The secret in the cellar by ElsieMcC
Summary: Ten year old Kate Lethbridge Stewart is disappointed to be stranded at school for the half-term holiday. She soon finds out, however, that something strange is happening and decides to investigate.
Categories: Third Doctor
Characters: Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Jo Grant, Other Character(s), Sergeant Benton
Series: Kate's early adventures
The secret in the cellar by ElsieMcC
Chapter 1: Chapter 1Author's Notes:
Kate Lethbridge Stewart sat on the seat in the bay window of the school library and looked out disconsolately. It was bad enough, she told herself, that Dad had called at the last minute to say he couldn’t come and meet her, but for Mummy to be away too seemed particularly unfair. Kate put down the book she had not been trying very hard to read and muttered,
“Bother Great Aunt Morag. Why did she have to go and get it ill? It’s not fair!”
Having got that out of her system, Kate looked around to check that she hadn’t been overheard. She got up and put the book back on the shelf, feeling slightly guilty. She knew that Dad’s job was important, and he might be called away at any time and she didn’t really dislike her Great Aunt, it was just that… Kate sighed impatiently and tried to push the thoughts away. There was nothing she could do about it, she was stuck at school for half-term, and she would just have to make the best of it. At least she could have the library to herself and Miss Styles, the Headmistress, and Miss Springer, the art mistress were also staying on, so she wasn’t completely alone. Not that teachers could really be called companions. To ten-year-old Kate, her teachers were old and, therefore, couldn’t really be expected to understand the trials and tribulations of a small girl. Kate sighed again and lifted her chin, in imitation of her father’s military bearing. Lethbridge Stewarts weren’t supposed to mope around when things went against them, they were supposed to do the best they could. Kate ran her hand along the edge of the shelf and chose another book, then went back to her seat and began to read, losing herself in the adventures of Biggles and his friends. Despite sharing her classmates’ burgeoning interest in pop music, and having secret soft spot for a certain young actor in her favourite television programme, Kate’s choice of reading matter remained determinedly old fashioned. As she turned the pages the library seemed to fade around her and she was at the heart of the action. The sound of a bell woke her from her trance and she tucked the book under her arm and went out of the library and towards the dining hall for lunch.
As she approached the dining hall, Kate heard voices inside and paused before opening the door. As she stood with one hand on the door handle, she heard one of the voices say,
“Well, it’s a total nuisance. We could have finished the repairs this weekend, but now we have to babysit.”
Kate frowned. The voice was that of the art mistress, but different from her usual tones. This voice was sharper and had an angry edge to it. A second voice, calmer, and lower in tone cut in.
“Nonsense. She won’t be any trouble. And keep your voice down, she’ll be here any minute.”
Kate waited for a moment longer, then pushed open the door, pretending that she hadn’t heard anything. As she entered, the head mistress turned in her seat and smiled.
“There you are, my dear. Come and sit down and we’ll make a start.”
Kate managed to smile back, noticing that Miss Springer’s smile seemed tight and her cheeks flushed. The schoolgirl sat down at the table and her headmistress served her with helpings of stew, mashed potato and green beans from dishes on the table. Kate said “thank you,” then opened her library book and picked up her knife and fork. Reading at the table wasn’t permitted in term time, but Miss Styles had decided that , rather than have each meal descend into a series of awkward silences, she would allow Kate to read while she ate during her half term confinement. Kate’s eyes were following the words on the page, but her thoughts were elsewhere. Uppermost in her mind, embarrassment fought with anger over being described as a ‘nuisance.’ It wasn’t her fault she had to stay at school. Underneath her hurt feelings was curiosity. What did Miss Springer mean when she said they would ‘finish the repairs?’ Why would her being there stop them from doing that? As Kate’s temper cooled, her curiosity grew, and she tried to imagine what her teachers might be working on that needed repair. A car? A motorbike? A sudden mental image of the headmistress and art mistress sharing a motorbike and side car made Kate’s lunch go down the wrong way and she coughed and reached for her glass of water. Miss Styles, who had been talking to her colleague in low tones, got up and came to pat her pupil on the back.
“Are you alright, Kate? Here, have some more water. You must be careful not to bolt your food.”
“Yes…” gasped Kate, “Yes, thank you. I’m sorry.”
“Good,” replied the headmistress, “Now, if you’ve finished, why don’t you go out into the garden for a while?”
Kate had been at school long enough to know that this was an order, rather than a request, so she got up, pushed her chair in carefully and departed, taking her book with her. A fresh breeze was blowing when she reached the garden, but there were several sheltered nooks among the shrubs that filled the area in front of the house, and Kate tucked herself away in one of them which gave her a view of the school buildings.
