Authors: Brian Hayles
Tags: #Science-Fiction:Doctor Who
Arden’s passionate interest in archaeological ‘finds’ was known to everyone at the Base, and he wondered whether Walters was pulling his leg. He peered into the depths of the ice—and blinked! Something
there—and it looked like a man! Arden raised his snow goggles, and looked again, his face alive with excitement.
‘What is it, sir?’ asked Davis, pressing forward.
‘It’s... human. No, I can’t be certain—’ Arden spoke impatiently. ‘Bring me the power light, man. Quickly!’
Davis hurriedly made the necessary connections, and shone the beam deep into the ice. What they now saw, deeply embedded and eerily green-tinted, left them dumbstruck: a massive form, possibly eight feet in height. and clad in what looked like armour—certainly its mighty head was shaped like the helmet of an ancient warrior.
Walters glanced eagerly at Arden. ‘Is it a find. sir?’
‘We’re going to find out! Davis—the heavy drill! We’ll have to start by—’
His plans were interrupted by a shrill signal from the video-communicator strapped to his wrist. He snapped it open impatiently. Atmospheric conditions were so bad that sound and picture were incomprehensible. He squinted at it for a moment—and then gave up.
‘Base can wait.’ he said impatiently. ‘This is more important than some routine message...’
‘What’re we going to do then, sir?’ asked Walters.
‘Excavate,’ replied Arden. ‘This could be the find of the century!’
Keen though he was to share Arden’s excitement, Walters was still a basically cautious man. ‘What about our schedule, Mr Arden? We must stick to that.’
‘Must we? Just because Base computer says so?’
Walters continued to look uncertain. ‘Leader Clent will be furious, sir.’
‘Damn the computer’—Arden grinned boyishly—‘
Leader Clent! For once let’s do something on our own account. eh?’
Walters grinned bark at him.
‘Can’t see what Base can do about it. sir. The way things are, we can’t ask permission—and they can’t tell us not to. can they?’
‘That’s what I like to hear, Walters!’ Arden slapped Walters on the shoulder, and then moved towards Davis, who was bringing the heavy drill to bear on the ice face. ‘Come on, Davis, I’ll give you a line to work on—’
The geologist quickly gouged a simple, coffin-shaped outline of approximately the site and shape of the mighty form within the glacier. He turned to Davis. The technician was looking at him with an uncertain expression.
‘Don’t worry, Davis—’ Arden said firmly. ‘I’ll take the responsibility before Leader Clent.’
‘It isn’t him I’m worried about, s answered Davis. He glanced upwards at the massive ridge of snow towering above them. ‘There’s going to be a lot of vibration, you see...’
‘We’ll keep an eye on that. Anyway, we have to take that chance. Now hurry, man, hurry!’
In the Grand Hall, the stand-by units were still on Phase One alert. Leader Clent, in a typical move to establish order and confidence, had called a snap inspection of the Control Area. Accompanied by Miss Garrett, he strode calmly along the line of technical operators and recited their functions.
‘Emergency evacuation phasing?... Yes. Ioniser stage fault check? Good. Reactor safety sequence in operation?
Excellent.’ He turned to face Miss Garrett with a confident smile that embraced all her staff. ‘First class, Miss Garrett.
You’re to be congratulated—and, of course, your technicians, too.’
He then moved across to the computer communications deck, drawing Miss Garrett with him. As he drew alongside he murmured a dry aside. ‘You’ll make a qualified First Class Technical Organiser yet, Miss Garrett...’
‘Thank you.’ she replied with a tired smile, adding firmly, ‘but we need Scientist Penley.’
Clent didn’t alter his expression or even look in Jan’s direction—but his voice took on an edge of cold steel.
‘That person is no longer a member of this Base...’ He looked sharply at Jan, his eyes chilly and commanding. ‘I look to
to ensure that the Ioniser works properly, because
are loyal. Am I correct?’
The look in his eyes dared her to disagree.
‘Yes, Leader Clent,’ she nodded. the moment of uncertainty gone. ‘You are an example to us all.’
Clent relaxed and, nodding his acknowledgement of Jan’s polite submission, brought ECCO to life with a brisk tap of his finger.
‘What is the latest report from the Intercontinental Ioniser Programme HQ?’
ECCO’s sleek head revolved to face its questioner, and answered flatly: ‘
All bases on phase interlock. America—glaciers
held. Australasia—glaciers held. South Africa—glaciers held.
USSR—some improvement claimed...
Clent pulled a face, and flicked a politely amused look at Jan, who didn’t respond. ‘They
be better than the rest of us,’ he muttered. His face changed as ECCO continued coldly.
