Hounds and Hares: Episode Four
For a moment she wondered if he were dead, but the face was not chalk white, nor did the figure seem stiff. She drew closer, and she saw that he was breathing.
Hounds and Hares
Jennifer drew closer still and knelt down by him.
There was a wanness to his face, not unlike the worn look she had seen on Sarah Jane's face, a paleness from the stress of being pursued. She glanced up at the table where he had been working. The equipment set up on it was too complicated for her to understand, and he had obviously been adding his own refinements on it. Antennae and wire were everywhere.
She looked back down at him. He was not wearing the collar, satisfying her guess that he had somehow gotten rid of it at the power sub station. His thick white hair and lined face gave him a look of age, and yet his long, lean body seemed like the body of a younger man, and it looked powerful and fast.
She nearly touched him to awaken him, then thought better of it and instead said softly and uncertainly, "Doctor?"
He did not respond, and she said again, a little more loudly, "Doctor?"
His eyes opened and looked right at her, alert but not frightened. She had briefly considered that he might attack her, assuming her to be one of his pursuers in disguise. The memory of the impostor's attack was still vivid in her memory. But the moment he opened his eyes, she knew that he would not hurt her.
"Hello," he said after a moment, still relaxed and calm. "Have you captured me?"
She nearly said no, then realized that making a joke would be the best way to assure him of her good intentions.
"Yes I have," she said decidedly. "So you'd better come along quietly. I've got a house key, a box of matches, and two cigarettes in my pocket, so you see I am well armed."
With a half smile at her, and slightly bemused, he sat up, but gingerly. "All right, officer," he said. "You've got me in a fair bust."
They looked at each other.
"Do you know where my Sarah Jane is?" he asked her gently after a moment.
"Yes, I do," she said. "We've nullified the signal on her collar."
Without thinking he touched a hand to his throat. "I took rather extreme measures to get rid of mine," he said. "Still feeling the effects of it."
"At the power station?" she asked.
He gave her a second look, perhaps sharper this time. "How could you have known that?"
"A police officer told me about a vagrant at the power station," she said. "Punched the watch man and got away. I thought it must be you. What did you do there?"
He sighed. "A little trick with 100,000 volts." He showed her his bruised knuckles. "And yes, I did punch the night watch man. Poor fellow was only doing his job."
"100,000 volts huh?" she asked. "Popped it right off?"
"Simply destroyed it," he told her. "And very nearly popped me off as well. Hope I never need to to do that again."
"Why didn't it kill you?"
He pulled himself up to a more comfortable sitting position and leaned against the storage cabinet behind him. "Oh, I'm a tough old bird," he said. "Wore me out, though." But he looked at her more warily, and she realized that her prompt analysis of his circumstances had raised doubts in him. She suddenly realized how unlikely it would seem to him that a girl her age could take care of Sarah Jane, nullify the signal on her collar, and find him. She had told him too much, too soon.
"Are you frightened?" he asked.
She met his eye. "No. Sarah says you're good."
"So I am," he told her evenly. "What is your name?" he asked, and she found that she could not easily look away from his eyes. They were a dark hazel color, almost like copper in the light.
"Jennifer Pye," she told him, eyes wide. She would have looked away, but his gaze suddenly locked her in place.
"Where is Sarah Jane Smith?"he repeated quietly.
With an effort, she fought off the urge to tell him. "No, not yet," she insisted. She had brought danger right to her friends once already, and she wasn't going to do it again. She tried to form the coherent sentences necessary to tell him this, but his eyes would not let her break away to speak.
He leaned closer, a more imminent presence. "Jennifer Pye, where is Sarah?" he insisted.
She hesitated under the compelling eyes. "Sarah's in danger," she answered again.
He became even more intense. She felt her personality shrinking before his. "Where is Sarah Jane Smith?"
The room seemed to be sliding away from her, and she could not orient herself. With a great effort, she said, "Sarah Jane is--is safe." She let out a sob of fear as it seemed that the room actually did tilt; then she found herself supported on his arm, the compelling eyes kindly.
"Well, you are not Arcturian, anyway," he pronounced. "When I snap my fingers, Jennifer Pye, you will forget the fear that I have induced in you, but you will remember all the rest, all our conversation, and this session." He snapped his fingers and released her.
She sat up and, after a moment, grinned. "I guess you aren't Arcturian either," she said. "I guess they have tougher methods for getting people to tell them what they want to know."
