Warcry of Hallatern
Echoes of the Past
The cavern seemed to be carved from crystal. In shape it was a perfect pentagon, hundreds of metres across. At each of the five corners rose a huge column of translucent crystal, that extended high above their heads, arching over to support the roof. The columns met in the centre as a five pointed star.
The chamber was not really made from crystal of course. Brolan had explained that it was hollowed out from the bare rock - the crystal merely clad the walls. Rupert Morrissey looked around the huge cavern. In the centre, a pillar of crystal rose from the floor, directly beneath the star formed by the roof supports. Five smaller pillars were arranged around it at the corners of another pentagon, although not aligned with the corners of the chamber - rather it was inverted in relation to them.
Standing beside the large central pillar, the slight figure of Piotr Brolan still managed to be impressive, despite the grandeur of his surroundings. He exuded a powerful presence and continual energy that was hard to ignore. Peering at Morrissey through his quaint anachronistic spectacles, he said, "Well? Does it live up to your expectations?"
Morrissey swept another glance around the chamber. "I'm astounded," he said. "To think that all this has been here for centuries, and no one knew about it."
Brolan shrugged. "I think maybe Doctor Stolaris had his suspicions. Why else do you think he chose Sirius Five as the site for the Academius?"
There was some truth in that, Morrissey thought. The Academius Stolaris, a large complex of buildings dedicated to the promotion and study of the arts and sciences, would have been more at home on one of the more populated worlds of the Sirius system. The ideal location would have been the capital, Androzani Major - especially as the Academius depended for its funding on public and corporate donations. The more visitors it received, the more money it made. On Androzani, there was a greater chance of attracting the casual tourist.
But the only reason anyone would have for visiting the desolate rocky landscape of Sirius Five was the Academius Stolaris. One wouldn't expect casual visitors to make the effort, only those with a specific interest in the arts and sciences. And yet somehow, a steady flow of visitors came by shuttle every year. Brolan, the fifth curator of the Academius, had instigated special shuttle flights for tourists. Although he had improved the fortunes of the Academius, most of the funding was provided by a grant from the Sirius Conglomerate. Which was why Morrissey was here.
"Sirius Five is the legendary site of Hallatern," Brolan went on. "Doctor Stolaris was reportedly fascinated by the old legends. Maybe he dreamt that some remains of Hallatern were waiting to be excavated."
"You mean he built the Academius to study anything he unearthed?" asked Morrissey.
"Maybe," replied Brolan. "Who can say? Doctor Stolaris has been dead for more than a century. Only two of my illustrious predecessors ever had the privilege of meeting him."
"He would have relished this moment," mused Morrissey, looking once more around the chamber. "Do you believe that these are true remains of the Hallatern civilization?"
"I'm no archaeologist," said Brolan, "but yes, I think so. The legends tell us that the Hallats used a crystalline technology, the secret of which is lost to modern science. For all we know, this cavern could be some immense and powerful machine."
There was definitely purpose in the arrangement of the crystal pillars, thought Morrissey. "But equally," he said, "it could be a temple of some sort."
"Perhaps so. We know little of Hallatern's culture - the form their religion took we cannot even guess at. All we do know is that nine thousand years ago, Hallatern controlled half the Galaxy."
Morrissey nodded. "What do your experts think about this place?"
"They haven't seen it yet," said Brolan. "No one has seen it except you and me. I thought you wanted it that way?"
"Then who conducted the excavation work?"
"Hired labourers." Brolan regarded him evenly. "They've been taken care of."
"Very well, Trau Brolan," replied Morrissey. "Let's discuss terms. The Sirius Conglomerate will pay the agreed sum for any discoveries of the lost technology of Hallatern."
"Well, the crystals are here," said Brolan. "What do you wish to do with them?"
"The secret of Hallatern was its genetic engineering. Is that not so?"
"We have discussed this many times, Trau Morrissey. Genetic engineering is far too quaint a term for it. The ancient Hallats could change the parameters of life itself. They could alter the brain patterns of their own and other species. Slow down the ageing process to a crawl."
"Ah yes," murmured Morrissey. That was the area which most intrigued him. The secret of such longevity was worth the entire contents of the Federation treasury. More than that, even. The Sirius Conglomerate was already one of the richest corporations in the Galaxy. Political power was the next step. He who controlled the fountain of youth, controlled the hearts and minds of men.
"To uncover those secrets," said Brolan, "we would need an original subject to study."
"You mean a body?" asked Morrissey, raising a surprised eyebrow. "Have you unearthed any during your excavations?"
Brolan shook his head, but his mouth twitched into a nervous smile. "I
know a man who has."
The hiss of escaping air was terminated suddenly as the seals became firm. Hectol Baines checked the atmospheric readouts carefully. Inside the container, his treasure was surrounded by a perfect vacuum. It would be safe. He locked the container with his personal datakey.
Stepping back, Baines signalled to the two workers. They took hold of the container, and lifted it with some difficulty. It was a metal cylinder, about seven feet long and three wide. Though strong, the metal was extremely light, and the contents were hardly heavy enough to cause two able bodied men difficulty. Baines couldn't understand why his two helpers were having so much trouble. He put it down to the fact that they were natives - Canaxxans were not renowned as the brightest race in the Galaxy.
He looked at them carefully. Like most Canaxxans, they had a heavy brow that shadowed their eyes somewhat - an obvious product of natural selection, given the planet's almost permanent sunshine. It gave them a slightly Neanderthal appearance, but otherwise they seemed like any other humanoid species. They were both dressed in casual sportswear, in a style that had been popular on Sirius several years ago - clothes bought from some of the more opportunistic miners, no doubt. So much for the Federation guidelines on preserving the culture and character of Canaxxa.
One of the workers lost his grip on the metal surface, and the container fell to the ground with a crash. Baines felt it reverberate through him. He knew he should have called in trained archaeologists to assist him with the excavation, but he'd needed to keep his discovery secret. The two Canaxxans had been easily bought with a few trinkets and Federation bank notes. And they didn't ask questions.
