Word count: 6459
Will and David threaded their way through the streets, avoiding the soldiers when they could. They soon found, though, that when they were spotted, the rhinos paid them no heed; David reasoned that they might have already found humans to talk to, obviating the first order they were given, and if the thing they were looking for was an object and not a creature, they’d have no reason to inspect the humans, or humanoids, passing by.
Will frowned as they slipped away. “That doesn’t make sense. They might get information on finding the thing if they asked someone.”
David nodded, smirking. “I told you, they’re pretty thick. If they’re told to find something, that’s all they care about. It makes it hard, though. If we tell them something important and they don’t see an immediate connection with their objective, they’ll ignore it.”
He continued filling Will in on the Judoon. “They’re hirelings of the Shadow Proclamation, which pretty much functions as mum for the universe, making sure everyone plays nice. They try to make sure one planet isn’t taking advantage of another. I’m a bit dodgy on how it all works. I mean, they were included in my studies, but there wasn’t a big emphasis on them. To be honest, I think the Time Lords considered themselves above all that.”
“So you’re saying that the universe’s United Nations sent these rhinos here for some reason.”
“Right. The Judoon are just police. They’re a bit of a bully, none too nice, and not very clever. And very ready to dispense justice when a law’s been broken. Best not to say too much in front of them.”
As they approached the park, they could see that David had been right: amidst a handful of Judoon guarding the spaceship, the apparent leader (not that Will could tell one from another) was booming commands at three cowering humans, a woman and two men, being held by two Judoon with their rifles trained on them. They were too far away to make out exactly what he was saying, but Will could tell that the rhino was using intelligible words.
“He’s speaking English! How is he speaking English?”
“They have a language assimilator. Take a sample of language, plug it in, instant comprehension. They just needed someone to provide a sample.” David jogged to a stop and Will came up beside him. “When we approach, they’re going to point a cylindrical object at you, but don’t worry about it: they’re just identifying your species. I’ll talk to them and if you see the chance, you’ve got to get those poor people away. Once the Judoon are talking to me, they shouldn’t care about them anymore.”
Wringing his hands, Will swallowed hard. “All right. I can do that.”
“Let’s go, then.” David strode ahead, directly toward the rhino leader.
Their pace across the blasted ground felt interminable and Will fought to calm his heart, pounding hard in his chest as they neared the aliens. To steady himself, he kept his eyes on David, who moved like he was leading his own army into battle, his back straight and his head high. The Judoon ignored their approach and David stopped five metres behind the leader, who was still barking questions at the hapless people.
“Mo cro oh! Ro! Sho!” David shouted in a deep baritone, much lower than his normal timbre.
Too bulky to move quickly, the leader trundled around in surprise and pointed at the humanoid before him. “O lo! Po! Ro vo!”
“Yes, that’s obvious.” He stretched his arms to his sides as if he were inviting the rhino to take a shot at him. “Go ahead, scan me.”
The leader and his two guards waved their scanners at David. "Category non-human." They scanned him again. "Confirmed non-human, traces of human." They adjusted their devices and tried one more time, as David impatiently tapped his foot. "Results inconclusive. Category unknown. What are you?"
"That's unimportant. I will speak for these humans. Do you accept me?"
Glancing at his friend, David jerked his head toward the humans and Will began circling around the scene to reach them. He turned his attention back to the Judoon leader. "This is a level five planet. You don't have the jurisdiction, so state your purpose for being here or leave this world."
If the rhino was fazed by David's legal knowledge, he didn't show it. "Illegal weapon detected on surface of planet. Human possession of said weapon justifies extension of jurisdiction."
David's brow furrowed, a note of apprehension in his eyes. "Illegal weapon? What kind of human weapon would be considered illegal?"
"Nuclear bomb? Chemical weapons?" Will suggested as he made sure the three people were all right.
"Nah. The Shadow Proclamation doesn't care about those. Humans can blow each other up as much as they want. For them to care, it must be bad on a universal scale." He turned back to the Judoon. "Does this weapon have a name?"
"Weapon designation: total fission device."
The colour drained from David's face and, losing his composure for a moment, he sputtered, wide-eyed. "A total fission device? Here?" Clapping a hand to his mouth, he then ran it through his hair as he considered the ramifications, his eyes jerking back and forth. "No wonder you're here."
