As the coach reached its destination, Miss Hallford stood up and cleared her throat;
“Is everyone listening? Good. David, DAVID! If you and Bruce don’t stop scrapping, we will leave you on the bus. That’s better,”
as with one final, furtive poke in the ribs, the two boys at the back of the bus called a truce and the other pupils turned back to look at their teacher. Miss Hallford offered a brief, unspoken prayer to whichever deity was responsible for class field trips and went on,
“Now. You remember what we talked about before we left. We are very lucky to be able to visit the Centre and I want you all to listen carefully to Professor Darking and his team. You can make notes if you want to, we will be doing a display project about what we have learned, so it’ll be useful to have notes to jog your memories. Most importantly of all, remember that you must not touch ANY pieces of equipment, unless you have been given permission to do so by the Professor. Is that understood?”
She looked round and took in the nods and murmured “yes Miss Hallfords" from the class. She smiled, trying to push the tension she usually felt on these occasions to the back of her mind. They were a good bunch on the whole, and she could keep an eye on David and Bruce.
“Good! Then let’s go. Off the bus and form up in pairs.”
The driver opened the door and the teacher stepped down, then stood to one side to watch her pupils descend and, after brief indecision, take partners and stand in line. Having surveyed the resulting crocodile and decided that the pairings were appropriate and not likely to cause any unwanted punch-ups, Miss Hallford went to the back of the line and called,
“Off you go Emma and Kate, lead the way, that’s Miss Waverley waiting for us at the door.”
The two girls moved off on the word and led the way over to the main building of the research centre, where a woman in a lab coat was waiting for them, armed with a clipboard and a handful of cardboard badges on colourful lanyards. As the group approached, she smiled. Once they had reached the door, she handed the lanyards to the first pair and said,
“Take one of these and pass them on. You’ll need to wear these at all times when we’re inside the centre. All visitors have to have identity cards and that includes you! Yes, that’s right, over your head… oh… thank you Miss Hallford,”
as the teacher intervened to help one of the children who had got in a tangle.
“Now,” Miss Waverley went on, taking out a pen, “I’m going to call out your names, so answer yes if you’re here. If you’re not here, of course, you needn’t bother!”
This got a laugh from some of the children and broke the ice a bit, as the guide had intended. She looked at her list and began at the beginning of the alphabet,
And on down the list. Kate waited patiently until she heard,
“Katherine Lethbridge Stewart?”
And replied “Yes,” ignoring the “ooooh!” that came from behind her at the use of her full name. Emma turned round and fixed the noise maker with a hard stare, and he subsided. Kate shrugged inside. She was still relatively new to the school and was, therefore, something of a curiosity to some of her classmates. She was well on the way to becoming firm friends with Emma, though, which was a real comfort, although conversations about home life and what each other’s parents did for a living was somewhat complicated by Kate’s father being the commanding officer of the British branch of UNIT with the remit of dealing with extraterrestrial threats to global security, not to mention the precise nature of those threats, some of which Kate had encountered in person. But if Emma was curious about Kate’s explanation of “my dad is in the army, but he works for the United Nations and he’s not really allowed to tell me about what he does,” she hadn’t said so, or tried to press Kate for further details, much to Kate’s relief.
Having reached the end of her list, Miss Waverley smiled and held open the door, saying,
“Right! In you come. Now I know Miss Hallford has told you a little bit about our work, but Professor Darking and I will tell you some more and you’ll be able to have a look at some of our laboratories, from the outside, at least.”
There was a groan of disappointment from one of the children and Miss Waverley’s smile broadened.
“I know, I’m sorry, it must be very tantalizing for you, but we have to have controlled conditions in our labs. That means,” in answer to some puzzled expressions, “that we have to keep the air clean and the temperature steady and everything has to be sterilised and shielded from contamination. So, unless you all want a bath in detergent... no I didn’t think so! We’ll be on the safe side watch from the from the outside.”
The children began to chatter at these revelations as they were guided through the entrance hall and into a room marked “auditorium.” Kate looked around with interest as they passed through the hall. She wasn’t as disappointed as some of her classmates at not being able to enter the laboratories. From her visits to UNIT, she knew how delicate and expensive scientific equipment was, and how the Doctor, at any rate, hated anyone touching or fiddling with anything in his lab. She assumed that Professor Darking would be the same, perhaps all scientists were like that. The auditorium was more like a large classroom, with rows of chairs and a small stage at the front. The class was ushered to the front of the room, where there was a predictable amount of scrapping over who should have the “best” seats, which was quickly quelled by Miss Hallford. Kate and Emma sat down next to each other at the end of the front row and Kate got a notebook and pencil out of her bag. She was taking notes, not only for herself, but also on behalf of the Doctor, who had told her,
“I’ve read a bit about this fellow, Darking, I’d be interested to learn what he has to say. Anything that catches your attention, I’d like to see your notes afterwards.”
So, Kate felt slightly nervous as she got ready to put pen to paper. The lights went down, to “oooh”s from the class and Professor Darking walked out onto the stage. He looked down at the assembled children and smiled,
“Welcome! Welcome to you all. I’m so glad you could come today. Now, I’m going to talk to you for a little while, and show you some diagrams on the screen, and then we will have a look round at some of the facilities.” He paused, then went on, “I know you would all like to be pressing buttons and pulling levers, but I’m afraid we can’t let you do that. We wouldn’t want any nasty accidents or delays, hahaha.”
Kate looked up sharply at this. As with most children her age, she had a finely tuned instinct for adults who were uneasy in the presence of children. The more she looked at the Professor, the more nervous he appeared, all his remarks ending in that brittle laugh that had no real humour in it. Kate could feel the dislike of some of her class mates directed towards the stage and hoped the Professor would stop trying to make a good impression and start talking about his research soon. This had also occurred to her teacher, who was sitting at the back, watching her pupils with an eagle eye. As the Professor turned to signal to the member of staff operating the slide projector at the back of the room, Miss Hallford muttered to herself, “oh thank goodness, get on with it you silly man.”
The first slide came up and the Professor began to give the class some background information about the environmental threats that the centre was working to alleviate. He described the actions of gases and pollutants in the atmosphere, that had formed an invisible ‘greenhouse’ around the earth, causing the temperature to rise and that, if allowed to increase unchecked, could lead to devastating changes in climate and environmental destruction. The children had already learned about some of the dangers of CFC gases and of pollution in general, so they were able to follow most of the first part of the talk. When, however, the Professor moved on to describe some of the measures that he and his team were investigating, which included delivering chemicals to the upper atmosphere in rockets to neutralise the greenhouse gases and deep-sea drilling in the Arctic, to inject substances that, it was hoped, would delay the warming of the sea and the melting of the icecaps, some of his listeners began to lose track and Miss Hallford could feel their attention waning. Kate tried to write down as much as she could, but there were several words she couldn’t understand, much less spell. One remark caught her attention though, and she wrote a question under her note and underlined it, hoping she might have a chance to ask about it later. Perhaps sensing that he was losing his audience, the Professor wound up his remarks with some haste and then asked, “Now, does a anyone have any questions?” He looked down in surprise as Kate raised her hand,
“Yes, err, yes young lady?”
Kate tried not to scowl at the “young lady” and asked, in her usual clear voice,
“You were talking about launching rockets to carry satellites containing chemicals into the atmosphere to cancel out the effect of the greenhouse gasses.”
“Isn’t that more pollution? I mean, there’s already a lot of chemicals up there, should you send up more?”
The Professor looked disconcerted, but recovered himself.
“Well, ahem, well, that’s a good question. I understand that you might have been confused, the science really is very advanced and it’s not what you’ve been learning at school,” (‘patronising idiot’ thought Miss Hallford), “but, in this case, the chemicals we are using are what you might call ‘good’ chemicals and they will help to cancel out the ‘bad’ chemicals that are causing all the problems. Is that clear enough for you?”
He looked at Kate with what he probably hoped was an ingratiating smile. Miss Hallford cheered inwardly as Kate said, coolly,
“Yes, thank you. That’s very interesting.”
The Professor, remaining slightly off balance mentally after the unexpected question which had been posed in such an unexpectedly mature manner, signalled to Miss Waverley, who turned up the lights and came to the front of the room.
“Thank you all for listening so carefully. We’re now going to have a look at the laboratories where we do the work that Professor Darking has been telling you about,” she paused and Miss Hallford put in,
“What do we say to the Professor?”
The class chorused “Thank you,” in various keys and the Professor, looking embarrassed, made a swift exit through the door he had come in through. Miss Waverley, apparently keen to make up for any bad impression her superior had made, smilingly ushered the children out of their seats and into a corridor, which, she said, led to the laboratories. The interest of the class was reawakened, and they eagerly followed their guide out of the room.
In his office, Professor Darking took a bottle of brandy out of the bottom drawer of his desk and poured himself a large measure. He sat down, muttering to himself, then gave a start as there was a crackling sound from another of the drawers. Looking around in a hunted manner, he opened the drawer and drew out a radio handset. He flicked a switch on the side and said,
“Yes, Darking here.”
“Hasss our represssentative arriiived?”
The voice was distorted, a strange hissing sound, together with the way the speaker drew out certain words, made comprehension complicated, but Darking had had enough conversations to understand the speaker without too much difficulty. He replied,
“Excssssellent. And the work proceeeedsssss?”
“Yes, that is, yes.”
“There is a problemmmm?”
“Ah, no, no a slight delay. We have a visit a school class is here and we have had to suspend some operations while they are here.”
“I do not underssssstand.”
“We have to allow visits because we won’t keep our funding.” The Professor tried to think of a way to explain to his listener. “Our government pays for our work, but we had to agree to let visitors come. Today, some children have come to the laboratory.”
“I still do not underssstand. It is a condition of your government that you let outsiders into your facsssssility?”
“Yes, but they won’t delay us for long, we will be back on schedule by this evening.”
“Good. They musssst not seeee our repressssentative.”
“They won’t. I will make sure of it.”
“Good. You will reeeeport at 16:00 hours earth time.”
The Professor switched off the radio receiver and put it back in the drawer. His hand trembled as he picked up his brandy glass and took a long draught. When he set it down again his hand was steadier. The work must go on. He would get shot of those ghastly ankle-biters and they would get back to work. Professor Darking replaced his glass and the bottle in his drawer and locked the drawer. Time to get moving.
