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Dressed To Kill

Steed's Tale - "Dressed To Kill" - Chapter 08

Journal of Prince "Major" Jonathan Steed of Amber:
Based on a Scenario by Rain Donaldson
Written by: R. Cal Westray, Jr. in 1997-1998.
Steed's history was written in 1994.

"Extraordinary crimes against the people and the state,
need to be avenged by agents extraordinary..."

Episode A4-8 - Hunt the Man Down

In which Steed discovers a new relative
... and finds a switch in time.

We leave the infirmary to head for Emma's apartment, since I am waiting for mine to be cleaned. As I pass Ge`rard, I notice someone talking with him. They are drinking wine from the bottles, how gauche`! We 'are' in Castle Amber, there are perfectly good glasses here. I examine the bottles closely. It has the label of Michael's private stock, the one I sent Emma to retrieve. Good. Well, our stranger must not be particular about wine. I examine the color of the liquid in the clear bottles. The color of the wine is a slightly darker hue in Ge`rard's bottle.
If I were the suspicious type, I would suspect this stranger of watering down his bottle of wine. This stranger is one that deserves watching. "Pardon me, Uncle. I didn't realize that we had a guest in Amber."
Ge`rard. "Steed, this is my new friend Leonardo. Another family member; just in from Shadow. Leonardo, this is my nephew Steed and his lovely bride Emma."
"Pleased to meet you." I appraise our guest. He stands around 5' 10", wearing rather nondescript brown and gray clothing, with rather average looks and build. He is carrying plenty of artistry gear. I should have guessed.
Leonardo. "Hello Steed. Your uncle has told me so much about you, I feel that I know you already."
"All good, I trust. However we aren't married. This is my partner Mrs. Emma Peel, we work and travel together. I'm afraid that there has been a misunderstanding."
Leonardo. "Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Peel."
"Charmed." She gives him one of her patented disarming smiles.
Ge`rard. "You're not married? What happened?"
What followed next embarrassed Leonardo and myself and certainly irritated Emma. More of the same discussion that we had at Bloody Bill's. Ending up with... "You are going to have her in a wheelchair, Steed." He gazes off into the distance thinking about something. "I still remember that one girl you were with. A serving girl, no one saw her again after you two were together. Oh yes, Emily; that was her name. You remember, Steed."
"I don't recall..." I would rather change the subject. Emma 'really' doesn't want to hear of any of my peccadilloes. I certainly do not want to have them the subject of court gossip.
Ge`rard. "Wait a minute, that was Corwin. Silly, me."
I sigh. "That's good. I would hate to think my memory was failing me."
Ge`rard. "The point is, you have to learn to take it easy and give them a chance to rest."
"Well uncle, we really 'must' be going. I was wanting some rest after Scout's surgery."
Ge`rard. "Good, that will give you two a chance to get back together."
"Well, Leonardo, it has been nice to meet you. I see that you found the wine that Emma brought up for Ge`rard. It is not one of the better batches, but it should suffice for Ge`rard."
Leonardo. "Nice to meet you too. Yes, he seems to like it well enough."
"We will see you soon, I trust. I will be down in the Great Hall after a quick nap."
Ge`rard. "Nap, right." Chuckling to himself.
My sarcasm alarm is chiming away. "Let's go, my dear. Mister Sandman beckons."
"Gentlemen." She turns on her heel and matches my pace down the hall and up the stairs.
I hear chuckling from the infirmary. Emma is clenching her fist again, bad habit, that. All that stress building up, I expect she better find something to punch and kick quite soon. I just hope it won't be me.
We passed a maid who brought news of my room. The carpet was replaced, the room is clean, but it needs airing out for the day. I suggested a floral potpourri, preferably carnations. She agreed and left to make arrangements.
We reach her apartment. She unlocks it and we are greeted by someone I do not recognize. He is wearing a white suit with a small scarf and leaning on a polo mallet. He is fair skinned with medium length blond hair. The background is not her apartment, but I see a familiar hexagonal control panel. It resembles the TARDIS, in Emma's room. I speak up. "Who?"
Doctor. "Of course, Steed. Hello again, Mrs. Peel."
"It that you, Doctor?"
Doctor. "Yes, I think so."
"What happened?"
Doctor. "Changed for the better." He smiles, no trace of the sinister appearance of his previous incarnation. "Where are we?"
"Castle Amber, you are in Emma's quarters."
Doctor. "I materialized in her room? Pardon me, I will move it."
"I was going to take a nap, but since you are back; there is no point in wasting time."
"I quite agree." Obviously catching the pun. "What are we doing? There is so much to catch up on. Let's take it by the numbers... Remember that chap in black who fought us in the tunnels?"
"Certainly." I am not likely to forget it. He bested us in pitched combat, thwarted my efforts in Pattern usage, and terminally injured the Doctor. (Well, he got better.)
Doctor. "It was Corwin."
"Corwin? I thought it was Eric. That is why we were beaten so badly."
Doctor. "Yes, Corwin. I would also like to get my civilization back. I would like to talk with him. It was Corwin who killed the Time Lords."
