Shadow of the Daleks;Doctor Who;Liz Shaw;Caroline John;Third Doctor;Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart;Jon Pertwee;Jeri Massi
Shadow of the Daleks
Written by Jeri Massi
She felt somebody pushing her forward. The nausea worsened as she was suddenly able to gasp in her breath.
"That's right, that's right," the Doctor's voice whispered. "Here we go." And he pushed her again. Her vision slowly cleared, and she knew she was going to throw up. But, calmly and steadily, he lifted her off her knees, forcing her ribcage to expand, and then he pushed her back down, holding her so that she didn't collapse. The urge to throw up was overpowering, but either her breakfast was too far along to come back up, or the walls of her abdomen were too paralyzed from Hawthorne's knee into her stomach to comply.
He lifted her again so that she was upright on her knees, and Liz was able to draw in her breath herself. She looked up at him. He was behind her, holding her across the shoulders and just under her chest to lower her over her knees and lift her to let the mechanics of her body assist her to breathe. As he felt her exhale, unassisted, he studied her face, watching to see if she could inhale and exhale by her own power. She gave him a slight nod and did not mind when he cradled her head in his arm. "We didn't expect him to do that," he whispered. "I'm sorry."
Then he carefully lifted her up from the floor and helped her unfold her knees from the kneeling position. Only then did she hear the tremendous shouting from the cell. The other men were also banging on their doors.
The Doctor looked into her eyes, but her constricted stomach protested any immediate attempts to move any further. She shook her head. With a few quick pushes of his fingertips into her midsection, he did a quick assessment. It hurt, but even though she winced, Liz knew that the pain was only moderate. She had not been seriously injured. The constriction abated.
"I want to walk," she said. "I have to get up."
"All right." He carefully lifted her to her feet. Her eyes darkened over for a moment, but then she was all right, though she had to lean on him. As always, when ever she was truly hurt or in danger, he was concerned. And there was something comforting about him--reliable and strong and protective as he was just now.
She took in a deeper breath and felt the outraged muscles of her midsection relax more. But now she could hear what the people were yelling. Munro had knocked Hawthorne out into the hallway as the Doctor had carried her through the door. And Hawthorne, yelling that Liz deserved anything she got, had stood to fight. Now Munro and the door sentry were subduing him, none too gently, and forcing him back into the cell. The three other occupants of the cells were also yelling that she deserved it. She didn't see the Brigadier until suddenly Hawthorne stopped yelling. Liz didn't know what the Brigadier said to him, but Hawthorne abruptly stopped his noise. With one vicious glance at Liz, he allowed himself to be shoved into the cell. The others quieted down. Munro and the sentry slammed the cell door closed.
"Will you help me walk?" she asked the Doctor.
"Certainly, my dear. Just lean on me." He helped her up the hallway, away from the cells.
"Ah, you didn't like it did you!" one of the men yelled after her.
"Don't hurt him," Liz called back to Munro as the young officer would have unlocked the cell and dealt with him. "Let it go; I'm all right."
The nausea had abated, but it returned several times as the Doctor helped her upstairs. He wanted to take her to the infirmary, but she wanted to go back to the conference room. This disagreement brought them to a halt.
"Just do some of that hocus pocus of yours if you're worried about me," she said.
"Hocus pocus?" he asked.
"That Chinese medicine you always boast about."
"Boast? Me?" He was concerned for her, but he paused long enough to scowl at her with mock ferocity. "What on earth are you talking about?"
"Yes, you boast. You boast all the time. Electronic acupuncture. You said it could speed recovery."
His eyes took on a look of a man who is tempted to try something slightly risky, but his words were scornful. "I don't need electronics. I'm a timelord."
"Well then do something."
"I have powers you've never guessed, and it's not boasting---"
She had heard this before, and she was about to be sarcastic when two things happened at once. A renewed wave of nausea seized her stomach, and the Doctor held her flush against himself and took her left wrist between his thumb and fingers. He closed his other hand over her head. With her entire body, she felt him breathe as though he were steadily drawing breath all the way down to his feet. And then it all flowed into her. For one instant, Liz felt that she stood against a glass wall warmed by an erratic, whirlwind of energy that sparked and changed, yet it radiated a steady wall of warmth against the glass that went into her and steadied her. It was comforting and relieved her nausea and pain, but suddenly she seemed to wilt from it. It frightened her.