They took hold of the cylinder again, and began to heave it towards the waiting hovervan. Dropping it down with a thump, they tried to work out how to get it inside. Baines turned away to spare his nerves, which had been scraped raw by his years in archaeology, to the extent that he now handled anything gingerly for fear of damaging it. He tried to close his ears to the scraping sound as the workers dragged the container up into the van. His find would be all right, even with such mishandling. He was sure of it. If it had survived thousands of years in such a remarkable state of preservation, it could survive the worst efforts of a couple of savages.
Baines turned to survey the site he had recently been excavating. To an untrained eye, it would appear to be nothing more than a few ridges in the ground. But it was actually all that remained of an early Canaxxan settlement. Overturned soil indicated where Baines and an expert team of diggers had been working. Legend suggested that Canaxxa had once been home to an advanced technological culture, but there was very little archaeological evidence to support that. At this site, Baines and his team had unearthed a few arrow heads and fragments of pottery, all primitive artifacts. Fascinating from the archaeologist's point of view, but unfortunately not what the Academius Stolaris was paying him for.
The dig had finished a week ago. The discoveries, carefully documented, had gone to the capital city, to be displayed in the museum that the Sirius Conglomerate had agreed to fund. Not that it had any interest in heritage, thought Baines, simply in commercial expediency - it was only by agreeing to protect and promote Canaxxan culture that the Conglomerate had obtained the mineral extraction rights from the Federation.
"We're ready," called one of the workers.
Baines waved a hand in vague acknowledgement. He turned from the site of the dig, to look across the stinking bog that stretched out before it - the Canaxxans would optimistically have called it an oasis. Who would have thought it possible? There amongst the twisted, gnarled roots of the distinctive Canaxxan flora, beneath a thick layer of mud and stagnant water, he had made the most important find of his career. It was what his employer wanted, but more importantly Baines knew it would bring him fame in the scientific community.
He turned back to the hovervan. The native workers had secured the
container in place. That simple metal tube contained fame and fortune. As
he started to walk over to the van, Baines thought over the discovery in
his mind. He would have to make sure he wrote it up well in his memoirs.
Alicia Newstead reached for the silver teapot, and poured herself another cup. The aroma rose up with the steam, to rest pleasantly in her nostrils. Real tea as well, a fine blend of Indian and Sri Lankan leaves, imported all the way from Earth. An absolute luxury, but no more than one would expect of the Canaxxa Hilton.
She refused to stay anywhere else on this blighted little planet. As an executive of the Sirius Conglomerate, she was entitled to a few perks. The miners and the office staff in charge of the mineral extraction here had to live in staff quarters, bleak and sterile places assembled by robot builders from kit parts.
The Hilton was different - the most successful chain of hotels in the Galaxy boasted of having at least one establishment on every civilized planet. Canaxxa hardly counted as civilized, but when the Sirius Conglomerate had set up mining operations here, it was almost inevitable that a Hilton Hotel would follow. As the Conglomerate owned a large share of the Hilton chain, it could insist upon it.
The hotel was only ever used by visiting dignitaries - politicians and Conglomerate executives. At the moment, Alicia Newstead was the only guest.
She took an appreciative sip of her tea, and thought gratefully of her voyage home tomorrow. She hated Canaxxa. She hated the dust and the heat. And she hated the people, especially those who refused to see the good the Conglomerate was doing for their planet's prosperity. Rebel groups had set off two bombs in the Conglomerate's offices - fortunately, casualties had been light.
The real worry was that they would try to bomb the mine workings, setting back the work schedule and costing billions of talmars. But it would never get to that point. If the terrorist acts got any worse, the Federation would put a peace keeping force on the planet, and that would make the Conglomerate's operations much easier.
Alicia was glad to be going home to Androzani Major. Her visit to Canaxxa had been mostly to oversee an office efficiency drive - something a junior secretary could have done. She might almost have suspected that her boss, Trau Morrissey, had sent her here merely to spite her - if it hadn't been for the one truly important assignment he had given her.
But it was true, she and Morrissey just didn't seem to hit it off. She thought that perhaps he was afraid of her ambition. As well he should be. Alicia intended to be on the Conglomerate's board within two years, and no one was going to stop her. She was already amassing a large portfolio of shares in the Conglomerate and its subsidiaries. She didn't have a single black mark against her record. She got results, and she got them quickly and efficiently. That wouldn't go unnoticed.
Looking up from her tea, Alicia glanced across the plush lounge. It was decorated in Imperial Draconian style, all frosted green pillars and tall golden incense burners - fortunately, they weren't lit. God only knew how the Draconians had managed to live like this - not to mention why the wealthy classes of the Galaxy sought to emulate the architecture.
Through the far doorway, Alicia had a clear view of the hotel lobby. Rather surprisingly, she saw a man talking to the clerk at the reception desk. Surely it couldn't be a fellow guest? Who in their right mind would want to come to Canaxxa?
The newcomer turned around. He was short, with thick black hair, well dressed in a cream coloured padded tunic. Alicia was sure that she'd seen him somewhere before. A scientist of some kind, wasn't he?
Then it came back to her. He was Henrik Quincey, an archaeologist. Of course, she'd had a memo - very unimportant, it was no wonder she'd almost forgotten. The Conglomerate was funding an archaeological expedition from the Academius Stolaris. And Trau Quincey was assistant to the expedition's leader, Hectol Baines. Clearly he was here to secure accommodation. If their dig was over, they'd want to stay in the luxury of the Hilton before catching their ship home.
Alicia felt her spirits improving. She hadn't seen Baines for ten years.
And she just knew she'd enjoy meeting him again.
"The Baines expedition?" asked Morrissey. "To Canaxxa?"
Brolan nodded. "You are aware of it then, Trau Morrissey?"
"Of course, the Conglomerate put up most of the funding for it. In keeping with our promise to the Federation to promote the Canaxxan culture."
"Ah," said Brolan, "the things you'll do for mining concessions."
Morrissey ignored the remark. "I thought Trau Baines was digging up some old Canaxxan pots. For the museum we built there."
"He was. But like many great discoveries, he stumbled upon his by accident." Brolan gestured to the small archway in the wall of the crystal cavern, through which they had entered. "Let's continue this in my office."
Morrissey preceded him, and they emerged into a roughly hewn shaft that
ascended vertically to the surface of Sirius Five. A metal ladder was
bolted into the rock. They started to climb.
