The moorland meteorite

by ElsieMcC [Reviews - 0]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Action/Adventure

The Moorland Meteorite

It arrived at half past three in the morning, on the 25th October. Darkness covered the moor. Not town darkness, that lurks between street lamps, but proper, country darkness, so thick that it could almost be touched. Clouds blotted out the moon and stars and rain teemed down, rattling on the leaves of the bracken and turning paths into streams. Then, suddenly, there was a light. A green glow appeared in the clouds, growing in intensity until something burst through, rushing towards the ground with a high, insistent whistling, just on the edge of hearing. It disappeared into the bracken with a THUD, the tremor of its impact startling roosting pheasants into the air. The bracken glowed and hissed as heat from the object ignited the leaves, only to be extinguished by the rain.
In his attic observatory, Bill Milner punched the air. YES! Those idiots at the astronomy club had said he wouldn’t be able to see it, but he had! Now all he needed was to get to the landing site before anyone in authority could fence it off. He shuffled a map, notebook and torch off his desk in to his knapsack and slung his camera and his binoculars round his neck. Bill hurried downstairs, just about remembering not to wake his housemate. He sat on the bottom step to wrestle his wellington boots on and then made for the door, remembering at the last minute to grab his cagoule from the coat stand. As he slammed the front door behind him the coat stand tottered and fell over. Upstairs, his housemate woke and sat up in bed.

“Bill? What are you playing at now?”

There was no answer, so, after a few moments, he laid back down again and was soon asleep.

Alarms sounded at the barracks and heavy boots splashed through the puddles as the soldiers ran to their jeeps and lorry. As the vehicles pulled out onto the road, one of the men nudged his neighbour.

“This is a first, innit? Never been scrambled for a meteorite before. Might be (in a high pitched voice) aliens!”

His brother in arms was unimpressed.

“Shut up Williams.”

On a moorland road, Bill Milner stopped his moped. He looked at his map, then turned his torch over the moor. A short distance away, he could just make out a thin spiral of smoke, rising from a patch of bracken. That must be it! The meteorite would be superheated by its journey through the atmosphere, only the torrential rain had prevented the fire from spreading further. Torch in hand, Bill set off through the sodden bracken.

On another patch of moorland, about a mile from the impact site, something strange was happening. A wheezing, groaning, mechanical noise began, then an object appeared, then disappeared, flickering in and out of vision until it finally resolved itself into a tall, rectangular structure, with a lamp on the top. It was, in fact, a police call box, of a kind that had once been commonplace, but had largely disappeared from the streets of Britain. To add to the incongruity, the door of the box opened and voices could be heard inside.

“Are you sure this is the place, Doctor?”

“Sure? Yes, yes, quite sure. The instruments all say the meteorite must have landed close to here.”

“Oh, aye, and where is ‘here’ exactly?”

“Well... (there was a pause). Earth certainly. One moment. Yes! Cornwall. In (another pause) 1970.”

A face appeared at the door, lined, but somehow youthful and topped with a mop of untidy dark hair.

“It shouldn’t be far from here, we had better start. We must find that meteorite before anyone, ah. Ah. I’ll just get my umbrella.”

The face withdrew and muffled thumping noises came from inside the box. Presently, the door opened wider and two figures emerged. One, the owner of the face, appeared to be a man of medium height, dressed in baggy checked trousers and a dark jacket. He was wrestling with a large umbrella, which was resisting his attempts to open it. His companion was a younger man, dark haired and slightly taller than his fellow traveler. He was clad in a kilt, jumper and lightweight rain jacket. Though slim, he had an air of wiry strength and seemed restless and keen for action. He looked at the man with amusement tinged with impatience.

“Come on Doctor. It’s no use messing about with that thing. We’re gonnae get wet with or without it, and we’ve enough to do with the torches.”

The ‘Doctor’ sighed.

“Oh, very well, Jamie, you are impatient!”

“It was you that said we had to find this thing before anyone else did.”

“Oh. Yes, well, I suppose I did. Oh very well, come along then.”

