Hounds and Hares: Episode Ten
Hounds and Hares
"I've had about enough of this," the Doctor muttered as the officer addressed only as "Barry" led them down to the tanks.
Fortunately, the officer was the most puzzled of the three of them. He was young, and Sarah had already begun to appreciate how inexperience in one's adversary was such a boon. As far as he knew, the Doctor and Sarah had never resisted the police and had been cleared of the kidnapping charge. McKenna's latest order had him mystified. But he offered a token insistence on maintaining a police/prisoner relationship.
"Please keep quiet, sir," he said. The Doctor turned and glared at him. Conditions being what they were, McKenna had allowed them to be ushered out of the office without handcuffs, and in the custody of the young officer only. McKenna's fear of the Doctor had dropped a little too far. He glanced at Sarah Jane, and she looked at him expectantly. If he did not try something, she would, and he knew it.
"I left my medicine downstairs!" the Doctor suddenly exclaimed.
"Oh, Doctor, not again," Sarah protested.
"It's been--how long since I last took my pills, Sarah?" he asked, stopping in alarm.
"What pills?" Barry demanded.
"My heart pills young man," the Doctor told him. "You can listen for yourself. I have a displaced heart. It's over on this side of my chest. Makes the beat very irregular. Effects the timing. I've got to get those pills." He pulled his jacket open and opened the middle three buttons of his shirt in invitation to the officer to listen. The young man shook his head.
"Please get them," the Doctor said. "Or let Sarah Jane here get them. If you're afraid that I'll hurt you. My chest is all tight already."
"No, come on," Barry said quickly, embarrassed.
"We spent a good deal of time in the property room," the Doctor said. "Talking about that dead man's equipment. I think I asked for water and took out the pills, but Sergeant McKenna started asking me about what happened. I must have left them there."
Barry led them quickly downstairs and into a short, dark hallway. He stopped before a heavy and locked door. The Doctor glanced at Sarah.
"If you'll just let me pop in, I know I can put my hands right on them," he said.
"I'll have to go in with you, Doctor." He did not see Sarah slip behind him and obligingly get down to her hands and knees.
"Barry," the Doctor said. As the young man looked up, the Doctor gave a push into his chest. He fell backwards over Sarah and hit the floor. His arms flew out. In the next instant, the Doctor was on top of him, his long fingers thrust hard into his chest.
"Don't fight, son," the Doctor said, and he used his other hand to quickly stab into the nerves of his neck. He lowered the young officer back to the floor. Sarah Jane leaped into the room ahead of him.
"It's lying out," the Doctor hissed. "In a polyurethane bag."
"Got it!" she exclaimed. She nipped it off the top of one of the tables while the Doctor dragged in the unconscious officer.
"Heart pills indeed," she said to him as she passed the bagged communications device to him.
"Let's get out of here," he told her. "We are about to return to our life of crime, Sarah Jane."
* * * *
"Give me all your threes," Bruce said.
She sighed and handed him two threes. "The deck is shot," she said. "There are cards missing. We lost some in the tunnels."
He looked ruefully at the two threes. "So we can't make a book out of these," he said. "Not enough to make the threes complete, anyway."
"No, one is missing, and I'm sure it's gone forever." She shrugged helplessly. "If one is lost, then the whole set is ruined."
"We'll just have to play something else," he said. "And why not? Just because the threes aren't complete, we can still play something together."
She shrugged as an indication that she was too tired and dispirited to argue.
"Poker," he announced.
"I wonder where Chucky is," she said She glanced at Bruce. They had abandoned hope for getting out hours ago. They were both hungry and thirsty, and now cold. Their prison was lighted by overhead lightbulbs, and neither of them had any clear idea of what time it was. Her wristwatch had stopped at 4:30, and his said 8:00, and they had no idea if that was morning or night, or if it was accurate at all.
"I'm sure Chucky's fine," he told her, shuffling the worn cards.
