In the medical wing, Jo nervously stood by the Doctor, unaware of what was occurring outside and having only gunfire to go on. She pushed a stethoscope onto his chest and was dismayed to hear that only one of his hearts now appeared to be beating. Looking at his face, Jo saw the uncomfortable tenseness written on it.
She looked up… and screamed as the face of a Santa Claus Robot was viable through the window. In its hand she saw a remote control and a button glowing bright red. What did that mean?
The sound of a Jingle tune emitted from down the hall, coupled with several shouts of surprise as Benton and his men emerged from the entrance hall. The Christmas tree in the lounge was moving! It began to spin, both the movement and song it was making growing higher in pitch. Jo screamed again as she looked outside her door and saw the killer tree buzz though the wood of the door frame to the lounge and cut off the men from her. Bullets seemed to have no effect as it menacingly moved towards her.
Panicking, she cut and locked the door before realising this would never stop the tree from cutting through and reaching her and the Doctor. She struggled to push a nearby cabinet in front, if only to slow the progress of the tree, but a bleeping from the window reminded her of the watching Santa. She jumped back in alarm as the tree burst though the door, now moving faster than ever! The Santa creature had made the remote-controlled tree even faster, and uncertain of how to escape she rushed to the side of the nearby cabinet and pulled out the Doctor’s velvet jacket. She rummaged through the pocket contents and pulled out with glee the Sonic Screwdriver, brandished it at the advancing tree and pressed the button.
With a sudden array of sparks, the Christmas Tree exploded and UNIT Forces piled into the room. Jo glanced at the window and with some horror realised that the Santa was gone.
“Well done, Jo.” Mike, Benton and Jo jumped and twirled round to see the Doctor, dressed in PJ’s that the medical wardens had supplied him, sitting up and apparently well. Jo was initially delighted and moved towards him but a worried frown appeared on her face as she saw the vacant expression upon the Doctor’s brow.
“Hm, remote control, but who could be controlling it, I think?” The Doctor shot off the bed and strode right past the soldiers, stopping only briefly twice, first to pick up a dressing gown and then to nab the Screwdriver from Jo’s right hand. “Out here.”
The four figures exited the building, and Jo shuddered as the three Santa robots stood, two with trumpets and the third still holding the remote control device, their metal masks betraying nothing. But as the Doctor thrust the Screwdriver in their direction, they moved backwards, almost in fear. The centre Santa pushed a button, and glowing with a blue aura, the trio vanished, a trail of blue energy emitting into the sky.
“What?” Mike Yates couldn’t keep the surprise off his face. “They trash UNIT HQ, kill three of our men and turn our tree into a ripsaw of death, and then just leave? What sort of creatures were they?”
“Pilot Fish.” The Doctor seemed to slur the phrase out. “They were just…” His feet gave way and he crumpled to the ground. Only Jo’s quick timing stopped him from falling completely and she tried to keep him awake.
“Doctor! What’s happening? Why are you like this?”
The Time Lord seemed to be struggling to keep awake. “Tried to… open TARDIS circuits. See if… I could override Time Lord Restraints. But… I accidently looked into the TARDIS’ heart… Ugh… very dangerous energy in there, exposed to it… I became a living energy source. The Pilot Fish could… could detect it from deep space. Must have wanted to kill you and take me to feed off all that energy… AH!” The Doctor convulsed and Jo struggled to hold him. “Listen, Jo! Neuron explosion in my body, I need to…” He slumped forwards.
“DOCTOR! What do you need?” Tearfully, Jo attempted to get him awake, and was shocked as his eyes snapped wide open.
“Pilot Fish! Pilot Fish means that… means that… something is coming.”
As Christmas Eve passed into Christmas Day, Jo fretted as she moved back and forth in the now half damaged lounge, Mike and Benton attempting to reassure her. The medical officer had told for them to give the Doctor the chance to rest, but every hour since the Time Lord had collapsed had yielded no results.
“I’ve seen him like this before,” Benton muttered to Yates. “When he showed up with the whole Auton business and he had changed from… from before. He was all jumpy and saying the strangest things…” A thought occurred to him. “Oh lord; he’s not going to change again, is he?” No one replied to his thoughts so he resorted to brooding in silence.
The TV was switched on by Yates in the absence of still being unable to contact the Brigadier. It appeared that Guinevere One had been found and the ground crews seemed pleased with the results. “Scientists in charge of Britain's mission to Mars have re-established contact with the Guinevere One space probe. They're expecting the first transmission from the planet's surface in the next few minutes.” Doctor Llewellyn once more appeared, a little more subdued and nervous than before as he gave his comments. “Yes, we are. We're -- we're back on schedule. We've received the signal from Guinevere One. The Mars landing would seem to be an unqualified success."
“But is it true that you completely lost contact earlier tonight?”
The scientist took the comment. “Yes, we had a bit of a scare. Guinevere seemed to fall off the scope, but it -- it was just a blip. Only disappeared for a few seconds. She's fine now, absolutely fine. We -- we're getting the first pictures transmitted live any minute now. I'd better get back to it, thanks.” He strutted off the stage, Yates recognising the staged calm on his face.