Abandoning the umbrella, the Doctor led the way across the moor, pausing now and then to consult an instrument of some sort that he kept in his breast pocket. Jamie lit their path with a powerful torch, as dawn wouldn’t break for at least another hour or two.

It hadn’t taken Bill long to reach the impact site. He walked forward cautiously, shining his torch on the ground. He could see ripples in the surface of the earth and a void where the meteorite had gone struck. Damn! The trouble with this part of the moor was that, under the surface, it was riddled with shafts from old tin mines. If the meteorite had fallen into one of those, who knew how far down it might be? Supposing the ground caved in and took him down with it? Oh well, in for a penny. Bill got down on his hands and knees and crawled slowly towards the crater. When he reached the hole, he leaned over as far as he dared and shone his torch down into the blackness, but, try as he might, he couldn’t see anything down there. He was about to start crawling away, when a beam of green light, sharp and bright came out of the hole and struck him on the side of his face. Bill sat up, startled and touched his cheek. The skin, which had been wet from the rain, was dry, cold and numb. He rubbed his thumb over the ends of his fingers. These too, were numb. A sudden noise made him turn round. Across the moor he could see torches and hear voices. The police? Bill didn’t wait around to find out. His knapsack forgotten, he grabbed his torch and ran.

The captain called a halt as the detachment from the barracks neared the impact site.

“That’s it, straight ahead. Set a perimeter of 50 yards each side and three sentries each side. Do NOT approach the crater. There’s mine shafts round here and there’s a risk of cave-ins. Move!”

The soldiers moved fast, banging iron stakes into the ground and unwinding wire from a roll. Once the fence was complete, they spaced themselves around it and shouldered their rifles. The captain made a brief inspection and nodded.

“Good. Remember, nobody is to breach the perimeter until the university party gets here. They should be here at about (he looked at the luminous dial of his watch) 0500 hours. So in about an hour’s time. Clear?”

“Yes SIR!”

The Captain turned and walked back towards his jeep. As he left, a voice whispered;

“and watch out for little green men, eh?”

“Shut up, Williams.”

Crouched in the bracken, Bill shivered. The strange, dry numbness had spread from his face to his neck and his shirt prickled against his skin. He cursed himself for forgetting his knapsack. Idiot! Well, he wasn’t trespassing, he could always say he had found it by accident, he could... With a sudden gasp, Bill fell forward, twitched once and lay still.

Dawn was breaking when the scientists arrived, escorted by the Captain. Two of them ducked under the wire and cautiously approached the crater. One of them gave an exclamation and called the captain over.

“Was there anyone here when you arrived?”

“No.”

“Well somebody has been here, look.”

He held up the knapsack.

“Must have been before we got here.”

“Mm, perhaps, perhaps you scared them off, looks like a student’s stuff.”

Captain Jenkins thought for a moment. Anonymous students on the moor weren’t his responsibility, but still... A shout from further off broke in on his thoughts.

“Sir!”

“Yes, what is it Robinson?”

“Found a moped, sir, down on the road about 100 yards away. Didn’t see it in the dark, just spotted it when I went to help the Professor with his gear.”

That settled it. The Captain called over six of his men.

“There’s a chance the kid that moped and knapsack belongs to is still out on the moor. Strictly speaking they aren’t our responsibility, but the ground is treacherous and they might have got into difficulties. Spread out and have a look, take a radio and report if you find anything”

“Yessir!”

The soldiers ran to the road to collect walkie talkies from the lorry, then set off across the moor in pairs. Feeling easier in his mind, Captain Jenkins turned to watch the scientists set up their equipment

Private Williams trudged through the bracken. He had been paired with the taciturn Private Edwards, who he knew wouldn’t rise to any of his jokes. Even the silent Edwards couldn’t keep him quiet for long, though.

“D’you reckon that kid’s still out here?”

“Dunno.”
“you’d think he would have gone back for his moped, unless he got lost. What?”

Edwards had stopped. A little way ahead of them, two figures could be seen. One was crouching in the bracken, apparently examining something. The other, who was wearing a kilt, was standing close by and looking down. The voice of the standing figure reached the soldiers, carried on the breeze.

