DO UNIT & NATO SPELL DISASTER?

By Margaret Price

Author's Notes for the beginning of Chapter One.

This Doctor Who/From Eroica with Love crossover would not have been possible without the assistance of Sindeniirelle, whose knowledge of the “Eroica” characters kept the story on track. I usually do not use foul language and inflammatory, derogatory comments, but since this is an established pattern for the Major, to not use them would be a gross oversight.

Normally, these are what I consider “serious” stories, but the Eroica characters--well, Dorian, actually--ended up turning this into a story with broad comedy overtones that eventually spiral into SciFi horror. You have been warned. Jason Krystovan is an original character. To see who's who, you can check out my live journal--> http://mprice.livejournal.com/50869.html

Chapter One

It Begins With A Simple Clay Bowl

It was a bowl.

An ordinary clay bowl.

The intricate pattern decorated its contours with bright iridescent colors, yes. And it was old, that too was true. But it was still just a bowl. A bowl; on a small pedestal, under a bright overhead light, inside a specially designed glass case, in a display with other bowls.

These thoughts had gone through the security guard’s mind every night since the special exhibit opened in the upper mezzanine of the newly opened Salliari Corporate Headquarters in Naples.

Vittorio Salliari was a multi-millionaire with a penchant for works of art, preferably pottery and glass. The current exhibit was just one of a long line of exhibits, the purpose of which, as far as the guard could determine, was a way for Salliari to flaunt his wealth.

As far as the guard could see, it was still just a bowl. In fact, he was certain his five year old daughter could do a better job of it. Casting his gaze one last time over the exhibition, he gave a disgusted snort and moved to the escalator, going to the lower level for a quick bite. Perhaps even a nap. Why they needed a security detail in this place he had no idea.

The man had no sooner vanished from sight when a figure dressed completely in black stole up to the very display case that had annoyed him so much. The intruder put down the small satchel he was carrying and pulled out a suction cup and cutting tool. Within only a few minutes, he had cut a hole in the display case and was extracting the “bowl.”

Then all hell broke loose. Lights flashed, alarms sounded, various doors slammed shut and locked automatically.

The thief paid no attention to this cacophony of sounds as he carefully wrapped the object of his pains and placed it in the satchel. He placed a single red rose and a card in the case, and made for the lift station on the next level, pushing the buttons for down. Then he quickly hid himself.

Within minutes, the guard who had been on the mezzanine staring at the bowl arrived with two others to find it gone. “There!” someone called. “He’s taking the lift to the basement. We have him now!” He was on his radio, calling to the man in the basement car park, telling him a thief was on his way down.

The three men made for the stairs and started to thunder down the six flights of steps to the basement. The thief, in the meantime, came out of hiding and pushed the button for the express lift, which arrived within seconds. He stepped in and pushed the button for the roof where a helicopter was waiting to fly him to safety.

As the doors started to close, and being out of the range of the security cameras, he pulled the hood from his face, going on to pull a mop of blond curls out of his shirt, allowing them to tumble freely down his back. Amateurs, he thought as he ruffled his hair. There was no challenge in any of that.

When the police eventually arrived and began combing the area for clues, they discovered the single red rose in the display case and the card upon which was printed, “From Eroica with love.”

* * *

Chapter Two

Sidetracked by UNIT

The TARDIS materialized with its usual cacophony of wheezes and groans, a final thump indicating its arrival into the realm of real time. It had been some time since the time machine, perpetually disguised as a Police Box, had stood in its usual corner of what was once the Doctor’s lab in UNIT HQ, London. The shelves and instruments in the room were covered with a thick layer of dust.

The Doctor popped his head out the door, the delighted smile on his face fading when he saw the state of his lab.

“Well, are we going out or aren’t we?” an impatient voice asked from behind him.

The Doctor stepped away from the door, allowing his companion to exit. Jason looked around the room and scowled, his expression mirroring the Time Lord’s. “You’re sure this is the right place, Doctor?” he asked suspiciously.

The Doctor threw him an annoyed look. “Yes, I’m sure.”

The Doctor’s dog shaped mobile robot, appropriately named K-9, came to the door at that moment. “No, you stay in the TARDIS, K-9.”

“Negative, Master. It is not safe for you to go out on your own,” K-9 replied.

The Doctor frowned. That last remark did not sound like K-9 in the least. It sounded like…

“Says who?” he asked.

“The Young Master, Master.”

Jason blushed when the Doctor turned another annoyed scowl in his direction. “Oh, he does, does he?”

“Affirmative.”

“Well, never mind what the Young Master says, K-9. I’m going to see if anyone’s about. You get those batteries charged up.”

“Master.” K-9 backed away from the door and returned to the console room.

Jason gave an embarrassed half-smile when the Doctor turned back to him. “It is true, y’know,” he said mildly.

The Doctor snorted. “You wait here. I’m going to see who’s about.”

 “If anyone’s about, you mean,” the young man replied, taking in his surroundings. “If this room’s any indication, we’ve materialized in an abandoned building.”

 “Only one way to find out,” the Doctor replied, pushing open the double doors and striding into the hallway, the long scarf he had wound around his neck just barely missing being caught in the doors as they closed behind him.

Jason sighed heavily and briefly considered following him. No. It was better to let the Doctor storm off on his own when he was like this. He turned back to the dust covered workbench and gave a wry smile. Oh, goody. Toys.

* * *

The Doctor was surprised that he as able to cover the distance to the Brigadier’s office without encountering anyone. Even the outer office was empty. He glanced at the clock, wondering if it were too early or too late for his friend to be about. The door to the Brigadier’s office was slightly ajar and the Time Lord peeked in, a smile spreading across his face when he saw his old friend at his desk. He gave a discreet tap on the door before pushing it open. “Still hard at it, Alistair?”

The Brigadier looked up, the look of surprise on his face changing to one of delight. “Doctor!” he cried. “I didn’t expect you so soon.”

The Doctor gave him a bewildered look. “So soon?”

“Yes. I’ve only just sent Corporal Bell to transmit the message to you.”

The Doctor was completely baffled. “Message? What message?”

Now it was the Brigadier’s turn to be confused. “The one I sent using that time-space telegraph thing you left behind.”

“Ah. I never got it,” the Doctor said happily and broke into a broad smile. “Perhaps you might enlighten me.”

* * *

Jason found the abandoned lab fascinating and was in the process of dusting off and examining all the equipment. According to the Doctor, they had landed on Earth near the end of the Twentieth century, although the Time Lord could not be more specific than that. He had guessed it to be the late 1970s or early 1980s, not that Jason really cared one way or another.

He had been traveling with the Doctor for some time now, and had grown weary of hearing about the virtues of Earth and its various notable inhabitants, both past and present. He had also given up hope of every seeing the planet first hand. The Doctor had made dozens of attempts over the ensuing years to take Jason to his favorite planet, but each time the journey was postponed for one reason or another.

Even now, Jason was dubious of the fact that they were indeed on Earth. He was certain the Doctor had got it wrong again and simply did not want to admit it.

As Jason continued to potter around in the lab, a sentry came to the door and looked through the window of what was supposed to be an abandoned laboratory. He frowned when he saw what looked like a teenage boy scrambling up onto a workbench. What the hell? How did he get in there? Don’t panic. Private Mitchell was little more than a boy himself and he felt his heart jump when he realized he had discovered an honest to goodness intruder. He wiped the palms of his hands, which had suddenly started to sweat, on his uniform. The last thing he needed was to drop his weapon. At the same time, he tried to remember his training. Get a description. Yes, a description. Male, approximately nineteen. Average height, medium build. Black curly hair. What else? Clothes! Blue short sleeved shirt, blue jeans, two-tone sneakers, expensive by the look of them. No distinguishing marks or scars, not that he could tell as the boy’s back was presently to him. What he also could not tell was that the object of his observations was an Alterran, who possessed the ability to change his form at will.

As Mitchell was making his list of identifiers, Jason was struggling to reach a box on a shelf. Why do they have to make these things so high? he wondered. What he did next stunned the watching Private. He reached up toward the box, his arm shimmering as he did so. His arm then lengthened to accommodate the distance, and he clasped the box, a satisfied smile coming to his face.

Private Mitchell suddenly burst in the door, rifle in hand. “Freeze!” he ordered, wishing he didn’t sound so afraid.

Jason spun around, dropping the box in his hand. It hit the workbench, bounced and then smashed to the floor. He looked down at it and then back up at the young man who was pointing a gun at him. He slowly raised his hands. “I’m unarmed,” he said quietly. He shot a quick glance over at the TARDIS and wondered if he could signal K-9 for help. Then he realized he didn’t have the dog whistle, the Doctor did.

“Don’t move, you!” the Private ordered.

I wouldn’t dream of it, Jason thought, not taking his eyes from the rifle, which appeared to be shaking. The soldier pointing it at him seemed just as terrified as he was, if not more so. Great. A panicky human with a gun. I’m going get shot and I haven’t even been on this wrenched planet fifteen minutes!

Fortunately for Jason, the sound from the box smashing on the floor attracted the attention of others. Another soldier appeared behind the first. He took in the scene in some surprise, finally asking the Private what was happening.

“I’ve caught an intruder, Mr. Benton,” Mitchell replied proudly.

Benton looked the unlikely intruder up and down. “Alright, you. Get down from there,” he ordered, motioning to Jason with his hand. It was obvious he was not in the least put off by the young man’s presence. In fact, he was wondering if the boy were a relative of one of the man and had sneaked into the building simply as a prank. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Jason looked pointedly at the nervous Mitchell. “He’s not going to shoot me if I do, is he?”

Benton reached over, raising the barrel of the rifle with one hand. “No. But I will if you don’t.”

Humans! Jason slowly got down from the workbench, keeping a sharp eye on the soldiers as he did so.

“How did you get in here?” Benton asked finally.

Jason looked over at the TARDIS again and wondered if he should tell the truth or not. “I’m not sure you’ll believe me,” he said at last.

“Try me.”

“I came in that.” Jason nodded in the direction of the TARDIS.

Benton followed his gaze, seeing the TARDIS for the first time. His eyes grew wide and his mouth dropped open. “You came with the Doctor?” he asked, surprising the young man.

“Yes.”

“Where is he, then?”

Jason sighed heavily. “I have no idea. He went to see if anyone was here. The place looked deserted when we arrived.”

Benton was about to tell Mitchell to stand down when the Private blurted out, “He’s not human, sir! I saw him…change.

Benton frowned. He did not like the sound of this at all. “Change? How?”

Mitchell recounted what he had witnessed.

Jason, in the meantime, closed his eyes and groaned inwardly. Great. Now he is going to shoot me. Seeing the frown on the face of the big man at the door deepen, he asked, “Now what?”

“You wait here,” Benton replied. Then to the Private, he said, “Keep an eye on him, Mitchell. I’m going to call the Brig and see if the Doctor’s with him.”

* * *

As soon as Benton’s call came through, the Doctor was out the door and heading back to his lab before the Brigadier hung up the phone. He pushed open the doors to find Jason perched on a stool, a soldier several feet away holding a gun on him.

“I am really enjoying this trip so far, Doctor,” Jason said the moment the Time Lord entered, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “So far I’ve had the life nearly frightened out of me, been threatened with a firearm, accused of being a spy, an alien invader, arrested and then held at gunpoint.” He looked at his watch, adding, “All in less than fifteen minutes. That has to be a record of some sort.”

“You haven’t been accused of murder yet, have you?” the Time Lord replied aridly.

“Give ‘em time. The day’s still young.”

“I take it this young man is your companion, Doctor?” the Brigadier observed dryly as he come up behind the Time Lord.

“Indeed.” The Doctor turned to the soldier with the gun. “Do you think it would be too much trouble for you to put that away? You might hurt someone.”

Jason hopped off the stool. “He’d be even more likely to hurt someone if he took the safety off.”

The Brigadier turned sharply to the unfortunate Private and looked at the weapon, discovering Jason was quite right. He sighed heavily before dismissing the mortified Mitchell.

The Doctor introduced his companion to the Brigadier, who led the way back to his office. “Awfully sorry about that,” he said apologetically. “The men have been a bit jumpy of late.”

“Oh swell,” the Alterran moaned. “I just love dealing with nervous humans carrying live weapons.”

The Brigadier threw a puzzled look in the Doctor’s direction before saying, “You’ve never been to Earth before, I take it?”

Jason closed his eyes and started counting off all the other places he could have gone to and was wishing he had.

“No,” the Doctor replied for him. “Jason is from the Alterran Empire.”

“I see.”

“Why do you find that so strange?” Jason wanted to know.

The officer cleared his throat. “It’s just that. Well, you sound like an American.”

The Alterran blinked and looked over at the Doctor. “Do I?”

A broad smile spread across the Doctor’s face. “You know, you’re quite right, Alistair. I never realized it before.” He looked over at his perplexed companion. “I supposed you would sound that way to the people in this time period.”

“Great.” Jason was thinking this was just one more thing to add to the list of things that had gone wrong in his first hour on Earth. “Is that a good or bad thing?”

“I suppose it depends on whether or not you’re an American,” the Doctor replied unhelpfully. “They call them Yanks in this country, by the way. Although the term isn’t always affectionate.”

The Brigadier’s mustache twitched and he gave the Doctor a dark look. The Time Lord responded with another broad smile, commenting, “He does have a North Eastern twang, though, doesn’t he?”

Jason had heard quite enough of this and waved a hand in the air. “Look, forget the accent the TARDIS, in her eccentricity, has decided to give me. What’s so important that we have to put off my sightseeing tour?”

Chapter Three

Iron Klaus

“NATO?” Jason said in bewilderment, interrupting the Brigadier’s explanation. He looked at the Doctor and then back to the officer. “North Atlantic Treaty Organization, right?”

“Top marks, Jason,” the Doctor replied, clearly impressed. “You have been doing your homework.”

“For several years,” the Alterran countered. “I’m a bit unclear on UNIT, though.”

“United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. Specialized in alien incursions and the like.”

“Ah.” Jason looked over at the Brigadier. “Then, I’m sorry, I’m still in the dark here, Alistair. Why is this a problem?”

The Brigadier’s mustache twitched again. He was slightly irritated that this boy should take it upon himself to call him by his given name. He would later learn that the “boy” was actually twice his age. “This is usually the kind of thing UNIT handles, but NATO isn’t willing to pass it off to us, as it were.”

“They don’t want to relinquish control incase it turns out to be a carrier maker,” the Alterran observed astutely, shaking his head. “I guess some things are the same no matter where you go.”

“Just what is it you’d like us to investigate?” the Doctor asked.