The next thing she knew, she was seated upright in a conference room chair, and he was straightening up from her, his eyes clear and careful, studying her face. "Your eyes are enormous, Liz," he said, his voice reproachful. "I wouldn't hurt you." Then he stroked her cheek and walked away from her. She still had that sense of having been confronted by an energy wilder than a human could bear. She felt vulnerable and slightly disoriented, but her pain was gone. A lad from the canteen was just collecting the used tea cups and setting down another batch.
"Would you like tea my dear?" the Doctor's voice asked.
"Yes," she gasped.
"Is she all right?" the service boy asked.
"Yes, just get about your business." And the Doctor's voice was curt, but it became gentle as he addressed her. "All right, here you are. Drink it slowly." He handed her hot tea. She heard the door close as the boy went out.
"You should be more polite with the canteen staff," she said, mostly to cover for herself.
"I didn't like him hanging about."
Her hand was shaking, but he walked behind her as though looking for the Brigadier, and he rested his hand on top of her head. "It's all right," he whispered. And then she was calm. She took a sip of the tea. After a moment or two, she was back to normal.
* * * *
By the time he returned to the conference room, the Brigadier had reached his conclusions. But so had Liz Shaw. She felt recovered, and now she felt that she had a voice in this misadventure.
"Look," she said. "That man named names. These protestors, whoever they are, have got some specific grievances."
"I'm well aware of that, Miss Shaw," he said. "And I will keep my word. We shall look into Hawthorne's accusations."
"Well we'd better. He just may be right." She glanced with slight sheepishness at the Doctor. "In spite of his brutality."
The Brigadier was politely incredulous. "What? That a NATO research group has been flinging trespassers onto an electrified fence? Do try to maintain your perspective."
His acid tone cut her. The Doctor spoke, coming to her defense. "Brigadier, it is a lamentable flaw in the human condition that human beings commit the worst atrocities in the name of the highest ideals. Four men and a woman certainly are dead."
"Yes, and undoubtedly there is a reason behind their deaths. But the fact of the matter is that TSRG security had nothing to do with those deaths. How stupid do you think they are---to kill local people and leave the bodies lying about the grounds?" He leaned over the intercom on the table. "Corporal Bell, get me the files marked Northern Research Classified B, in the locked file cabinet. I've got the key."
"Very good, sir."
In a moment the dutiful Cpl. Bell entered. She gave a slight nod to Liz, and Liz nodded back. As the only two women on regular staff at UNIT, they had developed a sort of equal relationship in spite of Cpl. Bell's solidly unimaginative outlook and lack of higher education.
Lethbridge Stewart passed the key to the secured cabinet over to the corporal, and she hurried out to get what he needed.
The Brigadier addressed the two scientists. "We've got to find out what killed those people. And we've got to pacify that mob out there before UNIT loses all credibility." As though to accent his words, the intercom on the conference table beeped, and the Brigadier picked up the receiver. "Yes, what is it?"
He paused, then said, "I see. Tell them no comment for now, but we are opening an investigation." He set down the receiver. "Television cameras out front. The police have taken away the rock throwing elements, but they say they won't interfere with the peaceful demonstrators."
"So UNIT is in the spotlight," the Doctor said. "Called to account for another group's scandal."
Liz spoke, knowing her words would not be welcome: "If UNIT's early investigation of TSRG failed to be thorough, then UNIT is responsible."
"Yes, Miss Shaw. And as I have said too many times to count---"
"Twice, I believe," the Doctor said helpfully.
The Brigadier ignored him. "UNIT will investigate Hawthorne's charges."
Cpl. Bell entered again with a small stack of folders. The Brigadier took them and spread them out on the table. He sat down so that Liz could see them, and the Doctor looked over his shoulder. "This is what puts paid to their charges," he said.
"It's a key punch schedule," the Doctor observed as they scanned a list of short titles and time stamps.
"Three key punch schedules. There are three men on shift and one on dispatch at TSRG. Each foot man must walk a patrol. Every five to seven minutes he reaches a punch station, where he inserts a key into his time clock."
"Could they rearrange their schedules?" the Doctor asked. "Have one chap cover two time clock schedules?"
"Impossible. One man walks a route inside the buildings. Another walks a route along the outsides of each building in the compound. The third man walks the inner fence area and the ingress roads. There can be no doubling of their punch schedules. One person could not maintain two time clocks." And the Brigadier shot Liz a look of satisfied triumph for having proved his case.
"Then perhaps others were involved. But the personnel at the plant had been guilty of high-handed tactics," Liz said. "The accusation has some credibility."
