Author: Tardis Traveler
Tara and Ace breathlessly stood in the Console room trying to make heads or tails out of Willow's strange behavior. They had hurried back from the café and as soon as they had entered the Tardis Willow had dashed off to the Library with K-9.
"I don't understand this. What do you think is wrong with Willow?" asked Tara seriously. "We were having such a lovely evening and then suddenly everything came to an abrupt halt and here we are with no Willow and no explanation!"
"I'm not sure, but it must have something to do with that CNN news broadcast," answered Ace.
"Well, how can that be Ace? Willow doesn't understand French."
"No?... well I'm pretty sure the Doctor does," replied Ace.
"What does that mean?"
"Well Tara, if my hunch is correct, I think we are about to begin our first Doctor Willow adventure!"
Akua tuta, akua tuta (Take Care, Take Care)
The elderly boge, dressed in a shaggy reindeer skin shirt, shouted his plaintive chant as he beat his oval drum and danced around the holy fire. He looked skyward as he sent his spiritual melody upwards with the white smoke to Tngre Ecign, the Heavenly Father.
Surrounding him and the huge fire, their frosty breaths mingling with the rising smoke, were twenty to thirty anguished Dukhas bundled in reindeer parkas. They moved and mumbled along with the Shaman in the ominous frigid night.
The families had sent for the Shaman and for help from the government... they mostly had faith in him. The number of reindeer herders had been dwindling for years, only about two hundred remained, and recent events threatened to further reduce their numbers.
The nomadic Dukha lived in a tenuous balance with nature which for over a week now had been disrupted. Something was killing... no murdering their reindeer. Their whole existence depended upon their reindeer and now on their boge's ability to receive a treatise or holy reading from the Heavenly Father.
The sacred ceremony lasted well into the night until the Shaman convulsed and fell prostrate on the icy ground in a trance like state. After a long moment of silence he stood up and retreated into his teepee to write the treatise that would hopefully protect their valued reindeer and their way of life.
Most of the spectators slowly returned to their teepees. It had been many years since there had been an ail (encampment) this large. The families had united together for protection and for the ceremony which seemed to be their last resort.
Ananda, a third generation reindeer herder, had rounded up all the families in this area and had sent for the boge. He had also sent his son to Murun, the administrative center of the province, for government help, but he knew all they would do was send someone with a form to fill out.
Continuing to chant, Anada danced around the glowing embers of the fire sending his own prayer to the all-ruling god, Ataya Tngri. When his prayer was completed he stood staring at the dying fire contemplating all the terrible events that had led up to this night. Eventually the fire died and the icy wind forced him to return to his warm teepee too.
Inside a huge artificial teepee, battle plans were being finalized. It was a rather small haggard looking army. Their fur covered bodies were spattered with dried blood, fragments of dried flora, and dirty grime. None the less, they stood in a haphazard line and listened attentively as the Controller finished reviewing their objective for the night.
"So my children, do you all know what you are to do?"
The Almas army wildly nodded their large heads and grunted loudly. They knew what he wanted... the same thing he relished since their first meeting... death! Kill was all they did. The only variances had been size, number, and target. For the past week the targets had been reindeer.
"You must attack swiftly and purposefully. I want a high kill count tonight. I expect each of you to kill at least three. Is that clear? Good, then go and kill!"
A metal door in the teepee opened and the Almas raced out toward the unsuspecting ail.
<Thank goodness this is my last experiment with these simple minded creatures. I'd kill the stupid beasts myself if I didn't need them... anything to break the monotony! How tedious for someone of my intelligence to be forced to spend time with these boring low life forms. I thought humans were mindless, but these creatures are pitiful! Ahh, but it will be worth it!>
Their nostrils flared and puffs of white steam shot out of their noses in rapid bursts. The suddenly alert reindeer shifted restlessly twitching their ears and straining against their strong leather tethers. Uneasiness had quickly evolved into panic. If the pathetic doomed beasts had not been tied to wooden stakes this night they would already have fled into the safety of the darkened meadow. The fates however had already sealed their futures.
The savage, seasoned killers had stayed downwind from their victims until they had approached striking distance. Positioning themselves along the tether line the predators quickly targeted their intended prey. When they had their helpless victims in sight, they unflinchingly attacked.
The first dozen lifeless corpses fell to the bloodstained ground before their wails could even be uttered. Their throats were ripped open by razor sharp teeth that severed their jugulars swiftly and silently.
