The Christmas 2000 Story
by Jeri Massi
The man with the rifle made as though to pat the long low seat in back and direct her "Just sit down, and keep your hands where I can see---"
With a great single gunshot sound of breaking ice and a low but powerful woosh of water that made a small, fat geyser, both the man and the snowmobile disappeared through the ice. The Doctor leaped forward and grabbed Jo. He brought her down to the ice as well.
"Lie flat. Crawl forward on your belly!" he hissed. "Keep a wide berth of that place and move towards firmer ice, away from the open water!"
She nodded and bellied forward. For a moment, the rush of fear warmed her as thoroughly as having her toes in front of the Aga at her uncle's house. She crawled with excellent speed. The Doctor waited until she had a good lead on him, and then he followed, also on his stomach, his arms and legs spread wide to disperse his weight over the ice.
But it's not the ice that's too thin, Jo thought. Something was there, at the snow mobile. Somebody was working on the ice to make it give way. And yet, not a sound had been made.
When they had crawled some distance onto ice that the Doctor was sure could bear them, he called to her, and they stood up. None of their other pursuers were in sight. The windy darkness was not cut by any lights.
"That's two down," he said.
"Out of how many?" she asked, but he didn't answer.
"Get down again!" he hissed. He had heard something. She didn't question him but dropped down. The wind had favored them, and a long low, temporary drift lay close by. They crawled to it and stopped. On its other side, the whine of snow mobile engines became audible even to Jo.
She realized that two snow mobiles were approaching from opposite their cover. For an instant she felt a sharp terror that they would ride right through the drift that hid them and run them over, but both machines sped by, only a few yards away from her feet. They were moving towards the hole in the ice. But equipped with their head lamps, they were able to see it while at a distance from it.
Both Jo and the Doctor would have been visible to them, had they turned around. But both men, armed with the sleek black dart guns on their backs, pulled to a halt and then stood without leaving their machines. They surveyed the hole in the ice from a short distance.
They spoke rather extensively, perhaps trying to decide whether the victim that had gone through the ice was their own man, or Jo and the Doctor, or all three.
Then one of them pointed back in the same general direction as the two UNIT operatives. He seemed to be pointing out the route to the ice breaker, suggesting that they try to pick up the trail of their quarry. The other man nodded. They took their places and carefully guided the machines away from the hole, sweeping around to turn. When they did, both Jo and the Doctor would be neatly picked up in their head lights.
But the ice that Jo had thought was firm enough for her and the Doctor suddenly let out another gunshot sound. Both riders adjusted their direction to get as far from the hole and the nearby water channel. They straightened their courses, and---instead of turning----sped straight across the ice pack to get away from the sound of a floe breaking off.
They rushed off into the black night. They would probably turn towards the direction of the ship eventually, but the warning sound had told them to get their heavy machines further from the channel.
"They didn't expect us to get this far," the Doctor whispered. "They have to make sure we don't actually return to the ship. Not with what we've seen."
Now that the acute danger was over, the cold was settling in again. And even though fear and tension had warmed Jo, they had also taken a toll on her. She suddenly felt weak to the point of lethargic. He cautiously stood and helped her up. In the inky darkness, they could faintly hear the snowmobiles. The sound would carry for miles, but they could not see through the covering darkness, not very far, anyway.
The wind suddenly picked up again. It was blowing against them with particular frigidity from the channel nearby. But the channel was their surest path to the refuge of the ship. And yet if they followed the channel, they would again be intercepted by their enemies.
"Come on," he whispered. "A little further if we can."
The desperation of their circumstances was settling in on him, too. They were on wide open terrain, unarmed, on foot, against men on machines who had weapons. And Jo found, now that she had remained still for so many minutes, that moving was increasingly difficult for her. Her mind was fuzzy, and she was uncoordinated.
They tried to stumble on, but at last she couldn't. "You have to go on without me," she said. "You have to."
The Doctor wasn't listening to her. "That man that went through the ice," he said. "Didn't he mentioned he had a secret tent? Look!"
Farther ahead--as far as the horizon, it seemed to her---she saw a faint glow. It was almost like a tiny, single candle light.
"That's a Sterno lamp," he said confidently. "That must be his tent. We only have to get that far!"
Her mind thrilled at this new hope, but even so, she could barely walk, and he did most of the work in getting them to keep moving forward. The cold seemed to numb even her senses, so that even though she didn't quite fall asleep, she stopped perceiving her surroundings. The next thing she knew, she still felt all the aches and weariness of the torturous cold, but a warm puff of air touched her face, and she realized that the Doctor was pushing her down to crawl into a tiny, one-person tent. There was a lit Sterno lamp inside. Its tiny, unwavering glow had been visible to the Doctor's keen eyesight.