"Yes, it certainly does." He leaned back again in his chair. "Doctor, you're assigned to review the autopsy reports on the bodies. Let's see if there's any evidence that these chaps were actually thrown onto that particular fence. If not, find out what actually happened to them." He looked up at her. "And Miss Shaw, as you seem quite recovered, I want you to get out to the TSRG site. We'll give you a driver and staff car. Investigate the site itself---"
"After what she's been through?" the Doctor asked. "Liz is highly qualified at forensics. She should follow up on the bodies. I should visit the plant."
Liz didn't like the idea of a journey, but the Brig seldom gave her a long lead. She liked the idea of being able to work at a distance from him, where she would not be put on the telephones or assigned to act as assistant to the Doctor. "I'll be fine, especially if I have a driver," she said.
"It's not safe," the Doctor said.
"Utter nonsense!" And the Brigadier straightened up. "She is a Cambridge scientist. Not even a part of UNIT at all, not officially. She's ideal. She shall appear as an impartial third party." He made his voice coldly polite. "You would accomplish nothing except to offend everybody, Doctor. As you always do."
The time lord sat down, mouth open. "I'll have you know, I have carried out highly delicate diplomatic operations on more planets than you could view with a good telescope."
"We can't view any planets with a telescope," Liz told him.
He was startled. "You can't? What year is this?"
The Brigadier cut in. "Look, never mind. If you want this emergency to be brought under control and dealt with, get to your assignments. Miss Shaw, I'll lay on a car for you and arrange for your introduction. It's a long drive to TSRG. You'll have plenty of time to review their mission statement and organizational charts."
* * * *
Outside, the temperature had crept within ten degrees of the freezing mark. A white, heatless winter sun shed cold light across the frost rimed ground and hedges. A half dozen police officers, trying not to blow on their gloved hands in the cold, walked back and forth in front of the crowd to keep them back and allow a way for cars in and out of the main gate. Behind the closed gate, the UNIT soldiers still stood at the ready, dressed as Regular Army under padded chest protectors, but their rifles had been replaced with heavily padded riot truncheons and fiberglass shields.
Jimmy Munro, bundled into a heavy army-issued parka, entered the small guard house. Its walls were enclosed, reinforced glass from waist-level to ceiling. He had an excellent view of the crowd.
"All quiet?" he asked Sgt. Benton.
Benton sat in a position to watch the crowd as steadily as it watched him. "They've gotten pretty quiet the last ten minutes or so."
"Probably from seeing some of their lot hauled off in paddy wagons or dragged in our gates," Munro said.
"If you say so, sir."
Munro was surprised at Benton's caution and unease. "What do you think they're about?"
"I think they're getting ready to rush us," the big sergeant said.
"Why would they rush us?"
Benton would not so much as look away from the crowd. "I'm not sure. But I think this lot's far more organized than they let on. At least, some of them are. This whole thing seems planned. It's all too well timed."
"Look at those coppers," Munro said. "They don't seem concerned."
Indeed, the police seemed far more concerned about the cold than the crowd. Munro watched the crowd for a long moment, then picked up the telephone. "I'll tell the lads to stay ready."
* * * *
"So what you're saying, Brigadier, is that you want me to maintain a highly visible presence at this TSRG place as an investigator, ask a lot of questions, and then report that all is well." And Liz, now seated at the table, folded her arms across her chest. "Even if all is not well."
"It is imperative that we get these protestors away from our own gates, Miss Shaw," he told her. "We can investigate TSRG as thoroughly as you like over the long term, but for the moment our main goal has to be the calming of public fears and the easing of public scrutiny." He glanced from her to the Doctor. "For your sakes as well as for UNIT's."
She became indignant. "What do you mean for our sakes?"
"You're both highly valuable commodities. Any government would be glad enough to get its hands on you for the information you've gained after your experiences here. So if you want to live the lives that you've chosen for yourselves, you must ensure that those experiences are never forced out into the open. Especially you, Doctor. An enquiry into exactly who you are and what your history with UNIT has been could turn you into the property of whatever government should happen to get possession of you."
Anger flashed across the Doctor's lined face. "You and I have an agreement---"
"Yes, that I house you and provide you a lab. But if I am discredited or forced to take a fall, then you will be out in the cold." His eyes locked with the Doctor's as they all sensed how precariously the timelord was placed. "And there are wolves at the door, Doctor."
