Teaser: “The Red Balloon”
THE SETTING sun radiated a deep pink light that set the prairie on fire. The savannah stretched as far as the eye could see and beyond, teeming with a multitude of life. A family of scimitar-horned oryx drank at a glassy watering hole whilst, nearby, a huge herd of quagga grazed the lush grass. Away to the west, a pride of Barbary lions had emerged from beneath the shade of a spiralling, forked Sigillaria tree. John Riddell and the Doctor surveyed this pristine landscape in silence from the edge of an escarpment that offered them this breathtaking view.
“Lost in thought, John?” asked the Doctor gently.
Riddell took a few more moments of silence before he spoke. “Before I met you, this place would have been like something out of a fairy tale. I mean, it still is, but… I think my instincts are changing.”
“Well, it’s not for nothing that this place was named New Earth. Originally, it was just that: a new settlement for humans when Earth was destroyed. But history has a habit of repeating itself, and eventually mankind plundered their new paradise. In the end, there was an uprising. The human settlers were moved on, the Sisters of Plenitude took control of the bio databank that was brought here by the settlers, and eventually they turned it into the most perfect example of rewilding the galaxy has ever seen. Life prospers here that had been absent from the universe for billions of years.”
“It’s beautiful,” said John. “I can’t help but think…” he trailed off, and the Doctor completed his thought for him.
“… that Flo would have loved it. I’m sure you’re right. It’s okay, John. I miss him, too. You’ll have to rely on me for the impish enthusiasm from now on.”
“The Master doesn’t deserve him,” Riddell muttered derisively.
“Perhaps not, John. Perhaps not,” mused the Doctor. “But, for all that the Master is once again evil made truly incarnate, maybe there is hope for him yet. Flo is not just our first and best line of defence to keep him from escaping and ravaging early twentieth century Earth; he might also just be the Master’s one chance to turn over a new leaf. I’ve tried and failed to mend his ways too many times. Perhaps the kindness, open-heartedness, and childlike joy in the face of everything life has to offer of our good friend is exactly what the Master deserves. And we’ll see Flo again, I’m sure of it; the TARDIS will find a way of having us go back and check on him at some point. She still seems to have a habit of taking us wherever we need to go, randomiser or no randomiser. After all, she brought us here.”
Riddell made to turn and walk back to the waiting TARDIS, then paused and afforded himself one last look towards the glowing horizon. “You know what’s funny? For all the multitude of life here, I couldn’t think of hunting one single creature. Not one.”
“Well, they do say that travel broadens the mind.” The Doctor smiled broadly. “And so too, in my experience, do travelling companions.” He put his arm around Riddell’s shoulder and gave him a warm squeeze. “Well, the right kind of travelling companions, at least. Talking of which, I wonder what the old girl has in store for us next. Shall we find out?”