Daniel Boone lay in a bed of grass, pretending to sleep. Truth to tell, he was mighty tired, but then he’d gone days before without any sleep. ‘Course he’d been younger then, he had to admit, and back then walking miles without food and traveling for days on an hour’s nap had seemed simple as pie. It was a little harder now, and he knew the day would come when it was nigh onto impossible – say, somewhere just this side of one hundred. As he chuckled quietly to himself, the frontiersman shifted to ease the pain in his side where it pressed against a sharp rock. He hadn’t moved from where Stone’s men had deposited him after he had begun to stumble and feign the inability to go on. Now, through half-lidded eyes Dan watched as the redcoats he traveled with – including the general – met with a contingent of Cherokee. The only one of the natives he recognized was Gawonii. The short stocky Indian had been an assistant to old Galunadi, Chief Menewa’s main medicine man, once upon a time. Gawonii had been expelled from Chota after some disagreement, and was known – as far as the war went – to side with the British. So it went without saying that there must be something personal between the two men, because at the moment the British General, Stone, and Gawonii were squared off and looked pert near angry enough to kill one another. Behind the medicine man were at least a dozen other Indians. Nearly as many redcoats flanked Stone. Dan shook his head. All of them, tinder waiting for a spark.
It was a shame he didn’t have time or the inclination to strike flint and start the fire.
He’d made an escape attempt earlier, and had been careful to come close to succeeding before he let Stone and his men recapture him. It had been risky – they might have shot him – but he had thought the chance well worth taking. General Stone respected strength and boldness and disdained any sign of weakness. Since Dan had been his captive – and a willing one at that – for quite a while, the British officer had begun to lose respect for him. Stone had mentioned sending Dan back to the redcoat’s base camp, which meant the short squat Englishman no longer considered him a threat. By trying to escape, and falling just short of success, the tall frontiersman had accomplished two things – he brought himself up in Stone’s estimation and he had compelled the man to keep him close at hand where he could observe what was going on.
A short time after his thwarted ‘attempt’ the party had set out; following in the wake of the man who claimed to have found something relating to Stone’s missing man. Dan wasn’t sure what was up, but the British officer had been fit to burst as a spring dam. The whole way there Stone talked to himself, going on about ‘the doctor’ and how they would have him soon, and how once they did ‘their’ plans could be put into action and everything would be accomplished. Now, while Dan didn’t exactly know what Stone hoped to accomplish –
He sure as shootin’ knew he had to stop him.
That was when he’d started stumbling and pretending he couldn’t continue on. It was his plan to feign sleep and then to manage to slip away and return to the fort to rally the settlers. Stone had balked at first about calling a halt, but in the end he permitted them to make camp after his own men echoed Dan’s request. The soldiers had not eaten in some time and though he begrudged it, the British officer finally relented, admitting that – like it or not – an army did travel on its stomach. It had been hard to maintain the pretense of sleep as the scent of roasted rabbit and smoked roots filled the air, but Dan had managed it. Once he knew Stone’s men had full bellies and were beginning to nod off, he had decided it was time to make his move. Or, rather, to try to make his move. Just as he came to that conclusion, a shout had gone up in the camp. One of the younger soldiers had come flying in to report that, without knowing it, they had arrived at their destination. Whatever it was they were looking for was no more than one hundred and fifty feet away, just past the trees, in one of the river caves.
Stone had ordered them to break camp, but it never happened. Bare seconds later the Cherokee warriors had appeared, rising out of nowhere like a creeping fog.
Dan studied the two men. It didn’t look like the stalemate Stone and Gawonii were locked in was going to end any time soon. Thinking this might be a good time to make his move, the tall frontiersman shifted his gaze from the pair to the young’un who had been set to guard him. The freckle-faced private was wide awake now, but his attention was focused on his commander. The young man stood at the ready to go to Stone’s defense. Dan shifted, moving his bound hands so they were once more positioned just above the pointed rock that had been bothering his side. He’d lain on top of it, of course, to keep his captor’s from noticing it was there. The frontiersman winced as its sharp tip cut through the rope and into his wrist. He’d worked on the ropes that bound him earlier, leaving just enough of the cord intact to fool anyone who checked. Now he flexed his muscles and snapped the threads that were left. As the remnants fell away, Dan glanced at his guard one more time and then rolled silently under a nearby bush and disappeared into the trees.
If a war was brewing, he needed to find reinforcements.
Jemima returned to the center room of John’s ship to find it empty. Unsure of what else to do, she climbed the odd staircase in front of her and took a seat on one of the padded brown chairs. She’d just wait for him. John would have to show up sooner or later since this was where everything happened.