The Doctor glanced at Liz. "So if UNIT is forced to disclose its activities---"
Lethbridge Stewart spoke before she could. "We will not be able to hide you. And demands for a full investigation into UNIT will result in a full enquiry into the man who has spearheaded so many of our strategies and innovative methods!" The Brigadier let this sink in, and then he added, "And the first item to be confiscated for investigation will be that TARDIS of yours!"
Subdued, the Doctor glanced at Liz. "We'd better do as he says, Liz."
"What do you mean, we?" she snapped. "I'm a British citizen, too. With loyalties to this country and to those people!"
"What, the people who were killed?" the Brigadier asked. "Do you think I have no loyalties to them? I'm not willing to sacrifice them. We'll get to the bottom of this! But we must get those protestors away from our gates!"
The intercom beeped, and he scooped it up. Before he could speak, somebody obviously spoke to him. The Brig rattled out a series of orders: "Lock down the second floor and all outlying buildings at once. Start pushing them out with whatever you have. No weapons fire. Use counter-riot tactics. Get them cleared out of this building." He glanced swiftly at his two advisors and stated what they had already deduced. "It's turned into a riot---"
"You mean a well-coordinated rush if they've succeeded in getting into this building," the Doctor snapped. "These aren't ragtag protestors! They're following a plan."
As though reminded of a greater urgency, the Brig spoke into the phone. "Lock down the labs. Those are highest priority. Contain the intruders and push them out." He slammed down the receiver and quickly punched up an extension.
"Who are you calling?" Liz asked.
"The motor pool. We can get out through the rear of this building and cross the back drive to get there. I'll escort you myself. I want you on your way to TSRG without delay."
* * * *
Getting to the rear of the building, as it turned out, was difficult. The lifts had been shut down. The Doctor grumbled about "all this nonsense" and disappeared back into the conference room, unwilling to get into fisticuffs or a highly visible confrontation with what he now considered obstreperous riffraff. The very suggestion that these people might end his cozy arrangement with UNIT had suddenly made him quite reluctant to rely on his own bravado.
The Brigadier quickly ushered her towards the little-used narrow steps that had once been the service stairs. This stairway was unheated and seldom used. As she might have predicted, he had a key. It took some work in the ancient lock, but at last she heard a loud snap as he worked the key. Then he pushed the door open, and she saw a narrow, wooden stairway that had been built either in the previous century or at the dawn of this one.
She found herself hurried down the stairs with him. From the other side of the walls around them, they could hear people shouting and cursing and the soldiers struggling with them and ordering them out. Alarms were sounding. As they descended past a narrow window on a tiny corner landing, a yell from outside went up. A rock bounced off the glass, and then a second rock crashed through it. Glass shards were flung across the landing and across the nearest steps. The Brigadier seized her arm to stop her, and they both pressed flat against the wall and waited.
"So much for the secret stairs," she muttered.
But the rabble, though they had taken the soldiers by surprise with a determined rush on the grounds, could not match the expertise of a militia. Within moments, the shouting in the building became more distant, and the outcry outside became louder as the protestors were pushed out. At last they heard the sound of police sirens. Then, audible especially from the broken window, the shouts of Jimmy Munro, Benton, and other experienced men called to each other. They had organized the UNIT people and were now outflanking the intruders in an orderly push.
Clearly, UNIT had re-gained control. After another sixty seconds of silent waiting against the wall, the Brigadier said, "Well, that's done then. We'd better hurry."
* * * * *
And so, twenty minutes later, Liz Shaw found herself in the back seat of yet another unmarked staff car, her coat and gloves left behind and replaced with bulkier UNIT garb in case she needed it. But her over night case had been stowed in the staff car and now sat at her feet. Boyd was driving again, but she was in no mood to be sociable, so she sat silently, glowering at the state of things. They exited the UNIT grounds by the back gate, a distant, desolate exit far enough from the buildings and major traffic routes to be unremarkable and unnoticed.
Meanwhile, at the main gate, two more paddy wagons were lumbering off, and police in riot gear alongside UNIT soldiers who wore Regular army uniforms were keeping a score of people on their faces on the ground, hands spread. The others were dispersing. The young lad from the canteen had shown his pass and been let out on his bicycle, with many friendly warnings from the UNIT soldiers to be careful. But he was not bothered and was soon out of sight of the sentries. He swiftly took several turns across busy intersections. The black staff car, speeding away from London, rushed past him. He navigated his way past busy streets to narrower city lanes crowded with small offices and a few shops.
