Authors: Glyn Jones
Tags: #Science-Fiction:Doctor Who
‘Choice is only possible when you have at least some facts to go on,’ Barbara said. ‘We don’t seem to have any.’
‘Yes,’ Ian agreed, still searching around the door for some indication of its mechanism. ‘They say to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Well, we’ve been forewarned and all it’s done is to leave us totally and utterly confused.’
‘Totally is enough,’ Barbara said. ‘Utterly is irrelevant. And someone is coming. I suggest we make ourselves immediately, totally, and utterly invisible.’ She was already moving to one side and the three of them dived for cover behind a conveniently placed and suitably large enough exhibit.
They were just in time. There was the steady tramp of marching feet and Lobos appeared at the head of a squad of soldiers. The doors opened in front of them, they marched out, and the doors started to close again. Ian waited until almost the last second then darted out and, before the doors finally came together, jammed his penknife between them, creating a chink just wide enough to see through. Barbara and Vicki left their hiding place to join him.
‘What’s happening?’ Vicki asked. And, before Ian could reply, had slipped in front of him and, crouching, applied her own eye lower down the crack. ‘Oh, no!’ she groaned. ‘They’ve got the TARDIS! Oh, Ian, we’ll never get away now!’
Lobos stood staring at the TARDIS as though he were challenging this strange, silent, unknown object to give up its secrets. He walked up to it, touched it, walked around it, viewing it from every angle. He had already had its exterior dimensions graphically illustrated for him on the scanner but it was another thing to actually stand there and look at it.
‘Huh!’ He finally grunted. ‘That is the strangest looking craft I have ever seen. I could fly to Morok flapping my arms quicker than that could get off the ground.’
The soldiers dutifully laughed. Lobos viewed the TARDIS from another angle. ‘It must be very cramped and uncomfortable for four travellers inside at one time,’ he observed. ‘Oh, by the way,’ he turned to the officer beside him, ‘these travellers come from a planet called Earth.’
The soldiers, imagining this to be another example of their leader’s wit, burst out laughing again but Lobos stilled them with a look. Then he turned back and regarded the officer, a giant creature who towered over hirn. Lobos noted he had only one eye and a deep scar that ran from his forehead to his chin. ‘The language they speak,’ he went on, ‘is one called English. How it got into the memory banks I have no idea considering that is an area we have never explored. But, I suppose, anomolies arise in every system.’
‘I seem to remember,’ the officer said, ‘at one time there was some talk of an invasion and a number of Earth languages were processed, but nothing came of it. Maybe they were left in by mistake. You know what civil servants are, clutter clutter clutter.’ And the officer sniggered. Lobos turned his attention back to the TARDIS and the officer anticipated his next question. ‘We were unable to gain entry, sir.’
‘Oh, dear!’ Lobos said with undisguised sarcasm. ‘Didn’t they leave you the key then? Force it, you fool!’
The officer swung around and bellowed at the nearest soldier. ‘You!’ The man leapt to attention and saluted. ‘What happened to that equipment I called for?’
The man started to stutter his protest that he had never heard any order for any equipment but the officer yelled even louder to shut him up. ‘I’m not interested in excuses!’ he bawled. ‘I’ll deal with you later. Get it!’
‘Yes, sir.’ The soldier saluted again, did a smart about-face and, not too sure of what he was going to look for, or where, marched off. The officer turned to Lobos.
‘Incompetent idiots,’ he snorted disdainfully.
Lobos was not impressed. ‘You’re not a Morok,’ he said, ‘Where are you from?’
‘My name is Mort, sir. I am a mercenary from Kreme.’
‘Humph!’ Lobos turned his back. He might have known. He had no time for soldiers of fortune. Give him a professional every time.
‘What are they doing?’ Barbara whispered, the only one of the three unable to see.
‘"I’hey just seem to be standing around,’ Vicki replied. ‘Looking at the TARDIS.’
‘Let’s hope they don’t do any damage,’ Barbara wished fervently.
‘There’s not much they can do,’ Ian assured her. ‘Unless they get inside.’
‘Do you suppose they’re going to bring it in here?’ Vicki asked.
‘I would think so, eventually.’ Ian glanced at Barbara.
‘Well, what next? Find the Doctor, I suppose.’
