17th October, 1978, 10:38am
Behind the last set of fire doors, Alistair and Yates confer quickly, listing their knowledge of the situation (the Master’s army of seemingly unstoppable clones is bearing down on them, and he must be close by) and assets (their mostly depleted revolvers and thirty, mostly injured, raw recruits). It looks, Alistair has to admit, even if only inside his own mind, a bit bleak.
“Take two, and do a recce,” he orders Yates, see if there’s any exits we can use to evacuate the injured. Not that there are many uninjured, and regardless of cost, he cannot let this place fall to the Master, there’s too much here that the Master would love to get his hands on, he can’t risk the planet like that.
Unaware of his darker thoughts, Yates nods briskly, “Yes, sir,” then he’s off.
Alistair turns to the men he’s left with. “There rooms are offices,” he says, gesturing to the rooms leading off the corridor. Honestly, how had the Master managed to stage this attack for the one day in a thousand that his numbers of experienced operatives are this diminished? “Get whatever furniture you can move, we’re going to blockade these doors.”
They scatter, like children released from a classroom. Alistair isn’t really sure what use a barricade might be, but he knows that giving them a command to follow will stop panic spreading. He thinks again about how useful having this whole place wired up with explosives, for situations just like this, would be. He doesn’t relish the thought, but he’d like to know that if all else fails, he at least has a self destruct; death before dishonour. Wishing, however, is useless, so he pushes the thought, and the desire for a few ground-to-air missile launchers, from his mind.
He passes through the small groups of men, now tugging tables, chairs and anything else that isn’t bolted down, and laying it across the door. He gives orders and reassurance as needed and eventually makes his way to the rear, turning down the left hand fork and slipping back into the laboratory.
“I’m being as quick as I can, this is rather delicate, you know.”
“We are on rather a timeframe, Doctor. The barbarians are at the gates.”
The Doctor turns one of the dials on his contraption and it squeals loudly before he hurriedly twists it back into place.
“I can’t get a fix,” he snarls, frustration colouring his tone. “I don’t know how he’s doing it, but he appears to be exerting his control in a complete circumference.”
“Well...what does that mean?”
“It means he could be anywhere, and we’re no closer to finding him.”
“What about blocking the signal?” Alistair asks, ever practical.
The Doctor runs a hand through his unruly grey curls. “I can reconfigure this to do that, but I don’t have the power to block the strength of the Master’s signal. I could make a small area secure.”
Alistair looks around the laboratory, at its heavy double doors, the awkwardly shaped entrance that will bottleneck an enemy, at the emergency exit that the Doctor uses at the back. “Could you make in here safe?”
The Doctor’s eyes flit from wall to wall, eyes flickering as he makes some rapid calculations. “Just about, yes.”
“Then this will be our last stand. I also need a way to bring down those things.”
“They’re just meat, Brigadier, as long as they can move, they’ll keep coming. There’s no thought or intelligence there.”
“Do what you do best, Brigadier, fire rockets or missiles or what have you,” the Doctor snaps, irritation giving his tone an edge.
Alistair would quite like to ask if the Doctor actually has a missile handy, but he doesn’t have time for the ensuing tirade, so he just nods curtly and makes his way back to the battle.
For the moment, the barricade is holding, though the precariously balanced structure is wobbling as tremendous forces slam against it. Yates is back, his wound is bleeding more profusely than ever, and he’s now holding the top of his left arm, a rusty discolouration on his uniform speaking of a second injury.
“Form a line,” Alistair says calmly, and waits a few seconds while the troops form themselves up. “Shooting positions. Anything that breaches that, make it regret it.” Then he makes his way over to Yates. “Anything?”
Yates shakes his head.
Alistair eyes him for a moment. “Sit down before you fall down, Mike. We’re going to be busy in a moment.”
Yates gives a breathy laugh, and slides down the wall he’s leaning against. Alistair crouches with him, shielding him from the gaze of the men around them for the moment. “Let’s have a look at that head wound.” He doesn’t like how glassy eyed Yates is.
Yates rallies a little, “It’s fine, ears are still ringing but it won’t kill me. My arm though…” He lifts his hand away from the grip he has below the opposite shoulder, and Alistair sees a laceration that goes almost to the bone.
He’s approached from behind by one of the men, “Sir, sorry, sir, but there’s a first aid kit in-”
“We need a way out, sir,” Yates says quietly from between gritted teeth.
Alistair nods brusquely. “The Doctor’s working on it. We just need this line for a bit longer.” The boy is back with the first aid kit now, Alistair looks up at him, “Thank you. It’s Williams, isn’t it?”
The boy, though Alistair knows he can’t actually be that much younger than Yates nods, looking pleased. “Yes, sir. Andrew Williams, sir.”