Rhonwen Jones closed one eye, then opened it and closed the other. It was no good. The picture that filled the wall opposite her obstinately refused to assume any recognizable shape. It was merely a mass of colour, that seemed to flicker and shimmer.
She found it hard to focus upon the picture at all. It was not even like the paintings of Jackson Pollock, with their dramatic and violent swirls of colour. Instead, it was all solid blue. Then before her eyes, the blue changed to red. More colours started to show themselves, and they blended into one another, some fading, others glowing brilliantly. There were even some patches that just appeared blank, literally as if someone had screened them off from her.
"What is it?" she asked.
"It's cheap, shoddy, and highly derivative," said the Doctor evenly. He cast a barely cursory glance over the painting. "I've seen much better."
"But it's so... different," Rhonwen said lamely, unable to think of a suitable adjective.
"I could show you a dozen like it," the Doctor replied. "Better, in fact. The Braxiatel Collection contains some of the finest examples of late Aterican mind paintings. This is just a pale imitation of the style."
Rhonwen cast another look at the shimmering blaze of colour. "Why does it keep changing?" she asked.
"Well, the paint is really a neural stimulator. It triggers different perceptions of colour in your mind. You'll probably find that some sections appear blank."
"The human brain can't operate on those particular frequencies," the Doctor explained. "Don't worry. It isn't very good."
Shrugging, Rhonwen turned away. The painting was starting to give her a headache. As she was supposed to be here to relax, she really didn't need to tax her brain with alien paintings.
After the most hectic and bizarre six weeks of her life, the Doctor had suggested taking a short break. Had it really only been six weeks? It seemed like years since she had discovered her history professor was really a thousand year old Time Lord, and been whisked off to the planet Gallifrey to help him defeat the machinations of the evil tyrant Belphegor. Since then, she had travelled with the Doctor in his TARDIS, a time machine that bore the guise of a police telephone box. The Doctor had taken her to a dozen alien worlds, each one completely different and each one inconceivably strange and exotic. It had all been so hectic that a short holiday seemed a good idea.
She looked along the length of the art gallery. The smooth walls were a neutral brown colour, presumably so as not to distract from the paintings. There were five or six people in this particular room, studying the various works of art. It was the largest number of people she had seen here at any one time. The Academius Stolaris was not exactly a major tourist attraction - although considering it was situated on a bleak and uninhabited planet, and all the visitors had to come by spaceship, she supposed it wasn't doing too badly for itself.
The complex was huge. She and the Doctor had been here for three days so far, and they still hadn't seen all of it. There were galleries, cultural exhibition halls, lecture theatres and science laboratories. The thirty fifth century's finest seat of learning, the Doctor had said - but for one thing: there were no students. They had met a few artists and scientists and scholars, some of whom were on the staff and others visiting, but everyone else here was a tourist like themselves.
Rhonwen looked around for the Doctor. She caught sight of his dishevelled tweed suit at the far end of the room. He was standing looking at a painting.
Rhonwen went to join him. The painting was a landscape, a hill covered in grass. The paint had its own physical substance, literally standing out from the canvas. It did not just represent the grass, it was the grass, and it swept down from the crest of the hill towards the foreground.
"It's a Van Gogh, isn't it?" asked Rhonwen.
"Yes," said the Doctor appreciatively. "I was very impressed by this one. I remember telling Vincent once that his talent lay in landscapes, but I don't think he was listening to me. He always did have trouble with his ears." There was a mild note of indignation in the Doctor's voice, but it soon vanished. Rhonwen could never be sure whether he was being serious or not.
There was a low whirring sound, and a door slid open next to the Van Gogh. It was marked as a cleaners' storeroom. Rhonwen was a little surprised when two men stepped out. One was thin and blond, wearing glasses with thick black frames. She recognized him as Trau Brolan, the curator of the Academius.
The other man was a stranger. In his mid fifties, she thought, though he was quite handsome and somehow young looking. He obviously kept himself fit and active. There were a few silvery flecks in his otherwise black hair, and his features could have been chiselled by some classical sculptor.
Both wore the padded tunics that Rhonwen had observed to be a popular style among Sirian men.
Brolan smiled to see the Doctor. "Ah, Trau Smith," he said pleasantly, betraying no sense of the incongruity of his entrance. "I trust you are enjoying the exhibition."
"Very much," replied the Doctor.
"Allow me to introduce my friend, Trau Morrissey."
The Doctor caught a brief flash of impatient anger in Morrissey's eyes, but he was quick to disguise it. They exchanged a polite greeting, and then the Doctor asked, "Are you a scholar too?"
"No," Brolan interjected. "Trau Morrissey is one of my blessed benefactors."
"A patron of the arts?" suggested the Doctor.
Morrissey nodded. "I like to do my best," he said modestly.
Brolan suppressed a little giggle. "In the shape of a corporate endowment," he said. "Trau Morrissey is head of Project Development for the Sirius Conglomerate."
This time anger flared quite violently in Morrissey's eyes. He was clearly unhappy at being announced like this. The Doctor found that interesting, for it was no secret that the Sirius Conglomerate bought itself a good public image by pouring funding into the arts.
But Morrissey clearly had something to hide. It might be worth keeping a discreet eye upon him. The Doctor had had dealings with the Sirius Conglomerate before. Admittedly, Trau Morgus and his sordid Spectrox war were well over a century in the future - but the business practices of the Conglomerate did not exactly inspire confidence.
"Well," said Brolan, "we won't keep you. Remember, if there's anything you need during your stay, just ask me."
He swept away towards the exit at the other end of the room, taking Morrissey with him.
Rhonwen moved closer to the Doctor's shoulder. "What were they doing in a cupboard?" she asked.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow, and casually reached out to the cupboard door. It was locked firmly. Brolan had probably used a transmitting datakey.
Stuffing his hands in his jacket pockets, the Doctor frowned. Something was starting to worry him. However, he couldn't put his finger on it. A vague sense of oppression was impinging on the edge of his consciousness. He wished he could ignore it, but it was already far too late. His own curiosity would not allow his impression to go by without investigation. "There's something odd going on here, Rhonwen," he said slowly.