"They are more unfeeling than cruel, Jennifer," he told her. "Great friends to each other, but completely removed from the feelings of any other species." He rubbed his lower lip thoughtfully. "They will inflict any suffering imaginable on any other species if their own pleasures are enhanced by it."
She nodded at the work table. "What's that stuff?"
"A device to locate Sarah by her collar," he said. "I couldn't get a signal fix, though. I was afraid they had killed her."
"Can you explain this whole thing to me?" she asked. "Who are you two, and who are they?"
"All right," he said after a moment's consideration. "Sarah Jane and I had just finished up some long drawn out business. I thought we were in full flight, through the vortex--"
"Vortex?" she asked.
"In full flight," he said, to simplify it. "Well, we received signs of an impending disaster in the vortex. The vortex itself seemed to be shutting down." He practically slapped himself in the forehead. "How could I have been so gullible? I was completely fooled. We dropped out of time and made an emergency landing."
"Dropped out of time?" she asked.
"You wanted the story, and I'm telling you," he told her.
"We heard distress signals," he said. "We left the TARDIS without checking adequately. They took us without much of a fight."
"Who are they?" she asked.
He sighed. "Mercantile, profitizing--with a warrior class-- society," he said. "The Arcturians. I had only glanced at references to them in my cosmic atlas. So much of the race is simply taken up in commerce. They're not really a viable threat to any developed society."
"What did they want from you?" she asked.
"They had set up all the illusions to capture us," he told her. "The Arcturian elite are magnificent gamblers, and very bullish on their own race of warriors."
"Sarah said something about a wager," she told him.
"Their warrior class routinely tracks the exploits of those that they consider heroes," he told her. "I knew that they had records on me. Never thought much about it. Flattering, really. But it seems that among the elite the record keeping has taken a new twist."
"I'm starting to understand," she said. "It's like us when we bet on the Eagles," she said.
"The Philadelphia football team."
"I see." He nodded. "They do a match up," he told her. "It was decided that we would play in a game of Hounds and Hares against five of their best but newest warriors. No weapons, and we were to be placed in a locale we at least marginally understood and could navigate."
"What do you get if you win?" she asked.
He shook his head. "No, no my dear. It's not that fair. We don't win. But the betting changes as the game progresses, and the wagering is based on how long it will take them to retrieve our collars and how much they will have to concede to us and to each other to get the collars. For instance, one warrior bringing in both collars after a barehanded capture and kill would bring the highest return to the betters. If two of them have to team up to get us, or if they have to bring in the collars separately, it's a lower odds win."
"What kinds of weapons do these warriors use?" she asked.
"Only what they can scrounge here during the pursuit," he said. "But each one carries some sort of suicide device in case of capture."
"I know," she said emphatically, but without elaborating. The comment caught his attention.
"You did well if you got the better of an Arcturian warrior," he said.
"Well, maybe he was sort of hamfisted," she told him. "He tried to get all three of us at once. But he was pretty tough. I broke a chair right over his head and it only put him down for about a minute. But then he smoked himself. Collapsed inward and turned to smoke."
"So that's one down," the Doctor said.
She nodded. "I still don't get it," she said. "I mean, who are you two? You travel in time?"
He paused, then nodded. "But this is not Sarah's time," he added. "Or the place that she's used to."
"So that's why she didn't know what year it was," Jennifer said. "I thought she was rambling."
"East coast of the United States in the early 1960's?" he asked.
"On the nose," she assured him. "1964, north east of Philadelphia."
"You know," he told her, "You're in terrible danger helping us. You keep referring to yourself in the plural, so I'm assuming that somehow Sarah has recruited several of you."
"She didn't recruit us," Jenny told him. "We found her when she had about had it. We helped her. And we all know it's dangerous."
"And now what?" the Doctor asked. "Do you trust me enough yet to take me to her, Jenny?" He smiled at her.
"The problem is that the police are looking for you," she told him. "And if they see us together, we're both hung. Sgt. McKenna is already suspicious about me."
"Hm, is that the local constable?" he asked.
"He's the head of about a dozen local constables," she told him. "They know you by your clothes."
He glanced down at himself. "Time for a change, then. I think I saw some coveralls in the back."
He slowly got to his feet, and she saw that he was moving slowly and had to support himself on the cabinet to get up. Out back, something rattled in the parking lot. She leaped up. His head darted around.
"It's nothing," she said with a small gasp. "Just my bicycle. It must have fallen over. I parked it against the building." But a tremor ran through her. She quelled it. She certainly felt safer in the Doctor's presence than she had felt with Sarah and Bruce. But danger was all around them.