Brittanicus Base, Europe slipping out of phase. Glacial
advance imminent unless condition stabilised immediately—
Dent cut the voice short. His face tightened angrily.
‘Nonsense!’ he snapped. ‘We’re holding our own! Can’t they read the seismic print-outs?’
‘It isn’t the seismograph programme that’s at fault,’ Jan replied sharply. ‘It’s the Ioniser. We
still on Phase One alert, remember!’
‘My dear Miss Garrett, that is being taken care of by the computer.’
Clent’s words were lost beneath the jagged urgency of the computer public address system. Without waiting for the message to end, Clent and Jan made straight for the Ioniser Room.
Emergency, emergency—Phase Two, Amber Alert! Amber
Alert! Emergency, emergency!
Cleat reached the Ioniser controls first—Jan read the disaster signs from a distance. Every monitor was flickering on the verge of red—the next step, bar a miracle, would be total breakdown. Clent switched the controls over to manual, and began fighting to raise the power levels even fractionally from danger. Jan stared in despair at the elegant machine.
‘We’ve failed,’ she whispered.
fail!’ clipped out Leader Clent. ‘The glaciers haven’t beaten us yet!’
‘What more can we do? Inside two hours, the Ioniser will be useless! The whole European programme of glacier containment will be in ruins!’
‘Not while I’m in command!’ Clent, eyes fixed on the flickering needles, was adjusting the controls like a madman.
‘The glaciers will start to move again,’ she murmured sadly, glancing towards the electronic map. ‘Five thousand years of history gushed beneath a moving mountain of ice...’
‘Not yet, Miss Garrett. We’re not finished yet!’ Clent exclaimed triumphantly.
She glanced at the improved readings, and breathed a sigh of relief. But how long would it last? Clent indicated that she should take over the controls. In the near distance, the computer warning chimed on.
Phase Two, amber alerts All unauthorised personnel prepare to
Clent punched a communication switch and spoke firmly:
‘Personnel Control—advance that evacuation order. I want all unnecessary people cleared from Base. Only the emergency skeleton staff to remain. All senior grade scientists to report to me in control. Effect immediately!’
His determination had infected Jan, and she didn’t hesitate to speak her mind.
‘Penley could handle this. We need experts like him—’
‘Don’t talk to me about experts and their crazy ideas!’
He paused, frowning. ‘Where’s Arden?’
‘He’s still at the ice face—completing the instrumentation project...’
‘Hasn’t he been warned?’ demanded Clent in alarm. ‘I gave you explicit instructions—’
‘I couldn’t get through. Conditions on the ice face made video contact impossible.’
‘Miss Garrett,’ snapped Clent, ‘you have an unhappy habit of giving up, haven’t you? I need Arden—here! Trained men are vital to our survival!’
The computer warning system had changed pitch, and carried a new urgency. ‘
Emergency, Phase Two evacuation. Key
personnel Only to remain. Red alert to follow!
Clent switched the communicator to UHF frequency.
‘Leader Clent to Scientist Arden. Come in, Arden! For heaven’s sakes, man—answer l’
The videoscreen that should have carried Arden’s image was blank. Clent repeated his call—but quickly realised it was hopeless. He moved quickly back to Miss Garrett’s side.
‘Hold it it hatever you do,’ Clent insisted harshly.
‘It’s slipping again. I can just about hold it by keeping it on manual... but the time interval between pulse loss is decreasing.’ She looked at Clent calmly, almost resigned. ‘It’s not far from total disintegration...’
‘Hold on, Miss Garrett,’ commanded Clent quietly, ‘hold on. And try everything you know!’
It was the closest thing to a prayer that Clent could manage.
The battered blue box lay toppled on its side, half-buried in a snowdrift. Seconds previously, the snow had been disturbed only by the keen sifting of the wind; then, to the accompaniment of a strange groaning rattle, the blue box had slowly materialised from a vaguely transparent shadow into solid blue reality. What would normally have been its door was now its lid. The lid opened, and from the box popped the head of what looked like a dazed jack-in-the-box. With its puckish features, tousled hair and bright-as-button eyes, it gazed at the snowy world outside in mild amazement. Soon it was joined by two companion heads—that of a rugged-faced lad and, at his shoulder, a pretty, doll-like girl.
‘Y’re no flying a boat, are ye, Doctor?’ The young Scot smiled at the older man. His companion looked pained.
‘It was a blind landing, Jamie,’ he replied apologetically.
