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
For a moment Liz didn't know what to do, and then her captor seized her and turned her against the wall. "All right, just calm down," he said.
"I'm not fighting you!" she snapped. He pinned her shoulder into the wall from behind and pulled her arm behind her back. She made a sound of disgust at his strong-arm tactics.
He wrapped a padded cuff around one wrist, then pulled it tight and wrapped the second wrist. She heard a fastener snap home, and the restraint tightened to a snug, inescapable fit. She had never seen any type of padded handcuff before, but she realized it would keep her from being bruised by any metal handcuff edge. Not allowing her to be bruised had been important to them from the beginning.
"Come on then," he said, and he led her out. One of the others opened the connecting door. "You two, clean out the cell," he told the two other men. "I want it to look like a store room again in fifteen minutes."
Out front, Dr. Renee LeFranq waited, her moon face torn between emotions. For a moment, Liz thought that the other woman looked almost satisfied, with a look that ambitious people take on when they were about to reach a goal. Yet LeFranq's eyebrows knit at sight of Liz in restraints, under escort, and the TSRG scientist turned to the senior guard. "There was no need to tie her up! What do you think she is? A common criminal?"
"It's my experience that the condemned don't go quite willingly no matter what their social status, Dr. LeFranq," he said. "Are you sure you want to see this?"
"She is a colleague, and I still protest the verdict zat was reached," LeFranq said. "I shall at least accompany her."
"And abide by the decision?" he asked sharply.
"Yes, of course. I have documented my objections."
Liz looked from her immediate captor to the scientist. "If you have some influence here---" she began.
"I have exercised my influence on your behalf," LeFranq said. "But you have overstepped the mark. Zere is no doubt you would continue to thwart the work here. You must be terminated. Zat is the conclusion of our tribunal, though I was the lone vote against execution."
It didn't really make sense. "What tribunal?" Liz asked.
"The tribunal that oversees such matters," the senior guard told her.
"You have no authority to create a legal tribunal," Liz began.
"Ve have a mandate," LeFranq said. "An international government like the United Nations that fails to govern effectively must be made to govern effectively. Ve operate by our blueprint of advancing za power of international law."
"How? By harboring a group of scientists and fascist police who develop illegal weapons that they don't even understand?" Liz asked.
""Let's go," the guard said.
Liz looked up at him. "How am I to be executed?"
Ignoring her question, he started for the door. "I'll bring up the lorry."
LeFranq stepped after him. "You vill not put her in ze back of that lorry. She is not to be hauled about like cargo! She shall stay up front."
He stopped. "Dr. LeFranq, security protocol dictates---"
LeFranq tugged on Liz's arm to show that Liz could not use her hands. "She is smaller than I am, and she is restrained. Don't be ridiculous! She shall sit between us and at least have a warm ride!"
His expression became resigned, as though arguing would only be a nuisance. "As you say!" And he walked out. LeFranq went to the reinforced glass in the in the door and peered after him.
"Dr. LeFranq, I implore you to reconsider this action," Liz began. "You---"
"I have reconsidered it. Zey have gone too far when zey condemn a brilliant scientist to death," LeFranq said.' "You must trust me and come with me now, without a word."
This reply startled Liz, but LeFranq had her hand on the door, and she was watching the guard as he walked what seemed to be a greater distance than Liz would have thought necessary. The other two men were in back, pulling off the bedding from the cot.
Liz nodded, and LeFranq swiftly led her out. The frigid night air knocked Liz's breath away. Her coat had been stripped away hours ago, and even the thermal underclothing that she wore could not protect her much against this deep cold.
LeFranq had arrived alone in a small four-wheel drive vehicle. It sat parked close to the door. The guard, as Liz could faintly see in the darkness, was some distance away, climbing into a dark lorry.
"It shall not start," LeFranq said. "I prepared before I entered. I loosened ze ignition wire."
She let Liz into the passenger side, and then she climbed in on the driver's side. As Liz watched the distant truck fail to start, LeFranq effortlessly started the motor, and they pulled out smoothly with the lights off. They cut straight across the flat, barren landscape. There was almost no moon, but the night sky was clear, and the way completely open, so they traveled with enough visibility for LeFranq to navigate.
"Where are we going?" Liz asked.
"As far as I can take you."
"No, za guards have radios. We would be intercepted if I try to get through ze gates. I am taking you to ze fence. I have already cut the wires and killed the power. You shall escape zat way."
"In this cold?" Liz asked.
