Hounds and Hares: Episode Five
Chucky and Sarah Jane were playing Fish across the seats of one of the chairs. Bruce stayed waiting by the junction of the two corridors, listening and looking.
Hounds and Hares
"Give me all your--threes," she said.
"This is no fun," Chucky complained, handing her three threes.
"I wish Jennifer would get here," Bruce said.
"Do you want to try to find her?" Sarah asked. "We'll be all right here."
He checked himself at a familiar sound up the corridor of the tunnel. They had consented to give the gun to Sarah, and he threw a glance at her. She put her hand up under the loose sweatshirt of his that she wore, reaching for the gun in her waistband.
Footsteps came closer, a splash as somebody inadvertently hit a puddle.
"Here we are!" Jennifer said happily as she came into the dim light of their alcove.
"Doctor!" Sarah exclaimed. She came to the end of the leash that linked her to the frequency generator, hesitant in fear that it might be another trick, but almost in tears at the sight of him.
"Sarah Jane!" he exclaimed, and they hugged each other. "And you must be Bruce!" he exclaimed happily to Bruce, pulling him in. "And this is Chucky!" and Sarah pulled Chucky in.
"And of course our Jennifer!" he exclaimed, pulling her in with his other arm. For a moment they all laughed at each other and there was a good deal of back slapping, hugging, and laughing.
"Where have you been?" Bruce asked her.
"Stealing cars with me," the Doctor assured him.
She shook her head. "Too long to tell all at once," she said.
As they pulled apart, the Doctor offered a hand to Bruce. "Jennifer has told me so much about your quick thinking," he said. "Thank you for everything." They shook hands. He solemnly shook hands with Chucky, too.
"Can you get this thing off of me?" Sarah Jane asked the Doctor.
He examined it critically. "Possibly," he said.
"How did you lose yours?" she asked.
"I found a nice live circuit in a power station and attached it. It did get rid of the collar." He widened his eyes a bit and nodded.
"Hm, I get the idea," she said. "Don't fancy that tack for myself."
"I would advise against it," he agreed.
"How did you survive 100,000 volts?" Bruce demanded.
"Look, let's all sit down," the Doctor said. "It's time for a meeting. We've got to make some decisions."
They drew up chairs.
"First," the Doctor said. "Jennifer and I were attacked by an Arcturean at the electrical shop. We were saved by the police, and now there's one less Arcturean to reckon with."
"So the police are helping us?" Bruce said, relieved.
"Not quite," Jennifer told him.
The Doctor shook his head. "Afraid not, old son. They seem to think I'm some sort of vagrant who goes around punching people."
"The worst part has to do with us," Jennifer told her friends. She glanced at the Doctor.
"It seems that our latest Arcturean friend tracked Jennifer to me," the Doctor told him.
Jennifer held up her hands helplessly. "I did it again," she said.
"Only because you're the one who had been trying to find him for us," Sarah said warmly, and Jennifer smiled.
The Doctor shrugged. "There is a chance that he did not track Jennifer, that he was actually tracking me, and she came in at the wrong time. But in any case, at least one other Arcturean has gotten her scent and can identify her. There's a very strong chance that the Arctureans by this time know about all three of you," he told them. "And that they will waylay you if they can." He told them about their observations from the roof of the button store.
"So we can't go home," Bruce said.
"Can't go home?" Chucky echoed in dismay.
"Not without great risk of falling into their hands," the Doctor told him. "They can impersonate anybody, and they are expert trackers and orienteers."
"Then what's the good of hiding at all?" Bruce asked.
"It gives us a chance to set up our own fight," the Doctor told him. "We can't get away forever, but we can do a bit to make sure that the final confrontation comes down to our terms, and not theirs."
* * * *
"Is this your bicycle?" the policeman asked Ned Fissinger.
The Fissingers had just come back from cutting Mass, and were ferociously chewing gum to mask the smell of nicotine and tobacco.
"Yeah, it is," the boy said, taking it from the officer. He glanced warily at the adult. He did not recognize him, but that did not mean much. The Fissingers avoided the police.
"Do you know the girl who had it?" he asked.
"She stole it!" Ned exclaimed. Several of the children standing by nodded adamantly. They were all blood relatives, as evidenced by their resemblences to each other and their related scents. Aggression was evident among them.
"Tell me about her," he ordered.
They looked at each other, then at him, much more warily.
"She lives down that way," Maura said, jerking her head in the direction of the street.
"Will you bring her to me?" he asked.
The Fissingers clustered closer to him. "What?" Maura asked.