"What's that?" Will called as he sent the people off, but David waved him silent.
"What are you doing to find it?"
"Weapon location: this settlement. Optimal method of location: pattern search."
David rolled his eyes, obviously not confident in their chances of finding the thing. "Yes, I saw that. House to house. Good luck. And if you don't find it?"
"Humans will be found guilty of possession of contraband and obstruction of justice."
David swung an arm around, indicating the town. "These humans have nothing to do with it. They don't even know it exists."
Having nothing more to say, the Judoon stood there waiting.
David ran a hand through his hair again, then straightened. "All right. Let me help you find the thing then."
"You are non-human. You are an uninvolved party. You will not obstruct justice."
"I'm involved! I live here, too!," David squeaked, but the leader ignored his plea and waited impassively. "Well, then," he continued in his normal voice, sighing heavily first, "I offer myself as proxy for the humans in this settlement."
The leader pulled a different device from his belt and held it out toward him. "Designation."
"David." He seemed about to say more, but then licked his lips and closed his mouth.
This time, he hesitated a full three seconds before saying the words, "Time Lord."
"You assume privileges and responsibilities of this settlement's humans. You accept this officer's verdict."
"Affirmation recorded." The leader clicked the device and returned it to his belt. David held up his left arm and one of the guards stepped forward and clamped a thick metal bracelet around his wrist. Red and gold lights positioned around its circumference flashed periodically.
"Thank you.” The sarcasm in his tone was unmistakable. “Come on, Will. We have work to do." Without sparing the rhinos another glance, David stalked off. Noticing that the three humans were standing at the edge of the park watching them, Will flashed them an encouraging smile, then jogged after his friend, who was rattling off plans - returning to the house, getting the car - assuming that his friend was following close on his heels and listening.
Once they were tolerably away from the Judoon, WIll blurted out, "What did you just do?"
David continued to stride down the sidewalk as he talked. "Bought us the permission to find that thing. They're not going to give us much time."
Will came up beside him. "But how? It didn't sound like they wanted your help."
He shook his head. "They wouldn't let me. The case is between the Shadow Proclamation and the people in the town. They considered me an outsider, even though I live here."
"So you became a proxy. What does that mean?"
"It means that I accepted responsibility for the device and the consequences if they find the town guilty of possession of an illegal weapon."
Will faltered to a stop. David continued for a few more steps before turning back, realising the other man wasn't keeping up. His arms akimbo, Will frowned at him. "Doesn't that mean...?"
"That I'll be executed. Yes." David sounded like it was the most normal occurrence in the world.
Will threw up his hands in frustration, then clenched his fists. "Why the bloody hell did you do that?"
"So we can find that device. We don't have the time to discuss this now. We have to focus."
Will stared at David, his words caught in his throat. He was convinced that David had some other reason for substituting himself for the town, though obtaining permission to search was a plausible excuse. However, now wasn't the time, and he nodded his acquiescence. "All right. We find the device and you don’t die. What is it anyway?" He hoped he would have the chance to discuss this with David later.
"Come on." David beckoned and they resumed their jog. "It's called a total fission device. Basically, it takes matter apart."
"Like a nuclear bomb?"
"No. Nuclear bombs are just like regular bombs, except that they release orders of magnitude more energy and are radioactive." David fell silent for a moment as he considered how to describe the workings of the device. "What a total fission device does is cause every atom to break apart into its component quarks. It simply takes the matter apart."
"So, it disintegrates matter?"
"Sort of. The thing is the way it does it. The device has a reservoir of huon particles held in stasis."
"What particles?" Will panted out. He was starting to get winded, but his friend was still running strong.
"Huon particles." David shook his head. "You've never heard of them. They don't exist naturally anymore. They're what takes the matter apart, though normally they need to be activated. The device stores them, and then when it's detonated, it accelerates the particles so they activate instantaneously, sparking a chain reaction."
"Meaning what?" They slowed to a stop in front of David's house.
"Meaning that as long as there's matter around, the huon energy will continue tearing it apart." The man held his hands out about a foot apart and indicated the shape of a small box. "The device is about the size of a shoebox, but if used, the huon particles will chew through the entire planet in about ten minutes."
Appalled, Will just stared. "Who makes weapons like that?"
