33: Pieces of the Puzzle

The breeze from the Caspian Sea gently stirred the leaves above, as Shakira, her twin Saghira and Strawberry had their heads literally together, reading a map. Farrah removed her camcorder from her bag.

“Farrah should you even be doing that?” Saghira gasped. The beauty school student wanted to come along, but wasn’t exactly the type for anything that could be called espionage or participating in conspiracies. Both twins travelled through time and space but Saghira’s life almost completely revolved around her home and family until last week, her first day of her diploma.

“If we save the world, I wanna show everyone how we did it”, Farrah answered, sticking her tongue out.

Strawberry pointed to the vague directions’ starting point, stolen by Ursula several days ago. “What is the blue moon?”

“Something blue and involving moons”, Shakira replied flatly.

Saghira jumped. “The mosque!”

“Which one?” She stopped pointing and looked more closely at the map, searching for this mosque.

“The Imangali Mosque on Satpaev Street”, Saghira explained. “It is blue with crescent moons.”

“Are me and Farrah allowed inside?”

“Yes but the directions say behind it, so we don’t need to go inside.”

The four women then took the nearest bus, stopping not so far away from the mosque and complete with passengers noting their peculiarities: abayas (must be tourists?), no arms (how does she do anything?) and very short hair (butch or ex-chemo patient? Why no wig? Women need long hair!). Both Farrah and Shakira paused to take a few pictures of it, then they made their way around the corner, past the benches and minarets, to the back wall that was facing a river bank.

“And…now what?” Shakira asked no one in particular. There was mud, and trees, not much that could really conceal anything, or any obvious signs of manmade structures.

“There’s trees….” Farrah trailed off. “And they have giant roots…”

“With something to hide?” Strawberry added.

The water lapping against the river bank provided background sound to their minimalist conversation. Along with several birds. “Such as a safe maybe…trapped by the tree roots? So it won’t wash away?” These last two questions were shared by Shakira and Saghira. They headed over to the largest tree, specifically to the most prominent roots that were facing the mosque. Taking out her sonic screwdriver, Shakira scanned for any signs of metal or plastic.

“Something is there!” she suddenly exclaimed. “It is being held by the roots, we were right.”

Saghira reached into her bag. “I thought there would be digging involved”, she said, pulling out a tiny gardening shovel.

“Can you see what it is with that thing?” Farrah lent in. Strawberry shrugged her shoulders, as her short arm-stumps weren’t capable of digging and she hadn’t learnt how to garden with her feet either.

“No I can’t…keep going Saghira! You are almost there.” Shortly afterwards, Saghira struck metal on metal, and with Farrah’s help she revealed: a sweet tin.

“That’s all?” Strawberry asked.

“Or maybe there is something inside…” Shakira opened the tin, which contained…..a piece of paper that was obviously torn from something else, detailing part of the schematics for some type of machine, and an RF oscillator.

“So we only found part of whatever it is we’re looking for…..” Farrah sighed.

“I would have liked a full schematic and where to find the other parts”, Shakira said, pocketing the torn off paper and oscillator. “We must see if there is anything else in the newspaper clippings.”

Previously, Shakira had left her sonic screwdriver on the ground. This was now held by Strawberry, who was crawling along the sand on her knees with it in her mouth. She circled the other tree, paying close attention to its root system.

“Mmmghmghhhmmm!” She pointed with her arm stump to whatever it was that the sonic screwdriver had picked up, now getting the attention of the others. They rushed over and began digging around the oversized roots…to unearth a case panel for some variety of machine. It was large, black and had a semi-irregular arrangement of holes meant for various meters and controls.

“And we have…” Saghira began.

“Something we could need, but is no help at all right now!” Shakira finished.

“Maybe we should go home…and read the newspaper clippings…” Farrah sighed. Shakira straightened, her protective instincts awakening. “I think I have another healing reaction coming on.”

“Aww honey!” Strawberry hugged Farrah with her face and shoulders, after dropping the sonic back into Shakira’s hand. “You want me to carry you?”

She smiled, answering with “Sure”, and climbed onto Strawberry.

“I’m all legs, I know”, she said as they both giggled. Shakira and Saghira carried their findings for the day, carefully watching for any danger – vans, people, helicopters – in every possible hiding place. One they made it back to the TARDIS, excusing the panel as something needing recycling when asked by the bus driver, the doors were quickly locked to ensure a safe return  trip back to Kos III, and later Thera. Locking the doors was warranted, however, as they were being watched.

31: Repeated Attempts

“WHAT IS THIS?!?” The fat, bald man slammed his hand onto his desk. “That BASTARD is alive? HOW?”

