Hounds and Hares: Episode Two
Hounds and Hares
Jenny sighed, and capitulated. "All right, if you can't tell us who is chasing you, can you tell us how close they are to you?"
"They gave me--I had about a full day's lead on them," she said. "Two days ago. But last night I got lost in the maze of the houses. They're all identical. I couldn't finds my way to--to where I thought I should go. And then I slipped on that fence. And I knew I had to get away--" She cut herself off.
"How many people are pursuing you?" he asked.
"Are you a criminal?" Bruce asked. "A spy?"
"Who ever heard of a British spy in the United States?" Jennifer demanded. "Spies are Russian!"
"I'm not a spy," she said. "Not a criminal."
Jennifer looked irritated. "Then why are they chasing you?" she asked. Sarah looked at Jennifer for a long moment, almost answered, and then shook her head.
"If you two want to help me, supply me with a weapon," she said.
"Well, we're out of those," Bruce told her.
Jennifer shook her head. "You can't get very far; you can stay here," she told Sarah. "But you owe it to us to tell us what to expect. Okay, we see you've got this super collar around your neck. We know you were scared enough to get yourself impaled on a fence last night. You need to tell us the rest."
For answer, Sarah used her good hand to reach into her pocket. She drew out a yo-yo and an object that neither of her rescuers recognized. Bruce picked it up with the practiced hand of an appreciative young scientist. Jenny looked at it over his shoulder.
He turned it over in his hands, touched the control switch on it, and started in surprise as it emitted a vibration signal of its own. He switched it off.
"Go on," Sarah told him. "You can't run it down."
"What is it?" Bruce asked.
"Sonic screwdriver. Go ahead and try it on the hinge of the door over there. It will work."
They hurried over to the front door and tried it on one of the deeply embedded and rusted screws that held the lower hinges in place. Jenny's awed voice floated back to Sarah: "Hey, it works!"
"I'll screw it back in now," he said.
"Let me try!" He passed it to her.
Satisfied, they returned to Sarah. Bruce handed the yo-yo and screwdriver back to her. "You say it's ultra sonic?" he asked.
"What does that mean?" Jennifer asked them.
"Ultra high frequency sound," he said. They looked expectantly at Sarah. "Are you in the space program?" Bruce asked.
"No," she said. "Maybe you could say that I'm a victim of it. Or maybe a victim of a different space program."
Jennifer was the first to say it. "Is somebody--is somebody from space chasing you?"
"But why?" Bruce asked.
She said something that neither of them heard. Then she repeated it. "For sport."
"Sport?" Bruce asked.
"You mean somebody is hunting you through space just for fun?" Jennifer exclaimed. "To kill you?"
"The collar has a great deal of money riding on it," Sarah told them. "Well, not mine alone, really. I have a friend. He's the high stakes prey that they want. But the two of us taken together will sort of double the bets."
Jennifer sat back on her heels, mouth open in astonishment.
"So your partner ditched you to split up the pursuit," Bruce guessed.
"We were separated," she said. "For the people who are hunting us, if they capture one of us, it's part of the game for them to hold the one until they catch the other. Bringing us in together is the highest stakes bet." She held up the screw driver. "This is his. It spilled out of his pocket and I scooped it up without even thinking. Get rid of our tracks, I suppose."
"Where is this friend of yours?" Bruce asked.
She shook her head. "There was huge bridge overhead when they jettisoned us here. We knew they'd give us twenty-four hours head start, and they told us it would be earth for us, my home planet." She frowned and tried to recall the events of the last two days.
"They said it was to give us a sporting chance," she added. "But we had no idea where we were, and we'd been without food for ever so long. Right at the end, right before they did this thing called a jettison, the Doctor tried to overpower them, but everything went wrong. They touched the charger to him that they'd used to charge the collars, and he collapsed. After they jettisoned us here, he was in such a bad way. We only had a twenty-four hour start on them."
"You didn't leave him did you?" Jenny asked.
"No of course not!" Sarah exclaimed. "I got him to shelter in that place by the bridge--an abandoned mill or factory or someplace--"
"Over in Bristol," Bruce said. "By the turnpike, near Mill Street and Radcliffe Street."
"My Dad works over that way," Jenny said, nodding.