All too conscious of her odd surroundings, Jemima fell to studying her hands.
John had noted that she was too quiet as they walked the long corridor toward the Tardis’ bedrooms. In an attempt to put her at ease, he told her she had been right – the star ship was indeed something like Jonah’s whale. A very long time ago it had swallowed him whole and he’d been living in its belly ever since. There had been others he admitted, ‘guests’ like her and Mingo, but every one of them had escaped somehow. Only he remained, as he would always remain, trapped somewhere between Joppa and Nineveh. When she told him she was surprised that he knew the story of Jonah, he had smiled that gentle smile he had and muttered something about stiff-necked rebels sticking together.
She’d checked in on Mingo before leaving that wing of the Tardis. The native’s breathing had been a little heavy, but he had stirred when she touched him and so she thought he was all right. She hadn’t awakened him because she wanted to talk to John alone. He’d asked her a question earlier. At the time, the idea of saying ‘yes’ had seemed exciting. Now, she wasn’t so sure. Jemima’s gaze shifted to the see-through floor beneath her feet and all the clockwork mechanisms below. John had left a book on her bedside table. She’d never heard of it. It had been written by an Irishman named Samuel Madden in 1733 and was titled ‘Memoirs of the Twentieth Century’.
The twentieth century.
Jemima’s gaze lifted to the tall glass and metal tower that seemed to be heart of John’s ship. She’d seen it before but had never really looked at it. At least not this close. She didn’t have a name for the metal it was made of, or proper words to describe all of the strange latches and cords coming out of it. And the glass, well, it wasn’t wavy and didn’t have any bubbles, so it couldn’t have been blown. The console around it.... Well, there just wasn’t any way to describe it. It wasn’t really a table, but rather a gathering place for all manner of strange things. Jemima bit her lip and let her eyes rise. Even stranger, there were pictures hanging off the tower – like the paintings she’d seen in fancy houses – pictures that…well, she couldn’t be sure, but she thought she had seen them…move.
The brown haired girl closed her eyes tightly in an attempt to shut it all out. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real. In spite of what John had told her back in the forest, she had to be dreaming – just had to be. Because if she wasn’t, well, then, she must be –
“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane,” a soft voice remarked. “So take heart, Jemima Boone.”
Jemima whirled to find John standing at the top of one of the Tardis’ stairs. He had changed his clothes. Gone was her pa’s ruined flannel shirt and dark blue janes. John was dressed in a kind of funny looking suit made out of brown twill cloth, with a reddish shirt beneath it. The shirt’s striped collar was turned down, but instead of tying a ribbon around it like the gents in the city did, John had fashioned a bow out of the narrow strip of cloth and pinned it at the neck. He’d washed up, removing all the blood, and had combed his thick brown hair into place, which meant it cascaded over his forehead like a landslide overrunning a cliff’s edge. John appeared to have rested and looked more at ease than she had ever seen before – or so she thought until she met his stare. The Bible taught that the light of the soul was in the eyes.
John’s light seemed to have gone out.
“Are you all right?” she asked tentatively as he stepped onto the see-through deck.
“Right as ninepence,” he replied as he began to walk around the tall tower touching levers and flipping handles here and there. “Which, of course, things being what they are – what they were but won’t be – is rather not right since nine pence is one pence too many to make any sense at all. Right as eightpence would fly. Even right as thrupenny, seeing as there is a thrupenny.” He looked over at her. “Well, was. Damn thing fell out of favor because no one knew how to pronounce it. Thrup-enny? Or thru-penny? Total rubbish and bound to be the bane of at least one Junior Times Spelling Bee contestant.” John paused to draw a breath and frowned. “Did you ask me something?”
“I asked if you were all right.”
He came to her side and stood there, tall and thin and towering over her. “Yes. Well. Why don’t you tell me?” Without warning, he reached out and caught hold of her hand. Placing it first on one side of his chest and then the other, he remarked, “Left one’s dragging its heel a bit, but it will catch up….” John laughed giddily. “…in time. And that’s one thing we have just, well, tons of. Past, present….” He grew suddenly sober. “Future.”
Jemima swallowed hard, thinking of that book and the twentieth century.
