Authors: Brian Hayles
Tags: #Science-Fiction:Doctor Who
The Ice Warrior hissed with astonishment. ‘As long ago as that?’ He paused in wonderment, and then quickly demanded, ‘They found nothing else?’
Alarm flared suddenly in Victoria’s mind. She steeled herself to look into his expressionless face. ‘You mean... there are others like you?’ she whispered.
The Ice Warrior lowered his arm, and stood strangely rigid. Victoria sensed the brooding change within Varga’s mind as he cast back through centuries of time, struggling to remember.
‘We were hovering... over the frozen lands. A sudden turbulence... our spacecraft crashed at the foot of the Ice Mountain.’ He paused. His memory was clearing. ‘We went outside our craft to investigate. The ice mountain shook...
split open... swallowed us in a great whirlwind of snow, and there was only darkness.’
He fell silent. Only the gentle labouring of his breath told Victoria anything of his state of mind. She spoke with sympathy.
‘The others with you,’ murmured Victoria, ‘did they all die—trapped inside the glacier?’
Varga drew himself up proudly, and giving the staccato, dry cough that passed in his race for laughter, replied harshly. ‘If they are dead as I was... then they can be freed—
and made to live!’
The full meaning of what Varga was saying didn’t strike home to Victoria immediately. She could only see the impossibility of ever finding Varga’s companions—let alone recovering them from the glacier. ‘You’ll never be able to get them out by yourself!’ she declared.
‘You do not yet understand my capabilities,’ he murmured harshly. ‘But I will need your help!’
help?’ questioned Victoria, surprised. ‘How?’ ‘Tell me... how I was brought to life? What is the process? What did these earthling scientists do?’
‘How do I know?’ said Victoria in exasperation. ‘I’m not one of them.’
‘You saw, you were with them. Tell me!’
‘Why ask me? Why not let me take you to the scientists—
to the Doctor? They’ll help you!’
‘I am a stranger—an alien. Why should they help me?
They would take me prisoner—keep me as a scientific curiosity—and leave my men for dead in the ice.’
‘They wouldn’t!’ exclaimed Victoria. But this was no human castaway she was speaking to—this was a Martian warlord.
‘With my men, I can talk from strength—not beg.’ He coughed abruptly—a sharp, sneering rasp—and Victoria shivered at the menace in the sound, as he continued. ‘Then we shall decide!’
‘Decide...?’ Victoria’s alarm was gradually changing to panic. ‘Decide what?’
There was no mistaking the grim confidence in Varga’s voice. ‘Whether to return to our own planet,’ he replied sternly, ‘or conquer yours!’
In the great hall, Clent had finished putting the situation to ECCO. The others were gathered about him, tensely waiting for its judgement.
‘Those are the relevant factors,’ finished Clent. ‘How should we proceed?’
Jamie could keep quiet no longer, and blurted out in anger, ‘How’s a machine to know?’
‘Be quiet, Jamie,’ admonished the Doctor, as the crisp voice of the computer began to discharge its answer.
The ionisation programme should continue as instructed—but
the presence of an alien spacecraft must be investigated.
The computer paused fractionally. Clent’s look of bland superiority changed to a frown.
‘But how can we?’ he asked the computer. ‘Our reduced manpower—’
The computer chose to ignore Clent, and continued coldly. ‘
Suspected fissionable material must take priority,
’ it clipped out. ‘
Glacial status can be held for limited period.
‘But what about Victoria?’ interrupted Jamie.
The emergency operating schedule has been rearranged to free
one scientist for the investigation,
’ continued the machine calmly.’
In the present circumstances, the nominated member should be
scientist Arlen. Effect these instructions immediately.
The computer fell silent. Clent turned to Arden, who could barely hide his excitement.
‘You heard what’s to be done, Arden. Do you think you can handle it?’
‘He’ll never cope with that Ice Warrior by himself!’
‘I could do with a security guard,’ agreed Arden nervously.
‘The computer has nominated one man only,’ snapped Clent irritably. ‘It will have to be enough!’ ‘What about me?’
asked Jamie eagerly. ‘Let me go with him!’
Clent frowned, about to give a sharp retort, but the Doctor cut in quickly. ‘He’s a capable lad—and he’s not on your staff. He’s extra.’