"If you bring her to me, I will reward you. You will not be punished for bringing her to me. But only to me, do you understand?"
"What do you want her for?" Maura asked. "What did she do?"
"She is wanted for questioning. But I must question her." He turned and walked away.
"How do we find you?" Ned Fissinger yelled after him. The younger Fissingers started snickering. But when he slowly turned, they fell silent, and he was silent for so long that the silence became quite intense. All merriment died.
"I will be back to visit you."
* * * *
The day lingered on. They had to wait until the main functions of the hospital closed down before they could act to get rid of Sarah Jane's collar. Jennifer, Bruce, and Chucky dozed in the driest corner, all huddled together in sleep. Sarah Jane and the Doctor spoke in murmurs over the frequency generator and oscilloscope.
"Suppose there's no way to get to the TARDIS," she said. "I mean, even if we get out of all this trouble, there's no getting back to where we belong, eh?"
He smiled reassuringly. "Ah, my dear, you forget my telepathic link to the TARDIS," he told her. "It can come to us, if we can only give it a decent path to take to reach us."
"How do we do that?" she asked.
"We know we have to eliminate or overpower the three remaining Arctureans," he told her. "But they've got that blasted habit of vaporizing themselves every time anybody gets the upper hand on them. We must get one of them alive before he can send himself out in a poof of smoke."
"Yes why do they do that?" she asked.
"I'm starting to get an idea on this," he said. "Ever hear of counting coup?"
"Not at all," she told him.
"It's what some races use as a means to prove or attain manhood," he told her. "Pitting the trained warriors against excellent and rather dangerous game. The young warriors are not considered complete or mature until they pass that one test. And not every one passes it." He looked thoughtfully down at the deck of cards he was manipulating. "We were only told about the betting that goes on and the great vigor and ability of our pursuers," he told her. "I'm starting to think that even though this is a rather festive thing for the fat Arctureans running it, the ones pursuing us are also in a sort of contest for their lives. Or at least for their standing within the warrior class."
"So they vaporize themselves when they fail?" she asked.
"When they perceive themselves to be in a position of endangering their mission," he told her. "They must not be captured, and they know it. It's a risk that they have been instructed about before ever starting this little game of theirs. I wonder how many of these young warriors survive the games of Hounds and Hares," he said. "I wonder how they view it, and I wonder if it is used by the merchant Arctureans to control the numbers of the young warriors." He thoughtfully shuffled the deck with one hand. "I mean, look at how useful propaganda is to get young people to do whatever the ruling classes want them to do. Get them all hyped up for this great contest, dress it up with celebrations and high stakes betting, and let them loose. And if only half of them return, so much the better. It's one way to keep the Warrior class serving the merchant class."
"So where does this bring us?" she asked.
"Well, in a cold blooded way it gives us an edge," he said. "They will kill themselves rather than lose face by being captured. So it makes it easier for us to get them to kill themselves."
"That is cold blooded," Sarah Jane agreed.
"And perhaps dangerous to us as well," he agreed. "We've got to keep at least one of them alive so that we can secure his means of communicating with the Arctureans who put us here. That's the only way we can open a channel to the TARDIS." He set the deck down. "Because they've got the TARDIS and don't know what to do with it. We know what to do with it but haven't got it."
"Right," she said. "So we've got to get rid of this," and she tugged on her collar, "kidnap one Arcturean, neutralize the rest, whistle down the TARDIS, and get out of this."
He nodded and beamed. "Precisely."
"Yes, well, you've forgotten them haven't you?" she asked. "We've also got to return several thousand dollars worth of equipment to a poor middle class shop keeper, get these children home to their parents, and make sure that we don't make trouble for them once we're gone." She nodded at Jennifer. "And that one's in for trouble, if not the other two."
He nodded thoughtfully. "Caught a glimpse of that earlier," he conceded.
"We can't leave them in the lurch, Doctor," Sarah Jane insisted.
"Don't worry," he told her. "We'll get it patched up somehow."
"So what do we do first?" she asked.
"Get that thing off of your neck," he told her. "Bruce's first guess was about the best one. We've got to get your heart rate way down and your body temperature very low. Try to simulate death."
She plucked the deck out of his hand and started dealing for Fish. "That should be easy, shouldn't it?" she asked.
"We have a whole hospital at our disposal," he reminded her. "Actually it will be a cinch."
"Give me all your three's," she said.
"Dash it all," he muttered, and handed her three threes.
"Oh, that gives me a book!" she exclaimed.