“Good man, get back in that line and hold it.”
Private Williams nods smartly and does as asked. Alistair opens up the kit. Accepting Yates’ self assessment of his head wound for the moment, he ignores it and digs out a bandage. “Alright, Captain, let’s see that arm.”
He dresses it quickly and efficiently. Yates hisses between his teeth as he pulls it tight. Alistair watches the bandage for a moment, but blood doesn’t immediately stain through. Perhaps it will hold until Yates can see a proper medic.
“There’s no way out?”
“None, we’re well and truly surrounded.”
“Anyway through to the armoury?”
Yates takes a moment to consider and his mouth pulls to the side. “Possibly. Risky though.”
Alistair stands up. “Thank you for that tactical assessment, Captain,” he says dryly.
Yates tries to fight his way back up to his own feet, but Alistair puts a firm hand on his shoulder to keep him in place. “You just sit there, Captain.”
Duty wars with outrage on Yates’ face. “I can-” he begins to insist.
“I don’t have the resources to carry you if you collapse,” Alistair says bluntly, and then softens the blow with, “besides the men need someone here to give the orders.” He holds Yates’ eyes long enough to watch rebellion bleed into acceptance, and then turns away, “Williams and...you.” He points at the least injured looking of the recruits, and then abruptly remembers his name, “Private Anderson. Come with me.”
He pats Yates again on the shoulder, and then leads the pair back down the hallway.
“Where are we going, sir?” Private Anderson asks.
Alistair eyes him, he looks even younger than Williams. “We are going on a resupply run. Captain Yates tells me there is still a way through to the armoury, and my scientific advisor has advised that an explosion of significant size will stop those things in their tracks.”
At the corner junction he stops, flattening himself against the wall and looking carefully around him. Risky was right, the armoury itself is undefended, but he can see three of the blank faced clones standing motionless in the corridor between them and it. They look like switched off machinery, utterly still, but Alistair knows that will change as soon as they feel challenged. He looks for a moment longer, but he’s reasonably sure that there’s nothing else in the hallway. All those rooms should have been locked, and there isn’t another junction. It’s likely that his only opposition is what they can see.
He pulls back to face the pair of Privates standing watching him. They’re both looking a bit wide eyed. Despite his dry mouth and his own misgivings, Alistair has years of command under his belt and he speaks with customary confidence. “There are three hostiles. I know they seem unstoppable, but we are going to stop them.”
“They’re not very fast, sir,” Anderson offers.
Alistair nods. “And they’re unarmed. Distract them, keep them moving after you. I’m going to unlock the armoury.” He hesitates a second. “If I am incapacitated, the code is 650114. It is your duty to get the explosives back to Captain Yates.”
He hesitates another second. This is hell of a first mission for anyone.
“Do not engage them. They’re far stronger than you are, just distract them and keep them too turned around to attack.”
“Yes, sir,” Williams answers after a moment, and if his voice isn’t very strong...well, he can hardly be blamed. Day one on the job, and he’s fighting super strong inhuman monsters.
Alistair takes a final second to lament that he’s going to be late home again, after faithfully promising Katie that he’d attend this evening’s hockey match. “Alright then, GO!”
They explode into the corridor screaming as though they are thrice the number. Anderson is right, the clones are slow. By the time they have fully straightened and turned to face the threat, Alistair is already halfway to his objective. He dodges the one that grabs for him and skids to a stop at the door of the armoury. He takes a moment to look behind him, and sees that Anderson and Williams have the clones well distracted. They’ve made a game out of running between them and slapping them between the shoulder blades. It’s working well, the clones are spinning between them, taking stumbling, shuffling steps, and they have all but ignored him. He slams the code into the keypad on the right of the door and it clicks as it opens.
He checks again, but the sounds, loud to his anxious ears, have gone ignored.
Alistair steps into the armoury, eyes running over the supplies on the shelves. He picks up the plastic explosive, neatly packaged in its safety container. He pockets a handful of detonators, and after a second of hesitation, a few grenades. He takes a moment to consider some of the heavier artillery, but he has injured in those hallways too. He won’t launch one of those under these conditions until he really has no other choice.
He has been inside the armoury a little over six seconds. He steps back out into the main hallway to prepare a sprint back the way he has come. He is gambling that these clones have been left here on guard and that once they have chased off their intruders, they won’t pursue them. He turns back to the fray just in time to watch one of the clones make a successful grab for Anderson, hand closing around his arm.
The Doctor had said they were unnaturally strong, but the sound as the bones in Anderson’s arm crunch together - more than a break, that was the sound of something fragmenting - is as loud as a gunshot. Anderson screams, high pitched and echoing and goes white to the lips. Alistair and Williams start forward in the same moment but, perhaps attracted by the noise, one of the other clones has come up behind Anderson and makes a grab for him too. This one jerks him away from his original captor.