Rhonwen didn't reply. A dull pain was starting to spread across the inside of her head.
"Are you all right?" the Doctor asked.
"I think that mind painting's given me a headache," she said.
"That's not inconceivable," replied the Doctor. "Let's go onto the
terrace. The fresh air might do you good."
Brolan settled himself behind his huge desk. It was covered in red leather, real leather too by the look of it - that must have set him back a small fortune.
The office itself was wood panelled. All the essential equipment of a busy modern executive was tucked away behind hidden panels. Nothing was allowed to destroy the period effect. The office was an affectation, like Brolan's glasses. He liked to surround himself with old things. That was a result of his career, no doubt. Only his clothes were up to date.
Morrissey took the chair opposite. "Was that wise?" he demanded.
"What?" murmured Brolan absent mindedly.
"Introducing me to those two tourists."
Brolan waved a hand dismissively. "Oh, they're harmless. They're visiting from Earth. Trau Smith is some kind of doctor. An historian, he said."
"And the woman?" insisted Morrissey.
"His niece, I think. There's nothing to worry about. They will already have forgotten about you."
Morrissey grunted uncertainly.
"Look," said Brolan, "it's no big secret who you are, is it? Your face is known to half the businessmen on Androzani Major, and your name to all of them. And the Conglomerate makes no secret of its funding the Academius."
"All right, all right," muttered Morrissey testily. "I just thought in the present circumstances, a bit of discretion might have been advisable. It's not worth arguing about."
Brolan nodded happily. "Then let's get down to business."
"Very well." Morrissey got to his feet, and started to pace the room. "Tell me about the Baines expedition."
"In good time," said Brolan. He reached for some hidden controls under his desk. A holographic projection became visible in the centre of the office. It showed a series of pictures - pictogram inscriptions from ancient carvings, primitive wood cuts and old manuscripts.
"What we know of Hallatern comes to us from the myths of the worlds they subjugated," Brolan went on. "We know that their invasions were spearheaded by a race of warriors called Kreilens - by all accounts fierce and unstoppable."
"I have heard the story," Morrissey remarked laconically. But he kept his eyes on the hologram.
"The fragments we have would suggest that the Kreilens were genetically engineered. In other words, a product of the crystal technology beneath us."
Taking a deep breath, Morrissey turned to face him. "The ideal subject for study," he said wonderingly.
Brolan smiled, like a child with a secret that he was burning to reveal. "Whilst he was digging for pots on Canaxxa, Trau Baines made a remarkable discovery. He dismissed his archaeological team, and proceeded on his own. He was aware of the significance of his find, and quite rightly, he desired that it remain a secret."
Morrissey couldn't believe what Brolan was saying. It was all a huge trick, it had to be - some plan to get a bigger funding grant out of the Conglomerate. But if it were true...
"Need I go on?" Brolan enquired calmly.
"Baines has found a Kreilen?" Morrissey stammered. It was too fantastic even to contemplate. And yet, it seemed just plausible enough to be true. Canaxxa was only ten light years away, and had almost certainly been invaded by Hallatern. If you wanted to find the body of a warrior, looking beneath a battleground wasn't such a bad idea.
"What sort of condition is it in?" he asked.
"I have no idea," Brolan admitted, "although Baines has implied that it is nearly intact. The environment in which it was found seems to have preserved it."
"Then we may be able to analyse its DNA structure." Morrissey's manner became brisk. "What is Baines doing with it?"
"I have ordered him to bring it here. This is surely the best place to examine it."
"But there's a cultural export ban in place on Canaxxa. The Federation insisted on it. Only minerals get off that planet."
"I'm aware of that," said Brolan. "It will not be a problem."
Morrissey nodded. The implication was clear enough - Baines would smuggle the Kreilen out. Security was not exactly tight, so there was little reason to suppose he wouldn't get away with it.
Even so, it paid to make sure. "How will it be done?" he asked.
"Baines will use a sealed container," Brolan replied. "He will list the contents as ore samples. That should get it past the border controls. However, on the off chance that Federation customs officials decide to hold a spot inspection that day, I would appreciate some help from you."
"Of course," said Morrissey. "I will get the Conglomerate's office on Canaxxa to issue the appropriate dockets."
"It's best if this remains secret for now," Brolan said softly.
Morrissey nodded. By God, did Brolan really think he was going to tell anyone? The secrets of Hallatern were too powerful to be shared with anyone, certainly not with the Sirius Conglomerate.
"How is Baines travelling?" he asked.
"On a tramp freighter," Brolan replied. "Nothing too ostentatious. The Greyshadow I believe she's called."
Morrissey suddenly felt the world crashing down around him. Of all the ships leaving Canaxxa, it had to be that one. Disaster was beckoning like a siren on a storm tossed rock.
But no, the situation could be salvaged. Quite easily in fact. A urgent wave of panic had swept over him at the mention of the ship's name, but it subsided with each passing moment. There was nothing to worry about. A few simple arrangements would take care of any potential problems. "I shall need to speak to some of my people on Canaxxa," he said. "Just to help things go smoothly."
"Of course," said Brolan, getting energetically to his feet. "Use my
personal transmitter. It's got a built-in scrambler." He moved towards the
door. "I'll give you some privacy."
The streets were little more than dirt tracks, and the passage of vehicles stirred up clouds of dust. The air was heavy and clinging, the heat oppressive.
Vardek stood and surveyed the central market square. The stalls were simple constructions of wood and canvas. The wares displayed were examples of patient handcraft, the produce of a pre-industrial society. The market was in total contrast to the glass and steel buildings that surrounded the square, and the ground cars that raced around the narrow streets - all signs of the market forces that were invading Canaxxa in the name of profit.
The people who bustled around the market were strangely varied in appearance. Some wore the long white or cream coloured robes, ideal for the hot climate, that was the traditional attire of the Canaxxan people. But others were dressed in clumsy ensembles of casual leisure garments from the Sirius colonies.
Another ground car sailed past, a cloud of dust swirling up in its wake. Vardek activated his lung filters, and crossed the street to the market square. His own clothes, a rough assortment of garments he had picked up on a dozen planets, did not seem so out of place. At least this time he would not need to steal clothes from a local inhabitant in order to disguise himself.
