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.
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.
"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…"
"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."