by Jim Mortimore and Andy Lane
As Miles Engado lifted his daughter from the aircab, the pilot was irritatedly gazing out across the scarred headland to the greasy black ocean beyond. "Jeez mister, hurry it up with the cash, willya? The rain's beginning to blister my paintwork," he scowled. "What the hell you wanna come here for anyway?"
"My father was born here," Miles said quietly. "Ozette was a beautiful place then. There were trees. And seals in the bay. Will you wait for us please?"
The cab pilot favoured him with a scornful glance. "Oh great: my one fare today and its gotta be an eco-obsessive." His voice raised angrily above the wind as Miles took his daughter by the hand and turned away. "You're crazy man, this place is dangerous! You got no business bringing a child here! No business!"
Unable to formulate a reply, Miles perched wearily upon a poisoned stump of cedar and watched as the cab rose steeply to hover above the bay. The driver's volce echoed bitterly.
"Some of us would love to bc able to afford a licence for chlldren! When are you people ever gonna learn some responsibility!"
Miles smiled sadly. He didn't blame the cab pilot for his bigotry: the man was too much a product of his society ever to realise that there were better ways to live. His thoughts turned to his daughter, leaping in a hopscotch pattern towards the edge of the chemical streaked promontory.
"Paula! Don t go to close to the edge," he shouted in sudden concern.
"Come off it, Dad. I am eight!"
"You might have an accident!" She glanced over sornfully. "I'm not stupid, Dad. I might kill myself if I fall over there."
He couldn't help but smile at her childish pomposity. "It's not the fall that kills you," he said. "It's the sudden stop when you hit the ground!"
She laughed suddenly, innocently, and turned to gaze with narrowed eyes across the greasy black liquid that rolled from the Olympic Peninsula Bay towards the Pacific Ocean beyond.
Miles followed her gaze. Two hundred metres below them on the steaming beach lay the rotting shreds of a village. Thc village had existed since the fifteenth century and until two years ago had been preserved as a national enclave, before being abandoned because of chemical spillage from a vast factory complex further along the northwest coast of British Columbia.
Abandoncd by all except one.
"Have we come to see Gramps?" Miles swept the girl into his arms and hoisted her above his head. "Why do little girls ask such awkward questions, hmm?"
Paula giggled. "Why do grown-ups always say that when they haven't got an answer?"
"Hah!" Miles swung the child around his head before setting her gently back down onto the ground. "Game set and match to Paula Engado, I think!"
The child pointed down at the chocolate scar of the beach and jumped up and down with excitement. "Look at all the huts! Which one is his? Can we go down to the beach, Dad, please?"
Her face fell. "Because of the bad stuff?" She frowned. "the poisons?"
Miles nodded. He stared down at his father's scraggy hut and the grave beside it, and hot tears welled in his eyes. He thought of the father he had known as a boy; the stories he'd been told of men who'd spent long nights praying in a secret pools, deep in the nearby forest; who'd carved canoes from small trees and whose wives had selected the best shells and flints to tip the spears; who'd killed seals to make floats and who'd hunted only the most willing of the migrating whales.
"Are you crying because of Gramps?"
He crouched down beside Paula, bringing himself eye to eye with the child and resting one hand on her skinny shoulder. He wondered if she would understand if he told her he was crying for so much than just his father. He wiped his eyes, self-consciously. He unsealed a carrybelt and pulled out a selection of items. Four sticks of charcoal. A pouch of tobacco. A small clay bowl. With the charcoal he began to draw lines on the scarred rock overlooking the beach, talking softly as he did so.
"Now I've told you what's going to happen on the Earth soon, haven't I?"
"Sure, Dad, you do all the time. The bad stuff, the poison I mean, that's gonna be everywhere soon. Then we'll all be like Gramps was."
- bones softening, face gone; rich, dark skin bleached by chemical poisons, rotting right there on the toxic sand and because of his ridiculous pride and stubborn refusal to face the future -
"Unless we do something about it, yes." He put aside the charcoal when four lines were complete. lie opened the pouch and began to sprinkle tobacco into small piles between the lines, shielding the dry powder from the wind with his body.
"Whatcha gonna do with Gramps's bowl?"
"Something your mother would never approve of."
"It's a traditional ceremony."
"I don't understand."
Miles looked up at his daughter as he folded the empty tobacco pouch back into his carrybelt. "I'm not sure that I do either. Stealing addictive substances and crawling about with bits of charcoal is hardly the act of a rational man." He straightened and handed the bowl to Paula. "Would you like to break it?"
Paula turned the bowl over in her tiny hands, studying it before returning her father's gaze steadily. The wind whipped her hair across her serious face, her eyes like chips of blue sapphire set in her dark skin. "It's like my bowl isn't it? The one you made for me when I was born?"
"Yes, it is. And now we have to break it."
"So Gramps' spirit can find peace."
"Will you break my bowl when I die?"
"Paula! What a questlon! You're not going to die for years and years yet."
The child shrugged. "Whatever you say, Dad."
She placed the bowl on the rocky ground and stamped on it. Miles sucked in a deep breath as the bowl shattered.
After a few moments Paula sald quietly "Are we gonna do something about it? The poison, I mean?"
"Yes. We're golng to do something, all right. Something special." He lifted the child into the crook of one arm and signalled to the cab. It circled and hcgan to descend. "We're golng a long way away, to another planet, on a spaceshlp, to find a new way to help the Earth get better."
"Mum won't like going away, will she?"
Miles used one hand to rub his eyes.
"No, love." He paused. "But Mum's not coming with us."
"I can't explain right now. All I can tell you is that we're going to make a difference. Just you and me."
With his child in his arms, Miles Engado walked away from his father's tribal village, towards the grounded aircab and its impatiently gesturing pilot. Behind him the wind whipped the grains of tobacco, charcoal and clay over the edge of the cliff where they fell into the glutinous black water and were instantly swallowed up.
"We're going to make a big difference."
Source: Doctor Who Magazine #199