over and onto the cave floor, followed by a sickening sucking sound and a heavy plop!  Three times now he had seen the Rutan Ranee in all her ghoulish glory.     

She still made his stomach sick.

Knowing the drill, the clone of Aubrey Blundell dropped to one knee and inclined his head.  “Majesty.”

Its voice was quivering and pitched high for a Rutan – whose normal voice most resembled fingernails on slate.  “Rise, worm.  We are pleased you have come.  We hope it is with good news?”

It was interesting that, though the Rutan Ranee was comparable to Earth’s queen bee so far as its duty and service to the continuation of its species, it still used multiple pronouns.  Without her, there would be no Rutans.  You’d think that would be enough to earn it the right to use a personal pronoun.

“The Doctor was nearly retaken by the Sontarans,” he said, choosing to be blunt.  As the gelatinous creature hissed its displeasure, he continued, “I aided in his escape.  I do not know where the Time Lord is now, but he is free and somewhere close by in the woods.  It shouldn’t be too hard to find him since we have the approximate location of his ship.  You did say in your message that you have pinned down where it is?”

The creature either didn’t like challenges, or didn’t like his question.  “The time renegade has set his ship’s controls out of phase, keeping it one second ahead of this time stream.  We know where it is, but we do not know when it is.  That is why we released the women.”

Blundell was skeptical.  “You believe the original River Song will lead your duplicates to the time ship?”

“Yessssss,” it hissed.  “We will take the blue box, and it will lead us to the Time Lord.”

“And that action will alert the Sontarans to the fact that you too are hunting him.  Is that wise?”

The emerald green blob shivered.  Yep.  Definitely did not like to be challenged.  “How will they know?  All they will see is two women seeking their friend.”

“What about the natives you have under your influence?”  Unwilling to create too many duplicates for fear of exhausting their power, the Rutan Host had used a sort of mind control technology – stolen again from their enemies – to take over a radical group of Cherokee warriors.  The Rutan Ranee had set them on the Doctor’s trail.  It seemed they were the ones who had located the phase-shifting Tardis and now kept guard in the area. 

“To the Sontarans and their men, they are nothing more than simple natives going about their pathetic lives.”  The Ranee paused to draw in a rattling breath that set its great green bulk to quivering.  “Unless someone has told them otherwise?”

“Who?  Me?”  Blundell shrugged.  “You have promised to let me keep this body and take the human’s place in return for helping you capture and condition the Doctor to destroy the Sontaran fleet.  All Stonn offers is slavery and death.  Why would I betray you?”

The Rutan Ranee waited a beat.  “Why indeed?”

It had been a bold and audacious plan, driven by Stonn’s need to claim victory over this particular Time Lord.  Sontaran intelligence had been informed that the Rutan Host had returned to the Earth in an early time period – before electricity – having chosen the Doctor’s favorite world to be the incubator of the current Rutan Ranee and her last brood of children.  Every five thousand years or so, the ‘queen bee’ of the Rutans died after giving birth to the host member that would eventually replace her.  The Rutans defeat at the Doctor’s hands had compelled them to choose Earth.  They were determined to pay the Time Lord back for the death of their scout and the Doctor’s earlier interference with their plans at Fang Rock.  The death and rebirth of the Rutan Ranee would devastate the land and, in time, her children – hidden underground everywhere – would suck the life out of the Doctor’s precious world.

Stonn had learned of this.  Blundell wasn’t sure how, but the Field marshal – like most military leaders – had his sources.  Realizing that the Rutan Host would be vulnerable during the changeover, and craving revenge on the Doctor, Stonn had devised a plot to lure the Time Lord in, take him, and program his incredible mind so that the Doctor would be the instrument of their enemies’ destruction.  Stonn knew how averse to violence and killing the Time Lord was.  He was counting on that, in fact.  Stonn would use him and then show the Doctor what he had done – how he was responsible for the death of millions.  And then he would destroy him.  It was an ambitious plan.  Doomed to failure Blundell had thought when he first learned of it.  In the 900 plus years the renegade Time Lord had been running it seemed no one had been able to hold onto him, let alone manage control his mind.  But Stonn had done it.

