"The Slayer is in position on the Enterprise," said the Chancellor of the Time Lords, second to hold that title.
"The great vampire's ship has arrived in our quadrant through the wormhole of the Bajoran 'Prophets'," said another High Councillor, in the blue and white robes of a Cleonaise College cardinal. He was sneering. Many Gallifreyans affected to look down on the Prophets, in the way of those frightened by what they don't understand.
Rassilon nodded, amused. He and the other four Time Lords of the High Council, of which he was the first and reigning Lord President, were sitting in a room with ornately formed fixtures, at an ornately formed conference table. The subjects of their discussion would have assumed that the formations had been accomplished by physical carving, and would have been hard put to conceive how it was that the Councillors were receiving the reports they were discussing. That was what amused Rassilon.
"The Doctor?" said an Arcalian cardinal suddenly, startled.
"Who?" asked the Chancellor.
The Arcalian answered with a multisyllabic Gallifreyan proper name. The name communicated to the other Councillors, among other things, the fact that the Time Lord so named was from far in their society's future. "His time-trace has converged on this space-time event," the Arcalian said, agitated. While the other Councillors digested that, he blurted, "Twice!"
"The First Law of Time -" started the fifth Councillor, in Prydonian red and gold.
"Shall be observed," said Rassilon. His calm in contrast to the other Councillors' unease immediately seized their attention. "He is merely present at either end of the temporary anomaly we ourselves have created."
The Chancellor squinted at him. "What do you know?" he demanded.
"Only that all shall pass as it must," said Rassilon.
"Warning shots, Mr. Daniels," Picard ordered.
It wasn't like the captain, Riker mused, to initiate a contact attempt with phaser fire. But this ship had fired on DS9 in passing, and ignored all Starfleet hails.
"Warning shots, aye," responded Daniels. At this range, a direct hit wouldn't do much damage; but the other ship was approaching at better than Warp 9.
"Intruder is still on course for Gallifrey," Data reported.
"Let's go meet him. Mr. Hawk, intercept course."
"Aye aye sir."
"The thing is, it's the wrong sort of vampire," said the Doctor. He was standing at the back of the bridge with Troi and the Time-Lord-displaced twentieth-century girl, Buffy. The supposed "vampire slayer".
Riker was about ready to believe all the crackpot stereotypes he'd ever heard about the twentieth century. "We're talking about real vampires?" He couldn't keep the skepticism out of his voice.
"Listen, Astroboy," said Buffy, "you space cadets just take care of the shoot-'em-up and leave the undead to me."
Riker bristled; he could imagine what "space cadet" meant in her vernacular. But Troi shrugged at Riker with her eyes. The girl meant what she said.
"I'll handle this," the Doctor was assuring Buffy. He strode to Picard, at bridge center, waving for Riker to join them.
"The reason you know nothing of this," he explained to the officers, "is that Buffy is one of the last Slayers. Perhaps even the last - I don't really know. There have been no vampires on Earth since the early twenty-first century, and what records of genuine vampirism to have survived the post-atomic horror are believed fictions." He spoke in low tones - particularly for this personality, whom Riker had found boorish and wasn't happy to see again. No doubt the quiet speech was to keep inapppropriate, anachronistic information from Buffy. This more than what the Doctor actually said convinced Riker.
Picard too. "What do you mean, 'the wrong sort'?" he asked.
"Phaser range," called Daniels.
"Fire," ordered Picard.
Blue amplified, phase-shifted light shot toward the intruder on the main screen visual display.
"Direct hit," said Daniels. "No apparent effect."
"What are that ship's capabilities, Doctor?" Picard asked.
"Don't know, really," said the Doctor. "The legends say they preferred hand-to-hand."
"Mouth-to-neck, you mean," said Buffy from the rear of the bridge.
Picard was glaring. "Not helpful, Doctor."
"Well it's ancient history to me!"
"Incoming! Shields at ful-" Daniels was cut off as the ship rocked. Of those standing only Picard didn't have to regain his feet. "Another flyby shot, like at DS9," Daniels reported. A powerful one, too - Riker guessed that half the rectangular vampire warship's volume must be given over to engines and weapons power.