The class moved on down a long corridor with rooms on either side, some with windows, some without. Miss Waverley explained that the rooms without windows were the ones where the climate had to be precisely controlled, so no additional light, heat or cold could be allowed in. The children looked at her with serious faces, some of them imagining what it might be like to be in a room like that, and not liking the idea very much. Kate and Emma had found their way to the back of the group and Kate was still taking notes when she could. As they had left the auditorium, Emma had said,
“I hadn’t thought about more chemicals being pollution too, but you’re right. He didn’t give you a proper answer either.”
“No,” replied her friend, “he probably doesn’t think children deserve proper answers.”
the two girls shared a grimace that showed what they thought of people who wouldn’t give children proper answers. Then Emma asked,
"What does the Doctor think about it?”
Kate had mentioned the Doctor to her friend as ‘a scientist, he works with my dad.” She frowned as she remembered his words, and slowed a little as they walked.
“He says that ‘throwing more science at pollution’ isn’t the whole answer, and that science has helped to get where we are. He thinks we need to stop doing some of the things that cause the pollution and try and find different ways of doing things.”
Emma looked serious,
“That’ll be difficult. We need cars and aeroplanes and things and we need the gases that go in fridges and...”
Her voice tailed off as they had reached the first window. Miss Waverley drew back and the children clustered round, with some pushing and shoving to get the best view. Miss Hallford ended that by giving David a hard stare and instructing him to go to the other side, which he did, not noticeably deflated. Inside the laboratory, people in white coats, masks and goggles were mixing substances in test tubes, then sealing the tubes and putting them in a machine that would analyze the contents. Glass bottles with chemical symbols on lined the benches and, every now and again, one of the people would take a reading from the machine and enter it into a computer, which took up most of one of the walls. One of the boys, a scientifically inclined lad named Adam, asked,
“What are they doing?”
“Well,” replied Miss Waverley, “it’s a bit complicated... (Kate and Emma exchanged glances, clearly proper answers were going to be in short supply on this visit) … but what they are basically doing is testing the chemicals that we are going to put in the satellites to see how they react with other things that are in the atmosphere. Some chemicals can change or, er, turn ‘bad’ when they mix with others, and we need to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
“Oh,” replied Adam, gazing in with a dreamy expression. In his head he could see himself in a lab coat wielding a pipette. He tore his eyes away and asked,
“How do you get a job here?”
“I’m afraid you’re a bit young for us at the moment,”
replied Miss Waverley, to some laughter. Adam flushed and Kate scowled, clearly Miss Waverley was as bad as her boss, that wasn’t what Adam had meant and she felt angry on his behalf. Once the laughter had subsided, the guide moved the group on and Miss Hallford spoke quietly to Adam. She was just as annoyed as Kate that ‘this woman’ as she was beginning to think of her was making fun of her pupils. The group moved on past more windows and looked in at technicians and scientists working on machinery and performing more experiments. Bruce, whose attention span wasn’t particularly long, and who would much rather have been playing football than trailing round a boring building where you couldn’t even press any buttons, was distracted by a heavy door that opened with a wheel, rather than a handle. He looked round, cautiously, then put his hand on the wheel. It was freezing cold. Startled, Bruce jumped back with an exclamation. Miss Waverley turned towards him with a glare,
“What did you do?”
she asked in a tone that made the children and their teacher look at her in astonishment. Seeing their expressions, she seemed to remember who they were and where she was and softened her tone. “You startled me. We did ask you not to touch anything. Did you hurt yourself?”
She came towards Bruce, who edged towards his teacher, his hand tucked inside his blazer. He said, nervously,
“No. I never, I mean, I only put my hand on the door. I didn’t do anything to it,” then, as his natural curiosity reasserted itself, “why is it so cold?”
Miss Waverley seemed to have recovered herself. In something approaching her previous, welcoming tones, she said,
“That’s a very special laboratory. You heard the Professor say that we are doing work in the Arctic. This room is kept at the same temperature as the Arctic, so we can test to see if our machines will work in the cold.”
This statement drew “oooh”s from the children. Miss Waverley, glad that they had accepted her brief explanation, smiled and said,
“That’s all I can show you in this building. Now, who wants a drink and a biscuit before we go and look in the hangar at some model rockets?”
Raised hands and calls of “Me! Me!” answered her. Miss Hallford smiled to herself as she followed the group to the canteen, where refreshments were being provided. However ‘big’ some of her pupils considered themselves, they were still young enough to be lured by the promise of biscuits. Though the orange squash was a bit weak, the biscuit selection was all that a child could wish for, and the children tucked in, while their teacher chatted to the guide. Once the break was over, and everyone had been served and visited the ‘facilities,’ as their guide had called them, Miss Waverley led the group out to the hangar, which stood next to the main building. Once inside, the children gasped at the scale of the launchers and the size of the rockets, their eyes wide as they looked up at the equipment. Miss Waverley led them through to a meeting room, where an engineer showed them a model of one of the rockets and explained how the launch would work and how the satellites would be released, although he suggested that other methods of delivering the chemicals were being considered, which made Kate look up in surprise. Unlike his colleagues, the engineer, who had introduced himself as Mr. Remmington, was at ease with his young audience and answered their questions in a way that was straightforward, without being patronizing. The children responded to his friendly manner and asked more questions, which he was happy to answer. Emma was especially interested. Her father was an engineer who worked on aeroplanes and she was keen to follow him into this field. Mr. Remmington, delighted to find a kindred spirit, encouraged her and gave friendly advice, causing the small girl to blush with pleasure at having her ambitions taken seriously. After a few more general remarks from the engineer, Miss Waverley looked at her watch.
“I’m afraid we don’t have any more time today. Your bus will be coming soon and we don’t want to delay you, so we’d better be getting back. If you’ll follow me, we’ll go back outside.”
The children followed their guide back through the hangar to the entrance, then stood looking out as the Miss Waverley exclaimed. While they were inside it had begun to rain and puddles covered the tarmacked surface outside the hangar, while heavy drops streamed from the sky. Miss Waverley stood for a moment, indecisive, until Mr. Remington’s cheerful voice said,
“Take them through the tunnel and the main building. They’ll get soaked out there. Old fancy pants won’t make a fuss, if he does you can tell him I said so!”
The children looked at each other in delight at the irreverent nickname, but Miss Waverley appeared not to have heard it. Instead, she said,
“Yes, I suppose we’ll have to. They can’t sit in wet clothes on the way home. Very well,” she turned to the group, “we will have to go back through the buildings, you can’t possibly go out in that. You can wait in the foyer or the auditorium for your bus. “
Miss Hallford, who hadn’t been looking forward to the bus driver’s reaction to a bus load of soaking wet schoolchildren, thanked her hosts and followed Miss Waverley back into the hangar and through a door that led to a corridor that linked the hangar to the main building. As they walked, Miss Waverley reminded the children to keep their voices down and not to touch any doors or equipment, so as not to disturb the scientists or risk an accident. With the memory of what had happened to Bruce still in their minds, they agreed and walked quietly into the building. Miss Waverley had turned back to answer a question from Miss Hallford, when the party rounded a corner and came to a sudden stop. There were gasps and a couple of screams from the children. Their guide turned to see what had alarmed them and groaned. Standing in the corridor was Prof. Darking, deep in conversation. The person he was talking to hardly looked like a person at all to the horrified school party. The figure was tall, much taller than any human being they had ever seen. It was wearing what looked like plates of armour and a helmet, seemingly formed of green metal. The helmet covered its eyes and nose, all that was visible was its mouth and chin. The skin of its face was green, almost the same colour as the armour, and scaly. Miss Waverley turned and tried to push her visitors back down the corridor, babbling an explanation about protective clothing, but the figure had seen them. It turned to the Professor and said,
“What isssss thissss? Who are theeeesssse and why do they interrrrupt usssss?”
The Professor, his uncomfortable bonhomie completely gone, scowled at his assistant.
“Miss Waverley. What is the meaning of this? You were told to take these children back to the carpark across the tarmac and not bring them back into this building.”
Miss Hallford moved and put her arms around the more nervous members of her class. Kate looked at Emma and quietly pulled her notebook out of her bag, then took her friend’s arm and pulled her around the corner. Nobody noticed the two girls everyone’s eyes were fixed on the Professor and his strange companion. The Professor approached his subordinate, his finger jabbing the air.
“What. Are. These. Children. Doing. Here?” he asked, jabbing between each word.
Miss Waverley looked horrified, but rallied.
“I had to bring them through this way, it’s pouring with rain.”
“Rain? Who cares if some children get wet? You would jeopardize our efforts for the sake of some children getting wet?”
“But,” said Miss Waverley, desperately, “they won’t tell anyone. Nobody will believe them. Everything can still go ahead as you planned, surely?”
Miss Hallford stepped forward, nearly as angry as the Professor.
“Professor. I don’t know who this person is, or why our presence here should jeopardize any efforts of yours, particularly as your laboratory invited us to visit, but you are frightening my class. Please let us pass and we will gladly leave your laboratory and never darken its door again.”
The Professor looked at the teacher, as if seeing her for the first time. He walked towards her, but she stood her ground, extending her arms to shield her pupils, and glared at him. He stopped, and suddenly a terrible smile spread across his face. He stepped back again and pulled a radio receiver from his pocket. Once his call was answered, he said,
“Please send a security detail to the north corridor, as quickly as you can, over.”
“Yes, Sir, understood, out,” came the reply.
Miss Waverley turned a horrified face to her superior.
“What are you doing?” she asked. Then Miss Hallford added,
“There is no need to escort us of the premises, Professor, we will gladly leave under our own steam.”
The Professor smiled again.
“Ah, no. I can’t allow you to do that. Now you have seen my employer, I must ask you to stay here, at least until we have launched. Once that is accomplished, well, we will see, but for the time being...” he paused as three armed guards came down the corridor towards them. Miss Waverley said,
“But you can’t! You can’t keep them here!”
“I can and I will,” replied the Professor. He addressed the leading guard.
“Take this woman and those children to room 76B and lock them in.”
“You can’t!” said Miss Waverley again, her voice climbing closer to hysteria, “the coach will be here to meet them. What about their parents?”
“Ah, yes,” said the Professor. He approached Miss Waverley, who shrank away from him as he reached out and tore her security pass from around her neck. He gave the pass to one of the guards and said,
“Take her to the admin office, she is to telephone the coach company and tell them that the party has made alternative arrangements and their bus is not required. After that, she is to telephone the school and explain that the children will be delayed. Once she has done that, take her to the acclimatization lab and lock her in one of the pods. If she tries to tell them anything else, silence her.”
The guard nodded and grabbed the guide by her arm, pulling her away with him down the corridor. The professor turned back to Miss Hallford, who was still glaring defiantly at him, her arms around one of her pupils.