“Is he dead, Doctor?”

Williams and Edwards looked at each other and began to run. They reached the two men just as the one who had been addressed as Doctor was saying;

“It really is very curious. I know I have seen something like this before, if only I could remember...”

As the soldiers approached he stood up and attempted to straighten his jacket. Williams and Edwards stopped and stared. At their feet lay what looked like the body of a young man, not particularly tall, dressed in jeans, wellies and a cagoule. The eyes were open, as was the mouth. Edwards bent to take a closer look, at which the Doctor spoke urgently;

“Not too close! It might not be safe! Look, but please don’t touch!”

Startled, Edwards crouched down. As the morning sun shone on the moor, the body gave off a strange iridescence. Looking more closely, Edwards could see that it was covered in a pale green, translucent substance, almost like glass. Through the outer layer, he could just see the young man’s chest slowly rise and fall. Much too slowly for him to be conscious but... Edwards looked up.

“Do you know what this is?”

“Ah. No. Not at the moment. But I hope to be able to find out.”

“Are you one of the scientists?”

“I am a scientist, yes.”

The Doctor was up to his old tricks, thought Jamie, letting the soldiers think he was one of their “scientists” without actually lying. But the Doctor was speaking again.

“He seems to be in a state of suspended animation. Not dead, but not conscious. You can see that his breathing has slowed right down.”

Jamie broke in;

“Aye, but can you help him, Doctor?”

The soldiers looked questioningly at Jamie. The Doctor waved his hand “my assistant, Jamie MacRimmon. Well I don’t know, Jamie, I hope so, but I need more information. Were you, er, gentlemen looking for him?”
Edwards glanced at Williams, not sure how much information they should give the strangers, but it was too late.

“Yes, at least, we were looking for a kid who had been near where the meteorite fell this morning. If this is him, then...”

“Then could it have been the meteorite that did this to him?”

“Possibly Jamie, but he is some distance away from it, unless it was a delayed reaction, in which case...”

The Doctor’s voice trailed off into silent thought. He turned away, one hand on his chin.

The two soldiers looked at each other. Williams pulled the walkie talkie from his pocket.

“Williams calling impact site. Come in, over.”

The radio crackled, but there was no reply.

“Williams calling impact site. Come in, over.”

Nothing. The Doctor had turned back and he and Jamie were watching Private Williams. Two more attempts failed. Without a word, all four men turned and began to run towards the impact zone. Before they could reach it, they ran into one of the other search parties.

“What’s going on? We tried to radio, couldn’t get an answer.”

“Nor did we.”

“Find anything?”

“Yeah, we...”

They had reached the perimeter fence. Whatever Williams had been about to say was forgotten. The men stood in shocked silence. The scientist’s equipment and notes were strewn across the site. A group of green-tinged lumps, stood at the edge of the crater, while another, which was just about recognizable as Captain Jenkins, was a little further back. Private Edwards started towards the fence, but the Doctor held him back

“No. Wait, look!”

As he spoke, the green ray shot out of the crater again. Rather than going straight up, it came at an angle reaching just past the Captain but not quite as far as the fence. Jamie spoke first.

“So it was the meteorite!”

“In a way, Jamie, yes. But I don’t think it’s a meteorite down there. I think it’s something much more dangerous than that.”

Turning to Private Edwards, the Doctor spoke again;

“Private, we need to stop anyone getting past this fence. In fact I would suggest we withdraw a little further. That last ray nearly reached the fence."

“Yes, Sir.”

Responding to the note of authority in the Doctor’s voice, Edwards pulled out his radio and moved away to call for reinforcements, while the others withdrew from the fence. With one eye on the soldiers, Jamie leant closer to the Doctor.

“What d’you think it is, then Doctor?”

“Well, Jamie, I believe it must be some kind of weapon, possibly a missile.”

“Would it not have exploded when it landed?”

“That doesn’t always happen. In fact bombs quite often fail to go off. It must have been damaged, so it is misfiring.”

“The rays?”