The Wellington School was housed in what had been a small country house. Originally located on the outskirts of London, the school had been evacuated, lock, stock and barrel during the war, and had remained afterwards, when the purchase of the property had been secured. The school had been founded towards the end of the 19th century to provide education and accommodation for the daughters of military families, whatever the rank or status of the parents, and, by and large, it still fulfilled this function. The main building was a red brick edifice, with an imposing pillared portico. The former stable block, which stood to one side, had been reorganized as the school laboratories and workshops and a large shed did duty as a garage for any vehicles belonging to the staff as well as the lawnmower and other sundry gardening tools. There were one or two other outbuildings, all of which were forbidden to the pupils and which, therefore had become sources of mystery and legend, as had the cellars, where, the older girls assured the younger, unnamed horrors lurked, ready to prey on the unwary. Pulling her blazer more closely around her, Kate opened her book again, only to look up as a sudden movement caught her eye. As she watched, Kate saw the art mistress come out of the main door and make her way briskly along the front of the building. At first Kate assumed that her teacher must be going to sort something out in the art studios, but she was surprised to see Miss Springer look carefully around her and then disappear down the steps that led to the cellar. Taking care to stay hidden by the bushes, Kate got up and carefully crept closer, craning forward to see through the branches. She could just make out the door at the bottom of the steps and see that it was open and that there seemed to be a light on inside. The sound of the wind through the leaves drowned out any sound from the cellar and, seeing the light blotted out by the figure of her teacher coming out, Kate ducked further down behind the bush and stayed hidden until she was sure the coast was clear. Deciding that she had better give herself an alibi (Sherlock Holmes also featured largely in Kate’s reading) she ran over to the playground, a tarmacked area close to the stables, and sat down on a swing. As she pushed herself slowly backwards and forwards with her feet, she considered what she had just seen. Could Miss Springer have been going to the cellar to look at the thing that needed repairing? Perhaps the heating had gone wrong. But then the caretaker would need to fix that, wouldn’t he? Kate stopped swinging and frowned. Whatever Miss Springer was doing, she hadn’t wanted to be seen. It was a mystery and, as far as Kate was concerned, mysteries were there to be investigated. She wasn’t exactly sure how she would go about it, but she was determined to find out more about whatever was happening in that cellar.
Miss Styles looked up as the door of her office opened and her colleague came in. Olivia Springer sat down in an armchair and brushed back the curls that had fallen forward over her face.
“And?” asked her superior.
“All safe still, holding steady. Just the last few wires to connect and then the system test to run and we’ll be done.”
The headmistress, who had been looking tense, sighed and relaxed.
“Good, I was worried. And nobody saw you?”
“No. Not even the brat.”
“You mustn’t call her that, it isn’t her fault she got wished on us like this, she’s a very bright girl.”
“Yes, too bright. We’ll need to keep an eye on her.”
“And we will. It’s only a couple more days. What time is it?”
“She ought to be indoors, it’s none too warm out there. I’d better go and fetch her in.”
Miss Springer laughed,
“Yes, off you go and do your head teacherly duty! Why not give her some cocoa, that’ll send her off to sleep nicely and we can get on.”
“Actually, that mightn’t be a bad idea for later. For the time being she can go and do some drawing in the library.”
“Right, I’ll put the stuff out for her.”
Miss Styles went out to find Kate, chide her gently for staying out too long and letting herself get cold and then bring her back inside to the library where Miss Springer had set out some drawing paper and coloured pencils for her to amuse herself with until supper time. Kate began by drawing portraits of some of her father’s team, including Jo Grant and Sergeant Benton, who were particular friends of hers, and the mysterious Doctor with his frilly shirt and velvet coat. Thinking of UNIT made her think of home, though, so she changed her mind and spent the rest of the time drawing wild landscapes full of dinosaurs and strange creatures, inspired by the stories the Doctor had told her about his adventures. Kate was fairly sure the stories weren’t true, but it was hard to tell with the Doctor, and, anyway, they made for a good picture. The tea bell interrupted her artistic endeavours, so Kate folded her drawings and tucked them away in her pocket, then cleared up the pencils into their box. Miss Styles, who had come to collect her pupil, nodded and said,
“Good girl. That’ll do for now. If there’s time after supper you can come back for a while before your bath, but I think you’d probably better read in bed, you did get yourself cold out there and we don’t want you catching a chill.”
Kate said nothing, but allowed herself to be ushered back to the dining room, where she made short work of cheese on toast and a glass of milk. Supper was followed by a bath and then bed, The headmistress turned off the main dormitory lights, but let Kate keep her bedside lamp on to read by.
“Not too long, now. I’ll be up again later on and I don’t want to catch you sitting up all night!”
said Miss Styles with a smile. Kate returned the smile and said,
“No, I won’t,” knowing as she said it that she was lying and that Miss Styles probably knew that she was. The headmistress merely nodded, however, and went out, closing the dormitory door softly behind her. She had resisted her subordinate’s suggestion that she lock Kate in for the night, hoping instead that the meal and the dim light would soon send the small girl to sleep.
Having seen her charge safely into bed, Miss Styles went quietly and quickly downstairs to where Miss Springer was waiting.
“You’ve been ages. Come and have dinner and then we’d better get going.”
“Oh, very well.”
“You’re not getting cold feet are you?”
Andrea Styles gave an almost guilty start and said hastily,
“no, no of course not.”
“Good, because it’ll need both of us to finish the job. He said so.”
“It, then. But never mind that. Come and eat and we can go downstairs once you’ve checked on the sleeping beauty.”
Miss Styles followed her colleague into the dining room, frowning as she did so. She hadn’t lied when she said she still wanted to carry on with their project, but the almost feverish enthusiasm of Olivia, coupled with the spite that she had shown towards Kate Lethbridge Stewart, was making the headmistress wonder if she had ever really known her friend at all, or whether this new, rather unpleasant Olivia had always been there and she just hadn’t noticed her before. The teachers ate their evening meal in silence, then, with a nod to Miss Springer, Miss Styles got up and went to upstairs to check on her pupil.