"Maintain intercept, Mr. Hawk," Picard said.
"Aye sir." The tactical display on the main screen showed Hawk was in fact still zeroing in on the intruder, or trying. "It'll be a chase - it was doing at least our best speed when it went went by." Hawk had started out a self-conscious ensign at Conn, a little overwhelmed by serving on the Enterprise despite his superb qualifications. But he had quickly fallen into the informal professionalism Picard used and encouraged. Already he was one of the family.
"Follow them all the way to Gallifrey if you have to. Captain to Engineering. We'll need your best, Geordi."
"You're on, sir." When LaForge's response aired on the bridge, Riker noticed Buffy startle. Not used to computer-controlled intercom. What was the twentieth-century term? A "smart" system, but smarter than anything in her experience.
"'The wrong sort'?" Picard repeated.
"The Slayers," said the Doctor, waving Buffy to join them at bridge center, "evolved in response to the vampires spawned by the archfiend Fenric during his sporadic manifestations on Earth, or those created by his spawn. The great vampires which the Time Lords fought in this era, though they also created a species of vampire on prehistoric Earth, are themselves extraterrestial."
"Great," grumbled Buffy. "Just great. Giles never said anything about crosstraining."
"There's little enough fraternization between the different types of vampires on Earth that you were unlikely ever to meet any but Fenric's," the Doctor told her. The wording of the Doctor's assurance, Riker noted, didn't preclude there having been even more kinds of vampires on Earth than the two he'd mentioned. "Of course, 'fraternization' isn't a violent enough word to describe it when it does happen ..."
"Look," said Buffy, raising her hands palms out, "what I'm hearing is that your time-guys have just picked up the wrong girl. I'm cool with that. I'd help out if I could, really. Actually, though, I have a lot of homework tonight. When's the next scheduled shuttle back to 1997?"
Riker, Picard and the Doctor regarded her silently for a moment, before Riker dismissed this proposal as an obvious joke. "Then why would the Time Lords have brought her here?" he asked the Doctor. Buffy crossed her arms in an apparent sulk.
"Well, it's true that most of the universe's haemovores have certain characteristics in common," the Doctor admitted. "Simultaneous extinguishing and reanimation of new subject through infusion of metaquantum particles by hypodontal injection into the circulatory fluid. Sustenance thereafter derived by the ingestion of living victims' circulatory fluid. Sensitivity to certain herbs and natural substances, and to the sort of psychic fields created by true faith. Metaquantum circulation so efficient that they're difficult to destroy except by utter demolition of the major circulatory organ or organs.
"I suppose someone with evolved characteristics and intincts to battle one sort would be better off battling a different sort than a normal person would be."
"Perhaps they are all related - a common origin too early in the history of the universe even for the Time Lords to know," suggested Picard, always the archeology enthusiast.
"There've been some interesting dissertations on that theory, actually," said the Doctor. "Not that any Time Lord would go out into the universe to investigate his theory in person. In this one case I don't blame them."
"So you're saying I'm stuck with the job," said Buffy.
Riker realized that she was sincerely reluctant. "Maybe I'm not getting this straight," he said to her, "but, if I understand the Doctor, isn't this Slayer business supposed to be, well, an almost holy duty?"
"Holy duty, sacred trust, standing alone against the forces of evil, yada yada yada," said Buffy, throwing her hands up, then plopping unceremoniously into Picard's chair. "I've already got a cheering section at home, thanks ever so much."
"It's not just an after-school job, you know!" snapped the Doctor.
"Tell me about it! I wish I had an after-school job. I wish I had a life! Oh, let's just get this over with."
Picard stepped in, physically moving the Doctor aside before the Time Lord could retort again. "Ms. Summers," said the captain, "I assure you, no one stands alone against the forces of evil while the starship Enterprise is about."
Buffy looked up at Picard standing ramrod straight in front of her with Riker, and symbolically the whole ship, at his side. For the first time Riker saw something besides sullenness on her face.
