To: Professor Andrew Montrose
Research and Development
Department of Sciences
Dear Professor Montrose,
Regarding the existing agreement between your Department and Department C19 of HM Government's Ministry of Defence, reference number JS/77546/cf.
As you know, C19 has, over the past few years, continued to subsidize a great number of individual projects and courses and co-sponsored a number of staff at your facility.
As per the above agreement, C19 requests four attachments to begin immediately at locations of our choosing. These simultaneous attachments are scheduled to run between twelve and twenty-four months.
The researchers we require are:
Richard Atkinson Doctor James D. Griffin Doctor Elizabeth Shaw Cathryn Wildeman
Please inform the above that their attachments will be beginning on Monday 21st October. They will be collected by our representatives and taken to their place of work.
Please inform the attachees that to comply with the Civil Defence (Amended) Act (1964) they will be required to sign the Official Secrets Act (1963) before leaving Cambridge.
You can assure the attachees that they are not being seconded to work on any projects that they may find morally objectionable, including weapon-development programmes, military hardware design, or any related matters. Many thanks for your co-operation in this matter.
Sir John Sudbury
Ministry of Defence
Sir Marmaduke Harrington-Smythe CBE
Dear Sir Marmaduke,
Further to your requests stated in your letter of 23rd September, I write with two important points.
Firstly, the future of the private nursing facility known as The Glasshouse. We are pleased to confirm that we have extended your existing contract for a further eighteen months, effective October 31st this year. Our payments to you for this service have been increased by 2.3%, effective the same date.
You will, I'm sure, join with me in acknowledging that there have been teething problems; some while you were setting up this most essential service to our Ministry; others as we co-ordinated the necessary administration (specifically the use of the Official Secrets Act (1963)). However, the Minister now joins other members of C19, myself included, in feeling that we have reached a satisfactory standard of care and convalescence for our servicemen with injuries unsuitable for traditional hospital treatment, and with suitable respect for the total confidentiality required by this Department.
The second point is the one raised in your letter of September 27th, concerning the Glasshouse's requirement of better scientific staff to work on the materials we provide. To this end, we are subsidizing your proposed redevelopment of the basement area into a laboratory, provided that only staff supplied by ourselves should be aware of its existence. In addition, four new members of staff will be supplied to you, paid for by this Department. The team will be headed by Doctor Peter Morley, with whom you may already be familiar through his work with the Department of Applied Sciences at Warwick University.
If you have any further questions, please contact me at your convenience.
Sir John Sudbury
Ministry of Defence
FROM: Commander, British Branch, UNIT
TO: All Staff
SUBJECT: Scientific Advisor, arrival thereof
DATE: 24th October
I am pleased to announce the forthcoming arrival of Elizabeth Shaw to UNIT as our Scientific Advisor.
Doctor Shaw has been working with the highly regarded Montrose team at Cambridge for the last few years, and will be joining us on Monday 31st October. She will be answerable directly to myself and Captain Munro, and will be setting up our new scientific department. She will also work closely with Doctor Sweetman on medical matters.
I feel sure you will join me in welcoming Doctor Shaw to our organization, and will give her all the help and support she needs during her period of adjustment. We all look forward to her becoming a valuable member of the team.
Brigadier A. Lethbridge-Stewart
British Branch, UNIT
The Cupps House
To: Richard Atkinson
Doctor James D. Griffin
Doctor Elizabeth Shaw
I enclose a copy of the letter I received today from C19. You've all known that this might happen, and it seems they finally want their pound of flesh.
All four of you will need a few days to sort out your lives and tie up your current projects. I don't know where any of you will end up, either as a group or not. Sorry. We're pretty much in C19's hands there. All I do know is that Sir John Sudbury is trustworthy. If he says the work's non-military, I accept that.
I'm sorry we probably won't work together again here at Cambridge. As you know I'm due to retire from here in May next year and I expect you'll be incommunicado for the next year or two. I'll keep a slice of cake for each of you.
Make the most of this opportunity. It may look a little Orwellian, but it won't be. Enjoy, my dears, enjoy!
Stay Hip and Cool.
'Jesus,' coughed Grant Traynor into the darkness. The J tunnel reeked of chloroform, condensation and antiseptic, plus a blend of amyls nitrite and nitrate, and urine. All combined together in a nauseous cocktail that represented something so horrible that he couldn't believe he was involved in it.
Why was he there? How could he have sunk so low that he had ever accepted all this? Over the last ten years or so Traynor had not only accepted but even taken part in events so abhorrent it had taken him until now to do something about it. At the time, it had just been part of the job. Now, he couldn't understand how he had ever participated in the operations without vomiting, or screaming, or raising a finger in protest.
Well, that didn't matter, now that he'd finally realized what had to be done. He had decided to blow it all wide open, blow it totally apart. 'Once I'm finished,' he grunted, as he tripped over another lump in the tunnel floor, 'they'll never be able to show their faces in public again.'
The papers. All he needed to do was to reach a telephone and tell the papers about the place. In three hours, he guessed, they would be there, swarming all over the laboratories, offices and, best of all, the cavern.
The cavern. That was the place he really wanted to see shut down. That was where all the horrors took place. Where some of the most evil acts ever had been performed, allegedly in the name of science, research and history.
'Yeah, right. Well, they'll be exposed soon. They'll -'
There was a noise in the dark. Where was it coming from? Behind him? In front? He had to strain to listen the tiny amount of light in the tunnel was barely enough to enable him to see where he was treading, let alone yards ahead or behind. A snuffling sound, like an animal. Like a pig snorting out truffles. It sounded like the…
'Jesus, no! Not down here!' Grant moved a bit faster.
'They know I've gone. They've sent the Stalker down here! After me!'
The snuffling noise was nearer, and this time he could hear the growl too. A deep, slightly tortured growl that would send even the most ferocious Rottweiler scurrying for safety. And Traynor had helped to make it sound that way; he knew its limitations. Or rather, he knew that it didn't have any.
He must have got a good start on it. No matter how fast it could run, he reasoned, he had to be way ahead. But it could see far better than Grant Traynor could - and it could see in the dark. It could track via scents; everything from the strongest garlic to the mildest sweat. He'd been responsible for introducing that particular augmentation, and he knew how effective it had been. Surely it had to know he was there. Surely -
But maybe not. Traynor stopped for a second and listened. Perhaps they were bluffing, hoping that hearing it in the tunnel with him would scare him, make him reconsider. To go back to them. Fat chance.
It was nearer now. That growl was getting louder. Much louder. Which meant it was definitely closing the gap between them. But how far behind was it, and did he have enough of a lead? He quickened his pace through the darkness, ignoring the intermittent pain when his outstretched hands cracked against the unseen stone walls.
'That's right, Traynor,' called a voice further back in the dark.
'We've sent the Stalker after you. Are you close by?'
Traynor stopped and pressed himself against the tunnel wall, as if the dark would protect him from the Stalker. They were murderers, all of them. What if someone else should come down here? Innocently? Mind you, Traynor considered, then he would have a hostage. They would never let the Stalker get an innocent.
Hell, Traynor was the innocent. He wasn't doing anything wrong. They were the ones doing something wrong.
'Traynor, come back to us.'
Stuff it, you lisping creep. As if I'd trust you. Maybe, Traynor thought, he should tell his pursuer what he thought of him and his bloody henchmen back in the Vault. Maybe - what was he thinking of? That would only serve to let the Stalker know where he was hiding.
It was definitely closer. But Traynor was positive that he couldn't be far from the gateway. And the chemical stench had to be confusing the Stalker to some extent. Surely…
'Traynor, please. This is so pointless. You knew when you signed on, when you signed the OSA, that you couldn't just walk away. We need you back, Traynor. Whatever your gripe, let's talk about it. You're too useful to us, to our boss, to lose you like this.'
Traynor smiled and let his head loll back against the damp wall. He smiled without humour. There was no way he was falling for that.
They were so close now. And that creep was down there, personally, with the Stalker. You're brave, I'll give you that, Traynor thought. Psychotic, twisted, malicious and evil. But brave.
But he wasn't going to let admiration stop him. He wouldn't let it hold him back. He simply couldn't. Getting out, spilling everything to the papers, was too important. It was too -
'Oh God.' Traynor could only see one thing in the dark - his own reflection caught in his pursuer's dark sunglasses. The same sunglasses his pursuer always wore whatever the weather, wherever he went, whoever he saw.
Traynor saw fear reflected back into his own eyes. The fear of a man caught by his immediate boss and the Stalker.
'I'm sorry, Traynor. You had your chance, but you blew it.'
Traynor was momentarily aware of a snuffling noise near his left foot, and then he was falling, and then the pain hit. He screamed, his mind filled with nothing but agony, as the Stalker bit cleanly through his lower leg. He fell, feeling himself hit the floor, his blood adding the scent of human suffering to the overpowering smells in the tunnel. Somewhere in the darkness, someone was chuckling. The last sensation to pass through Grant Traynor's mind was one of bitter irony as the Stalker bit deep into his side, tearing through flesh with genetically augmented fangs that he'd designed for precisely that purpose.
Liz Shaw stared around the laboratory at UNIT headquarters, gazing towards the jumble of test-tubes, burners and coiled wires. Then there were the less recognizable scientific artefacts, probably from other worlds, or alternate dimensions at the very least. Well, maybe. Whatever their origins and purpose, they were strewn in untidy and illogical designs all over the benches. Doing nothing except being there.
They annoyed her.
It was ten-thirty in the morning, her car had taken nearly thirty minutes to start, and it was raining. No, frankly she was not in the highest of spirits.
'The sun has got his hat on. Hip-hip-hip hooray! The sun has got his hat on and he's coming out to play!' The Doctor was singing - out of tune, off-key and with little feeling for rhythm, tempo or accuracy but, Liz decided, it would just about pass a dictionary-definition test as 'singing'. Maybe.
She had been stuck in this large but rather drab UNIT laboratory for eight months now - staring at the same grey-brick walls, the same six benches with the same scattered tubes, burners and Petri dishes for far too long. Liz told herself often that before her 'employer', Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, had whisked her down here she had been enjoying her life at Cambridge, researching new ways of breaking down non-biodegradable waste by environmental methods. It had been a challenge, one that looked set to keep her occupied for some years. Scientific advancement rarely moved fast.
Instead, she had fought a variety of all-out wars against Nestenes, strange ape-men, stranger reptile men, paranoid aliens and other assorted home-grown and extra-terrestrial menaces. Her initial and understandable cynicism about the raison d'tre for UNIT had quickly given way to an almost enthusiastic appreciation for the unusual, unexplained and frequently unnatural phenomena that her new job had shown her. Her most recent assignment had pitted her against an alien foe not only far away - the tropics - but, via the Doctor's bizarre 'space-time visualizer', back and forth in time as well. UNIT had provided her with novel experiences if nothing else.
But as she twirled a pen between her fingers and left her subconscious trying to make some sense of the complex chemical formula the Doctor had scribbled on the blackboard during the night, three things were gnawing at her mind. How much longer she could cope with UNIT's sometimes amoral military solutions; how much longer she could cope with UNIT's cloak-and-dagger-Official-Secrets-Act-walls-have-ears mentality; and how much longer she could cope with UNIT's brilliant, sophisticated, charming, eloquent but downright aggravating, chauvinistic and moody scientific advisor.
Oh, the Doctor was without doubt the most inspiring and intellectual person (she couldn't say 'man' because that implied human origins, and she knew that to be wrong) she was ever likely to meet. He was also the most insufferable. And he needed Liz as an assistant about as much as he needed a bullet through the head.
Hmmm. Sometimes that analogy had a certain appeal…
'Are you in some sort of pain, Doctor?' asked the Brigadier, popping his head round the door of the UNIT laboratory, an unaccustomed broad grin on his face.
The singing stopped abruptly. Liz wanted to point out, as brusquely as she dared, that her employer had just said exactly the wrong thing. She did not get the chance. Instead, the Doctor stopped what he was doing with a sigh. Liz was none too sure exactly what he was doing, but it looked complicated and tedious, and she had decided ten minutes earlier not to enquire - the Doctor could be very patronizing when he was irritable. And he was frequently irritable.
'Did you say something, Brigadier, or were you just releasing some of that pent-up hot air you keep in your breeches?'
The Brigadier crossed the lab, pointing with his favourite swagger-stick at the shell of the TARDIS, which was standing in the corner. 'Can't upset me today, Doctor. I've got my happy head on.'
The Doctor picked up his tools and turned back to the bench at which he was working. 'Oh, good.'
Liz decided some tact was called for. 'And why's that?'
The Brigadier turned to her and smiled. 'Because, Miss Shaw, today our C19 paymaster Sir John Sudbury is due here to tell us exactly how much money we're getting in this coming financial year.' He perched on the edge of a bench and leant forward conspiratorially. 'If we're really lucky, I might get a new captain out of it. Quite impressed with young Yates - fine officer material. Might even give you a pay rise.'
Liz laughed. 'Oh come on, I doubt the money gods are that kind.'
The Brigadier shrugged. 'Maybe not.' He nodded towards the Doctor, who was working feverishly as he quickly moved his equipment round, a soldering iron in one hand.
'And what exactly is he up to?'
Liz shook her head. 'I don't know. I came in this morning and he was seated exactly where I'd left him last night. I don't think he's slept a wink.'
The Doctor swivelled round, the hot soldering iron pointing at them like some kind of alien weapon. 'My dear Liz, sleep, as a wise man once said, is for tortoises. And if you must know, Lethbridge-Stewart, I'm actually obeying your orders for once.' He got up, placed the soldering iron on its rest and let his jeweller's eye-glass drop into his hand. 'As usual, the two of you have been so absorbed in chit-chat that you've failed to notice an important omission from this lab.' He had crossed the room and was standing face to face with the Brigadier. Taking the military officer's swagger-stick, he twirled it like a magician's wand and tapped the side of his head. 'Worked it out yet?'
Liz stared around for a moment and gasped. 'That TARDIS console. It's gone!'
The Doctor smiled at her. 'Well done, Liz. Top of the class.' He shot a look back at the Brigadier. 'At least someone round here can use their eyes.'
The Brigadier shrugged. 'So where is it?'
'Back in the TARDIS?' ventured Liz.
'Pah,' snorted the Brigadier. 'How'd you get something that big through those tiny doors?' He pointed at the TARDIS as the Doctor leant against it.
