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
Even though her eyes were open, and she was conscious---at least on some level---Liz was drawn into the pageant of memories as the Doctor himself recovered what had been forgotten to him. The collage of images made more sense to him than to her, but she understood some of it.
The overwhelming image was one of colossal suffering and hopelessness, as though a tragic error had become a fact, as though the very thing that could undo the universe had become the living reality of the universe. She saw some images of his memories only briefly---disjointed images of the living and the dead. And other pieces ran like long tracks, like stories. Yet they came at the speed of thought, and so it was less than a minute later when her mind cleared, and she found him looking down at her. His eyes were hollowed by the grief that had come back to him, and yet his face was resolute from the sadness, not beaten by it.
But he was suddenly, oddly vulnerable as he watched her come back to awareness of the present. She had seen some of the most horrible and tragic moments of his life, and he knew that she knew. For a moment they only looked at each other as the footsteps kept walking.
The two security men and whoever or whatever had been with them had moved on. A moment later a TSRG van drove past on the main street. But neither she nor the Doctor moved.
"All those people," she whispered.
"Dead." His eyes were hollow and unreadable, his voice subdued. It was as though that bold, bright confidence of his had flickered too low to be seen.
The memories, which had amazed her, had also stunned him. For now he knew them again. She hesitated for only an instant and then lifted her hand and timidly stroked the side of his face, just once. She wasn’t sure that she, or anybody, could comfort him or even comprehend what he had seen. But she tried. "You're not alone," she told him. "I can help you; perhaps offer more than anybody yet. I understand more. Don't I?"
The uncertainty in her voice recalled him. "Yes Liz. Yes." And then he held her, and she held onto him, as it had been done dozens of times before when these dreadful creatures called Daleks had been killing and claiming and killing some more. They lived on the extermination of others.
The overpowering directive from his mind that had latched onto hers completely receded. After a moment, his shock passed, and the grief dwindled to something he could control. She could no longer see his mind. But she realized that he was far more than she had ever allowed herself to guess, more long lived, more passionate to protect the innocent, more wily and freedom loving and happy than these hateful creatures called Daleks had ever been able to calculate. And more skillful, even though they had made him suffer.
"You really are---a timelord," she whispered. It was the only word for him, and now she understood it far more.
He tightened his arms, and an expression of genuine humility and tenderness filled his eyes. "Just the Doctor, Liz. That's good enough."
She nodded, her face against his soft jacket, accepting his wishes. She still felt overwhelmed, and so did he. But after a moment he made his voice more resolute.
"Come on." The brisk tone dispelled some of the aura of mystery and horrible grandeur. Then he helped her to her feet, but he kept his warm, heavy cape around her. "I think you must be all in, Liz. Have you hurt yourself?"
She made herself return to the world as she understood it. She made her tone rueful. "Dr, LeFranq 'accidentally' pushed a box onto my foot. I'm worried about Corporal Boyd."
"Is he guarding your retreat?"
"Yes, back at the pub."
"All right, come on then."
Now her foot hurt very much, but more because of the tightness of the shoe than because of the weight she put onto it. He let her lean on him, but it was still slow going. And as he helped her along, she once again felt that wonder of having seen into his memories. He made his voice and manner light. "You're not going to like it if I carry you back to that pub."
"No." But her voice was small and uncertain. She suddenly felt very shy with him. He was actually a bold and ingenious freedom fighter---like a war hero. The enormity of the tragedies that he'd encountered, and the tremendous evil that he dreaded and yet refused to submit to left her feeling quite chastened. She suddenly didn't know how to talk to him.
"Well if you're not going to make any greater fuss than that----" And he abruptly swept her up off her feet. "Now we'll make good time." He strode up the street with her towards the pub. She still didn't know what to say.
"You're not going soft on me, are you Liz?" he asked.
"No, not at all." But her voice still had the quality of great uncertainty. Humility, she knew, was unbecoming to her, in his opinion. The Doctor believed that scientists ought to continually advertise how smart they were, as that was the only way to get what they wanted. Bullying and boasting, he believed, were like sidearms. One never used them indiscriminately, but it was good to keep them charged up, ready, and prominently displayed.
