'Very well.' said the Lemurian. He stood and began to orate dramatically as he circled the table. As he spoke, we heard sounds in our minds; energy blasts, explosions, murmuring crowds.
'When Zillotti Colony V was destroyed, those of our people who escaped went underground. But one of us, our greatest historian, the one who had pleaded most persuasively to accept the Brotherhood's offers, grew mad with vengeance. Machines were built in secret, mysteries of the mind were mastered. A ship went to the Brother's home world and soon the legend of the Faceless Prophet grew. After many years of service the Prophet accepted the merit reward of supervision of the fleet. This was the desired outcome. In secret, the Prophet returned to our people and told us vengeance would soon be won and our destruction avenged.'
He stopped speaking, deep in thought. Sally touched his arm, offered him a slice of apple pie. He sat and ate, continuing the story by telepathy, less dramatic than before.
'I was the Prophet's son. The last child born to us, a true native of this world. I saw evil in the plan. I had met the Lords and Ladies of Gallifrey; they had committed no crime against our people. Even though I knew the fleet would be destroyed, great damage would have come to Gallifrey. After the Prophet departed, I sent a warning of the coming peril. Later, I sifted the wreckage, finally finding the Prophet's last fragile particle of awareness, and bore it away home. After millions of years of careful cultivation I was pleased to find my efforts repaid, and Luuna lived again.'
Peace looked up, startled. 'What? Are you telling us Luuna's your mother?'
'Oh, certainly not!' said Smokey, laying down his salad fork. 'Luuna is my father.'
Jack Kraft sprayed cider across the table. 'Jesus! That explains a few things,' he said, 'Hey, Gladys! You had a man in your head! Ain't that...Gladys?'
There was no response from the chair except a soft snore. A few of us chuckled quietly, and I reached for my tea when I stopped, puzzled. I saw concentric circles form on its surface. 'Doctor?' I said, my voice distinct in the sudden hush, and then the dishes began rattling and my chair shook. The three pilgrims leaped to their feet and someone yelled, 'Quake!' and the Professor pulled me under the table. Somehow I had the presence of mind to grab my pack. We huddled there as the earth groaned beneath us. Dishes danced off the table edge, timbers creaked and somewhere in the house something heavy crashed to the floor. The Doctor and I were not alone under the table. Smokey was calmly finishing his pie with a distant expression on his face. Jack was trying to cover Peace and Sally, but he was looking toward the recliner. 'We've forgotten Gladys!' I shouted at the Professor. We scrambled out of our shelter and stopped, staring. A moment later Jack, Peace and Sally joined us.
Jack shouted over the din, 'Where is she?'
The recliner lay on its side, empty. Gladys and the pilgrims were gone.
Peace yelled something about keys and stumbled out to the hall. The cars! I followed her, dodging a falling bookcase, sensing Sally behind me. The front door was open and I saw Peace, frozen on the sidewalk, looking open-mouthed at the house. A sharp lurch almost knocked me off my feet but I managed to grab the door frame and throw myself outside, where I immediately grew dizzy from the total lack of movement.
Remember what I told you about stepping over the TARDIS threshold?
'Oh, no way!' I said. The house visibly trembled, and I heard rumbling and crashes inside, but out here the earth was utterly still except for a faint sympathetic vibration. To enter stillness so suddenly was hypnotic, so when Jack pushed me aside I was taken totally by surprise. I went down hard, winded and stunned. It was over before I got back on my feet.
I heard Jack's angry shouts and a scuffle. Peace shouted, 'Leave him alone!' and I heard a car door slam and she shouted, 'No! Uncle Jack!' Tires spun on concrete, gained purchased and squealed, and Alpha surged across the lawn and bounced onto the road. I struggled up just in time to see it speed around the corner.
Peace raced up. 'They've taken Uncle Jack! They hurt him! We have to catch them!'
Suddenly the Doctor was beside us, his face a mask of anger. 'We will, Peace, we will! Sally, time to go!' He patted his pockets. 'Keys?'
'You gave them back! They're inside!' cried Sally. She looked at the shaking house, then back at Peace. She had the oddest expression on her face. Then she grabbed Peace in a fierce hug and whispered something in her ear. Peace stepped back, confused. Sally shot the Doctor a hard glance and I saw him quickly nod. She looked at the house, squared her shoulders and ran inside.
The Doctor took us each by the hand and pulled us away from the house. Neither of us protested. I was still a little dazed and Peace seemed like she was in another world. We reached Gamma and leaned against her. I clung to the Professor's hand, gasping for breath while spots danced in my eyes.
I feel very far away.
I have reached the summit. The mountain falls away on every side of me. Four wispy figures move encircle me and I feel my body reviving. I watch the setting sun glint off the chrome highlights on the black object as my heartbeat slows and strengthens. The air in my lungs is rich and full, and the pain in my head fades to nothing. My entire being is suffused with wondrous expectation. A question comes to me from the oldest of the beings.
(You're there now, aren't you?)
'Yes, I am. What's happening?' My voice sounds enclosed, and I see a shimmer surrounding the summit.
(Oh, drifting residue from a temporal waveform, augmented by altitude sickness and the lingering after-effects of extensive telepathic trauma, is entangling original events and your memories of them. It happens.)
'Not to me, it doesn't.'
(Let us be grateful it does, young friend. It allows you to live, and allows us to act.)
'Act? What do you mean, act?'
(Be quiet, Dorothy McShane. I am protecting you from the blast.)
'Smokey? Make sense, you toe-rag! What blast? And what do you mean, act?'
(I mean, an act of restitution, perhaps?)
'Wait! Restitution for what?'
The Professor dropped my hand, shocked surprise on his face. He'd felt something. Peace looked at us and in that frozen millisecond I saw the orange reflection bloom in her eyes as the house behind us erupted in a towering fireball. It was in slow motion, like in an action movie. I could see the blast wave sweep toward and around us; the flames came next, then the debris. But we were safe. An invisible dome protected us and Gamma.
Peace lunged toward the inferno and the Professor grabbed her waist. She struggled and his grip loosened. I shook off my torpor and tackled her legs. We all fell. Peace's exertions weakened as the totality of the destruction sunk in.
We were well inside the circle of ruin. There was nothing left except blackened bones of framework, licked by weak flames. The Professor lay his head on Peace's back and stroked her, his eyes burning into mine. His expression terrified me.
'She's gone, Ace. I'm so sorry, Peace.' I saw him deftly press three points on her spine and he released her, gesturing that I could, too. We sat up and looked at each other: we'd survived again. But we were forgetting something...