Authors: Brian Hayles
Tags: #Science-Fiction:Doctor Who
‘This is the place...’ he hissed, then gestured curtly at Victoria, who was standing frightened and helpless in the centre of the room. ‘The black box!’ he exclaimed. ‘Find it!
A rare calm reigned in the control room complex. For the first time in weeks, the Ioniser hadn’t kept everyone in a state of permanent tension. Jan moved along the ranks of monitor technicians, and felt almost elated. This was how their great project should be—totally under control.
She glanced across at the ECCO conference table, where Clent and the Doctor were studying circuit blueprints on the videoscreen. Could one man make such a difference, she wondered, as she studied the clownish figure seated by Leader Clent. Her respect for his intelligence far outweighed her displeasure at his irreverent treatment of her or his impudent smile. She also knew that Clent had accepted the Doctor as his equal—in brainpocrer if not in authority. And this had been the most important factor of all in stabilising the near-to-panic atmosphere. She sighed inwardly. If only Penley could see the place like this instead of as it had been the day he stormed out under a hail of sarcasm from Clent...
Clent looked at the Doctor, who was concentrating on the videoscreen by his side. ‘I still say it needs an expert,’
commented the Doctor, nodding towards the elaborate circuitry designs on the videoscreen. ‘Can’t you afford one?’
Clent’s face stiffened. Had the Doctor been reading his mind? ‘I choose not to,’ he clipped.
‘You are not here to question my decisions! You have no authority.’
‘I know,’ agreed the Doctor, unruffled. ‘I’m here to help—if I so choose.’ He smiled. ‘I think we should trust each other, don’t you?’
With an effort, Clent controlled the instinctive resentment he felt whenever this bitter subject cropped up: a rational explanation should clear this matter up once and for all, he decided. He didn’t realise that behind the Doctor’s seemingly innocent and trusting gaze was a probing intelligence that could—if need be—winkle the truth out of a giant clam.
‘You’ll appreciate,’ stated Clent, ‘the importance of this mission. I was chosen because I never fail. My record is one hundred per cent success. And I’ve handled some big projects, I assure you. Doctor.’ He paused, and frowned. ‘As always, I hand-picked my team... but for once, I made a vital mistake...’
‘This chap Penley?’ suggested the Doctor, knowingly.
Clent nodded. ‘The best man in Europe for Ionisation studies... but as it turned out, hopelessly temperamental!’
The Doctor looked at Clent shrewdly. The Leader’s defensive reaction had already revealed what was wrong.
‘Temperamental,’ the Doctor queried gently. ‘or individual?
Creative scientists have to be allowed some freedom of thought you know, otherwise—’
Cleat cut in angrily, stung by the way in which the Doctor had hit the nail on the head. ‘Creative poppycock!
When Penley walked out of here, he publicly proclaimed himself to be criminally irresponsible!’
‘You don’t think, then, that what he did could have been a simple gesture of protest?’
‘He was always protesting! This unit is a team—a team with a mission! If we fail, how can others expect to succeed?’
‘And it’ll be your name that suffers, of course,’ replied the Doctor keenly. ‘And that’s important to you, isn’t it?’
Suddenly Clent was on the defensive. ‘I lead the team, but I depend on the experts that I select. With the exception of Penley, my judgement was sound. But others won’t see it that way. They’ll only mark up the failure!’
‘So you really need this chap Penley.’
‘No! I do
need Penley!’ Then he added hastily, ‘But I do need an equivalent brain to take over from where that...
traitor left off! Normally, it would take months to train up a stranger.’ His face had a look of desperation. ‘There simply isn’t time—that’s the truth of the matter! And that’s why we need
‘I’ll do what I can. But I think you ought to understand that personally I prefer trusting human beings rather than computers.’
Clent’s face grew stern and proud. His hand came to rest on ECCO’s control panel. ‘I trust nobody, Doctor.
Human emotions are too unreliable.’ Suddenly, as though at the flick of a switch, he dismissed the whole subject from his mind, and became brisk and purposeful once more. ‘If you require any further data, Miss Garrett will obtain it for you.
I’ll go and check that there is a working area cleared ready for you in the medicare centre. Perhaps you’d like to join me there when you’re ready?’ With that he strode off. The Doctor stared after him, and thoughtfully shook his head...
Varga was becoming more and more furious. Victoria, sensing that his anger was increasing, searched ever more hurriedly for the vital power pack. At the sound of smashing glass, she spun round. With one sweep of his mighty arm, Varga had cleared a nearby bench of its chemical apparatus.