"You said you 'mayn't' cross your own timeline," Giles reminded the Doctor. "Then this First Time Law isn't a physical law, but legislation by some regulating authority - the Time Lords?"
"I'm not gonna tell anyone if you go bring Buffy back," said Xander. "Will?"
"Cross my heart," said Willow.
Xander shrugged expansively. "Problem solved."
"It's not just the law, it's a good idea," said the Doctor. "A temporal paradox is an ugly thing."
"I thought that was why Buffy needs to come home," said Giles.
"It's one thing to travel time," said the Doctor, pacing and gesticulating. "I do that all the time. The danger in what's happened to Buffy isn't the time travel per se, it's the strain on the Web of Time - history needs her to return to now safely from whatever future time-space event she's involved in.
"But it's quite a different thing to drop in on yourself a hundred years younger and, for example, accidentally leave behind the most recent volume of your diary."
"So you won't do it?" Xander demanded.
The Doctor halted his pacing and looked at him guiltily. "Actually, I already tried. Tried everything I could think of. But there's too much me-specific Blinovitch convergence in that space-time event for me to go then."
"Wait - you mean it's in the future, but in your past, that you're - you were - where Buffy is - when Buffy will be?" Willow asked.
"What a tense situation," said Xander.
"Xander!" snapped Giles.
"Yeah, fine, I'll shut up." Xander put his forehead to the table where he and Willow were sitting.
"Xander," said Giles again, after a moment, quietly.
Xander reluctantly looked up.
"I may question your taste, ... I do question your taste," said Giles, "but you should know that I admire you for keeping your sense of humor with all you've been through."
After a moment, Xander nodded; and the Doctor resumed pacing and answered Willow's question.
"Well, it must be a younger me. If it was going to be an older me, I could have been able to go, and older me would have been blocked, since I was already had been there."
"But," said Willow, trying to get her mind around it, going to him and diagramming her question with hand gestures. "If the you in the future is a you from your past, why don't you remember your past?"
"No one can remember something that hasn't happened yet."
"But if it's your past -" said Xander.
"If time were that linear, time travel wouldn't be possible," said the Doctor. "Look," he said, turning to Giles, "perhaps there's a way to send a message to me."
There was a moment's pause before Willow and Xander spoke simultaneously.
Willow said, "We could go."
Xander said, "Send me. Us," he corrected himself after Willow punched his arm.
The Doctor looked from them to Giles. "Very well," said Giles, "we'll go."
"I can't send you in the TARDIS."
"No autopilot?" asked Xander.
The Doctor shook his head. "That's not it. If I'm then, the TARDIS is then. Same Blinovitch convergence."
"But if the TARDIS can't take us," said Willow, "how will we do it?"
The Doctor thought a moment, then turned back to Giles. "Have you got a teleportation spell handy?"
"I've instructions for several of the classical variations, here and there -"
"Let me look them over. At least one of them ought to be modifiable for space and time displacement."
Riker had in his time stood up to bigger things than the frosty silence between Buffy and the Doctor during the chase to Gallifrey, even if there was a temporary distraction in arranging the site-to-site beaming of the TARDIS into the observation lounge so it wouldn't be blocking the main viewscreen. But when Troi suddenly asked for permission from Picard for Riker and herself to speak privately in the ready room, Riker was as happy to leave the bridge as he was to go with her. Then he noticed how nervous she was and wondered whether he'd be happier on the bridge after all.
"Deanna, what is it?" he said, when she'd seated them both on the couch.
"There's something I want," she said. "But it's a Betazoid thing. There aren't even human words for it. Or I'd've thought of it sooner. But I want you to be part of it. And I'm not sure you'll understand. Or maybe you'll understand but you won't like it."
"Because it's a Betazoid thing and not a human thing."
"Uh huh." Riker rarely heard Troi say "uh huh".
He tried to reassure her with a grin. "Well, certainly not before I've heard whatever it is."
"The word is imzorrod. The closest human concept there is to it is marriage."