"But then they fired after to us to drive us apart," she said. "Those blasts of theirs. I got him to shelter in the mill. He was pretty sure that they were less interested in me. He's the high stakes prize. He told me to leave him. He ordered me out. Said our only chance was to stay apart." She looked at their eyes and then bowed her head and covered her face with her hand. "I left him."
"Then we've got to get to that mill and find him," Bruce said decisively. "We'll help you. "
Sara Jane shook her head. "He's gone by now, " she said. "He just wanted me to get away first. "
Jenny agreed with her. "There's no use in finding him if these hunters, gamblers, or whatever they are, are right behind us. I think we've got to get that oscilloscope first." She nodded at Sarah. "And get that thing to stop signaling."
"We're running out of time," Sarah said. "If they find me, and you're here, they may very well kill you, too."
"We can steal that o-scope in an hour," Bruce told her. He glanced at Jennifer. "You ready?"
"Sure. I'm ready."
They looked at Sarah Jane. "Will you wait here?" Bruce asked.
She took in her breath and then gave a brief nod.
"Wait," Jennifer said. "We need power to run an o-scope, right. This place doesn't have electricity yet."
"I can take care of that," Bruce said. "In five minutes."
* * * *
Hodgson's Electrical Surplus was not crowded on a Saturday morning. The two teenagers opened the front door carefully, Jennifer in front. "We're not breaking in, " Bruce hissed at her. "Just walk in like normal. You've got `thief' written all over you. "
She grimaced at him but complied, assuming a greater air of relaxed curiosity. She strolled down on of the side aisles. He took the lead.
"That thing is the size of a suitcase!" She hissed as Bruce led her up to the shelves where the tagged oscilloscopes sat in a neat but cumbersome row. "How do we hoist it out of here?"
"Discretely," he whispered back. "This guy knows me. Let me go talk to him, and you sneak it out of here really slowly."
"Oh sure, discretely." But she nodded and threw a glance to the front to tell him to get to it.
She was actually more the person of action than he, though his plans were usually better. She strolled over to the shelf of equipment, looking through the brand names stamped on each oscilloscope: Motorola, Tektronics, RCA. Experimentally, she lifted one. It was extremely heavy. Some of them had two screens on them, some one. She didn't think she could manage a two-screener. They seemed actually to be twice the size of the others.
Bruce had his head together with the man at the counter. She glanced at the front door. No, it was just impossible. She made an instant decision and lifted a single screen Tektronics from the shelf by its handle. She lugged it all the way to the back of the store, to the counter where the Saturday assistant talked with Bruce.
"Mr. Hodgson said he wants this tagged," she said authoritatively. Bruce looked at her sharply. The young clerk looked blank.
"I'll do it, I'll do it, never mind," she said irritably, walking past him into the back room, where she saw the inviting form of the back door. He followed her into the back.
"I'm sorry, do you--"
"Yeah, I'm Jenny Hodgson," she told him. "And if you've finished having a nice chat with your friend out there, you might just go take a look at that display out front. My father is not going to be happy with the way this store is run on the weekends."
"He's a customer," the clerk sputtered. "Okay, it's all right." And he hurried out front. In another moment, Bruce joined her. "We need a frequency generator, too."
"Well get one," she told him, "but make sure it works. This is the repair room."
"This will do. It's got a bill on it, so it must be fixed. Here, you take this." he handed her the lighter frequency generator and took the o-scope. "Let's go."
They slipped out the back door and hurried away, carrying their booty like suitcases.
They decided that since it was impossible to run with such heavy merchandise, the best plan was to stroll along, laugh, and talk, as though they had every right in the world to be walking down the even streets of Forsythia with several thousand dollars worth of electronic equipment.
Once a police car even rolled by, but the driver never even glanced at them.
"Man, this is getting heavy," Jenny told him, shifting her load to her other hand.
"Oh crap, Jen," Bruce muttered.
She groaned. "Don't say it."
"It's the Fissingers. Four of them."
"Is Maura with them?"
"It looks like Maura, Ted, Ned, and Eddy."
The Fissingers were named that way: James, John, Maura, then the twins Ted and Fred, then Ned, and finally, Eddy. Maura Fissinger, 15, was the worst Fissinger of them all, and the only girl. She was third oldest, and it was she who was bearing down on them now, with three of her brothers in tow. At sight of Bruce and Jen, all four of them took on the broad smiling sneer typical of neighborhood bullies. The youngest Fissinger, Ed, was about ten. He let his upper teeth drop over his lower lip in a sort of over bite of anticipation. The Fissingers were going to enjoy this. They always did.