He said no more. He swiftly carried her up the street to the public house, which was now crowded in front with a police van, several UNIT vehicles, and an ambulance. A small knot of gesticulating men were discussing something with great energy as they approached. Then the Brigadier's voice, sharp and clear, cut through the chatter.
"Good Heavens! Professor Shaw! What's happened to her!" He disengaged himself from his argument with the police constable and the pub owner and ran to meet them.
The Doctor ignored this question. "Lethbridge Stewart! Enough of this nonsense. We must get to TSRG right away."
"Miss Shaw, are you all right?" the Brigadier asked.
The Doctor, brusque and impatient, answered for her. "She'll be all right. Get some ice on that foot. Here." And he passed her right into the Brigadier's arms. The Brigadier, startled, stepped back to catch his balance and was suddenly embarrassed. He saw Boyd as Boyd ran up to meet her. "Corporal Boyd!" he snapped. "You were charged with seeing to Miss Shaw! See to your duty, man!" And he thrust Liz at Cpl Boyd. Boyd caught her and took her.
"Would you please stop passing me around!" Liz exclaimed. "I can stand up. I need someone to lean on, that's all."
Cpl. Boyd gently let her feet back to the ground, mindful of the injured foot. But now it hurt quite a lot. As for him, he had already been seen to by the ambulance personnel. His knuckles were wrapped in tape, and his left eye had been reddened by a fist. His lower lip was split on one side.
"You all right?" she asked.
"Right enough. The room is a tip. Everything's smashed. I'll give you my quarters."
The Doctor spoke, his voice urgent. "Patch up the foot as best you can. We've got to get out to TSRG."
"TSRG is under lockdown, Doctor," the Brigadier told him. "They went to high alert status as soon as the power failed. Nobody can get in, and nobody can get out."
"High alert is reserved for hostile intruders," the time lord protested. And Liz spoke up, "That power suppression was not an attack against TSRG. It came from them. They're doing something in there that even NATO doesn't know about."
"We are powerless to enter until they give the all clear," the Brigadier told them. "I cannot over ride their measures unless you can show me proof that they created the power blackout."
The Doctor sighed in resignation. He churned up his thick hair with his hand as he tried to think of any way to get past international protocol. At last he shook his head.
Liz was too tired to keep trying to fight without rest. "Let it go until tomorrow," she said. "They've got something--some type of prototype that we saw---"
"Liz!" the Doctor barked. And like a physical wave that swept over her, she was struck silent. It passed after a moment, but she stared at him. That same directive of fear and dread had leaped from him to her, compelling silence. He held her eye for a moment. Then he made his voice quiet. "We saw several TSRG security guards in one of the side lanes. They may have been transporting something dangerous. Perhaps the Brigadier and I should go take a look."
The Brigadier missed any subtle exchanges between his two scientists. "Whatever you say, Doctor. Cpl. Boyd, please see to Professor Shaw. I'll assign a soldier with a rifle to guard her door. No more raids tonight."
* * * *
Boyd and another soldier quickly moved Liz's bag, a soldier's kit bag, and the other luggage to the smaller room down the hall. Though nearly as large as the front bedroom, these quarters were more spartan. A single bed, unadorned except for sheets and blankets, faced an old fireplace whose chimney had been cemented closed. A lumpy, aged easy chair had a station by the room's narrow window. The two men brought in the deal table and ladder-back chairs from the front room and set them near the old easy chair.
While the other soldier took his place outside the door, Boyd left and shortly returned with a basin of hot water and a small bowl of ice. Apart from some clean undergarments and the silk thermals she'd brought, Liz had only the clothes that she was wearing. She was far too tired to mind sleeping in what she had worn that day, but she knew that her garments would be in no state to be worn come morning. She would need something fresh for the new day.
She sat on the edge of the bed with her shoe off while Boyd immersed her injured foot into the steaming water.
"These emergency assignments are all very well," she said. "But I cannot represent UNIT with any credibility if I show up at TSRG tomorrow looking like the Little Match Girl. I need some clothes. Nothing special, just something clean and in good repair."
"I'll see if I can't find you something," he said. "The landlord's probably got some spares and left-behinds."
"Will you see to that tonight?"
"I'll see to it right now if you'll keep that foot in the hot water for ten minutes before you ice it."
"Yes, I do think I know how to care for an injured foot, Corporal!" She frowned at him.
