'It's like something, you know, out of R.J. Tolkien.'At 27, Fitz feels worldly enough to be cynical about more or less everything -- even if it's only a calculated act to annoy someone who feels differently. He's clever, but lazy. A talented guitarist -- self-taught -- it is a life he supplements with dead-end jobs in order to rail against the injustice of no one having discovered his talents. The fact that he hasn't exactly touted them anywhere is not something he's prepared to take into consideration. He's trapped by the fear of his dream of a richer life coming to nothing through a lack of talent. It's not something he could face -- he'd rather simply never try.
Fitz Fortun regarded the large woman as she proudly patted the head of her newly wrapped garden gnome, his face blank. It was at moments like this that he felt life was truly too cruel to endure -- the woman had spent ten minutes making snide remarks about his appearance, his goods and possibly his morals, and then expected to have a friendly chat with him afterwards just because she'd bought something.
She grinned at him suddenly, and it took him a few moments to realise he was meant to respond. He pulled back his lips in an attempt at a smile but it rapidly twisted into a noisy yawn.
'You mean J.R.R,' he got out, as the yawn died away.
Fitz sighed. Tourists. They weren't too good with accents, he'd come to realise, particularly his French one, which he was employing to divert himself today. He tried again. 'I think you mean J R '
The woman squealed with delight, her face furrowing as the grin threatened to engulf them all. 'You mean there's an R.J. Tolkien Junior? Neat!'
Fitz kept his face deadpan as he nodded and lit up a cigarette. 'R.J. conceived him in France. He slept with a beggar woman in the Boulevard Sainte-Germaine. The only tooth in her head was made of gold, and they pawned it to buy diapers.' At the woman's gasp of appropriate astonishment, Fitz leant forward conspiratorially. 'The woman's name,' he said in a low voice, 'was Frodo.'
The woman gasped. 'You're kidding me!'
Fitz exhaled a cloud of bluish smoke into the woman's grimace. 'There are many women called Frodo in France. It was my own mother's middle name.'
'I have got to visit your country!'
Fitz nodded with a smile, and pushed away a clump of straggly brown hair from his eyes as he pulled out a paper bag from under the counter. 'You old bag, you're so ugly ' he muttered.
The woman's face froze. 'What did you say?'
Fitz looked up, his grey eyes wide and innocent. 'This bag. It seems to fit him so snugly. Au revoir!'
The woman took the proffered parcel with a confused smile and wandered off along the leafy path in the direction of the tea rooms.
Fitz sighed lazily, watching her go. 'Why are people all so stupid?'
'All? That's a gross generalisation, surely,' came a polite, quiet voice that somehow made Fitz spin round as if he'd been given an order. 'I'd like this begonia, please.'
The man was looking at him. There was something slightly aloof about his manner, about his whole bearing; a sense of detachment from the quiet and the greenery about them. Only the eyes seemed definite, anchored on to his own as if peering inside him.
'This begonia?' He broke eye contact and studied the plant. 'But it's nearly dead.'
The man smiled, and Fitz wondered for a moment, looking at the stranger's bizarre clothes and shoulder-length hair, if this man was a kindred spirit, some kind of drop-out himself.
'I know,' said the man. 'I intend to rescue it.'
'Indeed. You could say it was a calling.'
Fitz looked at him with his long-practised look of studied boredom. 'A calling.'
'Oh, you just did. Do you simply like my turn of phrase, or were you raised by parrots?'
Fitz realised with a surge of annoyance that his own act was being turned back on him. 'One and six for the begonia,' he growled with a puff of a cigarette smoke.
'One and six,' sighed the stranger. 'The price of compassion.' The man's face crumpled into a sorrowful frown as he checked the pockets of his dark green velvet jacket. 'I don't have one and six. Would tuppence suffice?'
'Can't do that,' said Fitz vaguely, the hint of a jobsworth smile on his lips and glancing about to see if anyone else was in sight. He noticed some old women strolling towards his stall and found himself looking forward to the boredom of their presence.
'Oh, please,' asked the strange man, looking longingly at the begonia.
'One and six or it goes back.'
'But I only want to help it --' The man broke off and stared at him, suddenly baffled. 'Why are you putting on that French accent?'
Fitz felt his face redden as the old ladies approached closer. He affected anger as the cause for this rush of his dubiously Gallic blood.