It was only then that the night erupted into a melee of primal screams, shrieks of paralyzing fear, thudding bodies, spurting crimson blood, and frenzied snarls! Soon these death cries mingled with the confused shouts of the drowsy herders who leapt into the blackness firing target-less bullets into the heavens hoping to frighten away whatever was attacking their animals.
A far greater fear than bullets drove these crazed killers to continue their dismal murder spree... fear of their Controller! Only his command could stop this slaughter and even these simple beasts knew that no such command would ever be ordered! So they continued until there was no prey left to destroy and then they fled into the protection of the night.
As terrifying as the ruckus had been the eerie silence that followed was even more horrific and unnerving! The diminishing thunder of retreating feet echoed in the growing stillness of the night replaced by the soft moans of the reindeer herders. The grieving humans wandered like zombies among the rapidly cooling bodies of their ravaged herd.
Tears flooded Ananda's bleary eyes as he studied the bloody carcasses of his prized reindeer. He had raised them since their births. They had given him years of sweet milk and faithful service. Their lives were not the only ones lost this cold bleak night.
Behind him the elderly boge chanted and offered up a prayer treatise to Tngre Ecign, the Heavenly Father, but it did not comfort the anguished herder. It did not inspire the other devastated herders who had suffered similar loses. What good was a prayer treatise now?
Doctor Willow briskly bounded through the large glass doors of the London Branch of the CNN Broadcasting Station with a breathless Tara and Ace in tow. She marched up to the Information Desk and asked the receptionist for the location of Susan Kendal's office. Tara and Ace just stood quietly by regaining their composure and becoming increasingly annoyed by Willow's "follow the leader" behavior.
As soon as Willow was trapped in the small lift, Ace hit the stop button and Tara backed Willow into a corner and locked eyes with her... she demanded answers! She definitely did not like the feeling of being excluded from her wife's life and it was going to cease right now!
Willow had spent most of last night working at her computer, with K-9, surrounded by heaps of books, files, and print outs. Tara had quite literally dragged her into bed where Willow had promptly passed out.
When she woke this morning, Willow was already shouting for them to hurry and join her. Tara and Ace were both surprised when they stepped out and discovered that they were now in London. So, by now, Tara had reached her limit of patience.
"Willow we're not leaving this lift until I get some answers from you! What is going on and why are we here in London instead of Paris?"
Willow looked from Tara to Ace bewildered.
"You both heard the broadcast... didn't you? Aren't you even the least bit curious, asked Willow?"
"I SAW the broadcast Sweetie, but I didn't understand it at all. I don't understand French that well and either do you," stated Tara.
"Tara, you're right, I don't know French at all... but somehow I did understand what it said."
"Must be the Professor," said Ace.
"What?" Tara and Willow both replied together.
"The Doctor, he knows French... he must have wanted you to pay attention to the news. What was it about," asked Ace?
Willow explained that it was one of those news quips that were actually poking fun at a CNN broadcaster who had reported that she had had an encounter with strange man-like creatures called Almas. It was one of those "Believe it or Not" segments and Willow believed it. She had managed to track down the reporter and had come here to talk to her.
Tara and Ace stared at Willow for several minutes not quite sure how to respond to her.
"Darling, I know it might seem a little interesting to you, but I really don't understand why you seem so upset by it," said Tara.
"It's too curious; she said they were killing the sheep. That is not right. I've encountered a big foot before and they are gentle shy creatures unless they are being tampered with. I just need to find out what's going on."
Tara released a breath and sighed.
"You mean the Doctor has seen a big foot before. I am going to have to get used to him popping into our lives. Aren't I?"
"You both will... that's the Doctor," interjected Ace.
The three women looked at each other and nodded their heads. Ace released her hold on the stop button and they resumed their journey to Mrs. Kendal's office.
Fierce howling winds created a white realm of swirling snow crystals that sparkled milky blue when bombarded by the sun's rays. The small frozen lake was buried under mounds of hardened snow and only the tips of the highest boulders remained free to verify that there was an earthly floor below.
For the second time in the history of this mountaintop world, a swooshing sound whispered within the roaring gale announcing the arrival of an unearthly vessel! Just faintly visible in the swirling whiteness, a ger once again appeared. This time, however, it had two large wooden runners at its base that kept it from sinking into the depths of the snow.
Minutes later, twelve weary creatures emerged from the ger and immediately trudged away as quickly as they could in the waist high snow. A third sound permeated the winds then ... joyous high pitched shrieks that faded as the shapes blended into the whiteness and disappeared.
