The Lethirian Savanna supposed to be a pleasure visit. One of the wonders of the galaxy, he said. A relaxing break from guns and poisonous gaseous cars and random goo-clonesand other recent unpleasantness, he said.
Of course, he left out a few pertinent details. It was like being strapped to a shooting star, going on holiday with the Doctor.
Martha Jones vowed that this would be it, her last adventure before returning to her serious work for UNIT on behalf on the planet Earth. So tempting, though, to ride alongside that fire many times over again. But the Doctor had a new partner in crime now, and despite herself Martha couldn't help liking Donna, although she had hardly met her yet. The brazen tongue, the constant chiding that the Doctor so richly deserved, the razor-sharp ethics and humour and intelligence -- Martha found Donna magnetic. Everything about her was such a contrast to the staid military and medical personnel that surrounded her on a daily basis. Responsible, dedicated, caring, utterly boring people.
Many days, she sensed she was one of those people. Whether that was a realistic personality assessment or harsh self-criticism didn't matter. It was the fear of the ordinary that drove the attraction to the flame, and now his spitfire sidekick, even as the sturdiness of home called to her.
The TARDIS came to a shuddering stop, and Martha braced herself for that remarkable moment of anticipation before the doors opened. Of wonder. Donna walked over next to her with a grin, clearly relishing the moment as well. The two of them stepped through the creaking door and...
... absolute madness reigned.
The shimmering expanse of silver-diamond grass field was trampled down by an alien carnival in the distance. A vast array of tents in metallic pastels - pinkish hues on one side of the ship, yellow on the other -- gleamed in the bright orangish light, while similarly colored streamers hung from what appeared to be ten-story golden willow trees. The aliens, short roundish furry creatures, surrounded the TARDIS in a huge ring, with a rainbow-striped line running right down the middle of where the time machine had landed. As one they stopped their mad wrestling, and there was dead silence in the field.
"Yeeeeah, I might have overshot the date a bit," the Doctor said, coming up behind them.
"A bit?!" Donna exclaimed."Those teddy bears look like they want to roast us for Sunday supper. You said they were gentle, harmless creatures! What is this place?"
"Still Lethira. It's just that the they use this field for this annual contest, the Grand Lethirium, where they take all of their aggression for the year and channel it ..." The Doctor faded off, as one representative each from the yellow and pink sides sauntered onto the field towards them.
"So this is a sporting contest?" Martha hissed at the Doctor. "Maybe we should get off their field?"
"Too late," murmured the Doctor.
"Shouldn't we at least get back inside, you dolt?" Donna turned to retreat into the TARDIS, but the Doctor subtly blocked her path.
"Too late," he repeated. At their incredulous looks, he added, "Well, I do want to be able to show my face on Lethira again. It really is quite lovely, especially when the crystalline leaves begin to fall and herds of cuttlezebra wander through. You be fine, it's just a little friendly competition"
"We'll be fine?" both women sputtered simultaneously. At that point the bears arrived within earshot, and all three of them clammed up. The Doctor gave them his widest smile with a little bow to his head, as the bears began to speak in high-pitched squeals. The Doctor responded in kind in an exchange that lasted almost a minute, before Donna interjected.
"Oi, what's going on? Can't we just move the damn car?"
"Yes ... and no. See, by landing on the line, we started a dispute, and the only way to resolve a dispute during the Lethirium is to fight it out. Good news, though! They're letting you two enter as contestants on our behalf."
Martha let out a huff at the absurdity of the situation, while Donna spat out, "You. Are. A. Dunce. What, are we supposed to fight each other?"
"That's the beauty of it, Donna, we win either way it goes. Make it look good for the home viewers, though." He waved up to some suspiciously flying-saucer-like silver drones hovering like large insects across the field.
Before Donna could launch into a murderous rage, Martha put in, "Doctor, what are we competing for? We don't even know how to play the game." Someone had to be the voice of reason.
"Ah, it's simple. Get the ball to your end of the field and knock out the drone. Really, though, you're battling for glory and stress relief. Full contact allowed, just don't draw any blood, you forfeit with any blood. Hard to dislike a people that regard a mere scratch as beyond the pale. Have fun!" He waved to them and wandered over the sidelines, leaving the TARDIS right dead center in the arena.
The burly bear-like referees tied a colored scarf around each of their waists -- yellow for Donna, pink for Martha -- and gave them some solemn squeaky instructions, then a final shimmy that Martha assumed was the Lethirian equivalent of a bow. Then they too left them on the field.