“Not so much investigate as identify.” The Brigadier shuffled through some papers on his desk and pulled out the file he wanted, handing it to the Doctor. “That has all the details. The long and the short of it is, NATO intelligence came across some pottery that turned out to be radioactive.”

The Doctor looked up from his reading. “That isn’t that unusual,” he remarked. “They used to use uranium in—”

“The radiation signature doesn’t match anything we have on this planet, Doctor.”

Jason had to fight the urge to laugh at the Doctor’s expression. It was a combination of surprise and intense interest. Here we go again.

“Once we get this young man’s UNIT paperwork in order, we’ll be able to send you to Bonn to meet with NATO’s lead agent.”

Bonn,” Jason repeated. “In Germany, right?”

West Germany, yes,” the Brigadier replied.

West Germany?” The Alterran scowled a moment. “Oh yes,” he said thoughtfully. “I forgot what decade this was. The Cold War is still going strong, isn’t it?”

Before the Brigadier could inquire further into this, the Doctor quickly asked, “And who is our contact in Bonn? It isn’t in the file.”

The Brigadier pulled out another paper. “Let’s see. One, Major Klaus—”

“—Heinz von dem Eberbach,” a voice from the door completed.

The men in the Brigadier’s office turned to see the Major standing practically at attention in the doorway. “Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart?” he asked crisply.

“The very same,” the Brigadier replied as he got to his feet. He held out a hand but it was ignored. He cleared his throat and threw a sideways glance in the Doctor’s direction, being slightly annoyed when he saw he was smiling broadly. He collected himself and introduced the Doctor as UNIT’s scientific advisor and Jason as his assistant.

“I didn’t realize UNIT was so short staffed that it required the hiring of children, Herr Doctor,” the Major observed rudely.

Jason’s eyebrows went up. Nice. Why, yes, I’m pleased to meet you, too. “And NATO appears to be short on etiquette—Klaus.” He had guessed that this odious individual was the type who hand picked those he allowed to call him by name. He also guessed there was no one on the list.

“I should have expected as much from an American,” the Major shot back, speaking the last word as if it were poison. “You will address me as Major, boy.”

Will I? Jason bristled further. He was an aristocrat by birth who rarely used his title. This time, however, he felt the occasion veritably screamed an exception to this. “Then you will address me—”

The Doctor cleared his throat loudly and put a hand on Jason’s arm. The last thing he needed was for his companion to lose his temper.

The Brigadier was taking this all in in a stunned silence and was wondering how the situation had spiraled out of control in less than thirty seconds. “You’ll forgive me, but I was under the impression our people were to meet with you in Bonn.”

“There has been a change of plan,” the Major replied. “All of the articles in question were stole in the last forty-eight hours.”

“Someone’s very industrious,” Jason remarked. He received an angry glare from the Major that made his hair stand on end. From what he had read about NATO, and the current decade, the man standing in the doorway was not what he expected at all from a government agent. He was tall, thin and dark, with dark shoulder length hair. It was this last detail that the Alterran found odd. He had expected the man to have a traditional short, military style haircut, just like ever soldier in UNIT he had seen thus far. He would learn later that the Major was often involved in undercover operations, necessitating his very non-military length hair.

“I can only assume you know who’s taken them,” the Doctor was saying, “or you wouldn’t’ve made the journey to London.”

“Yes,” the Major replied. “Eroica.”

The Brigadier groaned and Jason threw a puzzled look in the Doctor’s direction. “Sorry. Don’t know that one,” he said quietly.

“He’s an international art thief,” the Doctor informed. “A very prolific one, if memory serves.”

“And he’s here in this country,” the Major announced. “I’m here to demand he give the articles back.”

“Are you, indeed?” the Doctor was intrigued. “You know who he is, then?”

The Major gave the Time Lord a look as if to say he were a simpleton. “He is Dorian Red Gloria, Earl of Gloria, of course.”

The Brigadier made a small strangled noise upon hearing this and was picturing the ensuing international incident after this NATO man went pounding on the door of a peer of England. To his added horror, the Doctor asked, “May we come along?”

The Major gave them a dubious look. “No.”

“We are supposed to be your contacts here, Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach,” Jason reminded, his pronunciation of the German’s full name rolling impeccably off his tongue, much to the Major’s amazement. As far as he was concerned, Jason was some American student that had been dumped on UNIT by an influential relative and therefore not worthy of his notice.

Not to be put off, the Doctor smiled broadly. “Then we’ll follow you, since you obviously know where we’re going.”

The several insults that were about to spring from the Major’s mouth were curtailed when Corporal Bell appeared at the door to inform him that he had a call from his office in Bonn. He turned on his heel and followed the Corporal, muttering several uncomplimentary remarks under his breath.

Jason watched him go, shaking his head. “Working with him is going to be a barrel of laughs,” he observed.

“Well, that explains the remark I got from the Chief of NATO’s London office,” the Brigadier said to no one in particular. “When I told him who the contact in Bonn was, he referred to him as Iron Klaus.”

“That fits,” Jason snorted. “He’s going to go over well at Castle Gloria.”

The smile on the Doctor’s face broadened. He already knew what to expect at Castle Gloria but was not about to reveal it to his companion. He turned to the Brigadier, who was still marveling at the Major’s insubordinate attitude. “Brigadier, I need you to get Bessie out of mothballs for me,” he said happily.

Chapter Four

The Earl In All His Glory

Castle Gloria was astonishing. That was all Jason could think as they approached the home of the Earl of Gloria in the North Downs. He had seen his share of castles on his home world of Tel-Shye, but they were of a completely different order. Even his family estate was of a completely different order. Maybe the Doctor did know what he was talking about when he was extolling the virtues of Earth.

The Doctor had worked as UNIT’s scientific advisor for many years in the past and, at a one point in time, has acquired a bright yellow roadster he had named “Bessie.” When he left to continuing his wanderings in time and space, the Brigadier had put the car in storage until such times as the Doctor returned.

The Doctor parked Bessie beside the Major’s more conservative BMW and smiled, receiving an irritated glare in return.

“This is beautiful country,” Jason remarked as got out of the car and looked around.

Overhearing this, the Major merely snorted in reply. “If you want to see beauty, you should visit my country,” he said proudly. He expected an argument and was surprised when Jason replied, “Perhaps I will. I was supposed to be on vacation when this assignment came up.”

The Major’s eyes narrowed at the Alterran’s use of the word assignment. He wondered, rather astutely albeit suspiciously, if he really was as young as he made himself appear.

This was not the first time the Major had been to Castle Gloria, nor did he believe it would be his last—unfortunately. The servants recognized him immediately and grudgingly admitted him along with the Doctor and Jason.

Ignoring all the usual social pleasantries, the Major looked at the servant who had the misfortune to answer the door and demanded to see the Earl, “Now.

“Wow.” Jason gave the Doctor a surprised look. “I thought Tolan was tightly wrapped, but he’s a regular party animal compared to this guy.”

“Did somebody say party?” a voice floated down from the main staircase.

The Doctor and Jason turned to see the Earl of Gloria descending the stairs. The Doctor glanced in his companion’s direction, an amused smile coming to his face when he saw the astonished expression on the Alterran’s face.

“Oh…my…God…” Jason said quietly.

The Earl was tall, well built and young. He was also wearing a sleeveless shirt, very tight fitting low rise trousers, an over exaggerated belt, calf length boots, and a floor-length coat with a fluffy fur collar and border that looked more like a cape that flared out behind him as he moved. He also had the most extraordinary mass of blond hair Jason had ever seen on a human being. It came down to the middle of his back and curled in all directions. He had the most enchanting smile on his face and his eyes were positively dancing as he took in his unexpected guests.

This is the famous international art thief? You have got to be kidding! “Doctor…?”

“That’s him, Jason. Eroica. Now shush,” the Doctor replied in a low voice. “This should be very interesting.”

Jason gave him a startled look. Sometimes his friend had the most bizarre idea of what was considered interesting. He also reflected that he would never again complain about the fact that the Doctor chose to wear a long frock coat and twenty foot long multicolored scarf all the time. He was positively understated compared to the outrageous individual descending the stairs.

“Why, Major,” Eroica was saying, “how nice of you to drop in to see me.” He looked up and smiled even brighter upon seeing Jason. “And you’ve brought some friends along. Who is this enchanting boy?”

“I’m not here to feed your perverted appetite, Earl of Gloria,” the Major snapped. “Three nearly identical pottery bowls were stolen in the last forty-eight hours. By you! Now give them to me at once.”

“Why should I?”

“Because I tell you to, idiot!”

“Oh, I am shaking in my boots.”

By this time Eroica had reached the bottom of the stairs. He brushed passed the enraged Major, crossing to the Doctor and Jason. He looked the Alterran up and down in a way that made him feel like he was a display in a butcher shop window.

“You must forgive the Major,” the Earl said to the Doctor. “Sometimes he forgets that he’s descended from the Hapsburgs and thus he also forgets social pleasantries.” He turned his dazzling smile in Jason’s direction. “Dorian Red Gloria, Earl of Gloria,” he cooed.

Jason closed his eyes and sighed heavily as Eroica draped an arm over his shoulder and started to play with his hair. Thank you very much for warning me about this, Doctor.

The Time Lord was trying very hard not to laugh, the smile on his face mirroring that of the man now annoying his companion. “I’m the Doctor, Lord Gloria.”

“And who is this charming boy?”

“My traveling companion, Jason—”

“Who can speak for himself,” Jason stated firmly, pulling away so he was facing the slightly taller Earl. He drew himself to his full height and went on in a regal tone, “Lord Gloria, I’m Jason Nigel Peregrine Alexander Krystovan, the Marquis Krystovan; Earl of Altrose, Baron of Tara, heir to the Royal House of Krystovan and Grand Nephew of Lord Emperor Quinton of the Alterran Empire.”

“Mein Gott, another aristocrat,” the Major moaned, rolling his eyes.

“Well, at least Dorian had the decency not to jump to conclusions about my background, Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach,” Jason snapped, the name rolling off his tongue in the same precise manner as before.

“That’s because he’s more interested in your backside than your background, dummkopf!” the Major retorted.

I can’t let that one pass. “I want him, Major,” Eroica said suddenly, putting his arm around Jason’s shoulders again.

Even the Major, who should have been used to these outrageous displays, was momentarily thrown. “What?”

“You want your bowls back? Well, I want him.”

“Alright, this has gone far enough,” Jason broke in pointedly. “Look, my Lord Gloria—”

“Oh, please, call me Dorian again.”

Jason gave a small growl. “Will you stop mauling me if I do?”

Eroica gave him an innocent look through his eyelashes. “I’m not mauling you, you dear sweet boy. I’m just being friendly.”

“Whatever you call it, you’re wasting your time. I happened to be heterosexual.”

The Major made a surprised strangled noise at the directness of this statement. He received an amused sideways glance from Eroica, who was obviously enjoying himself immensely. The Doctor observed this and wondered if the Earl were putting on this performance simply to upset the Major. If so, he was succeeding.

Eroica was still arranging the curls in Jason’s hair. “Maybe I can change your mind,” he said seductively.

“I doubt it,” the Alterran replied, his voice deadly serious. “What you’re suggesting is physically impossible for my species.” He took hold of Eroica’s hand and pulled it away, turning to face him again. He met his inquiring eyes with a stern look. “I’m not human. Nor am I a boy. I may look only nineteen, but I happen to be more than one hundred years old.”

There was a stunned silence that followed as everyone stared at Jason. Suddenly the Doctor could contain himself no longer and burst out laughing. Then Eroica started to laugh. “I love a challenge,” he said happily. “Not human! Wonderful!”

“Great,” Jason said ironically. “Now if you’d be so kind as to give the Major those bowls before he has a cerebral hemorrhage, we’ll call it even.”

Eroica thought this over and shrugged. “Why not.” He threw a smile in the glowering Major’s direction, adding, “I can always steal them back again.” He turned and went back up the staircase. A few moments later, a heated argument could be heard.

The Major lit a cigarette and leaned against the banister, listening to the exchange in mild amusement. The Earl’s accountant, an annoyingly fussy little man named James, was apparently pitching a hissy fit over the fact that Eroica was returning the bowls without making a profit from the theft. The Major’s enjoyment of this routine, albeit tumultuous upheaval was interrupted when a servant informed him that there was a phone call for him. The only ones to know he was going to Castle Gloria were the Brigadier in London, and his bureau Chief in Bonn. He had his doubts that the former would ask to speak to him, and could only assume it was the Chief. As it turned out, he was correct and spent several minutes explaining how his mission was proceeding thus far and his hope that he would have the items in question in his possession within the hour.

Eroica returned to the main entryway with a large package in his hands. He placed it on a table in the center of the foyer and looked around in bewilderment. “Did the Major get tired of waiting?” he asked in mock petulance. “I wasn’t gone that long, surely?”

“Actually, he had to take a phone call,” the Doctor replied.

Eroica nodded, throwing a glance in the direction of the drawing room where the nearest telephone was located. “Daddy in Bonn must want a report,” he said unkindly.

The Doctor did not reply to this. He indicated the box. “May I?”

“By all means. I can only assume the Major has you along to authenticate these are genuine.” There was a slightly bitter edge to the thief’s voice that did not go unnoticed by his listeners.

“No, actually. I came along for the ride.”

Actually, he came to watch the fireworks,” Jason injected, adding, “Dorian.”

This amused the thief and he laughed, causing Jason to note that when he wasn’t being so completely over the top, he was actually quite pleasant. He turned back to see an odd look on the Doctor’s face. “What’s wrong?” When he received no reply, he asked again. “Doctor, what’s wrong?”

The Doctor gave him a steady look and slid the box over towards him. “What do you make of these?” he asked.

There was an edge to his voice that made the Alterran’s hair stand on end. He looked into the box, seeing exactly what he expected to see. Three pottery bowls nesting inside one another. Hold on a minute… Jason blinked. Were they glowing? And that inscription… “Is this what I think it is?” he asked in a frightened voice.

The Time Lord nodded.

The Alterran touched one of the bowls, and felt a surge of energy rush through him. Only one thing could cause that to happen. Then he turned sharply to the Earl, who had been listening to this exchange in some bewilderment. “Dorian, have you been the only one to handle these?” he asked suddenly.

“Of course, you dear sweet—” Eroica broke off when he saw the look on Jason’s face and a chill ran down his spine. “Why?” he asked seriously.

“Because they’re radioactive, that’s why.”

“What?” Eroica gave him a horrified look. Then a sly sideways glance. “Now you’re just trying to frighten me so I don’t steal them again, aren’t you?”

“No. I’m not.”