Suddenly a voice from outside froze her. "Jennifer! Jennifer what's your bike doing here?"
She backed up. "It's my father!" she exclaimed. "Sgt. McKenna must have talked to him."
"Jennifer!" Someone hammered on the door.
"Why are you frightened?" the Doctor asked her. "I'll speak to your father if you want."
She shook her head. "When he gets mad, it's no good."
The Doctor hid a momentary surprise as her words, then strode forward. "Nonsense. I'll calm him down."
The back door pounded under a hard hammering.
"Just stay out of it," she said quickly to the Doctor. She strode past him to the door and opened it.
"Here I am, Dad."
James Pye was short, broad, and balding. On a Sunday morning he was not a very pleasant sight. She retreated before him, back into the store. The Doctor, stunned to see her so frightened, stepped forward.
"How did you get into this store?" her father demanded. "And what's this I hear from Sgt. McKenna?"
"See here, Mr. Pye," the Doctor began, coming to her aid. "Your daughter has been of great help to me--" He stopped as the shorter man suddenly chopped a short and vicious blow across his throat. The Doctor was usually pretty resiliant to blows, but it was exceptionally strong and he was already weak. He fell back.
"Dad!" Jennifer exclaimed, and suddenly found herself gripped by her throat in a hand that was far too strong to be human. She writhed to get free.
"Where is the woman?" he asked. He tightened his grip on her throat. "Where is she?"
* * * *
Jennifer opened her eyes to see blackness around her. "Are we in the mill?" she asked.
"An equipment locker," the Doctor's voice said. "We're still in the electrical store." They had been stuffed inside quickly. He was sitting upright on the floor in the cramped locker, holding her head on his arm. She had been thrown across him.
She began to remember what had happened. "Not much room," she said. She tried to move her legs, which were folded nearly up to her chin, but gave up on it.
"Are you all right, my dear?"
She nodded. "It was worse the other time, the time he really hit me because of that grapefruit. I mean, the time it was really he who hit me because of the grapefruit." Her thoughts and therefore her words were jumbled.
"This was not your father," the Doctor reminded her.
"I know. Dad wouldn't have done that to you, or hit me in front of another person. Why did he put us in here?"
"He wants to know where Sarah Jane is," the Doctor told her. "I think he's manufacturing something to get it out of us."
She sighed. "I'm the only one of us who knows."
He was silent. They heard the cabinets outside being opened and closed as the Arcturian hunted for something. The sudden ring of the grinding machine made her jump. The Doctor tightened his arms around her. "It's all right," he whispered. "He's out there and we're still in here."
Faint light from the crack in the double doors of the locker showed her the glimmer of his eyes and part of his face. "I always wanted my father to love me," she said suddenly. "I always wished he did, Doctor, but he never has."
The Doctor stroked her hair. "He's hurt you, Jenny?"
"Oh yeah, gave me a black eye once. Knocked me out once. Couldn't go to school for a day or two."
"I'm so sorry."
"There's nothing you can do when they don't love you," she said. "The only people in the world you can't make love you are your parents."
"Actually, Jennifer, you can't force anybody to love you," he said. "People who love are giving people. People who cannot love cannot give." He stroked her hair again. "It's their loss, really, my dear. They lose all the love that their children could give them." The grinding machine abruptly stopped.
"So this guy out there is going to kill us?" she asked.
"He very well may, but he wants to know where Sarah Jane is, first."
"I must not tell him," she said, more to herself than to him.
The Doctor didn't say anything, only pressed his hand to her forehead.
"Can you help me resist him?" she asked.
"I can try, my dear. I will try."
The locker door was pulled open, and the Arcturian, who now only somewhat resembled her father, urged them out with gestures.
She could not get to her feet in the cramped confines of a double width locker. He reached in and jerked her out by her arm. The Doctor came out right after her, ready to defend her, but the stranger quickly tapped him with some type of wand, cobbled up from the electronic equipment. The Doctor fell back into the locker with a crash. Jennifer started forward to help him but was jerked back by the Arcturian.
Her fear was replaced by anger, and she stomped hard on the Arcturian's foot, intending to damage the instep. He let out a laugh and dealt her a blow with the back of his hand that sent her sprawling across the room into the cabinets. He took her by the hair and threw her forward into a reversed chair, so that she sat with the back of the wooden chair in front of her. He quickly made her wrists fast to the chair's ladder back. Then he tied one of her ankles to the chair's leg. She stopped struggling.
"I'm a greenbelt," she said out loud to herself. "And I have learned to control my fear." Her own words were a great comfort to her. Those 2 dollar karate lessons had been worth something.