“Yes, the rays. The missile, or whatever it is, must be damaged, or decaying and letting off bursts of power.”

“Where is it from, though?”

“Well, I...”

The Doctor broke off as Private Edwards approached.

“All set, Sir. Reinforcements are on the way and Major Bryant is coming with them. “

“Good. Good. Now Private, I must get to a laboratory, I have some urgent research I need to do.”

“That’s fine, Sir, we’ll run you back over to the university.”

“Ah. Yes, yes of course, the University, yes, that would be ideal.”

“What about the lad out on the moor, Sir, it doesn’t seem right to leave him out there.”

“No. Well, I wonder, could he be brought to the University? I think it will be safe to move him, provided you wear gloves and take care.”

“Right, Sir!”

Private Edwards, Jamie noted with amusement, had evidently decided that the Doctor was in charge. Which was fine, until someone else decided that he wasn’t. Jamie hoped they would be on their way before the Major arrived.

The University Campus was about twenty minutes’ drive from the impact site. As the jeep followed the main road to the Astronomy department, Jamie gazed at the buildings. His travels with the Doctor had taken him to many worlds and times, but, somehow, modern glass and concrete architecture was still the most alien to him. The jeep stopped outside a single-story building. A short distance away, the giant curve of a radio telescope dish loomed above a square, brick built edifice. The Doctor was first out of the jeep and led the way into the building. A woman in a white coat, with a clipboard in her hand was hurrying across the foyer. She stopped when she saw the visitors

“Who, what are you doing here?”

The Doctor smiled warmly and held out his hand.

“Ah, Professor?”

“Watkins. But?”

“Professor Watkins, of course. We have come from the meteorite landing and we are going to need your help with some important.”

“You’re with the army?”

“We did come with the army, yes.”

The Doctor walked as he talked, edging the Professor towards a door marked “scanning laboratory.” The Professor turned as the main door opened again and two soldiers entered carrying a stretcher. She ran towards them.

“What are you doing? This isn’t a hospital? What is, Oh my God, BILL!”

The Doctor was quickly at her side.

“Do you know this young man?”

“Yes, I. Yes, he’s Bill Millner, he’s one of our undergraduate students. How did he? What happened to him?”

“Well” the Doctor spoke slowly, gently taking the Professor’s elbow to turn her away from the stretcher, “well, we don’t know exactly, but whatever it was came from that landing site. I hope we will be able to find out what it was, but I will need your help.”

“Yes, yes, of course! Anything! What do you need?”

“Well, I think the first thing will be to find out exactly where this object came from. Can you show me your tracking data?”

“Yes, follow me.”

The professor led the way to her laboratory. The soldiers followed, as they hadn’t been told to do otherwise. Once inside the lab, they deposited the stretcher on a bench and stood back. Seeing that the Doctor was already engrossed in the equipment the professor was showing him, Jamie took a hand

“That’s all for now, lads, thanks.”

The soldiers looked at him uncertainly, but left the room. Jamie turned his attention back to the Doctor. He was looking at a screen that showed various complicated structures bisected by a diagonal line. Despite his many travels, Jamie still found computers a bit of a mystery, so he stood behind the Doctor, ready to assume an intelligent expression, should one be needed. The Doctor had picked up a notepad and was making calculations.

“So. If we say the trajectory equals ... and speed of entry was ... assuming that there was no prior deviation or obstruction ... hmmm.”

He scribbled rapidly, muttering to himself, then suddenly dropped the pad on the desk.

“That’s IT! Professor, your data shows that the object emerged from behind Titan?”

“Yes, as far as we can establish, it originated from there.”

“Right, good, thank you. That’s the answer then!”

The Professor and Jamie looked at each other, bewildered.

“What is it, Doctor? What’s the answer?” asked Jamie.

“The answer! I know what it is and where it came from!” The Doctor was so excited he almost danced on the spot. “It’s an Upsillion missile, it must be!”

“An upsill, an up, what?”

“An Upsillion missile. The Upsillions have been at war with at least three different civilisations on and off for at least a hundred years. The last I heard, they had established a base on Titan to take advantage of the mineral deposits there for weapons construction. That object is one of their missiles that has misfired and landed on Earth.”