The Major returned at that moment and saw the box on the table. “I’m pleased you’ve finally seen sense, Eroica,” he snorted, lighting another cigarette. “Now if I can just collect my bowls…”

“No!” Jason stepped in front of him, barring his way.

“Get out of my way, boy,” the Major snarled.

“I should listen to him if I were you, Major,” the Doctor broke in. “Those things are radioactive.”

The Major rolled his eyes. “I am aware of this, Doctor,” he said derisively.

“No, Major, I mean highly radioactive. That’s what happens when they come in contact with one another.”

“And you naturally wish to take them back to UNIT, yes?” came the suspicious retort. “Just how will you do this if no one is to touch them?”

“I didn’t say no one could touch them. It’s perfectly safe for Jason to handle them.”

“Come again?” This was Eroica, who had been following the conversation by a thread, only to become completely lost by this last statement.

“I’m Alterran,” Jason said unhelpfully.

“So?” This was the Major, who was beginning to wonder about the sanity of UNIT’s scientific advisor.

“Alterran’s absorb radiation,” the Doctor said matter of factly. “They thrive on the stuff, in fact.”

“Mein Gott, UNIT has given me a pair of lunatics!” the Major exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air.

The Doctor gave him a dark look. “Not the most open minded of individuals, are you, Major?”

This remark caused Eroica to laugh. The Major responded by glaring at the both of them.

Jason, in the meantime, was ignoring them all. He was looking thoughtfully down at the innocuous looking bowls within the box. “After forty-eight hours, it’s a miracle no one’s taken ill yet,” he said quietly.

Eroica caught his breath and turned to him, a stricken look on his face. “One of my staff has taken ill.”

“Suddenly?”

“Very.”

“Did they handle these more than you?”

A pause. “Yes.”

Jason gave the Doctor a steady look. “Well? It’s your call. You’re the expert on Earth, here.”

“What is this idiot boy talking about,” the Major broke in angrily.

“This idiot boy, as you call him, is the most gifted physician his home planet has ever produced, Major,” the Time Lord replied firmly. “And he has the power to save the lives of everyone in this castle.”

“Are you saying all that nonsense about radioactivity was true?” Eroica asked, not quite able to take it in.

“What did you think it was?” the Doctor wanted to know.

“I thought you were just trying to scare me so I wouldn’t try to steal them back.” Eroica turned his gaze back to Jason, who closed his eyes when he saw the same amorous look return to his eyes. “So, this lovely boy really isn’t human?”

“Not even remotely.” Jason held out a hand out to the fascinated Earl of Gloria. “Give me your hand, and don’t get any funny ideas.”

Eroica took the Alterran’s hand and watched his expression go from grave to surprised. Only the Doctor knew what was happening. Jason had the ability to scan anything he touched, picking up information in the same way as electronic scanning equipment. The instant the other man’s hand was in his own, he initiated the scan, his eyes widening when he discovered the thief had been exposed to a lethal amount of radiation. Fortunately, he also had the power to clear the man’s system of it.

Jason threw a quick glance in the Doctor’s direction. He then closed his eyes, drawing a deep breath as he did so. For the briefest of instants, his body glowed brightly and then returned to normal. He released his grip and stepped back.

“Dorian, you’ll be pleased to learn you are no longer in danger of dying from radiation poisoning,” he informed calmly.

There was a loud cry of panic and everyone turned to see James at the top of the stairs. “Radiation poisoning! Oh my God, we’re all going to die!” So saying, he promptly fainted.

“I’m guessing he’s the one who was taken ill,” the Doctor said aridly.

Chapter Five

More Than A Simple Curiosity

After Jason checked everyone in the castle for radiation exposure, and much to the Major’s annoyance, he and the Doctor agreed to join Eroica for lunch on the terrace. Jason kept the box containing the bowls in his possession and placed it on the ground beside him during the meal. He found the by play between the Earl and the Major increasingly entertaining as the day wore on and finally understood what the Doctor meant about things being interesting.

The Doctor suspected the invitation to stay was more than a simple gesture of etiquette and smiled to himself when Eroica inquired about the origins of the apparently “alien” pottery.

“Why do you ask?” the Time Lord said conversationally.

“No particular reason,” came the evasive reply. Eroica absently twisted his long curls around one finger and sat back in his chair. The picture of innocence.

“Even I don’t believe that,” Jason injected. Two enormous blue eyes that could rival his own turned in his direction. “And if you keep looking at me like that, I’m going to change into something particularly hideous.”

This remark stunned the Doctor. His Alterran companion was very particular about keeping the fact that he could change form a secret. It was all too obvious that Eroica’s relentless sexual overtures and innuendos were getting under his skin.

“Why don’t you just trade clothes with Herr Doctor or Lord Gloria,” the Major snorted derisively, lighting up what seemed to Jason to be his hundredth cigarette.

Eroica made a show of being offended, fluffing the fur collar of his coat. The Doctor, on the other hand, merely smiled. If the Major wanted to get under his skin he was going to have to do a lot better than that.

“Just what is NATO’s interest in all this, Major?” Eroica asked suddenly. “Is the writing on those exquisite bowls a code of some sort?”

The Major gave him a dark look, taking a long drag on his cigarette and slowly blowing the smoke in Eroica’s direction, causing him to cough and wave a hand to clear the smoke from his eyes. “As the Doctor explained, they are radioactive. The materials are unlike anything we’ve seen before. We suspect the KGB may try to use the material in the development of more powerful nuclear weapons.”

Jason caught his breath upon hearing this and sat up, looking over at the Doctor. “Can they do that?”

The Time Lord nodded. “And if they learned how to duplicate it…”

“Oh, my God.”

“Not likely, now that we have the bowls in our possession,” the Major injected, taking another drag on his cigarette.

The Doctor and Jason exchanged a knowing look. “Unfortunately,” the Time Lord said calmly, “those bowls are not the simple curiosity they appear to be, Major. They’re a portion of a device appropriately named Planet Killer, which does precisely what the name implies. If it were activated now, it would destroy every living being on this planet of yours within a matter of seconds.” He paused a beat before adding, “It has six components and we have only three.”

Eroica gave him a startled and appalled look. There was more to this reaction than simple shock.

Seeing this, Jason exchanged a knowing look with the Doctor. “You know something, don’t you, Dorian?” he said suddenly, sitting back in his chair and studying the man’s expression closely.

Eroica’s large blue eyes stared at him a moment, the look on his face one of genuine surprise.

“You know more about this and you didn’t say! Idiot!” the Major exclaimed angrily, slamming his fist on the table. “You stupid limey, what were you waiting for?”

“Someone to ask him nicely, perhaps?” the Doctor said acidly, ignoring the Major’s glowering reaction.

Ask this faggot nicely? That will be the day! Klaus thought.

The Doctor turned to Eroica. “Do you know something more about this, Lord Gloria?”

“Are you always this formal, Doctor?”

“Are you always this evasive, Dorian?” the Time Lord shot back smoothly.

Eroica gave a delighted laugh and sat back in his chair, the sun catching his blond curls and making him look as though he were glowing. “Yes, I do know something, as a matter of fact. I know where the other three are.”

“Idiot! Were you planning to steal them anyway?” the Major snapped.

“Oh, Major, I do love it when you’re angry.” Eroica leaned forward, placing his hand on his chin and fluttering his eyelashes.

The Major recoiled and was instantly on his feet. “Don’t look at me like that you degenerate!”

Jason sighed heavily. It was like dealing with a couple of squabbling children.

Gentlemen,” the Doctor broke in, stressing the word pointedly. “If we could keep to the point.”

The Major gave him a dark look but, amazingly, did not reply, choosing instead to light another cigarette and turn his back on the group.

Great, Jason thought. Now he’s going to sulk. Lord, this is so much fun, Doctor. Thank you ever so much for bringing me to Earth in the middle of the Cold War era.

Turning to Eroica, the Doctor met his bright inquiring gaze steadily. “You were saying?”

It was the first time that Eroica could remember that he found himself unsettled by another person’s intense gaze and he sat up slowly. Then he wondered if the Doctor were an alien also. There was so much going on behind those intelligent inscrutable eyes of his.

“I’ll tell you where they are under one condition,” he said at last.

“Done,” the Doctor said succinctly and got to his feet. “Jason, if you’d be so kind as to bring the bowls.”

Jason did not even ask. He had been with the Doctor long enough to know you did not ask questions in these situations. You just followed the Doctor’s lead and then hit him with a barrage of questions as soon as the opportunity arose. The Alterran leaned over and picked up the box containing the bowls before getting to his feet.

Eroica was completely thrown. “You haven’t even heard my condition.”

“It’s rather obvious, isn’t it? You want to help us steal the remaining components,” the Doctor replied simply. “I can’t think of anyone better suited, can you, Major?”

The Major made a few strangled noises and practically swallowed what was left of his cigarette, much to Eroica’s amusement.

Jason, on the other hand, was less than amused. He met the Doctor’s delighted look with an annoyed scowled. Since he was the only one who could safely handle the bowls, he was going to have to accompany Eroica during the thefts. This just gets better and better. Now I get to spend my vacation in the company of a hedonistic, homosexual art thief and a tightly wrapped, xenophobic government agent. Next time, I’m going to Skaro.

* * *

The unlikely group returned to UNIT HQ; Klaus obstinately on his own, the Doctor in Bessie, and Jason with Eroica, who had changed into something less flamboyant but no less extravagant. He had also retrieved a large canvas bag containing all of his burglar tools.

Considering all the protestations the Alterran had made earlier, the Doctor was somewhat surprised when he announced he would be accompanying the thief on the long drive back to London.

“I’m going to have to spend time with him when we go after the components,” Jason pointed out. “I might as well get used to it now.”

“Just try not to injure him while the car is moving,” the Doctor joked.

* * *

When the group arrived in London, Jason was presented with his own set of UNIT identity papers, his photograph having been taken prior to the trip to the North Downs.

The Brigadier was more than a little put out when he learned the Doctor had enlisted the assistance of the notorious Eroica. He was equally dismayed by the thief’s flamboyant antics, something Jason was beginning to suspect was an elaborate act to cover his real motives. Unlike the brooding Major, who put everyone on their guard just by walking in a room, the eccentric Earl of Gloria made everyone relax.

“Alright, Dorian,” the Doctor said finally. “I suppose it would be too much to hope for that the remaining components are at the same location.”

“If they had been, Doctor, I would’ve started there,” the thief replied matter of factly.

“I thought as much. Where do we start?”

Eroica brushed his hair from his face and glanced over in the Major’s direction. “How do I know you won’t leave me behind when you find out?”

“A fair point.”

“Might I suggest we start in the TARDIS?” Jason chimed in.

Eroica threw a questioning look in the Major’s direction, seeing he was just as mystified. “TARDIS?” the thief repeated.

“My transport,” the Doctor informed, turning to lead the way from the Brigadier’s office.

“Is it a space ship?” Eroica asked jokingly, smiling at the annoyed scowl this remark brought to the Major’s face.

“Must you always be such an idiot?” the Major snorted as he passed through the door.

“Boy, is he in for a surprise, isn’t he, Alistair?” Jason observed, exchanging a knowing look with the Brigadier before making his way to the Doctor’s lab where the TARDIS and K-9 patiently awaited their master’s return.

“Yes,” the officer said to the empty room. “And for once, I’m glad I’m not going to be involved.”

Chapter Six

An Unlikely Band Of Thieves

The Doctor pushed open the door to his lab, pulling the TARDIS key from his pocket as he crossed the room.

Eroica and the Major came in behind him and stopped dead in their tracks.

“A Police Box,” Eroica said in a bewildered tone. “I thought they were being dismantled. How did you get hold of one?”

“It’s not a Police Box,” Jason said as he came in behind him. “That’s the TARDIS. It only looks like a Police Box.” He crossed the room as he spoke, stopping at the now open door. The Doctor was already in the console room, clearing the coordinates from the navigational computer.

“Do you expect us all to squeeze in there together?” the Major asked sharply.

Eroica threw him a sideways glance and smiled brightly. “What a wonderful idea,” he said happily. He got as far as the door and stopped again, seeing the impossibly large console room within. He threw Jason a questioning look. “Is that done with mirrors?”

“Why don’t you see for yourself?” the Alterran invited.

Eroica entered. A moment later, he was popping his head back out the door. “Major, you are not going to believe this! It’s enormous in here.” So saying, he vanished back into the TARDIS.

Not surprisingly, the Major did not believe it and continued to scowl at Jason, who shrugged and entered the Police Box. “Suit yourself,” he sighed. “But if you don’t want to be left behind, I suggest you get in here.”

Ever suspicious, the Major slowly crossed to the open TARDIS doorway. He heard Jason’s voice calling, “Hello, K-9!” a few seconds before he reached it.

Inside the console room, the Doctor was circling the hexagonal central control console. He looked up, seeing the thief looking around the room is an awed silence. He hadn’t even made the usual comment about it being bigger on the inside than on the outside.

“I didn’t think it was possible,” Jason remarked, meeting his friend’s gaze. “You’ve finally managed to shut him up.”

“Yes.” The Doctor suddenly realized they were one short. “Where’s the Major?”

“Still trying to decide whether homophobia is worse than claustrophobia, I should imagine,” Eroica replied dismissively.

“Freud would’ve had a field day with that man,” Jason remarked, putting the box containing the bowls on the floor. He went back out the exterior doors, returning a moment later with the protesting Klaus. He thrust the officer further into the room before crossing to the console and hitting the door lever, closing the exterior doors.

“What is this?” the Major demanded, looking around himself in a combination of bewilderment and annoyance.

“This, Major, is the TARDIS,” the Doctor replied. “And as Dorian so succinctly put it, it’s a space ship.”

Before the Major could voice any further objections, K-9 glided across the control room floor. He took an alarmed step back. “What’s that?” he demanded.

“That’s my dog,” the Doctor replied in an indignant tone before getting down beside the automation. Eroica was just beside him and was watching in delighted fascination. “K-9,” the Doctor said firmly, “this is Dorian Red Gloria, Earl of Gloria, also known as Eroica. Identify: friend.”

K-9 swiveled around to face Eroica, a small red disk in the center of his eye panel extending out in his direction. “Scanning. Identify; Dorian Red Gloria, Earl of Gloria, also known as Eroica. Affirmative. Friend.” K-9’s wire tail wagged at the same time and the thief laughed. Then he looked over at the Major. “Your turn, I think, Major.”

“Nein. You keep that thing away from me, Doctor,” the Major objected.

Jason ground his teeth. “Major?”

“What?”

