Author: Tardis Traveler
Massive gray clouds hung over the wild jagged uncharted mountain top. Nearby an isolated alpine lake lay nestled among rugged rocky boulders dusted lightly with freshly fallen snow. Three weeks of summer remained, but high above the world below, nature followed its own calendar.
This world was silent except for the distant cry of a Mongolia Eagle circling high overhead dulled by the swirling icy winds. Suddenly a third sound blended in and an unnatural object appeared on the landscape.
Abruptly this pristine natural environment was invaded by a small ger that seemed to come from no where and settle down near the small lake. Several minutes later an even more anachronistic object was placed outside the ger door. The strange metal dish seemed innocuous enough, but it would impact many lives in the very near future.
"Look," screamed Ace, "you can see the Tardis from here!"
Willow and Tara ran to where Ace was leaning over the metal railing pointing to a small blue object below.
"I see it... home sweet home," cried Willow.
It was a gloriously clear sunny day. The bright azure sky was dotted with tiny thin clouds and the brisk breeze was fresh and invigorating. It was one of those rare energizer days that made one feel happy to be alive.
Tara sprang from the railing and twirled in a circle her head pulled back toward the sky and her arms outstretched.
"Whee, I feel so lighthearted and free," she squealed in pure joy. "Sweetie, can you believe that we are actually here... at the top of the Eiffel Tower?"
"In Paris, France," screamed the thrilled trio in unison.
The three overly excited young women clasped hands and skipped in a circle screaming, "We're in Paris, France," over and over.
Their merriment came to an embarrassing halt when the elevator door opened and several Parisian sightseers stepped out. The girls laughed giddily when they recognized the word, "American," followed by shaking heads.
"Guess we didn't improve the reputations of Americans," laughed Ace.
"Who cares, I don't mind being thought of as crazy," chimed in Willow.
"You're very cute when you act crazy, Sweetie," added Tara.
"Why thank you my Dear... you, on the other hand, are always cute," replied Willow.
"Come over here and look," yelled Ace.
Willow and Tara joined Ace and continued their tour of Paris from the sky. Below them was the bright green grass of Champ de Mars Park with its beautiful fountains and colorful street vendors. The bluish gray River Seine sparkled in the sunlight as tour boats glided past the tower on their way to the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
"Oh, look there in the distance... it looks like a big castle. It's beautiful," said Ace.
"That's the Palais de Chaillot," explained Tara. "We should go there. It has four museums and a pretty water fountain in front."
Tara continued looking at the building in silence for a few more moments. When she looked up both Ace and Willow were staring at her in amusement.
"Whaaat," asked Tara slightly embarrassed.
"Show off," teased Ace.
"Ahhh, you are my beautiful knowledge girl," Willow proudly stated.
"Yes, I say Tara should be our official tour guide," suggested Ace.
"Great, I second that idea," agreed Willow.
Tara faked a pout and raised both her eyebrows.
"Tour guide... that's just cuz you two are too lazy to read! You want me to do all the work for you... admit it."
"Guilty," admitted the other two women freely.
As all three broke out into giggles, Willow scooted closer to her wife and whispered softly in her ear.
"Ummmm, Baby, I'm going to spend the whole day thinking of ways to thank you when we are back in our cozy romantic room tonight," purred Willow.
Tara shivered with anticipation and whispered back. "I'll hold you to that my sexy little Dr. Vixen. Don't blame me then if it is a really short tour!"
Willow flushed a little and then winked at Tara and replied. "No blame here!"
They continued strolling around the observation deck glancing down, up, and at the horizon. Suddenly Tara was the one excited as she thought she spotted the glass pyramid in front of the Louvre.
"Oh, we have to go there next," cried Tara. "We can't come to Paris and not see the Mona Lisa!"
"Oooo, yes, I need to see the statue my shoes are named after too," squealed Willow.
"Sweetie, what are you talking about," asked Tara.
"You know Honey... the Nike statue!"
"Sweetheart, what am I going to do with you? You take a priceless ancient statue, Winged Victory, and compare it to a pair of old running shoes?"
