A Custom Vehicle by Primsong



Summary: The Brigadier faces an unwelcome government audit, surely a good excuse to chase after aliens in the English countryside. Third Doctor with Bessie, Jo Grant, Benton, Yates and UNIT.
Rating: All Ages
Categories: Third Doctor
Characters: Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Jo Grant, Mike Yates, Sergeant Benton, The Doctor (3rd), UNIT
Genres: Action/Adventure, General, Series
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: A Custom Vehicle, Tales for Three
Published: 2008.07.09
Updated: 2008.07.09


Index

Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Chapter 6: Chapter 6


Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Author's Notes: A bit of classic episodic-style Who in which Bessie gets to save the day.


1.

It was a relatively quiet day at UNIT. Other than a minor issue with ordinance storage, a janitor leaving a mop where it sent a man down a set of steps and a complaint of moldy casserole in the canteen, the otherwise ordinary day was wearing on to afternoon and the Brigadier was just finishing up a well-deserved tea. He propped his feet up on his desk, catching up on paperwork and giving serious consideration to a purchasing a new pair of boots when the call came in.

The phone rang, he picked it up without thought. "Lethbridge-Stewart. What's that? No, I wasn't expecting any government men. Whitehall? Are you sure? The Ministry of what? Oh demmit, I suppose so. Send him in."

Grouchily he stuffed the last of his sandwich into his mouth and scooped the papers together to make his desk more presentable.

There was a knock at his door. Captain Yates opened it, nodded at him and showed the man in. "Mr. John Babcock, sir."

John Babcock was a very average, forgettable sort of man. With average height and build in an unadorned grey suit and black tie, his average face was topped with forgettable mousy brown hair in a very average haircut. Lethbridge-Stewart's first thought upon registering his visitor's appearance was that he would make an excellent spy.

The man extended a hand. "Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart? Pleased to meet you. I suppose I was already announced?"

The Brigadier took the proffered hand, which had an average grip. "Announced, yes. But I was not informed of any scheduled visitors this morning, Mr. Babcock. What brings you to UNIT?"

"I'm with the Ministry of Custom Supply, here as a special investigator of your organization's orders and use of customized equipment within the Defence Ministry."

The Brigadier gestured the man into a chair and took his own seat behind his desk. "Custom Supply?"

"I realize there may be some confusion of ministries. We used to be with the Ministry of Aviation Supply but we've been placed under Defence now."

"Yes, come to think about it, I did hear of that; in '71, wasn't it? So, tell me. What interest does Whitehall hold in our work that it should bring you here today?"

"First of all, my position is under the Minister as a representative agent. The Minister himself may choose to schedule a personal interview after I've put together an initial report. I'm just supposed to have a lookabout, gather up your inventory reports, that sort of thing. I'm sure you get this all the time."

"Not really. Our taskforce being a joint effort, our dealings are more often through Geneva than Whitehall. Still, I'm sure we'll do all we can to help you along in your task. Oh dear, look at the hour. Captain Yates, would you mind notifying all tracks that they need to close those windows before spraying commences?" Lethbridge-Stewart gave a significant nod to Yates, who slipped out the door.

He turned back to the aide blandly. "Sorry, a bit of a mundane groundskeeping issue, weed-eradication and all that. Nasty stuff when it gets in. Now, where would you like to start? Can I get you some tea?"

--

"Doctor!" the lab door burst open to a breathless Yates.

"Yes? What is it?" The Doctor glanced up from where he'd been soldering a circuit board and seeing the heaving of Yate's chest, let his jeweler's glass drop into his hand. "You look a bit harried. Nothing serious, I hope?"

"The Brig sent me to let everyone know there's a government audit of some kind. He's stalling the rep up in his office."

He frowned. "An audit?"

"We'll keep them out of the lab if we can, but just in case you better haul all those blue blinking things and that bubbler back into your box. Make it look like a more ordinary lab, if you can."

"Bubbler?" But Yates was already gone, running back up the stairs to keep spreading the word. The Doctor swiveled on his stool and considered the lab. "Must mean that inter-dimensional statistical erratamizer… and here I only just got it to work again." He sighed a long-suffering sigh that he wished he had an audience for. Jo was out of town on holiday to her aunt and uncle's home and the he found he missed having someone to complain to. Without further ado, he set about detaching it from its nest of cables.

--

When he opened the door to the downstairs lab the Brigadier could only desperately hope his advisor had made good use of the time. He let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding when he found the TARDIS closed and quiescent and no odd alien contraptions bobbing around on the work tables. The Doctor had even put a white lab coat over his usual attire and was innocently working on a small series of test tubes and coils, turning off his bunsen burner as they entered.

"This is our laboratory, used for whatever forensic testing might be needed." He paused to allow the aide and Yates to file in after him, gave them a brief moment of time and then turned back. "Now, our supply rooms…"

"And you are….?" Mr. Babcock asked pointedly of the white-coated scientist.

The Brigadier turned back again, his expression carefully neutral. "Forgive me, I haven't made proper introductions. This is Doctor John Smith."

"John? Well, that happens to be my name too. Useful old saint, what?" He extended a hand for a firm shake. "John Babcock, aide to the Minister, at your service. So you're a part of this outfit too or just visiting?"

"A little of both."

"What's with the old police box?"

"Just storage, a bit of whimsy," Yates quickly interjected, interrupting whatever the Doctor had been about to say.

"Didn't pay good money for that bit of whimsy, did you?" Mr. Babcock had his pencil poised over his notepad.

"No, no. We found it in the woods, actually," the Brigadier said.

"What, did someone think it was a UFO? Hahaha," he chortled at his own joke.

The Doctor's eyebrows quirked significantly.

The Brigadier waved a hand. "Er, never mind that. The Doctor here runs chemical analyses and such whenever we need it. We always appreciate his services. Now, if you'll follow me we can take a look at the storerooms for…"

"Just a minute," Mr. Babcock said. He peered at the array of test-tubes and coils that were set up on the workbench, its flask still warm from the bunsen burner. "What're you working on here?"

"An analyses of some suspicious liquids recently discovered by a man in Derbyshire," the Doctor said seriously.

"Really! And have you identified it, then?"

"Yes. Uisge-beatha, a common enough element in Britain, especially to the North. If present in significant condensations it has been known to bring about a temporary suppression of the autonomic-nervous systematics in exposed individuals. Some pharmeceutical uses. I'm sorry I haven't anything of better interest to show you; most of what I do is quite ordinary."

"Ah," he nodded with an expression that showed he really had no idea what the Doctor was talking about. He looked at the flask once more. "So, nothing, eh...alien. And it isn't dangerous?"