'How dare you --'
>>Dr speaks in fluent French: 'When pretence becomes second nature to you, what in your life can ever be truly natural?'<<
The stranger looked expectantly at him, and Fitz realised he was expected to reply. Or had that been gibberish? He opened his mouth mechanically a couple of times as he thought desperately how to regain control of the situation. Finally he straightened up, stubbed out the cigarette, smiled at the old ladies now queuing patiently behind this loony, and with accent and dignity only barely intact, glared at the man with the infuriatingly bright smile.
'All right.' Fitz held out his hand and slipped the begonia into a bag. 'Tuppence.'
The man sitting opposite them on the train was elderly but still sprightly. He held his body stiffly upright and his lips in a disapproving curl.RELATIONSHIP WITH SAM:
Fitz leaned towards Sam. 'He runs the local Mafia, you know,' he whispered in her ear.
Sam nodded, relieved that Fitz was in a good enough mood to be playful. 'Oh yes, that's old "Legs" McAdams, everyone's heard of him,' she said, and was pleased to see Fitz suppressing a slight smile. 'They call him that because he always chops his victims legs off before he buries them in cement.'
The old man was looking at them, clearly able to hear every word. Sam felt the same naughty thrill she used to get on the rare occasions she misbehaved in school.
'That's only half the story,' Fitz said, picking up the conversational thread smoothly. 'He actually acquired the nickname "Legs" back in 1953 when he won the Slough Ballroom Dancing Medal for the fourth time. He spread the cement story because he didn't think that dancing was scary enough. Although personally I've always thought ballroom dancing was pretty bloody frightening.'
This time, Sam couldn't stop herself laughing out loud.
There was a strange deep note and the tang of ozone. Fitz was momentarily stunned by the force of a vibration that felt like the ringing of the largest bell in the world. When his vision returned, washed back with the moisture that seeped from his eyes, he saw that the game had stopped being just fun.When he has to, of course, Fitz *will* get involved:
The Doctor was lying on the floor, arms and legs and coat splayed like a brown-green inkblot. Sam was bent over him, her face as pale as paper. For a terrible moment he thought that the Doctor was dead, all those mysteries forever unsolved. Then he saw the gentle rise and fall of his chest under Sam's trembling palm.
He also heard the stuttering clicks of a dozen guns being cocked.
He looked up from the Doctor, and then up again into the masked face of the warrior who had pursued them through the rain-drenched streets of the city. Only the red band on his arm distinguished him from the minions who surrounded him. They were all holding versions of the weapon which had shot the Doctor. All the weapons were pointed at Sam's kneeling form.
Fitz felt himself actually flushing with embarrassment at his enormous sense of relief. He backed away one step, then two, and the warriors didn't react. He realised that they wouldn't do anything to stop him leaving. It wasn't him they were after.
The temptation to take flight was so strong, he experienced it like a physical force, pushing him away from his friends. He felt his heart rate speed up in preparation, and a clenching in his stomach that might have been remorse. Then he saw one of the green-skinned warriors step forward and thrust the blunt barrel of his gun against Sam's cheek, using it to turn her head towards him.
Fitz could see a single tear trickle from her eye, then, diverted from its course, run swiftly over the grey metal of the gun. He rocked uncertainly on the balls of his feet, forward then back, like a fleck of iron caught between two equally strong magnets.
'Don't . . .' he started.
The warrior's eyes snapped up to meet his. 'Leave us, human,' it said. 'This is not your concern.'
Sam's eyes moved from their rabbit-like transfixion on the warrior to lock on Fitz's. They seemed to be filled with some very important message. He tried to convince himself that she was telling him to go, that getting killed too would do no one any good. Her eyes flicked downwards, then up again.
Fitz took another step towards her, heart beating wildly. How dare the Doctor and Sam make him feel guilty for not helping them?
All the warriors had transferred their attention to him, and with it their guns. Now that they were pointed at him, he could see that the barrels were totally solid, almost like toys. 'Do you wish to make yourself our concern?' the leader asked him.
No! he wanted to scream. I don't want to be anyone's concern but my own. He cast one last, apologetic look at Sam, but she wasn't looking at him. Her eyes were once more downcast, and for the first time he saw what she was looking at, what she'd been trying to tell him about: the grenade which was clutched in her left hand, shielded by her body from the gaze of the reptilian warriors.
Five of her fingers were splayed against the knobbly surface of the grenade. As he watched, she removed first one finger, then a second. A countdown, he realised. And at the same time, he thought - she wasn't asking for your help, you idiot, she was just trying to warn you. They don't need you to rescue them.