"Do they have a Reebok statue?" asked Ace.
A lone figure stood outside his weathered ger and watched as another family went past his encampment. Buhbatar was a fairly young native Mongolian chieftain. He headed a dwindling group of nomadic yak herders. As far back as his memory could go his ancestors had roamed the vast tundra herding yaks. His wife, Chimeg, also came from a long line of yak herders and, Buddha willing, their three children would carry on the tradition.
Most of the other families in the area had already left for their uvuljuu or winter camps. Even though technically summer still had three more weeks to go, the winds had already turned chilly and the days had shrunk. Early snowfalls seemed likely.
A year ago Buhbatar would have also been pulling up stakes and moving to new feeding grounds, but he had now taken his first step to becoming a modern Mongolian. Due to the poor economic conditions in his country, he had been forced to change in order to preserve his family's way of life. Luckily he was an adaptable person.
It was just a year ago that he had made contracts with several tour companies including the National Geographic Society which supplemented his income quite nicely. Under these agreements, tourists or guests would periodically visit his camp to become immersed in the life of a nomad. He had built a traditional ger specifically for these guests and his wife, who was an expert weaver, had made all the yak blankets and robes herself.
That was the reason that he was still here. Two National Geographic guests were arriving the next day for a short visit. They were the last visitors of the summer season. After their departure he would also more to his uvuljuu. He was just thankful that Buddha had saved enough grass for his horses and herd to feed on for another week.
It was mid-morning, but the sky was dark and threatening. The regular inhabitants of this isolated environment had already sought the shelter of their dens and burrows sensing that snow would soon be descending. There were foreign life forms here now too, that had started arriving during the frosty night and they seemed unaffected by the frigid temperatures.
Of course, their tall muscular bodies were completely protected by long thick coarse hair. Only the palms of their huge hands were hairless. They appeared to be manlike even though they wore no clothing of any kind. Their huge jaws housed equally large hunting teeth and above their eyes was a thick eyebrow ridge that ran the width of their broad faces. They were Almas and this was the first time that they had wandered so far from the safety of their secret mountain top domain.
Over a dozen of these mythical creatures restlessly ambled around the ger grunting and shaking their heads. The ger door slowly opened allowing a dark figure to emerge carrying a briefcase in one hand. This startled the gentle Almas and they ran closer to the lake and watched and waited. Under normal circumstances they would have fled the area, but some strange almost magnetic force was keeping them there.
The Controller placed the briefcase on the ger rooftop and clicked it open revealing a set of buttons and gauges. The flick of a simple switch brought an immediate reaction. The Almas stood erect and perfectly still like statues... only their white puffs of breath verified that these were actually living creatures.
<Ha! Everything is functioning perfectly... even at this altitude. It's almost too easy, but of course, they are just mindless animals in spite of their appearance. Well, I'll take a closer look... don't need all of them.>
The Controller walked over to the group of Almas, who were now assembled in a single long line. They were standing at attention with dazed expressions on their faces.
"Greetings my children, how very nice of you all to answer my humble call... of course... you really had no choice. I do not require help from all of you today. I will make my selections and then those left may return home."
The Almas made no response at all. They just continued to stand and stare at the Controller.
The Controller approached the line and slowly walked back and forth like a General inspecting his or her troops. On the third pass he stopped in front of the tallest Almas and pointed a small remote control device at him.
"You, in the ger now," he ordered.
The giant beast instantly obeyed the command and soon disappeared into the ger. Next, the shortest one was selected, then the bulkiest, the slightest, and four other random choices. With each, the pattern was the same as the first and each complied without protest.
<Hmmm, excellent... a good broad range there... should make for impressive testing results! Brrr can't wait to get to warmer land.>
"Alright my children, you are free to leave... consider yourselves extremely fortunate."
With that said he pointed the remote at the remaining Almas and pressed the red button. Then he returned to the ger entrance and gathered up all his equipment.