"The last we saw of him, he was going up that dark tunnel alone," she said. "I should have gone with him."
"No, we saw him at the police station, remember?" he corrected her. "And he had to go up the tunnel alone. We did out part, and he did his part. Pick up your cards, Jennifer."
He glanced at her as she took up the hand. "How do you play poker, anyway?" she asked.
"Are you scared?" he asked her.
"Yes," she said. "I'm scared of everything right now. Even if we get out of here."
* * * *
No alarm followed them as they fled the building.
"We've got to get the TARDIS right off," the Doctor said. "And that means getting to cover, where I can re-tune this thing."
"What about Jennifer and Bruce?" Sarah Jane asked him. "If we don't show up, the Arctureans will kill them."
"I know that, Sarah Jane," he said. "Let's go down that way, that alleyway. It will bring us down to Hodgsons."
"Hodgson's?" she asked.
"The electrical supply store." He took her by the hand and led her down the alley at a fast trot. "Come on. As soon as McKenna finds that young man, he'll be after us, and he knows that we don't know our way 'round very well. Ah! Here we are!" They ducked into Hodgson's through the back door, which had been newly patched with a sheet of plywood over the hole made in it when the police had kicked it in.
The man at the counter darted around as they entered. It was obviously a slow morning. The front of the store was empty
"Mr. Hodgson, I presume?" the Doctor asked.
Hodgson was fiftyish, pale, chubby, balding, and slow moving. But he managed to get to his feet, a look of wonder on his face as he surveyed the Doctor. "And who might you be?" he asked.
"I am the Doctor, sir. I've come on behalf of the two children who stole your equipment."
Hodgson shook his head. "Kids today," he began. "And that Bruce seemed like such a nice boy, even being Jewish and all. Always called me sir. Very polite--"
"Well, you see, sir," the Doctor told him. "The two of them stole the items as a favor to me," he said. "I was desperately needing their help. Ever seen one of these?" he asked. He held out the Arcturean communicator to the shopkeeper. Hodgson took it into his hands with the gentle eagerness of a scholar finding a rare book, or a gourmand discovering a fine wine.
"Where in the world did you get this?" he asked. "What is it?"
"If you'll open it up, you can take a look at it," the Doctor said genially.
"Let me get my tools." He hurried into the back room.
"Doctor!" Sarah hissed. "That's our ticket home!"
"Not unless we get it opened, Sarah," he reminded her. "Mr. Hodgson will be happy to oblige. Don't worry. He won't be able to develop anything from it, but I'm willing to wager he's all read up on solid state electronics." He let his eyes rove the shop walls. Most of the equipment was from the vacuum tube eras of electronics. He gave his head a shake of wonder. "No, he'll be fascinated by the communicator, and I can render it harmless enough once we've used it."
Hodgson returned with a leather bag of tools. He set it down on the counter top and carefully took up the communicator.
"Look here," the Doctor said. "It will go faster if you use this." And he passed his sonic screwdriver over to the man. No doubt, when the Doctor wanted to over awe somebody, he could do it. Mr. Hodgson's eyes nearly popped out of his head as he took up the futuristic tool. He looked quizzically at the Doctor and at Sarah Jane. "Who are you two?" he asked.
"We uh--we are the good guys, Mr. Hodgson," the Doctor told him. "And we're in a bit of trouble right now. We desperately need your help."
"But you know Bruce and Jennifer?"
"They're in danger. Look here," and the Doctor very quickly flashed him the UNIT pass that McKenna had returned to him during their temporary truce the night before. "We're government agents," he said. "We've got to get access to some tracking equipment very quickly. If you'll help us, I'll leave that device with you. You may have it."
"But what is it?" Hodsgon asked.
"Well sir, you don't want me to ruin it for you, do you?" the Doctor returned.
Hodgson eyed him carefully and thoughtfully. "What about my equipment they took?" he asked.
"It's safe and at the hospital," the Doctor told him.
