Deep Focus

by Pete Galey [Reviews - 3]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Action/Adventure, Drama, General, Mystery

Author's Notes:
See Prologue.

Chris didn't dare move, knowing that the chance of being spotted was minimised by staying as still as possible. Unfortunately, the guard seemed to decide that the dogs were barking for good reason, and untied one of them, wrapping the leash around his wrist and walking towards a small gate in the fence with the scythe in his other hand. Chris's options were diminishing. He could use his blaster to tackle these two, but didn't know if that would alert anyone else to his presence. He could try to run, but the guard might spot him. The best bet was probably to keep still for the moment.

That proved to be a questionable decision, as the guard after opening the gate walked straight towards him, the hound straining at the leash and pulling him forwards. Perhaps another option — he could do what the Doctor did and brazen it out, pretend to be in a position of authority and tell the guard his punctuality was wanting. Did he dare do that? Did he have a choice? The guard would spot him behind the tree any moment. Chris summoned up all his courage, and strode out.

"Ah, there you are," he called to the guard. "I must say security is a little lax around here."

"Who are you, sir?" said the man. Chris was delighted to note that they at least spoke the same language, though whether that was because of the pagoda or not, he couldn't say.

"I'm an Adjudicator from off-world," Chris improvised, noting with a certain amused detachment that he didn't seem able to come up with something imaginative. "I'm supposed to be meeting my partner for a tour of the facility, but I've received some poor directions."

"The main entrance is at the opposite side. Did you say off-world?"

"Yes. I'm afraid it's all hush-hush, but thanks for your help."

"If I can just see your ID card, sir?"

"I knew you were going to ask that. I dropped it around here somewhere, I was just looking for it when you came."

The guard rolled his eyes. "Don't worry, sir, I've got a visitor's card. If I can just take a retina scan?"

"A retina scan?"

"To confirm you're authorised to be here, sir."

"Oh, of course. Because if I wasn't authorised, you'd have to scythe me, right?"

The guard laughed. "If you weren't authorised, you'd be in a worse situation than that."

Chris laughed too. "Don't I know it!"

The guard took out a device and pointed it at Chris's face. It was now or never. The dog was sitting waiting for instructions. If Chris was going to blast the guard, he'd have to blast the dog too. And he had to do it now. He had no choice. The blaster was holstered at his side. One swift movement, one shot, two shots.

"This might sting a bit," said the guard, just before Chris shot him and his dog.

"Sorry," said Chris. He looked down where the man had fallen. Unfortunately the blast had caught him across the chest. He was dead. So was the dog. Thinking fast, Chris took the device from his hands. It was primed and ready to shoot to take a retina scan. With some revulsion, Chris pointed the device at the eyes of the guard and pressed the big green button. He wasn't sure exactly what would happen, but what did happen was that a small card, about half the size of a credit card, emerged from the back of the machine.

An ID card? Authorised to access all the areas the guard was allowed to access?

But now Chris had a decision to make. If he went in the small gate and used the card, he might not make it to rendezvous with Roz. But if he didn't, the guard might be discovered missing and the warning put out that there was a dangerous intruder on the loose.

In the end, the decision was made for him. A distant siren went off, and the other dog still tethered to the building started barking. Before waiting to see whether the guard's death had triggered this, Chris turned back towards the hill and tore up it as fast as he could.

* * *

Roz heard the siren going off in the distance, and wondered if she'd triggered some security device after all. She didn't have an opportunity to investigate though, so she continued to circle round to her meeting point with Chris. She arrived there a little early and hid in the trees, using her binoculars to see what was going on, but all she could see was the metal fencing and lots of concrete walls. She didn't have to wait much longer; Chris was also early, sprinting towards her from behind.

"I might have known," she said with a cynical smile. "Trouble?"

"I shot a guard. I've got what I hope is a valid ID card, though. This is some kind of Government facility, there's a sign about radiation but it might just be a lie to scare people away."

"I saw something being delivered, I got what I think is a manifest." She showed it to Chris.

"I might be able to work out what these items are," he said, showing Roz his annotated image of the sign. "That... ammunition?"

"Yes," she said. "I think this is a weapons research facility. Into demonic weapons, whatever they are."

"If so, the security doesn't seem that tight. It's more like a warehouse."

"Either way, I'd feel better back in my Adjudicator armour. Suggest we return for it and then decide what to do."

So they did.

* * *

Back in their uniforms, they decided to make their way back to the pagoda. Although they didn't know much about its technology, there might be some means of connecting the ID card and maybe logging on to some remote network through it. It was the longest of long shots, but as the industrial complex was probably now on the lookout for at least one saboteur, it would keep them out of the way for a moment or two.

It was a good job they did, because when they got there, there was a girl standing at the pagoda, looking up at it. It wouldn't let her in, thankfully. Roz and Chris kept in the shadow of the trees observing this person. She looked mid-to-late teens, dressed in comfortable khaki clothes, not dissimilar from what they wore under their armour, and she had neatly cropped fair hair. She didn't look as if she posed a threat. Roz stood forward.