"It shall be a forty-five minute walk for you! You vill easily survive, and ze guards will not know where to look for you. I will drive back to my lab. By za time they apprehend me, you can be well away."
"What about you?" Liz asked. "Aren't you in danger?"
"UNIT will prevent any further actions from za TSRG tribunal."
"Did that tribunal condemn those other people to death?" Liz asked. "The first people who were killed?"
LeFranq seemed caught off guard by the question. In the dark interior of the all-terrain vehicle, Liz could barely see the other woman's face. But she realized that LeFranq had not expected such questions from Liz.
"I have no vay of knowing all the tribunal has done," LeFranq said. For a moment she sounded defensive or dismissive.
"What about these restraints? Can you get them off?"
"Certainly. We are almost zere."
For another minute or two they drove in silence. The heat in the car was almost soothing, and Liz didn't want to be soothed. She knew that it was dangerous to fix her mind on the village that was only a forty-five minute walk away. It was dangerous to think---after all that she had been through---that her escape was assured.
The car suddenly slid forward for several yards. Neither woman panicked, and LeFranq tried to work the brake properly, with several short pumping motions. They smoothly turned sideways, and the engine died.
"It iz mud," LeFranq said, somewhat needlessly. "But ve are almost zere. I will get you free and show you za way."
"Yes all right."
LeFranq turned on the overhead light in the car. This startled Liz. Even that small light would act as a beacon out here. Liz glanced up at it and then at her host as she turned away for LeFranq to free her hands. LeFranq did so quickly. The restraints fell away.
"Quickly," LeFranq said. Liz didn't argue. They both climbed out. They picked their way through the deep mud to dry, rough tufts of field grass. A light wind cut through Liz as though she wore nothing.
"Up zis rise," LeFranq said, and Liz followed her up a short hill. As they crested this bit of terran, Liz saw a long stretch of barbed wire down below. On one fence post, a dim, reddish light had been affixed to an extension pole. It shed very little light to be of practical use, and Liz guessed that it was more a warning beacon to tell any vehicles that there was a fence there.
Beyond that light, Liz could see nothing. "What's down there?" she asked. She could hardly keep her teeth from chattering in the frigid cold.
"Ze outside world is down zere, Professor Shaw," LeFranq said. "You'd better hurry."
"That fence is electrified."
"I cut ze power for zis section. I cut the wire. Come closer, and I will show you." And she led Liz down the other side of the hill.
A feeling of dread was growing in Liz. She felt that she should remember something. Something was missing in all of this. But the hope of escape, the warmth in the car, and this bitter, bitter cold were wearing away at her mind.
"Zere, do you see now?" LeFranq asked.
And then, suddenly, Liz knew what was going on. This was her execution. Except it was not an execution at all. There was no tribunal. All that was just a ruse to get her to do what a few dozen hogs and a few human beings had already done--run into the path of a deadly weapon. She was not inside TSRG running to get out. She was outside the fence, and they intended her death to look as though she'd been trying to get in; just as they'd done with the other victims.
"No I can't make it out," Liz said. She played along. "The fence is electrified. What if they repaired it while you came to get me?"
LeFranq's hand slipped into her coat pocket. "You're only alternative is to go back to ze guards!" the scientist exclaimed. "Is zat what you want? Hurry or zey will catch us both!"
"Perhaps we could discharge the power in the fence just to be sure," Liz said.
"Look behind us! Zey have found us! Zey're coming!" LeFranq exclaimed. She injected a good amount of fear into her voice, but now Liz knew it was all an act.
Bright headlights cut through the darkness behind them. But these vehicles, Liz thought, had been here all along in the hidden draws and under the occasional trees, hidden by darkness. They were not pursuit. They were people who had lain in wait in case LeFranq needed them to make Liz panic and run for the fence.
The oncoming vehicles drove around the mud flat and made for the two women. Liz stayed still.
"Vhy are you standing there?" LeFranq hissed. Liz abruptly burst into a run, but not towards the fence. She ran for the darkness, keeping herself parallel to the fence.
She heard LeFranq suddenly shout directions. "On foot! On foot! Don't hit her. Get her on foot!"
And behind her, on the other side of the fence, Liz heard a sound that she instantly recognized, the hum of an energy field building up as huge capacitors started to build a five-interval charge. Headlights from three vehicles caught her in their beams, and then car doors burst open as men raced towards her to encircle her and trap her. She turned and darted towards the fence now. The running men closed behind her to herd her towards it.
"Ready---Get ready!' LeFranq shouted. She was speaking into a radio.