"I wouldn't recommend you drink it, if that's what you mean," the Doctor said, his hands in his coat pockets. "Unless you'd like to try just to prove the point?"

Mr. Babcock considered the white-haired man, unsure if he was joking. "Haha," he said nervously. "Well, nice to have met you Doctor Smith."

"This way, if you please, Mr. Babcock," Yates said, politely holding the door open for him. He escorted the man out. The Brigadier began to follow but just had to ask:

"What is that, Doctor? Really?"

"Scotch whiskey. Yours, in fact." The Doctor said more cheerfully.

"What? Mine? Where did you... oh blast." The Brigadier gave a rapid series of inarticulate noises and facial expressions as he was forced to follow the aide.

--

The Brigadier looked up from his desk as the Doctor entered his office.

"I assume that phone that kept ringing was you?"

"Why didn't you answer it?"

"Jo usually does that. I was busy. Where did you put that government fellow?"

"He's on a tour of the shops, Yates is showing him the undersides of jeeps."

"Ah. Good fortune I took Bessie out of there yesterday."

"I had Yates check on that first," he smiled. "Now, I wanted you to see this: sent along from Whitehall with this Babcock chap, sealed."

"Go on."

"Seems there's been some suspicious activities at a vacant building, it appears this Babcock fellow and his friends do occasionally have a use. They've been making these audits in other places besides here. This lot have been obtaining a wide variety of unusual supplies and quite the volume of custom-ordered metal fabrications."

"Criminals?" the Doctor wondered, flipping through a folder.

"Police have no records or warrants on anyone like them, governmental records likewise clean. Too well dressed and well supplied for vagrants. They don't match any known extra-governmental operatives either."

"And where did you say this was?"

"I didn't. But it appears to be…near Chippenham somewhere. Older derelict building. Here's a picture."

The Doctor took it from his hand and briefly considered it, then handed it back. "Yes, well. Hardly a palace, is it?"

"Large enough for a group operation, out of the way enough to not attract undue notice…here." He handed a folded sheet that appeared to be a readout of some kind.

The Doctor unfolded it. "Power fluctuations?"

"Unusual number of them for the area. Power grid itself hasn't had any anomalies to account for it. All reported outages cluster…"

"With that derelict at the center of them. Hm. And they're even affecting items not tied to the grid."

The Brigadier leafed through the papers. "Yes. And here, a suitably odd notation that I thought you should see; while there don't seem to be many of them, estimates range from five to seven, they're all exceedingly similar in appearance."

The Doctor glanced up more keenly. "What do they look like?"

"They're all ginger, of above-average height and slender. All seem to favor dark clothing, dress warmly even for the season."

"How long have they been there?"

"Uncertain, but the initial order to one of their pseudonyms was made about seven months ago. They were listed under Defence research, developing some sort of new cooling units for ships."

"Fairly recent, for a large scale customized project. These supply lists, this isn't a cooling unit they're fabricating. That last power outage…" he leaned over to snatch up the readout again. "Yes. Building in frequency and width of effect as they're testing it. Tell me, has anyone gone missing in this area, recently?"

"There's a list of recent deaths, abductions and so on toward the back. I haven't looked it over for any correlations yet."

The Doctor flipped to the back and leaned back on the Brigadier's desk as he perused it. "Hm. Looks like we may still be in time."

"Do you think we should check it out?"

"I think you should get your men over there as quickly as you can, if you want to catch them before they're gone."

"Well, anything is better than an audit."

"I'll follow you down. Just let me fetch a little something for my car first."

"Your car?"

"If electromagnetic outages are going to be involved, I just need to be sure it doesn't affect her. I'll meet you there."


Back to index


Chapter 2: Chapter 2



"Where are they going?" John Babcock demanded of the sentry. "Why?"

"Sorry, sir. That's classified information." The man's face was properly expressionless. He checked the identification handed to him and handed it back. "You're free to go, sir."

Muttering, John Babcock stomped out to the gate where a taxi awaited to take him back to Whitehall. It was the end of the workday and traffic would be thick in the city. He considered thoughtfully as he climbed into the back seat. Wherever UNIT was going, he was sure they were either being conned or were in on a con. He could practically see the money being lost just in the expense of their moving all those military vehicles, in the equipment no doubt being damaged in transit and the falsified orders for more supplies that were sure to follow.

A straggling jeep went past them, following after the small convoy that was already underway.

"Follow that jeep," he told the driver. "It's going somewhere near Chippenham. Can you do that?"

"If you'll pay the fare for the distance, I’m your man, Guv'ner," the jowly taxi driver grunted and pulled out into the lane.

They drove, the driver listening to his radio and occasionally cursing other traffic, John watching as his surroundings slowly gave way to the English countryside, lit by the setting sun. It glittered off of a power station as they passed it, and he mentally calculated how much the extra fencing around it must have cost, glowering at the decorative trim on the cinderblock shed.

"You know," he commented to the driver. "People forget that it's the common working man, paying his taxes that gets the government its money. They think themselves clever to cheat the government ministries out of something with false reports, but its only their fellow citizen they're cheating."

The driver nodded. Taxes and money were favorite subjects of his. Warming to it, he soon was ranting so vociferously that Babcock began to wonder how he stayed in the lane. The little jeep they were following was lost somewhere up ahead of them on the country lane, but he wasn't worried. They were close enough to Chippenham now he was more confident that it was the actual destination.

--

A couple miles outside of Chippenham, the Brigadier climbed out of his jeep to survey their target. The old hall was off the beaten path, having been bypassed by newer recent development, but it could hardly be considered picturesque. The building had been badly renovated after the War and sported an awkward glass conservatory attached along the side of the building and faux Corinthian columns now in disrepair. Weeds spouted up from the cracked drive, a plaster cherub sat at a tilt near the entry and it appeared to have been vacant for some time. He wondered if it were already slated for demolition, should any firepower have to come into play.

The light was fading as the sun went down. There didn’t seem to be any movement at any of the windows but the men moved cautiously nonetheless. Up on the roof, the last of the sun glinted off of something metallic.

"Yates. Get a light on that, that whatever it is up there on the roof."

"Yes sir," the young Captain replied. "Where would you like your tent, sir?"

"Oh, over there," he waggled his fingers and went back to consideration of how the hall could best be subdued and conquered should it be defended and in need of subduing. He was so focused on visualizing possible trajectories in his head he didn't realize a powder-blue-clad young woman was at his shoulder until she spoke.

"Good evening, Brigadier. Where's the Doctor?"

The Brigadier's eyebrows shot upward. "Miss Grant! You weren't supposed to be back for two more days."

