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
"Yes that was very clever, you sending Liz up to TSRG with orders to say everything is all right," the Doctor said. "You know perfectly well I would have done so at once."
Lethbridge Stewart looked up at him in cold amazement. "You? I know no such thing." They were in his office, conferring on the means of getting the information on the electrocution victims. "You never do what you're told."
"To protect my standing at UNIT, I would have," the Doctor said. "I'm not about to let a mob of protestors invade my privacy here. But Liz, as you know full well, will not. She's going to make a report in good conscience, and you know it."
The Brigadier leaned back in his chair and surveyed the Doctor across the broad desk. "She has her orders, Doctor. It's up to her to obey them."
"And if she doesn't?"
"If she should report in good conscience and contrary to my orders that things are amiss at TSRG, then she will have earned for herself a temporary post at TSRG as an onsite observer. She shall have nobody to blame but herself."
"Thereby making her dependent on you to get her out of there---"
"And thus much more cooperative," the Brigadier said. "I must rely on what is dependable, Doctor. I want a toe hold in TSRG. Sending Liz Shaw up there with orders to report all is well was the surest way to get her to make the commitment to stay on there and look into things. She'll do very well."
The Doctor hesitated. Then he asked, "What if there's any danger to her?"
"She has Corporal Boyd with her. And we can be up there within a couple hours. Besides, with half the countryside from up there protesting in front of the UNIT gates, I cannot imagine who is left to be a danger to her."
* * * *
Liz found herself edging behind Cpl. Boyd as the door opened. But the young corporal made his face bland and slightly annoyed as he faced whoever had found them.
A security guard entered, gun in hand, and Liz was surprised to see the black jumpsuit, black protective vest, and huge sidearm. He looked like a storm trooper, she thought.
"What are you doing here?" he asked. He had the automatic pistol pointed up, and not at them. But he was poised and ready.
"Is the larder off limits?" Boyd asked. "We're lost because that tomfool of a security guard at the gate gave us bad directions."
"We're the team from UNIT," Liz said. "Doctors LeFranq and Schepansky are expecting us, and we've been wandering these halls for the last quarter hour."
Still staring at them, the shaven headed man pulled out a small radio with his free hand and spoke into it, his voice too low to be articulate.
He apparently received confirmation, for his manner became less guarded. He holstered the weapon, but as he slipped the radio back into his belt, he said, "There's more obvious places for meetings than a meat locker."
"Certainly. We got lost, so we decided to take a tour. We're a little surprised that you slaughter your own pork," Boyd said.
"This is farm country, mate. Easier and better to smoke it yourselves. We have lots of little projects like that out here. Care to see the bee hives?"
"No, we would prefer to find the conference room," Liz said.
"This way, then." He paused long enough to look them up and down, and then he led them out.
Liz was grateful for the sense of Cpl. Boyd alongside her as they followed the guard.
* * * *
"Yes, I was called in as a consultant for one of the TSRG incidents," Swain told the Doctor. Swain remained behind his desk, seated, keeping it like a barricade between himself and his oddly dressed visitor. He did not offer the Doctor a chair. But though his manner revealed some unconscious defensiveness, his voice was calm and professional. "It was puzzling. I finally had to settle on torture."
"Torture?" the Doctor asked.
"Extensive charring caused by the repeated application of some electrified device. Perhaps a cattle-prod, super charged. Finally amid a dozen shocking blows, one of the blows delivered a deadly electrocution. Thus the victim sustained shallow burns spread over the skin that did not penetrate far through the layers of skin. But there was one powerful touch that delivered a deadly electrocution."
"How closely did you examine the abdomen--internally, I mean," the Doctor said. "The stomach, spleen, liver, intestines, and lungs. Did you get a good look at them?"
"I had a technician take samples, certainly. You may read my report," Swain said. "My conclusion was electrocution---death by extremely high voltage. The heart was stopped. There was no need for further investigation."
"There was every need for further investigation!" the Doctor snapped. "With no signs of ropes or handcuffs? No defensive wounds? What made you think the victim would suffer several electric jolts without defending himself? There was no struggle. So the victim was not struck repeatedly. It was one massive jolt---a single blow delivered unexpectedly to the victim."