“That’s what we’re doing, ain’t…isn’t it?” she asked, her voice barely audible above the ship’s constant hum. “Traveling not only in the stars, but in time?” Before he could answer, she broke free of John’s grasp and placed her hands on either side of her head. “No. No! I’m going crazy!” she gasped, shaking it from side to side. “This isn’t real! I gotta be dreaming. Or,” a light of hope dawned, “maybe I got sick and I’m raving with a fever. Maybe I’m –”
John took hold of her hands once again and pulled them free of her head. “Jemima,” he said firmly, emphasizing his point by increasing the pressure on her wrists, “courage is the most beautiful kind of madness. And you are courageous, my dear, brave Jemima Boone! I assure you I am quite real and not something you dreamed up, fevered or not.” He continued to hold her fast, pinning her with his intense gaze. “Did you read any of the book I left you?”
She’d paged through it. Madden’s ‘Memoirs’ was about a guardian angel who moved backward through the centuries from 1998 to 1728. She’d wondered at the time what John was trying to tell her. Now she had an idea. He’d told her earlier that he was one of the ones who saved girls like her from monsters.
“Are you an angel?” she breathed.
John pursed his lips. He smiled but shook his head. “While I’ll admit to having spread my wings a bit, I’m no angel.”
“Then what are you trying to tell me?” A cold chill ran the length of her spine. “That a man can walk backward through time?”
His fingers still gripped her wrists, as if he anticipated having to hold her up. “Yes. Well, no. Not a man. A Time Lord.”
Jemima’s eyes went wide. “A Time Lord? What’s a….” She stopped. “John, you know who you are!”
“Yes.” He shrugged. “I popped the cork and let the jinn out, I’m afraid.”
Her ma governed her reading and ‘The Arabian Night’s Entertainment’ hadn’t been on her accepted list. Still, Mingo had read it and told her some of the tales, so the reference was familiar. Jinn were magical beings, made of smokeless flame, which had the ability to change their shape. They could be good, bad, or indifferent.
She wondered which John thought he was.
“So you know your name?” she prompted. As he nodded and released his hold on her, she pressed further. “What is it?”
The right side of his face twitched ever so slightly as he replied, “I’m called the Doctor.”
“The Doctor? That’s a title, not a name. Doctor who then?” she asked. “I’m betting it isn’t Doctor John Smith.”
“No. John Smith is dead, Jemima,” he said as he turned back to the console. “I am the Doctor. Nothing more.”
Earlier she’d been afraid she wouldn’t like him once John knew who he was – or that she’d be afraid of him. Instead, she was afraid for him. “What’s wrong? What is it?” He was leaning against the console now, staring down at his reflected face. “Won’t you tell me?”
“There’s something I have to do, Jemima. Something I…don’t want to do.” He drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. “But it has to – it must be done!”
His voice had changed. It was darker and deeper. “Pa says a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. If’n it’s right.” She took a step toward him. “John…Doctor, is this something right?”
The Doctor’s knuckles were white on the edge of the console. “Ah, yes, to be Daniel Boone. To see everything in high contrast black and white. No shadows or shades of gray. No choices. No regrets….” He pivoted sharply, frightening her into stepping back. “I live in the shadows, Jemima. I walk the mists of time. I see the beginning and the end, and bring about the middle.” He took a step toward her and followed as she retreated, until she was pressed up against the railing. “I am the Oncoming Storm and He Whose Name Dare Not Be Mentioned. I am the storm crow, the harbinger of doom. Death, destruction, and devastation follow in my wake.” The Time Lord was breathing hard. His lean form had gone rigid and a dark insane light had kindled in his eyes. Jemima yelped as he thrust his arm out and then pointed to his head. “These lips, this tongue, this brain; are responsible for the fate of millions…will be, for the fate of billions….” Abruptly, all of the energy went out of him and he slumped. Jemima reached out toward him, but he waved her off. After turning back to the console and flipping one final switch, he started for the stair. “Stay here, Jemima Boone. I won’t ask you to be brave this time.”
He was heading for the Tardis’ door. Jemima raced down the steps after him. “Where are you going? What are you going to do?”
The Doctor turned on his heel and met her troubled stare. “I hear despair is a great incentive to honorable death,” he said with a rueful smile. “If I am lucky, I’ll die. If not….”
A moment later he was gone.
Daniel Boone had changed his mind mid-course and decided to head for the river cave that the young redcoat had mentioned before hightailing it back to the settlement to gather reinforcements. Since Stone and Gawonii were occupied eye-balling each other, he should have time to find the man they were both so intent on capturing. Mind you, he had all the respect in the world for medical men, but it was near beyond his ken why one would interest both the Cherokee and the redcoats. The only thing he could come up with was the idea that the man must be a spy or double agent, and if that was the case, then it made a mountain of sense to locate this doctor and keep him from falling into either Stone or Gawonii’s hands.