"I last saw him at Fiona's castle, probably eight hours ago. Why would he do such a thing anyway?" I am certain that I will not like the answer.
Doctor. "Come into the TARDIS and I will tell you all about it. Better yet, let's proceed to the kitchen for something to eat first."
"Capital idea, it 'is' tea time."
He pauses for a moment, internally checking the local clock. "I do believe it is, capital of you to notice. Got any crumpets?"
"I believe so, there are also macaroons and scones with butter and honey." Macaroons. It reminds me of Mother, those are his favorites. I plan to pay him a visit soon and macaroons may do the trick. Yes, do the trick quite nicely. But first, tea. We stroll down the hall and I get a Trump call. It has been awhile since anyone Trumped, I make myself receptive to the sendings.
I remember the powerful and invasive mind I am in contact with, one that mentally willed the death of the aliens that inhabited the castle. Still in her leather jumpsuit. "Kat! What a surprise. Is Corwin still at Fiona's castle?"
:Yeah, they are.: Meaning Luke is still there.
"Hold on a minute, the Doctor needs to know." I get his attention. "Doctor, Corwin is still there with Fiona, Luke, and Kat."
Doctor. "Good, Kat is still there? Does she want to come here?"
"I will see. Kat, care to join us?"
:Sure.: She takes my hand and I pull her through the rainbow portal. Just a hint of the smell of perfume and leather. Just as Leonardo rounds the corner and walks past me.
Leonardo. "Hello again, Steed. How's it going? Who are your friends?"
"Hello, Leonardo. Nap is off, I'm afraid. Time for more field work, and quite soon. Introductions around are in order. You've met Emma; this is Kat and the Doctor. Companions, this is Leonardo. We just met at the infirmary. Ge`rard was guarding the door. You see, since we left Fiona's domain, Scout's been shot. Random and I just finished operating on him, he should be fine."
Doctor. "What? Tea can wait." He vooms in the direction of the infirmary.
Here we go. We follow along, like lemmings. I think that everyone is more familiar with the infirmary than any other place in Amber. In our line of work, you spend a lot of time there. It is amusing that Emma and Kat share similar taste in clothes. Kat looks exceptional in her suit, but Emma looks better. We reach the infirmary and see Ge`rard guarding the entrance. We miss the first exchange.
"You can't go in there." Ge`rard holds his hand out to prevent entry.
Doctor. "That's all right, I'm a Doctor."
Ge`rard. "But he already has a doctor."
Doctor. "That's even better, he now has two Doctors."
Ge`rard. "I was told to not let nobody into the room." Ge`rard ponders as if to see if he had that right.
Doctor. "That 'is' a problem, just a minute. You were told not to let nobody in?"
Ge`rard. "Not in those exact words."
Doctor. "What words?"
Ge`rard tries not to think about it too much. Then he sees us. "Steed! You have two brides!" He sees Kat and Emma, like he is seeing double.
The Doctor smiles. "Brides? Steed, you never told me." He 'can't' be aware of the previous conversations, but he sounds like he is enjoying my discomfort. "Who is the lucky girl?"
Ge`rard jumps in. "You are too late, the honeymoon is over."
I am hoping for a change in topic. "There has been a misunderstanding, Doctor."
Kat is trying to be helpful. "Ge`rard, someone needs help down there." She points down the hall.
Ge`rard. "I have to stay here, missy. Bring him here and I will help."
"Ge`rard, this is the Doctor. Remember the chap with the long coat, curly hair, and long scarf? This is him. He had another incarnation, sort of a body change."
Ge`rard. "I remember him. He is a shape shifter?" He looks at him suspiciously.
Doctor. "That's not it exactly, but it's a long story."
"Not as such, uncle; but that doesn't matter. He wants to examine Scout to see if he can help. Random will not mind. Besides, I will be in there with them."
Ge`rard look at the Doctor. "How does it work, do you have a different body for each day of the week?"
Doctor. "No, I only use them for special occasions. By the way, where was Scout shot."
"Down the hall from here, on the second floor." He looks at me in disbelief. "Oh, pardon, in the lower back." Anticipating his next question. "The bullet was removed, Random may have it. We could check with Random to see the bullet." We walk down the hall and I feel the effects of a spell. Kat is at it again, the hallway fades from view and the infirmary replaces the surroundings. A Teleportation Spell, quite handy, that.
Scout is alone and slightly awake. He appears to be in discomfort. I go to the cabinet to check which drugs are available for pain.
Kat and the Doctor approach Scout. The Doctor examines him. "I say, old chap, do you feel all right?"
Scout. "Who are you?"
Doctor. "I guess you wouldn't recognize me."
Scout. "Oh. Hi Doctor. You didn't do that did you?"
Doctor. "Do what?"
Scout. "Turning off the pain."
Doctor. "No, sorry. Did you, Steed?"
"Not me, but I 'am' looking through the medication for him." I found the bullet, it was on the medication cabinet. I examine it closely under a magnification glass. Definitely a slug, it appears to be a silver based alloy; however, I will reserve judgment after more scientific tests are done. It doesn't match any caliber that I am familiar with. The lack of markings indicate that it was not fired from any shell casing.