This cool dismissal raised the Doctor's ire. "You sir, are a closed-minded fool!" he exclaimed. "Have you any information at all on the site where the body was found?"
"Outside the fencing at the TSRG site, Doctor. Why don't you take your ill-tempered conclusions to them? They may be more concerned with your opinions than I am."
The Doctor seldom got as good as he gave, and for a moment Swain' complete dismissal of him forced him to reconsider his approach. "I am asking you to think of other reasons that the victim may have suffered such charring. You had the closest availability of the body. Only you can offer clues on what may have happened."
Swain, a pale and balding man with spectacles halfway down his nose, glanced up at the Doctor in the way a man uses when he shows that he is now getting back to work. He hunched over the papers on his desk and took up a pen. "I have given you my conclusion, Doctor. You may check the documented information yourself."
"There's not enough of it," the Doctor said. "But I'll tell you this, your conclusion is wrong, sir. And your failure to thoroughly examine the entire organism after you'd made your judgement was a grievous error."
"Yes, well don't forget to close the door on your way out."
* * * * *
Their uniformed escort led Liz and Boyd through walkways too numerous to count. Liz realized that they had passed through one of the connecting hallways that joined two buildings. At one point the security man stopped and passed a card across a reading device, and as they advanced beyond it, she thought that a strobe flashed over them. Boyd noticed too, for his eyes flicked upward, but neither of them spoke.
They turned a corner, and suddenly the corridor before them had a wider look, with wood paneled walls and potted plants that stood like amiable sentries every twenty paces or so. The doors had no locks on them and were flimsier than the sturdy, reinforced doors they had passed on their route.
"The front parlour," Boyd murmured. She gave a slight nod. Obviously, guests were received here.
The security man opened a door without knocking. His face now more bland and less suspicious of them, he stepped aside and gestured that they should enter. They did. Liz noticed the room number: 314-3C. It made no sense in terms of the other room numbers, but it made for a handy reference in this maze of rooms and hallways. A long conference table stretched down the middle of the room, and two women sat at it, one on either side.
"This is Professor Shaw and her driver," the security man said. "I found them downstairs." His voice put a slight emphasis on the last word."
"This is Cpl. Boyd," Liz corrected, and she made her voice both haughty and annoyed. "He is my liaison officer with UNIT."
Boyd's face showed no change at her deception. He simply glanced at the two women at the table with a brief, direct look for each of them. They both wore lab coats and had safety glasses hung round their necks. One had red hair, and one had dark hair.
The dark haired woman stood. "I am Dr. LeFranq, and this is my associate, Dr. Schepansky." Liz had already recognized the red haired scientist as her former research peer.
"It's a pleasure to see you again, Dr. Schepansky," she said, with a formality that belied the cordial words. "I lost track of you after I completed my fellowship." This was a slight jab to get information, for Liz had finished on schedule, and Schepansky had been on an extension at the time Liz had left. It didn't work.
"Very pleased to see you," Schepansky said in that New York accent that could slice bread. But her tone was downright sulky, and her eyes were worried and suspicious. She offered no information on when--or if--she had completed her graduate study.
LeFranq interjected herself smoothly into the quick looks back and forth between the two women. "How nice that you two have met. Dr. Schepansky has been ably assisting me on research here. We're very concerned about the publicity that TSRG has generated, Professor Shaw." She flicked quick eyes at Boyd, and Liz saw a hint of great caution. "But I was not told about your liaison."
"My assignment to come here was unexpected and rapidly arranged," Liz said, while Boyd maintained a stony silence and kept an even gaze on Dr. LeFranq.
Schepansky spoke up in that grating accent. "Sending an uncleared person is a black mark on UNIT's record for not informing us. We don't have to let either of you in here, now."
"I beg your pardon?" And Liz cocked an eyebrow.
"Are you working for the free world or are you not, Dr. Schepansky?" Boyd asked. "We are, and we assumed you are, too."
"Please do not become adversarial, Corporal," Dr. LeFranq said. "Of course we will admit you into our research facilities if UNIT has determined that Professor Shaw requires an escort." Her tone of voice hinted that all of this was ridiculous, and the sooner they took their tour, the better. She turned to her associate. "Dr. Schepansky, will you please make certain that the labeling machine is ready for any samples that they procure?"
