The lab could be entered by means of an outside window on one side. The Doctor barely hesitated, then made his decision. He ran to the end of the hall and exited through the emergency doors. The jangle of alarm bells put the wing on alert. Then he ran down the short, steep hill that separated the two wings, and came out on the windowed side of the lab. With a short leap, he caught hold of the ledge, then slipped off. He leaped again, caught it, and swung a leg up. It was narrow, and he was big, but he clung to the brick corner and waited until inertia had stopped rocking him.
Moving carefully, he stood up on the ledge and sidestepped along it until he was looking into the lab. The two uniformed people were opposite the workbench from Sarah Jane, ready to corner her between them. They did not look angry. Rather, they seemed to be pleading with her.
But he was in no mood to give anybody the benefit of the doubt. He slid off his jacket, wrapped it over his arm and shoulder, then ducked his head and plunged through the glass.
"Oh!" Sarah exclaimed as the Doctor hurled himself through the window. He landed hard, on his shoulder, but rolled to his feet. Her two pursuers were distracted by this amazing entrance, and she skirted round the smaller one and ran to the time lord.
"You must listen to us!" the taller one exclaimed, and the smaller one followed her.
She leaped behind the Doctor, and he promptly smashed the palm of his heel into the chin of the blond haired, slender imposter.
They heard one yelp of pain, and the small figure was thrown back, right through the air, and crashed to the floor. The young red haired man forgot Sarah Jane and rushed to his companion's side. For the briefest moment, there was silence, and then they heard what was unmistakable: the smaller one was crying.
Sarah Jane was so amazed that she forgot her fear.
"It's a girl!" she exclaimed. "She's younger than I am!"
The red haired young man held his companion protectively and comfortingly, rocking her.
"I'm here," he whispered. "I'm here."
"He hit me! It hurt me! What's happening?" she asked. "I can't stop this." She had put her hand to her eyes, and she looked at her hand, as though not knowing why it was wet from her tears.
The Doctor was also surprised. But it was obvious that they were both very young, and there was an innocence in them, a complete lack of preparation for this violent resistance to their plan, that was disarming.
But the Doctor spoke and made his voice severe. "All right! So you don't like pain and fear! Well then don't inflict pain and fear on other people!"
The blond haired young girl put her hand to her eyes again, trying to get rid of the tears. "I didn't do that to her. I wouldn't do that to her. I was only talking to her."
"The water is coming from inside her. Can you make it stop?" the red haired one asked the Doctor. "Or you?' He turned to Sarah Jane. "We saved you once. Save my mate."
"It's only tears," Sarah Jane said. "She's only crying. They'll stop."
The Doctor shook out his jacket and then fished a large clean handkerchief from the pocket. He stepped closer, with Sarah behind him, and passed it to the young man. "Dry her face. She'll stop crying when she calms down."
The boy took the handkerchief and methodically and carefully patted the blond haired girl's face with it. "It is stopping," he said reassuringly to her. "These are tears like Toliman told us. He said we might shed them in all of this. It's part of transformation." But he rocked her for a moment and kissed her forehead to calm her, and his attitude was more like that of a much older man. She calmed down and sat up, but she was afraid to look at the Doctor. She clung to her companion and hid her face against him when ever the Doctor spoke.
Just then the Brigadier burst in through the doors, with two soldiers behind him. "All right?" he asked.
"Yes," the Doctor said.
"You lads. Get them up and get them out of here! They're imposters. I'll see to them later."
The soldiers did as they were ordered, and they hauled the two uniformed youths to their feet. This frightened both of them, though they both tried to stay calm.
"They're children!" Sarah Jane exclaimed. "Please don't be rough. Something's got them in its power."
"We'll look into it directly." And the Brigadier nodded to his men. "Take them to the cells."
"Don't separate us!" the boy exclaimed.
"Oh why are you doing this to us?" the girl begged. "We haven't hurt anybody. You are violent people! Toliman was right!"
"Who is Toliman?" the Brigadier asked, but neither of them answered him, and the soldiers took them out by their collars.
Sarah Jane looked up at the Doctor. "They were the two ambulance men who treated me. Well---I thought they were both men."
"The little one hasn't developed into womanhood yet. Nor really has the lad grown to manhood." And the Doctor suddenly looked thoughtful.