Everyone turns to Kat. Scout says. "Thanks, Kat."
Kat smiles. "You're welcome."
Doctor. "Well Scout, Steed told me you were shot. Who shot you?"
Scout. "I don't know. He looked like Blazer but I don't think it was him."
Doctor. "Was he on fire?"
Scout. "No, that's why I didn't think it was him."
Doctor. "Well, where did Random put the bullet?"
I speak up. "Here it is Doctor. I was just examining it. I don't know what weapon fired it. By the way, we should try to reach Anna to let her know that Scout is awake. Do you have her Trump?"
The Doctor pulls out his Trump deck. It appears to be a standard sized deck, but it looks as though he is sorting through dozens of them and it still sounds like he is going through the A's. He doesn't find it.
A rainbow portal opens and Leonardo steps through. I hadn't noticed that he wasn't teleported in with us.
Scout. "Someone has to find Anna."
Doctor. "Just a moment." He breaks out a pen and card and begins sketching Anna.
Leonardo. "Very nice. Your strokes are too heavy. Try this." He hands the Doctor a pencil.
He tries it and the pencil breaks. He shrugs and continues with his original utensil.
Kat goes through Scout's jacket. She pulls out a deck and a red stone. "Scout, do you want your stone?"
Scout. "No, thank you."
Kat puts it back. She looks through his deck. "You have three Luke's, mind if I take one?"
Scout. "Help yourself. I can't stop him from giving them to me."
Kat pockets one. "You don't have a Trump of Anna?" She closes the deck and puts it back.
Scout. "We were never separated. It didn't seem necessary." He sounds very tired but not in pain. I can sense the worry in his voice about Anna.
The Doctor turns to Leonardo. "Do you have any magenta?"
Leonardo. "Of course." He reaches into his gear and pulls out a pencil.
Doctor. "Thank you." He concentrates on the sketch.
I check Scout over. "Scout, with Kat's help, do you feel O.K.?"
Scout. "Yeah, I would feel better with Anna here."
Doctor. "Has anyone tried to contact Blazer?"
I shrug. "Not that I know of."
Doctor. "We could check the docks later, or check his Trump."
Something occurred to me. "Now that you are back, maybe we could make a trip to London some time."
Doctor. "After tea, perhaps."
"After tea, of course."
He nods and finishes his sketch. "By the way, Scout shouldn't be kept blocked, Kat."
"I have found the proper medication. I am not sure what the maintenance dosage should be. Random would know. Anyone with a Trump of Random?" I would like my Trumps back, this is extremely annoying.
Doctor. "You know, Steed. Next chance you get, you should upgrade the technology level of Amber."
"If it were possible, the elders would have done so."
Kat hands me a Trump of Random that she pulled from his deck.
"Thank you." I focus on the Trump, he responds quickly. "Random."
:Oh, Steed. What's up?:
"Scout's awake and was in pain. I was going to give him some medication, but I don't know what dosage to use."
:Pull me through.:
I do. He looks around, sees the crowded infirmary. "There's a lot of people in here. Does Ge`rard know?"
"Not exactly, we cheated a bit. He 'is' still guarding the door for us. You remember the Doctor, Random?"
He looks him over. "Again?" Noticing his change.
The Doctor nods. "Again. Long story."
"This is Leonardo." I tell Random.
Random. "I've heard about you, Leonardo. A new family member."
"I've been away, studying for awhile."
So Leonardo is another relative. Go figure, things are quiet for years; then we are crawling out of the woodwork. He must be a Trump artist, I wonder if he has walked the Pattern yet?
"Random, I know what medicine Scout needs; what is the dosage?"
"Oh yes." He prepares a syringe. "That is about right." He hands it to me.
I note the dosage and give Scout a shot. "Kat, give it ten minutes and back off your pain block gradually."
Time passes and the Doctor stops his sketch-work. "Bingo." He concentrates on his work. "Hello. Doctor. Yes. Where are you? Is he in? Oh, would you care to come through? Not at all, just point him the other way. He may go off." A rainbow portal opens and Anna steps through carrying an unconscious Blazer, in his Naval uniform.
Random. "Put him over there." Pointing to a nearby bed.
She lays him down and moves over to Scout. They exchange some pleasantries. I believe there is some bonding going on.
Soon, Blazer stirs. "Where are the potatoes?" Then he passes out again.
Kat strides over to Blazer. "This is going to hurt." She hovers around him. I have a feeling I know what she is planning. Poor Blazer. She forces a mental contact, it takes awhile.
I overhear Scout talking to Anna. "Did you find out how he did it?"
Anna. "I didn't find anything like a gun in his quarters. I suppose he could have used magic."
Scout. "I'm not sure it was him. I think I saw something, I'm not sure. My memory is a little fuzzy."
I ask Random. "Have you had a chance to examine the bullet you removed from Scout? I examined it earlier. It doesn't match any caliber I recognize. There are also no markings or traces of powder."
Random frowns. "I noticed that it wasn't deformed like a normal bullet would have been, if it were fired from a gun. It was either fired from something weird out of shadow or more likely it was projected by another means. Probably magical. I am disturbed by this. Not as much that Scout was shot, but that someone developed guns that work in Amber."