She rolled her eyes. "My aunt wanted to set me up with a 'very, very nice young man,' as she called him. So I pretended you called me for an emergency and came back straightaway. Nice of you to actually have one to cover for me. Now where is he?"

He frowned at her then glanced around the car park for a yellow car. "The Doctor hasn't arrived yet. This could be dangerous, you should have stayed back at headquarters."

"And miss out on the fun? Besides, they told me you'd all literally just left and his car wasn't in the car park. Usually he gets places before you."

Benton gave her an understanding half-smile. "We haven't seen him. But don't be worrying, Miss. He'll be along, you know he always manages to show up at the right time."

--


"And what's more, y'know they don't care nothin' for whether or not it was even a fair shake…" the cabbie went on. Babcock had ceased to really listen to him, now settling for the occasional nod or noise of assent when the pumping of the driver's arm indicated a strongly-held belief in some point was being made. Because of this he almost didn't realize what was happening.

The first thing he noticed was that the radio went dead.

The second was the driver's pumping arm motion was suddenly swung wide and then clutched inward. The cabbie let go of the wheel and with a terrible groan fell sideways, slumping over the wheel as the car bounced off the road toward a bordering ditch and field.

Babcock lunged desperately over the back of the seat, barely managing to grab the wheel with one hand, just enough to miss a tree but not enough for anything else. The car slammed down into the ditch, bounced up and lumbered crazily into the thick grasses on the field's edge, finally crunching to a stop on a rock.

John didn't even remember opening the back door or making his way to the front, but the realization that the man he pulled from the wrecked car was no longer living certainly made an impact. His hands were shaking from adrenaline, but he seemed relatively unhurt himself, only a few bumps from his attempt to reach the wheel as it had gone into the ditch. It didn't seem right that he was okay and the other fellow was dead.

Chippenham was still miles away, and the road was quiet.

John Babcock knelt in the grass beside the skewed taxi, the former owner of the car still on the ground beside it. He covered up the driver with his own coat, regretting he didn't have anything more like a blanket or sheet to make it look more proper. The sturdy legs stuck out in the grass, still as logs. With a sudden slight shudder, John moved a little ways away from the body, back toward the road.

The crickets resumed chirping as he looked in vain up and down the road, feeling extremely alone. Surely someone would come before too long.

The night was growing chill. After standing for a while longer, he went back down the sloped edge to the wrecked taxi in hopes of rummaging for anything that might help keep him warm; he wasn't about to take his coat back now. All he found was his own half-forgotten hat.

Hearing a car coming he pulled out of the taxi's door so quickly he whacked his head on the sill and saw stars. Reeling slightly, he staggered up to the roadway, waving his arms.

The headlights looked odd, and as the car came closer he realized it was an older-fashioned Edwardian roadster. It pulled to a stop and he gaped with some astonishment to see, of all people, the scientist he'd met at UNIT jumping from the car. An old-fashioned driving cape swirled around his shoulders as he came.

"Mr. Babcock! What's happened?" the Doctor called. "Are you all right?"

Babcock was at a loss. He gestured to the lump on the grasses, covered with a coat. "I'm all right, but the driver's dead, Doctor Smith. Looked like a heart attack, he was already gone by the time I could get to him."

The Doctor briefly checked the unfortunate man and covered him back up. "I'll call for an ambulance to pick him up, I need to keep going and you can't stay out here alone."

"And just leave him here?"

"It won't be long. Better that than risk others ending up the same way when we might be able to put a stop to it. Come, Mr. Babcock."

The younger man looked down at the driver again, then reluctantly followed the Doctor back to his waiting car.


--

Jo watched as the UNIT men worked at erecting tents, establishing boundaries, distributing sentries, poring over maps and all the other things they did so well. She wandered over to where Captain Yates was directing the spotlight to the metal construct on the roof.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Oh, hello Miss Grant," Yates smiled at her. "I have no idea, but the Brig wanted it lit up. So there it is."

"Larger than life," she said. "But nothing else yet?"

"No. If they're watching us, they're doing it quietly."

"Hm." She looked back toward the car park.

"The canteen is nearly set up. I could send someone to get you some tea, maybe?"

"Oh, no thank you. I'm just waiting for the Doctor to get here."

"Oh. Well, it might be a while. The breeze is a little chilly, you know."

She gave him a brief smile. "That's sweet of you, Mike, but really, I'm fine."

And then everything went dead.

Everything. The lights, radios, generators, idling trucks. Everyone had a communal intake of breath then after a moment small electric torches were flicked on and voices murmured sternly in the darkness as the soldiers immediately prepared themselves for a possible ambush.

Jo was as surprised as any of them from the sudden silence and darkness after all the bustle of the camp, but she didn't think it was an ambush. Perhaps it was simply looking to be left alone.

"Mike?" she asked.

"Miss Grant?" He was still there, then. It sounded like they were trying to rig something with the spotlight.

She opened her mouth then shut it again, deciding against telling him her idea. They'd all be after her to stay away and so on. This time she was going to investigate herself.

"Never mind." She considered the dark silhouette of the old hall and stealthily moved towards it, trying to think of what the Doctor would do. He wouldn't want UNIT to go blowing up some innocent alien without at least talking to them first. She'd heard him carry on about it often enough.

If he wasn't here yet, someone had to try.

Slipping along the wall, she came to the conservatory door and tried the handle. It was locked. However, a hinged window next to it was easily climbed through. Carefully swinging a leg over, she slid under the glass into the musty dark sunroom. Tip-toeing along the wall, she entered the hall, not noting the form of someone else slipping in the window after her.

-

Back to index


Chapter 3: Chapter 3


"Well, this is a fine thing," the Doctor said with some frustration. "You could have picked a better time, old girl. We have work to do."

After making a few odd noises, Bessie had rolled to a stop on the shoulder of the road, shadowed by a copse of trees from the only light, a farmhouse in the distance. It was still about five miles to the old hall near Chippenham. The sky was now fully dark, with only a few stars seen through the scattered overcast of the sky.

"Make yourself comfortable, Mr. Babcock. I'll see what the trouble is." He pulled off his driving gloves, tucked his frilled cuffs into his jacket and went around to the back of the car.

John Babcock looked around the dark countryside and hugged himself to keep warm, pulling down his hat. He looked back at the odd man who was popping open the back of this odd car.

"There are no such things as aliens," he suddenly stated out loud, perhaps more to reassure himself than anything else.

The Doctor glanced up at him from where he was rummaging in the boot for a tool-kit. "Aren't there?"

"Of course not. As much as the government scientists would like the rest of us to imagine otherwise, we're really quite alone."