The ultra-modern synthetic fabric of the wind proof tent was excellent insulation. The temperature inside the tent was about 20 degrees above zero: below freezing, but fifty degrees warmer than the air outside. It was heavenly. And the wind was only a sound. The Doctor came after her.
"Can you hear me?" he asked her.
"Yes," Jo said.
"If we saw the light, then they can see it," he told her. "We have to extinguish it and take down the tent, but we can use it for shelter."
"All right." After the darkness outside, the tiny Sterno lamp looked to her like a brilliant and cheerful light. But she knew that he was right. He blew out the tiny flame, set the cover over the candle base, and began to collapse the aluminum struts. After some hard work, he stripped off the synthetic fabric. The cold air whipped at them again, but the Doctor knew what he was doing. He showed her how to roll up with him under the protective layers. There was no thought about what they would do tomorrow, or what they would do if the men on the snow mobiles located them. The only thing they could do was survive for the moment, and now that going forward was impossible, the only option was to survive in place.
Oddly enough, Jo didn't mind, and she didn't think of what would happen when the darkness thinned into the twilight of day. She was exhausted, and at last she was out of the wind, out of the stinging particles of ice and snow, and slowly becoming warmer. The Doctor, a large, bulky, and rather bear like companion in these close quarters with his enormous snow suit covering him, made sure that there was some air flow entering their wind-proof wrap.
"That wooden structure we found was a workshop," Jo said as they wrapped their bulky arms around each other and huddled down together.
Though he was very cold, and his face was still drawn and pale from the effects of the tranquilizer dart, his eyes suddenly lit up, and he took the tone he used when they argued in the good natured way that they both liked. "Don't be ridiculous." He knew that she was serious, but he treated it like a joke. "We don't know what that structure was, but people don't build workshops, or schools, or dairy barns on the pack ice."
"Well somebody built it, because there it was."
He made his voice sound decisive and logical. "The horrible rogues chasing us probably built it as a tool shed."
"You're just guessing."
He made his voice patient, but his eyes were still filled with good natured humor at her conclusion. "The tool shed idea is the most logical explanation."
"Logical? What about the tiny three-legged stools? And the teddy bear? Do you think those chaps use teddy bears?" She shook her head, her hood brushing the tip of his chin. "The tool shed idea simply fits your paradigm. You've simply decided it couldn't have been a workshop!"
He laughed at the idea and then pushed his gloved hand against the heavy layers of tent fabric over them, allowing some better ventilation from the tiny hole he'd allowed at the top of their cocoon. "Jo, I refuse to have this argument with you." But his eyes were warm. He really didn't want to argue. He changed the subject. "Are you more comfortable?"
"It's a mercy to be out of that wind," she said. They could feel the wind driving against the folds of their wind proof wrapping, and they could hear the driving snow sweeping against them. But, for the moment at least, they were safe.
She nestled down, suddenly warm again and able to yield to physical exhaustion and drowsiness. "So it's a Merry Christmas after all," she murmured. And then she fell asleep against him in their artificial cocoon.
The scouring wind changed directions again, and it blew the snow in from the west. Safe in their cover, the Doctor and Jo were gradually engulfed in a transitory drift as they acted like a small barrier, against which the driving snow could pile itself.
When Jo woke up, she felt very closed-in and slightly claustrophobic, for the cocoon had heated up well from their breathing, and she'd lost her sense of needing the swaths and swaths of tent cover as protection.
The Doctor was awake and listening.
"It's all right," he whispered. "Don't move quickly. It may not be safe to walk about."
She was hungry and very thirsty, and she wondered how successful they might be at melting snow to drink. Jo was not an accomplished outdoors woman, but she had learned enough about survival to know that eating handfuls of unmelted snow would only increase the torment of thirst rather than slake it.
But the Doctor had doused their only hope of fire last night when he had extinguished the Sterno candle.
"Is it day?" she whispered.
""Just before dawn, if there were a dawn here," he said. "The snow's made a barrier this side of us, against my back. I can't hear properly."
"Perhaps they gave up on us. Surely they think we went down through that hole."
"I don't know."
"And the others must be searching for us." She wanted to try to move forward while they had the benefit of decreased darkness and increased warmth. And she wanted water.