At last he pulled up in front of a pub, locked his bicycle, and entered. In spite of the early morning hour, the door was unlocked, and another man sat at the bar, nursing along a cup of hot tea.
"All right?" he asked.
"Got it." And the young man pulled out a folder from his wool coat. They opened it and spread it before themselves on the bar top.
"Elizabeth Shaw," the older man said. "Pretty thing."
"But I think she might not actually be part of UNIT," the youth said.
"If they've got a folder on her, she's a part of UNIT," the older man assured him.
* * * *
Gradually, Liz realized that Cpl. Boyd was trained for situations like this. He was a specialist, and his specialty was getting people transported into and out of explosive situations. On the drive north, even as the city gave way to quieter scenery, he deliberately chose secondary roads. And he spoke frequently over the staff car's telephone, which provided a direct link to UNIT. He was setting up accommodations for her.
She didn't know how to be courteous with him. And she didn't want him to make things easy for her.
"The TSRG scientists live on site for six weeks at a time," he told her. "Highly compressed schedules. They say there's no room for you on site if you plan to stay overnight."
"Of course I shall have to stay overnight," she snapped. "It will be noon before we arrive. I shall stay at any bed and breakfast or at a pub if I can find one."
"I'll see to that for you," he said.
"Yes, all right."
"These research facilities always have a couple guest apartments," he added. "They're deliberately keeping you off site, Mum."
The fact that he had advised her without having been consulted went by her unnoticed. "They must not like being investigated," she said. "Sometimes people are ill-mannered to make a point."
"Keeping you out from any after-hours conversations might also be their way of safeguarding themselves."
This insightful comment sparked her curiosity. "What do you know about TSRG?"
"The authoritarian approach of their security measures may be beside the point," he said. "I mean, if you look at it from a strategic analysis angle, you've still got several dead locals, a convenient electrified fence to take the blame, and a ready mob of villagers who may just close the place down."
Now her curiosity was piqued. "I don't follow you."
"If you think about all of these items as the cause of one thing and the result of another, then you can see a few possible endings." He didn't take his eyes off the road, and he spoke with quiet ease. "The dead villagers cause the fence to be blamed, so the TSRG security force is accused of brutality. The idea that the security people killed villagers for trespassing will surely infuriate local people for miles around. The fury of the local people, once they've been whipped up to enough rage, will surely draw unwelcome attention to TSRG and close it down, forcing it to shut down its experiments and destroy any traceability of what it worked on and discovered while it was using that particular research site."
"I think that's what the local people would want," she told him, her voice uncertain. "Are you saying all of this has been a deliberate plan to destroy whatever TSRG has been developing?"
"Not to destroy any weapon they have developed. Just to destroy any evidence." He lifted his eyes to the rear view mirror to meet her eyes. "If TSRG is shut down because of the brutality of its security force, it can then destroy evidence of its on-site research without anybody noticing."
"You mean TSRG itself is creating this turmoil over its security people?"
"I'm saying that's a possible conclusion of many possible conclusions, Mum," he told her. "Those local people who stormed UNIT today behaved like a trained army. And they're poor people overall. So who financed them to come down to London and stage this protest?"
For a moment they were both silent as she took this in.
"It's not the only possible conclusion," he told her. "But it's one possible conclusion."
"That somebody at TSRG has done all of this---created the disturbances, implanted an agent to whip up the local people and train them to be effective protestors, all to close down TSRG?"
"Those farmers and semi-skilled trades people have obviously been organized and trained over a very short period of time," he said.
"Who are you?" she asked.
Now he afforded her the briefest smile and a second glance in the rear view mirror. "Corporal Boyd, and that's the honest truth, Professor Shaw. But in my other life, before I came on to UNIT, I was an information coordinator for NATO Security."
"You're from NATO on assignment with UNIT?"
"Officially, I'm just a driver. But a very good one. I've been ordered to stay close by you, as this is considered a high-risk assignment for you. I think you would do well to let me stay nearby."
"Yes, I will. But why have you been so direct with me?" For Liz realized that Boyd was still a NATO agent who had slipped into UNIT, under orders. The free world was spying on the free world. Oddly enough, she found this comforting.
He gave another short grin. "Because I know you're going to dash off on your own. I don't think that would be very wise. We don't know what these people have been told about you, and we don't know what will happen if you are perceived as a threat to whatever operation is underweigh."
"Aren't you worried that I'll tell the Brigadier about your background with NATO security?"
"I intend to tell him myself once you make your report to the public and I make mine to my superiors."