"Yes, up in a crawl space above the very top floor. Will you forgive the children? They were only trying to help me," the Doctor told him. "I took it from them to keep it safe until I could get it back to you. They did mean to return it. I guarantee you that."
"There's been odd things going on in this town," the shopkeeper said slowly. "Had the place busted into on Sunday, and couldn't get a straight account from the police. Some fellow chucked himself out the side window there and dropped dead in the street. And nothing was taken, but I went back there in the workroom Monday morning, and wouldn't you know but somebody'd built one of the nicest little sweep generators I'd ever seen."
The Doctor nodded at the communications device. "About that gadget," he said.
"Oh, there you go, then." Hodgson had already figured out how to use the sonic screwdriver. He popped the communicator apart and handed the two halves to the Doctor.
"What do you make of it?" the Doctor asked him.
"It's a transmitter and receiver," he said right away. "But not just a transmitter and receiver."
"May I?" the Doctor took one of the finely chiseled screwdrivers, of a size small enough to repair a pair of glasses. While he bent over the tiny tuner in the device, a police siren screamed into life a few streets over.
"Doctor . . . "Sarah Jane began.
"Shsh, quiet," he said, his eyes fixed on the device.
"What's wrong?" Hodgson asked.
"Wait," the Doctor said. "Quiet." He closed his eyes in fierce concentration, and the lines in his face deepened.
Another siren picked up the wailing call.
* * * *
"What do you mean knocked out in the property room?" McKenna shouted. "Where are those two? Is he all right? Get him up here. Call in the second shift."
Blue uniformed police officers scurried back and forth in the office and then got out the door and raced down the hall to bring in their reserve members and organize the manhunt.
"They're at the blasted hospital!" McKenna stormed. "The Doctor's hid that collar there somewhere--down in them steam tunnels, and he needs it to get the children back. I want every available man over there. We'll intercept him and the girl."
* * * *
"I wonder what's going on," Mr. Hodgson said as the volume of the sirens increased. He went to one of the side windows and pulled the blinds across to look outside. The Doctor's face remained fixed in a grimace, his eyes closed. The communications device started to hum in his hands.
A sound came that Sarah Jane had thought she would never hear again, the tired, straining, welcome sound of the TARDIS. It faded in and out for a moment, then solidified and appeared intact. Mr. Hodgson's glasses fell off his nose. His jaw dropped. The Doctor let out a weary sigh and opened his eyes. "Hodgson," he said. "We need a map of the town."
* * * *
"I know where they are," McKenna said suddenly.
Mitchell looked up at him. Mitchell was an experienced cop who had thought that he'd seen it all until this past week. He glanced up at McKenna. "The old man and the girl?" he asked.
"No, the kids. They're at St. Anne's." He had been bent over the desk, studying a Program and Instrumentation Drawing of the HVAC system at the hospital.
"The kids?" Mitchell asked. "Where?"
"It was on the phone when them fellers called," McKenna said. "I heard it, and thought about it, but it didn't quite register. The bells."
"Eight o'clock mass at St. Anne's. It's held every day. The only bells in town to ring."
"They're somewhere close to the church."
* * * *
"That's it then," Hodgson confirmed as the Doctor looked on wearily. The shopkeeper was delighted with the sweep generator. It had not been difficult to tune it to the signal band generated by the Arcturean device.
Sarah Jane had the map spread out. "Where does that put it then?" she asked. "We've got the coordinates conversion, but--"
"That would be Pond Street," Hodgson said without bothering to glance at the map.
They had simply signaled the Arctureans, then homed in on their transmitters when the naive warriors had checked to see who was contacting them.
"No doubt they thought we were their superiors," the Doctor said.
"You don't think they would be suspicious because we cut them off?" Sarah Jane asked.
He shook his head. "No, they'll likely fiddle with things on their end and try to re-establish contact."
She picked up the ruler and measured along the coordinates graph that Hodgson had quickly drawn for them. The coordinates were accurate, of course. "They're signaling from the church," she said with some surprise.
