Authors: Glyn Jones
Tags: #Science-Fiction:Doctor Who
‘Well...’ The Doctor pulled at his lips and cleared his throat. ‘Sooner or later the TARDIS is going to be discovered, that is, if it already hasn’t, and they’re going to come looking for us. I suggest we find somewhere to secrete ourselves while we formulate a plan.’ It was obvious from the Doctor’s diction that he was desperately awaiting the arrival of a moment of inspiration and that moment was reluctant to show itself. ‘If we stay here we’ll be caught out in the open, as it were. Yes, I’ll wake the girls,’ he finished lamely.
‘Right.’ Ian nodded and, as the Doctor knelt beside the sleeping Barbara and Vicki, he crossed over to a cabinet to examine its contents. He stood in front of the cabinet and immediately a voice seemed to explode in the room.
‘You are now looking at weapons from the planet Verticulus. They are all based on the laser principle and though somewhat primitive in concept are extremely effective at close range. If you look...’
Ian stepped back, his heel coming down heavily on Barbara’s toe. She let out a gasp and hopped on the other foot, grimacing in pain. ‘Sorry,’ Ian apologised. He hadn’t realised the others had moved up behind him.
‘So that’s how we find out what it is we’re looking at,’ Vicki observed.
‘Yes,’ agreed the Doctor. ‘There is obviously a sensor that reacts to the body’s presence and gives out a commentary.’
‘But it’s in English!’ Vicki cried.
‘There will be an explanation for that,’ the Doctor said.
Ian positioned himself on one side of the cabinet and indicated the opposite side to Barbara. ‘Help me off with the top,’ he ordered.
‘What for?’ Barbara asked, moving into position nevertheless and laying her hands on the lid.
‘You might set off an alarm,’ Vicki warned.
But Ian ignored her advice and he and Barbara removed the top. ‘If they still work,’ Ian explained, ‘At least we’ll be armed. And, if they don’t, we might be able to bluff our way out.’ They laid the lid on the floor and Ian selected a weapon.
‘Nonsense!’ The Doctor said, ‘We’ve got a serious problem on our hands. This is no time to be playing cowboys and Indians.’
‘And we don’t want to get out anyway,’ Barbara added. ‘Do we? At least, not yet.’
‘Well, we can’t stay here, Barbara!’ Vicki almost howled.
‘We’ve got to, Vicki,’ Barbara persisted. ‘We’ve got to break the chain of events, do whatever we have to, to keep ourselves out of those cases.’
‘I can’t see that staying here would stop it!’
‘Leaving here may be just what we’re not supposed to do,’ Barbara explained.
‘I’m afraid, my dear, Barbara’s quite right,’ the Doctor said. But Vicki was not to be convinced.
‘But what if staying here is what we’re not supposed to do?’ she argued. ‘Why don’t we just try and get back to the TARDIS and leave altogether? Then we won’t have to worry at all about being turned into dummies.’
‘It’s a valid argument, Doctor,’ Ian said. ‘It really is a case of six of one, half a dozen of t’other.’
‘Not really,’ Barbara chipped in again, ‘Even if we do escape the planet we would never be quite sure we were really free, or whether we would still be bound by time, and events in time, which would lead us back here and into those glass cases. If we stay we might, at least, be able to reshape the future, turn events to our advantage, make sure we don’t end up like that. Then we could safely leave.’
‘Hmm... It’s quite a problem, quite a problem,’ the Doctor muttered.
‘All right then,’ Vicki said with finality. ‘You decide.’
‘Decide?’ The Doctor looked quite startled. ‘My dear child, it’s as Ian said, six of one and half a dozen of the other. Spinning a coin would be as appropriate as making a decision. Hmm, now let me see...’ The Doctor caressed his chin. ‘What kind of creatures would want to put us in cases for the purpose of display? I wonder...’
‘He’s curious,’ Barbara whispered to Vicki, ‘that means we stay.’
‘I’ve lost a button,’ Ian said, holding up his arm and looking at his cuff. He pulled at the remaining thread. ‘Must have been on the cabinet, reaching for the gun.’
‘Lost a button?’ The Doctor stopped stroking his chin and examined the sleeve with intense curiosity. ‘Now that’s interesting, very interesting.’
Ian rolled his eyes heavenwards. ‘What is so interesting about losing a button? People lose buttons, by the millions I shouldn’t wonder. In fact I’m thinking of taking out shares in the button industry and going around snipping off people’s buttons.’ The Doctor really did have the most extraordinary convoluted thought process. Buttons!