"Do you have any ideas?" the Brigadier asked.
"Deal with them gently," the Doctor said. "But keep an eye on them. They'll be more likely to use trickery than force to get out and make an escape."
Lethbridge Stewart's voice became dry. "Yes, well I think we might just outwit a couple of adolescents."
"They got in, didn't they?" And the Doctor glared at him.
The Brigadier let this go by and turned to Sarah Jane. "What did they want with you?"
"It's like in the dreams," she said. "They told me they have to take me to their master, so that he can be healed. They said they tracked me by my scent."
This puzzled the Doctor. "But they saved you from the creature in the house. You said they pulled you from the hedge. They must have cleaned up the blood and revived you."
"Yes." She was puzzled as well. Puzzled and unhappy. They did not seem evil, and she wondered if somehow they had fallen under the spell of the miserable thing that had killed so many and tried to kill her.
The Brigadier pushed a hand through his hair. "Any idea who this Toliman is?"
"There is a star by that name," the Doctor said.
"A star?" The Brigadier was incredulous. "That can have nothing to do with it, surely."
"Did you notice they didn't know what tears were except by reference?" The Doctor met his eye. "Think they're human?"
Sarah spoke. "They look human."
"When dressed as humans, yes. Just like the girl passed herself off as a very slender and short man by dressing as a man."
"But we figured out she was a girl by her human features," the Brigadier said.
"Human. Or humanoid. But I don't think they're from around here." The Doctor glanced around at the shattered glass and the overturned stool. "This place needs a good dusting. Lethbridge Stewart, on your way out, will you call the maintenance crew down here? There's a good fellow. They can start by patching that window. And you can just run those devices over to materials for manufacture. We should be ready to go out with them tonight."
Lethbridge Stewart cocked an eyebrow. "Certainly Doctor. Will there be anything else?"
The Doctor missed the irony. "See that I'm not disturbed. I have some reading to catch up on." He glanced at Sarah Jane. "I hope you'll stay here. You said you would."
"Of course I will. Every time I go off on my own, something dreadful happens."
"I'll let you know where we're ready, Doctor." And with a rueful glance at the time lord, Lethbridge Stewart walked out.
The Doctor turned his full attention to Sarah Jane. "You've wanted to know more about this Fomalhaut creature, didn't you? A creature somehow linked to a star?"
Her interest was captured. "Yes. Are you thinking of Toliman? But he sounds like a perfect beast. Sending out henchmen to drag in women for him."
This observation provoked a smile from the Doctor. "Sending out children, you mean. Children who beg and nag and pre-suppose that you would simply agree with them, from what I observed." He glanced at her. "And children who saved your life."
"Yes, from Toliman, and now they want to give me to him."
"Sarah Jane, I'm not sure the creature that we're fighting is the same person as Toliman," he said. "I'll have to look into it, and I certainly don't want you traipsing off with any strangers, no matter how innocent they seem. But if you want to find out more about these creatures that may be linked to stars, we might be on the verge of a discovery."
"What do you want me to do?" she asked.
"Start ringing up the libraries. Let's find some sources on mythologies, star names, and the constellations."
* * * * *
Hours later, Sarah looked up from the workbench. The UNIT courier had brought them all the books that they had tracked down in London.
"The most amazing thing in all of this is that the sun will be directly conjunct Fomalhaut today," she said. "But the ephemeris didn't give the exact moment."
The Doctor was busy sketching something. "So it's astrology now is it?"
"Well, no. Just a coincidence. Here we are talking about all of that, and it's the one day of the year when our sun passes by that star."
"Actually, that's just a visible phenomenon," he said. "I mean, the sun is no where near Fomalhaut. It's just that from earth, as we rotate on the surface and revolve around the sun, it seems to us that the sun moves along a certain path---the ecliptic. And so right now it looks to us like the sun is in the second or third degree of Pisces, and that's the conjunction point with the star Fomalhaut." He glanced at her. "But the sun isn't really moving."
"No, but we're moving, and so we would still be lined up directly with the sun and Fomalhaut," she said. "That's all that I meant. We form a straight line: From Fomalhaut to our sun to planet Earth.. Like the sight of a gun or----"
"A focus?" he asked. He smiled ruefully. "But we're not at all in alignment with Toliman. He's off in Sagittarius somewhere."