She realized with a slight jolt that he was doing surveillance work---not just on the integrity of UNIT---but on TSRG as well.
"What can you tell me about TSRG?" she asked.
"Nothing. I'm authorized to report only to my lead at NATO. But I can advise you to let me stay close by and do the job that UNIT has assigned me to do."
"Yes, all right. I will." She realized that in his friendly, informative way, he had actually reined her in and even put her in her place much more thoroughly than she had done with him by being snappish. She regretted her bad mood, for suddenly she liked him. He wasn't doubtful about where his duty lay, and he shared her distrust of this entire situation.
* * * *
"Well Doctor, what have you found?" the Brigadier asked.
The Doctor looked up in annoyance at UNIT's commanding officer. "You don't give a fellow much time, do you?" he asked. His workbench, normally cluttered with small heaps of jury-rigged diagnostic devices for his TARDIS had been cleaned off and now displayed several stacks of papers and folders, all in orderly rows. This was a bad sign. It told the Brigadier that the Doctor had not done very much.
"How's the riot going?" the Doctor asked.
"Cleared off for now. We're still at Security Level Three. Haven't you looked at any of these autopsy reports?" Lethbridge Stewart demanded.
"The photographs were quite enough for a start." The Doctor opened up one folder and slid an array of large black and white photographs of a male victim.
"Look at that gut wound," the Brigadier murmured. "Is that from electricity?"
"Yes and no," the Doctor told him. "It's not from an electrified fence. I can tell you that much. I suppose all those bodies are in the ground by now."
"Certainly. They were killed over a span of several months. And some of them resided in rural areas somewhat distant from TSRG. I mean, 25-30 miles."
The Doctor was skeptical. "Not all that distant."
"Well pretty distant for them to be trespassing on TSRG property!" The Brigadier folded his arms. "Yet they were all found near the outer fence area. I mean, at different points, but always near the fence."
"What sort of weaponry do these TSRG security forces carry?" the Doctor asked.
"No Tasers? No shock-type stun guns?"
Lethbridge Stewart cocked an eyebrow. "Doctor, please be serious. This is not science fiction."
This exasperated the time lord. "I know that, Brigadier. Nevertheless, you have got victims here who died from some type of electrical discharge----"
"But not the fence? How do you know?"
The Doctor nodded down at the pictures. "Because you wouldn't get such a charring on every victim. And every victim has at least one enormous burn mark---"
"When electricity arcs---"
"Yes yes, I know. Discharge patterns can vary. But you'll see that these don't. You could never toss four different people onto an electrified fence and get this type of burn mark each time. In fact, you wouldn't be likely to get it if you tried it a million times. Whatever caused a high voltage to discharge through these people, it was designed to discharge into a target. It was focused. Something was meant to go through them, I think. Only, the density of their bodies seems to have caused a great inefficiency in the energy discharge that hit them. That's why the scorching and charring are so severe on the bodies."
Intrigued, the Brigadier leaned against one of the cabinets and folded his arms. "Doctor, energy discharge was attempted as a weapon during both world wars. No matter how the weapon is engineered, it always comes out too dangerous to the people using it and too ineffective over all."
"Yes," the Doctor murmured. "Time will make a difference." He glanced at the Brigadier. "If those people lived too far away to be trespassing, then what were they doing there?"
* * * * *
"Not a very cheerful place," Boyd observed as they drove up to a checkpoint at the third fenced perimeter.
The drive from fenced perimeter to fenced perimeter had been barren: a narrow strip of road between a flat expanse of tough grass that stood half bent under a seemingly endless wind. Even snow would not have cheered up the desolate landscape, Liz thought.
But in the central zone, the buildings, stark and clumsy, might have been prison barracks as well as a research facility. At UNIT, the roof leaked in places, the pipes banged on cold days, and the canteen personnel served up everybody's favorite of Shepherd's Pie on really cold or very wet days. But the mechanics at the garage lent equipment to the Doctor for his Bessy, and even Liz herself had given six white rats intended for lab use to the six squads, so that each could train one for races against the others. They had their jokes and their habits and their traditions.
This place, she thought, had none of that. She had assumed that a NATO research facility would be state of the art, but TSRG was nothing more than old brick buildings and a few heavy windows.
"Used to be an airplane facility," Boyd said. "See how long and narrow the main building is? That's where they put them together. You're to meet Doctors LeFranq and Schepansky. I'll escort you to your welcoming committee," he told her.