"Well, Time Lords for one, among other species." At Will's horrified gape, David shrugged, somewhat embarrassed. "They did design it, but it was considered a forbidden weapon, though they eventually used it in the Time War."
David shook his head. "No time to go into that right now."
Will tried to sort everything in his head. "So this is definitely an alien weapon, then."
Will stared at his friend, his jaw dropped open. "You think we could have made this thing?"
"There's always the possibility."
He still couldn't believe it. "How?"
Spinning on his heel, David began pacing. "The device itself is simple. You could build it with materials from B&Q. The difficult part is getting the huon particles, which haven't naturally existed for billions of years. Problem is, there were manufactured huon particles on Earth only two years ago. I thought they were disposed of, but..." He shrugged his lack of knowledge about their fate.
"So, how do we find the thing?"
"Follow our leads. We know a few things about it." He began ticking things off on his fingers. "First, the Shadow Proclamation has only just found out about it, so it's likely it's only just appeared recently. Second, if it's of human origin, then whoever made it has the technology to manipulate huon particles. Third, if it's of alien origin, it's very likely that if the aliens were encountered, someone would have noticed. After all, we have already established that aliens behave strangely and suspiciously.” His irony wasn’t lost on Will. “So, we're searching for new things in town, high-technology companies, and people exhibiting weird behaviour. That's what I need you for. You know this town so your insight is invaluable."
"Me?" Will waved his hands in front of him, a disbelieving smile on his face as he shook his head. "Oh, no. I don't know anything. You've lived here longer."
"Yes, but you've actually been out and about. I know where the Tesco is and that's all. And," he held up a hand to stop Will's next protest, "we don't have time to find anyone else to help, considering how much explaining I'll have to do again." He pointed a finger up and down his own body to make it clear what he was talking about. Spinning toward his door, he called over his shoulder as he trotted off. "Bring your laptop."
"You'll be researching targets while I drive." He fumbled with the lock.
"I’ll use my phone. Wi-fi isn't universal yet, mate."
"It is for you." Cracking the door open, he turned back to his friend. "I don't have internet access, Will. Never needed it. When I hooked your computer in, I gave you universal wi-fi, accessible anywhere, any time. You've got a super laptop. Go get it. We need to start now." David wheeled and, pushing the door open, ran in and bolted upstairs, taking the steps three at a time.
Will scampered off to his own house, his mind reeling with planet-destroying weapons, super laptops, and huon particles. An hour before, life had been so normal, so simple, and now, he was working to save the town, if not the world. He burst into his study and snatched up his laptop, yanking off the cords and dashing back out again. Well, he clarified to himself, the town isn't in danger, except as part of the world. The person we're trying to save is David. Using that thought as his focus, he jogged to a stop and closed his eyes, breathing deep to concentrate, to tuck the chaos away for later contemplation and focus on what would lead them to the device.
Will arrived at the car just as David emerged from his house, typing something into his phone, which he then stuffed into his pocket as he pulled out his keys. The two men scrambled into the car and as David started the engine, Will opened up his laptop.
"First place I could think of was Borne Technologies. I'll head there while you set up."
Will was tapping his hand on his leg impatiently as the computer booted up. "No, there's a place closer we should check out. Go out to Spaulding and turn right."
"Okay." David set the car in motion. "What's there?"
"You said weird, so we're checking out weird. There's an old man, just moved into a house on Branham, builds these strange wire sculptures out in front of his house."
David grinned. "Good! That's good."
"Come on, come on! Why does this thing always take so long to boot?" Will smacked the side of the screen as if that would help it run faster.
"I could fix it so that -"
"No! I mean, no thanks, it's fine. Just a little bit more."
With Will's guidance, they arrived at the house in a few short minutes. Jumping out of the car, Will ran up to the door and knocked as David pulled his phone out of his pocket and waved it around the statues in the front garden as it emitted a high-pitched warbling screech. He shook his head, mumbling that they seemed to be "perfectly normal weird wire sculptures" then trotted up to Will. "No, let me. We really don't have the time." Checking the doorknob and finding it locked, he pointed the phone at it, and after another short burst of screechy noise, the door clicked open. "Come on."
As soon as they were in the door, the two men separated into different rooms. "What would it look like?" Will called over his shoulder as he gazed around the completely normal-looking lounge, then began pushing things aside to see behind and under them.