He stood and scanned the area. There was nothing in the immediate vicinity. But there was no doubt that the Kreilen was somewhere on this planet. He could feel it in every fibre of his being. The scanning computer jacked into his brain collated and analysed all the readings, and provided him with a directional fix.
The target was moving. It was coming nearer to his present location.
Vardek felt a sense of exhilaration flooding through him. He knew that
was mostly due to the bionic servosystems gearing up into combat mode - but
nevertheless, there was some emotional reaction there as well. This was
after all an important moment in his life. The destiny for which he had
The hovervan came to rest. Baines looked out at the tall, elegant façade of the Hilton Hotel, built in mock Edwardian style. It was totally out of place, incongruous with both the Canaxxan market stalls and the steel towers housing the Sirius Conglomerate offices, some of which still showed fire damage from the most recent terrorist attacks.
Glancing into the back of the van, Baines checked that his container was secure and intact. The two Canaxxan workers were seated on either side of it.
"Stay here," Baines said. He waited for a nod of acknowledgement to come from one of them, and then climbed out of the van.
He walked up the steps of the hotel. A uniformed commissionaire held open the door deferentially. Stepping into the lobby, Baines was immediately hit by the change of atmosphere. There had to be an atmospheric filtration system behind the door. The heavy, dust filled air of the Canaxxan market place was gone, to be replaced by a faint and reassuring odour of velvet cushions and old leather.
The lobby was sumptiously decorated, with wood panelling and gilt pillars. Standing beside the reception desk was his assistant, Quincey.
"How are the arrangements?" Baines asked.
"It's all laid on," said Quincey. "Our reservations are confirmed on the Greyshadow, leaving tomorrow."
"Right," said Baines. "Can you take my cargo to the departure terminal? Have it put under lock and key. It's outside on the van." He stifled a yawn, and looked up at Quincey apologetically. "Do you mind? I'm tired, I'd like to get some rest."
"All right." Quincey started to move towards the door, but he stopped and turned back. Something was on his mind. "What exactly is this cargo of yours?"
Baines frowned. "I told you," he replied. "It's just some ore samples. Trau Brolan wants them for one of his scientist chaps to carry out some tests. The Sirirus Conglomerate provided the samples, and I'm just doing a favour by taking them back with me."
With a nod, Quincey turned on his heel and went out into the street.
Baines watched him leave, then went to the reception desk. He placed his
identicard into the data scanner, adding his name to the register. Quincey
had already arranged for his overnight luggage to be taken to his room, so
it only remained for a bellboy to show him the way up.
Walking over to the hovervan, Quincey screwed up his eyes against the dust. After the cool of the hotel lobby, the heat of the Canaxxan afternoon was overpowering.
Glancing round, he caught sight of a shabby figure standing near the back of the van. At first, he thought it must be one of the Canaxxan workers that Baines had hired. But he realized that the stranger did not look like a Canaxxan. His hair was too short, cut in something approaching a military style, and his clothes were a bizarre mixture of different styles. The natives either stuck to their traditional robes, or went all out to adopt the casual styles of Sirius.
This man was no Canaxxan. He seemed more like a drop out. It was strange to think that in today's prosperous society there were still those who rejected a normal material life, and begged their way across the Galaxy, looking for some sort of spiritual enlightenment by communing with nature. Canaxxa was just the kind of place to attract them.
The stranger looked up and caught Quincey's eye. There was a strangely haggard look about him, a sense of weariness that Quincey felt quite palpably. The man held the stare for a few seconds, and then turned to walk away.
Climbing into the hovervan, Quincey wondered what might have attracted
the drop out - most likely he was looking for something to steal, probably
to fuel a drug habit. That seemed to be the true realization of the
spiritual enlightenment most of them sought. It was one of those sordid
facts of life. Still, the two Canaxxan workers would have guarded the van
and its contents - Baines's precious ore samples. Quincey put the whole
incident from his mind.
Vardek turned and watched the hovervan drive away, a cloud of dust swirling around it. He was in no doubt - the Kreilen had definitely been contained within.
The presence of the two Canaxxans, and the arrival of the third man - an off worlder by the look of him - had made direct action impossible. But at least he knew now that he was pursuing a definite target.
He was tracking the course of the Kreilen. It would be possible to
follow it. He could not allow his mission to fail now.
From her vantage point in the Draconian lounge, Alicia Newstead watched as Baines disappeared into the lift. She got to her feet, and strolled nonchalantly out into the lobby.
Leaning casually on the reception desk, she turned to the clerk. "Could you please tell me," she began, "did I just see my old friend, Trau Baines?"
"Yes, Krau Newstead," the clerk replied. "He's just checked in."
"What a pleasant surprise," said Alicia innocently. "Is he staying long?"
"No, just overnight. I believe he's travelling on the same ship as yourself."
Alicia smiled. Five whole days in the company of Hectol Baines - that would certainly prove amusing.
She thanked the clerk and turned to leave, but he called her back. "Krau Newstead, there is an incoming communication for you. It's coded personal."
"Oh, thank you," Alicia said. "I'll take it in my room."
Baines transferred ten talmars to the bellboy's credit card as a tip, and waited for him to withdraw from the room. He looked around him. He had been given a suite, with every conceivable luxury. An open door led to his bedroom. Here in the sitting room, comfortable armchairs and a settee were arranged around an empty space, where holographic projections would be displayed. On the other side of the room were a dining table and a writing desk. It was one of the best rooms the hotel had, and he had got it very cheaply - but then they could hardly be snowed under with guests, could they?
Certain that he was alone and unobserved, Baines reached into his tunic pocket. Carefully, he drew out a rectangular metal box, and placed it on the table. It was a container he used for transporting truly fragile pieces. It sealed tightly and was lined with argonite, to prevent air or sunlight from damaging what was inside - though Baines didn't believe that such trifling things would have any effect on its present contents. He just wanted to be certain it was secure.
Unfastening the box, he slowly raised the lid. Inside, there rested some kind of stone. It had a pearly white colour. Baines took it out, and held it up to the light. He had been fascinated by it from the moment he had discovered it. Along with the contents of his ore container, he was certain it formed one of the greatest archaeological discoveries ever made.