As an experienced reader of books after she was supposed to have laid down, Kate was alert for the sound of an approaching adult. As soon as she heard Miss Style’s footsteps coming along the corridor, she put her head down on her pillow and closed her eyes, leaving her book open under her hand and the bedside light on. Miss Styles entered the dormitory and smiled as she saw Kate, apparently having fallen asleep while reading. She drew the book out gently and placed it on the bedside cupboard, then switched off the lamp. Kate didn’t stir, but kept her eyes closed and tried to breathe slowly and regularly. After the door closed behind the headmistress, Kate stayed where she was for a few moments, just in case Miss Styles decided to come back in, then, when the coast seemed clear, sat up in bed and got her torch out of the drawer of her bedside cupboard. She carefully set her bedtime companion, a noble and well-loved teddy bear named Horace, to one side and switched on the torch to look at her watch. Half past nine. Kate put the torch down beside her, ready to switch it off at a moment’s notice, and considered her tactics. Should she try and investigate the cellar now? If her teachers were going to do work down there without being seen, it would make sense for them to be doing so at night. On the other hand, if she was caught out of bed and in the lower part of the house, she would have to have a very good excuse for being there. She had been at the school for three years now, so she could hardly pretend that she was lost. Could she pretend to have been sleepwalking? Kate frowned and looked at Horace as if seeking confirmation, then sighed. She felt that pretending to sleepwalk would probably only convince a teacher in a book and that Horace agreed with her. Miss Springer in particular seemed much too sharp to fall for that kind of thing. So... she wanted a drink of water and went the wrong way in the dark? That might work. Or it might not. Kate put her arms round Horace and rested her chin on his head. This sort of thing seemed to be so much easier in stories. Suddenly, she held her breath. There was a noise. Not very loud, but not like anything she had heard in the school before. Without really thinking about it, Kate slipped out of bed and, picking up her torch, went to the dormitory door. By the time she got there, she had made up her mind. She would try and work out where the noise was coming from and, if it seemed to be coming from the cellars, she would know that something was afoot down there (with a memory of her last Sherlock Holmes reading) and she would try and investigate that in the daytime. If anyone saw her, she would say she had woken up and had to get up and had heard the noise on her way to the bathroom. Kate turned and waved to Horace, then went out into the corridor.
It was not completely dark in the corridor. The lights were set on a low glow for the night, to show a path for anyone who needed to be up, and to soothe nervous sleepers. Kate was glad not to have to use her torch, but she gripped the handle as she walked carefully to the head of the main staircase. At the top of the stairs, she paused and listened. There it was again. The noise wasn’t especially loud, but it was persistent. A low, humming, throbbing sound. Kate stood still, searching her memory for where she might have heard the sound before. It wasn’t a car, or a lorry engine, or a jeep. It didn’t sound like the hum of the electrical substation at UNIT HQ, or the whirr of factory machinery that she had seen on a class visit. In a strange way it was like a combination of two or even three of those things. Whatever was causing the noise, it was definitely coming from downstairs. As the coast seemed clear, Kate decided to explore a bit further. Holding the banister, she carefully made her way downstairs and then walked across the main entrance hall, wincing as her bare feet touched the cold tiles. The noise was louder down here, Kate could hear a pulsing note that seemed to make the floor under her feet vibrate. She went through an open door to the left of the hall, and followed the corridor down towards the kitchen. Just before the entrance to the kitchen was a door that concealed a flight of steps that led down to the cellars. This door was usually kept locked, to deter inquisitive children and prevent accidents, but Kate could see that, although the door was closed, the bolt that usually secured it was drawn back. So, they were in the cellar. Kate held her breath again and put her ear against the door. She felt the wood of the door vibrating as she touched it and drew back, then went forward again. She couldn’t hear any voices, just the pulsing of whatever it was her teachers were working on. Suddenly the noise began to increase, the pulsing got quicker and there was a shout from the cellar. Kate ran back the way she came as quickly as she could, along the corridor, up the stairs and into bed. As she pulled up the bedclothes there was a loud bang and the corridor lights went out. Her courage used up, Kate squeaked and dived under the covers, pulling Horace with her. She curled up, her arms round Horace and shivered. After a few moments the shivers subsided, but Kate stayed curled up. She heard footsteps again and poked her head out of the bedclothes, just in time to see Miss Styles open the dormitory door and put her head round it.
“Kate, my dear, are you alright? I’m so sorry about the noise.”
Kate sat up and looked at her teacher.
“What was it? I heard a bang and I didn’t know what it was.”
Miss Styles came into the room and sat down on the end of the bed. Kate noticed that she was wearing overalls and had a smudge of grease on one cheek. The headmistress reached out a hand, but Kate kept her arms wrapped round herself and Horace. Miss Styles smiled at Kate and said,
“I’m very sorry the noise frightened you. It seems that a fuse has blown. It’s too dark to repair it now, but Miss Springer will call Mr. Hopkirk in the morning (Mr. Hopkirk was the school caretaker) and he will replace the fuse.”
“Oh. I didn’t know that fuses were so loud,” replied Kate, looking at her teacher with wide eyes.
“Sometimes they are, and this was one of those times. The lights will be out until the morning, have you got your torch handy?”
“Yes,” said Kate, glad that she had put her torch down on the bedside cupboard.
“Good. Now, do you think you can go back to sleep again?”
“I … I think so,” said Kate, hesitantly, her mind whirling with what had happened and what she had just been told.
“Good girl. You get back to sleep and try not to think any more about it. It was only a silly fuse and we’ll get it fixed tomorrow morning.”
“OK.” Kate snuggled down under the covers and put her head on her pillow again. Miss Styles stood up and went to the door, where she paused.