<And now my children you will learn a new command: KILL!>
Minutes later the ger was gone and this remote isolated area was returned to normal. Nothing remained as evidence to this bizarre encounter except for footprints, which were buried under snow an hour later.
A large brilliant moon reflected in the glass pyramid that marked the entrance to the Louvre Art Palace. Three weary young female tourists stood in its center gazing out from the spidery glass at the museum and the clear night sky.
"What a wonderful day!" exclaimed Willow.
"I can't believe that I actually got to see the Mona Lisa! I mean that is one of the four famous must see paintings in the world and I saw it," declared Tara.
"Yeah, I never thought of myself as an art lover, but this place is incredible," stated Ace.
"Yes and the Nike statue was awesome. You'll have to make me one Baby," said Willow.
"OR, you could just buy a souvenir one Sweetie," teased Tara.
"I know, but that's not the same as having one from you," she whined.
The women strolled out of the pyramid and continued their walk across the Cour Napoleon toward the street. After descending the Eiffel Tower, the three had immediately made there way to the Louvre. Once here, they had spent the remainder of the day exploring the huge museum.
"Well, we certainly need to come here again," stated Tara.
"Definitely, we haven't seen the Greek and Roman antiquities yet. I want to see carved stones from the coliseums with actual Roman numerals on them and Latin writing," cried Willow.
"I want to see the Egyptian Galleries," added Ace.
Tara threw her hands up in the air and spun around.
"Well, I want to see everything! So we better plan for at least a week just for the Louvre!"
Willow looked at her wife and felt her whole being fill with happiness and love. She couldn't help but beam at her soul mate. Tara was normally so quiet and reserved in front of others and especially out in public that it thrilled Willow completely to see her wife so animated and excited as she had been today. She couldn't resist rushing over to Tara and engulfing her in a loving hug!
"Baby, you can have two weeks if you need it! You can have all the time you need my beautiful little artist!"
Tara blushed at the attention, but returned the hug and added a kiss to Willow's cheek. She linked arms with Willow, who in turn liked arms with Ace and the three tired travelers made their way back to the Tardis.
Susan Kendal and her Aunt Beryl had spent two interesting and educational days with Buhbatar's family. The two women had enthusiastically immersed themselves into the daily lives of their hosts trying to experience as much as they could.
They had learned how gers were constructed and had experienced first hand how warm they were even though they are just made of wool felt over a tight wooden frame. Though rather dull looking on the outside, they were both surprised by how very colorful their interiors were. The walls and furniture are traditionally painted orange to resemble the color of the sun.
The two women had also participated in the day to day chores which included learning how to milk a yak and make Aaruul. Aaruul are cheese balls made in different shapes and sizes that are consumed all year round. A couple yak shapes were still drying on the roof of their ger. Beryl enjoyed learning how to comb the yak's hair to get felt used for clothes and gers. Being a knitter herself, she was more than pleased to receive a bag to take home with her.
Beryl was a freelance photographer who had spent many years filming various Geographic expeditions. She was going into semi-retirement next month and this visit was a present to her from the Society. Since she was single, she had asked her favorite niece to come along on the adventure.
They had been having a wonderful time until this morning. A huge commotion in camp roused them from their slumber early... before dawn. They could hear loud angry voices and it sounded like Chimeg was crying. They had quickly dressed and gone outside to see what was happening.
Outside the two women were surrounded with confusion and excited voices. The center of all the commotion seemed to be something that was under a huge canvas tarp. As they got closer both women could see fresh blood stains forming on several areas of the tarp. They paused, not sure if they really wanted to see what was under the tarp or not.
The decision was made for them when Cholon, Buhbatar's eldest son, rushed up and pulled back the canvas to get a look. The tarp had concealed the remains of two yaks that had literally been torn apart. Their stomachs were shredded exposing what few inner organs still remained. Even more ghastly was that the heads of each were missing... torn off completely.
Susan had felt shocked and sick to her stomach. Beryl, who had experience filming animal expeditions, was far less timid. She wanted to know what had happened to these poor creatures. Susan just wanted to leave and let the herders handle it. So Beryl had reluctantly agreed to return to their ger especially since she didn't think she'd learn anything at that moment anyway.