Which had put the proverbial wrench in his plans.

Before transporting to eighteenth century Kentucky, Stonn had sent out scouts to kidnap and hold some of the humans local to the area where the Rutan Host had settled.  Daniel Boone’s Boonesborough had been the closest concentration of human beings.  About a dozen were captured and taken to the War Wheel, where they had been cloned prior to the inception of the plan.  His original, Major Aubrey Blundell, had been one of those clones.  Thanks to the Sontaran’s advanced technology, and what knowledge they had stolen from their enemies, he was a near perfect copy of his original.  He had Blundell’s memories and could, at times, feel the British soldier’s human consciousness warring with his own purposes. 

That fact, of course, he kept to himself.

“You are silent, Blundell.  We wonder what you are thinking.”

The duplicate started, unaware that so much time had passed.  “I was thinking about the next step,” he lied easily.  “I need to get moving so I don’t rouse suspicion by returning late to camp.  If I go now, I can check in with the Cherokee on my way.  Have you heard anything from them?”

“They are hidden in the trees, waiting for the time ship to materialize.”

“Waiting for the Doctor, you mean,” he replied.

If a mass of green goo could chuckle, the Rutan Ranee did.  “Waiting for it to begin.”

There was something else.  Something else the fat green blob was planning; something that the Rutan had not told him about.  Knowing he was a part of whatever it was left him uneasy, as he knew it would bring humans harm.  But then, the clone reminded himself, why should he care?  They were no part of him.  And besides, whatever it was probably took place in the far distant future.  He wouldn’t see it.  In this body, he would live out a normal life span here in this time and then die.  Oh, it might be a little longer than normal – but for the most part, his life as a human would prove unremarkable.  He, and all he knew, would be dead and buried long before whatever maleficent plans the Rutan Ranee had concocted came to fruition.

“Waiting,” he repeated.  “That seems to be all any of us are doing.”  Reaching up – though he thought the gesture rather absurd and knew it was lost on the Rutan – the clone of Major Aubrey Blundell tipped his cockaded hat.  “Pleasure to do business with you.”

“The pleasure is ours.  The promise is yours.”  The mass rumbled.  “If you wish to see it fulfilled, do not fail.”  

Blundell bowed and then backed away.  When he had gone about ten paces, he turned and walked deliberately toward the door.  In spite of what he had said to the green glob – in spite of what he had said to himself – it was too soon to be certain what final choice he would make.  He had planted three seeds.  He would just have to wait and see which bore the finest fruit.  After all, his original had a tendency to fly by the seat of his pants. 

The cloned redcoat imagined he would too. 

 

***

 

Mingo glanced surreptitiously from one woman to the other as he pretended to sleep. 

The three of them had stopped for a light supper and were sitting, catching their breath, before they started out again.  River had taken charge – as it seemed from the younger woman’s comments she often did – and had led them to this sheltered place somewhere not too far away from the Boone’s cabin.  As the sun was not down completely, they had dared a small fire and roasted a rabbit over it.  Under other circumstances it would have been a lovely evening.  Both women were attractive and intelligent, if perhaps a bit choleric.  Their interaction was rather amusing to watch.  It was obvious that they both cared for the missing ‘Doctor’, though there were undercurrents to River Song’s words that suggested her attachment – and perhaps attraction to the man was the stronger of the two.  Their words continued to mystify him, and that was why he had pretended to nod off.  Sitting as he was, with his head resting against a tree, he could watch and listen without them being aware.  In this way Mingo hoped to figure out just what was going on, and what – if anything – he was going to do about it.

“You are not being clear, Amy,” River snapped.  “I need to understand what happened.  If we are going to find the Doctor, every bit of information is vital.  Start at the beginning and tell me again.”

Mingo heard Amy sigh.  “I’m too tired.”

