Authors: Glyn Jones
Tags: #Science-Fiction:Doctor Who
He sighed wearily and passed his hand over the screen to change the location. Then he sat, looking but not seeing, lost in a thousand thoughts.
‘Where’s Vicki?’ The Doctor had taken in the room even before the echo of his call had died away.
Startled, the others glanced around as well. There was no sign of Vicki. For a while they had been wandering about the room, examining the exhibits and only occasionally aware of each other. One minute Vicki was there and, it seemed, the next minute she was gone.
‘She probably got bored and wandered off,’ Barbara suggested.
‘Expressly against my orders. Now, more than ever, we should stay together.’ And chuntering angrily to himself the Doctor marched off and into the next room. The other two quickly followed and they found themselves in a long gallery filled with models and illustrations of planetary systems. They moved cautiously down the centre of the gallery keeping a sharp look-out for the errant Vicki.
‘What could have happened to her?’ Ian grumbled. ‘She couldn’t have got very far.’
There was a sudden gasp from Barbara and she pointed to the far end of the gallery where a wide, arched opening revealed a corridor running at right angles to the room they were in.
‘There she is!’
The Doctor and Ian turned towards the corridor where they saw Vicki being dragged along by two of the white uniforms. She was struggling desperately and obviously screaming but the trio could hear nothing. ‘Do something!’ Barbara cried.
‘There’s nothing we can do,’ the Doctor said. Barbara turned a desperate pleading face to Ian. He needed no second bidding.
‘Ian! Come back!’ The Doctor shouted, but it was too late. Ian was already in the corridor and, with the advantage of surprise, had barged into the two captors and sent them crashing to the floor before they even knew what hit them. Barbara and the Doctor saw him yelling at Vicki, pulling and then pushing her in their direction and Vicki ran back into the gallery, throwing herself at Barbara and sobbing hysterically.
The guards, now recovered and back on their feet, stood glaring at Ian who started to back slowly towards the gallery. In a second they had drawn their weapons but, as they raised them to fire, a look of total astonishment appeared on their faces. Ian had stepped back into the gallery and, as far as the Moroks were concerned, disappeared.
His heart thumping like a kettledrum, Ian staggered back to the others on rubberised legs. His hands were trembling and he could hardly speak but, ‘Phew! That was too close for comfort,’ he chuckled with relief. ‘Well done, Chesterton, my boy. Well done!’ The Doctor beamed. But the congratulations were cut short by a low warning from Barbara: ‘Doctor...’
The Moroks had entered the gallery and were slowly advancing, peering left and right for the magically disappearing fugitive. The four time-travellers retreated in apprehension. But, after a while, the searchers gave up their hopeless quest and, shaking their heads in disbelief, started to go. At the arch they could not resist one last look around the gallery and then, with shrugging shoulders, disappeared.
‘That’s certainly given them something to think about,’ Ian said.
Barbara giggled nervously. ‘They’ll never work out what happened,’ she said. ‘You could almost feel sorry for them.’
‘No, no!’ Vicki cried, ‘They were horrible!’
‘Yes, Vicki. I’m sorry.’
‘Teach you to disobey orders and go wandering about on your own like that,’ the Doctor chided her. ‘Created quite a little drama, didn’t you?’
‘And how do you explain that little drama?’ Ian asked.
‘It’s quite simple,’ the Doctor began, but Ian was still suffering from the shock of being an impulsive hero and staring oblivion in the face, and was in no mood for any more simplicity.
‘Whenever you say something is quite simple,’ he blurted out, ‘it turns out to be the most complicated thing ever. Whenever I hear you say "It’s quite simple" I prepare for the worst.’
‘But it is!’ the Doctor insisted. ‘You both entered and came back from the fourth dimension, that’s all.’
‘That’s all. It couldn’t have been sheer coincidence, I suppose, that we happened to step in and out again when things began to get really difficult.’
‘Of course not. Your experience merely substantiates my theory that there is accidental mechanical interference on this planet. It would appear to be in patches, like fog, and like fog, it comes and goes. At the moment that corridor through there seems to be a location. In here there could be people all around us at this very moment but we are unaware of them because they are in their dimension while we are in ours.’
‘But we’re not!’ Ian almost exploded. ‘We’re in both! We’re here but we haven’t arrived. We’ve arrived but we’re not here. I think I’m getting a headache.’