"I'll get her," a man's voice called. And she knew it was Hawthorne--Hawthorne who had told her he would see her die.
She abruptly stopped, turned, and then ran directly towards him as he ran towards her.
"Oh Love, you're a bit crazy!" he shouted. She knew that time was running out. She dropped into the tall, rough grass and tried to scurry on hands and knees, but still the humming continued without discharge. Hawthorne, a black silhouette over black ground in the unearthly glare of the headlights, raced towards her, and she risked one short leap up, then ducked into the grass again.. He overshot her and turned, his back towards the fence. "You've made a game of it, Professor--" he began as she stood again with him between her and the fence.
All the headlights went out and the energy blast hit him almost at the same time.
Suddenly blinded by the abrupt switch to darkness, Liz dropped into the grass. He was screaming, not killed instantly. She heard him roll on the grass, and he kicked his feet in a brief frenzy of agony.
"Can you hear me? Can you hear me?" LeFranq screamed. The radio had gone dead as well, of course. Then she screamed at all of the others. "Get her! Kill her! Do what you have to! She can't get away!"
At least, Liz thought, she'd dropped that awful accent. In the almost complete darkness, Hawthorne was silent, and Liz could hear the humming again. The power was building for another discharge through the weapon. Why didn't the person with the weapon stop using it?
But as she would have jumped up to run, she heard it discharge a second time, and she flattened herself to the ground. In the blind darkness, another man screamed and fell, and the others shouted, "Get back, we're in her range! We're in her range! Get back!"
Liz dared not run out of range with them. Whatever was firing that weapon, it could see in the dark, perhaps assisted by the reddish glare of the lone beacon light on the fence post. If it didn't kill her, the TSRG people would. But the two shots had been fired high---waist level. The weapon preferred standing targets. She stayed on her face and crawled towards the fence through the rough grass.
"Discharge your capacitors!" LeFranq's voice shouted. "Discharge!"
But the gun fired yet again. It's firing at me, Liz thought, for she was the only person left in range, but it couldn't quite find her. Whatever it used for signaling to locate its target was not refined enough to get a bearing on her down in the grass, pressed to the earth.
"I said discharge!" LeFranq screamed again. She sounded like a witch, a hag from a children's story.
Liz stayed on her face and crawled to the fence in the darkness. In spite of the bitter cold, she was sweating. She could make out the wires and the tiny spiked barbs. Such primitive barbed wire was not all that impressive and would not have halted a UNIT soldier for a tenth of a second. But she didn't know if she could slide under without being grabbed by the barbs.
She crawled along it, towards the beacon light and whoever was firing the weapon. She squinted in the darkness, looking for an indentation in the ground that would give her better clearance. The humming, she realized, had stopped. The weapon was drained. But that meant the power to the headlights and radios would return within a second or two. She might yet be seen. She had to get through now. She pushed up on the wire and tried to slip under. It caught her once, but she used her hands to lift the barb out of her shirt, and then she got all the way through, and she crawled further into the grass.
The irony, she thought, was that she had just risked her life to get back onto the grounds of TSRG. But this was the last place they would think to look---on the same side of the fence and much closer to whatever had been shooting at her.
She had to find cover, not from the weapon, but from the lights, when they came on. She inched her way into the grass, ready to freeze at the first indication of restored power. Her clothes were dark, so it was her face, hair, and hands that would betray her if light should find her. While the voices on the other side of the fence halloo'd back and forth, she positioned herself so that she lay with her face pointed roughly in their direction, presenting as little of herself as possible to them. She pulled handful after handful of the rough grass and dirt over her head and shoulders. And then she was completely still, and she watched and listened.
The headlights and torch lights on the opposite low hill flooded back on so brightly that she had to squint. But the men were looking for her across the field on the other side of the barbed wire. They pulled rifles from the vehicles and checked them. LeFranq was shouting instructions to them and trying to reconnect to somebody on her small radio.
At last, the three vehicles pulled out, heedless of where their quarry actually lay hidden. One lorry set out along the fence in the direction she had first run when they'd tried to corner her, away from the beacon light. And the other two fanned out the way that she and LeFranq had come by car.
The cold was unbearable. The ground seemed to wick away any heat that the grass held in for her. But Liz kept still.
Abruptly, as unexpectedly as a lightning flash, headlights from a lorry on her own side of the fence winked on and stared with steady brightness out over the grass. Heart pounding, she waited. She knew that her journey here had been meant as a test of the weapon; perhaps the field on this side was filled with observers. But she heard nobody approaching. The lorry, which was stationed near the fence beacon, did not start its engine. After a moment, a person emerged from it, and LeFranq, talking very fast, walked up to the fence. She was angry that Liz had escaped.
