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Challenge #01284-C189: Bright Spark

"When in doubt?"

"Fire!" -- OohLookShiny

[AN: Welcome to the madness. Please put your best URL here so I can link to you in future :D]

Of all the people in the universe who the Doctor despised, it was the people who had one solution for everything. Some, though, could learn from experience and not instinctively react with five rounds rapid. That was one of the reasons he loved the Brigadeer. Even though five rounds rapid was his default stance.

And then there was Trug.

Trug was the Doctor's companion because nobody else was willing to listen. And her people had only just discovered fire. The hottest technology since banging rocks together and getting sharp things. Trug and her people should have been left alone to manage things by themselves and maybe discover farming... but something had gone very wrong.

Trug had two solutions to her problems. Burn it, or hit it with a rock. And since that was the sum total of her tech level, the Doctor was willing to let it slide.

Her people were capable of rational thought. At first, they didn't go into the burned lands because there was nothing worth gathering or hunting in there. Then they didn't go because few who went ever come back. Those who survived left red ochre hand silhouettes to mark where they turned back.

And there was a solid ring of such marks all around the crash site. It was old. Generations, according to Trug. Barely a century, according to the Doctor. Possibly not even a century. The land had had time to heal and erode. Trees had had time to grow. There was undergrowth. And moss. But there were no birds. No animals. And the trees that grew were the kind that bore lots of fruit.

This entire valley was a baited trap.

And beyond the ring of warning, where Trug actively attempted to drag the Doctor to safety, was an exposed airlock. It showed signs of maintenance. The earth around it was sculpted. The interfaces clean. But it was the other door, concealed under a careful construction of branches and rocks, that interested the Doctor.

That was where they threw the bones out. Bird bones. Animal bones.

...and human bones...

All cracked open for their marrow. And all of the larger carcases showed signs of amputation. He stared at a sawed-off bone. Part of a femur.

"Why is it?" asked Trug. She had grasped asking questions early, and moved to asking both 'what' and 'why' simultaneously.

"Whoever's in there has been chopping up animals and people while they're alive," said the Doctor. "An old joke made flesh. Literally."

"Joke?"

"...pig like that, you don't eat it all at once..." he muttered. "It'd take too long to explain. I think we should sort this lot out, don't you?"

"It won't burn. And it won't break. What will you do?"

He sighed. He really should have got some better help, but none was to be had. "Trug, there are times when 'kill it with fire' is just a way of saying a very loose plan." He sonic'd the entrance, and opened a service panel. This door was a waste chute. But it was going to be their back door in. "What it means is, 'go in, stop them absolutely, and make sure it'll never happen again'. And it doesn't have to involve killing. Or fire. Those are last resorts."

Trug went silent as she tried to conceive of a world where fire and hitting things with rocks were the last things anyone tried. "Like... tickling fish, yes? Waiting and care, first?"

"Ye-es," he allowed, "only I'm hoping for more out of this than a fresh fish." The larger panel opened. "Ready?"

Trug put her flint and other rocks in her pack. "I will try magic man way."

Clever girl. With luck, he could get these people started on a better path. Both Trug's people, and the ones inside the crashed ship.

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