‘Maybe one of us should stay here and keep an eye on the TARDIS,’ Vicki suggested. ‘If we have to leave in a hurry we don’t want to waste time having to look for it.’
‘We know where it’s going. We saw it before, remember?’ Ian re-applied his eye to the crack.
‘And could you find your way back there?’ Vicki said.
Ian glanced down at the top of her head. ‘In which case we’d all have to stay here and watch it.’ And he went back to his spying.
‘Stay as you are! Don’t move!’ The voice echoed down the gallery. They stiffened. Ian was the first to turn around to see a Morok guard standing a few feet away, his gun levelled at them. Vicki got up from her crouched position and slowly she and Barbara turned to face the soldier. For a long moment no-one moved, then Ian took a step forward, but Barbara laid a restraining hand on his arm, never taking her eyes off the Morok.
‘Don’t, Ian. He’ll fire that thing.’
Ian turned his head slightly towards her though he too kept a heady eye on their captor.
‘Well, wouldn’t that change the shape of things to come?’ he whispered.
‘It certainly would,’ she replied. ‘There’d be only three of us in those cases instead of four.’
The guard frowned, waved his gun about, and ordered them to move away from the door slowly. Barbara and Vicki started to comply but now it was Ian who stretched out a restraining arm. ‘No, wait a minute,’ he whispered. Then, turning his back on the guard, went on: ‘From what we heard outside, these guys seem to work pretty much by the book. I doubt the word "initiative" figures prominently in their vocabulary. Why don’t we call his bluff?’
‘Because he’s not bluffing, that’s why!’ Barbara hissed. ‘Are you out of your mind?’
‘That’s enough talking!’ The guard barked. ‘I said, move out.’
Ian turned back to him, smiling. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘we heard you the first time. But what if we don’t feel like it?’
The guard’s frown deepened. This was hardly the reaction he had expected. Ian noted his irresolution with some satisfaction and started to move quite casually towards him.
‘Don’t go too far, Ian!’ Barbara warned, seeing in her mind’s eye the vision of what that ray gun could do. But Ian still continued his advance.
‘Yes,’ the guard said, ‘She’s right. Now move back. Move back!’ But it was he, showing increasing signs of nervousness, who took a step backwards.
‘There was nothing in your orders about killing us, was there?’ Ian said softly. The guard retreated. ‘Well, was there? Why don’t you answer me? Was there?’ His eyes never left the Morok’s face.
‘No, no, there wasn’t.’ He ran his tongue across his upper lip. ‘But that doesn’t mean to say I won’t if I have to.’
‘But you don’t have to. What do you think your superiors would say if you killed us?’ Ian’s voice was now so low it was almost as though he were trying to soothe a bewildered child. ‘ "Have you brought in the prisoners?" they’d ask. And you’d have to say, "No, I went and shot them all."’ Ian tut-tutted and shook his head, half-turned away as if to say something to the others, then swiftly swung back and, knocking the guard’s arm to one side, grappled with him, yelling to Barbara and Vicki: ‘Run! Get out of it! Both of you!’
But the two stood stockstill, taken as much by surprise as the guard and seemingly rooted to the spot. Ian was now struggling desperately, holding the man’s wrist so that the muzzle of the gun pointed anywhere but at a living target. The panic-stricken guard fought back fiercely. He now had an excuse to kill. He could always claim he was attacked when the aliens resisted arrest.
‘Will you... get... out of here?’ Ian yelled to Barbara and Vicki, between gasps, as the Morok swung him around, almost knocking him off balance. But Ian kept his grip on the man’s wrist, trying to regain the initiative by forcing him back over a cabinet and holding him there. Had he not been armed he could have tried for a knock-out punch but, as it was, wrestling seemed the better bet. But the Morok was stronger than he looked and already Ian could feel himself weakening, painfully dragging air into his lungs, his legs beginning to feel like rubber and the muscles in his arms aching with fatigue.
Still Vicki and Barbara did not move.
It was only when the doors behind him slid open to reveal Lobos and his guards that they were suddenly galvanised into action and took to their heels, disappearing in opposite directions like rabbits down their respective boltholes.
‘Get them!’ Lobos yelled and the guards streamed into the building. Ian broke free from his opponent. But too late. He was immediately jumped by a couple more. A quick, hard, jab to the stomach knocked the remaining breath from his body and two pairs of hands took a firm grip of his arms. In a way he was rather glad to have someone else take the weight off his feet. Lobos glared at him.