"Bet it's the ruined basement," Hodgson said. "There's a heap of remodeling work going on over there."
"I did hear church bells when they were talking to me," the Doctor said. "Didn't think much of it."
He took up the communicator, removed a few pieces from it, and passed it to the shopkeeper. "Here you are, Mr. Hodgson, and don't forget the oscilloscope and frequency generator are at the hospital. Come along, Sarah. We've got to get the collar and then make a rescue."
"But your collar's been destroyed," Sarah said as they hurried to the TARDIS and opened the doors.
"What is that thing?" Hodgson asked, staring at the TARDIS, but neither of them heard him.
"There are fragments left," the Doctor said. "The charred pieces fell into my pockets--some of them. I've got a little collection, anyway. Come on. We'll use the TARDIS' homing devices to get to the collar and then to the children." He opened the door, and they disappeared inside.
* * * *
"The thing is, even if we get out alive," Jennifer said. "Even if we return the stuff to Hodgsons, what is my dad going to do?"
Bruce looked thoughtful. He knew that Jennifer's father hated change, and he hated inconvenience, and he hated anything that required him to show her affection or tenderness. Bruce concentrated fiercely for a moment. Then he said, "Sergeant McKenna will help you. He'll find a way." He brightened slightly. "And Mr. Hodgson is okay. He'll try to work it out with our folks. Really, with all those grown ups getting a hand in it, you're Dad won't be able to do much."
"Hmm, that's true," she said. She had told the Doctor the truth when she had said that her father would never strike her in front of another person, nor if he thought that another person would suspect and object. And McKenna and Hodgson were both the sorts of men who would object.
Their conversation was interrupted by a peculiar wheezing and groaning noise that seemed to fill up the whole room. Without thinking, they stood up and huddled together, looking around, thinking it was some device of their captors. Up above, the door burst open, and the two Arctureans raced in and slammed it behind them. They thundered down the steps, shouting something in their native language.
Bruce and Jennifer scurried back toward the furthest corner, and then realized that a tall blue phone booth was suddenly between them and their captors. The door burst open, and the Doctor beamed at them. He was wearing clean clothes again, including his black dress cape. "How do--" he began, but Jennifer screamed. "Watch out!" Just as the Arctureans came around the side of the TARDIS.
Bruce, ever the quick thinker, threw himself down onto the ground in a nearly perfect slide, tangling himself up in the legs of the Arcturean who had already been wounded. His vision already impaired by the earlier wound and by the clumsy bandage, the young warrior went down. Jennifer leaped in to help. The Doctor immediately lunged at the other alien, and the Arcturean's unintelligible outcries suddenly became clear, as he screamed, "Treachery! Treachery!" He drew a long and wicked looking machete from his belt.
The Doctor plunged his fingers ramrod straight into the creature's chest, pulled back, and stabbed them in again. The autopsy of the other Arcturean had prepared him to modify his Venusian Aikido. Sarah leaped on top of the Arcturean on the ground.
"Don't let him kill himself!" she shouted to Bruce and Jennifer, but it was unnecessary. Whatever the ethics of the previous three Arctureans, these two apparently loved life too much to lose it for the sake of a mere point of honor. The three humans rolled around on the floor with him, until suddenly the long machete dropped into the view of all four combatants. They looked up, but it was pointed at the Arcturean.
"Are you ready to die?" the Doctor asked him. He pushed the point of the blade under the young Arcturean's chin. His other long arm was wound around the other young warrior in a curious choke hold that none of the others had ever seen before. The Arcturean was on his knees, his back against the Doctor's hip, but the Doctor's arm was wrapped reversed fashion around his neck, with the knuckles of the Doctor's thumb forced up into his larynx.
"Let me kill myself," the Arcturean who was on the floor said.
"No," the Doctor told him. "Your choice is simple. I kill you now, or you take the collars and go."
"The judges will know what we did," he objected.