She glanced down at the ephemeris. "Where? The moon is in Sagittarius tonight, I think."
But he waved it away.
She pushed away the ephemeris. "Look, if you think it's all bosh, why are we reading up on all of this?"
He sighed. The sky outside the repaired lab window had grown dim. The stars were just beginning to appear above the haze and glow of London at twilight. They had spent several hours getting acquainted with the lore of the constellations. One very nice thing about Sarah Jane, he thought, was that when she was on the trail of information, she stuck to it tenaciously. She was every bit a journalist, albeit a very young one. But now she also seemed much more herself: eagerly cross checking books and making comments every now and then or very bad puns.
"It's not all bosh," he told her. "But all that about conjunctions and oppositions and sextiles is pretty much bosh. However---" And he stood up and rubbed the back of his neck.
She filled in the rest for him. "The inconjuncts and squares, those aren't bosh."
He pretended to glare at her. "The constellations and their meanings are not bosh," he said. "But the knowledge of them has been lost."
"So Taurus isn't just a lot of bull after all?" She smiled naughtily. Then she stood up. "I could murder a cup of tea."
"Make it cocoa and you've got a deal," he said.
"Right-o" She went to the sink.
"And we'll put lots of brandy into it!" he called.
"Doctor, you're trying to get me inebriated." She opened the tap and rinsed out the kettle. "Me mum warned me about blokes like you."
"My dear, I am going to rely on an old recipe to give you a good night's rest," he said. "A cup of one third brandy and two thirds hot cocoa, and off you go."
"While you go prowl around looking for that monster."
"I don't plan to enjoy it. Meeting that thing once face to face was quite enough for me, but it's got to be done." And his voice was rueful.
She plugged in the kettle and lined up the canister of instant cocoa by the beakers.
"Take a look at this sketch," he told her.
She joined him at the work bench. He had drawn several of the constellations, but Sarah Jane was not good enough at astronomy to recognize them, even when he outlined them in pencil.
"All right," he told her. "The ecliptic is a belt of stars around the earth, and it marks the perceived path of the sun. The sun runs that same path, so to speak, without much variation. And so in the course of the year, it passes through the twelve major constellations that lie along that path."
She nodded. "The zodiac. Aries, Taurus, Gemini and that lot."
He nodded. "But each zodiacal sign on the ecliptic path has three minor constellations touching it. These minor constellations are called the lunar mansions, or sometimes they are called the decans of a sign."
"Rather like the zodiac is an index," she said. "It actually represents itself as well as 36 lunar mansions."
He lifted his eyebrows. "You'd have been most welcome in the courts of the Chaldeans, Sarah Jane."
"Except I don't think it means anything."
The kettle was steaming, and so she returned to it.
"Well, I don't think it means that you can read which horse will come in next Thursday," he told her. "But the lunar mansions do form hieroglyphic pictures. Many people believe that they do tell us something. We're just not sure what."
She knit her thin eyebrows together as she spooned in the powder and added the hot water. "You know, as I recall, Fomalhaut did tell me about Aquarius. She said a water bearer poured out water to her; that it was her place to receive the endless flow of mercy." She set down the kettle and looked at him. "And Liz Shaw showed me how that fit into the image of Aquarius pouring out a water jug to the constellation of the Southern Fish---and Fomalhaut."
The Doctor nodded. "That's why I cannot just pass off your account of what happened there," he said. "One of the reasons, anyway." He nodded to the bottled chemical cabinet. "The brandy's in there, in the decanter marked "formaldehyde.""
"Doctor!" she gasped.
"That's all right. The one marked Hydrochloric acid holds the scotch. All the real chemicals are back in the locked cabinet in the supply closet."
She double-checked to make sure, but it was brandy, as he'd said. "Just bring it here," he told her. He poured a liberal dose into her mug.
"Then what about Toliman," she asked.
"Toliman means `Here in the past, and again in the future,'" he told her. "Heretofore and Hereafter."
"Is it in a constellation?"