“If the Rutans find the Doctor first you will be more than tired – you’ll be dead.  Do you think they will need us after they find him?”  River’s tone softened from that of a mother dressing down a child, to one concerned for its welfare.  “Amy, I know you are exhausted.  So am I.  But the knowledge locked in your mind may well be our only hope.”

“I tossed away the key,” the Scottish woman pouted.

“I understand that you don’t want to remember.  But you have to.  Down to the last detail.  Amy?”

“I suppose you won’t shut up and let me sleep until I do.”

There was a pause.  “That would be a categorical ‘yes’.”

Amy let out a long sigh.  “You know, it’s funny.”

“What is?”

“Traveling with the Doctor.”

“I’m not sure that’s the word I would have put to it,” River commented dryly.

“But it is.  There’s all this danger and excitement and running around and stuff, with Sontarans and Daleks and all the wee beasties that go bump in the night, but somehow, you feel…well, safe…when you’re with him.  You know what I mean?  Like nothing can touch you.”  She hesitated.  “Like nothing can touch…him.”

“But it did.”

“Yeah.  Because of me.”

The other woman seemed startled by this admission.  “That’s not what you said before.”

“I lied.  No, I didn’t.  I just….  Well, I left a couple of things out.  Sort of embarrassed about it, you know?”

“Tell me.  All of it.”

“Okay.  Sure.  Here goes….”  Mingo listened as the tall redhead shifted, as if entrenching before the fray.  “We – that’s the Doctor, Rory and me, were on our way to some place...”

What place?”

“I don’t know!  You know him, he set the coordinates!  Rattled off something about some ninth ring of a second moon on the far side of New New Alpha Centauri, but I wasn’t paying attention.”

“Why were you going there?”

“Fun.  Just a lark.  I said I felt like dancing and before I knew it we were on our way.  Apparently the ninth ring of the second moon of whatever the place was called has been turned into some sort of galactic dance floor?”

“That would be JOE’S.”

“JOE’S?” Amy laughed.

“He likes the onion rings there.  Go on.  You landed on the ninth ring and ordered food….”

She sobered instantly.  “But we didn’t!  Order, that is…. We were ready to – in fact, I think I kind of left Rory kind stranded with the check.  Well, really, just stranded.  The Doctor wanted to go to the moon itself and we sort of snuck off.  When we landed on the moon, the Doctor apologized for carting me off, but he didn’t look like he meant it.”  Amy’s voice took on a hint of anger.  “He looked excited.”

“I’m sorry. That must have been terrifying.”

Mingo blinked.  Without moving much, he pinched his arm and then bit back a yelp.  Yes, he was awake.  Unfortunately, there was no test to tell whether or not he was deep in the thrall of an illness and hallucinating.

He hoped he was hallucinating.

“Soon as we landed, he was out of the Tardis.  You know how he walks, all purposeful-like when he’s going somewhere specific, even though he told you he doesn’t know anywhere specific to go?  There was a crowd of people, all waiting in line –”

“For their dance shoes.”

“And transport.  The Doctor, he looked ‘em all up and down, one by one, and then headed for a sign that said ‘No Way Out’ –”

“Treating it, of course, as if it said ‘Way Out’.”

“Yeah.  I followed him.  It was dark back there.  Like the wings on a stage after the lights go out.  It smelled dark too, if you know what I mean.  Kind of musky.  The funny thing was, as we kept moving, the dark just kept going – on and on, down and down, and around and down again.  Finally, I realized what I smelled before was dirt.  We were in some kind of a tunnel.  At the end there was this green glow and something – big – breathing.  Amy paused, and then admitted with chagrin.  “Made me want to run. Real fast.”

“And you did.  Toward it, I presume?”

He could hear the grin in the Scottish woman’s reply, “Of course!  We entered some kind of a chamber and then crouched close together behind some sort of crates.  Before the Doctor could catch hold of me, I shifted by him and out into the room and that was when….”

“When you were caught.”

