"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.