"Anything out-of-place or too technological for a normal human's dwelling. I found his workshop." This time the high trill lasted for a long time.
"I don't see anything. I'll check the kitchen."
"Nothing here. Upstairs for me."
After a few more minutes, they regrouped in the car and Will set them on a route to a new computer store that had recently sprung up in a nearby mall. This far out from the park, there were far more people milling around, staring up at the distant spaceship while police officers tried to maintain some semblance of order.
Will couldn't suppress his curiosity. "So, what is that thing? It's obviously not just a phone."
“It’s a sonic phone.”
There was silence for a moment. “Were all Time Lords rubbish at coming up with names for things?”
“Probably. It’s a sonic probe, really, built into a phone case. Uses sonic technology to do things, like scan for information and open locked doors. I thought I should have one, and everyone carries a mobile nowadays, so... It’s very useful. The Doctor carries a…" David faltered, spots of colour rising on his cheeks. "Well, he’s got probe, too.”
Will squinted suspiciously at him. “What does he call it?”
David cleared his throat. “His is a sonic screwdriver.”
“You’re pulling my leg.”
“You’re all barmy.”
“I can agree with that assessment.”
There was a half-minute of silence in the car before Will spoke again. “So that thing can detect the device.”
“More or less. I’m scanning for non-terrestrial technology and huon particles. That may not be enough, though. It won’t find it if the device is human-made and if the particle containment unit is robust. I'd like to think that humans don't have the technology yet to fully mask huon particles, but..."”
Will nodded. “And that’s why we’re looking manually.”
Stopping at the mall that Will had directed them to, they found that, exactly as they expected, it was more or less empty, with only skeleton crews of employees in stores, if the stores were open at all. Many of them were locked up and dark, including the computer store that they had come to find. David disabled the security system and unlocked the door with his sonic, and they burst in to search. Luckily, the store and its storeroom were small enough that they could cover it in a few minutes, and they left empty-handed. They sped out of the parking lot toward Borne Technologies whilst Will continued to search for the new and the weird in town.
"There's a new Thai restaurant down on Islip." Will tapped the bookmark icon. "I don't see how it might be related, but I could go for a pad thai later." David groaned. "What? You don't like Thai food?"
"Traffic." At David's pained declaration, Will glanced up to see that two blocks ahead, the streets were clogged. "We're getting far enough out that we're running into people fleeing town. We don't have time for this."
"Borne is five blocks down that way. Maybe it's faster to run?"
David chewed on his thumb as he assessed the traffic and the parking situation. "Yeah. Yeah, you're right. There's a spot just up there." He pulled into the spot and the two of them jumped out, sprinting off toward the tech firm, weaving among the gawkers on the sidewalk.
As they ran up the steps to the glass front doors of the building, through which they could clearly see the firm's security desk, Will panted to David, "So, what's the plan?" This brought the alien up short, and he thumbed his chin as he thought.
"I don't know. How do we get in to search?" He set his fists on his hips as he stared the building.
"Do you know anyone who works here? We can say we're visiting."
David stared Will, completely taken aback. "Me know anyone? Will, honestly, I know you and your coworkers, out of the entire town."
"Then how do you know anything about Borne Technologies, if you're that much of a stranger?"
He wagged a finger at Will. "I keep my eye out for any possible sources of materials for the TARDIS. Borne does encryption and communication hardware and software, some for military clients. They're the most likely place in town that might have stumbled upon huon particles and how to control them."
"They're not likely to let us in easily, then."
"No." David sighed. "This always looks so much easier on the telly!"
"Well, we don't have time to waste standing here."
"No. Let's circle the building and hope their containment system is faulty enough that there's detectable huon spillage. I'll boost the detector." David tapped all over the phone's touchscreen, and though Will couldn't believe that the random-seeming touches meant anything, he could see the circles and lines reconfiguring themselves under the man's fingers. "Okay, got it. Let's go."
Whilst David used the phone to scan the walls, the two men circled the entire two blocks the company inhabited, making sure to pass between the two buildings, under the connecting walkways, to get the best coverage possible. Still, he found nothing, and the two headed back to the car.