'Elementary, my dear Alistair, quite elementary, you asked me to try and get the TARDIS working. Well, the console is back in there and I'm currently trying to restore functions to the dematerialization circuit. Satisfied?' He walked back to the bench, took off his smoking jacket and laid it over a stool. 'Now, I have work to do.' He gave the Brigadier a last look. 'Goodbye, Brigadier.'
The Brigadier stood. 'Yes, well… I suppose I've got to make sure everything's ready for Sir John and old Scobie.'
Liz smiled. She had a soft spot for Major-General Scobie. 'When's the general going to be here?'
The Brigadier looked at his watch. 'Sergeant Benton's collecting him from his home about now. Will you join us for lunch? Cold buffet, I'm afraid, but the best I can offer.'
Liz nodded. 'I'd be delighted.' She threw a look at the Doctor's back. 'That's if there's nothing for me to do here?'
Without looking up the Doctor grunted something about idle hands, finger buffets and military officers admiring pretty legs.
'I'll take that as a "no" then, shall I?' She turned back to the Brigadier. 'Twelve thirty?'
'On the nose, Miss Shaw, on the nose.' He gave a last look at the TARDIS. 'Through those doors? Pah. One day I'm going in there to see exactly what he's spending UNIT funds on.' Picking up his swagger-stick and flicking it under his arm, the Brigadier marched out.
Liz crossed to one of the lab's huge arched windows and stared down onto the canal below. It had stopped raining and the sun was just breaking through the clouds. A colourful narrow-boat was navigating the lock, a tan shire horse waiting on the towpath, given a brief respite from providing the barge's horse-power. The morning seemed to be getting better. Liz smiled; she liked sunny days.
Behind her a low moan went up. Or singing, depending on whose definition one accepted:
'Raindrops keep falling on my head… '
Liz threw a clipboard at him and stormed out of the lab.
Daylight. Can't be done in daylight.
Night. It has to be night, or someone might see, might try - no, will try - and stop me. Can't let that happen.
So cold. Why is it so cold? The sun is up. Bright sun but it seems… further away? No, must be an illusion. But the sky. Look at the sky. A haze. Dust and dirt between us and the blue sky.
Air is dirty. This world is polluted. Probably irreversibly. Why couldn't they look after it better?
Ridiculous fools. Pathetic idiotic primitives. Cretinous apes!
Once upon a time Jossey O'Grahame had been an actor. Once upon a time he had been Justin Grayson, star of stage, screen and radio. He had been there in the golden days of Ealing comedies, Lime Grove dramas and Riverside support features. He'd worked with Guinness, Richardson and Olivier in films during the fifties. He'd had to shoot a young Johnny Mills in 'Policeman's Lot', marry Jane Wyman in 'The Game's Up' and assault Trevithick in 'They Came from the Depths'. The sixties had been good to him, radio and television making the most of his talents.
'There's no higher responsibility than great potential,' his agent had once said. But then there'd been that scandal with the silly young model - he couldn't possibly think of her as an actress after he'd worked with the likes of Dora, Ashcroft and Neagle - in that aborted comedy film about the power crisis, 'Carry on Digging'. He'd been thrown off the Pinewood lot, his contract and reputation in tatters, and the production company had sued him for compensation over the scrapping of the film. And all because the little tart had written a stupid letter and taken too many sleeping pills.
The papers had proved to be fair-weather friends. Their coverage of the story had been relentless and unforgiving.
Eventually Jossey had 'retired' to the south coast and had spent eighteen months touring the holiday camps, bingo halls and small clubs, re-hashing old Galton and Simpson comedy material until finally he couldn't take it any more, and his bank manager couldn't take any more of him. He was bankrupted, washed up for good.
So here he was, living in the cheapest bed-and-breakfast he could find, leeching off charity and the public purse. With no future, every day became the same. He spent his few waking hours watching the waves spray against the rocks at the foot of the local lovers' leap, clutching a bottle of cheap whisky, and wondering over and over again whether he should take the plunge himself.
As he stared once again at the endless ebb and flow below, and listened to the screeching of the seagulls as they circled over the small town below the cliff, Jossey knew that he lacked the courage to jump. Besides, this place was a lovers' leap, and no one had ever loved him, nor him them, so what was the point? He tugged his worn overcoat around his thin frame; it was cold for late March, and the wind across the cliff-top was brisk and bitter. The half-empty bottle of whisky glinted at him, and he took another dram to keep out the cold, keep his spirits up. Something would happen to change all this, he was sure. His brief moment in the public eye wasn't over yet. One day, his name would be in the papers again.
There was a strange hissing sound. Had it been there a while, and he hadn't noticed it? It crossed his mind that there must be a car or motorbike parked behind him on the cliff-top, and one of the tyres had sprung a leak. Hefting himself around, he was intrigued to see nothing. No car, no bike, nothing hissing. The wind whipped through the thin grass around his bench, but this was a different sort of noise.
'Who's there?' he muttered.
No reply. He peered down towards the edge of the cliff Nothing. Maybe it was something to do with the old cottage a few hundred feet away, the one the hippies had taken over for midsummer a few years ago, when they released those pretty doves. Love, peace and harmony. Ha. No chance -
There it was again. Not really a hissing. It was more regular this time, like breathing. Perhaps someone else up from the town, then, come for a drink and a chat. The breathing of someone with a bronchial infection, too much smoking and drinking. He should know.
'Larry? Larry, is that you? Stop mucking about, would you?'
Then he saw it. And wanted to scream, but couldn't. All he could manage was a whimper as something caught all the noises in his throat and held them back. His eyes tried to take it in, tell his brain that it wasn't real. He gripped the bottle of whisky tighter, and something old and forgotten crawled into his mind.
Devilback! Run, run for my life. The Devilback is after me, they're all after me, yelling and screeching. Hissing and spitting, I can hear them… A net. I'm in a net, dragged backwards. Screaming. Mother. Father. Help me. No! No, don't let them touch me… don't let them take me back to the pen! I can't stand the pen. Left in the sun for days, no food or water, with my fur getting drier and mangier as the insects crawl all over it, in my eyes, ears and mouth. Can't get clean enough. No family. No friends. Just the growling of the Devilbacks. Must struggle, must get away from them must scream…
Jossey O'Grahame saw the vision of half-remembered terror bend towards him, wobbling its… its head?
PAIN! Overwhelming pain and heat swept over him as he felt his skin contract suddenly, growing too tight for his body. His mouth dried up, stalling a scream in his throat. His eyes hurt. His ears wanted to pop. The bottle in his hand grew hot suddenly, the whisky inside bubbling and steaming. He tried to let it drop but his hand seemed to be melted to it. With a frightening calmness, he knew that the pain in his chest meant that his heart had stopped working. He saw the face of his mother smiling. The bottle shattered, shredding his hand, spilling its boiling contents over his smouldering coat. He didn't notice.
And for a final flickering moment, Jossey knew for certain he'd never play Lear.
No! It can't be dead.
Only wanted to stop it making that awful noise apes always made. This one had that look in its eye - millions of years later and still they fear us. An adult, this one, surely, so why did it try to make a noise? Young hatchlings, yes, but adults? Pathetic creatures. Maybe Baal is right, the best way to deal with vermin is to destroy. But Sula doesn't agree, says we need their DNA to help us. Who's right?
Curse Sula. Curse Baal, too - he wants a hatchling, he should get it himself. Instead, this ape sees things it shouldn't and dies. The Apes always mourned their dead, so there will probably be a family of them here soon. Their telepathy is basic, mostly instinctive and empathic, but functional.
Nothing yet. Strange. Still, better hide. Yes, shelter - there.
I sense nothing alive in it. Safe. Now to wait until nightfall.
Liz's day was getting better.
First off, she'd gone hunting for some spares for the electron microscope she was trying to improve. If there was one thing she'd learned from working with the Doctor over the last few months, it was how to cannibalize various 'primitive' scientific devices and rebuild, modify and generally improve them.
Mister Campbell, the stores-manager, had been more than happy to delve into his darkest drawers and cupboards to find what she wanted and load it all into a cardboard box for her.
'Always willing to help a fellow inmate,' he laughed.
Liz smiled back, thanked him for his time and left with her box, trying to ignore the slight crawling of her skin that she always felt when talking to the Scotsman. His predilection for what he thought to be harmless flirting with the few female UNIT officers and staff was renowned throughout the building. Carol Bell had been the first to warn her about Campbell's 'charms'.
'He's all right if you just grit your teeth and smile. Anything more than that and he'll take it the wrong way.'
Maisie Hawke, UNIT's chief radio operator, had concurred. 'There's so few of us that he's starved for attention. We tried complaining to Jimmy Munro once but he said he couldn't do anything about it.'
That, Liz decided, was typical of Captain Munro,, who was now back in the regular army. Nice enough chap, but never one for confrontations or discipline.
It was on the way back from the stores that she'd thudded into a new young private, Boyle, who'd offered to take her box up to the lab.
'It's on the second floor,' she explained. 'Can you find it?'
Boyle had saluted in the way that all newcomers to UNIT did - a combination of eagerness to please anyone who might be an officer even if they weren't in uniform, and pleasure at seeing a young woman about the place and marched off with the box, muttering that he couldn't wait to introduce himself to the Doctor, about whom he'd heard so much.
For a top-secret organization, Liz thought wryly, there's a lot of gossip about UNIT going on in the regular army. Still, UNIT probably wasn't considered the greatest of postings, and the rumours of danger and high casualty rates must far outweigh the truth.
On the other hand, UNIT's mortality rate was the highest of any section of the British Army, and some information about that was definitely in circulation - Liz knew of at least three privates who had requested duty in Northern Ireland rather than serve in UNIT. And Liz had to acknowledge that, to Lethbridge-Stewart's credit, he never attempted to strong-arm any of the soldiers who had made that decision; he simply accepted their refusal and moved on to the next potential recruit.
And now UNIT was being investigated financially. Liz had been aware from the day she had joined that UNIT was not as well funded as it ought to be. Special weaponry and the latest electronic gadgets, most classified as top- secret, were the staple diet of Mister Campbell and his stores. Designing and prototyping these items cost what UNIT's opposite numbers in the CIA referred to as 'the big bucks'. The British branch of UNIT didn't have big bucks or even medium bucks, and while its equipment might be decades ahead of state-of-the-art commercial technology, it was lagging behind its rivals.
'Good morning, Miss Shaw,' said Mike Yates, carrying an armful of rifles.
She nodded back at the handsome sergeant, thinking not for the first time how his rather public-school good looks reminded her of some hero of a boy's comic from the fifties, or an Eileen Soper illustration of one of Enid Blyton's intrepid child adventurers. Mike and Liz had shared a couple of tense situations, and while Liz would never claim they were close friends, she did feel a certain bond with the young sergeant.
She remembered that the Brigadier had already asked for her opinion on Yates as possible captain material. If honesty, integrity and reliability were essential requirements for a military promotion, then Mike Yates fitted the bill perfectly.
'Where are you off to with that lot?' she asked, nodding at the armaments.
'Stores. Being put away for a rainy day.'
'Well.' Mike shrugged his shoulders. 'If we're on an economy drive to get more funding for UNIT, it struck Benton and me that the less hardware there is lying around and looking surplus to requirements, the better our chances of more dosh.'
'Hmmm. As a taxpayer, I'm not sure I approve.' Liz tapped his hand playfully. 'But as a poor overworked and underpaid lab rat, I appreciate it enormously.'
Smiling, Mike wandered off in the general direction of the Armoury. Liz watched him go for a moment and then continued on her own tour of the building, making her way to the Brigadier's office. She wanted a quick natter with him about the correct protocol in dealing with Sir John Sudbury - she'd never met the man, and a few pointers on what she should or shouldn't say to him could be useful.
After all, it was always best to keep on the right side of C19.
I am so bored. This place is about the dumpiest dump Dad could find. I've been here two days now, and they've been two of the crappiest days I've known.
It's been a while since I wrote anything in this diary and I really ought to as my early memoirs are going to be a best-seller when I'm a famous politician and world statesman.
At least, that's what Dad always says. I'd rather be a singer or an actor or something exciting, but he says there's no money in it. Isn't there more to life than money? Mum always says that I shouldn't be asking things like that at my age, whatever that's supposed to mean. Mrs Petter says we're never too young to think about money and the good and evil it causes. Dad says she must be a 'bloody commie', but I think she's making sense. It's all very well to be loaded like Dad and the others in Parliament, but there are lots of people who aren't and Dad doesn't know what to do with half of his cash. Just before they sent me here, he bought a boat. I know he'll never use it. Steve Merrett called it a status symbol. I asked Dad on the phone last night what that meant, and he said Steve and his father were just jealous, and that next-door neighbours were scum. Which means Steve was obviously right.
'The Memoirs of Sir Marc Marshall OBE. Volume 2: Formative Years of Teenage Angst'. I wouldn't bet on it. But I've got going now, and there's nothing else to do here, so…
Why am I here? Bloody good question, Marc, I must say. Officially 'the sea air will do you good and Aunty Eve has been wanting you to visit ever since you were old enough to be on your own.' Yeah. Right. Truth is, Mum and Dad are having a month of be-nice-to-the-constituents, and every night it's barbecues, folding newsletters and postings, or endless meetings with various local groups. And I, of course, would get in the way.
Mrs Petter said that I should be proud that my Dad does something for the community but I think she was being sarcastic. Maybe that's what a bloody commie is - a teacher who thinks parents are one thing but tells their children the opposite. I'll ask Aunty Eve.
Anyway, this place is called Smallmarshes and it's in Kent. Apparently it's not far from Hastings, which Aunty Eve says is good for shopping, and Dungeness, which Aunty Eve says is good for nuclear radiation. I don't think she likes it. Come to think of it, I remember her and Dad arguing about nuclear reactors once. She's Mum's sister, and he's never liked her. He doesn't like me much either. Probably explains why he sent me here for the school holidays.
Steve Merrett's dad runs a newsagents down on Deansgate. His mum works in that big office block above the car park next to the Arndale Centre. She's a secretary or something. Why can't my parents be normal? Why does Dad have to be an MP? Why doesn't Mum go to work like everyone else's mum?
This afternoon I'm going to Dungeness to stand next to that nuclear reactor and get radiation poisoning and then all my hair will fall out and my skin will go green and I'll die and it'll be in all the papers.
Because it'll really piss Dad off.