With little difficulty, LeFranq climbed through the cut section of the fence that had been designed to lure Liz to her death. She and the driver of the lorry passed in front of the headlights and appeared to be talking to something or about something that sat just to the side of the headlights. Liz heard the woman scientist exclaim about the failure to discharge capacitors on command. The man answered briefly. And then, for one brief moment, Liz thought she heard a third voice---a sobbing sound and perhaps a faint word or two. And then, without further comment, LeFranq and the lorry driver took hold of this thing, whatever it was, and haltingly guided it to the rear of the lorry, where they worked with controls and some sort of lift and finally loaded it aboard.
They entered the lorry with it and must have been working on getting it stabilized. In the faint glow of the red beacon, Liz noticed the ungainly silhouette of an enormous air exhaust system built into the top of the lorry. It was a highly specialized vehicle. They emerged at last and climbed down. They slammed closed heavy doors in back and locked them.
Then they came around to the front of the lorry, still discussing matters. LeFranq pointed out towards the car that she had deliberately driven into the mud. He and she conferred, and then they both passed back through the hole in the fence and walked up the small rise of ground to go inspect the car.
* * * *
In the conference room, where Major Redbird sat as a compliant---if unhappy--prisoner, the Brigadier and Doctor leafed through the large, unwieldy design documents and program and instrumentation drawings of the TSRG site.
"Gentlemen," Redbird said. "It's nearly midnight. I've done everything you've asked. May I now return to my own quarters for a few hours sleep?"
The Brigadier made his voice patient and courteous. "Not just yet, Major Bigbird."
One of the UNIT sentries in the room smiled at this slip, and the Doctor shot the young man a look of good natured reproof and shook his head slightly. The worst thing would be to correct the Brigadier for calling the pompous acting head of TSRG by such a ghastly malapropism, for then the Brigadier would stop, and the Doctor didn't want him to stop. Every time the Brigadier accidentally called the man "Major Bigbird," the Doctor would add another tally to a small chit of paper, keeping track of how many whiskies he would later buy the Brigadier.
"You're going to have to come with us to this emergency power supply station, Major," the Doctor told him.
"I don't see why I'm necessary. You have the drawings. I'm no engineer."
"You're presence is absolutely required," the Brigadier said. "Would you like to ring the kitchen for more tea?"
"No, I don't want tea!" And Redbird folded his arms and looked displeased.
The Doctor came alongside the Brigadier and rested a finger on one of the enormous drawings. "I can get us there, even at this time of night," he said. Then he lowered his voice so that Redbird could not hear. "Eighteen UNIT soldiers against 50 to 100 TSRG security. Think we can pull it off?"
The Brigadier flicked a glance to TSRG's unhappy, fat, head. "I know my man, Doctor. He'll protect himself. He wants no trouble and no risk. We're safe if we keep him with us." Lethbridge Stewart hesitated, then asked a question, soto voice: "Think he knows where Miss Shaw is?"
The Doctor let out his breath and pretended to study the drawing. "I honestly cannot say for sure. I don't think he does. He's remarkably good at keeping himself deliberately ignorant."
"Yes, to avoid being held responsible. That ends now." The Brigadier made his voice louder and more pleasant. "Well Major Bigbird, we're ready to be on our way." The Doctor unobtrusively pulled out a scrap of paper and made a mark on it.
* * * *
Liz crawled towards the lorry without hesitation. Though the bitter cold presented a great danger to her, she had no confidence in her ability to find the village before the TSRG people found her. She could not risk trying to escape in any manner that they would expect, such as a blind run across the barren landscape.
She reached the lorry and crawled under it, then spent the next several minutes stuffing handfuls of the dried grass down into her clothing. In spite of the desperate situation, she could just imagine the Doctor's reaction to such a tale of surviving: "Yes, I stuffed grass down my knickers and into my bra, Doctor. What? Haven't you ever heard of that? Of course not. You timelords don't wear knickers and bras do you?"
But the thermal underclothing held the grass pretty well, and the grass was a natural insulator: a rough coat in this zero degree weather. She had plenty of time to do this. At last, when she had curled up under the lorry and was letting one of the rear tyres block the steady breeze, she heard them returning. Now they were hurrying.