“Once we have launched the rockets we cannot be stopped,” said the professor, “so we may release you then. For the time being though, you will go with these men. If you value your safety, you will do exactly what they say. Do I make myself understood?”
Not trusting herself to speak, the teacher nodded. The professor stepped back again and signalled to the guards. Around the corner, Kate put a finger to her lips and backed further away, pulling Emma with her into a doorway. The guards formed up on either side of the school party and led them down the corridor. Once Miss Hallford and her terrified pupils, several of whom were in tears, had disappeared, the professor spoke to his strange companion again.
“My apologies. I could not allow them to interrupt our work. Were anyone to learn of your presence here, our mission and your life would have been in danger.”
His companion hissed.
“Ssssss. I am in no daaaaanger from humanity. But our misssssion mussst proceeed. Are the missssiles ready to fire?”
“Almost, just a few final checks to run and then we will be ready.”
“Excsssssellent. I await your signal.”
“Thank you, Excellency. We will not fail you.”
“Sssssee that you do not.”
The professor bowed and walked back towards the laboratories. His companion turned and went towards the door of the room with the heavy door. It turned the wheel and opened the door and a cloud of cold air came out to meet it. Pausing to draw a long, satisfied breath, the creatures stepped inside and closed the door behind it.
In the doorway, Kate and Emma waited while the sound of footsteps retreated down the corridor. After a moment, Kate went and peered cautiously round the corner. Seeing that the coast was clear, she beckoned to Emma, who joined her quickly and whispered,
“What was that? What are they doing?”
“I don’t know,” replied Kate, “whatever it is, they are going to do it soon.”
“Yes, I heard that bit. What can we do, though? They’ll find us won’t they and then...?” Her voice trailed off and tears came into her eyes.
Kate thought hard.
“We need to tell someone”, she said. “We need to get out, or to find a phone that will call outside.”
Emma nodded, she had visited her father at work and was familiar with the idea of internal and external calls.
“But who would we tell? The police? Would they believe us if we told them what we saw?”
“They might not,” conceded Kate, “but my dad would and so would the Doctor.”
“Yes, really.” Kate looked down the corridor, “I don’t know how we can get out though. We’ll have to try to find a door or a window that we can open.”
She led the way cautiously along the corridor, staying close to the wall and ducking under the windows. Emma followed behind, holding Kate’s hand.
Miss Hallford and her pupils were brought to a door marked 76B. One of the guards scanned a security card and opened the door, then inclined his head.
The teacher led her pupils through the door, then turned to look defiantly at the guards, one of whom smiled and closed the door. The room was sparsely furnished, a few chairs were scattered round the edge. Miss Hallford urged her pupils to sit down and walked round the perimeter of the room. A second door proved to open into a cloakroom and toilet area, for which the teacher was sincerely grateful. There was, however, no telephone and no access to the corridor, save for the locked door. Miss Hallford sighed and drew up a chair close to the children.
“Now,” she said, “we’re stuck here for a bit. I’m sorry it’s not very comfortable, but we’ll have to make the best of it. Yes, David?”
“Miss Hallford, where’s Kate and Emma?”
The two girls rounded another corner and found themselves at the foyer. They had tried to find a telephone, but all the rooms they had tried were either locked or occupied. First Kate, then Emma peeped round the corner. A receptionist sat at a desk near the door, looking at a computer screen. The girls looked at each other and Kate shook her head. If they went out into the foyer and tried to go out of the door, they would be seen. Unless the receptionist was called away or distracted, they were stuck. Kate edged back round the corner. Close to the foyer was a cupboard, labeled “Cleaning and maintenance.” The key was in the door and the door was ajar. Kate took the key out and went in, with Emma close behind her. Once inside, Kate turned the key in the lock and then found a pull cord for the light. The girls crouched down. Kate whispered,
“Do you remember there was a phone box on the way here?”
“Oh! Yes,” replied Emma, “in that layby, I remember!”
“I think we need to try and get to it. I don’t think we’ll find a phone in here everything is locked up.”
Kate bent her head over her notebook and wrote carefully, then tore out the page and handed it to her friend, who looked at her, puzzled.
“If we don’t both get out together, this is the number to call my dad. You won’t need to put any money in the phone. Tell him who you are, and how you know me and tell him everything about what we saw. He’ll believe you.”
Emma was unnerved by her friend’s certainty and the thought that they might be separated, but tried not to show it. Instead, she nodded and said,
Kate reached up and unlocked the door, then turned off the light. She opened the door a crack, just enough to see out. Suddenly, both girls jumped as the phone rang at the reception desk. They opened the door and crept back to their corner. The receptionist was talking to someone, and had turned away from the door. After a moment, he laid the receiver down on the desk and got up and disappeared into the auditorium. Kate and Emma emerged from hiding and made their way cautiously across the foyer. Kate pushed open the door, and held it as Emma went out, then, just as she was about to follow her friend, the door of the auditorium opened. Kate dived behind a sofa that stood near the door, and waved through the window to Emma, gesturing to her to go. Emma hesitated for a moment, then nodded, turned and ran down the drive, towards the main gate. Kate waited behind the sofa, trying to be as quiet as she could, hoping that nobody would see her from outside the building. The receptionist returned to the desk and picked up the phone, turning his back on the door. Taking a chance, Kate scuttled back round to her corner, then watched as the receptionist hung up and walked out from behind his desk again. Kate looked on in horror as the receptionist bolted the front door and padlocked a heavy chain around the handles. Kate’s pencil fell from her grip and rattled on the floor near her feet. The receptionist looked up, puzzled at the sound and Kate ran back to the cupboard and locked herself in. She crouched down between the mops, buckets and bottles of cleaning fluid, breathing quickly and shaking. She tried to calm herself down, breathing in deeply and holding her breath for a few seconds, then breathing out. After a while she stopped shaking and sat down on the floor. She was stuck, then, until Emma fetched help. Kate picked up her notebook and looked at what she had written, trying to piece together the facts. The thing, whatever it was, definitely wasn’t human. She was sure of that. It had been hiding in the cold room, so it liked cold temperatures. The professor was doing something he shouldn’t, because he didn’t want anyone, even schoolchildren to know about it. And he was doing it soon. Whatever he had told them in his talk was a lie. Or, at least, most of it. If he had really been going to save the earth from greenhouse gases, he wouldn’t be acting like this. So, what was he doing? Kate sighed and began to read her notes again. Until she had a better idea of what was happening, or until help arrived, there wasn’t much she could do, so she decided to stay in the relative safety of the cupboard for the time being.
Miss Waverley had called the coach company and the school as she had been instructed and was then escorted to a laboratory. The scientists working in the lab looked up in surprise as the guard walked in with his prisoner.
“What’s going on?” asked one of them, a sharp-featured man with receding dark hair.
“She’s got herself into trouble with the Prof.,” came the reply, “he wants her in one of your pods to cool off for a bit.”
“Well, really,” replied the scientist, “we aren’t a detention facility!”
At that, the telephone rang and he answered it, replying with brief, “Yes. No. Yes of course, Professor.”
He hung up and turned back to face the guard.
“Professor Darking has just explained the matter to me. This is not a normal occurrence, but, of course, I am obliged to comply with the Professor’s wishes.”
He gestured across the room to the isolation pods, a series of enclosures made of toughened glass and plastic, where a research subject could be completely cut off from the laboratory environment. The doors of the pods had heavy, plastic seals and each of the pods was equipped with ventilation and temperature controls, regulated from a panel on the wall next to it.
Miss Waverley looked from one man to the other in horror.
“No!” she said, trying to back away, “No, I won’t go in there.”
“You will,” replied the guard, drawing his gun, “or I will shoot you. It’s your choice.”
At that the guide crossed the room, followed by the guard and the scientist and stepped into the pod.
Once she was inside, she turned to look at the men. The scientist stepped up and began to fasten straps across her body. Miss Waverley tried to push him away,
“What are you doing? I’m in here … get off me!”
“Really Miss Waverley, you do make a fuss. Mr. Collins?”
“Yes, Doctor Miles?”
“Some assistance, if you would be so kind?”
Doctor Miles’ assistant left his post by the computer and came over to the pod. He held Miss Waverley while his superior finished fastening the straps and then placed sensors on her neck, head and chest and pushed a gumshield, which was also linked to a sensor, into her mouth. Finally, he stood back and closed the door. The vacuum seal hissed as it closed and Collins checked the control panel to make sure the airflow was as it should be. Having checked that the pod was properly sealed, Dr. Miles spoke into a microphone on the control panel.
“You really have no need to be worried, Miss Waverley. As we are obliged to keep you here for a while, you may as well assist us. We will be monitoring your heart rate and body temperature closely and you would make it much easier for us to get an accurate reading if you calm down.”
The terrified woman stared at him as if she had barely understood. She continued to twist and turn, trying to extricate herself. Miles sighed.
“Really, you do try my patience. Very well, I will give you a choice. Either you stay still and calm yourself, or I will anaesthetise you. Which would you prefer?”
At this, Miss Waverley stopped moving, although she continued to breathe rapidly. Miles smiled.
“There, that’s much better. I can assure you there will be no pain involved, you must simply relax and remain calm. Your contribution to our research is much appreciated.”
He called to his assistant and the two of them went back to the main control area. Seeing his prisoner safely confined, the guard nodded to Miles and left. Once the door had closed, Miles picked up a clipboard and handed it to his assistant.
“Keep her steady for now. Once she’s a bit more stable we’ll start by lowering by 10 degrees over half an hour and see how she gets on.”
As Collins nodded and went about his work, Miss Waverley watched with wide, frightened eyes. She hadn’t been in this lab much, and had no real idea of what went on there. What were they going to do to her? Miss Waverley closed her eyes and tried to clear her mind. There was nothing she could do but wait.
In the meeting room, Miss Hallford had managed to calm the children and had them playing games while sitting on the carpet. Once David had noticed the absence of Kate and Emma, she had had to think quickly. She assumed they were hiding somewhere in the building. The teacher knew that both the girls were bright and resourceful, but there were limits on what two ten year olds could accomplish faced with these odds. Still, to give them a chance to either get help or get away, Miss Hallford decided that she wouldn’t give them away. She impressed on the children that, if anyone was to ask, they should say that the whole class was present and that nobody was missing. She hoped she was doing the right thing she was trying not to think too hard about where Kate and Emma might be and what might be happening to them.
