Authors: Brian Hayles
Tags: #Science-Fiction:Doctor Who
‘Amazing...’ whispered Walters.
‘A giant among prehistoric men,’ agreed Arden, his mind racing. This discovery must go back at least three thousand years!
‘Is it a sort of armour he’s got on, sir?’ asked Davis.
‘Yes,’ replied Arden. ‘And that’s the most exciting thing about it. You see, he looks pre Viking... but no such civilisation existed in the prehistoric period before the first Ice Age.’
‘Proper sort of ice warrior, I’d call him,’ suggested Walters, smiling.
‘A good description, Walters,’ Arden agreed. ‘Even from here you can see how cruel and terrifying he must have been...’
He recalled the old legends of the Viking raiders: brutal, bloodthirsty killers, whose only ambition had been conquest.
‘I reckon even Leader Clent’Il want to take a second look, don’t you, sir?’ asked Walters.
‘I should hope so. And what do you think that blessed computer will make of it, eh?’
Davis had finished packing away his drilling equipment.
‘We’d better be getting back, sir,’ he said, looking up at the sky, ‘while the weather holds...’
Arden nodded in agreement. Time for celebration when they’d got the Ice Warrior back to Base. What Clent would say was anybody’s guess—but he couldn’t deny that it was a find of great importance.
‘Bring the airsled as close as possible,’ Arden ordered,
‘and we’ll get him loaded up.’
The three men, now fully absorbed in their difficult task, were totally unaware of being observed. Less than a hundred yards away, hidden by a wind-scoured outcrop of ice, the pirate and the poacher crouched and watched intently.
‘What’re they up to, Penley?’ asked the big man suspiciously. He smelt potential danger in anything that Clent’s scientists got up to—and he didn’t like the look of this particular bunch one little bit...
‘I don’t know, Storr old son,’ cheerfully replied Penley, shrewder and more thoughtful. ‘Arden must’ve found something buried in the ice, something to take home to Clent.’ He smiled knowingly. ‘It won’t be appreciated though...’
Storr glowered, his wild beard making his fierce gaze look even more ferocious. ‘Why don’t they leave well alone?’
Penley knew all about Storr’s hatred of technology. He tried to explain what he knew would be in Arden’s mind—a quality he’d once admired when they’d been working colleagues.
‘Arden was always a searcher. He was an archaeologist once.’
‘Archaeology!’ sneered the burly hunter. ‘What good’s that?’
‘It’s good to know things, Starr—even if they’re dead.’
‘Nothing’s sacred to you blasted scientists, is it?’
‘It’s in my character to ask questions, I suppose. Sorry.’
‘You swore you’d give all that up! Changed your mind, have you?’
Penley turned to Storr, his dirty face full of patience—
and determination. ‘Look, old son, discovery is as exciting and purposeful to me as hunting game is to you.’ He could see that Storr wasn’t convinced, and continued sarcastically,
‘We’re not all like Clent, you know. He’s the kind that uses scientist’s skulls as stepping stones to the top jobs...’
Story smiled at this manifestation of Penley’s bitterness and then changed the subject.
‘Come on, we’ve got to move. Let’s leave them to their stupid games!’
He turned away from the sight of the scientific party loading their airsled, and moved skilfully across the snow, followed by Penley. Coming to a small crevasse, he paused.
Beyond it was a glacier overhang that would give them all the cover they’d need. But to get there would mean a leap across the open fissure that would bring them into full view of the scientists. Story motioned Penley to wait, and watched for the moment when the distant trio, who were still working on the upper glacier face, were turned away from them. Suddenly he saw that something had distracted them. Pushing Penley ahead, he prepared to spring across the gap...
It was Davis who first heard the ominous rumble. He looked up, and saw a tell-tale spume of blinding snow was almost on top of him! Of the three, his position on top of the ridge of ice was the most vulnerable. He screamed a desperate warning to the other two below, then dived for cover.
Arden simultaneously heard the cry and the terrifying roar of approaching snow and ice. He instinctively looked upwards to locate Davis—but he was hurled to the ground and dragged into the shelter of the airsled by Walters before he could catch his breath to reply.
The avalanche, sweeping diagonally across the ice face, caught up Davis and continued towards that same crevasse that Storr and Penley were on the point of crossing.
Storr thrust Penley violently forward into the protection of the overhang, and tried to hurl himself forward after him.