Clent studied the Doctor thoughtfully, then shrugged. It was true: this boy was surplus, and as such, not Clent’s responsibility. He was also something of a troublemaker—
better out of the way.
‘Very well. As the Doctor is going to help us with the Ioniser, the boy can go.’ As Jamie glanced triumphantly at the Doctor, Clent scowled. But there must be no delay!’ he insisted harshly. ‘Go—now!’
Jan Garrett smoothly explained Clent’s apprehension.
‘The sooner we know whether there
a nuclear reactor buried inside the glacier, the better:
‘Aye, mebbe,’ replied Jamie curdy. ‘But our Victoria’s important too, to know.’
Clent turned on him savagely. ‘Don’t you realise, boy?
The fate of the whole of Europe could be at stake! That’s what’s important—not this prehistoric freak of Arden’s, nor the girl! She’ll just have to take her chance!’
Storr gritted his teeth against the pain. Penley threw a quick glance at his drawn, pallid face, then deftly completed the task of bandaging the now swollen arm. It was a bad break; the bone-torn muscle was rapidly going septic, and Storr wasn’t far from a coma. But it was his own pigheaded stubbornness that had brought about his present critical state.
Penley knotted the make-shift bandage tight, and felt Storr wince.
‘What’re you trying to do? Cripple me?’
‘Sorry, old chap,’ soothed Penley. He tried to make his surly patient more comfortable. ‘The trouble with you, you know, is that you will insist on being stupid.’
Storr turned his face away. He hated admitting he was wrong—but he had to be honest. ‘How was I to know it’d get infected?’ he growled, then sank back weakly.
Penley looked round at Storrs bizarre den—the abandoned Victorian conservatory in which, years before, Storr had established his plant museum. How much longer would it last, he wondered? How long would it take before the ice—which was again rumbling ominously outside—was in there with them?
‘You should’ve listened to me in the first place,’ said Penley, ‘shouldn’t you?’
‘And given you the chance to stuff me with anti-this, and anti-that?’ grumbled Story. ‘I’d’ve been flat on my back for months...!’
‘Whereas now,’ observed Penley drily, ‘you’re fighting fit, of course.’
Storr rose to the bait as usual. ‘Someone’s got to do things!’
‘Well that someone isn’t going to be you for a while yet.
And it serves you right.’
‘It’s nothing!’ snapped Store. ‘I’ll pull through!’ He gazed at his precious plants through a haze of pain, desperately trying to concentrate his mind.
‘...how it was before they killed off all the plants,’ he gabbled, half-smiling. ‘There would have been
fruit, on trees, waiting to be picked...’ His ravaged face tightened into bitterness once more. ‘Now... you damned scientists—destructive meddlers!’ His anger subsided again.
‘Killed all the plants... and flowers...’
Pcnley could see that he was slipping into a coma. Soon, there would be no wood left from their precious stock, and without that warmth, the deadly cold would start to creep into Storr’s haven. He had to act—and quickly. He stood up, and started to put on the heavy skins for snow travel. His quick and decisive movements woke Story. ‘What’re you doing, you fool!’ mumbled the half-conscious man.
‘The Base,’ replied Penley curtly.
Storr tried to rise, but he had no strength. He fell back helplessly, but his eyes burned with fever and accusation.
‘You’re going to turn me in... like a dirty coward. I don’t want... rehabilitation... Africa...’ He was nearly out, but still he protested. ‘Never trust... scientists.’
Penley turned ‘It’s for your idiotic sake that I’m going!
For drugs! And if I don’t get them...’ He looked down at the unconscious body, ‘you’re as good as dead!’
‘Think!’ commanded the Ice Warrior in that strange, fierce whisper. ‘Tell me what it was they used to give my body life!’
Victoria could see that there was no escape. But what could she tell him when she knew so little herself?
‘I don’t know what it was called, so how
I tell you?’
she explained desperately.
But Varga wasn’t going to be satisfied that easily.
‘Describe it!’ he hissed sharply.
Victoria tried hard to remember what the scientist Arden had done to the great ice block—but it was difficult.
She hadn’t really been paying attention at the time. The body inside the ice had been the subject of everyone’s fascination—
and now here it was, alive and menacing, holding her prisoner!
‘It was a sort of... small black box,’ she suggested vaguely.