Anderson’s second scream is choked off into a gurgle as his body tears like paper, literally pulled in half.
There is a shocked exclamation of horror; Alistair isn’t sure which one of them makes it. He steps up to his remaining Private and shoves him hard. “Come on, soldier, move.”
Williams takes a few stumbling steps, his eyes still glued to the macabre scene. “Run!” Alistair roars.
At the corner he stops, he pushes the box at Williams, who takes it with trembling hands. Alistair reaches into his pocket and pulls out one of the grenades. He pulls the pin and tosses it back towards the clones in the hallway. He regrets it, even as he does it. They might need these for the ones attacking, but he can’t not avenge one of his own.
He pushes Williams a few more steps forward, and the blast slams his teeth painfully together.
Williams is panting shallowly. Alistair stops beside him and softens his voice very slightly. “No time for that now, later...later we mourn them.”
Williams nods, and side by side they make their way back to the barricade being held by their comrades. They are only just in time, the doors are splintering, the barricade teetering. Some of the better marksmen are taking shots through the gaps that have now appeared. Yates is slumped against the wall, he looks barely conscious. He’s now accompanied by three Privates, and Alistair feels a pang of guilt that at least two of them must have been injured in the original assault. He should have noticed earlier. He assesses the situation in seconds and then sets some of them to laying charges. He might not have a self destruct button, but he can make them damn sorry for opening that door.
They finish with not a moment to spare, there’s a loud crunching noise and the left door is pulled away completely. They can now see the wall of approaching clones. There must be at least 100. Alistair dispenses the grenades he still has.
“Throw them over,” he orders, “let’s take out their back rank and force them to surge forward, take out as many as possible.”
The grenades fly, but despite hearing the resulting explosions, the mass of clones is too thick for Alistair actually to see if any fall. He hopes the Doctor is right about this. They don’t push forward either, still moving in their inexorable, ambling gait. The right hand door is pulled off and dropped underfoot. They are pressing against the barricade now. Not intelligent enough to try dismantling it, but the sheer weight of them will do it eventually.
“Hold,” Alistair orders. “When we detonate, we have five seconds to fall back to the laboratory.”
The centre of the structure creaks ominously.
“Someone get Captain Yates and the others ready to move.” Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Yates being hauled to his feet. He’s almost grey. “Take them now, we’ll see you there.”
Those left ready their weapons and detonators. ”Two more seconds,” Alistair says, as some chairs topple from the top of the barricade. They flinch back away from the splinters of wood. With a screech of wood on linoleum, the whole barricade slides a couple of inches towards them. A second wave of clones press in behind the first.
“Detonate,” Alistair orders, and once done, says, “fall back,” in the same even voice.
The doors to the Doctor’s laboratory swing shut just as the explosion rocks the whole building. His gizmo is whirring on the bench, letting out a high hum that makes Alistair feel as though his teeth are being drilled. The Doctor is on his knees in the middle of the floor looking over Yates and the other wounded. He’s murmuring quietly to Yates as he adjusts the bandage around his arm.
Alistair steps over to them and crouches down. “You going to live, Mike?”
Yates offers him a slight smile. “Probably, sir. I expect I’m going to regret that every time I reach for something for a while though.”
Alistair smiles back, and turns his own attention to the Private next to him with the injured leg.
“I’m fine too, sir,” the young Private says, though he sounds a bit watery.
Alistair casts a half glance at the Doctor who nods an affirmative and chews on his lip. “I thought there were more of you?”
“This is everyone on our side of the barricade. I’d like to get back out there and see who we can rescue. Never leave a man behind and all.”
“Quite.” The Doctor considers a moment. “The clones will leave them alone as long as they’re not attacking, and the Master doesn’t care about individual humans. The biggest danger is any injuries they might have that need tending to.”
“Yes. And unfortunately there’s a veritable army out there. That C4 will have got some of them but-”
“Oh yes, organic clones grow in a matter of days, the Master would have to be a fool not to ensure that he had numbers on his side.” The Doctor looks around. “Under the circumstances, I think we should fall back a little further.”
The Doctor stares at him the way he stares as Privates on the parade ground in incorrect uniform. “Where do you think, Brigadier? To the TARDIS, of course. I can’t fly her, but there’s plenty of space, and the medbay at least is fully equipped.”
More important even than that, the Brigadier knows from experience that not much which the Doctor wants to keep out can get through those doors. He doesn’t respond to the condescending tone. “Fine,” he stands, preparing to issue the order, and the main door to the lab opens.