“Like a choob!  I never saw them, it was so dark, but someone grabbed me and held me tight, and then….”  She hesitated before continuing.  “Whoever it was put some bloody cold thingee against my head.  There was a light behind my eyes and a voice in my head and I screamed.  River, I couldn’t help it!  I screamed and screamed!”

“Fear projector, most likely.  You never know what you are afraid of but you know if you don’t escape, you’ll die.  So you scream.  The Doctor heard you and, being the Doctor, stepped out of hiding and was caught.”  River stated matter-of-factly.  “Amy, you can’t blame yourself for that.  The man is impossible!”

Mingo heard the Scottish woman’s sharp intake of breath.  “River.  Oh, River….  That’s not why I blame myself.  There’s more.  There is so much more.”  She drew a breath.  “But you’re right; he just walked into the room like he was taking a Sunday stroll and stood there.  Then this thing – a sort of cage thing made out of light – came out of the blackness above.  It surrounded him and then tightened about him and then, there was this sound – this horrible sound.”  Amy’s voice fell off to nearly nothing, so he had a hard time hearing the next thing she said.  “You know how it is when you are in the dentist’s chair, high as a kite and dreaming about talking chocolates and men in kilts, and you hear the drill, but it seems like it’s far away and has nothing to do with you….it was like that at first.  There was this soft whirring noise, almost a purring noise.  Then another bit of light came out of the darkness like a twirling spear and went straight into his head….”  Amy choked.  “I’d never heard the Doctor scream before.  He screamed forever, River.  Forever.”

“And?”  River’s voice was hushed as well.  “And then what?”

“Then nothing.  There is no more.”  A beat.  “River, I think he’s dead.”

“No.  No.  Not the Doctor.”  There was a conviction in the older woman’s tone that was hard to deny.  Never the Doctor.  I have seen him rise from the ashes of defeat triumphant a hundred times.  He’s not dead.  If that was all they did to him –”  

“It wasn’t.  River, it wasn’t.”

“Tell me.”

Mingo waited as anxiously as River Song for the Scottish woman to continue. 

“Okay.  Aye.  I will.”  Amy paused again, as if mustering the strength and courage to go on.  “Well, one minute we were in the screaming place and a second later, we were in a different room.  I don’t remember blacking out, but I suppose I had to have.  The room was all clinical-ish, with medical-like torturey stuff.  You know?  With metal clamps and levers and all kinds of instruments lying about.  I was sitting on the floor in some kind of a cell.  The Doctor, he was…lying on a table outside it.  I could see the blood, River, running down the side of his head.  They did something awful to him!”

“Calm down, Amy.  Breathe deep.  Go on.”

“There was one other person there.  A man in a white suit, medical-looking too.  He was standing by the Doctor’s bed.  The man had his back to me and was checking something off on a pad.  I blinked and he was on the ground.  It took me a second to realize what had happened.  As I watched, the Doctor shifted and sat up.  The sonic was in his hand.  He swayed and then got to his feet.  He almost fell, River, but he didn’t.  He came over to me then and used the sonic to free me.  There were a few guards in the corridor, but we made it past them.  The Doctor said he knew where the Tardis was, ‘cause she was calling him.  He said she could make him better.”  Mingo imagined the young woman biting her lower lip, like a child.  “Can she?  Can she, River?” 

“Yes,” the other woman admitted breathlessly.  “The symbiotic relationship they share can, at times, heal him.  What then?”

“Then we started running.  The Doctor kept talking – you know how he is – said he fine, and then admitted he was hurt, and then hurt bad and couldn’t think straight, so he was going to tell the Tardis to keep track of him no matter where or when he was just in case he did something wrong.  He said he was going to tell her to let me fly her if I needed to, ‘cause he was afraid he was going to lose consciousness, and that he was going to program her to take off and land somewhere that he couldn’t tell me.  He warned me that the minute she did, she would phase out of time by a second or two, so she’d be invisible and he’d have time to heal.”  Amy gasped in a much needed breath of air.  “I was so happy when I saw that police box, bluer than anything, standing there where we’d left her and waiting for us.  The Doctor pushed past me and rushed in.  I was right behind him, River.  I swear!  So close behind him.  But I didn’t make it in because –”

“It was a trap.”

