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Authors: Philip Hinchcliffe

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Doctor Who: The Seeds of Doom

BOOK: Doctor Who: The Seeds of Doom
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DOCTOR WHO
AND THE
SEEDS OF DOOM

By PHILIP HINCHCLIFFE

Based on the BBC television serial by Robert Banks Stewart by arrangement with the British Broadcasting Corporation

 

1
Mystery under the Ice

Everywhere, as far as the eye could see, was a gleaming expanse of white. Moberly adjusted his goggles to counteract the glare and brushed the tiny icicles from his beard. The temperature was dropping fast, and judging from the cloud formation above the distant hills, a blizzard was brewing. Two years in the Antarctic had taught him to pay attention to such signs. He pulled his parka tightly round his face and called to another muffled figure crouched in a deep trench near by.

‘Come on, Charles! The weather’s turning. We’ve got enough samples for testing.’ The other man seemed not to hear him. He was hacking furiously at something in the trench with his ice pick. Moberly dropped down beside him.

‘Look,’ said his companion. He pointed at a dark gourd-like object, about the size of a pineapple, embedded in the icy wall.

‘What is it?’ asked Moberly, his eyes widening in amazement.

‘Dunno. But it’s not ice,’ said the man named Charles, and he carefully prised the object free. ‘Bit of a mystery, eh?’

Moberly nodded. ‘Let’s get it back to camp and take a proper look.’ He took the strange object from Charles and climbed out of the trench. It felt curiously heavy considering its size. He placed it on the sledge and teamed up the dogs for the trek back to camp. Charles joined him a moment later and the two men set off across the icy waste, the dogs barking excitedly. A sudden squall of snow blew across the sledge as it gathered speed and the wind began to howl in the distance. Moberly shivered. Without knowing why he felt uneasy, as if the approaching blizzard carried with it a sense of impending doom.

The bright yellow huts which formed Antarctica Camp Three sat huddled in the snow at the foot of a low ridge of mountains. The huts were linked by corrugated steel tunnels which gleamed like new whenever the sun shone. Now, however, the air was dark with snow as the blizzard swept down from the mountains. Moberly and his companion, Charles Winlett, had been lucky to reach camp in time.

Inside the huts the contrast was astonishing. The specially insulated walls and ceiling kept the atmosphere at an even temperature and the overall impression was one of warmth and light. In the Laboratory, John Stevenson, the expedition’s chief botanist, was carefully freeing hardened ice from the outer surface of the pod-like object. He was a pleasant, chubby man of about forty-five, with a gingery moustache and thinning hair. In his white Lab coat he had the air of a kindly dentist as he probed the pod with a metal spatula.

He stopped and turned as Winlett and Moberly entered. They had removed their outer furs and were now dressed in jeans and sweaters. Derek Moberly was a large man with a big bushy beard and a serious expression. He was a zoologist and the most recent arrival on the polar expedition, which had been in the field now for three years. Charles Winlett, a geologist, was smaller and neater with a trim beard and pale blue eyes which twinkled with good humour. Both men were in their early thirties.

Moberly crossed to the pod. ‘Animal, vegetable or mineral, John?’ he asked.

‘Vegetable,’ replied Stevenson without hesitation. ‘The cutaneous creasing is unmistakable. When it’s properly thawed I can confirm it with a cytology test.’ He gave the pod another poke with his spatula. The ice was already melting in places to reveal a hard green casing. Stevenson stared at it, puzzled. ‘How deep in the permafrost was it?’ he asked.

‘I’d guess about the ninth layer,’ replied Winlett, ‘which means it’s been there at least twenty thousand years.’

There was a moment’s silence as the significance of this remark sank in. All three men were experts in their field but none of them had come up against anything like this before. The pod sat still and silent, glowing strangely in the rays of the ultra-violet lamp being used to thaw it out.

‘Well it looks tropical to me, like a gourd,’ ventured Moberly.

‘Rubbish, Derek,’ said Winlett. ‘If it’s the late Pleistocene period it can’t be tropical. It’s a few million years since this part of the Antarctica was rain-forest.’