‘It’s quite sim...’ The Doctor stopped himself and coughed. ‘Crossed wires, dear boy. Crossed wires. But I also think what has just happened presages our imminent arrival and we really ought to get back to the other room and keep an eye...’ He couldn’t resist a little more teasing - ‘on our other selves.’
‘I suddenly feel very sleepy,’ Vicky said, unsuccessfully trying to stifle a yawn and forgetting to put her hand over her mouth until the very last moment. ‘Pardon.’
‘Oh, Vicki,’ Barbara said, ‘you can’t be. We all had that marvellous sleep before we landed.’
‘We haven’t landed yet.’ Ian was determined to continue the argument. ‘And, if we have, then I’m Rip van Winkle and I haven’t a clue as to what is going on.’
‘I can’t help it,’ Vicki insisted, ‘I really am tired.’ And she yawned again, this time remembering her manners. "S’funny,’ Ian said, ‘so am I.’
The Doctor, who was leading the way, stopped and turned back. ‘That’s very interesting,’ he observed.
‘You always show the greatest interest in the least important things,’ Ian growled sulkily.
‘It’s the apparently least important things that sometime lead to the greatest discoveries. Steam corning out of a kettle, hey? An apple falling on your head, hey? Floating in a hot bath, hey?’
The Doctor raised his right fist and jabbed his forefinger at the ceiling. ‘Eureka, my young friend. Eureka!’
‘Touche,’ was the rejoinder. Ian was too tired to argue anymore.
‘Yes,’ the Doctor said, continuing on his way, ‘I remember, I was sitting on the edge of the bath at the time and we were discussing... What were we discussing?... Oh, yes! The cost of living and the exorbitant cost of figs. Almost tripled in price they had, in a matter of months. Terrible, terrible.’
‘What is he going on about?’ Vicki whispered to Barbara.
‘Recollections of a dim and distant past,’ Barbara answered.
‘Never mind the dim and distant past,’ Ian snarled, it’s the dim and distant future we’re supposed to be worrying about.’ And he yawned mightily just as they went through into the other room.
‘Your tiredness;’ the Doctor said, getting back on track and to his original interest, ‘obviously has something to do with moving into another dimension. How do you feel, Barbara?’
‘I’m wide awake,’ she replied.
‘So am I. Remind me to make some notes about this.’
‘I hate to interrupt,’ Ian interrupted, ‘but Vicki and I are almost dead on our feet.’ And, in truth, they could hardly keep their eyes open and the yawning had become incessant.
‘My dear boy, forgive me, scientific curiosity, you know. You can rest in here.’
Through half-closed eyelids Ian peered around the room. The TARDIS and the domed cases were still there. Iie lowered himself wearily to the floor and stretched out. ‘Wake me when we arrive,’ he murmured and was almost immediately fast asleep. Vicki, already curled up into a little ball, was ahead of him. Barbara lay down beside her and the Doctor stood where he was, obviously lost in thought.
Lobos leaned forward and changed the picture once more. Suddenly he stiffened and peered intently at the screen. There was something there, something he had never seen before. Two of his men were walking around it. Then one, pointing to the ground, said something to the other who joined him and they jabbered excitedly before turning back and resuming their examination of the strange contraption.
‘You!’ Lobos bellowed at the young technician who, in terror, dropped the exhibit he was working on and totally ruined a hundred Morok-hours of work.
‘What’s that?’ Lohos demanded, stabbing a stubby finger at the screen.
‘That, you idiot! That!’ Lobos grabbed the youth by his collar and practically jammed his nose against the scanner.
‘I don’t know, sir. I don’t reco-recollect ever seeing it before.’
‘Well, have you seen anything like it?’
‘N-n-n-no, sir, never, sir.’ Much to the young Morok’s relief, Lobos let go of his collar, and he surreptitiously backed away out of arm’s reach. It was at this point that the door to the laboratory slid silently open and a soldier hurried in. Lobos turned and glared at him. The soldier saluted.
‘I am supposed to be the Governor of this wretched planet,’ Lohos grumbled. ‘And you’re supposed to show some respect and announce yourself.’
‘I’m sorry, sir, but the matter’s urgent.’
‘Not so urgent that you forget your place.’
‘Yes, sir. I apologise, sir.’ The soldier stared straight ahead, waiting for the blow to fall.
Lobos looked the creature up and down and felt some sympathy for him. Maybe the poor fellow was as bored as he was and here, at last, was something to get excited about.
‘Well?’ He barked. ‘Out with it then. What is this matter that’s so urgent?’