Later that day she did manage to learn that the yaks had been attacked during the night. There was speculation that wolves might have been the predators, but that was quickly discarded. Wolves couldn't tear off heads like that and they would have eaten the yaks not just killed them. There weren't any other predators in the area that would be capable of such a violent attack. This mystery was making the herders very anxious.
Cholon had ridden by horseback to the other camps and asked if they had had similar trouble. Two other families the pervious night had lost several goats and last night Oyon had three sheep killed from his flock. None of the families had any idea who could have done such a thing. Never before had anyone's animals been slaughtered like this.
Buhbatar was worried. He couldn't afford to loose any of his animals. He and Cholon discussed the situation and decided to bring the herd in closer to the camp. That way they could post a guard to stand on alert.
So the men on horseback rounded up the herd and then everyone helped to tether them. They tied three yaks each to a wooden stake. Susan and Beryl helped with the task and offered comfort to the families. It was an anxious day for everyone.
As nightfall approached a guard duty list was developed so that the herd would be watched all through the night. Everyone was exhausted from the strenuous and emotional day so most of them went to their gers soon after sunset.
Susan and Beryl went to their ger early too. They were not only a little tired out, but they were also very curious about what the other one thought could have done this. They sat and talked for a while drinking some airag that Chimeg had given them earlier saying it would help them relax.
On a previously empty hillside stood a large ovoo that had not been there four days ago. It was just after midnight and inside the ovoo the Controller was issuing orders for his next test.
"My children, you have done very well. Each of you has made a kill and has not been seen. Tonight I want you to return to the yak camp one more time. The yaks have been tethered and are close to the humans. It will be more difficult so you must work together as a team."
<This should tell me if you are capable of independent planning... and how you work as a group>
"I want you to kill five yaks and bring me the heads. Do you all understand your task?"
The eager Almas grunted and nodded their heads fiercely.
"Good... then go. Be back by dawn and do not allow yourselves to be seen by anyone."
An opening appeared in the side of the ovoo allowing the deadly killers to begin their hunt.
It was past midnight and nature's natural light systems were not functioning due primarily to the black clouds that filled the sky blocking the light from the moon and stars somewhere overhead. A disgruntled and nervous Cholon paced around the dark camp which was dimly illuminated by a large kerosene lantern. He had replaced his father on watch about twenty minutes ago and was hoping his would be an uneventful watch.
He carried an ancient rifle and a large carving knife hung from his waist. All his senses were at heightened alert for any sign of danger. Yaks were still the main source of their income and they couldn't survive if they lost much more of the herd.
Cholon heard movement behind him and quickly turned around raising the rifle in a defensive posture. Susan was completely startled and froze in her tracks. When he recognized who it was he lowered the gun and flashed an apologetic smile. Susan breathed a sigh of relieve and gave him a nervous smile. She closed her eyes and tilted her head sideways over her overlapped hands and made a snoring noise before raising and then shaking her head. He looked confused for a moment, then smiled and nodded his understanding.
They both stared at each other for a few more seconds and then Cholon returned to his guard duty.
<Guess deciding to take a late night stroll was not one of my brightest ideas. Wouldn't that make for a great story... reporter shot during late night rendezvous! Bet that would raise some eyebrows!>
She wasn't sure if it was the tensions of the day or the airag, but she had spent the last hour thrashing about in her bed and finally thought some fresh air might help. It was a very cold dark night, but she found the silence soothing. Her world was deafeningly noisy even during the slumber hours. As she leaned against the ger she felt calmness return and her thoughts become reflective.
Susan was not a naïve woman by any means. She was a tough driven professional who ages ago lost her idealism, but had somehow managed to preserve her optimism. That life wasn't fair was a given... in fact it was a sarcastic quip that she frequently used. Still, alone in the darkness, she couldn't help but once again ponder why it was that awful things so often happened to people like these.