‘Don’t be so facetious,’ the Doctor snapped back. ‘Don’t you see, in this case, a little thing like losing a button can be a clue to our whole course of action, even our future?’
‘For want of a nail a war was lost,’ Vicki misquoted smugly.
‘What?’ Ian said.
‘For want of a nail a shoe was lost, for want of a shoe a horse was lost, for want of a horse a battle was lost, for want...’
‘All right, all right,’ the Doctor butted in. ‘Did anyone notice whether or not the button was missing from the sleeve when we were in the cases? Hmm? Well, come on! Come on!’
Nobody had. Missing buttons were hardly what they were looking for.
‘Pity, pity,’ the Doctor sighed, shaking his head. ‘Well then, let’s not waste time here talking. First things first. We will leave this building. Well...’ he chuckled, ‘a museum is hardly the place for shaping futures, is it?’
Lobos sat at his desk and excitedly switched pictures in quick succession. He was anxious to get his first glimpse of these aliens. His second-in-command, Ogrek, stood behind him, watching.
Through the scanner they could see the museum and its environs were a hive of activity with white uniforms scurrying about in all directions. Ogrek grunted. ‘We won’t be the only ones looking for them,’ he muttered. ‘They could have already been found and smuggled into hiding by the rebels.’
‘Rebels?’ Lobos snorted. ‘Rabble, you mean, little more than children.’
‘Children grow up,’ Ogrek commented wryly. ‘And even as children they can be dangerous.’
‘By then they will be on their way to Morok in the labour ship. And, in the meantime, if and when they pose a danger, we will destroy them. Nevertheless you’re right about the fact they might try to make contact. If they do of course...’ he smiled... ‘We’ll bag ‘em all at once, won’t we? In the meantime, send Matt down to survey that ship and see what he comes up with.’
Tor sped down an alleyway of the underground complex and burst into the chamber where Bo and Sita were waiting. He was breathing hard; a combination of exertion, excitement, and fear of discovery. Xerons never ran, except under orders or suspicious circumstances, and being apprehended would mean questioning. The waiting duo leapt to their feet, their own hearts thumping, and Bo almost cried with relief when he saw who it was.
‘Tor! What’s happened?’
Tor held out his hand to indicate he was giving himself a second or two to regain his breath. Then he looked around to make sure he hadn’t been followed and, staying by the door, said, ‘The Moroks have discovered a spaceship. It landed here.’
‘Where?’ Sita asked.
‘Near the Omerion section.’
‘You went outside?’ Bo was aghast that his friend and leader should take such a risk. Xerons did not move outside their prescribed limits.
‘A ship,’ Sita said unbelievingly. ‘Where from?’
Tor shook his head. ‘Nobody knows. But the crew have left it, that I did hear.’ He glanced over his shoulder then moved further into the chamber and continued in a hushed but excited voice. ‘This could be our chance,’ he said. ‘Don’t you see? They will have weapons we can use against the Moroks.’
‘If they’ll agree to help us,’ Sita said doubtfully. ‘And I don’t see any reason why they should.’
‘They will, Sita, when they hear our story.’
‘Yes,’ Bo agreed.
Sita shook his head. ‘Who knows what they’re like? They could be worse than the Moroks, then where will we be?’
‘You’re such a pessimist,’ Bo complained, moving closer to Tor to show where his trust lay. ‘You always look on the dark side.’
‘Not really,’ Sita argued with a slight shrug. ‘It’s just that I am a realist. Look, you said the Moroks have found the ship. Do you really think we stand a chance of finding whoever they are before the Moroks do?’
‘Dako has already organised the outside workers,’ Tor replied. ‘Now we must search in here. O1em and Seng are waiting for us. Come.’ He stood by the door waiting for Sita to move.
‘Come on, Sita.’ Bo laid a hand on Sita’s shoulder and gave it an encouraging shake. ‘We’ll find them.’
The Doctor, leading the way down the corridor, suddenly stopped and raised his hand. The others dutifully stopped behind him though they couldn’t figure out exactly why. Except for themselves the corridor was empty and they hadn’t seen or heard anything suspicious. Ian and Barbara exchanged enquiring glances and Ian shrugged, then they both turned front again to stare at the back of the Doctor’s head. Had they been in a position to see his face they would have seen his eyes move left, then right, then left again, though he took great care to keep his head absolutely still. Finally he said, ‘You lead now, Chesterton.’
Ian and Barbara exchanged glances again, and smiled, as they both nodded slowly, realising the Doctor was hopelessly lost and didn’t want to admit it.
