It took a further pot of tea and several ‘fancy buns’ for Sahil to recount his tale. Inspired by the flickering images projected onto dirty sheets in the local town square Sahil had once had dreams of becoming a famous Hollywood director, dreams that were ultimately thwarted. His family and village had shunned him, when he refused to join his father in the fields, and he had been left to fend for himself. Undaunted he had travelled to Delhi alone to try and further his dream. His attraction to film and cameras had diverted him to work for the local newspaper as a photographer. Although not his greatest desire he found he had no small amount of talent and grew to become a leading photographer in the city, equal to his foreign counterparts. Settled in his work, and well off by comparison to his fellow countrymen, he had decided to visit his family and hopefully make them proud of him. It was while travelling to his village he had seen the strange creature and his journalistic instincts had taken over. Hurriedly taking some photographs he had raced to the nearest large town and developed the impossible images. Had he not seen the beast with his own eyes he would not have believed them himself, and he could understand why he was soon to be seen as a fraud and a charlatan when he started to show his photographs around. The Doctor had been the first educated man who had not laughed at him, or called him mad.
“I am not simple, nor am I superstitious,” he finished, “but I can’t help but fear that it is a Rakshasa of legend, the devil that can take the form of beasts and seeks to destroy. Doctor, what else can it be?”
“Be?!” exclaimed the Doctor, “well it can be, and is, a Khaanorg.” Seeing the bewilderment in his companion’s eyes the Doctor leant forward conspiratorially. “Many years from now, and billions of miles away” he explained “mankind will find they have enemies far greater than anything they have ever created, in places that are nothing like the Earth.” Sahil’s look of confusion grew but he didn’t interrupt as the Doctor warmed to his subject. “Humans will one day build armies adapted to fight their wars in different environments, armies that they control utterly and will make the Earth Empire a safer place to be. Well for humans at least.” The Doctor frowned considering his last statement before continuing, “Anyway, the Khaanorg were, will be, developed for strange alien jungles and, as you can see, are based on tiger DNA. But, unless they are under direct human control they are as harmless as pussycats, no matter how scary they look.”
After a pause Sahil finally spoke, “Let us assume I believe everything you have just said,” he considered as the Doctor looked crestfallen, “what is it doing here, now, and so close to the village of my family?”
The Doctor tugged on an ear as if distracted for a moment. “Well,” he said “I suspect it got drawn into part of a war where it didn’t belong, and when the war ended it was cast away like so many others to fend for itself.” The Doctor fell silent, a distant look of pain on his face.
“Are you coming then?” he announced suddenly, leaping to his feet and startling Sahil, “I need a guide, and you are the only one who has seen this little lost pussycat. If I’m going to get him home I’m going to need to find him, which is where you come in!” With that the Doctor strode off through the pavilion towards the exit, while an unthinking Sahil gathered his confusion of papers and staggered quickly behind.
A few days later the two men were making hot progress through the steaming jungle trying to track down the Khaanorg. Despite having been raised in the area Sahil stumbled and tripped over numerous roots, his expensive clothes getting snagged on wicked thorns while the Doctor seemed to continue unimpeded. Sahil wondered how his companion’s clothes became so battered when he never seemed trip over or catch himself on anything. It had taken a couple of days of assurances from the Timelord to calm Sahil’s fears and to make him believe that the fearsome Khaanorg was in fact harmless. This meant that the photojournalist has finally stopped jumping at shadows and was beginning to enjoy his time with the Doctor. It also meant that he didn’t notice immediately when something was amiss. “Doctor,” he hissed, “listen”.
“Birds? Monkeys? The wind in the trees? Doesn’t seem unusual… What am I listening for?” he whispered. Sahil turned to the Doctor, a look of concern in his eyes, “We are very close to the village of my family,” he explained “See, look, the fields can be seen through the trees. But there should be the sounds of children playing, of men working in the fields, and there should be the smell of cooking in the air. Instead, there is nothing.” The Doctor sniffed the air, frowning. “Which way to your village?” he asked. By way of an answer the frightened Sahil turned and ran off through the undergrowth. Stern faced the Doctor sped after him.
It was a scene from the worst of nightmares. Bodies lay twisted and broken over the ground, while the buildings lay in heaps of rubble. Men, women and children had been slaughtered indiscriminately either sliced open by huge talons or blown apart by an unbelievable force. Nothing was left alive. The dried blood that seemed to cover every surface gave the scene an eerie sepia effect while the smell of death filled the air. Sahil and the Doctor walked through the carnage in silence, stunned by the ferocity of the attack. Eventually Sahil turned to his companion, with tears in his eyes. “What did this?” he accused, “Bandits? The British Army? No I don’t think so. You assured me, you promised me, this was no Rakshasa, you said it was a pussycat!”
“Sahil,” began the Doctor, “this is wrong, very wrong…” “You are right it is wrong” interrupted the angry Sahil, “not just wrong, evil, very evil.”
“It, it must be injured, or damaged, or something,” stammered the Doctor, “perhaps driven mad by pain, acting out of character. I don’t know but I need to fix it, and fix it soon.”