He turned to her, his breath coming in fearful gasps.
‘Where is this power source!’ he snarled, moving towards her with mighty strides. ‘Do not try to trick met if it is not here—’
His threat was lost as he overturned a cupboard in his effort to reach Victoria. As it fell, a jumble of equipment fell out—among it several power packs. Varga stopped, and studied the confusion of gear at his feet. He looked up at Victoria, whose tense face showed her relief. She nodded.
‘Yes,’ she whispered. ‘Those are the ones.’
She watched as the Ice Warrior picked up a couple by their leads, and began to examine them triumphantly. What would he do now? As though in answer to her unspoken thought, Varga turned his mighty head towards her and spoke.
‘You will come with me to the Ice Mountain,’ he hissed, and grabbed her unresisting arm. But Victoria’s eyes were staring past the Ice Warrior to the doorway. Standing there, his face stunned with disbelief, was Clent. Victoria screamed a warning—but too late. In an instant, Varga had turned, seen Clcnt, and swung into action.
Fortunately for the scientist, Varga’s weapon arm was holding the precious power packs. lastead of using the sonic destructor, the Ice Warrior swung the power packs by their leads, like a medieval ball and chain. Clent, having no chance to dodge the swift, savage blow, slumped to the floor without even a cry. Victoria stared in horror at his crumpled body.
‘You’ve... killed him,’ she whispered.
‘Come!’ Varga replied harshly—but Victoria had fainted. Pausing only to sweep up her limp body in the crook of his mighty arm, the Martian strode over the fallen scientist and through the doors leading to the corridor and freedom.
Penley had seen Clent arrive and enter the medicare centre. Minutes later, the reptilian giant burst out into the corridor, carrying the girl on one arm and a tangled bundle of power packs in the other cruel fist. Once he was out of sight, Penley dashed into the medicare room, to find Clent sprawled and bleeding from a head wound. Crouching by him, Penley felt expertly for a pulse. He nodded with satisfaction and then, moving casually across to a compact automat machine that dispensed pharmaceutical components, dialled the correct formula. Almost immediately. several phials and syringes appeared in the tray beneath. Taking them up, Penley now dialled a fresh formula. a light smile playing on his lips. The mixture duly arrived, and he turned to deal with Clent—only to find the Doctor kneeling by the unconscious body, head to its chest, listening for the tell-tale heart beat. The Doctor straightened up, but stayed kneeling; Penley moved to his side. For a brief moment, the two bizarrely dressed men solemnly looked at each other without fear or anger. Penley smiled faintly, and handed the phial to the Doctor for his approval.
‘He isn’t dead.’ he remarked casually. ‘I was going to give him a whiff of this.’
The Doctor sniffed at the open phial warily—then pulled a sickened face. ‘Revolting!’ Almost gleefully, he thrust it beneath Clent’s unresisting nose. ‘This should do the trick very nicely,’ he chuckled, then looked from the cut on Clent’s forehead to Penley. ‘Did you do this?’
Penley shook his head. ‘I’ve come close to it at times. In fact, I’ve never seen him looking so peaceful.’
‘He’ll be all right. Did you see anything of what happened?’
‘A great monstrous-looking creature—reptilian biped.
But not prehistoric—possibly a robot.’
The Doctor studied Penley keenly; his summary displayed scientific deduction of the highest quality. But there was a more urgent question in the Doctor’s mind. ‘Was there a girl with this creature—captive, or under duress?’
Penley nodded. ‘Yes,’ he frowned. ‘She was unconscious.’ He saw the glare of accusation in the Doctor’s eyes, and hurriedly explained. ‘I couldn’t have stopped that giant. No one man could.’ He glanced down at Clent.
‘Anyway. I came here to get drugs—to save a man’s life. I don’t intend getting caught.’
His eyes held the Doctor’s gaze challengingly. Mild though the ragged intruder appeared, the Doctor knew that he would let little stand in the way of his original purpose. It explained something of Clent’s bitter attitude, too.
‘Look. Penley.’ the Doctor said hesitatingly.
Penley looked suddenly wary. ‘You know about me, do you? My dreadful escapades in computer-land...’
‘Whatever happened in the past,’ declared the Doctor earnestly, ‘they need you here now. They’re in desperate trouble!’
‘Needing isn’t getting. I’m free of their problems for good. And I’ve a friend who’ll die unless I get, back quickly.’