All right, working on the assumption that the average fourteen-year-old doesn't die from standing next to nuclear reactors - Aunty Eve's still alive and she said she tied herself to the gates of Dungeness once - I'll write about it later. Let's face it, there's nothing else to do here.
Don't call me Marcus. It's Marc.
'Yes, Aunty Eve?'
Toad in the hole? Fish Fingers? Not Spaghetti Hoops on brown toast, please? Something with a bit of meat in it, or I'll die.
'You'll like this. Potato skins filled with cream cheese and red kidney beans. Get it while it's hot.'
Oh. Fab. Just what I wanted.
'Doctor Shaw, always a pleasure to see you, m'dear. How are things? Stewart looking after you properly, is he?'
Liz smiled at Major-General Scobie. 'Everything is fine, thank you, General.' She adored the way that the weasel-featured old general always called the Brigadier 'Stewart', as if refusing to acknowledge the UNIT CO'S English heritage, purely because he knew it annoyed the younger man.
Scobie, Liz had decided on her first meeting with him some months before, possessed all the looks that casting directors would kill for whenever they wanted an ageing military officer. A tiny snow-white moustache gripped his upper lip, beneath a beaky nose that protruded from a thin face with cheek bones upon which you could rest teacups. Excursions to Burma during the war and a long posting with his late wife in Singapore during the fifties had left him with a permanent suntan that unfortunately looked as if it had come straight out of a bottle. But the best thing about him, Liz thought, was his steel-grey eyes that could reduce a new private to jelly with one glance. Experience would teach them that beneath the gruff exterior lived a virtual pussy-cat of a man; yet one who was fiercely loyal and dependable. A top-rate commander, Jimmy Munro had once called him, and Liz had learnt how right that assessment was.
Scobie and the Brigadier had some sort of love/hate relationship. Being a regular army liaison officer, it was Scobie's job to challenge and investigate LethbridgeStewart's every move, but Liz frequently felt sorry for the Brigadier. Old Scobie often seemed to play devil's advocate to the point of ridiculousness. Still, if it made UNIT more efficient and saved a few lives now and again, it was worth it. Deep down, Liz knew, the Brigadier agreed. But such was his character that he'd never let anyone know that - least of all Scobie.
Army men, Liz had decided long ago, were just overgrown schoolboys who had exchanged their catapults and stink bombs for mortars and guided missiles.
As she popped a cheese vol-au-vent into her mouth, she spared a glance at a newcomer, who was escorted in by Private Boyle. This was obviously Sir John Sudbury, a rather chubby man who had 'Minister for reducing cashflow' written all over him. Almost bald, except for tufts of hair around his ears, he had the ruddy complexion of a man whose liver wasn't likely to last another five years. His dull, red-rimmed eyes suggested long exposure to too much cigar smoke, probably wafting around whatever ridiculous gentlemen's club he and his friends frequented near St James's Street, SWI.
This rather grim impression was offset by a beaming smile that creased his heavily jowled face into something Liz could only picture as the face of a sea-lion on LSD. He almost hopped across the Brigadier's office, arm outstretched, and gripped Scobie's hand. He began to pump it furiously.
'Scobie old man, how the ruddy devil are you, eh? And Lethbridge-Stewart,' he continued without a pause, leaving Scobie silently mouthing a riposte. 'Good to see you again, old chap.' He swivelled around, waving to Boyle as he left, shutting the door. 'Splendid young man that, Brigadier. Polite, pleasant, chatty. Good to see your troops are up to their usual standards.' He swiped a vol au-vent off the desk and swallowed it whole, pausing only to take a proffered glass of mineral water from Carol Bell as she offered it to him. 'Thank you, Corporal,' he mumbled, nodding at her as she smiled back. 'Splendid set up, Brigadier, quite splendid.' His eyes rested on Liz. 'Ah, and who is this young charmer, eh? Didn't tell me you had even more young ladies around the place. Corporal Bell not enough for you, what?'
Liz knew she would normally be steaming at such sexism, but Sir John's manner was so buffoonish and inoffensive that she knew getting annoyed would be pointless. The old man hadn't a clue how sexist he was being. From the corner of her eye, however, she could see the Brigadier beginning to panic. Good, Liz decided. At least she'd got him trained.
'Sir John Sudbury, I presume?' Liz shook his hand firmly. 'My name is Elizabeth Shaw. I'm one of UNIT's scientific corps.'
'Of course you are, m'dear. Doctor Shaw isn't it, from Cambridge? Doctorates in chemistry and medicine, honorary doctorate in metaphysics and humanities. Plus assorted qualifications in economics, history and Latin. Have I missed anything?'
'Apart from my sixteen-plus in metalwork, probably not. I'm flattered.' Liz found herself blushing. She coughed, trying to hide her embarrassment. 'That, and my research work into the paranormal.'
Sir John looked surprised. 'Really? I must have missed that. Been studying your file recently, have to confess. I've had to get genned up on all this space defence stuff ever since Jim Quinlan's death meant I had to take on his workload as well. Sorry, but it takes time.'
Liz nodded. 'Of course. Well, that last interest has only started since I began working here. I found I needed to… broaden my horizons somewhat.'
Sir John Sudbury scooped up another vol-au-vent and flopped into a convenient swivel chair. It creaked dangerously under his weight as he swivelled to face her. 'The Doctor's influence, no doubt. Marvellous chap.'
The Brigadier looked astonished. He shot a puzzled look at Liz but she had to shrug back - she had no idea that the Doctor had met Sir John.
'At the Pemburton club, Brigadier. Lord Rowlands' Gang of Four, you know. Excellent bridge player, your Doctor. We partner-up a lot.'
The Brigadier nodded dumbly while Liz tried to picture the Doctor, the great anti-establishment provocateur, sitting in a gentlemen's club in London, playing cards. The image was too horrible to cope with, so she just smiled at Sir John. 'Does he cheat?'
Sir John stared back in mock horror. 'Cheat? Young lady, are you suggesting that an honorary member of the Pemburton, and a guest of Lord Rowlands to boot, would cheat? Heaven forbid, he'd be expelled on the spot if anything like that occurred.' He finished off his mineral water with a grimace. 'Foul new stuff. Bloody French rubbish.' He looked back at Liz. 'D'you like it, Doctor Shaw?'
'Call me Liz, please.'
'Thank you, Liz. Can you drink this imported donkey's -?'
The Brigadier harrumphed loudly. 'Gentlemen, to business?'
'Of course, Stewart,' concurred Scobie, pulling his tie a bit tighter. 'We should be discussing UNIT's funding. That is, after all, why we're here.'
'Hence the mineral water rather than a decent Bolly, eh Brigadier?' Sir John winked at Corporal Bell, who nodded discreetly and left. Liz smiled, knowing exactly what Bell was up to. She waited a few seconds herself and then quietly exited the room, shutting the door behind her. The three men had already sat around the Brigadier's desk and were shuffling their papers, eager to start the meeting. She wondered if they'd even noticed her leaving.
Standing in the outer office, Liz paused for a moment. She'd been hoping to talk to Major-General Scobie for a while longer. Since the Doctor did not seem to need her at the moment, there seemed no harm in waiting here until the meeting finished, and having another few words with the Brigadier's visitors. She settled herself into a large and well-worn armchair upholstered in red-leather, which sat beside the secretary's desk.
The low rumble of the three men discussing their financial business permeated the door. Liz found herself hypnotized by the rise and full of the conversation, punctuated every so often by Lethbridge-Stewart's outraged expletives as yet another proposal for an additional truck or sergeant was denied by a government intent on cutting taxes in its next budget. She let her head lie back on the soft armchair and lifted her legs until they rested on the edge of the desk. She closed her eyes and let the drone of the voices carry her away.
God, she was tired. She realized that ever since joining UNIT's never-ending crusade against everything unusual she'd had no time to herself, her friends and even her family had all been ignored. When was the last time she'd phoned her parents? Or seen Jeff Johnson since he'd gone back to the regular army after his stretch in UNIT had ended? She'd not kept in touch with Justin and Laura at Cambridge despite all her promises to them; and no matter how many times she told herself it was all because of the Official Secrets Act, she didn't believe that any more than she knew they would.
Was she happy? Jeff had asked her that on their last night out. Was a role in UNIT, as nothing more than the Doctor's assistant, really what she wanted? Christ, Jeff had been so furious at her. She had more brains than most of the UNIT team put together, he had said. And she couldn't give him an answer. Just why was she languishing in this backwater, tucked just outside London on the A40, when she could be heading research teams at Cambridge, getting recognition for her work, and doing something worthwhile for people? She could be discovering cures, learning the secrets of the world, pushing forward the frontiers of science.
And yet, she'd argued, wasn't that what her work at UNIT was all about? Mankind would have fallen to the Nestenes, or the terrible liquid gases that Stahlman had discovered, if UNIT hadn't intervened. And hell, even if the Doctor did most of the work, it was Liz who had eventually found the cure to the reptile-men's disease. Not many people could have understood the Doctor's notes and made the same intuitive leap that he had. Nevertheless, Liz knew that deep down, she did agree that she was wasting her time at UNIT Jeff was right. It was time for something to change.
The trimphone on Lethbridge-Stewart's desk trilled. She opened one eye, reached out and plucked it off its rest, nestling it under her chin.
The Brigadier appeared at the door to his office, summoned by the ringing. He harrumphed and held out his hand, but Liz closed her eye and pretended not to have seen him.'I see.'
The Brigadier harrumphed again.
Liz sighed and opened her eyes. 'If it was for you, Brigadier, I would have passed it to you the first time you grunted.' She shifted in her seat, turning to face away from him, unwilling to see the reaction on his face and wishing that she had thought before speaking to him so rudely. She spoke back into the phone: 'Sorry. Go on, Doctor.'
The phone tucked under his chin, the Doctor was wandering around the laboratory, staring through the window at the canal one moment, facing the huge green arched doors the next, then squatting on the spiral staircase that led to the little roof garden he kept above the lab.
'Liz, I cannot begin to explain to you how important this is. I've managed to reconnect the stabilizing dio-nodes and the transceiving telo-circuits. All I need to do is feed in the directional memory wafers and weld the dematerialization casing back into the artron filaments. Then a few months of steady-state micro-welding and it'll be completely finished. Where would you like to go?'
'Cambridge,' came the reply.
The Doctor stared at the phone, screwing his face up in puzzlement. 'But Liz, what about Florana? Or the wonderful waters on Majus Seventeen?'
'Cambridge has wonderful waterways, Doctor,' came the reply. 'It'll be May Week soon. You'd like that. Lots of toffs on punts sipping champagne and playing bridge.'
'Liz - it's June.'
'May Week's in June.'
The Doctor frowned. 'I'm confused. But all right, maybe Cambridge soon. But surely you'd like a spin off-planet. Somewhere out there?' He pointed toward the ceiling, knowing that, although she couldn't see him, Liz would imagine the gesture.
'No thank you, Doctor. I prefer to keep my feet on terra firma, you know.'
The Doctor shrugged. 'Oh well, suit yourself. I'm going back to work.'
He stared at the receiver for a moment, then put it down. Instantly the phone rang again. He snatched it towards his ear.
'Changed your mind, have you?' he asked.
'Hello?' came a man's voice; quiet, sibilant and clearly quite aged.
'Who is this?'
'Is Elizabeth Shaw there, please?'
The Doctor paused. 'Who's asking?'
'Hello? Is Doctor Shaw available, please?'
'I asked who is calling for her? Is that her father?'
'Is she there, please?'
'Look, who are you? How did you bypass the switchboard? In fact how did you get this number?'
There was a faint click from the phone, and nothing more.
'Hello? Hello?' The Doctor replaced the receiver. It was unusual enough for him to get phone calls - very few people outside UNIT knew him - but in all the time he'd been exiled on Earth and working in this lab, he couldn't remember anyone ever phoning for Liz before. Come to think of it, she didn't seem to have friends or family; none that she ever talked about, at least. Maybe a trip to Cambridge would do them both good - he'd offer to drive them up there in Bessie and try to meet some of her friends. 'I really don't know anything about you, do I, Miss Shaw?' he murmured to himself. 'Then again, I've never asked.'
He resolved to change that and, in doing so, put the memory of the strange phone call to the back of his mind.
From her vantage point overlooking the bay, Jana Kristen stared down at the policemen as they swarmed across the grass and sand dunes like flies around a corpse. Which, she decided, was roughly what they were. As a journalist it was her job to show an interest in anything unusual and, to be frank, in the sleepy backwater of Smallmarshes, a dead tramp was about as much news as you could hope for.
Like all good journalists, she had her notebook, micro-recorder and point-and-shoot Nikon camera with her. Right now they were lying behind her, on the uncomfortably hard bed in Room 9 of the Bayview Guest House. She was one of only three guests in the three storey converted house; and the other two were out shopping. They were a young couple, obviously here without either parents' permission, who had told her they were looking for a week of romance and excitement. Hah! Like hell. They were here because they fancied each other rotten. They'd gone to bed in Room 7, next door, at about ten thirty last night. Jana had heard them rutting away for hours; she shrieking every so often, he groaning like some primeval sub-human.
Jana herself had once had what she thought were feelings for a man. She'd met him at home in Amsterdam, and they had spent a couple of weeks cycling around the countryside, cavorting like wild animals under bridges, in fields and cheap hostels. She'd soon realized that while anatomically well-developed, he'd been mentally stunted and she'd had to dispose of him. Witless innocent.
She sat on the bed and stared at the painted wall opposite. Brilliant White (she could picture the Dulux tin now) over dirty wallpaper, with a hint of damp. Every room painted the same by the owners, a charmless couple called Sheila and John Lawson. Sheila was always going on about whatever faded television personality was working the fleapits in Hastings; John would nod and go back to reading his tedious newsletter of the Rollercoaster Passengers Club of Great Britain (inc. Eire). 'I'm trying to get them to set up a theme park in Smallmarshes,' he had enthused to her. Jana hadn't enthused back.
'Better get some work done,' she muttered as she picked up her camera, slung it over her shoulder and popped her notebook into her bag, then left her room and jogged downstairs, hoping not to meet her hosts along the way. There was no sign of them, so she made her way to the coin-operated phone. Dumping a pile of change beside it, she dialled a London number and waited.
March 27th (still)
I'm on my way back to Aunty Eve's now. God, this train is bumpy, which explains why my writing's so crappy.