Emma had run down the driveway as fast as she could. When she came within sight of the entrance, she slowed and moved onto the grass, so as to be out of sight of the box where the security guard sat. She got as close as she could to the box, then stopped and looked around. There was no sign of any cars leaving or entering and, even if the guard didn’t see her, the driver of the car might if she tried to sneak out beside their vehicle. The fence was too tall for her to climb and was topped with barbed wire. Emma was about to give up on the main entrance and try to find another way out, when she noticed that the fence didn’t run right up to the back of the security guard’s sentry box. Instead, it ended in a concrete post with a small gap between the post and the box. The gap looked very small, but perhaps if she breathed in? Emma crawled towards the fence. She stood up, held her breath and tried to squeeze between the fence post and the box. It was a tight fit, but she made it through. Pausing to get her breath back, she turned and ran along the grass verge in the direction of the layby and the phone box. When she reached the box, she was out of breath again, but she didn’t pause for long. She pulled open the door with an effort and went in, then took Kate’s piece of paper out of her blazer pocket. Emma lifted the receiver and dialled, wondering if she would get through and if Kate’s dad would be there and if he would believe her. Without realising she was doing it, the schoolgirl held her breath as the phone rang, then let out a long breath when a male voice answered,
“Hello, Lethbridge Stewart speaking.”
“Hello, I, I’m Emma Brown, I’m Kate’s friend from school, she gave me this number, something awful has happened on our class trip, please believe me,” said Emma all in one go. The Brigadier took a moment to process the information he had just heard, then said,
“Alright, Emma, was it?”
“Yes. Emma Brown, Kate’s friend.”
“Yes, I remember you. Right Emma, I want you to tell me what happened, but first I need you to do something for me. I need you to breathe in through your nose, then hold your breath while you count to four, then breathe out through your mouth. Can you do that for me?”
Emma did as she had been instructed and instantly felt calmer.
“Good girl. Now, first of all, where are you?"
“I’m in a phone box. It’s in a layby and it’s quite close to the research centre.”
“Alright. Can you read me the number on the phone? It should be in the middle of the dial. That will make it easier for us to find you.”
Emma read off the number then, in answer to the question, “and what do you have to tell me?” gave as many details as she could remember of what had happened after they had left the hangar. She described the creature they had seen, the armed guards, the strange and unpleasant change in the professor’s personality, and how she had had to leave Kate behind.
“I didn’t want to, but she couldn’t get out, I...”
The Brigadier cut in,
“You did exactly the right thing. Kate is probably hiding safely in the cupboard. It was better that one of you got away to tell us about what’s happening than that you both get caught.”
Although Emma wasn’t entirely convinced, she felt a bit better after hearing that. The Brigadier said,
“Now, we can’t leave you there. I’m going to send someone to meet you, a man called Sergeant Benton and a lady called Jo Grant. Do you have a middle name or a nickname, something I can tell them so that you can make sure it’s them?”
“Yes, er, yes, my middle name’s Chloe.”
“Good. Chloe. Right. Is there anywhere nearby you can hide until they get to you?”
Emma looked around. Behind the layby was an embankment, dotted with trees and bushes. The slope was steep but not unclimbable and a couple of the bushes looked as if they would provide enough cover for a small girl.
“Yes, there’s bushes just up the slope.”
“Good. Now you hang up and go and hide and Sergeant Benton and Miss Grant will be there as soon as they can.”
“But... but what about Kate and Miss Hallford and everyone?”
“We will help them too, you’ve given me a lot of useful information, but the first thing is to make sure you are safe. Understood?”
Emma said “yes” faintly, then hung up and went out of the phone box and up the slope behind it. She found a thicket of bushes and made herself as comfortable as she could behind them, then watched the road for the arrival of her rescuers.
At UNIT, Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart called for a map and a trace on the phone box and then briefed Benton and Jo and sent them off in a jeep to fetch Emma. As soon as that was accomplished, he called the lab.
“Hello, Doctor, something urgent has come up, can you come to my office?”
In his office, Professor Darking put aside the printout he had been studying and opened the bottom drawer of his desk again. No, better not. He needed to keep a clear head. Instead, he picked up the phone.
“Are your team ready to launch? I need to bring the deadline forward.”
“Blimey! I...” the engineer paused and then went on, “well, we could do it, but I’d rather do a bit more testing. But if you insist?”
“And you’ve cleared it with aerospace?”
“Yes, yes of course I have,” replied Darking testily.
“Right, OK, well, I’ll get the team right on it. Oh, while I think of it, did the kids get away OK?”
“Kids? Oh, oh yes, yes they did.”
“Good. Nice bunch of youngsters. I’d better get on then. What’s the deadline?”
“Twenty-one hundred hours.”
“Blimey! Well, you’re the boss. See you later, Professor.”
The engineer hung up as did the professor. He looked at the telephone in disgust. He tolerated Remmington because of his exceptional skill as an engineer, but he loathed the man personally. He would have to be careful. Remmington wasn’t privy to all the secrets of the operation, for the simple reason that, had he been, he would have refused to be involved. Darking sighed and looked at the clock on his desk. Nearly four. He would have to report soon. The phone rang and he answered with a curt,
“It’s Sullivan here, from security, Sir. Are we going to feed the kids?
Darking rolled his eyes. Those wretched children. Why had he ever agreed to their coming? The man at the other end said “Sir?” and he sighed.
“Yes, I suppose we’ll have to. See what sandwiches there are left in the canteen and take them some water.”
Sullivan hung up and Darking reached for the radio receiver as four o’clock approached. At least he wouldn’t need to worry about the wretched Waverley woman.
In the laboratory, Mr. Collins checked the readings on the temperature gauges and moved a lever slightly to the left. Inside the pod, Miss Waverley watched him nervously. Suddenly, she became aware that she was cold. She could feel her fingers starting to become numb and, when she looked down, she could see goose pimples on her arms. She raised her head again and closed her eyes as she felt herself beginning to shiver.
Kate had read and reread her notes, and got no further. She knew that something was going on and that something was not what they had been told about. She couldn’t imagine what it was, so she tried a different tack. Supposing some of what the professor had said was true? He was going to use the rockets, they had been made, and Mr. Remmington had told the class all about them. Kate considered. On the whole she had liked Mr. Remmington, but, as he worked for the professor, she wasn’t sure which side he would be on. Kate’s thoughts went back to the creature. She racked her brains to try and think if the Doctor had mentioned anything that resembled the giant, armoured, green horror. And it liked the cold. Cold. Ice. Somewhere in Kate’s mind a connection was made and she said, aloud, “Ice warriors.”
“Ice Warriors?” asked the Brigadier.
“Yes,” replied the Doctor. “Yes, that must be it. I’ll need to talk to Emma, was it?” (The Brigadier nodded) when she arrives to see if we can work out what they are up to, but, from her description, it couldn’t be anything else.”
He began to pace the room, his hand under his chin. The Brigadier, impatient though he was, knew better than to interrupt the Doctor when he was in one of these moods. Instead, he went through to the communications room, to check on the whereabouts of Sergeant Benton and Jo Grant.
Jo and the Sergeant had made good time, though, to the girl crouching in the bushes, the wait had felt like hours. When she saw the jeep pull up, Emma remembered what the Brigadier had said, and waited for one of the people in the jeep to speak before she came out of her hiding place. The man, who was tall and wearing a uniform, came a little way up the slope and called softly,
“Emma Chloe Brown? I’m Sergeant Benton. You can come out now, we’ve come to take you to UNIT HQ.”
Hearing her full name and the name the Brigadier had mentioned, Emma came out from behind the bushes and made her way slowly down the slope. She slipped on the wet grass, but Sergeant Benton caught her hand and steered her safely to the layby, where Jo was waiting with a blanket to wrap round the small girl and a flask with a warm drink in. Jo helped Emma up into the jeep and got in beside her, putting her arm around her new acquaintance's shoulders. Feeling safe for the first time since she and Kate had seen the Ice Warrior, Emma nestled up next to Jo. Jo chattered away to her about nothing very much, keeping up a comforting stream of conversation until she looked down and noticed that Emma was asleep. Sergeant Benton looked in the rear-view mirror and Jo smiled and nodded towards the sleeping schoolgirl. Benton returned the smile and pressed on the accelerator. The sooner they were back at HQ the better. When they reached the building, Benton carried the sleeping child through the main entrance, where they were met by the Brigadier and the Doctor.
“Take her straight through to the sick bay, Sergeant,” said the Brigadier in a low voice, “we’ll talk to her when she wakes up and has had something to eat.”
The Sergeant was about to obey, when Emma stirred and opened her eyes. She looked around, bewildered, then saw the Brigadier and said,
“Yes, that’s right.”
“I must tell you everything. Kate said I was to tell you everything. You and the Doctor.”
“Kate was quite right,” said a new voice, and Emma saw a tall figure in a frilled shirt, with one hand in the pocket of his velvet jacket. She looked at him astonished, but then realised this must be the Doctor. The Doctor smiled at Emma, his blue eyes twinkling.
“I suggest we go to my laboratory. Miss Grant, would you check with the canteen and see if you can scare us up a snack? I daresay Miss Brown is hungry after her adventures.”
Jo smiled and said,
“Yes of course,” and Benton carried his burden through to the lab and set her down on a high stool at the Doctor’s workbench, still wrapped in the blanket.
“Now,” said the Doctor, when his guest had been supplied with a large sandwich and a glass of milk, “you must tell me everything you remember. Start right at the beginning, when you first arrived, and go on from there. We know that the creature you saw is called an Ice Warrior, but we need to know why it is here and what it is planning. Can you do that, Emma?”