“Were you awake when you heard the noise, or did it wake you up?” she asked.
Kate thought rapidly.
“I’d just woken up, I think. I was just thinking if I needed to get up and go to the bathroom, but then …"
“Ah, I see. So, you didn’t hear anything else that worried you?”
“No,” said Kate, with what her father described as her ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ expression on. She burrowed her head into the pillow and said, “thank you for coming to tell me.”
“You funny girl. You’re welcome. Now off you go to sleep.”
The headmistress closed the door quietly and walked down the corridor. Her colleague was waiting for her on the stairs.
“Frightened the life out of her, but she didn’t hear anything except the bang. I told her it was a blown fuse.”
“And she swallowed that?”
“Yes. She’ll be asleep again soon, but we’d better leave it for tonight. She’s been disturbed once; she might wake up again and try to investigate.”
Miss Springer scowled, but agreed.
“Yes, you’re right. Anyway, it’s getting late and he has waited this long, it won’t hurt him to wait a day or two longer.”
“No,” replied her colleague, pretending not to notice the ‘he’, “Let’s lock up and call it a night. We can reconnect and start testing again tomorrow. I’m sure it’s just a problem with the alternating current.”
The two women moved off down the stairs, discussing the problem. In the cellar, something waited. It had waited a long time and now the moment was near. It had no troops to call on, not yet, but that time would come. These two women, with their greed for power and life would serve its purpose very well, at least to start with. The thing in the cellar could not smile, but something about the way it was sitting suggested satisfaction. Soon. Soon it would have its chance.
Kate waited until she heard Miss Styles’ footsteps recede, then reached out and switched on her torch again. She hitched herself up on one elbow and listened. All the noises had stopped. Whatever that bang had been, and Kate was not at all convinced that it had been a fuse, it had put a stop to work for the night. Kate wondered if now might be a good time to go and look at the cellar door again, but decided against it. She assumed that her teachers had gone to bed, but they might not have. She switched off her torch and laid down. Better to wait until tomorrow. It didn’t sound like anything more would happen tonight. Better to stay in bed, where it was warm and Horace was so comforting and... Kate was asleep.
Because of the disturbance the previous evening, Miss Styles decided to let her pupil sleep in a little longer and delayed the ringing of the rising bell, so it was broad daylight when Kate woke up. She checked her watch, then tumbled out of bed and pattered along the corridor to the bathroom to wash and then back to the dormitory to dress and get ready for breakfast. As she did every morning, she pulled her bedclothes well back to air the bed, and sat Horace up on the pillow to wait for her. Breakfast was a quiet meal. Apart from asking if she had slept well after the disturbance, Miss Styles seemed to have little interest in Kate, which suited her fine. After breakfast, she was instructed to make her bed and then go out to the playground to make the most of the fine weather as there was rain forecast for later. Kate had been considering asking if she could watch while Mr. Hopkirk changed the fuse, but decided that would be a request too far and instead went upstairs to complete her morning chores and then went back down the stairs and out to the garden. As she ran across the lawn, Kate wondered if the teachers had told her to go to the playground because it was further away from the house than the garden. That thought, having lodged itself in her brain, stayed with her as she raced round the roundabout before jumping on, then collapsed in the centre as it slowed, feeling pleasantly dizzy. As she waited for the world to stop going round, Kate remembered that Miss Styles had instructed her not to come back inside before midday. She had said that she wanted her to have a good chance to blow the cobwebs away and to make sure she slept well after her broken night but, the more Kate thought about it, the more convinced she became that something was going on in the house that she wasn’t supposed to see. Wobbling slightly, she clambered off the roundabout and went over to sit on a swing. Kate looked at her watch to see how long she had been outside. Only ten minutes. She had better wait a bit longer, to give Miss Styles and Miss Springer a chance to get started. Gripping the chains with both hands, Kate began to swing.
Andrea Styles looked out of the window of her office. From where she stood she could just see Kate haring round the roundabout. The headmistress turned away from the window to face her colleague who raised an eyebrow and asked,
“Yes, she’s well away.”
“Then let’s get on. I’ve got the capacitor and we should have enough cable to replace the part that blew last night. And he will tell us what to do, we won’t need to work it out for ourselves.” Miss Styles said nothing. Olivia Springer looked at her shrewdly for a moment then went on.
“You can’t stop now. We’ve come too far to back out. Remember what he promised us. Life, for as long as we want. Not getting old, not being ill. And power. So much power to do whatever we want. Do you want to spend the best years of your life running around after ungrateful brats and having to be polite to their parents? Do you?”
Miss Styles sighed and picked up the tool box that stood near the window seat.
“No. No of course I don’t. Come on, let’s get going.”
“Good. I knew you wouldn’t let me down.”
Olivia Springer led the way out of the office and across the entrance hall to the corridor that led to the cellar door. When they reached the door, her colleague drew a key out of her pocket and then drew back the bolt, before turning the key in the lock and opening the door. Miss Styles stood back and let her colleague go through ahead of her, then went in and pulled the door closed behind them, locking and bolting it on the inside. Olivia switched on her torch and led the way down the steep, narrow stairs to the cellar. The room was lit by a single bulb suspended on a rotting cable from the ceiling. The walls were covered with equipment, grey boxes with switches and lights, levers and reels of tape. The cellar had become a workshop. In one corner was a chair. A figure was sitting on the chair. In the dim light it might have been taken for a man, but even in the shadows there was something indefinably wrong about the shape of the head. As the women approached the figure stood up. Its body, hands and feet were all covered in a shiny, sliver coloured material of some kind. It was hard to tell if the material was a garment, or if it was the outer layer of the creature’s body. It had metal boxes mounted on the front of its body, and tubing ran from the boxes over its shoulders and down its arms and legs. Where its head should have been was another box. Metal, shaped into an impression of a head, with two segments on the sides that resembled handles. Cut into the front were two round holes for eyes and a rectangular mouth. A pale mesh behind the eyeholes made them appear blank, finishing the impression of a sinister parody of a face. Miss Springer put down the equipment she had been carrying and said,
“Proceed,” said the Cyberman.