“I am going to choke on this.” Jason turned to K-9. “K-9, this is Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach of NATO. Identify—” He gave a heavy sigh before forcing himself to say, “Identify: friend.”

Eroica had to stifle a laugh at the expression on Jason’s face. The Major stiffened visibly as the sensor telescoped in his direction.

“Scanning,” K-9 chirped brightly. “Identify; Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach. Affirmative. Friend.”

“Excellent!” the Doctor said happily. “Now, Dorian. Where is our first destination?”

* * *

Eroica watched the time column in the center of the mushroom shaped central control console as it rhythmically rose and fell, the ship humming around him. “What happens now?” he asked.

“You and I steal bowl number one,” Jason replied succinctly. “If your information is accurate, we shouldn’t have any problems at all.”

“My information is always accurate,” the thief replied in a slightly affronted tone.

“Excellent. Let’s have a look see,” the Doctor enthused, activating hover mode. The room was filed with the sound of the TARDIS materializing. He activated the scanner revealing the view from several hundred feet above the building in question.

“Seems pretty secluded,” Jason observed. “How far from the city are we?”

The Doctor told him and then looked over at Eroica, who was looking at the image in fascination. “It’s just like the view from my zeppelin,” he remarked.

“Your what?”

The thief did not seem to hear him. He was explaining that the building was the first of several that were planned for the area. The one they wanted housed an extensive art collection.

“Who does it belong to?” the Major asked practically.

Eroica gave him an innocent look before replying, “Vittorio Salliari.”

The Major snorted, waving a hand in the air. It was obvious he knew the name and equally obvious that he did not care for the man.

“And who’s he when he’s home?” the bewildered Jason asked.

“A very rich and very unpleasant man, if the history books are accurate,” the Doctor replied from his place across the room. “He was said to have one of the finest collections of pottery and art glass in the country at this point in time.”

“His wife is an equally unpleasant person,” Eroica injected.

“You’re being too kind, Eroica,” the Major said with a snort. “The woman is a Harpy.”

“For once, Major, I think even you are being too generous about that harridan.”

“Do you lot know any pleasant people?” Jason wanted to know.

There was a lead-lined box on a table in the control room that held the three bowls that the thief had turned over to them. Eroica crossed to it, and idly leaned on it with his elbow. “I took the liberty of relieving Señior Salliari of one of these bowls already.”

The Major’s eyes narrowed but he did not reply. While he did not approve of the thief’s chosen occupation, it appealed to his odd sense of justice that Salliari and his wife should be annoyed by him in such a manner. They were indeed thoroughly unpleasant people who believed they could push people around simply because they were rich. How he hated them.

Jason gave a small sigh. “So, how do we go about relieving this charming couple of this one?”

Chapter Seven

First Stop, Milan

It turned out that stealing the first bowl was extremely easy. The building was still under construction, many of the displays having yet to be unpacked. K-9 disabled what few security alarms there were and Jason and Eroica entered without incident. The problem was actually finding the box the bowl was packed in.

“We could be here all night opening boxes,” Eroica observed, taking in the contents of the first room.

Jason gave a wry smile. “Maybe not.” He went back to the door, calling for K-9.

“Young Master,” K-9 chirped as he trundled in the door.

“K-9, scan the room. See if you can locate the box with the same radioactive signature as the bowls in the TARDIS.”

“Scanning.”

Eroica nodded approvingly. “I could use a dog like you, K-9.”

“Don’t even think about stealing him,” Jason replied jokingly. He pulled open a box and looked inside, scowling as he did so. “I thought you said this guy collected pottery.”

“The finest in Italy,” Eroica confirmed.

“Then what’s he doing with an ion generator?”

“A what?” The thief crossed to him and looked in the box. “Well, I know nothing about machines, but I do know art. And that’s not it,” he remarked aridly. “It’s like the Major, functional, not flashy in the slightest.”

“Yes…” Jason replied absently as he looked around the room and then opened another box. “This is a…” He broke off, taking in the room as though seeing it for the first time. “What is all this? Where on earth did it come from?”

“Negative, Young Master. Sensors indicate technology is not from this planet,” K-9 replied.

Jason blinked. “All of it?”

“Affirmative.”

“I’m getting a very bad feeling about this,” Eroica said gravely.

“Item located, Young Master,” K-9 announced.

“Where?”

“In the room directly below this one.”

Jason exchanged a glance with Eroica and they proceeded to the stairs. In the room indicated, they found a similar collection of boxes. This room already had some displays in place and others in the process of being put together. There were huge tarps covering what seemed to be a larger display against one wall. Jason took in the objects in one display case in amazement, recognizing most of them. Behind him, he heard the thief give a cry of triumph.

“Found it!” Eroica announced happily.

Jason turned, crossing to him. “Good. Let me grab it so we can get the hell out of here. This place is giving me the creeps.”

* * *

Once Jason and Eroica were safely back in the TARDIS, the Doctor asked for their next destination. To his surprise, it turned out to be an island in the Mediterranean. He entered the coordinates and the TARDIS dematerialized. He then set the craft into orbit, halting their progress to the island.

“I think we could do with a bit of rest before we continue,” the Time Lord announced.

“I’d rather eat first,” Jason replied as he was unpacking the bowl. “I’m starving.”

“You have real food in this space ship, I hope,” the Major said coldly.

“Yes, we have real food,” Jason sighed. He was really getting tired of the man’s constant grousing. “K-9, take the Major to the kitchen and show him where the—”

“You expect me to cook like a woman?”

The Alterran closed his eyes and told himself that he really did not want to throttle the man just to shut him up. “Alright, I’ll cook.” The Major opened his mouth, but Jason cut him off, “And if you say one more word, I’ll let you go hungry. Now shut up and go to the kitchen!”

The Major’s mouth dropped open and he turned through six shades of purple. The Doctor took him by the sleeve and had to practically drag him from the control room. His angry protests could be heard even after the inner door closed.

“I have never killed anyone in my life,” Jason said to the grinning Eroica, “but that man is getting very close to changing that.”

“And he hasn’t even taken a swing at you yet,” the thief observed with a laugh.

“Oh, goody. Something I can look forward to.”

Jason placed the bowl in the box with the others and closed the lid, making certain it was completely sealed before turning to the inner door. He was about to head to the kitchen when he hear an odd sound and looked down, seeing Eroica putting some computer chips into the satchel.

“Where did you—?” Jason cursed in several languages. “Dorian!” he said reprovingly.

The unrepentant thief grinned at him. “Just a few souvenirs of the trip, Jason.”

“Most people buy postcards and tee-shirts with the tacky logos on them.”

Eroica draped an arm over Jason’s shoulder and started to play with his curls. “My dear Jason, you know I’m not most people.”

“Dorian, I can say without fear of contradiction that you are unlike anyone I have ever met.”

Eroica’s bright blue eyes lit up in surprise. “Was that an actual compliment?”

“It was. Don’t let it go to your head.” Jason disengaged himself from the thief and headed towards the inner door. “Now let’s see if I can cook a decent meal for the Major without poisoning him in the process.”

Chapter Eight

A Mediterranean Mystery

The TARDIS materialized in a wooded area not far from the next target location. When the image was revealed on the scanner, the Doctor scowled. The large office building seemed an unlikely location for a rare piece of art, which he said to Eroica.

“I thought so, too,” Eroica replied. “That’s one of the reasons I didn’t target this piece. It’s easier to casually walk through an art exhibit than an office building.”

“Since when have you been afraid of attracting attention to yourself?” the Major snorted, blowing smoke in the glowering thief’s direction.

“What is this place, anyway?” Jason asked, hoping to curtail another argument cum screaming fit from the Major. “K-9?”

The automations sensors twitched a moment. “Inter-Global Research and Development facility. A subsidiary of several other corporations, Young Master.”

“Several?” This was the Major, who suddenly had a sneaking suspicion he knew why the bowl was in this facility. “What is the parent company?”

“Kelplov Global Bio-Electronics,” K-9 replied.

The Doctor actually laughed upon hearing this. “Someone is either very stupid, or is trying to be very clever.” Three blank faces looked back at him and he smiled broadly. “The company’s initials are K-G-B.”

The Major gave a startled noise and turned back to the image on the viewer. “If that is so, security will be much more sophisticated than in a normal office building.”

“Oh, I don’t think that will be a problem for K-9,” the Doctor replied airily.

“But will it be a problem for you, Eroica?” The Major turned to the thief. In a matter of seconds this mission had taken a very grave turn. His superiors had already royally screwed up this assignment by failing to inform him there were six radioactive bowls rather than three. He was supposed to keep them from falling into Soviet hands, only to learn that one was already in their possession. As he suspected, there were nothing but incompetent imbeciles at NATO, excluding himself, naturally.

“Getting in is never a problem, Major,” the thief replied calmly. “It’s getting out again.” To Jason’s amazement, Eroica actually let the obvious double entendre go without so much as a sly look. My God, he really can be serious when he wants to be!

Eroica threw a quick look in Jason’s direction. “We’re going to need a map of the building and multiple escape routes if something goes wrong.”

Jason gave a small smile. “I’m sure the Doctor’s already worked everything out in his head. And I can already guess Plan B.

“Which is?”

“Improvise!”

The Time Lord grinned. “Indeed.”

While the TARDIS sensors scanned the building to find the component’s exact location in the structure as well as generate an accurate interior map, the Doctor laid out his plan. K-9 would disable the building’s alarm system. Jason and Eroica would enter, locate the component and return. In the event they were discovered, they would use any of the escape routes necessary to get out of the building. Should they be unable to immediately return to the TARDIS, they would rendezvous with the Doctor and the Major at a specified point several miles away.

“And just how are we supposed to get there?” Eroica asked pointedly. “On foot?”

The Doctor and Jason exchanged a knowing look.

“You’re a thief, idiot,” the Major snorted, waving a hand at him. “Steal something.”

* * *

Getting into the building, locating the bowl and removing it had been no problem. Just as Eroica predicted, it was the exit that proved difficult. When they tried to leave the room they discovered that the electric door, which had been no problem for the thief to open, had closed and locked behind them.

Eroica was attempting to open it again, but was having considerable difficulty.

“What’s taking so long?” Jason asked impatiently.

Eroica gave a low growl. “It’s different this side. There’re more wires than—” The thief’s blue eyes grew wide as he realized why. He was on his feet, dragging Jason to the floor before the Alterran knew what was happening. A split second later, the box and part of the wall exploded, covering them in a shower of sparks, dust and debris. The door jerked partway open and then stopped.

Jason had landed on his back and was looking at the smoldering remains of the entry pad in shock. “Bloody hell!” he cried angrily. “That could’ve taken your head off!” He tried to rise, only to realize the thief was still lying on top of him, the look in his eyes an odd combination of fear and…oh, no.

“Dorian, this is not the time for any of your nonsense. Now get off of me. We have to get out of here before half the Russian army shows up.”

Eroica gave him a look of mock rejection as he got to his feet. “So, this is the thanks I get,” he said in a petulant tone, tossing his mop of long blond curls over his shoulder and throwing dust everywhere at the same time. “I just saved you from being incinerated, you darling boy.”

Jason gave him a dark look as he got to his feet. “I wasn’t in danger of being incinerated, you lunatic, you were.” The injured look he received in response was genuine and he sighed heavily. “Oh, alright. Thank you.”

The thief’s face lit up and he smiled broadly. To Jason’s surprise, the next thing out of his mouth was completely serious. “Now that we’ve got that sorted, might I suggest we get the hell out of here.” So saying, he turned and squeezed through the door.

Jason scooped up the bag containing the component and then squeezed himself through the door. “Right behind you.” Eroica gave him a bright smile, his eyes dancing. “Dorian, don’t even think about it,” he snapped forcefully, although his face betrayed in own amusement. He had walked right into that one.

“Too late,” the thief laughed, starting down the hallway at a trot.

Jason shook his head, but was prevented from commenting further when his incredible hearing picked up the unmistakable sound of booted feet tromping down a hallway some distance away. From the sound of them, they would not be some distance away for long.

“Dorian…”

“Yes, Darling?”

“Run.”

Jason was suddenly running full pelt. He took Eroica by the arm as he came up beside him, pulling him along. The thief was momentarily stunned that the smaller man could actually keep pace with him. In fact, he was out pacing him and he found he had to struggle to keep up.

By this time alarms were going off all over the building. They reached the rear door, discovering it was locked once again. “No time for finesse this time,” Jason said mildly and then shocked his companion by kicking the reinforced steel door open, leaving it hanging from its hinges at an odd angle.

The pair burst from the building, only to find more guards blocking their original escape route. Jason cursed under his breath, looked around and then headed in the opposite direction, still pulling the thief along with him. He hoped they could lose their pursuers in the darkness and adjusted his eyes to allow himself to see where he was going. He heard the sound of gunfire and threw a worried look over his shoulder, cursing in several languages at the same time. Great. Just shoot randomly into the dark. Brilliant tactic. Humans!

* * *

The Doctor and the Major were watching from the woods near the TARDIS. They heard the alarms go off and saw guards pouring out one of the doors, cutting them off from Jason and Eroica. A few seconds later, the pair burst from the building and ran in the opposite direction.The Major drew his weapon automatically but was prevented from using it by the Doctor.

“There’re too many of them,” the Doctor said quietly. He watched in trepidation as his Alterran companion vanished into the darkness, dragging Eroica along with him. Then he got to his feet. “Come on.”

“I would prefer to wait until I’m sure they haven’t been captured,” the Major replied obstinately.

“Suit yourself.” The Doctor headed for the TARDIS, adding casually, “I’m going to track them on the sensors.”

“What? How?” The Major was suddenly interested and followed the Doctor into the TARDIS.

“Jason’s a silicon-based lifeform,” came the succinct reply. “He’ll stand out like a sore thumb.”

* * *

At that moment, Jason was trying very hard not to stand out, hoping instead to blend into the darkness. It seemed to him that they did indeed have half the Russian army chasing them.

“You do know where you’re going, I hope,” Eroica said breathlessly.

“Away from them,” came the succinct reply.

“I gathered that.”

Their flight ended at the top of a sheer cliff. The triangular shaped landmass jutted out into a point. Jason didn’t realize until he was almost at the end that they had reached a dead end and skidded to a halt, having to use both hands to keep Eroica from tumbling over the edge. At the base of the cliff on Jason’s side were enormous boulders, the waves of the ocean crashing up onto them. On Eroica’s side, and further away, they could see the light from several bonfires on the beach. Someone was having a good time at least.