Emma swallowed a bite of sandwich and said,
In the dim light through the vents in the cupboard door, Kate had written “Ice Warriors” on her notepad and underlined it. She stared into the darkness, trying to remember what the Doctor had told her. She knew that they came from Mars, she remembered that because Sergeant Benton, who had been in the room at the time, had made a joke about ‘little green men’ and the Doctor had told him that these green men were far from little and not to be trifled with. So, why would an Ice Warrior be interested in the work going on at the research centre? It didn’t have anything to do with Mars, it was about making sure the earth didn’t get too … hot... The words seemed to slow down in Kate’s mind as she thought about them. Supposing, supposing the Ice Warriors wanted to come to Earth? It would be too hot for them – the one she had seen had been in a specially cold room. What if it was here to try and make the Earth colder, so the Ice Warriors could live there? At first Kate was tempted to dismiss this idea as unlikely. How could one little research centre in England change the weather for the whole world that much? But the more she thought about it, the more likely it seemed. Kate looked around the cupboard for inspiration. What could she do? Could she do anything to stop them, or at least delay them until her father and his team arrived? And what about Miss Hallford and the class? Kate wanted to find them, but she was worried that the room they were in might be guarded and she had no idea how they would all get out of the building without being seen. Kate took a deep breath. She could hear her mother’s voice in her head telling her to worry about one thing at a time. The first thing, Kate decided, was to try and find out where her classmates and teacher were. She probably wouldn’t be able to get them out straight away, but she would know where they were. The second thing was to find out when the rockets were going to be launched and try and stop them. Kate shook her head. She doubted she would be able to do that. No, the second thing was to try and find out when the missiles were going to be launched and then try and call Dad. The third thing... well, she would just have to see how the first and second things worked out. Kate stood up and looked at the shelves around her for anything that might come in handy. She remembered how Bruce had hurt his hand on the door to the frozen room. The insulated gloves on the shelf were much too big for her small hands, but she might be able to wrap them round whatever it was she needed to touch. A little further along were some screwdrivers. Kate chose two short handled ones, and put them in her satchel with the gloves. Her penknife was already in her pocket and, having made a brief survey of the rest of the cupboard’s contents, she decided that she probably had about as much as would be useful. Kate put her ear to the door, listening for any sound of movement outside, then cautiously turned the key and opened the door. She peered round the door and looked quickly up and down the corridor, but could see nobody. Closing and locking the door behind her, Kate crept along the corridor, her ears straining for the slightest sound.
The Doctor paced up and down his lab, muttering to himself. Emma watched him, nervously, the Brigadier impatiently. Emma had told the Doctor and the Brigadier everything that she could remember about the ill-fated visit and had got out her notebook, although she didn’t think that her brief notes would be much help. She wished she had thought to ask Kate for her notebook, but the Doctor thanked her and said she had been very helpful. Since then, he had said nothing aloud. Suddenly he stopped pacing and picked up a piece of chalk. The Doctor made some rapid calculations on the blackboard that stood on an easel to one side of the window, then turned to the Brigadier.
“Well,” he said, “I can tell you that whatever Professor Darking is doing with his rockets and chemicals, he isn’t neutralising greenhouse gases.”
“Then what is he doing?” asked the Brigadier, with a touch of asperity.
“Well,” the Doctor stroked his chin and considered his calculations, “if my calculations are correct and if I have interpreted Miss Brown’s notes correctly... Hhmm. The particles that Darking is proposing to release into the atmosphere would form another layer alongside the existing pollutants.”
“So, what then, the warming would increase?” asked the Brigadier.
“No, Brigadier, far from it,” replied the Doctor, grimly. “Greenhouse gases are so-called because they prevent heat from the surface of the Earth from escaping. That’s why some people call the effect they have global warming. The heat stays close to the Earth’s surface and causes increasingly serious environmental damage...”
“Yes, I understand that Doctor,” said the Brigadier, interrupting what threatened to be an extended lecture, “but what will Darking’s particles do, if they won’t increase the warming effect?”
“Well, these particles will form a layer of their own, as I said, but instead of stopping heat from escaping into space, this layer will prevent the heat from the sun from reaching the Earth in the first place!”
The Brigadier looked confused.
“But, won’t that help? If there is too much heat already?”
The Doctor was about to snap at the Brigadier, but remembered Emma just in time and swallowed the insult that had sprung to his lips. Instead, he said, very quietly,
“No. The Earth needs the heat and light from the sun for life to survive. If the Earth is cut off from the sun to this extent, well, it could bring about a new ice age!”
The Brigadier’s expression changed from confusion to horror. He asked,
“How can we stop him?”
The Doctor was about to answer when the telephone rang. As they were in his laboratory, the Doctor answered. He seemed surprised by what he heard, and passed the receiver to the Brigadier without a word. The Brigadier glanced at his scientific advisor questioningly, but then put the receiver to his ear and said,
“Hello? Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart speaking.”
From the other end came a whisper,
“Dad, it’s me.”
Kate had made her way slowly and carefully down the corridor past the laboratories. She ducked under the windows and tucked herself into the doorways, in case anyone should look out and see her. She had nearly reached the end of the corridor, when the door she had just reached opened in front of her. Kate pressed herself against the wall behind the door, keeping as still as she could. Two men paused in the doorway, one of them looking back and saying,
“Can we leave her at this stage?”
“Oh yes,” replied the other man, “this is as close as we have managed to get to stasis. As long as the external temperature remains constant, we should be able to preserve her almost indefinitely.”
The men moved out into the corridor, the second continuing,
“This could be the breakthrough we’ve been wanting. If this works, his Excellency and his staff will be able to store human workers in stasis and rejuvenate them when they are needed.”
“Lucky we’ve got a briefing this afternoon.”
“Yes, couldn’t have come at a better time, really.”
The men didn’t look back, but Kate spotted a security guard coming the other way so she went quickly round and through the lab door before it closed. At the last minute, she remembered that some of the doors needed cards to get in, so, rather than risk getting stuck, she put her pencil in between the doors, so they were nearly closed, but not quite. Kate waited by the door until she had heard the guard’s footsteps pass, then turned to look around the room she had just entered. The first thing she saw was what looked like a large, glass tube against one wall. As she got closer, Kate thought she could make out something inside, though it was hard to tell, because the glass seemed misted over. When she got closer still, Kate realised to her horror that the ‘something’ inside the tube was a person, and that she recognised them. Miss Waverley was standing quite still. Her face looked pale and pinched and her lips were tinged with blue. Her eyes were open, but there was no expression in them, they stared ahead as if looking at nothing. Kate held her breath and went right up to the tube. What she had thought was mist on the glass turned out to be frost. The tube was frozen on the inside and so was the woman inside it. Kate recoiled, her hand over her mouth. Was Miss Waverley dead? Kate looked at the panel beside the tube. She could see wires going from the panel and there were wires stuck on to Miss Waverley’s neck and in the neck of her blouse. Were they measuring her heart? Kate looked more closely at the panel and found a small screen. A line was travelling across the screen and every now and again there was a beep and a hump appeared in the line. Kate knew that this was a heart monitor and that this screen showed that Miss Waverley was alive, although her heart was beating very, very slowly. As she looked around to see if she could see any way of freeing the guide, Kate thought about what the men she had seen had said. She didn’t know what stasis was, but they had spoken of ‘preserving human workers.’ And now they had gone to report to whoever this person was that they called “his excellency.” Surely that could only be the Ice Warrior. So, these men were trying to work out how to freeze people so they could work for the Ice Warriors. That settled it. The Ice Warriors must be going to invade, once the Earth was cold enough for them to live on. And Kate had no idea how to stop them. She knew, though, that as well as finding her teacher and classmates, she had to find a way to get Miss Waverley out of that tube. A telephone sat on the desk nearby and Kate grabbed it and crawled under the desk, pulling the phone with her. She didn’t know which number to dial for an outside line, but decided to start with 0 and go from there. When she had dialled 3, she sighed with relief at the sound of the dialling tone and dialled the number for UNIT HQ. As the Brigadier was in the lab, he had had his phone transferred, so Kate was connected straight through. She nearly sobbed with relief when she heard the Doctor’s answer.
“Doctor, it’s, it’s Kate. Is my Dad there?”
There was a silence and then her father answered.
“Dad, it’s me,” Kate whispered, curling herself further under the desk.
“Kate! Where are you?”
“I’m in a laboratory. I had to hide from a security guard. Dad, there’s an Ice Warrior. I think he and the Professor want to make the Earth cold, so that the Ice Warriors can come and live here. And … and one of the scientists is freezing people!”
To her surprise, the Doctor came back on the line.
“Kate, what do you mean when you say they are freezing people?”
“They, I heard them say something about a thing called ‘stasis’ and preserving humans to work. There’s a lady in here, in a sort of tube. I think she’s alive, I saw her heartbeat on a screen, but the tube is all frosty inside and she looks...” Kate’s nerve almost gave way as she looked at Miss Waverley, “her lips are all blue and she is just staring, I don’t think she can see me.”
“I see. Can you see where the tube opens?”
“No, at least it looks as if it’s sealed all round. There’s a box with controls on, but I don’t know what to do and I don’t want to hurt her.”
“No, no of course you don’t. One moment. Ah, yes, your father is asking if you know where the other children are?”
“They are locked up in a room with Miss Hallford. It was number...” Kate scrabbled in her satchel and pulled out her notebook, “76B. I was going to find it, but I thought there might be a guard, and then I came in here and …"
“Yes, I understand. I fear you are probably right, there may indeed be a guard. But we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Where are these scientists you heard now?”
“They’ve gone to a meeting. I think with the Ice Warrior. They called him ‘his excellency.’ I don’t know how long they will be.”
“Right. And do you know where the rockets are?”
“Yes, there’s a hangar next to the centre, they are in there. We spoke to Mr. Remmington. He seemed nice I don’t understand why he would do this...” Kate’s voice faded again and the Doctor spoke more urgently.
“Very well. Now, what I need you to do, Kate, is to look at the panel, the ‘box’ next to where the lady is and tell me exactly what you see on it. Don’t worry if you don’t know what it is, or what it does, just describe it to me. I hope we will be able to bring her back, but we need to take care. When someone is very, very cold, you can’t warm them up suddenly, you have to take care and do it gradually. There should be a control on the box that will let us do that. Are you ready?”
Kate crawled out from under the desk and went over to the panel. The phone was on a long flex and she pulled it with her.
“Yes,” she said, “I’m in front of it now.”
“Good. Now start at the left and tell me what you can see.”
Kate carefully described the buttons, switches and gauges she saw on the control panel, and the Doctor drew a plan on his blackboard. Once Kate had finished, he considered for a few moments, then began to give Kate instructions. With trembling fingers, Kate adjusted the controls and set the temperature in the pod to increase slowly to normal room temperature. Once she had changed the settings, Kate pressed a button to confirm her adjustments and a beep came from the panel. Holding the phone in place with her shoulder, Kate said,
“Good girl,” replied the Doctor, “Now, I’m afraid you can’t stay and keep watching, you’ll have to leave the system to work, but you’ve given it the right instructions. Now I’m going to put your father back on the line.”
There was another pause and then the Brigadier said,
“Kate, Katie, are you alright?”
“Yes, I think so. Are you coming?”
“Yes, we are. Is there somewhere you can hide until we come?”
“Yes, if I can get back to the cupboard. But I was worried about Miss Hallford and the others. Supposing... supposing someone sees you coming and tries to hurt them to make you stop?”
The Brigadier stifled a sigh.
“Trust you to think of that. Oh, I’m not angry with you, lassie. If you can find them and get them somewhere safe, then do it, but remember, you aren’t to put yourself at risk. Remember?”