Deep inside the metal ger, a dark figure with a neatly trimmed graying beard sat hunched over a marble table. Maps and papers were neatly stacked to the left of the man and a briefcase rested just out of reach. The man was happy too. He hummed to himself as he intently studied a wrinkled map spread out on the table.
<Hmmm, the final tests... at last. It will take weeks to purge my Tardis of the stench of those filthy beasts! They performed well though... thanks to me. It won't be long now. Sigh... too easy... all too easy... I do miss the challenges! Sigh>
Mrs. Susan Kendal sat at her large oak desk absorbed in the news printouts she had just been handed by her assistant. Her concentration was abruptly disrupted by the sound of her office door bursting open! A flash of red caught her first glimpse followed quickly by an extended hand and a firm, "Hello, I'm Doctor Willow Rosenberg... nice to meet you Mrs. Kendal. "
Before she even had time to fully collect her thoughts, her secretary suddenly appeared next to this redheaded woman trying to grasp her by the arm.
"I'm so sorry Mrs. Kendal; they just rushed on by me without stopping!"
"No need to fret, we just really need to talk to you. Um, these are my ...err... my friends; Tara McClay and..." said Willow.
"Ace... I'm Ace! Nice to meet you," interrupted Ace.
"Shall I call Security?" asked her secretary. He glared at the three trying to herd them out the door.
Tara stepped forward and flashed her most sincere look before saying, "Please, we won't take much of your time... and it is rather important."
Susan took a deep breath and sighed as she studied the three intensely sincere faces in front of her.
<I hope I'm not going to regret this!>
"Alright, but I can't give you more then ten minutes," said Susan.
"Great," the three chimed in together.
"Thanks, James... it's okay. I will talk with them. I'll buzz if I need your help."
Susan smiled at him as he nodded and left the room.
After everyone was comfortably seated, Willow explained why they had come. At first, Susan had gotten annoyed thinking they had come to make fun of her as all her other colleagues had done. It took some reassurances from all three women to fully convince Susan that they believed her and just wanted more information.
So, summoning up her courage, Susan related her experience to the enthralled trio. The more they listened, the more details she gave them. When her story was over, there was a brief silence as they all absorbed what she had told them.
Tara and Ace looked at Willow wondering if she was satisfied. Willow was deep in thought for several moments.
"How did you know that they were Almas," asked Doctor Willow.
"When I got back home I did some research... even found some pictures. That's how I knew for sure. Here, she rummaged through some papers in her top desk draw, this is what they looked like," she stated.
Susan handed the papers to Doctor Willow, who examined them carefully. She kept shaking her head and muttering under her breath.
"In the broadcast... it mentioned that you thought this was not an isolated occurrence. You suggested that there might be some sort of... conspiracy going on?"
Susan stared intensely at Doctor Willow and sunk down into her chair. Tara knew just how the poor woman must have felt trying to decide if she could confide in these three strangers. Wondering if she should take the risk and trust that she would be accepted. Tara knew those feelings all too well. She gently placed her hand on Susan's arm and smiled at her trying to reassure her.
Susan returned the warm smile and seemed to visibly relax. She quietly cleared the papers from her desk before once again pulling open her top desk drawer. Carefully, Susan removed several file folders and dozens of papers and a map. Once they were organized to her satisfaction, she looked up at the three intruders.
"Alright, I'm going to take a big risk here and trust you three. You need to swear to me that you are not wired or planning to use this in some news story of your own to make me seem like a doddering fool!"
The three surprised women laughed and quickly leap up with their hands raised over their heads.
"You may search us if you like," they giggled.
This time Susan laughed to and shook her head.
"Okay, so I'm a bit paranoid, but you have no idea how much flax and teasing I've been getting," replied Susan.
"HeHeHe, I've been teased all my life... geek here!" Willow stated as a matter of fact!
Tara quickly turned to face her wife and grabbed Willow's hand and squeezed it.
"Oh Sweetie, I'm so sorry people hurt you. I love you because you're the most adorable geek in the world!"
Willow and Tara gazed at each other sharing a loving moment.
Ace glanced up at Susan and studied the woman's raised eyebrows and puzzled expression.
"Um, they are married...you know a gay couple," Ace softly stated while carefully observing Susan's reactions. "Is that going to be a concern for you?"
Willow and Tara took that moment to pause and also wait for her answer.
"No," smiled Susan, "it's no problem or concern at all... it's a comfort actually. Thanks so much for telling me."