He couldn't tell whether it was stone or crystal. It appeared to have qualities of both. He couldn't see through it. But its surface was highly polished and almost like glass. Sometimes, he almost seemed to observe light shining from within it, when in fact there was no light.
From its position in the marshy ground, beneath several artifacts from the nearby Canaxxan settlement, he estimated that it had been there for over four thousand years, perhaps much longer. He was certain that it had some connexion with the Kreilen he had found. The legends of Hallatern were not his speciality, but weren't the Hallats supposed to have had some technology based on crystal? If this was a crystal.
Baines stared deeply into it. Into? Yes, it seemed as if it had become
transparent, and he could look right into its very heart. But in that
moment, he realized that it was just a stone and quite opaque. A highly
polished, precisely carved stone - but still just a stone.
Alicia entered her suite, and locked the door behind her. She picked up the remote control for the holographic projector, and keyed in her personal access code. A spherical red glow appeared in the centre of the sitting room, framing a three dimensional image of her superior, Trau Morrissey.
"Ah, Krau Newstead," he said. "I trust that you are well?"
"As well as can be expected, Trau Morrissey," Alicia replied sweetly.
"Then I take it you handled the efficiency drive with your customary aplomb?"
Refusing to rise to the bait, Alicia said, "There were no problems."
Morrissey nodded. "I'm just checking on your departure details. The Greyshadow is scheduled to leave tomorrow morning, is she not?"
"Yes," said Alicia suspiciously. It wasn't the sort of enquiry she would expect Morrissey to make. He was up to something. Whatever it was, she didn't want it to be at her expense. "Is there a problem?"
"None at all," replied Morrissey, flashing her a smile. Doubtless it was meant to be reassuring - it came over as chilling. "I've been informed that you'll have a fellow passenger. Trau Baines, the archaeologist. I believe you may know him?"
"Yes, we were..." Alicia hesitated, wondering how best to put it. "We were at the same university."
"Excellent," said Morrissey. "That should make it easier for you."
"I'm sorry?" murmured Alicia.
Morrissey's manner became brisk and perfunctory. "Trau Baines is bringing some ore samples back to the Academius Stolaris. He has documentation from our offices, but there might still be trouble with the export ban. I just want you to keep an eye on him, and smooth over any troubles he has with the customs officials."
"Of course, Trau Morrissey," Alicia nodded. "Are these samples important?"
A furtive look passed momentarily across Morrissey's face. "Possibly," he muttered, as if trying to make light of the affair. "They're for study at the Academius." Alicia was not fooled - something strange was going on, and Morrissey and Baines were both involved in it. And Morrissey never did anything unless there was financial gain in it.
"Leave it to me, Trau Morrissey," she said. The conversation appeared to be over. Alicia reached for the remote control.
"Krau Newstead," Morrissey said suddenly.
"Yes, Trau Morrissey?"
"That small matter of document filing. Was that attended to?"
"It's all taken care of," Alicia replied.
Morrissey smiled. "We wouldn't want them falling into the wrong hands."
His image faded away.
Perrenelle looked into her husband's face. It seemed to her a strange thing to be doing. As if she could not recall what her husband looked like! There was no one image more indelibly printed in her memory, unless it was her own reflexion in the mirror.
When she closed her eyes, she could recall Nicolas precisely, every line, every wrinkle, every tiny blemish. His was a round face, with an appealing jolliness about it. His hair was swept back from his forehead. His eyebrows were thick and arched. Scruffy whiskers covered his chin. Perrenelle laughed to herself. After all this time, you'd think Nicolas would be able to grow a proper beard.
Along with her own reflexion, her husband's face was the one constant in her life. Since that fateful day in 1383, the whole world had changed around them, but they had remained the same. Neither had aged a day in two thousand and twenty nine years.
Nicolas closed his eyes in concentration, as he crouched on the floor and held out the plumb bob. Laid out on the floor before him was a map of Canaxxa. They had acquired it from an old mining prospector, so it was not quite as accurate as Nicolas would have liked.
Slowly the plumb bob began to swing, moving in a circle. It seemed to guide Nicolas's hand, drawing him towards that which he sought. The circle traced by the bob became smaller and smaller as he responded to its pull.
Finally, the plumb bob came to an unerring rest. Nicolas opened his eyes, and looked at the map. The bob was hanging straight down over the space flight terminal, outside Cannaxa's capital.
He looked up at Perrenelle. She walked across to the window, and pressed the polarizing control. The opacity faded from the glass, allowing the sunlight to enter the room. They were staying in an old prospector's hut, bare metal walls and functional furniture, with only a few personal knick-knacks to turn it into a home. It was far from ideal. Perrenelle was used to the finest hotels, and would have preferred to stay at the Hilton. After all, they could afford it. Money was never a problem, when you could transmute base metals into gold.
But it had been necessary to conceal their presence on Cannaxa. They were here illegally. They had bribed their way aboard a mining ship - no one came to Canaxxa without registering the purpose of their visit, and that would have been impossible for them.
"The space terminal," Nicolas said thoughtfully.
"That could mean that whoever has the crystal is going to catch a ship," Perrenelle replied.
"Yes, it could." Nicolas wrapped the string around the plumb bob and slipped it into his pocket. Then he started to roll up the map of Canaxxa.
"Then we need to get aboard that ship," Perrenelle went on. "We can probably buy a ride in one of the miners' ground vehicles. We'll have to hurry if we're to find the crystal."
"If you're sure we want to," replied Nicolas, standing up.
"Are you having doubts?" asked Perrenelle in concern. She walked back to him, and placed her hand lightly on his chest. "I thought we'd agreed."
They spoke in High Sirian today. It seemed appropriate to their location. It was just one of the many languages they had learnt. They'd had plenty of time for learning.
"Fifty years gives you time to think," said Nicolas.
"Not as much as two thousand years," Perrenelle replied.
"No," agreed her husband.
"So, we go on?"
"It's just disheartening. We've been on this quest for so long. Scouring the Languedoc without result. Crawling all over Scotland, looking for some of the crystals that the Templars might have taken there. And then out into space. Sometimes I wondered if we would ever find it at all."
