17th October, 1978, 10:00am
The Doctor and Alistair are pouring over a map of the Essex countryside when all of the alarms go off at once. They both look up, twin expressions of intense concentration, and the door opens sharply to admit Mike Yates.
“Report, Captain,” Alistair says crisply, though he has to shout a little to be heard over the racket.
“We’re under attack, sir,” Yates answers. “Those- Those things again. There’s more of them. They’re crossing the perimeter on all sides.”
Yates just shakes his head. “I can’t raise any of them on the radio.”
Alistair swears under his breath, and the Doctor feels much like doing the same. “Are they concentrated anywhere in particular?” he asks.
Yates shakes his head again. “They’re congregating at access points,” he offers.
“Get a squad together,” Alistair orders, “set up a defensive barrier at the main entrance. And set everyone else to barricading any other entry points. We can’t risk being flanked by having those-”
“Organic clones,” the Doctor supplies.
“-come through the windows at us. And have that alarm turned off.”
Yates salutes, and leaves as abruptly as he had entered. Alistair turns back to his scientific advisor who is radiating disapproval next to him. “Something to add, Doctor?”
“There’s no point in shooting at organic clones, Brigadier, they’re so much animated meat. Nothing short of a rocket launcher is going to stop them.”
“Well then, until Benton gets back with a rocket launcher, what do you suggest?”
The Doctor snatches up the map. “I’m going to stop them at the source. We know the Master is controlling them. I’ve got a few ideas how. I’m going to block him off. That’ll put a stop to him!”
“I’ll send a man with you.”
“Oh, yes. Someone to make the situation worse by firing bullets at it.”
Alistair huffs in irritation. “You can’t very well go alone.”
The Doctor is already heading back to his laboratory, footsteps sharp now the alarms have stopped, and dodging gracefully around soldiers taking up their positions in hallways and dragging heavy cabinets and benches into positions across doors. “I’m not one of your employees, Brigadier!” he says impatiently. Then his expression softens slightly. “Look, Yates is virtually the only experienced man you have here right now,” he waves a hand around the hallway he’s striding down. “This is a new deployment. I can’t take someone who’s still getting their head around the existence of extraterrestrials to deal with the Master. It would just be handing him a hostage. I do wish Jo were here.” He adds, even though they both know that she’s safer where she is.
Alistair’s mouth tightens, but he can’t deny that the men currently thronging HQ are all new recruits. Half of them have never even been in Earthly combat before, and whatever his reasons, the Master is much less likely to hurt the Doctor in a permanent way than a human he views as expendable. He hands his own radio over. “Stay in touch.”
The Doctor expertly checks the settings.
By now, they are in the laboratory, and the Doctor pulls the gizmo that opens the back door out of his jacket. He gives Alistair a slight smile. “I’ll be alright, old chap, just make sure you’re the same.”
Alistair checks his revolver and smiles grimly back.
However, as the door begins to raise they see upwards of fifty bottom halves of those things come into view. They begin to surge forwards, and the Doctor hastily reverses whatever he’s doing with his device, and the door swings closed once more. It cleanly shears through one of the things’ legs, and Alistair sees what he means. It’s not plastic, not like an auton, it definitely looks like a human leg, clad in a - now torn - non-descript black trouser, but it’s not bleeding and looks oddly shapeless, despite the knee and shoe. It reminds him, rather stomach churningly, of the relationship meat has to those disgusting chicken nuggets from McDoodles that Katie is such a fan of.
“Not getting out that way,” the Doctor says, rather unnecessarily. He chews on his lip for a moment. “Get that up on the workbench,” he orders, gesturing at the leg, even as he begins to pull the device he had half finished earlier out of another pocket.
Alistair doesn’t particularly want to touch it, but never let it be said he can’t follow orders as well as give them, and he does as he’s asked. The Doctor is pulling wires out of the mid section of the thing now, hastily reconnecting them in different ways and muttering to himself.
“That’s your teletropic thing, isn’t it?”
“In a moment,” says the Doctor, “it’s going to be my teletropic scanner, let’s see if we can reverse the polarity and transform the outward signal to a detector signal; see where it’s coming from. To be controlling hordes like this, the Master must be close. Once I know where he is, perhaps I can block him from here.”
Alistair watches him for a moment longer. “I’m going to check on the men,” he says.
The Doctor hums an affirmative, still focused on the parts he has spread out on the bench. Alistair watches as he jams a biro into the guts of the thing and wiggles it about a bit, but he has to go. He’s more use virtually anywhere else during an incursion than in the laboratory.
“Don’t let them get too close,” the Doctor cautions as he steps towards the door, still not looking up from his project. “They’re stronger than you, bullets won’t stop them permanently, but you’ve got no chance if one gets its hands around your throat.”
Alistair nods once, and steps out into the hallway.
He follows the sounds of shouts and shots, and makes it into the heart of the base, before running into his men, crouched behind a hastily constructed barricade.
The men are still exercising exemplary discipline, but it’s obvious from a single glance that they are losing. Instead of being spread out to form bottleneck points, they have already been pushed back into one knot. A steady wall of organic clones, all with the same disturbing blank mass where faces ought to be, are progressing unstoppably down the corridor. Here and there, he can see where some have been stopped, usually in pieces, but there are far more human bodies, sprawled and unmoving. He hopes most are simply unconscious, once they’re no longer resisting, the invaders seem to lose interest in them.
Alistair winces as one rank of clones doesn’t even bother to step over a downed form, all marching across him. He can see from the state of them that his men have done their best to put them down, not one of them is free from bullet holes and scorch marks. Their once pristine black outfits are tattered and torn, several have bare limbs where they are missing completely.
The Doctor, as always though, has been correct. Their weapons are having no effect and this veritable army seems unstoppable.
Yates turns to him as he makes his way to the front of those still standing. He looks rather the worse for wear, a rather nasty looking cut below the hairline dripping blood into his eye, and grimy with sweat. Under it all he looks pale, weakness from the unjury or fear, Alistair isn’t sure and wouldn’t blame him for either.
“Any suggestions, sir?” he says lightly, popping another shot off at the enemy, and Alistair watches as it hits the middle clone centre mass. It rocks with the impact, but keeps inexorably moving forward. Their very slowness is perhaps the most unsettling thing about them.
“Tactical retreat, I think, Captain. Let’s get a set of fire doors between us and them and regroup.”
Yates’ lips thin. Alistair knows exactly how he feels. Being forced to retreat within your own stronghold isn’t exactly the stuff of heroic tales. He doesn’t hesitate through, turning to give the command, and leading the men back down the hallway, Alistair bringing up the rear, thinking hard.