He hadn’t gone a hundred yards before he stopped and crouched down. In the distance he could see a light – well, lights really – heading his way. From experience he recognized the pale glow as the kind given off by torches. This close to Boonesborough that usually meant only one thing – someone with an ax to grind had stirred up the settlers and now there was a mob out for blood.
“Yours or ours do you suppose?” a husky female voice asked, startling him.
Dan frowned as he glanced to his left and noted two female figures squatting, just like him, behind a covering of leaves. They weren’t ten feet from him. He shook his head and whistled softly. “Ain’t many can take me unawares. You must be part Shawnee.”
“We’ll both be part dead if we don’t get out of here.”
“Oi! What about me?”
Dan noted the other woman was the taller and younger of the two, though he couldn’t make either out clearly. “I imagine you’ll be dead too, miss,” he replied.
“Ah. Rugged good looks and intelligence too,” the first woman stated. “So much for the archetypal mountain man. Come on, Amy, let’s join Mr. Boone.”
As the two women came to his side, Dan noted there was something familiar about the older one, though he couldn’t place her. “Have I had the pleasure before, Ma’am?”
“Ma’am? And Amy’s a ‘miss’? Apparently the moonlight has not worked its usual magic.” The woman stuck out her hand. “River Song. And this is Amy Pond. And no, we have not officially met, but you did give me a nod as you assisted your backwoods friend out of the mud the other night.”
Now he had it. The woman wearing canary yellow standing outside Cincinnatus’ tavern. He took her hand and gave it a shake, and then indicated the advancing light. “You know what that’s all about?”
“I have my suspicions.”
He waited. “Mind to tell me what they are?”
“She thinks they’re after her,” the other woman, a Scot by her accent, remarked dryly. “River’s got quite an ego.”
“I have no such thing! Well, yes, I do, but that’s beside the point.” The older woman met his puzzled stare. “Back in Boonesborough, I performed a bit of…sleight of hand on one of the locals. Made him, dance to my tune, so to speak. Nothing to it really, but from history’s perspective, I imagine the cry of ‘witch’ has gone up.”
“Not like she hasn’t been called a ‘witch’ before,” Amy quipped.
“Amy, really.” River glanced at the lights and then turned toward him. “Anyhow, we were just about to…stroll in the other direction when we spotted you hiding here. As two is company and four is a crowd, three must be just about perfect.” She flashed a winning smile. “Would you care to join us?”
He thought about it. “I might need to talk to them first.”
“A mob has many heads, but no brains,” River quipped. “You can’t reason with them. Let them wander about in the woods and they’ll come home eventually wagging their tails behind them.”
“I done it before,” he replied.
“Well, then,” she replied, “I suggest a better use for your efficacious skills. Come with us, Daniel Boone. A friend of ours is in great danger. He has been…unduly influenced and convinced that he must take punitive action to save those he knows from destruction – action that will, in the end, cause those same people to be lost and bring about his own…end.”
“What sort of action?”
River hesitated. “I’m not entirely sure.”
“Mr. Boone, you have absolutely no reason to trust me. But you must. A great many lives depend on it.”
Before he could reply, Amy Pond added,” What River’s trying to say is that the Doctor is out of his mind, and he’s likely to do something stupid because he thinks it’s smart. And we need your help ‘cause you’re a great hulking mountain of a man and we may need you to smash something, or fight something, or maybe even take on a…mountain of green goo….”
“Green goo?” he asked, incredulous.
“Yeah, sort of like mixing it up with a mound of mold gone mad.” Amy shrugged. “You’re in the history books. You like to fight, right?”
“Amy!” The older woman was scowling. “You’ll be in the history books. Mr. Boone, if you help us set this right. Well, you’ll be in the history books anyway, but please help us.”
All the while they had been talking the lights had been advancing, growing stronger. For a moment Dan considered standing up and shouting and letting the mob know where they were, but something in the older woman’s expression stopped him.
She was deadly serious.
“Can I trust you, River Song?” he asked.
“Now why does that have a familiar ring?” Amy Pond intoned.
“Hush! We don’t have much time.” River glanced over her shoulder and then turned back to him. “You have no reason to trust me, other than this – I love that man. I don’t want him to die. And in saving him, I just might save you and everyone you love. So, are we good?” she asked.
Dan considered it. Then he nodded.
“Good. Now let’s get going. We need to return to the Rutan stronghold and find a way to the Doctor before everything is lost.”
After all, Dan thought, if he decided the pair was untrustworthy, he was a great hulking mountain of a man.
