Part 8: Children of the Sanctum

by Soldeed [Reviews - 5]

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Chapter Seven

The UNIT trio made an inglorious exit from the Sanctum, with Hazelbrook snapping at their heels like an aggressive dog.

“I’m astonished, Colonel, astonished! You were guests on my property and your people entered restricted areas without my knowledge or permission. Is this the way UNIT runs its investigations? Do you think because I have offended some important people that I am outside the protection of the law? Let me assure you that my influence and contacts are extensive and I am well capable of making life extremely difficult for you. What were you thinking? What were you expecting to achieve with an illegal search of my premises?”

Stark’s jaw was stiffly clenched, and he answered with a courtesy held in place only by an extreme exertion of will.

“I can only apologise again, your Lordship, and assure you that this breach of discipline will not be repeated. All UNIT investigations take place with due respect for national law.”

Hazelbrook stood in the exit, glaring at them as they stood on the gravel outside, one hand gripping the heavy steel door. His baggy, careless clothing and elaborate moustache clashed incongruously with the iron fury in his face.

“You will hear more of this, Colonel. Depend on it.”

The door slammed. Stark span on his heel and marched away along the track which led back to the main gate. Angela started to follow, but was distracted by the Doctor standing frowning up at the looming structure, apparently quite oblivious to the disgrace in which they had been ejected.

“We should have confronted him with what we saw,” he said. “Just to gauge his reaction. I think I’ll go back in.”

“Doctor, this is not the time,” she hissed. “Now come on, we have to go and be nice to Colonel Stark.”

He glanced down at her, puzzled.

“What? Oh.” He turned to look at Stark’s stiff, fast-moving gait, and seemed to grasp for the first time the tension of the situation. “Yes. Yes, all right, let’s go and be nice. I hope we don’t get detention.”

They caught up with Stark at the car. Angela felt a spiky prickle of nerves run up her spine at the way he kept his back to them while he unlocked the doors.

“Sir..”

“Doctor Castle.” He turned sharply to face her, and she saw that his face was bloodless with suppressed anger. “I shall not speak to you about this now. I am shocked that you’ve jeopardised this investigation with this foolish adventure. May I remind you that UNIT is a military organisation and I expect discipline from my subordinates. More particularly, I expected better from you.”

She shrivelled under his venom, but at the same time her sense of injustice flared up rebelliously. Stark idolised the Doctor and yet she was being flayed when her only mistake was to take the Doctor’s advice.

“Well...”

She glanced sidelong at the Doctor and heard herself saying, “But Sir... it was his fault. It was all his idea. He led me astray, Sir.”

She stayed silent. Stark’s immobile features radiated cold scorn.

“As you know, Doctor Castle, I took a chance with you. I was advised to dismiss you but I felt that you had learned your lesson. This is the first time you’ve given me cause to regret that.”

It was like a punch in the pit of her stomach. She couldn’t have defended herself if she’d tried. Angela lowered her head and prepared to mumble an abject apology. The Doctor’s voice, mild and yet steely, forestalled her.

“Colonel, I’m sure you’re familiar with my long record of foolish adventures and insubordination. I don’t feel that Doctor Castle should be taking all the blame here.”

If Angela had hoped that the word of her mythical companion would drain Stark’s anger then she would have been disappointed, but at least his attention was distracted. His rigidly controlled features turned to face the Doctor.

“Doctor, I’m prepared for the fact that you’re inclined to be a loose cannon. Lethbridge-Stewart always considered your usefulness to outweigh your erratic methods and I’m inclined to agree with him. Aside from that, I could have explained your actions to Hazelbrook as being those of a civilian observer outside my control. Doctor Castle, on the other hand, is a member of UNIT. That means, firstly, that I am responsible for her actions, and secondly that I expect a higher standard of professionalism from her.”

He turned his back on them, climbing into the car without another word. Angela hesitated, reluctant to sit alongside him and be conscious of his accusing glare for the whole return trip. She couldn’t help hoping that the Doctor would step forward and grab the front seat, sparing her that experience.

The Doctor seemed distracted, eyeing the great steel doors which had slid shut behind them, and glancing up and down the road, into the trees, and down the hill towards the manor house. He bit his lip and then mused aloud:

“I think I’ll hang around here for a bit.” He pondered this resolution in silence for a moment, then glanced down at Angela. “Want to come?”

She almost choked on her own anger at his infuriating disregard for everything that had just occurred. For a moment she could only gesture wide-eyed at the car where Stark sat waiting.

“Of course I don’t want to come ”

He frowned at her, then at Stark, then at last seemed to grasp the problem.

“Oh. Yes, of course.” He looked at her curiously. “Do you really enjoy working for the military?”

“Yes,” she snapped. “I love my job.”

“Pleased to hear it,” he said solemnly. “Then have a very enjoyable ride back to town.”

She clenched her fists, knowing she should just turn her back with cold disdain and climb into the car with Stark, but unwilling to leave without some parting shot.

“You... you just don’t get it, do you? You don’t understand, or you just don’t care, what you’ve done to me today. My career, my relationship with the Colonel...”

She had grown used to his indifferent acceptance of everything thrown at him so far. When his eyes started his wide, his eyebrows flaring up, his lips tightening, the shock made her recoil.

“I have done nothing to you! You are an adult, you make your own choices. You came with me because you wanted to. Now, if you don’t want to come with me again then go with the Colonel and get back into his good books. But whatever you do don’t blame anyone else for your decision.”

After the Colonel’s anger, it was too much. For a horrifying moment Angela believed she was going to cry. But with a steadying breath she lifted her chin and spoke to him with clear eyes and a level voice.

“Then the decison’s an easy one. Goodbye, Doctor.”

She refused to look round while they drove away. She didn’t need to anyway, because she knew the Doctor was standing at the gates watching them go.

* * * * *


Back at the hotel, she discussed with Stark what they had seen and experienced at the Sanctum. No further mention was made of her transgression, even when she described as best she could her exploration with the Doctor and the phantom and its effects. The Colonel was reserved and businesslike as he normally was, without the occasional flash of dry humour and warmth with which he had favoured her in the past. Even so, when she headed back to her room, drained as she was, her confidence in her ability to survive this and regain his respect was building. She unlocked the door so deep in thought that she was barely aware of her surroundings.

“Good evening, Doctor Castle.”

She started back. Sitting on her bed was the portly figure of Lord Hazelbrook, a Sanctum initiate standing impassively alongside him.

“What... how did you get in here?” she managed.

“Oh, it wasn’t that difficult,” he said with an avuncular smile. “I own the hotel.”

She sensed a presence behind her and glanced round to find two more tunic-clad initiates blocking her path back into the corridor.

“Don’t be alarmed, Doctor Castle... or may I call you Angela? I hope that you and I will shortly be the best of friends.”