“Oh. But how can you be sure it’s one of theirs?”

“Well. You remember that I said that the green substance encasing our young friend here looked familiar?”

“Aye?”

“Well, the Upsillions were said to have been working on a weapon that could encase a whole space ship without destroying it, leaving it immobilized but intact for them to plunder. It appears they have succeeded.”

“But what would happen to the crew?”

“I assume that they would be given a choice, surrender, or perish in space. But that’s not important for now. Now we know what it is, we must find a way to stop it causing any more harm. Now how can we?” The Doctor took up his notepad again and began to pace the room, tapping a pencil against his lower lip.

The Professor turned to Jamie.

“Is he mad? He can’t seriously be suggesting that this object is a, a space missile?”

“Och, the Doctor knows what he's talking about,” Jamie replied, honesty forcing him to add, “mostly.”

The Professor moved over to the bench. She gasped.

“Look, look at this!”

Jamie joined her and saw instantly what had caught her attention. A thin crack had appeared in the casing that surrounded Bill, reaching from his mouth to the middle of his chest. As they watched, another crack appeared, near his right shoulder.

“Doctor!”

“Hmm?”

“Doctor, look at this!”

“What, what is it?”

The Doctor looked up, irritated at the interruption.

“Doctor!”

At this, the Doctor joined Jamie and the Professor.

“Ah, excellent, excellent. It looks as if the effects of the ray are not permanent. The missile is obviously leaking power, rather than firing at full strength. We must inform the troops at the site.” He reached into his jacket for the walkie talkie he had been given by Private Edwards and extended the aerial.

“Hello. Hello. This is the Doctor calling. Over?”

The radio crackled.

“Hello Doctor? Private Edwards receiving you. Over.”

“Ah, good. Private Edwards, we have found that the effects of the ray are temporary. It should start to wear off shortly. Over.”

“Thank you Doctor, any news on the meteorite, over?”

“Yes, yes, we have identified the object and we are devising a way to deal with it. I hope we will be ready to act in a few hours’ time. Over.”

“Ah,” Private Edwards paused and then spoke more quietly, “I’m sorry, Doctor, but you don’t have a few hours. Over”

The Doctor and Jamie looked at each other. What could be happening?

“What do you mean? Er, over.”

There was a pause, then Edwards spoke again. This time it was clear he was trying not to be heard by others nearby.

“It’s, the Major has given the order for the meteorite to be destroyed. He’s called up a bomber to shell it. Over”

“WHAT?! That would be disastrous, he mustn’t do that! If the missile is blown up it could engulf the whole of Cornwall! How long have we got before the attack?”

“About an hour. Sorry Doctor, over.”

“Not your fault, Private, we must do what we can. Out”

The Doctor pushed the aerial back in and tossed the radio onto the bench.

“Fools! The only thing they can think of is to drop a bomb on it! It’s got to be stopped!”

“Aye, but how can we stop it?”

The Doctor ignored the question, turning to the Professor.

“Professor. Have you any reflective materials? Something lightweight and flexible?”

The Professor looked around the lab.

“Like insulating foil? Would that do?” She pointed to a large roll of silvery material in the corner of the lab.

“Splendid! That will be ideal. Now, ah, we’ll need a container. About,” the Doctor consulted his notes, “about four feet long and two feet wide? And lead lined?”

The Professor looked blank. Suddenly her eyes lit up.

“Yes! At least, I think we can do that. Come with me!”

The Doctor gestured to Jamie to bring the foil and followed the Professor out of the room. Jamie wrestled the roll onto his chest, then his shoulder and went after them, bouncing off the door frame as he went. In the next room, the Professor was showing the Doctor a metal crate. It was marked with the words “DANGER. RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS” and the nuclear symbol. The Doctor opened the lid.

“Yes, yes, this will do admirably, thank you Professor”

“I remembered that the lab had had a delivery of isotopes on Monday.”

“Good. Now there are just two more things we need.”