"Certainly," And after shooting a morose glance at both Liz and Boyd, the red-haired American left. Liz wondered if Boyd realized the irony of this last command and the incongruity of Schepansky's willingness to carry it out. In front of a peer, Dr. LeFranq had ordered Schepansky to do something that normally the lowest level lab techs took care of. Yet Schepansky had not evidenced surprise, nor had she taken the command as a rebuke. She had simply hurried out to carry out the order.
"Dr. Schepansky has a wide variety of responsibilities," LeFranq said as she read the flicker of surprise that crossed Liz's face. "Some of them quite sophisticated. But we often have to make due on a limited budget. Follow me, if you please. You may take notes, ask questions, or even record your tour. We would like to lay all suspicions to rest as soon as possible. I will try to be thorough." And with a smile, she led them out.
They had to journey through more long hallways, passing doors that were numbered according to the meaningless numbering scheme. Boyd risked a side glance at Liz. They exchanged looks, and he deliberately cocked an eyebrow and offered a quick smile, a hint to her that he thought LeFranq was hiding something. Then he made his expression bland and looked ahead.
LeFranq led them swiftly, a single pace ahead of them. She was not really an attractive woman, Liz thought. She seemed to be older than Liz by about five or ten years, and her brown hair, though soft to look at, was thin. She wore it pulled back in an untidy knot that was not quite loose and full enough to appear graceful and artless, and not tight and even enough to appear tidy. Given that she had a round, white, moon-like face, the effect was not flattering. Her eyes, Liz had noticed, were doe-like and pretty. But now they flitted sharply from side to side as she walked ahead of them, as though she thought it necessary to keep her visitors in her sites.
But she walked like a military commander, and as her figure was also round at the middle, soft, and just a little out of shape with approaching middle age, the swift steps and rigidly upright posture did not work for her, either.
"Here we are," Dr. LeFranq said at last, and she stopped before double doors that were gray. She passed a magnetic card across a card reader, and the doors swung open.
"This is the sound frequency distribution, research area" she said. "We have been trying to correlate sound wave penetration with material resistances."
"Determining coefficients?" Liz asked.
Dr. LeFranq ducked her eyes for a moment. "Precisely. What remarkable acumen." And her voice was soft, but Boyd glanced at Liz again. Their hostess was annoyed with Liz's perceptiveness.
Liz made her tone pragmatic. "It stands to reason that sound waves will never be made effective until we can create better algorithms for target structures. A good coefficient system would create an easy table of reference for operators of any weapons that use sound wave bursts." She frowned. "I thought this type of research had been discarded a few years ago."
"Only officially," LeFranq said. "The research continues."
"Do you ever test sound waves outside this area?" Boyd asked.
"Once or twice at NASA, but that went unreported. We fired bursts of sound wave clusters into space and measured their rate of dispersion."
He made his voice neutral. "I see."
She let them wander around the research area, which was a square room equipped with covered, sound proofed "hoods" in the corners. A long, gleaming computer ran along one wall, and there were a few workbenches set up, cluttered with side rules and papers. Most of the research, she realized, was calculations, and the hoods were probably used to fine tune frequency-generating circuits for prototypes.
"If you're ready?" Dr. LeFranq asked, and Liz and Cpl. Boyd both nodded.
They were led to more labs: laser research predominated, but that was to be expected, for the sudden explosion of transistor technology had opened the door to solid state weaponry, and lasers were the first and most accessible possibility for solid state. But there were small research groups still tracking biological weapons: not so much for offense, but presenting means for a good defense if the Russians should violate the Geneva convention. Another research group fascinated Boyd, for they specialized in the analysis of household and industrial products that could be quickly converted to explosives or gas bombs.
It was a long afternoon, with no break for tea. But at last, at 5:30, LeFranq led them back to conference room 314-3C .
"You'll have supper with us, of course," she said in her pleasant voice, but it was not a request. "And then there will be the television press conference. It will be broadcast locally and in London, per your Brigadier's orders. It shouldn't last longer than five or ten minutes. He doesn't want it to appear too important."
"No, of course not," Liz said.