"All right," he said. "Carefully."
They cautiously pulled down the covering folds of heavy waterproof material until their heads were exposed to the fresh, cold air. It immediately stripped away all the warmth from their faces and necks, even with the hoods on. Jo felt a pang of regret, but the cold seemed to galvanize the Doctor.
"Come on; we can gain some distance," he said. He started to rise, but Jo exclaimed, "Doctor!" as she saw a form approaching in the sky.
Though the absolute blackness of the night had thinned slightly, it was still too dark to make out the hovering craft well. But its whirling canopy of blades over the head of its sole pilot had caught her eye.
For a moment, it was difficult to see him. He approached from the east. His course was steady, as though he had already seen them.
They could barely discern him against the dark sky, but they stood out very well on their backdrop of white ice and snow. He was following the path of open water that was their trail to the icebreaker. As though to let them know what was coming, or to experiment with his impromptu weaponry, he dropped something from his great height as he slowly hovered closer.
An instant later, part of the wide stream made in the ice by the icebreaker erupted with a great explosion, a high geyser of water, and a great wall of ice that lifted in heavy, shattering chunks and dropped back into the widened hole made by the explosion.
"We can't get away!" Jo gasped. "He's coming for us!"
The Doctor furiously pushed away the folds of the tent to free their legs. "Jo, make a dash for it! I'll try to draw him off!"
She tried to stand, but though their attacker could not move very fast, he was closing on them.
"Don't look at him, run!" the Doctor shouted, and he pushed her away as he prepared to run towards the hovering man.
Just then, from the west, something large and dark streaked across the sky. Jo gasped and this time had the presence of mind to turn to look at their pursuer, just as the twin streaks of gold raced over her head. A great thunderclap told her that he had been run over in the air, even before she could see what had happened. The entire canopy of propellers was flung crazily away. She saw that first. The dark, meteoric object in the sky raced to the eastern horizon, undeterred, and the man who had been intent on killing them dropped without a scream to the frozen ice pack. Both he and the remains of his craft, still strapped to him like a great back pack, plunged straight down into the great pool he had created. He disappeared with a splash. But there was no hope of rescue. He had hit the frigid water with enough impact to kill him, even if he had not been killed by the mid-air collision.
"What was it?" Jo gasped. "Did you see it?"
The Doctor had his eyes fixed on the sky in the east, where the meteor or whatever it was had disappeared. Inexplicably, he looked at his watch. "It's Christmas morning," he said.
The sound of snow mobile engines cut off their conversation. He made as though to bundle her up and bury her in the poor drift of snow that had collected over them. But it was already only half the size it had been. The wind had swiftly diminished it. The cones of light found them. But Jo let out a sudden laugh as she saw the red cross on the front of one of the snow mobiles.
"It's them! That's Dr. Henry!"
Three sleek white snowmobiles pulled up and stopped. Dr. Steven Henry was in the lead, and he leaped off first, concerned for their welfare. He ran to them, but they could see that he was amazed to see them standing unassisted, not much the worse for their night on the ice pack. Cap, Briley, and Richards followed more deliberately, pulling their rifles from the foot troughs of the machines and keeping them ready.
"We thought we'd never find you!" Steven exclaimed. He pushed up his goggles and stared for a moment, but they appeared to be unharmed. "Can you manage the ride back to the ice breaker?"
"Yes, we're well enough, and we'd better hurry!" the Doctor exclaimed. "Some of those fellows who kidnapped us are still about, and they're armed!"
Cap had a radio on his snow mobile. "I'll call in an air search," he said. "They can be in the area in ten minutes. They'll keep us covered and search for trespassers." He took up his microphone to relay directions to the RT unit on the ice breaker.
"I'd like to know how they spirited you from the pile of debris all the way out here," Briley said. He had his rifle held in the crook of his arm, and he scanned the terrain with careful eyes as he spoke.
"Well, there was nothing supernatural about it, I assure you," the Doctor said dryly.
"Yes there was," Jo said firmly.
"They did it with hover craft!" he exclaimed.
"And what saved us then?" she asked him.
Steve Henry suddenly became business-like and brisk. "You can tell your story aboard ship. Let's get you into shelter."
Jo climbed aboard behind Dr. Henry, and the Doctor climbed on behind Cap. They turned in wide sweeps and sped towards the safety of the ice breaker.
* * * *
Much later, in the comparative comfort of the ice breaker, Briley served up hot tea, orange juice, French toast, sausage links, and a blueberry compote.