The search continued with the same lack of results after seven other stops. None of Will's suggestions, though reasonable, gave them any confidence, and after each failure, their morale dropped. After the traffic snarl at Borne, he tried to suggest more places within the clearer areas, but they were soon forced into areas that were clogged with traffic or were cordoned off by the police. The eighth stop was chosen merely for convenience: they were stopped in a tangle of cars and Will happened to spot a new New Age shop that still had its temporary cloth sign covering the more permanent sign of the shop it had replaced. Pulling into the mouth of an alley, the two jogged to the shop though they didn't expect to find anything, and five minutes later, they stepped back out onto the pavement with nothing new to show.
"I just don't know, David." Will glanced up and down the street, looking for any clues, anything that might spark an idea.
David pulled at his hair with both hands. “Why do I feel like we’re missing something? Something so obvious. Why are they searching for this device now? What’s happened since -”
An insistent, high-pitched alarm cut across David’s words, beeping in sync with the lights that started flashing on his bracelet. Startled passersby shot him suspicious looks, and he grabbed at it, pushing a button to silence it. He turned to Will. “It’s time.”
He held up the bracelet. “The Judoon are calling me back. They’ve given me the minimum amount of time allowed by law to turn the device over to them, and it’s time for sentencing.”
“But we haven’t found it yet!”
“That’s immaterial to them.” He glanced in the direction of the park. “It’s a hike from here, at least forty-five minutes if I don't rush, so you’ll have that much time. Here.” He handed him the phone. “It’s set to try to detect the device. Just point and press that button on the side.” He demonstrated and the device whirred. “If it doesn’t find anything, the display will look like this, with circles locking together like this. If it finds something, there will be a circle here and here, and a line going like this.”
“Is that a language?”
“Yes, that’s Gallifreyan.” He handed the phone and the keys to Will. “Just keep moving, check out any idea that occurs to you. It’s time to grasp at any remote possibility. Now…” David caught Will’s eye. “One other thing. Keep an eye on the sky. If you see helicopters arrive, that’ll be UNIT coming up from London. Find them and tell them ‘code nine’. That’s the code for the Doctor and they’ll pay attention. Let them know everything about what the Judoon are looking for, and they can take over from there.”
“What about you?”
David shrugged. “Tell them whatever you want. By that time, it won’t matter what they know about me.”
Will shot David a look, worry and sarcasm mixed in equal amounts. "That's not what I meant. How are you going to get out of this? There's got to be a way."
David idly played with the bracelet. "There isn't. The contract's been made, and I agreed to abide by it." Stepping forward, he clapped Will on the arm. “I’ve got to go. Good luck, Will.” His eyes flashed golden, and he turned and trotted in the general direction of the park.
Will stared after him for a moment, his stomach a deep pit of fear. The man was strolling away like he was on a Sunday walk, enjoying the sunshine and the warm summer air. The only hints of anything out of the ordinary were the knots of people staring at the towering gray cylinder above the town’s skyline, and none of them knew that the man passing them by was offering his life in exchange for their safety. Squeezing the keys in his hand, Will clenched his jaw and sprinted for the car.
Another stop, another ten minutes spent, and another failed search. Will took to pointing the phone out of the car and pressing the button; since he had no idea what the range of the device was, he was hoping against hope that the thing might pick up something, anything, but the display never changed. He drove past the construction site for a new petrol station and on a whim, hopped out of the car to search that - nothing.
Leaning against the surrounding fence, he felt all of the hope drain from him. He had twenty-five minutes left to save his friend, and he was out of ideas. Well, he still had a list of tech-y or science-y places to check out, but it all felt futile, after so many failures to find the device. Perhaps if these places were known to work with alien technology, they’d seem more promising, but he was starting to doubt that normal humans had made the device.
If that’s the case, then the device is alien. What does that mean to me? David had been concerned about the fact that the Judoon only just now showed up to confiscate the device, which meant that it only just arrived on Earth. He snorted. If they knew it just arrived, wouldn’t these inept rhinos be able to figure out who brought it here? Unless it’s always been here. David said it came from some war, something to do with time. What if it came here then, and then something changed just now to make them notice? Popping up from the fence, he began pacing back and forth. Then what changed?
In mid-turn, Will froze, his jaw dropping open. His eyes widened, and the muscles in his cheeks twitched a very faint smile. Leaping into the air, he whooped and sprinted back to the car.