Against him, what could two women do?
Jemima stood with tears running down her cheeks, staring at the Tardis door, for about fifteen beats of her heart, and then she turned and headed for the wing of the Tardis where Mingo lay sleeping. Running as fast as she could, she rushed down the corridor and threw open the door to the native’s room and found him sitting up, reading another copy of the book the Doctor had left for her. Mingo looked up as she entered the room and when their eyes met, something unspoken passed between them.
If this was a dream, he seemed to say, than it was a shared one.
“Mingo, the Doctor’s in trouble! He’s gonna to die!”
“The Doctor?” the native asked as he rolled off the bed, gracefully, if obviously feeling the effects of all that had gone before.
“John. That’s what he calls himself. He’s….” She stopped to draw a breath. “I don’t know what he is, Mingo, but he’s in danger.”
Mingo looked at the book and then at her. “Have you…?”
“Yeah.” Jemima swallowed. John…the Doctor, he gave me one too. I didn’t read all of it.”
“One does not need to.” He tossed the book on the bed. “The meaning is clear.”
“You mean, you think John really travels through time? You think that’s…possible?”
Mingo walked to her side. He took her arm in one of his bronzed hands and held it tightly. “No. I do not. I think, as can happen with the clockwork mechanisms he is so fond of, his mind is…out of order.”
“But what about this place?” She glanced at the smooth walls, the odd-looking bed, the too smooth floor, and then back to him. “How do you explain all of this?”
He touched her hair gently. “Jemima, you have little experience of the world. I have seen…stranger things before. Fakirs from the orient. Illusionists. There are people and places you cannot conceive. The important thing is that this John Smith, this Doctor, believes them.”
“But he’s a good man, I know he is!” she insisted. “John is smarter than anyone I ever met!”
“Great wits are to madness near allied,” he quoted. “And thin partitions do their bounds divide. No, Jemima, his is a reason diseased. But that does not mean there is no hope.”
“No?” she asked as the tears spilled down her cheeks.
The native lifted his hand. “This ‘Doctor’ must be a good man indeed for you to care for him so, and in such a short time.”
“I can’t explain it. But I know – I know, Mingo, that he would never deliberately do anything to harm anyone. And he said he had to. That’s why I am afraid he’s going to hurt himself.”
The Cherokee warrior looked troubled. “Then we must find him before he does. Do you know where he went?”
She shook her head. “Out the door. I don’t know after that.”
“Menewa did not call me ‘Usti-ah-ga-teno’ for nothing,” he grinned.
Jemima frowned. “Little…?”
“Tracker. If your Doctor can be found, I will find him. Come.”
She followed Mingo as he led the way down the corridor and into the main area of the ship, or whatever it was. If John truly was mad – if there was no such thing as a Time Lord – then there probably wasn’t any such thing as a ship that sailed the stars either. As usual, the native’s strength increased her own. If she couldn’t have her pa with her in a tight situation, there was nobody other than Mingo she would want.
At the door of the Tardis the tall native stopped and placed a hand on her shoulder. “You must wait here, Jemima.”
“No. I’m not staying behind! The Doctor – John may need me.” She met the native’s unbending gaze. “You may need me!”
“I would never forgive myself if something happened to you, and neither would your father.” His dark eyes made a quick circuit of the area they occupied. What he saw made him frown. “You are…safe here. I can look after myself.”
Jemima started to protest, but changed her mind. It would do no good. “All right,” she said at last. “Whatever you say.”
Mingo regarded her for a moment, and then said, “I want your promise.”
“Why?” she shot back. “Don’t you believe me?”
He laughed. “You are a Boone. And more than that, you are Daniel’s daughter.” Mingo’s handsome face sobered. “Your promise, Jemima, or I will not go.”
She lowered her eyes, defeated. “All right. I promise.”
“You promise to what? Not to listen and then to follow anyway?”
The brown-haired girl looked past Mingo to the open Tardis door. Beyond the handsome native was the familiar brown of a Kentucky river cave. “I promise I won’t follow you. Is that good enough?”
Mingo considered it. “Since you are a Boone,” he agreed with a smile. “Take care, Jemima. I will return with your friend as soon as I can.”
“You take care too, Mingo,” she said as he turned away. “Pa’d never forgive you if something happened to you either.”
The native glanced at her, nodded, and then passed through the door, closing it behind him.
Jemima stared at it for a good five minutes before she cautiously opened it, looked around, and then moved into the cave.
She’d promised not to follow Mingo.
She never said nothing about not following John.