"Why would they do that, do you think?" the Doctor responded mildly, selecting a small set of pliers and leaving the rest of the tool-bag by his companion. He moved around him and folded up the bonnet.

"Why, for their own employment, of course. They make money off of unquestioning bureaucratic drones and gullible blokes who've read too many dime-store novels."

"Hm," he said noncommittally and looked up at the night sky above them. "So, what about all those stars?"

John gave a small snort. "What about them? We already know they're nothing but big balls of gas, orbited by great dusty hunks of rock. Twinkle-lights and gravel. I mean, not to be unpoetic about it, they're pretty and all that, but their only usefulness is really just purely decorative."

"Decorative."

"Yes, if you want to be serious on the subject."

"Oh, I assure you, I am most serious." He knelt and reached under the bumper to feel around for something.

"Good, then we're in agreement."

"Are we?"

"Of course. I mean about aliens. It's all such bosh. Seriously, creatures running about with two heads or four arms and all that, always a multiplicity of standard issue."

"Two hearts?"

"Or two hearts, exactly. Now you, you seem like a more sensible fellow."

"Ah."

"So why do you work for them, really?"

"I don't. I'm merely there in an advisory role."

"Good pay? Pretty girls?"

"I beg your pardon."

"Sorry. Just wondered. You seem much too well-educated and, well, high-brow to be hanging with that lot. Military flunkies who report about spaceships and aliens like a bloomin' tabloid."

"Oh, I don't know. They have some interesting ideas."

"But not for a serious scientist like yourself, really?"

The Doctor yanked on something to tighten it. "I've always believed it's a sign of good mental health to stretch one's boundaries a little; see what the world has to offer."

"Of course, of course." John kicked his toe at the tool-bag then snapped his fingers. "I've got it. You're studying them, these UFO hunters? Are you a doctor of psychiatry, then?"

"Among other things."

"So you're an advisor for human behavior?"

"Hand me that spanner, will you? No, the smaller one. Thank you. The human mind can be an endlessly fascinating subject, don't you agree?"

"I suppose so. Seen some that put good store in it."

"For instance, take yourself. You're human, aren't you?"

"Of course. What else is there? That's intelligent, I mean."

"What else indeed. Tell me, if you met a man who told you he was an alien, what would you think?"

John laughed. "That he was in need of someone like you, apparently."

The Doctor gave him a brief smile. "Perhaps. But what if he then went on to demonstrate some ability or physical difference that truly set him apart from humankind? Would you still consider him delusional?"

"I would consider him a con man. Especially if it involved government money in any way."

"Hm."

"I mean, either that or he had one of those whatchamacallums, mutations. Like circus freaks, in those old circuses."

"Those were most commonly unfortunate individuals with glandular diseases or birth defects, though there were a very few honest mutations."

"You sound like you've studied that kind of thing."

"You could say so."

"So you know it's bunk."

The Doctor looked at him in surprise. "Mutations?"

"Aliens. Though that's all right. You're probably not allowed to say so and still keep your job, eh?"

He went back to tightening something under the bonnet. "As I said, I'm only an advisor."

"Oh, right. Still wouldn't be too popular around the place, showing them you know where the hidden strings are that make the little alien spacecraft fly." He twiddled his fingers in the air and gave a brief laugh at his own humor. "Or maybe you're the bloke that ties on the strings, eh?"

"I can't say making spaceships fly has been my forte of late," the Doctor answered dryly. "However, I think I've at least gotten this fixed." He folded down the bonnet and gave Bessie a pat. "Just an adjustment from some tinkering I did this afternoon. That's done it. In you go."

John climbed back into the little roadster as the Doctor put the tool-bag back in the boot, then came around, pulling his driving gloves back on. He cranked the starter and the car rumbled to life again.

"Doctor! What is that? A fire?" Mr. Babcock pointed at a light that had suddenly flared up in the distance.

The Doctor pulled out onto the road. "Looks like we're none too soon. They may need help."

"It's miles! There's no way we can get there in time to help anyone. Strange. Looks like an electrical fire or something. Shouldn't we just call the police or fire department?"

The Doctor ignored him. "Hang on, Mr. Babcock. I've made a few improvements to old Bessie here, she can get us there more quickly than you think."

"What? I….heeeey! Whoaaah!" John cried as his hat whipped off his head. "What…?!"

"Now be still! I need to concentrate on driving," the Doctor shouted at him over the wind now roaring about the car. John subsided, his hands clutching the seat, his eyes round with fear as the Doctor neatly dodged around a dark lorry John hadn't even had time to register was there.

-

Back to index


Chapter 4: Chapter 4

"Hello?" Jo called uncertainly in the dark hallway. She tried to think of what the Doctor would say. "I don't mean you any harm. I have no weapons, I just want to talk. Can we help you?"

Something moved, a tiny bluish light faded in, moving in someone or something's hand. In spite of her brave front, her heart pounded in her chest. "Will you talk to us?" she asked. Her voice trembled slightly as it came closer. The light lifted slightly and she could see the face of a man. He had red hair and black, black eyes.

"I'm Jo Grant," she said in a small voice. "And we don't want to hurt you."

Focused on the small light, she hadn't even realized there were others silently coming up around her. Not until they moved.

Someone behind her abruptly gagged her, binding her hands together in almost the same moment, muffling her scream. In a moment they had her on the floor, bound hand and foot, seven tall, slender men with black, cold eyes.

Six men.

One of them abruptly fell back, an arm across his throat, his arms going out wide.

"Let her go!" growled a voice. Yates! Jo tried to help, rolling across the floor in an attempt to trip up some of the others while they were distracted by their companion's plight.

That was the plan, at least, but they didn't fall. Still without a word, the other's moved more quickly than she would have thought possible. There was a brief frustrated sound from Mike and a tussle. He fell to the floor. Alarmed, she rolled back the other way to see him, fearing he was hurt. He was glaring up at the strange men, thrashing, gagged and bound the same as herself. Silent, their faces showing no emotion, they hefted up their two captives, apparently untroubled by Mike's efforts to kick free. Jo lay more quietly in their arms, alertly watching to see where they were being taken.

Carried up the stairs, she watched doorways, counting them. She heard the others coming up after; Mike gave a muffled moan. The aliens carried them past an empty sitting room with an odd bluish lantern on the floor, heavy old drapes pulled shut over the window. At one end a large portion of the ceiling had been cut away, a metal ladder-like construct extending down to the floor. A smaller room at the other end held a small stack of boxes and one large one, like a wide refrigerator carton made of some kind of plastic.

They dumped her in.

She barely had time to part-roll out of the way before Yates was unceremoniously shoved over the edge into the container after her, landing hard. The top abruptly closed.