“Yes?”

“A map and a car!”

At the site, Private Edwards watched as the Major organised the troops. Three men, clad in protective gear, were moving towards the crater, with the intention of removing the enveloped scientists before the bombing. Edwards looked at his watch. About 45 minutes to go. A sudden shout made him look up. One of the men was pointing at the crater. As Edwards watched, the green ray emerged and swept diagonally across the site. The soldiers turned and ran, but the ray was too quick for them. One by one they froze, then were engulfed by the green, glassy substance. Edwards looked at his watch again. Whatever the Doctor was planning, he had better be quick.

In the Professor’s car, the Doctor consulted a map. Jamie, wedged in the back seat with the foil, craned forward to look.

“Where are we going?”

“This,” the Doctor pointed at the map, “this is a mine shaft, Jamie. Tin mining was very common in Cornwall at one time. I believe we should be able to use this shaft to reach the missile crater from below.”

“But what about the rays?”

“That’s what the foil is for. We will use it a shield, to reflect...”

“To reflect the rays!”

“Yes, exactly. If we can get the missile to envelop itself, and then wrap it in foil and get it into the crate, we may be able to prevent it from exploding for long enough to get it to the TARDIS.”

“And then what will we do with it?”

“One thing at a time, Jamie. The important thing is to get it away before the Major drops his bomb.”

“But Doctor...”

The car stopped. The Doctor got out and joined the Professor to lift the crate out of the boot. They took a handle each and set off, the map flapping from the Doctor’s other hand. Jamie sighed, shouldered his foil burden, and followed them.

At the impact site, the Major approached Private Edwards.

“Private!”

“Sir.”

“Half an hour. Alert the men and make sure all moveable equipment is out of the zone.”

“Sir?”

Edwards looked at the fenced site, where the green figures stood. The Major followed his gaze.

“Nothing we can do for them now. Public safety must come first, Private.”

“Yes Sir.”

The Major turned, abruptly and walked away. As Edwards moved to obey his orders, he thought, “Hurry up, Doctor!”

The Doctor and the Professor had stopped by what looked like a small hill. As Jamie approached, he saw an opening in the side of it. This must be the mine shaft the Doctor had spoken of. Jamie wasn’t keen on mines, during their travels he had had to escape from several, but if the Doctor said they had to go down there, he was ready to go.

“Right Jamie, let’s get this unrolled.”

Jamie set the foil down and began to unroll it.

“How much will we need, Doctor?”

“How tall are you? Well, let’s see, about...” The Doctor measured the foil in strides, then bent to cut it with his penknife. Satisfied, he stood up.

“Good. Now. Jamie, you will go first with the foil. Hold it well up so the rays can’t get to you and keep your hands behind it.”

“Right. But how will I see where I’m going?”

“Ah. The Professor and I will come behind you. We will shine our torches on the ground, so you should be able to see where to put your feet. I hope.”

“You hope?”

“Yes, well, never mind that, come along, Jamie, Professor, we haven’t much time before the bomb strike.”

Jamie shrugged, picked up the foil and made his way into the hole. The opening was narrow, but, once inside, a broad tunnel opened in front of the adventurers. They moved forwards, Jamie holding the foil sheet with his arms as high and far apart as he could manage and the Doctor and the Professor carrying the crate, and each with a torch to light the path. The Professor glanced at the Doctor. Was he mad? And if he wasn’t, was she? She had been swept up by his personality and here she was, in a tunnel, about to try and defuse a meteorite which might, or might not, be an alien missile. The Doctor paused and put down his torch.

“Jamie? One moment. Ah” he took the map from his pocket and consulted it by the light of the Professor’s torch. “Yes, we must be nearly there, just another few yards, so we must take care.”

He put the map back in his pocket and picked up his torch and the box handle. They set off again, the silence broken only by an occasional smothered oath from Jamie as he stumbled on the uneven ground. Suddenly, the tunnel was lit by a flash of green light. Jamie stood at his full height and raised the foil as high and as wide as he could. The light went out and a hissing, crackling noise came from close by.

