|Doctor Who Benny Internet Adventure #01 - "The Slay"
by Susannah Tiller
The ASS Athens struck the surface of the planet Gash very hard indeed...
* * *
In Changetown, they heard the vibrations as the ship thudded into the surface not too far from them. A tiny stream of soil trickled down from the roof, and a steady hiss of alarm mounted.
"We are under attack," shrieked Farren, a young man with the body of a snake and a human torso. "Orn Hull and his warriors have found us at last."
Ariadne Tavash, Guardian of Changetown, raised her voice amid the confusion. "Nonsense," she said, using her wings to punctuate her speech. "If they were to attack, we would be taken by surprise, for that is the cowards way." Her scales rippled in the dim light as she turned around and surveyed the crowd. "Markov. What do you detect?"
Markov turned two of his heads towards the surface. The crowd hushed a little as he sniffed the air. "I smell..." he said. "I smell people. I can taste their personality, and it is like nothing I have experienced before."
"It's a trick," Farren shot back. "It's some new thing Hull has come up with."
Ariadne frowned at him, then turned back to Markov. "What do you think?"
He considered a little longer. "Not Hull," he said. "I could taste that man's greasy odour from a hundred leagues away. This has a different smell. Fear. And imminent death."
* * *
A few minutes after the initial impact of the spaceship, there was a loud roar as the hyperspace drive exploded. A strange marble blue fireball lit up the dull Gash skies.
In Serenity, Orn Hull looked quickly at the horizon, then back to his mother. "One of your tricks, no doubt?" he said sharply. "Or perhaps your monsters committing their abominations."
She said nothing, even when he slapped her across the face. Kem winced. He was still Changing, but he'd settled down a little, and was looking around with alert eyes. "You tricked me, Hull," he said. "You told me that you had the most tender piece of venison ever. What did I eat?"
Hull shrugged diffidently. "Remember how Trantor's baby failed the Slay? Well, it seemed such a pity to waste such a tender piece of flesh."
He laughed, as Kem retched. Then Hull turned back to the Peace. "Lock these two up, where they can be held until Slaynight. Then search the forest, and find out what that unGodly sight was."
The Peace nodded, and dragged away Cordelia and Kem. Cordelia was proud, defiant. Kem looked a broken man. Hull smiled, and caressed the Slay. Just for old time's sake, he stuck his finger in it, and watched proudly as the yellow light flashed. He was healthy, as always. Pure, as always. And most definitely doing what was Right, as always.
From a dark corner, Del watched as they led his father and Cordelia away.
* * *
So this is what it feels like to die, Emile Mars-Smith thought to himself. His vision seemed to have clouded over, leaving him with nothing but black in all directions.
At first he'd been in incredible pain from some twisted metal that had landed across his feet, now he couldn't feel a thing.
"Benny?" he tried to shout, but his throat locked up, and he only managed a tiny squeak. He swallowed, hard, and began mumbling one of the Natural Path's prayers. It didn't help.
Then there was a pinprick of light in his vision; a small glow that expanded until it took up his entire field of sight.
He stopped praying. Now I know I'm dead, he thought. And this is the afterlife.
He heard a voice that was unmistakably Benny. "You okay, 'Mile?"
He coughed a couple of times, and found that he could speak. "Benny? Are you dead, too?"
She laughed. "If this is the afterlife, I'm the Cat's Paw. You're okay, we're just cutting you out of the spaceship now."
"We?" Emile said tremulously.
"I am Ariadne Tavash, Guardian of Changetown," said another voice. It sounded like the buzzing of an insect. And there was another noise, too. Something like a giant pair of jaws clicking together. Emile looked down, and realised that there was someone (something?) chewing away at the metal pinning him down. The thing looked up and smiled. "Hi. How are you feeling?"
* * *
The Peace made their way cautiously through the Gash night. There was a full moon, which gave them a little more light. But it also meant that it twisted the shadows they cast so that every man looked like a Changed abomination, about to attack.