I agree. "If we had a mage available, one could examine it to see what magic was involved." I could examine it with Pattern, but not the level of detail we need.
Doctor. "Forensics, Steed, forensics. I will take this to the TARDIS. I'll be right back." He leaves through the door of the infirmary. "Excuse me, can I leave now?"
Ge`rard. "Wait a minute. How did you get in there?"
Doctor. "Poof. We went poof."
Ge`rard. "I can believe you went poof." He looks in the door and sees Random and me with the crowd of people. "But Steed just got married."
Doctor. "No, no, no. We just teleported there."
Ge`rard. "Oh."
Doctor. "Can I leave now?"
Ge`rard. "Sure."
He strolls down the hall with the bullet.
Ge`rard talks to himself. "I didn't know teleporting made you go 'poof'."
I approach Anna. "I expect that you may want to supervise Scout's medication." I give her a vial of the medication and some syringes, and explain the dosage. "Scout, you say that you don't think it was Blazer?"
Scout. "I saw him, then I didn't. I'm not sure what I saw."
I arch my eyebrow. "I saw Blazer, but I'm not sure it was him either. It couldn't have been Corwin or Luke, they were in Fiona's castle with Kat."
Scout. "I don't think I saw anything."
"No matter then. Kat should determine whether Blazer was involved. I have my doubts."
Kat withdraws from her contact. She approaches us. "It wasn't Blazer. He left Fiona's realm and returned to his normal routine on the ship, peeling potatoes."
Scout. "I didn't think so."
Leonardo. "Peeling potatoes?"
Random. "That's what he's good at. Go with your strengths, that's my motto."
I smile. "He enjoys the quiet life of a sailor."
Kat. "It wasn't Blazer, it was someone else. Make sure Ge`rard doesn't find out what I did to Blazer."
Ge`rard calls out from beyond the door. "I heard that!"
Leonardo calls back. "Need a refill?"
He calls back. "It couldn't hurt."
Random looks irritated. "Ge`rard, are you drinking on duty?"
Ge`rard chuckles. "No, it's empty."
I offer. "So. We have someone who took Blazer's form, waltzed into Castle Amber, and shot Scout with some unknown weapon. I knocked him out, but he didn't stay unconscious for long and escaped. Anything not covered?"
Kat. "Scout, do you remember anything?"
Scout. "It's all rather fuzzy."
I face Kat. "Can you enhance his memories, without being invasive?"
Kat. "I could try. I sorted through the last two days of Blazers memories."
"It would only be the last four hours for Scout, and just that moment he was attacked." I turn to Scout. "Are you game for an attempt?"
Scout. "I'd rather not. It's not something I want to remember."
Random. "Earlier, you kept mentioning Martin. Why?"
Scout. "I don't know. I thought I saw him. Nothing very clear. We found that he was probably behind the creature who was sent to kill us. The Doctor found out about it, 'he' knows."
Kat. "Could the drugs be affecting his memory?"
Random shrugs.
Outside the door, I hear a voice. "Hello, may I come in again?" The Doctor.
Ge`rard. "I'm supposed to keep people out."
The Doctor shouts. "Hey! Can you teleport me back through, please?"
Ge`rard. "We'll have none of that. If you teleport in, it will be like I let you in. 'Especially', if you did it in front of me."
Doctor. "I see. Excuse me." Retreating footsteps.
I receive a Trump call. 'Who' could that possibly be? :Who?:
:Yes. Pull me through, please.:
I reach through and we clasp hands and I pull him to me. He steps through the rainbow portal of the Trump.
Scout. "Oh, you're back. Could you tell them about Martin?"
Doctor. "What about Martin?"
Scout. "That hunter thing we found."
Doctor. "Ah. You mean the Yautja?" (It sounded like 'yo ha').
Scout. "Yes, that's what you called it."
The Doctor turns to Random. "Yes. What a culture! Their whole society and status is based upon how many things they killed. But you have to kill your opponents honorably. They are always looking for targets. There use all kinds of nasty technological devices, but they prefer brute strength using hand to hand combat in close quarters. Apparently, that one was contacted by a fellow who looked like Martin who beat him in a duel. He was directed at Scout for good hunting." He paused as if to consider the situation. "Rather honorable folk, for bloody minded killers. Oh, I ran the diagnostics on the bullet. It was manufactured at a rather high technological level, a titanium silver alloy. Not fired form any gun, but it seems to have been projected magically. We need a sorcerer to check it out."
Leonardo returns from his errand to hear most of the Doctor's discussion. "That's good news."
Scout. "In a manner of speaking, yes." He sounds tired and almost out of it.
The Doctor holds up his prize. "What should I do with this?"
Kat. "I have 'some' experience with magic."
"Catch." The Doctor tosses the bullet to her underhandedly. She catches it deftly and begins to examine it.
Doctor. "Maybe you could reconstruct the spell and see if it has someone's name on it." He smirks at his own brand of sarcasm. I'm sure that magic 'troubles' him, like high technology 'troubles' Kat, Blazer, and Morganth. "While you are doing that, I will move over 'here'". He moves past Scout's bed, expecting it to be propelled again at another target. "Feeling better, old chap?"