So that was Dungeness. What a creepy place. You come out of the station near the seaside and walk down this long road that eventually vanishes. It's like one of those roads on an airfield, made in concrete segments. I thought I'd gone wrong until I found a row of small houses. Horrible things that looked like they'd blow over in a harsh wind. All grey and dreary, with a few clothes on lines in front. A few kids were playing with a dog, but that was it as far as life went. Then I found a lighthouse and a small cafŽshop.
And there was the Nuclear Power Station, blocked off with this massive metal fence. No one was friendly there at all, especially the guard. I asked if I could look around and he just said 'No' and that was it. There were more houses to the right of the power station. They looked like they'd been picked up from Salford or somewhere and dumped there. Terraces, made from ugly red bricks and in bad repair. More washing lines and dogs. No kids though. I grabbed a hot dog from the shop, went to look at the lighthouse - couldn't get in there either - and wandered down to the beach. Stones. No sand at all. It looked so desolate that all I felt like doing was throwing stones back into the sea, stone after stone after stone. Mrs Petter once told me that was undoing millions of years of evolution or something. It'd taken millions of years for those stones to get to that beach, and I threw them back in. If Aunty Eve's right, we'll all be radioactive cinders by the time the stones get back to the beach, so it doesn't matter anyway.
Now I'm nearly back in Smallmarshes. It's ten past three. I'll stop off at Casey's and see if Aunty Eve's magazines have arrived like she asked. No doubt she'll tell me what a good boy I am. I want to go home. Home home. Manchester. I want to see Steve and Matt and Alex and Jacqui and Ozmonde and the rest of the gang. I want my own bed, my own room, my own sheets and pillows and everything. I HATE THIS PLACE.
Pulling into Hell now, so I'll write more tonight.
Marc Marshall closed his diary as the train drew into Smallmarshes station, brakes squealing. He put the pencil into the leather tube attached to the book's cover, then dropped the diary into his green duffle-bag with its Sylvester and Tweety Pie stickers. He slung the bag over his shoulder and got off the train.
He stood outside the station and stared down the long road that ran down to the sea-front, with its guest houses and shops. Aunty Eve's road was the third on the right. He could see Casey's newsagents just on the far corner, beside the Highciffe Guest House. Down to the right, the south, the town fell away into streets of depressing houses, all the same, inhabited by old people who couldn't afford a house in Brighton or Bournemouth. The cliff was to the north, a green hill with the town at its feet, as if the buildings were too lazy to attempt the climb. From here he couldn't see the white chalk of the cliff face, but he could make out the single-track cliff road that led from the town up to the highest point, from which it was possible to see France on a good day, and then onwards up the coast. Halfway up it was the abandoned old cottage which Aunty Eve had said ought to be demolished. 'A death-trap,' she'd called it. Probably the only interesting place in the whole of Small-marshes, Marc decided.
As he began wandering towards it, he saw vehicles and figures on the cliff-top and on the road going down. He squinted against the late afternoon sun. Police.
Excitement at last, he thought. Something had happened if the police had been called in. Smallmarshes itself only seemed to warrant a couple of panda cars and a bicycle, yet there were more than a dozen men and women, several cars and a van up there. Best leave them to it, he decided. They wouldn't want some strange Northern kid in the way. Besides, Aunty Eve would know what was going on.
Marc had all but put the abandoned house out of his mind when something caught his eye. Something had moved in there. A curtain had been flicked by someone. He didn't know who, but it wasn't a policeman, he was sure.
He looked at Casey's, then at Aunty Eve's road, and set off up the cliff road. It was steeper and further than it looked, and after ten minutes he was almost out of breath. He put his duffle-bag on the ground and as he did so, decided he'd finally have something interesting to put in his diary tonight. He mopped his brow with his sleeve, and carried on. He'd pick up his bag on the way back. Who was going to steal it with so many police around?
As he wandered away, the bag toppled over and the diary flopped out, nesting in the grass.
Written across the front in flaking correction fluid was the name 'Marc Marshall'.
WPC Barbara Redworth, on assignment to Smallmarshes from Hill Vale station in Hastings, found the duffle-bag. She hadn't noticed anyone around, but she guessed that its owner had to be in the ramshackle building - if they were anywhere else, they would have been seen by her or her colleagues.
She left the bag where it was and walked into the building. Considering it was the middle of the afternoon, the place was astonishingly dark. WPC Redworth didn't have a torch with her and she cursed quietly, then called out. No one replied.
She was dimly aware that she was in a two-storey building - a flight of stairs with a moth-eaten carpet was set near the front door. She was standing in what must have been a living room, and to the back she could see a doorway leading to an equally dark kitchenette. It wasn't until she fumbled towards the doorway that she noticed the sofa and seats - mildewed and rotten, but undoubtedly recently disturbed. The coverings had been ripped away, revealing bright yellow foam, without a hint of dirt or mould upon it.
She glanced up at the darkened windows: there were no curtains, but the seat coverings had been hung over them. Stumbling over unseen debris on the floor, she tried tugging at the makeshift drapes, but they wouldn't come away. As her eyes finally adjusted to the light, she realized that the seat coverings were not held up by nails, or pegs or even string. They had been melted onto the walls at all four sides. It looked as if a blow-torch had been fired against them, from the scorch-marks on the walls. Soot came off on her fingers as she stroked one edge.
She heard a creak, the sound made when someone moves on weak floorboards, trying to be quiet.
Someone was upstairs.
'Hello?' No reply, and no more noise. She reached the foot of the stairs. 'Hello? My name is Barbara Redworth. I'm a police officer. Is anyone there? Are you hurt?'
'I found a bag outside. A green duffle-bag. Is it yours?' Still nothing. 'I only want to help. I'm coming up.'
It briefly occurred to WPC Redworth that she could use her radio to call for back-up; a bit of support, in case something awful was upstairs. She'd seen a few corpses in her time: pensioners who had been left unattended at Christmas; a young homosexual, his head pulped by queer-bashers. Even a suicide, who'd deliberately driven his car into a petrol pump. But somehow she felt, perhaps by instinct, that whatever was in the cottage, it was still alive. There wasn't that awful smell of death - although over the rank dampness of the rotted furniture, she couldn't smell much at all. She began to climb the stairs, wary of their stability.
And there he was. A boy, about thirteen or fourteen, hunched up against the wall of the bathroom. He was huddling against a filthy toilet-bowl, staring at her. No, through her, as if he couldn't focus on anything. To the left, partially hidden behind the bathroom wall, was an old white enamel bath. The toilet was against the other wall, next to a cracked basin. On the floor was a small heap of mud-caked rags.
Gradually WPC Redworth's sense of smell kicked back in. If the boy had been wanting to use the toilet, he'd not got there in time, and as she stared at his trousers, she could see tell-tale marks that confirmed this.
Drug addict, she decided. Out of his head on something. It was shocking at his age - he'd probably be dead in a couple of years. Poor kid. WPC Redworth had a brother of fourteen; how easily it could have been him.
The boy was shaking very slightly. The bathroom window had again been covered by something - a towel, she guessed. It had fallen away at one corner, letting some light in, and she could see he was dark-haired, with a reasonable complexion - unusual for a drug-addict. He was wearing a white T-shirt, a name in blue stencilled letters ironed across the top: M.A.R.C. His pale jeans were soiled, as she had guessed, but his white plimsolls were still very clean, despite the muck on the floor.
'Marc? Hello, I'm Barbara. Someone carried you up here, didn't they? Your shoes are too clean for you to have walked through this. Are you all right now? Who brought you here?'
She wasn't expecting a reply, so she jumped when the boy pointed at the bath, his hand shaking uncontrollably. WPC Redworth walked slowly into the bathroom, her hand on her truncheon, and turned to look at the bath. It was full of dirty brown water, and stank of stagnation. Without taking her eyes off the bath, she reached out and tugged the towel away from the window, puffing lumps of plaster with it. It flashed through her mind that whatever had melted the towel to the wall had done a thorough job.
Sunlight filtered in through the salt-encrusted broken window, and she could see everything more clearly now. The water in the bath was more than just dirty, it was positively opaque but she could just make out a body beneath the yellowish scum on the surface. Had Marc murdered his abductor? Dropped him into the bath and drowned him?
As WPC Redworth leant over the bath, the surface erupted into a fountain of dirty water, scum and slime. She couldn't scream, her mind wouldn't let her. Some previously unused, dormant portion of her brain simply took over, forcing her to realize that to make such a noise would be a sign of weakness. All she saw was a human-shaped green/yellow something. A flash of three eyes, scales, a puckered leathery mouth and, most stupid of all, a garment like a long string vest.
And then WPC Redworth realized that she had recognized something she could never have seen before. And yet she remembered…
Must get away, run for my life. The Devilbacks, yelling and hissing. Spitting. I have to protect the family - even if they catch me the family must be saved. I won't let them touch me… won't let them trick me into leading them to the others. Those eyes, staring from every angle, every tree and bush. Every path. I'm being watched. The Devilbacks think they'll trick me, but I know not to be fooled, not to let my kin go to their filthy camps to be killed… They'll never catch me, I know how to swing off that branch, over the river and they'll lose my scent. Not even the Devilbacks can track me through water. Nothing will stop me - No! No, there weren't that many just now. Blocked, I'm blocked at every turn. Filthy vile reptiles. Disgusting evil - No! Not the eye! Not the middle eye! Please. Oh, it hurts… hurts so much… pain, I can't take the pain… no-
Something heavy and damp slapped into the side of Barbara Redworth's head, sending her sliding in the muck on the floor, back towards the doorway. All she could do was stare at the damp-ridden wall, aware that two figures were walking over her. Who were they? Why There they there? Where was there? Who was she? What was she?
Three eyes. She remembered.
She dipped her fingers in the thin layer of slime and mud that covered the floor and began making patterns on the wall with it.
If anyone had seen her, they would have said she was insane, drawing meaningless pictograms. But what was left of WPC Redworth's shattered mind knew that drawing the pictures was very important, for some reason she could not understand or explain.
'Drawing pictures? Of what exactly?'
The Doctor was clearly excited as he read the report Corporal Hawke had handed him.
'I'm not sure, Doctor, but Sergeant Yates said I should tell you immediately.'
'Thank you, my dear. And Mike was right to do so. Liz, have you seen this?'
'Obviously not, as Maisie's given the only copy to you.' With an exasperated shake of the head, Liz took the report from the Doctor. As she did so, she caught sight of a sympathetic grin from Hawke. She returned it.
'Well?' the Doctor asked. 'What do you think?'
'I haven't read it yet. Give me a chance.'
She scanned through the pages, vaguely aware that Maisie Hawke was still standing awkwardly in the laboratory, as if waiting for something. The Doctor paced for a second, deep in thought, then turned to the corporal.
'The Brigadier hasn't seen this yet?' he asked.
'Good. I'll take the copy through to him myself, so I can discuss the implications with him immediately.'
'Are you sure, Doctor?'
'Yes, absolutely. It's no trouble, and I'm sure you've better things to do than deliver messages.' Liz, still deep in the report, was aware of Maisie leaving the room. A few moments later, she looked up. The Doctor looked down at her, expectantly.
'What are you going to tell the Brigadier?' she asked.
'Nothing,' the Doctor snorted. 'Knowing him, he'll try and blow them up again.'
'That's not entirely fair, Doctor,' Liz said, 'but I take your point.' She pulled up one of the lab stools, sat on it, and withdrew her pipe from her handbag. Without speaking, she filled it and lit it, puffing slowly to get it going. All the time, her eyes never left the report, reading and re-reading every paragraph.
'So,' she said between puffs, 'so, what we've got here is a burnt corpse, a missing boy and a disturbed policewoman, linked by a bag found near a house. And the woman drawing primitive pictures of bison, woolly mammoths, sabre-toothed tigers and tall, man-sized bipedal reptiles with three eyes.'
'They're back, Liz. They're back.'
Liz looked at the Doctor, noting that he could barely conceal his excitement as he threw his cape over his shoulders.
'Keys,' he muttered. "Where are the keys?' He scrabbled around various benches until he suddenly stopped and looked at Liz. 'You've got them. I gave them to you yesterday.'
Liz nodded. 'Uh-huh. And before I give them to you, just confirm something.'
'That you're going to drive off down to Sussex and play Hunt-the-Silurian without informing the Brigadier.'
'No. You're wrong.'
Liz was surprised, but pleased. 'Oh. Right. What then?'
'We're going to jump into Bessie and drive to Sussex without telling the Brigadier.'
Liz held up her hands, but already knew that there was nothing she could say to stop the Doctor from going. 'Now Doctor, we both work for him and although I don't like it very much, I do regard him as a friend. I'm not going to just disappear without him knowing. He has a right, you know?'
The Doctor suddenly sat opposite her. 'To what, Liz? A right to what? To destroy them? To get his clod-hopping soldiers down there, tearing up the seaside trying to find something new to shoot?' He stuffed his hands into his voluminous cape pockets and shook his head slowly. 'No, Liz, don't you see? I can't let him. Not yet. This time I've got to try and communicate properly. To make both sides see sense before we have a repeat of Derbyshire. Before the Brigadier wipes out yet another colony of intelligent, decent, amazing beings simply because he and the likes of Sir John Sudbury are afraid.'
'I thought Sir John was a bosom buddy.'
'Listen, Liz,' the Doctor continued. 'The Brigadier is a brave man. He's not stupid, his mind is quite open and receptive, but first and foremost, he's a soldier. Queen and country and all that. But us, we're scientists, aren't we? We see a wider, global picture. Universal, if you like.' He got up and held his hands out for the keys. 'Please, Doctor Shaw? We have to find the Silurians and help them.'
Liz stared at him and then gave him the key. 'I don't know where you're going Doctor, because when I came back to the lab you had gone, taking Corporal Hawke's report with you.' She shoved the papers back into the internal OHMS envelope and placed it in his cape pocket. 'You only want me there to navigate, anyway. I'm not spending two hours in Bessie getting cold and irritable while you ignore my directions and claim you know a quicker way.'
The Doctor beamed. 'I'll see you tomorrow then.'
'Yes, I'm sure.' Liz tapped the contents of her pipe into a sink and washed away the dark ashes. When she turned back, the Doctor had gone. Now, she thought, all she had to do was tell Maisie Hawke to say that only the Doctor had seen the report. Subterfuge, that was all she needed.
The Doctor's sprightly yellow roadster, Bessie, cut along the A40 through London, whizzing down the Euston Road, then along Farringdon Road and over Blackfriars Bridge. Having rounded Elephant and Castle and passed along the Old Kent Road, the car then took the A2 out of London, heading towards Kent.