‘The problems here are yours as well! It’s your world that’s threatened, isn’t it?’
Penley smiled gently, and tapped the side of his head with one finger. ‘My world’s up here, my friend—strictly private and no admittance. Clent can keep all this!’ He looked keenly at the Doctor, almost daring him to interfere, then spoke quietly. ‘I’m leaving. All right?’
‘I’m sure you’ve got good reasons, old chap,’ the Doctor replied soberly. ‘Good luck.’
Penley reached the door, then turned and smiled. ‘Nice to meet someone who hasn’t been got at’ he said cheerfully, and was gone.
A quiet groan came from the floor by the Doctor’s feet.
He looked down at Clent’s body with an air of pained surprise
‘Good heavens, Clent, I’d forgotten all about you!’ He crouched, and thrust the evil-smelling phial under the Leader’s nose once more. Coughing and spluttering, Clent struggled to sit upright, and avoid the pungent fumes. The movement brought an awareness of throbbing pain in his head. He looked at the Doctor with a dazed expression, before the full memory of what had happened flooded back.
‘The Ice Warrior!’ he exclaimed—then, wincing, spoke more quietly, though still with urgency. ‘Where is he?’
‘Gone. And he’s taken Victoria with him.’
‘But why?’ asked Clent. ‘Why here? They’d already escaped once!’ His hand went tentatively to his skull, and gently fingered the scalp wound. ‘He his me with a power pack.’
The Doctor looked thoughtful. Almost absentmindedly, he helped Clent to his feet. But his brain was working furiously.
‘A power pack...’ he mused aloud. ‘Like the one that Arden used to unfreeze him?’
Clent nodded—then wished he hadn’t, as the dizzying pain made his head swim again. He steadied himself, then pointed towards the wreckage of the overturned cupboard.
‘Those. But why?’ He groaned. ‘What’s that creature up to—and what made it come back here to Base?’
‘My dear chap,’ observed the Doctor drily, ‘I think you’ll find it never actually left in the first place.’ He looked thoughtfully about the room. ‘He must’ve stayed hidden while we set up the security search, then waited for his opportunity when the alarm was cancelled.’ He looked hard at Clent. ‘This Ice Warrior isn’t a fool, Clent. He’s clever. And he didn’t intend to leave here empty-handed either!’
‘You mean he took the girl as a hostage?’
Before the Doctor could tell Clent of the fear that was in his mind, the doors burst open and Miss Garrett entered. Her face looked tense. Close behind her came Arden and Jame, both now dressed for their journey to the ice face. They slopped short at the sight of Clent and the wrecked laboratory.
‘Leader Clent, what has happened?’ demanded Jan, hurrying towards him. ‘Are you all right?’
‘I was attacked by that confounded ice-age monster of yours, Arden!’ The pain in his head forced him to control his anger, but his voice was harsh. ‘I want it found—immediately!
Jan looked in dismay towards Arden, then faced Clent bravely. ‘We’ve just had a report from the outer perimeter,’
she said. ‘The... creature has smashed its way out—and it’s got the girl.’
‘If we go now we can soon catch up with it!’ exclaimed Jamie. ‘But they won’t let us without your say-so.’
‘If you’d got ready when I told you—’ rasped Clent, but Arden quickly cut in to defend the Scots lad.
‘We’ve prepared ourselves as quickly as we could, Clent!
If we’d been any quicker, we’d have got outside
‘It’s heading for the glacier, I’d say,’ said the Doctor,
‘and it’s taken at least one power pack with is—and, of course, Victoria.’
‘A power pack?’ asked Jamie. ‘What for?’
It was Arden who offered the solution that had already crossed the Doctor’s mind. ‘He’s going to try and bring the others back to life!’ His eyes blazed with excitement. ‘There are others like him up there—there must be!’
‘Arden,’ interrupted Clent coldly, ‘you were given the task of establishing the presence of an alien energy unit—not a menagerie! And I would prefer positive facts,’ he added cuttingly, ‘not schoolboy speculation!’
‘Then what are we waiting for?’ demanded Jamie restlessly. ‘let’s go!’
‘Not until dawn breaks, lad,’ said Arden. ‘It won’t be long,’ he added, seeing the dismay on the boy’s face.
‘Stalking the Ice Warrior by night’d be impossible, Jamie,’ the Doctor pointed out. ‘He’s no fool—’
‘But he’s got Victoria!’ protested Jamie fiercely.