Scout. "No, not really." He doesn't sound any better.
Kat. "As far as I can tell, magic was used to propel it. That's is about it."
Doctor. "It's a pity they don't make brands of magic, like 45 caliber magic. That would narrow it down a bit. Let's see, I haven't had lunch yet."
My cue. "It is 'still' tea time Doctor. We haven't reached the Great Hall yet."
Leonardo. "I didn't realize that there was a time for tea."
Scout. "There's 'always' time for tea." Anna shakes her head to decline tea.
I smile. "Doctor, I do believe there's hope for Scout after all. First things first. Anna, if Blazer regains consciousness, explain the situation to him. He can return to his ship if he wants to. I just hope he doesn't find himself already on the ship."
She smiles at that.
I turn to our newcomer. "Leonardo, tea is an old English tradition. There will be tea and biscuits, with assorted snacks and beverages. It is like an early dinner."
Leonardo. "That sounds good."
Is there an Amberite who is 'not' ready for food and drinks?
I ask. "Doctor, do you have a Trump of yourself? You could leave it with Anna, in case she needs to reach us."
"It's a little outdated." He withdraws one and hands it to her.
Leonardo. "May I see your Trumps?" He receives them and examines them.
Trump artists seem to enjoy looking at each other's work. I suppose they are interested in the different styles of the artwork involved. My suspicious nature tells me that they want to memorize any new image they see, to add them to their repertoire. Much the same as I try to memorize all Pattern users' signatures. If someone uses Pattern, I like knowing 'who' it is. Also to learn new Pattern tricks that I haven't already thought of. But that is just a guess.
Scout. "I will take a nice little nap." Anna indicates staying with Scout. Random makes his excuses to return to his quarters.
Doctor. "Good man. Now, let's have tea."
We depart the infirmary, passing Ge`rard. Down the stairs, down the hall, and through the enormous double doors to the Great Hall. We gather around a large table. Servants bring out steaming tea pots and platters of assorted snacks. Special requests are made and soon served. Everyone is eating and drinking like it was an eternity since the last meal.
I finish my tea and pour Emma and myself a sherry. It is delightful; not too sweet and not too dry.
A stalk of celery is brought to the Doctor and a saucer of milk is brought to Kat.
Leonardo. "This is an interesting custom. I think I could grow accustomed to it. Very... civilized."
Holding up a tea pot, the Doctor asks. "More tea?"
Leonardo holds out his cup and smiles. "Certainly, thank you."
The Doctor pours and continues with some small talk. "So Steed, you feel like popping back to London?"
I smile. "Yes. I would like to visit the Ministry again."
Doctor. "Nice blokes."
"Yes. Unfortunately, Emma and I are on their suspect and wanted list."
He shakes his head. "Tsk-tsk. Whatever did you do, old boy?"
"We were out of touch for awhile. When we came back to deal with the Creed invasion, they though we were behind it."
Doctor. "How absurd."
"Quite. They treated us like guests, gassed us, and dumped us in a place called 'The Village'. A quaint little place where people are kept under wraps and information is extracted."
Doctor. "Sounds like Manchester."
"I'm not exactly sure where it is. I escaped through Shadow, just in time for Merlin's coronation. With Suehprom's help, I returned to extricate Emma from a fate worse than death. Then we escaped through Shadow. As far as I know, they are 'still' looking for us. I'm afraid, it doesn't look good for us. But, I'm sure we can set everything straight."
The Doctor shakes his head. "When I go back, I will have to listen to the Brigadier yell at me for a bit."
I tsk. "Dreadful."
Doctor. "Agreed."
I continue. "Unfortunately, they have this policy. Anyone who goes missing for a specified period of time, becomes suspect. Possibly defected to the other side." I shake my head. "I've been there on missions, why defect? I can go anywhere I can imagine, why go somewhere they mostly serve vodka? Besides, I formally retired years ago from active service; I suppose that doesn't mean anything." I laugh. "It must greatly trouble them that I am nowhere to be found, when I go off in Shadow."
Doctor. "A rather silly policy. I go off missing all the time."
"Agreed. I plan to return to set things right. Clean up loose ends and all."
Doctor. "That reminds me. Have you seen Morganth recently?"
"He left for Chaos to attain the Logrus. He may have completed it by now." Suehprom should be attaining it by now.
Doctor. "If you run into him, tell him that there's no bomb in his head."
My eyebrow arches. "I'll remember that." I take another sip of Sherry. There's a story behind that, I'm sure of it. "From a previous incarnation, I suppose?"
He smiles and shrugs. No, I 'don't' want to know. "I'm sure he will be relieved to know that." Definitely, I don't want to know. "I also plan to get my Trumps back from Mother, along with other possessions."
The Doctor cocks his head. "Does Flora have your Trumps?"
"No, the head of my department in the Ministry is code named Mother. A very stubborn, intelligent, and proud gentleman. A portly mustached gentleman in a wheelchair."
Leonardo. "A 'chap' named Mother?"