"Stay where you are," she said, putting one hand on her blaster but keeping it holstered.

The girl spun round. "Who are you?"

"Adjudicator Roslyn Forrester. Who are you?"

"My name's Becky." The girl automatically held out her ID card. Roz reached forward and took it. It was similar to the one Chris had taken from the guard except this one had a hologram of the girl's face on it and in tiny letters, Rebeckah Toulouse. Roz handed it back. "What's this?" Becky asked, pointing to the pagoda.

"That's a secret," said Roz. "Are you connected to the base over there?"

"Of course," said the girl. "Aren't you?"

"That's a secret," said Roz, feeling as if this conversation wasn't going to go entirely her way. "What's your role there?"

"I don't have a role. I help out in the canteen sometimes. My dad's a researcher and my mum's a manager."

"What's the place for? What goes on there?"

These questions made Becky paused and take a step back, but she couldn't run as she was up against the pagoda. She didn't answer though.

"This is serious, Becky. We need your help."

"We?"

Chris stepped forward. "Hullo," he said.

"How did you get here?" asked Becky.

"That's a secret," said Chris, with just the merest hint of Roz-mockery in his voice. "You didn't answer Adjudicator Forrester's question. What's the complex's purpose?"

"You can't possibly be on the planet and not know that. How did you get here? In this?" She gestured to the pagoda.

Roz decided it was time for a little more openness. "Yes. It's like a matter transmitter. We beamed down. We have reason to believe that something belonging to us was stolen by the people who run that complex. We want you to help us find it."

Becky's expression had gradually turned from one of confusion to one of fear. Now she tried to make her escape, running around the side of the pagoda and towards the trees. Roz pulled her blaster from her holster. "Stop! Or I'll shoot!"

Becky stopped. She put her arms up and turned to face Roz. The look on her face was one of terror. "Please just let me go. Don't hurt me. I won't tell anyone you're here, I promise."

Chris moved forward. "Look," he said, "we don't want to frighten you. We're the good guys. We just want to get back what's ours. That's all. If you can just find a way to sneak us in. I've got one of those ID cards, perhaps you can help us reprogram it, make one of us a researcher."

"Are you working for the Pasaton-Veek alliance?" asked Becky.

Roz and Chris looked at each other. "Um, no," said Chris. "I'm fairly sure we're not."

"What are you then?"

"We're human beings," said Roz, "like you."

"How can you be? No one's allowed on this planet unless they're part of one of the projects."

Chris looked at Roz. "That explains the relatively lax security at the complex itself — no need if the entire planet's security is very tight."

"Which is lucky for us, if these people don't know about the wonders of dematerialisation. OK, next question. What's a demonic weapon?"

"I don't know. That's just the code name of the project. They're experimenting to find something that can be used in the war. It's supposed to be different to any weapon ever seen before. The only thing I know about it is that it's supposed to be intelligent."

"An intelligent weapon. Hmm. Nanotechnology? A computer virus?"

"Or the TARDIS itself," said Chris. "If they've broken into it somehow, they might want to harness its powers."

"This war," said Roz. "Who are you fighting? The Vasaton..."

"The Pasaton-Veek Alliance."

"What are they?"

Becky shrugged.

"Aliens? Robots? Clouds of sentient gas?"

"I don't know."

"You say you work in the canteen. You must hear a lot of gossip. Ever hear about something like this?" Chris pointed to the pagoda. "Because the thing we're looking for is similar — blue and made of wood, but the same basic shape and size."

Becky shook her head.

"Hear about any research into matter transmission or faster-than-light travel?"

"My dad mentioned something about one of the specimens. They had to prevent it from disappearing. It could vanish in an instant."

"That sounds like the TARDIS," whispered Chris to Roz. "They must have some technology around here if they're able to stop it from dematerialising."

"Well, we know they were capable of stealing it, isolating the house and surrounding it by — whatever that stuff was," Roz replied.

"But what I don't understand is, they've got all that tech but in other ways they seem pretty backward."

Roz shrugged. "Happens on some colony worlds — some tech is lost, other parts advance. Generally the developments surrounding space travel are inevitably the most developed."

"Well, we've got to get inside somehow. This ID card's the best bet. If only I can find out from this device what level of clearance it has. Becky, can you find out?"

But Becky had used the adjudicators' moment of conspiracy to edge around the side of the pagoda and was now sprinting off. Roz instinctively raised her blaster but Chris put his hand up. "Let her go."

"What now?"

"Time isn't on our side any more. I'm just going to have to try to get inside the complex with this ID card and locate the TARDIS before she has a chance to raise the alarm."

"I'll stand guard over the pagoda."

Chris nodded, and set off back towards the valley.