“What is it sir?” His female assistant asked, looking up from the notes she was typing.

“You know…. Michael Jackson is ALIVE!” He stood up. “Evidence from surveillance cameras show that he is connected with two of Farrah Fawcett’s doctors. Therefore he knows the truth and her plans. And now it looks like one of them has informed a security team to keep an eye on him so we can’t get him again!”

“And what are you going to do this time?”

“I’m trying to kill Farrah’s doctors! She wouldn’t beat us without them, they give her access to….things…especially that Pakistani or whatever thing and the fat German that both spoil her.”

“Why is Michael Jackson so important then?”

“Because he can tell the whole world about us and everyone will trust him.”

“What are you going to do about him?” she asked, beginning to get annoyed at his obsession with stopping Farrah and her doctors, for she was a supporter of the free market and honestly didn’t care what medicines people wanted in the hospital. She only cared about her own career, not his bullshit, especially as he never gave her the whole story.

“WELL…he is rehearsing today at the…” the fat bastard continued, detailing his backup plan drafted in case his previous one failed. Unfortunately for him, a man with thick glasses was standing outside the door, listening to everything starting with the attempts on his life.

Not so far away this time, Farrah sat on the grass eating pecan pie as Shakira’s phone went off. She and her twin Saghira decided to take Farrah back to Earth for the day, for she had the day off from work and her sister had the day off from college, and they were both close to Farrah. “Salaam aleikum!” she answered. “Dex? You overheard what?” She listened to Dex’s explanation of what he heard, peeved that her day off had been partially ruined by someone’s assassination attempt. On top of this, the twins were meant to meet a mass of extended family for almost a week in Atlantis that night, and foiling the hospital asshole’s plans stood a chance of making them late.

“It looks like we have to save Michael Jackson for a third time.” Shakira rolled her eyes. “He is rehearsing at the Staples Centre and there are assassins meant to arrive soon because he now knows the truth.”

“Why are they so desperate to keep you silent?” Saghira asked. Farrah replied with incomprehensible mumbling on account of her eating pie.

“We could easily take down the pharmaceutical industry, especially with his help, and we are aliens, another government secret.” She reached into her handbag, double checking that her gun was in there. “I am ready when you are.”

For the first time in a long time, Shakira and Saghira decided to park inside an Earth building, among a litany of stage props where the TARDIS would not be noticed. In fact, it looked normal in comparison to some of them.

Farrah poked some of the props, but keeping quiet as Michael was discussing lighting and such with the technicians. “And where did Dex say he was meeting us?”

“Once again the fire stairs”, answered Shakira, annoyed at this constant need to use the fire stairs, every single time. The three silently crept down the stairs, and then Farrah shoved her face up to the space between the door and the wall. “He’s here”, she whispered, as Saghira opened the door.

Dex was not on the same page of keeping quiet. “Hello ladies…”

“Shhhhhh!”

“Okay”, he whispered after the three of them ordered him to be quiet. They climbed the stairs *in silence*, and once they reached the backstage corridors, Dex pointed to Michael’s dressing room, flipping his glasses onto his head and then quickly replacing them after Shakira scowled at him. “They are going to try poisoning him, just in case”, he whispered as Saghira signed this for Shakira, for she could not hear his whispers.

Saghira pointed to the cans of Coke in his room once they arrived at the door. “I suppose it is poisoned?”

“Si, that is what I overheard.” Shakira, Saghira and Farrah then took turns throwing the cans out the window, while Dex listened for any potential interruptions.

“Hey who are those guys?” Farrah asked, pointing out the window to a suspicious looking black van.

“They are not very subtle”, Saghira added. “Are these the assassins?”

Dex slipped over to the window, as the driver and passenger climbed out. “Looks like it, he did say they were coming in a black van and were parking around here where they’d be a little harder to notice.”  Shakira removed her gun from her bag, shocking Saghira.

“Sister! You are not going to kill them are you?”

“No these are for stunning, they are not actual bullets.” She fired several shots, hitting both assassins, and then inserted some real bullets and took out two tyres, their windscreen and one rifle, which she almost missed. “They will be out for three hours, and this give us – “

“WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE????” bellowed a 2 metre high, armed security guard with Michael Jackson trailing behind him.

All four spun around and froze. “TheguysoutsideweregonnakillMichaelsowesavedhim”, Farrah said rapidly and pointed. “Outthere.”

The security guard barged over to the window and looked out at the van and unconscious assassins.

“I did not kill them!” Shakira protested.

“I won’t believe ya until I see for myself”, he sneered, and marched down the fire stairs as it was the nearest exit, while the others followed.