They awkwardly rolled apart. She was already testing the cord that bound her wrists, wriggling out of it with a few deft moves. Who or whatever they were, they weren't very adept at knot-tying. Yanking her gag out, she moved to help free Yates and they both set about unbinding their ankles.

"Sorry," he gasped as soon as his gag was out. "Are you hurt?"

"No, maybe just bruised up a bit. You?"

"Just my pride."

She gave a light laugh, and he marveled at the sound of it under the circumstances.

The box they were in was too small to stand up in, though they could kneel. They both put their backs to one of the walls and considered it.

"At least there's air," he said.

"And light," she added. All around the perimeter of the top edge there were round holes at regular intervals, dim light came from the small lantern-thing in the adjoining room. She got up and peered out of one of them. "I don't see anyone."

Yates watched as she experimentally squeezed an arm out one of the holes and tried to feel around the top, looking for a latch. "Anything?"

"No, it's all smooth. You check the other side."

He got up on his knees, feeling stupid for having to be told, and tried to imitate her. "No good. Your arms are smaller than mine."

He pushed at the walls and edges while she worked her way around him, finally coming back to their original positions. He gave her a shrug.

"Now what?"

She shrugged back and gave him a small, almost apologetic smile. "Now we hope the someone finds us, I guess."

He had to say it. "The Doctor?" He wondered at the slight bitterness that tinged that simple word. He had to admit, he'd hardly managed to help her himself. In truth, the multi-talented scientist was probably his best hope as well as hers.

She didn't reply, instead getting back to her knees and pushing at the side. "Help me, Mike. Let's see if it will tip over. Maybe we can knock the lid open."

Mike wondered if he could possibly be any more clueless around her. Sighing, he got up and joined her in pushing at the walls. "All right. One and two…one and two!"

They rhythmically thumped the wall with all their combined weight, but the box didn't tip. They paused to catch their breaths and were just about to try again when a strange vibration began around them. It grew and with it a crackling roar. It sounded like it was coming from the roof.

"Mike, what's happening?" Jo huddled against him, her hands over her ears as the vibrations deepened to a roar. The small portholes in their container lit up like sunlamps, forcing them to shield their eyes.

"I don't know!" He shouted to be heard. He put an arm around her protectively, like the Doctor sometimes did, and tried not to be self-conscious about it. "Maybe they're having to leave without us for some reason."

"Oh, do you really think so?" she asked hopefully. He didn't answer. After a few harrowing moments, the rumbling died back down as the light faded.

Yates reluctantly shifted away from Jo to peer out one of the holes. "That metal thing's still here. My guess is it's a space ship of some kind. Those men weren't human, that's for sure. Must have just been warming up the engines."

"I'm surprised it didn't blow up the building."

--

"I'm surprised that building is still all in one piece after that demonstration we saw." The Doctor turned to his windblown passenger as Bessie came to rest alongside the Brigadier's jeep. "Glad to see it standing. Come, Mr. Babcock, it appears we're still in time."

John Babcock shakily climbed from the seat of the roadster and made a brief attempt at smoothing his hair with his fingers, automatically following the swirl of velvet that went before him across the lot. The spotlight, which had failed when the rumbling and light had started, flickered back to life with the help of auxiliary batteries.

He stopped and stared up at the shining metal, lit against the now-darkened sky and frowned.

A little ways ahead of him at the entrance to a large tent, the strange Doctor was also gazing up at it, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and another man at his side. The Brigadier lifted a pair of binoculars as he spoke with them.

A red-haired man in a dark sweater ducked along the rim of the building's flat roof, looked down at them briefly and disappeared back inside.

"I knew it," Babcock muttered. "Con men."

--

"Who was that?" wondered Benton.

The Brigadier lowered his binoculars. "That's what we're here to find out, Sergeant." He turned and signaled a man from a nearby truck. "Lieutenant! Is that perimeter secured? Well, get it done!" Looking over at the Doctor he commented, "Those large constructs on the roof of the building were reported to the inspectors as advanced refrigeration units. Obvious guff. Now we have reason to suspect it may be a weapon."

The Doctor peered up at it. "That's no weapon, Brigadier, it's a spaceship," he said firmly.

"What?"

"Perhaps being built fresh, more likely being repaired. I've seen something similar to the styling before."

The Brigadier glanced around. "Where did that government chap get off to? Benton, go find him. I don't want him poking into anything he shouldn't."

"Yessir," Benton said. "Though, er, he's right behind you…sir."

"What shouldn't I be poking into?" Mr. Babcock asked.

The Brigadier turned and gave him a cold look. "Anything. This is serious work, sir, and potentially dangerous. I need all civilians off site, this doesn't concern you."

The aide pointed his pencil up toward the spotlighted roof. "That is government property, purchased with government money. It does concern me, especially as it looks like it's been misused, probably by agents from an infiltrating government. Spies or freeloaders."

"You could call them that," the Doctor conceded mildly. He was still considering what they could see of the rooftop.

"Look," the Brigadier said impatiently. "We have work to do; as you can see, this sort of alien incurrence is why UNIT exists. Now please…"

"I saw that man, same as the rest of you. There's no so-called aliens here, he was just as human as you, or me or Doctor Smith here."

Benton coughed.

"And what did you mean, a spaceship?" he asked the Doctor. "I thought you were above playing those games."

"Benton!" the Brigadier said. "I'm putting Mr. Babcock in your care. Give him a tour of our customized mobile canteen or something."

"Yessir. Come along, Mr. Babcock. I'm sure we can find something to interest you."

"Now, wait a minute! I'm not… you're…" The aide spluttered. He looked up at the tall Sergeant who stood beside him, then at the Brigadier and Doctor. "What are you hiding from me?"

"Nothing at all, I assure you," the Doctor said. "You can see what we are dealing with as well as anyone. And no," he smiled slightly. "I don't play games, thank you for the compliment. We shall see you later, Mr. Babcock, no doubt." He gave a little bow and turned his attention back to the Brigadier as Benton gently but firmly steered the nonplussed aide away by the elbow.

"Now, about these men," the Brigadier said, as they entered the tent.

"They're not men, as you already guessed. You might be pleased to know they're more often observers, gatherers of information for other races, because of their ability to take on the look of most any bipedal humanoid lifeform, within reason. I wondered if it might be something of the sort when you said they were all alike, ginger and dressed warm."

"What? Why would that make a difference?"

"Well, it told me they came from a warmer planet, but one close enough for intergalactic space-travel. The matching height and coloring suggested their appearance was possibly not their own at all, but a cobbled-up look based on some earth-man they happened to encounter. And they haven't attempted any kind of conquest or aggressive attack."