That is a very long way down,” Eroica observed aridly. “Now what?” He threw a concerned look back the way they came. There was no way they could proceed forward and would have to backtrack. He could not see their pursuers, but could definitely hear them approaching. They would be upon them in seconds. He turned back to look at the beach party going on hundreds of feet below. “I hope you’re not suggesting that we jump,” he remarked, turning back to Jason, who met his gaze steadily. The Alterran’s eyes seemed to be glowing, and Eroica could just make out his set expression.

“Oh God, you are suggesting we jump!”

Another shot rang out, closer this time, and Eroica threw another worried look back over his shoulder. The next thing he knew, he being lifted off of his feet and was plummeting towards the rocks below.

Chapter Nine

Do You Rendezvous?

I’m dead.

I must be dead.

Didn’t they say everything went black when you were dead?

These were the first semi-coherent thoughts to pass through Eroica’s mind when he regained his senses. He felt like he was floating, too, which only seemed to confirm his suspicions.

“Dorian, you okay?”

Eroica started at the sudden inquiry. Then he recognized the concerned voice. “Jason…?”

“Yes. Are you okay?”

“I think…” Shaking his head to clear it, the thief looked around himself, struggling to focus his thoughts. He suddenly realized there was something wrapped around his body and he assumed that he and Jason had been captured. He must’ve been knocked unconscious and was tied to something. He reached down, discovering the object around his waist wasn’t rope, as he thought. In fact, it wasn’t anything he recognized. It was thick, soft and fleshy. “What the hell happened?” he asked dazedly.

“Ah.”

The Alterran had been wondering how he was going to explain this. Before their pursuers were upon them, he had returned to his true form, which had at one time been described as looking like a cross between a jellyfish and a nest of snakes. His main body was large and bulbous with sapphire blue crystals evenly spaced around the circumference. Below this were dozens of tendrils, which did not support his weight. Instead, he hovered in the air, his tendrils scarcely brushing the ground.

While the thief was looking back, Jason had entwined him in his tendrils and pulled him over the edge of the cliff. For all his show of frailty, Eroica was a well build man and it took the Alterran a few heart-stopping seconds to compensate for the additional weight. He made straight for the ocean, bypassing the rocks and hitting water with some considerable force, stunning his passenger at the same time.

“Dorian, I think you should prepare yourself for a shock,” he said finally.

“We’re dead, aren’t we?”

Jason actually laughed, his sensor eyes twinkling like stars. “No. I pulled you over the cliff. You were knocked out when we hit the water. We’re somewhere in the ocean.”

“What?” Eroica’s mind finally came into focus and he turned in the direction of the voice. All he could see in the enveloping blackness was the glow of blue…crystals? They were close. Very, very close and he reached out a hand, making contact with more soft…flesh? Not human, but... “Bloody hell!”

Jason felt the thief’s body go rigid in his grasp before he started to struggle. This was not going to be a fun explanation if he went into hysterics. “Dorian, calm down, it’s just me. Jason. I had to change form when I pulled you over the cliff, that’s all. You’re perfectly safe.” He started to move through the water, heading more or less in the direction of the rendezvous point.

“Change form…” Eroica repeated dully and stopped struggling. He had been told the Alterran could change his appearance, but had assumed it meant his clothes, not this complete metamorphosis. This was all getting to be too much. Then again, weren’t aliens supposed to look…well, alien? And his extraordinary companion certainly was that by the feel of him.

“Yes. You’ll come to no harm as long as you—” Jason broke off as he felt the thief’s long fingers gently sliding up and down one of his tendrils. “What are you doing? Stop that.”

“You really are an alien, aren’t you?” Eroica cooed as he continued to caress the tendrils that held him.

“Dammit, Dorian, not now!” the Alterran snapped. “Klaus was right, you are a pervert.”

It was either that or panic, and Eroica had already panicked and was not inclined to do so a second time. “Are these tentacles?” he asked sweetly.

Jason gave a low growl. “They’re called tendrils. And I’d appreciate it if you’d stop molesting them.”

“Oh, you darling boy,” Eroica cooed on. “What else can you turn in to?”

“Will you stop that!” Jason pulled the thief’s hands away. “I’d threaten to hurt you, but I’m afraid you’d only enjoy it.”

“Promises, promises.”

There was a second annoyed growl in response to this. “Would you drop the act and concentrate, please,” Jason said forcefully.

Eroica gave him a surprised look. “What act?” he asked suspiciously.

“Don’t give me that innocent routine. I’ve just scared the hell out of you, giving you one of two options; panic or put on your Lord Gloria, pervert extraordinaire disguise so I don’t know what you’re really thinking.”

Eroica gave an alarmed squeak at this revelation but was prevented from commenting as Jason went on to say, “I’m sure it’s great fun to flirt and generally annoy people, but right now, if you don’t mind, I need you to be serious for at least five minutes.”

“Only if you promise not to scold me anymore, you darling alien, you,” Eroica replied, fluttering his eyelashes.

Jason silently counted to ten and found himself wishing he did not have an aversion to violence. He also wondered if it might not have been better if Dorian had gone into hysterics after all. “How did you know the panel was booby trapped?”

Eroica pushed his long blond curls away from his face, realizing at the same time that they were completely dry. He gave the Alterran a surprised look but did not comment on this and actually made an attempt to be serious. “I’ve seen something like it before. I am a professional, you know.” This last remark was stated in a slightly indignant tone.

“I’m pleased to hear it,” Jason replied coolly. “Now if you would just act like one I’d be even more pleased.”

“Where would the fun be in that?”

Jason chose not to respond, especially since he happened to agree with him. Not that he was going to admit to it. Things were already out of hand as it was. There was no telling how this bizarre human would react once he heard that. He was startled out of these thoughts when he was suddenly asked, “Now what do we do?”

“We’ll have to get to the rendezvous point. But I’d rather not do that in the dark. I’m not familiar with the area and may overshoot where to leave the water.”

Eroica suddenly realized something that had not occurred to him before. “You and the Doctor planned it this way, didn’t you?”

“What?”

“Now who’s doing the innocent routine?”

“Touché.” Again Jason’s sensors twinkled like stars. “Yes, that was the backup plan. I didn’t want to tell you because I was hoping not to have to use it.”

“Because I might panic? Well, actually, I did panic, but that’s beside the point.”

The Alterran was silent a moment. “No. It’s because…” He paused. “I’m not really comfortable in my true form with an outsider. Someone who isn’t Alterran. I’ve only just gotten used to the Doctor seeing me this way, and that’s taken years to accomplish.”

Eroica was taken aback by this admission. “I suppose I should be honored,” he remarked. “But to be honest, I can’t see a thing.”

“You will come morning, so just be warned.”

“Why don’t I like the sound of that?”

Jason gave a chuckle in response. “Why don’t you get some sleep? We won’t be able to leave the water until its light, and I’m sure the Doctor’s tracking my genetic signature in the TARDIS, so he’ll know we got away.”

“You two’ve thought of everything, haven’t you?”

Jason gave a small grunt. “If we had, you and I would be on dry land right now.”

* * *

“They’ve stopped moving,” the Doctor announced, his eye glued to the scanner. Once it was apparent that his companion had successfully evaded capture, he moved the TARDIS to an area near the specified rendezvous point.

The Major was beside him and frowned. “Why would he stop? The rendezvous point is only a few kilometres away.”

“But Jason doesn’t know that. He’ll wait until it’s light, so we have a few hours wait.” The Doctor gave the Major a steady look. “I’d suggest you get some sleep, but I’ve a feeling you’ll refuse.” He did not wait for a reply and headed for the inner door, calling over his shoulder, “K-9, come get me the moment Jason starts moving again.”

* * *

Eroica and Jason slogged their way out of the ocean several miles from where they had entered it. Dawn was breaking and the thief was inwardly glad to finally be able to see more than the Alterran’s glowing sensors. Now that he could finally see the Alterran’s true appearance clearly, he was surprised that he wasn’t shocked by it. He had been steeling himself for this inevitability, and was determined not to react in a negative manner no matter what. Not now that he knew what a sacrifice revealing his true self had been to Jason, especially since he had done it to save his life.

“How far is the rendezvous point from here?” Eroica asked finally.

“I thought it was somewhere around here.” Jason stopped, scanning the shoreline for any of the landmarks he had seen on the map. Nothing. Dammit, I must’ve overshot the area. He returned to his human form and looked over at his companion, relief washing over him when he saw he was still calm and relaxed. He was also looking at him in a way he knew meant he was fascinated by the transmutation he had just witnessed. “Dorian…?”

“Yes…?” came the cautious reply.

“You have seaweed in your hair.”

Eroica reached up, pulling a large stringy gob of green from his wet hair. “Haven’t you ever heard of accessorizing?” he joked, tossing the offending mass back into the water.

Jason grinned and turned back to look onshore, adjusted his eyes for distance. Maybe there was something further inland. As indeed there was, but it was not what he expected. His eyes grew wide when he saw several men with rifles heading in their direction. Then he saw one man taking aim at Eroica.

Eroica was also searching for landmarks, but his eyesight was not nearly as good as the Alterran’s. He heard Jason catch his breath and turned to look at him. Before he could say a word, Jason was yelling at him. “Dorian, get down!” The Alterran spun around, sweeping his arm across the thief’s chest, forcefully knocking him backwards.

Eroica didn’t have to obey. He lost his footing in the soft sand and fell back into the water. The same instant a shot rang out and he watched in horror as Jason’s back arched from the impact of a bullet. A shocked look came to his face before he landed face down in the surf. “Jason!”

The thief threw a terrified look in the direction of the shot, seeing several men heading straight for them. He turned back, pulling Jason’s limp form out of the water before he drowned. It looked like blood was everywhere and he realized it was the water turning red around the Jason’s body. Blood was pouring from the wound in his back. He put his fingers to his neck, but did not have to search for a pulse as the Alterran took a gulp of air. Thank goodness, he was alive. At least for now.

The satchel containing the component bobbed on the surface of the next wave, and Eroica grabbed it with one hand, holding the unconscious Jason with the other. The men were still some distance away, but he could see they were in the same uniforms as the ones who had chased them from the building. Bloody hell, straight back to the KGB. He did not move. After all, they had rifles and he was unarmed, not that that would have mattered. He doubted he would have been able to hit them even if he were armed with a rocket launcher.

To Eroica’s added horror, he saw one of the men taking aim at him and he closed his eyes, tightening his grip on Jason at the same time. He jumped at the sound of a shot and was amazed when he realized he hadn’t been hit. He opened his eyes to see the man holding his arm, the rifle on the ground.

A laser bolt suddenly fired, striking the next man to raise his weapon, dropping him like a stone to the ground.

Suddenly a voice was screaming at the top of his lungs—in German! Eroica looked up to see the Major, gun in hand, storming in his direction with K-9 at his side. I don’t believe it. Iron Klaus to the rescue!

Chapter Ten

Not Quite Dodging A Bullet

“Jason…?”

Wow, that voice sounds far away.

“Jason, can you hear me?”

Definitely far… Hang on a minute. Doctor?

The Doctor was standing at his companion’s bedside, a worried look creasing his usually bright features. It had been a close run thing. The bullet had lodged in the Alterran’s back, coming within a hairsbreadth of his spinal column. The Doctor had been able to remove it, but feared that the Alterran’s completely alien cellular make up would not respond to what was considered normal treatment.

The Major, in the meantime, had been happily dealing with the KGB. It turned out the area the Doctor had chosen for the rendezvous just happened to belong to a “friendly power” who did not take kindly to having innocent tourists shot at while strolling on the beach. The local police did not take too kindly to it either. The fact that the tourists in question were dressed completely in black and were carrying burglar tools somehow failed to make it into the official report.

Several hours later in the TARDIS sickbay, Jason finally stirred, a soft moan escaping him. “Doctor…?” he said softly.

“I’m here,” the Time Lord replied gently, taking the Alterran by the hand. “You’re going to be alright.”

Jason struggled to focus his eyes. “What…?” He gave a moan of pain when he tried to move. Why was his back on fire?

“You’ve been shot,” the Doctor informed quietly.

“Not again,” Jason moaned, closing his eyes. Then the events on the beach came flooding back and he caught his breath. “My God, Dorian!”

“He’s alright, Jason. He came to no harm, thanks to you and the Major.”

“Great bodyguard I’d be if I got us both shot,” the Alterran remarked. He shifted position, grimacing in pain again. “Lord, I hurt. What are you giving me for pain? Whatever it is, it’s not enough.”

The Doctor gave a playful grunt of disapproval. “Are you trying to take over my case, Healer Jason?”

“I’m open to consultation on treatment methods, Doctor,” his companion shot back smoothly.

The Doctor smiled. He then voiced his concerns about the treatment he had already performed and was relieved to learn that the Alterran’s physical makeup, while radically different at the genetic level, would respond to the normal treatment while he was in human form.

After increasing the dose of painkillers, Jason was asleep again. The Doctor watched him a few seconds and then turned to the Major and Eroica, who had been in the room the whole time.

“He saved my life,” Eroica said in a quiet voice, still not quite believing what had happened.

“Yes, he did,” the Doctor agreed. “Now, Major, I believe you wanted to contact NATO again.” So saying, he strode from the room.

Eroica looked at the Major, their eyes meeting for a single frozen moment. The moment was gone and the Major was casually lighting a cigarette and following the Doctor to the console room. The thief watched him go, a chill running down his spine. You would just as soon they’d killed me, wouldn’t you, Major?

* * *

When Jason woke again, he saw Eroica dozing in a chair across the room. He looked considerably cleaner and drier than the last time he’d seen him. He also looked like one of the works of art he was always going on about. Thief in repose. He chuckled as this thought crossed his mind, only to groan in pain. Don’t laugh, Krystovan, you’ll pull your stitches out.

Eroica opened his eyes at the sound, and was surprised to see the Alterran watching him. He had no idea what to say to him other than, “Thank you.”

“Sorry?”

Eroica got to his feet and crossed to the bedside, pulling a stool over and sitting down. “I said thank you.”

“I heard you,” Jason said in a quiet voice. “I’m just—”

“You saved my life out there.”

Jason studied the face of the man looking down at him. He seemed genuinely surprised by his actions. “Yes, I suppose I did.” His eyes narrowed. “Why does that surprise you?”

Eroica sat back, pushing his hair back and then idly playing with one of the long curls. “I’m not used to people doing something without expecting anything in return.”

Jason gave him a small smile. “All kidding aside, Dorian, I thought we were friends.”

“Why?”

Jason frowned. He tried to shift his position in bed to get a better look at the man’s face, but only succeeded in hurting himself. Moving around was definitely out of the question. “Why not?” he countered.

Eroica was momentarily stuck for an answer on that point. “You don’t find me repulsive?”