"I spent a good deal of time this evening teaching Jennifer how to use a stethoscope correctly," he reminded Sarah Jane.
"She seemed to find it very entertaining that you have two hearts," Sarah said with a smile.
"Well, it proved out that she knows how to listen and get a heart rate," he said. "Later tonight we'll put Bruce on watch, and she and I will see about getting that collar off of you."
"You ready, Sarah Jane?" the Doctor asked.
"Think so," she said.
It had taken them a long and hard struggle to bring the frequency generator up from the steam tunnel and make preparations for removing the collar. Chucky had also proved a problem to move, as he had fallen soundly asleep and could not wake up completely. Bruce had finally brought him up on his back while the others carried the equipment.
While Bruce had set up the equipment in the outpatient wing's sterilization room, the Doctor had taken Jennifer with him as a watch man and had picked the lock into a nearby medical supply closet. He returned with the items that he needed. Meanwhile, Sarah had changed into hospital whites. "Feel like a surgeon," she observed to Bruce as she came out of the next room, wheeling the frequency generator after herself on a small wheeled tray.
The Doctor came in again with Jennifer and tapped Bruce. "All right, you're on watch," he said to Bruce. "But stay out of sight."
"Okay. Nobody should be in this wing at this hour," Bruce said, leaving and closing the door carefully after himself.
"You can work around blood and needles without being faint?" the Doctor asked Jennifer.
"Yes," she said. "Say, where's Chucky?"
"Asleep on the floor over there," the Doctor said with a nod at the corner. He turned to Sarah Jane, who was sitting on a mobile stretcher, and smiled. "Any questions?"
"Just get this thing off of me," she said bravely, glancing down at the hated collar.
"We can get you pretty close to a death-like state," he assured her.
"Oh don't be so comforting!" she exclaimed, but her voice shook as she watched him load a syringe and tap it to get the drug down at one end.
"We'll both be checking your heart and lungs," he said. "This will slow down your heart rate considerably, get your body partially shut down. The cold should not harm you as long as we revive you correctly. All right. Lie back, my dear." He guided her back onto the mobile stretcher. Behind him, Jennifer turned on the bath water and dumped in the first bag of ice. Several other bags were lined up alongside the tub, filched from the cafeteria's many freezers. The noise of the ice being dumped in sent a tremor through Sarah Jane, and she glanced up at the Doctor. He busily cleaned off a section of her wrist with cold antiseptic.
"I'm right here, Sarah Jane. Just relax." He ran the syringe into her vein and waited. She thought to make a come back answer to him but then did not bother. She took in her breath and tried to relax. "That's a good girl. You won't fall quite asleep--sort of in and out until the cold takes over. It's imperative that you relax. You don't want to try to raise your heart rate. We've got to get it to drop as low as is possible."
He seemed to be talking on and on, and then it surprised her to see how much he and Jennifer resembled each other. Then she realized that she was looking at both of them, but their heads were going together, Jennifer's face nervous but intent, and his calm and assured, but also intent. She heard a distant splash.
It took her a while to feel the cold, and then she felt it only distantly. She heard Jennifer's voice, thought she looked incongruous with a stethoscope at her ears, heard her speak: "45 . . . .41 . . . 41 . . . . 41."
"All right, Sarah, just a little more," the Doctor said, looking down at her and reaching for something.
Her eyes closed. "38. . . . 36--" Jennifer's voice said.
And then the Doctor spoke gruffly, it seemed, and she heard Jennifer's voice, tense under pressure, but still steady. She had nerve in a crisis: "That's 85."
More words from the Doctor, insistent.
"No, it's 85," Jennifer insisted coolly. "That's the reading. The water is just at 32 and a half. Here's the salt."
The white hair of the Doctor blurred with the white lights above. Burning cold lights above and burning cold water beneath. Time stopped.
"All right, slowly," she heard the Doctor say very clearly, and she heard a great swooshing of water being displaced.
Things were fluttering around her very rapidly, as though the room had erupted with neutral colored butterflies. These shapes gradually resolved themselves into the arms and hands of the Doctor and Jennifer.
The Doctor's face appeared above her, smiling. "Sleep, Sarah" he said to her, "Everything is perfectly all right," and her eyes closed. She dived into sleep.
She woke up much warmer, and the first thing she saw was the Doctor twirling the collar around his finger and hand with an extremely satisfied expression on his face. He was smiling at her.
Jennifer was asleep at her post, one hand holding Sarah's wrist, the stethoscope all crooked on her head where it had come to rest along the mobile stretcher. Blankets were piled all over Sarah. Wonderful, warm, soft blankets.