He looked up at her and grinned, then went out. Liz sighed and settled back as far as she could. Her mind raced over the images she had seen in the Doctor's memories. Another idiosyncrasy of the time lord was that he was always quite careful to tell her about all the important historical figures he had known, but he seldom mentioned the people he had traveled with and known day to day in his long life before being exiled to earth. Liz would have attributed this neglect to the Doctor's incredible ego, but now she knew that the memories of these people were always with him---as much as his impaired recollection would allow. In fact, she understood that when he would have given up his struggle against these Daleks as being hopeless, the deaths of his friends had prevented him from doing so. He could not let go what he had seen others suffer.
A knock roused her from her thoughts. Boyd entered with a small stack of clothes. "Clean and mended," he said. He set the clothing on the table and then knelt down and lifted her foot from the basin.
"Well, it's bruised all right. No matter what we do now, it will be stiff come morning." He glanced up at her.
"We'll ice it and then let it rest," she told him.
His method of first aid involved a vigorous cold rub with the ice over the entire foot but especially on the bruised and swollen instep. It would have been painful except that the ice numbed everything so thoroughly. But even with the ice, the injury twinged several times as he worked. She tried to think of something to engage her mind. With a slight start, she realized what they had to do. "Corporal, can you do one more thing tonight?"
"Get in touch with UNIT's Information Service. Find out where Doctors LeFranq and Schepansky have come from." She hesitated. "I'm certain, that for Schepansky at least, there had to be a place in the interim between university and here."
Still pushing hard with his thumbs into the top of her foot, he glanced up at her. "Would it matter?"
"I'm certain that neither of them is clever enough to---" She caught herself. She did not want to talk about that odd, machine-like thing that had prompted such fear in the Doctor. "Neither of them is clever enough to suppress power in such a wide field. That facility does not have the energy resources for a conventional assault on power lines, and they are not equal to the task of innovation. Perhaps they are using borrowed technology."
"We ought to tell the Doctor and the Brig about those hogs."
"Yes, first thing in the morning. They're out looking over the village right now."
He finally finished with the foot. The swelling was down, and the purple bruise was less brilliant and shiny. "Wrap it up?" he asked.
"No, let's let the blood circulate through there for a few hours. Come morning we may have to ice it and wrap it so that I'll be able to walk on it."
He nodded. "I'll get right on that information that you want."
"Thank you, Corporal. Good night."
He said good night and took out the basin and bowl, but his eyes were slightly rueful. As far as he was concerned, the beginnings of a friendship had been interrupted by that power outage. She was too tired to think about it, and she prepared for bed.
As soon as the lights were out and she had bundled down under the heavy blankets, she became more aware of the sounds of soldiers in the cold darkness outside. They were still investigating all that had happened---the power outage, the rioters who had seemed directed to come after her, the lightning-like flashes across the sky. It made for a certain unending clamour, but the sound of male voices on the street below exchanging reports and talking on radios was comforting. Normally Liz disapproved of UNIT's high handedness, but now she was glad they had commandeered the public house. She wanted to feel protected.
A tugging and pulling on her foot brought her back from a jumbled dream of something silvery and metallic that spoke in a grating voice. "Find them! Find them!" it ordered, and other metal shapes glided off in all directions. Just as she was certain that the faceless swivel-head would turn and see her, the tugging on her foot brought her back to reality.
She opened her eyes and saw the Doctor at the other end of her bed. He had pulled the covers off of her foot and was examining it. "I can't see anything wrong with this foot," he said. He sounded annoyed.
"You're looking at the wrong foot! What do you want, anyway? Cpl. Boyd looked after it. I want to sleep," she said.
Heedless of her, he tucked in the good foot, for the room was chilly, and uncovered the injured limb.
"It's just after four," he told her. "You're not going to sleep late, are you?" He nodded at sight of the swollen foot and pushed up the covers over her shin so that she couldn't see exactly what he was doing.
"Four? Four in the morning?" she asked. She got up on her elbows. He'd turned on the light, but the window was still dark.
"Yes, four in the morning. It's high time you were up." Then he jabbed something into the top of her foot. Before she could shout at him, he gave a quick turn to whatever he had inserted into the instep, and the pain radiated and then faded. He continued to work, and she felt several small stabs that were not bad at all. The radiating sensation went up into her shin, almost to her knee at one point, and then faded away. But when she tried to wiggle her toes, the pain was excruciating. She gasped and fell back.