Ace kind of scrunched up her face not quite sure how to interpret the remark, but the friendly smile let her know all was well.
With these preliminaries out of the way, Susan began a detailed account of all that she had discovered. Ten minutes became sixty and soon stretched into hours.
As far as Susan and her assistant had been able to determine the first related sightings had occurred in Australia several months ago. What caused her to think that some conspiracy may be in the works was the fact that as soon as the reports in Australia had stopped, they cropped up in Sumatra and then in various places in Mongolia. She showed them a map on which she had marked every sighting that they had discovered.
"See how there seems to be several patterns developing. The sightings seem to be moving in a northwestern direction. They are also all in fairly isolated areas... well except for that one near Sydney," stated Susan. "The most disturbing pattern is that the sightings are becoming progressively more violent."
"Hmmm," replied Doctor Willow. Yes, there does seem to be some sort of pattern and an increase in the violence as well! With each new location the encounters become more deadly."
"Look at this list of names too," said Susan as she showed them a list of at least a dozen names for what people had claimed to have seen.
"Let's see," said Ace.
She took the paper and began reading the strange names.
"Almas, Orang-Pendek, Gin-sung, Yahoo, Yowie..."
"Ace, I think we can narrow them all down to one overall name: big foot," interrupted the Doctor.
"I've heard about them before," said Ace.
"So have I," said Tara.
"Well, just about every country has some sort of a name for big foot; Sasquatch, Yeti, the Abominable Snowman, Bombala, and there are many more," said Doctor Willow.
"I never really thought they were real until now," said Susan.
"That is how they have managed to survive so long. Every time a sighting has been made people have reacted the same way by not believing it to be true. Plus big foots live in very isolated inhospitable places that few people have ever been," informed Doctor Willow.
"Well, that may have been true, but these sightings have been in places where there were people," observed Susan.
"Yes! Exactly," cried Doctor Willow startling the others.
"That is what is so curious about all these incidents! Big Foot avoids people. It is another reason that they have survived! So why are they suddenly making public appearances," queried the Doctor.
There was a moment of silence as they all pondered this question.
"Emm, there has been a lot of forest devastation... you know animals losing their homes because people have claimed the land. Maybe their homes are being invaded by people," suggested Ace.
"No Ace that is not the case here! These aren't exactly places where shopping malls and housing developments are going up," said the Doctor.
Ace frowned a little before replying. "Well, I was just trying to be helpful, gee."
Tara quickly gave Willow a nudge and then put her arm around Ace and hugged her.
Doctor Willow looked very sheepish.
"I'm sorry Ace that came out way too harsh. It was a good thought... really. I'm just concerned about what all this means. Besides being reclusive, Big Foots are also notoriously shy and gentle creatures. This is the first time I have ever heard of a real Big Foot attacking and killing like this. What does it all mean?"
"Are we certain that these are all Big Foot sightings," asked Tara. "Perhaps some are other animals and people have just leapt to the wrong conclusions."
"That's a possibility Baby," replied Willow. "Have you been able to verify all these reports?"
Susan gave them a weary look.
"Yes, many of them. The problem here is that the people who are willing to go Public are usually the ones that would be considered to be crackpots or attention seekers. The more reputable ones like the two professional men in Sydney are afraid of ridicule and I can't say after my experience that I blame them."
"What about those two Professors? They live here, don't they," asked Tara.
Susan sighed deeply and grimaced.
"Yes, Mrs. Mac Donald and Ms. Jones... humph, they have both been extremely uncooperative... wouldn't even talk to me. The younger one threatened to sue me if I used her name in any news story."
"What, that's no way to treat a fellow English woman," stated Ace.
"You're right Ace, but I guess I can understand their feelings. They not only have their reputations to protect, but the reputation of Cambridge as well," replied Susan.
"It would be very helpful if we could talk to at least one other person besides you," said Doctor Willow.
"Well," said Susan, "there is someone else that you could talk with. She was on the same expedition."
Doctor Willow's eyes shot wide open and she practically fell out of her chair.
"Really, that's fantastic! Why didn't you tell us long ago? I want to talk with this person. Are they a reliable source," asked Doctor Willow?
The others chuckled at her enthusiasm and Tara placed her arm over Willow's shoulder and gave her a quick hug.
Susan beamed and winked at her.
"Oh, you are going to just love my source! She is the most reliable person I know... and she has some physical evidence as well!"
"Who is this super mystery woman," asked Ace.