"Precisely, the Ministry is rather amusing about code names."
Leonardo. "Is the chap a transvestite or transsexual?"
"Not at all, we're British after all. They are high on code names." I tap my chin. "As I said, he is highly intelligent. His instincts and decisions are 'usually' correct. He used to say 'Mother knows best!'. It sort of stuck with him. We 'all' have code names, some more than one. Ah, those were the days..."
Emma. "It was rarely boring with the Ministry, much like Amber."
I tap my chin. "I see your point, my dear."
The Doctor. "Very interesting." He looks around the table. He is 'wearing' the sprig of celery. How odd. "Leonardo, you're new to our little group. Tell us a little about yourself."
An excellent idea. What else can we learn about Leonardo, an unknown relative who is a Trump artist.
He contemplates his words. "I've been in Shadow, studying for awhile. I decided that I've reached the limits of what I could learn there. It is time to use and apply what I've learned."
Doctor. "Ah. Field work."
Leonardo. "Yes."
Doctor. "Have you saved the universe yet?"
Leonardo. "Here and there, under controlled situations. I have to get used to the 'real' world again." He sounds skeptical.
Doctor. "Would you like to save the universe?" He encourages Leonardo with all the enthusiasm he can muster, which is considerable.
Leonardo. "I don't know, is it worth saving?"
Doctor. "Occasionally. Stick around, it happens frequently."
Kat. "Quite often with this group."
I raise my glass. "Saving the Universe with style." Emma smiles and we clink glasses.
Doctor. "At the very least."
Kat. "Even with a black sword."
Doctor. "No, the black sword did no one any good. Creed had one, look what happened to him."
Leonardo changes the subject. "Are there dogs in Amber?"
Random knits his eyebrows. "There are dogs throughout Amber. Julian has some, but they are more like Hell hounds."
A Chihuahua meanders into the hall and scampers up to Kat. The tiny creature yips at Kat. Someone tosses a scone to it. The dog catches it, devours it, and returns to yipping at Kat. It becomes rather annoying.
Leonardo. "How did 'that' get here?"
Let me guess, I don't need to check for magic. There are no Chihuahuas in the Castle, until now. I am quite sure of that. Leonardo has a few tricks up his sleeve.
Kat suppresses a giggle. With a gesture, the creature disappears in a magical poof.
Doctor. "So much for tea. Steed, lets talk." He gestures for me to follow. We go to a corner of the hall.
Doctor. "Steed, as I was saying; time travel doesn't exist."
"That is what I was lead to believe, until recently."
Doctor. "Some unscrupulous members of the Amber family decided that knowledge of time travel must be eliminated along with time travelers, except myself; since I was among this group. The TARDIS's were also destroyed."
Doctor. "As I said earlier, the black figure was Corwin who attacked us in Time Beach. He thought he was doing the right thing, to prevent others: Amberites and Chaosians - from gaining access to time travel. We know Eric and Deirdre returned as a result of altering the time flow."
"I see and I think I understand." He has the resources with Pattern, and Galifrey is 'only' a Shadow or Shadows; I wouldn't say that to the Doctor. Removing or drastically altering Shadows is within his abilities or even mine. I can even appreciate his reasoning, although I don't agree with his method. "If we can undo what Corwin did, can blocks be established to prevent Galifrey from being 'used' as Corwin fears?" He even went back in time with us, giving no indication of his act. Note to self: Do not play poker with Corwin.
Doctor. "I think we 'can' undo what he did. Regarding blocks, I will have to consider it further."
"I will see what I can do to help, Doctor. I wonder if Fiona is 'with' Corwin in this. They seem to be getting along quite well, and Fiona was determined 'not' to affect the time lines; as we all were. Maybe they will go along with it and help with the necessary blocks."
Doctor. "I don't know, but I must talk to Corwin to correct the situation."
The discussion resolved, we walk back to the table. "Doctor, we could take Scout to a fast-time Shadow to recuperate."
Doctor. "Why bother? We can take him to the TARDIS an put a few patches on him. He will be as good as new."
Kat seems troubled about something; at least as much as 'anything' troubles Kat. "The only problem with that, whoever tried to kill him may try again."
Doctor. "We'll just have to stop him then."
I look at Kat, what else is on her mind. "With us together, he will make a more difficult target."
Doctor. "Of course, they will have to shoot at three or four of us first, to get to him. At least we know it is not Blazer."
I continue. "Martin is a possibility. It is possible that the succession is the reason. After all, Scout 'is' Random's son."
The Doctor seems taken by surprise. "Is he?"
"And so is Martin." I venture.
Doctor. "Is he? I had forgotten. So, we may have an Eric - Corwin situation?"
"Possibly, but it would be a little one sided. I doubt that Scout is after Martin." He certainly doesn't seem to be after the throne and wouldn't be gunning after a new sibling that he learned about.
Doctor. "Has anyone talked with Martin about it?"
"I haven't spoken to Martin in quite some time, and certainly not about anything of importance." I shrug. "If anyone has his Trump, we could try to contact him and chat with him. I doubt if he will be receptive. If Martin was behind the shooting, the motive would make sense. However, Random gave no indication that he was in a hurry to abdicate to his sons yet. This action would seem to be premature if Random was interested in protecting them 
Doctor. "Unless something else is going down regarding the throne. It doesn't make sense to kill a sibling you've only just been aware of for just a few days."