"It worked?" Sarah asked.
"Perfectly," he told her. "Popped right off when your heart rate was down to about 25 beats per minute and your temperature was so low I won't relate it to you."
"I can't move," she said, barely able to speak. "So tired."
He shook his head. "It's only two, now. I should think we could keep you right here until at least four thirty. First shift crew probably won't come in until five thirty or six." He smiled at her again. "Everybody's done very well. I'm going to go get rid of this." He held up the collar--still attached to the frequency generator--with one last wave of triumph.
"I used to tell Bruce and Chucky adventure stories all the time," Jennifer said wearily to Sarah as the younger girl helped Sarah down the maintenance ladder to the steam tunnel below. "I never told them about how tired you get being on the run and in hiding. It's exhausting."
Sarah felt a little weak and too shaky to be moved again so soon, but she offered Jennifer a brave smile. "It is, isn't it? You three have been great."
"I just want to sleep," Jennifer said. "And then eat."
Bruce came up behind them, Chucky on his back. "Where did he put that collar?" Bruce asked.
The two girls shook their heads. Up above, the Doctor closed the maintenance hatch. He followed them down.
They had all adopted the wan, pale faces of the pursued. They were hungry as well, and there was no food, but everybody was too tired to conduct another raid of the closed hospital cafeteria.
The best way to sleep away from insects down in the steam tunnels was to prop wooden chairs against the wall and sleep sitting up, tilted back against the wall. Chucky was just barely small enough to do well on an impromptu bed made up of three chairs lined up with each other. The other four sat one next to another, titled against the wall.
It was rather warm down in the steam tunnels, but Sarah had brought down a blanket, and she cuddled up in that and was quickly asleep again. The Doctor checked her pulse and skin and then took a chair between Sarah and Jennifer. Bruce was on Jennifer's other side, also asleep as soon as he tilted back against the sturdy wall.
The Doctor smiled at Jennifer and then flipped his cape up so that it covered the both of them. She had not been cold, but there was something comforting in being covered. She leaned her head back against the wall and looked up at him.
"What next, Doctor?" she asked.
"We have to move," he said. "We've been here too long, gone in and out too much."
She groaned but nodded. "Where?" she asked. "Where is there left to go?"
"Got to find someplace," he murmured. "Hope you can help think of a place."
"Oh sure," she said agreeably. "Just can't think right now."
They were silent. He was capable of dozing and felt inclined to do so, but just when he thought she was sleeping, she said, "Then what?"
"Then we try to trap at least one of the Arctureans so that we can get their communication devices."
"Why, Doctor?" she asked.
"Sarah and I need to rescue my TARDIS," he told her. "I can get it back if I can just establish communications with it." He sighed and looked down. "And then we have to figure out some way to get those three Arctureans away from here."
"And then you leave," she said.
He glanced at her and nodded.
"With what you do," she began. "What are you, anyway?"
"Scientist," he told her. "And traveler."
"Do you like it?"
"Very much," he told her.
She nodded and seemed satisfied but thoughtful.
"How about you?" he asked.
She glanced up at him.
"Do you like what you do?" he asked. Then he added, "I'm sorry we've taken you away from your life so suddenly."
She let out a brief laugh. "It feels like it's all way far behind me now," she told him. "School, Dad, all that homework, the Miller house." She raised her eyes. "It's up there in the world up there, but here is another world, and now I feel like I'm a part of this world. The other world seems very far away down here." She looked up at him. "I like this world. I like being with you and Sarah--and Bruce and Chucky. It seems that when I'm with you, I'm not the me I was in the world on the surface. Does that make sense?"
His keen eyes surveyed her for a moment as he considered her perspectives. "Perhaps," he said, "You're a little more free here with us."
She considered his words and nodded. "How odd, to be a sort of prisoner and yet be more free, too. I can't leave here, and yet while I'm here I do feel free and brave and able. Free and brave and able," she repeated sleepily.
He guided her head to his shoulder and adjusted the cape over her. "I hope that you'll always be free to do what you ought to do, Jennifer," he said. "And free to be what you ought to be."
She fell asleep without another word. He knew that one of them should stay awake to keep watch, but the air seemed heavy with sleep. In fact, some sort of phenomenon from the warmth of the pipes and the coolness of the air had created a faint, languorous mist. Sleep hung over them like a warm blanket, dropping down on them, removing any sense of danger or discovery. In another minute or two he was also asleep.
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