"Tread carefully," their leader said. "The Changed are everywhere."
"They roam at night, eating babies," said one of the younger Peace, making a ritual sign against evil. His companions nodded, clutching their spears even more tightly.
Suddenly, they saw the Changed. There were two of them, a giant crab that scuttled sideways, and a blob with whip-like tentacles. Even as they looked at it, it assumed the face of Guardian Kem, Protector Hull, a thousand firepit victims, then the leader of the Peace.
The Peace took a few steps back, and looked to their leader. "Do we pass them?" the youngest asked. "I don't think they've seen us."
"Do we let abominations walk amongst us?" the leader snorted. He dimmed his lantern, and gestured to the others to do likewise. "Ready your weapons."
The spears were one part functional, two parts ceremonial. When fighting the Changed, it was necessary to use the sacred weapons, which dated back to the time of the Slay. Each Peace carried in their belt a small pouch, and now they took a small capsule from it.
"On my word," the leader whispered. One Peace was too eager, and charged towards the Changed. They turned towards him, there was a quick movement, and then his face was peering out from the blob, twisted in a soundless scream.
"Now," the leaders hissed, and they threw their capsules towards them. When they hit the ground, the capsules burst open, dispersing a reddish gas. A scientist would have been able to tell you that this was a gas to combat the nanotechnology behind the Change. But the Peace weren't scientists. They just knew that the capsules killed within minutes.
The Changed didn't die quietly. The blob screamed in a hundred different voices, while the crab dissolved with a sickening burning sound, and accompanying nauseating smell. When there was nothing left but the blackened, moist dust, the Peace made the ritual gesture against evil and moved on. In the distance, they could see the tangled wreckage of the spaceship.
* * *
"Someone's coming," Markov said, as they eased Emile out of the wreckage of the spaceship.
"How close?" Ariadne asked.
"Too close," Markov replied. Benny looked from one to the other. "I take it this isn't the welcoming committee with red carpet, am I right?"
"They'll kill us if they find us here," Ariadne said shortly. "Can your friend walk?"
Benny had managed to grab some emergency supplies from the spaceship. She upended the canteen onto Emile's face, and watched as he woke up.
"Wha–?" he spluttered.
"He can now," Benny said, wiping at a cut over her eyebrow. "But there's someone else trapped in there. Rech? Rech'y'van, can you hear me?"
No answer. Ariadne looked from the spaceship to the approaching lanterns. "I'm sorry," she said. "We have to go. Now."
She pulled Bernice away, while Markov and the man who'd eaten the spaceship supported Emile between them.
* * *
The Peace arrived at the spaceship, to find it abandoned.
"What is it?" asked one of them.
Their leader racked his brains. "There are stories of things like this before the Change came upon us. I had thought they were merely legends, tales to amuse fanciful children."
"Perhaps not," another of the Peace said. He tapped the side of the ship thoughtfully, listening to the ringing sound. Then there was an answering tap, and he jumped backwards.
"It lives!" he called to the others, tapping again. Once more, the answering tap, and this time, there was a voice.
"Professor Summerfield? Help me, please."
The leader grabbed at the spaceship, and a metal panel came off in his hand. "Quickly," he said. "We must find what is inside."
The Peace set to with vigour, pulling panels off the ship with more enthusiasm than technical skill. Quite soon, they had exposed the skeleton of one side of the ship. And also exposed Rech'y'van, collapsed in a tangle of arms and legs and arms and legs.
"What is this abomination?" The leader snarled.
Rech raised a weak arm. "Haven't you seen a Utrassi before?" He looked around at the hostile glares. "Ok, obviously not. Then take me to your leader."
"Shall we kill the Changed now?" one of the Peace asked.
The leader deliberated. "No. Let it burn in the Slaypit to avenge the death of our comrade. Bring him!"
They dragged Rech'y'van out of the ship, and towards the town of Serenity.
To be continued...
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