Though he was trying not to hang too much hope on what Troi had blurted to him at breakfast, he had since then been reviewing his own feelings and discovering without any surprise that Deanna wasn't the closed book to his heart that he'd been telling himself for many years. But, trying not to assume anything, he asked, "You want to marry Worf?"
"The concept imzorrod," she said, with that tenative wrinkle between her eyebrows people get when they're afraid they're going to be exploded at - as when she'd had to tell Picard that her mother was in Phase - "doesn't presume monogamy."
The first of Riker's questions he got out was, "Do you expect me and Worf to ..."
"First of all, no one gets to expect anything of you two but you. But to answer your question, no I don't." The wrinkle had disappeared, but now it came back. "Am I to take it you're not instantly and irrevocably opposed to the idea?"
In answer, Riker banished away the rest of his questions and slipped off the couch to one knee. "Deanna Troi, will you imzorrod me?" He stumbled over the word, less from infamiliarity than from a sudden doubt that that was also the verb form.
She just fell on him and hugged him. Then just as abruptly she pulled back to arms' length and said, "What do you think Worf will say?"
"There's only one way to find out."
The comm beeped. "Coming up on Gallifrey, sir," Hawk said. Riker and Troi got up and left the ready room.
"There's no telling what the great vampire has planned for Gallifrey," the Doctor was saying as they reentered the bridge. "As I say, the stories I know suggest they preferred tooth-and-nail to tools and weapons, but even he can't expect to take out a whole planet of Time Lords that way."
"Can't you even take a guess?" asked Picard.
"It'll be nasty."
"Duhhh," said Buffy. "They're vampires." Slayer-Time Lord relations had not improved while Riker and Troi were absent. They were standing on either side of Picard, like ... it reminded Riker of the winged and horned spirits in classic animated cartoons. Riker always hated that bit of symbolism. Even as a child he had resented the implication that self-interest and public interest were different things.
"Weapons range," Daniels reported.
"Fire photon torpedos."
"Firing." The torpedos exploded against the vampire ship's hull on the main viewscreen. "No effect. Their shields are too strong."
"Keep trying, Mr. Daniels. Photons and phasers."
"Aye aye, sir."
"There has to be a reason," said Picard. "There has to be a reason the Time Lords chose the Enterprise to be here for this."
The Doctor shrugged. "You were the nearest -"
"Well," Buffy interrupted him, "what does the Enterprise have that Time Lords don't?"
"Watch her," Troi whispered to Riker. "She's not just trying to show the Doctor up. She's genuinely trying to impress the captain. She's already come to idolize him, just like crew's children always did." Most of the crew too.
Data spoke abruptly. "The vampires' ship is deploying some kind of light-sail."
"Light sail?" Buffy asked.
"Catches solar winds - photons," said the Doctor with calculated condescension.
"It is not positioned correctly for that purpose," said Data. "It is aimed at Gallifrey, as a dish antenna. Approximately ten kilometers in diameter."
"Their shields are extended to the dish - weapons are ineffective against it," said Daniels, keeping up his barrage. "... Power buildup detected! Level Nine power, captain!"
"That's impossible!" the Doctor objected.
"Confirmed," said Data.
"Sounds possible to me," said Buffy.
"That's where he's been for three hundred years," said the Doctor, "hunting and stealing technologies -"
There was a fantastic flash from the main screen before automatic filters - and Data's report - cut in. "It is a powerful energy beam with chronometric properties. It encompasses the entire planet Gallifrey."
"What would -" Picard's nascent question was answered when the Doctor toppled forward onto the deck. "Dr. Crusher to the bridge!"
Riker and Troi bent over the Doctor, who was writhing and holding his head. "Weapon against time-sensitives," the Doctor was gasping. "Just the signal bleed ... and I'm barely conscious! ..."
Troi looked over at Riker. "So what must it be like on the planet?" she said.
"This isn't a spell," Giles objected, looking at the open book that the Doctor had brought him from the table where Willow and Xander were researching. "It's a curse."
"Depending on the intent," conceded the Doctor.