"I didn't say to move anything!" he snapped. "Just let the needles work. Keep the toes still. You humans and your toes!"
She recovered from the unexpected bit of pain. "You've got toes too, haven't you?"
"Yes, to help me with my balance. I don't wiggle them. There's no rational reason to wiggle toes. Not anywhere in the universe!"
"It's a human signal to tell people to slog off!" And in spite of the pain, she wiggled her toes at him for a moment. This annoyance with the Doctor was more to her liking. The awe had been getting in her way.
"Look, it will take twenty minutes for the acupuncture to make the swelling to go down, and the pain to fade a bit," he told her. "You can doze all you like between now and then. But we need to get to TSRG as soon as the gates are open. And they open at six."
"Why first thing?" she asked.
"Because they won't be prepared first thing. So whatever they're hiding will be easier to find."
She fell back onto the pillows and closed her eyes, careful to remember not to move her foot.
"What did you find yesterday on site?" he asked. "What incensed Dr. LeFranq enough to push a box onto your foot?"
"My call for an investigation incensed her," Liz said, eyes still closed. "I thought I was allowed to sleep until the needles come out."
"Oh very well!" And she heard him plump himself down into the lopsided easy chair. But Liz, though she closed her eyes, knew that she would not go back to sleep.
"What are those Daleks, Doctor? Are they robots?" she asked, eyes closed.
He didn't answer. After a moment, she opened her eyes and looked at him. His eyes were pensive. His face seemed more lined and tired now.
"Well?" she asked.
"No, they're not robots, Liz. They come from a race remarkably like your own race, on a planet called Skaro. The Daleks are super-mutated creatures. Their natural bodies have been minimized to allow for an expanded brain that is capable of bonding to a self-containment unit."
He shrugged. "You're familiar with Process Logic Controllers?"
"Yes, of course. Most factory automation uses controller systems."
"Yes, well, the Daleks actually have a simple access system to run their housing units. A few implanted logic circuits embedded directly into their sensory receptors can detect high and low signals that trigger responses in their robotic armor and the attached automation."
"So they're just armor-plated mobile people," she said. "Why are you so afraid of them?"
"They're not just armor-plated mobile people," he told her. "They're far worse. They're powerful, and they're unpredictable."
"But so were the Cybermen, and you defeated them. And the Nestenes were horrible. Horrible and terrifying, and we defeated them together."
"Liz," and once again she could hear the resignation in his voice. "The Cybermen wanted to take over humanity and turn everybody into cyber-people. There's actually a certain misguided logic in that. As ruthless as they were, they shared certain common ideas with us. Cybermen don't seed planets with biological agents that kill all life. They've put themselves so far outside of human experience that they no longer are able to invent the truly horrible ideas that Daleks think up----like murder children to bring the adults into line, or publicly torture prisoners as examples, or just decide that an entire race should be terminated because they'll consume too many raw materials over a given amount of time."
"But the Nestenes would have done those things."
"Yes, but the Nestenes were inefficient in form. The Nestenes are so different from us that they have not yet been able to find a proper medium with which to attack us." He threw one foot over his knee. "Mind you, I think the Nestenes and the Cybermen are perfectly dreadful. I hope never to meet up with them again. But gold will kill a Cyberman, and that makes them vulnerable. And inexperience will halt the Nestenes if they should try to attack again." He saw that she viewed his explanation as mere academics. He scowled at her. She scowled back.
He tried again. "Look," he said. "Cybermen want to extend the human race by whatever means they require, even if that involves killing off part of the species. And Nestenes want to extend their own race by whatever means they require. But Daleks want to destroy all other races unless they have a good reason to keep one or two races alive in order to be made into slaves. And the Daleks will keep improving themselves based on shrewd calculations." He knit his eyebrows.
"How?" she asked. "Improve themselves how?"
"Well, they're already immune to just about any viral or bacterial agent that will kill humans. And they withstand changes in temperature and changes in air pressure pretty well. And they can filter out most particulates from the air they take in---and it isn't much, by the way---so it's impossible to poison them. Most explosions have no effect on them." He glanced around the room. "Our natural environment can easily compromise our strength, but the Daleks are pretty good in any environment. Any earth environment where cities have been built, anyway."