Dr. LeFranq now let her boredom show as she glanced quite openly at her wristwatch. "Well it has been a long day indeed, and I must validate the daily reports, even though I have nothing of substance to contribute. I have the list of samples you requested, and Dr. Schepansky will see to their proper sealing and packaging. Dinner is at seven. Dr. Schepansky will come and get you. I'll see you then." And she exited.
Boyd folded his arms and leaned against one of the cushioned chairs. "Well I like that. What are we supposed to do for an hour and a half?"
"Be uncomfortable and feel out of place, I assume," Liz told him.
"We could go down to that meat locker," he said. "And take a second look at those hog carcasses."
"You may not realize this, Corporal, but we're not in the same conference room where we first met Dr. LeFranq."
Startled, he straightened up and looked around. The arrangement was identical, but Liz's swift and analytical gaze had picked out the subtle differences of one too many chairs in the room and a telephone connector pulled out from the wall. She looked at the upholstery on the cushions of the straight back chairs. "It's a different pattern, too," she said.
He hurried past her and went out into the hallway. He looked up and down the carpeted hallway. "The plants are wrong," he said. "Wrong type."
"An experienced eye would know the difference, but I'm sure the majority of visitors would never notice. We cannot retrace our steps to the meat locker because we do not know where we are."
He looked at her with an expression of concern. "What do you make of this, Professor Shaw?"
"We still have to get lodging for the night," she said.
"There's a telephone in there." He nodded to the conference room's interior. "I'll see to things, but it won't be convenient. It will take a while."
Yes, all right." She sighed and shot a rueful gaze down the hallway.
* * * *
When the Doctor next met with Lethbridge Stewart in the Brig's office, the time lord was more serious about the entire situation. "I think the first pathology reports were cursory," he said. "And I think the pathologist review had to find something explicable. Hence, the electrocution theory. There was charring; the bodies were found just outside the electrified fence at TSRG, and acute cause of death could be ascribed to heart failure, which is the typical cause of death in electrocution."
"You're saying it wasn't electrocution?" the Brigadier asked. "Then what was it?"
"Well that's the difficulty," the Doctor told him. He rubbed the back of his neck. "The bodies have been buried. If we dig them up, you'll have another riot on your hands. Those villagers will be back. And there's no guarantee that we'll be able to make a clear diagnosis from decomposed bodies."
"What killed them? Get to the point, man!"
"I'm not sure. I'm still looking at existing samples under a microscope. Incredible damage to human tissue---"
"I would assume as much from electrocution."
"Not that kind of damage. I mean an alteration of the biology of the human tissue. Human tissue that could no longer sustain human life---as though they'd been shot full of cancer or shot full of genetic mutations."
"But the charring makes no sense!" And the Doctor began to pace. He seemed to be talking to himself.
"Doctor, I'm sure that radiation can cause charring. And it mutates human cells."
"What's that? Who said anything about radiation?" And the Doctor stared at him, puzzled and annoyed. "They certainly didn't die of radiation. What utter nonsense." Then, quite suddenly, he snapped his fingers. "Radiation! Of course!"
"Look, could you please tell me what you're talking about?" the Brigadier asked.
"A radiation signature. Radiation didn't kill them, but there may be residual radiation on the bodies---nothing harmful, just a leftover from whatever powered the blast that killed them. I can get a reading to tell me one way or another."
"So we will have to exhume the bodies." And the Brigadier looked at him.
"What? Oh no, the tissue samples taken by the pathologists might be enough. I've got to go see to it. Thank you Brigadier. You were very helpful, for once." And the Doctor hurried out.
* * * *
Over the telephone in the conference room, Boyd at last was able to negotiate rooms for them at a pub in the closest town. He cradled the telephone with a sigh of relief. "We drove past the outer edge of the community on our way in," he told her. "Used to be just another village with a green, but with the population increase from TSRG, it's grown a bit beyond that. But it's still got the look and feel of a quaint little place."
"Telephones and televisions?" she asked.
He lifted both eyebrows. "Even indoor plumbing. What a treat."
By now they were both sitting in the deserted room. They had forty-five minutes to go until dinner. "How does such a pretty woman come across as so homely?" he asked all of a sudden.
"Do you mean Dr. LeFranq?"
"No! Schepansky!" He cocked his head. "Milk white skin, flowing red hair, eyes like ebony, yet homely as a hamster."