Wrapped up in the excitement of discovering more Silurians, the Doctor failed to notice that he was being followed by a grey Ford Cortina, matching his route and speed but always hovering three or four cars behind.
Inside the car were three people. A bearded Nigerian drove, dressed in a chauffeur's uniform. He sat silent and unsmiling.
In the back seat were two other men. One was young and very pale, as if he hadn't seen sunlight for a few years. He was smartly dressed, with short black hair and dark glasses. Emerging from under his glasses and running down his left cheek was a livid scar which connected with a slightly mutilated top lip.
The other was slightly older, blond and tanned, wearing casual slacks and a blue sports coat. Cradled in his lap was a large pistol, fitted with a large suppressor and with a set of marksman's sights mounted on its barrel.
The pale man passed his companion an envelope. Inside was a copy of the report that Hawke had given the Doctor, appended with two 10" x 8" black-and-white photographs. One was of the run-down cottage on the cliff, a duffle-bag abandoned in the foreground; the other showed a young woman in police officer's clothing being dragged, evidently with some resistance, away from the house and into an ambulance.
'No survivors,' said the pale young man, his voice soft and lisping.
'Especially not the Doctor.'
Traynor didn't come. He hadn't made it.
Traynor supplied all the evidence he could, but is it going to be enough? Probably not, but the man did his best. Now it is my job to continue the exposé. Reveal the truth. Bend the rules and let the British public know what exactly their taxes are spent on. And how so-called defence budgets' are being spliced off into less traditional resources.
Enclosed with this letter are documents which prove that the worst fears Traynor and I had about C19 were entirely accurate. Poor old Sudhury has no idea. Fool. At the time of writing this, dear Elizabeth, I have no idea if it will be you who receives it. I hope it is. Forgive my necessary deviousness but all tracks have to be covered, all prints wiped and tapes erased, as they say. Naturally, you have no idea who I am and that is for the best. Once you have all this information, you are equipped to deal with C19, or at least ensure someone will. Maybe UNIT, if they're not too far involved themselves. Trust few people, dear Elizabeth, for treachery thrives upon further treachery. I, meanwhile, will hopefully pass back into the faceless anonymity whence I crawled.
Poor Grant Traynor. He so craved medals and accolades for serving the public good. I told him he'd never get them. I'm quite sure this will all be swept away eventually, but as long as C19 has been stopped, his sacrifice will have been worth it.
In my next and final report, I will try to supply you with exact names, dates and faces. I'm off now to track them down.
Liver-spotted hands yanked the paper from the dilapidated Smith-Corona typewriter. Arthritic fingers slowly creased it and slid it into a plain OHMS manila envelope.
The old man strained to rise from his chair, cursing quietly as the muscles in his back moved a fraction later than all the others. He paused for a second, letting his body adjust to the new posture.
'Now,' he murmured. 'Who? And where? And, for that matter, why?'
He pulled the green curtain away from the window and daylight illuminated the small, sparsely furnished office. He flicked off the green-shaded brass desk lamp and nodded briefly at the portrait of the Queen that stared down from a fake wood-panelled wall opposite.
The telephone rang, and for a second he looked around, confused, trying to work out where the annoying sound originated. Of course, he recalled, it was under the cushion he'd thrown over it last time it rang. 'Extension sixty-four. Yes?' he snapped in a tired voice. 'I'm busy.'
'Too busy for an old friend?'
He paled, grateful that his caller couldn't see his face.
'Hello. What can I do for you?'
'I understand that you have a meeting tonight. I'd like you to miss it. I'd like you to travel down to the South Coast.' As always, the younger man's lisp caused the 's' sounds to become soft 'th'es.
The old man shivered. It was an order, not a request. As always. 'All right. Where?' Directions (or rather, instructions) followed and, after he had received a curt farewell, the line went dead.
The liver-spotted hands rolled another sheet of paper into the Smith-Corona, in anticipation of another missive tomorrow.
Elsewhere in the building, people carried on with their jobs, ignorant of exactly what was going on in Room 64. Outside, Big Ben chimed three o'clock and the siren of a police patrol boat echoed up the Thames towards Vauxhall.
The receptionist sat behind her chrome and glass desk. Her immaculately creased white outfit, and the tiny white cap on her head announced her role as a nurse as well as telephonist, book-keeper and information desk attendant. She nibbled at the top of her pen as she stared across the hallway and through the polarized glass doors opposite. Outside, two people waited and watched as a car drove up. She strained hard to listen for any traces of conversation, but gave up. It did not really concern her anyway, and she had her own work to do.
'Good morning Sir Marmaduke. Always a pleasure to see you.' A short dark-haired girl, also in a crisp white uniform, almost curtsied as the rotund figure heaved himself out of his chauffeur-driven car. Nodding breathlessly in reply, Sir Marmaduke Harrington-Smythe CBE, psychologist and analyst, walked slowly up the five steps of the five-storey white building, known to the few aware of its existence as the Glasshouse.
He knew that someone would have watered the flowers in honour of his arrival, as well as those crawling plants that seeped over the tops of the balconies above the main doors. The staff would have polished the windows, which were white and barred in keeping with the thirties architecture, with its squat design and rounded corners.
He stopped at the top of the steps for a moment to stare up at the rich blue panoply of the afternoon sky, which contrasted sharply against the stark white of the building as it caught and reflected the sunlight.
The young dark-haired girl glanced at her companion, an equally dark-haired young man, his hair trimmed to the same page-boy style as hers. He wore an equally pristine white outfit, but with trousers instead of a knee-length skirt. That was the only real difference between them. Well, thought Sir Marmaduke, that and the fact that he'd never heard the boy speak a word, nor had ever met anyone who had heard him speak. In unison the girl and boy leant back, pushing open the double glass doors for him to enter the Glasshouse.
The receptionist looked up as Sir Marmaduke entered, and smiled a greeting at him, which was returned. She turned to watch the odd couple as they followed Sir Marmaduke down a long sterile white corridor. They walked a few paces behind him, perfectly in step, every gesture performed in complete unison. Neither was ever an inch or a second out of place.
The Irish Twins they were called; although the receptionist was aware that no one in the building really knew if they were twins, Irish or otherwise. She lost sight of them as Sir Marmaduke led the way down into the patient area. Underground.
Doctor Peter Morley tried to stop his hand shaking as he placed the plastic cup under the cold tap. He desperately wanted to relax, to take a deep breath and sigh loudly. Anything was better than letting his nerves overcome him.
He stared at himself in the bathroom mirror, seeing his thinning hair tinged with grey streaks that had not been there before his arrival. Dark rings surrounded his already sunken eyes. At school they had nicknamed him 'The Skull', rather unfairly, he had always thought. His hair had been receding and his features pinched since he was about ten but 'The Skull' had been going a bit far. Now, as he regarded a face that had been cooped up in this place for eight long months, he began to think it wasn't so much wrong as premature. He noticed a slight tic in his left eye - a sure sign of tiredness.
'I need sleep, you know,' he said to the security camera just above the cubicle door. 'Some privacy wouldn't go amiss, either. I might want to pee.'
His only reply was the continuous slow blink of the tiny red light atop the camera, reminding him that every conversation and action was being monitored and recorded all day, every day. Eight months he'd been here at the Glasshouse, stuck in the basement and hidden away from the world, and still he felt nervous about peeing in front of the camera. He wouldn't mind, but the urinal was side-on to the door so the camera saw… well, everything.
'And I thought using the gents in the King's Head was embarrassing.' He washed his hands, refilled his plastic cup and swigged down some deliciously cold water. Best thing about the place; the food and drink were always first class.
He threw the cup into a blue disposal sack, knowing it would be incinerated at the end of the hour, regardless of whether it contained one cup or fifty documents marked 'Top Secret'. He turned, sighed, ran a hand through his few strands of hair, pushed the door open and stepped back into the bustle of the basement.
He was standing in the general work area, his three assistants milling around. They appeared to be oblivious, as ever, to his mood and even his presence, but Morley suspected that they just chose to ignore him. Or was he just letting his paranoia get to him? And when had he become so paranoid, anyway?
Determined to stop being so morbid, Morley watched his team at work. Jim Griffin, the analyst, was running some experiments on a massive array of computers, speaking every result into a tape-recorder as it appeared on the small screen in front of him, and occasionally scratching at his nose with a biro. His dark hair spiked as if five thousand volts had been run through him. On a bench on the other side of the room, Dick Atkinson, the chemist of the team, was heating something porridge-like in a microwave and inserting metal rods into it, reflecting the microwaves back into something that might once have been a leg of lamb.
Near the double doors was Cathryn Wildeman, the short, dark-haired American zoologist, fiddling with an electron microscope and looking hard at something Morley couldn't begin to imagine.
All three of them stopped their work suddenly and stared at the doors as the reason for Morley's earlier nerves could be heard thundering at the Irish Twins as it approached:
'Absolutely not, Ciara. We don't have time for such trivialities. I want her processed and passed to D Wing ASAP, is that understood?'
'Of course, Sir Marmaduke,' came the predictable response.
Morley allowed a quick smile to cross his face - anything that meant the gruesome twosome got a dressing down had to be good news. Sir Marmaduke's unwelcome face quickly dispelled any pleasure from his mind as the obese figure pushed the doors open and strode into the laboratory as if he owned the place.
Which he did, Morley reminded himself.
'Peter!' Sir Marmaduke bellowed. 'Peter, a word. Now!' He pointed towards Morley's tiny office at the far end of the lab. Accurately sensing the various moods of the newcomers, Morley's three staff quickly turned back to their work as if no interruption had taken place, while Morley himself meekly followed Sir Marmaduke to the indicated office. He swallowed hard, trying to force the knot of anxiety out of his throat. Whatever had brought Sir Marmaduke down here had put him in a foul mood, and Morley seemed to be the cause of it. Morley didn't even register the annoyance of having the Irish Twins follow - someone else in the room, even them, had to be of some benefit. A glance at them, and their matching ear-to-ear grins, failed to reassure him.
Sir Marmaduke pushed the door open and pulled on the light cord, showering the little room with flickering fluorescent light for a few seconds before the tube settled and bathed them in a harsh unnatural white glow. It gave the pristine white of the Irish Twins and their uniforms a faint electric lilac look.
'Sir Marmaduke, how are you?'
Sir Marmaduke sat at Morley's desk and stared at a white cup half-filled with cold Bovril. 'Waste, Peter, I cannot condone waste.' He gingerly picked up the cup, nodding at the Irish Twins. They both moved immediately, but in different directions for once. The female took the cup and dropped it into a blue disposal bag hanging on the side of a filing cabinet. The male turned to the security camera over the door and produced a slim black box from a pocket. He aimed the control at the camera and pressed a button. The red light blinked off.
'I didn't know you could do that.' Morley stared at the Irish Twins.
'Well, of course you didn't. You're not that important, y'know.'
Sir Marmaduke clearly had no qualms about offending Morley, and the doctor was so used to his rudeness that he barely noticed it any more. 'You work here on a need-to-know basis, Peter, and that's how it's going to stay. Rest assured that Ciara and Cellian here are far more my eyes and ears than any number of governmental security cameras.' He waved Morley to a small, uncomfortable seat in the corner of the room. It was, the doctor found himself musing, the one where he normally threw his newspapers - the ones sent via the internal mail. Heaven forbid that he might venture outside and buy his own. Oh no, totally forbidden. Someone might see him and that would never do. Imagine the reaction -
His reverie was broken by the Irish Twins leaving the office. A thought flashed through Morley's mind as he watched Ciara. She was beautiful. Her walk, her poise, her face and her figure were all perfect. What he would give… No, forget that. Mind you, he had to acknowledge that the male twin was just as handsome, with his square jaw, sparkling blue eyes, and jet black hair in a fashionable cut. Cellian had one of those figures that Morley was jealous of - slim but sculptured. A clothes designer's idea of heaven. Probably.
The twins pulled the blinds down in unison, covering the glass partitions on either side of the door as they left the room. Morley knew from experience that they would be waiting just outside, like faithful lap-dogs for their master.
'Got a new one for you. A policewoman from down south. Look at this.' Sir Marmaduke produced an envelope from under his jacket. Morley ripped it open, then stopped before he got any further. It had a UNIT seal on it.
'Er, Sir Marmaduke, I'm not sure I'm cleared for this level of documentation.' Sir Marmaduke shrugged. 'So? I gave it to you, ergo you're cleared for it. Now read it.'
Morley flicked through the file, seeing various UNIT memorandums signed by a Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, plus a couple 'dictated, but not read' by someone who was referred to only as 'the Doctor'.
'UNIT's Scientific Advisor. Your equivalent.' Sir Marmaduke indicated that he should carry on.
Morley started to flick through some photographs, each with a name stapled to it. BAKER, (Major) NORMAN (dscd RD1); LAWRENCE, (Doctor) CHARLES (dscd RDI); SQUIRE, (Mrs) DORIS (G/H RS1); MASTERS, (Rt Hon) EDWARD (dscd RD1); DAWSON, (Miss) PHYLLIS (G/H RS1)… He put the file back on the table. 'Yes, I recognize the two women. The Dawson woman was a research assistant to old Scotty. I mean John Quinn, at Wenley Moor Atomic Centre. And Mrs Squire was a farmer's wife. He died, I think.'
'And where was Mrs Squire from?'
'Derbyshire, if I remember rightly.'
Sir Marmaduke nodded. 'And the connection is?'
Morley thought. 'Wenley Moor. It's in Derbyshire. Quite close in fact. Charles Lawrence was the director?'
Sir Marmaduke tapped the file. 'And Baker was his security officer, retired from the regular army after a little… mishap in Northern Ireland at the back end of the last decade. The other parliamentary chappie was assigned to "kill or cure" the place. Got killed himself, from a rather nasty plague that was eventually cured by this mysterious Doctor person at UNIT.
'Now, there's one other interesting thing about our two ladies from Derbyshire. What d'you know of their symptoms?'
Morley shook his head slowly. 'I'm very sorry, Sir Marmaduke, but I was down here. I don't know that I ever saw them more than two or three times. I didn't even realize they were connected.'
'No, I suppose not, Just a couple of civvies caught up in something top-secret and needing the special ministrations of this place, eh?' Sir Marmaduke tapped his nose. 'But things do change, Peter. We now have a third connection. Look at this doctor's report; some northern chap called Meredith. He was the local GP up there. Both Squire and Dawson had to be restrained, claiming they'd seen monsters.'