He let out his breath. "And they keep improving their casings and their ability to read their environments. If you brought up a bazooka against one of them, it'd shoot you down before you could fire off a round. And even if you did fire off a round, you might knock the Dalek back a few feet, but you wouldn't hurt it otherwise."
"What would it shoot you with?" she asked.
"One of its appendages is a gun that it can fire at will. A nasty piece of work that's been banned by the inter-galactic community."
She sat up on her elbows. "An appendage that joins directly into its arm?"
"Well, in a manner of speaking. The fact is, the Dalek arm is mechanical and joins directly into its biological matrix."
"Boyd found something at TSRG," she said. "We thought it was some sort of killing device that would harm him. But now I think it's what you're describing: a connector the acts as an interface between something biological and something mechanical." And she described the disk that had latched into Boyd's hand.
The Doctor knit his eyebrows in doubt as she finished her description.
"I don't know," he said. "I mean, it does sound like a bio-mechanical interface. But the Daleks protect their technology with fanatical secrecy. I cannot imagine them handing over the cornerstone of their own interface system to human beings."
"Perhaps it's a gambit, a trinket to throw at TSRG until these Daleks can get a foot in the door and then wipe out everybody---TSRG with the rest of humanity. Then they can take their technology back with no losses."
"Hmmm." He sounded doubtful. "I've never heard of Daleks taking a risk with anything they actually valued. We'll see. I'll take a look at it once my equipment is transported up here."
"What does their personal weaponry do?" she asked. "What's the action?"
"The Dalek gun fires a very dense energy signal in a type of slug or packet. The energy slug is so powerful and yet so contained that it immediately converts all matter that it touches to energy and then back again in about a thousandths of a second. Nothing is effected but the target. One blast is effective enough to distort your guts and make a fatal mess of your insides. The energy slug displaces everything it touches for that same fraction of a second. So there's no hope of recovering from a shot if it hits you anywhere on your torso."
A look of horror crossed her eyes. He looked at her sharply, but she asked, "So if they shot you in the gut---"
"If I were shot by a Dalek gun, it would blow my stomach, some rib material, and part of my digestive tract as raw energy into my kidneys and spine, and everything would rematerialize in a fusion of organ material, bone, and muscle."
"Get these pins out of my foot!" she exclaimed. "Quick! And find me some tea or coffee while I change, will you? We've got to get moving. We've got to get to TSRG before they clean out that meat locker!"
It was a sudden reverse to have Liz Shaw ordering the Doctor about, but the time lord swiftly removed the sewing needles he had used for improvised acupuncture, and he left to find an abbreviated breakfast for her while she got into her borrowed clothes.
* * * *
One of the rare pleasant aspects of riding in the Doctor's vintage Edwardian roadster was that it negotiated the roughest terrain with hardly a disruption of the passengers inside the vehicle. So Liz could safely gulp down hot tea in an open, army-issue billy can as the Doctor sped them towards the TSRG gates. The Doctor drove like a man possessed over the rough road, but the tea never sloshed.
"You may as well slow down!" she called over the rushing air. "We'll have to wait for the UNIT team at the gates, anyway." The pre-dawn air was well below freezing, and she was thankful for the thermal undergarments she had donned, as well as the heavy UNIT parka and the gauntlet-type gloves. The tea was nearly scalding, just as she liked it.
Unexpectedly obliging, the Doctor cut the speed. "Tell me what you saw in greater detail," he said. "I mean those hog carcasses."
"It was as you described," she said. "One of the animals had its foreleg---the bone I mean---flattened almost to a sort of shield and splashed up into the flesh of the shoulder. I had thought at first that it was a genetic defect, or perhaps the result of a biological agent."
"That sounds like the effects of a Dalek gun," he said.
"But it wasn't exactly as you described. I mean, the scorching, for one thing. All of the slain animals were pretty well scorched around the wound sites. And some looked like they'd been hit by a flame thrower." She hesitated, and he finished the thought for her. "Just like some of the human victims," he said. "Scorched very badly, with a visible burn to show entry of some type of slug of energy."
"But you said the Dalek weaponry leaves no mark."
"Well, there is such a thing as blossoming."
