'So what happened to them? And they aren't extinct.'
'Same old story. Every solar system has one or two like it. An advanced race with amazing powers is destroyed for evil or hubris. Their continent sinks or their planet's destroyed, they all die. Legends and cautionary tales, mostly; I've never seen it happen. The Lemurians are extinct, though. Every single one. Dead as dodos. Even the two you've met.'
He grinned at my expression. 'No more questions. Plenty of time for that later. Get up and dress for dinner. And don't bother looking for your old clothes. They're in the TARDIS laundry because they were covered in mud. You still are, so stop lollygagging and hit the showers.'
The Professor stood. ' I'll leave you to your modesty. Knock when you're done, then we'll head for Sally and Peace's house. Oh! And Ace? Happy Thanksgiving!'
'Ace, aren't you at least curious where I attained this automobile?' He asked an hour later as he nimbly drove through town.
'What's the use of asking?'
I was sulking. The Professor had deflected, ignored or pretended not to hear my non-stop barrage of questions as we'd lugged a cooler from the hotel and drove toward the Spenser's. Now I was giving him the silent treatment.
'Nothing ventured, nothing gained.'
Oh, all right. I took the bait, knowing there was a hook. 'Well?'
'It's Sally's car. She lent it to me last night.' He stared sideways at me, 'And don't ask.'
Have I mentioned I used to have temper management problems?
'Arrgghh! How am I supposed to watch your back if you never tell me anything? "We lead dangerous lives, Ace". Well, bullocks to that! You aren't the one who almost got killed last night! I'm the one leading the dangerous life! You're the one running around three steps ahead with all the answers! Would it have killed you to tell me that Luuna was a dangerous Lemurian ghost? So I could, I don't know, maybe not die? Or would that have ruined your secret master plan?'
The Professor braked the car in the middle of the street. Suddenly, he looked very small. 'Ace...' he began, gently.
'Hmmpphh!' I stared at the rear-view mirror. A Dodge drew up and he waved it past.
'Ace, I didn't know. Honestly. And ignorance saved you. If you'd known her for what she is last night you'd have lit up psionically and gotten her curious. If she'd peered deeper in your mind...'
Wait a minute! What had Luuna said? "Little thief?" What was in my pack?
There was a honk, and he waved a Ford past. A man who looked like Father Christmas leaned out the passenger window, 'Engine trouble?'
More to the point, what had the Professor put in my pack?
'Hey, it's that little saucer! How did that get there, Doctor, I wonder? And my nitro-9! I get to keep it?' I said.
'Put that away, Ace. It's going to be important,' the Professor said. I think he meant the saucer, but you'll note I didn't ask him to clarify. Out the window, he called, 'No, thank you. We're fine!' The Ford with Saint Nick pulled away.
He turned to me. 'Well, Ace?'
He turned to me. 'Well, Ace?'
'I don't know... Doctor, I was really scared. And she was after me because of something you did. I wanted you there so badly.'
'Ace, I promise you. You'll be scared again. You'll be in danger again. We might even have this conversation again, sadly. You know me. But I promise you – you are my Ace, my only Ace and I swear to you that if you trust me and do what I say the monsters will never get you.'
I dimly registered another vehicle approaching.
'Is it always going to be this weird?'
'Were you like this with Mel?'
'She left me for Glitz, Ace. Glitz.'
Yeah, that made the skin crawl. Speaking of which...
'So Luuna was a Lemurian, huh?'
'Yes. Ancient legendary evil. Just like your friend Smokey.'
'But she's dead, right? Or...'
The Professor looked in the rear view and grinned.
'She'd better not be dead. That could make dinner rather awkward, don't you think?'
There behind us idled the Space Cadillac.
'Right on schedule,' the Doctor said. 'Now! Are we good?'
I had to laugh. Damn him. Did he know I'd throw a fit, right here, so he'd have an excuse to stop? Or was it just a coincidence?
'Professor, you owe me a big one, you hear? Start the car! Thanksgiving dinner, here we come!'
Freezing mist shrouds the Red Banks ridge, 3780 meters in the sky. This close to the summit, the sky feels larger than the mountain; even though I cannot see it, I can almost feel it lifting me from the trail, trying to give me to the wind. I feel light, like my body is fading, but in my head a bright pain blossoms. At my feet is a line of footprints. I realise I have turned around.
I marshal my thoughts. The sky's not trying to kill me. I'm dizzy, my head hurts and I'm disoriented. This is altitude sickness. I find a nook to the lee of the wind and lean on the rock face. I pull off my gloves and my hands go hot, then numb. I fumble with the catches on my pack, finally getting it open. Oxygen first. Then the very special Peruvian tea I dared to sneak through customs. Breathe, drink, breathe, drink. I grow warm, and weariness seeps into my bones.
'Well, there's our sleepyhead!' said Sally, 'How are you feeling this morning, dear?'
'She's fine,' said the Professor, 'Good as new.'
'Well, you were covered with cuts and bruises when I put you down last night, you poor thing.' Oh God, Sally was mothering me. Alarmed, I backed away a step. A tiny hint of hurt crossed her face.
'I'm okay, really,' I said, 'Um, thanks, okay, Miss Spenser? But we've got all this food, here...'
'What did I say? She's fine.' said the Professor, 'Come on, Ace, kitchen's this way. Sally, the others are right behind behind us.'