“Good. We’ll see you as soon as we can. Did you hear anyone say when the rockets might be launched?”
“No, nobody. But if they are having a meeting now, it might be soon I suppose.”
“Hm, you could be right. But I think you’d better leave the rockets to us. You go and get yourself safe, and the others if you can, and we’ll see you soon.”
“OK, bye, Dad.”
“Take care, lassie.”
The Brigadier listened while Kate hung up and then put the receiver back in its cradle.
“Well, Doctor,” he said, “we had better get moving. Suddenly he noticed Emma, who was looking at him questioningly.
“And you had better be getting some rest, before your parents arrive to meet you,” he said with a smile. “Miss Grant has telephoned them and... ah, here she is,” as Jo entered, “Miss Grant, would you take Miss Brown to the sick bay and keep her company for a while? She has done a lot of hard work today and I expect she could do with a rest.”
Jo smiled and held out her hand to help Emma down off the stool.
“Come on Emma, I’ve got some board games we can play if you don’t want a nap.”
Emma hitched the blanket up and took Jo’s hand again as they left the room. The Brigadier watched them go with a smile, then his face became serious as he picked up the phone again to make arrangements for the raid on the research centre. Once he had issued his orders, he paused.
“Doctor. How soon would the Ice Warrior invasion be after the rockets were launched? I mean, how close might they be to Earth now?”
“You read my mind, Brigadier. I will get in touch with the satellite surveillance team and see if they have picked up anything suspicious.”
“And if they have?”
“Then we will need to act. How, I’m not sure yet, it will depend how close they are, if they are there at all. For the time being, you had better get moving.”
“Yes, quite,” replied the Brigadier, leaving the room to retrieve his revolver from his office and join his troops. The Doctor frowned as he began to pace again, before calling the satellite surveillance team.
Kate put the phone back in its place on the desk and went to have another look at the control panel. It was probably too soon for any changes, but she thought the thermometer might be slightly higher and, at least, her instructions seemed to still be there. She whispered to Miss Waverley, “we’ll get you out, I promise, we’ll come back for you,” knowing in her heart that she was saying it more for herself, then turned away from the pod and went to the door, gathering her satchel on the way. She paused at the door and picked up her pencil, tucking it carefully away before closing the door behind her. As she turned the corner to the corridor that she hoped would lead to Room 76B, Kate bumped heavily into the legs of an adult coming in the other direction. She fell, then screamed and tried to get up, when a hand reached out and gripped hers and a concerned voice said,
“Goodness, you made me jump. It’s Kate, isn’t it? What are you doing still here?”
Kate looked up and saw Mr. Remmington looking down at her. She tried to remove her hand from his, but he held on and crouched down, saying quietly,
“It’s alright, kid, I’m not going to hurt you. What happened? Did you get left behind?”
Kate shook her head, shocked out of speech. Mr. Remmington pulled her gently to her feet and then let go of her hand. Kate took a deep breath once again.
“Mr. Remmington, something really bad is happening here, but I don’t know if you’ll believe me.”
“Try me,” suggested the engineer. Then, as he saw Kate glancing nervously down the corridor, “hang on a minute, let’s go into the tunnel, we’ll be more private in there.”
He led the way into the covered way that led to the hangar and closed the door behind them.
“Now,” he said, “what do you have to tell me?”
“There’s a thing here. It’s called an Ice Warrior. It’s been living in the room that’s frozen, the one with the wheel to open the door. When we came back from visiting you in the hangar we saw it, and the professor made his guards lock Miss Hallford and all the others up in a room, but Emma and I got away and he made the guard take Miss Waverley away to cancel the coach and then,” Kate paused to draw breath and compose herself, “he gave her to some scientists and they froze her.” Kate stopped and looked at Mr. Remmington, then looked down.
“I didn’t think you would believe me.”
“Hang on a minute, that’s a tall story, but I didn’t say I didn’t believe you. What does this Ice Warrior want with us?”
“The chemicals the professor made aren’t to cure the greenhouse gases. They are going to make the earth really cold, so Ice Warriors can live here. That’s why they’ve been freezing people too, to work for the Ice Warriors.”
Mr. Remmington looked serious,
“Look here, kid. I’m still not saying I don’t believe you, but can you prove any of this.”
“Yes.” I was trying to hide and I found Miss Waverley and...”
“Julia? Where is she?”
“In the room I just came out of. Oh, but the door is closed now.”
Mr. Remmington produced a card from his pocket.
“That shouldn’t be a problem.”
He opened the door from the covered way and he and Kate went back to the lab. His card opened the door and he pulled it open, letting Kate in first. As he followed Kate, the engineer caught sight of the pod and its occupant and gasped.
“Julia! What have they done to her?”
He looked down at Kate, who said,
“They froze her. They wanted to put her in... (she searched for the word) ‘stasis’ to see if they could freeze people to keep them to work for the Ice Warriors when they get here and everything’s frozen.”
Mr. Remmington was looking at the control panel, but Kate caught his sleeve before he could try anything.
“It’s alright, I called for help and the Doctor told me how to set it so that she will be warmed up slowly. I didn’t want to leave her, but I need to find my class and my teacher before my dad gets here with his men.”
“Your dad? Who...?” asked the bewildered engineer.
“He’s Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart of UNIT,” said Kate matter of factly. “He’s coming, but I was worried that they might try and hurt Miss Hallford and the others if they knew he was coming.”
Mr. Remmington looked back at Miss Waverley, then at Kate.
“OK, I believe you. Which room are your friends in?”
“Room 76B,” replied Kate, “do you know where it is?”
“Yes, I think so. I don’t come into this part of the building much, to be honest. Just a minute though, where are the men who did this? What if they come back and start the freezing again?”
“They said they were going to a meeting. I don’t know where.” Kate went out into the corridor and pointed in the direction the men had taken. Mr. Remmington frowned.
“I think I might. The professor’s office is in that direction. If they want a private meeting, I expect it will be in there. Come on,” he held out his hand to Kate, who took it, but asked,
“What if someone sees us? What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to try and make it difficult for them to get out of their meeting. And if anyone sees us, I’ll say you were running away and I caught you.”
“OK,” said Kate cautiously.
Together, they walked quietly along the corridor until they reached a part of the building which was obviously intended to show the importance of the work that was going on in the centre. Reproductions of technical drawings and maps were hung on the walls and potted palms stood outside the office door. Kate hid behind one of the palms, while Mr. Remmington inspected the card access panel. He bent down and whispered,
“I don’t suppose you’ve got a screwdriver?” then rolled his eyes when Kate passed him the two she had taken from the maintenance cupboard. He carefully unscrewed the card reader, then used the screwdriver to pull wires out from inside the panel, cutting them through with his penknife, which he wrapped in one of the gloves Kate had found. Sparks came from the panel, but no noise and Kate was relieved to see that, once the sparks had subsided, there was no sign of fire. Mr. Remmington put a finger to his lips and Kate followed him away from the office. Once they had got back to the corridor, he let out a long breath.
“Phew. That might not hold them for long, but it’ll keep them busy for a bit once the meeting is finished. Right, let’s go and find your class.”
They ran back to the main corridor. As they passed what Kate had come to think of as the “frozen room,” Kate paused. Mr. Remmington looked at her and asked,
“What’s the matter?”
“I wondered if,” Kate hesitated, then went on, “can we change the temperature in there?”
“Oh,” replied her new ally, “make it warmer you mean?”
“Yes, then if the Ice Warrior comes back and wants to get cold, it won’t be able to.”
Mr. Remmington was still not entirely sure what Kate meant by an Ice Warrior, but something about the seriousness of her expression, and the sight of Julia Waverley in the laboratory, made him want to listen to the school girl.
“I don’t know if we can do it from out here,” he said, looking at the door. “I can’t see any controls, just gauges. But... have you still got those gloves?”
Kate passed him the insulated gloves and he put them on, then told Kate to stand back. He turned the wheel that released the seal and opened the door. A cloud of cold air came out, making Kate cough. Mr. Remmington went inside, while Kate kept a wary watch down the corridor. After a few moments, he came out again and closed the door.
“Done,” he said, “at least I think so. It might take a little while but it should start to warm up enough to make it uncomfortable in there for anyone who likes the cold.” He took off the gloves and was about to say something else when a security guard came round the corner. Mr. Remmington grabbed Kate’s hand and nodded to her. Instantly, Kate began to struggle and protest, as Mr. Remmington pretended to drag her along the corridor. The guard saw them and ran towards them. Before he had a chance to ask any questions, Mr. Remmington said,
“I found this kid trying to get into the labs. I think she must have got left behind from the lot that were here this morning, but I can’t get any sense out of her.”
Kate tried to prize open his hand and he gave her a shake.
“Stop it! I’m not going to let go of you.”
The guard looked at Kate curiously and asked,
“Where were you hiding?”
But Kate didn’t answer, instead she put on a sulky expression and continued to pretend to try and wriggle out of Mr. Remmington’s grip. After a moment’s thought the guard said to the engineer,
“As a matter of fact, they are all still here. We had a report of a security breach and we had to get them to shelter in one of the conference rooms. I’ll take her along to join them.”
The guard tried to take Kate’s other hand, but she put it behind her back. With an angry exclamation, the guard picked Kate up and put her over his shoulder, ignoring her shouts and the battering of her fists on his back. Kate looked at Mr. Remmington as she was carried away and he nodded and put a finger to his lips. The schoolgirl nodded in return, and kept up her attempts to escape. The guard set off towards the conference room and Mr. Remmington followed. When they reached the lab where Miss Waverley was confined, the engineer opened the door and went in briefly, coming out again with a thick pad of cotton wool in one hand and a grim expression on his face. He’d lost sight of Kate but her screams of protest were still audible and Mr. Remmington moved quickly towards them.
When he reached room 76B, the guard fumbled with his security card to open the door while trying to keep hold of Kate who wriggled and shouted as she tried to get off his shoulder. Inside the room, Miss Hallford was sitting on the floor. Some of the children were asleep, curled up under their coats, while the others sat close to their teacher as she told them stories in a low voice, so as not to disturb the others. At the commotion outside, Miss Hallford stood up. Was that Kate’s voice? Where had she been all this time? The teacher was torn between relief that her pupil appeared to be unharmed and fear for what might happen to Kate and to all of them now. A male voice from outside shouted,
“Stand away from the door!”
And Miss Hallford obeyed, then watched as the door was opened and the guard came in and dumped Kate unceremoniously on the carpet.