The galley was actually the most comfortable place on the ship, and Jo and the Doctor had been swathed in blankets. They sat with their feet up on the benches opposite them, while the others sat or stood around the table, plates and cups in hand.
"Well, I don't mind telling you that I let myself be as nicely and as neatly fooled as any greenhorn." Cap said. "While we were searching for survivors, we saw something way out on the ice pack, and we all made for it. Turned out to be just another pile of rubble. So we headed back. That was all the time that it took for you two to be snatched away." He glanced at them, his eyes rueful. "I apologize."
"Nobody expected them to be able to come in silently like that," the Doctor said. "It was a neat bit of work on their part. If they had ever planned to attack the ship, here, you might have been killed in your bunks, even with a watchman on guard. Perhaps it was for the best that we accidentally forced them to attack prematurely."
"Or whoever lit that pile of debris on fire," Steven Henry said. "It appears that there were no survivors, and yet also no victims. But somebody had to have lived in that structure."
"They survived," Jo said briefly.
The Doctor let out a loud and rueful sigh. "She thinks she saw somebody out on the ice."
Cap became interested. "Maybe she did."
"Elves!" the Doctor exclaimed.
She bristled, even though she knew he was only teasing her. "I never said that!"
Briley spoke up, but his eyes were filled with merriment at the Doctor's expense. "Did what you see fit the description of elves, Miss Grant?"
"Well, yes, I suppose they could have done." She looked into her cup of tea as she said it, because she knew the Doctor would argue with her or tease her for her words. But he had his eyes warily fixed on his sparring partner.
"But of course it couldn't be elves," Briley said slyly. "Because even if it looks like an elf and acts like an elf and has the powers of an elf, we have to start from the supposition that elves don't exist. Therefore, it had to be something else. I'll let the Doctor explain it away for you---I mean explain it for you." Briley didn't believe in elves any more than the Doctor did. He was only teasing to make a point, but Jo knit her eyebrows. Nobody had yet explained the destroyed workshop, the mid-air collisions, or the reason that the snow mobile had crashed through the ice.
"Look here, I'm not saying that she didn't see anything!" the Doctor exclaimed.
But Cap laughed. He seemed to think it was a good joke on the Doctor. "Elves!" the young officer exclaimed happily, as though it were all a joke.
Cap stood up and stretched his long legs.
"What do you think it was?" Jo asked him.
He grinned at her. "Miss Grant, I'm content just to know that whatever it was, it saved you and stopped them. Sometimes, that's enough."
"It may not have been anything at all," the Doctor mumbled. "I never saw anything."
But Cap shook his head. "It had to be something. Something saved you from a night out on the ice pack with no equipment. I do know that much."
"Then you're more honest than some people," Briley said.
"All right, all right." Cap wandered over to the tape machine's niche. "We've got salvage work to do, trying to haul up what we can of them hovercrafts, and maybe recovering the bodies of them agents. The transport will be in tonight to take the Doc and Miss Grant home. Let's enjoy the rest of Christmas while we can."
He switched on the tape. Bing Crosby's voice filled the room:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor does He sleep.
The wrong shall fail;
The right prevail,
With Peace on Earth, Good Will to Man!"
Till ringing, singing, on its way,
The earth revolved from night to day.
A song, a chime,
A chant sublime,
Of Peace on Earth, Good Will to Man!
The Doctor and Jo were opposite each other, their feet---covered with thick socks---stretched across the gap under the table, so that her feet were alongside him, and his were alongside her. She poked him with her foot, nudging him.
"I hope so," he said suddenly, his eyes gentle. "I honestly do." He took hold of her foot and tweaked her toe, and he smiled at her, not willing to argue.
* * * *
In the great, silent, TARDIS, now eerily quiet on this strange foreign planet, Jo at last made a decision. She struggled into her coat. It had never been their custom to leave each other, but she knew that she was not skillful enough to properly see to the Doctor if he were seriously ill. If the Council of the Timelords had sent them here, there was every reason to hope that some help had been provided for them. They knew he was injured from the blaster shot. Surely he had communicated that much to them.
As she heard the odd, squelching sound of something liquid being squirted against the outer walls of the TARDIS, she steeled herself to face this strange planet alone. When it came right down to it, it was not the goodness of the council of the time lords that she really trusted, nor even her own wisdom or ability to work things out, but whatever goodness it had been, bestowed on her so often on earth, that had spared her and guided her this far into the unfamiliar universe. Through a dark night first, and then day, she thought, and prepared to go for help.