Chapter Four

When they reached the house, there was a plump, elderly lady standing on the porch waiting to greet them. The Doctor did a double take when he got a good look at her.

"Zara?" he said to her. "You own Gallifreyan Dells Dairy?"

Zara chuckled.

"I'm pleased you remember me, Doctor, it's been awhile since I was a member of the council," she said. "And yes, I'm co-owner. My husband started this and after I left the council, I joined him. And Rain, it's been awhile as well."

"Nice to see you again, Councilor Zara," Rain said.

"Eh, call me Zara now, haven't been a councilor in ages. Tara, I know but who is this?"

"This is my youngest daughter, Hope," the Doctor said. "Hope, this is Zara, an old friend."

"Hi," Hope said, waving. "Do you have Earth cows here too?"

"We do," Zara said. "Well, to be honest, we got in several and we're trying to breed them. I could give you a tour since I'm sure that's what Alan and Rose want at the moment. Do you have the time?"

"We have as much time as you need," the Doctor said.

Zara nodded and smiled. She stepped down off the porch and beckoned to them. Everyone followed her down a dirt path to the first barn. The barns were large, made of wood and a couple of acres long. Zara slid open a large metal door and everyone stepped inside. The air inside smelled of straw, cow and dung. There were stables stretching towards the other end of the building. Some were empty but most held cows and putongs in them.

"As you can see, we have a mix of cattle in here," she said, gesturing to the stalls while they walked. "And this is an Earth cow," she said, pointing at one as they stopped by its stall. "Just got it about…oh…two months ago. We're trying to branch out and bring in more species for a more diverse range of products. We're been successful with the putong milk but some customers have asked for more flavors and different kinds of milk. We decided to oblige them."

"Are you planning to interbreed?" the Doctor asked her while Hope stroked the cow's face.

"We're not sure, we have to look into that first. We want to be sure they can interbreed," Zara said.

"What's interbreeding?" Hope said.

"Mate cows and putongs and see if you get a brand new species of cow," Alan said to her.

"So you make a cow that's kinda purple?" Hope said to Zara.

Zara chuckled.

"Perhaps. Perhaps a putong with a tail," she said to her.

"Do you have baby cows?" Hope asked.

"We do but that's in the next barn. So everyone, follow me."

They walked out of the barn and Zara shut the door. She led them to the next barn, identical to the first except half the size. When they went inside, there was a strong smell of antiseptic added to the other mixture of smells. Zara shut the door behind them.

"We have a few cows that were born prematurely. That's why it has a slightly hospital smell to it. We have several that are ill as well. We're trying to save them. And there are normal calves that are just being held in here until they're old enough to be put to pasture."

The stalls here were made of Perspex with air holes in the front of them. On the front of each one was a keypad. Inside the stalls, calves rested on fresh straw and ate at grain troughs and drank at a water trough near the back. Below the keypad was a monitor with another keypad attached to it. Zara led them to one that had a premature putong inside it. She punched a code into the keypad and everyone backed up when the door swung open. Unlike the others, this stall had no troughs inside it. The putong was tiny, slightly larger than a newborn baby. Zara went inside and gently picked up the newborn. When she moved it, it made a very weak "WAAAAH" noise as it lowed. Zara smiled at Hope when she drew near.

"Would you like to hold her?" Zara said.

Hope nodded and smiled and Zara carefully put the newborn calf in her arms. Hope cradled the baby and walked back to her parents with it. The Doctor smiled and knelt down while everyone else gathered in for a closer look.

"What's wrong with her?" the Doctor asked Zara. "You said she was premature but is she ill or just weak?"

"This one has underdeveloped lungs," Zara said. "It's fairly common with first time parents like hers. Putong generally have trouble with their first birth or two. We're tending to her as best we can but she's still weak."

"She's cute," Hope said, rocking the baby putong gently in her arms while the putong let out her "Wah!" The Doctor pointed to a series of three horizontal ridges along the baby's neck.

"See these?" he said to his daughters while Tara bent over for a closer look. "These ridges under the skin are all that remain of gills. Millions of years ago, the putong were aquatic mammals and lived under the sea. This is all that remains of that."

"They can't swim now?" Tara asked him.

"Not like a fish, not anymore," the Doctor said, shaking his head.

"So you don't throw them in the water and be mean," Hope said to Alan.

Rose laughed when Alan sucked in his breath and cracked his knuckles while he walked over to the back of the giggling child.

"What was that you said just now? Sounded something akin to abuse and stupidity just then," he said behind her, leaning in while Hope giggled. "Sounds like you think I would throw these cows in a sack and drown them for a giggle. Is that what you just said?"

Hope shrugged and grinned when Alan put his hand on her head and tapped his finger against her skull.

"Just so you know, I'm plotting pain for you but you won't know when it comes," he said aloud while Hope giggled at the tapping of his finger on her skull.

"Hey, Dad," Tara whispered as she leaned in to him.

"Hey, what?"

"Zoo next?"

The Doctor let out an exasperated sigh while Tara giggled.

"See him?" the Doctor said, pointing to Alan. "Technically, he's me. Take him!"

"I can't take him to a zoo. He'll abuse the giraffes."

"Too right. Spotted demons, ignoring me all those years ago. They deserve to be thrown in the sack and drowned, not something like Purply here," he said.

He paused a moment and then resume the tapping of his finger against Hope's skull while she giggled.

"I want this one. Daddy, let's keep it," Hope said to the Doctor.

She and Tara laughed when the Doctor's eyes bulged and he stared at her silently for a moment.

"And pray, eager lover of animals daughter, where will we keep said putong?" he finally said to her as he pointed to the calf.

"In the house," Hope said. "In my bedroom."

Everyone laughed when the Doctor gave her the wide eyed stare for a moment before straightening up.

"Latara," he said to his wife. "Didn't our daughter see the adult putong out in the field before we came in?"

"I believe she did, yes," Rain said.

"Does she think this one won't grow then?" the Doctor said to her as he pointed to the calf.

"It could live in the swimming pool, like it used to do millions of years ago," Hope said.

"Oh jolly good, what better way to scare the living snot out of the dogs than to have a great big purple cow come out of the swimming pool towards them," the Doctor said while everyone howled with laughter. "And we'll be a hit at our barbecues when our guests have to dodge both the cow and the cow shite while they're swimming in the water. I-eeeeee don't think so, Hope," he said to her. "You have two dogs at the house, that's quite enough."

"Can I keep it here then?" Hope said. "And come visit it if Uncle Alan gets the farm."

"That would be lovely, visit it all you like, all the livelong day. As long as it stays here and your studies don't suffer. You're not failing the academy because you're here ogling Bessy all day and night."

"Can you make sure she doesn't die for me?" Hope asked Zara.

"I will try my best, love," Zara said fondly.

"If it helps, I think I might have something in my med bay that can help heal the cows and keep them alive," the Doctor said. "I'll fetch the medicines after the tour if you'd like."

"Thank you, Doctor, I would love that," Zara said.

"And they won't harm the milk or meat of the cow in any way," the Doctor said. "Since you're concerned about everything being organic."

Zara thanked him again and took the putong from Hope. Rain rubbed her shoulder while Hope watched Zara put the calf back down in the straw. The cow lowed weakly for a moment before going back to sleep. Zara closed the door and smiled at everyone.

"This way, I'll show you where we milk the putongs and make the dairy products," she said to them.

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