“Pilot Fish…” Jo suddenly remarked. “What are Pilot Fish, exactly? The Doctor called those Robot things that.”
Yates glanced at her with some worry. “Well, I’ve done some study into marine life… a past time you understand… and Pilot Fish are Scavengers which latch onto big predators and use them to hunt. If the Doctor said that something was coming, that means…”
Their thoughts were cleared as the TV started to go fuzzy. The announcer claimed that these images were coming live from the surface of Mars. The static started to clear as a shape appeared…
Then the three jumped as something roared directly at the screen.
“The face of an alien life form was transmitted live tonight on BBC1.”
“On the 25th of December, the human race has been shown absolute proof that alien life exists.”
“These remarkable images have been relayed right across the world.”
Within UNIT headquarters at the Tower of London, Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart glanced in turn at several of the screens and sighed. “Well damn goes the Official Secrets Act…” He was joined by Major Blake, a fellow UNIT officer and long-time friend of academy days. “Well Major, looks like UNIT have a full scale crisis on their hands. Just perfect that it’s the day that Doris’ mother happens to be visiting. Ah well, no Turkey for me today it seems.”
Blake nodded. “Not to worry, sir, the Ministry of Defence will be certain to cover this up as best as we can.” He looked about and then turned back to his commanding officer. “So where is this famed Scientific Advisor of yours?”
“Worse luck, it seems.” The Brigadier sighed once more. “The old chap appears to be infected something to do with that TARDIS of his. Typical. An alien invasion is incoming and UNIT has already lost its trump card.”
“Sir!” A private raced in, a shocked expression on his face. “The scientist bloke is coming sir, but he’s with-” He never finished as both the Major and Brigadier snapped to attention at the arriving figure. “Madam.”
“That’s alright, gentlemen.” The Prime Minister glanced around her as she surveyed the operation. “Thank you for being prompt. And Dr Llewellyn, I’m glad to finally meet you properly.”
“Hm, yes, Prime Minister,” was all that the young scientist could say. He was too amazed at the thought of what his findings had made; let alone what he’d been sworn to secrecy of a base operating from the Tower of London. His feelings were clearly readable as the Brigadier smiled and explained.
“New UNIT base, formed recently. Designed as a more high-tech monitoring station than found within our main headquarters. Since London is a logical target, it makes sense to have a proper base of operations here.”
The Prime Mister motioned to her right hand man Alex. “Alex here has devised a suitable cover story.”
“We've said it was a hoax. Some sort of mask or prosthetics. Students hi-jacking the signal, that sort of thing.”
“Excellent work, Alex.” The Prime Minister smiled across at him, and then sternly motioned at the Brigadier. “Now then, Brigadier, what has UNIT determined so far?”
“This creature appears to be new.” The Major spoke up. “It’s certainly nothing that staff at UNIT backlogs can identify as something that we’ve encountered before.”
“You seem to talk of aliens as if they are a matter of fact.” Llewellyn perked up.
“Quite. But more importantly… The transmission didn't come from the surface of Mars. Guinevere One was broadcasting from a point some 5 thousand miles above the planet… at least, when the transmission was received.”
“So they might not even be Martians.” Llewellyn suggested meekly.
“Of course not, Martians look completely different.” Llewellyn looked across with shock at Major Blake’s statement, who quickly regretted his words as the Prime Mister and Brigadier frowned at him before sighing.
“Certainly, madam.” The Brigadier moved over to a set of technicians who were busy operating large computer panels and switches. “Our number of satellites at present are still limited, but what we have detected some kind of spacecraft. Its moving in our direction, and unfortunately it looks to be moving quickly.”
“Sir!” One of the technicians pointed to the main computer screen operated on a wall as it snapped to life. Four figures stood in a darkened chamber. The one who appeared to be leader began to speak in a guttural alien tongue. “Gatzaa so me. Me pel Sycora. Codrafee ka gal soo hutsa, soo mineatal, soo pedra cay. So massac jalvaaan col theia massac chack chiff. Sycora jac! Sycora telpo! Sycora faa! SYCORA FAA!”
The Brigadier motioned at one of the techies. “Odd, they normally speak English. Get that translated as quickly as you can, I’m guessing that was some kind of ultimatum.”
Another man stepped up to speak to him. “Sirs, madam. Call from Washington. The President is demanding that he take control of the situation.”
The PM sighed. “Kindly tell the President that though his thoughts are most welcome in this hour, he’s not my boss and he’s certainly not turning this into a war.”
Jo glanced out of the half-damaged mansion, feeling so powerless. With the Brigadier in London and the Doctor now back in bed, seemingly worse than ever, she had no idea what to do.
They always spoke English. The aliens. These ones didn’t… like without the Doctor that didn’t happen…
Mike was also concerned and kept his own thoughts. The Brigadier had called him an hour ago and explained the situation. Anyone presently ringing up about the television event was to be told the cover story provided. And most disturbing was that they had been informed of — the fact that something big was heading their way.