He nodded. "It's one of the lunar mansions of Virgo: Centaurus, or the Centaur. In fact, Toliman is considered the most important star in the Centaur. In Greek, Centaurus is called Chiron, "the one who is pierced". In ancient Semitic languages, it was called Bezeh, which means "the Despised One." It' s also been called Asmeath, "the sin offering".
"But in mythology, a Centaur was never a sin offering." She was puzzled. The cocoa was making her more curious but less intent on following what he was saying.
"Well," he hesitated and glanced at the sky outside the window again. "The Centaur is slaying a sin offering. That's what is pictured in the heavens. He's killing a passive, unresisting victim to appease divine wrath."
This answer froze her nerves for a moment. He read her sudden fear, but he shook his head. "That's what doesn't make sense. If you read the constellations as hieroglyphics, Sarah Jane, you see that the victim that Chiron is slaying is actually a part of Chiron. They are treated as two separate images, but actually nobody knows precisely where one ends and the other begins, and in fact they form a single entity."
"So--" She hesitated. "He's offering---"
"Himself," the Doctor said. "Chiron enacts some sort of divine appeasement upon himself. The star Toliman is a changing star. It seems to get dimmer and then brightens again. It's a double-star, really. Toliman seems to contain the promise that though something wanes, it will wax bright again." He took up his cup and sipped it. "Something once bright wanes into darkness, but it will return to brightness again."
"Transformation," she said.
"This Toliman sounds like a symbol of hope," she said. "Like Fomalhaut was so filled with mercy and generosity."
"But that's not what is stalking through London," he told her.
"Or maybe Toliman's more about terror and less about hope," she said.
* * * *
The brandy was doing its work very well. But the Doctor pretended not to notice.
The telephone rang, and he scooped it up. "Hallo." He paused. "Right. I'll come join you." He cradled the receiver. "That's the Brigadier. Time to go hunting for that thing."
"You will be careful?" she asked. "I mean, it knows the people I know. It killed somebody I hated. It may kill somebody I---well, that I'm friends with."
"Its link with you may have been a one-time, traumatic impression," he said.
"Do be careful."
"All right. See if you can find any other lore on Centaurus will you?" he asked. "Something in the mythology may give us a clue as to these two young agents who want you to go with them. Or perhaps their reasoning."
He cast a concerned glance at her, but though she was sleepy, she made a good show of staying at the books. "Right-o. See you later, Doctor."
He took up his cape and strode out, and she focused on the open books before her. As it was evening, and the day shift was over, the lab was incredibly silent. She decided to look up Toliman in the ephemeris, to see where the star was located in the ecliptic. If the constellations were hieroglyphics of the sky as the Doctor said---symbols that had meaning apart from the predictions of modern astrology---then perhaps things like conjunctions and oppositions meant something else, too, something that astrologers knew nothing about. Maybe the constellations were the nouns, and the relationships between them were the verbs.
In her encounter with Fomalhaut, there had been much said that Sarah did not understand, but Fomalhaut had made references to Aquarius and to the Southern Fish, yet these references had not been astrological in the sense that Sarah had understood astrology. Fomalhaut, speaking in the person of an elderly woman, had spoken of Aquarius as one who poured out mercy, and herself as one whose station was to receive mercy.
She had a new thought. If the star Fomalhaut were in the Southern Fish, and the star Toliman were in Centaurus, where did earth's sun fit in? Where was Sol? And what did Sol mean to the ancients who had named and tracked the stars?
She wondered where she could find this information, but she did not hurry to turn the pages. Indeed, it took her fairly long to order her questions in her mind, and the import of them grew less as she thought about them. She felt more relaxed and deeply quiet, and she found herself several times staring at the pages of the ephemeris without reading the words.
And then, very quietly, with her eyes still open but her thoughts subdued and her breathing slowed, she heard a voice in her mind and saw an image of the Doctor in the back of a van, watching an oscilloscope screen that was attached to a receiver. He was speaking into a radio microphone and scribbling calculations on a sheet of paper as he watched the screen.
"Sarah," the voice said.
She didn't have to answer. Whoever was calling her knew she heard.
"I will kill him, and I will kill the others now."
She didn't want this, and he knew that his message hurt her. He directed her. "I cannot find you now, so I must spread my net. If you choose to be caught now and save them, step into my net."
"Where are you?" she asked.