Morley shrugged. 'Nothing unusual in that. After all, the Glasshouse was set up for people like that. And UNIT, for one, keeps us in customers.'
'But few of them come to you, eh? Well, that's going to change. Our ladies from Derbyshire suddenly became accomplished amateur artists overnight. Began drawing pictures on walls, doors, anything else they could get hold of.'
'Formal, abstract or symbolist?'
Sir Marmaduke chuckled. 'Oh, very symbolist. Ever been to Lascaux? No, neither have these two. But they've been doing passable imitations of those French cave-pictures ever since they had their "experiences". And' - Sir Marmaduke leant forward - 'you've just gained your first one this year. Our policewoman from Sussex is scribbling mammoths, sabre-toothed tigers and something far more interesting all over the inside of her secure unit in Hastings Hospital.' He withdrew one last envelope from his jacket and opened it, placing two photographs side by side. One was of a man-like figure, but reptilian, scaled and ridged. On its head were a series of bumps, and a third eye. Clawed hands and a large, round, stubby nostril were the other striking features. 'Seen one of these before?'
Morley shook his head.
'That's what was in the caves at Wenley Moor. That's what drove our ladies round the bend. That's what released a previously unknown plague into Britain, killing thirty-eight people. And' - Sir Marmaduke tapped the UNIT file - 'that's what cost the Research Centre and UNIT a combined total of twenty-nine lives.'
'What is it?'
Sir Marmaduke shrugged. 'A reptile-man. In his report, UNIT's SA referred to them as "homo reptilia", or "Silurians". Frankly, they're bug-eyed monsters as far as I'm concerned. UNIT did their job right for once and blew them all up. Or so we thought, until WPC Barbara Redworth began sketching this.' He tapped the second photo, which showed a scrappily drawn but recognizable illustration of a similar creature.
'They're back, Peter, and this time we don't want them blown up. This time we want them alive, and WPC Barbara Redworth is going to lead us to them. You, my boy, and your team are stopping whatever you're doing and taking this on right now. I want this woman probed, analysed, debriefed and pumped with truth-serum until she tells us everything we need to know. I want one of these creatures alive. Alive and well and prepared to blow this government and its cover-ups, top-secret UNITs and covert military missions apart.' Sir Marmaduke leant forward and tapped the photograph of the reptile-man. 'And if I can discredit that pompous ass Lethbridge-Stewart and the rest of his C19 cronies, so much the better.'
The 'pompous ass' at whom Sir Marmaduke Harrington-Smythe's invective had been directed was at that moment steering his Daimler into the drive of a box-shaped, two storey house: 6 Moor Drive, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire.
Built about eight years previously in dark red brick transported down from the Lancashire hills, the home of Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart stood alongside four identical houses in a cul-de-sac; the small entrance from the main Slough-to-Amersham road was concealed between large evergreen trees.
Number Two housed the Pike family: all Alistair knew about them was that he was some sort of quantity surveyor with an American accent, and they had three boys who yelled a lot.
Number Four was occupied by the Pryses; a couple in their late fifties who lived alone. They had a voluminous family who descended upon the cul-de-sac every Sunday lunchtime and blocked everyone else's drives with their cars. Mr Prys was an advertising executive, while Mrs Prys was heavily involved with the local Women's Institute. Both were fond of rugby. Alistair could remember with a chill the day Mrs Prys presented their neighbours to the entire Welsh team on her patio, its pink and blue stone slabs clashing hideously with the players' red and white strip.
On the other side, at Number Eight, lived the retired Ince family who seemed to have come down from Southport alongside the red bricks used to build the five houses. A jolly couple, also retired, they were frequent hosts to bridge, backgammon and mah-jong evenings, some of which Alistair attended with his wife Fiona. Unlike the other three families, the Inces' garage was not full of motor vehicles; instead it seemed to be some sort of shrine to deceased greenery. No matter how often Mrs Ince planted and potted her shrubs and flowers, they withered up and died quicker than she could buy replacements from the Cadmore End Common nurseries.
As he stopped his engine, Alistair glanced towards Number Two, and noticed the addition of a basketball net over the garage door. How long had that been there? In any normal family he could have sauntered into the kitchen and asked his wife or daughter.
His family was anything but normal. 'Failing to communicate' was the current parlance. 'Falling apart at the seams' was his preferred description. Gritting his teeth in anticipation of the welcome that awaited him - he had no idea what form it would take, but he was sure it would leave him feeling drained and unhappy - he slid out of his seat, picked up his briefcase and scooped up the dark blue blazer which lay across the passenger seat.
Dropping the car keys into the pocket of his grey slacks, he dug inside the blazer for his house keys. He need not have bothered. The front door swung open and, with a delighted cry of 'Daddy's home!', Alistair's main reason for living rushed towards him, arms out-stretched, an ecstatic grin across her five-year-old face.
Slipping into 'hard-working father home from the office' mode and mood, Alistair dropped onto one knee and hugged Kate, his daughter. She hugged him back with the fierce joy that adults so rarely achieve. He stood up, swinging her around and she responded by gripping tighter and letting out a delighted whoop that momentarily deafened him.
'You, Tiger, are getting heavier every day. Or I'm getting older.'
'No, Daddy. Mummy says it's because you don't spend any of your time with us and I change and you never see it!' said Kate with a loud gurgle of pleasure.
Alistair remembered a magazine article he'd read once on child-rearing. 'Beware what you say around the young,' it had warned. 'Children will imitate and repeat all manner of things, often at inappropriate moments.'
How true. And to whom had Fiona offered that particular comment about his absence? Virginia? Doreen? Mrs Anderson the cleaner? Most likely she'd remarked it to her father - the interfering old fool who made mother-in-law jokes seem very wide of the mark.
Kate turned, her attention drawn away for a second, and Alistair looked up to see that Mrs Lethbridge-Stewart was standing in the front doorway, a towel in her hands. No welcoming smile there. No hug. No giggle of joy at seeing her husband for the first time in seventy-two hours.
With a sigh born from eight years of sad familiarity, Alistair disentangled himself from Kate and walked resignedly towards his waiting wife. He knew that, for the sake of the neighbours and his daughter, there would be a pretence of happy families; a peck on the cheek and a token enquiry about the day's work.
He was wrong. Fiona Lethbridge-Stewart just turned and went back inside the house without saying a word.
As he stepped into the warm hallway, suppressing an urge to adjust the thermostat on the wall, he saw a flash of pastel-green nylon trousers as Fiona went back into the kitchen. The door closed behind her with a soft but definite thud.
'Daddy, look what Miss Marshall showed us how to make today.' Kate was waving a small cardboard sunflower at him, her eyes bright with joy at her father's return.
Pausing only to glance back at the kitchen door, Alistair dropped almost effortlessly into 'good father' mode again and knelt down, commenting on the brightly coloured fake flower. He pointed at the yellow petals, brown face and bright green stem. Kate nodded at his every word, smiling beautifully. Every inch a mirror image of her mother, he thought.
'I tried showing it to Mummy,' said Kate, staring for a moment at the closed kitchen door, 'but she said to show it to you. She said that if I did, you might remember we were here. Or something.' Kate pouted suddenly. 'What did she mean?'
Alistair rose and started to climb the stairs. Did she indeed? Listen, Tiger, I'm going to go upstairs to get changed out of my office clothes. Why don't you help Mummy get the dinner?'
'We had dinner.'
Alistair considered that, in the light of his daughter's ability to judge time. 'Ages ago' could be any time within the last hour, otherwise she'd be hungry again by now. It seemed that Fiona had given up even bothering to wait for his return.
He was aware that Kate was staring at him. Even behind her excitement over his return and that flower thing, he knew she could sense something was wrong between her parents. What could he say? Army life didn't teach you how to deal with five-year-old girls asking awkward questions. Hell, army life didn't teach you how to cope with thirty-five-year-old wives who didn't even know anything about your job. Not for the first time, he cursed the Official Secrets Act.
No wonder Fiona was getting edgy. It was something of a miracle she hadn't left him already. How many other wives had the problems she faced? He would bet Doreen Prys was able to phone her husband at work, got invited to office parties, and knew the names and wives of other people in her husband's social circle. Poor Fiona had to content herself with the neighbours, her parents and a few local women who ran Tupperware parties.
What kind of life had he offered her all those years ago? And what kind of life had he subsequently provided for her?
'Daddy? Daddy, are you all right?'
Alistair refocused his attention on his daughter at the foot of the stairs, half-smiling at her. 'Tell you what, Tiger. D'you remember that bear we won the other week at the Christmas fair?' The other week? Three, nearly four months ago at least.
'That's the chap. How about you go and get him and we'll see if we can find some biscuits for him, eh?'
Without replying, Kate dashed past him up the stairs, and went into her bedroom.
'Give me five minutes, Tiger, and I'll come and find you both, all right?' he called after her.
There was no reply, which he took to be an affirmative, and returned to his own thoughts as he pushed open the bedroom door. Instantly, his UNIT-trained reflexes told him that something was wrong. It was nothing he could immediately put his finger on and yet…
There was no ticking. The alarm clock was gone. He looked down at his bedside cabinet. No clock. No moustache-trimmer. No creased paperback. Not even a box of tissues. He put his bag down and walked slowly to the wardrobe nearest his side of the bed. It was empty. He stood silently for a second, looking around him, then left the room and opened the next door along the hail, into the spare room which doubled as a guest bedroom.
The room was dark, with its curtains drawn, but even in the dim light he could tell that the bed had no linen on it. From the temperature, the radiators were not switched on either. He flicked the light switch and opened up the solitary cupboard. Sure enough, his suit jackets were hanging there, along with his trousers and his shirts. Underwear, socks and vests had been crammed into two small drawers, and a box of tissues lay on the floor next to a couple of pairs of casual shoes.
The alarm clock lay face down on an uncovered pillow, unwound and silent. Rather like his marriage.
'Daddy, are you sleeping in here tonight?'
Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, the Brigadier, could face Cybermen, Yetis and Autons. He could send soldiers to their deaths and he could shoot someone without a second's thought. He could chastise and manipulate staff and lead a top-secret paramilitary organization attached to a Government ministry.
What Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, the father, suddenly and sinkingly realized he couldn't do was to provide a stable home for his five-year-old daughter. He couldn't answer her questions. He couldn't tell her what he did for a living. He couldn't be around when she needed him. And as that thought sank in, he understood too that his wife must have realized the same thing, many times over. He would try harder to be a better father and husband. He would.
He was still hugging Kate tightly, desperate to hold back his more dramatic emotions when Fiona marched up the stairs to tell him frostily that someone called Mrs Hawke from the office was on the telephone.
Jana Kristan was already at Hastings General Hospital, pacing up and down in the reception area of the casualty department, when the two nurses - one male, one female - walked in.
It was the precision of their step, and the way they looked in unison at everyone and everything, that alerted her. Jana was aware of the receptionist and various patients staring after them as they wordlessly marched down the corridor leading to the hospital wards, having not said a word to anyone; not even each other. The receptionist shot a look at the security officer (probably hired from some local firm, paid by the hour and only waiting for his shift to end - pathetic) but he just shrugged and carried on inspecting his copy of the Daily Sketch.
As the receptionist returned to her papers and forms, Jana gave everyone in the area a final cursory glance and followed the mysterious nurses. There had been something compelling and almost unnatural about them. It had reminded her of over-wrought dancers, incapable of casual movement. A brother-and-sister double act, perhaps? Or twins?
Jana glanced at the various doors as she walked down the off-white corridor, seeing names of doctors and specialists. Cupboards, medical examination areas and even the occasional small toilet broke the monotony of wooden doors embedded in the sterile, flat walls. There were a couple of dimly lit sub-corridors which didn't seem to go anywhere interesting, two sets of lifts, and a fire escape from the basement area.
Before long, Jana realized that not only had she no idea where she was going, but that there was no sign of the mysterious nurses. She wasn't worried that someone might ask her why she was there; she had learnt long ago that if you walk around quietly but with just enough nonchalance, people assumed you had the same right to be there as they did, and they left you alone. just in case you were more important than they were.
But for security, to complete her camouflage, as Jana passed an open door and saw a couple of white coveralls hanging there, she grabbed one, ducked into a side-corridor and quickly slipped it on, glancing at the name-tag and photo card. Hopefully no one would look too hard and see that as a six-foot blonde, Jana was hardly suited to the role of a hospital janitor, and could not really be Tommy Taftitti, presumably of Caribbean origin.
Continuing her search, Jana found herself in a ward, the curtained-off beds telling her nothing she needed to know. She considered 'accidentally blundering' into each cubicle but decided that, before long, someone would challenge her and break her disguise.
'Hey, you there.' Jana turned at the sound of a voice. A young doctor, his hair untidy and his eyes heavy with weariness, had emerged from one of the curtained booths, and was pointing angrily at a distant cupboard. 'Yes, you. Cleaner. Get me some disinfectant and a mop, there's a mess in here.'
For a moment she was tempted to ignore him, but then she thought better of it. Exaggerating her Dutch accent, she apologized and shuffled towards the cupboard. As she opened it and leant down to get the liquid, a door at the far end of the ward swung open.
It was the two nurses. She ducked down, pretending to search through the cleaning fluids as she watched them go into one of the curtained-off areas and emerge pushing a trolley with a patient on it, seemingly on their way to an operating theatre. A few overheard words exchanged between them and the young doctor confirmed this. Ah well, so much for instinct - there was hardly anything sinister about that, Jana decided. Shaking her head at her own stupidity - pathetic, she admonished herself - she lifted the disinfectant and straightened up, facing the door they had just left through.
'TO WARDS 3, 4, 5' declared the hoarding above the door.
It took a moment to sink in. Then: 'Damn!' as her brain registered the problem. All the signs for the operating theatres she had seen on her way up the corridor had indicated forward. The odd couple and their patient were going in totally the wrong direction. Wherever the strange nurses were taking their patient, it wasn't to an operating theatre.
Dropping the disinfectant, she yanked her white coat off and dashed back the way she'd come. Valuable seconds had passed - enough for the two creepy nurses to have gone in any door, down any stairwell or into either lift.
'Gaweg!' she snarled as she slammed her fist against a door. How could she have been so stupid? What were they up to? Why was she spending so much energy chasing them - unless…
She dashed back down towards the reception area. The place had cleared a lot since she was last there, and there was no queue at the desk. She stopped, breathless, in front of the receptionist.