As Susan continued her meditations, shadowy figures were preparing to launch their attack. By cover of darkness the eight Almas charged the lines of tethered yaks. Instantly the night erupted in a terrible din as chaos descended on the camp!
The Almas pulled up the stakes sending the yaks into a grunting stampede while at the same time selecting their victims. Cholon fired a warning shot and rushed toward the herd. The other villagers raced from their gers as pandemonium set in. The lantern was smashed leaving them all in total darkness.
Susan was paralyzed with fear. She could hear the yelling and running feet of the villagers mixed with the thundering hooves and loud grunting of the yaks and the loud growling sounds that seemed to be all around them. The women and small children were screaming and crying. Then came the pitiful high pitched death cries as yak's heads were wrenched from their bodies.
She had not been aware of leaving the ger or of walking mindlessly toward the turmoil. All at once Susan was jolted back to reality when she saw two huge shadows swiftly approaching her. She couldn't quite discern who or what they were, but they seemed to be carrying something in their hands.
<Why am I just standing here? Come on feet...work!>
In a heart beat the figures were charging up to her... she was petrified with fear. She saw the steam from their breathing and heard their low guttural growls. Her heart was racing and she whispered a few final words. To her astonishment the two, she didn't know what, came to an abrupt halt directly in front of her, stared, and then continued their flight. Before she passed out she unfortunately recognized what each of them had tightly clutched to their chest.
<Disgusting! What a mess! I hate having to clean up blood. I'll have to put in a small pool here so they can wash themselves off. Oh, how I detest mindless savages! However, they did very well.>
All of the Almas had returned safely from their raid. It was quite fortunate for two of them that the Controller had assumed that none of them had been seen.
In a bloody pile in front of them were six yak heads... still warm.
"Well done children. Whatever you planned... it obviously worked and you even brought an extra head. Impressive indeed! Now clean yourselves up and this room too. You may feed on the heads and then get rid of anything left over."
<I think we are ready for larger animals... then humans!>
"Oooooo, I feel positively decadent," laughed Willow as she raised her fluted glass and took another sip of champagne.
"We are being quite decadent and I'm loving every minute of it," cried Ace.
"Mmmm, what a marvelous night... look at that sky," added Tara.
"This was such a wonderful idea to have a night out... see Paris after dark. Was it my idea," asked Willow?
"No it wasn't Sweetie... and I think that is enough champagne for you. Ace and I don't want to carry you home," giggled Tara.
Willow gazed into Tara's eyes and smiled. She desperately wanted to kiss her, but managed to restrain herself. Instead she gently squeezed Tara's hand and winked at her. She could see the same desire in Tara's eyes.
"Baby, if I can resist pulling you into my arms and kissing you senseless, I can't possibly be drunk... only hot," whispered Willow.
"I'm just intoxicated with excitement. I mean, here we are sitting on the patio of the Café de Flore... in Paris... on a simply gorgeous evening... sipping champagne! Wow, that is pretty awesome!"
"You're right Sweetie... and what makes it even better is to be here with people you love," stated Tara.
"I'll drink to that," said Ace.
"To friendship," cried the three women as they clinked their glasses together in a cheery toast.
They each took another sip of their wine and then they returned to people watching and casual conversation. They enjoyed the ambiance of the night and the patio for another hour before deciding it was time to leave.
The instant the trio stood to leave two couples leapt from out of no where and staked their claim to the table. The ladies chuckled and slowly maneuvered their way through the crowded patio towards the bar.
The large dimly lit bar was teeming with life and smoke. It resembled the atmosphere of a sports bar in the states. Tara clasped Willow's hand and allowed her to lead the way through the noisy throng.
They were almost at the exit when for some reason Willow seemed to be attracted to one of the televisions tuned into a CNN news broadcast. She ran up to the screen pulling Tara with her and Ace following behind. Doctor Willow stood transfixed in front of the huge set as they all strained to hear what was being said.
Suddenly Willow abruptly started to literally drag a bewildered Tara and Ace from the café. Before either one could ask for an explanation, Willow shouted over her shoulder.
"Come on we have to go to London!"