Kate had waited another quarter of an hour, which had felt like an eternity, before deciding that it was probably safe to go back inside. Instead of crossing the lawn, which would have taken her close to the headmistresses office windows, she went round to the back of the house and in through a door that was usually used for deliveries. Having cautiously checked the entrance hall, Kate ran upstairs to the dormitory. Once inside, she sat down on the edge of her bed and began to assemble what she thought of as her “detective kit.” First, her penknife, which had been a gift from the Doctor on her tenth birthday. That was tucked into her blazer pocket. Next, her torch, which went into her satchel, along with an old exercise book that she kept for drawing in and a pencil. Kate paused for a moment to consider. What else might she need? Looking around for inspiration, she saw Horace, tucked up under the blankets. Should she take him? He would make the satchel a bit bulky but if she had to run away in a hurry, she couldn’t leave him behind. Into the bag he went. Her kit assembled, Kate made her way back downstairs. After a moment’s thought, she went outside again, feeling that she would stand a better chance of seeing what was happening through the outer door, which was older and more worn than the one in the corridor, and also that the garden offered more places to hide.
The computers and machinery in the cellar were almost complete. Under the direction of the Cyberman, the two teachers had assembled an array of equipment entirely beyond their understanding. It was Olivia who had discovered the Cyberman. Exploring in an area of the cellar that had been closed for years, she had found it, inert and damaged, under a heap of rubble. Although it had been dormant for years, there was just enough energy remaining in its cells for it to speak, startling the art teacher, but also sparking her curiosity. Sensing her interest, the Cyberman had begun to work on her emotions. It had none itself, but he knew how to tempt humans and lure them into doing its bidding. Before long, Olivia had managed to persuade the headmistress to join her and they had spent the last year building equipment to the Cyberman’s specifications. And now their work was almost complete. Andrea Styles connected a length of wire and her colleague pressed a switch to test the current. There was a sharp flash and a small puff of smoke. Olivia swore under her breath. The Cyberman spoke.
“Your wire is faulty. You must fetch an alternative supply.”
Olivia looked at Andrea.
“Have we got any more?”
“Yes, at least, I think there’s a new reel in the garage. You’d better get it.”
“Right, I’ll go out the back.”
“Good idea. What time is it?”
“Half past eleven.”
“Better hurry, we’ll need to go up for lunch soon.”
Miss Springer scowled at this reminder, but left the room and could be heard running up the stairs. The Cyberman asked,
“Why must you cease labour for food at this time?”
“To preserve an impression of normality,” replied the headteacher, as she bent to remove the faulty wire.
“This is not logical. Did you not say that there would be no other humans in the building?”
“Yes, but…” Miss Styles hesitated. Whatever she and Olivia were mixed up in, she was determined not to involve Kate. After a pause she said, “there are workers that visit the school each day to cook and clean. If we are not seen at regular times, they will become suspicious.”
“But they do not stay in the building?”
“That is good. We must not be discovered before all is prepared.”
Kate approached the outside entrance to the cellar cautiously. She crept down the steps, trying to keep as quiet as she could, then crouched down by the door. The wooden door had warped with age and exposure to the elements and light could be seen through the gaps in the planking. Having tried, and failed to see anything through the keyhole, Kate put her eye to one of the gaps. At first she was confused by the glimpses of light and movement inside, but, gradually, she began to see more clearly. The first thing she noticed was that the room seemed full of machinery, or computers. It reminded her of the Doctor’s laboratory at UNIT HQ. As she watched, Miss Styles crossed the room, a pair of pliers in her hand. Kate shifted her position slightly so as to be able to see another part of the room. There was another person there, bending over some equipment, someone she didn’t recognise. They were wearing strange clothes too. Then the Cyberman turned and raised its head and Kate gasped. Was it a robot? She reached into her satchel for her exercise book, to write down what she had seen, but the next moment she jumped as a hand covered her mouth and a voice hissed in her ear,
“Keep quiet, child and don’t you dare move or I’ll hurt you. Understand? Just nod.”
Kate nodded and the person behind her put a hand under her arm and lifted her from where she had been crouching. Once she was standing, Kate’s captor seized her wrist and, keeping a hand over her mouth, marched her towards the front of the house. Kate tried to struggle but her assailant was too strong for her and she had to walk or be dragged along. Inside the front door stood a blanket chest, which was used as a seat and to add a touch of historical interest to the entrance hall. Kate tried to dig her heels into the floor as she was propelled towards the chest, pushing back with all her strength against the person who was holding her. At this the hand was removed from her mouth and Kate was lifted off the ground and dumped on the windowsill behind the chest. She scrambled to try and escape but her path was blocked, both by the chest itself and by Olivia Springer, who was opening the lid.
“You little wretch,” she hissed, “I’ll show you what you get for spying on people. Come here.”