"But now we're nearly there," Perrenelle insisted. "Ever since you dowsed that crystal here on Canaxxa, we've been getting closer and closer. Don't let's give up now."
"No," said Nicolas. "I made a promise to you fifty years ago. I'll keep
it. We'll put an end to our immortality once and for all. And that'll be as
much a miracle as our finding it in the first place." He smiled. "You'd
better start sweet talking one of those miners."
The terrace restaurant of the Academius Stolaris was open to the air, but an energy damping force field kept the worst of the weather off the diners. Only a gentle breeze blew across the dining tables.
Despite what the Doctor had said, the fresh air didn't seem to be doing Rhonwen much good. The pain was starting to spread across the front of her cranium - it felt as if her brain was being split in two. She wasn't able to concentrate on anything the Doctor was saying to her. Eventually, he gave her an encouraging pat on the arm and left her sitting at the table, resting her head in her hands.
Leaning against the balustrade, the Doctor looked out over the desolate landscape of Sirius Five. The terrace offered panoramic views of the wasteland. Perhaps not entirely conducive to good digestion, but the sight was as impressive as it was bleak. The bare rocks, exposed to wind and rain, the pools of thick mud, all formed a canvas on which nature's raw power composed her own work of art.
"It's hard to believe there was ever life here," said a voice at his side.
The Doctor glanced at Trau Brolan, who had moved to join him. He too rested against the balustrade. "But legend suggests there was a thriving civilization once," he went on.
"Not just a legend," the Doctor replied. "The existence of Hallatern is mentioned in the recorded histories of every race in this half of the Galaxy."
"It was still nine thousand years ago," Brolan said. "Histories can be wrong. A legend can be spread by travellers, exaggerated, elaborated upon. Like Atlantis on Earth. The story is far removed from the reality."
If you only knew, thought the Doctor. "Equally, such legends can't be disproved," he said. "The historical mentions of Hallatern are too widespread and too consistent for there not to be a common core of truth in it." Besides, the story was recorded in the Gallifreyan Archives as it actually happened, and set in stone - well, in a panatropic register. There could be no doubt that it was true.
"I believe so too," said Brolan. He grinned. "It is rare to meet an historian these days with an interest in the Hallatern legends. For most, it's too ancient to be of interest."
"The whole of history interests me," the Doctor replied. He frowned. Once again, he felt a strange sense that something was not right. He glanced at Rhonwen. She was clutching her hand to her head.
The Doctor took a step towards her. "What's the matter?" he asked gently.
Rhonwen looked up at him. The usual warmth of her brown eyes was gone. Her expression told him clearly that she was in agony. He suddenly realized that she was suffering from far more than a headache brought on by a bad mind painting.
Rhonwen tried to get to her feet, pushing back the chair behind her. She saw the Doctor standing by her, but his face swam alarmingly before her eyes. She couldn't seem to concentrate upon anything. She stood unsteadily for just a second, and then slumped forward in a dead faint.
Deftly, the Doctor caught her before she crashed into the table. He looked around suddenly at the restaurant. His own sense of impending disaster was growing much stronger. Maybe Rhonwen's condition was in some way connected.
Trau Brolan took a step forward. "Is your niece all right?" he asked. "Perhaps you should take her to the sick room. I could get the nurse to have a look at her."
"No," said the Doctor, shaking his head. He didn't know what was going on, but he was certain this was no ordinary illness. He wouldn't trust Rhonwen to anyone's care except his own. "It's all right. She's done this before. It's not as bad as it looks. She just needs to lie down. I'll take her back to her room."
"Very well," said Brolan uncertainly.
Rhonwen was starting to come round now. The Doctor was able to support
her weight, and led her away from the table.
A warm breeze blew through the terminal building, carrying a few particles of dust with it. The far wall was half collapsed, a legacy of the last terrorist bombing. A low intensity force field was set up to keep the dust out, but it could never be totally effective.
Quincey blew out a sharp breath through his teeth, and leant against the check-in desk. The official seated behind it was carefully checking every detail of the cargo docket for Baines's ore container.
Impatiently, Quincey cast another look along the length of the departure hall. The huge, impressive terminal was all but deserted. Only one of the other check-in desks was manned, and the official behind it sat bored, casually reading something from a display screen.
It was hard to determine quite what the point of such a large building was, when the number of people coming and going from Canaxxa in any given month could be counted on the fingers of one hand. The only real traffic was in the form of ore carriers, taking Canaxxa's riches back to Androzani. The Sirius Conglomerate had financed all the space flight facilities - maybe they were thinking ahead.
A few natives were hanging around aimlessly. Sometimes they could pick up casual work in the engine rooms of the ore ships. No one appeared to be hiring today.
Quincey turned back to the official behind the desk. "Is this going to take much longer?" he asked.
"Well," said the official slowly, "everything appears to be in order."
"So there's no problem?"
"Well, it is rather strange. Most ore samples go on the bulk carriers. It's unusual for them to be part of personal luggage."
"Yes," said Quincey. "Well, I'm just the courier. If there is anything wrong, you'll have to take it up with my employer tomorrow."
"I'm sure everything will be fine," muttered the official. "The carriage documents are all correct. I can't find a record of the shipment on the computer, that's the problem."
"An oversight, perhaps?"
"Possibly." The official tapped the display screen of his computer terminal. "More likely a technical fault. The system's been having problems for the last week. The mainframe was damaged when the bomb went off, you know."
Quincey took another look at the shattered walls, and the blackening that had been caused by the subsequent fire. "No one was killed?" he asked.
"No," sighed the official. "Just cuts and bruises and smoke inhalation. But it won't be long." He frowned. "Is this any way to repay us for bringing them prosperity and civilization?"
"Maybe they don't want to be civilized," said Quincey. "You have to wonder where they get the explosives from."
"There's always someone who'll supply it. There's a profit to be made from armaments."
"But you wouldn't think the Canaxxans can afford to pay."
The official shrugged. "Who cares? My assignment here finishes in two weeks, then I'm going back to Androzani. I can't wait to see the back of this place, I can tell you." He tapped his computer screen again. "Look, I've done all I can with this. I'll assume your cargo's in order. Just have your boss check the final details with me tomorrow."