Penley watched in horror, as the ice and snow, raging over and past him, caught Storr’s arm and shoulder, and snatched him into the drifts farther down the slope.
Suddenly the avalanche had passed; all was still once more. Half afraid of what he would find, Penley staggered out from safety to look for Story—but it was Davis he reached first. The angle of the technician’s neck told him there was no hope there. Hearing a growl of pain to the left, Penley scrambled through the churned-up snow and found Storr struggling to dig himself free. His left arm hung ominously limp and twisted.
‘Storr!’ gasped Penley. ‘Are you all right?’
‘My damned arm...’ groaned the hunter. ‘It’s broken.’
Penley strapped the shattered arm as tight as he could against Storr’s body.
‘You’re lucky,’ he gasped. ‘There’s one over there who’ll be staying on the mountain for good.’
Storr shook Penley off, and lurched to his feet. ‘Come on,’ he gritted through the haze of pain, ‘they’ll be here any minute, looking for him. Let’s get away from here!’
Penley hesitated, wondering whether Story was capable of the effort. Storr glowered back at him, sneering bitterly.
‘Unless you fancy turning me over to your friends?’
Penley met his gaze squarely and replied without hesitation. ‘Six months ago, they were my friends—but not now.’ Uncertain how to best help his surly companion, he stepped back and frowned. ‘Can you walk...?’
‘Just make sure you keep up!’ grunted Storr, and strode off, calling back over his shoulder, ‘Come onl’
With a last sad glance at the dead man in the snow, Penley hurried after Storr beneath the ominous shadow of the glacier.
Walters had struggled to his feet, and was now helping Arden up. There was no sign of Davis.
‘I’ll go and look for him, sir,’ Walters said curtly, to Arden unspoken question. He wasn’t going to waste his breath offering unnecessary hope. Arden watched him go.
sensing his despair. If Davis was lost, Clent would tolerate no excuses—least of all an archaeological find. While he busied himself completing the job of lashing the block of ice to the airsled, Arden’s mind raged with self-doubt: if they had ignored the Ice Warrior; if they hadn’t used the heavy drill; if they’d left when Davis had indicated... Would he have still been with them? Arden wasn’t a superstitious man, but he paused and stared into the ice block at the ominous, helmeted figure, and wondered...
Abruptly, he dismissed from his mind the ridiculous thought that there might have been some ancient curse attached to disturbing this ice-bound giant from his deathly sleep. But when he heard Walters’ dejected call, and saw him point miserably at the snow some two hundred yards away, the chilling thought needled his mind again. Had the Ice Warrior claimed his first victim?
The laboratory had been established in the part of the house that had once been called the gun room. It was, in fact, a complex series of small rooms, each of which served a purpose related to the laboratory central unit: storerooms for expedition equipment, weapons, geological analysis; and a medicare centre that had proved invaluable to the mental and physical well-being of the Base scientists.
The tensions created by the importance of their mission, and the conflict of personalities under continuous pressure of work, had brought several of the staff near to breaking point.
Only Clent had seemed impervious to strain so far.
But now he willingly relaxed in the vibrochair. Its effect was to relax the mind and tone up the body cells. The expression on Clent’s face also showed that it was extremely enjoyable into the bargain. Even so, although reclining and at ease, he lost none of his authority as Leader. If anything, the quiet hum of the electronic chair seemed to give an added keenness to the questions he threw at the Doctor who, like Jamie and Victoria, was immensely intrigued by the compact technology of the medicare unit.
‘You call yourself “Doctor”,’ continued Clent, ‘yet you have no proof of your qualifications. Why’s that?’
‘Aren’t we wasting time?’ replied the Doctor evasively. ‘If you really want my help, hadn’t you better explain the whole situation?’
‘Explain the situation?’ Clent raised his eyebrows in surprise and glanced towards Miss Garrett, who echoed his reaction. ‘My dear man, where have you been all these years?’
The Doctor threw a quick look at Jamie and Victoria before replying with a nervous smile. ‘As a matter of fact, we’ve been on a sort of... retreat—in Tibet.’
Victoria had to turn away slightly to hide the smile that threatened to flood her face.
‘Oh... really?’ replied Clent. ‘Tibet... of course.’ He looked towards Miss Garrett for her opinion—but she was gazing silently at the floor.
‘Well,’ continued talent. ‘as for the general situation, Miss Garrett can give you all the details later. Before we get to that stage, I want you to take a simple test.’