“I told you!” Shakira said as she folded her arms, after the guard had felt the pulses of the assassins still beating.

“We will move them inside and call the police”, he flatly answered.

“What is this?” Saghira used one end of her hijab to pick up a piece of note paper from inside the van, partly to protect herself and partly to prevent her fingerprints from getting all over the potential evidence. She read the note out loud so everyone could hear.

“5891248.”

28: New Beginnings

“Shakira! Heyyyy!” the voice on the other end of Shakira’s phone rang out, as she tried to remember when she had given the woman her number.

“Salaam Joan, what is it?” It had been a few weeks since Joan was almost murdered, and she had made a full recovery. Shakira, on the other hand, was just relaxing at home on one of her days off, and Lawrence was back on Earth. In several Muslim countries on Thera, the answer to gender equality without ‘ruining’ their culture was to build massive women-only cities (Saudi Arabia’s idea, who else?), and since she had moved into one of these five years ago, she had to sneak him in to her house. A TARDIS, however, made this very easy.

“I’m starting pre-meds next week!” she yelled into Shakira’s ear. Already? That was fast, Shakira thought. She was close to Farrah and all of the versions of her under her care, but their universal habits of being loud and hyperactive sometimes got annoying.

“That’s wonderful! How are you feeling?”

“Much better! But my maid won’t stop fussing over me…um, I was gonna ask, can you help me study today? I have to read some things before I start but I can’t understand them all”, Joan continued, unable to stop yelling.

“That is alright with me, I don’t have anything to do today…what is it you are having trouble with?”

“Mostly the endocrine system. We have readings on anatomy and physiology.”

Shakira paused, and then sat up. “Joan I know of the perfect place that we can go! Get your notebook and camera, I will come right over.” They both hung up, Joan to find her camera and her college notebook, Shakira to put something hijab-appropriate on and fly her TARDIS to Joan’s house. Soon enough, she and her TARDIS, which resembled a mahogany Victorian closet, materialised in Joan’s living room.

“That was fast!” Joan sprung up from the couch as Shakira stepped out, with a satchel over her shoulder, but wearing her camera around her neck.

Shakira laughed. “I told you that TARDIS travel is fast!”

Joan’s maid entered, with a suspicious look on her face. “Don’t you get her in any trouble, alright?”

“Joan will be fine, I am her doctor, and the doctor of around two dozen other women who are almost identical to her! Besides I am helping her study, we are not fighting the Daleks on Skaro!”

Her maid stopped folding her arms, and put them on her hips instead. “Fine…..I still don’t trust you aliens…but I suppose you are some kind of different.”

Joan giggled. “I told you, she saved me! I’ll be okay”, she said, and kissed her on the cheek. As she walked towards the TARDIS console, looking around, Shakira closed the doors behind her. “Where exactly are we going?”

“A strange planet that seems to defy the laws of nature, as it resembles a human body. Sometimes I consider it to be enemy territory.”

“Why? You told my maid we were gonna be safe.”

“The five people I am speaking of are not dangerous, however they have stalked some of my friends and filmed inappropriate videos of them.”

“That’s disgusting!” Joan replied, still looking around the TARDIS as Shakira flew them to their destination. The last, and only, time that Joan was in the TARDIS was when she almost died from being poisoned, which didn’t give her any real opportunity to see it.

“And we are here”, Shakira said, interrupting Joan’s exploration of the console room.

Joan immediately closed a drawer that she was rummaging around in, and asked, “Do we need diving stuff?”

“No, not here…but my only warning is that if it looks electrically charged, don’t touch it!” Shakira locked her TARDIS as they both left; Joan snapped two polaroids: one of whatever was above them, the other mostly featuring her surroundings but also including part of her face. “Do you know where we are?”

She looked up. “We’re in the diencephalon…and that’s the thalamus, right? And over there is the hypothalamus?”

“Yes you are right…what do they do?”

“The thalamus controls things like consciousness and relays signals to the cerebrum…the hypothalamus isn’t just in control of temperature and thirst and stuff, but it produces hormones….like dopamine and ones that control the pituitary gland.”

“That’s correct.” Shakira smiled, and ran to catch up with Joan, who suddenly took off to get a picture of the pituitary gland’s entrance. It was surprising to see how much she had changed, when she still lived with her husband, she was quite mopey and only happy when with her horse. Now, there was a sparkle in her eyes, of new life and opportunity – a life where she wasn’t just wanted for her family’s money but for who *she* was and what she could do. Even during that rotten first night, which reminded Shakira of Farrah’s first night out of the hospital, Joan still had that sense of moving forward from her old life as a trophy. She peered down into the pituitary gland’s entrance, which didn’t look too unusual until some weird ‘local’ stuck his head out, while Joan finished writing something and stuck her now developed pictures into her book.