"Corporal!" Her eyes flashed at him.
"Just being candid with my only ally for a hundred miles or so." He waited to see if her indignation would abate. As it seemed to, he added, "It's pretty obvious that you don't think much of her, and she's very jealous of you. What's your history? How did she end up here?"
"I have no idea how she got here, Corporal." Liz tried to make her voice sound objective.
"Why don't you tell me what you really think."
Liz bristled slightly. "Because I have no wish to be petty."
"I'm not asking based on pettiness," he said. "Look, LeFranq treats Schepansky like a hired hand, not like an accredited scientist. How do you rate Schepansky?"
Liz searched for words and then said, "She was not a promising candidate in graduate school."
"Do you think she truly is a qualified research scientist?" Now his eyes were dark and intense.
"As for the degree, it can be done, even by those who lack the qualifications. I'm sorry to say that all the usual loopholes and shortcuts can still be used: money, charm---"
"Yes, all levels of charm," he added quickly.
"Quite." The idea that women had entered the field of science by sleeping their way to degrees had been raised by a few protestors to Liz's own swift rise to prominence in her field. But she had never even taken such hints seriously enough to be angered by them. She was brilliant, and she knew she was brilliant.
"But how did she get on at TSRG?" he asked. He threw a speculative glance at the door. "You don't suppose that LeFranq and Schepansky---"
"Corporal, that's quite enough. This is not furthering your investigation."
"I apologize," he said instantly. "You're right. What remains, apart from all speculation, is that Dr. Schepansky behaves as a person with no expectation of being treated as a senior scientist, and Dr. LeFranq does not treat her as one, even though Dr. Schepansky has the title of senior scientist."
"Does that really matter?" Liz asked.
"Everything matters when four people are dead, and you and I are being led around in a maze, Professor Shaw," he told her.
"I don't see how commenting on the beauty or homeliness of a scientist furthers the investigation."
"Because she should be beautiful, but that mask---her face is a mask," he said. "A really tense mask."
"Certainly if she's incompetent, she has every reason to be tense." But Liz heeded the import of his words and realized that the laconic Boyd was quite observant and highly analytical. Dr. Schepansky was not what she pretended to be, and yet Dr. LeFranq knew this and had raised no objections. She openly used Dr. Schepansky as mere technician and personal assistant.
"The Brig expects you to say it's all right," he reminded her.
"I can hardly raise a public objection on the grounds that Dr. Schepansky ought to be both qualified and attractive and is neither."
"If you say it's all right, we lose a leg to stand on."
"He promised an investigation regardless."
"Which TSRG will hinder and delay." Boyd's face and voice were bland, but his eyes intent.
She let out her breath. "Corporal, we really must get public focus off of UNIT."
"Certainly. Let's re-focus it on TSRG."
She shook her head. "I have my orders."
Just then, the ungracious Dr. Schepansky entered without knocking. She fixed her two dark eyes on Liz and spoke as though Boyd did not exist. "We have thirty minutes until dinner. You'll want to freshen up and meet the others." This was not a request, nor was it stated with a cordial tone.
"Lead on, Commander," Boyd said as they stood. Liz flashed him a look, not cross, but warning him to take a light hand.
* * * *
At UNIT HQ, the Brigadier was just sitting down to a belated cup of tea in his office when Cpl Bell entered, her broad face perplexed and troubled. She so rarely came without being called that the Brigadier gave her his full attention at once.
"Yes Corporal? Is something wrong?"
"The files, sir," she told him. "When I was allowed back into the file room after the intruders were cleared out, I suspected that the security of the room had been breached---"
"You've assessed the secured files?" he asked.
"Oh yes. Everything in there was undisturbed. In fact, I couldn't find anything out of place. Until just now."
"And?" He looked at her expectantly.
"Scientific personnel, sir. The files are sectioned off according to who had access to which lab area. The files are never cross-filed. I'm very careful."
"Missing information and its folder was cross-filed. The personnel file folder for Professor Shaw was mis-filed in the wrong place in the drawer." She held up the file folder and let it open so that the front cover dangled down. "Empty. All of her information is missing."