"Look, all we do is set the goals parameter to non-victory-sensitive completion of the task at hand," said the Doctor. He took the book back and ran to the copy machine.
"'Set the goals parameter to non-victory-sensitive completion of the task'," repeated Giles. He wasn't used to having his mysticism recast into vocabulary that sounded like comp. sci. buzzwords.
The Doctor put into the copy machine a coin that was the right size but the wrong color to be a dime. "That's how the Time Lords will have set Buffy's temporal anomaly too." He neglected to close the lid on the copy machine, and got the flash full in the face. He wasn't as omniscient as he sounded.
"Wait -" said Willow. "You didn't say before that it was the Time Lords who did this to Buffy!"
"Who else?" Blinking and rubbing his eyes, the Doctor came back from the copy machine and handed the book back to Giles, then sat at the table to begin marking the copy with a pen he'd taken from his pocket. "An anomaly like this can't form naturally, you know."
"I must have missed science class that day," said Xander.
After a moment the Doctor handed the marked-up copy to Giles. "Modified for time displacement," he said while Giles looked it over. "In fact, it'll just use the existing anomaly as a carrier wave."
The first thing Giles saw was, "This will take two people to cast."
"Yes. One to ground the temporal energies and another for the actual working," the Doctor shrugged, going through his pockets. "I'll ground."
"But that means sending Willow and Xander without me."
"Yes. Can't be helped - this is our best option." The Doctor dug out of his pockets a paper envelope.
Giles tried to think of an alternative and failed; all the other transport spells they'd unearthed, the Doctor had shown to be unsuitable for their purposes. So he looked back at the Doctor's plan. "Interesting variation on calling the quarters."
"Modified to accomodate the symbology invoking the time element." The Doctor went to the doors and locked them, and flipped off the first and third of the four light switches. "Let's get started, shall we?" He sat crosslegged in the middle of the open space in front of the circ desk and emptied the envelope's contents, a multitude of small geometric shapes cut out of colored paper, onto the floor just in front of him. "I'll set wards."
Even Xander was silent as the Doctor shut his eyes and became the very personification of stillness. After a moment the little paper shapes began to move, arranging themselves on the floor and even swinging upright and climbing atop each other to form a three-dimensional structure. When they had become still Giles felt the Doctor's wards energize. Willow fidgeted; she probably felt it too, without consciously realizing. The library would be invulnerable to outside energies until the Doctor lowered the wards.
"Willow, Xander," said Giles quietly, "stand in front of the Doctor, facing him." While they complied he looked once more over the incantations to make sure he'd memorized the formula, then dropped the sheet on the table. Then he went to stand in a spot due east of the Doctor and the children, facing east, with his hands to his chest so that his wrists crossed at his breastbone.
"Mighty Zeus, King of Gods, Lord of Air. We summon thee that, through you, all matter of gaseous form in this circle shall do our will."
Giles had often called or seen called this Being and its partners to witness workings, by several sets of names, though never before this set. He belatedly hoped that they agreed with the Doctor that good intent transformed this curse into a white working. If they didn't, probably they just wouldn't show up. Hopefully that's all they would do; if they were to take active exception Giles couldn't imagine the consequences.
Despite the impossibility of outside influence through the wards, as he dropped his arms after the invocation, he felt a breeze brush at his hair.
He went to face the south and crossed his wrists again.
"Mighty Hephaestus, Forger of Lightning, Lord of Fire. We summon thee that, through you, all matter of energy form in this circle shall do our will." As he dropped his arms this time, his hands seemed to pass through and under an invisible oven. He moved to the west.
"Mighty Poseidon, King of Seas, Lord of Water. We summon thee that, through you, all matter of liquid form in this circle shall do our will." For a moment his vision was clouded by fog. He moved to the north.
"Mighty Hades, King of the Dead, Lord of Earth. We summon thee that, through you, all matter of solid form in this circle shall do our will." A chill passed through his body, and he thought a silent prayer that none of the children should meet this Being today.