She turned to him, but he kept his eyes on the road. The light was rising. She could see him now, better than when they had started out. He was squinting into the wind as he drove, but she sensed that it was that same fear that urged him onward. Whatever these Daleks were, he feared them with almost unreasoning dread. "Blossoming?" she asked.
"Happens in laser dispersion, too. There's a slight error in the frequency-a displacement as the energy meets the surface of the target. The energy beam gets slightly out of phase with itself, and there's a range of frequency created that distorts the purity of the signal. So most of the energy beam goes into the target as designed, but a small percent blossoms out and is less effective. It penetrates to a shallow level and may only char the flesh like a flame or electrical arc would do."
"A couple of the hogs had half their heads or parts of their limbs blown off-and all charred too. But the stumps showed that same hard fusion of body tissues."
"Severe blossoming," he said. "Somebody hardly knows what they're about, and they've been using hogs for target practice to see how to adjust their signal on transmission." And suddenly he seemed more assured, as though a new thought had struck him, a realization that things might not be so bad.
"They've been using human beings, too!" Liz exclaimed.
"Yes, but we're on to them now, Liz."
"We need evidence."
"It's waiting for us there. I'm sure they've got plenty of prototypes stashed away. Not to mention the hogs."
She shook her head. "I'm sure they've gotten those carcasses safely hidden or destroyed."
"Several tons of hog carcasses? I don't know where."
But she threw her gaze out over the bleak, barren landscape and the rough grasses. Anywhere, she thought.
* * * *
The guard station at the front perimeter gate was already occupied when they drove up to it and stopped, but neither of the uniformed men inside came out to inquire of them. Liz passed her tea to the Doctor and shared it with him while they waited. Normally, she would have expected him to bluster and bully his way through the gate, but the gravity of the situation had prompted him to wait for UNIT. The very fact that he was cautious dismayed her.
But he effected an air of leonine indolence and leaned back with the steaming billy can. He stared at the guard shack with indifferent interest. She folded her arms and experimentally wiggled her toes inside her shoes. His impromptu acupuncture had brought the foot almost back to normal.
Their wait was brief. Within minutes, she heard the rumble of UNIT vehicles approaching from behind. The cold sky was brightening further, and the guard shack switched off its interior lamps as the day arrived. Frost lay over the tops of the grasses nearby.
Coming from behind the UNIT convoy of jeeps and the staff car, an army lorry recklessly passed the vehicles and hurtled towards them.
"Who the dickens is that?" the Doctor asked.
"Cpl. Boyd." She took the tea from him and helped herself to a drink from it.
"He drives like a lunatic!"
"He drives like you, Doctor." She made her voice lofty.
Before he could think of a retort, the lorry skidded to a stop alongside them, and Cpl. Boyd thrust his head from the driver's side window. "A courier is on its way with information packets on the two scientists!" he called to her. "Do you want to come with me? We can meet the courier halfway and cut off an hour or two if you read the information while I drive."
"Yes. That's best," she said. She glanced at the Doctor. The rest of the vehicles pulled in, and the soldiers exited. The guards in the guard shack stared out at them and spoke swiftly on their telephones. Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, a hint of a frown on his face, approached.
"What was that all about, Corporal?" he asked.
"In a hurry to get some information from a courier sir," Boyd told him. "I thought I'd better ask Professor Shaw if she wanted to come with. Might save time."
Lethbridge Stewart glanced at her. "Well Miss Shaw?"
"Yes, if we meet the courier halfway, I can call ahead to you with any pertinent information."
The Doctor became contrary. "I need Liz here to show us around."
But Liz protested. "Doctor, if the hogs have not been hidden up until now, there's no hiding them in the interval between your walk from here to the kitchen!"
The Brigadier made a decision. "Yes, I think I'd like Miss Shaw out of here. We cannot afford to have her perceived as a part of a UNIT raid on this place."
"Well, draw us a map to the kitchen larder first," the Doctor snapped.
* * * *
A few minutes later, the Doctor, the Brigadier, several UNIT soldiers, two of the TSRG guards, and an indignant Dr. LeFranq walked down the dim basement hallway towards the meat locker.
"I hardly zought Professor Shaw was ze type to be carried away by za sight of hog carcassez!" LeFranq exclaimed in her terrible accent.