"All right," said Quincey.
The official signalled to two overalled workmen, who were standing in a doorway behind his desk. They came forward, and he indicated Baines's container. "Get this shifted to the storage bay."
The two men were native Canaxxans, Quincey saw. One of the them pushed an antigrav lifter. They stopped before the metal cylinder, and seemed to hesitate to touch it.
"What's the matter with them?" Quincey asked.
"They're always the same," the official said testily. "They probably think you're stealing the bones of their ancestors or something." He glared angrily at the workmen and raised his voice. "Get on with it. We haven't got all day."
Demonstrating great reluctance, the workmen reached out for the container, and manoeuvred it onto the lifter. They pushed it away behind the desk and through the doorway.
"Superstitious lot," said the official apologetically. He ran the cargo
dockets through his computer, and handed them back to Quincey.
The Doctor shouldered open the door, and helped Rhonwen inside. She was fully awake now, but it was clear from her pained expression that she wasn't fully alert. Once inside, he let her sit down on the bed and released her.
They had taken adjoining guest rooms in the Academius's visitor accommodation block. This was the Doctor's own room. It was decorated in tasteful off white, clean and comfortable - not that he'd used it much. He hadn't been to bed since arriving here three days ago. He hadn't felt much need for sleep in the last few weeks.
In the far corner of the room stood the familiar dark blue shape of a London police telephone box. The Doctor took the key from around his neck, and in a few moments unlocked the door. He took Rhonwen by the arm, helped her to stand and led her towards the TARDIS.
Once they were inside the control room, Rhonwen was able to let go of the Doctor and stand without support. The throbbing pain still persisted in her head, but the all pervasive hum of the ship's power seemed to have a calming, almost hypnotic effect upon her. Rhonwen took a deep breath, and found that she could at least think clearly.
The Doctor had sauntered over to the control panel, and was studying the instrument displays thoughtfully. Then he looked up at Rhonwen. "How's the head?" he asked.
"Still pretty bad," Rhonwen replied.
Nodding absent mindedly, the Doctor turned his attention back to the controls. After a few moments, Rhonwen asked, "Have you got anything I can take for it?"
"Yes," the Doctor murmured. Only after a second or two did Rhonwen realize that he wasn't talking to her.
He reached out to the control panel, and placed his hands over two circular patterns of indicator lights. He closed his eyes, and the lights began to flash. Rhonwen felt a fresh burst of searing pain behind her eyes, and winced.
The Doctor looked up. "You haven't got a headache," he said.
"You wouldn't say that if you were in my shoes," Rhonwen retorted.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "It's not really a headache. The TARDIS is trying to tell me something. Go and check the fault locator."
Taking a deep breath to try and clear her head, Rhonwen went behind the clear screens that separated the fault locator from the rest of the control room. She studied the large bank of computers that continually monitored every system in the ship, looking for the first sign of a malfunction, and read the figures from the display screen. "D-twelve."
"Just as I thought," replied the Doctor. "The mental interface projector on the telepathic circuits is operating at about four times normal capacity."
He quickly dropped down beneath the console, and removed one panel of the pedestal to expose a mass of wires and circuits within. He reached into his pocket for his pen laser, and started to make a few adjustments. "We'll soon have you feeling better," he called.
Rhonwen emerged from behind the glass screens, just as the Doctor replaced the panel and stood up. "How do you feel now?" he asked.
With some surprise, Rhonwen realized that her headache had completely vanished. "Much better," she said.
The Doctor nodded. "I've had to rewire hundreds of systems these past few weeks. They were fused when Belphegor's psionic energy invaded the ship. I thought I'd caught most of them, but this one must have slipped through the net."
"But why did I get a headache?" Rhonwen asked.
"The TARDIS was trying to warn me about something," the Doctor explained. "The signal was too strong and it blocked some of your neural pathways."
"Warn you about what?"
"Exactly what I intend to find out." The Doctor turned his attention back to the console. He pressed down a couple of switches, and a sound emerged from a loudspeaker. It was one of the most peculiar sounds Rhonwen had ever heard. A rushing noise, like the wind tearing past the window of a train, and mixed in with that were strange unearthly squawks and squeals.
Rhonwen turned to the Doctor, and saw a look of absolute horror on his face. "What is it?" she asked in concern.
"One of the most feared sounds in the known universe. The telepathic response signal of a Kreilen."
"A what?" Rhonwen replied uncertainly.
"A genetically engineered warrior from the planet Hallatern. They were supposed to be the ultimate fighting machine. But they were too effective. They wiped out the enemies of Hallatern, but they wouldn't abandon their mission. They went on a rampage, attacking any other lifeforms they came across. It took some time for the Hallats to track them all down."
"Well, obviously they didn't succeed," Rhonwen replied.
"It's possible that one Kreilen might have escaped detection," the Doctor said. "They travelled in suspended animation capsules. When they revived, they transmitted this signal back to Hallatern to inform their headquarters that they were proceeding with their mission. It became known as the Warcry."
"So the people on Hallatern will hear the message and investigate."
The Doctor went to check the navigational controls. "They would," he replied, "except for one small difficulty."
"This is Hallatern. That wasteland out there is all that remains of the civilization that created the Kreilens - there hasn't been life here for six thousand years."
"So there's no one to hear the Warcry?" Rhonwen asked.
"No one but us, it seems," the Doctor said. He couldn't get a fix on the source of the signal. Straightening up, he rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "But I don't understand how. The Warcry is on a different frequency to the TARDIS telepathic circuits."
"Well, maybe being here on Sirius Five means we're in the path of the transmission."
"Maybe," the Doctor muttered. It still didn't make sense. The only explanation was that there was some kind of receiver array here on Sirius Five that had decoded the Warcry, and that the TARDIS was receiving a bounce back signal from that. Of course, that hypothesis would mean that Hallatern was not quite so dead as it was supposed to be.
But there was no time to think about it now. He had no choice but to investigate the Warcry. He started to adjust the ship's transceiver unit to locate the signal. Eventually, he found the right frequency, and traced it back to its source. So much for the holiday, he thought, as he set the directional co-ordinates.