“And the pituitary gland produces these hormones, right?” Joan asked, pointing to something she had written.

“Yes…you’re doing really well actually, why did you think you needed help?”

“I don’t know…just reading stuff doesn’t help, I have to see it right in front of me, you can’t learn to ride a horse just by reading.”

“No, I wouldn’t try that! But you will have many practical classes when you become more advanced.” She paused, thinking she could hear someone. “Is there anywhere else you want to go, after you’re finished with your notes?”

“The thyroid and reproductive system are easy, but I can’t remember much on the adrenal glands.” Joan put her book back into her satchel and tightened her ponytail.

“Well there is a hovercraft over there”, Shakira suggested, pointing, “they leave things lying around a lot here; I don’t think they have much sense of personal property.”

Joan looked over at the hovercraft, a two-seated convertible that was similar in shape and colour to an over-the-counter painkiller. “Sure, if we won’t get in trouble”, she agreed and headed over to it. Shakira had to turn it on with her sonic screwdriver, which didn’t take long, and soon enough they had left the brain and were on their way to the adrenals. “Hey the thyroid gland! And those are the parathyroid glands! They make a hormone that increases the level of calcium in the blood, right?” asked Joan, as she pulled out her camera to take another picture.

“That’s right!” Shakira stopped hovering and continued to fly them to their destination. After Joan had asked again to stop so she could take a photo of the pancreas, they reached the planet-human-body-thing’s left adrenal gland.

“What’s that?” Shakira laughed, pointing at something Joan had written and circled in her notebook.

Joan giggled. “That’s just something I was told to help me remember the functions of the adrenal glands….’salt, sugar, sex, the deeper it goes, the sweeter it gets’! Mineralcorticoids, glucocorticoids and the sexual hormones such as DHEA!” She took out her camera to get a picture of the adrenal gland they had parked near.

“You know you could ask one of the local people to explain that in further detail”, Shakira said, and then paused. “Wait…maybe not…” She could hear the voices of a certain group of ‘superheroes’ with a history of stalking, including making a sex tape of one of her friends.

“What is it? Hey who are those guys?” Joan pointed to a group of five people making their way towards them, all dressed in red and white.

“They are my enemies, less dangerous than some, but they are stalkers who made a sex tape of one of my friends, and they only approve of pharmaceutical and surgical medicine so they have interfered with my own work several times.”

“HEY IT’S THE ONE WITH THE STICK UP HER BUTT!” shouted one of them, an obese imbecile obsessed with both food and its eventual fate in the human body.

Shakira facepalmed. “And they have noticed me.”

“Should we get out of here?”

“I was just about to ask the-“

“Let’s show her how effective chemo can really be! This is for letting out that kid taken by CPS and flying their family to Mexico! We don’t care if the kid went into remission by the way!” The asshole ‘heroes’ summoned a horde of tiny police officers intent on attacking Shakira; whether they intended on killing her, jailing her or just ruining her day was unknown.

“What child? I have never – not in the time you would be – that hasn’t happened yet! Anyway, you can never catch me!” She started the engines once more, propelling them to safety. Unfortunately, the tiny police were able to follow the hovercraft, as they had their own cars hidden somewhere.

“Joan can you take over?” Shakira asked, letting Joan take the wheel, and screamed, “How is THIS for being metabolised?” as she disabled their hovercars with her sonic screwdriver.

“No I want to fly us back, this is fun!” said Joan as she resisted Shakira’s attempt at taking back the steering wheel.

“Fine but I am giving directions….veer to the right….be careful!”

“Sorry!” Joan narrowly missed crashing, and began to steer more gently.

“Don’t hit that…just slightly turn left….follow that thing…now slowly…drive through there!….be very careful…almost…and we are here!” They had arrived back at the TARDIS, just in time, for the voices of the assholes and tiny police-things were once again audible, even to Shakira. The asshole horde had spotted them, but it was too late, as Shakira had unlocked her ship and slipped inside with Joan just before the leader(?) of the assholes directed the police-things to charge.

“Is there anywhere else you want to go?” Shakira asked.

“Let’s go home, I think we can study there…a big house with a maid beats being chased…OW!” The police and assholes were now shaking the TARDIS, thinking they’d just fall out or something stupid.

“I cannot disagree”, she replied, entering the co-ordinates to Joan’s asshole-free family home. Who thinks people will just fall out of TARDISes when you shake them anyway?