This bit of news startled her. "Not Renee Schepansky?"
He was driving slowly, looking for a place to park, but all the curb sides had red cones or enormous "NO PARKING HERE" signs blocking the way. He afforded her a quick glance in the rear view mirror. "Yes, Dr. Renee Schepansky."
For a moment Liz said nothing as her mind raced back to her first few years in a graduate program. There were two of them who had red hair, and both of them had been considered quite attractive, though at the time Liz had not paid any attention. But she remembered Renee Schepansky as a person always wandering from place to place: looking for somebody to tell her how to do things, looking for someone to help her figure out a problem, looking for someone to feel sorry for her, looking for someone to give her a leg up when it was clear she was never going to do well on an exam. One of Liz's own teachers, in a moment of social blundering before a few of his favorite students, had once asked himself out loud, "How did Schepansky ever get into university in the first place?"
And one of her colleagues had rejoined, "I often wonder how she finds her way here each morning." This had evoked quite a laugh from the other fellows and a sober reprimand from their professor. No more jokes had been made in public at Renee Schepansky's expense, but everybody knew that everybody else knew that she would never get a graduate degree. She was hopeless.
Yet here she was, doing research for NATO.
"Dr. Schepansky is an American, I believe," Boyd said. He at last selected a spot hemmed in by red cones and gently eased the staff car right over them, crushing one or two and sending several others rolling about.
"Yes, from New York. Quite a strong accent."
"She's an automation wizard. She and Dr. LeFranq. They're the leads on the automation weaponry research team, and Dr. LeFranq serves as liaison with the public, with Dr. Schepansky assisting her.
No wonder the locals hate them, Liz thought. She had no confidence in Dr. Schepansky, but she hoped that perhaps Dr. Franq would be a more perceptive and intelligent contact.
* * * * *
"What? You again? Have you found anything?" the Brigadier asked as the Doctor entered the Brigadier's office.
"Yes and no," the Doctor said. "The problem is that the pathologists didn't know what to look for, so they didn't check what I would have checked. But I have seen enough incidental information in the reports to know that I must speak with the pathologists. I'm off now to meet with one of them."
"I'll just ring through and tell the front gate you're on your way out. Do you want a driver?"
"No, of course not. I look far too eccentric to be a part of UNIT. Just one other thing---" And the Doctor put a finger to his lips in a gesture he had when he was trying to sound casual about something that worried him.
Lethbridge Stewart shot him a startled, serious look from under his eyebrows. "Yes? What?"
"You know the High Council of the Timelords has damaged my memory, Brigadier."
"Yes, you've certainly whinged about it enough."
The Doctor didn't even bother to make a retort. He passed the back of his hand across his forehead. "Before. When the boy was with me---"
"I seem to remember them. They fired at us, and there was radiation all over the planet. Dreadful radiation."
The Brigadier shook his head. "No, not here, Doctor. Not anything UNIT had a part in."
"Weren't they in the sewers? Didn't they make contact with a power-mad fellow who was quite rich?"
Recognition dawned. "We had something like that. You called them Cybermen. Nothing about radiation, though. Anyway, not that I ever knew, not on the surface of this planet."
"I can't remember. I can't get it straight."
"Have the Cybermen come back?" the Brigadier asked. "I thought we'd given them a sound thrashing."
"The what?" the Doctor asked. "Who?"
"Cybermen. That's what you called them."
"No, I've reviewed the case file on the Cybermen. It brought my memories back. I'm getting it all confused. Wasn't there another attack, not on earth?"
"I don't know. UNIT doesn't know anything about what you've done out there, Doctor. Are we in danger of more of your little green men?"
The Doctor seemed to clear his head. He became resolute. "Hardly. No indications whatsoever of any type of landing force or extra-terrestrial agents." Then he became almost apologetic. "Not an idea to take seriously at present. It's not likely, anyway. I'll be back in a couple hours."
* * * *
The guard at the final checkpoint had given them directions to follow once they got inside the main building, but Corporal Boyd was quite lost, and so was Liz. She wasn't even sure that they were in the proper building at all. Apparently several buildings were all hooked together and yet each section went by its original building code. So you could go into Building 314 and wander right into Building 312 and not know it because you never exited one building to enter the other.
They walked up and down hallways for a long time, following patterns of room numbers that led to other patterns of room numbers that had nothing to do with the numbering system.