‘Aye, that’s for sure!’ exclaimed Jame, starting to clamber out and offering a strong arm to the others. The girl was obviously delighted by the sight of the untrampled snow.
‘There’s no harm done,’ she cried gaily. ‘And just look at the snow...!’
‘Thank you, Victoria,’ said the Doctor with dignity. ‘It’s good to know that someone still has faith in me.’
‘Snow again,’ groaned Jamie in mock-disgust. ‘Tibet was bad enough. Y’ve not landed us farther down the same mountain, have ye?’
The Doctor, having closed the door of the police box, and placed a somewhat battered, tall-crowned hat on his head, looked thoughtfully around. He shook his head.
‘No, Jamie my lad—this isn’t a mountain,’ he mumbled, grabbing at his hat as he ducked out of the way of the snowball which had been thrown at him by Victoria. He began to gaze at what looked like a wall of ice which reared up only a foot away from the blue box. ‘It’s something altogether more peculiar than that.’
Intrigued by his voice, and puzzled by the curious at which he was sweeping the snow from the ice face, the two youngsters scrambled to join him. Victoria stared at the smooth, dull grey substance that he had uncovered, then looked at the Doctor with laughing, rounded eyes.
‘It looks like a great wall of ice,’ she exclaimed. ‘Perhaps it’s the Palace of the Snow Queen!’
‘It’s not ice, Victoria,’ commented the Doctor, ‘it’s plastic.’
Jamie put his hand on the material, then nodded. ‘Aye,’
he agreed, ‘it’s no really cold. But it’s so smooth and curved, can ye no see?’
The Doctor took a pace or two backwards, nearly falling as he did so. ‘It’s a dome,’ he declared. ‘Some sort of protective dome...’
‘But it must be huge.’ Victoria wondered aloud. ‘I can’t see a end to it, can you?’ She turned to the Doctor eagerly. ‘I wonder what’s inside!’
‘There’s no door,’ observed Jamie with dour Scots realism. No sooner had he spoken than the quiet hum of electrically operated machinery reached their ears. The youngsters, reacting quickly to the Doctor’s warning gesture, huddled down behind a drift of snow. Now they could see without being seen...
A door in the plastic surface beneath the ice slid back, and two ragged, unkempt figures stepped out. Having glanced furtively to left and right, the smaller of the two dropped several of the parcels he was carrying; his companion, burlier, and with a wild shaggy beard that made him look like a pirate, snapped at him irritably.
‘What’re you doing? Come on. man. hurry!’
The smaller man hurriedly picked up what he’d dropped, and stowed away his obviously precious prizes in a number of the many pockets which seemed to he concealed beneath his lavers of protective animal skin. He seemed much calmer than his irritable comrade.
‘Don’t worry. That alarm wasn’t because of us.’ He started off again, his ill-gotten goods tucked safely away in his poacher’s pockets—then paused, and looked back thoughtfully. ‘I wonder what’s wrong, though...’
‘That’s their problem.’ growled the bearded scavenger.
‘Come on, let’s get away from here!’
For all his bulk, the big man moved through the snow as swiftly as a hunter. The little poacher followed him energetically but with less skill, floundering through the drifts as though unused to legwork. Soon, both men were out of sight. The Doctor and his companions emerged from behind the snow drift and hurried eagerly towards the sliding door.
It fitted perfectly. and seemed to be without handles or catches. It seemed impossible to open—until the Doctor found a pressure control in the plastic moulding which surrounded the entrance. He pressed it. With a gentle whine of power, the door panel slid back. A small vestibule faced them—with an identical door beyond. Jamie saw the opening device there, strode forward, and pressed it—but it wouldn’t budge. He turned back to the Doctor, and shrugged helplessly.
‘For a very simple reason, Jamie.’ Seeing the exasperation on Jamie’s face. the Doctor quickly supplied his explanation. ‘It’s an airlock. It won’t open until we’ve closed the outer door.’
‘But why?’ asked Victoria. ‘There’s nothing wrong with the air outside, is there? We were able to breathe all right.’
The Doctor smiled, and ushered Victoria into the airlock before shutting out the world of snow. ‘If my guess is right,’ he said, ‘I think we’re in for a pleasant surprise...’ He pressed the button. The inner door slid hack to reveal a scene that made even the Doctor wonder. There, under an immense plastic dome that kept the Arctic weather conditions at bay, stood a gracious and elegant Georgian country house in a state of perfect preservation. Ahead of them, across a a short stretch of lawn, a terrace and a side door opened into the stable block. The Doctor’s eyes twinkled with appreciation.