"I intend that they should," the Doctor told him. "I'm not here to help you cheat, but to force you to do the right thing."
"The right thing?"
"Hunting a rational creature for sport is a crime in every legal system in the universe," the Doctor told him.
"This was not for sport, but for honor."
"Whose honor?" he roared. "What honor is it to kill unarmed people?" He jabbed the tip of the blade in closer, and used his other hand to jerk up on the other Arcturean's windpipe. "Answer me!"
"I--our honor," the Arcturean said. "It's the way we were taught."
"It's the way you were taught by Arcturean merchants," the Doctor told him. "Because you're too pig ignorant to know anything about your own history and the roots of the Arcturean culture. If you would study your own history, you would see that this practice is an abomination. Well, what's your choice?"
The young Arcturean looked from the point of the machete to the Doctor's face, and he could not resist a swift glance at the three wide-eyed humans whose limbs were still tangled up with his. All of them were wide-eyed.
"Life," he said at last.
The Doctor backed up and threw the second Arcturean down to the ground, where he groveled for a moment, gagging and trying to get his breath. Up above, fists pounded on the heavy basement door.
Sarah Jane, Jennifer, and Bruce got to their feet. "Looks like McKenna's found us," Sarah Jane said.
"Choose!" the Doctor exclaimed to the second Arcturean.
"L-life," the second one gasped. "Life and dishonor," he lamented.
"To be dishonored by a despicable gang of gamblers is not truly dishonor," the Doctor retorted. "I intend to notify the authorities of your sector of the cosmos about what is going on. You can stand out as heroes who tried to end it as well, or go down in infamy with the rest of them."
He reached into an interior pocket of the cape and tossed the collar to the one, and then threw a polyurethane bag with a few charred fragments in it to the other.
"Get out of here," he ordered. "I won't be able to save you from McKenna."
It was as good as done. The two survivors pulled out their communications devices and activated them. In another moment, a wide white flash ran from the ceiling to the floor. They stepped into it. The door to the basement was now being pounded by some type of battering ram. The Arctureans disappeared, and the silvery light vanished.
"Time for us to go, too," the Doctor said. He turned to Jennifer and Bruce, but they were staring at the open TARDIS door. The interior of the TARDIS was plain to see.
"It's bigger in there than it is out here," Bruce exclaimed.
Jennifer looked up at the Doctor. "Like you," she said. "Bigger and more wonderful than you first seem."
There was no time for a long good-bye. He took her face between his hands. "There are things in your world that are bigger on the inside than they are on the outside, too," he told her. "But you have to find them."
The door above shivered and barely held. "Doctor," Sarah warned.
He looked down at Jennifer. "The TARDIS is a blueprint of the universe," he said. "Everything that's true; everything that's good; everything that's beautiful, is bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside. There's no such thing as a small eternal truth, Jennifer."
He bent down and kissed her cheek, shook Bruce's hand, and led the way into the TARDIS. Sarah Jane quickly kissed each of them good-bye, then followed him. The TARDIS door closed. Up above, basement door finally gave way before the onslaught of the police.
McKenna would never know if what he saw as he burst into the room was real or not. It was dark down below, and his eyes immediately locked onto the children. But he thought he recognized a police call box--the type used in England--and he thought that it vanished just as he got through the smashed door. But he was never sure.
The signs of a great struggle were evident in the children, and forensic testing would establish that they had scratched and been scratched by something of non-human flesh. But for the moment they were only children again: victims, McKenna declared them to be, of two rival companies of government agents. The comforting realities of suburban Forsythia rushed in upon them. Even Jennifer's father was swayed by it, especially under the influences of Chucky's parents and Bruce's parents. Soon enough, everything was back to normal, as though the Doctor had never come.
"I'll never look at the stars the same way again, though," Jennifer said to Bruce one summer night as they looked up at the sky.
"I don't think we're supposed to," he told her.
*(which is how I used to always end my fanfiction stories when I was a kid!)
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