“Repulsive? Dorian, you’re gorgeous,” came the truthful reply.

Eroica blinked. “Hang on, you told me—”

“I don’t have to be gay to admire the aesthetic beauty of the male form,” Jason replied calmly. “I’m not from your world or your time. The social mores of this time period are completely different to the ones I’ve been raised with. I’m a heterosexual male. You’re a homosexual male. It’s as simple as that.”

“If only it were,” the thief replied longingly.

“I’m sure if you weren’t so completely over the top about it things would be considerably less stressful,” Jason observed astutely. He received a mournful look in reply. With a grin, he added, “Although, I’m sure it would be dull as ditch water and not to your liking at all.”

Eroica could not help but smile at this. “You seem to know all the answers,” he observed.

“No, I don’t. I still have a lot of questions.”

“Such as?”

Jason studied his expression a moment and then drew a deep breath. “You’re in love with Klaus, aren’t you?”

The question hit Eroica like a bolt from the blue. His mouth dropped open and he stared at the Alterran in amazement.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

“How did you…? I haven’t even been thinking about that, what with everything…” Eroica pushed his hair back from his face. “You’ve only known me two days!”

Jason groaned. “Oh, come on. You tease him mercilessly just to get a rise out of him. Not that that’s all that difficult. That’s why you’ve been hitting on me so much when he’s around, isn’t it? You wouldn’t bother if you didn’t care about him.”

Eroica sat staring into space.

“Are you upset I figured it out, or that you didn’t have the chance to tell me?” Jason asked, receiving a sideways glance in reply. “I hope you were planning on letting me down easy.”

Eroica could not help but laugh at this. “I had a long speech planned. And a candlelight supper.”

“I’m sorry I ruined you plans.” A pause. “Does he know?” Jason asked suddenly.

“Lord, yes. Everybody knows.”

Really?” Jason was genuinely surprised to hear this. “How did he react to that?”

Eroica gave him a sideways look. “He knocked me halfway across a room with one hell of a right cross.”

Again, Jason regretted laughing, but could not help himself. This time, Eroica joined him. It really was amusing now that he thought about it, although at the time it was far less than enjoyable.

After a lengthy silence, Jason said quietly, “I’m really am glad you’re okay, Dorian.” To his astonishment, a small sob escaped the man beside him. He held out an arm and the thief leaned over the bed, accepting the embrace.

“I thought you were going to die,” Eroica admitted in a small voice.

Jason closed his eyes, holding the man a moment and reflecting on all that had happened. He did not remember being shot, but knew that Dorian would have witnessed it. He also seemed to have deduced that the bullet was meant for him and apparently seemed unable comprehend why someone would willingly allow themselves to be shot in his place. Naturally, Jason would have preferred not to have been shot at all. At the time, he intended to push Dorian out of the way and then join him in the water. Obviously, this plan had gone straight to hell.

“Dorian…?”

“What?” came the muffled reply.

Jason could not help himself and giggled, groaning at the same time. Do not laugh! “Dorian, look at me.”

The mass of blond curls shifted to reveal the tear stained face. Jason smiled, put his hand under the bewildered man’s chin, planting a gentle kiss on his cheek. “Now, go wash your face. Your eyes are all red and puffy.”

Eroica gave a laugh that was part sob and sat up, wiping the tears from his face. “I don’t understand you at all.”

“That’s probably because I’m a good seventy years older than you are, you sweet darling boy,” Jason replied playfully, adding, “And an alien.” He received a watery smile in return. “Now let me sleep, alright?” He closed his eyes and sighed heavily. “I’m dead tired.”

“Alright.”

Within minutes, Jason was fast asleep.

Eroica sat watching him for several minutes before rising to his feet and going to wash his face. For a long time he stood looking at his reflection in the mirror. He had teased and harassed Jason at every opportunity from the moment he met him, and yet the Alterran still took a bullet for him without thinking twice. Why?

He had never met anyone so totally selfless.

And it scared him to death.

Chapter Eleven

When Alien Cultures Collide

The Doctor returned to the sickbay to find Eroica still keeping watch over the sleeping Alterran. “You really should get some sleep yourself,” he said concernedly.

“I’ve been sleeping here,” Eroica replied with a small smile. “He woke up a bit ago.”

The Doctor looked up sharply. “Did he? How did he seem?”

“He was worried about me, if you can believe it.”

The Time Lord nodded. “Yes, that would be just like him.”

“Why?”

The Doctor scowled and gave Eroica a bewildered look. “Because that’s the way he is. Jason is a Healer. It would never occur to him to do anything that would cause harm to another living being.” He paused, adding, “At least, so long as he keeps his temper.”

Eroica’s eyebrows went up. “Why, what happens then?”

“Have you ever seen a volcanic eruption? Hot lava flying everywhere?”

“Yes…”

“That’s what happens,” the Doctor said pointedly. “He calls his temper Mt. Jason. And believe you me, you do not want to be anywhere near him when he explodes.”

Eroica reflected on this and then started to laugh. “No wonder you keep trying to separate him and the Major.” He shook his head. “Sparks are already flying.”

“Yes. Your Major has no idea what he’s dealing with, and I’m sure he wouldn’t believe me if I told him. The only alternative is to keep them as far apart as possible.”

Eroica nodded, although he could not help but wonder how the scene would play out should Jason finally lose his patience. A sudden thought struck him and he looked up. “Doctor, where is the Major?”

The Doctor cleared his throat. “Well, he originally was arranging to have someone come get those KGB men that were taking pot shots at you and Jason. When I left him, he was screaming at someone about their incompetence and ineptitude in general and the inadequacy of the information given to him concerning this mission. There were a few other colorful phrases in German and other languages as well. I felt it was best to just let him have at it. He seems to enjoy a good rant.”

“You may have a long wait, Doctor,” Eroica observed knowingly. “He can go on for hours.”

The Doctor laughed at this. “I’ve met some strange people in my time, but your Major is one of the strangest.”

“Hear, hear,” came a quiet voice from the bed.

The Doctor looked down to see Jason smiling up at him. “You’re supposed to be sleeping.”

Jason shifted positions, realized there was no comfortable one and settled back onto his pillows. “Yeah, right. Like I can sleep with you two prattling on. Anyway, I’m hungry.”

The Doctor gave a small cry of delight. “Dorian, I pronounce this man cured,” he announced happily.

“I only said I was hungry.”

“Jason, you are always hungry,” the Doctor pointed out.

“Then I suggest we feed him,” Eroica said practically and started toward the door. He paused on the threshold, looking up and down the seemingly endless corridor on the other side. With all that had happened, he had forgotten where he was. The TARDIS was enormous, and if he went wandering around, he could very well get completely lost. Turning back, he said, “Perhaps you might point me in the right direction, Doctor.”

* * *

After Jason had eaten, he announced he was fit enough to heal himself and amazed Eroica yet again by transmuting, his injuries vanishing as quickly as they appeared. Within seconds, he was completely healed and the Doctor was removing the bandages to reveal health pink skin beneath.

“That would be a very useful skill to have,” the thief remarked longingly.

The Doctor and Jason exchanged a knowing look. “I could teach it to you,” Jason offered tantalizingly, adding, “but first you’d have to completely change your genetic makeup.”

Eroica gave him a sideways glance. “I’m guessing that’s not something I can have done in Amsterdam,” he said in a playful tone.

The Doctor gave him an amused look, recalling that at this point in Earth’s history, sex change operations were relatively new and very controversial. The center of the controversy was the city of Amsterdam, where most, if not all, of these operations were taking place. “Hardly,” the Doctor replied dryly. He drew a deep breath and then started toward the door. “I think I’d better check on the Major. See if he’s done chastising all of the free world yet.”

“I think I’ll stay here if you don’t mind,” Jason said mildly.

The Doctor smiled broadly, exchanging an amused look with Eroica. “Really? Willingly?” he said playfully.

Jason shot the grinning thief a sideways glance. “I think I’m less likely to kill Dorian with my bare hands,” he said truthfully. “Just come get us when Major Pain-in-the-Ass is ready to finish this mission.”

Chapter Twelve

Your Time Is Up

“It’s beautiful.”

“Yes, it is.”

“I want it.”

“Well, you can’t have it.”

Eroica turned to look at Jason, a downcast expression on his face. “Why not?” he asked in a quiet voice.

“We’re here to get the last bowl, not add to your collection of stolen artwork,” the Alterran said in a quiet yet forceful tone. He and the thief were standing in front of a display stand upon which was a figure of a Greek god that Eroica had identified as Apollo. It was apparently made from some rare material and was crafted by a very famous artist, neither of which Jason had ever heard of, not that this was any great surprise to either of them.

“You let me take those little trinkets in Milan,” Eroica pointed out.

“I did not! You pilfered those when my back was turned.”

A bright smile illuminated the thief’s face in the semi-darkness. “Same difference.”

The Alterran pulled on Eroica’s arm, finally tearing his attention away from the statue. “Come on, we have exactly five minutes to get in and out of here.”

Eroica frowned at him. No one had mentioned a time limit. “Why five minutes?”

Now it was Jason’s turn to smile. “According to my calculations, that’s the maximum amount of time you can stay serious and not hit on me at the same time.”

Eroica had to cover his mouth with his hand to stifle a laugh. “Just tell me you’re not flattered.”

“I’m not flattered.”

“Liar!”

“Dorian, you’ve seen me transmute. I can appear any way I like.”

Eroica looked at him through his eyelashes. “We really must discuss that later,” he cooed.

“Your five minutes aren’t up,” Jason shot back smoothly.

Eroica could not help but laugh at this. He found the room where the last of the bowls was located and stood on the threshold, scanning the interior. “There,” he said, pointing to a display case in the center of the room.

Jason adjusted his eyes and made a quick visual sweep to make certain all the laser sensors had been deactivated, which indeed they had. “Good boy, K-9,” he said approvingly, leading the way in.

In less than a minute, Eroica had opened the display and was removing the covering. Jason carefully lifted the bowl from its stand and then knelt down. He opened the satchel, pulling out the lead wrappings that would protect the object from damage and shield any radiation leakage. While he was doing this, Eroica went back to the figurine for one last look. After all, he could always come back for it later now that he knew the layout of the building. He smiled at the thought of his accountant’s reaction to this. James would no doubt demand to know why he hadn’t just taken it right then and there.

As Eroica stood gazing at the figurine, he decided that James was perfectly right. Why shouldn’t he take this exquisite piece now? Of course, the Major would be horrified at its decadence, which made the idea all the more inviting. Before he could do anything, however, he was suddenly grabbed from behind by a very large individual, who clamped a hand firmly over his mouth. He struggled briefly, stopping the instant the barrel of a gun was pressed against his temple. “Not one sound,” a voice hissed in his ear.

The astonished and confused thief was pulled away from the display and thrust, face first, against the wall. Then his hands were tightly bound behind his back with tape. It was all too obvious that this was not the police.

“Dorian…?” came Jason’s whispered call.

Eroica winced as the gun pressed even harder into his skull, the threat blindingly obvious. A piece of tape was roughly forced over his mouth. It was quickly followed by another, his unseen assailants obviously wanting to make certain he was silenced. He was then dragged into an alcove and shoved against the wall again, the gun practically glued to his flesh.

“Dorian!” Jason called again, a little louder this time. “Dammit, where are you?”

The alarms suddenly went off, all the lights in the building coming on at the same time. Jason jumped, blinking against the sudden glare and looking around in astonishment. How the hell did that happen? K-9 deactivated them. “Shit!” he hissed, following up with a stream of curses in several languages none of which were native to Earth.

Abandoning his search for the thief, Jason turned and dashed for the exit, thinking he would run smack into Dorian at any moment, probably with the wretched statue in his hands. He heard the unmistakable sound of running feet heading straight for him and he looked around, ducking into an alcove similar to the one the captive Eroica now occupied. The Alterran’s body shimmered and the base of the display was suddenly much larger.

The guards ran passed and the Alterran returned to his human form, cautiously peeking around the corner. To his relief the corridor was empty. By this time, the open display case had been discovered and he could hear the sound of the guards, all issuing conflicting orders with no one apparently following to any of them. Good, you guys add to the general chaos while I get the hell out of here. As quickly and as quietly as he could, Jason ran in the opposite direction, praying he would not meet any other guards, and wondering what the hell had happened to Dorian.

* * *

A very breathless Jason practically fell through the exterior doors and into the TARDIS control room. He had covered the entire distance from the building at a dead run. Now he stood leaning on the control console, gasping for breath. He slapped the door lever and then slid down onto the floor, still trying to catch his breath.

“Where’s Dorian?” the Doctor demanded.

“No…idea,” Jason gasped out, shaking his head at the same time. “He disappeared on me.”

“What?” The Doctor turned to the viewer and the image of the chaos Jason left behind. The lights all around the building had come on, sirens were blaring, and guards were running in all directions. “You just left him in there?”

“What did he want to steal?” the Major asked pointedly, casually lighting a cigarette at the same time.

Jason looked up sharply, his mouth dropping open. “How did you…?”

The Major just nodded, turning to the scanner. “Haven’t you learned yet? He’s selfish and impulsive. This was the last bowl we needed. So he’s stolen something for himself and gone back to have that weasel accountant of his sell it. He’ll probably be back in London before this time machine.”

“I don’t believe it!” Jason replied, pulling himself to his feet. “Are you saying he’s the one who tripped the alarm? Knowing I was still in the building?”

“Of course. He knew you would get out.”

Jason starred at him, too stunned to even think straight. He turned a pleading gaze in the Doctor’s direction. “Doctor, we can’t leave him,” he said insistently.

“I don’t see as we have any choice,” the Time Lord replied. “Dorian’s obviously made his.”

“We don’t know that!” his companion protested. “What if he’s in trouble?”

The Major gave a derisive snort. “He is always in trouble, you stupid boy. He’s a thief!” As far as he was concerned, the matter was closed. Eroica was gone, thank God, and they could continue with the rest of the mission without his irritating presence to bog things down.

“Jason,” the Doctor said calmly, “the Major told me this might happen.”

Jason was taken aback. “When?”

“In Milan.” The Time Lord threw a quick glance across the room to the uncharacteristically silent Klaus, who was looking exceptionally pleased with himself. “And he does know Dorian—Eroica’s—pattern of behavior a lot better than we do.”

The Alterran looked from one to the other. “Are you saying he’s been conning me this whole time?”

“So it would seem,” the Major replied bluntly. He was actually enjoying the fact that for once he was not the one being humiliated by Eroica’s antics.