Giles went and stood behind where the Doctor was seated, facing the children. Now the meat of the working started. "Mighty Janus -"
"Mighty Chronus," called the Doctor. The children jumped.
"- Who sees forward and back."
"- Who sees future and past."
"Keeper of gateways."
"Keeper of histories."
In unison. "We hereby request and require -"
The Doctor. "- passage through time."
Giles. "- passage through space."
The Doctor. "For these seekers."
Giles. "Along the path of the one who is missing."
The Doctor. "Until the work is over."
Giles. "Rounded off and whole and done."
In unison. "And safely home. So mote it be."
Giles had been feeling draughts and flashes of heat as the incantation wound up. Now the ground shook once, and the fog Giles had seen earlier began condensing around Willow and Xander. It even seemed to be obscuring them from Giles' vision. No - Willow and Xander were going transparent, like the TARDIS during its transition. The working was succeeding.
"Oh," said the Doctor to the children at the last second, "I'm not sure which me is then, so when you get then you might not recognize me." When Willow and Xander vanished they had looks of confusion on their faces.
"Well, it's done," said Giles.
"We must keep the circle until they return," said the Doctor, remaining seated.
Giles resisted the momentary impulse to inquire whether Time Lord grandmothers were truly so ignorant of egg-sucking principles. "How long?"
"Approximately a minute of our time for every ten of theirs, for however long it takes Buffy to wrap up what she's there for."
Riker stood; there wasn't anything he could do for the Doctor. He noted that despite her animosity Buffy was pale watching the Doctor's convulsions. But here came Dr. Crusher. "Data!" Riker called. "We need to block that transmission!"
"Modifying phaser energy mode to reciprocal frequency now," Data replied. "However, blocking the vampires' transmission would require the entirety of ship's power, for estimated only seventy to ninety percent effectiveness."
"All power but shields to phasers," Picard ordered. "Including life support."
"Life support?" asked Buffy. "As in, the supporting of our lives?"
"The Doctor's legends suggest that these vampires prefer face-to-face confrontation," Picard said. "Is that your experience? Will they become bored with a less direct attack that isn't instantly successful?"
"Yeah ... yeah!" Being asked by the captain for her expert opinion was enthusing Buffy more than anything else that had happened to her since her arrival on the Enterprise. Troi was right; impressing the captain was more important to her than disagreeing with the Doctor. "I've never known one who didn't want to watch you die in agony with his own eyes."
"Then life support holding out until we've distracted them from Gallifrey shouldn't be a problem."
Buffy grinned at him. "You're pretty smart for a space cadet."
Picard looked sharply at her as Crusher said, "If the Doctor is any indication, we need that beam off Gallifrey now!"
"Phasers ready," Data reported.
"Fire phasers," Picard ordered. "Continuous fire until I countermand."
"Firing," said Daniels. The lights dimmed as the phaser fire lanced out at Gallifrey parallel to the huge beam from the vampire ship.
"Chronometry beam neutralized," said Data, "but, as anticipated, not with complete succe-"
"Incoming!" Daniels shouted. The Enterprise rocked. Crusher had been helping the mostly-recovered Doctor to his feet - now he was thrown back to the deck. "Shields down to seventy-four percent!"
"We can't take this," said Riker.
"They still gotta be stopped!" Buffy insisted.
The ship rocked again, and the phaser beam vanished from the main screen. Crusher had just gotten the Doctor back on his feet - he collapsed yet again.
"Phaser array damaged and inoperative!" Daniels worked his console frantically. "Rerouting power to shields -"
"Sauce for the goose," snapped Picard. "Mr. Daniels, power to shields and structural integrity. Mr. Hawk - a course through their transmitter dish."
"Through it?!" Buffy gaped.
Hawk punched his controls twice. "Laid in!"
As the view on the main screen turned on the vampire ship Riker said, "We don't know its strength -"
"The stronger the material, the thinner they'll have spread it," said Picard.
"What about their shields?" Buffy squeaked.
"Energy shields, for defense against energy weapons," Picard explained.
He convinced Buffy. Riker still found himself bracing for the crash.