"I don't believe it either, madam; therefore I thought it most prudent to check her observations," the Brigadier said, his voice firm.
"I have no idea if ze carcasses are still there or not. Ze kitchen staff is who you should talk to, and zey won't be here until ten. You might have spared us all this early morning raid!"
"I apologize for the inconvenience," he said. "But if, as you claim, TSRG is just as subject to unexplained power disruptions as the village is, then the best plan was to come as soon as the gates were open. Surely you see that."
"And for all we know, you UNIT people rigged that power disruption!" she snapped.
"Dr. LeFranq, if you know of any possible technology that could have done what happened last night, you'd better tell us right away. As far as we know, nothing on earth could suppress power like that!"
"I know of no such thing!" And then she pursed her lips closed and led them to the shining steel door that Boyd had described. One of the TSRG men fished out a ring of keys, selected one, and turned it in the lock. He pulled open the large door, and the Doctor and Brigadier both stood in the doorway and gazed at the interior.
"Empty, of course," the Doctor said.
"Where are those carcasses?" the Brigadier demanded.
"You will hafv to ask the kitchen staff. I do not direct ancillary operations!"
The Brigadier turned to his point man. "Get this entire place sealed off. Nobody in or out. Relay my orders to Captain Munro to send the men on standby right away. If you have to, call in army reinforcements. They'll be willing to set up liaison with us."
For a moment, LeFranq's mouth opened in surprise, and the Doctor, not normally given to noticing such details, was surprised at how blankly stupid she could look when taken by complete surprise. It was disarming, considering her station at TSRG. In an instant he realized that she was not accustomed to being defied outright.
But she quickly recovered. She spoke to one of her own men. "Get Major Redbird down here. Tell him the situation has gotten out of hand!"
"Where is Dr. Schepansky?" the Doctor asked sharply. "We must see her."
But now the guarded look in LeFranq's eyes was impenetrable. "Dr. Schepansky haz been fighting an illness. She became very sick last night and waz moved off ze site to regular medical facilities."
"Where?" the Brigadier asked.
"Zat iz none of your business."
* * * *
In spite of the frostiness of the air outside the warm cab of the lorry, the brilliant blue of the cloudless sky was invigorating. Liz watched it as Boyd drove. Fleetingly, she considered the irony of places as dark and secretive as TSRG, sitting right in the midst of such brilliant light and wild glory. It was in moments like these that she considered if there might not be some benevolent good that ruled everything outside of mankind itself. She had felt this more than once, and always in the presence of profound beauty in nature. You could take it all apart, she thought, decompile it all down into its chemical bonds, and still not comprehend what made it all look so fitly put together. Nor could you ever comprehend why it made you feel so invigorated just to drive through the brilliant, windy, sunlit silence.
"You're very quiet this morning, Professor," Boyd observed. "You all right?"
"Oh, just taking it all in. The glory of everything."
He shot her an appreciative glance. "I never took you for a reader of children's fiction."
She was startled. "What?"
And then he recited, for her benefit: "the garrulous geese, the changing seasons, the heat of the sun, the passage of swallows, the nearness of rats, the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of manure, and the glory of everything."
She looked at him blankly.
"E.B. White," he told her. "Charlotte's Web."
"Not the same E.B. White who wrote The Elements of Style?"
He nodded. "The very same." He glanced out at the bowl of clear blue sky around them. "He had his days like these!"
So, she thought, Boyd felt it too: this pressing, almost insistent glory that didn't seem to take into account things like TSRG.
"Do you believe in God?" she asked.
"Of course I do!" He shot a glance at her. "Don't you?"
"Sometimes." Times like these, she thought, casting her eyes to the perfect blue sky. She understood what made it blue, but what made it so perfect? She wasn't sure she could relegate the wonder and peace it generated in her as the mere preference of a mind conditioned to prefer blue sky to gray.
"No matter how bad things get, there's something always ready to reclaim everything and start over," he said.
* * * *
In spite of his power to instantly impose a blockade on TSRG, Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart was kept waiting for Major Redbird in one of the misnumbered conference rooms for nearly an hour.
Even when Redbird, a florid, large man with a dark moustache, finally entered the room, he was seized by LeFranq. So the Brigadier and Doctor, who had declined chairs and stood on the opposite end of the room, were still made to wait.