Jason gave him a dark look and the Doctor quickly intervened. The Major had no idea of the severity of the situation, not that he would have cared even if he did. Jason was an Alterran. An expert in the art of deception. He had gotten to know Dorian and was certain he would not simply abandon him to steal a statue. The fact that this seemed to be exactly what he had done did more than just sting his pride. It betrayed his trust, which for Jason cut to the bone.

“We’ve a rendezvous with the sun,” the Time Lord said finally, returning his attention to the console. As he set the coordinates, his companion picked up the satchel containing final component to the Planet Killer device. He carefully unwrapped it and placed it in the container with the others. Then he turned back to the viewer, giving the building one last look before the Doctor switched off the scanner.

“Dammit, Dorian, where are you?” he said quietly.

Chapter Thirteen

Telegram

Vittorio Salliari was at work in his office when the telegram arrived with a message he had been waiting to receive for more than a week. It seemed like years.

ITEM HAS BEEN LOCATED. STOP.

DELIVERY TO NEW STORAGE FACILITY NOON TOMORROW. STOP.

SIGNED, TANNER

A secretary named Rosa put the telegram on top of a stack of other correspondence and placed it on the seemingly disinterested Salliari’s desk. She looked at the man behind the desk and frowned. She had been filling in for his personal secretary who was away on maternity leave. After only a few days, she found herself wondering how anyone could stand working in such close proximity to such an odious person on a permanent basis.

Vittorio Salliari was a multi-millionaire, owned dozens of smaller companies, was known as a shrewd businessman and investor, and had one of the finest collections of ancient pottery and glass in Milan, possibly the whole country. He was also fat, balding, pompous, self-centered, and thoroughly unpleasant to deal with on a one-to-one basis.

“There’s a telegram for you, sir,” Rosa said calmly, trying not to flinch as the man’s piggy little eyes looked up at her. “Do you wish to send a reply?”

Salliari picked up the telegram and read it, a laugh rumbling from his throat. “No. Please call my wife. She will be delighted to learn this has arrived.”

“Yes, sir.” Rosa felt a chill run down her spine and she tried not to think what might be in the delivery. More for his collection, presumably. After all, the new storage facility had been built for the sole purpose of housing Salliari’s collection. Then she thought of his wife and shuddered. As horrid as this man was, his wife was a worse. She was an abrasive woman with a habit of loudly berating her husband in public. Rosa had met her once and her immediate opinion was that the woman was a shrew.

Rosa made the call and transferred it to her employer. The woman on the other end of the line was screaming at her even as she did so. Then she heard Salliari’s placating tones through the open office doorway.

“If you’d let me get a word in, my love,” Salliari said calmly. “I’ve just received word from Mr. Tanner.” A pause. “Yes, my dear. The telegram just arrived. Delivery is being made at the new storage facility tomorrow.” Another pause. “I knew you’d be pleased. I told you the situation was in hand. Ciao, my love.”

* * *

The Major was trying very hard not to show how completely overawed he was at the sight of the sun, his planet’s sun, on the scanner. He threw a quick glance over to the exterior doors. It was just out there. The sun. Even after spending time in the TARDIS, jumping from place to place on Earth in a matter of seconds…it did not seem real.

The Doctor was watching his companion load the box containing the six components of the Planet Killer into one of the roundels in the corridor just off the control room.

“K-9…” the Doctor called.

“Master,” K-9 acknowledge from his place beneath the control console.

“How long until we reach optimum range?”

“Optimum range in 15 seconds, Master.”

Jason snapped the roundel shut and double checked to make certain it was locked. “Planet Killer in jettison tube, K-9. Fire when ready.”

“Affirmative. Activating in five seconds. Four…three…two…one. Device jettisoned.”

The Major saw a streak of light appear on the scanner screen as the device was hurled into the sun. The Doctor and Jason joined him, and they watched in silence as the box struck the surface of the sun and erupted into flames.

“That’s done it,” the Doctor announced with a relieved sigh. “Now your scientists will all be theorizing about the origins of a new sun spot.”

The Major gave him a steady look. He seemed to be struggling with something and Jason was afraid he was going to start berating every scientist on Earth. To his astonishment, the Major said, “Thank you.”

Jason let out a loud squeak upon hearing this and was sure he was about to suffer a coronary.

“You’re welcome,” the Doctor replied happily. “What did I do?”

“You stopped the KGB from getting hold of something that can do that to the sun,” the Major replied succinctly, pointing at the newly formed sun spot.

Jason suddenly remembered the first building that he and Eroica had broken into and its collection of alien artifacts. He cleared his throat nervously. “Doctor, there’s something I haven’t told you…”

* * *

It took several men and considerable effort, but the crate was finally unloaded from the delivery van. From the comfort of the back seat of a black limousine that was parked some distance away, a lone individual watched the men’s efforts, wishing they would hurry up.

As soon as the crate was safely within the building, the occupant got out of the car and dismissed the driver. The wind kicked up a bit, and the individual reached up a hand and pulled on the hood of the cloak they wore in order to keep their face concealed, quickly entering the building and descending to the lower level to find the newly delivered box sitting just inside the door of a large room. A tall burly individual was standing beside it with a crow bar in his hand. He jumped when the cloaked figure appeared at the door. Then he realized who the person was and gave a nod of recognition.

“Won’t take but a minute to get this open,” he informed. He forced the metal bar into the gap and twisted. There was the sound of metal against wood as the nails protested their removal. He worked his way around the edge, finally working the side of the crate away enough to put his fingers into the gap. He pulled with all his strength and the side came away with further protests from the wood and nails.

The cloaked figure took a step back as the semi-conscious form of the bound and gagged Eroica was unceremoniously dumped at their feet.

Finally.

* * *

“Idiot! Dummkopf!” The Major let loose a string of obscenities in German as he ranted on. He was storming around the console room, beside himself in rage. This time, Jason was not yelling back.

The Doctor was equally upset, albeit less animated. “Jason, you royal idiot, why didn’t you say something then?”

“I’m sorry! I got sidetracked by Dorian,” Jason replied apologetically.

The Major turned on his heel, seizing the reply. “Sidetracked? How? What did he do?”

Jason felt both sets of eyes boring into him and he blushed vividly. “He stole a handful of computer chips while we were there. I found out when I was putting the component in the storage case. He gave me some story about giving them to his accountant. The next thing I knew, we were in the Mediterranean getting shot at by the KGB.”

The Doctor let out a groan and closed his eyes.

The Major gave an indignant snort. “And still you’re surprised that he left you?”

“Never mind the recriminations, Major,” the Doctor broke in sharply. “We need to deal with what’s inside that building.”

“How?” Jason wanted to know. “We can’t exactly uproot the whole thing and toss it into the sun.”

“Nein,” the Major replied as he crossed to the control console. “But we can blow it sky high.” He looked down at the alien technology before him, the irony of the action he was suggesting in his present surroundings lost on him. “Doctor, I need to contact NATO headquarters again.”

Chapter Fourteen

More Than Alien Artefacts

Screaming.

Someone was screaming.

Then Eroica realized it was he who was screaming as the last of his fingers was broken. His long, beautiful, elegant fingers that were now a twisted mass of pulp at the ends of his hands. He felt tears burning his eyes; pain, anger, outrage, and terror, all rolled into one.

There was an easy chair several feet away that held the orchestrator of his torment, each scream producing a chuckle of sadistic delight.

Eroica raised his head and looked at his tormenter through unfocused eyes, still struggling to understand why this was happening. He wanted to ask, but was too busy gasping for breath between his screams of agony. He had already been subjected to a horrendous beating before being literally packed off to this…torture chamber. He was currently on his knees, his chest pressed up against a wooden table, his arms stretched out and clamped into place, making it impossible for him to move or pull away. He had been beaten with a whip to a point where he was certain he had no skin left on his back. After that, they started on his hands…

Now the clamps were being removed and he slumped to the floor in a battered heap. Time for the next phase of his torture, he thought dully as he was dragged across the room and dumped in a bloodied mass in front of a device he could not readily identify. From his place on the floor, Eroica could make out his tormentor’s face, and a sudden horrifying thought solidified in his mind. He was going to die. Slowly. Painfully. As surely as the sun rose in the morning, he was going to die. No one knew where he was, not even himself, so no one would be able to find him. Not even the Major, if he were inclined to even bother looking for him, which he doubted.

Suddenly shackles that were attached to heavy chains were being fastened around his wrists and ankles. He wanted to fight, to pull away, to struggle, but he lacked the strength to do any of these things. Just moving his battered body was agony.

He was going to die.

And he had no idea why, nor did he think he would ever find out.

* * *

The TARDIS materialized in the center of an empty parking lot. The Doctor was the first to exit and strode to the door of the building that his companion had told him housed a horrifying amount of alien technology. Jason followed carrying two large cases containing the explosives that had been supplied by NATO. He was trying to ignore the Major, who was following behind him telling him not to drop the bundle and generally making a nuisance of himself. K-9 trailed dutifully behind the group.

Finally Jason had heard enough and rounded on the Major. “Look, if you think you can do a better job, why don’t you carry these yourself?” So saying, he dropped the bundles at the Major’s feet.

The Major turned through three shades of purple. “Verdammt. I give the orders!” he snarled.

“Major, you can take your orders and—”

Jason’s insult was interrupted when K-9 abruptly announced, “Sensor detect three humans present, Master.”

The Doctor had been trying to ignore the inevitable argument between Jason and the Major, going instead to open the door. He pushed it open and then looked down at the automation that was now at his feet, pocketing his sonic screwdriver at the same time. “Three? The building is supposed to be empty.”

“Negative, Master.” K-9 chirped, his sensor ears still whirring noisily. “Sensors detect two unknown humans. Positive identification; Dorian Red Gloria.”

This announcement stunned them all.

“Dorian?” Jason gasped. “K-9, are you sure?”

“Checking.” The sensors twitched again. “Affirmative.”

The Major gave a low growl. Now he was certain the thief had returned to steal something, believing the others to be members of Eroica’s gang. Then he wondered what the thief’s reaction would be when he learned they were going to blow up the building and its contents. He turned to Jason with a smug expression on his face. “What else did he want to steal from here?” he asked as he made his way to the open door.

Jason gave him a dark look and, to his credit, kept his temper. Barely. “Nothing. I think he took the computer chips just because they were lying around. He said the only thing worth stealing was the bowl. Everything else was too vulgar.” He looked at the Major in the eye. “He said it reminded him of you. Functional, not flashy.”

The Major was taken aback by this backhanded compliment. “If there is nothing to steal, then why else would he be here?” he asked logically.

The answer came as the unmistakable sound of Eroica screaming in agony echoed through the building. The Major spun on his heel at the sound, his gun in his hand as if by magic.

“Bloody hell!” Jason cried, his hair standing on end.

Klaus was already storming into the building and down the corridor. “Stay here,” he ordered.

“There goes a one man wrecking crew,” Jason observed darkly, shaking his head. He threw a concerned look in the Doctor’s direction. “Should we really let him go off on his own?”

“I think we should leave this to the professional this time, Jason,” the Doctor replied. As an after thought, he added, “K-9, stay on sensor alert, just incase.”

“Master,” K-9 acknowledged, his sensor ears twitching a few times more.

The Doctor gave a satisfied grunt and looked over at his uneasy companion. “Come on, we’ve got work to do here,” he said firmly, and picked up one of the sacks they had brought with them. “Let’s see if we can get this building wired before he gets back.”

* * *

The Major followed the screams to the lower level of the building, appearing in the doorway of the torture chamber only seconds after the sounds stopped. He took in the scene in an appalled and horrified silence. The thief had been stripped naked and was hanging from shackles. The heavy chains attached to them were pulled up and over a large drum of some sort. His ankles were also in shackles and anchored to the floor, his body pulled taut. With a jolt Klaus recognized the device for what it was. Eroica was stretched out on an upright rack. His body…that exquisite, beautiful body, was now a bloodied mass of torn flesh. He could see raised welts wrapping around his torso that could only have been made by a whip. The thief’s hands were a twisted mess of bone and gristle, the blood from his damaged fingers running down his arms. His head was hanging limply forward, his mass of blond curls soaked with sweat and blood. In fact, there was blood everywhere, splattered on the walls, floor and ceiling, congealing in an ever widening pool beneath the suspended thief’s feet.

For a fleeting instant, Klaus thought he was too late and was annoyed with himself for feeling a pang of guilt and sorrow. Then he heard the thief’s ragged breathing and saw him move his head slightly, a shudder of pain shaking his body at the same time. The grip he had on the Magnum grew tighter and his face darkened visibly with his outrage.

“Mr. Tanner, this is most unsatisfactory,” came a husky voice from the chair. This was followed by a puff of smoke. The voice sounded slightly effeminate to the Major and his face darkened further. One queer killing another, he thought as the person in the chair went on to say, “I cannot see his face with all that hair in the way. Kindly remove it.”

Eroica raised his head to look at his tormenter and saw the Major standing in the doorway. How the hell did he find me? “Major…” he said in a voice that was scarcely above a whisper. “You came…”

The Major had to fight to keep himself from averting his eyes. He met Eroica’s gaze and saw raw terror in his enormous blue eyes. These men were going to kill him and he knew it. They both knew it. And only he could stop it. This last thought had obviously occurred to Eroica, as Klaus saw a ripple of uncertainty flash across his face. He knew the thief was wondering if he would even bother to intervene or if he would simply let him die. He drew himself to his full height, and turned his intense gaze, and the gun in his hand, in Tanner’s direction, leaving no room for doubt as to what his intensions were.

At first, Tanner thought his prisoner was hallucinating. He did a double take when he glanced across the room and saw the Major framed in the doorway, a look of thunder on his face and a very big gun in his hand. “Madam,” he said quietly, “we appear to have company.”

Madam! The Major was momentarily thrown. Recovering himself immediately, he entered the room. As he came around the chair, he saw the occupant was indeed a woman. In fact, it was Lucretia Salliari, the wife of Vittorio Salliari, the owner of the building, its collection and very probably the people in it. The Major kept his gun trained on Tanner, who was the most obvious threat. “Get him down,” he ordered succinctly. To his astonishment, the woman in the easy chair laughed at him. Not the wisest thing to do.

“Surely you must be joking?” she said, taking a drag on the cigarette in her hand and casually blowing the smoke in his direction.

Eroica would have loved to have told her that the Major never joked. Hell, he doubted he even possessed a sense of humor. But he barely had the strength to raise his head and watch as Klaus slowly moved towards him, finally standing more or less between himself and his tormentors. Oh, my poor Major. How you must be hating having to save me.

“I never joke,” the Major said coldly, unknowingly echoing the thief’s thoughts.