As they approached the Doctor's groans cut off - he passed out with the proximity to the energy beam. The vampire ship fired again, but the hit didn't deter Hawk from his course. They were on top of the dish - they were through it. "Didn't feel a thing!" Riker laughed.
"Damage to the dish?" Picard demanded.
"It's gone," said Daniels, a little astonished. "Vanished."
"The chronometry beam is gone," said Data.
"How did you know?" Buffy asked Picard.
"I didn't, really," said Picard. "No trace of the dish, Data?"
"None, Captain," said Data. "I hypothesize a monomolecular structure - any physical damage constituting a chemical change, probably breaking the substance down to its constituent atoms -"
"My money's with Data's," came the Doctor's voice from the deck. He leapt to his feet apparently recovered, only to blink and rub his eyes dizzily. "Blast - my vision's still fuzzy."
"That's not you, Doctor!" Riker pulled him and Crusher out from the area between the con and ops stations, where something Riker could only call fog was forming. "Another time-traveler?" He couldn't keep irritation from his voice.
"Two, it looks like," said Picard.
The captain was right. There were two figures that materialized in the fog - which dispersed to reveal them as another couple of kids in twentieth-century fashions.
"Willow?" said Buffy. "Xander?"
"Buffy!" The girl of the pair of newcomers ran to the Slayer. "Thank goodness you're safe!"
"Cavalry's here," said the boy. He hovered around the embracing girls, bringing memories of adolescence back to Riker.
"How did you get here?" Buffy asked.
"The Doctor sent us," said the girl. Willow? "Xander" was probably short for Alexander.
"I did?" said the Doctor.
"Yes -" The newcomers turned to the Doctor, and Willow trailed off.
Into the silence Daniels said, "Captain, signal from the enemy. Wide broadcast, us and the planet."
Everyone turned to look. "Hey, kickass hologram!" said Xander.
The vampire was a grim sight, even in a head-and-shoulders shot. Hairless, scaly skin; a stubby cone-shaped head; ears pointed like a Vulcan's but longer. When it spoke, it showed its teeth quite purposely - they were all pointed, but the fangs were longer than the others. Riker wondered how the vampire worked its mouth without slicing its lower face to shreds from the inside out.
"The great vampire," murmured the Doctor before it spoke. "I was right."
"Very well," it said. "I should have known better than to stoop to your antiseptic, impersonal level. Will you rise to mine? Send me a champion! See how one of your kind fares in real combat!" It growled, and the signal terminated.
"Buffy?" said Xander. "It's for you."
"Another chronometric disturbance, captain," Data reported.
"The vampires' beam?" Picard asked.
"No, the Time Lords ..." Data trailed off. Either he'd had his emotion chip activated the whole time, or it suddenly kicked in. Riker didn't know which, but he could tell it was on now because of the contraction in Data's next words as well as because of their tone. "They're beaming in a planet."
On the main screen's visual display a planet appeared where there had been none before.
"More of a planetoid, actually," said the Doctor, the only person on the bridge not awed to silence.
Except for the kids (from the twentieth century, they wouldn't know how impossible it was). "What's that for?" Willow asked.
"That? That's Main Street," the Doctor said, directing his speech to Buffy.
"The time at the tone will be 11:45 am," said Xander. "Beep."
"The vampire ship has landed on the planetoid," said Data. "There's a power source on the planetoid that's impervious to scans. The vampire ship's distance from the power source suggests they see no interest in it. ...I have visual on the vampires." The main screen flipped to a view of the huge battle-scarred ship settling onto a dirty, dusty, otherwise featureless surface.
"Can we trust their terms, Doctor?" asked Picard. "Will they abide by the results of the single combat?"
"How many of them are on that warship anyway?" said Riker.
"You haven't been listening to me," said the Doctor. "Have I said there was anyone but the great vampire on that?"
A door opened in the side of the ship which Riker had thought, from its size, a heavy cruiser.
A door the height of the ship.
"That," said the Doctor, "is a one-man fighter."
END OF CHAPTER 2
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