“That’s it! Now Jamie! Quickly!”

Not daring to look round the foil, Jamie dashed forward, tripped and fell. As he landed, he realised that he had fallen onto the missile and he quickly wrapped the foil around it, then struggled to his feet. The Doctor moved with a speed that surprised the Professor.

“Good work, Jamie. Now help me get it into the crate”

The two men lifted the missile and placed it carefully in the crate. Through a gap in the foil, the Professor could see a glimmer of the green, glassy substance.

“Right, now we must get back to the TARDIS. What is it?”

“D’you not hear that noise?”

They listened. Coming from above, through the hole in the earth was the unmistakable sound of an aeroplane. The Doctor picked up one handle of the crate.

“Jamie. When I say run...” The noise had got louder, the plane was getting closer. “RUN!”

The trio took to their heels down the tunnel.

Above ground, Private Edwards had supervised the removal of equipment and men from the impact site. He stood, close to the edge of the road watching through his binoculars. A faint drone of engines told him that the bomber was on the way. He hoped the Doctor had succeeded and he wished that there was something they could do to save the people left behind at the site. He gasped. As he watched, a fragment of the green coating broke away from one of the enveloped scientists and fell to the ground. Then another. The scientist moved his arm. They were alive! Edwards dropped his binoculars and shouted to the Major

“Sir! Sir! Look!”

The Major turned and looked, then shouted “Private Edwards!”

It was too late. Edwards was running towards the impact site, shouting and waving his arms at the men who were slowly emerging from their green casings. When they saw what was happening, the other soldiers followed him. They reached the fence and saw the men limping and stumbling away from the crater. The soldiers lifted the wire and dragged them through, then half-dragged, half-carried them to safety. They were not a moment too soon. The drone of the aircraft engines became a roar as the bomber passed overhead. The bomb fell with a whistling sound into the crater and burst with a shuddering crash that threw up turf, earth and rocks. The Major nodded, satisfied.

“Well, that has taken care of it, I think. Set a perimeter and stand guard.”

As the soldiers gathered their equipment, Private Edwards reached for the walkie talkie in his pocket, then stopped. If the Doctor had succeeded he would get in touch. Otherwise … Edwards sighed and followed his comrades to the new crater.

The Doctor, Jamie and Professor Watkins emerged at the tunnel opening, breathless and, in the Professor’s case, slightly hysterical. No sooner had they set the crate down than the bomber passed overhead. Jamie and the Doctor threw themselves to the ground, hands covering their ears. After a moment’s hesitation, the Professor did the same. The earth shook as the bomb went off. The Doctor stayed down for a few seconds, then got up and took the walkie talkie out of his pocket.

“Hello, this is the Doctor, over.”

The radio crackled.

“Doctor? Are you all safe? Did you get it? Over”

“Yes, yes, we’ve secured the missile and we will dispose of it. Are you all safe? Over.”

“Yes all safe here, over.”

“Good. Thank you Private Edwards. Out.”

The Doctor handed the walkie talkie to the Professor.

“Could you see that this gets back to the army? Jamie and I must get this missile out of here before the coating starts to break down.” He held out his hand, “Thank you for your help Professor Watkins, goodbye.”

Professor Watkins shook the extended hand in a daze. She watched as Jamie and the Doctor picked up the crate and set off across the moor. Then she shook herself. She must get back to the lab and see how Bill was. She turned and walked back towards the road and her car.

The hold of the spaceship was deserted. Machinery whirred and buzzed, crates of munitions shifted slightly as the ship maneuvered. Another noise overlaid the machinery, a wheezing, groaning noise as the TARDIS materialized in a corner of the hold. The door opened and the Doctor and Jamie emerged, carrying the crate. They set it down and the Doctor removed the lid.

“Are you sure about this, Doctor?”

“Well, Jamie, if the Upsillions are going to be careless with their weapons, it seems only fair that we should return them. Come along!”

They ran back into the TARDIS. The groaning noise came again and the TARDIS disappeared. For a few moments, all was quiet. Then came a roar of noise and blinding light as the missile detonated.

THE END