The soldier almost sighed with relief. ‘We’ve had a report that a ship has landed, sir.’
‘I am well aware that a ship has landed.’ Lobos waved towards the scanner without bothering to turn and look at it. ‘And it isn’t a ship from home. We would have had advance notification.’ By Ork, he was beginning to sound more and more like a civil servant.
‘No, sir. It’s an alien vessel.’
‘Well, well, well, what a red letter day...’
Now where had he picked up that expression? -’... for the Xeron calendar. Have the crew been detained?’ ‘No, sir. We have been unable to gain admission...’ ‘Admission?’
‘Entry, sir, entry. Unable to gain entry.’
Lobos glowered with such ferocity that the soldier decided he had better get his message across and get out of there - fast.
‘But the ship appears to be unmanned, sir. There are tracks leading away from it and we presume the crew must be somewhere in the museum.’
Lobos moved over to the door and flicked an intercom switch on the wall. ‘Attention all commanders. Attention all commanders. We have uninvited guests. Organise an immediate search and detain for questioning.’
He flicked off the switch. At last, he thought, something to break the monotony.
Bo interlaced his fingers and stretched out his arms in front of him, palms outwards, and cracked his knuckles loudly. he made funny noises with his mouth, forcing the air out from between his cheeks and gums. It was a habit that drove Sita mad and he tried to control his irritation. They were both on tenterhooks and any reprimand, he knew, would only increase the tension unbearably. But he turned his head sideways to look at his companion and Bo, realising what he was doing, immediately stopped and smiled apologetically. Then he sat on his hands to resist further temptation.
‘What could have happened to him?’ Sita said, using his own hands to put pressure on his thighs and push himself up from the cannister on which he was sitting and going towards the door of the tiny chamber to look out. Ahead of him stretched the vast underground complex that was the heart and lungs of the museum. The only sound that greeted him was the low hum of machinery and nothing moved. He turned back. Bo was gazing at him enquiringly. Sita shook his head and resumed his seat. ‘Something must have happened to him,’ he said. ‘The Moroks have picked him up for questioning...’
‘No!’ Bo shouted. And his hands came together again ready for cracking knuckles.
‘Nothing gets past them,’ Sita continued. ‘They know everything.’
‘But we’ve been so careful,’ Bo protested, feeling the fear spread from his solar plexus, reaching out to his toes and fingertips.
‘They know what we’re thinking even before we do. We’re fools. Fools! I told Tor we wouldn’t get away with it.’ Sita clenched his fists and shook them in front of him. ‘But we’ve planned,’ Bo whined.
‘Planned? Planned? What have we planned? What kind of rebels are we? We don’t even have weapons.’ ‘But we do!’ Bo shouted.
Sita waved away the protestation and continued: ‘The few weapons we have wouldn’t get us anywhere. Oh, maybe we’d get two or three of them, then it would be slaughter. Not one of us would be left alive. Not one of us would want to be left alive.’
‘I suppose some of us must die,’ Bo whispered, ‘but...’
Be quiet!’ Sita yelled. ‘I don’t want to hear it!’ Then he suddenly felt sorry for his young companion. He was not the stuff fighters, rebels, martyrs, are made of, and he was gazing at Sita pleading to be reassured. Sita could not reassure him. He turned away and the sound of knuckles cracking made him close his eyes and wish fervently he were anywhere but where he was. ‘If he doesn’t come soon,’ he said softly, ‘we’ll have to call the meeting off. We will be missed.’
‘He’ll be here,’ Bo said, sitting on his hands again. ‘Tor wouldn’t let us down.’
The Doctor knelt beside Ian and shook his shoulder gently. It took Ian a long time to come round but, eventually, he groaned, opened his bleary eyes and immediately closed them again.
‘What’s the matter?’ he yawned and rolled over prepared to go to sleep again. But the Doctor gave him another shake.
‘You told me to wake you when we arrived,’ he said quietly.
There was a moment and then Ian sat bolt upright, immediately wide awake: ‘What!’
‘Shhhh...’ The Doctor put his finger to his lips. ‘The girls are still asleep. No need to wake them yet. But, look’.
Ian looked. The TARDIS had gone. So had the four cases. The Doctor stood up and Ian scrambled hastily to his feet.
‘What...?’ he started, and then remembered that, having arrived, he could now be heard as well as seen and lowered his voice almost to a whisper. ‘What do we do now?’