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The Rebus of Revenge!

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     One would bloody well think, him being the man with the time-travelling police box and all, that an era-hopping lowlife couldn't get the best of him by jumping through history. Or maybe, him being smarter than most of the universe all stewed up in a pot together, that he'd be able to track that lowlife through the timestream to stop him and not get flummoxed by idiotic traps. And, as soon as he saw through what trick the bastard was using, all that was going to be right.

     And it was one hell of a trick. Someone who was using his time to send fake bomb threat letters through the mail office had no business pulling off a trick like this. Every world -- every world they stopped at in this chase, in every span of time -- they'd found the same thing waiting for them: throngs upon throngs of oppressed, adoring crowds waiting to be set free. Downright worshipful, they were, too, with aeons of history telling them to wait for the coming of the Big-Eared Man in the Blue Box, and that man would set them free. And then apparently those natives couldn't let them leave again until they'd taken a token with them -- some of them damn odd. The TARDIS definitely didn't need a sheep aboard, even if technically there was space to pasture it in.

     But ten worlds in need of a savior (where that savior was prophesied to be him) was a bit too much for coincidence, thanks, and savior-ing was not an easy business. When he, Rose, and Jack finally caught up to this nutter, some answers would need to be had about how this was happening, which was about half the principle upon which they kept chasing him now.

     The other half being why they'd started: it's just not right to screw about with the mail office.

     "Oh, not this again!" Rose groaned, pushing bleached blond hair off her face as they waited for this world's tribal elder to approach. "Are you sure there's no other trail to follow? No way he could be doubling back or hiding his tracks?"

     Hiding in the shadow of the door, just in case the natives weren't friendly, their local resident former time agent and full time Lothario shook his head. "Not an eddy in the timestream he could use to do it. His tracks are clean."

     "Well, you're overlooking one explanation," the Doctor said with a shrug.

     Rose and Jack both gave him the matching scowls they'd gotten so good at.

     "It's just highly unlikely for ten worlds in a row to have prophesies declaring us the Chosen Ones, not impossible."

     "Yeah," Jack scoffed, "I'd like to hear the Vegas odds on that one."

     He threw the time agent a wink. "7,368,790,756,825,156,949 to 1 against."

     "You're just making that up," Rose declared.

     "Maybe."

     And that was all they got before five gray-haired ladies and gentlemen in practically nothing at all were kneeling before them.

     "Thanks be for the coming of the great Northman with Ears of Unusual Size!"

     "Ears of Unusual Size!" the crowds chanted behind them.

     Always on the ears!

     "All right," the Doctor said, and crossed his arms across his chest. "One of you look up and tell me what exactly you need fixed, in twenty-five words or less. We're on a tight schedule."

     "The... ah..." The lady in the center counted off on her fingers, mouthing words silently before she spoke aloud. "The king uses a dark mirror to keep our crops in sickness. Only the great-eared hero can shatter it with the Sword of the Goddess."

     "Well, as a great man once said, give me a sword and a yellow brick road to walk upon, and I'll take a look at what needs shattering."

     The natives traded worried looks between them, murmurs growing to a panicked roar before the lady who seemed to command the elders hushed them with a hand in the air. "Great Northman, we have no yellow bricks waiting for you, but we shall make them for you before the night is out if that is what we must do. This, we have kept for you, as was told to our ancestors," she added, holding out a statue of a woman trampling a man beneath her feet. "Please take it, and wait on the road of bricks we shall provide."

     "Never mind the bricks, I was--" He leaned in to get a better look at the statue he'd been given. "Is this Kali? What on Earth-- Or Not-Earth, I suppose, since we nowhere near it... why would you have Kali here? This isn't one of your..."

     In a moment of silence, he felt all the wheels click into place like he should have seen ages before.

     "Jack, Rose, would you haul out all the things we've gotten from these places and lay them out in order please? I think I've got it."

     Jack laughed, leaving the door for a compartment in the wall. "One flea market, coming right up," and as fast as blinking they pulled up all the little trinkets from around the main cabin. "Which came first? The barbell or the lucky vermilion ink?"

     "Definitely the barbell," Rose answered.

     "Quite right." The Doctor narrowed his eyes at the row of oddities. "Weight, then ink, then the painting of the four oranges... See? Four!" Next came the sheep, tied to the railing around the central console -- a female of course, making it a ewe. He should have seen this earlier. Then the fedora, the cross, the onions, the carrots, the clock... it was all making sense now. "Weight-ink," he said, with a scoff for how blind he'd been. "Wait-ing for you hat the intersection of onions and carrots, in the time of..." And he held up the statue he'd just been handed. "Kali. Which, you might not know, is a homophone for 'curry' in some languages. Well, one, anyway. Someone's gone through quite a bit of trouble to invite us to dinner, so let's get this mirror business sorted and not keep them waiting, shall we?"

     Rose frowned, first at the sheep she'd named Sally when they'd got it aboard, then at him. "Somehow I doubt this'll be the nice kind of dinner party."