It came as no surprise to Will that the old church's parking lot was nearly full. With an alien spaceship dominating the town, many people would seek spiritual guidance, and perhaps they might feel that the building itself provides some unnameable protection. As he pulled the car into the first available space, he mumbled his own prayer in the direction of where he thought the altar would stand: a prayer that he was right. Hopping out of the car, he sprinted off, skirting a surprised old couple who were heading toward the church's door.
What Will was looking for wasn't in the church itself, and in fact, was on one distant corner of the grounds. As he rounded the corner of the building, he saw what he was looking for, over a rise: the white tops of the tents that stood around the archaeological dig. He'd been here once before when he had visited with Ben, standing outside the roped-off area watching the scientists at work. They hadn't been allowed closer, to minimise distraction and contamination, but this time, nothing was going to keep him out.
Running as fast as he could, he topped the rise and scrambled down the hill to the roped boundary. The only person in sight was one very nervous-looking security guard, who stared at Will warily but seemed happy to keep his distance. Will assumed that all the others had fled when the spaceship landed and this poor sod had drawn the short straw of guarding the dig until the bitter end. He pulled David's mobile out of his pocket and, holding his breath, pushed the button and waved it back and forth, pointing it at different areas of the dig as it trilled. He kept his eyes glued to the display, and when it scanned the tent that stood about ten metres to the right, the pattern of circles changed. Circle. Circle. And a line just so. He wondered if it meant anything that the shapes had turned from blue to red.
"Yes!" He pumped his fist, then hopped over the rope and ran for the tent.
"Hey! Hey, you!" came the immediate call. The guard ran over and tried to get in Will's way. "You can't come in here. This area is restricted to university researchers."
Will tried to dodge past him. "Get out of my way. There's something very important in there that I need to get."
The guard was slightly smaller than Will, but was doing a good job of keeping him from nearing the tent. "I'm sorry, but if you can't produce university credentials, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
"Oh, right, papers. Okay, sure." Will stepped back and reached for his wallet, but as soon as the guard relaxed, Will leapt past him and ducked into the tent.
The tent was filled with boxes and supplies, as well as a few tables for field work, on which were tools, samples, mounted cameras, and labeling equipment. Will's target, however, was obvious: a metallic grey box etched with the patterns of circles and lines that were now so familiar to him. "Aha! There you are!" He strode over the table and, reaching for it, hesitated, afraid to touch it.
"Leave that alone! That is a priceless artefact from this dig, and it belongs to the university." The guard had one hand out in a mollifying gesture while the other hand was busy unhooking the club from his belt.
"Look, I need to take this." He jabbed a finger at the box. "This is the item that the aliens in the spaceship want. I give it to them and they go away quietly. I don't, and they kill us all."
The guard pursed his lips sarcastically. "Right. The aliens are after an ancient Roman box. Now, just step away from it and come outside."
"This isn't an ancient Roman box. Does it look Roman?" The guard glanced at it, and Will smirked. "Would you even know what a Roman artefact looks like?"
"That's not my job." His tone switched to mollifying. "Look, we'll call one of the archaeologists and he can tell you what that is."
Will lost his temper and stepped forward to scream at the guard. "There's no time! The aliens have my friend, and they're going to kill him within fifteen minutes if they don't get this thing."
"Hey, now, calm down. I -"
"Look at this!" He held up the phone, showing the guard the display. "I was given this by an alien to find that box. It has the same pattern on it. This thing is alien. It's not Roman. And I need to get it to them."
The guard squinted at the pattern, then at the box. He clearly thought that Will was crazy, but the evidence on the mobile was difficult to ignore. "I... I..."
"I don't have the time!" Will thundered. "Here!" Pulling out his wallet, he found his debit card and tossed it to the guard, who fumbled it and dove after it as it fell to the ground. "The PIN is five-seven-oh-three. Take as much as you want." He grabbed the box, which was surprisingly light for something made of sturdy metal, and brushed past the stunned man.
By the time he made it back to the car, he was completely winded, but he started it and zoomed out of the parking lot without stopping to catch his breath. There'd be time for that later, he hoped. He sped through the maze of streets, praying that all the policemen were on crowd control, and swore loudly at every stop and delay. Reaching the boundary between the Judoon search area and the parts of the town that they hadn't yet reached, he bulled his way through the crowd, gunning the engine to scare people out of his way. As soon as the road was clear, he took off again, glad that David hadn't spared any expense on the engine of his sports car.