“There, you bloody nuisance, you can stay here and stew with the rest of your gang,” said the guard. Kate ran over to her teacher and put her arms around her waist. When Miss Hallford bent down to comfort her pupil, Kate whispered,
“It’s alright, we are going to get out.”
Before her startled teacher could reply, there was another noise from the doorway. Another figure had appeared behind the guard and was holding something over the security man’s face. The guard struggled, but then slid to the ground. Mr. Remmington stepped over the guard’s body and came in. He shook hands with Miss Hallford, then said,
“Right, you lot, let’s get you out of here. Help is on the way, but you can’t risk staying here. Miss … Hallford, if you could help me?”
Together the two adults dragged the unconscious guard into the room. As they did so, Miss Hallford muttered,
“What did you do to him?”
With a wary glance at the children, Mr. Remmington replied,
“Chloroform. There was a bottle of it in the lab. I guess the scientists didn’t find all their test subjects cooperative.”
Miss Hallford was bemused by this last remark, but said nothing. Ignoring suggestions from some of the class that the guard should be tied up, Mr. Remmington removed the man’s gun and security access card and looked cautiously up and down the corridor.
“I think the coast is clear. I’ll take you back over to the hangar for now, but you’ll need to be very, very quiet. Can you do that?”
The children nodded, in awe of the man who had overwhelmed the guard. The engineer suppressed a smile as he looked at their faces. He hadn’t ever really pictured himself as an action hero, but here he was. He ushered the teacher and her class out into the corridor and closed the door, then led the way to the covered way, to take them to the hangar. As they approached the door, he said,
“Now, remember, everybody, quiet as you can. We don’t want anyone to hear us.”
“I’m afraid it’s too late for that, Mr. Remmington,” said the Professor. He was standing in the corridor, with Miles, Collins and the Ice Warrior beside him. Armed guards approached the engineer who backed away, keeping the children behind him.
“I am disappointed,” continued Professor Darking, “I hoped you would be reliable. No,” as Miss Hallford tried to open the door behind her, “you have nowhere to go.”
A guard put the barrel of his gun to Remmington’s neck and the engineer raised his hands and gave up the weapon he was holding. The professor sighed.
“I don’t know what we will do with you, but we can’t have you interrupting the launch. Yes?”
He turned to the Ice Warrior, which had raised its hand.
Dr. Miles looked uneasy, “But we haven’t tried the process on younger bodies, we don’t know if it will work.”
Remmington called out, sarcastically, “Oh, and there I was thinking you’d had a pang of conscience.”
“Don’t be so naïve, Remmington,” snapped Miles. “When Earth is part of the greater Martian Empire, you’d better hope you can be useful.”
“And get turned into a frozen zombie, like you did to Julia? No thanks!”
The Ice Warrior, frustrated with the humans bickering, said,
“The decssssisssion is not youuuuurssss to take. I have ssssspoken. You will be presssserved.” It turned to Miles.
“Do you have suffissssscient space to pressssserve them all?”
“Ah, yes, if we use the additional pods in the basement. We have only one subject in storage in the laboratory at present, we should be able to move that one downstairs and then begin to process the others.”
“Goood. Confine them and then begin.”
Miles bowed, at which Remmington shouted,
“Have you all gone stark, staring, mad? That ‘subject’ is a human being!”
Miles ignored him and spoke to the guards.
“Take them back to the room and make sure the adults are secured, then, two of you stand guard on the door. Nobody goes in or out until we order it. Understood?” The guards nodded and raised their guns.” Before they could move off, the professor spoke,
“Remmington, I take it the rockets can be launched as planned?”
“Oh, yes,” replied the engineer bitterly, “That’s what I was coming to tell you. Everything is ready to go. Then I found what you were planning.”
“It’s not our fault you were so naïve,” said the professor, then to the guards, “as Dr. Miles has requested, take them away.”
Two of the guards stood by while two others handcuffed Miss Hallford and Mr. Remmington. The children watched, horrified. Suddenly, just as the guards were about to lead their prisoners away, there came a thunder of boots on the corridor floor and a shout of,
“Hands up, all of you! Stay exactly where you are!”
Kate gave a little skip of delight when she heard the voice, but said nothing. The next moment a squad of UNIT troops arrived, led by the Brigadier. Soldiers forced their way past the professor and his cronies and disarmed the guards, then demanded the keys to the handcuffs and released the adults. The Ice Warrior was the first to recover from the shock of the raid. It reached to its belt for what looked to the children like a ray gun, but a voice spoke with clear authority,
“Do not attempt to use that weapon, I have you covered, Ice Warrior.”
The Doctor emerged from behind the UNIT soldiers, holding a curious device that resembled a cross between a lamp and a small satellite dish. The centre part, which looked like an aerial, was glowing red. The Ice Warrior recoiled, hissing. It wrenched open the door to the room it had been occupying and went in, then howled and hissed.
“Whoooo hasssss done thissss?”
“Bit warm in there for you?” shouted Remmington.
The Ice Warrior staggered to the doorway, reeling from the unexpected warmth. The Doctor signaled to four soldiers, who took hold of the creature’s massive arms and dragged it away. The Doctor followed them, keeping his strange weapon trained on the Ice Warrior. Soldiers surrounded the professor and his colleagues and other members of the centre staff who had emerged from the laboratories at the noise were escorted from the building. The Brigadier approached the school party, his face serious, but his eyes twinkling. Kate came out from behind the other children and ran to her father, who bent down and put his arms round her.
“Hello. Dad, we’ve got to get Miss Waverley out of that tube and … and the rockets.”
“Yes, yes, I know all about those. Doctor?
The Brigadier raised his voice and the Doctor, who had returned after seeing that the Ice Warrior was safely confined, said,
“We will need your help in the lab to release Miss Waverley.”
“Yes, of course.”
The professor laughed,
“You cannot prevent the launch. It’s automated. If you try to abort, the rockets will explode on the stand and the particles will be released. It will take more time, but we will still have achieved our aims.”
He continued to laugh as he was taken away.
“Will you indeed?” said the Doctor, “Well, we’ll see about that. Brigadier, if you could detail some men with a stretcher to come to the laboratory, I believe it will be safe to release that unfortunate young woman. After which, we had better speak to our prisoner.”
“Humph,” grunted the Brigadier, “very well.” He looked at Remmington,
“Was he telling the truth about the rockets?”
“I’m afraid so,” replied the engineer, “the launch is computerised.”
“In that case,” said the Doctor, “we will need to work quickly. Captain Yates?”
“Take some of your men and go with this gentleman. They are to remove the chemicals from the rockets. If this can be done?”
“Yes, it can,” replied Remmington. “The rocket casing won’t lock down until half an hour before launch. If we are careful, we should be able to remove the payload.”
“Good, get to it. At least, I assume the rockets have an explosive charge?”
“Yes. The original plan was for satellites to be launched,” the children looked up at this and Kate grimaced. So, the whole of Darking’s talk had been a lie. “But,” Remmington went on, “we had to abandon that and replace those with an explosive charge to blow the particles out into the atmosphere.”
“I thought as much. Good. Then, if you can, remove the chemicals, but leave the explosives intact.”
The engineer nodded, with a question in his eyes. The Doctor went on,
“Ah, one more question. You said the launch was computerised. Is it possible to change the target coordinates?”
“Yes, at least, yes, we should still have time to do that.”
“Excellent, I hoped we were not too late. Give me about half an hour and I’ll radio the coordinates to Captain Yates.”
“Right, this way,”
said Remmington, opening the door to the covered way and beckoning to Yates and his men. The Brigadier had been calling for the stretcher bearers and he nodded in answer to the Doctor’s questioning glance. The Doctor held out his hand to Kate.
“Now, Miss Lethbridge Stewart, will you show me where this laboratory is?”
“Yes.” Kate hesitated, then asked, “Dad, is Emma alright?”
“Yes, she’s safe and well,” replied the Brigadier, to Kate’s relief. “When we left, her parents had just arrived to collect her from HQ.”
“Oh. Oh good,” said Kate, a little shakily, “I was worried, I didn’t want her to get into trouble, because I...”
Her father smiled.
“It’s hard when you have to ask other people to take risks for you, isn’t it? But you’ve both been very brave and done very well. Now, you go and show the Doctor where the lab is and then Sergeant Benton will take you out to the car, alright?”
Kate nodded, unable to speak at the relief that her friend was safe.
The Sergeant and Kate went with the Doctor and the Brigadier turned to the bewildered teacher and detailed two of his men to escort her and the children out of the building to where a coach was waiting for them, together with a medical team armed with blankets, hot drinks and first aid equipment.
In the laboratory, Julia Waverley gave a sudden gasp. The gum shield fell out of her mouth as she turned her head, confused and disorientated. Where was she? She had a vague memory of being dreadfully cold. An insidious, creeping chill that had taken over her body and numbed her mind until... Suddenly the memories began to return and Miss Waverley struggled against the straps that still held her in place in the pod. As she did so, the door of the laboratory opened and four men and a little girl came in. Julia couldn’t hear what they were saying, but she saw the girl pointing at the pod and tried to shout,
“Here! I’m in here! Help me!”
Then lowered her head as she saw that none of them had heard her. The group approached the pod and one of the men, a dandyish figure in a frilled shirt and velvet jacket, began to examine the control panel. He flicked a switch by the microphone and spoke into it;
“Ah, Miss Waverley. You are quite safe now. You have been revived and we are going to get you out. You will need to be patient with us while we find the release mechanism. Do you understand?”
Miss Waverley nodded.
“Good. It shouldn’t take long, we just...” the man leaned away from the microphone and spoke to one of his companions, a big man in an army uniform, who was looking at the pod. The next moment, there was a click and the vacuum seal hissed as the door opened. The man in the velvet jacket smiled, a disarming smile that brought unexpected youth to his lined face.
“Miss Waverley, welcome back. I am the Doctor and these gentlemen are here to take you to hospital, where you can have a good rest. Now, gentlemen, if you would?”
The two stretcher bearers stepped forward and unfastened the straps that held Miss Waverley upright. As the last strap was undone, her legs gave way under her and she collapsed into the arms of her rescuers. The two men lowered Miss Waverley onto the stretcher and wrapped her in a blanket. As she was lifted to be taken to the ambulance, she reached out a hand to the Doctor and whispered,
“Don’t thank me,” replied the Doctor, “thank Kate. She was the one who found you, I just gave her some instructions, which, luckily for you, she followed to the letter. Now... yes, what is it?”
Julia had grasped his sleeve. The Doctor bent over the stretcher to hear her, her voice was cracked and hoarse.