'Hi.' She tried to smile politely. 'You know those two nurses you saw earlier?' 'I see lots of nurses,' muttered the receptionist without taking her eyes from the pile of admission forms in front of her.
'Yes, well, let's try not to be obtuse, shall we? You know which nurses I'm talking about. We both thought they looked odd.'
The receptionist slowly raised her face and Jana realized it was a different woman from the one she'd seen earlier. She swore again, under her breath this time, and turned away to look at the security guard. Who had vanished. In fact, the reception area was totally empty.
'You cleared your patients quickly, didn't you? Ten minutes ago, this place was swarming.'
The receptionist leant forward, offering a pen and one of her pieces of paper. 'You were here a few minutes back, were you? Did you fill in an admission form?'
'I am not a patient,' snapped Jana, stepping back. 'I am a… a visitor. Jana Kristan. Seeing a patient.'
'Oh. And which patient would that be?' The receptionist smiled insincerely.
Jana paused, swallowed and, despite her instincts -which she'd ignored too often today as it was - screaming for her to keep quiet, she jumped in with both feet. She opted to play the role of ignorant foreigner; it had served her well in the past. 'I am flying over from Holland. I am here to visiting my cousin, a policewoman. She was hurted in Smallmarshes.'
'And her name?' The receptionist's smile took on the falsehood of a pantomime villain's grin.
It didn't seem to be working. In a fairly blatant attempt to see if she could read the policewoman's name upside down, Jana leant towards and over the desk. The receptionist, caught by surprise, pushed her chair back to get away from the reporter.
In an instant Jana understood everything. She was trapped. The receptionist she'd seen earlier was lying face-down under the desk, a trickle of blood oozing around her ear. Whether the woman was dead or alive, Jana couldn't tell, but she immediately guessed that a similar fate had befallen the security guard and any unfortunate patients and associated relatives or friends who had been seated there ten minutes ago.
Aware that her cover had been blown, the fake receptionist tried to stand, groping across the desk for something that lay unseen under a pile of paperwork. Jana lashed out with her handbag, catching the impostor across the temple with its weight. As the nurse staggered back, Jana yanked the bag open, puffing out a small, compact blue-grey pistol with silencer out of a side-pocket.
'In case of emergencies,' Jana said, and aimed.
The fake receptionist feinted back and then dived forward, catching Jana under the chin with a swift right hook. Surprised, Jana let herself drop to the floor but twisted sideways as she fell. Coming out of the roll, she slammed into a chair and sent it skittering noisily across the waiting area. She was up on one knee, the pistol aimed and firing in less than a second.
The bullet took the fake receptionist in the forehead. She flopped down hard on her chair, a look of complete amazement etched onto her face. Jana kept the gun on her for a second, just to be on the safe side, then scattered the papers from the desk across the floor. Under the admission forms lay a small blue-grey pistol, the same model as her own. Jana stared at it, then quickly swapped her gun for the duplicate after hurriedly wiping it clear of fingerprints. The impostor, it would now seem, had been shot with her own gun.
Without waiting to check on the real receptionist or trying to find the others, Jana scooped up her discarded handbag and plopped the new pistol inside. Pausing only to catch her breath and run a hand through her hair to straighten it, she walked out of the hospital. She kept one hand inside the bag, grasping the pistol in case anyone else came towards her.
There was no one around in the car park. She began to walk purposefully towards her red Mini, then stopped almost immediately. Everything in her training told her that something was wrong.
She darted across the car park, dodging behind and between cars, heading for her Mini. When she was still ten yards from it, she heard the first two shots from behind her, audible although fired from a silenced weapon, and she dived into cover between two cars. As she cautiously looked out, two more shots followed. They weren't meant for her.
The red Mini exploded in a ball of flame which scorched her face and sucked the breath from her lungs. The door and front wheels were flung forty feet into the air before bouncing down onto the blackened gravel. Hospital windows exploded inwards and a smart MG beyond her Mini was enveloped in flames, its petrol tank erupting seconds later, shattering more windows in the surrounding area.
Amidst the confusion, screams and fire alarms, Jana nodded to herself. 'Very good. A professional job.' They knew who she was, because they knew which of the cars was hers. And she knew what sort of people normally carried those blue-grey pistols, and how formidable their resources were. It was, she thought, time to disappear again. Right now.
It was a short sprint away from the carnage and through the hospital gates, out into the rapidly filling street. No shots followed her this time. Think fast. Blend in. If you behave as if your clothes aren't singed and your face isn't burnt, nobody will notice. Past on-lookers gathering to gawp at the carnage, stunned shoppers and halted cars, she walked swiftly but unobtrusively in the direction of Hastings railway station.
Although strictly speaking it was UNIT Headquarters' laboratory, Mike Yates, like everyone else, had come to think of it as the Doctor's laboratory. It had a sense of personality and purpose when he thought of it in that way. The Doctor belonged at UNIT, in his lab, and his presence made everyone feel safer.
Although he had not long been seconded to UNIT, Mike had come to respect and trust the Doctor's judgement in most matters.
'Weird, but good,' was Jimmy Munro's one comment on the subject, when Mike asked him about his future scientific advisor at a cricket match, shortly before joining UNIT. 'I didn't get to interact with him much because I gathered from the Brigadier that he was quite ill.' Mike remembered Jimmy Munro's cryptic smile. 'Apparently he'd gone grey and grown six inches, because James Turner had known him a couple of years back, and he said the Doctor was quite small and dark.'
On the strength of that, Mike had sought out Major Turner just before he and his dolly wife had flown out to his new posting in Ceylon - or Sri Lanka, as they now had to say.
'Oh, he was just divine,' had been Mrs Turner's main comment. 'I got some smashing pictures of him in the heat of battle.'
Major Turner had coughed suddenly. 'Isobel is something of a photography student,' he explained. 'But alas, everything she took during my time as a captain with the Brigadier is covered under the Official Secrets Act. Once you're fully ensconced in UNIT's happy bosom, I'll get Isobel to send 'em on.'
Mike Yates had arrived at UNIT, wondering which former captain had perceived the Doctor correctly. Now, after having worked closely with the Doctor during their recent sojourn in the Pacific Islands, he felt that neither of the opinions he had received really began to do the man justice. He liked the Doctor, although he'd never admit it out loud, and he liked the man's rarefied form of anarchy. He enjoyed the way the Doctor could out-do the Brigadier without actually humiliating him. And he liked the Doctor's assistant, Doctor Shaw, enormously.
Maybe he could ask her out for a date.
No. Perhaps not. She seemed a bit fierce and, while Mike guessed that was mostly a professional attitude - and probably used as a defence against the Doctor's irresponsibility - he seriously doubted he had the necessary experience or patience to break her resolve.
Nice legs though.
Mike coughed as he prepared to enter the Doctor's lab. He was aware that he could be interrupting a vastly important experiment requiring non-moving air molecules (the cause of Corporal Nutting's most recent telling off) or a heated discussion between the Doctor and Doctor Shaw. On the occasions this had happened, the debate had been so far beyond Mike's sixteen-plus in General Science that he'd had no idea whether he'd intruded on the start, middle or end of the conversation.
Taking a deep breath, he knocked lightly on the green double doors and pushed them open.
'Sorry to interrupt, Doctor, but -'
He found himself alone in the laboratory. The windows were shut, the hatchway above the spiral steps seemed to be bolted from the inside, and the benches were free of any signs of ongoing experiments. The Doctor's cape was gone from the hat-stand near the window overlooking the canal. The window through which Mike had often found the scientist staring, miles away from anything or anyone.
'Oh,' he said aloud, feeling rather foolish.
The telephone rang, on the desk near the window, next to the funny police box that the Doctor kept there. It rang again as he considered whether he should answer it, and reached for the receiver.
'Hello, UNIT laboratory, can I help you?'
'Is Liz Shaw there, please?' The voice was distant, polite and well-educated.
'Not at the moment,' Mike replied. 'May I take a message for her?'
The phone went dead. 'Oh,' Mike said again. He replaced the receiver, shrugged his shoulders and turned to head back to the Duty Office where John Benton was setting out the Scrabble set. 'Must remember to tell Doctor Shaw that her father, or someone, rang for her.'
Marc Marshall was not sure what happened after the policewoman hit the wall. Not really.
He had a strange feeling of light-headedness, almost like floating. It reminded him of when he'd been ill about two years previously, with glandular fever. Drifting in and out of deep sleep, his mother's face fading in and out of focus. Everything feeling heavy, slurred and sepia-toned.
That's how he felt in the bathroom of the old house. That's how he felt when the three-eyed creature had placed him over its shoulder and carried him past the still woman. Was she dead? He didn't know. Marc tried to focus on what that meant. Dead. Someone was dead? He'd never seen anyone dead before but despite the novelty, somehow he couldn't hold onto the thought. Couldn't concentrate on anything. He was drifting -
He was jolted into complete wakefulness by the sea. More specifically, by being dropped face-first into it. Coughing and spluttering as the salt water rushed into his mouth, he tried to get up, to stagger away. But it was dark now, and the sea-shore was deserted apart from him and his captor, who was holding him down. All he could see was a pair of dark shoes.
No, not shoes. Feet. But strange feet. Mud-brown over green leather… with three toes.
Not leather - scales. Like fish. Or snakes.
Marc panicked, splashing backwards as far as he could go, and wriggled enough that the weight on his back was eased. As he felt the pressure relax, he pushed himself up, flipping back and landing on his backside.
And then he saw it. It. Whatever it was, it certainly was not a human - no fancy-dress costume could be that good. Besides, there was something about it that he was sure he remembered seeing before -. somewhere, a long time ago…
Mamma! Where is mamma? Have the Devilbacks got her? What about the others? Was everyone caught except him? Trapped in the strange cages with wood-that-isn't-wood that moves by itself barring the exit. The Devilbacks stare hard, stare with their red eye and the wood-that-isn't-wood entraps them all. That must be what happened to mamma and the others. Mamma! 'Mum! Help!' Marc stared up at the creature, trembling in terror. Somehow he knew it would hurt him. The third eye, there in the centre of its forehead - he knew it, he'd seen it before.
And the mouth, where was its mouth? Was that hole with the flap a mouth or nose? How did it hear without ears? It had fins that flicked back, stretching out behind its head. Why was he even thinking about this? It had to be a dream? It had to be -
Marc tried rationalizing it - what he saw simply could not be real. So why did he recognize it?
The scaly green reptile moved towards him. It was wrapped in a strange vest that hung to its knees. And then Marc realized he, too, was wearing a long vest. His normal clothes were beside him, wrapped in something that looked like plastic. Why wasn't he cold? Or very wet, for that matter?
'Where are my clothes? Who are you?' Marc had read stories in the papers. Young boys and girls abducted and sexually assaulted. Mum and Dad always told him to be careful of strange people. Was this reptile thing going to sexually assault him? Marc was not naive when it came to sex but nevertheless he didn't know exactly what a sexual assault was. Steve Merrett once said it was a kick in the goolies but Marc thought it had to be far worse than that. Sexually assaulted kids usually ended up dead.
'Please. I don't want to die.' Please don't kill me. Take me back to mamma. Back to the place with wood-that-isn't-wood. Please don't hurt me. Please don't stare at me and burn me. Please? Mamma!
Marc shuddered, but not with cold. It was something else. Something about the sight of this monster. It made him more frightened than he ever thought anything could. He wanted to ask it to let him go. To let him go home to Salford, to Mum and Dad and their awful society parties. To let him ring Aunty Eve, at least.
'Please don't hurt me.'
The thing held out a three-clawed hand. In it was a tiny box; For a split second Marc thought he saw the extra eye in the thing's head glow red but he was distracted by a sound from the box. Three chimes, in descending pitch. Over and over again. He became transfixed by the sound, and it seemed to fill his mind. His eyes blotted out everything else except the box. His ears stopped hearing the waves, the wind, even the heavy breathing of the thing. Just those three notes, like a flute.
That sound, from the noise-box - that awful sound. No! It meant they were calling it. The King Monster. Mamma said it would eat anyone who went near it, even the Devilbacks. King Monster would eat other Monsters, including the ones the Devilbacks used. The Pair-Hunters were the only ones who could fight back. The noise-box called the Pair-Hunters, too. Mamma said they were worse than King Monster because they were cleverer. Mamma said they got Papa. One tracked him down and though he was safe in the bushes, it saw him and stared at him. Mamma said he forgot the most evil thing about the Pair-Hunters - while he watched the one in front, the one he didn't see went around behind. Mamma said Papa never saw it. The tribe tried to save him but the Pair-Hunters were too fast and Papa was gone. Then the Devilbacks used the noise-box to call thePair-Hunters back to their camp. Mamma said that if I ever heard the noise-box, I should run away as fast as I could. Hide in the trees, or under the bushes, but get away from whatever was being called. I can hear the noise-box now but there's nowhere to run and I can hear King Monster growling and…
Marc screamed, and held his hand to his head, and tried to get up. He had to stop the noise. Had to stop… stop whatever was being summoned from coming. He had to stop the noise.
It is screaming, making the noise their hairy ancestors made whenever the calling devices were activated. Chukk said they were advanced now, almost to our levels. So why is this hatchling screaming? I must stop it, but how? Last time I tried, the older male on the cliff-top died. I must use less force.
Concentrate. Stop screaming! Concentrate.
It has stopped. The hatchling is quiet now. It is staring at me. I managed - at last I managed to turn its brain off without killing it.
Now, where is Sula?
Police Sergeant Robert Lines was known to his colleagues as Quiet Man Bob. Right now he was aware that they were staring at him aghast, waiting for him to ruin his reputation by exploding in frustration at the over-dressed man standing at the front desk.
Smallmarshes Police Station was not a particularly large building. It housed two interview rooms, a tiny mess and a shared resource area which doubled as Bob's administrative office, where messages were relayed from the Hastings CID Room.
The station also possessed a rather small and antiquated reception area, decorated with anti-crime posters, and anti-rabies adverts. To one side was a hatchway built into the wall, through which he was currently leaning, his knuckles whitening as they gripped the edge of the hatch. On the wall was a white clock which informed Bob that it was ten past eleven, and time he sent his officers home to their wives and children. They'd all had a hell of a day, and the last thing any of them needed was this.
