Chapter Seven

Jack had to admit it was odd seeing Rose doing the Doctor's manic dance around the console, operating the TARDIS while he flew them to the Salt Plains.

"Are you sure you'll be able to function while you're inside her?" Jack said when the Doctor finished and rested against the console.

"What's that supposed to mean?" the Doctor said, looking at him.

"Well, you're inside the woman you love and you can control her. Not going to engage in a little touchy feely with Rose's body, are we?" Jack said.

"No because if Jackie dies while I'm engaging in touchy feely, Rose will reassert herself and engage in slappy slappy of our face," the Doctor said, pointing to Rose's face.

"What about me?" Jack said.

"What about you?" the Doctor said.

"Well, you and Blondie combined, it is a bit tempting. Two for the price of one, you know," Jack purred.

The Doctor went still for a moment before bursting out laughing.

"Rose just told me that not only will she engage in slappy slappy if you try it but you'll also get footy footy up your bum and I agree with that," he said.

"Just asking," Jack said, sitting down beside Ianto on the jump seat.

"You're not angry about that?" the Doctor said to Ianto. "What he said just now?"

"I'm used to it, trust me," Ianto said while Jack pinched his lover's cheek.

The TARDIS stopped and powered down.

"Well, here we go, be ready for anything," he said to them.

Jack and Ianto stood up and followed the Doctor to the door. The Doctor opened it, peeked out and then nodded at his friends before stepping outside. Jack stepped outside and blanched. The weather had changed from being cool and cloudy to being hot and arid. The ground around them was a light tan instead of dark brown. Jack guessed it was from the amount of salt in the ground mixed with the dirt. There was nothing around them for miles except for the occasional hill and several big rocks.

"Charming," Jack said while the Doctor closed the TARDIS door. "But I suppose there's no chance of anything sneaking up on us now."

"On the contrary, I told you there were underground dwellers that come up to snatch at their prey."

"So look down then," Ianto said.

"Well, you're forgetting the big birds that will run up and kill you too," Jack said to Ianto. "Fun for all!"

The Doctor looked around and sighed.

"Okay, where is the blasted holographic message?" he said.

"Maybe if you flash your titties, Callisto will come running," Jack said. "Just a joke," he said when the Doctor glowered at him.

The Doctor's head jerked to the right when he saw something flash on a nearby hill and he saw a holographic image of Jackie. He sensed Rose's renewed anguish and he silently calmed her while he, Jack and Ianto walked towards the hill.

Jack looked all around them, figuring something would pop up and devour them in a heartbeat if they weren't careful. He wasn't entirely sure the hill was safe either. He could imagine them stepping onto it and falling through like quicksand into one of the spider's lairs. But he followed his friend up the hill and to his relief, nothing happened.

"Alright, what do we have to do?" the Doctor said when he reached the hologram.

"Go that way," Holo Jackie said, pointing behind her. "I am currently a prisoner of the Anthrosis. You will find the entrance behind a huge boulder. Try to rescue me, if you can, Doctor."

The hologram shut off.

"So he has made an alliance with the Anthrosis," Ianto said.

"Perhaps but they still aren't overly fond of the Arcadians," the Doctor said, looking back at them. "Or it could be a lie to get us to walk willingly into their midst and become dinner. Butů"

"The game must be played out," Jack said.

The Doctor nodded and the three of them walked down the other side of the hill. The sun beat down on them and Jack blew a raspberry.

"This sucks," he said. "Too hot and dusty, no wonder the Anthrosis are pissed off that they were forced to live in all this. I would be too."

The Doctor held up a hand and forced them to stop. He pointed off to the left and Jack and Ianto saw a bird like creature in the distance. Its body was like an ostrich but it was more reptilian than bird. It had a tan coloring that matched the sand with a few darker brown feathers on top of its bald head like a feathery plume. It was currently searching the sand for prey and looking down so it hadn't spotted them yet. It was also about a mile and a half away from their position.

"Can they run really fast?" Jack said softly to the Doctor.

"As fast as an ostrich so yes," the Doctor said, nodding.

"Great. Well, I have my webley in my holster so if it comes close, it will be Christmas dinner."

"Just keep quiet and try not to attract attention," the Doctor said softly.

They walked at a normal pace but kept their eyes on the bird. Currently it had its back to them and was still foraging in the dust for prey. Then the Doctor stopped them again and pointed. On a large hill up ahead, two reptilian beings came to the top of it and crouched down. Both of them were pale green and scaly and resembled humanoid snakes. They had dark green hair that was shaved into a stiff Mohawk. One was an adult and the other a child. Both of them were focused on the bird so they didn't see the Doctor and his companions at first. Then the child caught sight of them and tugged on the adult's arm. The adult turned his head and Jack coughed nervously when both beings stared at them intently.

"Anthrosis?" Jack said to the Doctor.

"Yup," the Doctor said.

"Adult and child?" Ianto said.

"Yup," the Doctor said.

"Planning to kill us?" Jack said.

"Dunno," the Doctor said.

"If they don't, that will," Ianto said, pointing off to the left.

They looked over and noticed that the bird was now running towards them.

"I see it finally noticed us," Jack said. "Shit!" he said, reaching into his holster.

"Wait," the Doctor said, stopping him.

They watched while the adult Anthrosis stood up and hissed loudly before he ran towards the bird. Jack was floored. The man was running faster than any human could and he quickly overtook the bird and leapt on its back, opening his mouth and sinking large cobra fangs into the side of the bird's neck. The bird squawked in pain and ran around in a large circle while the Anthrosis wrapped his arms around its neck and hung on for dear life. After five minutes of running, the bird began to slow and wobble as the venom finally affected its nervous system. The bird squawked in distress and the adult Anthrosis slid off and stood there, watching while the bird wobbled, tried to take a few steps and then fell over. Both he and the child hissed in triumph as the bird expired and fell still. Then he turned his attention to the Doctor, Jack and Ianto and walked towards them while the child did the same.

"Here goes nothing," Jack said, keeping his hand near his holster while the adult hissed threateningly at them.

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