Despite his fear, he realised that he would have preferred it if Sam had been asking for his help. If she'd thought that he was worth asking.
Then her last finger was removed, and he turned his back and covered his face with his arms, but still found himself blinded by a light brighter than the sun
Fitz eyed the amorphous creature warily from his niche in the cold stone wall. It was hard to believe that this blob was the most this place had to offer in the sentient, aggressive lifeform stakes. It was squat, around three feet tall. No weapons, as far as he could make out -- no surprise, as it had no hands to hold them in. He began to feel a little more confident that he could outsmart this thing -- the Doctor had been vague yet portentous about the offensive capabilities of these things, but reallyCharacter and Text copyright BBC Books
In any case, if he wanted to get off this miserable rock he had to save the Doctor's hide.
Fitz burst out of cover, then strolled nonchalantly over, his face grave, looking steadily at the grey putty-like creature trying to make out where its face actually was. Giving up, he sighed and addressed its general bulk.
'I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to step aside,' he said in his most authoritative voice.
The blob did not react.
'Very well,' said Fitz, sucking in air through his teeth with a sad shake of his head, 'I'm afraid then that I shall have to simply walk past you.'
He paused for a moment to gauge the creature's response, but again, it just sat there doing nothing.
'Pathetic,' he muttered under his breath, and strode boldly past it and towards the entrance to the catacombs.
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of movement. The thing was vibrating?
There was a loud and sudden pop and the blob exploded. Dropping to the freezing rock floor instinctively, Fitz felt a wave of heat burst over him. Rolling over in horror, he realised a huge chunk of wall had been charred black where he had been standing.
With what Fitz imagined to be the wail of a banshee, the grey blob re-formed itself from speckles of matter littered around the stone chamber, and sat still. He stared at it in disbelief, cautiously climbing to his feet.
'Now don't think you're going to try that again --'
But the blob was already vibrating. Fitz darted one way, then another, guessing it would target his last registered position. Just as the juddering monster burst open once again, Fitz dived to one side. The wall of heat burst over him again, and it felt like he was on a beach about half a mile from the sun. He landed heavily in a thin layer of melted snow, his heart racing as he stared wildly around him, blinking the water from his eyes. Again, the thing was lying in glutinous blobs all around the courtyard. How the hell was he meant to deal with this?
With sudden desperation Fitz tried to gather up enough of the gloop to weaken the creature, hands scraping over the rough cold stone, clutching the stuff to his chest. But with a sinking heart he realised he had barely enough to fill an ashtray, and the thing was already reassembling itself -- this time right in the archway leading through to the catacombs. He gasped involuntarily as the stuff he was holding wrenched itself away from his hands to splat softly against the clay-like bulk of the monster.
Fitz backed away from it, hands raised. 'All right, stay calm, Jesus didn't see the sign, "No riff-raff". I'll come back with a tie on.'
The blob sat there impassively, blocking the way into the cell area, apparently content now the intruder was a safe distance away. You're barred, it was saying. No entry, no getting to the Doctor. No getting to the Doctor, no exciting jailbreak. No exciting jailbreak, stuck on the Planet of the Blow-up Blobs for ever. Not an ideal situation.
Fitz suddenly had an idea, and almost immediately wished he hadn't. Still, no way round it. Literally. He ran a hand nervously through his straggly fringe, breathed deeply and took his chances.
He jogged over to the blob -- why am I doing this? -- and stood in the archway almost beside it.
The blob began to shake with almost comic enthusiasm.
Fitz smiled grimly, his body tensed, teeth clenched to stop them chattering.
'Don't be scared,' he whispered.
Just at the point of explosion, Fitz leapfrogged over the grey lump. His ears rang with the blast as it propelled him forward into the cavern beyond. He felt intense heat burning his arms through his scruffy jacket as they shielded his face. Hitting the cave wall was like a giant striking him with a telegraph pole, and he whimpered with fear and pain: it's broken my back it's broken my back
It took Fitz a while to realise he wasn't unconscious, and that he could actually move his arms and legs. The cavern was in darkness because, as he had hoped, the blob had brought the archway down on top of itself. The thick cold walls had absorbed much of the blast and saved his life.
Only then did he realise that even if he could actually manage to rescue the Doctor, there'd better be a back way out of here or they were stuffed -- unless some other poor sod came visiting and got the entrance blown open again.
Fitz imagined the blob. Was it calm and placid on the other side of the rubble, quietly content with its handiwork? Or was it sitting there thinking, 'Whoops'?
If so, he knew distinctly how it felt.