"Directly over the one you love so well. Show yourself to me, and I will capture you instead and consume you. I will let him go."
"I'm at UNIT," she said.
"Go to where the way is clear. Away from the man-made power systems."
"The car park."
"Yes. I will draw you into my net there, and bind you, and consume you."
She came back to herself. She wouldn't let herself think about it. She stood up and resolutely walked to the doors, then made her way toward the exit and the main car park.
* * * * *
The two cells in UNIT's small detention area were side by side, and for several hours, the two young prisoners each sat in a separate cell, unhappy and frightened, holding each other's hands through the bars.
At first the guards had forbidden this, but the young female, who had been hit and still had hurt feelings, openly shed tears, and the young male would become increasingly frantic, until at last, with many warnings and stern words, the guards allowed them to sit against the bars that joined their cells and hold hands. It quieted the young girl, and there was something appealing in the young lad's concern over her.
They were too afraid of their stern captors to speak to each other, so they huddled on their respective cots, as close to each other as the bars would permit. The young female kept her eyes away from the guards, and the young man watched them warily, ready to be protective. They seemed almost like a young brother and sister, or even more like two little puppies thrust into the local shelter, than two lovers or husband and wife. But they had called each other mates.
As the day wore on, supper was brought for them on trays, and by this time, the two men guarding them began to feel sorry for them. But the two prisoners would not touch the food, and the little girl cringed and shrank away when the soldier opened her cell door and set the tray down on the foot of her cot. She hid her eyes into the bars and the shoulder of her mate. As for the lad, he remained still when the sentry put his tray into the cell, but he also refrained from touching the food. He stayed with her, her small hand clasped in both of his. The sentry closed the doors and looked across the cells to his partner, who sat in a chair by the reinforced door that led into the room. The seated man also looked concerned, but he shrugged.
"Look here, Miss," the one standing said gently. "That's very nice food. You ought to eat a little. Nobody's going to do you any harm here."
She didn't answer, but the young lad relaxed slightly. "The other man hit her," he said. "Where we come from, neither of us have ever been struck like that, nor have we ever struck out."
"The Doctor thought she was attacking his little bird," the seated man said. "And he didn't know she was a little girl. He wouldn't have done it if he'd known."
She was looking away from the seated man, but the standing sentry saw that her eyes filled up with tears at the memory of being struck. But the red haired youth that was her comforter murmured to her. "They are trying to be kind to you. It doesn't make them happy to see your sorrow. They want to repair your grief." And he touched the top of her head with his lips. "Can you say thank you?" He spoke with an almost paternal gentleness as he prompted her.
"Thank you," she whispered.
The two sentries glanced at each other, and the one who had been standing grimly returned to his station by the door, along the same wall as the man who was sitting.
The red haired youth spoke coaxingly to her. "Perhaps you would at least drink the water he gave you."
"I want to stay here with you," she whimpered. The sentries took this to mean that she didn't want to let go of his hands. She was clearly very frightened.
Instead of trying to coax her more, he acquiesced. "All right. But they will not be cruel to us. And all things have their appointed time. Even here, in this dreadful place." In spite of his youthfulness, there was something kingly about him as he said this. The two sentries glanced at each other again.
"Well young fellow," the one in the chair said gently. "P'raps if we understood why you sneaked in and dressed like soldiers, we'd be able to understand you a bit better."
She shrank down at the voice of this stranger, but the lad looked at him with clear eyes. "We were sent here to find a very dangerous person, sir. He took on himself a power that he did not comprehend, nor do we yet fully comprehend it. But it altered him---in his body, I mean. So we had to search for him. And just as we found him, we also got the scent of the young woman---"
"That'd be Miss Smith," the standing sentry said.
"Yes," the youth told him.. And the most dreadful thing, yet the most amazing thing happened: both at once. For we perceived the dangerous enemy, but we also perceived that the young earth woman had made contact with a great person from the heavens."
"That'd be the Doctor," the sitting sentry added, but the youth did not regard this comment.
