Chapter 4

Donna shivered and looked around at the bleak scenery. The Doctor had parked the TARDIS in some picnic area set up in a lay-by alongside a two-lane country tarmac. Heavily treed mountains were on both sides of the road. The forest was a mixture of grays and greens and browns, evergreens mingling with hardwoods. A few yards from them, a stream chuckled over stones worn smooth by timeless waters.

Some people may have found the area tranquil and picturesque. Donna was more interested in going back to the relative warmth of the TARDIS. She stared balefully at the Doctor. He lay stretched out on a picnic table, his long legs hanging off one edge. He had his hands clasped behind his head, which was tilted to the west, watching the sun slowly setting behind a mountain peak. Donna pulled her anorak closer about her. She made a mental note to buy a warm pair of socks, next time she went home for a visit.

"Why are we here, Doctor?" She asked for the fifth time, as she paced up and down to keep warm. "I don't see any little green men hanging about."

"How do you know they're green? They might be red. Or blue. Or red and blue." He suggested. "Or blue with red polka dots. Oooh. I'd love to meet a polka-dot alien."

Sitting up, the Doctor swung his legs over and slid off the table. He stretched his arms, admiring the view. The edges of his long coat flapped a little in the stiff breeze coming off the mountains. He slipped his hand into his brown suit and pulled out his eyeglasses. Slipping them on, he took out an odd device from his coat pocket. It resembled a small toy crossbow made of clear plastic. But instead of a bowstring there was yellow cable wire, and the bow was actually a long, narrow silver dish with thin, multiple antennas sprouting from it.

"I don't suppose we could meet your alien someplace with central heating." Donna complained.

"Nah. Fresh air, can't beat it." The Doctor told her. As he fiddled with the device, his feet scuffed through some debris left by summer picnickers. "Mind you, this place could do with a Hoovering. Won't happen, though. 'Nature abhors a vacuum'. I tried that out on Milton once, but he didn't get it. Well, fair dues. They hadn't been invented yet. Besides, he had a maid to do the carpet sweeping, and...erm—other things."

Pressing a trigger-like switch at the bottom of the device, the Doctor aimed it at the sky. The device glowed red and began to hum. Pocketing the glasses, he grinned with delight. "Ah! Here we go!"

"What's that supposed to do, then?" Donna asked through chattering teeth, seeing the white fog of her breath trailing away from her in the wind.

"Detects traces of a mitron energy signature. It's a harmless bit of exhaust left by most types of military spacecraft. It will help me to find out if there's been some sort of reconnaissance going on in the area.

"But, you said it was nineteen sixty three. Wouldn't we have known by now if we'd been invaded?" Donna wondered.

"Zygons. The Time Wyrm. Ice Warriors. The Macramé Fairy. Sycorax. Know about any of them?" The Doctor countered casually, raising an eyebrow.

"The Macramé Fairy?" Donna said skeptically. "I did that once. On summer holiday, when I was a kid."

In response, the Doctor suddenly produced his sonic screwdriver. He ran it up and down Donna's body. Then flicked it off and put it away.

"Hmm—yes. Yes, you did. Got any sudden urges to make belts or potted plant hangers?"

"No." Donna shook her head. "Haven't done that for years."

"You're fine then, Donna." He nodded. "Though you might want to stay away from craft fairs, from now on."

"Next you're gonna' tell me that Cabbage Patch dolls and disco were part of an alien invasion." Donna shook her head.

"Don't be daft, Donna." The Doctor said. He shrugged, tugging on his ear, "Rubik's Cube, though..."

"It's getting awfully dark." She observed.

"Shouldn't be too long, now. They'll want to wait until dark. So they won't draw too much attention to themselves." The Doctor said. "Your planet's radar technology was still fairly new in the early sixties. In fact, most commercial airports don't even use it yet. They still rely on landing lights."

The sun had already set behind the mountains. Beyond its orange and murky blue afterglow, the first stars were winking into existence. Far out into space, just beyond the moon, was a star that wasn't a star. A pinprick of light which was far brighter than all of the others. And it was moving. Towards them.

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