“Yeah.”  The Scottish woman’s voice held defeat.  “Someone strong caught hold of me and held me, and then they waited for him to notice.  I yelled, told him to stay inside, but….”

“He surrendered himself to save you.”

“Came back out a minute later with his hands raised high above his head.  Some of the men from the medical nightmare place came alongside the Doctor and you know what he did?  He dropped to the floor and rolled, and then used the sonic on the guy who was holding me!  Then he bolted forward, took hold of my arm and –”         

“He tossed you in the Tardis!  Don’t tell me, he had set her to take off the minute the doors closed.”

“Damn right.”  Amy paused.  “I landed here, wherever here is.  When I walked out of the ship, the doors shut and she disappeared just like he said.  I was watching her fade out when someone clobbered me.  I woke up in a cave and there I was until you freed me.”

River remained silent for a moment.  “So, let me see if I have it.  The Doctor took you somewhere, obviously knowing where he was going but not telling you that he knew.  He rushed into danger like he always does without thinking of the consequences, and those consequences were that he was hurt and you were taken.  You both escaped – easily, since you were obviously meant to, which I am sure he didn’t miss – and then, after he had been in the Tardis, the Doctor came back out and gave himself up so he could throw you in.  Then, you were brought here.  Is that about it?”

“You sound like you think he meant to have me come here.”  The redhead did not sound happy.

“Maybe.  Maybe not.  Maybe both.”  Through dark lashes Mingo watched the older woman rise to her feet.  “Close your eyes for a couple of minutes, Amy, and get some rest.  Sorry I can’t promise I will let you sleep long.  I am going to get some water.  Then we need to get moving again.  We have to find the Doctor before whoever took him and is seeking him now finds him.”  River paused.  “Oh, and when I get back, we’ll have to wake sleeping beauty over there.  Men!  What we need them for other than to open doors, I’m sure I don’t know!”

Mingo shut his eyes completely.  His head was spinning.  The words these two employed – the concepts they espoused – made no sense whatsoever.  And who or what was this Tardis, spoken of as a ‘she’ and yet something one could go inside?  Everything native in him wanted to run as fast and as far away as he could from whatever the pair was involved in, but his concern for, and loyalty to the Boones stopped him.  Here the pair and the trouble they represented were, nearly on Daniel’s doorstep.  He was not certain yet which was the most dangerous – this Doctor and his allies, or the ones who were his enemies, but he owed it to Daniel and to the citizens of both Boonesborough and Chota to find out which it was.  Shifting his head slightly, Mingo moaned softly and opened his eyes, as if just waking up.  River Song was absent.  Amy Pond, unmindful of the older woman’s advice, was awake and staring straight at him.

“That took the edge off,” he remarked as he stretched.  “Did I miss anything?”

“Can’t say as you did,” the redhead replied.  Then she asked, “Mingo?”

“Yes?”

“River says you’re a sort of royal.”

He laughed.  “Noble, perhaps.  My father is a Peer.”

“So how come, well, you know, the Indian thingee?  Sitting in parliament making decisions that affect the world and playing whist not exciting enough?”

Mingo paused.  He met her puzzled stare head on.  “It is hard to put into words.  I imagine I do it for much the same reason you choose to travel with this Doctor you are so fond of.”

Her smile was a little girl’s.  “And that would be?”

“Excitement.  Adventure.  Never feeling more alive than when you are facing death.”  He paused.  “And because it matters.  I think, like me, Amy Pond, that you want the world to be a better place for your having walked in it.  Wherever you have come from, you see more chance of that in this Doctor’s company than where you started.  Am I right?”

Amy rose to her feet. She walked to his side.  Once there, she punched him in the arm.  “Sure as shooting, Tonto!  Now what’s say you and me go find the Lone Ranger?”