"What if they're just all related to one another?" the Brigadier suggested.

"No, no. I don't think so. It's a fabricated appearance."

"What makes you so sure?"

"Because in their natural state they're much taller, thinner and have extra digits."

"Oh."

"Helps in the warmer environment. And it's their narcissism that makes them red-haired; the color of nobility in their culture."

"I see."

"Do you?"

"No. But you don't think they're a danger, then?"

"Well, I didn't really say that. Not quite."

"To the point, Doctor. What might they do?"

"They observe, but they sometimes they also collect samples. And they don't really have much in the way of, shall we say, compassion. Sympathy."

"Which means?"

"They might try to take a sample of humanity with them, and wouldn't understand why this would be something the affected individuals might disagree with. Human feelings are not within their comprehension."

"So, they're harmless, kidnapping sociopaths?"

"That sums them up nicely."

The Brigadier's moustache twitched. "Your recommendation?"

"Seeing as they've already made at least one preliminary launch sequence, that ship is nearly ready to leave." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "If they're planning on taking anyone with them, they'll be collecting them soon. I suggest you keep tabs on your soldiers and keep civilians out of the way. We might need to search the building, to be sure they don't already have someone. That might be more tricky."

--

"I refuse to leave until I know what is going on with that gadgetry up on that building and who is responsible for it," Mr. Babcock stated impressively. No one paid him any attention. He watched as several men in succession came in with reports for the Brigadier, who had been ignoring him since he had blustered his way back into the tent.

The Doctor returned from his own reconnaissance of the various equipment that had been affected.

"Ah, any luck, Doctor?" the Brigadier asked, signing a sheet of paper without even looking at it.

"It appears to have been a complex electromagnetic burst, most likely related to the launch attempt. If you've a good supply of electrical fuses you could have at least the vehicles working within the hour. The radios are another matter. Oh good evening, Mr. Babcock, are you still here? You know, I wonder if your taxi driver had a pacemaker? That may account for it affecting him the way it did," he nodded to the grey-suited aide, who looked surprised to be addressed.

"Of course I'm still here," he puffed indignantly.

"Oh right, not much working transport to spare is there? Well, I'm sure we'll get you back to Whitehall as soon as we can. Now, Brigadier…"

Babcock stood for a few more moments then headed outside. He was going to the canteen for some tea, but no one bothered to ask.

-

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Chapter 5: Chapter 5

The Brigadier tapped his swagger-stick impatiently against his thigh as he paced, reflecting that one never truly appreciated the convenience of radio communication until it wasn't available. His scientific advisor was scribbling out some kind of incomprehensible equations on a bit of paper, something to do with those power outages. He was half-inclined to interrupt him just to help pass the time. Where were those sentry reports?

"Sir!" Benton said, entering with the barest salute. He was out of breath with the running. "All the companies and auxiliary staff are accounted for, but…"

"Yes?"

Benton sort of gulped. "No one's seen Captain Yates, sir. And Miss Grant has also gone missing."

"Jo?!" The Doctor came to his feet. "Jo, here? Why didn't anyone tell me? She was supposed to be on holiday."

The Brigadier looked grim. "She came back early and followed us here. I'm sorry, Doctor, it went clean out of my head after everything lit up like that. They must be in that building, then."

"I'm afraid so. Most likely somewhere on the upper floor, near the ship."

"Are those chaps likely to be armed?"

"I don't know… it's possible. They aren't inclined towards carrying weaponry, but are bound to have some sort of defensive measures just in case."

"Very well." The Brigadier turned to issue some sort of directive and simply stopped, his mouth still open. There was a crackling whump and everyone's hair frizzed on end as a shimmering electrical dome formed around the building. There was a strange silence as all the assorted jeeps, trucks and generators went dead again.

"Or they might just generate a force field," the Doctor observed.

"Right."

--

Up above, off the vacant sitting room, Jo Grant and Mike Yates took turns watching for any movement in the other room, it being all they could see. It was quiet. Their captors went up and down the ladder a couple times, but remained silent. The small boxes off to the side gave little scritching noises that made them surmise some small animals had also been boxed up.

"I feel like a mouse," Jo observed.

"A mouse?" Yates raised an eyebrow and waited for details.

"Yes. Haven't you ever seen those little pasteboard boxes they put them into if you buy one at the pet store?"

He shook his head. "I only had dogs."

"Well, they're like this. A box with holes punched around the top for air."

"I had a friend who had a pet snake once. It ate mice."

"Ew!"

"Sorry."

"Are you thinking they might eat us?"

He gave an uncomfortable shrug. "Why did you come in here, anyway?"

"They threw me in!"

"No, I mean in the house," he smiled, then grew more serious. "It sounded like you were talking to those…things."

"I was, or I was trying to."

"But…why? What possible point was there in endangering yourself that way?"

"Well, no one else was."

"What? Endangering themselves?"

"No, talking to them. No one had tried talking to them. You were all just setting up lights and guns and things. It was all just so beastly. I had to try."

"But look at what they've done to you!"

"We still don't know why they've done it," she said stubbornly. "It could be a misunderstanding."

"You are amazing." Yates shook his head. "I don't know whether to be horrified or to admire your optimism. I'm sitting here wondering if they're going to turn out to be vampires or something and you're still just wanting to make peace with them."

Jo considered this. "I'm really not as brave as I look, you know. I was positively terrified out of my wits trying to play diplomat."

"Then why did you?"

"Well, because the Doctor wasn't there," she said, as if this were the most logical thing in the world.

"What?"

"He wouldn't want them all shot up, you know. He's always going on about how we need to at least try talking to other creatures and such. How they aren't all bad if you communicate with them."

Mike rolled his eyes. "Well, next time leave it up to him, will you? Must have taken ten years off my life when I saw them catch you like that."

She looked around the box, steering to other topics. "It's getting so stuffy in here."

He leaned back against the wall. "Yes. I hope they'll at least remember to bring us some water."

The air was suddenly filled with static, lifting their hair on end.

"What's that?" Jo asked with wide eyes.

"I wish I knew," Yates answered, he shifted to look out one of the holes and a blue arc of static electricity snapped between them.

"Ow!" they both said and unaccountably laughed.

--

Mr. Babcock had just come back out of the canteen tent, hot tea in hand, when the force field dome crackled into place. He dropped his tea right on his shoes. Lit by the shimmering force field's light, his face looked even greener than might be expected.

Two men strode past him. They didn't even give him a glance.

The Brigadier paced beside his long-legged scientific advisor, watching the Doctor's static-filled hair floating around as they looked over the boundaries of the force field. "Well, Doctor. What now? We can't reach them through that, can we?"