At last as all the upper level floors seemed exhausted they found a dark stairway that seemed to lead into a basement area. If she'd been by herself, Liz would not have ventured down. But Cpl. Boyd, frustrated by the systematic heedlessness of the place, led the way, and she followed. After all, she thought, the Doctor's lab was the nicest lab at UNIT, and it was in the basement.
This was clearly a mistake, for after several paces down a dark and slippery basement floor, they smelled the unmistakable aroma of old food and cleansing materials.
"It's the larder!" he exclaimed.
She found herself staring at an enormous reinforced steel door. "Want to see what's for supper?"
"Why not? I hope there's not a stack of dead villagers in there!" And he pulled the door open. The interior was pitch black and cool but not frigid.
She reached in, felt a switch, and turned on a string of electric bulbs.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, startled, for instead of a neat array of canned and wrapped foods, she found herself staring at row after row of carcasses. "It's pigs. Hogs."
"What hit them?" he asked.
"They've been gutted for butchering. Bled out. I suppose that's why the smell isn't that bad." She glanced at him.
"No look, beyond the first few.," he said. "Go in. The door opens from the inside as well. We can't be locked in."
She shot a glance at the door to make sure, but it was as he said.
They entered, and then she saw what had seized his attention at once. All of the carcasses had been skinned, an unusual procedure in the butchering of hogs. And several were badly damaged---forelegs blown off with massive scorch marks visible on the flesh. Several had their heads missing. But Liz's analytical gaze could not make sense of several of the wounds.
"This isn't from a conventional blast," she said. "Not this one. Look at this." And she called him over to one of the carcasses. Half its head was gone, obliterated by something that had left seared flesh behind. But something hard, almost chitinous, was embedded in the stump of leg remaining. This hard shield ran into the chest area and then disappeared.
"Perhaps it was born malformed," he said.
But as she drew nearer to one of the intact hogs, which hung head downward, she saw that its belly, slit open and the entrails removed as though for conventional butchering, was charred. She new it was risky, but her curiosity got the best of her. She thrust her hand into the gaping hole.
"This wound was caused by a knife," she said after a moment. "Typical of a butcher's first cut after slaughter."
"You shouldn't touch it," he said. "It could be diseased."
"I don't smell disease." She felt inside the body cavity. "The bones are like cardboard. And there's more. I need a good light."
He helped her turn the carcass so that the light from the bare bulbs shone on it, but this was not much of an improvement. She had to carefully finger the interior of the cavity. "The flesh is leathery---like skin but inside the animal. And then it feels like raw flesh again. No, there are irregularities. He was silent as she continued the inspection. "Almost like nodules that I can feel--small and pea-sized. They seem to hold some type of fluid."
She withdrew her hand and moved to another animal. The light was bad for a close examination. He helped her turn it and steady it to the best advantage under the light. She squinted at the blast wound that had opened its chest. "Somebody's got into it ahead of us with a knife," she said. "Let's see if they left anything behind." And she inserted two fingers into the slit. The pressure of the bones and flesh prevented her from widening the entry wound. "It's like---" She hesitated. "This is soft tissue---organ tissue, embedded or interwoven into the flesh of the muscle."
"What's that mean?"
"It shouldn't be there."
She straightened up. Boyd passed her his handkerchief, and she carefully wiped her hands on it. "These animals were either horribly diseased or---"
"Well, as for this one and that one, somehow their internal organs were blown right into the flesh without coming out through any type of exit hole---everything scrambled internally."
They looked at each other. "Which ever it is--" he began. "--an infectious disease or some type of blast--there's no weapon like that registered with NATO security for development."
"We cannot be certain what caused this. Not without a proper examination and analysis." She nodded at the entire array of carcasses. "There's plenty of residual scorching."
"They may have been infected," he said. "Perhaps charred to halt he spread of some new disease beign developed here."
She glanced up, aware that he was worried about exposure. "No, Corporal Boyd. They are not diseased. These wounds are from trauma. There's very little decay of the flesh, as is consistent with healthy hogs that are slaughtered and then refrigerated." she said. "Whoever has killed them wouldn't keep them unsecured if they were diseased with an experimental biological weapon." She glanced at the nearest carcass and traced a scorch pattern that fanned out from the blast wound on it. "There is some sort of residual pattern from whatever was done to it."
"We'd better get out of here," he said.
But just then a voice called, "Who's in there?" The door to the meat locker swung open.
I appreciate comments from readers. Please tell me what worked for you in the story and what did not work. Did any part move too slowly? Was the story hard to get into? Were any of the characters not true to the television series? I appreciate all input.