Teaser: “The Starmind”
THE AFRICAN savannah thundered with the combined sound of hooves and military boots. An unlikely foursome kicked up huge swathes of dust in their wake as their sanctuary, a trusty blue box, began to grow from a mere speck on the horizon to resemble the unmistakable form of the TARDIS. Even as it grew closer, however, their pursuers edged ever nearer.
For all her adventures both in and out of the TARDIS, Marilyn was exhilarated at an opportunity to race on her home planet once again, her muscles rippling and her mane flowing resplendently in the warm breeze. The Doctor looked to be enjoying himself, too, grinning from ear to ear as he roared on encouragement to his trusty steed from the saddle. Rather less comfortable was Riddell, an accomplished horse rider himself but here looking and feeling altogether out of sorts, perched behind the Doctor and holding onto his midriff as if for dear life. Keeping pace alongside them, Flo demonstrated how his UNIT training had kept him in the peak of condition, his mighty Judoon legs powering through the wilderness.
The Doctor glanced over his shoulder, then slowly brought Marilyn to a temporary halt. Flo ground to a halt alongside, taking a moment to right his beret and re-adjust his military uniform. In the distance behind them, several more dust clouds were slowly gaining on their position.
“The Silurians are closing,” Flo announced matter-of-factly, regaining his breath as he did so. “We must keep moving.”
“Maybe we should try to negotiate terms again,” the Doctor considered, sounding far from sure of himself.
“Terms?” spat Riddell. “Terms?! My head on a spike is their idea of terms, thank-you-very-much. What are we waiting for. Keep riding!” And he slapped Marilyn on the rump as if to set her back into a gallop. Marilyn grunted unappreciatively, stamped a hind leg, and didn’t budge.
“It won’t come to that,” reassured the Doctor, “but perhaps you’re right.” He leant down to address Marilyn. “How’s my favourite girl doing there? Not much farther and I promise you can chill out in the TARDIS again. I’ll fetch you some of those fresh carrots I’ve been growing for you in the vegetable garden. How does that sound?” Whispering in her ear, he added, “Still, I think you’re secretly enjoying yourself, aren’t you, my dear?”
Flo coughed rather forcedly. “Um… I would like to discuss strategy.”
“But of course,” said the Doctor, sitting back up in his saddle and granting Flo his full attention.
“Make it quick,” interjected Riddell.
“Flo’s legs are tired,” declared the Judoon. “The Doctor has been promising Flo a ride on Marilyn for, like, for-ever. Maybe… now would be a good time?” He flashed a toothy grin that he hoped would look endearing but came off as rather more intimidating.
Riddell opened his mouth to complain but the Doctor cut him off. “Quite right, too,” he agreed, jumping straight out of the saddle. “John and I are up for a light jog, I think, aren’t we?”
“Would it matter if I said no?” Riddell shrugged as he also started to dismount.
“Probably not,” smirked the Doctor.
“Well, we wouldn’t be in this mess if it wasn’t for you,” interjected a less-than-impressed Flo. The grin disappeared and became a disgruntled pout.
“Now, let’s not go over all that again right now,” sighed Riddell, thinking to himself how he’d never seen a rhino pout before and quite how odd it looked. “How these Silurians even know about that ‘misunderstanding’ in Tora Bora and why they still bear a grudge, decades later, is beyond me. Anyway, Flo, how many times do I have to apologise?”
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. “Yes, well, on reflection, you might have thought to remove the rhino head from your study wall before we visited. That was… just a little insensitive, John.” He winced on his companion’s behalf. “Nice that they have a name for you, though? ‘The Great Swindler,’ no less.”
“Yes, well, remember how those Navajo we met named you ‘He Who Talks into Eternity,’ Doctor? I have news for you. It wasn’t the compliment you took it for,” Riddell retorted.
“The Great Swindler!” laughed Flo as he climbed into the saddle. “’Hashtag oops’! ‘Nul points’!” He pointed back at the ever-closing Silurian taskforce. “Anyway, John, given we are right now being chased by Silurians riding rhinoceroses, I forgive you. For once, you are not the most objectionable creature in the room.”
“I didn’t understand the first half of that, but finally we agree on something,” sighed Riddell, readying himself for the sprint. He looked to the Doctor. “Shall we?”
The Doctor grinned. “Let’s do what we do best, eh? Come on Marilyn, my girl. Run!”
And with that, with the Silurians advancing ever nearer, the TARDIS team started into action once more.
“Finally, I get to be Kevin Costner!” yelled out a thrilled Flo from the saddle.
“Who?!” gasped Riddell.
“‘I am Wind in His Hair!’” quoted Flo at the top of his voice, exhilarated.
Meanwhile, a band of angry Silurians closed in, even as the TARDIS grew yet nearer. The Doctor held his sonic screwdriver aloft, it buzzed into life, and the blue doors yawned open, inviting them in. It seemed to reinvigorate them to step up their speed, or perhaps Marilyn was just thinking about those carrots. Either way, there was not a moment to lose, and this was going to be too close for comfort…