'Look, I am very sorry, sir, but it is a police matter and not one for civilians, no matter how well-intentioned.' He forced himself to smile at the tall, white-haired gentleman facing him. He was a weird one, Bob was sure. Well over six feet tall, with straw hair rapidly giving way to pure white; probably in his early fifties. He had a lined face, its most prominent features a long beaky nose and a pair of piercing blue eyes that seemed about to pop out of his head. His clothes were astonishing, and very eccentric. Almost Edwardian in appearance, he wore a white frilly shirt and a royal-blue velvet smoking-jacket under a long black cape with red silk lining.
The eccentric smiled back at him. 'If we could talk privately, Sergeant, I'm sure I could persuade -'
'We are talking in private, Mister -?'
'Doctor, actually.' The tall man, pointed at one of the interview rooms visible behind the hatchway. 'Just the two of us?'
Sergeant Lines sighed and relaxed his grip on the sill of the hatch, wriggling his fingers to get the circulation flowing again. If only his goodwill could flow as easily. He nodded at the doorway to the left of the hatch.
The Doctor thanked him and opened the door, marching past the sergeant and straight into the small interview room.
Before Sergeant Lines had a chance to speak, the Doctor thrust an identity card into his hand. He stared at it, but apart from a recognizable photograph of the Doctor, the wording meant nothing.
'I'm sorry, Doctor, but I've never heard of this UNIT. What exactly do they do?'
The Doctor flopped into one of the hard wooden chairs. 'Save lives, mostly.'
'Sort of medical, then?' Sergeant Lines decided that since it looked like he was in for a long session, he ought to try and pretend to be hospitable. He picked up the internal phone on the table and pressed a switch. The faint buzz from his own office came through the receiver and the door behind him. After a second it was answered. 'Bob Lines here, Pat,' he said unnecessarily. 'I know it's late, but could you pop a pot of tea for two into IR2 please? Thanks, love.'
The Doctor got up. 'I really don't have time for tea, Sergeant. There are things going on in Smallmarshes that need investigating.'
Bob Lines nodded slowly, sat in the opposite chair and motioned for the Doctor to sit again.
'Indeed there are, Doctor. But right now, you say you've driven all the way from London, with some information about what happened to WPC Redworth.' There was a knock on the door and WPC Patricia Haggard came in with a tray of teacups, milk and sugar along with a large black teapot. Thanking her, he shoved the door shut and poured two cups.
'Milk and sugar?'
Bob raised an eyebrow. 'Now, Doctor, let's start at the beginning. Who exactly are you, why are you here, what do you know about what's happened, and why should I be interested in this UNIT set-up?'
The Doctor swung his long legs up onto the table.
With a flick of his shoulders his cape fell off, draping itself over the back of his seat. He began massaging the back of his neck. 'Well, that's a little difficult to explain, Sergeant. UNIT is attached to the Government and, as such, comes under the Official Secrets Act. However, I can tell you I am here because of the circumstances of WPC Redworth's injuries. We received a report that made me believe a visit was necessary.' He smiled widely. 'What was your other question?'
Sergeant Lines shrugged. 'Just "who are you?" However, I've no doubt that the answer to that is shrouded by the Official Secrets Act as well.'
The Doctor nodded apologetically. 'You'll just have to trust me, Sergeant. I'm on the side of the angels.'
Sergeant Lines sighed and swigged his tea. 'All right, Doctor, but this is against my better judgement. Barbara Redworth was last seen healthy at fifteen forty-five this afternoon. We had been sent, along with the Hastings division where she was based, to investigate the death of a DAO on the cliff-top.'
The Doctor held up a hand. 'DOA? Dead on Arrival?'
'No,' Bob Lines said. 'DAO is vernacular for Down and Out. We knew the deceased as Jossey but it turns out he was once a film star called Justin Grayson. His cause of death has not been certified yet.' He finished off his tea and offered the Doctor a top-up, which was declined.
Bob paused, drank some more, and continued: 'WPC Redworth was seen by one of my colleagues entering the derelict Seaview Cottage. She didn't come out, a couple of my lads raised the alarm, and she was found hunched upstairs, drawing pictures on the wall. No one could get any sense out of her. I understand from the ambulance crew that she became quite aggressive when they took her out of the house.'
'Had she been attacked? Was she injured in any way?'
Bob Lines held his hands up. 'I can't answer that, Doctor. I'm not a, er, doctor.'
The Doctor rubbed his neck again. 'All right, that's the official line. What's your opinion?'
The sergeant considered that for a moment. It seemed fair enough. In a strange way, he'd begun to trust this strange man. 'This is off the record, Doctor. I must ask you not to use my opinions as facts in any way. In fact, I'd rather you forgot I ever gave them.'
The Doctor concurred and Sergeant Lines continued:
'She may have been attacked. I'm confident Redworth wasn't sexually assaulted. When I saw her in the ambulance, her clothes were dirty and wet -
'Yes, wet. She was found huddled in a filthy bathroom, next to a bath full of murky stale water. A lot of it had got splashed onto her as well as the floor. To be frank… ' Lines chewed his bottom lip for a moment before carrying on: 'To be frank, I wondered if she caught something contagious from the water.'
The Doctor shrugged. 'That would be a very fast reaction if she did. No water-borne disease could cause such an immediate effect, to my knowledge.'
Sergeant Lines drank more tea. 'The ambulance men agree with you, as it happens. Anyway, after that, she was shipped off to Hastings General Hospital, and we'll hear more in the morning.'
The Doctor stood up. 'Right, let's go, then.'
Sergeant Lines stared up at him in puzzlement. 'Where? The hospital? It's far too late in the evening.'
The Doctor shook his head. 'Good grief, I don't need to go to the hospital. No, I want you to take me to this Seaview Cottage. I presume you are sure that her assailant, if there is one, has gone.'
Sergeant Lines nodded. 'We searched the place from top to bottom. No one there at all. If it wasn't for the bruising on her face, which the ambulance men were adamant had come from a heavy blow, we'd have assumed she'd had, well, a breakdown of sorts.' The Doctor began pacing to and fro across the small room. 'The bag she picked up. Where is it?'
Sergeant Lines shrugged. 'Hastings, I presume. Shall I get it sent over?'
'Yes, please. Now, about this cottage.'
'Hold on, Doctor,' said Lines, holding his hands up again. 'It's nearly midnight. Now, I'm happy to help you, but not tonight. It's dark, we're all tired, and that building is so dilapidated, it's a death trap. There's no light, heating or even power lines to jury-rig anything onto. First thing tomorrow, I'll meet you here and we'll go up there with a couple of the boys.' He stared at the Doctor, anticipating a heated reply. 'But not tonight.'
'You are absolutely correct, Sergeant. I'll see you here at seven thirty?'
Sergeant Lines thought of a warm bed, a warm wife, and warm tea and toast. He also thought of his usual eight o'clock shower. Then he thought about Barbara Redworth. 'Seven thirty it is. Can I ask one question, Doctor?'
'Be my guest.'
'How did you, or the mysterious UNIT, find out about this?'
As the Doctor threw his cape back over his shoulders, he took a large manila envelope from an inside pocket. 'Your police photographer, I presume. Someone had the good sense to pass them to a higher authority, who passed them on to UNIT And me.'
Sergeant Lines frowned as he glanced through the photographs. 'These weren't taken by a police photographer. Joe from Hastings photographed the corpse, but he'd gone by the time Redworth was found.'
The Doctor stared at him, then opened the door and walked out into the corridor, nodding a greeting at Pat, who nipped in behind him to collect the tea things. 'I'm sure it doesn't matter. I'll see you tomorrow morning, Sergeant. Thank you for your help.'
Sergeant Lines and Pat, tea things in hand, watched him go back into the reception area and then out into the warm night. The door closed and they were alone in the station. It seemed unnaturally quiet and peaceful after the day's chaos.
'Who was that exactly, Sarge?'
Bob Lines smiled grimly. 'I've no idea, Pat. But I'll tell you this: I've had some nutters come into this nick with wild improbable stories in my time, but no one's ever been as convincing or direct as him. I've no clue who he is, but I'm going to help him because I think he knows more than we do about what's going on.'
Pat slid the hatchway shut. 'You mean he's got the answers?'
Sergeant Lines turned the lights off. 'Yeah. He just hasn't got the questions.'
The Sandybeach Hotel was not exactly the height of luxury or haute cuisine, but the Doctor had already investigated the quality of the cheese and wine it stocked and, for an out-of-season seaside bed-and-breakfast, it stood up to his scrutiny remarkably well.
When he had checked in, a surly landlord had taken his crisp new notes - obtained from the UNIT accounts' office - and had offered him the 'customary welcoming glass of vino'. Despite the dingyness of the bar area, with flowered wallpaper and newspaper cuttings about local theatres pinned to a cork board, the two men were soon engaged in a long and hard discussion about the best wines, where to obtain them and how best to store them. The landlord had looked bewildered when the Doctor had described 'a pleasant little vinegar he'd picked up on Elbyon' but had chosen to ignore it, and pour another glass of the palatable house red instead.
The Doctor now stood outside the darkened hotel, staring up at the window of his room-with-a-view. He felt for the front-door key in one of his cape pockets and as his fingers felt the contours of it, something made him turn back towards the cliff-side. Further up the long cliff path, he could just make out the shape of the lonely cottage on the cliff-edge, where Barbara Redworth had obviously seen something. Whatever it was, it had caused her to start drawing pictures similar to the ones he had seen during the incident at Wenley Moor a few months earlier.
And the Doctor knew he could not wait until seven thirty in the morning to find out. As the town clock chimed midnight, he gathered his cape tightly around him to keep out the cold sea wind and walked up towards Bessie. It took him a few minutes to reach the car, which was parked in a small lay-by at the foot of the cliff road, and opened the boot to extract a powerful torch. He tested it, sending a strong beam of white light into the dark skies above. Without the glow from orange city lights to obscure them, the stars flickered back in their incalculable numbers.
Using the light of the torch to guide him, he made his way along the narrow road, out of the town and up towards the remote cottage. As soon as the penumbra of the last street-light had faded, he turned back and scanned the street behind him. The man who had been following him since he left the hotel was no longer in sight. Perhaps it had been someone out late, catching a last breath of sea air before retiring. But the man hadn't looked or dressed like a local, and something at the edge of the Doctor's mind told him he was still being watched.
Not that it mattered, he thought. With his impeccable taste in clothes, it wouldn't be the first time that he had been followed by someone overcome with sartorial curiosity and awe. Given the way the seventies seemed to be going, he expected it to happen a lot more often in the next few years. The important thing for him at this stage was to investigate the cottage. He turned and strode off up the slope.
As he approached the building, he saw the blue-and-white striped tape cordoning off the whole area. His torch picked out a crude sign attached to the tape, politely informing the public that this was a police investigation area, it was unsafe, and they should stay well away.
Ignoring the warning, he ducked underneath and walked to the front door. His sonic screwdriver made quick work of dismantling the simple padlock, and he pushed the door open.
Like WPC Redworth, the Doctor quickly noted the fabric of the sofa-covering which had been melted into the window frames. He ran a finger along the join. Definitely Silurian.
He made straight for the upstairs bathroom, but there was little to see there. Some of the bath-water had clearly evaporated. More material had been fused to the window, but a corner of it had been pulled away, revealing deep gouges in the plaster-work.
After a further ten minutes of searching, he had discovered very little. It was not until he was back downstairs, preparing to leave, that he saw the cellar entrance. It would have been easy to miss; a hatchway set into the stone floor of the ruined kitchenette, looking exactly like one of the flagstones except for two small recessed handles, made of rusted metal.
The Doctor slipped his fingers under the handles at either end and pulled up with a sharp tug. The trapdoor did not budge, but the corroded metal at one end gave way and be fell backwards, landing heavily on his backside, the cellar door unmoved.
He knelt over it, running his finger over the grooves around the edge. The police had clearly noticed it - there was fingerprint dust near the handles, revealing nothing -but, like him, they had failed to open it. Sergeant Lines would probably claim that as it had been unopened for so long, it would probably stay shut for ever.
The Doctor stared at it. The flagstone floor was much older than the rest of the cottage, so there must have been a building here long before the present one was built. A cellar in such an old building in a place like this would have been a passage or hideaway for smugglers or their wares, probably during the seventeenth century. In which case, there would be a bolt or lock on the underside, to foil the Customs men. Setting his sonic screwdriver to a pulse, he passed it around the four sides until there was a bleep, like sonar, registering something beneath. Resetting the device, he concentrated on that area over the bolt, a thin cutting beam quickly severing the unseen bolt in two.
Seconds later the hatch was up and the Doctor was descending the damp wooden steps. At the bottom, dry sand formed a path leading into the gloom. The Doctor suspected that it would eventually lead to a concealed cave on the beach, hidden from the sight of any observers on the cliff-top such as Customs men.
Checking his torch's power levels, he set off. Whatever had been in the house had clearly used this route. His suspicions were soon confirmed when he found two distinctive three-clawed footprints in the increasingly damp sand.
He was dealing with another colony of Silurians. Would they be hostile or relaxed? Would they allow him to mediate with the humans, as he'd tried to once before?
Before any of these questions could begin to be answered, he heard a cry, unmistakably a young boy or girl in trouble. He ran out of the tunnel and onto the blustery sea-shore.
The first thing he registered was the familiar sound from a three-note Silunan calling-box, carried on the wind. Flashing his torch in the right direction, he caught a glimpse of a Silurian talking to what appeared to be a half-naked human. A teenaged boy.
He switched his torch off. Something was stirring in the sea. He watched, fascinated, as another Silurian, also in a long mesh-like garment, rose from the waves. The Doctor noted that like the dry Silurian, this one had features slightly different from the ones he had encountered in Wenley, most notably two fins instead of ears, growing out and backwards.
'Hello?' he called. 'Hello, I want to help. I know who you are and -,'
The Silurian from the sea was the only one that heard him. With a shriek, it turned and pointed at him. Its third eye began to glow red, its head moving rhythmically from side to side.
The Doctor saw the first Silurian stop talking to the boy and begin to run towards him. A second later, as the full effect of the Silurian eye-blast hit, he fell gasping to his knees.
'I want to help you all,' he gasped and then, with a small choking gurgle, fell face-down into the wet sand.
The damp Silurian walked over and kicked at the Doctor's prostrate body.
'Ape vermin. You will all be wiped out.'
Again, the Silurian aimed its third eye. The Doctor, gasping in hard and shallow breaths, began to writhe under the onslaught.