"That man's no more a major than I am," the Doctor grumbled. "Why is it the British always appropriate military titles for themselves?"
"Let's not antagonize him right off, Doctor," the Brigadier murmured. "Perhaps we can work a way around this standoff."
"Not with a handful of dead villagers left unaccounted for."
"We don't know-"
"Whatever happened, a cover-up is certainly in place!" the Doctor snapped, forgetting himself and letting his voice get too loud.
LeFranq, Redbird, and the two attending security guards all looked over at him. The four UNIT soldiers looked at their boots and pretended not to have heard.
Redbird approached. He held out his hand. "Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, is it?" he asked.
"Yes Major Bigbird. How do you do?" the Brigadier asked.
Redbird's florid face grew a great deal redder, and the Doctor's eyes lit up at his ally's blunder, but the timelord kept silent.
The Brigadier, not realizing that he had mis-spoken, shook Redbird's hand. "Let's get right down to business," he said. "We are tracing the hog carcasses that were stored in the basement meat locker yesterday."
Redbird recovered himself and instantly became bland, almost dismissive. "I don't know anything about that situation."
"We rely on your cooperation to learn what happened."
"I'm sorry. I don't know anything about it." And Redbird seemed content to be perfectly oblivious.
"Then you'd better find out!" the Brigadier snapped. "Because nobody is leaving or entering this site until we trace those carcasses!"
The large, florid man seemed taken back by the Brigadier's annoyance. "I just don't see how I can get to the root of the matter any more than you can, Brigadier."
Lethbridge Stewart put on his hat. "Very well, Major, I shall leave you to consider the matter. Perhaps after a few days, you will find a way to get to the root of the matter. It's nothing to me if you sit here all winter!"
LeFranq spoke up in her imitation accent: "You cannot imprison us in this facility!"
"You watch me, madam." And the Brigadier strode out. The Doctor, for once impressed into admiring silence, followed him, and then the UNIT men.
* * * *
By noon, they had met the courier and picked up the cardboard cases of information. As Boyd drove over the quiet road, Liz leafed through the first wad of papers.
"Schepansky," she said. "Went from a graduate program at Cambridge to work as a documentation clerk for an engineering firm."
"That sounds about right," Boyd observed.
"It's not clear that she was particularly efficient," Liz said. She leafed through more papers. "The clearance done on her was thorough. There is a notation that she was on a probationary list when she left the firm."
"And went to---"
"Back to Cambridge." Liz studied the work history more carefully, "Probably got a post through a social connection---"
"Get your mid out of the gutter, Corporal. She was hired by the soul of conventional morality, Professor Rachel Jensen, an upright twig if there ever was one."
"You know Jensen?"
"Only from reading her papers. She served as scientific advisor to the British military throughout the 1960's. She wrote a slew of materials on field assessments of emergency conditions. Very useful for my work with UNIT."
He was impressed. "A woman professor in the 60's? Must be pretty bright."
"Practical as well. Very----"
The lorry swerved wildly as she heard a clack that she couldn't identify.
"Boyd!" she exclaimed. But the corporal was slumped over the wheel. The lorry careened across the road the wrong way.
"Corporal!" She seized the wheel, and the papers spilled across the front seat and onto the floor, but she saw the widening pool of blood from him that spread across the floor boards and onto the pristine white sheets of the reports.
He'd had the presence of mind to hit the brake in the moment left to him after he'd been shot. Liz tried to get her own foot into place on his side, but she could only slow the lorry as it left the road and trundled towards a line of trees. She worked the steering wheel to avoid hitting anything too solid. Tall grasses and narrow saplings brushed the underside of the lorry but failed to bring it to a stop.
Then she saw, emerging from the brush and trees, and even up from the waving grasses, a line of men, some with rifles. One of them pointed his gun at the lorry again. Liz threw herself down onto the seat. This bullet shattered the windscreen of the lorry. As glass sprayed over her and the body of the dead corporal, Liz realized that if the impending crash didn't kill her, she would be in the hands of the same people who had been stalking her for the last two days.
She struggled to get hold of the wheel and find the brake with her foot, but Boyd's body was in the way. He was clearly dead, shot through the heart by a bullet that had pierced the windscreen and found its mark.
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.