They did not check the rear of the vehicle but climbed into the cab. Liz scurried out from under the rear fender, and just as he started the engine, she took hold of the maintenance ladder that was bolted onto the back. She swung herself up and hung on. The rung was bitterly cold, unclad steel, but she held on as they lumbered across the uneven ground and then sped towards the hiding place of whatever was now hidden in the bed of the lorry.
* * * *
In the bitter cold, the Brigadier, Major Redbird, the Doctor, and the two UNIT men in the front seat of the car were all silent. The UNIT car did not have time to warm up properly, and only the Doctor seemed not to notice or be bothered by the low temperature at this late hour. Behind them, the escort vehicle followed closely. It held four more UNIT men, all armed.
But there was no sign of TSRG security, apart from the few who manned the gatehouses at the fences. The two vehicles were let through to the second perimeter area, and with some navigation from the Doctor, they sighted the distant building that was marked as the emergency backup power station.
Even from a great distance, the Doctor frowned as he saw that something was amiss. "There's supposed to be an 8000 gallon diesel fuel tank attached to it. That's what the drawing said."
The Brigadier squinted ahead in the glare of the headlights. "Perhaps it's buried. Wouldn't that be a safer way to store diesel fuel?"
"Yes, and a completely impossible way to ever do repair work on it or maintain it," the timelord snapped. "The emergency power station is kept at such a distance to protect the buildings from any hazards it might represent---or any static electricity sparks they might cause. The fuel tank is normally not buried."
The driver pulled up to the building.
"Stay here and keep the lights on us," the Doctor said to him. He and the Brigadier got out, as well as two of the soldiers from the escort. The building was the size of the Doctor's lab at UNIT, all concrete. The door was unlocked. The Doctor pulled it open, and one of the men shone a torch into the interior.
"It's nothing but a store room!" the Doctor exclaimed as he looked at a few rows of shelves stocked with tools and materials for the grounds.
"The drawings have been falsified?" the Brigadier asked.
"Come around back."
They passed through the glare of the headlights and checked the rear of the building. The Doctor pointed to a long bare patch of earth and a low, concrete foundation that made an oval ring. "That 8000 gallon tank was here once upon a time, Brigadier. That ring is the foundation of a dike used for protection against spills." He looked both exasperated and puzzled. "It's been moved. The entire backup power station has been moved right out of here!"
Just then, the headlights and torch lights winked out. The radios went dead. The engines died.
"There's that inductive spike," the Doctor said.
"From what Professor Jensen said---" the Brigadier began.
"Yes, if somebody's gone and made that actual weapon, they may very well be firing it right now." The Doctor's voice was grim. After a moment, in the cold darkness, he said, "I wish I knew where Liz could be."
"I wish she were right here with us," the Brigadier said. "If wishing could accomplish anything, let's ask for everything."
"Then I wish that infernal weapon were in hell where it belongs."
"I thought you didn't believe in hell."
"Not now, Brigadier." His voice was cross.
* * * *
By the time the lorry came to a halt before a long, low building, Liz was not sure she could unclasp her hands. Not without falling. She was cold and stiff. But the sound of LeFranq and her companion sent a faint warmth through her. She had to get off ladder just to see what they had produced. Stiffly, uncertain that she could get out of sight in time, she climbed down, using her arms to help her hold on to the few rungs of the ladder. LeFranq and her companion went around the front of the lorry to unlock the double doors of the building, and Liz used the noise of them opening the doors to cover for her as the dropped on shaky legs to the ground. The intense vold was making even the simplest movements difficult. She crawled under the lorry and pushed herself well forward, mindful of the effort it had taken for them to load their mysterious cargo into the lorry.
The thick grass was not enough of a ground cover to entirely stop the coldness of the earth from draining her own warmth. But the added padding she'd given herself reduced the ground's effects, and the underside of the van was warm and radiated down on her. After a moment the incapacitating stiffness left her, but she knew that she had to get out of the cold. She would not survive the night unless she could build some sort of nest or find shelter and cover.
When she next came back to herself, they were already moving their cargo across the gravel walkway towards the doors. Liz realized that she had dimly heard the noises of them unloading the lorry, but her mind had been oddly disengaged. She was weary and the cold was reaching her, getting through her defenses.
She looked over at the building. A hulking shadow in back defined itself to her eyes as some sort of fuel tank. In front, the doors were invitingly open. Moving with clumsiness, Liz crawled out from the lorry and unsteadily stood. Her head cleared after a moment. Then, staying low, she came to the edge of the open door.
The two of them were inside, their backs to the door, with the lights off, but the dim glow of numerous LEDs and board lights on a control panel cast a glow onto them. They appeared to be working at some sort of booth, and again, for only an instant, Liz thought she heard another voice, a high, faint voice.