“Still nothing from your advisor, Brigadier?” The Prime Minister had sat on one of the many seats gathered round the base and was ruefully sipping some Coffee she’d obtained.
“Nothing as yet Madam. I’m not sure what’s happened to him, particularly when we perhaps need him more now than we ever have. I surprised that you’ve never had the honour of meeting him.” Lethbridge braved a smile at his Commander-In-Chief and she nodded back.
“He’s renowned enough for what he did for this country at Stangmoor Prison and Project Inferno. But failing him… what about Torchwood?”
Lethbridge started. “Madam, I must protest… even the Doctor doesn’t know about that particular organisation, and neither should you. After all the trouble with Department C19…”
The PM raised a hand for silence. “I know I'm not supposed to know about it, I realise that. Not even the United Nations knows. But if ever there was a need for Torchwood, it's now. Brigadier… you’ve made a similar choice before haven’t you?”
Lethbridge shifted uncomfortably, and then nodded. Before the pair could continue a shout from Alex that the Translation software was complete caused them to move over to him, Llewellyn and Major Blake.
"People... that could be cattle…” Alex began to read off the script that the computer had provided. "You belong to us. To the Sycorax’-- they seem to be called Sycorax, not Martians. ‘We own you. We now possess your land, your minerals, your precious stones. You will surrender or they will die. Sycorax strong, Sycorax mighty, Sycorax rock - as in the modern sense, they rock.”
‘They will die’?” Llewellyn sat mystified at the result. “Not ‘you will die’, ‘they will die’? Who's they?"
“I don't know, but it is the right personal pronoun, it's they.”
The Prime Minister straightened and was silent for a moment, and then spoke. “This software can send a reply out to them?” At a nod from ones of the techies, she continued. “Send them our reply. Tell them... This is a day of peace on planet Earth.’Tell them... We extend that peace to the Sycorax. And then tell them... This planet is armed and we do not surrender.”
The hours dragged on as light began to stream through the window of the medical ward. Jo sat by the Doctor’s side, now past the panicking stage, merely content to watch and hope. Nearby was Benton and Mike Yates, a walkie talkie by his hand in case the Brigadier needed his help or another attack on the mansion came their way.
The silence was oppressive, and Jo bent down to the Doctor’s ear, tears welling in her eyes.
“Come on, Doctor… we need you. UNIT needs you. I need you…”
“Madam, we’re receiving a response.” Alex’s words came as the form of the Sycorax loomed upon the screen. As the Brigadier watched what was clearly their leader moved his left hand in a gesturing motion and the hand glowed bright blue for a moment, just before the signal went dead.
“What was that?” The PM looked confused. “Was that some sort of response?”
Llewellyn continued to stare at the now blank screen. “If I didn’t know better it looked like someone casting a spell. Maybe it's a different form of language, some sort of ideogram or pictogram.” Suddenly he glanced about and the three men and woman were amazing to see a number of people stand up, glowing blue and all heading in a certain direction, including the UNIT techie who had been helping them. “What the hell? It's the light! It's the same light! You there! What're you doing? Hey!” The techie ignored him and those who had stood shuffled towards the exit. The two soldiers at the door branded their weapons but an order from Major Blake and the PM let them go on.
Back at UNIT Main Headquarters, the same thing was happening; a large number of the soldiers on standby were simply dropping their guns and heading up the stairs of the mansion. Mike and Jo looked on with horrid fascination, particularly when they saw one of the figures.
“Benton!” Yates’ attempts to reach him proved futile. “Benton, stop that! That’s an order! BENTON! Blast, it’s no good, none of them are responding!”
“Why!?” Jo to and fro’ed between those who were now steadily scaling the steps to the upper floors, utterly ignoring the commands of Yates and the other soldiers who seemed unaffected. “Why is it them and not us?”
“I don’t know… wait. The phone!” Yates rushed to it and picked it up. “Mike Yates. Thank god, sir, it's you! Yes, the same here. No, Jo and the Doctor are alright, but Sergeant Benton… We’ll do our best to sir.” He put the phone down and turned wide-eyed to Jo. “Whatever’s happening, it’s across the whole country… maybe even the world. Whole groups of people are just walking up to the highest area they can find…”
“Captain!” a voice of one of the remaining UNIT troops screamed out. "They’ve all gone through to the Fire Escape on the roof. Oh, god… I think they’re going to the edge! They’re going to jump!”
Mike Yates cursed and grabbed Jo as the pair raced to assist Private Letts, who was attempting to stop Benton from getting too close to the edge. Just as they reached it, they stopped.
Mike and Jo looked on in horror. Some twenty men, including Benton, stood motionless. “Now what?” Jo whispered. Mike just stared about helplessly. He’d seen some weird things at UNIT, but few things proved to be as unnerving as this.
“I don’t know, I really don’t know.”