‘That’s the accepted theory,’ said Moberly. ‘Discoveries like this have destroyed accepted theories before, isn’t that right, John?’

Stevenson did not reply. He was staring fixedly at the pod as if in a trance. ‘Something wrong?’ asked Moberly, and he suddenly remembered the feeling of unease that came over him when he first handled the pod himself. Stevenson rubbed his head.

‘Don’t you feel it?’ he said slowly. There was a hint of fear in his voice.

‘Feel what?’ said Winlett.

‘Something odd... strange... as if...’ Stevenson struggled for the words, ‘as if there’s some kind of other presence in the room.’

Winlett laughed. ‘You’re imagining things, John. Must be that rice pudding you had for lunch.’

Stevenson did not smile. ‘I’m not joking.’ He crouched over the pod as if mesmerised by it. Winlett and Moberly exchanged glances. They had never seen Stevenson like this before. He was usually cool and level-headed, not given to wild imaginings. What had got into him? Suddenly Stevenson gave a cry and backed away from the pod. ‘I know what’s wrong.’ His voice dropped to a whisper. ‘It’s alive! That thing is still alive!’ He began pushing the others towards the door.

‘Wait a minute,’ said Winlett. ‘How can you tell?’

‘I don’t know how, but I’m certain it’s a living organism.’ Stevenson spoke with total conviction. ‘I’m going to transmit pictures to London. Come on.’ He strode out of the room. Winlett shrugged his shoulders and followed.

Moberly remained at the door a moment, an anxious look on his face. Although he didn’t like to admit it, he too found the pod worrying and somehow frightening. He glanced across at it. It lay there on the bench, silent and sinister, an unwelcome guest from the Earth’s deep and hidden past.

By two o’clock that same day pictures of the pod, received direct by satellite from Antarctica, had succeeded in mystifying every botanical expert in England. Sir Colin Thackeray, Head of the World Ecology Bureau, was beginning to think he was the victim of some gigantic hoax. In desperation he had finally told his Deputy, Dunbar, to get on to a chap called the ‘Doctor’ who worked for UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Task Force). ‘Bit of a long shot,’ Sir Colin had said, ‘but worth a try in the circumstances.’

It was understandable why Dunbar adopted a sceptical, even sarcastic attitude to the peculiar personage who invaded his office later that afternoon.

Wearing a long red velvet coat, a broad-brimmed hat, and a large multi-coloured scarf trailed over his shoulder, the Doctor hardly looked the picture of scientific eminence. Dunbar wondered if in fact this was the man Sir Colin had meant, or whether there had been some mistake. He took the photographs of the pod from the filing cabinet. ‘I doubt very much if you can help us–er–“Doctorâ€

2
Death Stalks the Camp

After his interview with the Doctor, Dunbar did not go straight home. Instead, he drove thirty miles out of London, taking particular care he was not followed, to pay a visit on someone very special.

‘Mr Richard Dunbar, sir, of the World Ecology Bureau.’ The butler threw open a pair of metal studded doors and Dunbar entered the room.

‘Room’ was hardly the word to describe the place he now found himself in. Dunbar literally gasped with shock at the sight. For all around him, on each side, were nothing but plants—plants of every description; creepers, suckers, lichen, fungi, giant rubber plants, monstrous cacti, rare tropical blossoms, trailing vines, bamboo—the room was a living jungle, a Sargasso Sea of waving green. Dunbar guessed it must be at least fifty yards long, although the farthest walls were invisible. High above, he could just make out a vaulted ceiling through the thick foliage.

A raised iron walkway ran down the centre of the room and at the far end a man was spraying an exotic-looking flower with loving care. He was dressed immaculately in a dark Savile Row suit, and his hands were covered by elegant black leather gloves.

The man turned as the butler made his announcement and glided down the catwalk towards Dunbar. He stopped and stared, without speaking. His eyes were extraordinarily large, like those of a predatory cat.

‘Mr Chase?’ said Dunbar. ‘Mr Harrison Chase?’

The man nodded. There was something menacing about him. Lean and panther-like, he had the unmistakable stamp of power. A man not to be trifled with. A man who would stop at nothing to get his own way.