I dust off my bowler, where does this dust come from? "An interesting angle. Who else would want to eliminate contenders for the throne?" I look around the table, any reactions?
Kat. "Does it bother anyone that Suehprom was so willing to run off with Smiling Jenny?"
Doctor. "Yes, I suppose. There was something I was going to look into. Eric..."
"You mean visit the dungeon?"
Doctor. "It seems that Eric was captured too easily. It became dark for awhile, no one saw exactly what happened."
Kat looks a bit nervous. "Actually, it is Merlin in the dungeon; now that I think about it."
Alarms and excursions. "Merlin? In the dungeons? Are you sure? Then who... is running Chaos?"
The Doctor looks concerned. "Is it time to voom again?"
I agree. "The time is past for vooming."
Kat looks guilty, in her fashion. "When Merlin's coronation as King of Chaos was completed, I paid a visit to Eric in the dungeon." Eric was in the dungeon for his attack on Merlin during the coronation. The details of the attack are unclear, even to me. "During my visit, I was convinced that it wasn't Eric in the dungeon. It is really Merlin in Eric's form in the dungeon." Implying that Eric holds the throne in the guise of Merlin.
If this is true, I have mixed feelings about this. In light of my recent discovery, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. However, this Eric is from another time line and probably only a Shadow of Eric. Our King Eric died on the battlefield, defending Amber from Chaos. Is this Eric holding Chaos to protect Amber from further aggression? Or is his goal to use Chaos as a means of bringing war to Amber to rule both? I would support him if it was only to protect Amber, although I would support rescuing Merlin from the dungeon.
Knowing the ambitions of my kindred, I fear the latter. I expect that war will begin soon and there will be little left of Amber and Chaos for Eric to rule over. The Eric who was King of Amber, sacrificed himself to protect the realm. This faux Eric may not be 'quite' as loyal to our realm, and he may be directing the assassination of Scout; possibly others. Suehprom may also be in danger, Smiling Jenny may be a lure. No surprise there.
I look at her. "You were actually in the Chaosian dungeon?"
She nods.
Doctor. "Why visit there?"
Kat. "To see Eric."
What is it about some women? Kesa and Kat were attracted to Eric and Creed. Various problems occurred, because of these conflicts of interest; as I saw it anyway. Is she now protecting Eric who is holding the throne of Chaos? Or, if she wanting us to help Eric escape? "Can you teleport us there or find the dungeon if we find the castle?"
Kat. "I can find the dungeon but I don't know where the castle is."
Doctor. "Oh, bloody hell. The TARDIS proved itself on the first jaunt. Let's go."
I ask. "Should we get Scout?"
Doctor. "Certainly. Kat, could you teleport us in again?"
Kat complies, then we appear in the infirmary and Anna turns with a knife in her hand - ready for use. "Oh, it's you again." Anna puts it away.
The Doctor walks over to Scout and softly asks. "Are you awake?"
Scout. "I am now."
Doctor. "How are you feeling, old chap?"
Scout. "Not good, same as before."
Doctor. "Let's determine if it is safe to move you."
Scout. "Why?" It was more of a groan than a question.
Kat proceeds to explain her take on the Eric and Merlin switch.
Scout. "I don't want to go there."
The Doctor smiles and proceeds to convince Scout to go. "Why would you want to stay here? Anyone could just teleport in. Now, how safe would it be?"
Scout. "I'll go, I just don't 'want' to go. Fix me up. It won't make it any easier, just faster, right?"
Doctor. "It depends on if you want the good treatment or the bad."
Scout. "O.K., let's go."
I unlock the brakes on the gurney. "The bed is a gurney, we can move him easily to the TARDIS." We push the gurney out the door and past Ge`rard. "Uncle, it won't be necessary to guard him, we are taking him to the TARDIS to look after him.'
Ge`rard. "You didn't teleport in again, did you? You better watch out about that, Steed. It's not good for someone newly married to keep going 'poof'."
I tap him on the shoulder. "Things are O.K., we are done for awhile here, go get some rest, uncle. I'll let you know if there are any problems with Scout."
Ge`rard. "Very well. Bye Steed. Bye Doctor. Bye Kat. Bye Anna. Bye Scout. Scout? I don't know about this."
Steed. "Don't worry, uncle. We'll look after him."
Ge`rard. "How do I know you are not shape shifting impersonators?"
Doctor. "I have an ID card." He gets it out.
Ge`rard. "They don't match."
Doctor. "No, this is an old one. Sorry."
Kat changes to her feline form and 'convinces' Ge`rard to pet the Kat. He picks her up and pets her. He refuses to release her, even after changing to bird form.
Ge`rard looks at the gurney. "Are you really Scout?"
Scout. "Yes."
Ge`rard. "Then I can't let you leave."
Scout. "Then I am not Scout, I am an impostor."
Ge`rard. "You can go then. I have to pet the bird."