“I’m … sorry. I knew he wasn’t doing what he said he was... I... I didn’t ask. I just went along with it... I’m so sorry...I didn’t think... anyone...”
“You didn’t think anyone would get hurt,” the Doctor finished her sentence for her. “Well, Miss Waverley, this has been a hard lesson for you to learn and it isn’t over. The authorities will want to speak to you, you know, and you must tell them everything. But for now, you must rest and recover. There will be time to make amends later.” He took her hand off his sleeve and gently laid it on the blanket, then signaled to the stretcher bearers, who carried her out of the room. The Doctor sighed, then looked at Sergeant Benton.
“Well, Sergeant, you’d better get Kate out of here, I...” he stopped and smiled as they looked at Kate. She had sat down at one of the desks and was leaning forward, her head resting on her arms. As she felt them looking, Kate raised her head and said,
“I’m not asleep. I’m just tired.”
Sergeant Benton said,
“I bet you are. And probably hungry too.” he crouched down next to the desk and said, “come on young ‘un, up you go. You’ve done enough rushing around and being brave for one day.”
Kate clambered onto the Sergeant’s back and put her arms round his neck. He stood up, slowly and carried Kate out of the building and onto the tarmac. Rather than taking her to the coach, where her classmates were recovering, Benton carried her over to the Brigadier’s staff car. The driver jumped out and opened the rear door, and Benton bent down so Kate could get in. Jo was sitting in the back, and reached out to give Kate a hug as she climbed across the seat. Kate returned the hug, burying her face in Jo’s shoulder, until Jo put her gently to one side and said,
“Now, I know you’re tired, but you need to have something to eat, how about some soup?” and produced a flask. She poured out a cupful while Kate wrapped the blanket that was lying on the seat round her shoulders. Kate accepted the cup gratefully and held it for a moment, warming her hands, then took careful sips of the steaming liquid. Sergeant Benton radioed the Brigadier and, having received an answer, bent down to speak to the driver, then said to Jo and Kate,
“Briggs will take you home, Kate, then run Jo back to HQ.”
“He won’t be coming for a while, I’m afraid, he says there are still a lot of questions to be answered, but he doesn’t want you to wait.”
“Oh, alright. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, young ‘un, take care. Off you go Briggs.”
Kate looked out of the car window as they pulled away, wondering what was happening inside the building and if Mr. Remmington would be able to fix the rockets in time.
In the professor’s office, the Doctor and the Brigadier were questioning the Ice Warrior. The professor had been only too glad to share what he saw as his work of genius and, after listening to him for about five minutes, the Brigadier had had him taken away, still ranting. The Ice Warrior was standing in a corner of the room, guarded by a UNIT soldier, who was holding the Doctor’s invention which he had used earlier, a sort of heat gun, designed to direct a beam of radiant heat at a broad target. The ice Warrior hissed when he saw the Brigadier.
“Sssssss. You are a Sssssoldier, yet you allow your prisssssoners to be held in fear of tortuuuuure?”
“Nonsense.” replied the Doctor, “that isn’t an instrument of torture.”
“I demaaaand to be held in conditsssssions appropriate for a prissssoner of war.”
The Brigadier took a turn.
“As far as I am aware, the Earth is not at war with Mars,” he said. “At least, not yet. And this is a civilian establishment. Now, the Doctor and I have some questions for you and we expect you to answer them. Firstly, how did you come to Earth?”
The Ice Warrior looked from the Doctor to the Brigadier, to the soldier, then said,
“By a ssssssingle usssse transsssmat. One that neeedssss no connecting terrrrminal. I wassss ssssent to prepare the Earth for the arrrival of the main fleet.”
“So, you can’t get back?” asked the Doctor
“That was a bit presumptuous of your commanders. Supposing your mission failed?”
“We did not consssssider the possssibility of faiiiilure.”
“Well, you should have,” said the Brigadier, briskly. “How did you make contact with Darking?”
“One of our tracking probessss intercepted a ssssignal from him to a basssse on the sssssouthern continent.”
“Australia,” asked the Brigadier, “or Antartica?”
“I do not know what you call it. He had sssssignalled by ssssatelite and desssscribed hissss intention to try and launch ssssatelites to disssrupt the atmosssphere. We ssssssent a sssssignal to him and perssssssuaded him to ork for usssss. My commaaaandersssss sssssent me to overssssseeee the finaaaal ssstagessss of the project.
“And how did you persuade him to work for you?” asked the Doctor.
“He isssss vain. We promisssssed him power and renooown. He wassssss easssily persssuaded.”
The Doctor shook his head, sadly, and asked,
“And the others? Miles and Collins and their colleagues?”
“They were not allll aware of all the detailsssss, but they had been promissssed the chance to break new ground and to achieve heightsssss not reached by their competitorsssss,” said the Ice Warrior.
The Brigadier’s mind had returned to the matter in hand.
“You say you are here to prepare the Earth, how far off is your invasion fleet?”
“Ssssss. It issss out of range of your misssssiles. It awaitsssssss my signal once the preparation of the Earth hasssss begun.”
The Doctor smiled, wryly.
“It may be out of range of our missiles, but, you forget, we have a hangar full of rockets. These rockets are being stripped of their chemical contents and, when I set the new coordinates, they will be more than capable of reaching your fleet. Our radio telescopes and satellites are ready to detect your ships when they get within range. In fact, they may already have done so.”
“So,” the Doctor went on, “I suggest that you make contact with your command ship and advise them to withdraw, or risk damage and possible destruction. In any case, your attempt to change the Earth into a frozen waste has failed. There is nothing here for you.”
“But you’ll let them escape?” asked the Brigadier.
“No,” replied the Doctor, his eyes on the Ice Warrior. “Not an escape, a tactical withdrawl. There is no dishonour in withdrawing when the odds are stacked against you. You withdraw, regroup and live to fight another day. Am I not right?”
The Ice Warrior appeared to consider the Doctor’s words. Finally, it said,
“You are riiiight. I will ssssspeak to my commaaandersssss.”
“Good,” replied the Doctor. “When you have done that, I will set the coordinates for the rockets to explode harmlessly in space.”
The Ice Warrior inclined its head, then went to the professor’s desk and took out the radio receiver. As it adjusted the frequency, the Doctor said,
“I am trusting you to honour our agreement, but beware. I speak many tongues and understand many more. I will be listening.”
“Youuuu need not fear me,”
replied the Ice Warrior, before speaking in a voice that sounded to the Brigadier like someone gargling with gravel. After a number of exchanges, the Ice Warrior put the receiver down and said,
“It isssss done.”
The Doctor reached for the telephone and dialed.
“Hello. Yes, it’s the Doctor here. I want you to check whether the objects you detected earlier have moved. They are? You can confirm that? Thank you.”
He hung up, then scribbled briefly on a piece of paper.
“Brigadier, can you radio Captain Yates. I need to get these coordinates to Remmington before the computer sets the target and locks it in.”
The Brigadier took the paper and spoke into his radio. Having confirmed, through Yates, that the new launch coordinates had been set, the Brigadier ordered the Ice Warrior to be removed into custody and, once the door had closed behind the prisoner and his escort, looked at the Doctor.
“Why did you let them escape?”
“I didn’t,” replied the Doctor. “The Ice Warriors prize honour very highly, Brigadier. They would not have agreed to leave if they had thought they would be shamed by a defeat. I gave them a chance to withdraw with their honour intact, and they took it.”
“Hmm. That just leaves their agent to take care of. And the launch. You’re sure of your coordinates, I suppose?”
“My dear Lethbridge Stewart, of course I’m sure! And as for this warrior, I’m sure UNIT can find a quiet and chilly corner to put him away in.”
The Brigadier stood up.
“I expect so. We’d better get over to the hangar.”
“Yes, I’ll stay for the launch, but I expect you will want to get back to Headquarters as soon as you can.”
“Yes. Need to call Geneva and start making out my reports.”
“Of course, well, lead on, Brigadier.”
The Brigadier rolled his eyes, but led the way out of the office and over to the hangar. Having received a detailed update from Remmington and Yates, he made his way to the staff car, which had returned from dropping off Kate and Jo, and instructed Briggs to drive him straight to UNIT HQ. As they drove, the Brigadier went over what he would need to do in his mind. His first call must be to Geneva, and he would need to make a start on his reports, then review the prisoner’s statements, although that was not quite so urgent. Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart smiled. There was one other call he would need to make. It wouldn’t take long and it would set his mind at rest.
When the car pulled up outside the Lethbridge Stewart’s home, Kate saw her mother waiting on the doorstep. Kate didn’t wait for the driver to open the door for her. As soon as the car stopped, she pushed open the door and ran to her mother. Fiona Lethbridge Stewart bent down to hug her daughter, then looked up and smiled at Jo, who had also got out of the car.
“Thank you for bringing my adventurer back safely,” Fiona said.
“You’re welcome,” replied Jo with a smile. “Bye bye, Kate, see you soon.”
Kate was too tired and overcome to do anything but wave, but Jo understood. She got back in the car and was whisked away in the direction of UNIT HQ.
“Now then,” said Fiona, looking down at her daughter, “I think it would be a good idea for you to go to bed for a bit.”
Kate looked at her mother, frowning slightly. Fiona went on,
“Dad won’t be back till this evening and I can wait until then to hear all about it. Why don’t you get into bed with your book? You can tell Horace everything and then you and he can tell me and Dad later on.”
The mention of her beloved teddy bear made Kate’s lip wobble a little. She took a deep breath and said,
“Good. Come on then, let’s get you tucked in and snug and I’ll bring you a snack in a little while.”
Fiona held out her hand and Kate took it and they went into the house together. An hour or two later, the phone rang. Fiona picked it up on the second ring.
“Fiona, how is she?”
“Fast asleep. She’d had some soup in the car, so she didn’t want any food. She didn’t really want to go to bed, but by the time she’d had a wash and got into her pyjamas she couldn’t keep her eyes open. She’s got Horace right up against her face, just like she used to.”
“Bless her. Did she tell you anything?”
“No. She was so tired. I told her we would be ready to hear it all later on, which will probably be tomorrow, she’s well away.”
“Good. I don’t want her to have to relive anything unpleasant, but it might do her good to get it out of her system.”
“Probably. I hope this will be her last escapade for a while, my nerves won’t take any more.”
“So do I,” said the Brigadier, adding, “I can’t think how she keeps getting involved in these things.”
“She’s your daughter, Alistair,” replied his wife. “What do you expect?”
To that, the Brigadier had no reply.