The Arcturian dragged out the Doctor and quickly bound his hands around the mounted vise that was bolted onto the workbench.
"Your hand, in there, if she doesn't tell me," he said to the Doctor, pointing at the vise.
"The girl doesn't understand what this is about," the Doctor told him. "You might as well let her go."
"I know she's been with your woman." He crossed over to Jennifer. "Tell me where she is, and I'll leave you here, take him, and go."
"You go to hell," she said.
"Jennifer!" the Doctor exclaimed. She looked at him. "It's not becoming to you to speak that way," he told her sternly.
She gave a barely perceptible jerk of her head and glared at the Arcturian. "You don't scare me," she said.
"Good," he told her. "I appreciate courage. Let's test yours." He produced a sharpened metal needle, about the length and width of a porcupine quill. With one deft motion he tapped it into the side of her neck.
She winced and closed her eyes, then forced herself to calm down and look up. "I hope you have a lot of those," she said.
"One is all I need for now," he said, wrapping a thin filament around the end of the quill. He flicked the quill and laughed when she winced again. "You will need to be tougher than that," he said. He reached over to the cabinet and flipped a toggle on a machine that sat on the counter top.
Her back arched and she let out a keening wail, a sound that was not controlled by her muscles or will. Her arms jerked against the bonds, but they held. He flipped the toggle, and she fell forward over the back of the chair.
"Where is the woman?" he asked.
"Oh, that wasn't so bad," she told him.
"She doesn't know!" the Doctor exclaimed. "Let her go!"
"I know that she knows, Doctor," he said, throwing the toggle and turning up one of the knobs on the machine. She writhed and the keening, almost inhuman wail came out of her mouth again. He varied the intensity and shot a satisfied glance at the Doctor as the changing of the voltage affected the tone of the scream. When he finished, she fell forward onto the chair's back. He pulled her head up by the hair. "What do you care about that woman?" he asked. "She's brought you toil and hard work. Where is she? She's not worth dying for."
She didn't answer him. He glanced at the Doctor. "Tell her to give it up, Doctor," he said. "And I will spare her; I will leave her here and take you and the female's collar back with me. Do you want to be the death of this child?"
Before the Doctor could speak, Jennifer gasped. "It's Bruce and Chuck, too, not just her."
"I will not harm your friends."
"You're a liar," she said.
He returned to the machine.
"Don't do it!" the Doctor exclaimed. "She's just a girl!"
A sudden pounding on the front door interrupted them. Jennifer let out a breath of relief.
"Make a sound, and I will run enough voltage through her to sear her heart," he said to the Doctor.
They all stayed perfectly still. As they waited, she hesitantly lifted her head and glanced at the Doctor. His keen eyes, even over the distance, reached into hers. Somehow he did steady her nerves and her will. She suddenly smiled.
The pounding on the front door was repeated. The Arcturian hesitated, reached into his jacket, then seemed to think better of it. "Going for the high stakes?" the Doctor asked.
"I may have to leave her," he said. "But you're coming with me." He pulled the electrical wand from its resting place on the cabinet and with his other hand released the Doctor's ropes. "The absence of your collar has bought you time, Doctor," he conceded.
"Not very easy dragging a dead body through the streets, is it?" the Doctor asked.
As the ropes fell loose the Doctor suddenly let loose with a knuckle strike from his right hand that caught the Arcturian directly in the ridge of his eye, knocking his head back. The Arcturian lashed out blindly with the wand, but the Doctor caught it on his elbow and knocked it away.
Unnoticed for the moment, Jennifer strained against the ropes tying her to the chair. She pulled and pulled with new strength. Then she threw herself over onto the floor and pushed with all her might.
The Doctor and Arcturian crashed to the ground right by her. She wriggled around and used her free leg to kick at the Arcturian.
"Who's in there?" a voice bawled from out front.
Suddenly she had one wrist loosened enough from the other to use it to jerk at the rope ends. She pushed and pressed furiously.
The Doctor was getting the better of it. The Arcturian made a leap forward to get away, and the Doctor brought him down in a tackle. They heard a booted foot kick in the back door. Frantic, the Arcturian kicked the Doctor away and scrambled for the window. He leaped through the blind, face first, and they heard the sound of shattering glass. Yells and outcries greeted his outburst onto the street.
The Doctor made quick use of the diversion by turning to Jennifer, jerking the quill out of her neck, and getting her untied.
"Back in the locker," she said. "Before they find us."
"It's no good," he told her. "They'll search it. This way."