She moved towards Kate who cowered into a corner and raised her hands, trying to fend off any attack. Miss Springer seized Kate round the middle, lifted her again and put her, satchel and all, into the chest, then slammed the lid shut and fastened the catch before Kate could try to escape. Bending down, she whispered “I’ll deal with you later. It won’t do you any harm to be shut in for a bit, serves you right for meddling. And don’t make a fuss (as Kate cried out and thumped the inside of the box), there’s nobody here to rescue you.”
The art mistress stood up and wiped her hands on her overalls, then went back outside to collect the reel of wire she had dropped when she saw Kate at the door and go back down to the cellar. When her colleague asked what had taken her so long, she shrugged and said,
“Just a bit of pest control,” and refused to say any more.
The Cyberman gave its instructions and then joined the women in making the final repairs and adjustments to the equipment. Eventually, it faced its human assistants and said,
“All is prepared.”
Olivia stepped forward, excitement in her eyes.
“Now? You’ll give us what you promised?”
“Yes. You will have life and power as you wished.” The Cyberman paused, then went on, “You will become like me. Unchanging. No longer troubled by emotion or weakness of the flesh.”
The women looked at each other. Neither of them had expected this. Had the Cyberman been capable of smiling, it would have done so. Instead, it said,
“If you wish to have the long life and power you desire, you must become like me. There is no other way.” He turned to Andrea. “You will be first. Your associate will assist me, then she will be processed too.”
Andrea Styles backed away.
“No,” she said, “No, that wasn’t what I thought… I thought… No!”
Olivia watched, seemingly frozen, as the Cyberman advanced. It raised its left hand and gripped the teacher around the throat, forcing her back towards the wall. Andrea screamed and tried to struggle, but the Cyberman tightened its grip and her screams turned to a gurgling noise as she fought for breath. Olivia grabbed a wrench and rushed at the Cyberman, but it grabbed her wrist with its other hand, squeezing until she cried out and dropped the wrench. While she bent over in pain, clutching her wrist, the Cyberman put its hand on the back of her neck and gesturing with its head to Andrea said,
Olivia shouted, “No!” but the Cyberman increased the pressure on her neck and said,
“Secure her or you will be killed.”
“But what are you going to do to her?”
“Her mind will be processed, then her body will be replaced. Unfortunately we cannot work as quickly here as in our cyber-factories, but once her mind is processed she will feel neither fear nor pain.”
Olivia tried to struggle again, but Andrea looked at her and said,
“Do it. Do what he says.”
“He’ll kill you. Do what he says.”
With tears in her eyes, Olivia fastened restraints around the wrists, ankles and waist of her friend, while the Cyberman watched, keeping its grip on Andrea until she was securely in place. It stepped back and turned to Olivia, who was crouched down, holding her injured wrist.
“We will begin the process. When I give the signal you will activate the mind drug by pressing the red switch.”
Olivia looked at the Cyberman, her face contorted with hatred.
“No. I won’t do it. You tricked us.”
“I did not. I offered you extended life and power and you accepted my offer.”
The Cyberman reached down to grab Olivia, but was just too slow as she dived to one side and ran for the door. As she ran she heard Andrea shouting to her to go. She went through the door and up the stairs and out into the garden, not daring to look back. Andrea Styles glared at the Cyberman as he turned back towards her.
“She’s gone. You can’t get her now.”
“I will recapture her shortly. She will not be able to evade me. You cannot delay the process.”
It moved to the control panel near to where his prisoner was standing and flicked a succession of switches. Miss Styles began to scream again as a metal cap was lowered onto her head and a needle pierced her arm, delivering the drug that would sedate her and strip her mind of all emotion. She tried to struggle, but gradually grew weaker and became still as the drug began to take effect. The Cyberman watched for a moment, then, satisfied that its victim was secure, it turned and followed Olivia’s route out of the cellar.
When Miss Springer had closed the lid of the blanket box, Kate had panicked. For the first few moments she was too frightened to do anything but shout and bang her fists and feet against the inside of the box. When it became clear that the teacher was right and that nobody was coming to get her out, she quietened down and tried to think of a way of freeing herself. Kate shifted herself until she could see the keyhole. The key seemed to still be in it, but there was no way that she could get the key inside, and she didn’t think she could pick the lock, even with her penknife. The thought of her penknife gave her another idea, though. With some wriggling Kate managed to get her hand into her pocket and retrieve the knife. She opened the largest blade and tried to force it between the lid and the body of the chest. Kate pushed with her other hand against the lid and eventually managed to shift it just enough to get her knife into the tiny gap that opened up. She slid the blade along, hoping that the stories she had read hadn’t misled her and it really was possible to push down a catch with a knife blade. Her shoulders ached, but she kept going and was rewarded when, with a tiny “snick” the catch moved and she was able to push the lid up with her free hand. Holding the lid on her shoulders, Kate put her knife away and then pushed the lid back and scrambled out, only to fall over as pins and needles attacked her cramped limbs. Sitting on the floor and rubbing her ankles, she tried to think what to do next. She needed to get help and she could think of only one place to find it. Kate got to her feet and stumbled to the headmistress’s office. Once inside, she closed the door and turned the latch, then sat down at the desk and opened a silver locket that she wore around her neck. Inside was a piece of paper, folded over and over until it was smaller than a postage stamp. Kate unfolded the paper, trying not to tear it or drop it on the floor. Written on the paper was a number. Trembling still from the effort of freeing herself and the fear of what might be happening downstairs, Kate picked up the receiver and dialed the number. When her call was answered, she said, as clearly as she could,
“This is Katherine Emily Lethbridge Stewart, greyhound one point five requesting assistance. Please acknowledge.”