"Oh, that's just what we need." He stood up, tea forgotten. "Start the Security Breach and Threat Procedure. Disable all her clearances at once, and re-key the locks for all areas accessible to her." He plucked up the telephone and spoke into he receiver. "Get me in contact with Cpl. Boyd." Then he glanced at Cpl. Bell. "I want a detail sent to her residence at once. They are to occupy and guard her flat. Send somebody from ordnance out there first to do a thorough check."
"Right away, sir." And she hurried out just as the Doctor strode in.
"What's wrong now?" the Doctor asked.
"Miss Shaw's personnel file has been stolen. That entire riot this morning was a diversion. They stormed the gates to get us focused on the doors and sensitive areas. They've picked her out, and now they've got detailed information on her."
The Doctor crinkled his brow. "Then you've got an inside person here at UNIT helping them. Someone who knew just where to go."
"Yes, thank you Doctor. I am so glad you tell me what I already know. Perhaps now you've done that, you'll tell me what I don't know!" He came from around his desk and took up his hat.
"You're going after her?"
"I am indeed. She knows too much, and this situation has not yet been resolved to my satisfaction. If there's some type of determined attempt to harm her or kidnap her, Boyd will not be adequate to protect her. You'll stay here and check those radiation traces?"
"Yes of course."
"Right then. See you later." And he strode out.
The Doctor noticed the cup of tea, untouched, on the desktop. "Oh, how very thoughtful!" He glanced at the clock and then took up the tea.
* * * *
Dinner in the dining hall of the research facility was not bad at all. In fact, it was much nicer than anything the UNIT ancillary services could have provided. The dining hall itself was furnished with several long tables, beautifully laid out with china and crystal. The other members dressed in ties and coats for the meal, and Liz's more casual attire stood out, as did Boyd's uniform. But Liz had learned long ago that she was attractive enough to be welcomed by her colleagues if she became charming, so she felt much less self conscious than, perhaps, LeFranq had intended. LeFranq herself ate with her own colleagues a few tables away. Dr. Schepansky was assigned to hostess the two visitors. At this task, Schepansky was a wash-out. She made introductions all around to those alongside Professor Shaw and Cpl. Boyd, and then she kept her mouth closed. But she had her morose eyes fixed on Liz for most of the meal.
The food itself---beef and not pork---and mountains of potatoes as well as individual puddings, invited all sorts of excess. But Liz held back, as did her associate. They still had work to do, and it could turn into a very long night. It was better not to overeat. But the coffee afterward, velvety black and wonderfully bitter with only slight acidity, consoled her. Liz loved good coffee, and she seldom got it. She enjoyed two cups while she and the scientists at the table discussed square wave formation and the possibilities for rectifying signals. Boyd might have been bored, but she realized that he was smiling most of the time. He behaved as though it was all very interesting, though he said little. Dr. Schepansky said nothing at all.
Finally, Dr. LeFranq stood and crossed to them. "It's nearly time for the press conference," she said.
"All right then. Are you ready Corporal?" Liz asked.
She stood and thanked everybody for their conversation. Then she and Boyd followed the TSRG scientist out.
A windowed reception area that looked out over the car park, had been strung with lights for the television cameras. A long table draped with brown cloth had been set up to accommodate the people who would speak. Boyd declined makeup when one of the crew approached him. "I'm just here to watch," he told her.
Liz accepted a dusting of powder and then took her place in the center of the table with LeFranq on one side of her and a man named Redbird---the head of the TSRG site---on her other side.
The glare of the lights was bright, and she didn't know where to look until Dr. LeFranq pointed to the sound man. "Just keep your eyes on him," she directed. Liz nodded.
Dr. LeFranq had said the report should be only five to ten minutes. Yet after the Major Redbird said a few words, it was LeFranq herself who belabored the reasons for the press conference. She also carried out a minute assessment of Liz's own credentials as a Cambridge scientist, and while the assessment seemed positive, it included a lot of phrases like "even though Professor Shaw does not do real work in the field," and "the physics with which Professor is so well acquainted is, of course, class room physics and not the specialized field of defense weaponry physics." So that it actually questioned the rationale for sending Liz Shaw out in the first place.
During this long introduction, Liz was able to focus her eyes better in the glare, and she looked around. Boyd, she realized, was gone. She kept her face impassive and tried not to let her gaze be too obvious as LeFranq kept talking, but as Liz surveyed the room, she realized that he was definitely gone.