"Do we tell them some English lady's going to get killed if we don't get to her in time?" Jenny whispered.
"Just keep walking," he ordered.
"Heck no," she said, suddenly resolute and angry. "We'll do what that Doctor fellow did. Split up for the common good!" She passed the frequency generator to him. "Get away with these. They must not be broken. We won't get a second chance!"
"Jen!" he exclaimed as she leaped ahead.
"I'm not strong enough to run with that stuff!" she exclaimed, leaping towards their enemies. She and Bruce had grown up being beaten up by the Fissingers. They seemed like the toughest kids in the entire world, and they did not care who they hurt or how badly they hurt them. But now she was a green belt.
Bruce hesitated only for a moment, then followed the course of duty and ducked away through the yards of the neighborhood. Like her, he knew the maze of fences, alleyways, and roadside ditches that were so extremely useful for getting around Fissingers. Two Fissingers cut away from the other two to follow him, but Jen raced right up to Maura, and without preamble or threat or plea, rammed her shin right up Maura's crotch. "Aiy-Ya!" she cried.
Maura screamed dreadfully, and her outcry brought the two following him back to her. Bruce swallowed at the thought of what they would do to Jen for that. Nobody in the history of Forsythia had ever run right up to a Fissinger and slammed him or her in the groin. They were used to being invincible and feared.
But he doggedly continued. Maybe it would be for the best, he told himself. Maybe those hunters would catch him at the haunted house, and he would be in worse trouble than Jen. Maybe in offering herself to the wrath of the Fissingers, she had saved herself from the wrath of these five hunters.
Back at the scene of the greatest act of valor yet done in Forsythia, Jennifer was stretched out in a full run, her long legs pumping. She had never been much of a runner, but today she was breaking all her old records. In the background, she could hear Maura hoarsely screaming for her brothers to get her. They were in full pursuit.
But Fissingers were all long and lean and rangy. She had never been able to outrun them, even the younger ones. She risked a glance back and saw that it was one of the younger ones who was way in the lead, as his other two brothers had joined the race for her after giving up on Bruce.
For a brief span then, she was almost in the clutches of a rather small Fissinger, with a delay between him and his peers. She stopped short and spun. She thrust the heel of her palm into his chin and nearly gasped as his head snapped back with an audible snap. For one horrible moment she thought she had killed him, then he set up a wail of pain and anger, and she took off again.
It had been a mistake. Her hesitation had let the older boys close the gap considerably.
Up ahead, she saw the last thing she had thought of--a Fissinger bicycle, parked outside the house of one of their friends.
Hardly daring to think of the audacity of what she was doing, she got to the bicycle and took off running with it, then leaped astride the seat and pushed with all her might, peddling as hard as she could. But that was the end of it. The fleetest Fissinger could not catch a thirteen year old girl on a bicycle.
She glanced back. They were screaming at her, dumbfounded, demanding the return of their bicycle. She was Jennifer Pye, the goody goody of the block, and she had just hit their older sister, hit their youngest brother, and stolen a bike from them. She said a prayer of thanks for all those karate lessons from Master Kanazawa. Then she deliberately set off again on the bicycle. She had no idea how or when she could return it to them, no more than she knew how to return the o-scope and frequency generator.
But for right now she was effectively sealed off from getting back to the haunted house. They would be looking for her, scouring the neighborhood for her, and she did not dare endanger Bruce or Sarah Jane by bringing the Fissingers into this.
On sudden inspiration, she turned the bike and aimed it for Route 115, which would lead her to Mill Street. She would have a long way to go on Mill Street before she reached the turnpike bridge and then the old factory just beyond, but it was a Saturday. Traffic was light. The day was still early, and she had time.
* * * *
"Getting power is never hard in a residential section," Bruce told Sarah Jane as he connected the O-scope into an adapter and connected the adapter into the outlet in the wall. He flipped the ON button, and the oscope hummed into life. "You just find the meter to the house and locate the switch that leads into it. Throw that switch--and you've got power!"
"I would think it would be kept locked," Sarah Jane said as he attached the ground to her collar and then attached the probe.