‘I’m not much of a one for examinations,’ observed the Doctor drily.
‘This is a verbal exercise in deductive logic. It’ll tell me whether you’re up to the standard I require. I don’t tolerate charlatans, you know.’
‘And if I don’t come up to scratch?’ enquired the Doctor.
‘You’ll be evacuated with the other scavengers.’ ‘Where to?’ asked Jamie bluntly.
‘To one of the African Rehabilitation Centres, of course,’
replied Miss Garrett with cold formality. ‘Oh, no!’ objected Victoria. ‘Not Africa!’
The Doctor shared her alarm. It wasn’t the country that was objectionable, so much as the fact that their only means of escape from this particular time zone lay outside the Base—
half-buried in a snowdrift! To be transported to Africa would mean being parted from the TARDIS—and probably for good.
‘Let’s hear this problem then,’ the Doctor demanded quietly.
‘Very well,’ said Clent. ‘All the major continents are threatened by destruction beneath the glaciers of the New Ice Age. How would you halt the ice surge and return the climate to normal, using the equipment you’ve already seen?’
The Doctor frowned and puffed his checks at the enormity of the question. Both Jamie and Victoria stared at him anxiously. Smiling blandly, Clent sat up in the vibrochair and reached out a hand to the chronometer by his side.
‘You have just ninety seconds,’ he murmured, ‘from now!’
Victoria and Jamie could only stare at the Doctor’s fiercely concentrating face, as he fired out questions and comments that left them completely baffled. Clent, relaxed, had closed his eyes; Miss Garrett studied the Doctor with sharp interest, noting with approval the scope and alertness of his mental responses. This man was certainly no charlatan!
‘Possible causes then,’ rapped out the Doctor keenly. ‘A reversal of the earth’s magnetic poles?’
‘No such change has occurred,’ replied Clent, without opening his eyes. The smile had vanished. Only a trained scientist could have asked such a question. ‘Interstellar clouds obscuring the sun’s rays?’
Clent shook his head.
Negative again. But the Doctor hadn’t finished.
‘A severe shift in the earth’s axis of rotation?’
Once more, Clent indicated that the suggestion was wrong. The Doctor looked thoughtful; he’d been given a problem without clues—the most difficult sort. And time was slipping away...
‘Come on, Doctor!’ urged Victoria. ‘Think!’
The Doctor looked at the recumbent Clent, and a slow, wicked smile spread over his puckish features.
‘Ah! A gigantic heat loss—is that it?’
The Leader’s face gave nothing away. He glanced briefly at the chronometer, then again closed his eyes before replying to the question.
‘I require an answer—not a question. You have rather less than thirty seconds left, Doctor.’
Clent’s carefully concealed reaction wasn’t lost on the Doctor. He grinned inwardly—two could play at that game!
‘In that case, it’s perfectly simple...’ he said airily, then paused, apparently lost in an attempt to read his plastic evacuation tag upside down. By the time the chronometer’s flicking hand had reached five seconds to zero, not only the youngsters and Miss Garrett were on tenterhooks. but Clent himself was sitting up in the vibrochair and gripping its arms in expectation.
‘Well?’ he demanded. ‘Hurry, man—speak up!’ The Doctor looked up at Clent with mild surprise—as though he’d forgotten the Leader was there. ‘Ionisation.’ he said precisely, as the clockhand reached zero.
‘Is he right?’ asked Jamie anxiously.
‘Yes,’ admitted Clent warily, ‘he is.’
‘But... ionisation?’ interrupted Victoria. ‘What does it mean? I don’t understand.’
‘Its to do with the carbon dioxide content of the earth’s atmosphere, Victoria,’ explained the Doctor. ‘It’s only a fractional proportion, but it helps to retain the heat of the sun, after it’s filtered through to the planet’s surface:
‘Like a sort of invisible blanket, you mean?’ Victoria was trying hard to understand.
‘Something like that, yes,’ beamed the Doctor. ‘Now—if you take the gas away, or even unbalance its mixture too much, the sun’s reflected heat is rapidly dispersed, our planet cools down too quickly and we’re left with the sort of freeze-up these people have now. Is that clear?’
Victoria nodded brightly. But Jamie was still puzzled.
‘But where did all this carbon dioxide gas go to?’ he asked. It was Clent who answered—almost apologetically.