Liz looked around the interior. There were numerous pipes along a far wall, and she caught a glimpse of the edge of a fluid tank. This was an emergency utilities station, she realized. It could run a shift's worth of electricity to the main buildings, and could also send out enough clean steam or purified water to safely shut down processes in the event of a power failure.
But why was it all the way out here? Liz tried to calculate the distance from here to the main buildings, and she supposed they must be at least three quarters of a mile away. There was no efficient way to run steam piping that distance, not from a small setup like this.
There was no time to think about such things. She had to make an attempt to get inside and hide, and she was certain she could do so behind the pure water tank.
LeFranq and her colleague were busy at the panel, with their backs to her. She slipped inside, into the comparative warmth of the room. Moving carefully on her clumsy feet, she maneuvered herself behind the PW tank and lowered herself to the concrete floor. The tank was dormant, its pump motor dead. There was no water running out from here. It was not even bolted to the floor. Somebody had set up this room, but they had not intended to really connect anything, not way out here.
Yet there was power. Whatever this place was being used to accomplish, it was live with electricity. She heard a rhythmic noise of regularly running automation equipment. The floor was cold, but not as cold as the ground had been, and the room itself was much warmer than the night outside. Liz had to lie still for fear that any rustling noise would betray her. But in the dimness, as the two of them worked, the harsh coldness left her. Her eyes became heavy. She knew she was falling asleep, but she also knew that there was nothing she could do by staying awake. If they caught her, they caught her.
She opened her eyes as the double doors slammed closed. For a moment the loud bang made her heart pound with fear, but then she heard the lorry start up. They were leaving. She was safe.
She sat up. The machinery made quiet, regular sounds: throbbing, a soft chiming at intervals, and the occasional sound of fairly viscous fluid pushing through narrow tubing. Her glance went to the doors. But though they locked with a key from the outside, the inside had a safety handle so that a person could not be trapped in the building. She could exit if she wanted to, but she was certain that nobody would be back that night.
First, Liz pulled off her clothing and removed all the dried grass. She shook everything out and made a pile of the matted fibers on the floor. It wasn't enough to sleep on, and it had done only a marginal job as lining. She donned her garments again and felt better. She decided to inspect the machinery they'd been working on, and then she would find any other padding that she could bed down on behind the PW tank where the darkness would keep her hidden.
She stepped out cautiously from behind the tank. Now that she got a good look at it, she saw that the control panel fronted onto a safety glass wall. Behind the glass wall, she saw a machine nearly as tall as she, and it was a size and shape that she recognized. It had been the machine that had so frightened the Doctor on the night of the first blackout.
Condensation had clouded the glass, so she could not define what she was seeign at first. As Liz drew closer, she recognized several things at once: a microphone embedded in the control panel, and a patch of human skin on the machine behind the glass. And human eyes.
It took a moment for her to identify what she was seeing. A human face, mounted by a metal cap like a dome, with leads that ran directly into the person's left eye socket and also into the base of the skull. And below the face, the neck was still there, ringed in a brace to help it support the dome-like cap; and below the braced neck, the body was encased in metal like a chassis. Out of the chassis, a rod-like appendage protruded. Otherwise, there were no arms or hands, though Liz saw a connector on the other side that might have fitted to something.
"Dr. Schepansky," she said. "Can you hear me?"
The remaining good eye was open, but only at her voice did it show awareness. It slowly focused on her.
"Can you hear me?" Liz asked.
"The target. Destroy the target," the faint voice said. "Couldn't discharge. Couldn't make it connect to discharge. Fire. Fire at the target. If discharge, no destroy. If no discharge, power delivery to fire weapon." The strong Brooklyn accent was still there, and somehow this heightened the ghastliness of what had been done to Dr. Schepansky.
"Dr. Schepansky," Liz said.
The remaining eye seemed to recognize her. "I have the target. Locked in. Locked in."
The rod-like appendage suddenly pointed at her.
Liz backed up. "No Dr. Schepansky. Think of what you're doing. I'll try to help you." But the gun easily followed her when she was this close.
"Please help me," the voice whispered. "Wanted to be the first. In the papers. Help me. Target locked in. Target locked in. Preparing to fire."
Liz dropped to the floor, using what had worked previously, but she had not been so incredibly close before.
She had one glimpse of the gun stalk settling on her perfectly, and then she covered her head with her arms.
"Fire now," the thing that had been Dr. Schepansky said. "Fire."
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.