He spoke. ‘And what is your Bureau doing about bonsai?’

‘Bonsai?’

‘Mutilation and torture, Mr Dunbar. The hideous Japanese practice of miniaturising shrubs and trees.’

‘We try to conserve all animal and plant life,’ replied Dunbar hurriedly.

‘I’m glad to hear it.’ The cat’s eyes flashed dangerously. ‘I consider it my mission in life to protect the plant life of Mother Earth. And she needs a protector, does she not?’

Dunbar agreed. He knew of this man’s obsession with plants, knew too that he was a millionaire many times over, with a considerable private army in his employ. It was wiser to agree than disagree with such a man. He fumbled with his briefcase and took out a large buff envelope.

‘I have come to show you something, Mr Chase, something discovered by one of our expeditions.’ He undid the envelope and handed over the photographs. ‘A mysterious, unidentified pod.’

Chase examined the photographs. ‘Very interesting. Where was it found?’

Dunbar hesitated. This was the moment he had been waiting for, the moment he would gamble not only his career but, if the rumours about Chase were true, perhaps even his life.

‘In the Antarctic, under our control,’ he replied finally. ‘But of course, in our violent and uncertain world, Mr Chase, anything can happen...’ he paused. ‘Such a valuable specimen could easily disappear... for a price.’ He looked hesitantly into the dark, feline eyes.

‘I want the precise location.’

Dunbar reached into his case again. ‘A map and all the information you require.’

Chase smiled. ‘Such forethought, Mr Dunbar. An excellent attribute, and one for which you will be well rewarded.’ He clapped his hands. ‘Hargreaves, call Scorby in here, and show Mr Dunbar out.’

The butler bowed wordlessly and ushered Dunbar into the corridor. The audience was over.

Alone, Chase stared hungrily at the photographs once more. ‘Unique! The only plant of its kind in the world,’ he whispered. ‘Compositae Harrison Chase! Yes, I must have it. I must! ‘ The cat-like eyes gleamed bright and manic.

A noise at the door broke the spell.

‘You wanted me, Mr Chase?’ The speaker was a tall, swarthy man with a pointed black beard.

‘Yes, Scorby. I’m sending you on a little errand. You’d better take Keeler with you. Oh, and wrap up well. It could be snowing.’

Sarah Jane Smith had never felt so cold in her life. She was already regretting this mad trip to Antarctica. After two years as the Doctor’s special assistant she should have known better, she told herself.

She drew the hood of her parka tight and glanced across at the Doctor. He remained impassive, staring out of the helicopter window. He was being unusually secretive about their mission. A sure sign he was worried, decided Sarah.

Suddenly the pilot yelled above the engine noise. ‘There she is!’

The helicopter began to turn and drop. Beneath them Sarah could just make out a huddle of bright yellow huts. So this was Antarctica Camp Three. Not exactly the centre of civilisation.

They landed and Sarah leapt out after the Doctor. The big blades swirled dangerously overhead, creating a miniature snowstorm. A figure ran out from one of the huts to greet them.

‘Welcome to the loneliest spot on Earth. You must be the Doctor. We were expecting someone a lot older.’

The Doctor smiled. ‘I’m only seven hundred and forty-nine. I used to be even younger.’

The man grinned, not knowing how to take this remark. He turned to Sarah and extended a hand. ‘Derek Moberly, how do you do?’

‘Sarah Jane Smith, the
young
Doctor’s assistant,’ she laughed. ‘Tell me, is the weather always like this? I feel I’ve got frostbite already.’

Moberly chuckled. ‘No, sometimes it gets quite warm. Ten degrees below freezing.’ He eyed the Doctor’s red velvet frock-coat. ‘Are you all right dressed like that?’

‘I haven’t travelled ten thousand miles to discuss the weather,’ snapped the Doctor. ‘Shall we get started?’

A few minutes later he stood next to Stevenson in the Sick Bay, gazing down at the motionless form of Winlett.

‘He hasn’t spoken a word since last night,’ explained Stevenson anxiously. ‘We heard a cry, came in and found him on the Laboratory floor. The pod was open.’

BOOK: Doctor Who: The Seeds of Doom
13.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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