He looked at the screen, which flicked with a dispersed pattern. "That's a pretty high frequency," he said, turning the knob that set the frequency sweep to different powers of ten. "Right at the top of the scale, really." He glanced at her. "It was locked. I bypassed it. It's easy. Use insulated tools and stand on a wood box to keep a floating ground. That way the electricity can't get a differential and shock you. You know, voltage is always a potential difference, so if you keep one side floating, it can't do anything." He adjusted the voltage reader of the scope. "Anyway, I just put in a parallel bypass for right now. There wasn't time to pry the lock off."
He looked critically at the screen for a moment, then hooked up the frequency generator.
"Okay," he said thoughtfully. "Let me switch over to looking at what I'm generating." He connected the probe to the clip of the frequency generator. "If I can get an inverse frequency set correctly, I can decrease or even nullify the readings from your collar. It might throw off anybody trying to track your signal."
He worked busily for several minutes, then took up a piece of stripped copper wire from his workbench.
"Let me run this along the collar," he said, and she let him loop it through the collar and run it around the length of the collar, looping it only once more to wrap it around the collar. He attached the generator's probe to her collar and attached the scope's probe as well.
"Let's see," he said, recalibrating the scope. "There it goes. The two frequencies combine with each other, and the inverted one will reduce the overall frequency value."
"So it cuts the signal," Sarah said hopefully.
"Yes," he said. "The drawback is that you have to stay attached to the frequency generator." He glanced at her ruefully. "The other drawback is that we're guessing at this collar thing. Maybe it has a completely different method of transmitting a signal. Maybe I'm all wrong."
"The Doctor says that electronic transmission is pretty commonly used throughout the galaxy," she told him. "Especially for surface to surface transmission."
Bruce hardly seemed to hear her. He turned to the window and looked out anxiously. Chucky would be home by now. It was hard for him to get out on Saturday night, so he was safe. But where was Jenny?
"Are you worried, Bruce?" Sarah Jane asked him.
"I just don't know where Jen is," he said.
* * * *
Though the sun was high, the old mill was dark inside. Jen sniffed, then cautiously bent down and tested the floor. It was smooth and polished hardwood. Even years of dust and age had not quite dimmed the shine and smoothness to it.
Footsteps tracked the dust here and there, and some of the inner walls were covered with spraypaint. Other sections were blanketed in dimness where the broken windows had been boarded up.
She felt some fear at sight of the cavernous main hall, which seemed at least as large as a cathedral, with several alleyways leading off to it. But she resolved to go forward. The only thing waiting for her back home was a street full of Fissingers.
She crept along one wall, listening and scarcely breathing, but she couldn't even hear the sound of mice or birds. She tried to reason it out--here was where the big machinery would have been. She turned into a stairwell that was completely dark, held her breath, and plunged through. In the dark she felt her way along, groping and using her foot to feel ahead on the stairs. She went down, then changed her mind as she realized that the entire downstairs would be pitch black. So she started up again.
She tried the upstairs. It was much less light than the main floor, having fewer windows. She decided that the business offices must have been up here. She edged past side doors, wishing she knew what was in each one of them, but not taking the time to check. It was seeming like less and less of a good idea to be here.
The attack on her was heralded by one slight sound of a shoe scraping the floor. But before she could turn or run, two huge hands gripped her from behind, gripping the collar of her blouse easily and surely, and closing the two sides into a perfect choke around her throat, as effective as a cord or rope.
She struggled, felt the collar of the blouse cutting into her like a cord around her neck, and realized that her attacker had turned her to face him. He leaned over her, huge, dark cloaked, not easily seen in the dim room. She had one impression of a mop of hair and blue eyes. Then her eyes closed.
Unexpectedly, the strangulation hold on her collar allowed her to take one breath. She gasped it in.
"Where is she?" he asked. "And where are your cohorts?"
But then he choked her again. She fell all the way to the floor, with him bearing down on her. She saw the faint glint of the collar, and realized she had found the Doctor. Or he had found her.
Her vision was swept up in a black roaring. When she opened her eyes, he was right above her, holding her up by his grips on the collar.
She dropped her hands from the collar and stopped struggling. He was talking fast and low, but the roaring would not go out of her ears. She tried to say the word, "Sarah" to him, but it wouldn't come out. She could feel the knuckles of his hands and sensed how ready he was to strangle her.
She seemed for a moment to see his face more clearly, then the whole room moved and the blackness neatly sweeped her up.
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