"She was dying from the attack of this malformed one, but the scent of her was very strong because of the heavenly being who favored her, and we found her and saved her. She was filled with her own blood, but we healed her and returned her vitality to her and took her to a place where we knew she felt safe. And we carried the news of having found both him and her to our own master. For our master was mortally wounded by this evil one as they struggled over the great catastrophe that was worked. And then he sent us back here to find her, to protect her from the hunger of the Evil One, and to bring her to our world so that she could save our master and enable him to transform in a new way that we had not foreseen, but that he understands."
Neither of the sentries quite knew what to make of this story, but the young man had fixed his great, gentle, quiet eyes on them. The room had become very still.
"And you thought she would just go along with you?" the seated man asked.
"I had to try to persuade her," he said. "Do I seem evil to you? Look at me and determine if you find violence in me. I have answered you honestly."
The young female was also very still, and two sentries looked at the young man and noticed that his bearing was, indeed, one of kindness. His eyes drew their gaze, and the longer they looked at him, the more reluctant they were to turn away.
* * * * *
"No, that effluvium mass you chaps latched on to is most likely an aerosol dispersal of toxic waste," the Doctor said into the microphone. This mobile tracking command center was useful for having to locate broadcasts or other things by triangulation, but the van created a very tightly packed place of operation. He had to keep his head down as he watched the panel of LED readouts, relay indicators, and the screens for the o-scope and sweep. "Nice thing to be spewing into the London sky," he muttered. "It's got a suspension of coal dust particles in it, so the mass is greater than normal." He adjusted some dials on the sweep generator. "Everybody recalibrate the Z range for the next interval on the bandpass filter range. Transmit any positives."
The radio suddenly crackled as everybody answered at once. "That's it then," he said. "Greyhound Three, where are you?"
"In quadrant 2, sector 5," the Brigadier's voice said. "We're transmitting the coordinate data to you via the mainframe."
The Doctor watched the readouts on an LED screen, then glanced at the map spread out on his knees. He crinkled his eyebrows together and traced a finger across the map in a straight line. "We've discovered a low mass, high volume entity," he said. "It's moving through quadrant 3, towards UNIT HQ!"
The Brigadier's voice was prompt. "All greyhound units, arm the magnetic pulse weapons and return to base." There was a pause, then, "Should we signal for evacuation, Doctor?"
"No, Lethbridge Stewart. If that's our enemy, it could do harm out of doors. Broadcast a message and tell any occupants of the building to station themselves close to any highly inductive electrical equipment. Their best chance is to be masked by the frequencies that cause the creature pain and discomfort: television screens, high powered radio generators, and signaling equipment. The satellite control rooms will be ideal. Tell them to start running test signals."
"Right. I'll transmit the alert."
* * * * *
Sarah Jane realized that she had left her coat inside the building, and the night was chilly, she dismissed the realization. She looked up at the inky sky, as though expecting to see her pursuer.
But instead, a warm wind suddenly rushed and swirled around her. It was an unnatural wind. She pressed her weight onto her knees to still them.
Across the park of neatly aligned cars, a windscreen suddenly exploded into fragments of glass. The warm wind swirled around her again and even caressed her cheek and chin.
More of the glass windscreens suddenly exploded into fragments, and they did so in a pattern, starting out from the farthest end of the car park and moving towards her in a straight line, exploding one after another as though some creature were stepping on the cars, walking across them towards her, like a man on a stone footbridge.
She was frightened, but she also felt a sharp sense of relief. At last she could stop running. She could stop hiding. She could stop having the dreadful dreams. She could stop dreading the moment when he caught her. The moment had now come, and even if there was pain in being consumed, when it was over, there was no more pain, no more fear.
A great weight struck straight into her chest, painlessly, but it threw her back onto the paving. She struck the paving with her shoulder blades but did not hit her head. But her strength was suddenly gone. She saw the sky above and distantly realized that the moon was full. The warm wind swirled over her from foot to head, and instead of the car park and the sky, she saw the heavy beams of the great kitchen again. She was on the wooden island, and the net had been cut away. The man had his back to her. He was frying onions on the grill, whittling down raw onions with incredible speed and letting them cascade over the top of the hot surface. The air was filled with heat and the smell of onions.
It doesn't have to be in visions like this, she thought. He turned to her. "It's just the skin, isn't it?" he asked. "Or has it gone deeper?"
"I don't know," she gasped.
"That's all right. You may remember once I begin." His eyes were filled with satisfaction and anticipation.