There was a momentary pause at the other end of the line and then a familiar voice said,
“Acknowledged, greyhound one point five. Hello Kate, this is Sergeant Benton, what’s happening?”
Kate gave a sob of relief at the sound of the Sergeant’s voice, then tried to compose herself.
“I’m at school. There’s something in the cellar. Miss Styles and Miss Springer have been making machines down there. I saw a… a… robot, I think. It looked like a man, but it was silver and it had a metal head. Then Miss Springer caught me and locked me in the blanket chest in the hall, but I managed to get out and I…” she paused as the sound of a scream came from the cellar. Sergeant Benton said, quickly,
“OK, Kate, just a moment,”
and there was a sound of voices at the other end. Kate looked at the office door. She hoped the lock would be strong enough to keep her safe. The discussion at the other end had finished and another voice spoke.
“Kate? This is the Doctor. Sergeant Benton is on his way to you now with some of his men, but I need you to help me. Can you tell me about the thing you saw? How big was it?”
“It was quite tall, but not a giant.”
“And did it have eyes and a mouth?”
“Yes. It had round eyes and a sort of slot that looked like a mouth. I saw it when it turned round.”
“And what colour was it?”
“It was silver. That’s why I thought it might be a robot with a metal head.”
“I see. Well, what you saw is called a Cyberman. It’s a machine that was once a person and it is very strong. Is there anywhere safe you can hide until Sergeant Benton arrives?”
“I’m in Miss Styles office. I locked the door, but I don’t know if it will be strong enough. I…” Kate looked around, “I could hide under the desk, there’s a sort of cubby hole and you can’t see in it from the doorway.”
Another scream, closer this time and a crashing noise, loud enough to be heard by the Doctor. He paused and then went on, speaking more quickly,
“Now, listen, Kate. Is there anything there in the office, anything at all, that looks like it might be made of gold?”
Bewildered, Kate looked at the desktop in front of her. She could see notebooks, folders, pens, a ruler… then suddenly her eye was caught by a propelling pencil in a lacquer pen tray. She reached over and picked it up.
“I’ve found a propelling pencil. It looks like gold.”
“Good girl. Have a look at it, can you see a hallmark? Two or three little square patterns in the metal?”
“Yes, there’s three of them.”
“Good. Now, the best thing you can do is to hide, but if the Cyberman comes close to you and sees you, I want you to push the pencil into his chest as hard as you can. Can you do that?”
The noises were coming closer. Kate curled up under the desk, pulling the receiver down with her and whispered,
“Good. Cybermen don’t like gold, it’s one of the few things that can stop them. You keep hold of that pencil and hide and Sergeant Benton will be with you soon.”
Kate was about to answer, when another scream came from right outside. She curled up in her hiding place and put her hands over her ears. The door knob turned and rattled, then a key turned in the lock and Olivia Springer rushed into the room and slammed the door behind her. She leaned against it, trying to turn the latch as the Cyberman pushed from the other side. Suddenly, the hinges gave way and she was forced to step back to avoid being crushed as the Cyberman came in. It looked at her and reached out. Olivia scrambled to try and escape it, pushing chairs into his path, which were either crushed or thrown aside. The desperate teacher neared the desk, and tried to get behind it, but the Cyberman pushed it aside. Kate was too frightened to scream as the desk moved and she was pushed along with it. She crawled out of her hiding place and round to the other side of the desk as the Cyberman reached down towards the art mistress. Olivia grabbed a poker from the fireplace and struck out at her attacker, but the Cyberman deflected the blow with one hand and grasped her round the throat with the other. The Cyberman stood up, pulling its captive with it and turned towards the door. Suddenly it stopped as it caught sight of Kate, curled up and shaking behind the desk. Holding the art mistress at arm’s length, the Cyberman bent forward. As it did so, Kate turned and stabbed the pencil into its chest ventilation unit with all the force she could muster. The Cyberman dropped Olivia and began to reel around the room, its metallic voice distorted into a climbing shriek as it flailed at the pencil. With a final crash it collapsed across the desk and lay still, the pencil still sticking out of its chest. Kate grabbed her satchel and stumbled towards the door, tripping on the debris and ignoring Olivia, who reached out to her as she passed. The frightened schoolgirl reached the hall and ran out of the front door, plunging into the bushes, where she found one of her usual hidey holes and curled up, trying to make herself as small and invisible as possible. Miss Springer managed to limp to the doorway and stood on the step, calling,
“Kate! Kate, where are you?”
but her pupil put her hands over her ears and curled up tighter under the bushes.
The next moment there was a roar of engines and three UNIT jeeps sped up the drive and stopped outside the school. Sergeant Benton jumped down from the lead jeep and ran towards Olivia. Without bothering to ask who she was, he demanded,
“Where’s the Cyberman? Where is it?”
“It … it’s in the office, Kate killed it. I...”
Olivia staggered and almost fell, but one of the UNIT soldiers caught her elbow and held her up. Sergeant Benton asked,
“Who are you?”
“Olivia Springer, I, I’m the art mistress.”
“Then you’re under arrest. Where’s Kate?”
“I don’t know. Hiding, she ran away from me.” Olivia grabbed at Benton’s tunic. “In the cellar, you must go to the cellar. Andrea is down there, he put her in his machine, he...”