There was a sudden silence, and she realized that the floor had now been given to her. Liz quickly gathered her thoughts and spoke into the microphone before her. "It is fair to say that an afternoon tour of a facility as large as TSRG can hardly do credit to the amazing array of research projects being conducted here. I am truly honored to have been selected for this inspection. While I can say that the projects that I have seen here are being carried out in compliance with international law and are in the best interests of the Free World, I must also report that many of my questions remain unanswered."
The gasp from LeFranq was audible and undisguised. Both cameras focused in on Liz as everybody realized that she had stunned her hosts. Liz continued her statement. "I must advise my countrymen that I am in sympathy with them in their concern over this research establishment. And I call for a wider and more in-depth investigation of this research facility by British authorities. Thank you."
The television lights suddenly clicked off at a signal from the sound man. Black-clad TSRG security men immediately stepped forward from the two adjacent hallways and began to urge the television crews to hurry and leave. There would be no questions allowed, Liz thought.
LeFranq turned to her, the huge dark eyes in the moon face livid with hostility. "How dare you! We were promised that you would express support for us!"
Liz stood up, and saw---to her relief---that Boyd had returned in time to hear the last bit of her report. She spoke to Dr. LeFranq. "I never promised you any such thing," she said. "I am not satisfied." She looked up. "Corporal! Escort me out, will you? Before our TSRG friends see to it themselves?"
"Stop where you are!" Dr. LeFranq exclaimed. And Liz saw, to her concern, that the black clad security men rushed over at LeFranq's tone of voice and took up positions at either side of the table. The sound man had been hurriedly disconnecting microphones and packing them into a foam-lined case. He set this down on the table top and quickly clipped a lead back onto the one remaining microphone on the table.
Corporal Boyd said nothing but stepped up to the table.
"Do you think we don't know that you and this Corporal took an unauthorized visit into that food locker?" LeFranq asked her.
"Yes, and we found hog carcasses," Liz said.
"You disregarded your orders and proper protocol and invaded a sterile area---"
"A meat locker?" she asked.
One of the camera men settled his camera back onto his shoulder. LeFranq realized that she was caught. The broadcast message was live. She could not order the security men to take the cameras or do anything rash.
She took in her breath and then abruptly turned. "This meeting is over. You will clear this site!" As she turned, she swept the microphone case off the table. The case fell onto Liz's foot, and she tried to leap back. She fell against the table.
Corporal Boyd pushed aside the security men and helped her.
"No it's all right," she said. "I won't give her the satisfaction of seeing me hurt." And she straightened up.
* * * *
Boyd was smiling, but his eyes had a look in them that worried Liz. Something was wrong. Nevertheless, he guided her through the throng of television crew in an effort to keep her away from the TSRG personnel. They found themselves in the coat room where they had first entered, and he quickly helped her into the army parka. He already had his driving gloves on, and he quickly slipped into his jacket.
"Quick," he said to her, and he ushered her out to the car. At last they had a minute to speak unobserved. The night was dark and the wind high. Most of the security men were following after the television crew, who had parked their vehicles further up the narrow entrance road.
"What's wrong?" she asked him.
"I'm in a bit of pain," he told her. "It's not bad. I don't want to panic you, all right?"
"All right, but you needn't worry that I'll panic." And she made her voice cold. She was surprised he would even think such a thing.
"I know you're brave," he said quickly to allay her resentment. "I backtracked to the dining hall and followed Dr. Schepansky. She went into a lab area we haven't seen. More like an electronics workshop than a lab. Oscilloscopes and what looked like geology equipment, too. For measuring density---"
"Dr. Schepansky went into a supply area, and while she was in there, I knew I had to get back to you. So I opened up this thing that looked like an incubator. But there were metal disks inside it. About half a dozen. So I nicked one."
They had reached the car. He opened the back door for her and then, before she slid inside, he pulled off his left glove.
A metal disk, slightly raised in the center, sat on his palm. But even in the uneven light caused by the floodlights outside the buildings, Liz could see that vein-like wires from the disk had burrowed into his hand.
"It's still growing," he said. "It's taking root in my hand."
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.