"I expect they're trying to lift off," the Doctor said, looking up toward the roof again. "And if so, they'll engage their drive."

"What will that do?"

"Well, first it will knock out your power again. Thoroughly."

"Then?"

"Suffice it to say, I doubt that building will survive the lift-off procedures. You better get warn your men they'll need shelter. It may explode."

"Explode? The ship or the building?"

"The building." He looked grim. "And if their hostages aren't on the ship itself, I doubt they'd survive it."

"How much time do we have."

"I expect not much."

There was a hiss of static from the nearby jury-rigged radios and everything but the force field went silent and dark.

"No," the Doctor amended. "Not much at all." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

--

"Dead. All of them. All we have left are our projectile resources, sir!" the lieutenant saluted.

"Very well. Stand by for orders."

"Sir!" the man turned and jogged away from the tent, his small kerosene lamp swinging in his hand.

"Projectile resources? Guns? You're going to shoot them?" the Doctor asked in disbelief.

"One of the good things about gunpowder, Doctor. It's non-electric."

"Good thing? What if Jo and Captain Yates are on that ship? Or has that even occurred to you?"

"Yes. I was hoping you might be able to advise on how we could best wing it."

"Wing it? A spaceship? Brigadier have you lost your mind? This isn't a pheasant-shoot."

"What can we do?" the Brigadier snapped at him. "Everything else is dead!"

"Not Bessie."

"What?"

--

In front of the crackling, humming field that surrounded the house a small, yellow car was carefully wheeled into place.

The Brigadier stepped back as the little roadster roared to life, sounding even louder with all others silent. The men gaped as another dome of energy formed, this time crackling and humming into place over the Doctor and his car. The Brigadier gave him a salute.

The Doctor didn't hesitate a moment, but gunned her straight for the conservatory. Bessie shot bouncing up the steps, her own field morphing with the one around the building and then releasing her like a bubble as the yellow car continued, roaring across the patio.

She crashed straight through the panes, shards of glass and twisted pieces of sill shattering and shrieking around her, repelled by the force field that kept her safe. He skidded her to a stop on the brick flooring inside, skewing her around as he did so to orient her for an escape.

Ramming off the lever for the field, he leaped from the car, tiny bits of debris still raining down from his entrance. Looking about briefly, he headed for the stairway. Above him, the humming vibrations were growing louder.

Quickly searching the rooms, he found no trace of either the alien men, Jo or Yates. Then he found the sitting room, with its metal ladder and blue lights. He looked up at the base of the ship through the hole in the ceiling. The ship's entry port was already sealed. He put one hand on the ladder, trying to think of how he could get the alien's attention enough to get them to open it back up when he heard her.

"Over here!" Jo was calling, waving an arm through one of the holes in a large box.

Whirling around, his eyebrows raised and he ran to them, pausing to consider the exterior of the box. "Ah, here we go." He flipped a latch.

The lid opened and he was looking down at the two rumpled humans, extending a hand.

"Are you all right?"

"Just a bit cramped," Jo said, clasping his arm and letting him help her out.

Mike climbed out after her, rubbing his stiff legs. "Thanks," he said. "Now what?"

"Now we get out of here," he said and turned to lead the way back across the room with it's strange metal ladder and lights. The humming and throbbing sounds were growing stronger every minute.

"Oh, wait! We can't leave the animals!" Jo ran back into the small room, opening tabs on boxes.

"Jo!" The Doctor and Yates both said with a mix of frustration and affection.

"Help me!" she called, throwing a small box at Mike, who fumbled at the catch and jumped slightly as two bewildered field mice ran out over his hands.

The Doctor came back in and grabbed her arm, physically towing her out of the room. "There's no time!"

"But…" she was still opening boxes she'd stuffed under her arms as she went. Two pigeons burst into the air and bumped around the room as he half-dragged her out the door and back down the stairs.

"Sorry, Jo," the Doctor said as they ran down the steps and back to the ruined conservatory. "We have to get back to Bessie. This whole place is about to go up!"

Two beetles scurried from the box in her hands, making her give a little scream and shake them off. "Mike!" she called back over her shoulder. She couldn't see him around the Doctor's flaring cape.

"I'm here. I'm coming!" he panted behind them. "Where are the aliens?"

"In their ship! Get in the car!" The Doctor nearly threw Jo into Bessie, Yates scrambling into the back seat as he reached for a lever on the lower dash and rammed it all the way up.

Jo's wide eyes grew even wider as a now-familiar crackling filled the air and a faint dome formed around the yellow roadster. She looked back at Mike and almost giggled, his eyes were round as dinnerplates and his hair waved around from the static.

Then the building exploded.

-

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Chapter 6: Chapter 6


Outside the building, men ducked behind makeshift shelters, hedges and trucks as the blast flattened everything around it, chunks of cheap masonry, flying glass, garden ornaments and plaster spattering off of everything in a wide radius around it.

Benton started to peer up at it and nearly got beaned by half a shutter that came tumbling down from where it had been blown in to the sky. Above them a wide silver shape lifted above it's engines, roaring up into the night sky until it was lost.

There was a long pause, then the voices of men calling out reports to one another.

"Filton is down, sir! A, uh, cherub-head hit him," a man told Benton.

"Is he alive?"

"Yes sir, but we think it broke his shoulder."

"Get him to the medic. Morley! Help him with Filton."

A mousey grey-clad man who'd sheltered with them stood beside him. It took the Sergeant a minute to remember who he was, and that he was in his charge.

"Mr. Babcock, you're uninjured I hope?"

"The building blew up," he said, as if Benton might need informing of this fact.

"Yes sir, it did."

He pointed a shaky finger towards the smoking remains. "That Doctor and the others, they were in there."

"I expect they were."

The trembling Ministry Aide peered up at him, wide-eyed. "No way he could have made it out," he choked. "No way. He's gone. They're all gone."

Benton patted his arm, trying to reassure himself a bit as well as the government man. "You don't know our Doc. He'll find some way out of it."

"From that? Anyone near it would have been killed. Killed!"

"Sergeant Benton! Any other injuries?" a soldier called, running the rounds for lack of radios.

"None!" he called back. "I've got Mr. Babcock here too. He's safe. We're going to find the Doctor!"

"Roger that!" the runner yelled as he jogged off into the settling dust.

"We are?" Babcock looked at him like he was out of his mind. "You'd need a body bag."

"I don't think so. Come along; you're in my charge and I'm going to find the Doctor and hopefully the Captain and Miss Grant as well, so you're coming too." He picked up the kerosene lantern, took the man's arm and half-pulled him along with him, striding quickly to the ruined building.