‘Certainly, Doctor,’ Ian agreed affably, stepping to the Doctor’s side. ‘Which way? Any particular fancy?’ And the Doctor knew he hadn’t fooled anybody.
He huffed for a while and then said, ‘Yes - the way we came in of course.’
‘Of course.’ Ian smiled and nodded. ‘And which way did we come in?’
‘Really, young man,’ the Doctor growled. ‘You’ve got a memory like a sieve. We turn right, then left.’
‘No,’ Vicki contradicted. ‘We turned right when we cane in.’
She had been examining one of the exhibits with great interest; a small furry creature, very cuddly, like a teddy bear, except that its teeth would have snapped off a man’s leg with one bite. Her curiosity was thoroughly piqued but she made sure she didn’t stand too close, not because of the teeth, but because of the sensor and the voice that she knew would be sent booming down the corridor. Having given her considered opinion on their position she turned back to the exhibit.
‘Turned right?’ the Doctor said. ‘No, I don’t think so.’ ‘All these doors and corridors are so alike,’ Barbara said hastily in an attempt to abort the incipient argument.
‘Yes, indeed they are,’ the Doctor agreed, taking the way out she offered him.
‘Is this your way of admitting you’re as lost as we are?’ Ian enquired sweetly.
The Doctor considered for a moment and then, ‘I suppose it is,’ he said. ‘Let’s take Vicki’s advice. We can always retrace our steps.’
‘Can we? All right then, follow me.’ And Ian, holding his purloined weapon at the ready, set off down the corridor.
‘By the whole Morok Empire!’ Lobos bawled, smashing his fist down on the desk in front of him, ‘How long is it supposed to take to round up a few fugitives?’
‘How do we know they’re only a few?’ Ogrek, unlike the governor, was not looking for excitement. He was a creature of dull habit and did not relish his routine being disturbed.
‘I don’t care how many there are, I want them now!’ Lobos thundered.
‘And I say "a few" because how many do you think could fit into that thing?’ He switched his screen to a picture of the TARDIS and then to a quick succession of computer graphics. Having satisfied himself as to the dimensions of the strange ship, he switched to a hologram and the image of the TARDIS stood there before them. ‘You see? You see? Look at the size of it.’
Ogrek was not impressed. ‘They could be a whole colony,’ he said.
‘Maybe that’s why we haven’t discovered them. We’re looking for something more or less our size and they could be no bigger than that.’ Ogrek held up his hand, thumb and forefinger practically together.
‘Well we’ll soon know,’ Lobos said as a voice interrupted them.
‘213745 wishing to report, sir.’
‘Enter.’ Lobos turned to face the door as it slid open.
60213745 entered and saluted. ‘Well?’ Lobos barked. ‘Robot number 9284...’
‘His name is Matt,’ Lobos said.
The soldier frowned. ‘Matt?’
‘That’s right. His name is Matt. So forget the number, just tell me what he’s come up with.’
The soldier gulped. ‘Nothing, sir.’
‘Nothing. He’s still working on it.’
Lobos cast a quick glance at Ogrek who immediately wiped the smile from his face and found something very interesting to look at on the ceiling. But what was happening at ground level was even more interesting for, far from being annoyed, Lobos was highly delighted and Ogrek was quite startled when, hearing what sounded suspiciously like a chuckle, he looked down again to find Lobos grinning broadly. He raised a questioning eyebrow and Lobos burst into laughter.
‘He’s been beaten!’ he yelled. ‘Mau has finally met his match. He doesn’t know the answers! Now I can’t wait to meet these aliens.’ He pointed a finger at Ogrek. ‘So you take personal charge and get on with it.’
‘Yes, sir,’ Ogrek sighed - he only called the governor ‘sir’ when he felt put upon - and, waving 213745 to go ahead of him, turned to leave.
213745 saluted smartly but Lobos didn’t even see it. He was once again wrapped up in his video search.
‘If we keep going,’ Ian declared, a note of desperation in his voice, ‘We must eventually come to an exit.’
‘Must we?’ Barbara said between clenched teeth.
‘Well, we got in, didn’t we? So we must be able to get out,’ Ian hissed back.
‘I’m not so sure. I think we’re going around in circles. We’ve been in this corridor before, I know we have!’ There was more than a hint of desperation in Barbara’s voice. Now a-note of hysteria was creeping in. ‘I never thought I’d suffer from claustrophobia but I want to get out of this place!’
‘Easy, easy,’ the Doctor said soothingly in an attempt to lower the temperature. ‘I too have the distinct impression that we’ve been here before but it’s not a calamity. Oh, no. It’s helped me orientate myself. I know exactly where we are.’