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laser blast struck the wall just to the right of the Doctor’s head.  He slowly turned to look, more out of astonishment than anything else.  A gaping hole several inches deep sizzled and smoked, and without warning another blast landed exactly three inches above it. This time the Doctor ducked.

‘I’m not armed,’ he called out, knowing full well it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.  ‘I mean you no har…’

Another blast landed near the other two, resulting in a tight triangular grouping that any marksman would be proud of.

‘Sniping,’ he said to himself.   ‘A grizzly concept.’

Three more laser blasts came in rapid succession, slamming into the crate the Doctor was huddling behind.  ‘Reinforcements, fantastic!’

The Doctor hadn’t expected a welcome as confrontational as this; in fact, he was expecting something rather more like open arms and warm gratitude.  After all, it was the people of this planet who had put out the distress signal, to which he had made sure to reply well in advance of his arrival so as to ensure something like this wouldn’t happen.  But why then were they not listening to his pleas of peace?

Why did that always seem to be the case?

Footsteps were coming his way, and fast.  The Doctor peaked up over the top of the crate to see what he was up against; eleven guards, from the look of it… no, fourteen… no, seventeen!  Seventeen guards just to greet someone who had come to help them?  Things must be very bad indeed.

The Doctor popped up from his hiding place—which wasn’t too good, as he was now completely surrounded—and threw his hands up in the air.  ‘I mean you no harm,’ he said, accompanying his words with a wide toothy smile.  ‘Take me to your leader.’

I am the leader, came a voice from within the Doctor’s head.  Communication by telepathy wasn’t all too uncommon in the universe, but it still came as a bit of a surprise to those unfortunate beings still plagued by primitive vocal speech, even the Doctor.  But as soon as the words stopped ringing in the Doctor’s mind someone stepped through the semi-circular ring of guards.  He wore tight fitting cloths that accentuated the arachnid design of his body, in contrast to the bulky armour worn by the guards which kept their physical appearance a relative mystery.

‘Well hello, I’m the Doctor.  I’ve come to help.  Although I must say I was surprised by your welcome after having responding to your distress call well before entering your space, although I can’t say I’m not used to such,’ he paused, ‘less-than-gregarious welcomes.’

Why have you come? 

This took the Doctor aback.  ‘I just told you, I’ve come to help as per the distress signal picked up by my TARDIS.’

Where is our gift?

‘Gift?’  The Doctor scratched his mess of curls, and then slowly lowered his hands back down to his sides.  ‘I’m afraid I hadn’t the time to stop.  And besides, I should hardly know what passes as a suitable gift on…what planet is this again?  You see, I’ve been having some trouble lately with the TARDIS’ identification protocols, and…’

Shoot him!  The leader began to turn away from the Doctor, and the guards all re-adjusted their aim.  The click and whine of power cells charging up caused the dumfounded grin on the Doctor’s face to quickly melt away.

‘What?  Wait… no… isn’t that a bit harsh?  I’m sorry about the gift, but as I said, I’m only here because—‘

Without any warning the guards crumpled to the ground.  A moment later, the leader, too, fell down in a heap.

‘Now that was unexpected.’  The Doctor scanned the area.  He dared not move until he was sure there weren’t any guns pointed at him.  Not, of course, that he could ever be too sure about that.  And when he was as sure as he could hope to be, he took one step toward the leader.  His mind instantly recoiled with a profound sense of confusion and panic so strong that in brought him down to one knee.

The Doctor struggled to maintain focus of his surroundings, and it was while gripped by this dizzying haze that he watched through squinted eyes as the guards began standing up one by one, soon followed by the leader.  As they rose, the sense of confusion in the Doctor’s mind subsided, allowing him to slowly stand.

I apologize, came the familiar voice of the leader.  Please accept my most humble apologies.

‘You needn’t apologize,’ said the Doctor, delicately rubbing his temples, ‘although an explanation would certainly be most welcome.’

Of course, came the leader’s instant reply.  The leader closed his eyes for a second, and almost immediately the soldiers dispersed. My name is Xzohr.  I am the Prime Regent of the continent Azyren, of the planet Clyreon.  We began broadcasting the distress signal because we have found ourselves in a predicament we cannot handle without assistance.

‘As tends to be the case,’ said the Doctor, smirking childishly.

Yes, well, we have heard tales of a Doctor with fantastic powers who might be able to help us.

 

artwork by ANDY LAMBERT
used with permission
 
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