Their enemy had gone one way, and so they went out through a window on the other side of the building, pulling it open and climbing out rather than crashing through it. They came out into a grassy, double-rutted alleyway that ran between the electrical store and it's neighbor, a button store. One end of the alley emptied back into the parking lot by the rear of Hodgson's. The other end came out on the street. Neither route was safe. He jerked his thumb straight up. They climbed up the fence that ran along the side of the button store and used the top of the fence as a stepping stone to the roof. Face down, they shinnied across the roof to the middle and then lay flat.
From up above, the sounds of a struggle were plain from the back lot of Hodgson's. She was panting, eyes closed, face down. "You all right?" he whispered. She nodded.
A sound that she had heard one time before greeted them, like a sigh on the wind, a chemical and yet aspiric sound. She jerked her head up. "He's killed himself, Doctor," she whispered.
"Shh, stay down." He guided her head down to rest on the top of her hand. Their chins on their hands, they watched intently and saw a faint whiff of vapor come out from the other side of the electrical supply store.
* * * *
"Sarah Jane?" I've brought you breakfast," Bruce said, picking his way over the impromptu bridge of broken chair backs that covered the wide puddle.
She started awake from her couch of hard chairs. A cockroach scuttled off the blanket that was covering her, She screamed and it fell to the floor. Bruce gave a quick stamp of his foot. "Got it!" he exclaimed.
She buried her face in her arm for a moment.
He set the bag and coffee thermos down on another chair.
"Are you all right, Sarah?" he asked uncertainly.
"Yes, quite all right," she said, looking up. She had to be. She realized that Bruce needed her to be all right as much as she did. He helped her up, shook out the blanket for her, and folded it.
"Go ahead, take a look at the bag," he invited her.
She did so and pulled out Danish and a wad of sticky napkins.
"Oh what heaven!" she exclaimed, biting into it. Her last meal had been a long time ago. She stacked several paper cups together and poured hot coffee for herself. Bruce pulled yet another chair off the pile and sat down. He smiled at her evident enjoyment of the food. She was already half way through the first Danish.
"Would you like some, Bruce?" she asked.
"No, I ate at home," he told her.
"I'm sorry," she said after a moment. "Just an insect."
"Actually," he began. "Cockroaches are not nearly as dirty as everyone--oh never mind."
He sighed and looked grim.
"Where's Jen?" she asked.
"Morning Mass," he told her. "Look," he said, "I can't think of any way to get that thing off of you except the body temperature trick. I know it's risky, but it's all I can think of."
"I just wonder if body temperature is enough," she said. "There's breathing and even electrical activity in the human body."
"There is?" he asked.
"Yes, there is," she told him. "I don't mind going right to the edge, but I want to know that it's worth the risk, that we can get rid of this thing."
* * * *
"That cop's got the bike," Jenny whispered as they peered over the edge of the roof top. The rest of the police had finally left; the police photographer had gone; the ambulance driven away.
The lone police officer thoughtfully walked the bicycle away from Hodgson's. It was the bicycle she had stolen from the Fissinger's in her escape.
"Look," the Doctor whispered.
The man bent over the bicycle seat, his face close to it.
"He's sniffing it!" she whispered.
The cop ran his face along the bars, all the way up to the handgrips on the handlebars.
"So," he observed. "They can track by scent. That explains a lot."
"Do you mean that's one of them?" she asked. "He'll find us up here. "
"Only if he checks that entire building for our trail," he said. "I don't think he will. In his mind it's likely that we've gotten far away." He smiled wryly.
She carefully turned her head to look at him. "The police saw that one Arcturian dissolve himself. What must they think?"
"Hard to say," he told her. Then he asked, "How about Sarah, Jennifer?"
"We've got her in the steam tunnels under the hospital," she said. "Do you think that Arcturian can track my scent back to the hospital? Last time I was there was yesterday."
He shook his head slightly. "The scent's cold by now. There was a heavy dew this morning." He looked back out toward the impersonated police officer, who was now walking the bike along the highway, away from them. "But he can match its scent to you. If he runs into you again, he'll know that you've been with me and that you had something to do with his comrade's death."
"It's going to be a long walk back to that hospital without a bicycle," she whispered.
"There's no time for a long walk," he said. "And the police will be on alert to look for me. We'll have to get a car."
She dropped her forehead down on the backs of her hands. "Steal it?" she asked.
"We won't take it more than a few miles," he assured her. "It's to save a life."
"Of course you know how to hot wire cars," she said.
"Of course!" he exclaimed.
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