‘Take him to my quarters,’ he snapped, and watched as the guards dragged Ian out of the building, passed Mort who was standing there watching too. ‘Well, mercenary?’ Lobos said, ‘Do you think you’re up to flushing out a couple of women? Or are you just going to stand there looking pretty?’
By the time they had got out of the building and moved a short distance away Ian was beginning to recover and thinking of escape. Struggling, he decided, would appear to be a useless exercise so, that being the case, why not try the opposite? He let out a deep sigh and went limp in his captor’s hands. The two soldiers checked their stride to adjust to this sudden increase in weight and, taking advantage of the momentary distraction, Ian rammed his elbow into the first soldier’s stomach. The winded Morok gasped and reeled away and Ian swung a perfect uppercut that connected with the second guard’s chin. As the man catapulted backwards Ian let out a howl of pain and clutched his bruised knuckles. Surely he had broken every bone in his hand. The pain almost paralysed his arm.
Still moaning, he crouched over his injury and turned just in time to see the butt of a ray gun descending. Evading the intended blow, he straightened up, and there was a mutual howl as the top of his head connected with a Morok nose. As the dark red, almost black blood spurted over the white uniform, Ian turned and ran for his life.
Barbara stopped running and flopped against a wall, holding her ribs and gasping for breath. She looked back along the empty corridor through which she had just run. Which way now? From one corridor to another? From one room to another? While, all the time, they were closing in and ultimately she was trapped? It was hopeless.
Then she noticed an insignificant looking door in the wall opposite. With another glance down the corridor she moved across to it. On the wall was a touch control. She placed her finger on it and the door slid open. Beyond it she could discern what looked like a small storage room in which were stacked various containers. The layer of dust on the one nearest the door gave some indication of the infrequency of the room’s use. Maybe it was the museum’s equivalent of a broom closet.
The door was beginning to close and Barbara touched the control once more and slipped inside. A couple of seconds elapsed and the door closed silently behind her. She was in pitch blackness. She heard the approach of heavy footsteps and felt her way by memory and touch to one of the largest containers, groped her way around it, and crouched down. It was just as well, she thought, that her pursuers had such a slow turn of speed. She remembered the stiffness of their movements and pictured them now, moving up the corridor towards her hiding place.
The door opened and a shaft of light cut through the darkness and spread like a white runner on the floor embossed with the elongated shadow of one of the guards. It seemed to stay there for an eternity. Then it moved further into the room, the upper part of the body sliding like a shadow puppet half way up the far wall. The head moved, first to one side, then the other. Then it backed out, the door closed, the light was gone.
It was only then that Barbara realised she had been holding her breath and released the air from her lungs. She waited a while before leaving her hiding place and creeping slowly back to the door. She listened carefully, making sure all was clear, then started to feel around the door, slowly at first and then with movements growing more and more panicky. The horror of her situation sank in. There was no means of opening the door from the inside. She was locked in: locked in a room of total silence and impenetrable darkness.
She sank to the floor and leaned back against the door. I could die in here, she thought. In a thousand years’ time someone will open the door and find my mummified body covered in cobwebs and dust. I wonder if they have spiders on this planet? She shuddered at the thought and drew her knees up to her chin, hugging her legs. No, she thought, they won’t discover a mummy at all. After all, I’ve got to get out of here, to get into a glass case. Perverse though it was, there was some comfort in that thought.
Vicki sat back and let out a long sigh of satisfaction. She inspected the tupperware-type utensil in front of her, still containing a few drops of a dirty dark-green substance - and burped. ‘Oh, pardon me!’ She giggled and looked around at a dozen faces regarding her solemnly. She smiled an embarrassed smile.
‘Have you had enough?’ Tor asked.
‘Yes, thank you,’ Vicki nodded. ‘It was delicious, despite its... even though it didn’t really look very appetising. But it was very nice. Thank you. A bit like sweet and sour sauce really, with a sort of nutmeggy aftertaste.’ She realised they had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. ‘What was it?’ she asked.
‘It’s called phosyn and it’s manufactured in the laboratory. I don’t know how.’ Tor seated himself opposite her.