"I swear he does this deliberately," Donna muttered.
Martha laughed. "Always an interesting day with the Doctor. What do you want to do here? Should we plan a strategy?"
"Kick the ball back and forth? Introduce a bit of football to the good stuffed animals of the Savanna?"
"No contact, no blood, sounds good," Martha replied innocently. Football, excellent idea.
At the motions of a nearby group of rotund squeakies, they faced each other on the line just to the side of the TARDIS and each took three steps back. One of the silver fliers buzzed over the top of their heads and dropped the ball between them with a thud. The ball didn't bounce, Martha noted, and appeared to be made of some rough rag material. Meant to be carried and wrestled over, most likely. A little more like rugby or American football, but it didn't matter.
Donna rushed the ball straight on, far too direct for a skilled football player. With hardly any movement, Martha plucked the ball out of her path and gave it a good back heel kick in the general direction towards her drone, digging in a bit so the thing would fly up instead of skidding uselessly along the rough ground. Donna's eyes narrowed.
"Eight years in the Lambeth Girl's Youth Football League, biddy," Martha stated, managing to keep her tone both even and taunting at the same time. God, she had forgotten what fun it was to kick the stuffing out of someone.
"Oh, it is on," Donna countered, and rushed the ball, giving Martha a wide berth. Martha let her flail about a couple of times before she realised the ball didn't roll very well along the long trampled grass. Then Martha sidled up and gave it a nudging outside kick, just to force her to chase it down yet again.
"You're toying with me," hissed Donna.
"Well, toy back. You need to go on the offensive. Change your strategy if it's ineffective."
"I'm trying." Donna rushed the ball yet again, and Martha was just about to shake her head and steal the ball again when Donna dived on top of it. Martha just barely managed to hold back enough to prevent giving her opponent a swift blow to the head.
"Hey! There you go, you changed the rules." Donna got up clutching the ball like the most precious sack of potatoes in the universe, and gave her a triumphant grin. Then she dashed to the side, not in the correct direction. Martha laughed and gave chase.
She had to admit, Donna was quick, despite those clunky heels she was wearing. Good skills for running with the Doctor. Martha had been enduring military-level training for the last six months, though, and easily caught her, grabbing the back of her shirt and tripping her to the ground. Hopefully no scratches ensued.
"Oi, oi, get off me!" Donna yelled, wriggling around with the ball under her armpit.
"Sure I will. Just ... give ... it... up... oof." Donna kneed her hard in the abdomen, in the vague area of the liver. "Hey, no internal bleeding now!"
"I'll show you a bleeding competition, doc." And she rolled with surprising deftness out from below Martha and sprang up, arched over low like a cat. "I intend to win."
Martha was the one who dove this time, straight for Donna's waist, getting purchase on the ball and wrenching in out from her protective arms. "Give it up! You've got over sixty meters to run, it's hopeless."
"Oh, but my blood's up now," and she attacked.
They rolled and wrestled a few times, until Martha finally ended up on top, the ball down the front of her shirt so she had both hands free to pin Donna down. The absurdity of the situation struck her then, that they were fighting over some abstract honour that didn't even matter. No lives at risk, no planets about to meet their doom from one of the Doctor's eternal enemies. Martha began to laugh, a full-throated whoop even as she used all of her weight to keep Donna immobilized. Then she leaned over her confused, outraged face until their noses were only inches apart, the ball pressing between them.
"Take out my drone," she whispered.
Recognition dawned on Donna, and she began to laugh too. Martha loosened her blouse just enough for the ball to fall through and roll harmlessly to their side. With one flowing movement she shifted her weight enough for Donna to wrench free and grapple the ball. Donna sprang up, again in cat mode, and sprinted full blast for the wrong (and right) side. Martha gave chase but a little less enthusiastically, so Donna easily made it the remaining ten meters. She twirled in fair imitation of an Olympic hammer throw and launched the rough ball into the air. It dinged the flying saucer, which rather dangerously deactivated and fell down practically on top of her.
Both competitors jumped around and cheered, to the deafening thrilled squawks on ten thousand rolling furry creatures. They threw their arms around each other for the shared victory.
"Are you really going back to London after this?" Donna murmured so only she could hear, before the Doctor came sauntering over, before the bears came to congratulate them. "Stay. This is too fun."
Martha considered it. "Well, UNIT does need me," she whispered back."On the other hand, the great advantage of traveling with Time Lord is that they can drop off the exact minute after you leave."
They both grinned, and walked off the field hand in hand.