Benton turned away from her in mid-sentence and shouted to his men.
“Right, you three take the office, check the Cyberman and report. You two, go with her to the cellar and disconnect the machinery, destroy it if you have to, but stop it working.” He turned back to Olivia,
“You’ll show them the way?”
“Good. Off you go and keep an eye on her, we’ll question her later. The rest of you, start from here and search the grounds, Kate can’t have gone far.”
The men ran to obey his orders and Benton joined in the search, calling Kate’s name as he went. It wasn’t long before one of the soldiers raised his hand and shouted,
“She’s here, Sarge!”
Benton ran over to the place and looked into the bushes at Kate, who was still curled up, eyes closed and hands over her ears. He reached out and very gently touched her shoulder. She started and opened her eyes. Sergeant Benton said quietly,
“It’s alright Kate, you’re safe now. You can come out now,”
then stepped back to let her come out of her hiding place. Kate uncurled herself and crawled out from under the bush, then sat on the ground, her satchel clutched to her chest. One of the soldiers brought a blanket and Benton wrapped it round Kate and picked her up. Feeling the warmth of the blanket and the safety of Benton’s arms around her, Kate suddenly relaxed and began to cry. Benton shushed her gently, as if she was a baby and carried her to the jeep, where Jo Grant was waiting. He put Kate down next to Jo, who put an arm around her. Seeing Horace’s head peeping out of the satchel, Jo took him out and tucked him into the blanket with Kate, then gently removed the satchel and set it on the floor by her feet. Kate nestled up beside Jo and held tightly on to Horace. Having had an update from his men, Benton bent down next to the window and said,
“I’d better stay on here for now, you get her back to HQ.” then to the driver, “Take Miss Grant and Miss Lethbridge Stewart back to HQ, quick as you can.”
With a brief, “yes, sir,” the driver started the engine and the jeep sped away.
The next morning, Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart arrived back at UNIT HQ, having taken an overnight flight from Geneva. The Doctor had contacted him while Benton was on his way to the school and then again when it was confirmed that Kate was safe, and on his return, the Sergeant had phoned Mrs. Lethbridge Stewart. Having checked in with his Sergeant and the Doctor, the Brigadier made his way to the sick bay, where he found his daughter sitting up in bed and playing noughts and crosses with Jo, with Horace sitting on the table to act as umpire. Kate cried out in delight when she saw her father and stretched out her arms to him and the Brigadier put his arms round her in a mighty hug that almost lifted her out of bed.
“Well, my lassie, what have you been up to then?”
“It wasn’t my fault,” protested Kate as the Brigadier set her down again and sat down on the edge of the bed.
“I know that, darling, I was only teasing. You were very brave.”
Kate looked her father with wide eyes.
“I don’t think I was, really. I was so frightened, I...”
she broke off as the memory of the previous day came back to her and the Brigadier moved so he could put his arm around her.
“But that’s the point,” said the Doctor, who was standing in the doorway. “As Mr. Milne says in his excellent book, you can be brave even if you blinch. Especially if you only blinch on the inside.”
“How are you feeling today?”
“Alright, thank you,” replied Kate.
“Good. Welcome back Brigadier, I trust your conference went well?”
The Brigadier grunted an affirmative,
“Humph, yes. But if this is what’s going to happen when I go away, it’ll be the last one I go to for quite some time!”
The Doctor laughed.
“I see your point. And have you decided where this young lady will be going to school? I take it she won’t be going back to the Wellington?”
“Certainly not! We haven’t decided yet, I must talk it over with her mother, she’ll be back this evening. For the time being at least, Kate will be at home.” the Brigadier looked curiously at his scientific advisor. “Why do you ask?”
“Oh,” said the Doctor, with affected carelessness, “I was only thinking that if you were worried about her getting behind in her studies, I might offer some assistance.”
The Doctor and Jo exchanged amused glances as the Brigadier grappled mentally with the idea of the Doctor teaching Kate. There was a long silence, then he said,
“Ah, ahem, ah thank you Doctor, but I’m not sure your areas of expertise are what Kate needs at the moment.”
“Oh well,” replied the Doctor, “never mind. But the offer is still open. I suspect I know quite a few things that Kate might find useful!” And, with that, he left. The Brigadier muttered something, then remembered where he was and gave his daughter another hug before standing up and making his excuses.
“I must go and report, but I’ll come back at lunch time. Mind you don’t get up to any mischief while I’m gone!”
Kate responded to her father’s gentle teasing by pulling an abnormally innocent face and saying,
“No, Dad, of course I won’t,” then ducking to one side and giggling as he tickled her.
“Good!” said the Brigadier, after exacting his revenge, “I’ll see you later. Goodbye Miss Grant, don’t let this monkey play any tricks on you.”
The Brigadier left the room and Jo and Kate finished their game. Jo stood up and sighed.
“Well, I don’t know about you, but I could do with some cocoa and biscuits. How about it?”
“Okey dokey, you sit tight and I’ll be back in a minute.”
Jo left, in search of cocoa and Kate lifted Horace off the table and cuddled him, still giggling now and then. As she leaned back against her pillows, the Doctor’s words came back into her mind. What had he meant when he said he knew things that she might find useful? She wouldn’t have been able to beat the Cyberman without his help. Did he think that she would be having more adventures? Kate looked down at Horace, as if seeking his advice, then raised her head. Being taught by the Doctor might be dangerous if it involved more creatures like the Cybermen, but it might also be fun.
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