‘Go on!’ demanded Varga with an urgent gesture.
‘Explain how it worked!’
‘It had wires,’ recalled Victoria hesitantly, then blurted out ‘and they connected the wires to the ice. It made a funny, quiet sort of noise—and nobody knew you were going to come to life, but you just did!’ She paused, breathless and afraid.
But it was enough for the Ice Warrior to understand.
His great clamp-like fist pointed towards his armoured chest.
‘A power source,’ he hissed wonderingly. ‘High resistance...
great heat... and then—life!’ He swung round to face Victoria, and pointed the device at her terrified face.
‘This room we came from,’ he whispered harshly, ‘I wish to return to it—now!’
Victoria’s face brightened. ‘I’ll tell you how to get there!’
The Ice Warrior wasn’t taken in by her sudden cooperation.
‘You will take me there,’ he commanded, gripping her arm. ‘You will help me find the power unit. With that my men, too, can be brought back from the dead...’
Desperately, Victoria searched her mind for excuses, all the while aware of the numbing pressure on her wrist, and the delicate menace of the device on Varga’s arm.
But we’ll have to go along the corridor,’ she pointed out quickly. ‘And supposing someone sees you holding me prisoner?’
‘Then I shall be forced to kill them,’ hissed the Martian warlord calmly. ‘And you also, if you attempt to call for help.’
He held the device between Victoria’s frightened eyes. She swallowed hard, but spoke bravely.
‘What is it?’ she asked fearfully.
‘It is a sonic destructor: To put it simply, it will disintegrate your brain with sound waves.’
She looked at the Martian, eyes wide.
‘All right,’ she said, trying to hide the fear in her voice.
‘Are you ready now?’
Varga silently gestured for her to lead the way. Victoria slowly opened the door, praying desperately that they would meet nobody on their way to the medicare centre. She paused for a moment, surveying the corridor outside. It was deserted.
Varga shuffled close behind her, urging her onward. Blindly, she obeyed. The alternative was too horrible to think about...
Penley had approached the same corridor from the terrace. Huddled in a shadowy corner, he was contemplating his next move. The corridor was unusually quiet—without even the normal security guard. What could it all mean? Was something really wrong—or was it some sort of trap? He listened intently. In the far distance, he could hear the high pitch of machinery which had once been so familiar to him.
The Ioniser was still functioning then—though not for much longer, he thought grimly. But all that was Clent’s problem now. The immediate goal was to get into the medicare centre and select the drugs needed to save Storr’s life.
Suddenly, he froze. His ears had caught a sound subtly different, puzzling—coming along the corridor towards him: slow, ponderous. shuffling—and accompanied by a lighter, more timid step. He looked cautiously out from the shadows that concealed him and his eyebrows shot up in amazement.
Advancing cautiously towards the doorway of the medicare centre was a girl—but it was her companion that had shocked Penley. He had seen nothing like it on earth!
Immense—eight feet tall at least—it looked almost prehistoric.
A glint of light suddenly caught its helmet and clumsy mechanical hands. Penley barely managed to stifle a gasp. His mind raced, throwing up a flood of questions. What was it?
What was such a creature doing inside the Base? Who on earth was the girl?
Then, Penley saw the tight look of terror on the girl’s young face—barely more than a child, he realised, as she moved closer. Her slender wrist was gripped by the monster who was hulking beside her. They stopped outside the medicare doorway.
Then. as the reptilian giant biped thrust the doors open with one blow of his massive arm, the girl looked about her desperately, before being dragged inside. Her eyes widened as she saw Penley. His first reaction was to rush forward to help—but something in her face stopped the movement almost before it began. Although her eyes pleaded with him, her head gave the slightest of negative movements—stay away! Penley was soon to know why. As though angered by the girl’s reluctance to go through the medicare doors, the monster pointed his free arm directly at her head. The gesture was unmistakable, and Penley caught a clear glimpse of the strange tubular device... The girl obediently stumbled into the room and out of sight, followed by the massive creature. Once more the corridor was silent and empty, leaving Penley totally unnerved and desperate to know what to do next.
Inside the medicare centre Varga paused, taking h the room and its complex equipment. On the far side of the room stood the trolley that had once borne his lifeless body. It was slopping with water and fragments of melting ice. Satisfied, he released Victoria from his iron grasp.