Now that he was in the area the Judoon had searched, it was clear sailing, as few people dared to venture into the area the rhinos seemed to control; after all, they didn't have Will's knowledge that the aliens wouldn't even pay attention to them. Thus, he travelled at a higher velocity than he thought was safe on these narrow residential streets, trying not to think of the possibility that he was already too late.
It was not difficult to find his object, as the spaceship filled the sky in front of him, and he jumped the car over the curb into the park, across the once-grassy lawn, directly under the spaceship to the Judoon leader. To his relief, David was there, standing directly in front of the commander. At the sound of the engine, David turned and, recognising the car, broke into a wide, hopeful smile. Bringing the car to a screeching halt, Will jumped out with the box.
"I have it! This is it, isn't it?"
"Oh yes! That's it!"
David stepped forward to take it, but the Judoon roared, "Remit the total fission device." One of his guards pushed David aside none too gently and held out his gauntleted hands for it. Will glanced at David for instructions.
David nodded. "Go ahead."
Will placed the box in the guard's hands and stepped back to watch. The guard handed it to the platoon leader, who inspected it and analysed it with his handheld scanner.
"Category: disintegration weapon. Mode of operation: matter fission." He turned to David. "Case closed."
Spinning back to Will, David clasped his hands to his head. "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! Will, you're a star!"
As the platoon leader turned away to bark orders into his communicator, Will trotted over. "It was at the dig site at the church. The archaeologists had just found it."
David snapped his fingers. "That's why the Shadow Proclamation only knows about it now! It was hidden all this time! Oh, absolutely brilliant, Will!"
He held David's phone and keys out to him. "Here. Does this colour mean anything?"
David glanced at the display and gasped, murmuring, "No!" He stared at Will, aghast. "It's armed. That's why they detected it. Somehow it got armed!" He spun and bellowed at the leader, "Ko mo ro! Fo! Tho sho do sto!"
The leader turned back to him. "Device confiscated. Jurisdiction expired."
"Oh, so thick!" David groaned. "Listen to me. That thing is going to detonate and take out your ship, or if you get it back home, the entire Shadow Proclamation. I'm one of only three people in the entire universe who can disarm it. You've got to let me do it."
The rhino gestured to his guard, who brought the box back and handed it to David. "Disarm the device."
The man rolled his eyes and breathed a sarcastic "Thank you." He dropped to the ground, his legs folding beneath him as he settled into a cross-legged posture with the box in his lap. Inspecting the etchings on each side, he began working, running his hands over the surface and buzzing it with his phone until, inexplicably to Will’s eyes, the lid popped open. He continued to work with his hands inside the box, pulling a pen from his pocket to poke the innards occasionally. Will watched him, hugging himself nervously.
After nearly ten minutes of work, David closed the lid and stood up. "It's done." He handed the box back to the guard. "Thank you."
As the guard marched into the spaceship with his prize and the leader returned to recalling his troops, Will sighed with relief. "I'm glad you knew how to do that."
"I didn't. I'm hardly an expert on ancient, forbidden weapons." He gestured toward the retreating rhino. "But the arming instructions were written on the case. I basically worked backward as best I could."
"You what?" Will squeaked.
David seemed unperturbed. "There were a few stumbling blocks, but they were relatively straightforward to deal with."
Will glanced up at the Judoon spaceship, then gaped at David. "So you could have set that thing off?"
He couldn’t believe his ears. "Here? On Earth?"
"You could have destroyed the planet! And for what? To save them?" He jabbed a hand at the spaceship above them. "The aliens that were going to kill us for something that wasn't our fault?" Will fell speechless, his sudden anger burning in his chest. Glaring at David, he balled his fists and shook as he held himself back. "You...!"
David straightened, his eyes cold. "It needed to be done, and quickly. I knew they wouldn't let me go with them to disarm it off-planet, but I was not going to let them die, either. I refuse to choose between the lives of humans and the lives of any other species. Make of that what you will." David glanced around at the Judoon organising their departure. "I'm not needed here anymore." Slipping his phone into his pocket, he turned on his heel and strode off to his car. In a moment, he was in the driver's seat and roaring off, out of the park toward home.