"I'm not going in there!" he protested as he was towed along. "They're all dead, I tell you!"

The tall Sergeant ignored him. "Hoy! Hello in there! Doctor!" he called as they picked their way up the debris-strewn steps. He peered in through the cluttered, smoking holes. "Captain! Miss! Doctor! Halllooo!"

Something powder-blue moved inside. "Halloo yourself, Sergeant!" came a light, feminine voice. Babcock's jaw dropped and he literally gaped as a petite young woman came, picking her way carefully around chunks of cement and brick. "We're fine, all of us! Mike was with me and we got to Bessie."

"And the Doctor?"

"Mike's helping him get Bessie free. He wanted me to get some men to help shift a beam so he can get her back out."

"Bessie?" Babcock said faintly.

Benton smiled at him. "The Doc's car. More to that old rattletrap than meets the eye."

"Uh. So I see," he said lamely, not seeing at all.

"Hi!" The young woman had reached him and stuck out a dusty hand in greeting. "I'm Josephine Grant, the Doctor's assistant."

"Assistant? I, er, I'm Babcock. John Babcock." He belatedly shook the small hand. "Uh, aide."

"He's from Whitehall," Benton put in by way of explanation.

"Oh!" Jo dismissed him, turning back to the Sergeant. "Now get some men! The Doctor's waiting, and who knows how well the rest of that roof is going to hold up We'll tell you about it later."

"Right!" Benton turned and trotted down the steps, signaling at the men milling about.

Babcock stood where he'd been left. Jo turned and began picking her way back in.

"Are you all right, Mr. Babcock?" the pretty girl asked with concern, looking back at him.

"Uh, yes! I say, you aren't going back in there, are you?"

"Someone needs to let the Doctor know they're coming. Once I get to Bessie, I'll be fine."

"That's the yellow car." He still looked a little blank.

"Right enough."

--

The night was late enough now he was sure it must be considered morning. John Babcock yawned, not bothering to hide it behind a hand in the dark. How these military types could just keep going he had no idea. Maybe their tea was stronger.

"Tired, Mr. Babcock?" a sweet voice asked in the dim lighting. Miss Grant. And here he'd been joking when he'd suggested that the scientist had pretty girls around. Well, the man had certainly earned it. John had been beyond astonished at what he'd seen, and that didn't even include that odd car. He realized belatedly he had been staring and hadn't answered her.

"Well, it's certainly past bedtime for most people."

"The Brigadier wanted me to let you know you're welcome to sleep at our headquarters. We have some rooms for visitors, much nicer than a barracks to be sure."

"I think… I shall accept that offer," he nodded. Then nodded again.

"You can ride with us, come on."

He mutely followed along after her small form, not quite realizing what 'ride with us' meant until he was facing the side of a small yellow roadster.

"Well, don’t just stand there, get in!" a slightly impatient voice commanded. He bleared up at the white-haired man at the wheel and obligingly managed to angle himself into the rear seat. The Doctor didn't look tired at all.

Miss Grant climbed into the front and they smoothly pulled away from the dark ruins of the hall. Behind them the small convoy of jeeps and trucks were just beginning to rumble to life, preparing to head back to London.

Jo looked back at him. "Sorry about my case taking up so much of the seat," she apologized.

He looked a little blankly at the pink and green flowered case that sat beside him. He hadn't really noticed it there. "That's all right," he said. "So, you're a part of UNIT too?"

She nodded and tipped her head towards the driver. "I'm his assistant. And you're with some kind of Ministry, right?"

"Ministry of Custom Supply," he said. "We, uh, provide customized items for Defence."

"Sounds very interesting," she said politely. "What's your part in it?"

"I'm an auditor. I look for people who have been cheating the government, con-men and so on."

"Oh," she nodded. "That's why you were at UNIT? Is the Brigadier helping you find some con-men?"

The Doctor gave a snort. "Quite the opposite," he noted dryly.

John rubbed his forehead. "Just doing my job," he said apologetically.

"Though you know, you did have a legitimate case there," the Doctor continued. "That ship was repaired using customized orders and materials from the British Ministry of Defence. A true custom vehicle. I'm afraid you won't have much luck collecting on the outstanding debt, though. They're well out of Earth's orbit by now."

"Earth's orbit," Babcock echoed. "You really think it went all the way into space?"

"Of course it did!" Jo said with surprise. "Where else would it go? Besides, Mike and I saw the pilots. They weren't human."

"Now, wait. I'll concede the orbit, but I saw that man. He was human."

"No, he wasn't," Jo said.

"He was."

"No, he wasn't. Not at all. You should have seen their eyes. Scary."

"So, anyone with scary eyes is an alien?" John scoffed, though his scoffing didn't sound too convincing, not even to him.

Jo looked over at the Doctor, who gave her a hugely wide-eyed expression and went back to driving. She fell to gigging so much she didn't answer him. Then she leaned against the Doctor to catch her breath, then she fell asleep.

"Still," Babcock mumbled after a while. "I have to admit that field effect, that was impressive." He settled down, half draped over Jo's case and shortly began to snore.

The Doctor smiled.

--

The Brigadier looked up from a stack of papers he was signing. "Good morning, Mr. Babcock, I trust you slept well?" Late morning light was coming through the blinds in the Brigadier's office, forming a thin rectangle across the aide's rumpled grey suit.

"Er, yes. Thank you. Your guest room was very comfortable." He's woken up disoriented, having no memory of getting there, to tell the truth, and wondered if the Doctor had somehow lugged him in.

He cleared his throat. "I just wanted to let you know I'll be putting together my report on the uses by UNIT of your customized orders and supplies, especially regarding those of your science department…"

"Yes?"

"And. Ahem. That I will do whatever I can to guarantee your requests go through unaltered."

"Thank you, Mr. Babcock. That is most gratifying."

"I mean, I'm sure there are men who won't understand how important your work is here. I'll want to assure you, I'll do everything I can."

The Brigadier smiled with satisfaction. "Thank you. Cutting red tape is a skill we could use more of. And I'm sure the Doctor would thank you too. He's the beneficiary of many of those items and is quite indisposed when they are lacking. Tea?"

"No thank you. I'm just on my way out. Express my assurances to Doctor Smith as well. I understand why you have him here."

"Do you?" The Brigadier wondered just how much he understood.

"Yes. He's a brilliant scientist. He seems a fine example of what any British man can strive to be if he truly puts his mind to it."

The Brigadier's mouth quirked. "Yes, well. I'll be sure to tell him that. A fine British man is all he's ever wanted to be. Good day, Mr. Babcock."

"Good day."


--

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