“Do you think I went to all this trouble for nothing? I’m not going to just hand Eroica over to you or anyone else,” the woman said pointedly. “You must be a fool to come in here, issuing demands. Do you have any idea who I am?”

“I don’t give a damn who you are!” Of course, the Major knew exactly who the she was, which only made him angrier. It was all too obvious this bitch thought she could do whatever she wanted, to whomever she wanted, just because she was wealthy.

“Ah, but I know you, Major Eberbach,” Lucretia said startlingly. The Major’s eyes narrowed but he remained unnervingly silent. She waved a hand in Eroica’s direction. “I know what a thorn in your side this irritating freak of nature has been all these years. I should think you’d be glad to be rid of him.”

In principle, the Major would have readily agreed that he probably would. But not like this. For all his revolting perversions and exasperating eccentricities, Eroica, Dorian Red Gloria, did not deserve this. No one did. He looked at Tanner, who actually recoiled from the cold, angry glare in his dark green eyes. Slowly and precisely, he ordered, “Get…him…down.” This time, his voice held back none of his anger and revulsion.

The watching Eroica felt a chill run down his spine. The Major was never more terrifying than when he was calm. Unnaturally calm. Frighteningly, unpredictably calm. He realized suddenly that his captures were going to die, they simply didn’t know it yet. In a life and death situation, Iron Klaus was not a force to be trifled with. He was a trained killer, who was very, very good at it, as many had learned to their eventual ignominious end.

“Certainly, Major,” Tanner said in a submissive tone. Suddenly his hand flashed to the table and he was hurling a knife across the room.

The Major did not even flinch. He spun through three-hundred and sixty degrees, the knife passing harmlessly by. He fired his Magnum the instant he stopped, killing the astonished Tanner with a single shot.

* * *

The sound of the shot resounded through the building, causing the Doctor and Jason to immediately stop what they were doing.

“K-9, was that a gunshot?” the Doctor asked.

“Affirmative.”

“How many life signs are you picking up, excluding us?”

K-9’s sensors twitched a moment. “Three life signs detected. One unidentified human. Major von dem Eberbach, and Dorian Red Gloria, Master.”

Jason threw a concerned look in the direction of the sound. “Leave it to the professional, indeed. Professional killer.”

* * *

The Major turned to Lucretia. Was the harpy actually smiling at him? “I guess you’ll have to get him down, you bitch,” he snarled. To his astonishment, she shook her head, taking another drag on her cigarette. Was the woman stupid! Could she not see the gun pointing at her?

“No,” she replied tersely. “Too much time, money and effort has been spent on this.”

Why?”

The Major actually jumped when Eroica suddenly spoke, his voice hoarse and raw. He threw a quick glance in his direction. Now that he was closer, Klaus could see how pale and drawn he was. His body a single raw wound, his usually bright face now creased with pain. He was totally helpless. Damn the man! Why did he care?

Lucretia merely chuckled at Eroica’s question. “You don’t know, you irritating self-absorbed perversion? You, the thief who took what was mine?

Eroica could not quite comprehend what he was being told. It was just too incredibly twisted to be real.

The Major, however, put it into more concise terms, although he himself was just as incredulous as the thief. “You did all this because he stole from you?”

“Exactly.”

“They were just stupid pieces of clay!”

“They were my stupid pieces of clay” Lucretia countered.

“Mein Gott! And I thought he was perverse!” the Major exclaimed, nodding in Eroica’s direction. “But you! You are an abomination!

To the Major’s surprise, Lucretia pulled a small handgun from beside her and pointed it at the helpless Eroica, who watched in an appalled silence as her finger slowly tightening on the trigger.

* * *

The Doctor had wired up the last of the explosives and was playing out the wires to the detonator that was just in front of the TARDIS doors.

Jason was in the process of stripping the ends off of the wires and twisting them together. He looked up when the Doctor arrived with the last of them.

“It’s been awfully quiet in there these last few minutes,” he observed nervously.

“Yes,” the Time Lord agreed. “Perhaps we should—”

He broke off as the sound of a gunshot that sounded more like an explosion echoed through the building. It was followed by Eroica screaming at the top of his voice. “Klaus!”

It Ends With Goodbye

Chapter Fifteen

K-9 had identified the explosion as being two gunshots fired virtually simultaneously. The Doctor and Jason wasted no time scrambling to the lower level, not even bothering to inquire further.

Jason arrived first and stood in the doorway in a horrified silence. “Dorian…” he whispered as his expert eyes took in the thief’s horrendous injuries. Then he saw the three bodies on the floor. One man was sprawled beside a table that held an appalling assortment of torture devices. He had a hole in the center of his chest that could only have been made by the Major’s Magnum. An elegantly dressed woman had a similar injury and appeared to have been dumped out of the chair that was overturned beside her, a small handgun lying a few feet from her out flung hand. Then his eyes fell on the third body.

“Oh, God…Klaus.”

The Doctor had come up behind him by this time and was equally revolted by the scene.

Jason made straight for the downed officer, who was lying on his side, his back toward the door. He could hear Eroica’s quiet sobs and looked up at him. “It was meant for me,” the thief whimpered.

The Alterran carefully turned the Major onto his back and checked for any signs of life. To his astonishment, he found a weak pulse. “He’s alive,” he announced, hearing a small cry of relief from Eroica. This was followed by a cry of pain as the Doctor released the tension on the chains and slowly lowered him to the ground.

“Dorian, don’t move,” the Doctor instructed as he crossed to him. As gently as he could, he turned the thief onto his side. Then he unfastened his bindings, checking his injuries at the same time. Eroica’s back was nothing more than raw strips of flesh and congealed blood. His body was covered with welts and bruises, and his mangled hands were swollen and badly discolored. The Time Lord stripped off his coat and covered the trembling form. “Just stay still,” he said gently. “We’ll look after you.”

Eroica could have cared less about himself at this point and looked over at Jason, who was working on the gravely injured Major. To his bewilderment, he saw the Alterran snatch up the Magnum and cross to one of the display cases that lined one of the walls in the room.

“Where is it? Where is it?” Jason muttered to himself, searching the objects within. “I know I—Ah!” He used the gun to smash the glass and reached in, pulling out a small white disk. He then returned to the Major’s side and placed the disk on his shoulder, quickly pulling his hands away a second later. Klaus shuddered and then went completely still.

Seeing this, Eroica gave a small sob, causing Jason to look up. “He’s not dead,” he said as he moved to the gravely injured man’s side. “I’ve put him in stasis until I can treat him properly.”

“Stasis?” Eroica was having enough trouble focusing and looked dully up at Jason, his confusion clearly evident.

“Suspended animation?” the Doctor said helpfully.

This the thief understood and he closed his eyes, suddenly aware of the fact that he was very, very cold.

“Stay with me, Dorian” Jason said firmly, taking the man’s face in his hands. “Dorian. Look at me.” The blue eyes that rivaled his own looked up at him. “You’re going to be alright.”

“Klaus…”

“You are both going to be alright. I will not let you die. I promise.” The look in the man’s eyes worried Jason. He couldn’t save him if he gave up hope. “Dorian, do you believe me?” he asked pointedly.

“Yes.”

A look of relief passed over Jason’s face. “I need you to focus on that for me. Can you do that?”

“Focus…” Eroica said quietly. That was easier said than done. Everything was fading.

“Dorian, stay with me,” came Jason’s insistent voice.

Moving farther and farther away.

“Dorian…?”

It was such an odd feeling.

“Dorian!”

God, I’m so tired.

* * *

Jason had been standing motionless for what seemed like hours. Behind him, the Doctor lay stretched out in the grass, his hat over his eyes, K-9 beside him. Around them, the Bavarian Alps were laid out in all their exquisite beauty.

The Major was right. This is a beautiful country, the Alterran thought. He had already been along the Rhine, visited several castles, and had even gone on a tour of West Berlin that ended at the famous Berlin Wall. This too was a sight. The Doctor explained that in only a few years time, the wall would be demolished, seemingly overnight and in front of an awestruck world. Shortly after that, the Soviet Union would collapse, ending the Cold War and the moving the threat of a nuclear holocaust to another section of the globe.

But that was in the Earth’s future, and he was still in its past, standing in a serene meadow and taking in the beauty of the mountains. It was strange to be here, Jason thought reflectively. He had always loved the ocean, and never much cared for climbing to the top of the world just to look down on everyone. Now he could not seem to tear himself away.

“You’ll always have the memories.”

Jason jumped and turned. He had not heard the Doctor come up beside him. “I know. It’s just… I don’t want to just leave like we always do. It’s always so…final.”

“Jason, we can stay as long as you like,” the Doctor said mildly. After a minute, he asked gently, “Are you going to be alright?”

“Yes.” Jason nodded and turned to look at him. “It’s just…never realized how many people we leave behind.”

The Doctor studied his unusually subdued companion for several minutes. This little adventure had hit him very hard emotionally and the Time Lord could see it starting. Jason was realizing what it meant to travel constantly, never staying in one place for too long, never having a place to call home, no sense of permanence or belonging. But Jason did have a home, a family, a life, a father who was patiently waiting for him to return—one day.

The Doctor turned to take in the setting sun, and could not help wondering if the time were drawing near when his companion would return to the life he had left behind…leaving him on his own once again.

They all left eventually, each having a valid reason as to why it was necessary.

And one day, Jason would be giving his reasons.

One day. But not today. Today, they would enjoy Bavaria and not think about the future.

* * *

Eroica stood at the foot of the Major’s hospital bed. He had been watching him sleep for some time. We both made it, Major. You’ll hate yourself for it, but you saved my life. You’re a hero, at least for now. He found himself wishing the Major would wake up just so he could hear him yell at him again. Ridiculous, really. There would be plenty of opportunities for him to do that in the future, thanks in no small part to the Doctor and Jason.

After Eroica passed out in the torture chamber, his next conscious memory was waking up in the sickbay of the TARDIS to find all of his injuries had been treated and miraculously repaired by the incredibly gifted Alterran Healer. Even his broken and mangled fingers looked and felt as though nothing had happened to them. Before he could even ask, Jason jokingly told him that he could continue his life with his vanity intact, as there were no scars anywhere on his body. He did not believe him until he finally got up the nerve to look in a mirror.

Then he learned how very close Klaus had been to death. The bullet he had taken for Eroica had lodged very close to his heart. One wrong move on Jason’s part and it would have been all over for the Iron Major. But the miracle working Alterran surgeon had saved him as well. The Doctor had transported him back to Bonn, contacting NATO and placing him in their care. All for the best, Eroica thought, since his original mission come very close destroying the planet.

The Major stirred a moment, settling back into sleep.

Eroica smiled, pushing his mop of blond curls out of his face. He crossed to the bedside and placed the box he was holding on the table. Before leaving, he leaned down and gently kissed the Major’s cheek.

The ever impatient James was waiting in the hall and followed after Eroica as he left the room. He was whining about something or other, not that Eroica was paying any attention. He had to get back to London and was already late getting to the airport, not that his pilot would complain. Ah! That’s what James was whining about. Paying the pilot for doing nothing. This struck him as being so absurdly incongruous in comparison to everything he had just been through.

As Dorian Red Gloria, Earl of Gloria strode past the nurses’ station toward the exit, it was not his flamboyant appearance or drop-dead good looks that attracted everyone’s attention. It was the fact that he was laughing. Loudly, delightedly and uproariously. He was alive and intended to continue to live his life to the fullest.

Minutes after the thief had gone the Major stirred and finally opened his eyes. He looked around the room in some bewilderment, being quite surprised to find himself alive. Then the memory of waking in the TARDIS sickbay returned to him, the Doctor telling him what had happened and that he was being taken back to Bonn.

The installation had been destroyed. The man behind it, Vittorio Salliari, had been arrested, and not just for arranging the abduction of Eroica for his wife’s grotesque entertainment. UNIT had been in contact with NATO, informing them that the operation had been a complete success and that all materials that could be compromised by KGB intelligence had been destroyed as well. To the Major’s amazement, the Doctor informed him that Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart was recommending him for a commendation for his actions in averting a “situation” with the Soviet Union. He had no way of knowing this was really the Doctor’s doing, nor would he ever find out.

A nurse was suddenly fussing over him, returning him to reality. He looked at her in annoyance. “So, you’re finally awake, Major,” she said happily.

The Major grunted in reply. This was rather obvious, he thought, and had he the strength, he would have told her this in excruciating detail.

“Will your friend be coming back?”

“Friend?” Klaus had to force the word from his mouth, his voice sounding thick from lack of use. A rarity indeed. As far as he knew, he had no friends, which suited him just fine.

“Yes, that gorgeous man who was just here. Tall, with the most beautiful curly blond hair,” the nurse replied helpfully. “Is he a movie star?”

The Major closed his eyes. This could only have been one person and he found himself irritated and touched at the same time.

“He left you a present.” The nurse indicated the box on the bedside table and placed it on the bed so he could reach it.

Verdammt woman, leave me alone.

“Shall I open it for you?” she asked excitedly, still oblivious to the fact that the Major had absolutely no interest in the package, its contents or its deliverer.

Nein!”

This was spoken with such force the nurse actually flinched. “Alright, suit yourself,” she said sulkily. “I’m going to tell the doctor you’re awake. He’ll want to have a look at your dressing.” So saying, she left the room in a huff, pulling the door closed behind her.

The Major was glad to be rid of her. He reached up to his aching chest, feeling the bandages where the bullet struck him. The bullet he had taken without a second thought. The bullet he had taken to save Eroica’s life—Dorian’s life.

Finally he turned his attention to the box, sighing heavily. He dreaded seeing what the perverted fop would consider an appropriate gift for a dying man. He pulled off the ribbon and hesitantly opened the lid. To his amazement, the box contained his Magnum, a single red rose and a note attached to which was the bullet Jason had removed from his chest. He opened the note, seeing these words. “This was meant for me. Thank you. From Eroica with love.”

Klaus looked at the contents of the box and felt certain he should be angry. Infuriated. Outraged. Something along those lines. But for some reason, he felt none of those things. He looked around to make certain he was completely alone and then picked up the rose, smelling its sweet fragrance. With a small smile, he closed his eyes and lay back on his pillows.

“Idiot.”

END

Do UNIT & NATO Spell Disaster? © 2005 Margaret Price with Miss Sindeniirelle is an original work written for the enjoyment of Doctor Who & From Eroica With Love fans everywhere.

No copyright infringement is intended.

Doctor Who original series broadcast on the BBC. Format © BBC 1963

Doctor Who and Tardis are trademarks of the BBC.

The From Eroica With Love characters belong to Yasuko Aoike.

The story and all other original characters are © Margaret Price

 

Eroica