I smile, Kat brought this on herself. "Bye uncle."
Ge`rard looks up. "Bye Steed. Bye Mrs. Peel."
She stops, turns, meets his gaze, and smiles. "Bye Ge`rard." She turns to follow.
I smile. "Come along, my dear." He is apparently not as drunk as he lets on and Kat is in trouble again.
We reach the stairway, where we find some guards. Kat eventually catches up with us. Ge`rard had his fun. The Doctor inquires as to the location of Leonardo's quarters. They are near mine, a few doors down. We reach the quarters and the Doctor knocks. Leonardo opens the door.
Doctor. "We are popping off to Chaos. We are going to see if Eric is really Merlin. It's a long story. Come along now. But the way... do you have a hat?"
"A hat?" Leonardo looks confused. The Doctor has a way to confuse someone; so they don't have time to offer an argument, as to 'why' they should go along. It is just implied that they 'must' go along.
Doctor. "We are traveling, do you have a hat?"
Leonardo. "Why do I need a hat to travel?"
Doctor. "To keep the rain off your head."
Leonardo. "I can keep the rain off my head, without a hat."
"Tsk-tsk." The Doctor shakes his head. "Very well, let's go then."
The Doctor and I tap our hat's in place to demonstrate that 'we' feel that it is important. We turn and walk to the TARDIS. He opens the door, walks to the hexagonal control panel. We make our way in, guiding Scout's gurney through the door and to the side of the room.
I look around. The Doctor changed the design a bit. The decor is Victorian; very extravagant, very stylish, and very expensive. More woodwork than I would expect in a high tech device. "Very nice, Doctor."
Doctor. "I thought I may as well decorate it properly since I had to rebuild it. Steed, do you have a large blanket?"
I knit my eyebrows. "Would a king size quilt suffice?"
Doctor. "Anything larger?"
I reply. "I'm afraid not, old boy."
Leonardo pipes in. "What size do you need?'
He gives Leonardo the measurements. "Paisley, if you have it."
"Paisley? I'll see what I can do." He leaves to search for one.
The Doctor directs us into a room that looks like a high tech operating theater. Several clear tanks with liquid are along the wall. It looks like upright sensory deprivation tanks, like the one Emma was kept in, as a prisoner of the Village. I look at her, she frowns at the equipment. She looks at me and smiles. She remembers but it no longer troubles her. Good.
Doctor. "This is my new medical lab. That tube in the corner is where you are going to go, Scout." He operates some controls. "Hold on a minute, I have to clean it out." The fluid drains, revealing a skeleton. "Just a minute, I need to do a wash." He pushes some buttons and the skeleton disintegrates and fluids pass through it to clean it out.
Scout groans. "There's a 'button' for that?"
Doctor. "Not to worry. Let's see, green goop or red goop? One is acidic."
Scout is not comfortable about this. I can't say I blame him. "Never mind, Doctor, I feel better all ready."
"Relax, it's the fastest way." He refills it with what appears to be a lime green gelatin. He sticks his finger in. "It hasn't melted, this is it." We position him into the tank. "Now, don't hold your breath, you can breathe this stuff."
Scout. "Do I have to?"
Doctor. "Can you hold your breath for a half hour? Besides, it wouldn't work as well. I don't know if there are side effects with a lack of oxygen."
Scout rolls his eyes in resignation. "Very well, I'll try."
Doctor. "Just breathe normally, it won't be long. I'll be right back."
We return to the control room. Anna stays with Scout. She looks as dubious as Scout about this.
Leonardo arrives with a huge blanket. A cotton percale purple paisley blanket. Straight out of the 1960's. The most gaudy and tasteless blanket I have ever seen. What could the Doctor need a blanket like that for?
Doctor. "That will work fine. Now to the reception area in Chaos."
Leonardo closes the exit door and we gather around the control panel: The Doctor, Leonardo, Kat, Emma, and myself. The Doctor seems to be pressing buttons, pulling levers, flipping switches, and turning dials - seemingly at random. It made no more sense than it did the last time. I hope that Emma sees a method, I doubt that there is.
The engine whines and drones, with a sound similar to a table saw attempting to cut through a bar of metal - underwater.
Leonardo is prodding the console. "What happens if I push a button?" He draws back, startled.
The Doctor smiles. "A mild electrical shock. Please be careful. Everyone ready?"
Kat looks around. "Any chairs in here?"
"Just a moment." The Doctor opens a door that I am certain 'wasn't' there before. He pulls out several aluminum and plastic chaise lawn chairs. He unfolds them. "Make yourselves comfortable."
Emma and I take our seats. They are quite comfortable, now we wait for the TARDIS to finish its journey. In a few minutes, the engine whines again, indicating our arrival. The external monitor shows our surroundings, taking form to a more familiar environment. It doesn't appear to be Chaos. It appears to be more like Shadow Earth, with roads and buildings. I see a theater, the marquee is not visible.
The Doctor checks the controls. "It's Shadow Earth, Los Angeles. We did not reach our destination."

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R. Cal Westray, Jr.
Copyright 2001 [Westray.org].
All rights reserved.
Revised: October 23, 2007 .